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HARRISBURG PA - The Keystone Chapter of the United States Harness Writers Association (USHWA) has announced the harness racing humans and equines it will honor for outstanding performance in 2014 - and in one notable case, for many, many years before that.   Aime Choquette, 100 years young this past Halloween, is being honored with the Chapter's highest prize, the Mary Lib Miller Award, for longtime outstanding service to harness racing. The designation is especially appropriate in Choquette's case, as for over 40 years he was "right-hand man" for Mary Lib's husband, the immortal Delvin Miller, serving as second trainer for the likes of Arndon, Tarport Hap, and Horse of the Year Delmonica Hanover, who won the famous Prix d'Amerique while under Choquette's daily supervision in France.   Aime was also a pretty good "trainer" of harness executives, too - those who worked with him in the Miller barn include Hall of Famers Andy Grant and John Cashman Jr., along with Breeders Crown executive Tom Charters and many others in various fields of the sport.   For sheer impact on 2014, few can be mentioned in the same breath with trainer Ron Burke and his principal ownership partnership of Mark Weaver and Mike Bruscemi. Burke again smashed the earnings record for harness trainers last year, and even surpassed the previous thoroughbred mark for North America, by harnessing the winners of over $28.3M, most of them owned by Burke Racing (Ron and his mother Sylvia) along with Weaver-Bruscemi. The trainer and the double partnership are being honored, not the least of reasons being that on many of their top horses they add "outside partners," giving people, often newcomers to the game, a taste of stakes success in very short order.   Burke leads the trainers standings at his home track, The Meadows, just as the leading driver there is Keystone honoree Dave Palone. Palone got the nod over Pocono/Philly driving champ George Napolitano Jr. because Dave now leads the entire world in career victories, eclipsing the old mark of the German meister Heinz Wewering late in 2014, and now standing at a count of 16,870 - and growing every week.   It's hard to overlook the breeder who has topped the moneywinning charts of each of the 66 years the stat has been kept in North America, and Hanover Shoe Farms more than deserves another honor for 2014, as their produce won $29.2M at the races, trailing only their own $30.0M total of 2012.   For top Pennsylvania Sire Stakes performer, there was a "dead-heat to win" between freshman pacing filly Southwind Roulette and her sidewheeling counterpart, sophomore colt McWicked. The filly had the richest single-season ever for a pacer in the Sire Stakes, going undefeated in four prelims and the Championship to bankroll $269,293, while McWicked became the fastest-ever Championship winner by streaking to a 1:48.4 triumph.   Top Pennsylvania-sired horse, combining both state and national-caliber starts, was the five-year-old stallion Sweet Lou, the sport's Pacer of the Year in 2014 on the strength of 11 wins, $1.36M in earnings, and a 1:47 victory at Pocono - the fastest mile ever on a five-eighth-mile track, and only a tick above the all-time racing standard.   To be honored as the state's top performers on the weekly Invitational level are the pacer Dancin Yankee and the trotter Cowgirl Hall. Dancin Yankee won six of his seven top-class starts at Pocono, fastest in 1:47.2, while the mare Cowgirl Hall came to The Meadows in June and then won 11 races the rest of the year, including a five-race win streak facing not only females but also "the boys."   The Keystone writers' choices will be honored in trackside presentations on their "home turf" over the next few months - except for Choquette, who understandably at 100 is not much of a traveler now. But if he could take a mare to France and win one of the world's toughest harness races, surely a way will be found to get his trophy to his home in la belle province of Quebec.   From the Keystone Chapter of USHWA

WASHINGTON, PA, Feb. 25, 2015 -- Atta Boy Dan made it three straight at The Meadows when he strolled through a leisurely 58 half, then blazed home in 55.4 to capture Wednesday's $18,000 Winners Over $10,000 Life/Preferred Handicap Pace. Dave Palone was able to work out that comfortable half for Atta Boy Dan, which left the 6-year-old Western Terror - Dropitlikesitshot gelding plenty in reserve to thwart the stern first-over challenge from I'm Feelin Good. Atta Boy Dan scored in 1:53.4, 1-1/4 lengths better than the ground-saving Dew N Doughnuts, while I'm Feelin Good saved show. Ron Burke trains Atta Boy Dan, who extended his career bankroll to $244,560, for Burke Racing Stable and Weaver Bruscemi LLC. Jim Pantaleano and trainer Paul Corey teamed for three winners on the 14-race card. The Meadows Racetrack & Casino

