United States Harness Writers Association

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Make your plans and reservations to attend the annual Dan Patch Awards banquet at the Rosen Shingle Creek Resort in Orlando now! The banquet that honors the best equines and humans in the sport will take place on Sunday night, Feb. 23, 2020.

Rosen Shingle Creek played host to the Dan Patch Awards weekend (which includes the annual meetings of the Harness Writers) for the first time in 2018 and proved such a popular venue the past two years that it was unanimously voted to return again to the stunning 230-acre property. After four-star reviews of the last two dinners, including a surprise appearance by Stan Bergstein-Proximity Award winner Foiled Again this year that many proclaimed one of the most memorable moments ever in racing, it's never too early to consider sponsorship opportunities that are available.

To inquire about sponsorship opportunities for the weekend, including Dan Patch Presenting Sponsor, live video streaming sponsor, Red Carpet reception sponsor, and live feed sponsor hosted by Heather Vitale and Heather Wilder, please contact USHWA President Shawn Wiles at: swiles@empireresorts.com.

Rosen Shingle Creek, the site is located just off Universal Boulevard, within 10 minutes of the Orlando International Airport and minutes from all area attractions. Rosen Shingle Creek is a five-star property that is ranked a top-20 U.S. meeting hotel by Cvent. The property includes an 18-hole, Arnold Palmer-redesigned golf course, four swimming pools, a spa that includes nine treatment rooms, two lighted tennis courts, sand volleyball, basketball and a state-of-the-art fitness center.

There are 15 restaurant/lounges located on the property, including the upscale steakhouse A Land Remembered, the fine-dining bistro Cala Bella, Banrai Sushi, Mi Casa Tequila Taqueria, and a 24-hour deli.

As noted, as part of the weekend, USHWA's board of directors meeting will take place on Saturday, Feb. 22, and its annual general membership meeting will take place on Sunday morning,

More details will be made available as they become available throughout the year.

Charters, Gural, Popfinger, Tetrick on HOF ballot

Tom Charters, Jeff Gural, Bill Popfinger, and Tim Tetrick have been selected by the Hall of Fame Screening Committee of the United States Harness Writers Association (USHWA) as ballot candidates for this summer’s election vote toward harness racing’s highest honor, membership in the sport’s Hall of Fame.

The chapters of USHWA, the sport’s leading media organization, nominate deserving candidates based on prepared biographical information and discussion within the chapters. This list of names is then considered by the USHWA Screening Committee, with consultation with several Hall of Fame members, on Hall of Fame Day, the first Sunday in July at Goshen, and they then select the candidates for that year’s balloting, with the provision that anyone connected to a candidate is excluded from the discussion of and vote on that candidate’s viability. A person must receive 75% of the yes-no voted of the USHWAns eligible to vote and the current Hall of Fame members in order to join the Goshen pantheon.

Tom Charters worked his way through the ranks in harness racing, starting out as a caretaker (among his charges was Horse of the Year Delmonica Hanover) before becoming a racing secretary. In 1984 the Hambletonian Society hired Charters as executive director of the Breeders Crown, a newly-created series of season-end championship races, and his work in establishing the Crowns as signature events led to his being named executive director of the Society in 1994, then being promoted in 1998 to president and chief executive officer. Charters’ tireless work in such diverse fields as increasing racing handle, simulcasting and television production, international racing, and brand name establishment, plus the temperament to juggle all of these jobs along with dealing the wide range of personalities at the highest levels of the sport, firmly established him as one of the captains of the industry.

Jeff Gural was a longtime racing fan, owner, and breeder, associated with Allerage Farms, Little E LLC, and other equine partnerships, along with proprietorship of New York’s Vernon Downs and Tioga Downs racetracks, when he undertook the monumental task of leading the privatization of the sport’s flagship track in North America, The Meadowlands, away from a state-run operation of New Jersey. Enlisting the aid of many of the sport’s top figures in addition to large investments of his own money, time, and expertise, Gural has been the directing force of the revitalization of the mile oval, with a new grandstand built on the old backstretch side of the track, a facility and the parallel racing program aimed squarely at maximizing revenue for all of racing’s interlinked parties in today’s changing, challenging gaming environment.

Bill Popfinger has been a horseman for over 50 years, going from success at smaller tracks to operating a powerful Grand Circuit stable, and he continues his winning tradition today – a trainee of his won at Pocono on Monday. Popfinger first hit the harness limelight 50 years when he guided Lady B Fast to an upset win over the great trotters Fresh Yankee and Nevele Pride at Yonkers, and he cemented his stardom with his famous daring early move to the lead with Happy Escort, “the lights on, the horn honking, and the pedal to the metal,” to defeat heavy favorites Falcon Almahurst and Flight Director in the 1978 Little Brown Jug raceoff. That quote also cemented Popfinger’s nickname of “Showbiz,” and over the years he campaigned such marquee horses as Happy Motoring, Praised Dignity, Spellbound Hanover, Say Hello, and Spicy Charlie.

Tim Tetrick, at age 37, has already become one of only four drivers to have driven the winners of over $200 million in his career, and few doubt he will contend for the top spot, John Campbell’s $299M+ career total, before all is done – after all, any possible mishaps may not slow a man who already has two “bionic hips” after replacement surgery. Also the single-season money recordholder for a driver with $19.7M in 2008, Tetrick also produces quantity with quality, driving his 11,000th winner earlier this year, putting him ninth all-time, fifth among active drivers, and second in the 2019 dashwinning standings. The list of top horses associated with Tetrick is too long to mention here, but it is fairly safe to say that when it comes to Breeders Crown time and the selection of year-end awardwinners, the name “Tetrick” will be associated with several of the champions.

Charters, Gural, Popfinger, and Tetrick will be joined on the ballot by Phil Pikelny, former author and publicist, and Ken Weingartner, media relations manager for the USTA, the two ballot candidates for the Communicators Hall of Fame selected by USHWA directors at their annual meetings this past February.

USHWA sponsors race at Goshen Historic

Members of USHWA were on hand on Sunday (July 7) to sponsor a race at Goshen Historic Track and made the presentation in the winner's circle. (Photo courtesy of Geri Schwarz)

Foiled Again’s Dan Patch awards surprise party was a big hit

Moments into his speech to accept the Stan Bergstein-Proximity Award on behalf of legendary pacer Foiled Again during Sunday’s U.S. Harness Writers Association’s Dan Patch Awards banquet, co-owner Joe Koury Jr. was halted by USHWA member Gordon Waterstone. Koury knew he had not exceeded his time limit because he was just getting started, so he was surprised.

Surprise was about to turn to shock.

“Don’t you think we ought to have the award-winner here?” Waterstone soon said to Koury.

Enter Foiled Again.

Foiled Again turned the idea of a surprise party upside down when he emerged from behind the curtained stage area to the delight of the 320 banquet attendees at Rosen Shingle Creek resort. Only a handful of people knew in advance of Foiled Again’s appearance, which was conceived by Waterstone with Foiled Again’s co-owners Ron Burke and Mark Weaver.

“I was wondering what was going on,” said Koury, who like the entire Burke Brigade other than Burke, Weaver and Foiled Again’s caretaker for the night, Devan Miller, had no idea of the plan. “Next thing you know, Foiled was coming out. I was absolutely shocked. It was a great experience. It was exciting.”

Said Joe Koury Sr., “When Foiled showed up, it was unbelievable. I was shocked. Tears were rolling down my cheeks, it was just amazing.”

“I didn’t expect it; that’s the last thing that would have crossed my mind,” said Yannick Gingras, who drove Foiled Again for the majority of the gelding’s career and won numerous major stakes together. “I thought it was really cool, something different.”

Many others had the same reaction, which was what Burke and his co-planners had hoped.

“It was unbelievable,” Burke said. “I knew it would be a hit, especially with my father (Mickey), but it was a hit with everybody. It was one of the coolest moments ever. We thought it would be something nobody would be expecting and would add a little bit of fun, and it did.”

Waterstone, who in addition to being a member of USHWA is associate editor of The Horseman And Fair World magazine, worked with the resort’s staff to set up Foiled Again’s appearance. It required an extra bit of insurance and a protective covering for the banquet room carpet, which was new.

“I called Mark about bringing Foiled Again to the banquet and he said to talk to Ronnie,” Waterstone said. “I called Ronnie and he said absolutely, but he wanted to do it as a secret.

“It came off better than I thought it would. You keep your fingers crossed. The reaction was unbelievable. To be involved in this was really cool.”

Foiled Again was already staying near Orlando, at the Burke’s winter stable in Astor.

“Devan did a great job,” Burke said. “She had to prep him for it and people were wondering why she was prepping him when he was just there hanging out. He looked incredible. I was thrilled.”

Unfazed by the cheers that filled the banquet room and the joyful commotion that soon engulfed him, Foiled Again stood perfectly for his admirers.

“He was like a little showman,” Joe Koury Sr. said. “He’s like a celebrity, a celebrity of the humblest measure. It was just unbelievable. He’s amazing. I love him to death.”

Foiled Again reached harness racing’s mandatory retirement age of 15 when the calendar turned to 2019. He is the sport’s all-time richest horse, with $7.63 million in purses, and ranks ninth with 109 lifetime wins. He received Dan Patch Awards for best older male pacer in 2011, 2012 and 2013 and was Pacer of the Year in 2011.

Last year, he embarked on a Farewell Tour that attracted numerous fans to racetracks across North America, as well as garnering mainstream media attention. He will be inducted into the Harness Racing Hall of Fame in July.

Foiled Again is owned by Burke Racing, the partnership of Weaver and Mike Bruscemi, and the Koury family’s JJK Stables. The group bought the horse in 2008 when he was 4. He was trained by Mickey Burke briefly before Mickey retired and handed the lines to his son Ron.

“He’s a dream come true,” Joe Koury Jr. said. “To be a part of this with such great friends and partners is amazing. We were all young guys who, for the most part, were just getting started. He brought us up all together and put us on a different level. It’s just been a phenomenal ride.”

And now that the ride is completed, Foiled Again will enjoy a life of leisure.

“He’s basically going to live my dad’s life,” Ron Burke said with a laugh. “They’ll be hanging out together forever.”

McWicked is 2018 Horse of the Year

McWicked on Sunday became the oldest pacer in history to be named Horse of the Year, receiving harness racing’s top honor to cap the U.S. Harness Writers Association’s Dan Patch Award banquet at Rosen Shingle Creek. The 7-year-old stallion bested pacing mare Shartin N, 86-27, to claim the trophy. Atlanta, who was named Trotter of the Year, finished third with eight votes.

Earlier in the night, McWicked was named Pacer of the Year, 95-31, over Shartin N. McWicked is owned by Ed James’ SSG Stables and trained by Casie Coleman. Brian Sears was McWicked’s primary driver, but David Miller also won on the Grand Circuit with the stallion. A son of McArdle out of Western Sahara, he was bred by Andray Farm.

McWicked led the sport in earnings last year, with $1.57 million, and became the oldest horse in 43 years to top the money standings. For the season, McWicked won 12 of 19 races, capping his campaign with a five-race win streak, and hit the board a total of 17 times.

The previous oldest pacer to be named Horse of the Year was Good Time, who was 6 when he received the award in 1952.

Earlier this month, McWicked was named Horse of the Year in Canada. Coleman has trained three Horse of the Year winners in Canada, but McWicked was her first in the U.S., as well as the first for owner James. Sears, who drove McWicked in 12 of his 19 races, has sat behind four Horse of the Year honorees.

“We’ve been fortunate to have three horses of the year in Canada, and to get it done here is pretty awesome,” Coleman said. “Winning a double (Horse of the Year) with him, and doing it with a horse that’s 7 turned 8, it’s not often that it happens. Now we have to hope he can do it again next year. He’s going to be another year older, but I see no reason why he shouldn’t be just as good next year. We’ll see what happens.”

McWicked’s victories last season included the Breeders Crown, Ben Franklin Pace, William R. Haughton Memorial, Canadian Pacing Derby, TVG Series Open championship, Dan Rooney Invitational, and Allerage Farms Open. His 1:46.2 clocking in the Allerage was the second-fastest race mile in history.

“It was a very tough group all season, and just the way he did it, his last start he was just as good as his first start,” Coleman said. “His last start at the Meadowlands (in the TVG) he did it like there was nothing to it. It was scary how good we put him away. We’re really excited to see what he can do again next year.”

Atlanta became the first filly to win the Hambletonian since 1996 when she captured the $1 million final Aug. 4 at the Meadowlands. Driven by Scott Zeron, she won eight of 14 races last year and led all 3-year-old filly trotters with $1.01 million in purses. Her victories also included the Kentucky Filly Futurity and Empire Breeders Classic.

A daughter of Chapter Seven out of Hemi Blue Chip, Atlanta was owned in 2018 by trainer Rick Zeron, Michelle and Al Crawford’s Crawford Farms, William Holland’s Holland Racing Stable, Howard Taylor, and Brad Grant. She was bred by Order By Stable. The horse sold recently for a record $1.55 million to a group led by Michelle Crawford.

“I’m very happy,” Crawford said. “I was very excited to hear her for Trotter of the Year. I think she deserves it. I watched her from the beginning and she’s just a freak, a really phenomenal filly. I can’t wait to put her in the breeding shed and have her babies, but I’m not trying to get her off the track by any means. I’m excited for her future, but I’m not rushing her off the track. Not at all.”

The announcements of Horse, Pacer, and Trotter of the Year were made during Sunday’s banquet. Previously announced divisional champions also were honored at the event.

Division-winning pacers were 2-year-old colt Captain Crunch, 2-year-old filly Warrawee Ubeaut, 3-year-old gelding Dorsoduro Hanover, 3-year-old filly Kissin In The Sand, Shartin N, and McWicked. Division-winning trotters were 2-year-old colt Gimpanzee, 2-year-old filly Woodside Charm, 3-year-old colt Six Pack, 6-year-old gelding Homicide Hunter, 4-year-old mare Ariana G, and Atlanta.

Other honorees included Stan Bergstein-Proximity Award winner Foiled Again, Driver of the Year Aaron Merriman, Trainer of the Year Ron Burke, Breeder of the Year Order By Stable, Owners of the Year Burke Racing and the partnership of Mark Weaver and Mike Bruscemi, and Rising Star Marcus Melander.

Foiled Again surprised the audience of 320 by emerging from behind the curtained stage as part of the Bergstein-Proximity presentation that kicked off the festivities. The crowd rose to its feet and cheered Foiled Again, the sport’s all-time richest horse who retired at the end of 2018 following a farewell tour that attracted numerous fans to racetracks across North America and garnered mainstream media attention.

Also recognized Sunday at the banquet were the members of the 2018 Hall of Fame class, which will be inducted in July: Blair Burgess, Ted Gewertz, Joe Holloway, Jerry Silverman, Linda Toscano, and Ted Wing.

Dan Patch Awards Banquet Video available here

Whether you attended it in person and would like to relive the event or if you were unable to be there and want to see what everyone is talking about, you can now watch the entire 2019 Dan Patch Awards Banquet from the Rosen Shingle Creek Resort in Orlando, Florida.

The video is broken into two halves and follow the original order of the night's program. The videos are provided courtesy of the United States Trotting Association.

 

2019 Dan Patch Awards Pt1 from USTA on Vimeo.

2019 Dan Patch pt2 from USTA on Vimeo.

Dan Patch Awards Banquet Red Carpet Photos available here

All the Red Carpet photos taken as guests entered in are available by clicking here.

An album of photos taken throughout the course of the night can be viewed by clicking here.

All photos were provided by the award winning photo journalist Chris Gooden.

USHWA CONDUCTS ANNUAL MEETINGS, BANQUET IN ORLANDO

The United States Harness Writers Association (USHWA), the leading organization of harness racing’s chroniclers, held its annual meetings at the Rosen Shingle Creek Resort in Orlando FL for the second consecutive year this past Saturday and Sunday. The writers’ meetings were held in conjunction with the group’s annual Dan Patch Awards Banquet, which on Sunday evening celebrated the best of brightest of the sport during the 2018 racing campaign (including an attending “mystery guest” – more on him near the end).

Saturday’s meeting gathered the organization’s board of directors, while Sunday’s session was an open gathering for all of USHWA’s members.

The major by-law change passed by the USHWA directors gave a fuller oversight authority to the group’s Integrity Committee, who now is empowered to take action during all stages of all of the awards processes, from the start of the nominations all the way through and beyond the awarding of any honors.

As a result of discussion during the meetings, two new USHWA Committees were formed. A proposal to transfer final decisionmaking power on journalists to appear on the annual Communicators Hall of Fame ballot, which would have shifted that authority from the Directors to the Hall of Fame Screening Committee, was after a multifaceted discussion tabled pending a report from the new committee to be established to study the matter. Also to be the subject of investigation of a committee was the possibility of producing “past performance line”-type information to aid voters of the various Dan Patch Equine Awards at year’s end.

USHWA continued its recent trend of financial responsibility and income production during 2018, showing a profit for the second straight year. Prospects for 2019 also received an early boost from the excellent sale of journal ads, sponsorships, and tickets surrounding the weekend’s Dan Patch Awards Banquet.

As reported earlier, the Directors voted Ken Weingartner, media relations manager for the U.S. Trotting Association, and Phil Pikelny, former publicity director at the USTA and several tracks and also co-author of the book Rambling Willie: The Horse That God Loved, as ballot candidates for this summer’s election for the status of being a member of the Communicators Hall of Fame.

The team of Officers in charge of guiding the fortunes of USHWA was returned for another year: Shawn Wiles, of Monticello Raceway, as President; Kim Rinker, of the Ohio Sire Stakes and Ohio Standardbred Development Fund, as Vice-President; and freelance communicators Barry Lefkowitz and Jerry Connors as, respectively, treasurer and secretary. The fifth Officer, the multitasking Tim Bojarski, remains as Chair of the Board, as that position is defined in the USHWA bylaws as the immediate past president of the organization.

At the Dan Patch Awards Banquet, USHWA’s Stan Bergstein-Proximity Award, the highest honor voted on solely by the organization’s members and given for longtime distinguished service to the sport, was bestowed on the top moneywinning Standardbred of all time, the $7,635,588 earner Foiled Again. And the banquet crowd was roused to a standing ovation when the 15-year-old Foiled Again, now in retirement, was himself walked into the banquet hall , displaying the equanimity (or should that be “equinimity”?) which had endeared him to so many harness fans on both sides of the fence during his long and illustrious career.

McWicked, the leading moneywinner of the 2018 season, took home both Harness Horse of the Year and Pacer of the Year honors, while the three-year-old filly Atlanta, conqueror of “the boys” in the prestigious Hambletonian Stake, won plaudits as Trotter of the Year on the 2018 racing scene.

Also on hand to be honored were Ted Gewertz, Joe Holloway, Jerry Silverman, and Linda Toscano upon their election to the sport’s highest honor, the Hall of Fame, along with Mark Hall and Dave Little, who were voted into the Communicators Hall of Fame. This group will join with Hall of Fame electees Blair Burgess and Ted Wing to be formally inducted on the seventh of July at the site of the sport’s Hall, Goshen NY.

