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Columbus, OH --- is reporting that Communicators Hall of Famer Sam McKee, one of the most well-known and respected announcers in horse racing, died Tuesday night (March 7), as a result of complications after suffering a major stroke early last month. He was 54. Mr. McKee was the announcer and simulcast director at the Meadowlands, leaving his home state of Michigan in 1998 to work on a fill-in basis at the New Jersey racetrack. Soon after he was hired as full-time announcer, later adding the title of simulcast director. Mr. McKee was elected to the Michigan Harness Horsemen's Association's Hall of Fame in 2009. In 2012, he received the sport's highest honor when he was elected to the Communicators Hall of Fame in Goshen, N.Y. To read more on, click here.  

Harness racing's newest inductees to the Hall of Fame, driver Brian Sears and communicator Steve Wolf, will be the special guests on the top Thoroughbred radio show in south Florida Wednesday afternoon, It's Post Time With JJ Gracie. The program gets underway on the internet at 3:00 pm at It's Post Time With JJ Graci takes place seven days a week, live on Thursday from the studio and on Friday, Saturday and Sunday they are on location at Gulfstream Park. The show features sessions about the horse racing industry, including harness racing, handicapping, live race calls, trivia with prizes, and great guests! Sears, a south Florida native and graduate of Cardinal Gibbons High School, won his first race at age 16 at Pompano Park and hails from three generations of harness horsemen. Both his grandfather, Gene, and father, Jay, are inducted in the Florida Harness Racing Hall of Fame. Currently, Sears has amassed 9,714 driving wins, purse earnings of more than $176,000,000 and has a very impressive career UDR of .329. Wolf has been living for 17 years in south Florida. Starting out as an owner/breeder in 1977 with his father, Manny, and their Leo Wolf & Son Stable, he was the Director of Racing Operations at the Isle Pompano Park for nine years and is now a horse racing consultant. "I really like and appreciate harness racing," said JJ Graci, "and it will be great to have two of the sports newest inductees to the Harness Racing Hall of Fame on our show Wednesday." You can follow It's Post Time With JJ Graci on Facebook at From It's Post Time With JJ Graci      

HARRISBURG PA - One is a native of the heartland of U.S. harness racing, the Buckeye State of Ohio. One is a Swedish emigrant who is fiercely appreciative of the opportunities his adopted United States has given him. (Both do fine when they cross the border north to Canada, too.) Both are in their mid-50s. Both are members of the Harness Racing Hall of Fame. David Miller and Jimmy Takter were the Driver and Trainer of the Year in 2015, respectively, their outstanding seasons cemented by quantity - six Breeders Crown wins for Takter, with Miller gaining five Crown sulky triumphs, including two for Takter. And in 2016, Takter and Miller are repeat winners in their respective categories as voted by the U.S. Harness Writers Association (USHWA), both again having quality seasons up and down the board, but their highlight this time focused on quality - 2016 Harness Horse of the Year Always B Miki, author of the sport's fastest-ever mile, a 1:46 clocking at Lexington's famed Red Mile on October 9. "Miki" also had four victories in head-to-head matchups against 2015 Harness Horse of the Year Wiggle It Jiggleit, who had three in a months-long series of contests that had fans - and even "seen-it-all" horsemen - buzzing throughout North America. Of course, to earn top yearly accolades over their talented peers, both men accomplished much more than their successful collaboration with Always B Miki. Takter collected year-end honors not only with Always B Miki (also the Pacer of the Year) but with a repeat champion, the 3-year-old pacing filly Pure Country, and two 2-year-old fillies, pacer Idyllic Beach and trotter Ariana G (Takter also guided Ariana G's successful sophomore sister All The Time, and the two fillies' combined exploits earned breeders/owners Al Libfeld and Marvin Katz honors as the season's Breeders of the Year). That's four divisional winners in all -- no other trainer had more than one. Add in Breeders Crown-winning Bar Hopping, often right in the mix with Trotter of the Year Marion Marauder, among others and you see a powerhouse of a stable that earned Takter Trainer of the Year plaudits for the third year in a row, and sixth overall (1996, 2000, 2010, 2014, 2015, and 2016). While Takter is forthright and outfront with his opinions, David Miller, while no less insightful, by temperament would rather just go about his job quietly yet effectively - both factors showing up when he became only the third driver, behind John Campbell and Ron Pierce, to go over $200 million in career sulky earnings, as the feat came in May at Harrah's Philly with an undistinguished pacer named Hickory Chumley, who paid $82.80 to win. In this, his best season ever for earnings with more than $12.6 million bankrolled, Miller also had a large hand in the racetrack guidance of two other divisional award-winners: 3-year-old trotting filly Broadway Donna, a repeat champion, and the multi-major stake-winning 3-year-old pacing colt Betting Line. This is Miller's third Driver of the Year title: he won the inaugural award in 2003, and of course now has two straight in the category. Jimmy Takter and David Miller (and the many horses for whom they were an integral part of the road to success in 2016) will be honored at the "Night Of Champions," the Dan Patch Awards Banquet Presented by Hoosier Park, which will take place on Sunday, February 26 at the Planet Hollywood hotel/casino in Las Vegas. Information about the banquet and the entire weekend, which will also contain the annual meetings of USHWA, can be found on the communicators' website, - including links for making hotel reservations at special rates at Planet Hollywood; banquet tickets; and congratulatory or acknowledgment ads in the keepsake Souvenir Banquet Journal, annually one of the best chronicles of a year in North American harness racing. From the U.S. Harness Writers Association  

