This Fourth of July holiday weekend will be one that a very special young lady will never forget, thanks to the generosity of the staff and management at the Meadowlands Racetrack.
Sydney Weaver, the “little darling” of North American harness racing, and her parents, Lisa and Don Weaver, are driving down from their home in Ontario to the Meadowlands in East Rutherford, New Jersey. The racetrack making this holiday weekend an unofficial “Sydney Weaver Guest of Honor” at the Meadowlands.
"Over the winter, Darin (Zoccali) approached me about bringing Sydney Weaver and her family down for their first visit to the Meadowlands,” said M’lands GM Jason Settlemoir. “After everything that happened with Sydney's horse, I thought it was a great idea. Sydney is very popular within our sport and it seems there is a lot of buzz about her trip here.”
Sydney Weaver is a phenomenal 14-year-old young woman, who just graduated eighth grade. She got her groom’s license at age 10, has won major youth writing awards and her stories are always about harness racing. She was given half of a racehorse, who coincidentally is named Sydney Seelster and the two have lived through the trials and tribulations of having the horse she loves claimed from her and then get her back.
Winter, Spring, Summer or Fall, Sydney is always at the races, watching from the rail no matter what the weather conditions are. She roots for the horses, cheers and congratulates the drivers and trainers and has become a household name in harness racing because of her honest enthusiasm for the sport. Her true passion for harness racing is why some call her the “Shirley Temple” of the Standardbred industry.
She is now a monthly columnist for the international harness racing website Harnesslink.com and is the youngest member ever of the United States Harness Writers Association.
And throughout this all, Sydney battles daily with Cerebral Palsy and is usually confined to her wheelchair, but that has never stopped her from achieving whatever goals she has set before her. This includes jogging horses on the racetrack as she is working hard to try and get her trainers license.
The Meadowlands is rolling out the red carpet in honor of Sydney’s visit.
The family is driving down on Thursday. Then Friday morning they will head out to visit trainer Tony Alagna and Julie Miller to see their stables and great horses and tour the training farms in the Freehold area. Then back to the Meadowlands for dinner at Trotters, visiting the race paddock and a night of racing. There will even be a race named in honor of Sydney’s visit Friday night.
Then Saturday morning it’s Breakfast with the Babies and at night dinner at the track at, of course, “Pink” which is Sydney’s racing colors. Sydney will be honored by being one of the co-presenters of the trophy to the winner of the $484,000 Hambletonian Matturity Trot for four-year-olds.
After the races, Sydney and family will drive to Goshen, NY and then Sunday morning head over to the Harness Racing Museum and Hall of Fame, one of Sydney’s favorite places to visit. Then an afternoon at Goshen’s Historic Track for the Grand Circuit races followed by the Hall of Fame induction dinner under the tent at the museum. Monday is visiting Tioga Downs for some live racing, visiting the local breeding farms and then back home to Ontario.
And it’s the Meadowlands who is making this all happen for the Weaver’s and it’s the Meadowlands who is paying for everything, from hotel’s to dinners, transportation and Hall of Fame dinner tickets.
“Jeff Gural and I try to do things like this for people whenever we can and it usually doesn't attract this much media attention,” Said Jason Settlemoir, “We typically don't like to publicize it. But, I understand why so many people have taken an interest in this fabulous young woman. That said, this weekend is all about Sydney and her family and we are just lucky to have them here."
And what does Sydney Weaver think about all of this?
“Shortly after Pinky got claimed I heard from Darin Zoccali at the Meadowlands,” Sydney said. “It was a few days after she got claimed and I was still in shock over it and Mr. Zoccali said that they wanted to invite me to come and see the new Meadowlands. I’ve always wanted to come and see the new Meadowlands. It was such a great surprise.
“This is going to be so fantastic,” Sydney gushed with excitement. “I have read all about the track and watched the races and seen pictures and now I am going to see it in real life. It’s just too cool.
“So many of my friends on Facebook has told me they are coming either Friday or Saturday to the Meadowlands to meet me,” Sydney said. “They want to get my autograph so I now have to bring some Sharpie pens with me. I can’t believe people want my autograph. It’s amazing all the people I will get to meet. I’m just a small time Canadian girl and this is so overwhelming and exciting.”
And what is the most exciting part of the trip for a 14-year-old harness racing lover? Well for Sydney Weaver its pink racing equipment.
“I can’t wait to visit some of the tack shops,” Sydney said. “It’s hard up here to get equipment in pink but the tack shops around the Meadowlands area they have lot of pink tack and I plan on getting some cool stuff for Pinky to bring back.”
What Darin Zoccali and the Meadowlands is doing for Sydney Weaver and her family is way over the top and their generosity is very touching, especially to a deserving young lady who has made such an impact on the Standardbred industry despite her claiming of only being a small time Canadian girl.
By Steve Wolf, for Harnesslink.com