USHWA thanks all our 2019 DPA Banquet sponsors

McWicked

Crazy Wow and Crawford Farms

Ohio Harness Horsemen's Association

Southwind Frank Partners

United States Trotting Association

Hanover Shoe Farms

Shartin N Connections

AM Bloodstock

Six Pack Connections

Harrah's Hoosier Park

Delaware Valley USHWA

George Brennan

Bow River Jewelry

Embroidery Unlimited

Fennel's Tack Shop

USHWA announces media award winners

Dave Briggs and Bob “Hollywood” Heyden were named the winners of the 2018 John Hervey Awards for excellence in harness racing journalism while Chris Gooden and Michael Burns were named recipients of the George Smallsreed Awards for photography and Woodbine Entertainment Group was selected the winner of the Sam McKee Award for broadcasting, the U.S. Harness Writers Association announced Tuesday.

The winners will be recognized at the Dan Patch Awards banquet Feb. 24 at Rosen Shingle Creek resort in Orlando. Meadowlands Racetrack Chairman Jeffrey Gural is continuing his longstanding sponsorship of the awards by providing banquet tickets for the winners.

Briggs won in the feature writing category for his two-part series “Inside the Mind of Jimmy Takter” that appeared in the Nov. 24 and Nov. 25 editions of Harness Racing Update. To read part one, click here. To read part two, click here. With the win, Briggs extended his record for Hervey honors to 12, with eight of the trophies for feature writing.

Heyden won in the news/commentary category for his essay “Requiem for Sam McKee,” which appeared in the March 9 edition of Harness Racing Update. To read the piece, click here. The honor was Heyden’s first in the journalism category; he was recognized previously, with McKee, in the broadcast division.

Honorable mention in the feature writing category went to Jessica Hallett for her story “Stronger Together: Florida horsemen work together to bring a friend to a survivor,” which recounted the efforts of horsemen to find a therapy dog for Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting survivor Kayla Schaefer. The story appeared in the June issue of Hoof Beats magazine.

Honorable mention in the news/commentary category went to Derick Giwner for his column “Is the Standardbred horse shortage real?” that appeared in the June 21 edition of DRF Harness Weekend and to Briggs for his coverage of the Hambletonian Stakes in the Aug. 6 edition of Harness Racing Update.

The writing categories were judged by a panel consisting of past Hervey winner Brad Schmaltz, freelance writer Lou Monaco, and former Philadelphia Inquirer Sports Editor John Quinn.

In the Smallsreed competition, Gooden won in the race action category for his photograph “Blizzard,” which appeared online on March 14 on Australia’s National Trotguide website. Gooden is a two-time Smallsreed winner.

Burns won in the feature category for his photograph of pacers behind the starting gate that appeared on Oct. 18 on the Woodbine Mohawk Park website. Burns also is a two-time Smallsreed recipient.

Honorable mention in the action category went to Clive Cohen’s racing silhouette photograph that appeared on March 23 on the Woodbine Facebook and Instagram pages and to Ryan Thompson’s Hawthorne triple-dead-heat photograph that appeared on the Illinois Harness Horsemen’s Association’s website on Jan. 11, 2018.

Honorable mention in the feature category went to Brad Conrad’s snowy post parade photograph that appeared in the January 2018 issue of Hoof Beats and to Gooden’s “Ice Crystals” that appeared on Nov. 20 on the Pennsylvania Horse Racing Association’s Facebook page.

Judges for the photography categories were racetrack and newspaper photographer Bill Denver, multiple Eclipse Award-winning photographer Barbara Livingston, and former harness racing groom and longtime newspaper/magazine photographer Phil McAuliffe.

In the McKee competition, Woodbine Entertainment Group was honored for its story on 3-year-old pacer Lather Up, which appeared as part of the June 16 North America Cup coverage on TSN. The story was written and produced by Phil McSween for the NA Cup special produced by Kris Platts. It was narrated by Paul Salvalaggio and edited by Jason Vanderzee. The camera operators were David Syrie and Gage Fletcher. The win gave WEG its third award in the broadcast division. To watch the story, click here.

Honorable mention went to CBS Sports Network’s coverage of the Aug. 4 Hambletonian Stakes eliminations, produced by Peter Lasser and featuring broadcasters Gary Seibel, Dave Brower, and Greg Blanchard.

Entries for the Sam McKee Award were judged by Kurt Becker, track announcer at Keeneland and an Eclipse Award-winning broadcaster.

Sheila Napier Named 2018 Caretaker of the Year

Sheila Napier, who works in the Chris Beaver Stable, has been named the recipient of the 2018 Caretaker of the Year Award sponsored by Hard Rock Rocksino Northfield Park (HRRNP) in conjunction with the U.S. Harness Writers Association (USHWA).

Napier, 37, has worked for Beaver for three years, and in 2018 her horses included the $500,000-winning 3-year-old filly trotter Custom Cantab. She also had four horses that made the Ohio Sires Stakes championship card at Scioto Downs, including three in the 2-Year-Old Filly Trot. Prior to working for Beaver, Napier’s 10-year stint with Ron Potter including being the caretaker of the 2011 Little Brown Jug winner Big Bad John.

“I’ve always read about this award and this is really great,” said Napier, a native of Cincinnati whose first job working with horses came while in high school in 1995 at the Delaware (Ohio) Equine Lab. “I’ve been doing this for a long time and something I looked forward to as far as possibly getting, but maybe in Ohio and not this big.”

All caretakers in North America were eligible for the award, with nomination letters submitted detailing the skills and special qualities of the nominee. A seven-member panel — all of whom were former caretakers themselves — selected Napier as the winner.

Beaver nominated Napier, and in his letter he noted, “Sheila takes unrivaled pride in the condition of her horses. I can rest at ease when she has a horse racing. I know it will get on the road on time and will be wearing all the right equipment, even if I can’t make it.

“Her horses are never shorted on the care that I expect for them and that is required,” added the Ohio-based Beaver, who also winter trains at Spring Garden Ranch in Florida. “She can’t stay away from her horses. She truly loves them and takes incredible pride in their accomplishments. My life would be a lot easier if more grooms brought the passion into their work that Sheila has.”

Napier said she usually has at least eight horses under her care in the Beaver barn, and it was Custom Cantab who was the star in 2018. Included among Custom Cantab’s 13 wins were the Indiana Sires Stakes Super Final at Hoosier Park and the season-ending Matron at Dover Downs.

“Oh, that filly,” said Napier, whose travels always include her 11-year-old daughter Jess. “Custom Cantab is one of those special little fillies that wants to finish in the top three her whole life. She’s quite sassy, amazing and full of heart. I absolutely love that filly; she is very special.”

As winner of the HRRNP Caretaker of the Year Award, Napier will receive a cash prize of $500, transportation, hotel accommodations and two tickets to USHWA’s annual Dan Patch Awards banquet on Sunday, Feb. 24, at Rosen Shingle Creek in Orlando, where she will be presented a trophy.

Napier, along with all the USHWA 2018 award winners, will be recognized during the Dan Patch Awards banquet.

John Polvinale to receive USHWA President's Award

John Polvinale, who started the Facebook website Harness Racing History to share his extensive collection of memorabilia and has curated it to grow into one of harness racing’s most popular sites in the new technology, has been named the winner of a President’s Award by U.S. Harness Writers Association head Shawn Wiles for his contribution to the knowledge and enjoyment of the sport by people both inside and outside of the sport.

Polvinale first went to the races at Roosevelt Raceway when the track’s age was still in single digits, then furthered his knowledge on the backstretch of Freehold Raceway, where trainer “Big Mike” Petito urged him to purchase a horse named Steady New Yorker in 1979. “In his first start for me, he went off at double digits, but he still won by eight lengths, with Jack Moiseyev driving. I thought this sport was going to be a piece of cake – which, of course, has not turned out to be the case.”

But the inevitable ups and downs of racing did nothing to deter Polvinale’s enthusiasm for the game, with his love of history also leading him to assemble a large collection of harness-related materials, books, trophies – you name it. “I had started to watch race replays on the Internet and social media, and with the encouragement of friends who wanted me to share my collection, I decided to use these emerging media to start Harness Racing History.”

Polvinale soon found that his new site had struck resonantly with many harness racing fans – and also with people with only a passing or little knowledge of the sport. “It started with people that I knew,” John remembered, “but then those people talked to people in their own ‘circles,’ including those not in racing,” and a “ripple effect” was soon evident, with those outside the sulky community finding items and people that interested them. Harness Racing History just broke the 30,000 “member” plateau, and in a given month will have 100,000 “engagements” (posts, comments, likes, views). The site’s viewership is 60-40 male-female, and 60% fall within the desired 25-54 age range demographic.

It was Polvinale who started the Facebook page, doing most of the early postings, and he still checks the site “about once during most of my waking hours,” watching for any signs of commercialism or incivility, both of which are quickly eradicated. However, he is very proud that now “it’s mostly the members, the visitors to the site who have determined its ‘shape,’ and are the drivers of what appears on the website. We know of certain trends, say people who want to see the replays of certain races at certain times, but it’s really our audience who are the content shapers with their postings and comments.

“One of the things that gives me the greatest satisfaction is that the site has become a place where ‘family reunites’ – people who haven’t heard from another party for 20 or 30 years will see some experience they had in common and make a comment, and old friendships are reborn.” Polvinale’s catchwords for operating the site are “pure” and “simple,” and those feelings resonate so much that when USHWA president Wiles told John of his winning the award, Shawn used those very words in congratulating Polvinale – “and it was evident he had captured the spirit of the site exactly.”

John Polvinale will be honored at USHWA’s annual Dan Patch Awards Banquet, celebrating the best and brightest of harness racing in the past year. The banquet honoring the champions of 2018 will be held on Sunday, February 24, 2019 at the Rosen Shingle Creek Resort in Orlando FL, the climax of a weekend that also finds USHWA holding its annual national meetings.

Tickets for the Dan Patch Awards Banquet are $175, with a filet mignon dinner featured; “post times” on February 24 are cocktails at 6 p.m. and dinner at 7 p.m. Tickets, and other Banquet-related information, can be obtained through Dinner Planning Committee Chair Judy Davis-Wilson, at zoe8874@aol.com or 302 359 3630.

Hotel reservations for those attending can be made through USHWA’s website, www.ushwa.org; a link to the hotel’s computer is on the front page of the website. Those who would like to take out congratulatory ads for awardwinners in the always-popular Dan Patch Awards Journal can do so by contacting Kim Rinker at trotrink@aol.com (the 2018 journal is online at the writers’ website).

Grant to receive January Davies Humanitarian Award

When horse owner Brad Grant heard the news last April about the accident that claimed the lives of 16 people aboard a bus carrying the Humboldt Broncos junior hockey team, he knew he wanted to help. Grant, whose own involvement in Canadian junior hockey stretches more than three decades, was uncertain what to do, but came upon the answer as he looked at a page of racing entries.

Earlier in the year, Grant had bought a pacer named Humboldt. Grant decided to donate the horse’s earnings for the remainder of the month to the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League Assistance Program, which was created to raise funds for all people affected by the accident.

Humboldt, the horse, raised $15,000 for the fund. Horse owner Tom Rankin also contributed purse earnings to the program, pushing the figure to nearly $25,000.

For his efforts, Grant has been named the 2018 recipient of the January Davies Humanitarian Award presented by the U.S. Harness Writers Association. The award was created in 2008 by U.S. Harness Writers Association member Callie Davies-Gooch in memory of her daughter to recognize contributions beyond harness racing.

“Brad is the epitome of what this award is about,” Davies-Gooch said. “His work in the community, not only in this instance but in many others, is a great example of humanitarianism and he is a perfect choice for this award.”

Grant, a resident of Milton, Ontario, said he was surprised by the recognition.

“I think there are a lot of good people that do a lot of good things, but I’m honored,” Grant said. “I’ve known Callie all my life. To receive this in memory of her daughter is really quite an honor.”

Grant, the leading owner on the Woodbine Entertainment circuit in 2018, is also on the volunteer board of the Milton District Hospital Foundation, which raises funds for facilities and equipment.

In addition, Grant has held several positions in the Ontario Hockey Association, including chairman. In 1986, he purchased the Milton Merchants junior hockey club and saved the team from folding. The Merchants won four division titles, three league championships, and a provincial crown before Grant sold the team in 2001. In November, Grant was inducted into the Milton Sports Hall of Fame for his work with the program.

It was his connection to junior hockey that fueled his desire to help the people affected by the Humboldt tragedy.

“Hockey has been a big part of my life and I know many of the people out there in junior hockey,” Grant said. “That’s something people are never going to forget; it’s a tragedy beyond tragedies. To be able to get something going and support those who are going to need help down the road, my wife and I are very big supporters of health care in our local community at the hospital, so it was a no-brainer for us to do something. In my mind it was the least we could do.”

On the racetrack, Grant enjoyed a banner year. In February, his horses won three 2017 O’Brien Awards — Stay Hungry, Bettor’s Up, and Sandbetweenurtoes. His highlight on the track came in August when he watched filly Atlanta win the Hambletonian, but he also owned multiple-stakes-winner Stay Hungry and six-figure-earners Babes Dig Me, Dr J Hanover, Easy Lover Hanover, Captain Trevor, B Yoyo, Witch Dali, Bettor’s Up, Captain Ahab, and Missle Hill.

In December, Atlanta was named the Dan Patch Award-winner for best 3-year-old female trotter.

“There were a lot of highs this year,” Grant said. “It’s going to be hard to top, but I’d sure love to give it a try. We’re hoping for good things for some of our 3-year-olds coming back and it looks like we have a nice crop of (2-year-olds). They’re all going good, which at this time of year it’s really hard to get excited, but they seem to know what they’re supposed to do and their breeding says they should know what to do so we’ll keep our fingers crossed.

“It’s going to be hard to top last year, but just to be a part of it, that’s the exciting part.”

Grant will be honored at USHWA’s annual Dan Patch Awards Banquet, celebrating the best and brightest of harness racing in the past year. The banquet honoring the champions of 2018 will be held on Sunday, February 24, 2019 at the Rosen Shingle Creek Resort in Orlando FL, the climax of a weekend that also finds USHWA holding its annual national meetings.

Tickets for the Dan Patch Awards Banquet are $175, with a filet mignon dinner featured; “post times” on February 24 are cocktails at 6 p.m. and dinner at 7 p.m. Tickets, and other Banquet-related information, can be obtained through Dinner Planning Committee Chair Judy Davis-Wilson, at zoe8874@aol.com or 302 359 3630.

Reservations for those attending can be made through USHWA’s hotel link at the top of this page. Those who would like to take out congratulatory ads for award winners in the always-popular Dan Patch Awards Journal can do so by contacting Kim Rinker at trotrink@aol.com (the 2018 journal is online at the writers’ website).

 

Heather Vitale named USHWA Member of the Year

Heather Vitale, secretary of the Delaware Valley Chapter of the United States Harness Writers Association, international harness racing video journalist, self-proclaimed “Harness Racing’s Firework,” two-time Sam McKee Broadcasters Award winner, and probably the only person in harness racing who both holds Madonna as a role model and also has her own Wikipedia page, has been announced by USHWA President Shawn Wiles as the organization’s Member of the Year.

“Make no mistake about it, there is only one Heather Vitale,” USHWA president Wiles said. “Her colorful and lively persona always adds excitement to any event. We look forward to seeing Heather again at this year’s Dan Patch Awards Dinner, on the Red Carpet, as we have for many years. She has been a great voice and face for harness racing in her region and for USHWA.”

Heather comes from a multi-generational harness family in Delaware. Her mother, Jo Ann Looney-King, was the first woman to drive a winner at The Meadowlands, and she is the co-owner of 2018’s outstanding pacing mare Shartin N, trained by husband Jim King Jr.

Heather is a graduate of Monmouth (NJ) University, with a focus on public relations/journalism, and she chose to follow that career path rather than working with the horses. Her show “Post Time” has aired on the CBS affiliate in the Delmarva region for some 20 years, and she also co-hosts the weekly show “Pennsylvania Harness Week,” a position in which she has served for nearly a decade. She has worked for ESPN and for the Little Brown Jug network.

But a person of Heather’s ambition, flamboyance, and talent cannot of course be confined to any one country. Her journalistic travels have taken her not only to Canada, a logical extension because of the fluency of the U.S./Canada harness crossing, but also to Ireland and Australia, where she appeared as an on-air reporter during a major stakes day.

Heather was also a driving force behind getting the richest harness horse world-wide, Foiled Again, into the famous “stable” of Breyer collectible horse models.

Heather is a prolific user of social media since its inception, with many followers of her frequent postings on the various platforms.

“I’m not a bettor,” she says, “so I focus my stories on the horses and the people in the sport, trying to tell their interesting stories, and trying to appeal to people to come out to the track and watch the races. I want to expose the sport outside of the fans we already have.”

Her presentation is tirelessly upbeat and positive in the service of harness racing.

Perhaps the best summation of Heather Vitale was offered by Joe Thomson of Winbak Farms, who once told her, “The best business I could be in is to bottle your attitude and sell it.”

The Harness Writers Association has benefited a great deal from her attitude and her talents, and that’s why she has been named USHWAn of the Year.

Heather Vitale (and her family in their connections to Shartin N) will be honored at USHWA’s annual Dan Patch Awards Banquet, celebrating the best and brightest of harness racing in the past year. The banquet honoring the champions of 2018 will be held on Sunday (Feb. 24) at the Rosen Shingle Creek Resort in Orlando Fla., the climax of a weekend that also finds USHWA holding its annual national meetings.

Vitale will be honored at USHWA’s annual Dan Patch Awards Banquet, celebrating the best and brightest of harness racing in the past year. The banquet honoring the champions of 2018 will be held on Sunday, February 24, 2019 at the Rosen Shingle Creek Resort in Orlando FL, the climax of a weekend that also finds USHWA holding its annual national meetings.

Tickets for the Dan Patch Awards Banquet are $175, with a filet mignon dinner featured; “post times” on February 24 are cocktails at 6 p.m. and dinner at 7 p.m. Tickets, and other Banquet-related information, can be obtained through Dinner Planning Committee Chair Judy Davis-Wilson, at zoe8874@aol.com or 302 359 3630.

Reservations for those attending can be made through USHWA’s hotel link at the top of this page. Those who would like to take out congratulatory ads for award winners in the always-popular Dan Patch Awards Journal can do so by contacting Kim Rinker at trotrink@aol.com (the 2018 journal is online at the writers’ website).

Marcus Melander voted Rising Star by USHWA

 

Marcus Melander, “to the manor born” in terms of personal harness racing pedigree, went out in 2018 and made great accomplishments with a small but talented collection of trotters. They included the two dominant two-year-old colts in the division, Gimpanzee and Green Manlishi S in the process of earning the Rising Star award.

Marcus Melander came from a rich trotting heritage in his native Sweden, with perhaps the best-known of his family being his uncle Stefan Melander, the Hambletonian, Prix d’Amerique, and International Trot winner, and also noted for his photography as “Foto Tarzan.” Upon coming to the United States, Marcus worked for Jimmy Takter, an addition to a resume anyone would want, and then went out on his own.

