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Vernon, NY --- Labor Day weekend harness racing began with a bang at Vernon Downs on Friday (Aug. 29) night as the opening leg of the Tioga-Vernon All-Star Drivers' Championship shared the spotlight with the Zweig Memorial, the Jack Bailey Memorial and the Crawford Farms Trot. All drivers advance to Tioga today (Sept. 1) for round two and the Cane Pace. Following the first four legs of round one of the drivers 'race for the cup' the lead is shared by Yannick Gingras and Ron Pierce with 20 points each. But it was not solely the lure of a $10,000 first prize that drew the top reinsmen to Vernon. With over three-quarters of a million dollars of purse money on the card, and some of the best racehorses in the country, the big guns were happy to be in town. For trainers, the day began with a noon check-in at the detention barn for the top stakes horses. Many horsemen made the most of the opportunity to attend the inaugural Open House at Crawford Farms in Durhamville, just 10 minutes north on route 31 near Verona. With plenty of yearlings to inspect, several trainers like Ron Burke, Linda Toscano, Charlie Norris, Homer Hochstetler and Gates Brunet got a head start on their evaluation rounds. Al and Michelle Crawford put out an elaborate spread of barbecue and refreshments and most attendees spent the sunny afternoon socializing and looking at colts. The crew at Vernon also had a fun-filled evening planned at the Downs, which started with an autograph session with the top drivers and included a T-shirt giveaway as well as the Jim Marohn Jr.bobblehead. Fans lined up along the apron to get the T-shirts and Marohn dolls which were individually emblazoned with the nine different drivers competing. Even the boss himself, Jeff Gural, was on-hand to greet the drivers and fans, and could be seen along the outside fence chatting with the Green Hornet before the card began. Following the third race was the ever popular Racing Under Saddle series $5,700 final. The race was won by Heather Reese who opened up a city block on the rest of the field by the time they rounded the final turn. Team Crawford packed the winner's circle to help celebrate with their colleague and farm manager who was the winning rider in 2:04 with Tymal Oh So Nice. Both Zweig finals went to Takter stable all-stars. Filly Shake It Cerry rallied in 1:53.4 with Ron Pierce driving and improved her seasonal stats to 8 wins in 10 starts and $395,036. Colt Father Patrick got back to his winning ways and eclipsed $700,000 for the season with regular pilot Yannick Gingras in 1:52.2. Despite all the 3-year-old trotting talent on tap, the elixir that the crowd was truly thirsty for was Sebastian K and the rest of the field in the $236,000 Crawford Farms Trot. The number one horse in North America went off the prohibitive 1-9 favorite and did not disappoint, winning strategically for Svanstedt USA in 1:53, equaling the track record. The Crawford-sponsored purse put the collective earnings of the talented field just over the $15 million mark, and included Archangel (2nd), Market Share (3rd), and 2013 Dan Patch Horse of the Year Bee A Magician (4th). Gingras and Pierce will be reunited today (Sept. 1) at Tioga along with Corey Callahan, Tim Tetrick, Matt Kakaley, Scott Zeron, Jody Jamieson, Jim Marohn Jr. and Chris Lems for the final round. Along with the drivers challenge, the Miss Versatility and the Shady Daisy fill-up the Southern Tier's holiday menu. Highlighted by the $437,325 Cane Pace, first leg of the pacing triple crown, the historic event features glamour boys He's Watching and JK Endofanera. Labor Day in central New York will assuredly go out with a bang as well. by Chris Tully

Goshen, NY--Few harness horse breeders have made a larger multi-media splash this year than Crawford Farms of Durhamville, New York.   When top trotters Sebastian K and Market Share line up for this Friday's (August 29) $200,000 Crawford Farms Open Trot at Vernon, they will score behind the bright red Crawford Farms starting car. And that is just the beginning of the Crawford's omnipresence. Driven by a passion for the sport, and a desire to help harness racing prosper, the Crawford's have sponsored this season's Meadowlands Pace, Kindergarten Classic and the aforementioned Crawford Farms Trot, formerly the Credit Winner. In addition to vast purse support, they have recently completed a state-of-the-art equine therapeutic spa, 40-stall barn, and a 6-gate horse exerciser at their central New York breeding & racing operation. Their hearts and minds are 'all-in' this game; for their farm and for the future of the Standardbred. Michelle and Albert Crawford have undoubtedly jumped-in with both feet, and provided a much-needed push to a somewhat hesitant industry. "We love this business," noted Albert, son of the late Jim Crawford who was the affable former president of the Harness Horse Breeders of New York State. "My wife and I are committed to breeding top horses in New York State and supporting the industry in the process. We know that it is an uphill battle, but we are digging in for the long haul!" From the second-story Crawford Farms mural at The Meadowlands to the upcoming Red Mile Grand Circuit meet where the water trucks will bear the farm's iconic insignia, racing fans are constantly reminded of the dynamic duo's substantial commitment to the sport. Evident across multiple digital platforms, the Crawford's are very active on social media and have produced and broadcast several TV commercials. This weekend is no exception. With the $400,000 Zweig Trot also this Friday, renovations to the farm have reached a feverish pace this month in preparation for their inaugural Open House on Friday from 10 am to 6 pm. The team is eager to show the sport the fruits of their labor. "Our yearlings are ready and we hope to draw a large crowd of horse people for some food and refreshments while they evaluate our stock," exclaimed Michelle Crawford, who provides much of the spark in the engine around the farm. "My crew has really stepped up over these past few weeks to make this facility 'show ready' for the upcoming affair," the hostess added with a proud smile. The farm, which was founded in 1966 by Jim and Patricia Crawford, continues to be a family affair. The 100-acre nursery has continued to expand not only their footprint, but also their broodmare band. Last year Crawford Farm was the leading major consignor at the Morrisville Sale and will bring nine yearlings back to that venue on Sept. 21. In addition, they have ten yearlings consigned to the Lexington Selected Yearling Sale, including two selling on opening night, Sept. 30. While the yearlings were being videotaped, it was 'all hands on deck' and all feet had running shoes. Al, Michelle, Jim Jr., and even matriarch Pat participated in the 35th annual running of the babies. Albert stated, "This is the day we get to really see what we have. It's exciting, but a little nerve-racking too." When they are not prepping yearlings, Michelle and Al own and operate one of the most successful healthcare lending institutions in the nation, Bankers Healthcare Group. In fact, BHG was ranked as the 5th Fastest Growing Private Company by Inc. Formed in 1992 from a modest group of four finance experts, BHG now employs close to 200. It appears that growth and commitment are not just a mission statement, it is a Crawford way of life. by Chris Tully