WASHINGTON, PA, Feb. 20, 2015 -- Returning from a layoff of more than three months, Continual Velocity still was the best at The Meadows as she notched a front-end harness racing victory in the $20,000 Filly & Mare Not Listed Preferred/Preferred Handicap Pace. Dave Palone hustled Continual Velocity to the front, where she enjoyed a comfortable 58 opening half on a "good" surface. Palone had to chase Continual Velocity in the lane, but the 7-year-old daughter of Real Artist - Extreme Velocity responded and held off Macharoundtheclock by 1/2 length in 1:55. The pocket-sitting R Marie Hanover was third. Ron Burke trains Continual Velocity, who now boasts $542,275 in career earnings, for Burke Racing Stable and Weaver Bruscemi, LLC. It was one of three wins on the 12-race card for Palone. The Meadows Racetrack & Casino

WASHINGTON, PA, Feb. 13, 2015 -- She was racing off a three-month layoff, and her faltering cover didn't take her where she wanted to go. Nevertheless, Blissfull Romance was the best in Friday's $22,500 Filly & Mare Not Listed Preferred/Preferred Handicap Pace at The Meadows. Blissfull Romance was away eighth for Dave Palone and still trailing by 4-1/2 lengths at the three-quarters. When Palone tipped her three wide, she brushed powerfully and scored in 1:54.4, a neck better than Prima Dragon. Early leader R Marie Hanover saved show. Ron Burke trains Blissfull Romance, a 6-year-old daughter of Blissfull Hall - Draconian Promise who lifted her career bankroll to $251,925, for Burke Racing Stable and Weaver Bruscemi LLC. Jim Pantaleano and Palone each piloted three winners on the 12-race card. The Meadows is dark Monday in observation of Presidents' Day. Live racing resumes Tuesday, first post 12:55 PM. The Meadows Racetrack & Casino

WASHINGTON, PA, Feb. 11, 2015 -- Atta Boy Dan surrendered the lead at the three-quarters but found another gear late as he captured his second straight in Wednesday's harness racing $20,000 Winners Over $10,000 Life/Preferred Handicap Pace at The Meadows. A parked-out 27.1 opening panel made Atta Boy Dan vulnerable to the first-over bid of Royal Heart, who was able to cross over and move a length in front. When Dave Palone asked Atta Boy Dan for more, the 6-year-old Western Terror - Dropitlikeitshot gelding surged through the Lightning Lane, scoring in 1:53. Dew N Doughnuts was second, 1/2 length back, while Royal Heart saved show. Ron Burke trains Atta Boy Dan, who extended his career bankroll to $235,560, for Burke Racing Stable and Weaver Bruscemi, LLC. Tony Hall and Palone each piloted three winners on the 14-race card. The Meadows Racetrack & Casino  

WASHINGTON, PA, Feb. 6, 2015 -- A veteran of the New York Sires Stakes circuit, Medusa launched her 4-year-old campaign successfully Friday at The Meadows when she captured the $18,000 Filly & Mare Not Listed Preferred/Preferred Handicap Pace. Making her first start in the powerful Ron Burke Stable, Medusa quarter-poled to the lead for Dave Palone but faced a serious late challenge from Macharoundtheclock. When Palone popped her earplugs around the final turn, Medusa took off again and defeated Macharoundtheclock by 2 lengths in 1:54.4. Early leader Doubelieveinmagic finished third. Burke Racing Stable, Weaver Bruscemi LLC and Phillip Collura own Medusa, a daughter of Bettor's Delight - Mythical who now boasts $124,898 in career earnings. Aaron Merriman drove three winners on the 12-race card. The Meadows Racetrack & Casino

