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Columbus, OH - Longtime Pennsylvania harness racing horseman and executive Ron Battoni will represent Harness Horsemen International (HHI) on the United States Trotting Association's Uniform Medication Subcommittee, it has been announced. The alliance's goal is to develop comprehensive proposals on the use of therapeutic medications and recommended penalties for violations in harness racing. The USTA is resolute in its belief that there should be separate, uniform rules for separate racing breeds, and in May 2018 launched the Harness Racing Medication Collaborative, a group of academic and practicing veterinarians whose purpose is to assist in identifying and developing the scientific background for medication regulation in Standardbred racing. Battoni is best known for his more than 25 years as the executive director of the Pennsylvania Harness Horsemen's Association (PHHA), but previously drove and trained Standardbred racehorses prior to becoming a racing official. He was integral to the construction of the state's Race Horse Development and Gaming Act, which allowed the introduction of slot machines to Pennsylvania racetracks. In his new role on the subcommittee, he will serve on behalf of HHI, which is comprised of 15 horsemen's associations throughout the United States and Canada. "Ron brings a world of practical experience to the subcommittee," said Russell Williams, President of the USTA, "and his experience both legislatively and as a horseman will be invaluable to our mission. I've known Ron for many years and have worked with him on several projects. He is a great choice for this position and I'm grateful for HHI's support." The other subcommittee members are Joe Faraldo (Chair), Mike Tanner (Staff Chair), Bob Boni, Sam Beegle, John Brennan, Mark Davis, Joe Frasure, Mark Loewe, Steve O'Toole, Dr. Andy Roberts, and Russell Williams. Ken Weingartner

When harness racing trainer Nancy Johansson answered her father's call, she was more than happy to hear she would be receiving a new horse in her barn. Her pleasure, however, escalated into sheer delight when the impending arrival's identity was revealed. "When my dad (retired Hall of Fame trainer Jimmy Takter) called, he said, 'Get ready for a new horse in your barn,'" said Johansson. "He said to begin preparing because the horse was on the way and then he said, 'Oh, the horse is Manchego.'" It was announced shortly after her seventh-place finish in the $500,000 Breeders Crown on Oct. 27, 2018, at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono, that Manchego would be retired to become a broodmare. Owned at the time by John Fielding, Herb Liverman and Barry Guariglia's Black Horse Racing, the daughter of Muscle Hill-Secret Magic was conditioned by the recently retired Takter for the duration of her two-year career. Guariglia, who is now Manchego's sole owner, intended to breed his 4-year-old mare to Walner after a winter vacation. His plans, however, were immediately altered after Takter's inspection of her physique subsequent to her return. "I think people are going to be really surprised when they see her," said Johansson, who manages an operation of 47 to 48 head with her husband Marcus. "She has really filled out and grown. She looks terrific and we are very excited to have the opportunity to race a horse like her." As a freshman, Manchego rewrote the history books with a perfect 12-for-12 season. Her major wins included the $330,800 Jim Doherty Memorial, the $252,000 Pennsylvania Sire Stakes final, the $307,500 Peaceful Way final, and the $600,000 Breeders Crown final. She is the only undefeated 2-year-old filly trotter to win the Breeders Crown and the only unbeaten 2-year-old filly trotter to win a Dan Patch Award. "She is one of the greatest 2-year-old filly trotters of all-time," Johansson said. "She is a very special horse." Manchego's talent was again on display as a sophomore in one of the deepest divisions in recent memory. Not only did she have to contend with the likes of Trotter of the Year Atlanta, but world champion Plunge Blue Chip and the ever dangerous Phaetosive. Like Atlanta, Manchego also took on male rivals and acquitted herself admirably. In fact, she defeated Crystal Fashion by a nose in her $25,000 Earl Beal Memorial elimination, broke stride in the $500,000 final of that contest for the first loss of her career and was second by a nose to Met's Hall in the Dr. Harry M. Zweig Memorial. "That was a very talented group of 3-year-old trotting fillies," Johansson said. "She also raced against the boys, too, and it's quite possible she ran out of steam by the end of the season." Nancy Johansson In addition to her participation in those open events, Manchego captured the $500,000 Hambletonian Oaks, was nosed out by Plunge Blue Chip in world record time (1:49.4) in a $128,500 Delvin Miller Memorial division, and won the $172,000 Moni Maker. For her career, the mare has banked $1.53 million and compiled an impressive record of 26-19-3-2. She sports a lifetime mark of 1:50. Manchego's surprise return adds even more excitement to an already stellar division as Atlanta, Plunge Blue Chip and Phaetosive remain in training, as do 2017 Horse of the Year Hannelore Hanover, dual Breeders Crown winner and O'Brien Award winner Emoticon Hanover and the talented Dream Together. "I make it a special point to spend some time with her every day," Johansson said. "I feel like I am living in a dream; it's surreal. We are so very thankful." Ken Weingartner