The annual Tattersalls Summer Mixed Sale at The Meadowlands witnessed hot and fast bidding that resulted in a 34.7% increase in average per horse sale price from the previous year.   Of the 123 racehorses that sold for a gross of $2,544,200, the average reached $20,685. The main attraction of the well-attended Harness Horse auction was the "drop-in-the-box" nature of the 30 horses that raced in the two days prior to the sale, and over 100 that raced in the last week.   The highlight of the sale was the offering of World Champion trotter Sevruga 1:50.3 who was a $160,000 post-sale purchase. A winner of over $1 million lifetime, he will start in the $300,000 John Cashman, Jr Memorial on Hambo Day for new owners Scott and Joe Pennacchio.   Long-time horse owner, amateur driver, and current president of the Florida Standardbred Breeders & Owners Association, Joe Pennacchio noted that Sevruga "was one of the rare, great trotters around, and may be in just a little over his head in Grand Circuit stakes company. We look forward to racing him in Open and Late Closing events."   Consigned by Northwood Bloodstock Agency, Sevruga was one of nearly 50 horses represented by Bob Boni. Following the sale, Boni noted pleasure with the day's events and stated that "it was a very strong horse sale. Good horses sold well, as they usually do."   The annual racehorse reduction of Jules Siegel's Fashion Farm was particularly well-received, bolstered by several high-priced youngsters. Topping the overall 2-year-old sales was the PA eligible Broadway Hall gelding On The Sly, who showed consistently flat lines around 1:58 and fetched $51,000 from Barbara Boese of Milton, DE.   Preferred Equine Marketing represented another well-placed $75,000 Fashion Farm sale with the American Ideal colt, Ideal Fashion p,3,1:52.1f--`14. Kyle Spagnola signed for the 3-year-old NY eligible colt who had just won his last start at Yonkers in 1:53.4h.   Toward the end of the sale, prospective purchasers not willing to go home empty handed saw stars with Moonliteonthebeach p,4,1:51--`14, who was consigned by Preferred Equine Marketing for Scott Kimelman and the Blue Chip Bloodstock Partners. The bidding was fierce and competitive for the handsome 4-year-old son of Somebeachsomewhere who just paced in 1:49.3 finishing second at Pocono just 12 hours before the sale. When the dust settled, Andrew Harris signed the winning $85,000 ticket for trainer P.J. Fraley and owner Jeff Bamond.   Lynch winning 3-year-old pacing filly Fancy Desire p,3,1:49 was the anticipated sale topper, and was hammered down for $195,000, however failed to reach the required reserve price.   Tattersalls sales manager David Reid was happy with the overall results of the sale, and was optimistic about the health of the industry. "Sales have been good. This was a very active group of racehorses, which always translates into active bidding. My only disappointment was the relative absence of Canadian buyers. It serves as a true indicator of the importance of the slots programs in these regional markets. Having said that, with an eye on the future, bring on the Hambletonian." by Chris Tully, for Tattersalls  

MONTICELLO, NY- For the 31st consecutive year the Monticello-Goshen Chapter of the U.S. Harness Writers Association has again made a donation to the Harness Racing Museum and Hall of Fame. Organization representatives presented a $3000 check to both Museum President Larry Devan and Museum Director Janet Terhune prior to the ceremonies at the Hall of Fame Banquet on the lawn of the Museum in Goshen, NY on July 6. Last November at a Historic Track Board of Directors Meeting the Monticello-Goshen Chapter also donated $3000 to that National Historic Landmark. And earlier this year the chapter made a $500 donation to the Saratoga Harness Hall of Fame. Since the1980's the Monticello-Goshen Chapter USHWA has donated tens of thousands of dollars to Goshen Historic Track and the Harness Racing Museum. Money for the donations was made possible from successful chapter banquets and the continued support of the chapter's charity journals. "We thank all those who participate in our annual awards banquet and charity journal and we are very fortunate to be able to raise the money..... and when we do.... it is our pleasure to donate the profits back to the industry; especially to Historic Track and to the Harness Racing Museum Track, which are not only in our own back yard but very dear to the hearts of everyone in harness racing," noted Chris Tully, USHWA National President as well as the president of the Monticello-Goshen Chapter. Monticello-Goshen USHWA vice president and USHWA National Second VP, Shawn Wiles, added: "Goshen is to harness racing what Cooperstown is to baseball." Prior to annual donations to the Hall and Historic Track the Monticello-Goshen Chapter USHWA used to support a college scholarship but it was decided long ago that when the organization donates money it would be in everyone's best interest to support the harness racing industry. On Sunday evening, November 16th the chapter will hold its 56th Annual Awards Banquet at The Fountains on Sands Road in Middletown, NY. by John Manzi, for the Monticello-Goshen USHWA Chapter

July 7, 2014, Goshen, NY – The much anticipated RUS New York’s 2014 Fair Series  kicked off this past Thursday with a successful race at Goshen Historic Track on  their Fair Day of racing. Despite the heat and humidity, there was a great turnout  with 6 starters going into the first leg of the series. Every rider received gift bags from  sponsors Draper Therapies and Horse Quencher, to show their thanks for supporting  this new and exciting sport and race series.    The race went in a time of 2:05.2, won by Karen Isbell on her own Truth In Action.  Second went to Admiral Hanover, ridden by Vanessa Karlewicz trained by Janice  Connor and third went to Michelle Miller on Kash Now, trained by Michael Miller. The  other three finishers included E R Anna with Mary Lu Dolci Conte aboard, Conway  Cruiser ridden by Brian Connor, and Lemon Pepper, owned and ridden by Jennifer  Lowrey. All horses stayed flat and competitive with a close race to the finish, making  for a successful and exciting first leg of the all new RUS New York 2014 Fair Series.    July 7, 2014, Goshen, NY – The much anticipated RUS New York’s 2014 Fair Series  kicked off this past Thursday with a successful race at Goshen Historic Track on  their Fair Day of racing. Despite the heat and humidity, there was a great turnout  with 6 starters going into the first leg of the series. Every rider received gift bags from  sponsors Draper Therapies and Horse Quencher, to show their thanks for supporting  this new and exciting sport and race series.    The race went in a time of 2:05.2, won by Karen Isbell on her own Truth In Action.  Second went to Admiral Hanover, ridden by Vanessa Karlewicz trained by Janice  Connor and third went to Michelle Miller on Kash Now, trained by Michael Miller. The  other three finishers included E R Anna with Mary Lu Dolci Conte aboard, Conway  Cruiser ridden by Brian Connor, and Lemon Pepper, owned and ridden by Jennifer  Lowrey. All horses stayed flat and competitive with a close race to the finish, making  for a successful and exciting first leg of the all new RUS New York 2014 Fair Series.    RUS New York is thankful to flagship sponsor New York Sire Stakes and to two  nationally recognized brands, Draper Therapies and Horse Quencher, in conjunction  with series sponsors Crawford Farms and Eric Abbatiello Racing. As more sponsors  come on board, purses and prizes may increase, so we encourage everyone to  consider becoming a sponsor! All marketing is being handled by Horsefly Group, an  international marketing agency. Horsefly Group’s digital director, CJ Millar, is also  the marketing director for RUS New York and RUS Nation, and a licensed RUS rider  as well as an avid equestrian. All sponsorship inquiries can be directed to her at  cj@horseflygroup.com or 973-626-3673.      All photographs provided by Geri Schwarz and Chris Tully are copyrighted, used  with permission, all rights reserved. Photos are available for purchase by clicking on the photographer's name on the RUS New York website sponsors page, and  contacting them with your request. Thank you.     RUS NY Committee  • Michelle Miller, Racing Coordinator, current RUS licensed rider  • Jennifer Lowrey, RUS Advisor, current RUS licensed rider  • CJ Millar, Marketing Director, current RUS licensed rider (pre-race  coordinator with all RUS competitors, and winner’s circle presenter on behalf  of sponsors)    CJ Millar

With the resignation of John Berry from the US Harness Writers Association's Hall of Fame Screening Committee USHWA president Chris Tully has appointed Shawn Wiles to replace Mr. Berry. Due to personal family issues, Mr. Berry could not make it to Goshen this weekend. Wiles, a vice president and longtime member of the Monticello- Goshen Chapter USHWA and general manager of Monticello Casino and Raceway is a current USTA District 8 Director as well as second VP of USHWA National and he has a long history in the sport. His career in harness racing started in the backstretch of Monticello Raceway during the 1970s where he worked as a groom for Richard Sturgis, Robert Camper and Jim Grundy. He then went on in search of a Grand Circuit stable to work for and found success with the famed trotting specialists of Continental Farms under the guidance of Hakan Wallner, Hall of Famer Berndt Lindstedt, and Jan Johnson. Wiles was the first American second- trainer to work for the famed Scandinavian trotting experts from 1980-1986. During his tenure as a groom he rubbed many top performers, most notably the crack stakes filly Dominant, and then worked for Castleton Farms from 1986-1988. Wiles joined Monticello Raceway in 1996, working under John Manzi in publicity and Bill Sullivan in operations. Wiles was initially promoted to assistant GM of Monticello Casino and Raceway, and lately promoted to General Manager of the entire facility. He was recently lauded by the local scribes on his tough stance on racing integrity. Wiles is also on various other USHWA committees including the Integrity Committee, Location Committee, and the Fan Award Committee. "I am honored to be part of the process that honors the legends of Harness Racing," Wiles said referring to his recent appointment to the Hall of Fame Screening Committee. by John Manzi, for Monticello Raceway  

