Click here to see all the award presentation photos.
Click here to see more previous unreleased banquet pictures
On Sunday, July 5, the National officers of USHWA were joined by members from Chapters all over North America in the Historic Track winner's circle as they made a presentation to the winner of the fifth race.
The $15,000 New York Sire Stake Excelsior-A event that was named for the group was won by Royal Deceptor and driver Michael McGivern. The pair toured the grounds in a lifetime best 1:57.4, much to the delight of a packed grandstand and apron.
(Photo courtesy of Geri Schwarz)
Bruce Nickells, a trainer/driver who was associated with many top horses during his 70-year career in harness racing and who specialized in the developing of young pacing fillies into champions, was selected for induction into the Harness Racing Hall of Fame by the Screening Committee of the United States Harness Writers Association (USHWA), the sport’s leading media organization, under a “Veterans” provision incorporated into the organization’s by-laws earlier this year.
Nickells, 87, developed champions for more than four decades, an impressive feat by any standard.
At the age of 13, Nickells got his start as a part-time groom with the late C.F. Rumley. He got his first drive and first win at Aurora Downs in 1949 and opened his own stable in 1953.
His career stats are incomplete since USTA record keeping began well after Nickells started his harness racing career, but he is still credited with more than $6 million in purses as a driver and more than $7 million in training earnings in the pre-slots racing era.
Nickells developed some outstanding horses early in his career, including the trotter Scribe Rodney, Combat Time, Batman, Kentucky, and Fast Clip.
Nickells’ prowess soon caught the attention of Grand Circuit patrons, and his training of the great mare Follow My Star in 1985 resulted in a partnership with mega-owner Lou Guida – one that would rewrite the record books.
He trained six freshman divisional winners and/or the richest freshman filly of the year. Nickells broke his own single season earnings record set by Follow My Star in 1991 with the great Miss Easy, who won 25 of her 32 lifetime starts (including an 11-race win streak), with earnings of $1,777,656. For his management of Miss Easy, Nickells was voted 1991 Glen Garnsey Trainer of the Year.
Miss Easy was a repeat divisional winner as a sophomore.
Other top horses for Nickells include Hambletonian Oaks winner Park Avenue Kathy, Central Park West, Hazleton Kay, Immortality, Freedoms Friend, Bruce’s Lady, Efishnc and six Breeders Crown champions. His Crown starters earned $1.9 million, currently ranking him 15th in all-time Crown earnings even though he’s started just one horse in the series since 1999.
For the last 20 years Nickells has concentrated on the winter training and breaking of colts, and gave youngsters such as Cypress Creek ($384,000) and Grinfromeartoear ($1.7 million) their early lessons. Nickells has turned his stable over to his daughter, Brooke, and is an active consultant and trainer in their rotation from Pompano Park in the winter to summers at Hoosier Park.
Nickells will be inducted into the Hall of Fame on Sunday, July 3, 2016, going directly to the Hall under the Veterans provision. He will be joined on that day by candidates who receive 75 percent of the yes-no vote from eligible USHWA and Hall of Famers in late summer voting: Hall of Fame nominee Charles Keller III and Communicators Hall of Fame nominees David Carr and Jerry Connors.
Charles Keller III, who took over the spirit and desire for
excellence at Maryland’s Yankeeland Farm, started by his father/New York
Yankees star Charles “King Kong” Keller, and built into one of harness
racing’s premier nurseries, has been selected to appear on the ballot
for the Harness Racing Hall of Fame.
Chapters of the U.S. Harness
Writers Association (USHWA), harness racing’s leading media
organization, annually nominate outstanding individuals for ballot
consideration. The Screening Committee of USHWA meets over Fourth of
July weekend with an Advisory Board of Hall of Famers and selects the
nominee or nominees for the Hall of Fame ballot.
The ballot will
be sent to eligible USHWA and Hall of Fame members in late summer. Also
on the ballot as candidates for the Communicators Hall of Fame are the
USTA’s Director of Information David Carr and longtime writer/publicist
An additional Hall of Fame selection in the Veterans Category will be announced Thursday.
1955 “King Kong” Keller bought the property in Frederick, Md., to found
Yankeeland Farms, with such notable early successes as Fresh Yankee,
1970 Harness Horse of the Year and a winner of more than $1 million.
Charles Keller III, already an integral part of the farm’s managerial
team, took over the operation of the farm following the death of his
father in 1990.
Under the younger Keller the farm’s reputation
grew and produced two Hambletonian winners in Muscles Yankee (1998) and
Yankee Paco (2000). Muscles Yankee went on to sire three consecutive
Hambletonian winners from 2008-10, Deweycheatumnhowe, Muscle Hill and
Muscles Yankee also appears among the list of
four Breeders Crown winners bred by Yankeeland, the others being Strong
Yankee, Yankee Slide, and Yankee Cashmere.
Yankeeland owned 2003
Dan Patch Award-winning trotting mare Windylane Hanover and
Yankeeland-product Yankee Glide has been a longtime leading trotting
stallion. Another Yankeeland-bred star is the 2003 North America Cup
winner Yankee Cruiser, who has gone on to become a successful pacing
In addition to having enriched the sport with his
Yankeeland horses, Keller also contributes at the highest levels of the
sport’s major organizations. He has been on the board of directors of
the Hambletonian Society since 2000, and took the position of executive
chairman last year. A longtime trustee of the Harness Racing Museum
& Hall of Fame, Keller was also a longtime director of the U.S.
Trotting Association and active member of its important Financial
Murray Janoff, 100, Communicators Hall of Fame member and the last surviving founding member of the U.S. Harness Writers Association, passed away peacefully in his sleep early Tuesday morning in Boca Raton FL.
Janoff, a native of New York City and a World War II veteran who attended a reunion of participants in the famous “Battle Of The Bulge” earlier this year, started his writing career at the Long Island Press in 1936 and worked for the paper until it closed in 1977; he then freelanced for wire services AP, UPI, and Reuters. While at the Press, he also authored a weekly column, Murray Janoff’s Locker Room.
Janoff was a founding member of the U.S. Tennis Writers Association (covering the U.S. Tennis Open for 61 years) and the Professional Basketball Writers Association (covering the New York Knicks’ first-ever game in 1946 in Toronto). Murray also served as president for writers’ associations in four sports. His knowledge and versatility made him a valuable asset to whomever he worked for – such as his prediction of Joe Namath’s New York Jets, for whom he was a beat writer, upsetting the Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III.
Murray was one of the dozen chroniclers of Roosevelt Raceway who met “over hamburgers and beer” after the races on the night of May 8, 1947 to form the United States Harness Writers Association (USHWA), harness racing’s leading media organization, and was a member for 68 years. (Reportedly, “although he was too modest to admit it,” both USHWA and the Tennis Writers Association originated with an idea from him.)
In 2007, Janoff was inducted into the Communicators Hall of Fame, the highest honor in the sport that can be bestowed on a member of the media. He was still active in the Florida Chapter of USHWA, for whom he had served a term as President, and is also a member of the Florida USHWA Hall of Fame.
Even in his last years, Janoff retained an excellent memory of many of the great moments in sports for which he had been in attendance, and was also an excellent raconteur. He also enthusiastically shared ideas and good-naturedly debated issues with anyone, virtually all of whom did not possess a fraction of his experience or expertise.
Those wishing to contribute to a charity in Janoff’s memory can obtain information by calling Gutterman-Warheit at 561 997 9900.
Dear USHWA member:
This is our first newsletter since our successful meetings and Dan Patch Awards Banquet in Orlando in February. Thank you to all of the participating USHWA members for their continued efforts. Not only for their fruitful discussions and focus on future USHWA projects, but also for their labor in putting together and presenting a great Banquet.
Though attendance (and Journal income) was down slightly this past year, because of the Takter / Burke domination of the sport, I thought that the Banquet itself was among the best presented, highlighted by memorable speeches and positive momentum toward the 2016 season.
The annual meeting and banquet location site is being explored by one of USHWA’s committees. Another committee that will look to build on the foundation set in Florida was our Social Media Committee, springing from Rob Key’s “60-minute presentation that went on for 2½ hours with so many people asking questions and seeking more information.”
The organization’s next major focus will be our annual Goshen weekend. The Hall of Fame Screening Committee, along with the Officers of the Association, will meet on Saturday (we note that also that night, 92 miles away from Goshen, will be the $2M+ “Super Stakes Saturday” at the newly-christened The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono).
