Day At The Track

Bruce Nickells selected for Hall of Fame induction

04:08 AM 10 Jul 2015 NZST
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Bruce Nickells, harness racing
Bruce Nickells
Chris Tully Photo

Goshen NY - 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, has 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, 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.

From the United States Harness Writers Association

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