Jimmy Takter, whose journey from promising horseman in early 1980s Sweden to the very pinnacle of conditioning harness racing horses worldwide, has been rewarded for his outstanding talents and successes with election to harness racing's Living Hall of Fame, in balloting recently conducted by the U.S. Harness Writers Association.
Takter, 50, has of course brought the trotting knowledge he learned from generations of trainers in his native land and raised it to a fine art -- but he stands alone these days in being a European-educated conditioner who is having equal success with pacing Standardbreds, with his resume full of champion horses from both gaits in recent campaigns.
Take, for example, this year, where the #1 horse in the weekly Top Ten poll has for months been See You At Peelers, a 3-year-old pacing filly who fashioned a 22-race win streak, set a world record at Tioga, won her Breeders Crown championship last year, and is being given serious consideration as being only the second filly (after Fan Hanover in 1981) to win the time-honored Little Brown Jug in late September while taking on the top colts.
Consider, also, that on two days of stakes events at Mohawk this weekend, Takter had no less than 15 entrants in the rich contests -- nine of them pacers, and six trotters. And of course he won both of the rich 2-year-old events, the Metro (Simply Business) and the She's A Great Lady (American Jewel) -- both paces!
Takter's earlier successes were of course achieved mainly with trotters, including the fabled Moni Maker, an international champion who earned $5.6 million in her racetrack career and was twice named Harness Horse of the Year, in 1998 and 1999. They included his handling of stars such as(1997 Harness Horse of the Year, in retrospect starting a three-year Takter "sweep"), (2002 Trotter of the Year), and double divisional champion fillies Passionate Glide and Passionate Princess.
Being in the media spotlight with so much high-powered equine octane has developed Jimmy into a gracious and accessible horseman and minister for the sport -- and often candid with a post-race quote. He has been elected North American Trainer of the Year a record three times: 1996, 2000, and 2010.
Takter also makes no secret of the fact that he regards America as "the land of opportunity," and flies an American flag on an island in the infield lake of his New Jersey training center -- a flag appearing in the first paragraph of a New York Times feature written on Takter, on (appropriately) July 4 of this year.
Jimmy Takter will be twice feted for his Hall of Fame election -- the first will come at USHWA's Dan Patch awards dinner on Sunday, February 12, in Orlando, Fla.; the other will be his formal induction into the Hall of Fame during a dinner in the Hall's hometown of Goshen, N.Y., on July 1, 2012.
Elections for the Hall of Fame are conducted by the U.S. Harness Writers Association, a 225-member organization of the sport's media, with Living Hall of Famers also getting a vote to elect peers. The Delaware firm of Davis-Smith Accounting handles the distribution, tallying, and official certification of the election results.
EMERSON AND FANNING ELECTED TO COMMUNICATIONS CORNER
Jean Emerson and Moira Fanning, pioneering journalists who have crossed the country (north to south and back in Emerson's case, east to west and back in Fanning's), have been recognized for their outstanding efforts in harness racing with election to the sport's Communicators Hall of Fame, in balloting recently conducted by the U.S. Harness Writers Association.
merson, a proud resident of Saco in southern Maine, started out in harness racing campaigning horses with her late husband Chet around the New England circuit. With a teaching background, Emerson quickly realized that the sport needed some background administrative workers to help put the industry's best foot forward, so she co-founded the Maine Standardbred Owners and Breeders Association, and had an early hand in drafting a position paper that eventually morphed into the recent rejuvenation of the Pine Tree State's racing through additional gaming funding.
Jean's chief journalistic mark was as founder of the Northeast Harness News, which chronicled not only racing in that area but horses and horsemen from the upper northeast who went on to do well at other venues. Working on a shoestring budget (her checkbook) and with a thin staff (usually her, some stringers, and a couple of volunteers), Emerson developed the paper into a well-read, insightful, and entertaining newspaper -- that last factor usually provided by her droll sense of humor. Jean eventually was named a member of the New England Harness Hall of Fame.
Jean and Chet later took on a life of summering in Maine and wintering in Florida; while down south Emerson became an important contributor to the Florida USHWA chapter. Despite advancing years, Emerson still works twice as hard as people half her age.
One person who can stay with Emerson in the energy-level competition is Moira Sullivan Fanning, who wears many hats in her superior work for the Hambletonian Society, eponymous sponsors of harness racing's #1 race and also the season-ending (and often season-defining) Breeders Crown series.
Moira was surrounded by horses from an early age, but didn't come to Standardbreds until the point she needed a job to pay for college. Fanning's love of equines caused her to change her career plans, and during her early caretaker stints came across horseman Tom Fanning, who now joins Moira as one of racing's most solid "coupled entries." It was the (then) Sullivan-Fanning combo who brought Moira to California as part of their itinerant early years together, making a living at racing.
Fanning returned to her East Coast roots, and not long after caught the eye of Tom Charters, COO of the Hambletonian Society. Charters, known for having a good eye in spotting developing talent early (human and equine), hired Moira as his right-hand woman, and given this chance Fanning has shot up the ranks to become one of the most powerful -- and insightful -- people in the sport, one often turned to for opinions on the ranking issues of the day. (And she still works 24-7 during Hambletonian and Breeders Crown times.)
Jean Emerson and Moira Fanning will be twice feted for their Communicators Hall of Fame selection -- the first will come at USHWA's Dan Patch awards dinner on Sunday, February 12, in Orlando, Fla.; the other will be their formal induction into the Communicators Hall of Fame during July 1 ceremonies in Goshen, N.Y.
Elections for the Communicators Hall of Fame are conducted by the U.S. Harness Writers Association, a 225-member organization of the sport's media. The Delaware firm of Davis-Smith Accounting handles the distribution, tallying, and official certification of the election results.
by Jerry CONNORS, for the United States Harness Writers Association