2018 was the current peak of what is likely to be many more high points in Marcus’s career. His 1-2 punch in the baby trotting colt ranks were Gimpanzee, the undefeated New York Sire Stakes champion who then won his Breeders Crown and divisional honors, and Green Manalishi S, second in the Crown and like his stablemate a winner of over $500,000 in his freshman campaign. (Other members in Melander’s 2019 sophomore arsenal may be Demon On The Hill, who showed great potential, mostly in Pennsylvania, and Greenshoe, a $330,000 yearling who showed promise in a brief freshman campaign.)

It’s not often that anybody wins a $1,000,000 race, especially a 26-year-old sending a horse out for the first time, but that’s just what Melander did. He received Cruzado Dela Noche from uncle Stefan before the International Trot and then beating a group of the world’s elite trotters. In another big FFA win, Crazy Wow, also recently added to the barn, turned in a 31-1 upset in the Maple Leaf Trot Final.

Melander will be honored at USHWA’s annual Dan Patch Awards Banquet, celebrating the best and brightest of harness racing in the past year. The banquet honoring the champions of 2018 will be held on Sunday, February 24, 2019 at the Rosen Shingle Creek Resort in Orlando FL, the climax of a weekend that also finds USHWA holding its annual national meetings.

Tickets for the Dan Patch Awards Banquet are $175, with a filet mignon dinner featured; “post times” on February 24 are cocktails at 6 p.m. and dinner at 7 p.m. Tickets, and other Banquet-related information, can be obtained through Dinner Planning Committee Chair Judy Davis-Wilson, at zoe8874@aol.com or 302 359 3630.

Reservations for those attending can be made through USHWA’s hotel link at the top of this page. Those who would like to take out congratulatory ads for award winners in the always-popular Dan Patch Awards Journal can do so by contacting Kim Rinker at trotrink@aol.com (the 2018 journal is online at the writers’ website).

Order By Stable, Lady Ashlee Ann, Southwind Serena honored

 

The United States Harness Writers announced the winners of the Breeder of the Year and Top Broodmares of the Year on Friday (Dec. 28).

Named as Breeder of the Year, was the Order By Stable of Stefan Balazsi, which started in Sweden but now is one of the emerging major players on the North American breeding scene. The breeding operation produced only 30 starters “on this side” during 2018, but still ranked twelfth in terms of money won, with Order By’s offspring earning $2.4 million in Canada and the U.S.

The Hambletonian-winning, million-dollar earning sophomore filly Atlanta, her division’s champion, certainly was the cream of the crop of Order By Stable’s produce in 2018. Not too far behind, though, was Gimpanzee, in connection with trainer Marcus Melander, who also was a divisional champion and accounted for almost $600,000 in earnings himself.

The winning broodmares shared producing a three-year-old colt who when at his best delivered blistering speed that left most of his generation behind. Lady Ashlee Ann, a daughter of Camtastic owned by Winbak Farms for more than twenty years, was the dam of pacer Courtly Choice, a son of Art Major who sped to a 1:47.1 record, emerged victorious in the Empire Breeders Classic Final, Meadowlands Pace, and a thrilling Little Brown Jug, and earned over $900,000. Lady Ashlee Ann was declared a “walkover winner” by USHWA’s Breeders / Broodmares Committee, so outstanding did they see the merit of her and her son.

On the trotting side, Southwind Serena, a Varenne mare owned by Steve Stewart, Black Creek Farm, and Andrea Lea Racing Stables Inc., was recognized because of the exploits of trotter Tactical Landing. This Muscle Hill colt, a full brother to the mercurial distaff Mission Brief, had been in the spotlight since his sale for $800,000 as a yearling, second-highest price ever, and for the better part of the next two years looked like a questionable investment. But trainer Jimmy Takter exhibited tremendous developmental patience, and entering the Hambletonian with five races lifetime and $14,000 on his card, the colt showed he “belonged” by winning his elimination and finishing third in the final. This was the igniting of a late-season surge, which then saw him take a mark of 1:50.2 at Lexington, sweep his Breeders Crown races and then defeat older horses handily in the TVG Championship – while winning nearly $800,000 after the first Saturday in August.

Order By Stable, Lady Ashlee Ann, Southwind Serena, and their connections will be honored at USHWA’s annual Dan Patch Awards Banquet, celebrating the best and brightest of harness racing in the past year. The banquet honoring the champions of 2018 will be held on Sunday, February 24, 2019, at the Rosen Shingle Creek Resort in Orlando FL, the climax of a weekend that also finds USHWA holding its annual national meetings.

Tickets for the Dan Patch Awards Banquet are $175, with a filet mignon dinner featured; “post times” on February 24 are cocktails at 6 p.m. and dinner at 7 p.m. Tickets, and other Banquet-related information, can be obtained through Dinner Planning Committee Chair Judy Davis-Wilson, at zoe8874@aol.com or 302 359 3630.

Reservations for those attending can be made through USHWA’s hotel link at the top of this page. Those who would like to take out congratulatory ads for award winners in the always-popular Dan Patch Awards Journal can do so by contacting Kim Rinker at trotrink@aol.com (the 2018 journal is online at the writers’ website).

Aaron Merriman voted Driver of the Year

Aaron Merriman, the first driver to win over 1,000 races in a single season twice and is on track to post the second-highest one-season victory total in North American history, has been selected as Driver of the Year in a vote among members of the United States Harness Writers Association (USHWA), harness racing’s leading media group.

Merriman is only 40 years old, but he is already a “veteran” of 20+ years of the sulky wars, learning from his father Lanny, mostly at Northfield Park near Cleveland. He had 182 winners in 2000, his first year of full-time exposure, but he has been gaining with every step, with 10,945 victories in his career.

Merriman will post the second-highest win total for a driver in harness racing history, behind only Tim Tetrick’s standard of 1189 in 2007; Aaron was at 1121 after Wednesday’s racing. This total eclipses his personal best of 1093, taken last year, and this year he reached another important milestone with his mounts earning over $10.3 million – his first eight-figure season.

The level of competition Aaron faces at the main terminals of his endless miles on the road is very high – at Northfield, he consistently races against Ronnie Wrenn Jr., who was the last person to dethrone him for the national title (2014, by a 847-841 count), and at The Meadows near Pittsburgh he competes against Dave Palone, the winningest driver of all-time (18,640 and counting), and the leading pilot at The Meadows since shortly after high-wheeled sulkies went out of fashion, so it seems.

Merriman will be honored at USHWA’s annual Dan Patch Awards Banquet, celebrating the best and brightest of harness racing in the past year. The banquet honoring the champions of 2018 will be held on Sunday, February 24, 2019 at the Rosen Shingle Creek Resort in Orlando FL, the climax of a weekend that also finds USHWA holding its annual national meetings.

Reservations for those attending can be made through USHWA’s hotel link at the top of this page. Those who would like to take out congratulatory ads for award winners in the always-popular Dan Patch Awards Journal can do so by contacting Kim Rinker at trotrink@aol.com (the 2018 journal is online at the writers’ website). Information about purchasing tickets for the dinner will become available and be posted shortly.

Crawford, Cotolo, Gooden honored by USHWA

Michelle Crawford may not keep quite as unremitting a schedule as Driver of the Year Aaron Merriman, but she comes very close. An unbridled enthusiastic voice for harness racing, Michelle is foremost the co-operator with her husband Al of Crawford Farms, a Midstate New York breeding facility, and his racing component Crawford Farms Racing, always looking to acquire the next big star and improve the overall quality of horses associated with Crawford.

One giant step towards that goal in 2018 found Michelle in the winners circle of the sport’s biggest race, the Hambletonian, as a partner on three-year-old filly Atlanta, who upended the boys in the classic race for three-year-old trotters and then went on to a $1 million season, and now looms as potentially a great broodmare. Crawford Racing also is co-owner of Homicide Hunter, whose 1:48.4 mile at Lexington earned him “World’s Fastest Trotter” honors.

Michelle is aware of the “bigger picture” in harness racing, reflected in her serving as vice-president of the Harness Horse Breeders of New York, and especially as a board member of the newly-formed Standardbred Transition Alliance, where she will undoubtedly put into practice on a continental level the well-established programs to take care of former racing and breeding stock. Her knowledge and enthusiasm make her one of the more positive forces – a real Good “Guy” — for the sport.

Two other USHWA honorees serve the sport on a communications level, with one of them involved in the chronicling of the sport half his life – and he’s only 19!

Ray Cotolo, winner of the Breakthrough Award as an up-and-comer on the non-training-driving side, started accompanying his journalist father Frank to the major races. Catolo swiftly picked up the necessary knowledge to combine with his natural communications skills to become a source of knowledge for the industry and fans in several areas: a podcast called North American Harness Update, a pioneer (2012) project which went “on the road” for the first time in 2018; freelance work, mainly writing, for entities as the Hambletonian Society, The Meadowlands, Standardbred Canada, the Woodbine Entertainment Group, and the Red Mile; and as a budding announcer.

And Ray is doing all this while enrolled at Elizabethtown (PA) College, as a communications major benefitting from the Harold Snyder Memorial Scholarship Fund of the late on-track television pioneer.

Chris Gooden works as the photographer for the racing at The Meadows Racetrack, in addition to “regular” jobs his business picks up in his southwestern Pennsylvania area. But what is “Unsung” – and remarkable – about Gooden is the amount of work he does gratis, of his own volition, to keep The Meadows at the forefront of the new forms of “social” communications media.

Facebook coverage of live racing? Check. Including “live-from-the-bike” camera photography? Double check. Keeping up a high profile on Twitter? Check. And there’s one above and beyond the call of duty. When illness hampered a local horseman’s finances a few months ago, Gooden posted a Facebook notice that he was selling a special photo of Foiled Again – the Bergstein/Proximity winner, and based at Gooden’s “home track” of The Meadows – and would donate the money minus shipping to the beleaguered family, with over $1,500 having been raised so far. No fanfare, just results — that’s why Chris Gooden is an Unsung Hero.

Merriman, Crawford, Cotolo, and Gooden will be honored at USHWA’s annual Dan Patch Awards Banquet, celebrating the best and brightest of harness racing in the past year. The banquet honoring the champions of 2018 will be held on Sunday, February 24, 2019, at the Rosen Shingle Creek Resort in Orlando FL, the climax of a weekend that also finds USHWA holding its annual national meetings.

Reservations for those attending can be made through USHWA’s hotel link at the top of this page. Those who would like to take out congratulatory ads for award winners in the always-popular Dan Patch Awards Journal can do so by contacting Kim Rinker at trotrink@aol.com (the 2018 journal is online at the writers’ website). Information about purchasing tickets for the dinner will become available and will be posted shortly.

Champion Foiled Again wins Bergstein Proximity Award

 

Foiled Again, the highest, money-winning Standardbred racehorse of all-time with $7,634,938 in his bankroll, in the final stages of a whirlwind “Foiled Again Farewell Tour” as he faces mandatory retirement upon reaching 15 years of age on Tuesday (Jan. 1), has been selected for the Stan Bergstein/Proximity Award, the highest award in the sport voted on exclusively by the United States Harness Writers Association, harness racing’s leading media association.

Foiled Again is an altered son of Dragon Again out of the Artsplace mare In A Safe Place. He raced for trainer Herman Heitmann at two and three, and into his fourth year before being purchased by Sylvia Burke, Weaver Bruscemi LLC (Mark Weaver and Michael Bruscemi), and JJK Stables LLC (Joseph Koury Sr. and his sons Joseph Jr. and Kevin). Mickey Burke, Sylvia’s husband and Ron’s father, was transitioning from raceway activities to overseeing the younger horses, and he handled the conditioning of Foiled Again until Ron took over full-time training responsibility in November 2008.

Foiled Again reached his full potential under his new connections, staying a vital member of the free-for-all pacing community for half-a-dozen years. He was Older Pacing Horse of the Year in 2011, 2012, and 2013, during each of which he earned more $1 million. Foiled Again took his mark of 1:48 in 2013 at the age of nine, in the elimination race of the Ben Franklin Pace at Pocono, coming back the next week to win the Franklin Final and then later in the year to sweep his Breeders Crown action over the same red clay oval.

Fans grew to embrace Foiled Again as he battled on at a high quality of performance over the years; they latched onto this “evergreen pacer” who they knew would always give them every ounce of his energy. Once he broke the record for earnings ($5.8 million by the trotter Ready Cash), he gained even more cache, and attracted media attention like few other Standardbreds or any other racehorses.

As he entered his 14th year, perhaps a step or two off his peak speed but still competitive every time behind the gate, his connections decided to establish a “Foiled Again Farewell Tour,” matching him against local horses and letting fans around the United States and Canada give one last salute to the gallant pacer. He raced at 18 different tracks during 2018, in 10 different states and provinces, and seemed very little the worse for wear. When he raced at Harrah’s Philadelphia on Sunday, (Dec. 9), he returned to a track where he had first raced 4,165 days – 11 years, 4 months, and 25 days – earlier.

Foiled Again’s 331st and final start comes on Monday (Jan. 31) at The Meadows, the home track of the Burkes and Weaver Bruscemi, and as has been noted, “it’s unlikely there will be a dry eye in the house.” (Start 330 came at Mohawk last Saturday (Dec. 22), where Foiled Again posted career victory 109.)

Foiled Again is only the second horse to win the Bergstein–Proximity Award: the other was Rambling Willie, who was honored in 1984 after a career that strikingly parallels Foiled Again’s in longevity, earnings record-setting, competitiveness in the free-for-all ranks for years, and popularity among the race-going public. In an ever-changing world, Foiled Again reaches across 34 years to join another horse who didn’t know the meaning of the end of a mile, the end of a career, or making outstanding contributions to harness racing.

Foiled Again and his connections will be honored at USHWA’s annual Dan Patch Awards Banquet, celebrating the best and brightest of harness racing in the past year. The banquet honoring the champions of 2018 will be held on Sunday, February 24, 2019 at the Rosen Shingle Creek Resort in Orlando FL, the climax of a weekend that also finds USHWA holding its annual national meetings.

Reservations for those attending can be made at the top of the homepage of this website. Those who would like to take out congratulatory ads for award winners in the always-popular Dan Patch Awards Journal can do so by contacting Kim Rinker at trotrink@aol.com (the 2018 journal is online at the writers’ website). Information about purchasing tickets for the dinner will become available and be posted shortly.


Burke Trainer of Year, Burke Racing/Weaver Bruscemi top owners

It seems fitting that as the spotlight finds Foiled Again in his last campaign, it also finds his trainer and his ownership, who have been instrumental in the tremendous success of the horse – Ron Burke has been named Trainer of the Year for the third time (2011 and 2013), while the Burke Racing Stable LLC and Weaver Bruscemi LLC combine will follow their 2013 Owners of the Year prize with another in 2018, in voting conducted by the U.S. Harness Writers Association.

Ron Burke, who took over the training of the Burke Stable in late October 2008, has been an unstoppable force the last 10 years, achieving success levels unreached in the sport. He will reach 1,000 victories with his far-flung barn in 2018, his third time posting four figures, and his stable will top the $21 million mark in purses won for the sixth year. For his outstanding 2018, Burke got more votes from USHWA than did any other human (one horse did top him, though – Foiled Again).

And as always, there was quality in with the quality. The stable sent out divisional champions Warrawee Ubeaut (2PF) and Dorsoduro Hanover (3PC and millionaire); these two teamed with Percy Blue Chip (3PF) to give Burke three Breeders Crown Championships during 2018. Seasoned pacers Filibuster Hanover and Rockin Ron also earned more $500,000 each, giving Burke Racing/Weaver Bruscemi five horses who took down more than half a million; trainer Burke had a sixth in 3PF Youaremycandygirl. And then there was of course Foiled Again, who kept in good condition to race every year a Standardbred can race – 13, from the minimum of age two to the maximum of age 14.

Youaremycandygirl is an exception to the usual makeup of Ron Burke’s outfit – most of its horses are owned, in whole or in part, by Burke Racing Stable LLC and Weaver Bruscemi LLC. So if trainer Burke has a good year, it’s probable that Burke Racing Stable LLC and Weaver Bruscemi LLC followed along in suit.

An important component of Burke Racing Stable LLC and Weaver Bruscemi LLC is the amount that they give back to the sport, which has provided them with successes and thrills. The “Foiled Again Farewell Tour” is a prime example. So too is their “policy” of usually having partners on most of their stakes horses – this is a way to give owners who might have a slight chance (to no chance) to have Grand Circuit horses be a part of the excitement of campaigning a world-class competitor against the best in their division throughout the stakes season.

Foiled Again and his connections will be honored at USHWA’s annual Dan Patch Awards Banquet, celebrating the best and brightest of harness racing in the past year. The banquet honoring the champions of 2018 will be held on Sunday, February 24, 2019 at the Rosen Shingle Creek Resort in Orlando FL, the climax of a weekend that also finds USHWA holding its annual national meetings.

Reservations for those attending can be made through a link to the hotel’s computer is on the front page of this website. Those who would like to take out congratulatory ads for award winners in the always-popular Dan Patch Awards Journal can do so by contacting Kim Rinker at trotrink@aol.com (the 2018 journal is online at the writers’ website). Information about purchasing tickets for the dinner will become available and be posted shortly.

USHWA announces Dan Patch Award-winning pacers

(Watch the video announcement of these awards by clicking this link)

McWicked and Shartin N, ranked No. 1 and No. 2 respectively in the sport’s year-end poll, were landslide winners for division honors among pacers in Dan Patch Award voting released Thursday by the U.S. Harness Writers Association. Shartin N, a 5-year-old mare, was named best older female pacer on all but one ballot while McWicked, a 7-year-old stallion, was named best older male pacer on all but three.

Also named division winners were 2-year-old colt Captain Crunch, 2-year-old filly Warrawee Ubeaut, 3-year-old gelding Dorsoduro Hanover, and 3-year-old filly Kissin In The Sand. All of the winners with the exception of Dorsoduro Hanover received at least 90 percent of the vote in their division. Dorsoduro Hanover won, 65-53, over runner-up Courtly Choice in the closest divisional balloting among either pacers or trotters this year.

A total of 130 Dan Patch Award ballots were returned by eligible members of the U.S. Harness Writers Association and American Harness Racing Secretaries. Dan Patch Award winners will be honored at the organization’s banquet Feb. 24 at Rosen Shingle Creek resort in Orlando, Fla., at which time Trotter, Pacer, and Horse of the Year will be announced.

Divisional trotting champions were announced Wednesday.

McWicked led the sport in earnings this year, with $1.57 million. He became the first horse older than the age of 5 to top the money standings since 7-year-old trotter Savoir in 1975. McWicked also became the oldest male pacer to ever win a Dan Patch Award at age 2 or 3 and capture another trophy as an older horse. His first honor came at 3 in 2014.

For the season, McWicked won 12 of 19 races, capping his campaign with a five-race win streak, and hit the board a total of 17 times. His victories included the $500,000 Ben Franklin Pace, $471,100 William R. Haughton Memorial, $462,000 Canadian Pacing Derby, $430,000 Breeders Crown, $350,000 TVG Series Open championship, $250,000 Dan Rooney Invitational, and $179,000 Allerage Farms Open. His 1:46.2 clocking in the Allerage was the second-fastest race mile in history.

