Day At The Track

USHWA’s President’s Award to Mary Lou Dondarski

09:11 AM 01 Jan 2014 NZDT
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Mary Lou Dondarski, harness racing
Mary Lou Dondarski doing what she loves, hunting for harness racing memorabilia.
Photo by Judy Davis Wilson

Mary Lou Dondarski, whose unselfish work and donations over many years by supporting most every special event concerning Standardbreds in North America, ranging from rescue groups, charity auctions, museum events, fundraisers and more, has been selected by the United States Harness Writers Association (USHWA) president, Steven Wolf, as the recipient of the 2013 President’s Award.

Dondarski, who resides in Jackson, NJ has been involved in harness racing for most of her life.

The former Freehold Raceway race office manager, now operations manager for the Hambletonian Society/Breeders Crown for the past 20 years, Mary Lou Dondarski is an avid collector of harness racing memorabilia, a renowned equine artist, and a friend to many organizations in the industry.

For years she would go out of her way to help with special events, often using her own money to purchase items and donate them to worthy causes. She was one of the first to come to major stakes events and provide the now popular bouquet of carrots for the winner of the race. She is an extensive harness racing antiques collector on Ebay and at any and all antique shops, flea markets, yard sales, you name it that she can attend.

This past year she helped the Harness Racing Museum with their special exhibit entitled” the Hambletonian” Its Trotters, their Connections and the Racing Event 1929-2009 celebrating the 75th anniversary of the prestigious race. That exhibit was made possible largely through items loaned by Mary Lou Dondarski, who proudly owns all but six of the Hambletonian race day programs.

“The exhibit featured a large array of trophies, poster, memorabilia and photographs,” explain Museum Executive Director Janet Terhune. “Most of the items belonged to Mary Lou and were superb. She has always been outstanding in helping out at the museum.”

When it comes to the United States Harness Writers Association, Mary Lou Dondarski holds nothing back. She always donates either to the silent or live auction. Last year her oil painting of Harness Horse of the Year, Chapter Seven, brought $2,000 in the live auction. Even before she knew of her President’s Award, she had already committed to donating a special display for the silent auction and two oil paintings for the live auction.

She is also one of the foremost authorities and historian on the great Standardbred trotter, Greyhound. Mary Lou has one of the largest collections of Greyhound artwork and memorabilia in the world. She was also responsible for the design and production of the popular Hambletonian starter buttons. Hundreds are produced each year for the race and are distributed to the connections of each horse that is entered.

Mary Lou Dondarski will be honored on Sunday, February 23, 2014 at the USHWA Dan Patch Awards Banquet, the climatic event of 2013 race season, to be held at Dover Downs in Dover, Delaware. Further information about the banquet, hotel reservations and purchasing dinner tickets is available at

By Steven Wolf, president of the United States Harness Writers Association

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