On Sunday, there will be the annual “informal” USHWA meeting in the Museum’s Arden Homestead clubhouse at 11 a.m., racing at 1 p.m., and of course the annual Hall of Fame Banquet in the evening, honoring Joe Thomson, Bob Marks, Kathy Parker, and other notables of the sport.
Attached is a list of local motels – we urge you to make reservations NOW, as the limited number of rooms in the area will, as always, fill QUICKLY!
Speaking of the Hall of Fame, candidates for Chapter nomination for the Hall of Fame are due to the Secretary by June 1, accompanied by a biography of 350-700 words.
Remember that this year a Chapter can nominate up to two “regular” Hall of Fame candidates, plus one candidate for the newly-restored and –renamed “Veterans” designation. We note that spring is always a good time for Chapters to hold a meeting, if for no other reason than to discuss the Chapter’s Hall of Fame nominations. (When a Chapter sets a date and location for a meeting, we ask that it contact the secretary, should a National Officer be able to attend.)
National Officer Alan Prince is among three longtime important cogs of the USHWA operation who has been under the weather recently. Alan (firstname.lastname@example.org), Steve Wolf (email@example.com), and Jack Ginnetti (firstname.lastname@example.org) are all in our thoughts, and would love to receive a word of cheer from their fellow USHWAns.
That’s all for now – thanks again for all of your many efforts on behalf of USHWA. If you have any questions, or if there is anything I can do to be of help, please let me know.
CHRIS TULLY National USHWA President
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In conjunction with its hosting the annual Dan Patch
Awards Banquet (which honored the top equine and
human harness stars of 2014 on Sunday, February 22), the United States Harness Writers Association
(USHWA) also held its annual meetings at the same location,
the Doubletree/Hilton Sea World/Orlando (FL) complex.
Since the annual dinner with its
souvenir Journal, sponsorships, and collateral raffles, is USHWA’s chief means
of income throughout the year, reports were given recapping the success of the
2014 event at Dover Downs, and projecting income for this year’s event.
Figures for 2015 were projected to be good but slightly down from the
previous year, as during racing year 2014 much of the top stakes racing was
dominated by two stables – Ron Burke and Jimmy Takter. That duo accounted, mostly directly, for 21 of the 46 awards
given at the dinner (46%). Both concerns, always good friends of USHWA,
were again active banquet participants, but the lack of a wider range of
involved award winners did limit the potential for a broader scope of
connections buying ads and tickets may have cut into the margins slightly.
Still, the dinner was a very successful one, and probably contained the best
collection of award acceptance speeches in recent memory, particularly from driver Yannick Gingras.
The bylaws and rules/regulation of the Association received their
annual scrutiny and proposals for alterations, with perhaps the most
significant proposal passed being a limited restoring of the “Veterans”
designation for Hall of Fame candidates in their prime years before the current
day. The methodology for determining Communicators Hall ballot finalists was
also restructured, and methods to improve both dissemination of voting
information and ballot return were also implemented.
Some 15 committees appointed by USHWA to address specific focuses
reported on their findings; one committee was responsible for coming up with
both the Hall of Fame procedural amendments described above. Such
forward-looking projects as the Hirt Workshop for budding journalists, the
Railbird Fan Awards, and the organization’s Integrity Committee also gave
The same slate of officers was returned for another year, in accordance
with USHWA’s usual two-year “rotation” system: Chris Tully, President; Tim
Bojarski, 1VP; Shawn Wiles, 2VP; Steve Wolf, Chairman of the Board; Judy
Davis-Wilson, Treasurer; Alan Prince, Executive Treasurer; and Jerry Connors,
In probably the closest contest in recent memory, David Carr, Director
of Research/Statistics for the USTA, won a place on the ballot for the
Communicators Hall of Fame, getting the most votes in the first round of
Director voting. Gordon Waterstone and Jerry Connors, both veteran writer/publicists,
were tied for the second spot – and still were after a “tiebreaking” round of
voting – so a third “heat” was contested, with Connors then becoming the second
person on the ballot.
USHWA’s Screening Committee will select ballot candidates for the Hall
of Fame at Goshen in July; these names will join the Communicators nominees in
the Hall voting conducted in mid-summer and annually announced nearing Little
Brown Jug time.
As part of the annual USHWA meetings held in Orlando, Florida the weekend of February 22, the United States Trotting Association (USTA) sponsored a social media workshop highlighting the progress of the Harness Racing Fan Zone and their task of getting new fans engaged in the sport of harness racing. They also presented specific and well planned guidelines for all those in the industry who want to utilize this platform to further that cause.
As part of that workshop, two slideshows full of facts and information were presented to and well received by the members of the media who were in attendance. USHWA felt the information in that presentation was so important it was necessary to make it available to all the members of the organization who were not able to attend in person.
Click on the two links below to access that information.
Gordon Waterstone, associate editor of the Horseman and Fair World magazine, former president of the United States Harness Writers Association, and two-time winner of a John Hervey Award for excellence in harness journalism, has been selected for recognition by the media organization as its 2014 “Alan Prince USHWA Member of the Year.”
Waterstone, a Michigander and proud product of Michigan State University, started his harness racing career at Detroit’s Hazel Park in 1979, and spent the better part of two decades working at that track and metro Detroit’s Northville Downs, mostly as publicity director.
In 1998 he had the opportunity to join the Proximity Award-winning Horseman and Fair World, with his time working in Kentucky quickly approaching the amount he posted in his native state. During the Lexington Grand Circuit meet, his “Backstretch With Gordon” column is a must-read for the latest stories behind the star horses and horsemen, where to eat after the races, and the price of gasoline in the area.
Gordon was a member of the officers of USHWA for six years, highlighted by his two years as president (2004-06), during which he made permanent the design of the Dan Patch Awards trophies which mark excellence in the harness sport. As a past president, he has served on the board of directors since the end of his presidential term. He has been president of the Kentucky Chapter since its start-of-the-century renaissance, and has added secretarial duties to his portmanteau the last few years.
But Waterstone earned his USHWAn of the Year award largely through his continuing efforts to serve the writers association on a national level, including giving constructive criticism, at times frequent, to keep the operation running at its finest.
Gordon is currently head of the tabled items committee, and has served on the site location committee, the dinner committee, the breeder/broodmare committee, and the Hall of Fame screening committee.
Waterstone’s Hervey writing awards came in two different categories, features (1999) and news/commentary (2008), making him one of only a few journalists to win a national award in more than one category. He was awarded the Allen J. Finkelson Golden Pen Award by the Harness Publicists Association in 1995 (an organization of which he was president in 1999), and the Clyde Hirt Media Award by Harness Horsemen International in 2002.
Fazoli’s President and CEO Carl Howard was named the 2014 President’s Award honoree by United States Harness Writers Association chief Chris Tully. The award acknowledges Howard’s passion for Harness Racing in general and his decision to have his firm take on the leadership role of presenting sponsor for the 69th edition of the $600,000 Little Brown Jug.
Hall of Famer Sam McKee stated, “If not for Carl Howard and the Fazoli’s title sponsorship of the 2014 Little Brown Jug, there’s little doubt that our national television effort would never have gotten off the ground. Thanks to Carl’s background as a fan and an owner, the industry was given the opportunity to make a presentation and show what we can offer and produce for a major sponsor.”
A Kettering, Ohio native, Carl Howard is no stranger to the spotlight. As CEO of Fazoli’s, he was recently named the No. 1 restaurant executive by Fast Casual. Despite taking over the struggling restaurant brand in 2008, he and his 200-plus nationwide shops have since posted 13 consecutive positive growth quarters.
A true restaurateur, Howard moved his way up through hard work and determination. He met his wife of 20 years, Rocchina, while waiting tables at the upscale Salvi’s in Columbus, OH. “My father-in-law was the chef, and he taught me to always have high standards. I try to carry that philosophy with me every day—not only in my interactions with my Fazoli’s team, but also with our customers,” Howard stated.
Having successfully engineered the dramatic turnaround, Howard also has his eyes on the resurgence of Harness Racing in the Buckeye State. With current ownership in over 30 Standardbreds, he intends to spearhead an effort to have a racehorse in every class in the state of Ohio during 2015.
“I have about 20 horses in training with Virgil Morgan, Jr.” noted the Ohio State graduate. “I plan to expand my efforts and take advantage of the increased rewards available. The risks are still high, but with a keen eye on individual ROI, we intend to capitalize on Ohio’s growth potential.”