WASHINGTON, PA, Jan. 30, 2015 -- On their 2nd annual "Night of Champions," The Meadows Racetrack & Casino and the Meadows Standardbred Owners Association (MSOA) honored locally based horsemen Dave Palone and Ron Burke, who have become two of harness racing's most celebrated champions. Burke, the sport's leading trainer for six consecutive years, in 2014 smashed his own record with more than $28.3 million in earnings. "It's pretty well documented that we're a family operation . . . I couldn't do it without any of them," Burke said. "There's a whole other crew that we consider just like family. Thank you, and let's make this year special." Palone, a harness Hall of Famer, in 2014 collected career victory 16,754, which made him the world's "winningest" harness racing driver. Noted equine artist Thomas Allen Pauley captured that historic moment in a painting; on Friday, he presented the work to Palone. Palone also accepted congratulations from Pennsylvania Rep. Brandon Neuman; Bill Paulos, principal of Cannery Casino Resorts, which owns The Meadows, and Phil Langley, president of the United States Trotting Association. Langley said he hopes to be present for Palone's 20,000th victory. When asked about that, Palone smiled but said emphatically, "No shot." Few in attendance, however, doubted the possibility. Before the ceremony, fans were able to meet the two champions and take away Palone- and Burke-themed premiums. The festivities also included presentation of awards to The Meadows' 2014 equine champions, as voted by MSOA members. Evan Pattak

WASHINGTON, PA, Jan. 28, 2015 -- Dave Palone and Ron Burke are two of harness racing's grandest champions, and on Friday, Jan. 30, fans will have an opportunity to meet them and take home Palone- and Burke-themed premiums. The occasion is the annual "Night of Champions Celebration" presented by The Meadows Racetrack & Casino and the Meadows Standardbred Owners Association (MSOA). Beginning at 6 PM, fans may meet Palone and Burke and receive posters autographed by the two champions and mugs honoring their achievements (while supplies last). Also participating will be noted equine artist Thomas Allen Pauly, whose painting of Palone getting career win 16,754 -- the victory that made him the world's "winningest" harness racing driver -- will be featured. Palone was inducted into the Harness Racing Hall of Fame in 2010. For his part, Burke has been North America's leading trainer for six consecutive years and, in 2014, smashed his own record with more than $28.3 million in earnings. Both Palone and Burke are based at The Meadows. Other activities include: A "Spin to Win" wheel offering prizes of $2 wagering vouchers and other items; A handicapping contest for Racing Player Rewards members, with the winner earning 20,000 bonus points; Presentation of awards to The Meadows' 2014 equine champions, as voted by MSOA members. The connections of Cammikey will receive his award as The Meadows 2014 Horse of the Year. Friday's live card begins at 6:55 PM. by Evan Pattak, for The Meadows

The Meadows Standardbred Owners Association and The Meadows Racetrack & Casino will host a special night of harness racing this Friday, January 30. The second annual Night of Champions will have a first race post of 6:55PM. Activity will begin nearly an hour earlier, at 6PM, when Dave Palone and Ron Burke will be in the track's Racebook area for a 30-minute "meet and greet." Fans will get a chance to meet the record-setting duo, as Palone recently became the world's winningest driver, surpassing Germany's Heinz Wewering, and Burke is coming off a record season which saw his horses earn more than any other trainer - harness or thoroughbred - in North American racing history.   Fans will receive a limited edition poster of a painting by renowned equine artist Thomas Allen Pauly commemorating Palone's record-setting drive at The Meadows, courtesy of the track, as well as travel coffee mugs honoring the accomplishments of Palone and Burke, courtesy of the MSOA, while supplies last.   The night will also honor the horses that earned top honors in the MSOA's annual Horse of the Year balloting for 2014. Twelve horses and their respective owner/trainer connections will be honored, with a race named in their honor during the 12-race card. Video features will also be shown on the Meadows Live! television broadcast and on the track's in-house big screen.   The 6:55PM Night of Champions post represents The Meadows' first night card of the 2015 season. Night racing will take place on the final Friday of each month through May. For a full 2015 racing schedule, visit www.themsoa.com. by Jeff Zidek for the MSOA            

