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Haydock, UK - On Friday 30th November, members of the UK harness racing fraternity converged upon the Mercure Hotel, Haydock, to celebrate the breeders, owners, trainers, drivers and horses who had excelled during the 2018 racing season. The evening was hosted by respected Thoroughbred and Standardbred commentator Darren Owen and STAGBI President Sarah Thomas, who have proven to be a popular double act throughout the 2018 season with their Facebook live racing previews and reviews at various fixtures across the UK. The awards were split into three sections: the STAGBI awards, which focus on the breeders of the winning-most horses in the three regions (England, Scotland and Wales), breeders of Sire Stakes divisional winners, breeders of selected Group 1 and prestigious races and the owners of the STAGBI Future Broodmares winning mares. Also wasthe Trot Britain awards, for owners, trainers and drivers of the most successful Trotteur Francais (French Trotters) imported under the Le Trot scheme; and the BHRC awards, for the various category winners, leading horse, owner, trainer and driver on wins, and Lifetime Achievement awards. The event culminated with the Tim Tetrick-sponsored Drive of the Year award, voted on by members of the public globally from a shortlist of six drives selected by a panel (Darren Owen, Sarah Thomas and BHRC Vice Chairman Jim McInally) and the coveted People's Choice award, which replaced the previous Horse of the Year award and was open to a public vote from the eight BHRC category winners (2YO Colt, 2YO Filly, 3YO Colt, 3YO Filly, Mare, Pacer, Overseas & Trotter of the Year). As per the 2017 staging of the event, the voice of harness racing Mr Roger Huston himself welcomed guests to the venue, having sent a pre-recorded video introduction, in addition to a number of congratulatory messages for the winners. This year, Heather Wilder also featured alongside Roger, having visited Ireland for the Vincent Delaney Memorial for the second time with husband Mike in August, with both making a big impression on UK harness racing fans. The STAGBI awards were presented by Gwenan Thomas, STAGBI Director and Administrator, with STAGBI giving back over £15,000 in breeders prizes and racing prize money for 2018. STAGBI also announced on the night that 2019 will see a change in format for the Future Broodmares races which have proven to be a massive success over the past few seasons, with the introduction of a grand final to be staged at York Harness Raceway in October of next year. A Young Person's Award has also been finalised which will act as a grant scheme for young people within harness racing to access funds to further their education, training or experience with the hope that this will enhance and improve harness racing in the UK. The Trot Britain awards were presented by Trot Britain committee member and veteran driver Ian Pimlott, with the Trotteur Francais Horse of the Year DIAMANT DE GODREL being celebrated both in the UK and France on the same night. Fellow committee members Dr Jack Dowie and Bill Green were present at Vincennes to collect the award on behalf of connections, who picked up a number of awards from all three organisations in Haydock. The BHRC awards were presented by BHRC Chairman Roy Sheedy who returns for his fifth term at the helm of the UK harness racing organisation, whilst continuing to train and drive winners from his base in south Wales. One of the main highlights of the evening was the announcement of the Lifetime Achievement award, which garnered the loudest cheers from those in attendance, as Steve Lees was unveiled as the first recipient of this new award. A native of Wales, Lees drove his first winner in 1975 when he was 16. Forty years later, in 2015, he was crowned the leading driver at the annual Tregaron Festival in Wales. He was the first British driver to compete in the WDC in 1985 and his second-placed performance led to his picking up catch drives in Australia and a return invitation to the WDC tournament in 1987. He also represented his country in 1991 and 1997. Steve was honoured by the BHRC as leading driver in Britain from 1987-1990, 1995, 1998 and 2003. As Sarah Thomas said in her introduction of the award, Steve Lees is the closest the UK has ever been to producing a World Champion and in order for someone to do