What is the measure of the man? Some in the sport of harness racing might say John Butcher will be best remembered for the horses he owned and trained: Susan Blue, Shanandoah, Val Averil, Gay Reel, Ponty, Lorator, Prince Polka, Tobias, Desiree, Mathias, Josias, Abdias, Onias, Sophanias, Count Isa, Smooth Performer, Tooraloo – to name but a few. Others would probably recount his wins as a driver – 305 at least, although no one is quite sure of the real total. Alternatively, perhaps, the measure lies in the 717 winners he turned out as a trainer in his own right or in partnership with his son David, an achievement that led to his election to the Harness Racing Hall of Fame. Then, again, perhaps the measure is the fact North Island Harness Racing this year acknowledged John and his wife of 60 years, Colleen, for their life-time contribution to the sport. However, those closest to him, proud as they are of his accomplishments, will tell you the true measure of John Butcher lay in his family: that he was a good man, an honest, loyal man. An introvert by nature, he had a quick and subtle wit. He worked hard and smart; he loved his family unconditionally, and was loved in return. John was born in Whakatane, named Stanley after his father, but always called John by his uncles. The name stuck and by the time he started school, he would answer to no other. Except, in later years, when Colleen would call him Stanley. "And if she did, it only ever meant one thing … he was not on her happy list," son David, himself a champion driver, told the more than 400 mourners in a packed St Peters Catholic Church, Cambridge. As a young man, John was a capable scholar and he liked to point out that his teachers thought he would make a good accountant. But an office job was very far from what he saw for himself. He had always liked horses and would go to the races from a young age, sitting on the fence near the "birdcage", as the parade ring is known, until the last event of the day. So in 1952 he left school at 16 and went to work for Norm Cunningham's galloping stable. Told he would get too heavy to be a jockey, he returned home to Whakatane to work for feed company Loan and Mercantile. That did not last long, either, and late in the year he made the decision that was to govern his life's path – he started working in harness racing with Max Allen in Pukekohe. He was with Allen three years learning his trade and it was during this time he was with a workmate who asked a girl out. That girl happened to have a friend with her and John, being a man of few words, plucked up his courage and, smooth as you like, gave the girl's friend a gentle kick in the leg and said "You'd better come, too." Colleen McCort agreed and the courtship started on what was to become a lifetime love affair. It was while he was at Allen's place that John got to drive a horse "with attitude" called Prince Polka. John was asked to work the horse, as no one else was interested. He accepted the challenge, on condition he got to drive it at the races. It was agreed, and he won five quick races with Prince Polka before going on to make the final of the Inter Dominion – a competition of the best trotters and pacers in New Zealand and Australia. Despite his many successes in later life, John remained proud of that first achievement. John then moved on to a harness stable working for Peter Stewart  in Papatoetoe. While there, he and Colleen married. Their new place was nothing flash. Son Philip, also a harness driver, told mourners at the funeral the couple's first home was "the garage at his dad's place". With no television, they produced their first child, Annette. During the 18 months he worked for Stewart, John bought his first horse, Shenandoah, with his father and Uncle Jim. John, now 21, felt he was not going anywhere, so he made the tough decision to go out on his own as a trainer, taking Shenandoah with him. He decided on his red with gold Maltese Cross colours by reversing those of a prominent parliamentarian of the time, Sir William Stanley Goosman, who had a few good gallopers. John trained at McKendricks, across the road from Alexandra Park. In January 1957, he took the plunge, started Shenandoah at the races, and won. His career as both a trainer and a driver was off and running. His next horse was a foal – Desiree. She became the founding mare to many of his good horses. She also paid for the land at Otahuhu where John and Colleen built their first home. But they still had no TV ... second child Pauline was born. In 1963 they bought a 55-acre property in Pukekohe where they lived for 10 years. They had TV by now (but only one channel) and child number three, David, arrived. And, according to David, "John decided he had worked out how to make boys" and, before he forgot, child four, Philip, arrived 15 months later. But it was not all smooth running. In January 1970, John had a catastrophic crash at Cambridge raceway, where he was catapulted into the air across the racing horses to land on the running rail, injuring his shoulder and smashing, rather than breaking, his leg. He was six weeks in Waikato Hospital. When the doctors took the plaster off, the leg had not mended. His options were two years in plaster or a painful bone graft. He opted for the latter and progressed from a wheelchair to crutches to a walking stick over the next nine months. Given the go-ahead to do "light work", he went out and shod five horses. (He had learnt the skill from blacksmith Andy Brown, who reckoned John had the longest apprenticeship of any farrier. Andy lived with John and Colleen for 11 years until he died at the age of 86.) In 1973, John moved the family to Cambridge, first to Peake Road, where he trained a small team, and then to a larger property on Pickering Road, where he lived the rest of his life. Daughter Pauline says the team of horses he trained at Pickering was small at first, until David and Philip were old enough and showed interest in the game, when he built it up to about 35 in work. He stepped down from driving to give David and Philip opportunities. John's was a life engrossed in horses and people in near equal measure. He was, by all accounts, very good at reading people but, perhaps, even better at reading horses. Whatever, he understood the individuality of both. John Butcher is survived by his wife, Colleen; children Annette, Pauline, David and Philip; 13 grandchildren; and eight great-grandchildren. Stanley John Butcher, January 27, 1936 – September 6, 2016 By Charles Little Reprinted with permission of The Waikato Times

