If you didn't get the chance to attend the 2017 Dan Patch Awards presented by Hoosier Park, click this link and watch it in its entirety. And if you were one of the 450 people who did, relive your favorite moments from the presentation.
Click here and here for two separate Red Carpet photo albums
Click here for other candid photos from the banquet
The Keystone Chapter of the United States Harness Writers Association has announced its award winners for their outstanding accomplishments in Pennsylvania racing during 2016.
And of the seven award categories put to the voters, three of them resulted in two winners -- which was quite predictable!
Let’s see how that could be:
The Mary Lib Miller Award, named after the wife of Hall of Famer Delvin Miller and herself an integral part of Delvin's many success stories, is the highest award the Chapter gives annually, for overall outstanding contributions to Pennsylvania racing. This year, two members of the Bedford (PA) Sports Hall of Fame, Sam Beegle and Roger Hammer, were the nominees, and there were three choices for the voters: Beegle individually, Hammer individually, or Beegle and Hammer jointly.
And the writers chose to honor both, longtime friendly rivals since their days both wrestling in southwest Pennsylvania area high schools. Their sports accomplishments continue to this day. Hammer, an eight-time national UDR champion, was the leading trainer and driver at the PA Fairs this past season, while Beegle, who also is in charge of his own shedrow and takes an occasional turn in the sulky, makes an impact statewide as the president of the Pennsylvania Harness Horsemen’s Association, and nationally as Chairman of USTA’s District 7 (Pennsylvania).
The PA Horse of the Year, restricted to horses who made more than 50 percent of their starts at a Keystone state oval and thus usually earned by a top-flight overnight horse, resulted in a tie between two Invitational pacers who both earned in the neighborhood of $120,000 just during their fine campaigns at The Meadows: the stallion Unlocked and the mare Medusa. This result also was not a shocker for both Unlocked and Medusa had also tied for top honors when the Meadows Standardbred Owners Association gave their 2016 prizes.
For PA Breeder of the Year, the Keystone voters cast an equal number of ballots for Bill Mulligan, breeder of Trotting Triple Crown winner Marion Marauder, and the legendary Hanover Shoe Farms, who bred $1 million-plus winning mare Hannelore Hanover, thus figuring the two even closer than the 2016 Trotter of the Year contest, where Marion Marauder edged Hannelore Hanover by a single vote.
Other award winners voted by the state communicators include:
Double honors for North America’s leading trainer Ron Burke, who won Pennsylvania Trainer of the Year for the eighth straight year, and also garnered Owner of the Year honors through his Burke Racing Stable (a partnership with his mother Sylvia), who were picked for honors alongside their solid partners, the Weaver Bruscemi of Mike Bruscemi and Mark Weaver.
PA Driver of the Year laurels went to Aaron Merriman, who has parlayed consistently high finishes in the driving ranks at The Meadows with consistent 1-2 rankings in the horseman’s colony of Northfield Park to become the two-time defending North American dashwinning king among all drivers.
PA Sire Stakes Horse of the Year is Broadway Donna, a 3-year-old trotting filly who was national champion at both two and three and the only sophomore to repeat from freshman form as the 2016 Sire Stakes champion. She earned $429,106 at 2 and 3 in PA Sire Stakes competition alone.
And a special award from Chapter President Kevin Decker to Pastor Joe DiDonato, one of the most popular figures on the Meadows backstretch for many years, a man who brings calm, aid and comfort on several levels to the people to whom he ministers.
Each of the honorees will soon be feted at their home racetrack -- unless it is decided to honor Beegle and Hammer together at the Bedford Fair in late July.
What happened in Vegas, went home with everybody
The recently completed Dan Patch Awards Banquet and USHWA National meetings that were held at Planet Hollywood in Las Vegas on the weekend of February 26 were both declared successes.
The banquet was attended by 435 people which made it one of the best attended banquets USHWA has ever hosted. And feedback from our guests rated it as one of the best as well. Most everyone we spoke to gave glowing reviews about the rooms, the food, the drinks and the presentation itself.
The USHWA meetings were all well attended too. There were 38 Directors on hand for that meeting on Saturday and that number joined 15 members for the general session on Sunday.
The Directors took on a thick pile of by-law and rule change proposals and made decisions that would benefit the organization for years to come. Several cost saving changes were approved along with an expansion of our philanthropic ability. A full compilation of all by-law changes, and the voting on each, is attached to this e-mail.