Goshen, NY - If you have ever been the caretaker, trainer or owner of a horse that had a special gift of speed and talent--then you recognize it when you see it.   If you have ever shared a unique bond with that almost "human" horse--then you have experienced that indescribable feeling.   If you have ever wondered what ever happened to that horse that provided you with some of the biggest thrills of your life--then you know that inescapable wonder.   It's all in here. Every picture and every page contains yet another one of those stories.   Standardbred Old Friends is as unique a book as the equine characters it chronicles. Historical in nature, existential in substance.   From Hall of Fame trotters to Horse of the Year pacers--dozens of them. Each with their own legacy, each with their own people that loved them. Each story more inspiring than the next. The authors visited Mack Lobell in Sweden and Miss Easy in Hanover. From California to Maine and from Florida to Kentucky, they traveled far and wide to meet and greet horses big and small.   With such an expansive distance between these stone-dust heroes, compiling this compendium of athletes was a feat as remarkable as the authors themselves. The photographer, Barbara Livingston, is a multiple Eclipse award-winning legend who has captured some of the most iconic equine images of our generation. She partnered with Ellen Harvey, who left no stone unturned in her quest to reveal some of the most touching accounts of the bond between animal and person, as well as between two stablemates.   Together they tell the stories of 43 horses that have left the racetrack long ago, yet still have loyal fans and followers. Like the story of 25-year-old Staying Together who is living out his days at the Kentucky Horse Park. Despite his blindness, the 1993 Horse of the Year continues to serve as a goodwill ambassador. The pictures are breathtaking with stories to match.   The account of Flat Foot Fluzy and her friend Keystone Wallis give credence to the notion that horses are gregarious creatures. Or the California pacers who have happily pulled a carriage after they quit pulling a sulky in the 90s. Or the New Jersey-bred colt that became a Saratoga police horse for an encore. Or the mother/daughter reunion that had an unexpected surprise.   So many great horses, and how they are surrounded by the people who love them. Some reunited, some returned home, all with dignity.   by Chris Tully for Harnesslink.com              

Goshen, NY -- Harness racing enthusiasts have been envisioning sub-1:50 trotting miles for a long time. Prognosticators are somewhat relieved that Sebastian K has finally eclipsed the previously held record by trotting in 1:49 last Saturday night over Pocono Downs' three-turn, five-eighths-mile track.   Immediately following this "monsters" 1:50.1 US debut on May 10, many suggested it was not a question of "if" the Swedish-bred superhorse would break the lofty barrier, but a matter of "when." No one, other than the competition, has been disappointed as Ãke Svanstedt has managed the horse perfectly since crossing the pond. With the help of Bernie Noren and staff, they look to make the Svanstedt Stable a household name in the states, as it is in their native Sweden.   Some have also suggested that the previous plateau-breaking record of 1:49.3 set at Colonial Downs should have an asterisk, as the Virginia oval is a one-turn track. Standardbreds racing over that 1¼-mile track, start from a chute on the backstretch and travel an entire half mile before they enter a turn. The fact that Colonial is the only pari-mutuel track in the United States that still has a hub rail is another anomaly.   Also, Colonial's 11/4 mile track is second only to Belmont in length, which is very telling about the propensity for horses to make speed over this oval. Nonetheless, for Harness Racing aficionados, Pocono Downs is still light years ahead. The last two Saturday nights provided the two fastest race cards in the history of the Standardbred.   Although all eyes were on Pennsylvania's Wyoming Valley for Sun Stakes Saturday and the nearly $2.3 million in purses, 18 different US tracks had racing on Friday and Saturday nights. With the Friday night debut of 2-year-olds in New Jersey Sire Stakes competition at the Meadowlands, I found myself surrounded by fans on the apron. However, not all of them had their eyes fixed upon the racetrack.   $7,500 in total prize money was plenty of incentive to attract a couple dozen beautiful women to the Meadowlands for the annual Ms. Hot to Trot contest. Of course, to go along with all those perfectly proportioned gals in string bikinis was several hundred very inquisitive men of all shapes and sizes. Several M1 staffers got the call to perform the duty of judging these bevvy of babes, including Nick Salvi who may have been the most experienced of the panelists. Justin Horowitz, AKA M.C. J-Ho, provided the ladies with thought-provoking questions to ensure that the contestants had beautiful minds to go along with their ample tangible assets.   Even Yonkers Raceway's "The Manager" made a special appearance. More than likely it was to cheer for Brian Sears in the early sire stakes events. Taking the subway from Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn to Port Authority, and then a bus to the Big M, he arrived early and was doing his iconic dance before each race. His plan was to catch the Route 120 bus after the third and be back to Yonkers by the eighth. Now that is dedication!   In between sessions of judging hotties, some great harness racing took place, with the babies having graduated from breakfast to supper time. Eddie Hart's Cam's Card Shark colt, Dealt A Winner, is now the fastest 2-year-old pacer in the country following a 1:52.4 romp with David Miller at the controls. The Jeffrey Snyner-owned, Hanover-bred lad was a $35,000 Harrisburg yearling purchase who looks every bit the bargain at this stage.   Wishing Stone, the double-duty sire/racehorse removed any doubt that his particular style of breeding and breezing suits him. Going off at 10-1, the betting public was clearly not anticipating this kind of opening-night performance as the 7-year-old son of Conway Hall cruised wire-to-wire from post 10. Yannick Gingras drove the $2.23 million earner like he was the best in a 1:52.4 rout for the powerful Ron Burke stable.   And when it comes to vintage horse power, Burke Racing may have cornered the market!   Sweet Lou, Bettor's Edge and Foiled Again finished 1-2-3 in the $500,000 Ben Franklin at Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs on Saturday night. 5-year-old Sweet Lou's 1:47f performance was the fastest pacing mile ever on a 5/8-mile track and only a fifth off the mile-track mark. This was the most exciting horse race of the night, as Sweet Lou appeared headed by stable mate Bettor's Edge down the stretch. Dead game, he fought back like a champion and regained the lead in a mere two steps before the wire. Captaintreacherous finished fifth in that event. Leaving from post 8 he had a rough voyage, parked nearly every step of the way and still paced in 1:47.3.   Overall, the Sun Stakes card produced 5 world records and 11 horses set new lifetime marks. Needless to say, the awesome display of horsepower in a span of a just few hours was breathtaking. A horse that we are sure to hear a lot more about is the McArdle colt, McWicked. Trained by Casie Coleman and driven by David Miller, he set a new world mark for 3YO pacers in 1:47.3f and looks to start the "Jug three-peat" dialog.   Max J. Hempt and his wife Amy were on hand to present the Max C. Hempt trophy to the winning connections. A product of the "Keystone" legacy, Max C. runs the family's PA state-wide construction business, is an aspiring pilot, and was recently elected to the Vice President's post of the Harness Racing Museum & Hall of Fame. One would be hard-pressed to meet nicer people in all of racing.   Although winning the Beal proclaimed Father Patrick as the evening's shining star of the Hambo hopefuls, it seems that his shed row disciples will be in close proximity. Perhaps Jimmy Takter has cornered the market on 3YO trotting colts this year as Trixton and Nuncio (who was second) both seem equally capable of sipping from the Hambletonian challis. Despite el Padre' lowering his seasonal mark by a full two and half seconds to 1:50.2f, it appears that the 'anointed one' has been blessed with enough speed to break the 1:50 barrier at three!   Ready to take on Godzilla himself, Sebastian K had the crowd buzzing all night following his track crushing performance. Now the talk is how fast he may trot on a hot Hambo day at The Meadowlands. Regardless of what transpires in racing between now and then, it will most likely captivate the trotting conversation until the first Saturday in August.   Speaking of New Jersey, Sunday's trek down the NE ext. of the PA pike brought this scribe to Fair Winds Farm in Cream Ridge for an open house featuring veterinary clinic tours with Dr. Patti Hogan, and another Svanstedt stable favorite, White Bliss. The rare 'white colt' returned to his place of foaling to dash around his paddock, much to the delight of onlookers young and old. It was a fun afternoon under clear blue skies that made the industry proud.   The festivities began with several local leaders addressing the crowd about their intentions to promote and garner support for New Jersey agriculture and the horse business. Assemblyman Ron Dancer has worked tirelessly for years to ensure that Trenton pays attention to harness racing. He plans on putting forth a resolution to bolster agricultural education in the Garden State through the Future Farmers of America.   Former mayor of Millstone Township, Nancy Grgelja, owned no horses when she originally took the oath of office. Subsequently she caught the bug, and ten years later she has had 10 Standardbreds, several of which are still racing. Lillian Burry, whose resume reads like a lady who never stops moving, is now the director of the Monmouth County Freeholders. Of course the always active Dr. Karen Malinowski of the Rutgers Equine Science Center helped coordinate the day's events, along with the gracious hosting of Mark Mullen.   With construction on the NJ Turnpike around exit 8, and Jersey shore traffic reaching epic proportions, it was my intention to complete the final leg of my 539 mile journey and make it back to the Catskills before nightfall.   by Chris Tully for Harnesslink.com