Brian Sears was McWicked’s primary driver, but David Miller also posted Grand Circuit wins with the Casie Coleman-trained stallion. McWicked, a son of McArdle out of Western Sahara, is owned by Ed James’ S S G Stables. He was bred by Andray Farm.

Shartin N became the first pacing mare to earn $1 million in a season, finishing the year with $1.05 million thanks to 19 wins in 24 races. The New Zealand-bred mare joins Hall of Famer Cardigan Bay as a “Down Under” import to receive a Dan Patch Award. Cardigan Bay, also from New Zealand, was a two-time honoree (1965 and 1968).

Trained by Jim King Jr. and driven by Tim Tetrick, Shartin N’s wins included the $373,000 Blue Chip Matchmaker Series championship, $281,200 Roses Are Red, $270,000 Breeders Crown, $197,400 Lady Liberty, $175,000 TVG Series Mare championship, $161,000 Artiscape, $150,000 Betsy Ross Invitational, $102,200 Chip Noble Memorial, and $98,500 Allerage Farms Mare Pace. She also finished the year with a five-race win streak.

Shartin N, a daughter of Tintin In America out of Bagdarin, is owned by Richard Poillucci and Jo Ann Looney-King. She was bred by GJ Crabbe.

Dorsoduro Hanover got the nod among 3-year-old male pacers after leading the division with $1.28 million in purses, the second-highest total in the sport. He won 10 of 22 races, with his victories including the $530,000 Breeders Crown, $400,000 Delvin Miller Adios, and $253,000 Pennsylvania Sire Stakes championship. He also had six second-place finishes, including in the Meadowlands Pace and Little Brown Jug.

Ron Burke trained the gelding, who was driven by Matt Kakaley. Dorsoduro Hanover is owned by Sylvia Burke’s Burke Racing Stable, the partnership of Jerry Silva, Theresa Silva, Purnel Jones Jr. and Elizabeth Jones, the partnership of Mark Weaver and Mike Bruscemi, and the Wingfield Five (Bradley, Charles, Kimberly, Robert and Thomas Wingfield). The son of Somebeachsomewhere out of Deer Valley Miss was bred by Hanover Shoe Farms.

Two-year-old filly Warrawee Ubeaut also is part of the Burke Brigade. She won seven of 12 races and earned a division-leading $646,995 for trainer Burke and driver Yannick Gingras. Her wins included the $600,000 Breeders Crown and $207,000 Kentuckiana Stallion Management Stakes. In addition, her 1:48.3 victory in a $61,250 division of the International Stallion Stakes at Red Mile made her the fastest 2-year-old pacer in history.

Warrawee Ubeaut is owned by Sylvia Burke’s Burke Racing Stable, Phil Collura, the partnership of Jerry Silva, Theresa Silva, Purnel Jones Jr. and Elizabeth Jones, and the partnership of Mark Weaver and Mike Bruscemi. A daughter of Sweet Lou out of Great Memories, she was bred by Warrawee Farm.

Three-year-old filly Kissin In The Sand and 2-year-old colt Captain Crunch both are from the stable of trainer Nancy Johansson and were driven by Scott Zeron.

Kissin In The Sand won 10 of 15 races and never finished worse than second on her way to a division-best $845,495 in purses. Her wins included the $300,000 James M. Lynch Memorial, $253,000 Pennsylvania Sire Stakes championship, $191,800 Mistletoe Shalee, and $126,000 Bluegrass Stakes. She was second in the Breeders Crown and Fan Hanover.

Marvin Katz and Bud Hatfield’s Hatfield Stables own Kissin In The Sand, who is a daughter of Somebeachsomewhere out of Kiss Me Kate. The filly was bred by Christina Takter, John Fielding, RAW Equine and Concord Stud Farm.

Captain Crunch won six of 10 races and earned a division-leading $616,113. His triumphs included the $600,000 Breeders Crown and $469,300 Governor’s Cup.

He is owned by 3 Brothers Stables (Alan, Ron and Steve Katz), Christina Takter, Norman and Robert Aerenson’s Rojan Stables, and Judy and Buck Chaffee’s Caviart Farms. Captain Crunch, a son of Captaintreacherous out of Sweet Paprika, was bred by Walnridge Farm and Sherri Meirs.

For more information about the Dan Patch Awards banquet and Rosen Shingle Creek resort, visit the U.S. Harness Writers Association’s website.

2-Year-Old Male Pacer
Captain Crunch (126 votes/96.9 percent)
Captaintreacherous – Sweet Paprika – Artiscape
Yearling price: $85,000 under the name Captain Bean at Standardbred Horse Sale
Breeders: Walnridge Farm, Sherri Meirs
Owners: 3 Brothers Stables, Christina Takter, Rojan Stables, Caviart Farms
Trainer: Nancy Johansson Driver: Scott Zeron
Races: 10-6-1-1 Purses: $616,113 Mark: 1:49.1 at Red Mile
Top wins: $600,000 Breeders Crown; $469,300 Governor’s Cup

2-Year-Old Female Pacer
Warrawee Ubeaut (124 votes/95.3 percent)
Sweet Lou – Great Memories – Apaches Fame
Yearling price: $70,000 at Lexington Selected Sale
Breeder: Warrawee Farm
Owners: Burke Racing Stable, Phil Collura, J&T Silva-Purnel & Libby, Weaver Bruscemi
Trainer: Ron Burke Driver: Yannick Gingras
Races: 12-7-1-2 Purses: $646,995 Mark: 1:48.3 at Red Mile (world record)
Top wins: $600,000 Breeders Crown; $207,000 Kentuckiana Stallion Management Stakes

3-Year-Old Male Pacer
Dorsoduro Hanover (65 votes/50 percent)
Somebeachsomewhere – Deer Valley Miss – Artsplace
Yearling price: $100,000 at Standardbred Horse Sale
Breeder: Hanover Shoe Farms
Owners: Burke Racing Stable, Silva, Purnel & Libby, Weaver Bruscemi, Wingfield Five
Trainer: Ron Burke Driver: Matt Kakaley
Races: 22-10-6-2 Purses: $1.28 million Mark: 1:49.4 at Pocono
Top wins: $530,000 Breeders Crown; $400,000 Adios

3-Year-Old Female Pacer
Kissin In The Sand (117 votes/90 percent)
Somebeachsomewhere – Kiss Me Kate – Real Artist
Yearling price: $130,000 at Standardbred Horse Sale
Breeders: Christina Takter, John Fielding, RAW Equine, Concord Stud Farm
Owners: Marvin Katz, Hatfield Stables
Trainer: Nancy Johansson Driver: Scott Zeron
Races: 15-10-5-0 Purses: $845,495 Mark: 1:47.4 at Red Mile
Top wins: $300,000 Lynch Memorial; $191,800 Mistletoe Shalee

Older Male Pacer
McWicked (127 votes/97.6 percent)
McArdle – Western Sahara – Western Ideal
Yearling price: $35,000 at Standardbred Horse Sale
Breeder: Andray Farm
Owner: S S G Stables
Trainer: Casie Coleman Drivers: Brian Sears, David Miller
Races: 19-12-3-2 Purses: $1.57 million Mark: 1:46.2 at Red Mile
Top wins: $500,000 Ben Franklin; $471,100 Haughton Memorial; $462,000 Canadian Pacing Derby; $430,000 Breeders Crown

Older Female Pacer
Shartin N (129 votes/99.2 percent)
Tintin In America – Bagdarin – Live Or Die
Yearling price: None, sold privately at age 4
Breeder: G J Crabbe
Owners: Richard Poillucci, Jo Ann Looney-King
Trainer: Jim King Jr. Driver: Tim Tetrick
Races: 24-19-1-0 Purses: $1.05 million Mark: 1:48.2 at Red Mile
Top wins: $373,000 Blue Chip Matchmaker final; $281,200 Roses Are Red; $270,000 Breeders Crown; $197,400 Lady Liberty

Complete vote totals are available at this link.

USHWA announces Dan Patch Award-winning trotters

(Watch the video announcement of these awards by clicking this link)

Hambletonian-winning filly Atlanta led a distinguished group of trotters named division champions in Dan Patch Award voting released Wednesday (Dec. 19) by the U.S. Harness Writers Association. Atlanta received 96.1 percent of the votes for best 3-year-old female trotter, the highest total among the six trotting honorees.

Also named division winners were 2-year-old colt Gimpanzee, 2-year-old filly Woodside Charm, 3-year-old colt Six Pack, 6-year-old gelding Homicide Hunter, and 4-year-old mare Ariana G.

Ariana G, who received the nod for best older female trotter, was the only repeat winner. She collected her third trophy and joined CR Kay Suzie (1994-96) and Peace Corps (1988-90) as the only female trotters to receive a Dan Patch Award at ages 2, 3 and 4.

A total of 130 Dan Patch Award ballots were returned by the U.S. Harness Writers Association’s membership this year. Dan Patch Award winners will be honored at the organization’s banquet Feb. 24 at Rosen Shingle Creek resort in Orlando, Fla., at which time Trotter, Pacer, and Horse of the Year will be announced.

Divisional pacing champions will be announced at noon Thursday (Dec. 20) during a live stream broadcast on the Facebook pages of both the U.S. Harness Writers Association and U.S. Trotting Association.

Atlanta, who received 125 votes, became the first filly to win the Hambletonian since 1996 when she captured the $1 million final Aug. 4 at the Meadowlands. Trained by Rick Zeron and driven by his son Scott, she won eight of 14 races this year and earned a division-leading $1.01 million. Her victories also included the $320,000 Kentucky Filly Futurity and $238,613 Empire Breeders Classic. She finished second in the $500,000 Breeders Crown.

A daughter of Chapter Seven out of Hemi Blue Chip, Atlanta is owned by Rick Zeron, Michelle and Al Crawford’s Crawford Farms, William Holland’s Holland Racing Stable, Howard Taylor, and Brad Grant. She was bred by Order By Stable.

In the division for the 3-year-old colts and geldings, Six Pack received 54.6 percent of the vote in the closest balloting among trotters. He outdistanced runner-up Tactical Landing, 71-46.

Six Pack, a son of Muscle Mass out of Pleasing Lady, won 11 of 15 races this year and earned a division-best $1.15 million. His triumphs included the $620,000 Kentucky Futurity, $500,000 Yonkers Trot, $223,673 Empire Breeders Classic, $210,150 Matron Stakes, and a $181,000 division of the Stanley Dancer Memorial. His winning time of 1:49.1 in the Kentucky Futurity final is the fastest mile ever by a 3-year-old trotter.

Åke Svanstedt trained and drove Six Pack in addition to owning the colt with Jeff Gural’s Little E LLC, Tomas Olofsson’s Stall Kalmar FF, and Lars Berg. Six Pack was bred by Brittany Farms.

Ariana G added to her hardware collection by receiving 63.8 percent of the vote for best older female trotter, finishing 50 votes ahead of second-place Emoticon Hanover. Ariana G was trained by Hall of Famer Jimmy Takter, who retired at the end of the season, and posted victories with drivers Yannick Gingras, Brian Sears, and David Miller.

The homebred mare, a daughter of Muscle Hill out of Cantab It All, won five of 14 races this year and earned a division-leading $597,802 for owners Marvin Katz and Al Libfeld. She beat male rivals in all her wins, including the $405,850 Hambletonian Maturity and $250,000 Graduate Series championship, which were for 4-year-olds, as well as the $150,000 Dayton Trotting Derby and an elimination of the Maple Leaf Trot. She finished third in the Maple Leaf final.

Homicide Hunter, the fastest trotter in history thanks to his 1:48.4 winning mile in the Allerage Farms Open on Oct. 6 at Red Mile, received the Dan Patch Award for best older male trotter with 73.8 percent of the vote. Marion Marauder, the division’s 2017 champion, was the only other vote-getter.

In addition to winning the Allerage, Homicide Hunter captured the $500,000 Breeders Crown, $200,000 Charlie Hill Memorial, and $100,000 Great Northeast Open Series championship. George Napolitano Jr., Aaron Merriman, and Brian Sears each had a Grand Circuit victory with the Chris Oakes-trained gelding. Homicide Hunter, a son of Mr Cantab out of Evening Prayer, is owned by Michelle and Al Crawford’s Crawford Farms Racing and was bred by Patrick Graham.

Gimpanzee and Woodside Charm were undefeated, marking the first time both 2-year-old trotting champions completed unblemished campaigns. They also were the two richest 2-year-old trotters this season.

Marcus Melander-trained Gimpanzee, who got 90 percent of the vote, dominated the New York Sire Stakes circuit, winning six preliminary rounds and the $225,000 championship, before finishing his season by winning his Breeders Crown elimination and the $600,000 final.

His 9-for-9 performance resulted in earnings of $591,358 for owners Anders Ström’s Courant Inc. and Lennart Agren’s SRF Stable. Brian Sears drove Gimpanzee, who became the first undefeated 2-year-old male trotter to receive a Dan Patch Award since Wheeling N Dealin in 2012. Gimpanzee, a son of Chapter Seven out of Steamy Windows, was bred by Order By Stable.

Woodside Charm, who received 93.8 percent of the vote, won all seven of her starts for owner-trainer-driver Verlin Yoder. Her wins included the $600,000 Breeders Crown and $236,000 Kentuckiana Stallion Management Stakes. She also won a division of the New York Sire Stakes at Saratoga in 1:53.4, the fastest mile ever by a 2-year-old trotter on a half-mile track.

A daughter of Chapter Seven out of Fireworks Hanover, Woodside Charm was bred by AV & Son Bloodstock. She became only the second unbeaten 2-year-old filly trotter to win a Dan Patch Award, following 2017 honoree Manchego.

2-Year-Old Male Trotter
Gimpanzee (117 votes/90 percent)
Chapter Seven – Steamy Windows – Muscle Massive
Yearling price: $170,000 under the name Army Of Monkeys at Standardbred Horse Sale
Breeder: Order By Stable
Owners: Courant Inc., SRF Stable
Trainer: Marcus Melander Driver: Brian Sears
Races: 9-9-0-0 Purses: $591,358 Mark: 1:54.3 at Vernon Downs
Top wins: $600,000 Breeders Crown; $225,000 New York Sire Stakes final

2-Year-Old Female Trotter
Woodside Charm (122 votes/93.8 percent)
Chapter Seven – Fireworks Hanover – Muscles Yankee
Yearling price: Private
Breeder: AV & Son Bloodstock LLC
Owner: Verlin Yoder
Trainer: Verlin Yoder Driver: Verlin Yoder
Races: 7-7-0-0 Purses: $521,658 Mark: 1:53 at Pocono
Top wins: $600,000 Breeders Crown; $236,000 Kentuckiana Stallion Management Stakes

3-Year-Old Male Trotter
Six Pack (71 votes/54.6 percent)
Muscle Mass – Pleasing Lady – Cantab Hall
Yearling price: $30,000 at Lexington Selected Sale
Breeder: Brittany Farms
Owners: Åke Svanstedt Inc., Little E LLC, Stall Kalmar FF, Lars Berg
Trainer: Åke Svanstedt Driver: Åke Svanstedt
Races: 15-11-2-1 Purses: $1.15 million Mark: 1:49.1 at Red Mile (world record)
Top wins: $620,000 Kentucky Futurity; $500,000 Yonkers Trot; $210,150 Matron Stakes

3-Year-Old Female Trotter
Atlanta (125 votes/96.1 percent)
Chapter Seven – Hemi Blue Chip – Cantab Hall
Yearling price: $60,000 under the name Django Unchained at Standardbred Horse Sale
Breeder: Order By Stable
Owners: Rick Zeron/Crawford Farms, Holland Racing Stable, Howard Taylor, Brad Grant
Trainer: Rick Zeron Driver: Scott Zeron
Races: 14-8-5-1 Purses: $1.01 million Mark: 1:50.3 at Vernon Downs
Top wins: $1 million Hambletonian; $320,000 Kentucky Filly Futurity

Older Male Trotter
Homicide Hunter (96 votes/73.8 percent)
Mr Cantab – Evening Prayer – Like A Prayer
Yearling price: Homebred, sold privately at age 4
Breeder: Patrick Graham
Owner: Crawford Farms Racing
Trainer: Chris Oakes Drivers: George Napolitano Jr., Brian Sears, Aaron Merriman
Races: 16-9-0-2 Purses: $605,770 Mark: 1:48.4 at Red Mile (world record)
Top wins: $500,000 Breeders Crown; $200,000 Hill Memorial; $145,000 Allerage

Older Female Trotter
Ariana G (83 votes/63.8 percent)
Muscle Hill – Cantab It All – Cantab Hall
Yearling price: Homebred
Breeders: Marvin Katz, Al Libfeld
Owners: Marvin Katz, Al Libfeld
Trainer: Jimmy Takter Drivers: Yannick Gingras, Brian Sears, David Miller
Races: 14-5-1-1 Purses: $597,802 Mark: 1:50.2 at Meadowlands
Top wins: $405,850 Hambletonian Maturity; $250,000 Graduate; $150,000 Dayton Derby

Complete vote totals are available at this link.

United States Harness Writers Association

The United States Harness Writers Association (USHWA), the world's largest organization for industry communicators.

The United States Harness Writers Association is a group of more than 220 members committed to the chronicling of harness racing through the print and electronic media. It was founded in 1947 by New York City area sportswriters who were covering harness racing at Roosevelt Raceway. It remains the only media organization in harness racing with a membership of newspaper, magazine, radio and TV, ad agency, publicists and others involved in racing communications. With most of USHWA's members allied to one of 12 regional chapters, the association strives to bring about a closer relationship among the media, racetracks and horsemen to promote a centuries-old American-bred sport.

USHWA members, in annual voting, choose harness racing's most prestigious awards, such as the Living Hall of Fame and the Horse of the Year. Its Stanley F. Bergstein-Proximity Achievement Award is one of the sport's most cherished honors. It also recognizes top divisional winners and leading drivers and trainers at its annual awards dinner, which began in 1948.

The association is governed by a member board of directors, which represents the chapters and at-large members (those living or working in regions where there is no chapter). Also serving are seven national officers and past presidents.

USHWA, with input from the American Harness Racing Secretaries and logistic expertise provided by the United States Trotting Association, determines the Horse of the Year and other equine and human awards. USHWA also presents the John Hervey Awards for excellence in writing and broadcasting. Its members choose Hall of Famers, so the association also works closely with the Harness Racing Museum & Hall of Fame at Goshen, New York. A number of chapters hold annual awards or recognition dinners to salute the leading horses and drivers in their areas. Some chapters also raise money for local charities.

Contact USHWA at ushwainfo@gmail.com

Charters, Gural, Popfinger, Tetrick on HOF ballot

Tom Charters, Jeff Gural, Bill Popfinger, and Tim Tetrick have been selected by the Hall of Fame Screening Committee of the United States Harness Writers Association (USHWA) as ballot candidates for this summer’s election vote toward harness racing’s highest honor, membership in the sport’s Hall of Fame.