Goshen, NY---Breeder and industry executive Charlie Keller III and trainer Bruce Nickells were inducted into the Harness Racing Hall of Fame during ceremonies held at the Harness Racing Museum Sunday (July 4) evening. Also honored were Communicators Hall of Fame inductees David Carr and Jerry Connors; Living Horse Hall of Fame inductees Real Desire, Muscle Hill, Solveig and Arl's Troublemaker; Immortal inductees Carl Allen and Princess; 2015 Del and Mary Lib Miller Horse of the Year Wiggle It Jiggleit; 2016 Amateur Driving Champion Hannah Miller; and U.S. Harness Writers Association Unsung Hero Award winner Joanne Young. Keller took over management of Yankeeland Farm after the death of his father, Charles Keller II, in 1990. From then until the farm's closure in 2006, Yankeeland produced such standouts as Hambletonian winners Muscles Yankee and Yankee Paco; Breeders Crown winners Cashmere, Yankee Slide and Strong Yankee; longtime standout sire Yankee Glide; North America Cup winner Yankee Cruiser. Keller was also a longtime industry executive, serving as executive chairman of the Hambletonian Society and a director of the USTA. He thanked his parents, wife, children and nephews for their help in supporting his harness racing career. "This is not an award only for me," he said. "It's for the family and my family put me in this position. I'm a very blessed person." Nickells, who has been training horses for 70 years, first gained prominence as the trainer of such horses as Kentucky, Batman, Fast Clip, Combat Time and Sprite Rodney. He vaulted on the national stage when he trained six pacing fillies that took divisional honors in the 1980s and 1990s: Follow My Star, Central Park West, Miss Easy, Hazleton Kay, Immortality and Freedoms Friend. He was named Glen Garnsey Trainer of the Year in 1991. The trainer, who turns 88 on July 5, shared a recent conversation he had with fellow trainer Peter Wrenn. "He said, 'Hey Nickells, you got your speech all ready?'" Nickells said. "I said, 'No, I haven't got one at all. I might not make one.' "Pete said, 'There's nothing to it. Just get up there and start talking like you are trying to sell someone a horse.'" Communicators Hall of Fame David Carr, recently retired director of information and research at the USTA, founded that department in the mid-80s and headed the group for more than 30 years. He was integral to the development of the Pathway online statistical database, the Trotting and Pacing Guide, Crosses of Gold, sales pedigrees and state stallion directories. He thanked Dean Hoffman for hiring him at the USTA, along with Stan Bergstein for calling attention to his work. "When you wander through the museum, you get a chance to see the names and images of the men and women who created and advanced the sport," said Carr. "And they were giants. There are many giants here tonight. When we reach for the stars, we stand on the shoulders of giants. When we try to reach farther into the frontier, we walk along a path that was blazed by giants. I have my own giants that I would like to recognize tonight." Over a career spanning four decades, Connors worked as a sire stakes administrator, track publicist, public handicapper, track announcer, race timer and charter and magazine columnist. He's also been an USHWA director for 23 years and the organization's national secretary since 2002. He thanked the industry leaders who helped him in his formative years for helping him enter the Hall of Fame. "Look at some of the groups I've worked with," said Connors. "Four of the first five people that hired me are in the Hall of Fame: Marv Bachrad, Bruce Stearns, Dean Hoffman and Jim Lynch. When I worked for the USTA, I worked with six Hall of Famers: Dean, now David (Carr), John Pawlak, Carol Cramer, George Smallsreed and Ed Keys. How could I miss?" Living Horse Hall of Fame Real Desire p, 2, 1:50.4; 3, 1:49; 4, 1:48.2 ($3,159,814) qualified for the Hall of Fame based on his $3 million in lifetime earnings and being voted Horse of the Year in both the U.S. and Canada in 2002 at age 4. He was driven throughout his career by John Campbell for trainer Blair Burgess and co-owners Brittany Farms, Perretti Farms, Bob Burgess and Karin Olsson Burgess. "This horse was a life-changer for us," said Blair Burgess, whose wife, Karin, groomed Real Desire. "He allowed us to buy a farm, which we always wanted to do. And to this day-which is probably a bad sign because it was 15 years ago-he was probably the fastest horse I ever had. He had that line gait that Bruce Nickells told me you need in a pacer-no wasted motion." Muscle Hill t, 2, 1:53.3; 3, 1:50.1 ($3,273,342) qualified for induction by all criteria: he was a $3 million lifetime winner, unbeaten in 12 starts at age 3, and voted Horse of the Year at age 3 in 2009. He also won 95.2 percent of his lifetime starts for driver Brian Sears, trainer Greg Peck, and co-owners Muscle Hill Racing LLC, Southwind Farm, T L P Stable, and Jerry Silva. "You don't start in this industry as an owner with Muscle Hill," said Silva. "You start many years ago with other horses, whether they are claimers or babies or whatever they are. You need a lot of luck; you need a good trainer and a good vet; and you need a lot of money to succeed." Solveig t, 4, 1:54.4f ($820,791) was elected for owners Solveig's Breeders after producing Shake It Cerry 3, 1:51.2 ($2,497,785), Uncle Lasse 3, 1:51.4f ($931,268) and Dontyouforgetit 3, 1:52.1f ($598,049). Spending her broodmare days at Winbak Farm, Arl's Troublemaker produced Art Maker p, 1:49.1 ($1,036,217), Stock Market Wiz p, 1:49.3 ($739,283) and Breakin The Law p, 1:49.4 ($504,932). Immortal Hall of Fame A trainer and driver for 30 years, Carl Allen is best known for training 1995 Horse of the Year CR Kay Suzie. He was voted Trainer of the Year in 1994. He trained and drove 1998 divisional winner CR Commando and trained 1999 Breeders Crown winner CR Renegade. He died in 2004. Living from 1846-1877, Princess took a mark of 2:30. In a series of match races in 1859, she pushed Flora Temple to set the all-age record for trotters four times, including the mark of 2:19-3/4 that stood for eight years. Bred to Hambletonian in 1863, she produced Happy Medium, whose sire line still flourishes today. 2016 Harness Racing Hall of Fame Amateur Driving Champion Hannah Miller, 24, set a single-season record for amateur drivers when she recorded 32 victories in 2015. Last year she drove at 21 North American racetracks, represented the U.S. in an amateur driving contest in Majorca, Spain, and this year will represent the Stars and Stripes in the International Amateur World Cup in Budapest, Hungary. USHWA Unsung Hero Award Joanne Young, development director at the Harness Racing Museum and Hall of Fame, was presented with the Unsung Hero Award for her tireless work in recruiting members and raising money for the Hall. She was unable to attend the Dan Patch Awards dinner in March to be given her award, so she was presented with the award in her own backyard. Ken Weingartner

