Day At The Track

Doug Ackerman Sr & Robitaille inducted

07:09 PM 03 Feb 2013 NZDT
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Doug Ackerman
Doug Ackerman

Harness racing trainer Douglas Ackerman Sr. a native of Michigan and 3rd generation horseman, along with Robitaille will be inducted into the California Harness Horseman's hall of fame at the annual meeting in March.

Doug came to California in the late 1940’s, racing at such tracks as Hollywood Park, Santa Anita, Bay Meadows and Los Alamitos while winter training at Del Mar. A resident in San Diego for many years, Doug has earned over $10 million as a driver and trainer and has earned the respect of many horsemen over the years.

While maintaining a smaller stable and training for such owners as the late longtime California owner Richard Staley, Doug campaigned across the country such horses as Chocolatier, Denali, Noble Hustle, Ever So Free and Crowning Point.

A big supporter of the California breeding program, Doug was responsible for making sure such stallions as Leading Edge, Denali and Ever So Free stood in California giving a boost to the breeding program.

In 1989, Doug was the first American to win a race since World War II at the Moscow Hippodrome during the driver’s challenge against Russian, German and American drivers. In 1994, Doug was inducted into the National hall of fame at Goshen and later into the Indiana hall of fame.

Also to be inducted will be the California bred horse, Robitaille, p,6,1:50.4s $885,290. A son of Denali out of the Flying Bret mare, Flying Tip, Robitaille is the winningest California bred ever with 99 wins out of 313 starts. Bred by Wayne and Rodney Knittel of Bakersfield, Robitaille was named after Nathalie Trembley’s favorite hockey player, Luc Robitaille.

Then owned by Wayne and Nathalie, and trained by the late Nicol Trembley, Robitaille was sent to Chicago where he exploded on the racing scene. Eventually claimed by Kevin Wallis, Robitaille had his best years racing in the FFA classes winning no less than 10 races a year between 1996-2000. Robitaille eventually made his way back to the golden state to race before being retired.

The Lifetime Commitment award will be given to the late Alan Kirschenbaum, a longtime horseman, owner and huge supporter of California racing. In the last 30 years his involvement in harness racing covered many catagories as groom, owner, breeder, trainer, amateur driver,writer,broadcaster,stallion syndicator and benevolent supporter of horse rescue and charitable causes.

Alan’s passions ignited in the catskills, where his family summered, with nearby Moncicello proving an irresistible lure. Eventually grooming for such trainers as Eddie Cobb and George Berkner, with his sights on being a trainer, despite his Ivy league background and ability behind a microphone. Alan was part of the Breeders Crown broadcast team on ESPN in the early 1980’s.

Alan’s talent and passion as a comedy writer eventually brought him out to California where his other passion of harness racing pulled him in. As president of the CHHA and sires stakes committee, Alan eventually started a breeding farm in Wilton, Calif.

Called Cherry Tree farm, where he stood his former racehorses Little Steven and British Sterling. His contribution to California racing, which struggled for survival in the past decade, cannot be underestimated.

He served as president of the CHHA ,supported the sires stakes and breeding programs, even donating his stallion services so that the horsemen could continue to breed their mares. Alan was a tireless ambassador for the west coast racing and his impact for California will be forever grateful.

by Robin Clements, chairperson, Calif hall of fame

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