better, they will actually have to win the World Driving Championship. Steve was joined for his presentation by wife, Lisa, daughter Kellie and son Stephen, an aspiring young commentator. Not to be outdone by his father, Stephen was celebrated earlier in the evening for his commentaries during the BHRC Kids Club races which were launched in 2018. Following a special message from his idol, Roger Huston, Stephen was invited to commentate on a muted version of the Crock of Gold Final which was played on screen in front of the crowd alongside Darren [Owen], who called the actual race in September. Stephen was also presented with his first pair of binocular, a commentator's greatest tool, by Darren on behalf of the BHRC. Leading driver William 'Rocker' Laidler was on hand to present the young competitors from the Kids Club Series with their mementos from the series - a collection of photos from their races - as well as the trophy for the overall series winner, which was Jake Podmore with his pony Star. Viccy Elvin received the 'Most Embarassing Parent' chalice for her endeavours supporting daughter Charley-Ann and her pony Elvis A-Ha. Rocker Laidler returned to the stage later in the evening alongside wife Alexis, as the duo collected the Leading Driver and Trainer awards respectively alongside their main owner, Raymond Huschka, who received the Leading Owner award. This was Alexis Laidler's eleventh Leading Trainer title in 12 seasons, with husband Rocker taking the honours on the other occasion to make it 12 straight years of Laidler dominance in the sport. The 2018 season was another stellar year for the team, taking out four Group 1 races - Appleby Whit Monday Final (Jack Swagger), Park Lodge Final at Aberystwyth (Springhill Glory), Welsh Classic Final at Tregaron (Teatime Preacher) and the Crock of Gold Final (Evenwood Sonofagun), as well as numerous other major handicap events and multiple stakes races. Their charges Rhyds Sapphire, Matticulous and Evenwood Sonofagun scored the 3YO Filly, 3YO Colt and Pacer of the Year honours respectively, and trotter Valseur Du Cygne was awarded Aged Horse of the Year in the Trot Britain segment also. The two awards remaining at the end of the night which were to be revealed to all in the room were the Drive of the Year award and the People's Choice award. This was the third year that USA's Tim Tetrick has kindly sponsored the Drive of the Year award, and it was Lauren Moran from Stirling, Scotland, with the drive on her family-owned Vyrnwy Smoke at Corbiewood which took the lion's share of the vote and saw the first Scottish and first female driver receive the gifts from Tim. For the People's Choice award, the public vote went the way of Rhyds Passion, winner of the Mare of the Year category for the second time running. This topped off an incredible season for the mare who recorded wins at three of the four 'crown jewel' two day festivals, including both heat and final of the Famous Musselburgh Pace, as well a STAGBI Future Broodmares race at Tir Prince and a heat of the Crock of Gold in Free For All company. The evening was a great success and partying went on late into the night - thanks to all who attended and well done to all of the award winners.  by Sarah Thomas, for Harnesslink Full list of winners: STAGBI Future Broodmares Race winners - MATTRIARCH, DYNAMIC ACE, SECOND AFFAIR, RHYDS PASSION, LADY MARY, RHYDS NIGHTLIFE & RHYDS MYSTIQUE Breeders Premium (Wales) - WOODSTONE JINGO (A Price), RHYDS PASSION (G Wright) DERNOL YANKEE (E Wozencraft) Breeders Premium (Scotland) - ROBHALL (H Muirhead & A Hay), AYR HERO (H O'Neil), EASY COMPANY (J Gilvear) Breeders Premium (England) - SECOND AFFAIR (P Mather), ROBYN CAMDEN (Camden Stud), COOL ICE (N Holgate) Breeders Premium (Brightwells) - RHYDS PASSION, COOL ICE, HABBERLEY HASTE (S William) Sire Stakes Breeders Bonus - 2YO Filly - TWO LEFT FEET (G Brown), 3YO Colt - MATTICULOUS (G Price), 3YO Filly - RHYDS REFLECTION (G Wright), 4YO Mare - RHYDS HOKEY COKEY (G Wright), 4YO COLT/GELDING - RHYDS ROCK STAR (G Wright), Leading Stallion - HASTY HALL (G Wright) Breeders Bonus Selected Races - LOOSECHANGE (H Muirhead), CRACK A SMILE (G Price), RHYDS ROCK STAR (G Price), EVENWOOD SONOFAGUN (J Nicholson), LAKESIDE PAN (M John) Group 1 Races - JACK SWAGGER (J Greenhorn), MATTICULOUS (G Price), RHYDS PASSION (G Wright), RHYDS DESIGN (G Wright), AYR HERO (H