Meredith Noble had attended harness racing at the Greene County Fairgrounds in her hometown of Xenia, Ohio, for years, but can never recall a sound at the racetrack there like she heard on Aug. 5, 2015. It was the roar of the crowd. And it was loud. And it was for her. The 28-year-old Noble, driving in the third race of her newly-started career, was on her way to a 4-1/4 length win with Reckoning Day in an Ohio Ladies Pace Series event at the fairgrounds. The race was contested over a track named after her late father, Sam "Chip" Noble III, a member of the Ohio Harness Racing Hall of Fame who had passed away in January 2014, and Meredith was wearing her father's helmet and colors. In addition, Reckoning Day was trained by her older brother, Dan, for local owner Christi Pokornowski. "When I'm on the track I'm so zoned into what I'm doing and what's going on in that moment I don't hear anybody else," Meredith said. "But when I came down that stretch and I got right before the grandstand, I could hear that entire crowd cheering. I've never heard a crowd cheer like that. I don't know if it was because it was a ladies race or if it was because it was my dad's home track and I was wearing his colors, but I can't even begin to describe how good of a feeling that was. It was just absolutely amazing. "That was also very emotional; definitely bittersweet. But it was a wonderful win. Coming here and being at my home track where I spent so much time, whether I was just watching dad or helping out, I can't explain how much that meant to me." Noble finished last year with four wins in eight drives, all in the Ohio Ladies Pace Series. She got her first career driving triumph three days prior to her win at Xenia, guiding April Roach's Monibags Bluegrass to victory at the Preble County Fair in Eaton. Then a week ago she added to her resume by getting her first win as a trainer, as brother Dan drove Addys Way to victory in the Fillies & Mares Open at Miami Valley Raceway. "I do it for the love of it, honestly," said Noble, who works as a dental assistant Mondays through Thursdays and spends much of her remaining free time working with her brother and a stable of 18 horses. "It's a little bit of a transition since dad only messed with 2- and 3-year-olds. Dan's given me the chance to mess with some of the older horses as well. I do like seeing the horses develop, and then once they're developed I like helping them reach their potential, make them the best they can be. Even with some of the older horses there are still things inside of them that you can bring out that maybe somebody else hasn't yet." Noble was always around harness racing growing up, helping out here and there, but her focus through her teenage years was on riding and show horses. About four years ago, she began helping her father more and more and soon she was helping train horses with her father and brother. "I did that before we found out dad had cancer," Noble said. "I had a lot of fun. I decided I wanted to give this a try. I always wanted to have a race with him and Dan, but we weren't fortunate enough for that. I did training miles with the two of them. I will always have that memory. I will always have the memory of just the smile on my dad's face of pure joy with the three of us being out there together on the track. I carry that with me." Following the passing of her father, Noble received encouraging words from Dan --- who himself has driven more than 4,200 winners and was the national dash champion in 2011 --- about continuing on a path to becoming a licensed driver and trainer. "Dan came to me and said I'd worked really hard and I needed to do this," Noble said. "He said that he saw it and dad saw it, that I had the talent to do this. He said he would keep working with me. "I've been working with him on my days off. He keeps reminding me of things. It's nice to have that relationship and we can reminisce and keep dad alive. He can teach me things that I didn't get to learn from dad that he got to learn. I'm just really glad that I have him. It's given us the opportunity to get closer as brother and sister." Noble has two horses racing Friday night at Miami Valley, Addys Way in the Fillies & Mares Open Handicap and E Ticket Ride in a condition/claimer. Dan Noble, who is fifth in wins at Miami Valley but only three victories behind co-leaders Trace Tetrick and Tyler Smith, will drive both horses and owns E Ticket Ride. Addys Way is owned by Perkins Racing Stable. Although Noble is fully enjoying her time with the horses, she is not ready to make training and driving a fulltime career. She plans to continue working as a dental assistant for the foreseeable future. "I work with some great people and for some great people," Noble said. "It's truly a team effort. I get to see something different every day. It's kind of like coming in and working with the horses. I definitely have a passion for both. "I'm pleased with how the horses are doing. I have no complaints. As long as they stay sound and everybody stays safe, I'm happy. I love the business, I love the horses, and I loved having that opportunity to learn from my dad." Ken Weingartner Harness Racing Communications A division of the U.S. Trotting Association