WASHINGTON, PA, Jan. 23, 2015 -- Stuck outside for most of the mile but following live cover, Camille zipped through the slop in the stretch and collected an impressive harness racing victory in Friday's $24,800 Filly & Mare Preferred Handicap Pace at The Meadows. The race figured to be a challenge for Camille, as she had been off a month and was assigned post 9. But Dave Palone positioned her behind R Marie Hanover, who was parked out but advancing. Camille made the decisive, three-wide move at the three-quarters, gobbling up the leaders and scoring in 1:53.2. Novascotia Hanover rallied for second, 4-3/4 lengths back, while R Marie Hanover persevered for show. Evan Pattak  

WASHINGTON, PA, Jan. 22, 2015 -- The beaten harness racing favorite in five of his six most recent starts, Visible Gold was determined not to let another opportunity slip away, digging in late to capture Thursday's $20,000 Winners Over $10,000 Life/Preferred Handicap Pace at The Meadows. Visible Gold was leading throughout the mile but was challenged in mid-stretch by the pocket-sitting Dew N Doughnuts. The 7-year-old Bettor's Delight-Gabrielle gelding held off his challenger by a nose to score for Dave Palone in 1:53.4 over a sloppy surface. Solar Surprise rallied for show. Ron Burke trains Visible Gold, who extended his career bankroll to $383,944, for Burke Racing Stable, Weaver Bruscemi LLC and RTC Stables. It was one of four wins on the 14-race card for Palone. Evan Pattak

WASHINGTON, PA, Jan. 6, 2015 -- Whata Donato surged late in the Lightning Lane to capture Tuesday's $22,500 Filly & Mare Winners Over $10,000 Life/Preferred Handicap Trot at The Meadows. Whata Donato surrendered the early lead to Express Justice and, even in mid-stretch, appeared destined for second best. But she responded to the urging of trainer/driver Doug Snyder and outkicked Express Justice, prevailing by a neck in 1:57.1 on a "good" surface. The first-over E R Ellie was third. Frank Poerio, Jr. campaigns Whata Donato, a 5-year-old daughter of Donato Hanover-Donven Promise who extended her career bankroll to $187,391. Trainer Ron Burke enjoyed a four-bagger on the 15-race card, with Dave Palone aboard for three of those victories. by Evan Pattak, for the Meadows

WASHINGTON, PA, Jan. 5, 2015 — Making his second start in the powerful Ron Burke stable, Count Me In collected a comfortable victory in Monday’s opening-day feature, an $18,000 Winners Over Life/Preferred Handicap Trot, at The Meadows. Burke Racing Stable, Weaver Bruscemi LLC, M1 Stable and Michelle Yanek purchased Count Me In last month, and he returned immediate dividends with a place finish in an Open Handicap at Northfield. On Monday, he was pocketed early by TSM Photo Bugger, retook for Dave Palone and cruised home in 1:54.3. Classicality rallied for second, 2 lengths back, with the first-over Andoversure third. A 6-year-old Full Count-Howl gelding, Count Me In now boasts $365,469 in career earnings. Palone piloted five winners on the 15-race card while Tony Hall and Mike Wilder each enjoyed a triple. by Evan Pattak, for the Meadows