The general session recapped committee work and discussed new and old business before the membership adjourned for a delicious buffet lunch.
I would like to thank the chairs and all the members of the various committees (in particular the Location, Dinner, Sponsorship and Journal committees) for their hard work and dedication to USHWA and the Dan Patch Awards Banquet. Without their help, this event would never be able to happen.
Thank a Sponsor!
If you have the opportunity to do so during the year, thank our sponsors when you see them. Without their support, our organization would not be able to do what it does throughout the year.
2017 Committee Roster
I am currently going over the committee roster for the coming year. If you want to work on a particular committee, move to a different one or stay on the one you have been on, please let me know. I may make changes as I see fit and will take any request made into consideration when making these changes. It is expected that all Officers, Chapter Directors and Past Presidents serve on a committee during the year.
Dues are due
If you have not yet paid your dues for this year, please remember they are required to be paid by March 31. Failure to do so will jeopardize your right to vote later this year. Please remember that starting this year, regular membership dues are now $60.
Consider joining the Harness Racing Museum
Only a small percentage of the racing industry are members of the Harness Racing Museum and Hall of Fame. In an effort to promote new membership to support the museum, a by-law was passed to refund $20 of your 2016 USHWA dues to you if you are not currently a member of the museum and join this year. (That makes the net cost for you to join only $15) This is a one-time offer for all members and we strongly encourage every one of you take advantage of it.
HOF nominations are around the corner
You may consider scheduling a Chapter meeting between May 1 and June 1 to discuss nominations for the Hall of Fame. A new Hall of Fame Advisory Committee was formed as a by-law change, and their job is to provide a list of 20 names along with biographies to aid Chapters with their selection; this list will be reviewed by the Hall of Fame Screening Committee, and be available for distribution to the chapters by May 1.
Chapters are not obligated to select any of the names brought forth and can submit one nomination/biography not on the list. And those will be due by June 1.
At this meeting, it would also be good to review Chapter membership lists, especially since 2017 dues payments will be known by this time.
Goshen Hall of Fame weekend
It’s never too early to make reservations for the Fourth of July weekend in Goshen, NY. There will be an USHWA gathering scheduled on Sunday and a race named for the organization during the days racing at Historic Track. Room discounts will be passed along when they become available from the museum.
Many 2017 race meets are getting underway in the next few weeks and we are looking another year of great harness racing action right in the face. Good luck to all the participants who race, the venues that host them and the media who cover it all.
Tim Bojarski President of USHWA
The United States Harness Writers Association (USHWA), the world’s largest organization for industry communicators, conducted its annual two days of business meetings this past weekend at the Planet Hollywood hotel/casino along “the Strip” in this renowned gambling mecca. The weekend culminated in the Sunday evening celebration of the sport’s best and brightest stars of 2016, both human and equine, at the annual Dan Patch Annual Banquet, for which Hoosier Park in Indiana joined with USHWA as its first Dan Patch Banquet title presenters.
The presence of Hoosier Park, and several other high-recognition entities of the sport providing sponsorship of phases of the Dan Patch Banquet, was reflective of the hard work of many individuals in shoring up the financial bottom line of the organization, and then developing a plan upon which to expand and help make USHWA’s economic base even stronger.
This was perhaps the major theme of the USHWA weekend meetings, with Florida member Tom Hicks earning USHWA’s Member of the Year award for spearheading a diverse, hard-working committee that took a look at all of USHWA’s spending and income of recent years, and tried to find ways to minimize the former while maximizing the latter. A detailed report, emphasizing expansion of avenues of income, especially through the group’s website (www.ushww.org), was prepared, explained, and distributed to the assembled as a baseline for ongoing activities.
Association economics were very much prevalent in the annual by-law and rules & regulations change proposals. One proposition argued in most years again was taken to a vote: the debate whether it was more advantageous to continue the current method of announcing Horse, Trotter, and Pacer of the Year at the end of the calendar season to take advantage of significant international press exposure, or to announce these awards for the first time at the Dan Patch Banquet in order to heighten the drama and perhaps bring in additional revenue (e.g., through sponsoring streaming video).
