Day At The Track
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WASHINGTON, PA, Feb. 6, 2020 -- The Meadows Standardbred Owners Association (MSOA) has introduced a live video harness racing feature to help fans get up close and personal with horsemen and horsewomen at The Meadows. Called Straight from the Gate, the 10-minute interview show airs on Facebook Live each Friday at 12:15 PM. Dawnelle Mock, MSOA marketing director, conducts the interviews while track photographer Chris Gooden provides the video. Guests so far have included drivers Brady Brown, Tony Hall and Mike Wilder, trainers Jason Robinson and John Zawistowski, parade marshal/outrider Missy Rothfuss and Starting Judge Joe Denman. The guest for Friday, Feb. 7 is trainer Dirk Simpson. The starting gate serves as the backdrop for the interviews, so the show is sponsored, appropriately enough, by Woebkenberg Starting Gates, which has teamed with the MSOA for a giveaway. Each Thursday, when the next day's guest is posted on Facebook, all those who like or share the post or tag a friend are entered in a drawing for a free Woebkenberg sweatshirt or t-shirt. Gooden sometimes enriches the prize pool by contributing a photograph. To access Straight from the Gate, visit https://m.facebook.com/MeadowsStandardbredOwnersAssociation/?ref=bookmarks By Evan Pattak, for The Meadows Standardbred Owners Association

Dave Briggs and Bob "Hollywood" Heyden were named the winners of the 2018 John Hervey Awards for excellence in harness racing journalism while Chris Gooden and Michael Burns were named recipients of the George Smallsreed Awards for photography and Woodbine Entertainment Group was selected the winner of the Sam McKee Award for broadcasting, the U.S. Harness Writers Association announced Tuesday. The winners will be recognized at the Dan Patch Awards banquet Feb. 24 at Rosen Shingle Creek resort in Orlando. Meadowlands Racetrack Chairman Jeffrey Gural is continuing his longstanding sponsorship of the awards by providing banquet tickets for the winners. Briggs won in the feature writing category for his two-part series "Inside the Mind of Jimmy Takter" that appeared in the Nov. 24 and Nov. 25 editions of Harness Racing Update. To read part one, click here. To read part two, click here. With the win, Briggs extended his record for Hervey honors to 12, with eight of the trophies for feature writing. Heyden won in the news/commentary category for his essay "Requiem for Sam McKee," which appeared in the March 9 edition of Harness Racing Update. To read the piece, click here. The honor was Heyden's first in the journalism category; he was recognized previously, with McKee, in the broadcast division. Honorable mention in the feature writing category went to Jessica Hallett for her story "Stronger Together: Florida horsemen work together to bring a friend to a survivor," which recounted the efforts of horsemen to find a therapy dog for Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting survivor Kayla Schaefer. The story appeared in the June issue of Hoof Beats magazine. Honorable mention in the news/commentary category went to Derick Giwner for his column "Is the Standardbred horse shortage real?" that appeared in the June 21 edition of DRF Harness Weekend and to Briggs for his coverage of the Hambletonian Stakes in the Aug. 6 edition of Harness Racing Update. The writing categories were judged by a panel consisting of past Hervey winner Brad Schmaltz, freelance writer Lou Monaco, and former Philadelphia Inquirer Sports Editor John Quinn. In the Smallsreed competition, Gooden won in the race action category for his photograph "Blizzard," which appeared online on March 14 on Australia's National Trotguide website. Gooden is a two-time Smallsreed winner. Burns won in the feature category for his photograph of pacers behind the starting gate that appeared on Oct. 18 on the Woodbine Mohawk Park website. Burns also is a two-time Smallsreed recipient. Honorable mention in the action category went to Clive Cohen's racing silhouette photograph that appeared on March 23 on the Woodbine Facebook and Instagram pages and to Ryan Thompson's Hawthorne triple-dead-heat photograph that appeared on the Illinois Harness Horsemen's Association's website on Jan. 11, 2018. Honorable mention in the feature category went to Brad Conrad's snowy post parade photograph that appeared in the January 2018 issue of Hoof Beats and to Gooden's "Ice Crystals" that appeared on Nov. 20 on the Pennsylvania Horse Racing Association's Facebook page. Judges for the photography categories were racetrack and newspaper photographer Bill Denver, multiple Eclipse Award-winning photographer Barbara Livingston, and former harness racing groom and longtime newspaper/magazine photographer Phil McAuliffe. In the McKee