Tom Crouch and Alan Leavitt, two titans of the Standardbred breeding ranks from Kentucky, join Tim Rooney, racetrack magnate (and a good 'small breeder' himself) in having been elected to harness racing's highest honor, the Living Hall of Fame.
At the same time, in balloting conducted primarily among members of the U. S. Harness Writers Association, longtime harness publicists and advocates John Berry and Leon Zimmerman were added to the Communicators Hall of Fame.
Crouch showed early talent as a keen appraiser of horseflesh, and in 1975 he acquired Kentuckiana Farms, which has been a home to such industry stars as Riyadh, Western Dreamer, Harmonious and Staying Together. Crouch's name can be found on the breeders' line for six Breeders Crown winners. In 1989, Crouch co-founded the Kentucky Standardbred Sales Company, bringing new excitement to the annual yearling sales, and also serves as a director of such organizations as the Hambletonian Society.
Leavitt is primarily known today as the squire of Walnut Hill Ltd., partnered by his wife Meg, which stands a host of stallions such as, the fastest horse of all time, and also produces the many champions with the surname "Hall" - Andover, Cantab, and Cash - to name three champions. This all came after his stewardship of Lana Lobell Farms, where such stallions as and No Nukes stood and where champion trotter began his life. Leavitt also has long served the sport of harness racing with participation on many prestigious boards.
Rooney earned his accolades chiefly for his leadership of Yonkers Raceway, just north of New York City. At one time, Yonkers, along with Long Island "cousin" Roosevelt, were the premier tracks in the sport; when fortunes turned, Rooney steadfastly rejected offers to sell the valuable property and kept Yonkers racing. With the coming of VLTs (video lottery terminals) to "Empire City at Yonkers Raceway," the track once again offers top-level purses and attracts premier horses for its signature races.
Communicators John Berry and Leon Zimmerman once worked together in New Jersey, but the peripatetic Berry has made his mark on literally dozens of harness racing scenes, including Illinois and Florida. He has won the prestigious Hervey Award for writing and also has credits as a handicapper, track announcer, television commentator, pedigree reader and auctioneer (including work for the PBS affiliate in south Florida). Berry also served a term as president of the U.S. Harness Writers Association.
Zimmerman has also helmed the writer's organization among other major credits in a long and distinguished career. Coming from the newspaper ranks, Zimmerman has long served as a public relations consultant and legislative lobbyist for the Standardbred Breeders and Owners Association of New Jersey (SBOANJ). He receives top marks for all of his efforts, including getting New Jersey governor Christie Todd Whitman and other legislators to drive in an actual race, so they can better understand harness racing and (hopefully) its political concerns.
The quintet will be honored two times - on Wednesday, February 4, 2009 at the "Night of Stars" dinner at the Bellagio in Las Vegas during the Harness Racing Congress, and on Sunday, July 5, 2009, in formal induction ceremonies for the Hall of Fame in Goshen, NY.