Lunch & Learn Lecture Thursday, October 29, 2015, 12:00 pm--2:00 pm at the Harness Racing Museum & Hall of Fame 240 Main Street, Goshen, NY "From Stable to Museum" The story of the 1913 gentleman's stable that became the home of the Harness Racing Museum & Hall of Fame Presented by Collections Curator, Rebecca Howard Built by J. Howard Ford at the edge of Goshen's Historic Track, the 102-year-old Tudor-style stable which has been the home of the Harness Racing Museum & Hall of Fame since 1951 has a story to tell. On Thursday, October 29, 2015 from 12:00 - 2:00 pm, join the Harness Racing Museum's collections curator Rebecca Howard for a discussion of Ford's stable from construction to preservation. "The structure," says Howard "not only links us to the community's equine history but to national trends of wealth and industrialization at the turn of the last century as well." Tickets for the Lunch & Learn lecture are $12 for Museum members; $15 for non-members, and includes lunch with soft beverages and dessert. The Museum is located at 240 Main Street, Goshen, NY 10924. Because of interest in local history and the risk of selling out early, reservations are required by Tuesday, October 27th; please call (845) 294-6330. For further information about the Harness Racing Museum & Hall of Fame, the Museum's school programs, educational workshops or children's birthday parties, please contact the Education Department at (845) 294-6330 or email at Thanks to USTA support, the Museum is currently offering free admission for walk-in visitors and $4.00/person for group docent-guided tours. For information on all the Harness Racing Museum & Hall of Fame special events or gift shop services, please visit our website at The Museum is located at 240 Main Street, Goshen, NY and is open daily from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm. 240 Main Street, Goshen, NY 10924 — 845-294-6330 — Fax: 845-294-3463 — Janet Terhune

Coral Springs, FL – It was announced today by the United States Harness Writers Association (USHWA), that Charles Keller III, whose Yankeeland Farm produced Hambletonian winners Muscles Yankee (1998) and Yankee Paco (2000), has been voted into the Harness Racing Hall of Fame. In addition, two veteran publicists, David Carr and Jerry Connors, were also voted as inductees into the Communicators Hall of Fame. Keller took over the helm of Yankeeland Farm after the 1990 death of his father, Charlie Keller Jr., of New York Yankees fame. Keller’s father purchased the farm in Frederick, Md., in 1955 and assembled the mares and bred the progeny that contributed to the farm’s success over several decades.  Keller has been a director of the Hambletonian Society since 2000 and is a member of the executive committee, for which he was chairman from 2013 through this spring, following the passing of John Cashman Jr. Keller was a director of the United States Trotting Association (USTA) for five terms and an active member of the Finance Committee. He is a current trustee of the Harness Racing Museum and Hall of Fame. David Carr joined the USTA as a publicist and staff writer for Hoof Beats magazine in 1982. Three years later, he proposed the creation of the information and research department, developed it into a superb resource for those writing about the sport of harness racing, and is now head of that department. Jerry Connors has had a passion for harness racing since he was a child and few in the industry can duplicate his memory of racing and events in the sport. A “jack of all trades,” Connors has worked at numerous racetracks and industry organizations throughout his career as a publicist and administrator. He has been an USHWA director for 23 years, and is a licensed judge, track announcer and race charter.  Keller, along with horseman Bruce Nickells, who was previously announced as the senior-elect to the Hall of Fame, will join Carr and Connors at the USHWA Dan Patch Awards dinner on Sunday, March 6, in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., as their first introduction as harness racing’s newest members of the Hall of Fame. The actual induction ceremony takes place on Sunday, July 3, at the Harness Racing Museum and Hall of Fame in Goshen, N.Y. By Steven Wolf, for the United States Harness Writers Association