The 2014 racing season was profitable for Howard, but that has not always been the case. His first foray into racing united him with a pacer named JK Reunited. Ironically this mare was a product of Breeder of the Year and owner of the Horse of the Year, 3 Brothers Stables.
“I claimed my first race horse at Pocono in 2010.” Howard jokingly added, “Knowing what I know now, I would not have made that claim again because JK Reunited became a broodmare following her next start. Through many lessons learned, my selection process has changed dramatically in the past five years.”
The President’s award, along with the Dan Patch Horse of the Year and additional human award trophies will be presented on Sunday, February 22, 2015 in Orlando, Florida.
Mary Lou Dondarski, operations manager of the Hambletonian Society/Breeders Crown and an unflappable, tireless contributor to many of the sport’s major organizations and events, and Art Strozewski, whose Bow River Jewelry is the premier provider of equine-related jewelry and expands on his harness fandom to support many of the sport’s major groups, have been voted Honorary Members of the United States Harness Writers Association in an election conducted among the media organization’s directors.
Honorary Membership is voted by the harness writers to people making important contributions to harness racing or to USHWA, but are not active members of the media. Dondarski and Strozewski will become the 50th and 51st Honorary Members of the Association, a grouping which includes 20 Hall of Famers past and present such as John Campbell, Delvin Miller, E. Roland Harriman and George Morton Levy.
Dondarski has been a fan of harness racing for most of her life, and worked as the manager of the race office at Freehold Raceway before beginning work at her current position.
A previous honoree of USHWA through a President’s Award, Dondarski is at home in virtually every aspect of the sport: she was an originator of the now-popular act of bringing a small bag of carrots for the “real hero” of the winner's circle -- the horse -- after major stakes races; she assists the Harness Racing Museum with exhibits, especially those concerning Greyhound and the Hambletonian to which she has contributed many items from her own private collection; and her donated paintings have assisted the coffers of many of the sport’s nonprofit auctions.
Strozewski is President of Bow River Jewelry Company, an Ohio-based concern which started with one store in a mall and in the next 25 years expanded to a chain, then sold off their mall holdings to specialize in the equine jewelry which is their trademark today.
Their custom-designed pieces are considered the standard in harness racing, and Bow River exhibits at major trade functions are among the most popular attractions. Like Dondarski, Strozewski has supported nonprofit fundraising efforts, and was given the Service to Youth Award in 2008 by the Harness Horse Youth Foundation for this type of generosity.
The awards to Dondarski and Strozewski, along with the Dan Patch Horse of the Year and additional human award trophies, will be presented on Sunday (February 22) in Orlando, Fla. Tickets for this gala event, the Dan Patch Awards Banquet--Night of Champions, are now available.
For their vision of giving back to life beyond the racetrack, the United States Harness Writers Association has voted Jack Darling two Dan Patch Awards – the Unsung Hero and Good Guy awards – and Robbie Siegelman has been selected to receive the January Davies Humanitarian Award.
Darling was the driving force behind two major fundraising efforts in 2014 -- initiating a broad-based fundraising effort to support telecasts of the Meadowlands Pace and the Little Brown Jug and establishing a fund for the family of his late friend and fellow horseman Mark Austin.
When both projects became overwhelming successes, both the drive for television fund and the campaign to help Austin’s family, centered around a “tribute night” to Keith and Ron Waples, raised more than $100,000 for their respective causes.
Robbie Siegelman, a New York/New Jersey trainer, has been working with unsung heroes for years – human heroes, people with daunting life challenges, such as the effects of military service on veterans and their families, the underprivileged of large inner cities, kids battling the horrors of cancer. Siegelman’s special tool is the use of one of the mostly universally-acclaimed means of therapy – the Standardbred horse.
Both men have rung up very good training statistics since the USTA began compiling conditioner standings in 1991, with both individuals having guided the winners of more than $10 million in that period.
Awards for Darling and Siegelman, along with the Dan Patch Horse of the Year and additional human awards, will be presented on Sunday, February 22, 2015 in Orlando, Florida. Tickets for this gala event, the Dan Patch Awards Banquet--Night of Champions, are now available.
As members of the United States Harness Writers Association (USHWA) considered choices for the Dan Patch Owner of the Year, Breeder of the Year, Pacing Broodmare of the Year, and Trotting Broodmare of the Year awards, two names surfaced frequently – the 3 Brothers Stables and John Fielding.
Fielding, a resident of Toronto who has graduated from riding the streetcar to the old Greenwood Raceway to serving on the Board of Directors of the Woodbine Entertainment Group, owned two seasonal million-dollar-winners in 3-year-old trotting colt Father Patrick and 3-year-old trotting filly Shake It Cerry while the 3 Brothers Stables of Alan, Ronald, and Steven Katz, who got their schooling on the New York City circuit, owned millionaire 3-year-old pacing colt JK Endofanera and 2-year-old pacing filly JK She’salady, the first freshman filly to be named harness racing’s Horse of the Year.
Both of the “JK” horses, with the prefix honoring the Katzes’ late father and mentor Jack, are offspring of Art Major out of a Presidential Ball-Mardi’s Crown mare named Presidential Lady, who was a “walkover” for Pacing Broodmare of the Year – USHWA’s Breeder/Broodmare nominating committee thought no other candidate viable. They will be the last “JK”s for the Katzes out of Presidential Lady, who was sold last year to Melissa Orlando of Ohio – but this “1-2 punch” was thought so potent, with both horses at the very top level of their divisions all year, that the Katzes/3 Brothers Stables were named Breeders of the Year by USHWA.
On the trotting broodmare side, Solveig got the most votes of any candidate in their category, two- or four-legged, with 100 out of 140 voters picking her for Trotting Broodmare of the Year. The winner is a daughter of Yankee Glide-Exquisite Amanda owned by, straightforwardly enough, Solveig’s Breeders, of which Fielding is a member. Solveig, from matings with Donato Hanover, was represented in 2014 by Trotter of the Year Shake It Cerry and by the 2-year-old trotting colt Uncle Lasse, who himself earned $351,297. Fielding is also among the owners of Uncle Lasse and no fewer than three Breeders Crown (and Dan Patch divisional) winners: Shake It Cerry, Father Patrick, and 2-year-old gelding trotter Pinkman.
So with credentials such as these, the voters must have had a hard time deciding between 3 Brothers and Fielding for the honor of Owner of the Year, right? Right.
Whom did they choose?Both – it was a dead heat, with each receiving 50 votes. And it’s hard to argue with that result – because it’s hard to argue with excellence, which both 3 Brothers and Fielding showed in spades during 2014.
The Katzes and Fielding will be presented these awards and others, as will the rest of 2014’s stars, both human and equine, on Sunday, February 22, 2015 in Orlando, Florida, at USHWA’s annual Dan Patch Awards Banquet--Night of Champions.
Harness Racing 2014 emerged as “The Year of the Filly,” with Horse of the Year honors going to the 2-year-old pacer JK She’salady and the Trotter of the Year nod to 3-year-old Shake It Cerry.
Thus, it seems appropriate that two young women who have shown the talents to mark them as top-level players for years to come would be voted Dan Patch Awards by the United States Harness Writers Association; Nancy Johansson winning the Rising Star Award, for a trainer and/or driver 35 or younger, and Emily Gaskin the Breakthrough Award, for non-trainers/drivers in the same age bracket.
It was Horse of the Year JK She’salady that helped Johansson garner most of the spotlight -- a spotlight they both handled well. To keep a filly undefeated for 12 starts, over a campaign spanning almost five months, a world record, six racetracks, and two countries, is a difficult job, as well as to handle the success maturely and respond to many media requests and inquiries accommodatingly. The combination of those talents shows abilities far beyond the reach of most youthful trainers. The fact that “The Lady” is the first 2-year-old filly ever to be Horse of the Year only burnishes Nancy’s credentials.
But JK She’salady was not the only stakes-winner for Johansson, married to horseman Marcus Johansson. Other stakes-winners from her barn included Cruzado Dela Noche, Western Pioneer, Freedomformysoul, and the catchy-named Iluvmyjimmychoos.
Johansson herself has as good a harness “pedigree” as one could hope -- her father is Hall of Famer Jimmy Takter, Trainer of the Year in 2014, and her mother Christina is part-owner of a number of standout horses.
Emily Gaskin, the Breakthrough winner, also shows a solid line of parentage as her father is Ernie Gaskin, a longtime top trainer and a major player in the growing Indiana racing scene who met his wife Darla while they traveled the Grand Circuit, as Darla cared for the top pacing filly Amneris.