The chapters of USHWA, the sport’s leading media organization, nominate deserving candidates based on prepared biographical information and discussion within the chapters. This list of names is then considered by the USHWA Screening Committee, with consultation with several Hall of Fame members, on Hall of Fame Day, the first Sunday in July at Goshen, and they then select the candidates for that year’s balloting, with the provision that anyone connected to a candidate is excluded from the discussion of and vote on that candidate’s viability. A person must receive 75% of the yes-no voted of the USHWAns eligible to vote and the current Hall of Fame members in order to join the Goshen pantheon.

Tom Charters worked his way through the ranks in harness racing, starting out as a caretaker (among his charges was Horse of the Year Delmonica Hanover) before becoming a racing secretary. In 1984 the Hambletonian Society hired Charters as executive director of the Breeders Crown, a newly-created series of season-end championship races, and his work in establishing the Crowns as signature events led to his being named executive director of the Society in 1994, then being promoted in 1998 to president and chief executive officer. Charters’ tireless work in such diverse fields as increasing racing handle, simulcasting and television production, international racing, and brand name establishment, plus the temperament to juggle all of these jobs along with dealing the wide range of personalities at the highest levels of the sport, firmly established him as one of the captains of the industry.

Jeff Gural was a longtime racing fan, owner, and breeder, associated with Allerage Farms, Little E LLC, and other equine partnerships, along with proprietorship of New York’s Vernon Downs and Tioga Downs racetracks, when he undertook the monumental task of leading the privatization of the sport’s flagship track in North America, The Meadowlands, away from a state-run operation of New Jersey. Enlisting the aid of many of the sport’s top figures in addition to large investments of his own money, time, and expertise, Gural has been the directing force of the revitalization of the mile oval, with a new grandstand built on the old backstretch side of the track, a facility and the parallel racing program aimed squarely at maximizing revenue for all of racing’s interlinked parties in today’s changing, challenging gaming environment.

Bill Popfinger has been a horseman for over 50 years, going from success at smaller tracks to operating a powerful Grand Circuit stable, and he continues his winning tradition today – a trainee of his won at Pocono on Monday. Popfinger first hit the harness limelight 50 years when he guided Lady B Fast to an upset win over the great trotters Fresh Yankee and Nevele Pride at Yonkers, and he cemented his stardom with his famous daring early move to the lead with Happy Escort, “the lights on, the horn honking, and the pedal to the metal,” to defeat heavy favorites Falcon Almahurst and Flight Director in the 1978 Little Brown Jug raceoff. That quote also cemented Popfinger’s nickname of “Showbiz,” and over the years he campaigned such marquee horses as Happy Motoring, Praised Dignity, Spellbound Hanover, Say Hello, and Spicy Charlie.

Tim Tetrick, at age 37, has already become one of only four drivers to have driven the winners of over $200 million in his career, and few doubt he will contend for the top spot, John Campbell’s $299M+ career total, before all is done – after all, any possible mishaps may not slow a man who already has two “bionic hips” after replacement surgery. Also the single-season money recordholder for a driver with $19.7M in 2008, Tetrick also produces quantity with quality, driving his 11,000th winner earlier this year, putting him ninth all-time, fifth among active drivers, and second in the 2019 dashwinning standings. The list of top horses associated with Tetrick is too long to mention here, but it is fairly safe to say that when it comes to Breeders Crown time and the selection of year-end awardwinners, the name “Tetrick” will be associated with several of the champions.

Charters, Gural, Popfinger, and Tetrick will be joined on the ballot by Phil Pikelny, former author and publicist, and Ken Weingartner, media relations manager for the USTA, the two ballot candidates for the Communicators Hall of Fame selected by USHWA directors at their annual meetings this past February.

USHWA sponsors race at Goshen Historic

Members of USHWA were on hand on Sunday (July 7) to sponsor a race at Goshen Historic Track and made the presentation in the winner's circle. (Photo courtesy of Geri Schwarz)

Dan Patch Awards returns to Rosen Shingle Creek in 2020

Harness racing is cashing a winning trifecta as the annual Dan Patch Awards banquet of the United States Harness Writers Association (USHWA) will return to Rosen Shingle Creek Resort in Orlando, Fla., for the third year in a row in 2020. The banquet, which honors the best equines and humans in the sport, will take place on Sunday night, Feb. 23.

Rosen Shingle Creek played host to the Dan Patch Awards weekend (which includes the annual meetings of the Harness Writers) for the first time in 2018 and proved such a popular venue the past two years that it was unanimously voted to again return to the stunning 230-acre property. After four-star reviews of the last two dinners, including a surprise appearance by Stan Bergstein-Proximity Award winner Foiled Again this year that many proclaimed one of the most memorable moments ever in racing, it's never too early to consider sponsorship opportunities that are available.

To inquire about sponsorship opportunities for the weekend, including Dan Patch Presenting Sponsor, live video streaming sponsor, Red Carpet reception sponsor, and live feed sponsor hosted by Heather Vitale and Heather Wilder, please contact USHWA President Shawn Wiles at: swiles@empireresorts.com.

"USHWA is ecstatic to return to Rosen Shingle Creek for the third consecutive year," said Wiles. "This is a first-class venue that our dinner quests and attendees thoroughly enjoy coming to."

USHWA would again like to thank this year's sponsors, which included:

McWicked; Crazy Wow & Crawford Farms; Ohio Harness Horsemen's Association; Southwind Frank Partners; Shartin N connections; AM Bloodstock; Six Pack connections; Harrah's Hoosier Park; Delaware Valley USHWA; Bow River Jewelry; Fennell's Tack Shop; Embroidery Unlimited; Nick Surick; the Hambletonian Society; George Brennan; Hanover Shoe Farms; and the United States Trotting Association.

All the award winners will be announced in advance of the dinner except for Pacer of the Year, Trotter of the Year, and Horse of the Year. The names of those three prestigious award winners will remain sealed in envelopes and revealed at the conclusion of the dinner.

As for Rosen Shingle Creek, the site is located just off Universal Boulevard, within 10 minutes of the Orlando International Airport and minutes from all area attractions. Rosen Shingle Creek is a five-star property that is ranked a top-20 U.S. meeting hotel by Cvent. The property includes an 18-hole, Arnold Palmer-redesigned golf course, four swimming pools, a spa that includes nine treatment rooms, two lighted tennis courts, sand volleyball, basketball and a state-of-the-art fitness center.

There are 15 restaurant/lounges located on the property, including the upscale steakhouse A Land Remembered, the fine-dining bistro Cala Bella, Banrai Sushi, Mi Casa Tequila Taqueria, and a 24-hour deli.

As noted, as part of the weekend, USHWA's board of directors meeting will take place on Saturday, Feb. 22, and its annual general membership meeting will take place on Sunday morning,

More details will be made available at the USHWA website and through trade media as they become available throughout the year.

Foiled Again’s Dan Patch awards surprise party was a big hit

Moments into his speech to accept the Stan Bergstein-Proximity Award on behalf of legendary pacer Foiled Again during Sunday’s U.S. Harness Writers Association’s Dan Patch Awards banquet, co-owner Joe Koury Jr. was halted by USHWA member Gordon Waterstone. Koury knew he had not exceeded his time limit because he was just getting started, so he was surprised.

Surprise was about to turn to shock.

“Don’t you think we ought to have the award-winner here?” Waterstone soon said to Koury.

Enter Foiled Again.

Foiled Again turned the idea of a surprise party upside down when he emerged from behind the curtained stage area to the delight of the 320 banquet attendees at Rosen Shingle Creek resort. Only a handful of people knew in advance of Foiled Again’s appearance, which was conceived by Waterstone with Foiled Again’s co-owners Ron Burke and Mark Weaver.

“I was wondering what was going on,” said Koury, who like the entire Burke Brigade other than Burke, Weaver and Foiled Again’s caretaker for the night, Devan Miller, had no idea of the plan. “Next thing you know, Foiled was coming out. I was absolutely shocked. It was a great experience. It was exciting.”

Said Joe Koury Sr., “When Foiled showed up, it was unbelievable. I was shocked. Tears were rolling down my cheeks, it was just amazing.”

“I didn’t expect it; that’s the last thing that would have crossed my mind,” said Yannick Gingras, who drove Foiled Again for the majority of the gelding’s career and won numerous major stakes together. “I thought it was really cool, something different.”

Many others had the same reaction, which was what Burke and his co-planners had hoped.

“It was unbelievable,” Burke said. “I knew it would be a hit, especially with my father (Mickey), but it was a hit with everybody. It was one of the coolest moments ever. We thought it would be something nobody would be expecting and would add a little bit of fun, and it did.”

Waterstone, who in addition to being a member of USHWA is associate editor of The Horseman And Fair World magazine, worked with the resort’s staff to set up Foiled Again’s appearance. It required an extra bit of insurance and a protective covering for the banquet room carpet, which was new.

“I called Mark about bringing Foiled Again to the banquet and he said to talk to Ronnie,” Waterstone said. “I called Ronnie and he said absolutely, but he wanted to do it as a secret.

“It came off better than I thought it would. You keep your fingers crossed. The reaction was unbelievable. To be involved in this was really cool.”

Foiled Again was already staying near Orlando, at the Burke’s winter stable in Astor.

“Devan did a great job,” Burke said. “She had to prep him for it and people were wondering why she was prepping him when he was just there hanging out. He looked incredible. I was thrilled.”

Unfazed by the cheers that filled the banquet room and the joyful commotion that soon engulfed him, Foiled Again stood perfectly for his admirers.

“He was like a little showman,” Joe Koury Sr. said. “He’s like a celebrity, a celebrity of the humblest measure. It was just unbelievable. He’s amazing. I love him to death.”

Foiled Again reached harness racing’s mandatory retirement age of 15 when the calendar turned to 2019. He is the sport’s all-time richest horse, with $7.63 million in purses, and ranks ninth with 109 lifetime wins. He received Dan Patch Awards for best older male pacer in 2011, 2012 and 2013 and was Pacer of the Year in 2011.

Last year, he embarked on a Farewell Tour that attracted numerous fans to racetracks across North America, as well as garnering mainstream media attention. He will be inducted into the Harness Racing Hall of Fame in July.

Foiled Again is owned by Burke Racing, the partnership of Weaver and Mike Bruscemi, and the Koury family’s JJK Stables. The group bought the horse in 2008 when he was 4. He was trained by Mickey Burke briefly before Mickey retired and handed the lines to his son Ron.

“He’s a dream come true,” Joe Koury Jr. said. “To be a part of this with such great friends and partners is amazing. We were all young guys who, for the most part, were just getting started. He brought us up all together and put us on a different level. It’s just been a phenomenal ride.”

And now that the ride is completed, Foiled Again will enjoy a life of leisure.

“He’s basically going to live my dad’s life,” Ron Burke said with a laugh. “They’ll be hanging out together forever.”

McWicked is 2018 Horse of the Year

McWicked on Sunday became the oldest pacer in history to be named Horse of the Year, receiving harness racing’s top honor to cap the U.S. Harness Writers Association’s Dan Patch Award banquet at Rosen Shingle Creek. The 7-year-old stallion bested pacing mare Shartin N, 86-27, to claim the trophy. Atlanta, who was named Trotter of the Year, finished third with eight votes.

Earlier in the night, McWicked was named Pacer of the Year, 95-31, over Shartin N. McWicked is owned by Ed James’ SSG Stables and trained by Casie Coleman. Brian Sears was McWicked’s primary driver, but David Miller also won on the Grand Circuit with the stallion. A son of McArdle out of Western Sahara, he was bred by Andray Farm.

McWicked led the sport in earnings last year, with $1.57 million, and became the oldest horse in 43 years to top the money standings. For the season, McWicked won 12 of 19 races, capping his campaign with a five-race win streak, and hit the board a total of 17 times.

The previous oldest pacer to be named Horse of the Year was Good Time, who was 6 when he received the award in 1952.

Earlier this month, McWicked was named Horse of the Year in Canada. Coleman has trained three Horse of the Year winners in Canada, but McWicked was her first in the U.S., as well as the first for owner James. Sears, who drove McWicked in 12 of his 19 races, has sat behind four Horse of the Year honorees.

“We’ve been fortunate to have three horses of the year in Canada, and to get it done here is pretty awesome,” Coleman said. “Winning a double (Horse of the Year) with him, and doing it with a horse that’s 7 turned 8, it’s not often that it happens. Now we have to hope he can do it again next year. He’s going to be another year older, but I see no reason why he shouldn’t be just as good next year. We’ll see what happens.”

McWicked’s victories last season included the Breeders Crown, Ben Franklin Pace, William R. Haughton Memorial, Canadian Pacing Derby, TVG Series Open championship, Dan Rooney Invitational, and Allerage Farms Open. His 1:46.2 clocking in the Allerage was the second-fastest race mile in history.

“It was a very tough group all season, and just the way he did it, his last start he was just as good as his first start,” Coleman said. “His last start at the Meadowlands (in the TVG) he did it like there was nothing to it. It was scary how good we put him away. We’re really excited to see what he can do again next year.”

Atlanta became the first filly to win the Hambletonian since 1996 when she captured the $1 million final Aug. 4 at the Meadowlands. Driven by Scott Zeron, she won eight of 14 races last year and led all 3-year-old filly trotters with $1.01 million in purses. Her victories also included the Kentucky Filly Futurity and Empire Breeders Classic.

A daughter of Chapter Seven out of Hemi Blue Chip, Atlanta was owned in 2018 by trainer Rick Zeron, Michelle and Al Crawford’s Crawford Farms, William Holland’s Holland Racing Stable, Howard Taylor, and Brad Grant. She was bred by Order By Stable. The horse sold recently for a record $1.55 million to a group led by Michelle Crawford.

“I’m very happy,” Crawford said. “I was very excited to hear her for Trotter of the Year. I think she deserves it. I watched her from the beginning and she’s just a freak, a really phenomenal filly. I can’t wait to put her in the breeding shed and have her babies, but I’m not trying to get her off the track by any means. I’m excited for her future, but I’m not rushing her off the track. Not at all.”

The announcements of Horse, Pacer, and Trotter of the Year were made during Sunday’s banquet. Previously announced divisional champions also were honored at the event.

Division-winning pacers were 2-year-old colt Captain Crunch, 2-year-old filly Warrawee Ubeaut, 3-year-old gelding Dorsoduro Hanover, 3-year-old filly Kissin In The Sand, Shartin N, and McWicked. Division-winning trotters were 2-year-old colt Gimpanzee, 2-year-old filly Woodside Charm, 3-year-old colt Six Pack, 6-year-old gelding Homicide Hunter, 4-year-old mare Ariana G, and Atlanta.

Other honorees included Stan Bergstein-Proximity Award winner Foiled Again, Driver of the Year Aaron Merriman, Trainer of the Year Ron Burke, Breeder of the Year Order By Stable, Owners of the Year Burke Racing and the partnership of Mark Weaver and Mike Bruscemi, and Rising Star Marcus Melander.

Foiled Again surprised the audience of 320 by emerging from behind the curtained stage as part of the Bergstein-Proximity presentation that kicked off the festivities. The crowd rose to its feet and cheered Foiled Again, the sport’s all-time richest horse who retired at the end of 2018 following a farewell tour that attracted numerous fans to racetracks across North America and garnered mainstream media attention.

Also recognized Sunday at the banquet were the members of the 2018 Hall of Fame class, which will be inducted in July: Blair Burgess, Ted Gewertz, Joe Holloway, Jerry Silverman, Linda Toscano, and Ted Wing.

Dan Patch Awards Banquet Video available here

Whether you attended it in person and would like to relive the event or if you were unable to be there and want to see what everyone is talking about, you can now watch the entire 2019 Dan Patch Awards Banquet from the Rosen Shingle Creek Resort in Orlando, Florida.

The video is broken into two halves and follow the original order of the night's program. The videos are provided courtesy of the United States Trotting Association.

 

2019 Dan Patch Awards Pt1 from USTA on Vimeo.

2019 Dan Patch pt2 from USTA on Vimeo.

Dan Patch Awards Banquet Red Carpet Photos available here

All the Red Carpet photos taken as guests entered in are available by clicking here.

An album of photos taken throughout the course of the night can be viewed by clicking here.

All photos were provided by the award winning photo journalist Chris Gooden.

USHWA CONDUCTS ANNUAL MEETINGS, BANQUET IN ORLANDO

The United States Harness Writers Association (USHWA), the leading organization of harness racing’s chroniclers, held its annual meetings at the Rosen Shingle Creek Resort in Orlando FL for the second consecutive year this past Saturday and Sunday. The writers’ meetings were held in conjunction with the group’s annual Dan Patch Awards Banquet, which on Sunday evening celebrated the best of brightest of the sport during the 2018 racing campaign (including an attending “mystery guest” – more on him near the end).

Saturday’s meeting gathered the organization’s board of directors, while Sunday’s session was an open gathering for all of USHWA’s members.

The major by-law change passed by the USHWA directors gave a fuller oversight authority to the group’s Integrity Committee, who now is empowered to take action during all stages of all of the awards processes, from the start of the nominations all the way through and beyond the awarding of any honors.

As a result of discussion during the meetings, two new USHWA Committees were formed. A proposal to transfer final decisionmaking power on journalists to appear on the annual Communicators Hall of Fame ballot, which would have shifted that authority from the Directors to the Hall of Fame Screening Committee, was after a multifaceted discussion tabled pending a report from the new committee to be established to study the matter. Also to be the subject of investigation of a committee was the possibility of producing “past performance line”-type information to aid voters of the various Dan Patch Equine Awards at year’s end.

USHWA continued its recent trend of financial responsibility and income production during 2018, showing a profit for the second straight year. Prospects for 2019 also received an early boost from the excellent sale of journal ads, sponsorships, and tickets surrounding the weekend’s Dan Patch Awards Banquet.

As reported earlier, the Directors voted Ken Weingartner, media relations manager for the U.S. Trotting Association, and Phil Pikelny, former publicity director at the USTA and several tracks and also co-author of the book Rambling Willie: The Horse That God Loved, as ballot candidates for this summer’s election for the status of being a member of the Communicators Hall of Fame.

The team of Officers in charge of guiding the fortunes of USHWA was returned for another year: Shawn Wiles, of Monticello Raceway, as President; Kim Rinker, of the Ohio Sire Stakes and Ohio Standardbred Development Fund, as Vice-President; and freelance communicators Barry Lefkowitz and Jerry Connors as, respectively, treasurer and secretary. The fifth Officer, the multitasking Tim Bojarski, remains as Chair of the Board, as that position is defined in the USHWA bylaws as the immediate past president of the organization.

At the Dan Patch Awards Banquet, USHWA’s Stan Bergstein-Proximity Award, the highest honor voted on solely by the organization’s members and given for longtime distinguished service to the sport, was bestowed on the top moneywinning Standardbred of all time, the $7,635,588 earner Foiled Again. And the banquet crowd was roused to a standing ovation when the 15-year-old Foiled Again, now in retirement, was himself walked into the banquet hall , displaying the equanimity (or should that be “equinimity”?) which had endeared him to so many harness fans on both sides of the fence during his long and illustrious career.

McWicked, the leading moneywinner of the 2018 season, took home both Harness Horse of the Year and Pacer of the Year honors, while the three-year-old filly Atlanta, conqueror of “the boys” in the prestigious Hambletonian Stake, won plaudits as Trotter of the Year on the 2018 racing scene.

