Prominent harness racing official dies

09:51 PM 22 Sep 2012 NZST
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John A. Cashman, Jr. (far right)
John A. Cashman, Jr. (far right) - in the winner's circle recently.
John Sanucci Photo

John A. Cashman, Jr., 72, a long-time Hambletonian Society director and chairman of the Executive Committee of the Society since 2008, passed away September 22, 2012, in Atlantis, FL. His leadership and dedication to the sport of harness racing spanned the entire industry strata for more than 50 years - racing, breeding, track management and ownership, sales and syndication, stake racing preservation, and promoting and advancing the sport he loved.

At a time in life when many would opt for a lesser role, Cashman lead the efforts to promote and preserve the Hambletonian, harness racing’s richest and most prestigious race, at the host track of the Meadowlands in New Jersey, where it has been raced since 1981.

After the state of New Jersey was abruptly ordered out of the racing business in 2010, he redoubled the Society’s efforts to maintain the status of the Hambletonian and keep all racing firmly rooted at The Meadowlands, North America’s most successful harness track. The Society recently formed a partnership with the new owner of the Meadowlands, Jeff Gural, to race the Hambletonian at the one-mile oval through 2015.

Cashman was deeply invested in the Society’s mission to promote and preserve the standardbred breed, and was instrumental in creating the Breeders Crown championship in 1984, a series of year-end races for each gender and gait. The inaugural Breeders Crown in 1984 was an instant success and nearly 30 years later remains one of the most important events on the racing calendar. Cashman was no armchair fan, rarely missing a big race, horse sale or meeting. He has presented trophies at nearly every Breeders Crown since 1984 and missed his first Hambletonian in half a century this August because he was too ill to travel.

“I've never known anyone more passionate or committed to the industry than John,” said Tom Charters, president of the Hambletonian Society.

“His broad experience and service gave him a unique insight and perspective, which was valued by everyone who worked with him. He had a horseman's eye for an individual horse and the most remarkable memory for horses, horsemen and harness racing’s history and traditions. He was also deeply engaged in the current issues facing the sport and even in recent weeks and days, he continually spoke about the future of the Society's business and the industry's prospects. We all will deeply miss his counsel and his friendship.”

Mr. Cashman was inducted into the Harness Racing Hall of Fame in Goshen, NY in 1992 and was an active trustee and member of the Hall of Fame Executive Screening Committee up to the time of his death.

He is survived by his wife, Nancy; daughters, Susan (John) Coyle and Karen (Bill) Young; sons, John III, Brian (Mary) and Robert (Melissa); grandchildren, Kaitlin, Victoria, Bridget, Rives, Michael, Grace, Teddy, Andrew, Brian and Mary; brothers, Vincent, Peter and Michael; and sisters, Elizabeth, Catherine and Eileen. He was preceded in death by his parents; and sisters, Shelia and Patricia.

The family will greet friends during viewing hours on Monday, Sept. 24, from 6-8:00 p.m. and Tuesday, Sept. 25 from 2-4:00 p.m. and 6-8:00 p.m. at Tillman Funeral Home in West Palm Beach, Florida. Funeral services will be held on 10:30 am Wednesday, Sept 26 at Holy Spirit Church in Lantana, FL. Burial will follow at Our Lady Queen of Peace.

In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Harness Racing Hall of Fame 240 Main Street, Goshen, NY 10924 or the American Cancer Society.

by Moira FANNING

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