And Emily has “backstretch credentials,” too. She purchased a pacer named Jammin Joshua for all of $300 and the 5-year-old has bankrolled almost $590,000 to date.
But it is in the business area of harness racing where Emily has made her major mark. Emily brought experience with the Horseman and Fair World and Harness Racing Update, as well as a stint in USHWA’s hands-on Clyde Hirt Journalism Workshop during Hambletonian Week, to Indiana in 2012 when she joined the progressive management team at Hoosier Park, which has recently been awarded hosting privileges for the prestigious Breeders Crown series in 2017.
For Hoosier, Gaskin handles publicity and marketing, duties on the in-house television show including a pre-race show called “Night Drive,” as well as promotional work. She also gets to see “the other side” of gaming in Hoosier’s dark period while working as a casino host -- a large resume in an era of synergistic, cross-promotional opportunities. No task seems too big, too small, or too daunting to the tireless Gaskin.
The Rising Star and Breakthrough Awards will be presented to Johansson and Gaskin, along with the Dan Patch Horse of the Year and additional human and equine award trophies, on Sunday (February 22) in Orlando, Fla. Tickets for this gala event, the Dan Patch Awards Banquet--Night of Champions, are now available.
Russell Williams, who is an important part of many of harness racing’s major entities -- Hanover Shoe Farms Inc., the Standardbred Horse Sales Company, the United States Trotting Association, the Harness Racing Museum -- and also serves as “Santa Claus” to horses after their racing/breeding careers are completed, has been named the Stan Bergstein Proximity Award winner by the United States Harness Writers Association, the media association of the industry.
It is the highest award given by USHWA that is voted on solely by its membership of 220.
Williams is the grandson of Hall of Famer Lawrence Sheppard, founder of Hanover Shoe Farms, the world’s largest Standardbred nursery. But while always enjoying the horses, Russell carved his own path in life as a lawyer, serving as assistant attorney general for the Commonwealth of Virginia and teaching law at the University of Richmond. Later, he returned to Hanover as a senior official, and to this day his contributions to Hanover and the sport are numerous and progressive.
He serves the dual roles in the “Hanover family” as vice president of Hanover Shoe Farms, leading breeder within the industry since records started to be kept in 1949, and as chairman and vice president of the Standardbred Horse Sales Company, which each year conducts a week long sale of quality horseflesh in Harrisburg, just more than an hour from the Hanover Farm near the Pennsylvania/Maryland border.
Williams is also vice chairman of the United States Trotting Association, the sport’s breed registry and statistical record-keeper, and offers overall input into national/international issues -- his background as a lawyer is especially valuable in this role. He is a trustee of the Harness Racing Museum, and the former chairman of the American Horse Council, a multi-breed organization.
Russell also campaigns a modest stable of horses and owns several broodmares, including Nicole Isabelle, a second-generation Williams mare whose first foal was the trotting star Nuncio, an Andover Hall colt who won the Yonkers Trot and Kentucky Futurity en route to earnings of $1.45 million in 2014.
But the main equine beneficiaries of Williams’ “ownership” are those horses whose careers as racehorses are finished and elder broodmares retired from the breeding ranks. The latter group of Hanover mares are boarded at Hanover for life; the racehorses are literally given “the gift of life” by “Santa Claus” Williams, as he purchases them and helps find them suitable homes.
Russell Williams, still agile and youthful of mind approaching 60, has spread his earned talents throughout the Standardbred world, to the benefit of every level, and thus is a worthy recipient of the Stan Bergstein Proximity Award.
This award, along with the Dan Patch Horse of the Year and additional human award trophies will be presented on Sunday (February 22) in Orlando, Fla. Tickets for this gala event, the Dan Patch Awards Banquet-Night of Champions, are now available.
For the fourth time in his Hall of Fame career, Jimmy Takter is the Trainer of the Year as voted upon by the members of the U.S. Harness Writers Association. Also voted a Dan Patch Award as Driver of the Year was Yannick Gingras who led all drivers in purses this season with more than $17 million.
Takter received 84 of 140 votes for Trainer of the Year, finishing ahead of Ron Burke, who got 56 votes. Gingras was the only driver nominated for Driver of the Year by USHWA’s chapters.
Despite starting horses only 729 times through Dec. 21, Takter’s stable earned a career-best $13.35 million, for an average of more than $18,300 per start.
Takter, 54, won this year’s Hambletonian with Trixton, a horse he drove himself to the victory, and the Hambletonian Oaks with Lifetime Pursuit. Takter became only the second trainer to win both races in the same year, joining Jan Johnson from 1988.
The Hambletonian was the first jewel in the Trotting Triple Crown and Takter-trained Nuncio swept the remaining two legs, the Kentucky Futurity and Yonkers Trot.
In addition, Takter won three Breeders Crown trophies, with 2-year-old male trotter Pinkman, 3-year-old male trotter Father Patrick, and 3-year-old female trotter Shake It Cerry.
Shake It Cerry was named the Dan Patch Award Trotter of the Year while Pinkman and Father Patrick received divisional honors.
Takter dominated the 3-year-old trotting ranks, as he had the top three money-earning colts (Father Patrick, $1.69 million, Nuncio, $1.45 million and Trixton, $893,370) and the top two money-earning fillies (Shake It Cerry, $1.23 million and Lifetime Pursuit, $795,216).
Father Patrick and Nuncio made Takter the first trainer in history to have two million-dollar trotters in the same division in the same year.
Among Takter’s top pacers were 3-year-old male stakes-winners Lyonssomewhere, who captured the Cane Pace, Somewhere In L A and Tellitlikeitis, along with 3-year-old filly stakes-winner Uffizi Hanover.
Takter’s previous Trainer of the Year honors came in 2010, 2000 and 1996.
The 35-year-old Gingras has established career highs in purses, with $17.29 million, and wins, with 555.
His earnings led all drivers in North America and were more than $5 million ahead of second place. Never in history has a driver finished at least $5 million in front of his nearest competitor. In addition, Gingras’ purses were fourth highest in history for a driver.
Gingras won four Breeders Crown titles, victories that were among 15 triumphs worth more than $300,000 this year. Those 15 lucrative wins came with nine different horses and included the Canadian Trotting Classic, Hambletonian Oaks, Little Brown Jug and Cane Pace.
A native of Quebec, Gingras was USHWA’s 2003 Rising Star Award winner.
Takter and Gingras will receive their awards at USHWA’s annual Dan Patch Awards banquet, to be held Sunday (Feb. 22) at the Doubletree Hilton Orlando at Sea World.
The Horse of the Year voting caught some industry insiders by surprise, since for the first time ever the Horse of the Year was not also voted Pacer of Trotter of the Year. However, the voting process has been relatively unchanged since 1970 when distinct Pacer and Trotter of the Year awards were added.
Nonetheless, the process has ALWAYS been that the horse with the most votes for Horse of the Year is, in fact, the E. Roland Harriman Harness Horse of the Year. Being Trotter or Pacer of the Year is not, and has never been a requirement. The ONLY requirement is that the VOTERS must choose THEIR Horse of the Year from, and only from, either THE Trotter or THE Pacer of the Year that THEY VOTED FOR.
This year’s process worked as it should have. The only difference is that in this particular racing season there were two horses vying extremely closely for that honor, and both happened to have been pacers. Several other horses also took a substantial number (an additional 47 votes or 30%) of the Horse of the Year votes. When in doubt, the numbers speak for themselves. With the exception of a few outliers, the voting was pretty consistent across all divisions. Just 5 votes separated Horse of the Year, and just one vote separated Pacer of the Year.
The anomaly occurred because a greater number of voters that selected JK She’salady for Pacer of the Year on their ballot also voted her their Horse of the Year. Only 16 people that voted JK She’salady as the best pacer gave their Horse of the Year vote to their Trotter of the Year selection, compared to 22 for Sweet Lou.
She’salady, who was undefeated in 12 races for breeder/owner 3 Brothers
Stables and trainer Nancy Johansson, became the first 2-year-old female
pacer in harness racing history to be named Horse of the Year, the U.S.
Harness Writers Association announced Thursday (Dec. 18) during a Dan
Patch Awards presentation at Meadowlands Racetrack.
filly won by five votes, 57-52, over fellow pacer Sweet Lou in the
tightest Horse of the Year finish since 7-year-old trotting gelding
Savoir beat 3-year-old filly pacer Silk Stockings, 52-49, in 1975.