O'Neil) Trot Britain 3YO Trainer of the Year - JODY FOODY 3YO Driver of the Year - JAK FOODY 3YO Horse of the Year - FABLE DES BROUETS 4YO Horse of the Year - ÉCLAIR DU TORP 4YO Trainer of the Year - MIKE EVANS Mare of the Year - ENEZ LEMAN Aged Horse of the Year - VALSEUR DU CYGNE Aged Horse Driver of the Year - JOHN HENRY NICHOLSON 4yo Driver of the Year - JOHN HENRY NICHOLSON Aged Horse Trainer of the Year - JOHN NICHOLSON Horse of the Year - DIAMANT DE GODREL BHRC 2YO Filly of the Year - THE MOCKING JAY 2YO Colt of the Year - OAKWOODINITTOWINIT 3YO Filly of the Year - RHYDS SAPPHIRE 3YO Colt of the Year - MATTICULOUS Mare of the Year - RHYDS PASSION Pacer of the Year - EVENWOOD SONOFAGUN Trotter of the Year - DIAMANT DE GODREL Overseas Horse of the Year - ROBYN CAMDEN Leading Horses - ROBHALL & RHYDS PASSION Leading Owner - RAYMOND HUSCHKA Leading Trainer - ALEXIS LAIDLER Leading Driver - WILLIAM LAIDLER Posthumous Lifetime Achievement - BILLY WILLIAMS Lifetime Achievement - STEVE LEES Drive of the Year - LAUREN MORAN People's Choice - RHYDS PASSION

On Saturday 12th May, the BHRC Star Makers Series sponsored by the Standardbred Horse Sales Company (USA) kicked off with its first leg of nine at Tregaron. The Alexis Laidler-trained mare Laneside Layla held off a strong challenge from Colin Bevan's Laughing Buck to secure her place in the grand final, to be staged at Tir Prince Raceway on Saturday 14th July. The series was developed for horses aged 4YO+ with lifetime earnings of £1000 or less. The remaining 8 heats are scheduled to be staged at a variety of hard and grass tracks across Scotland, England and Wales in the coming weeks. Thirty-three horses were originally staked, with heat winners automatically progressing to the final. Those horses which have not won a heat, can enter the remaining heats an unlimited number of times in an attempt to secure their places in the final. The tenth horse in the final will be the highest point scorer from the heats (with a reserve list to account for subsequent withdrawals from the final). The horses which have been staked for the series are: Al Jolson Ayr Freedom Blytheview JJ (1 run) Borntorun (1 run) Brywins Mayhem Cash All Ceiron JD Coalford Insignia Coffee Mate Country Major Dynaramic Father Ted Finley Wells GDs Hurricane Hawthorns Melinda Hilltop North Art (1 run) Ithon Orbit Ladyford Warrior Laneside Layla (1 run - WINNER OF HEAT 1) Laughin Buck (1 run) Lyons Aceofspades Lyons Comet Lyons Saint Marys (1 run) Mahogany Charmer Natalie Camden Olivia Camden Rhyds Girlpower Rodney Camden Soul Searcher Springhill Calaburn The Dark Destroyer The Lion King Wye Joels Best The remaining heats are as follows: Corbiewood - 18th May Presteigne - 25th May Corbiewood - 1st June Amman Valley - 3rd June Tir Prince - 9th June Evenjobb - 10th June Corbiewood - 21st June Pikehall - 1st July The grand final at Tir Prince, the home of the Crock of Gold, has an estimated purse of £6000 and will be the feature race on the card on Saturday 14th July. With entries from all corners of the UK, the series has captured the imaginations across the board and promises to be a competitive and prestigious event. British Harness Racing would like to take this opportunity to thank the Standardbred Horse Sales Company (USA) for their continued support of harness racing in the United Kingdom and hope that this series will become a regular event in the calendar in years to come. by Sarah Thomas, for Harnesslink      

On Saturday 3rd February 2018, members of BHRC and STAGBI met for the Annual Awards Event to celebrate the successes from the breeding of Standardbreds and the sport of Harness Racing. After an enthusiastic welcome from non other than Roger “The Voice” Huston, and a hearty three course meal, the awards ceremony commenced. Hosted by the respected Thoroughbred and Harness racing commentator, Darren Owen, the attendees were directed through the past season and regaled of each individuals achievements. Every review was complimented with screen compilations courtesy of co-host Sarah Thomas and individual congratulations from Roger Huston. The pinnacle of the event is the announcement of Horse of the Year – the top accolade afforded to Standardbreds competing in Great Britain under the governance of the British Harness Racing Club. The names in the hat are the award winners from throughout the season which are