Also on hand to be honored were Ted Gewertz, Joe Holloway, Jerry Silverman, and Linda Toscano upon their election to the sport’s highest honor, the Hall of Fame, along with Mark Hall and Dave Little, who were voted into the Communicators Hall of Fame. This group will join with Hall of Fame electees Blair Burgess and Ted Wing to be formally inducted on the seventh of July at the site of the sport’s Hall, Goshen NY.

USHWA thanks all our 2019 DPA Banquet sponsors

McWicked

Crazy Wow and Crawford Farms

Ohio Harness Horsemen's Association

Southwind Frank Partners

United States Trotting Association

Hanover Shoe Farms

Shartin N Connections

AM Bloodstock

Six Pack Connections

Harrah's Hoosier Park

Delaware Valley USHWA

George Brennan

Bow River Jewelry

Embroidery Unlimited

Fennel's Tack Shop

USHWA announces media award winners

Dave Briggs and Bob “Hollywood” Heyden were named the winners of the 2018 John Hervey Awards for excellence in harness racing journalism while Chris Gooden and Michael Burns were named recipients of the George Smallsreed Awards for photography and Woodbine Entertainment Group was selected the winner of the Sam McKee Award for broadcasting, the U.S. Harness Writers Association announced Tuesday.

The winners will be recognized at the Dan Patch Awards banquet Feb. 24 at Rosen Shingle Creek resort in Orlando. Meadowlands Racetrack Chairman Jeffrey Gural is continuing his longstanding sponsorship of the awards by providing banquet tickets for the winners.

Briggs won in the feature writing category for his two-part series “Inside the Mind of Jimmy Takter” that appeared in the Nov. 24 and Nov. 25 editions of Harness Racing Update. To read part one, click here. To read part two, click here. With the win, Briggs extended his record for Hervey honors to 12, with eight of the trophies for feature writing.

Heyden won in the news/commentary category for his essay “Requiem for Sam McKee,” which appeared in the March 9 edition of Harness Racing Update. To read the piece, click here. The honor was Heyden’s first in the journalism category; he was recognized previously, with McKee, in the broadcast division.

Honorable mention in the feature writing category went to Jessica Hallett for her story “Stronger Together: Florida horsemen work together to bring a friend to a survivor,” which recounted the efforts of horsemen to find a therapy dog for Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting survivor Kayla Schaefer. The story appeared in the June issue of Hoof Beats magazine.

Honorable mention in the news/commentary category went to Derick Giwner for his column “Is the Standardbred horse shortage real?” that appeared in the June 21 edition of DRF Harness Weekend and to Briggs for his coverage of the Hambletonian Stakes in the Aug. 6 edition of Harness Racing Update.

The writing categories were judged by a panel consisting of past Hervey winner Brad Schmaltz, freelance writer Lou Monaco, and former Philadelphia Inquirer Sports Editor John Quinn.

In the Smallsreed competition, Gooden won in the race action category for his photograph “Blizzard,” which appeared online on March 14 on Australia’s National Trotguide website. Gooden is a two-time Smallsreed winner.

Burns won in the feature category for his photograph of pacers behind the starting gate that appeared on Oct. 18 on the Woodbine Mohawk Park website. Burns also is a two-time Smallsreed recipient.

Honorable mention in the action category went to Clive Cohen’s racing silhouette photograph that appeared on March 23 on the Woodbine Facebook and Instagram pages and to Ryan Thompson’s Hawthorne triple-dead-heat photograph that appeared on the Illinois Harness Horsemen’s Association’s website on Jan. 11, 2018.

Honorable mention in the feature category went to Brad Conrad’s snowy post parade photograph that appeared in the January 2018 issue of Hoof Beats and to Gooden’s “Ice Crystals” that appeared on Nov. 20 on the Pennsylvania Horse Racing Association’s Facebook page.

Judges for the photography categories were racetrack and newspaper photographer Bill Denver, multiple Eclipse Award-winning photographer Barbara Livingston, and former harness racing groom and longtime newspaper/magazine photographer Phil McAuliffe.

In the McKee competition, Woodbine Entertainment Group was honored for its story on 3-year-old pacer Lather Up, which appeared as part of the June 16 North America Cup coverage on TSN. The story was written and produced by Phil McSween for the NA Cup special produced by Kris Platts. It was narrated by Paul Salvalaggio and edited by Jason Vanderzee. The camera operators were David Syrie and Gage Fletcher. The win gave WEG its third award in the broadcast division. To watch the story, click here.

Honorable mention went to CBS Sports Network’s coverage of the Aug. 4 Hambletonian Stakes eliminations, produced by Peter Lasser and featuring broadcasters Gary Seibel, Dave Brower, and Greg Blanchard.

Entries for the Sam McKee Award were judged by Kurt Becker, track announcer at Keeneland and an Eclipse Award-winning broadcaster.

Sheila Napier Named 2018 Caretaker of the Year

Sheila Napier, who works in the Chris Beaver Stable, has been named the recipient of the 2018 Caretaker of the Year Award sponsored by Hard Rock Rocksino Northfield Park (HRRNP) in conjunction with the U.S. Harness Writers Association (USHWA).

Napier, 37, has worked for Beaver for three years, and in 2018 her horses included the $500,000-winning 3-year-old filly trotter Custom Cantab. She also had four horses that made the Ohio Sires Stakes championship card at Scioto Downs, including three in the 2-Year-Old Filly Trot. Prior to working for Beaver, Napier’s 10-year stint with Ron Potter including being the caretaker of the 2011 Little Brown Jug winner Big Bad John.

“I’ve always read about this award and this is really great,” said Napier, a native of Cincinnati whose first job working with horses came while in high school in 1995 at the Delaware (Ohio) Equine Lab. “I’ve been doing this for a long time and something I looked forward to as far as possibly getting, but maybe in Ohio and not this big.”

All caretakers in North America were eligible for the award, with nomination letters submitted detailing the skills and special qualities of the nominee. A seven-member panel — all of whom were former caretakers themselves — selected Napier as the winner.

Beaver nominated Napier, and in his letter he noted, “Sheila takes unrivaled pride in the condition of her horses. I can rest at ease when she has a horse racing. I know it will get on the road on time and will be wearing all the right equipment, even if I can’t make it.

“Her horses are never shorted on the care that I expect for them and that is required,” added the Ohio-based Beaver, who also winter trains at Spring Garden Ranch in Florida. “She can’t stay away from her horses. She truly loves them and takes incredible pride in their accomplishments. My life would be a lot easier if more grooms brought the passion into their work that Sheila has.”

Napier said she usually has at least eight horses under her care in the Beaver barn, and it was Custom Cantab who was the star in 2018. Included among Custom Cantab’s 13 wins were the Indiana Sires Stakes Super Final at Hoosier Park and the season-ending Matron at Dover Downs.

“Oh, that filly,” said Napier, whose travels always include her 11-year-old daughter Jess. “Custom Cantab is one of those special little fillies that wants to finish in the top three her whole life. She’s quite sassy, amazing and full of heart. I absolutely love that filly; she is very special.”

As winner of the HRRNP Caretaker of the Year Award, Napier will receive a cash prize of $500, transportation, hotel accommodations and two tickets to USHWA’s annual Dan Patch Awards banquet on Sunday, Feb. 24, at Rosen Shingle Creek in Orlando, where she will be presented a trophy.

Napier, along with all the USHWA 2018 award winners, will be recognized during the Dan Patch Awards banquet.

John Polvinale to receive USHWA President's Award

John Polvinale, who started the Facebook website Harness Racing History to share his extensive collection of memorabilia and has curated it to grow into one of harness racing’s most popular sites in the new technology, has been named the winner of a President’s Award by U.S. Harness Writers Association head Shawn Wiles for his contribution to the knowledge and enjoyment of the sport by people both inside and outside of the sport.

Polvinale first went to the races at Roosevelt Raceway when the track’s age was still in single digits, then furthered his knowledge on the backstretch of Freehold Raceway, where trainer “Big Mike” Petito urged him to purchase a horse named Steady New Yorker in 1979. “In his first start for me, he went off at double digits, but he still won by eight lengths, with Jack Moiseyev driving. I thought this sport was going to be a piece of cake – which, of course, has not turned out to be the case.”

But the inevitable ups and downs of racing did nothing to deter Polvinale’s enthusiasm for the game, with his love of history also leading him to assemble a large collection of harness-related materials, books, trophies – you name it. “I had started to watch race replays on the Internet and social media, and with the encouragement of friends who wanted me to share my collection, I decided to use these emerging media to start Harness Racing History.”

Polvinale soon found that his new site had struck resonantly with many harness racing fans – and also with people with only a passing or little knowledge of the sport. “It started with people that I knew,” John remembered, “but then those people talked to people in their own ‘circles,’ including those not in racing,” and a “ripple effect” was soon evident, with those outside the sulky community finding items and people that interested them. Harness Racing History just broke the 30,000 “member” plateau, and in a given month will have 100,000 “engagements” (posts, comments, likes, views). The site’s viewership is 60-40 male-female, and 60% fall within the desired 25-54 age range demographic.

It was Polvinale who started the Facebook page, doing most of the early postings, and he still checks the site “about once during most of my waking hours,” watching for any signs of commercialism or incivility, both of which are quickly eradicated. However, he is very proud that now “it’s mostly the members, the visitors to the site who have determined its ‘shape,’ and are the drivers of what appears on the website. We know of certain trends, say people who want to see the replays of certain races at certain times, but it’s really our audience who are the content shapers with their postings and comments.

“One of the things that gives me the greatest satisfaction is that the site has become a place where ‘family reunites’ – people who haven’t heard from another party for 20 or 30 years will see some experience they had in common and make a comment, and old friendships are reborn.” Polvinale’s catchwords for operating the site are “pure” and “simple,” and those feelings resonate so much that when USHWA president Wiles told John of his winning the award, Shawn used those very words in congratulating Polvinale – “and it was evident he had captured the spirit of the site exactly.”

John Polvinale will be honored at USHWA’s annual Dan Patch Awards Banquet, celebrating the best and brightest of harness racing in the past year. The banquet honoring the champions of 2018 will be held on Sunday, February 24, 2019 at the Rosen Shingle Creek Resort in Orlando FL, the climax of a weekend that also finds USHWA holding its annual national meetings.

Tickets for the Dan Patch Awards Banquet are $175, with a filet mignon dinner featured; “post times” on February 24 are cocktails at 6 p.m. and dinner at 7 p.m. Tickets, and other Banquet-related information, can be obtained through Dinner Planning Committee Chair Judy Davis-Wilson, at zoe8874@aol.com or 302 359 3630.

Hotel reservations for those attending can be made through USHWA’s website, www.ushwa.org; a link to the hotel’s computer is on the front page of the website. Those who would like to take out congratulatory ads for awardwinners in the always-popular Dan Patch Awards Journal can do so by contacting Kim Rinker at trotrink@aol.com (the 2018 journal is online at the writers’ website).

Grant to receive January Davies Humanitarian Award

When horse owner Brad Grant heard the news last April about the accident that claimed the lives of 16 people aboard a bus carrying the Humboldt Broncos junior hockey team, he knew he wanted to help. Grant, whose own involvement in Canadian junior hockey stretches more than three decades, was uncertain what to do, but came upon the answer as he looked at a page of racing entries.

Earlier in the year, Grant had bought a pacer named Humboldt. Grant decided to donate the horse’s earnings for the remainder of the month to the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League Assistance Program, which was created to raise funds for all people affected by the accident.

Humboldt, the horse, raised $15,000 for the fund. Horse owner Tom Rankin also contributed purse earnings to the program, pushing the figure to nearly $25,000.

For his efforts, Grant has been named the 2018 recipient of the January Davies Humanitarian Award presented by the U.S. Harness Writers Association. The award was created in 2008 by U.S. Harness Writers Association member Callie Davies-Gooch in memory of her daughter to recognize contributions beyond harness racing.

“Brad is the epitome of what this award is about,” Davies-Gooch said. “His work in the community, not only in this instance but in many others, is a great example of humanitarianism and he is a perfect choice for this award.”

Grant, a resident of Milton, Ontario, said he was surprised by the recognition.

“I think there are a lot of good people that do a lot of good things, but I’m honored,” Grant said. “I’ve known Callie all my life. To receive this in memory of her daughter is really quite an honor.”

Grant, the leading owner on the Woodbine Entertainment circuit in 2018, is also on the volunteer board of the Milton District Hospital Foundation, which raises funds for facilities and equipment.

In addition, Grant has held several positions in the Ontario Hockey Association, including chairman. In 1986, he purchased the Milton Merchants junior hockey club and saved the team from folding. The Merchants won four division titles, three league championships, and a provincial crown before Grant sold the team in 2001. In November, Grant was inducted into the Milton Sports Hall of Fame for his work with the program.

It was his connection to junior hockey that fueled his desire to help the people affected by the Humboldt tragedy.

“Hockey has been a big part of my life and I know many of the people out there in junior hockey,” Grant said. “That’s something people are never going to forget; it’s a tragedy beyond tragedies. To be able to get something going and support those who are going to need help down the road, my wife and I are very big supporters of health care in our local community at the hospital, so it was a no-brainer for us to do something. In my mind it was the least we could do.”

On the racetrack, Grant enjoyed a banner year. In February, his horses won three 2017 O’Brien Awards — Stay Hungry, Bettor’s Up, and Sandbetweenurtoes. His highlight on the track came in August when he watched filly Atlanta win the Hambletonian, but he also owned multiple-stakes-winner Stay Hungry and six-figure-earners Babes Dig Me, Dr J Hanover, Easy Lover Hanover, Captain Trevor, B Yoyo, Witch Dali, Bettor’s Up, Captain Ahab, and Missle Hill.

In December, Atlanta was named the Dan Patch Award-winner for best 3-year-old female trotter.

“There were a lot of highs this year,” Grant said. “It’s going to be hard to top, but I’d sure love to give it a try. We’re hoping for good things for some of our 3-year-olds coming back and it looks like we have a nice crop of (2-year-olds). They’re all going good, which at this time of year it’s really hard to get excited, but they seem to know what they’re supposed to do and their breeding says they should know what to do so we’ll keep our fingers crossed.

“It’s going to be hard to top last year, but just to be a part of it, that’s the exciting part.”

Grant will be honored at USHWA’s annual Dan Patch Awards Banquet, celebrating the best and brightest of harness racing in the past year. The banquet honoring the champions of 2018 will be held on Sunday, February 24, 2019 at the Rosen Shingle Creek Resort in Orlando FL, the climax of a weekend that also finds USHWA holding its annual national meetings.

Tickets for the Dan Patch Awards Banquet are $175, with a filet mignon dinner featured; “post times” on February 24 are cocktails at 6 p.m. and dinner at 7 p.m. Tickets, and other Banquet-related information, can be obtained through Dinner Planning Committee Chair Judy Davis-Wilson, at zoe8874@aol.com or 302 359 3630.

Reservations for those attending can be made through USHWA’s hotel link at the top of this page. Those who would like to take out congratulatory ads for award winners in the always-popular Dan Patch Awards Journal can do so by contacting Kim Rinker at trotrink@aol.com (the 2018 journal is online at the writers’ website).

 

Heather Vitale named USHWA Member of the Year

Heather Vitale, secretary of the Delaware Valley Chapter of the United States Harness Writers Association, international harness racing video journalist, self-proclaimed “Harness Racing’s Firework,” two-time Sam McKee Broadcasters Award winner, and probably the only person in harness racing who both holds Madonna as a role model and also has her own Wikipedia page, has been announced by USHWA President Shawn Wiles as the organization’s Member of the Year.

“Make no mistake about it, there is only one Heather Vitale,” USHWA president Wiles said. “Her colorful and lively persona always adds excitement to any event. We look forward to seeing Heather again at this year’s Dan Patch Awards Dinner, on the Red Carpet, as we have for many years. She has been a great voice and face for harness racing in her region and for USHWA.”

Heather comes from a multi-generational harness family in Delaware. Her mother, Jo Ann Looney-King, was the first woman to drive a winner at The Meadowlands, and she is the co-owner of 2018’s outstanding pacing mare Shartin N, trained by husband Jim King Jr.

Heather is a graduate of Monmouth (NJ) University, with a focus on public relations/journalism, and she chose to follow that career path rather than working with the horses. Her show “Post Time” has aired on the CBS affiliate in the Delmarva region for some 20 years, and she also co-hosts the weekly show “Pennsylvania Harness Week,” a position in which she has served for nearly a decade. She has worked for ESPN and for the Little Brown Jug network.

But a person of Heather’s ambition, flamboyance, and talent cannot of course be confined to any one country. Her journalistic travels have taken her not only to Canada, a logical extension because of the fluency of the U.S./Canada harness crossing, but also to Ireland and Australia, where she appeared as an on-air reporter during a major stakes day.

Heather was also a driving force behind getting the richest harness horse world-wide, Foiled Again, into the famous “stable” of Breyer collectible horse models.

Heather is a prolific user of social media since its inception, with many followers of her frequent postings on the various platforms.

“I’m not a bettor,” she says, “so I focus my stories on the horses and the people in the sport, trying to tell their interesting stories, and trying to appeal to people to come out to the track and watch the races. I want to expose the sport outside of the fans we already have.”

Her presentation is tirelessly upbeat and positive in the service of harness racing.

Perhaps the best summation of Heather Vitale was offered by Joe Thomson of Winbak Farms, who once told her, “The best business I could be in is to bottle your attitude and sell it.”

The Harness Writers Association has benefited a great deal from her attitude and her talents, and that’s why she has been named USHWAn of the Year.

Heather Vitale (and her family in their connections to Shartin N) will be honored at USHWA’s annual Dan Patch Awards Banquet, celebrating the best and brightest of harness racing in the past year. The banquet honoring the champions of 2018 will be held on Sunday (Feb. 24) at the Rosen Shingle Creek Resort in Orlando Fla., the climax of a weekend that also finds USHWA holding its annual national meetings.

Vitale will be honored at USHWA’s annual Dan Patch Awards Banquet, celebrating the best and brightest of harness racing in the past year. The banquet honoring the champions of 2018 will be held on Sunday, February 24, 2019 at the Rosen Shingle Creek Resort in Orlando FL, the climax of a weekend that also finds USHWA holding its annual national meetings.

Tickets for the Dan Patch Awards Banquet are $175, with a filet mignon dinner featured; “post times” on February 24 are cocktails at 6 p.m. and dinner at 7 p.m. Tickets, and other Banquet-related information, can be obtained through Dinner Planning Committee Chair Judy Davis-Wilson, at zoe8874@aol.com or 302 359 3630.

Reservations for those attending can be made through USHWA’s hotel link at the top of this page. Those who would like to take out congratulatory ads for award winners in the always-popular Dan Patch Awards Journal can do so by contacting Kim Rinker at trotrink@aol.com (the 2018 journal is online at the writers’ website).

Marcus Melander voted Rising Star by USHWA

 

Marcus Melander, “to the manor born” in terms of personal harness racing pedigree, went out in 2018 and made great accomplishments with a small but talented collection of trotters. They included the two dominant two-year-old colts in the division, Gimpanzee and Green Manlishi S in the process of earning the Rising Star award.