Sweet Lou, however, was named Pacer of the Year after besting JK
She’salady by one vote, 74-73, in that category. It is the first time a
Pacer of the Year or Trotter of the Year -- categories introduced in
1970 -- failed to receive Horse of the Year.
who are members of the U.S. Harness Writers Association and American
Harness Racing Secretaries, must choose their Horse of the Year from
either their Pacer of the Year or Trotter of the Year selections. A
total of 157 ballots were returned.
anomaly occurred because a greater number of voters that selected JK
She’salady for Pacer of the Year on their ballot also voted her their
Horse of the Year. Only 16 people that voted JK She’salady as the best
pacer gave their Horse of the Year vote to their Trotter of the Year
selection, compared to 22 for Sweet Lou.
Three-year-old filly Shake It Cerry was named Trotter of the Year, finishing 22 votes ahead of runner-up Sebastian K, 59-37.
It Cerry, owned by Solveig’s Racing Partners and trained by Jimmy
Takter, received 14 votes for Horse of the Year. A total of nine horses
received at least one vote for Horse of the Year.
She’salady is the fourth 2-year-old to receive Horse of the Year,
joining pacer Niatross (1979), trotter Nevele Pride (1967) and pacer
Bret Hanover (1964). The three previous 2-year-old winners were colts.
is the first female pacer to be voted Horse of the Year since Rainbow
Blue in 2004 and the fourth female pacer overall to receive the honor.
The others were Bunny Lake in 2001 and Fan Hanover in 1981.
unbelievable,” Johansson said. “I don’t know if it’s completely sunk
in. The hard work paid off. She’s just such a special horse.
“She’s as perfect as they come now, and I guess finishing off with Horse of the Year exemplifies how perfect she is.”
She’salady, who on Wednesday was named the sport’s best 2-year-old
filly pacer, won her final nine starts by a minimum of one length and
closed her campaign with a stakes-record victory in the Breeders Crown.
She equaled the world record of 1:50.1 for a 2-year-old female pacer in
winning the She’s A Great Lady Stakes at Mohawk and also captured the
Three Diamonds Stakes.
the year, the homebred filly earned $883,330. She was driven by Tim
Tetrick in the Breeders Crown and by Yannick Gingras in her previous
is the first Horse of the Year honor for the 33-year-old Johansson, who
is Takter’s daughter and previously worked as a caretaker in her
father’s stable. Takter has won three Horse of the Year awards, two with
Moni Maker (1998-99) and one with Malabar Man (1997).
Lou, who was driven by Ron Pierce and set a record with six consecutive
wins in faster than 1:48, captured 11 of 19 races for the season and
earned $1.36 million for trainer Ron Burke and owners Burke Racing
Stable, Weaver Bruscemi LLC, Larry Karr, and Phil Collura.
won the Ben Franklin Pace at Pocono Downs in 1:47, the fastest-ever
mile on a five-eighths track, and won the Dan Patch Invitational in
1:47.2, the fastest-ever mile at Hoosier Park. Other victories for Sweet
Lou included the TVG Free For All Series championship, William R.
Haughton Memorial, U.S. Pacing Championship, and the Roll With Joe.
Lou, who was the Dan Patch Award winner for best 2-year-old male pacer
in 2011 and added the award for best older male pacer this season, is
Burke’s second Pacer of the Year winner. Burke also won with Foiled
Again in 2011.
“We got Pacer of the Year, I’m OK with that,” co-owner Collura said. “We’ll have some fun with that.
was a little disappointing (not to receive Horse of the Year), but I’m
still happy. Pacer of the Year is a great achievement for Lou. It’s a
nice way to end the year regardless.”
It Cerry won 15 of 17 races this year, earning $1.23 million for the
Solveig’s Racing Partners ownership group and driver Pierce. Most of the
members of the ownership group are also members of Solveig’s Breeders,
which bred the filly.
Takter-trained filly, who on Tuesday was named the best 3-year-old
filly trotter, finished her season by winning the Breeders Crown in a
stakes-record 1:52.2. She also won the Matron Stakes in a stakes- and
track-record 1:52.4 over a “good” surface at Dover Downs, the
American-National in a stakes-record 1:52.2 and equaled the stakes
record of 1:52.1 in capturing the Elegantimage.
filly, she really deserved Trotter of the Year,” Takter said. “Besides
the Hambletonian (Oaks), what a season she had, and she finished up in
style. She’s just a fantastic horse.”
Both of Shake It Cerry’s parents were Dan Patch Award winners. Donato Hanover
was Horse of the Year at age 3 in 2007 and Solveig was voted best
2-year-old female trotter in 2004. Solveig also was trained by Takter,
who named the filly in honor of his mother.
is Takter’s sixth Trotter of the Year Award. He won three with Moni
Maker (1998-2000) as well as Malabar Man (1997) and Kadabra (2002).
Complete vote totals for all Dan Patch Award categories can be found here.
For the announcements of division honors, for pacers click here and for trotters click here.
HORSE OF THE YEAR 2-YEAR-OLD FEMALE PACER OF THE YEAR JK She’salady Art Major-Presidential Lady-Presidential Ball Yearling Price: Homebred Breeders: 3 Brothers Stables Owners: 3 Brothers Stables Trainer: Nancy Johansson Drivers: Yannick Gingras, Tim Tetrick Races: 12-12-0-0 Purses: $883,330 Mark: 1:50.1 at Mohawk (equals world record) Top wins: $500,000 Breeders Crown, $441,600 She’s A Great Lady, $377,360 Three Diamonds
PACER OF THE YEAR OLDER MALE PACER OF THE YEAR Sweet Lou Yankee Cruiser-Sweet Future-Falcons Future Yearling Price: $38,000 at Standardbred Horse Sale Breeder: Birnam Wood Farms Owners: Burke Racing Stable, Weaver Bruscemi LLC, Larry Karr, Phil Collura Trainer: Ron Burke Driver: Ron Pierce Races: 19-11-3-1 Purses: $1.36 million Mark: 1:47 at Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs (world record) Top wins: $500,000 TVG Final; $500,000 Ben Franklin; $463,300 William Haughton Memorial
TROTTER OF THE YEAR 3-YEAR-OLD FEMALE TROTTER OF THE YEAR Shake It Cerry Donato Hanover–Solveig–Yankee Glide Yearling Price: Homebred Breeder: Solveig’s Breeders Owner: Solveig’s Racing Partners Trainer: Jimmy Takter Driver: Ron Pierce Races: 17-15-0-1 Purses: $1.23 million Mark: 1:51.2 at The Red Mile Top wins: $500,000 Breeders Crown; $368,100 Elegantimage; $224,000 Kentucky Filly Futurity
JK She’salady and Sweet Lou were landslide winners in Dan Patch Award voting announced Wednesday by the U.S. Harness Writers Association, but one of the six pacing divisions resulted in a rare dead heat.
Anndrovette and Rocklamation will share the Dan Patch Award for best older female pacer after each received 51 of 157 votes. The only previous tie for a Dan Patch Award came in 1965 when Cardigan Bay and Race Time finished in a dead heat for best older pacer.
JK She’salady, who was undefeated in 12 starts, came within one vote of being the unanimous selection for best 2-year-old female pacer. Sweet Lou, who set a record with six consecutive wins in faster than 1:48, was three votes from being the undisputed top older male pacer.
Completing the list of division champions were 2-year-old male pacer Artspeak, 3-year-old male pacer McWicked, and 3-year-old female pacer Color’s A Virgin. Artspeak received 90 percent of the vote in his group while McWicked had 82 percent and Color’s A Virgin had 68 percent.
Seven-year-old Anndrovette and 5-year-old Sweet Lou are repeat winners.
Pacer of the Year, Trotter of the Year and Horse of the Year will be announced at 1 p.m. Thursday at the Meadowlands Racetrack’s Victory Sports Bar. Thursday’s announcements will be streamed live on the racetrack’s website, www.playmeadowlands.com.
Anndrovette now has received a record four Dan Patch honors in the pacing mare division, and is tied with Eternal Camnation for the most honors for any pacer in history.
Rocklamation’s trophy is the first in the division for trainer Ron Burke, who has conditioned the six most recent winners among older male pacers.
This season, Anndrovette won six of 22 races and earned a division-leading $520,352 for driver Tim Tetrick, trainer P.J. Fraley, and owners Bamond Racing and Joe Davino. Her victories included the Roses Are Red Stakes and Betsy Ross Invitational.