Goshen, NY -- His nickname was 'Ace.' Many didn't know him as Jack. But after 38 years operating the television camera system at the Little Brown Jug, millions have enjoyed Jack Elliott's work. Although an Ohio legend now, Jack Elliott's first experience with communication equipment is different than you might think. Infantryman Elliott served in WWII active combat duty in the European theater as a forward observer radio operator. "I was 18 and turned 19 on the Rhine River before crossing on pontoon bridges into the main part of Germany," Elliott recalls. "I froze my feet in the Battle of the Bulge. Had to rub them with snow, to get them numb to be able to slide into the sleeping bag." After the war with Germany ended Jack was being sent home to another infantry division, the 8th, to head for Japan to fight. Fortunately half way home the war with Japan ended. Born in 1926 in Buffalo, New York, Elliott grew up in nearby Gowanda. After fighting in the Battle of the Bulge with the 79th Infantry as a teenager, Elliott came home and attended broadcasting school in Kansas City. He began his career with WBEN-TV in Buffalo and then with NBC's WNBK affiliate in Cleveland as that station's technical director. Jack remembers his learning curve with some of the equipment. "My first camera job was a disaster. In December 1947 I was assigned to run a camera at a professional wrestling match. It was in Buffalo and the place was packed. I had never seen a pro match before and thought it was for real. The crowd was very loud. There was a switch on the camera, that no one had mentioned to me, that could cut off the microphone, so I could hear the truck's control room better. "Well, I had a close-up of the two wrestlers in the middle of the ring, and as they rolled over to the side of the ring, I moved my head around the camera and did not pan with the wrestlers. I was really digging the match. The truck could not get me since the crowd noise was overpowering their signal. They sent a man up from the truck and he tapped me on the shoulder and pointed to the viewfinder, which was showing nothing but an empty screen." That was simply a bump in the road as Jack tells it. "Back in the 50's I was the number one cameraman at the TV station owned by NBC. I was flown around the country doing football games and if a big star came to town, I was removed from my technical director's job and moved over to the number one camera. Bob Hope was just one of the stars I filmed." Neither fame nor technical glitches could get in the way of Jack's love for camera work and television. Ultimately, Elliott got into sales and made the deal with Northfield Park for its first TV system in 1967, and installed the first color cameras at Scioto Downs in 1974. While at Northfield in 1967, Jack recalls some of the earliest equipment he had to work with. "Back in those days there were no computers. Instead we had a room called the Calculating Room with about 32 men in it. Each had a Monroe Calculator which was a super adding machine. It could also subtract and divide, and had a big crank handle on the side. "The Mutuel department placed two men on each price. Their figures had to match for it to be an official payoff. They had runners who would take the results to the "propper" so the winning ticket holders could get paid. This took about 10 minutes after the race. My company installed about eight cameras in that room and we televised the price payoffs and sent them via cable to the proper area." Elliott continues, "We also installed the first race camera for the judges. I had a cable that went from my video playback room to the judges office on the backstretch. They could hold hearings and I would playback the video of the race in question. The General Manager hated to lose those calculating room guys when the computers came. The computers didn't bet on the races and these guys bet big time." In 1975 Elliott realized that the sport of harness racing was lacking celluloid history. He started gleaning footage from USTA films of historic races such as the Hambletonian and Little Brown Jug. This built the foundation for the groundbreaking series Great American Trotters and Little Brown Jug Greats through Elliott's company, Colorigination. Eventually, these premier works encouraged Elliott to produce four annual Year End Review collections for the best trotters and pacers, the Breeders Crown and Canada's Best, beginning in 1993. After nearly four decades filming the Jug, and 32 years as Scioto's director of televised production, Jack retired in 2007. The immortal Stan Bergstein noted in a 1997 issue of Times: In Harness that, "If video historian Jack Elliott of Circleville, Ohio had not started collecting and organizing the films and videotapes of the modern era's great races, the sport would have no visual record of its equine stars." The impressive collection of harness racing videos assembled by Elliott constitutes a catalog of greatness, invaluable to the history of the sport. A decade later in Hoof Beats, Bergstein reiterates, "the sport owes Jack Elliott a debt of gratitude." Museum director Janet Terhune agrees. "Back in the 90s the Sulky Sweeties of Scioto Downs awarded Jack their "Good Guy" award. But Elliott's efforts mean so much more to the sport than his pleasant demeanor. He has single-handedly ensured that the motion picture history of the Standardbred has been preserved and protected for generations to come." In addition to the videos Jack Elliott has contributed to the Harness Racing Museum's collections over the years, it is his intention to entrust his life's work to the Museum's care. That is only one of the many reasons that at the Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony on July 6 in Goshen, Elliott shall be honored with the Museum's Pinnacle Award, which recognizes and provides appreciation for exemplary efforts put forth by members of the press and public relations professionals, in the promotion of the sport in general and The Harness Racing Museum & Hall of Fame in particular. By Chris Tully

Goshen, NY - Ron Burke gave the keynote speech during Wednesday night's (June 11) opening session of the U.S. Trotting Association's Driving School. By all accounts, his remarks were genuine and informative and gave listeners an inside view into the life of harness racing's top trainer.   The reception was held at the Harness Racing Museum & Hall of Fame in Goshen, where the country's leading conditioner spoke for 20 minutes and generously took questions from the driving school participants for an additional 40 minutes.   "Ron Burke was a very engaging and insightful speaker, never shying away from hot topics such as training techniques, managing a large stable, drugs, and the pressure and perception of having the sport's biggest stable" noted Janet Terhune, the Museum's director who is also participating in the 5-day driving school program.   The hour-long video is full of Standardbred training tips and what Burke considers to be the key to his success. by Chris Tully, for the Harness Racing Museum