Max Johnson, a member of The West Australian Harness Racing Industry Hall of Fame died on Friday the 24th July. The 84yo Johnson won the Perth Drivers Premiership on four occasions between 1952 and 1959 and was also runner-up in the premiership a further five times. His premiership win in the 1951/52 season came a 21yo and he remains the youngest driver ever to win that honour. With a 59 year gap between his first winner and his last winner (1949 – 2008) he holds the honour of the longest spread of wins in WA history. He drove 866 winners during his career with 548 of that total in Perth. He also won Inter Dominion heats in Adelaide (1958) and Sydney (1960) and landed a massive plunge in Melbourne in 1960 when Fancy Robert beat a field of Inter Dominion contenders in a Free-For-All. With his trainer father Bill Johnson (also a WA Hall of Fame inductee) the Johnsons dominated Perth trotting in the fifties and early sixties. Max’s wins included the 1951 WA Pacing Cup with Royal Shadow and a Fremantle Cup with Sylvia Mint while others of the likes of Kiwi Dillon, Kodak and Sultana also won feature races and were household names in Perth. In 1979 Max Johnson again made national headlines when trainer Colin Joss engaged Max to drive the then unheralded black stallion Satinover. Satinover won 19 straight with Max Johnson at the reins including the Group One Australian Pacing Championship before the winning streak came to an end before a crowd of more than 25,000 in the 1980 Match Race of the Century at Gloucester Park when another champion in Pure Steel proved too strong.   Alan Parker  

Harness racing fans will have the opportunity to get up close and personal with many harness racing greats this Saturday night at Mohawk Racetrack. The Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame and Standardbred Canada's "I Love Canadian Harness Racing Fan Club" will be hosting a Tribute Night this Saturday evening at Mohawk. Racing fans will have the chance to meet Hall of Fame members, view racing memorabilia and take part in a raffle and silent auction. The meet and greet will get underway at 6 p.m. inside the main doors of Mohawk and fans will have the opportunity to chat and ask questions to Hall of Famers about their racing careers. Dr. John Findley, Jack Kopas, Dr. Glen Brown, Sarah Scott (representing Rocknroll Hanover), Bill O'Donnell, Bill Galvin, Carl Jamieson, Bob McIntosh and Ron Waples are all scheduled to appear. Several of the Hall of Famers will be bringing along some of their favourite racing memorabilia to share with fans. Fans will also have the opportunity to check out the Rocknroll Hanover showcase displays inside the main doors and new framed photographs added to the Armstrong Brothers and Dr. Glen Brown displays. The evening's fourth race will be the Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame Tribute Race and the group of Hall of Fame members will be in the winner's circle following the race to make the presentation. A great group of silent auction items will be available for bidding and raffle tickets will be on sale for a framed "Somebeachsomewhere print" by equine artist Linda Shantz. The draw for the print will take place following the evening's fifth race. Doors open Saturday at 5:30 p.m. and the meet and greet will get underway at 6 p.m. Post time for the 12-race card is 7:25 p.m. Mark McKelvie

No matter where Deweycheatumnhowe raced, harness racing drivers everywhere improved their effort with a miniscule chance to snap his undefeated streak. The Montgomery native’s successful reputation spread. But “Dewey” received an honor around home Sunday with induction into the Harness Racing Hall of Fame. Dewey won 22 of 25 career races, including 17 straight. He and driver Ray Schnittker won the 2008 Hambletonian. That made him the first horse in Orange County history to take the race, said Ellen Harvey, who works harness-racing communications with the U.S. Trotters Association. The following were inducted with Dewey — breeder Joe M. Thomson (Living Hall of Fame), racehorse Somebeachsomewhere (Living Horse Hall of Fame), driver James W. “Jimmy” Jordan (Immortal Hall of Fame), racehorse Garland Lobell (Immortal Horse Hall of Fame), Bob Marks (Communicators Hall of Fame) and Kathy Parker (Communicators Hall of Fame). Dewey (Living Horse Hall of Fame) became the first North American trotter to earn $3,000,000. Only Nihilator and Presidential Ball accomplished the feat as pacers. Naturally, the competition wanted to snap that streak. For a string of races, it didn’t matter. “When he’s making a move in a race and he’s trying to challenge and go to the front, they can’t keep him from doing that because they don’t have enough,” said Historic Track president Steve Jones, who bred Dewey at Cameo Hills Farm. He ended 2008 by far the leading money winner at $2,218,987. He earned Trotter of the Year and Three-Year-Old Trotter Colt of the Year that year. Thomson’s horses, meanwhile, generated at least $289,322,932 — Harvey provided a conservative total since Thomson co-owns some horses. The 71-year-old remains humble. “We’ve been, is lucky a good word?” Thomson said. “I’ve always said that you can’t hit the ball unless you get up to bat.” Thomson started Winbak Farm with his wife, JoAnn, in 1991. They bred consecutive Horse of the Year winners. First was 2003 winner No Pan Intended, the last horse to win the Triple Crown of Harness Racing for pacers. Then came Hall of Fame racing Rainbow Blue, one of three filly pacers to win the award. But Thomson listed Bettor’s Delight as his favorite horse he bred. He sold Bettor’s Delight for $65,000, and he won $3.4 million, Thomson said. Although Thomson attributes luck to some of his success, he also prioritized diversifying his product. “It’s kind of like picking individual stocks versus a mutual fund,” Thomson said. “You try not to overload on anything, and you try to diversify through choosing a bunch of different stallions.” Something worked. Winbak Farms produced 28,000 winners since the USTA began keeping more detailed records in 1998, he said. Jordan was one of the first members of the USTA’s 1,000-race winners club. By the end of the 1960s, he was one of only 27 drivers to win more than $3 million. Garland Lobell is the 12th highest-earning trotting sire of all time, with winnings of nearly $51 million. Marks wrote about harness racing for six decades. His work includes writing and editing for Trotter Weekly, as well as being a harness handicapper and pedigree analyst. Parker served as longtime editor and general manager of The Horseman and Fair World magazine. Josh Bakan Reprinted with permission of the  Times Herald Record - Check site here    