voted for by the members of the sport. These are – Pacer of the Year, Mare of the Year, Trotter of the Year, 3YO Colt of the Year, 3YO Filly of the Year, 2YO Colt of the Year, 2YO Filly of the Year and Overseas Horse of the Year. Although many attending were sure there was a far away winner within the room who was always destined to be crowned, all connections present still awaited the announcement with bated breath. This duty fell to Sarah Thomas and as she opened the golden envelope to declare the victor as Evenwood Sonofagun, the room erupted into rapturous applause and congratulations. What a season the connections of this fantastic equine experienced – winning multiple races, breaking track records, setting new track, BHRC and WORLD records. Horse, Owner, Trainer, Driver – they are all record breakers. The horse himself – Evenwood Sonofagun A now six year old son of The Firepan, out of Im The Last finished his 2017 campaign with THREE Grade 1 races on his profile, unbeaten during the season with 11 wins and a streak of 15 in a row, Track Records and a WORLD Record plus whispers of exportation to race abroad. Earlier in the evening he had already scooped awards for his breeders, the Nicholson family of County Durham, in the Breeders Premium for England, The British Breeders Bonus for victory at Musselburgh and two in the Group 1 British Breeders Bonus. The high point of his season came at the York Major 3YO fixture in late June 2017, where Evenwood Sonofagun (‘Gunner’) was aimed at a saddle pace. He had claimed victory just four weeks previously under saddle by an impressive 11 lengths on the grass surface of Appleby. With this June venue a half mile hard track, the event was prepped to challenge the World Record for pacers under saddle. Gunner was again partnered by Alexis Laidler and in a blistering pace they completed the mile in 1.57.3 – a new World Record. The previous World Record was held by Darla Frakes (nee Conklin) who clocked 2.00 in July 1998 at Northfield Park, USA with the gelding Highly Rated. Thanks to the race organisers, Alexis Laidler and her charge, Evenwood Sonofagun, entered the Harness Racing history books. The seasons climax was one of the mostly hotly anticipated Free For All races the British Isles have ever seen – The Crock of Gold Final staged at Tir Prince in North Wales. As the horses were called in by the starter there was lots of jostling in the crowds for the best views, but there was also a stillness. As the horses raced down the home straight the atmosphere changed and the din of the crowd cheering on the competitors was so much that it concealed the commentary. A photo finish was called – after a spectacular race and an agonisingly tense judging of the photo, a Dead Heat of the Crock of Gold Final was declared between Evenwood Sonofagun and Miraculous. A fantastic end to his season. The owner – Raymond Huschka Already presented with the 2017 Leading Owner earlier in the evening, Raymond’s charges amassed 70 top three finishes during the previous season. The 43 victories surpassed any other owners achievements in the last decade of the award, the closest rival being John J Howard Snr who scored 39 wins back in 2009. As well as ‘Gunner’, some other Standardbreds that recorded triumphs for Mr Huschka in 2017 include: Happy Hands (Yankee Lariat x Silvertail) – Appleby Monday Grade 1 Final Winner Jack Swagger (Soulofthematter x Lyons Kellie Ann) – Tregaron Welsh Classic Heat Winner Merrington Movinup (The Preacher Pan x What A Commotion) – Junior Welsh Dragon 2YO Winner Mikey Camden (Camluck x Electrical Art) – Bells Field Heat & Final Winner Valseur Du Cygne (Kaiser Soze x Oxana de Chanterne) – Castell Howard Foods Le Trot Grass Championship Winner The driver – William ‘Rocker’ Laidler Top BHRC Driver by number of wins an astonishing nine times, only halted from a consecutive ten years in 2016 by a shoulder injury sustained whilst preparing horses for racing. In 2013 ‘Rocker’ recorded 97 driving victories, which equated to more than 10% of the total number of races staged that year. It also set the record for number of wins recorded by an individual driver – a record which ‘Rocker’ has stated in the past he wishes to surpass with a century of conquests within a season. The trainer – Alexis Laidler The wife of William ‘Rocker’ Laidler, this team have been the at the top of the Leading Trainer