Born in Pekin: The Story of Frank Ervin and the Making of a Triple Crown Pacer, By Ken Zurski “I have been privileged to be in the presence of greatness only twice in my life. The first occasion was my introduction to the late Lord Beaverbrook in 1958. The second occasion came on the morning of October 2, 1969, at Castleton Farm when the great Bret Hanover posed with me for several pictures which adorn this book.”—Marie Hill, Canadian turf writer and author of Adios, The Big Daddy of Harness Racing.    It was as if the track couldn’t hold him. With the familiar red and green shadow roll across his snout, the brown bay colt came around the far turn bounding with fierce determination. The crowd roared in approval. It was Friday, October 7, 1966, the end of a long racing day at the legendary Big Red Mile racecourse in Lexington, Kentucky. There was one major event left. A chance to witness history, the crowd was told. No one left the grounds. Moments earlier as the gate rolled away, a prompter horse had urged the star runner on at the start, but was since dispatched on the backstretch. There was only one horse on the track now, the only one that mattered. Muscles flexed as the stout colt kept to task, pacing faster and faster with every step.   “A minute twenty-four!” someone shouted at the three-quarters pole as the horse’s hoofs tapped the soft dirt: both legs on the same side moving in unison; a perfect pacer’s stride. From a distance, a pacer’s stride looks awkward, almost unnatural. But for a standardbred horse with a heavier, more muscular build than a thoroughbred, it’s a more suitable way to gather and maintain speed. In harness racing, it’s the pace of the race that counts. Oftentimes speed is exchanged for position and drafting. Then it’s a test of stamina, to see who can outlast who without tiring or worse yet, breaking stride, which usually leads to a disqualification. A driver is there to guide the horse and maintain a smooth and steady gait. The man piloting the animal on this day was all strategy. Sunk in the sulky that seemed to glide rather than roll across the track, the driver kept his hands firmly on the reins, the rope taut. A whip in hand was there just in case the horse lost focus. But there was no break in concentration. Like a well-oiled engine, horse and driver were in perfect synchronization. The cheering, yelling and waving continued, unrelenting, as the great champion pacer burst forth down the stretch. All that was left now was for the finish line to catch up. Hearts stopped, every breath held as the horse seemed to fly past the wire. The driver slowed the champion to a stop. It was a solid ride, he thought. But he had been deceived before. With no other horses to run against it’s difficult to gauge time. If his instincts were right, however, his horse had just broken the world record for the fastest mile ever. Frank Ervin loosened the reins a bit and relaxed. He couldn’t help but smile. The fastest miler in the world! He liked the way that sounded.   Frank Ervin grew up on the horse track, which is understandable since his father Tom was a horseman and his grandfather, also named Tom, was a horseman too. In 1877, the patriarch Tom Erving Sr. moved the family west from Ohio, traveling the distance by horse and covered wagon. They settled in Kansas but found the dusty prairie winds stifling and moved to Missouri instead, where Tom Sr. built a race track and began grooming horses. Tom had two sons, Dan and Tom. Both liked to hang at the track with their father and learn the craft. But Dan was on the “lazy order,” Frank recalls of his uncle. He donned fancy suits and smoked cigars all day, idling trackside. “Which when you come to think of it,” Frank would fondly joke many years later, “isn’t a bad way to live.” Frank’s father, Tom Jr., was different. He was all business, training and grooming horses to be great pacers. At some point Tom ended up running his horses at a reputable mile track located in Pekin, Illinois. That’s where Frank was born on August 12, 1904. Harness racing was a popular spectator sport and always brought out the crowds. The workmanlike stoutness of the standardbreds appealed to the Midwestern blue-collar types. While thoroughbred racing was considered the “sport of kings,” and horses ran for roses and glory in stadiums with large covered bleachers and in front of thousands of well-dressed patrons, a harness race needed just an oval of dirt, a few rows of wooden seats, and plenty of standing room for fans to come as they were and cheer their favorites. Soon both half-mile tracks and the larger mile tracks—if there was room—popped up in cities throughout the prairie states, often at county fairs, and the crowds came in droves to the see and bet on the horses. Pekin was one such place. The Pekin track, also known as “Uncle Dan Sapp’s Race Track,” named for the city’s two-time mayor, avid horseman and track sponsor, was considered one of the fastest mile ovals in Illinois. That fact alone was a big draw. Each July through September, during the racing season, the track hosted many of the best equine pacers, including the sensational Dan Patch, arguably the most popular race horse ever. In 1907, Patch came to the Pekin track to try to improve on his own time. The local papers heralded the visit of America’s newfound celebrity: “Dan Patch Here!” the headline boasted. An intermittent two-day rain kept the track soft, and the great horse failed to break any records, but Dan Patch put on a show as usual, staring back at his admirers, as often he would do before a race, and leaving the crowd of hundreds breathless with his ability. It was Pekin’s finest racing moment up to that time. Frank was educated at the track. “I went to grade school because my father wanted me to read or write,” he recalls, “but when I got to high school after a summer of racing with him, one of the things they’d do to initiate you into high school in those days was to take your pants down and walk you through the center of town, and I certainly didn’t look forward to that.” Frank made it to high school only a couple of days before a gang of senior boys came after him. “They chased me down an alley and backed me up against a fence. I reached up and got a one-by-four and hit one of the seniors, and that was the end of that. “ Frank returned to the track and with his father’s blessing began to work. At age 16 he began to drive the horses – holding the reins and steering from a sulky, the buggy behind the horse. Frank was a natural. He understood the horses and was always quick to offer a solution when the horse’s gait wasn’t right or the horse was temperamental. Soon other owners and trainers took notice. Harness racing, like most sports, has its share of colorful characters and stories. In 1941, a successful meat-market owner from Cleveland whose parents gave him the dubious moniker Thomas Thomas, paid nearly $2000 at auction—top dollar at the time—for a promising yearling named Adios. Adios was the first of two “good bye” themed horses to come from the successful broodmare Two Gaits; the other, Adios’ brother, was named Adieu. Thomas was looking for a good trainer for Adios and found Rupert “Rube” Parker, a tall, soft-spoken and well-respected horseman from Iowa. Parker was patient and understanding with the horses, something the owners were usually not. Parker would also drive the horse, typical of trainers. So calm and confident was his demeanor on the track, Parker was known to take naps between heats rather than pace about like other trainers fretting over the next race. Under Parker’s steady guidance, Adios became a champion runner. Adios was called a “free legged” horse because he did not require a rigging system of leather straps called “hobbles” to ensure the proper gait. He was, however, a bit skittish in training, developing a bad habit of jumping over ruts and marks left in the track by carts and other horses that used the drawbridge path to the infield barns, usually near the finish line. This would not do in a race. Parker needed to find a way to correct it. At the end of each training run, Parker slowed Adios down just before the finish line. The horse wouldn’t get as excited, Parker determined, and crossed the line with ease. It took time and patience, but eventually the young colt grew out of his bad habit and began to win races—lots of them. While Adios had a fine racing career, his legacy is defined by the stud work he performed in the breeding shed after his running days were over. Even today, nearly 50 years after his death, Adios is considered one of the most productive and successful sires of harness racing, fathering more than 500 horses, many of whom ran like the wind. His nickname, “Big Daddy,” was no understatement. Adios was a broad, strapping bay who looked every bit as proud of his achievements as his owners. Many of his offspring were appropriately named after him: Adios Boy, Direct Adios, Adios Jimmy. Among his 500+ offspring, Adios sired 70 horses, both sons and daughters, who paced 2-minute miles, the pinnacle of a standardbred pacer at the time (all harness races are run at one-mile distance). Even more noteworthy, two of Adios’ sons went on to break the 2:00 minute mile mark multiple times. One fine horse was named Adios Butler. The other was named after his mother, Brenna Hanover, a mare by Tar Heel, and a good racehorse in her own right. The horse’s name was Bret Hanover. Frank Ervin’s connection to Adios was circumstantial. While puttering along on the racing circuit, Ervin struck up a friendly acquaintance with Parker, who was winning big races and acclaim. Parker could tell Ervin was a good driver and had a keen sense of understanding about the horses. Ervin admired Parker and his fine runners, a stable-full, including Adios. In 1944, when Parker became ill and could no longer drive, he asked Ervin to manage the stable until he got well. This meant riding Adios, who had just broken the 2-minute mark. “A lot of eyebrows were raised when I got the horses,” Ervin said. But it didn’t matter. Two weeks later, Parker was dead. By this time, at the age of 40, Ervin had graduated from the fair tracks and won some prestigious races with some pretty good horses. In fact many already considered Ervin’s accomplishments worthy of a stellar career. But the wily veteran was never satisfied. The one great horse had so far eluded him. Thanks to an ailing trainer’s kind gesture and a horse named Adios, who produced a foal that Ervin would later groom and train, that was about to change, big time. Bret Hanover was born on May 19, 1962 to little fanfare. His first victory was arriving early in the evening, around 7:25 pm, giving the caretaker who was overseeing the birth and expecting a long sleepless night a chance to “eat a nice dinner and retire to bed at a respectable hour.” At first the young colt didn’t seem interested in running. He kept getting in his own way. Then they put the hobbles on and he took off. “That’s a fifty-thousand dollar horse,” someone exclaimed after seeing Bret on the track for the first time. A year later, a Cleveland businessman named Richard Downing paid just that, $50,000, to purchase the horse. Downing had no problem spending that kind of money on a yearling; after all the offspring of Adios, no matter which broodmare, were producing in big numbers. At auction, that meant something. Even though he hadn’t raced a lick yet, Bret Hanover was worth it. There’s always some debate among owners whether a horse can live up to his sire’s success. Certainly a horse that takes to the hobbles so effortlessly is a plus.  