The year 2014, just like every season in the history of harness racing, was jammed packed with special events, major stakes races and other points of interest that made the year super exciting and quite a bit controversial. We have highlighted the “Year In Review” as best possible with the top events and races that took place each month. We apology for any news items that were missed. 2014 got off to a terrible start when on January 10 the starting gate at Freehold Raceway went into a spin after the start of a race and came down upon the field and took out most everyone in the race. While all horses miraculously escaped without major injuries, five drivers, Catello Manzi, Debra Rucker, Vincent Ginsburg, Chris Scicluna and Jim Pantaleano were taken to the hospital to be checked out. The worst injured were Manzi and Rucker. The new Miami Valley Racetrack in Lebanon, Ohio tried opening up for live racing on Friday, February 9 but the lights failed to work and thus had to wait until the next night to officially get underway. Sydney Weaver was the at the epicenter of the most potent demonstration of social media as a positive force in harness racing in early February  when her beloved mare Sydney Seelster was taken from her in a claiming race at Flamboro Downs. Trainer Guy Gagnon was pilloried on Facebook and Twitter for making the claim and soon cried uncle, agreeing to allow Sydney to claim her mare back. On March 28, two harness racing horses died on impact at Flamboro Downs after they collided head on in a tragic accident. The incident resulted in all tracks in Ontario having to install a siren alarm system by Jan. 1, 2015. April saw horseman Jack Darling take command when he heard that there was no funding to promote some of the sport’s biggest races on television and within a short time and through his own blog, helped raise over $100,000 and thus the Meadowlands Pace and the Little Brown Jug were able to be televised. In June a major tiff between harness driver Brian Sears and Meadowlands, Tioga, Vernon Downs owner Jeff Gural ended up with Sears being barred from competing in qualifying and overnight race events. After less than a week, Gural rescinded the ban. On June 28, harness racing fans saw the fastest trotting mile ever in history as the amazing European star, Sebastian K, win at Pocono Downs in 1:49, shattering the former record that was set on a larger track. With trainer/driver Ake Svanstedt, Sebastian K took harness racing in North America by storm with his amazing speed and racing barefoot with no horse shoes. On July 13, He’s Watching tied the world record on a mile track in winning the Meadowlands Pace in an amazing clocking of 1:46.4. With Father Patrick making a costly break at the start of the race, stable mate Trixton and trainer/driver Jimmy Takter grabbed all the glory in winning the early August Hambletonian Trot. At the Little Brown Jug it was Limelight Beach in straight heats and the same for Color’s A Virgin in the Jugette. Wild Honey became the fastest two-year-old trotter ever on a half mile track with a 1:55.2 triumph. The Hippodrome 3R in Trois-Rivieres, Quebec, revived the great Prix D’Ete stakes race with a purse of $200,000 and saw Sunfire Blue Chip and driver Yannick Gingras lower the all-age track record by two seconds with a 1:50.3. October started off with a bang as Mission Brief became the fastest two-year-old trotter in history with her 1:50.3 clocking at the Red Mile for driver Yannick Gingras. On October 4, Dayton Raceway in Dayton, Ohio opened its doors for harness racing with a full house as thousands came out to check the new racetrack. Nuncio and driver John Campbell captured a one-heat $435,000 Kentucky Futurity in 1:51.3, beating stable mate Father Patrick and then went to Yonkers Raceway to take the Yonkers Trot, winning two of the three Triple Crown of Trotting races. Natural Herbie, at odds of 9-1, posted his fourth straight win with a world record performance at Yonkers Raceway Saturday, Oct. 25 in beating many of the best trotters in the world in the $250,000 International Preview. On Halloween, October 31, harness racing’s great second trainer, Quebec’s Ami Choquette, who worked for Delvin Miller for over 50 years, turned 100 years old. Maven brought $750,000 at the Harrisburg sale and became the highest priced racehorse trotting mare sold at public auction in November. She was purchased by Herb Liverman. Yonkers Raceway and the SOANY broke the simulcasting barrier overseas and began simulcasting five races to France/Europe early Sunday mornings with great success and millions wagered on the USA product. The simulcasts will continue in 2015. Harness driver Dave Palone did the unthinkable years ago and caught Germany’s Heinz Wewering to become the sports winningest driver ever as he recorded his 16,754th career victory. This took place at his home track, The Meadows, on Friday, November 14. Palone has now increased his lead, has no plans of an early retirement and his lead may never be bettered. The Breeders Crown helped seal up a number of Dan Patch divisional awards in late November but perhaps the most impressive was that of world champion Commander Crowe coming over to the USA and stealing the limelight with his stakes record 1:51 triumph. He surpassed the $5 million mark in career earnings at age 11 and gave North American fans a thrill to see this world class performer in action. In late November, early December, just one week after Harnesslink exposed to the harness racing social media fans about the abuse that trainer Monica Thors was inflicting on horses in her stable, all seven horses and one goat was taken away by the NJ SPCA. More than 14,000 people “liked” the Stop Monica Thors” page on Facebook and were relentless in going after state officials to do something. They are also raised money and services to care for the horses once they were taken away. In December Hall of Fame driver David Miller paid a $750 fine for dropping his foot and allowed McWicked to hit it numerous times around the final turn of the $301,000 Progress Pace final at Dover Downs. When asked about the penalty, Miller said he would do it again in trying to win the race. His comments set up major controversy in the harness racing social media venues and prompted Jeff Gural to issue a “no tolerance” rule at the Meadowlands, Tioga and Vernon Downs against any driver who drops their foot other than to pop ear plugs. When Appomattox crossed the wire first in the Free For All Handicap Trot on December 12 at the Meadowlands, harness horse trainer Ron Burke's season earnings moved to $28,118,465, surpassing the mark set by Thoroughbred trainer Todd Pletcher seven years ago. By the end of the year, JK She’salady was sensational with her undefeated season and capped it becoming the first two-year-old pacing filly to ever be name Harness Horse of the Year. But her triumph was unique as top older pacer Sweet Lou was voted the Pacer of the Year by one vote over JK She’salady, but the tables were turned in the final voting for Harness Horse of the Year as the filly beat out Sweet Lou by five votes! Both occurrences have never happened in the history of voting. The year sorta ended on a sour note as Balmoral Racing Club, Inc. and Maywood Park Trotting Association, Inc., two of the oldest horse racing venues in the country and the only harness racing tracks in Illinois, announced Christmas Eve that each has voluntarily commenced Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization cases in Chicago. Let’s hope for a bigger and better racing season in 2015. Happy New Year to everyone! By Steve Wolf, for Harnesslink.com