Rocklamation, a 6-year-old, won four of 18 races and banked $517,364. Her triumphs for driver Yannick Gingras and owners Our Horse Cents Stables, Stable 45, and J&T Silva Stables included the Golden Girls, Artiscape, and Lady Liberty.
Artspeak won eight of 10 races and earned $742,185, with top wins coming in the Metro Pace and Governor’s Cup. He is owned by Brittany Farms, Marvin Katz, Joe Sbrocco, and In The Gym Partners. He is trained by Tony Alagna, who also captured this division in 2012 with Captaintreacherous, and was driven by Scott Zeron.
After losing her first three starts of the year, Color’s A Virgin rebounded to win all but one of her next 14 races, with her victories including the Jugette and Nadia Lobell. She finished the campaign with 13 wins in 18 starts and earnings of $532,622 for driver Trace Tetrick, trainer Brian Brown and owner Emerald Highlands Farm.
JK She’salady won her final nine starts by a minimum of one length and closed her campaign with a stakes-record victory in the Breeders Crown. She equaled the world record of 1:50.1 for a 2-year-old female pacer in winning the She’s A Great Lady Stakes at Mohawk and also captured the Three Diamonds Stakes.
Owned by 3 Brothers Stables, JK She’salady is trained by Nancy Johansson. The filly was driven by Tim Tetrick in the Breeders Crown and by Gingras in her previous starts.
McWicked was the richest pacer of the year, with $1.47 million in purses for owner SSG Stables and trainer Casie Coleman. The colt won 12 of 23 races and hit the board a total of 21 times. He finished the season on a three-race win streak, which included the Breeders Crown and a stakes-record triumph in the Progress Pace.
Other victories for McWicked included the Delvin Miller Adios and Max C. Hempt Memorial. His time of 1:47.3 in the Hempt at Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs is the fastest mile ever by a 3-year-old on a five-eighths-mile track. He was driven primarily by David Miller, with Brian Sears in the sulky for the Breeders Crown.
A Dan Patch Award winner in 2011 at the age of 2, Sweet Lou added a second trophy this year for trainer Ron Burke and owners Burke Racing Stable, Weaver Bruscemi LLC, Larry Karr, and Phil Collura. He won 11 of 19 races for the season and earned $1.36 million.
Sweet Lou, driven by Ron Pierce, won the Ben Franklin Pace at Pocono Downs in 1:47, the fastest-ever mile on a five-eighths track, and won the Dan Patch Invitational in 1:47.2, the fastest-ever mile at Hoosier Park. Other victories for Sweet Lou included the TVG Free For All Series championship, William R. Haughton Memorial, U.S. Pacing Championship, and the Roll With Joe.
Complete vote totals for all awards will be released Thursday with the Horse of the Year announcement.
2-YEAR-OLD MALE PACER Artspeak (141 of 157 votes) Western Ideal – The Art Museum – Artsplace Yearling Price: $100,000 at Lexington Selected Sale. Breeders: Brittany Farms, Melvin Hartman. Owners: Brittany Farms, Marvin Katz, Joe Sbrocco, In The Gym Partners. Trainer: Tony Alagna. Driver: Scott Zeron. Races: 10-8-0-2. Purses: $742,185. Mark: 1:50.2 at Mohawk. Top wins: $613,640 Metro Pace; $502,850 Governor’s Cup.
2-YEAR-OLD FEMALE PACER JK She’salady (155 votes; one abstention) Art Major – Presidential Lady – Presidential Ball Yearling Price: Homebred. Breeders: 3 Brothers Stables. Owners: 3 Brothers Stables. Trainer: Nancy Johansson. Drivers: Yannick Gingras, Tim Tetrick. Races: 12-12-0-0. Purses: $883,330. Mark: 1:50.1 at Mohawk (equals world record). Top wins: $500,000 Breeders Crown; $441,600 She’s A Great Lady; $377,360 Three Diamonds.
3-YEAR-OLD MALE PACER McWicked (128 votes) 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: David Miller, Brian Sears. Races: 23-12-5-4. Purses: $1.47 million. Mark: 1:47.3 at Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs (world record). Top wins: $531,250 Breeders Crown; $500,000 Hempt Memorial; $400,000 Adios.
3-YEAR-OLD FEMALE PACER Color’s A Virgin (106 votes) Always A Virgin – Full Color – Allamerican Ingot Yearling Price: Homebred. Breeder: Emerald Highlands Farm. Owner: Emerald Highlands Farm. Trainer: Brian Brown. Driver: Trace Tetrick. Races: 18-13-2-0. Purses: $532,622. Mark: 1:51 at Meadowlands. Top wins: $298,100 Jugette; $176,500 Nadia Lobell.
OLDER MALE PACER Sweet Lou (154 votes) Yankee Cruiser – Sweet Future – Falcons Future Yearling Price: $38,000 at Standardbred Horse Sale. Breeder: Birnam Wood Farms. Owners: Burke Racing Stable, Weaver Bruscemi LLC, Larry Karr, Phil Collura. Trainer: Ron Burke. Driver: Ron Pierce. Races: 19-11-3-1. Purses: $1.36 million. Mark: 1:47 at Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs (world record). Top wins: $500,000 TVG Final; $500,000 Ben Franklin; $463,300 William Haughton Memorial.
OLDER FEMALE PACER (tie) Anndrovette (51 votes) Riverboat King – Easy Miss – Big Towner Yearling Price: Private sale. Breeder: Golden Touch Stable. Owners: Bamond Racing, Joseph Davino. Trainer: P.J. Fraley. Driver: Tim Tetrick. Races: 22-6-4-4. Purses: $520,352. Mark: 1:49.1 at Mohawk. Top wins: $303,600 Roses Are Red; $250,000 Betsy Ross.
Rocklamation (51 votes) Rocknroll Hanover – Art Sale – Artsplace Yearling Price: $50,000 at Standardbred Horse Sale. Breeder: Perretti Farms. Owners: Our Horse Cents Stables, Stable 45, J&T Silva Stables. Trainer: Ron Burke. Driver: Yannick Gingras. Races: 18-4-5-2. Purses: $517,364. Mark: 1:48.3 at Meadowlands. Top wins: $183,450 Golden Girls; $178,000 Artiscape; $177,750 Lady Liberty.
The fastest trotter of all time and the richest Standardbred of the year were among the six trotters to receive divisional honors in Dan Patch Award voting announced Tuesday by the U.S. Harness Writers Association.
Divisional honors for pacers will be revealed Wednesday, followed by the live announcements of Trotter of the Year, Pacer of the Year, and Horse of the Year at 1 p.m. Thursday at the Meadowlands Racetrack’s Victory Sports Bar.
Sebastian K, an 8-year-old who won in 1:49 in June to become the fastest trotter in history, was voted harness racing’s best older male trotter of 2014. Father Patrick, who earned $1.69 million this season to lead all Standardbreds, was named the sport’s best 3-year-old male trotter.
Father Patrick is from the stable of trainer Jimmy Takter, who also conditioned Pinkman, the Dan Patch Award winner for best 2-year-old male trotter, and Shake It Cerry, who was one vote shy of being the unanimous selection for best 3-year-old female trotter.
Shake It Cerry and Father Patrick also were honored last year at age 2.
Completing the list of this year’s award winners were 2-year-old female trotter Mission Brief and older female trotter Classic Martine.
A total of 157 ballots were returned. Mission Brief, Pinkman, and Sebastian K joined Shake It Cerry in exceeding 89 percent of the vote in their respective divisions. Father Patrick received 60 percent and Classic Martine garnered 58 percent.
Yannick Gingras was the primary driver for three of the trotters to receive Dan Patch honors: Mission Brief, Pinkman, and Father Patrick.
Classic Martine won nine of 18 races this year and hit the board a total of 16 times to lead all older female trotters in purses with $438,912. Her victories included the Armbro Flight Stakes, Miss Versatility Series championship and the Ima Lula Series final in a then-world-record-equaling performance.
Trained by Chris Oakes and driven primarily by Tim Tetrick, Classic Martine is owned by Hauser Bros. Racing, Susan Oakes, Conrad Zurich, and Edwin Gold.
No harness racing horse earned more money this year than Father Patrick, who banked $1.69 million for the Father Patrick Stable ownership group. His victories included the Breeders Crown for 3-year-old male trotters, Canadian Trotting Classic, Beal Memorial, Zweig Memorial, Stanley Dancer Memorial, American-National Stakes, and Pennsylvania Sire Stakes championship.
His 1:50.2 win in the Beal Memorial on June 28 at Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs is the fastest mile ever by any 3-year-old on a five-eighths-mile track.