Good early workouts too would seem to encourage it. When it’s time to take it to racetrack, however, everything has to fall into place. With Bret Hanover, Downing knew there was only one man who could make it all work. He called Frank Ervin. No one really knows why one horse runs faster than another. The great thoroughbred Secretariat was said to have had a big heart, literally, twice the size of a normal horse’s heart. For standardbreds, good bloodlines account for most of a horse’s success. The other is a good trainer and driver. Frank Ervin was both. A steady reins man who other drivers praised as having “good hands,” Ervin also had a mentor’s touch. Oftentimes he would be caught talking to his horses after a race like a coach would to a dejected player. “Slow, boy” he would whisper in the horse’s ear, always with praise and encouragement. “Steed-ee. Nice job out there. Not a thing to worry about.” He was either crazy or a mad genius, but the owners knew the horses ran their hearts out for him. Bret Hanover did just that, running like no other horse before or since for Ervin.   “They don’t make horses like this these days,” a turf writer once wrote about Bret Hanover years after his racing career was over. And what a career it was. In 1964, in his first year of racing, Bret won all of his 24 starts. He became the season’s top money-making two-year-old, the first two-year-old to win Harness Horse of the Year honors, and was named the Two-Year-Old Pacer of the Year. The next year, as a three-year-old, Bret was just as impressive: He notched 21 victories in 24 starts, set nine stakes records, set six track records, and won the Triple Crown of Harness Racing, a series of three challenging races in three different venues, similar to the Thoroughbred Triple Crown that begins by winning the mother of all historic horse races, The Kentucky Derby. The Kentucky Derby equivalent for standard-bred pacers is called the Little Brown Jug and is run on a half-mile track in Delaware, Ohio. In the Jug, Ervin and Hanover excited the crowd of 40,000-plus fans with a commanding victory. “They’re not going to catch Bret Hanover!” the excited race caller squawked over the loudspeaker as the horses rounded the top of turn still a few hundred yards from the finish line. It was an eye-popper. In both heats Hanover broke the record for a half-mile track (twice past the grandstand) in 1:57 flat, an outstanding time going around two turns two times. “Bret is a show, and so is his silver-haired trainer Frank Ervin” a sportswriter raved after the race. Even more impressive, the track had been a soggy mess due to constant rains. It looked by all accounts that the Jug would be called off. Earlier in the day, another trainer stuck his pocketknife in the dirt and asked onlookers if they thought the deep moisture would be good for “planting his sweet potatoes.” Certainly not much else, like racing, he implied. Then like a “Delaware miracle,” as it is fondly remembered, the rains cleared just enough for the track to be stripped, bringing the drier dirt up. “Two feet of mud had been bulldozed to the outside rail all the way around the track, and what was left was more hardpan than cushion,” a witness observed.  The race was on again. “Go with him Frank!” fans shouted from the stands as the horses came rolling down the stretch. “Go on with that big freight train!” In 1966, continuing an arduous schedule, Bret lost a few close races but won many more, breaking track records across the nation. Later that year, even though there was nothing left to prove, Ervin wanted one last chance to show his horse’s greatness. At the beginning of the racing season, during a routine time trial, Bret ran the fastest mile ever in 1:54 flat, ostensibly breaking the world record of 1:54 3/5 set in 1960 by another one of Adios’ foals, Adios Butler. Bret’s unexpected turn of foot took everyone by surprise. Many felt cheated out of history, unsatisfied. Ervin wanted another chance to do it again, this time on a bigger stage. Possibly, he felt, Bret could improve on that time and show the world he truly was a horse for the ages. Setting it up was no easy task. A track would have to be selected and an exhibition race logged, meaning no purse, no wagering, and in this case, no other horses. The Big Red Mile in Lexington was Ervin’s choice. A week was circled in early October during the fall meet, and Ervin insisted he have final dibs on the day. It all depended on the weather, track conditions and a trainer’s intuition. Throughout the week, Ervin meticulously checked the weather bureaus and flag poles at the track and found some reason each day to postpone. Finally on Friday, October 7, the next-to-last day of the meet, it was set. Hanover would make his historic run for the record after the final race.    What happened next is better told by those who were there. Marie Hill, who would later write the definitive book on the great sire Adios, said of the day, “There was not a whisper of a breeze; the flags lay limp along the side of the poles.” Bret was off in a rush, she remembered, spurred on by a starter horse that “lumbered badly alongside.” Then it was all Hanover’s show. “I steeled myself against the great effort that this magnificent animal must put forth,” Hill recalled. “(At the three-quarters pole) I knew that from here home history would either be made or go by the boards, and if it did I felt my heart would break for this game, great, champion pacer.” Ervin said that if Bret reached the three-quarters pole in 1:24, he could break the record. “A minute-twenty-four,” someone shouted excitedly from the stands at the three-quarter mark. Perfect! Bret was motoring, moving effortlessly and showing no sign of weakening. Ervin rocked back in forth in the sulky, pushing him on. Another witness, Jim Harrison, a racing official, described the crowd’s excitement, “I was suddenly engulfed by a wave of ear-splitting sound. Grown men were screaming and yelling at the top of their voices. ‘Hi Ya, Hi Ya,’ they chorused. ‘Hi Ya, Hi Ya.’ “For them, this was a horse that for these few fleeting seconds had neither name or breeding, nor owner, nor trainer nor driver,” Harrison eloquently recalled. “He was, in essence, everything that they had ever dreamed of, and as he approached the finish line, tired but pacing straight and true, they were urging him on because he belonged to each of them.” Bret breezed by the wire. All eyes locked on the electronic sign in the infield. Then the final time came up: 1:53 3/5. The crowd went wild. A world record! It had shattered the old record by a full second! “A mighty roar went up from all sides,” remembered Hill, who herself was overcome with emotion. “I could not join in for my heart felt as if it was choking me and I could hardly see through the tears.” In the winner’s circle, Bret crossed his front legs and bowed to the crowd, a trait he had become known for. Ervin, grinning broadly, proudly doffed his cap. “It was a sensational drive,” Hill would write later about the run, “and only a great horseman like Frank Ervin could have pulled it off.”   After the race, at the age of 62, the great horseman was showing signs of slowing down. “The body is getting old,” Ervin told close associates. The following year he went to Florida for a “semi-retirement,” but continued to mentor horses. At the Ben White Raceway in Orlando, Frank Ervin was an instant celebrity. He spent a better part of each day signing autographs and taking pictures with sightseers who visited the track. He was also quick to oblige a reporter with a quip or two about his racing days. “The Classicist From Pekin,” was the title of a Sports Illustrated article about Ervin and Bret Hanover, shortly after the record-breaking run in 1966. “Today, even though Ervin feigns that the spirit is willing but the body is weak, he is still regarded as the master at taking a young horse and aiming it carefully toward the classics,” the article states. In it, Ervin recounts his modest upbringing at the track. “I was born in Pekin,” he explains, “and my father was a horseman...” Records show the Ervin family lived at the Pekin track until shortly after 1910 and then moved to Sedalia, Missouri and another racetrack on fairgrounds just outside that state’s capital. Frank would have only been a young boy, six or seven, when they left Illinois. Still he considered Pekin and the old racetrack his childhood home. There was a good reason why the family relocated. In 1910, after 30 years of racing thrills, the Pekin track shut down for good. The 80 acres of fairgrounds, including the track, stables and clubhouse, which stretched from modern-day Broadway Street near 18th Street on the south end to Willow Street on the north, was eventually razed. Today the land is a cozy neighborhood with tree-lined streets. The busy stretch of Broadway is packed with retail businesses and bars. The track’s first turn would have swept right through the back of an Aldi grocery store. Frank Ervin passed away in September, 1991 at the age of 91. His wife of 62 years, Elizabeth, who he met at a racetrack and shared his love for the sport, followed her husband in death in 2006. She was 99. They had no children together, only horses. When Frank was riding the circuit, Elizabeth helped make ends meet by running a service station/café they owned together in Sedalia. Later when Frank had a fair amount of horses to drive, she traveled with him. In fact, at the time of her death, Elizabeth still stabled several trotters and was affectionately labeled the oldest owner in the game. Bret Hanover raced a few more times after the record-breaking run at the Red Mile then moved to stud. He sired many high-priced foals, including another world-record-breaker, Warm Breeze, who ran a mile at 1:53 flat in 1977. On November 21, 1992, at the age of 30, Bret Hanover died. His statue and gravesite adorn the grounds of the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, Kentucky, where many champions, both thoroughbred and standardbred, are buried. In tribute to Bret Hanover’s success, in 1967, Sports Illustrated senior writer William Leggett praised all the great horse trainers of that era who nurtured a horse to greatness rather than just “jump from one horse to another, as squirrels bound from tree to tree.” The sport, Leggett claimed, was inherently better because of them. “Harness racing traditionalists maintain—and they are right—that the real horsemen are those who live with their horses through the long, tiring hours on training tracks, building the rapport that pays off later in races, and refusing to delegate authority or responsibility. There are few left whose pride in horsemanship impels them to follow old ways.” Frank Ervin was one. It all started in Pekin. (Sources: Adios: The Big Daddy of Harness Racing by Marie Hill; Sports Illustrated: “The Classicist From Pekin” by William Leggett, February 27, 1967;  Hoof  Beats Magazine: “Happy Birthday Bret Hanover” by Dean A. Hoffman, May 16, 2012).