This year’s tabulation revealed that both sides’ arguments had merit: 20 Directors voted to move the announcement to the banquet while 15 favored keeping the announcement at year’s end, but this vote meant that the announcement will stay when it is, as under USHWA’s by-laws a 2/3 majority (here, 23 votes) would have been necessary for a by-law change.
The Directors of USHWA also voted on the two ballot candidates for this summer’s election for the Communicators Hall of Fame. Veteran Midwest announcer and auctioneer Carl Becker garnered the most support; the contest for the second spot was extremely tight, with the nod going to Dave Briggs of Harness Racing Update, who at the banquet would collect his record ninth John Hervey Award for excellence in writing about the Standardbred sport.
USHWA’s officers generally work on a two-year cycle, and since this was an “off-year” election, the same officials were retained for another year: Tim Bojarski as President; Shawn Wiles as 1st Vice President; Kim Rinker as 2nd Vice President; Chris Tully as Chairman of the Board; Barry Lefkowitz as Treasurer; and Jerry Connors as Secretary.
More than 125 horsemen and women were in attendance Friday night (March 10) at the 26th annual Florida Harness Racing Hall of Fame Dinner held at the Ft. Lauderdale Beach Resort & Spa in Pompano Beach.
The highlight of the evening was the inductions into the Florida Hall of Fame. Entering this year were horsemen Mark Friedman and Dan Hennessey and horse’s Rock On and Royel Millennium.
Hosted by the Florida Chapter of the United States Harness Writers Association, there were also special human awards given out for the 2016 season and presentations were also made to the Horse of the Year by the Florida Standardbred Breeders and Owners Association and the Florida Amateur Driving Club.
Hall of Fame inductee Mark Friedman has been in harness racing for more than five decades as an owner, breeder, trainer and driver. His Polo Stables has had many top Florida-bred champions, none better than the top pacing mare, Bling, p,1:51, a career winner of more than $610,000.
“To have worked most of my life in harness racing and now receiving this award is a highlight of my career and I thank everyone who has helped me along the way,” Friedman said.
Hall of Fame inductee Dan Hennessey, who is nearing his 1,000th career training win and $6 million in earnings, closed out 2016 with a UDR of .420 despite nearly going blind two years ago. His brother, Hall of Famer Wally Hennessey, summed it up well in his introduction.
“I don’t think we ever could have had our stable going steady for forty plus years if not for Dan,” Hennessey said. He is the one who always held the fort down between Pompano and Saratoga year after year. Many of you don’t know that he holds a world record as the only trainer ever to use same driver on nearly every single horse he ever trained, and that was me!”
Taking home the most hardware on the evening (and it was a good thing she came to the dinner with her pickup truck) was Owner-Breeder Laurie Poulin. In addition to her horse, Royel Millennium being inducted into the Hall of Fame, Laurie was named Breeder of the Year for the second straight year and was presented the Dana Irving Award for the second straight year.
Poulin also received four Horse of the Year crystal awards for her stables' Prairie Panther, Prairie Sweetheart, Prairie Jaguar and Prairie Fortune.
All of the horses were bred by Poulin and co-owned and trained by Mike Deters.
FLORIDA USHWA AWARD WINNERS
Hall of Fame – Mark Friedman
Hall of Fame – Dan Hennessey
Hall of Fame – Rock On
Hall of Fame – Royel Millennium
Delvin Miller Award – Fred Morosini
Dana Iriving Award – Laurie Poulin
R.D. Ricketts Award – Kevin Kelly
Stanley Dancer Award – Sergio Corona
Lifetime Achievement – Leon Cable
Dan Gawlas Award – John Berry
Bill Popfinger Award – Mike Deters & Maggie Audley
France Dodge Van Lennep Award – Marianne Audley
Allen J. Finkelson Award – Gabe Prewitt
Caretaker of the Year – Gary McQuaid
FSBOA CRYSTAL AWARD WINNERS
2YO Pacing Filly – Gold Star Aurora
2YO Pacing Colt – Prairie Panther
2YO Trotting Filly – Atlantic Crest
2YO Trotting Colt – I’m Done
3YO Pacing Filly – Prairie Sweetheart
3YO Pacing Colt – R Chism
3YO Trotting Filly – Gold Star Briana
3YO Trotting Colt – Rexamillion
Older Pacing Mare – Goldstar Rockette
Older Pacing Horse – Prairie Jaguar
Older Trotting Mare – Selena
Older Trotting Horse – Prairie Fortune
2016 Breeder of the Year – Laurie Poulin
2016 Florida Amateur Driver of the Year - Tony Dinges
Brian Sears, a “youthful veteran” of the sport of harness racing who stands fifth on the all-time list of moneywinning drivers and has driven some of the sport’s greatest horses of the last 15 years to victories in championship races, has been elected to the sport’s highest honor, the Hall of Fame, in balloting conducted by the United States Harness Writers Association.