competition, Woodbine Entertainment Group was honored for its story on 3-year-old pacer Lather Up, which appeared as part of the June 16 North America Cup coverage on TSN. The story was written and produced by Phil McSween for the NA Cup special produced by Kris Platts. It was narrated by Paul Salvalaggio and edited by Jason Vanderzee. The camera operators were David Syrie and Gage Fletcher. The win gave WEG its third award in the broadcast division. To watch the story, click here. Honorable mention went to CBS Sports Network's coverage of the Aug. 4 Hambletonian Stakes eliminations, produced by Peter Lasser and featuring broadcasters Gary Seibel, Dave Brower, and Greg Blanchard. Entries for the Sam McKee Award were judged by Kurt Becker, track announcer at Keeneland and an Eclipse Award-winning broadcaster. For more information about the Dan Patch Awards banquet, visit www.ushwa.org. From the U.S. Harness Writers Association

The United States Harness Writers Association announced today that three outstanding indiviuals in the sport of harness racing will be honored with Dan Patch Awards. Michelle Crawford was voted the "Good Guy" award, journalist Ray Cotolo the Breakthrough Award and photographer Chris Gooden the Unsung Hero Award. Michelle Crawford may not keep quite as unremitting a schedule as Merriman, but she comes very close. An unbridled enthusiastic voice for harness racing, Michelle is foremost the co-operator with her husband Al of Crawford Farms, a midstate New York breeding facility, and his racing component Crawford Farms Racing, always looking to acquire the next big star and improve the overall quality of horses associated with Crawford. One giant step towards that goal in 2018 found Michelle in the winners circle of the sport’s biggest race, the Hambletonian, as a partner on the filly Atlanta, who upended the boys in the classic race for three-year-old trotters and then went on to a million-dollar season, and now looms as potentially a great broodmare. Crawford Racing also is co-owner of Homicide Hunter, whose 1:48.4 mile at Lexington earned him “World’s Fastest Trotter” honors. Michelle is aware of the “bigger picture” in harness racing, reflected in her serving as vice-president of the Harness Horse Breeders of New York, and especially as a board member of the newly-formed Standardbred Transition Alliance, where she will undoubtedly put into practice on a continental level the well-established programs to take care of former racing and breeding stock that she has established at Crawford. Her knowledge and enthusiasm make her one of the more positive forces – a real Good “Guy” -- for the sport. Two other USHWA honorees serve the sport on a communications level, with one of them involved in the chronicling of the sport half his life – and he’s only 19! Ray Cotolo, winner of the Breakthrough Award as an up-and-comer on the non-training-driving side, started accompanying his journalist father Frank to the major races, and swiftly picked up the necessary knowledge to combine with his natural communications skills to become a source of knowledge for the industry and fans in several areas: a podcast called North American Harness Update, a pioneer (2012) project which went “on the road” for the first time in 2018; freelance work, mainly writing, for such important entities as the Hambletonian Society, The Meadowlands, Standardbred Canada, the Woodbine Entertainment Group, and the Red Mile; and as a budding announcer. And Ray is doing all this while enrolled at Elizabethtown (PA) College, as a communications major benefitting from the Harold Snyder Memorial Scholarship Fund of the late on-track television pioneer. Chris Gooden works as the photographer for the racing at The Meadows racetrack, in addition to “regular” jobs his business picks up in his southwestern Pennsylvania area. But what is “Unsung” – and remarkable – about Gooden is the amount of work he does gratis, of his own volition, to keep The Meadows at the forefront of the new forms of “social” communications media (and beyond). Facebook coverage of live racing? Check. Including “live-from-the-bike” camera photography? Double check. Keeping up a high profile on Twitter? Check. And there’s one above and beyond the call of duty. When illness hampered a local horseman’s finances a few months ago, Gooden posted a Facebook notice that he was selling a special photo of Foiled Again – the Bergstein/Proximity winner, and based at Gooden’s “home track” of The Meadows – and would donate the money minus shipping to the beleaguered family. And over $1500 has been raised so far. No fanfare, just results -- that’s why Chris Gooden is an Unsung Hero. Crawford, Cotolo, and Gooden will be honored at USHWA’s annual Dan Patch Awards Banquet, celebrating the best and brightest