The following video is the last known interview with harness racing Hall of Famer Doug Ackerman before he passed away early Wednesday morning at age 86. The interview was done on behalf of the Harness Racing Museum and Hall of Fame as part of their "Cracker Barrel" video-interview series with many fo the leading trainers, drivers, owners and breeders in the sport of harness racing. The interview is being done by Chris Tully on behalf of the Harness Racing Museum.  

Years ago when the venerable Virginia O'Brien was at the helm of the Saratoga Harness Racing Museum and Hall of Fame the Monticello- Goshen Chapter USHWA donated annually to that organization. Just recently, upon a request from chapter member Kelly Young, the Monticello-Goshen Chapter USHWA donated $500 to Saratoga Harness Racing Museum and Hall of Fame. Ms. Young was a longtime member of the now defunct Saratoga Chapter USHWA and when that organization folded she joined the Monticello Goshen Chapter, and as an officer of the Saratoga Harness Racing Museum & Hall of Fame she knows that organization needs funds to subsist. And at the recent Mon-Go Chapter USHWA meeting she brought her request to the Board and received a positive response for the donation. Additionally, on July 6, Mon-Go will again make its annual $3,000 annual donation to the National Harness Racing Museum in Goshen, NY at the Hall of Fame Banquet that evening. Again, after running a successful Awards Banquet last fall in late November the Chapter also donated $3000 to Historic Track at their monthly Board Meeting in December. The donations are made possible from continued support of industry people and organizations who place ads in the chapter's charity journal. "We are very fortunate to be able to raise money and when we do it is our pleasure to donate the profits back to the industry; especially to the Hall of Fame and Historic Track, which are in our own back yard," noted Monticello-Goshen Chapter USHWA president, Chris Tully. by John Manzi, for Monticello-Goshen Chapter USHWA