list for eleven consecutive years. Boasting 600+ race wins during this period – 68 recorded during 2017 and a record breaking 101 training wins in 2013. With these statistics it comes as no surprise that almost all of Great Britain’s prestigious races appear on their CV: Appleby Spring Handicap (Grade 1) – Rhyds Ponder in 2013 and Happy Hands in 2017 York 3YO Championship – with Camden Daniel in 2012 and Stamp Hill in 2013 Ceredigion Handicap (Grade 1) – Evenwood Sonofagun in 2017 Famous Musselburgh Pace (Grade 1) – Laneside Lexus 2009, Mahogany Jasper 2011, Springhill Alibi 2013 and Evenwood Sonofagun 2017 Breeders Crown – 2YO division with Matticulous in 2017, 3YO division Merrington Missile in 2012 and 4YO division with Duggans Pride also in 2012 Vincent Delaney Memorial 2YO – Matticulous 2017 Welsh Dragon Series – multiple winners but most impressively the 2YO, 3YO and 4YO divisions all with the same charge, Stamp Hill Crock of Gold (Group 1) – a remarkable three finals with Laneside Lexus in 2011 (who was exported to Canada shortly afterwards), Stoneriggs Mystery in 2012 and Evenwood Sonofagun in 2017 Alexis was as usual modest and unassuming (and extraordinarily glamorous) when receiving the award expressing how proud she is of how far herself and her husband and their team have come in the sport of Harness Racing and extending humble thanks to Mr Huschka for his unwavering support. All in all, the team scooped six of the sixteen BHRC awards presented on the night. And just to finish on a high, confirmed that ‘Gunner’ (Evenwood Sonofagun) is back in training and preparing for the 2018 season! Congratulations Raymond, Rocker, Alexis and team! CLICK to VIEW Horse of the Year Video Presentation Other award winners recognised on the night were: Battle of the Big Guns Champion – Miraculous (Arnie Flower) 2YO Filly of the Year – Greenhill Hanover (Marina Thomas) 2YO Colt of the Year – Matticulous (BKB & Morgans) 3YO Filly of the Year – Rhyds Mystique (Victoria Elvin) 3YO Colt of the Year – Rhyds Rock Star (Claire Fletcher) Mare of the Year – Rhyds Passion (Sally Teeboon) Trotter of the Year – T’es Trop Foot (Millstream Stud) Overseas Horse of the Year – Robyn Camden (All Out Syndicate) Tim Tetrick Drive of the Year – James Haythornthwaite From the British Harness Racing Club

A world record in harness racing was achieved at York Raceway, in York, England Saturday when Evenwood Sunofagun paced the mile in 1:57.3, a record for pacers under saddle on a half mile track. Owned by Raymond Hushka and trained by Alexis Laidler, the five-year-old gelding by The Firepan, out of the mare, I’m The Last, was also ridden on the day by the UK’s leading trainer, Alexis Laidler. Quickly asserting themselves at the start of the race, Evenwood Sunofagun kept up the blistering pace, cutting fractions of :29, :58, 1:27 and burnt off his rivals one by one to score by more than six lengths in 1:57.3 – a certified new world record. Race favourite, Rhyds Design, was second whilst Afan Romeo and Burning Dust claimed the remaining places. The previous world record was held by Darla Frakes (nee Conklin) who clocked 2:00 in July 1998 at Northfield Park in the USA with the gelding, Highly Rated. Amid chaotic scenes in the winner’s enclosure, Alexis Laidler was surrounded by scores of family and friends and thanked race organizers Lisa Farrelly, Lauren Moran and Sarah Thomas for staging the contest and giving her the opportunity of entering the history books. “He's such a dream horse,” Laidler added about Evenwood Sonofagun. “And I can't believe he has achieved this. Was such a fab day.” Asked about how she came to ride pacers, Laidler stated that she always rode ponies as a child, and in recent years she started taking out the saddle again with some of her aged pacers in order to “sweeten them up” and introduce something different into their training regime. Laidler, is an eight-time Leading Trainer in the UK alongside her husband, William “Rocker” Laidler”, who won that title twice himself, so between them, Great Britain’s power couple have won the last ten trainers titles, an achievement that Alexis is rightly proud off. And now she can add world record holder to her burgeoning resume. When asked about her future ambitions, eclipsing her previous total of 102 winners in a single season, is next on the agenda and some classic race winners along the way are always an added bonus. On hearing the news, previous holder of the record, Darla Frakes, was quickly onto connections of the winner, expressing her congratulations and stated that she never thought her world record would stand for almost 20 years, and she looked forward to seeing some pics and official video of the occasion.   