Goshen (NY) Historic Track will feature a power-packed field of drivers, all members of the Harness Racing Hall of Fame, in the annual $10,000 Mr. and Mrs. Elbridge Gerry Memorial Trot, to be held July 5. Post time is 1 p.m. The slate for that race brings together a "Who's Who" of harness racing talent. John Campbell, David Miller, Bill O'Donnell, Dick Stillings, Jimmy Takter and Wally Hennessey will all compete that day. Ron Pierce, recovering from neck and back surgery this spring, is a possibility as he is nearing the end of his rehabilitation. His participation, and the addition of one other driver, will be confirmed as the date draws closer. Collectively, the confirmed participants have won 11 Little Brown Jugs and 10 Hambletonians as trainers or drivers, along with nearly 45,000 races and $800 million in purse earnings. The race honors the memory of Mr. and Mrs. Elbridge Gerry; their sons Elbridge and Peter will be on hand to present the trophy. After the race, the drivers will meet fans and autograph photos. Goshen Historic Track is located at 44 Park Place in Goshen; admission is $5 for adults (includes program) and children are free. For more information, go to or call 845-294-5333. Ken Weingartner

The London region is home to four of this year’s harness racing inductees to the Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame.   The hall was established in 1976 and has a ceremony each year to honour those who have made a substantial contribution to harness racing and thoroughbred horse racing.   The late London writer Harry  Eisen is an honouree this year, along with the late St. Thomas thoroughbred breeder and owner Bob Anderson, Woodstock standardbred driver and trainer Bill Gale and broodmare J Cs Nathalie, owned by John Lamers of Ingersoll.   The induction ceremony will take place in Mississauga on August 5.   Harry Eisen Eisen loved the sport and was a pioneer of horse racing journalism in Ontario, spending most of his career at The London Free Press.   His column, Mostly About Horses was widely read.   The tales about Eisen were legendary as he was also a handicapper of extraordinary ability.   He was well known at the tracks across Ontario.   Eisen once said he went to his first horse race when he was only three or four years old. He sold tip sheets at Dufferin Park Racetrack as a youngster.   He was inducted to the Western Fair Raceway Hall of Fame in 1980, the first non-horseperson to be inducted.   Bob Anderson He was a longtime owner of Anderson Farms in St. Thomas and was involved with breeding, racing and selling both thoroughbred and standardbred horses for more than 40 years.   He bred and matured over 1,400 horses including champions Pinafore Park, Larkwhistle, and Prince Avatar. Some of the sires he bred included Ascot Knight, National Assembly and Alydeed.   Anderson once told me the secret to success is to pay for quality. "I very seldom regretted buying quality. Sometimes it's worth reaching a little bit."   Bill Gale He was a leading driver in Canada for a three-decade period, beginning in the 1970s.   He had 16 consecutive seasons earning more than $1 million.   Gale won many big races including a pair of Breeders Crown championships. He drove King Conch to a World Record 1:56.2 in the two-year-old trotting colt category.   In 1991, Gale won an O’Brien Award as Canada’s top driver.   J Cs Nathalie Owned by John Lamers of Ingersoll, this mare produced two million-dollar earners - Dreamfair Vogel and Dreamfair Eternal.   J Cs Nathalie will join her daughter, Dreamfair Eternal, in the Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame.   Dreamfair  Eternal won an O’Brien as Canada’s horse of the year in 2010 and received her induction to the hall last year.   J Cs Nathalie has produced 13 horses and 11 of them together have banked more than $4.5 million in purse earnings.   Courtesy of CTV News - London