Marcus Melander came from a rich trotting heritage in his native Sweden, with perhaps the best-known of his family being his uncle Stefan Melander, the Hambletonian, Prix d’Amerique, and International Trot winner, and also noted for his photography as “Foto Tarzan.” Upon coming to the United States, Marcus worked for Jimmy Takter, an addition to a resume anyone would want, and then went out on his own.

2018 was the current peak of what is likely to be many more high points in Marcus’s career. His 1-2 punch in the baby trotting colt ranks were Gimpanzee, the undefeated New York Sire Stakes champion who then won his Breeders Crown and divisional honors, and Green Manalishi S, second in the Crown and like his stablemate a winner of over $500,000 in his freshman campaign. (Other members in Melander’s 2019 sophomore arsenal may be Demon On The Hill, who showed great potential, mostly in Pennsylvania, and Greenshoe, a $330,000 yearling who showed promise in a brief freshman campaign.)

It’s not often that anybody wins a $1,000,000 race, especially a 26-year-old sending a horse out for the first time, but that’s just what Melander did. He received Cruzado Dela Noche from uncle Stefan before the International Trot and then beating a group of the world’s elite trotters. In another big FFA win, Crazy Wow, also recently added to the barn, turned in a 31-1 upset in the Maple Leaf Trot Final.

Melander will be honored at USHWA’s annual Dan Patch Awards Banquet, celebrating the best and brightest of harness racing in the past year. The banquet honoring the champions of 2018 will be held on Sunday, February 24, 2019 at the Rosen Shingle Creek Resort in Orlando FL, the climax of a weekend that also finds USHWA holding its annual national meetings.

Tickets for the Dan Patch Awards Banquet are $175, with a filet mignon dinner featured; “post times” on February 24 are cocktails at 6 p.m. and dinner at 7 p.m. Tickets, and other Banquet-related information, can be obtained through Dinner Planning Committee Chair Judy Davis-Wilson, at zoe8874@aol.com or 302 359 3630.

Reservations for those attending can be made through USHWA’s hotel link at the top of this page. Those who would like to take out congratulatory ads for award winners in the always-popular Dan Patch Awards Journal can do so by contacting Kim Rinker at trotrink@aol.com (the 2018 journal is online at the writers’ website).

Order By Stable, Lady Ashlee Ann, Southwind Serena honored

 

The United States Harness Writers announced the winners of the Breeder of the Year and Top Broodmares of the Year on Friday (Dec. 28).

Named as Breeder of the Year, was the Order By Stable of Stefan Balazsi, which started in Sweden but now is one of the emerging major players on the North American breeding scene. The breeding operation produced only 30 starters “on this side” during 2018, but still ranked twelfth in terms of money won, with Order By’s offspring earning $2.4 million in Canada and the U.S.

The Hambletonian-winning, million-dollar earning sophomore filly Atlanta, her division’s champion, certainly was the cream of the crop of Order By Stable’s produce in 2018. Not too far behind, though, was Gimpanzee, in connection with trainer Marcus Melander, who also was a divisional champion and accounted for almost $600,000 in earnings himself.

The winning broodmares shared producing a three-year-old colt who when at his best delivered blistering speed that left most of his generation behind. Lady Ashlee Ann, a daughter of Camtastic owned by Winbak Farms for more than twenty years, was the dam of pacer Courtly Choice, a son of Art Major who sped to a 1:47.1 record, emerged victorious in the Empire Breeders Classic Final, Meadowlands Pace, and a thrilling Little Brown Jug, and earned over $900,000. Lady Ashlee Ann was declared a “walkover winner” by USHWA’s Breeders / Broodmares Committee, so outstanding did they see the merit of her and her son.

On the trotting side, Southwind Serena, a Varenne mare owned by Steve Stewart, Black Creek Farm, and Andrea Lea Racing Stables Inc., was recognized because of the exploits of trotter Tactical Landing. This Muscle Hill colt, a full brother to the mercurial distaff Mission Brief, had been in the spotlight since his sale for $800,000 as a yearling, second-highest price ever, and for the better part of the next two years looked like a questionable investment. But trainer Jimmy Takter exhibited tremendous developmental patience, and entering the Hambletonian with five races lifetime and $14,000 on his card, the colt showed he “belonged” by winning his elimination and finishing third in the final. This was the igniting of a late-season surge, which then saw him take a mark of 1:50.2 at Lexington, sweep his Breeders Crown races and then defeat older horses handily in the TVG Championship – while winning nearly $800,000 after the first Saturday in August.

Order By Stable, Lady Ashlee Ann, Southwind Serena, and their connections will be honored at USHWA’s annual Dan Patch Awards Banquet, celebrating the best and brightest of harness racing in the past year. The banquet honoring the champions of 2018 will be held on Sunday, February 24, 2019, at the Rosen Shingle Creek Resort in Orlando FL, the climax of a weekend that also finds USHWA holding its annual national meetings.

Tickets for the Dan Patch Awards Banquet are $175, with a filet mignon dinner featured; “post times” on February 24 are cocktails at 6 p.m. and dinner at 7 p.m. Tickets, and other Banquet-related information, can be obtained through Dinner Planning Committee Chair Judy Davis-Wilson, at zoe8874@aol.com or 302 359 3630.

Reservations for those attending can be made through USHWA’s hotel link at the top of this page. Those who would like to take out congratulatory ads for award winners in the always-popular Dan Patch Awards Journal can do so by contacting Kim Rinker at trotrink@aol.com (the 2018 journal is online at the writers’ website).

Aaron Merriman voted Driver of the Year

Aaron Merriman, the first driver to win over 1,000 races in a single season twice and is on track to post the second-highest one-season victory total in North American history, has been selected as Driver of the Year in a vote among members of the United States Harness Writers Association (USHWA), harness racing’s leading media group.

Merriman is only 40 years old, but he is already a “veteran” of 20+ years of the sulky wars, learning from his father Lanny, mostly at Northfield Park near Cleveland. He had 182 winners in 2000, his first year of full-time exposure, but he has been gaining with every step, with 10,945 victories in his career.

Merriman will post the second-highest win total for a driver in harness racing history, behind only Tim Tetrick’s standard of 1189 in 2007; Aaron was at 1121 after Wednesday’s racing. This total eclipses his personal best of 1093, taken last year, and this year he reached another important milestone with his mounts earning over $10.3 million – his first eight-figure season.

The level of competition Aaron faces at the main terminals of his endless miles on the road is very high – at Northfield, he consistently races against Ronnie Wrenn Jr., who was the last person to dethrone him for the national title (2014, by a 847-841 count), and at The Meadows near Pittsburgh he competes against Dave Palone, the winningest driver of all-time (18,640 and counting), and the leading pilot at The Meadows since shortly after high-wheeled sulkies went out of fashion, so it seems.

Merriman will be honored at USHWA’s annual Dan Patch Awards Banquet, celebrating the best and brightest of harness racing in the past year. The banquet honoring the champions of 2018 will be held on Sunday, February 24, 2019 at the Rosen Shingle Creek Resort in Orlando FL, the climax of a weekend that also finds USHWA holding its annual national meetings.

Reservations for those attending can be made through USHWA’s hotel link at the top of this page. Those who would like to take out congratulatory ads for award winners in the always-popular Dan Patch Awards Journal can do so by contacting Kim Rinker at trotrink@aol.com (the 2018 journal is online at the writers’ website). Information about purchasing tickets for the dinner will become available and be posted shortly.

Crawford, Cotolo, Gooden honored by USHWA

Michelle Crawford may not keep quite as unremitting a schedule as Driver of the Year Aaron Merriman, but she comes very close. An unbridled enthusiastic voice for harness racing, Michelle is foremost the co-operator with her husband Al of Crawford Farms, a Midstate New York breeding facility, and his racing component Crawford Farms Racing, always looking to acquire the next big star and improve the overall quality of horses associated with Crawford.

One giant step towards that goal in 2018 found Michelle in the winners circle of the sport’s biggest race, the Hambletonian, as a partner on three-year-old filly Atlanta, who upended the boys in the classic race for three-year-old trotters and then went on to a $1 million season, and now looms as potentially a great broodmare. Crawford Racing also is co-owner of Homicide Hunter, whose 1:48.4 mile at Lexington earned him “World’s Fastest Trotter” honors.

Michelle is aware of the “bigger picture” in harness racing, reflected in her serving as vice-president of the Harness Horse Breeders of New York, and especially as a board member of the newly-formed Standardbred Transition Alliance, where she will undoubtedly put into practice on a continental level the well-established programs to take care of former racing and breeding stock. Her knowledge and enthusiasm make her one of the more positive forces – a real Good “Guy” — for the sport.

Two other USHWA honorees serve the sport on a communications level, with one of them involved in the chronicling of the sport half his life – and he’s only 19!

Ray Cotolo, winner of the Breakthrough Award as an up-and-comer on the non-training-driving side, started accompanying his journalist father Frank to the major races. Catolo swiftly picked up the necessary knowledge to combine with his natural communications skills to become a source of knowledge for the industry and fans in several areas: a podcast called North American Harness Update, a pioneer (2012) project which went “on the road” for the first time in 2018; freelance work, mainly writing, for entities as the Hambletonian Society, The Meadowlands, Standardbred Canada, the Woodbine Entertainment Group, and the Red Mile; and as a budding announcer.

And Ray is doing all this while enrolled at Elizabethtown (PA) College, as a communications major benefitting from the Harold Snyder Memorial Scholarship Fund of the late on-track television pioneer.

Chris Gooden works as the photographer for the racing at The Meadows Racetrack, in addition to “regular” jobs his business picks up in his southwestern Pennsylvania area. But what is “Unsung” – and remarkable – about Gooden is the amount of work he does gratis, of his own volition, to keep The Meadows at the forefront of the new forms of “social” communications media.

Facebook coverage of live racing? Check. Including “live-from-the-bike” camera photography? Double check. Keeping up a high profile on Twitter? Check. And there’s one above and beyond the call of duty. When illness hampered a local horseman’s finances a few months ago, Gooden posted a Facebook notice that he was selling a special photo of Foiled Again – the Bergstein/Proximity winner, and based at Gooden’s “home track” of The Meadows – and would donate the money minus shipping to the beleaguered family, with over $1,500 having been raised so far. No fanfare, just results — that’s why Chris Gooden is an Unsung Hero.

Merriman, Crawford, Cotolo, and Gooden will be honored at USHWA’s annual Dan Patch Awards Banquet, celebrating the best and brightest of harness racing in the past year. The banquet honoring the champions of 2018 will be held on Sunday, February 24, 2019, at the Rosen Shingle Creek Resort in Orlando FL, the climax of a weekend that also finds USHWA holding its annual national meetings.

Reservations for those attending can be made through USHWA’s hotel link at the top of this page. Those who would like to take out congratulatory ads for award winners in the always-popular Dan Patch Awards Journal can do so by contacting Kim Rinker at trotrink@aol.com (the 2018 journal is online at the writers’ website). Information about purchasing tickets for the dinner will become available and will be posted shortly.

Champion Foiled Again wins Bergstein Proximity Award

 

Foiled Again, the highest, money-winning Standardbred racehorse of all-time with $7,634,938 in his bankroll, in the final stages of a whirlwind “Foiled Again Farewell Tour” as he faces mandatory retirement upon reaching 15 years of age on Tuesday (Jan. 1), has been selected for the Stan Bergstein/Proximity Award, the highest award in the sport voted on exclusively by the United States Harness Writers Association, harness racing’s leading media association.

Foiled Again is an altered son of Dragon Again out of the Artsplace mare In A Safe Place. He raced for trainer Herman Heitmann at two and three, and into his fourth year before being purchased by Sylvia Burke, Weaver Bruscemi LLC (Mark Weaver and Michael Bruscemi), and JJK Stables LLC (Joseph Koury Sr. and his sons Joseph Jr. and Kevin). Mickey Burke, Sylvia’s husband and Ron’s father, was transitioning from raceway activities to overseeing the younger horses, and he handled the conditioning of Foiled Again until Ron took over full-time training responsibility in November 2008.

Foiled Again reached his full potential under his new connections, staying a vital member of the free-for-all pacing community for half-a-dozen years. He was Older Pacing Horse of the Year in 2011, 2012, and 2013, during each of which he earned more $1 million. Foiled Again took his mark of 1:48 in 2013 at the age of nine, in the elimination race of the Ben Franklin Pace at Pocono, coming back the next week to win the Franklin Final and then later in the year to sweep his Breeders Crown action over the same red clay oval.

Fans grew to embrace Foiled Again as he battled on at a high quality of performance over the years; they latched onto this “evergreen pacer” who they knew would always give them every ounce of his energy. Once he broke the record for earnings ($5.8 million by the trotter Ready Cash), he gained even more cache, and attracted media attention like few other Standardbreds or any other racehorses.

As he entered his 14th year, perhaps a step or two off his peak speed but still competitive every time behind the gate, his connections decided to establish a “Foiled Again Farewell Tour,” matching him against local horses and letting fans around the United States and Canada give one last salute to the gallant pacer. He raced at 18 different tracks during 2018, in 10 different states and provinces, and seemed very little the worse for wear. When he raced at Harrah’s Philadelphia on Sunday, (Dec. 9), he returned to a track where he had first raced 4,165 days – 11 years, 4 months, and 25 days – earlier.

Foiled Again’s 331st and final start comes on Monday (Jan. 31) at The Meadows, the home track of the Burkes and Weaver Bruscemi, and as has been noted, “it’s unlikely there will be a dry eye in the house.” (Start 330 came at Mohawk last Saturday (Dec. 22), where Foiled Again posted career victory 109.)

Foiled Again is only the second horse to win the Bergstein–Proximity Award: the other was Rambling Willie, who was honored in 1984 after a career that strikingly parallels Foiled Again’s in longevity, earnings record-setting, competitiveness in the free-for-all ranks for years, and popularity among the race-going public. In an ever-changing world, Foiled Again reaches across 34 years to join another horse who didn’t know the meaning of the end of a mile, the end of a career, or making outstanding contributions to harness racing.

Foiled Again and his connections will be honored at USHWA’s annual Dan Patch Awards Banquet, celebrating the best and brightest of harness racing in the past year. The banquet honoring the champions of 2018 will be held on Sunday, February 24, 2019 at the Rosen Shingle Creek Resort in Orlando FL, the climax of a weekend that also finds USHWA holding its annual national meetings.

Reservations for those attending can be made at the top of the homepage of this website. Those who would like to take out congratulatory ads for award winners in the always-popular Dan Patch Awards Journal can do so by contacting Kim Rinker at trotrink@aol.com (the 2018 journal is online at the writers’ website). Information about purchasing tickets for the dinner will become available and be posted shortly.


Burke Trainer of Year, Burke Racing/Weaver Bruscemi top owners

It seems fitting that as the spotlight finds Foiled Again in his last campaign, it also finds his trainer and his ownership, who have been instrumental in the tremendous success of the horse – Ron Burke has been named Trainer of the Year for the third time (2011 and 2013), while the Burke Racing Stable LLC and Weaver Bruscemi LLC combine will follow their 2013 Owners of the Year prize with another in 2018, in voting conducted by the U.S. Harness Writers Association.

Ron Burke, who took over the training of the Burke Stable in late October 2008, has been an unstoppable force the last 10 years, achieving success levels unreached in the sport. He will reach 1,000 victories with his far-flung barn in 2018, his third time posting four figures, and his stable will top the $21 million mark in purses won for the sixth year. For his outstanding 2018, Burke got more votes from USHWA than did any other human (one horse did top him, though – Foiled Again).

And as always, there was quality in with the quality. The stable sent out divisional champions Warrawee Ubeaut (2PF) and Dorsoduro Hanover (3PC and millionaire); these two teamed with Percy Blue Chip (3PF) to give Burke three Breeders Crown Championships during 2018. Seasoned pacers Filibuster Hanover and Rockin Ron also earned more $500,000 each, giving Burke Racing/Weaver Bruscemi five horses who took down more than half a million; trainer Burke had a sixth in 3PF Youaremycandygirl. And then there was of course Foiled Again, who kept in good condition to race every year a Standardbred can race – 13, from the minimum of age two to the maximum of age 14.

Youaremycandygirl is an exception to the usual makeup of Ron Burke’s outfit – most of its horses are owned, in whole or in part, by Burke Racing Stable LLC and Weaver Bruscemi LLC. So if trainer Burke has a good year, it’s probable that Burke Racing Stable LLC and Weaver Bruscemi LLC followed along in suit.

An important component of Burke Racing Stable LLC and Weaver Bruscemi LLC is the amount that they give back to the sport, which has provided them with successes and thrills. The “Foiled Again Farewell Tour” is a prime example. So too is their “policy” of usually having partners on most of their stakes horses – this is a way to give owners who might have a slight chance (to no chance) to have Grand Circuit horses be a part of the excitement of campaigning a world-class competitor against the best in their division throughout the stakes season.

Foiled Again and his connections will be honored at USHWA’s annual Dan Patch Awards Banquet, celebrating the best and brightest of harness racing in the past year. The banquet honoring the champions of 2018 will be held on Sunday, February 24, 2019 at the Rosen Shingle Creek Resort in Orlando FL, the climax of a weekend that also finds USHWA holding its annual national meetings.

Reservations for those attending can be made through a link to the hotel’s computer is on the front page of this website. Those who would like to take out congratulatory ads for award winners in the always-popular Dan Patch Awards Journal can do so by contacting Kim Rinker at trotrink@aol.com (the 2018 journal is online at the writers’ website). Information about purchasing tickets for the dinner will become available and be posted shortly.

USHWA announces Dan Patch Award-winning pacers

(Watch the video announcement of these awards by clicking this link)

McWicked and Shartin N, ranked No. 1 and No. 2 respectively in the sport’s year-end poll, were landslide winners for division honors among pacers in Dan Patch Award voting released Thursday by the U.S. Harness Writers Association. Shartin N, a 5-year-old mare, was named best older female pacer on all but one ballot while McWicked, a 7-year-old stallion, was named best older male pacer on all but three.

Also named division winners were 2-year-old colt Captain Crunch, 2-year-old filly Warrawee Ubeaut, 3-year-old gelding Dorsoduro Hanover, and 3-year-old filly Kissin In The Sand. All of the winners with the exception of Dorsoduro Hanover received at least 90 percent of the vote in their division. Dorsoduro Hanover won, 65-53, over runner-up Courtly Choice in the closest divisional balloting among either pacers or trotters this year.

A total of 130 Dan Patch Award ballots were returned by eligible members of the U.S. Harness Writers Association and American Harness Racing Secretaries. Dan Patch Award winners will be honored at the organization’s banquet Feb. 24 at Rosen Shingle Creek resort in Orlando, Fla., at which time Trotter, Pacer, and Horse of the Year will be announced.

Divisional trotting champions were announced Wednesday.

McWicked led the sport in earnings this year, with $1.57 million. He became the first horse older than the age of 5 to top the money standings since 7-year-old trotter Savoir in 1975. McWicked also became the oldest male pacer to ever win a Dan Patch Award at age 2 or 3 and capture another trophy as an older horse. His first honor came at 3 in 2014.