of harness racing in the past year. The banquet honoring the champions of 2018 will be held on Sunday, February 24, 2019 at the Rosen Shingle Creek Resort in Orlando FL, the climax of a weekend that also finds USHWA holding its annual national meetings. Reservations for those attending can be made through USHWA’s website, www.ushwa.org; a link to the hotel’s computer is on the front page of the website. Those who would like to take out congratulatory ads for awardwinners in the always-popular Dan Patch Awards Journal can do so by contacting Kim Rinker at trotrink@aol.com (the 2018 journal is online at the writers’ website). Information about purchasing tickets for the dinner will become available and will be posted shortly. From the United States Harness Writers Association

Hightstown, NJ --- Photography allows Chris Gooden to enjoy two of his passions. “I love being able to make art,” Gooden said. “And I’m a really tech-nerdy geek guy, so I love equipment. “Both sides go together and make me love my job.” Gooden is in his 16th year as the fulltime track photographer at The Meadows in western Pennsylvania. Earlier this month, he won the George Smallsreed Award for outstanding harness racing action photography with “Shadow Racing,” which appeared in the December issue of Hoof Beats magazine. The photograph was taken from a drone and captured horses -- as well as their shadow counterparts -- battling three wide just after the three-quarter-mile point of a race at The Meadows. Gooden’s inspiration for the shot came from a story he read online. “It was about a family photographer that had shot the same family for years and years,” Gooden said. “They wanted to come up with something different, so they decided to use a drone for their photo. It was at the time of day when the shadows would be perfectly stretched out. They were all holding hands together, so you see this line of people and the shadows holding hands. I thought it would be really interesting if I could come up with a way to do that during a race. “I looked at the track and could tell where I needed to fly the drone so the shadows would be falling away from the horses. With drones, when you take photos it’s not like a regular camera where I can take 10 photos a second. I get one shot at it. I took a sample shot and it was OK, but there wasn’t anything special about it. I adjusted the drone a little and as the horses were coming around I fired off one shot and that’s the shot I ended up getting. “I liked the fact they were three wide because it gives so much more depth than just horses in a line. I was really surprised that I got the shot that I did. It worked out perfectly.” Gooden grew up in western Pennsylvania, not far from The Meadows. He developed his interest in photography after taking a trip to Utah. “I wanted to buy a camera to take with me because I knew it was going to be pretty,” Gooden said. “I’d used my dad’s growing up, but not a huge amount. So I bought a camera, I was in my 20s, and I really enjoyed it. I don’t know if there was one thing about that trip, but I think I just fell in love with being behind the camera.” When he returned from his trip, Gooden began shooting sports at California University of Pennsylvania. In 1997, he started assisting track photographer Doug Bishop at The Meadows before taking over on a fulltime basis five years later. “I really enjoy the horse racing,” Gooden said. “I love horses. I’m a big animal right’s person, so it’s good to see the way everyone takes care of their animals. I know a lot of people look down on that, but I see a lot more than the average everyday person on what goes on and how important horses are to people.” In addition to taking photos, Gooden is active on social media, notably with live feeds on Facebook. “Social media has been the perfect outlet to get out as much content as possible,” Gooden said. “It’s worked out well. With the advent of live feeds, all that stuff, it really helps me get a lot of different things out; be able to do some video work, some photography work.” No matter the outlet, no matter the technology, Gooden is having a good time. “I can’t draw. I can’t paint. The only other artistic thing I did was play drums until I graduated high school,” Gooden said. “My eye for photography makes me view the world differently than most people do. I’ve always noticed that I pay attention more, like if I’m driving down the road or somewhere. I always look at the photography aspect of things rather than just looking at them. “There are many, many times where I’ve pulled over to take photos because something looked good. It happens quite often, actually. I guess I’m just a photographer at heart.” by Ken Weingartner, USTA Media Relations Manager 

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