Day At The Track

USTA announces President's Award recipients

07:49 PM 16 Feb 2011 NZDT
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U.S. Trotting Association President Phil Langley has announced the following USTA President's Awards for 2011, to be given for outstanding contributions to the sport of harness racing.

They will be presented to:

Frank Antonacci, Jr., 27,part of the third generation of his family involved with Standardbreds, has found success early in his career as a trainer -- and recently added "new media entrepreneur" to his list of accomplishments. His innovative marketing of low-cost shares in the trotter Bourbon Slush as a means of attracting novice owners to the sport reflects what he learned while working towards a Boston College business degree, and his wish to give back to the Standardbred sport: "The idea is to bring it down to a level where it's plausible to a bigger population. I'm going to reach out to people in all walks of life that might have an interest in owning a racehorse or being involved in something like this. It gives them a level of entry where it's not a major risk," Antonacci said in a recent interview.

Jim Coulter epitomizes the "little guy" in the sport of harness racing, and while his long career as an owner, driver and trainer has kept him in Iowa, far from the Grand Circuit and the sport's major raceways, few question that he has been supremely influential and committed to progress in his home state and on the U.S. Trotting Association Board of Directors. The What Cheer, Iowa, native spent decades developing champions in the Hawkeye State, and was first elected to the USTA Board in 1973, from which he retired in 2010, after 37 years of service. The chairman of the Midwest Racing Circuit and speed superintendent at the Southern Iowa Fair is a Hawkeye State Hall of Famer.

Bill Finley wears three hats: He is a nationally known newspaper writer, a national broadcast radio commentator and is a fan of harness racing -- who recently took a gamble to spread harness racing journalism to a new audience. The principal voice in the Harness Racing Update, the sport's newest online publication, has written for several national publications, including the New York Times, New York Daily News and ESPN.com. In 2010 Finley won the Eclipse Award for journalistic excellence in writing about Thoroughbred racing; in 2009 was presented with the Dan Patch Award by Harness Tracks of America; and in 1991 won the John Hervey Award for excellence in newspaper writing from the U.S. Harness Writers' Association.

VIP Stable and its managing director, Ed O'Connor, have, since 1999, moved many harness racing fans from the grandstand to the backstretch. VIP Stable, which began with one horse -- Aberdasher -- and four investors, has grown into a major force among racing partnerships. It has grown to the point where it operates on all the major harness racing circuits, and since Jan. 1, 2000 has won nearly $8 million in purses for its partners. The stable's business plan and philosophy have been built on three principles: Excellence in the pursuit of winning, honesty in dealing with the stable's partners and the trainers they employ, and a positive attitude bolstered by respect for those who are part of VIP Stable.

The award presentations will be made on Monday, March 14, at a luncheon during the U.S. Trotting Association Board of Directors annual meeting in Columbus, Ohio.

by John Pawlak, the U.S. Trotting Association

Courtesy of the US Trotting Association's Web Newsroom

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