In addition, Gordon Waterstone and Steve Wolf, two veteran harness publicists and writers whose careers share many similar highlights and awards though they never worked together directly, have been elected to the sport’s Communicators Hall of Fame.
Sears was named USHWA’s Rising Star of the Year in 1991 and hasn’t looked back. Sears, a 48-year-old native of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., who now resides in Secaucus, N.J., was at the top rungs of the driving colony of Vernon Downs, Pompano, Pocono, and The Meadows before moving eastward to the metro New York area a dozen years ago.
He has continued to dominate on the toughest circuits in harness racing, winning multiple driving championships at the Meadowlands and also topping the charts at Yonkers Raceway. Sears entered Monday with 9,670 career wins, good for 14th place among all drivers in North American history.
Among the horses that have helped boost his career driving earnings to $174 million all-time are three winners of the Horse of the Year title: Rocknroll Hanover in 2005, Muscle Hill in 2009, and Bee A Magician in 2013.
Sears is the only driver to twice win the Hambletonian and Hambletonian Oaks on the same day, accomplishing the feat with Muscle Hill and Broadway Schooner in 2009 and again with Royalty For Life and Bee A Magician in 2013. He also won the Hambletonian in 2015 with Pinkman in his only drive behind the horse that season.
The sport’s Driver of the Year in 2009, Sears has won 26 Breeders Crown titles, good for No. 4 on the all-time wins list in the series. Horses driven by Sears have earned more than $10 million in the series, which is among the top five in history.
Waterstone was for many years the publicist for Hazel
Park in Detroit, also working at other area racetracks, before becoming
associate editor of The Horseman And Fair World, which was a magazine
when Waterstone started and for whom he wrote two John Hervey
Award-winning stories, before becoming a multimedia enterprise in recent
Wolf was a publicist for several tracks in the
immediate area of his native New Jersey and for the Standardbred
Breeders and Owners Association of New Jersey before “shipping south” to
Pompano Park in Florida, rising through the ranks to become senior
director of racing operations, until starting his own consulting agency.
He also served on the Board, including as president, of the Harness
Horse Youth Foundation.
The parallels in the careers of Wolf and Waterstone
are striking. Both first entered the communications end of the industry
in 1979. Both have been president of USHWA and both have won that
organization’s Member of the Year (Wolf twice, the first to earn that
distinction); both currently serve as their USHWA chapter’s president.
Both have won the Harness Publicists Association’s Allen J. Finkelson
Golden Pen Award for outstanding lifetime achievement in promoting
harness racing, and both have won the Clyde Hirt Media Award from
Harness Horsemen’s International. Both have chaired several important
USHWA committees, and are teaming again for the 2017 USHWA annual
convention and Dan Patch Award Banquet: Waterstone on the Location
Committee and on-site planner/negotiator, and Wolf on the Dinner
Committee, which he has chaired 15 times.
of Fame voting is conducted among eligible USHWAns and members of the
Hall of Fame; Communicators Hall of Famers are voted on by all members
of the Harness Writers Association.
The Clyde Hirt Media
Workshop is sponsored by the U.S. Harness Writers Association and Meadowlands
Racetrack. It is held in conjunction with harness racing's most prestigious
race (the Hambletonian) and offers college students a chance to learn from
journalism professionals while covering a major sporting event. Students
interact with a variety of sports professionals, write race previews and
results stories for daily newspapers and news websites and attend workshop
sessions with experts from print, broadcasting, public relations and other
Corey Alexander, one of the students from the 2012 workshop, produced a video featuring many of the highlights of the weeks activities. we are making it available here for you to view and see what great exposure the workshop is giving the sport of harness racing to college students who are up and coming media professionals.
Click here to see the video of what the young men and women from colleges all over North America have experienced; our sport, first hand.
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.