For the season, McWicked won 12 of 19 races, capping his campaign with a five-race win streak, and hit the board a total of 17 times. His victories included the $500,000 Ben Franklin Pace, $471,100 William R. Haughton Memorial, $462,000 Canadian Pacing Derby, $430,000 Breeders Crown, $350,000 TVG Series Open championship, $250,000 Dan Rooney Invitational, and $179,000 Allerage Farms Open. His 1:46.2 clocking in the Allerage was the second-fastest race mile in history.

Brian Sears was McWicked’s primary driver, but David Miller also posted Grand Circuit wins with the Casie Coleman-trained stallion. McWicked, a son of McArdle out of Western Sahara, is owned by Ed James’ S S G Stables. He was bred by Andray Farm.

Shartin N became the first pacing mare to earn $1 million in a season, finishing the year with $1.05 million thanks to 19 wins in 24 races. The New Zealand-bred mare joins Hall of Famer Cardigan Bay as a “Down Under” import to receive a Dan Patch Award. Cardigan Bay, also from New Zealand, was a two-time honoree (1965 and 1968).

Trained by Jim King Jr. and driven by Tim Tetrick, Shartin N’s wins included the $373,000 Blue Chip Matchmaker Series championship, $281,200 Roses Are Red, $270,000 Breeders Crown, $197,400 Lady Liberty, $175,000 TVG Series Mare championship, $161,000 Artiscape, $150,000 Betsy Ross Invitational, $102,200 Chip Noble Memorial, and $98,500 Allerage Farms Mare Pace. She also finished the year with a five-race win streak.

Shartin N, a daughter of Tintin In America out of Bagdarin, is owned by Richard Poillucci and Jo Ann Looney-King. She was bred by GJ Crabbe.

Dorsoduro Hanover got the nod among 3-year-old male pacers after leading the division with $1.28 million in purses, the second-highest total in the sport. He won 10 of 22 races, with his victories including the $530,000 Breeders Crown, $400,000 Delvin Miller Adios, and $253,000 Pennsylvania Sire Stakes championship. He also had six second-place finishes, including in the Meadowlands Pace and Little Brown Jug.

Ron Burke trained the gelding, who was driven by Matt Kakaley. Dorsoduro Hanover is owned by Sylvia Burke’s Burke Racing Stable, the partnership of Jerry Silva, Theresa Silva, Purnel Jones Jr. and Elizabeth Jones, the partnership of Mark Weaver and Mike Bruscemi, and the Wingfield Five (Bradley, Charles, Kimberly, Robert and Thomas Wingfield). The son of Somebeachsomewhere out of Deer Valley Miss was bred by Hanover Shoe Farms.

Two-year-old filly Warrawee Ubeaut also is part of the Burke Brigade. She won seven of 12 races and earned a division-leading $646,995 for trainer Burke and driver Yannick Gingras. Her wins included the $600,000 Breeders Crown and $207,000 Kentuckiana Stallion Management Stakes. In addition, her 1:48.3 victory in a $61,250 division of the International Stallion Stakes at Red Mile made her the fastest 2-year-old pacer in history.

Warrawee Ubeaut is owned by Sylvia Burke’s Burke Racing Stable, Phil Collura, the partnership of Jerry Silva, Theresa Silva, Purnel Jones Jr. and Elizabeth Jones, and the partnership of Mark Weaver and Mike Bruscemi. A daughter of Sweet Lou out of Great Memories, she was bred by Warrawee Farm.

Three-year-old filly Kissin In The Sand and 2-year-old colt Captain Crunch both are from the stable of trainer Nancy Johansson and were driven by Scott Zeron.

Kissin In The Sand won 10 of 15 races and never finished worse than second on her way to a division-best $845,495 in purses. Her wins included the $300,000 James M. Lynch Memorial, $253,000 Pennsylvania Sire Stakes championship, $191,800 Mistletoe Shalee, and $126,000 Bluegrass Stakes. She was second in the Breeders Crown and Fan Hanover.

Marvin Katz and Bud Hatfield’s Hatfield Stables own Kissin In The Sand, who is a daughter of Somebeachsomewhere out of Kiss Me Kate. The filly was bred by Christina Takter, John Fielding, RAW Equine and Concord Stud Farm.

Captain Crunch won six of 10 races and earned a division-leading $616,113. His triumphs included the $600,000 Breeders Crown and $469,300 Governor’s Cup.

He is owned by 3 Brothers Stables (Alan, Ron and Steve Katz), Christina Takter, Norman and Robert Aerenson’s Rojan Stables, and Judy and Buck Chaffee’s Caviart Farms. Captain Crunch, a son of Captaintreacherous out of Sweet Paprika, was bred by Walnridge Farm and Sherri Meirs.

For more information about the Dan Patch Awards banquet and Rosen Shingle Creek resort, visit the U.S. Harness Writers Association’s website.

2-Year-Old Male Pacer
Captain Crunch (126 votes/96.9 percent)
Captaintreacherous – Sweet Paprika – Artiscape
Yearling price: $85,000 under the name Captain Bean at Standardbred Horse Sale
Breeders: Walnridge Farm, Sherri Meirs
Owners: 3 Brothers Stables, Christina Takter, Rojan Stables, Caviart Farms
Trainer: Nancy Johansson Driver: Scott Zeron
Races: 10-6-1-1 Purses: $616,113 Mark: 1:49.1 at Red Mile
Top wins: $600,000 Breeders Crown; $469,300 Governor’s Cup

2-Year-Old Female Pacer
Warrawee Ubeaut (124 votes/95.3 percent)
Sweet Lou – Great Memories – Apaches Fame
Yearling price: $70,000 at Lexington Selected Sale
Breeder: Warrawee Farm
Owners: Burke Racing Stable, Phil Collura, J&T Silva-Purnel & Libby, Weaver Bruscemi
Trainer: Ron Burke Driver: Yannick Gingras
Races: 12-7-1-2 Purses: $646,995 Mark: 1:48.3 at Red Mile (world record)
Top wins: $600,000 Breeders Crown; $207,000 Kentuckiana Stallion Management Stakes

3-Year-Old Male Pacer
Dorsoduro Hanover (65 votes/50 percent)
Somebeachsomewhere – Deer Valley Miss – Artsplace
Yearling price: $100,000 at Standardbred Horse Sale
Breeder: Hanover Shoe Farms
Owners: Burke Racing Stable, Silva, Purnel & Libby, Weaver Bruscemi, Wingfield Five
Trainer: Ron Burke Driver: Matt Kakaley
Races: 22-10-6-2 Purses: $1.28 million Mark: 1:49.4 at Pocono
Top wins: $530,000 Breeders Crown; $400,000 Adios

3-Year-Old Female Pacer
Kissin In The Sand (117 votes/90 percent)
Somebeachsomewhere – Kiss Me Kate – Real Artist
Yearling price: $130,000 at Standardbred Horse Sale
Breeders: Christina Takter, John Fielding, RAW Equine, Concord Stud Farm
Owners: Marvin Katz, Hatfield Stables
Trainer: Nancy Johansson Driver: Scott Zeron
Races: 15-10-5-0 Purses: $845,495 Mark: 1:47.4 at Red Mile
Top wins: $300,000 Lynch Memorial; $191,800 Mistletoe Shalee

Older Male Pacer
McWicked (127 votes/97.6 percent)
McArdle – Western Sahara – Western Ideal
Yearling price: $35,000 at Standardbred Horse Sale
Breeder: Andray Farm
Owner: S S G Stables
Trainer: Casie Coleman Drivers: Brian Sears, David Miller
Races: 19-12-3-2 Purses: $1.57 million Mark: 1:46.2 at Red Mile
Top wins: $500,000 Ben Franklin; $471,100 Haughton Memorial; $462,000 Canadian Pacing Derby; $430,000 Breeders Crown

Older Female Pacer
Shartin N (129 votes/99.2 percent)
Tintin In America – Bagdarin – Live Or Die
Yearling price: None, sold privately at age 4
Breeder: G J Crabbe
Owners: Richard Poillucci, Jo Ann Looney-King
Trainer: Jim King Jr. Driver: Tim Tetrick
Races: 24-19-1-0 Purses: $1.05 million Mark: 1:48.2 at Red Mile
Top wins: $373,000 Blue Chip Matchmaker final; $281,200 Roses Are Red; $270,000 Breeders Crown; $197,400 Lady Liberty

Complete vote totals are available at this link.

USHWA announces Dan Patch Award-winning trotters

(Watch the video announcement of these awards by clicking this link)

Hambletonian-winning filly Atlanta led a distinguished group of trotters named division champions in Dan Patch Award voting released Wednesday (Dec. 19) by the U.S. Harness Writers Association. Atlanta received 96.1 percent of the votes for best 3-year-old female trotter, the highest total among the six trotting honorees.

Also named division winners were 2-year-old colt Gimpanzee, 2-year-old filly Woodside Charm, 3-year-old colt Six Pack, 6-year-old gelding Homicide Hunter, and 4-year-old mare Ariana G.

Ariana G, who received the nod for best older female trotter, was the only repeat winner. She collected her third trophy and joined CR Kay Suzie (1994-96) and Peace Corps (1988-90) as the only female trotters to receive a Dan Patch Award at ages 2, 3 and 4.

A total of 130 Dan Patch Award ballots were returned by the U.S. Harness Writers Association’s membership this year. Dan Patch Award winners will be honored at the organization’s banquet Feb. 24 at Rosen Shingle Creek resort in Orlando, Fla., at which time Trotter, Pacer, and Horse of the Year will be announced.

Divisional pacing champions will be announced at noon Thursday (Dec. 20) during a live stream broadcast on the Facebook pages of both the U.S. Harness Writers Association and U.S. Trotting Association.

Atlanta, who received 125 votes, became the first filly to win the Hambletonian since 1996 when she captured the $1 million final Aug. 4 at the Meadowlands. Trained by Rick Zeron and driven by his son Scott, she won eight of 14 races this year and earned a division-leading $1.01 million. Her victories also included the $320,000 Kentucky Filly Futurity and $238,613 Empire Breeders Classic. She finished second in the $500,000 Breeders Crown.

A daughter of Chapter Seven out of Hemi Blue Chip, Atlanta is owned by Rick Zeron, Michelle and Al Crawford’s Crawford Farms, William Holland’s Holland Racing Stable, Howard Taylor, and Brad Grant. She was bred by Order By Stable.

In the division for the 3-year-old colts and geldings, Six Pack received 54.6 percent of the vote in the closest balloting among trotters. He outdistanced runner-up Tactical Landing, 71-46.

Six Pack, a son of Muscle Mass out of Pleasing Lady, won 11 of 15 races this year and earned a division-best $1.15 million. His triumphs included the $620,000 Kentucky Futurity, $500,000 Yonkers Trot, $223,673 Empire Breeders Classic, $210,150 Matron Stakes, and a $181,000 division of the Stanley Dancer Memorial. His winning time of 1:49.1 in the Kentucky Futurity final is the fastest mile ever by a 3-year-old trotter.

Åke Svanstedt trained and drove Six Pack in addition to owning the colt with Jeff Gural’s Little E LLC, Tomas Olofsson’s Stall Kalmar FF, and Lars Berg. Six Pack was bred by Brittany Farms.

Ariana G added to her hardware collection by receiving 63.8 percent of the vote for best older female trotter, finishing 50 votes ahead of second-place Emoticon Hanover. Ariana G was trained by Hall of Famer Jimmy Takter, who retired at the end of the season, and posted victories with drivers Yannick Gingras, Brian Sears, and David Miller.

The homebred mare, a daughter of Muscle Hill out of Cantab It All, won five of 14 races this year and earned a division-leading $597,802 for owners Marvin Katz and Al Libfeld. She beat male rivals in all her wins, including the $405,850 Hambletonian Maturity and $250,000 Graduate Series championship, which were for 4-year-olds, as well as the $150,000 Dayton Trotting Derby and an elimination of the Maple Leaf Trot. She finished third in the Maple Leaf final.

Homicide Hunter, the fastest trotter in history thanks to his 1:48.4 winning mile in the Allerage Farms Open on Oct. 6 at Red Mile, received the Dan Patch Award for best older male trotter with 73.8 percent of the vote. Marion Marauder, the division’s 2017 champion, was the only other vote-getter.

In addition to winning the Allerage, Homicide Hunter captured the $500,000 Breeders Crown, $200,000 Charlie Hill Memorial, and $100,000 Great Northeast Open Series championship. George Napolitano Jr., Aaron Merriman, and Brian Sears each had a Grand Circuit victory with the Chris Oakes-trained gelding. Homicide Hunter, a son of Mr Cantab out of Evening Prayer, is owned by Michelle and Al Crawford’s Crawford Farms Racing and was bred by Patrick Graham.

Gimpanzee and Woodside Charm were undefeated, marking the first time both 2-year-old trotting champions completed unblemished campaigns. They also were the two richest 2-year-old trotters this season.

Marcus Melander-trained Gimpanzee, who got 90 percent of the vote, dominated the New York Sire Stakes circuit, winning six preliminary rounds and the $225,000 championship, before finishing his season by winning his Breeders Crown elimination and the $600,000 final.

His 9-for-9 performance resulted in earnings of $591,358 for owners Anders Ström’s Courant Inc. and Lennart Agren’s SRF Stable. Brian Sears drove Gimpanzee, who became the first undefeated 2-year-old male trotter to receive a Dan Patch Award since Wheeling N Dealin in 2012. Gimpanzee, a son of Chapter Seven out of Steamy Windows, was bred by Order By Stable.

Woodside Charm, who received 93.8 percent of the vote, won all seven of her starts for owner-trainer-driver Verlin Yoder. Her wins included the $600,000 Breeders Crown and $236,000 Kentuckiana Stallion Management Stakes. She also won a division of the New York Sire Stakes at Saratoga in 1:53.4, the fastest mile ever by a 2-year-old trotter on a half-mile track.

A daughter of Chapter Seven out of Fireworks Hanover, Woodside Charm was bred by AV & Son Bloodstock. She became only the second unbeaten 2-year-old filly trotter to win a Dan Patch Award, following 2017 honoree Manchego.

2-Year-Old Male Trotter
Gimpanzee (117 votes/90 percent)
Chapter Seven – Steamy Windows – Muscle Massive
Yearling price: $170,000 under the name Army Of Monkeys at Standardbred Horse Sale
Breeder: Order By Stable
Owners: Courant Inc., SRF Stable
Trainer: Marcus Melander Driver: Brian Sears
Races: 9-9-0-0 Purses: $591,358 Mark: 1:54.3 at Vernon Downs
Top wins: $600,000 Breeders Crown; $225,000 New York Sire Stakes final

2-Year-Old Female Trotter
Woodside Charm (122 votes/93.8 percent)
Chapter Seven – Fireworks Hanover – Muscles Yankee
Yearling price: Private
Breeder: AV & Son Bloodstock LLC
Owner: Verlin Yoder
Trainer: Verlin Yoder Driver: Verlin Yoder
Races: 7-7-0-0 Purses: $521,658 Mark: 1:53 at Pocono
Top wins: $600,000 Breeders Crown; $236,000 Kentuckiana Stallion Management Stakes

3-Year-Old Male Trotter
Six Pack (71 votes/54.6 percent)
Muscle Mass – Pleasing Lady – Cantab Hall
Yearling price: $30,000 at Lexington Selected Sale
Breeder: Brittany Farms
Owners: Åke Svanstedt Inc., Little E LLC, Stall Kalmar FF, Lars Berg
Trainer: Åke Svanstedt Driver: Åke Svanstedt
Races: 15-11-2-1 Purses: $1.15 million Mark: 1:49.1 at Red Mile (world record)
Top wins: $620,000 Kentucky Futurity; $500,000 Yonkers Trot; $210,150 Matron Stakes

3-Year-Old Female Trotter
Atlanta (125 votes/96.1 percent)
Chapter Seven – Hemi Blue Chip – Cantab Hall
Yearling price: $60,000 under the name Django Unchained at Standardbred Horse Sale
Breeder: Order By Stable
Owners: Rick Zeron/Crawford Farms, Holland Racing Stable, Howard Taylor, Brad Grant
Trainer: Rick Zeron Driver: Scott Zeron
Races: 14-8-5-1 Purses: $1.01 million Mark: 1:50.3 at Vernon Downs
Top wins: $1 million Hambletonian; $320,000 Kentucky Filly Futurity

Older Male Trotter
Homicide Hunter (96 votes/73.8 percent)
Mr Cantab – Evening Prayer – Like A Prayer
Yearling price: Homebred, sold privately at age 4
Breeder: Patrick Graham
Owner: Crawford Farms Racing
Trainer: Chris Oakes Drivers: George Napolitano Jr., Brian Sears, Aaron Merriman
Races: 16-9-0-2 Purses: $605,770 Mark: 1:48.4 at Red Mile (world record)
Top wins: $500,000 Breeders Crown; $200,000 Hill Memorial; $145,000 Allerage

Older Female Trotter
Ariana G (83 votes/63.8 percent)
Muscle Hill – Cantab It All – Cantab Hall
Yearling price: Homebred
Breeders: Marvin Katz, Al Libfeld
Owners: Marvin Katz, Al Libfeld
Trainer: Jimmy Takter Drivers: Yannick Gingras, Brian Sears, David Miller
Races: 14-5-1-1 Purses: $597,802 Mark: 1:50.2 at Meadowlands
Top wins: $405,850 Hambletonian Maturity; $250,000 Graduate; $150,000 Dayton Derby

Complete vote totals are available at this link.

United States Harness Writers Association

The United States Harness Writers Association (USHWA), the world's largest organization for industry communicators.

The United States Harness Writers Association is a group of more than 220 members committed to the chronicling of harness racing through the print and electronic media. It was founded in 1947 by New York City area sportswriters who were covering harness racing at Roosevelt Raceway. It remains the only media organization in harness racing with a membership of newspaper, magazine, radio and TV, ad agency, publicists and others involved in racing communications. With most of USHWA's members allied to one of 12 regional chapters, the association strives to bring about a closer relationship among the media, racetracks and horsemen to promote a centuries-old American-bred sport.

USHWA members, in annual voting, choose harness racing's most prestigious awards, such as the Living Hall of Fame and the Horse of the Year. Its Stanley F. Bergstein-Proximity Achievement Award is one of the sport's most cherished honors. It also recognizes top divisional winners and leading drivers and trainers at its annual awards dinner, which began in 1948.

The association is governed by a member board of directors, which represents the chapters and at-large members (those living or working in regions where there is no chapter). Also serving are seven national officers and past presidents.

USHWA, with input from the American Harness Racing Secretaries and logistic expertise provided by the United States Trotting Association, determines the Horse of the Year and other equine and human awards. USHWA also presents the John Hervey Awards for excellence in writing and broadcasting. Its members choose Hall of Famers, so the association also works closely with the Harness Racing Museum & Hall of Fame at Goshen, New York. A number of chapters hold annual awards or recognition dinners to salute the leading horses and drivers in their areas. Some chapters also raise money for local charities.

Contact USHWA at ushwainfo@gmail.com

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