Adios Butler was a super-star of the sport in the early 1960s and left his mark on the Chicago circuit before going on to be named Harness Racing Horse of the Year twice. The much heralded pacer came to Sportsman’s Park in 1960 for the second running of the American National Maturity Pace. National Hall of Famer Bye Bye Byrd captured the inaugural edition of the stake for open company pacers, ages 4 and up in 1959. A Saturday July 16 crowd of 12,759 hammered “The Butler” down to 1 to 5 odds and they didn’t come away disappointed. With Eddie Cobb in his sulky, Adios Butler toyed with the field of nine for the first 3/4’s of a mile before drawing off to a 2:01.1 victory. Adios Butler’s co-owner Del Miller had this to say to the Chicago media after the race: “The colt can do anything. It isn’t so much what he has done but how he’s done it. Last week at Yonkers he met the best pacers including the 1959 Horse of the Year Bye Bye Byrd and Widower Creed and he beat the field hands down. He came home the last half :57.4, and he did it almost casually.” A son of the great Adios, “The Butler: was a 1980 induction into the Illinois Hall of Fame and entered the National Hall of Fame in Goshen, NY 10 years later. The horse was trained early-on by Paige West, a Maryland native in his middle 20’s. West turned the lines over in 1959 to Canadian Clint Hodgins, a future Hall of Famer, and Adios Butler went on to stardom. That season the 3-year-old became the first pacer to win the sport’s “Triple Crown”, initially taking the Cane Pace at Yonkers, then the Little Brown Jug in Delaware, Ohio where he became the first horse to win on a half-mile track with a sub 2:00 mile, and finally the Messenger at Roosevelt in a record time of 2:00.1. As a 4-year-old, Adios Butler won 13 of his 17 starts and was named 1960 Horse of the Year. That fall he paced to his record 1:54.3 time trial at Lexington with West, the first harness horse to break the 1:55 barrier. After becoming the fastest horse in history, Adios Butler was shipped to California, sharing a plane with the 1960 Jug champion Bullet Hanover. The plane in which both horses were traveling caught fire while in the air, but fortunately the pilot was able to land safely at Chicago’s Midway Airport. West drove Adios Butler in his final starts in California, including the memorable 1-1/8 leg of the American Pacing Classic at Hollywood Park. Setting all the fractions “The Butler” passed the mile marker in a respectable 1:59.4. Then, when the others began to challenge, Adios Butler turned on the afterburners and paced his final eighth in a quick 11.2 seconds. The two-time Harness Horse of the Year (1960 and 1961) ended his career with 37 wins in 50 starts and earnings of $509,844. Adios Butler left the track as the richest and fastest horse in harness racing history. Adios Butler in the Little Brown Jug By Mike Paradise

Without a doubt, when harness aficionados think of the hardest working, most dedicated and creative publicity hound in the business, without a doubt they think of John Manzi. Known for his affable demeanor, wacky promotions, and as Master of Ceremonies of some of the Catskill region's most memorable awards banquets, JM in the PM has never disappointed. This list of individuals that Manzi and his Monticello-Goshen Chapter of USHWA have honored over the last several decades reads like a "who's who" of harness racing. Whether he was racing camels versus elephants, or crowning the King of the Matzos, Monticello Raceway's man of the hour has always been John Manzi. But alas, all good things must come to an end. And after 40 years of bright lights and big laughs, Hall of Famer Manzi is going to take a well-deserved curtain call. Friends of John Manzi would like to invite you to a fun-filled retirement party for the beloved harness racing writer and publicist on Sunday, May 31, 2015 at the Harness Racing Museum & Hall of Fame in Goshen, NY. Tickets are just $75 each and will include a catered buffet, refreshments and a very special keepsake to commemorate the event. Plan on joining your friends at 4pm that afternoon in the William Haughton Hall for a great time with lots of belly laughs, a slide show of memorable Manzi moments, and much, much more. This is sure to be one of the most fun-filled, talked-about events of the summer...interested parties are urged to get your tickets early to avoid missing this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Sponsorships are available in a variety of denominations, and will go a long way to ensuring that this is a very special affair. To purchase tickets or provide a sponsorship, please call Janet Terhune at 740-815-4343 or Email: by Chris Tully for the Harness Racing Museum & Hall of Fame            

Chicago's leading harness driver for the past 30-plus years, Dave Magee, is retiring after his drives this Saturday night (Feb. 28) at Balmoral Park. Magee is a Hall of Famer and has been one of the classiest individuals the sport of harness racing has ever known. He has almost 12,000 career victories and more than $101 million in career earnings during his illustrious career. He is one of only 18 drivers in the history of the sport to eclipse that $100 million mark in earnings and is the only Illinois based driver to go over $100 million in earnings. Magee has had 10 seasons with $2 million-plus in earnings, 13 more seasons with $3 million in earnings and a trio of $4 million seasons. He won a whopping 630 races in 1994, which led all drivers in North America. Dave also proved victorious in the 1995 World Driving Championship, defeating drivers from Canada, Australia, France, Sweden, Germany, Italy and other European stops. He was inducted into the Harness Racing Hall of Fame in 2001. On the local scene Dave has been dominant throughout his career, winning driving titles at every Illinois racetrack. His 12 Maywood Park driving titles and 11 Sportsman's Park titles are both records. He is also the leader in Super Night victories among drivers. He has also posted an amazing 36 straight seasons with more than $1 million in earnings and 38 straight seasons of 100 wins or more. The 61-year-old Magee is a resident of Big Rock, Ill. He will be moving on to a new career as a State Steward (Judge) at Hoosier Park in Anderson, Ind. "I'm happy that Dave has found a new challenge for his life," said Balmoral Park racing director and USTA President Phil Langley. "With his experience, integrity and plain old smarts he might well become the best judge ever. The Illinois laws prevented us from hiring him two years ago so Indiana gains him. "On the other hand it was almost with much sadness that I received an e-mail from him telling me of his decision. I was so choked up telling my wife that she thought something bad had happened. We will always be great friends and I wish the best to Dave and Cathy." by Tom Kelley

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