Father Patrick joins Lucky Chucky, Muscle Hill, Deweycheatumnhowe, and Donato Hanover as male trotters in the last 10 years to receive a Dan Patch Award at both ages 2 and 3.
Mission Brief trotted the fastest mile ever by any 2-year-old, stopping the clock in 1:50.3 in winning her division of the International Stallion Stakes on Oct. 2 at The Red Mile. It was the third time Mission Brief either equaled or lowered the world record. She finished her campaign by winning the Breeders Crown for 2-year-old filly trotters in a stakes-record 1:51.4.
For the year, Mission Brief won nine of 13 races – she went off stride in all four losses – and earned $591,070 for owners Burke Racing Stable, Our Horse Cents Stables, J&T Silva Stables, and Weaver Bruscemi LLC. She won eight of her starts by at least three lengths and had a combined margin of victory of 65-3/4 lengths – an average of more than seven lengths per triumph.
In addition to the Breeders Crown, her wins included the Merrie Annabelle Stakes and New Jersey Sire Stakes championship.
Pinkman, who was entered in November’s Standardbred Horse Sale’s Mixed Sale before Takter reconsidered, won six of eight races and earned $566,960 for owners Christina Takter, John and Jim Fielding, Joyce McClelland and Herb Liverman. Named after a character from the television series, “Breaking Bad,” the gelding’s victories included the Breeders Crown, in a stakes-record-equaling 1:53.2, and Valley Victory Stakes.
Takter-trained horses have been named best 2-year-old male trotter three times in five years, with Pinkman following Father Patrick in 2013 and Pastor Stephen in 2010.
Sebastian K arrived in the U.S. this season after a record-setting career in Europe. The Swedish-born stallion trotted a world-record-equaling 1:50.1 in his debut at the Meadowlands and capped a record streak of four consecutive victories in 1:50.3 or faster with his 1:49 triumph at Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs.
Owned by Knutsson Trotting Inc., Sebastian K was driven by trainer Ake Svanstedt and finished the year with eight wins in 13 races and $663,853 in purses. His victories included the Cashman Memorial, Crawford Farms Open Trot, and Cutler Memorial.
Shake It Cerry won 15 of 17 races this year, earning $1.23 million for the Solveig’s Racing Partners ownership group and driver Ron Pierce.
The Takter-trained filly finished her season by winning the Breeders Crown in a stakes-record 1:52.2. She also won the Matron Stakes in a stakes- and track-record 1:52.4 over a “good” surface at Dover Downs, the American-National in a stakes-record 1:52.2 and equaled the stakes record of 1:52.1 in capturing the Elegantimage.
Both of Shake It Cerry’s parents were Dan Patch Award winners. Donato Hanover was Horse of the Year at age 3 in 2007 and Solveig was voted best 2-year-old female trotter in 2004. Solveig also was trained by Takter, who named the filly in honor of his mother.
Shake It Cerry joins Passionate Glide and Pampered Princess, both also trained by Takter, and Check Me Out as female trotters to receive Dan Patch Awards at ages 2 and 3.
Complete vote totals for all awards will be released Thursday with the Horse of the Year announcement.
2-YEAR-OLD MALE TROTTER
PINKMAN (144 of 157 votes) Explosive Matter – Margie Seelster – Angus Hall Yearling Price: $77,000 under name Traffic Jam at Lexington Selected Sale. Breeder: O Narutac Equine Nursery. Owners: Christina Takter, John and Jim Fielding, Joyce McClelland, Herb Liverman. Trainer: Jimmy Takter. Driver: Yannick Gingras, Sylvain Filion. Races: 8-6-1-0. Purses: $566,960. Mark: 1:53.2 at Meadowlands. Top wins: $500,000 Breeders Crown; $463,690 Valley Victory.
2-YEAR-OLD FEMALE TROTTER
MISSION BRIEF (150 votes) Muscle Hill – Southwind Serena – Varenne Yearling Price: $150,000 at Lexington Selected Sale. Breeders: Steve Stewart, Black Creek Farm, Andrea Lea Racing Stables Inc. Owners: Burke Racing Stable, Our Horse Cents Stables, J&T Silva Stables, Weaver Bruscemi LLC. Trainer: Ron Burke. Driver: Yannick Gingras. Races: 13-9-0-0. Purses: $591,070. Mark: 1:50.3 at The Red Mile (world record). Top wins: $500,000 Breeders Crown; $352,050 Merrie Annabelle.
3-YEAR-OLD MALE TROTTER
FATHER PATRICK (94 votes) Cantab Hall – Gala Dream – Enjoy Lavec Yearling Price: $105,000 under name Royal Press at Lexington Selected Sale. Breeder: Brittany Farms. Owner: Father Patrick Stable. Trainer: Jimmy Takter. Driver: Yannick Gingras. Races: 17-12-3-0. Purses: $1.69 million. Mark: 1:50.2 at Pocono Downs (world record). Top wins: $613,800 Canadian Trotting Classic; $500,000 Breeders Crown; $500,000 Beal Memorial.
3-YEAR-OLD FEMALE TROTTER
SHAKE IT CERRY (156 votes) Donato Hanover – Solveig – Yankee Glide Yearling Price: Homebred. Breeder: Solveig’s Breeders. Owner: Solveig’s Racing Partners. Trainer: Jimmy Takter. Driver: Ron Pierce. Races: 17-15-0-1. Purses: $1.23 million. Mark: 1:51.2 at The Red Mile. Top wins: $500,000 Breeders Crown; $368,100 Elegantimage; $224,000 Kentucky Filly Futurity.
OLDER MALE TROTTER
SEBASTIAN K (141 votes) Korean – Gabriella K – Probe Yearling Price: Homebred. Breeder: Knutsson Trotting AB. Owner: Knutsson Trotting Inc. Trainer: Ake Svanstedt. Driver: Ake Svanstedt. Races: 13-8-2-0. Purses: $663,853. Mark: 1:49 at Pocono Downs (world record). Top wins: $300,650 Cashman Memorial; $236,000 Crawford Farms Trot; $175,000 Cutler Memorial.
OLDER FEMALE TROTTER
CLASSIC MARTINE (91 votes) Classic Photo – Drinking Days – Andover Hall Yearling Price: None (sold privately at age 3). Breeders: Todd Schadel, Christine Schadel. Owners: Hauser Bros. Racing, Susan Oakes, Conrad Zurich, Edwin Gold. Trainer: Chris Oakes. Driver: Tim Tetrick. Races: 18-9-5-2. Purses: $438,912. Mark: 1:51.1 at Meadowlands. Top wins: $244,720 Armbro Flight; $121,500 Miss Versatility.
It's unanimous: Yannick Gingras is the Driver of the Year. Based on his handling of the winners of more than $16.5 million and a record-tying four triumphs in the recent Breeders Crown series, Gingras was nominated by every Chapter who participated.
For the annual Dan Patch awards given to humans, the chapters of USHWA send in their various nominees, and balloting is conducted among eligible voters of its 220 members, plus a select group of racing secretaries. This year, every chapter sending in a driver nomination selected Gingras, and so no further balloting is needed.
For the 35-year-old Gingras, a native of Quebec, 2014 saw him handle many of the sport’s stars, and perhaps most tellingly, he was the “first call” driver for the two barns who have dominated much of the stakes scene this year, those of Ron Burke and Jimmy Takter.
Of his four Breeders Crown wins, two were from Burke (Mission Brief and Sayitall BB) and two were for Takter (Pinkman and Father Patrick).
The 2014 season also saw Gingras help the 10-year-old Foiled Again further his world record career earnings mark, which currently stands at $6,769,531.
Gingras was the leading driver for the 2014 season at the Meadowlands, a track which features what many consider the best driving colony in the world. Another highlight for Gingras was returning to his native Quebec and winning the $200,000 Prix d’Ete at his “home track,” Hippodrome 3R, where his victory with the Takter-trained Sunfire Blue Chip in 1:50.3 -- more than two seconds faster than the previous mark -- was cheered by many members of his family, a group which plays as important a part of Gingras’ life as harness racing does, according to him.
Dear fellow harness writers-
The Breeders Crown eliminations start Saturday (Nov. 15) at the New Meadowlands. After thirty years, we all know that “In Harness Racing--it all comes down to the Breeders Crown.”