WASHINGTON, PA, Dec. 23, 2014 -- Camille, who had been battling some of the top mares in harness racing without recent success, found a spot to her liking Tuesday when she rolled to victory in the $18,000 Filly & Mare Not Listed Preferred/Preferred Handicap Pace at The Meadows in the track's final live card of 2014. Camille finished seventh to Rocklamation in the Artiscape and sixth to Shelliscape in the Breeders Crown. But the 6-year-old millionaire is not a mare to be trifled with, as she demonstrated Tuesday when she powered to the lead after a first-quarter duel and scored handily for Dave Palone in 1:51.2 over a "good" surface. The pocket-sitting R Marie Hanover was second, 2 lengths back, with Novascotia Hanover third. Ron Burke trains Camille, a daughter of Camluck-Art of Design who now boasts $1,188,232 in career earnings, for Burke Racing Stable, Weaver Bruscemi LLC, M1 Stable and Jack Piatt III. Tony Hall and Aaron Merriman each piloted four winners on the 16-race card while Palone enjoyed a triple. The 2015 live racing season at The Meadows kicks off Monday, January 5, first post 12:55 PM. The track will continue to offer $5,000-guaranteed total pools for Monday and Tuesday Pick 4 wagers in 2015. by Evan Pattak, for the Meadows

WASHINGTON, PA, Dec. 19, 2014 -- Kandian Klub worked out the perfect pocket trip, then brushed through the Lightning Lane to capture Friday's $18,000 Filly & Mare Winners Over $10,000 Life/Preferred Handicap Trot at The Meadows. Hustled from the gate by Dave Palone, Kandian Klub settled into the pocket behind Whata Donato, who carried her to the stretch. The 5-year-old daughter of Pegasus Spur-KT Dee Dee was the stronger mare late, downing Whata Donato by 1/2 length in 1:54.3. Long shot Express Justice rallied for show. Ron Burke trains Kandian Klub, who now boasts $182,751 in career earnings, for Burke Racing Stable and Weaver Bruscemi LLC. Palone and Burke each enjoyed a triple on the 16-race card. Live racing at The Meadows resumes Monday, when the card features a pair of total pool guarantees -- $5,000 for the Pick 4 and $7,500 for the Pick 5. First post is 12:55 PM. by Evan Pattak, for the Meadows

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