An emotional and overwhelmed Mick Welling, owner and promoter of York Raceway, commented that he never thought in a million years that a world record in harness racing would find a home at the venue, his pride and joy. Heavily involved in the sport in the UK, Welling also runs Camden Stud, which is situated adjacent to York Raceway and currently stands stallions Art Professor, My Panmar, Eagle Luck, Stonebridge Galaxy and Yankee Lariot and is a boutique breeder himself with a dozen or so select broodmares, whose progeny all run under the Camden prefix. To view the world record under saddle mile, click on this link. https://www.facebook.com/scottishharnessracingclub/videos/825934210914763/ By Thomas Bennett, for Harnesslink

United Kingdom – The UK/Ireland’s leading trainer in 2015, Alexis Laidler, has been dealt an 12 month suspension from racing plus fines from the Stewards of the British Harness Racing Club (BHRC). On Saturday August 22, 2015 at Tir Prince Racecourse, a blood sample was obtained from the horse Merrington CheckM8. Following this sampling, the blood was tested by Laboratoire Des Courses Hippiques (LCH) where the substance Triamcinolone Acetonide was identified, reported and confirmed. The presence of this substance being in breach of Y18 of the BHRC Rules and Regulations. Mrs. Laidler informed the panel that the horse had been treated by a Vet, who had recorded such at the time in the passport, and due to various issues she had entered the horse to race without giving the horse the recommended withdrawal period. In addition to the 12 month suspension from racing, which began on September 20, 2015, Mrs. Laidler is to pay £1500 in fines, all costs to cover testing and hearing expenses and the horse, Merrington CheckM8, must pass a BHRC integrity test prior to being eligible to be entered for racing. The BHRC stated that the original six additional months of suspension that was originally reported in this story, was suspended and thus the suspension is for just 12 months.   Mrs. Laidler has been the leading trainer in the BHRC for the last eight straight years. In 2013 she became the first BHRC trainer to achieve over 100 wins in one season. She is married to William “Rocker” Laidler, who is the leading driver in the UK. According to William Laidler on Facebook, Alexis Laidler did appeal the decision but the Stewards denied the appeal. She will be eligible to return to racing in September 2016. By Steven Wolf, for Harnesslink.com 

Alexis Laidler’s set out with a goal at the beginning of the 2013. Her aim was to be the first person to train 100 winners in a season. For many that would seem like an impossible task but the Laidler camp had a strong team of horses. However, to succeed it would require hard work and hours of travelling over six gruelling months. The key to realising the dream was a good beginning, which they got, Alexis had trained twenty-five winners by the end of the first month of racing. Throughout the season, it has been a rarity not to see the team at a race meeting and they have travelled across the UK and back to get to their current tally of 87 training wins. Among her host of winners this year are a number of feature races including the Appleby Spring final, the Famous Mussleburgh Pace, the Junior Dragoness and the Little Welsh Dragon. The previous record for training wins stood at 77 so even if Alexis does not reach the goal she has already made history with the number of wins she has trained this year. Each year since being licenced, Alexis has been able to record a new personal best. As the season comes to a close, with a maximum of six meetings remaining, the chance to reach 100 wins is diminishing but knowing team Laidler they will leave no stone unturned in their pursuit of history. Whether or not they succeed in reaching the magical ton, they have made a tremendous effort again this season and continue to raise the bar for all harness racing throughout the UK and Ireland. by Kayleigh Evans for Ceredrotian  

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