Historically, these prestigious year-end events have also been a barometer for the Dan Patch Award winners, including Horse of the Year. The BC finals are next weekend (Nov. 21-22) with our Dan Patch human award nominations and biographies (100-300 words) due to the secretary shortly thereafter on Wednesday, November 26 for Owner, Trainer, Driver, Rising Star, Breakthrough, Good Guy, and Unsung Hero awards.
Chapters and members may also want to schedule meetings or communicate regarding Bergstein-Proximity finalists Russell Williams and Charlie Keller, as well as discuss the various divisional Horses of the Year.
In addition, potential Communicators Corner nominations and any bylaw change proposals are due to the secretary 30 days (Jan. 22) before the annual meetings begin on Saturday, February 21. Ballots for ALL the awards, horse and human, go out on Wednesday, December 3 and are due back by 9 am on Thursday, December 18.
Although the details are still being finalized, USHWA will hold an announcement luncheon at the New Meadowlands on Thursday, December 18 where all of the horse award winners will be announced while being live-streamed on the internet, as well as distributed to the AP through HRC. Stay tuned for further details.
This year, the hotel for our National USHWA meetings and Dan Patch Awards Banquet is the Double Tree by Hilton Orlando (Florida) at Seaworld.
The directors meeting will start promptly at 3 pm on Saturday, February 21, 2015. This will be followed by a buffet dinner at 7 pm.
The membership meeting is slated for 10 am sharp on Sunday, February 22. Later that evening, the Dan Patch Awards banquet will be begin with cocktails at 6 pm and dinner at 7 pm.
Tickets for the banquet are listed at $125, however USHWA members are $100.
As always, our Sunshine State hotel expert, Steve Wolf, has secured an excellent $115 rate for our stay, which is valid from Feb. 13 –Feb 27. Although there is a link below for reservations, please call the hotel directly for potentially better pricing of junior or special suites. The direct line to the hotel is 407-352-1100.
Click here to access our personalized USHWA reservation desk.
It is imperative that members make their hotel reservations and book flights immediately as the hotel is expected to be sold out and airfare rates will increase dramatically after Thanksgiving. Self parking and internet are free.
Steve is also making arrangements for a reduced rate for round trip shuttle service from the airport to the hotel. Currently the cost is $32 per person for a round trip. Please make your reservation online. (We are trying to get a special discount code).
Should you have any additional questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact me.
Also, this is my second request to chapter presidents to provide me with the name of the library of your choice to have a copy of Standardbred Old Friends sent on your behalf.
Please be sure to take part in our most important task of the year –VOTING!
Chris Tully National President of USHWA
Russell Williams, vice-president of the famous nursery Hanover Shoe Farms and a director on the boards of many of harness racing’s top organizations, and Charles Keller III, who carried on the tradition of his father’s famous Yankeeland Farm and also continues to serve the sport on many of its top organizations’ boards, have been announced as the finalists for the 2014 Stan Bergstein-Proximity Award, it has been announced by the United States Harness Writers Association (USHWA).
After the various chapters of USHWA submitted nominations for the award, the highest honor USHWA bestows based on voting only by its members and given for outstanding achievement in/service to the sport, the nominees were sent to the Association’s directors, who voted to winnow down the candidates to the top two. Williams and Keller will now be voted on by the entirety of USHWA during the annual Dan Patch Awards balloting honoring the year’s stars, both equine and human; that balloting will be conducted in early December.
Williams, the grandson of Hanover’s founder Lawrence Sheppard, plays a major part in the operation of the world’s leading Standardbred-producing farm, where he keeps his own small but select band of broodmares (he is the breeder of the million-dollar-winning top three-year-old colt Nuncio). He is also vice chairman of the U.S. Trotting Association, the sport’s supervisory organization, and a trustee of the American Horse Council and the Harness Racing Museum. Williams is also a noted “equine philanthropist,” financing the possibility of many Standardbreds being able to live out their lives with dignity, including retired Hanover broodmares.
Keller, the son of noted Yankees baseball player “King Kong” Keller, took over operation of Yankeeland Farms, which his father established, in 1990 until the farm’s closing in 2006. The farm bred two Hambletonian winners, Muscles Yankee (1998) and Yankee Paco (2000), and it also bred Yankee Blondie, the dam of 2009 winner Muscle Hill, along with countless other divisional champions. It has produced the outstanding sires Yankee Glide and Yankee Cruiser, and has been the cradle of four Breeders Crown winners. Keller is the chairman of the executive committee of the Hambletonian Society, a trustee of the Harness Racing Museum, and a former director of the U. S. Trotting Association.
The Bergstein/Proximity winner, along with the awards for the best of 2014, will be given at USHWA’s annual Dan Patch Awards dinner on Sunday, February 22, 2015, at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Orlando at SeaWorld.
if you would like to watch the entire 2014 Dan Patch Awards Banquet, click this link and relive all the excitement and glamor of the evening. The United States Harness Writers Association would like to thank the USTA and Roberts Communication for making this archive video available for viewing.
New! Click here to see all the Dan Patch presentation photos
New! Click here to view 150+ picture photo album w/ Red Carpet
United States Harness Writers Association, harness racing’s principal
organization for media workers, held its annual meetings on
Saturday and Sunday (February 22 and 23) at the Dover Downs complex, with the weekend
culminating in the Dan Patch Awards Banquet held Sunday night,
attended by almost 400 people and streamed worldwide for live viewing.
Saturday meeting, the directors of the Association voted for Bob Marks
and Kathy Parker to be on the Communicators Hall of Fame voting ballot
Marks has been a
leading force in many harness dimensions over his 50 years in the sport,
most recently as Marketing Director for Perretti Farms, while Parker,
from a prominent harness family, worked her way through the ranks at the
Horseman and Fair World weekly magazine until becoming editor
in 1995 and later general manager of the Horseman Publishing Company,
positions she maintains to this day.
At the conclusion
of the meetings, the membership voted in their slate of association
officials for 2014-15. Chris Tully, an MBA marketing specialist and
writer was elected
president of the association, succeeding Steve Wolf of Harnesslink.com.
Tully’s “first official act” was to present Wolf, who now becomes the
chairman of the board, with a gold lifetime membership pin.
Bojarski, Hoof Beats columnist and USTA blogger was elected to 1st vice
president, Shawn Wiles, Monticello
Raceway chief racing officer and a longtime USTA and USHWA director was elected to the 2nd vice president slot.
Davis-Wilson, who is based in Dover and worked tirelessly to ensure the
success of the weekend, especially the banquet, was returned as
treasurer; Alan Prince, who attended his 48th consecutive USHWA meetings
weekend, remains as executive treasurer. Also elected was Jerry Connors
as USHWA secretary.
Much of the
discussion during the two days of meetings focused on the sport’s Hall
of Fame in Goshen N.Y., where plans for renovation and modernization are
starting to advance rapidly, and where USHWA makes a significant
contribution. In addition to the physical reconfiguration of the Hall of
Fame area, the directors and membership discussed several by-law and
rules change relating to the Hall, especially the re-establishment of a
seniors category for both.
plentiful, lively, and well-reasoned on all sides, and some of these
matters were tabled until a committee, soon to be appointed, can focus
on the merits -- and the eventual wording -- of the varied proposed
heard reports from the many committees that keep USHWA functioning
throughout the year, and were glad to hear from Davis-Wilson, voted the
organization’s member of the year, that the treasury was in a very good
shape, pointing to future success in USHWA’s upcoming progressive
The Dan Patch
Awards Dinner was, as always, the highlight of the gathering with
superstar sophomore trotting filly Bee A Magician “finishing her
unbeaten season” by being elected Trotter of the Year and then Harness
Horse of the Year.
Her contemporary, the pacing colt Captaintreacherous,
took down overall honors for that gait after a brilliant campaign
showing speed and courage in equal amounts.
Also honored were the
quartet to be inducted into the Hall of Fame Sunday (July 6) in Goshen:
Harness Racing Hall of Famers David Miller and William Weaver, and Communicators Hall inductees Carol Cramer and John Pawlak.
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.
USHWA NEW MEMBER BROCHURE IS HERE-The hard work of the New Member Committee led by Chairwoman Jessica Schroeder has brought to frution a new tool to help broaden and build the membership of USHWA. It is a colorful and informational brochure that will explain exactly what USHWA is, what USHWA does, and why those who work in the sporting media would want to join.
We also had hard copies printed and are looking for all of our members to take this opportunity to help distribute the pamphlets (either electronically of paper copy) to anyone you may think would be interested in becoming a part of our organization or convince someone who is not. It is in the best interest of USHWA to get as many people on board with us to help promote our great sport.
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.