Unless you live near the I-90 East-West section of the New York State Thruway, there is no easy way to get to harness racing at Vernon Downs.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s a beautiful place and a great facility to race and train Standardbreds.  But, if you are heading there from New York’s Southern tier toward Oneida County, plan on winding your way through Cow country on twisting, turning single-lane state routes.  Route 8 Sidney, 12b Hamilton, 26, 46—it sounds like a Peyton Manning audible. My journey started on Thursday, en route to Crawford Farms in Durhamville, New York.  The farm’s owners, Michelle and Albert Crawford are two people who are zealous about harness racing.  They demonstrated that fervor by investing as premier sponsors of the Meadowlands Pace.  They treat it like a business and realize that marketing is key.  In their everyday lives, they also own and operate a multi-million dollar medical finance firm. The Crawford family farm is about 15 minutes from Vernon, just outside of Oneida.  With video camera in hand, I met with farm manager Heather Reese and her assistant Bobbi Jean Carney.  Following a quick tour of all the new foals, 23 and counting, Michelle arrived and we were ready to shoot the farm’s :30 second commercial by 9:15 am. Mares with foals, foals with mares.  Two by two they pranced and strutted like actors in a Hollywood production.  W.C. Fields, who famously said, “Never work with animals or children,” could not have known the pleasure of filming young horses.  When they are not running away, they are nibbling on the camera or the cameraman.  All of which is quite amusing and makes for fun footage. Following the youngsters we moved on to the yearlings.  They were energetic and eager to investigate.  A fabulous looking group of babies—I am looking forward to seeing them sale- prepped and polished. The Crawford gals are farm-savvy and well-versed in all things equine.  When these Morrisville alums are not foaling mares, they are breeding mares and halter breaking babies.  Heather and Bobbi really know their stuff and were equally as comfortable recounting all the bloodlines on film as they were inseminating a mare with a recently delivered Crazed collection. On the other side of the farm is a brand new 40-stall barn with an adjacent horse spa and half-mile training track.  Michelle Crawford could easily double as a tour guide.  No section of the property went unnoticed.  She explained in great detail the state-of-the-art Aqua-Spa and Treadmill that was recently installed.  Leigh and Tyler Raymer keep a large portion of their racing stable in the new barn, along with training some of the race-age Crawford horses. Following a full day of shooting farm and training video, it was off to Vernon Downs to capture some footage of the Crawford Farms starting car in action.  It is a brand new Toyota Tundra, bright red, with a Brian Sears bobble-head on the dashboard.  On the way home I passed the ever-expanding Chobani yogurt plant in New Berlin Friday morning’s major attraction was the qualifying debut of 2013 Dan Patch Pacer of the Year Captaintreacherous at The Meadowlands.  The Tony Alagna-trained 4-year-old son of Somebeachsomewhere did not disappoint as Tim Tetrick steered him to a 1:51.3 mile, throwing in a :26.1 last quarter aided by a 30mph tailwind. Following qualifiers, the Tattersalls sale had nearly two dozen 2-year-olds in-training.  The colts and fillies performed for tele-timed and video-taped work-outs while track announcer/pedigree reader Sam McKee added color.  I sat with Jimmy Takter in the VIP simulcast room to watch the babies go and was treated to some insightful observations. Saturday was Preakness Day.  The Big M had an over abundance of events planned for the day.  Registration began at 1pm for the Stride for a Cure 5k, which benefits the American Cancer Society.  I registered and paid my $25 online, however only had plans to chase the runners with my camera.  At 3 pm the race began, and after capturing the runners’ shotgun start, I jumped into Marketing Manager Rachel Ryan’s car and starting taking more photos of the runners.  As they strode down the backstretch in front of the original grandstand, several industry notables were present.  Sam McKee must have had the exacta as both his daughters, Lindsey and Melissa were one-two for the women at the half, and finished in that order. Following the leaders, the elder McKee and other not-so-hurried runners moved down the long stretch toward the finish.  Bob Boni of Northwood Bloodstock and Callie Davies-Gooch of the Hambletonian Society cruised by at different times.  Andrea Caswell, the Meadowlands Stakes Administrator, and Rudy Maag, a 30-year employee of the track were encouraging each other with every stride.  Rudy was the stall man for the NJSEA from 1982 through 2011, but his first job in the horse business was as Thoroughbred a jockey! I jumped back into Rachel Ryan’s car and made my way to the finish line, being careful not to cross it.  Unfortunately the signal from my race bib transponder mistakenly picked up my presence.  I got an Email a few minutes later that noted I had finished in 7th place overall and 1st in my divison—22:29. Running immediately back to the finish, I lodged an objection.  “I am number 524 and I did not actually run the race in that time,”  I told the judges.  “I tripped the timer from 50 feet away!” This forced a complete re-posting of the leader board.  Even with runners still out on the track, the top 20 had already been published.  No good deed goes unpunished. Preakness post time was just after 6pm, with all eyes on California Chrome.  The shiny colt from Cali did not disappoint as throngs of fans filled the apron to watch the “Run for the Black Eyed Susans” on the M1 infield teletron.  For the D. A. P.-owned colt, it’s off to the Belmont, having successfully navigated through a few nasal-strip-enabled anxious moments. The Roosevelt Raceway Legacy night drew a hundred honored guests, as well as hundreds of fans seeking autographs.  As the crowd gathered on the apron around such legendary reinsman as Herve Filion, Carmine Abbatiello and Benny Webster, the line stretched halfway down the stretch.  The West Terrace housed an invitation only event complete with hot buffet and open bar.  Hollywood Heyden interviewed many of the icons of the era for the in-house broadcast. Inside the entrance to the grandstand, the Harness Racing Museum & Hall of Fame had a memorabilia sample of their soon-to-be-unveiled Roosevelt Raceway Legacy Exhibit.  Old photos were for sale and a watercolor featuring Lucien Fontaine winning the Messenger with Valiant Bret was raffled-off by artist Jerry Dahl. An overnight race with modern drivers wearing the colors of their Roosevelt counterparts was won by Yannick Gingras wearing Fontaine’s colors.  The “Green Hornet” won 7 of 14 races on the busy night’s card. Of course, world-class racing was also on tap as the match-up between Sebastian K and Market Share took the stage in the $175,000 Cutler final.  Unfortunately, that duel never materialized as the latter made an uncharacteristic break, allowing the former to sprint home in a stakes record 1:50.2.  Somewhat fractious in the winner’s circle, the $2.4 million-winning Swedish star does not like to stand still.  Perhaps the lovely wife of owner/breeder Mike Knuttson held the key.  As she touched Sebastian K on the nose, the big horse stood still, albeit briefly, for the paparazzi. Sunday, it was back to the Meadowlands for a third straight day.  The Tattersalls Spring Mixed Sale was held in the race paddock where 4-year-old pacing mare American In Paris fetched $157,000 from Mark Harder.  The 2-year-olds in training also sold reasonably well.  Sales Manager David Reid noted that the reception was encouraging and should help garner support for future 2yo in-training offerings. The crew from the #Harness Racing Fan Zone was on-hand conducting interviews and building content.  Not only is the Top 100 moments in full swing, but a new promotional video was launched that captures the excitement of racing using Hi-Def action sequences shot with GoPro cameras affixed to the bikes and helmets of leading drivers.  Also, the Harness Racing Ambassadors platform has been buzzing with user-initiated content from tracks across the country. The always cheerful Jessica Schroeder was stationed at the USTA outreach booth, selling literature and facilitating ownership transfers.  We chatted about the upcoming #USTA Driving School, being held in mid-June at the Harness Racing Museum and Goshen Historic Track.  Students will learn from trainers such as Ray Schnittker and Mark Ford with the country’s leading conditioner, Ron Burke, giving the keynote address. Having had so much harness racing-related fun, I can’t wait until my next whirlwind weekend—this one was just over 800 miles! An exclusive blog for Harnesslink.com by Chris Tully    

Over a hundred runners, walkers and striders hit the Meadowlands Racetrack under partly sunny and breezy skies this afternoon in the 5th annual Stride For A Cure at the E. Rutherford oval.   The winning time of 19:39 was set by Mike Favocci of Hawthorne, NJ. The 24-year-old medical supply distributor broke from the start and never looked back to complete 3.1 mile course faster than the rest.   Several prominent people from inside the harness industry participated in the event, as well as several people with close ties to the Meadowlands. Director of Television/Announcer Sam McKee entered the event as did both his daughters, Lindsey and Melissa, who finished 1-2 respectively, in the women's group. Lindsey a former M1 publicity department employee, finished the race 2nd overall in just over 20 minutes.   Along the race route, Rudy Maag, long-time M1 stall man could be seen keeping pace with stakes administrator Andrea Caswell. Carrie Davies-Gooch from the Hambletonian Society made her second appearance in the event. Bob Boni, well-known horse sales agent and owner of Northwood Bloodstock was also keeping the pace.   Kids as young as four-years-old participated in the event, as well as adults in their 60s.   The event was founded by Meadowlands track photographer Michael Lisa and his wife, Annette, a breast cancer survivor. Runners and walkers, who paid a $25 entry fee which benefits the American Cancer Society, enjoyed their chance to trot around the racetrack before the horses take the stage for tonight's big card featuring the $175,000 Cutler Memorial. Billed as a 'Clash of the Titans' the race features a match-up between local hero Market Share and Swedish star Sebastian K.   by Chris Tully, for Harnesslink  

Goshen, NY - When Jerry Dahl bet on his first horse, he never thought that he would end up driving a winner at Roosevelt Raceway. But the modest fan loved the game so much that he started training and driving his own horses. Following the Roosevelt era, and several "regular jobs," Dahl traded in his driving colors for a palette of watercolors. "It is a different thrill but it's like being back at the barn, back in the bike, back in the winner's circle!"   The talented artist read the RR article on the USTA website and thought it would be fun to do a painting of a horse from that iconic era and share it with those who also have such great memories. The 18x24 rendition of Valiant Bret and Lucien Fontaine which will be raffled-off at The Meadowlands on Saturday (May 17) night during the Roosevelt Raceway Legacy Night.   Of course, the affable "Loosh" agreed to autograph the piece, making the artwork all the more treasured. The Harness Racing Museum & Hall of Fame shall receive the funds from the raffle.   Jerry Dahl was first introduced to Harness Racing back in his high school days when a friend offered to take him to Brandywine Raceway. Initially Dahl was apprehensive, but finally he agreed and was forever hooked.   While in college in West Chester, PA, he met a young Joe Holloway who let him jog his first horse. Then he went to work at Winterset Farm near Wilmington. Dahl got his matinee license a year later in 1973 and he was off to the races.   Despite a degree in business administration, Dahl stayed with the horses and was working for Walt Warrington at Roosevelt as a second trainer. "I loved Roosevelt," noted Dahl. "The biggest thrill of my harness career was winning my first drive there in 1983. To me it was like hitting a home run at Yankee Stadium."   Dahl continues, "I never thought driving horses was a possibility. Herve Filion was my idol when I was just a fan. My biggest thrill came was when I actually got to drive against him."   "I will never forget the day he beat me by a VERY short nose at Brandywine. I still have that picture in hanging in my kitchen!"   Dahl faired pretty well during his time at the track, amassing 99 wins and over $300,000 in purses.   "During the late 1980s I could see that things were changing. I was not interested in just training. When I saw Billy Haughton putting up Billy O'Donnell I knew the catch driving era had begun." Dahl raced mainly on the Liberty Bell - Brandywine - Dover circuit. A few years after that phase of his life ended he began painting water colors in 1988. After many land and seascapes he soon gravitated toward equine art. "Horses were a part of me and art was in my family. My father was a rare talent. Painting horses keeps me connected to the barn area and the horses that I have loved my entire life."   by Chris Tully      

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