Columbus, OH - The United States Trotting Association's 2019 Board of Directors annual meeting is scheduled for Friday (March 8) through Monday (March 11) at the Hilton Columbus at Easton. This year's meeting is starting a day earlier on Friday afternoon to allow for the addition of numerous subcommittee meetings and other working group sessions prior to the start of the usual committees and general sessions. The agenda kicks off with the USTA Youth Delegate Committee on Friday at 3 p.m. followed by the USTA Subcommittee - Call to Action at 6 p.m. and concludes following the Board Protocol Subcommittee at 7 p.m. Saturday's schedule leads off with the Executive Committee at 8 a.m. followed by sessions on USTA IT Education for board members and UC/Davis Genome Research, then subcommittees on Uniform Racing Rules and Legislative Advisory before lunch at noon. The afternoon slate is the Harness Racing Medication Collaborative Subcommittee, an Amateur Driving working group, the Fairs Subcommittee with the Communications/Marketing Committee meeting, starting at 3 p.m., ending the first full day of meetings. Saturday evening features the annual Welcome Reception sponsored by the Chubb Group of Insurance Companies and Van Gundy Insurance Agency starting at 6 p.m. The Board of Directors' General Session kicks off the Sunday (March 10) agenda starting at 8 a.m. Following is the agenda for the General Session: 1. Call to Order 2. Pledge of Allegiance 3. Roll Call 4. Introduction of New Directors 5. President's Report 6. Chairman's Report 7. Election of Officers 8. Executive Vice President's Report 9. Financial Report 10. Break 11. Subcommittee Updates a. Board Protocol b. Harness Racing Medication Collaborative c. Call to Action d. Youth Leadership Development 12. Standardbred Transition Alliance Update 13. Other Business 14. Group Photo Following the general session, President's Awards will be presented at the Recognition Luncheon slated for noon. Later in the day, the Racing Committee meets at 1 p.m., the Registration-Owners/Breeders Committee at 3:30 p.m. and the Rules Committee at 5:30 p.m. On Monday (March 11), the agenda commences with the Finance Committee at 9 a.m. The 2019 meetings will then conclude with the second Board of Directors General Session starting at 10:30 a.m. where committee reports will be made, the 2019 budget will be approved and USTA President Russell Williams will make closing remarks. For daily news updates starting Saturday, please visit the USTA website at www.ustrotting.com. Also, follow all the up-to-date news on ustrotting.com and HarnessRacingFanZone.com Facebook and Twitter pages. The hashtag #USTABOD19 will be used on social media throughout the meetings. Ken Weingartner

Columbus, OH - Through the end of February this year, the amount wagered through the USTA Strategic Wagering Program has increased by more than $2 million ($2,005,679) compared to the first two months of 2018. That 43.7 percent increase in harness racing handle was achieved through 219 guaranteed-pool wagers offered at nine different racetracks during the first two months of 2019. In addition, during January and February of this year, the total amount of guaranteed pools in the Strategic Wagering Program increased by $1,107,223 (39.6 percent) compared to the first two months of 2018 when there were 130 guaranteed-pool wagers offered. "Strategic Wagering is solid and has proven to generate interest and handle. The challenge is to figure out how to further leverage the program to increase pool liquidity," said Chris Schick, chairman of the USTA Strategic Wagering Committee. "These upward trends should continue as there are 124 Strategic Wagering Program offerings this March compared to 60 during the same month last year." In addition, two new tracks have been recently added to the program - Saratoga Casino Hotel in February and Rosecroft Raceway this month. Saratoga Casino Hotel joined the program with $5,000 Pick-5 and $25,000 trifecta guaranteed pools on Wednesdays and Thursdays, while Rosecroft Raceway will host their inaugural Strategic Wager on Wednesday (March 6) with a $2,500 guaranteed Pick-5 that will be offered on Wednesdays and Sundays. In 2018, 19 different racetracks participated in the program. Free TrackMaster past performances for the USTA Strategic Wagering Program can be viewed by visiting http://handicapping.ustrotting.com. Up-to-date carryover information as well as those past performances are available on Twitter at @USTAStratWag. The U.S. Trotting Association, in cooperation with its member tracks, established the USTA Strategic Wagering Program in April 2011 to provide value to horseplayers by guaranteeing the size of designated betting pools. The responsibility for these guarantees is shared equally by the USTA, the track hosting the wager, and in some cases, with the local horsemen's association as well. Ken Weingartner

Columbus, OH -- United States Trotting Association President Russell Williams announced Tuesday (March 5) that former USTA President Phil Langley and USTA Director from District 1 Steve McCoy are the recipients of the annual USTA President's Awards. Williams will present the awards at this year's annual meetings in a Recognition Luncheon at the Hilton Columbus at Easton on Sunday (March 10). Langley, who resigned his position as USTA president at the end of 2016, was first elected to the USTA Board of Directors from District 5 in 1983. He began the first of his four terms as USTA president in 2003. "Phil had the ability to achieve a level of unified action on the USTA board that was unequaled during my time as a director," said Williams of his predecessor. "It has been deeply satisfying for me to build on his achievements." A 1959 graduate of Dartmouth College, Langley became racing director and racing secretary for the Chicago Downs Association and Fox Valley Trotting Club in 1965. He served in those positions as well as vice president of Fox Valley until 1998 when Sportsman's Park discontinued harness racing. Langley also was a member of the ownership group for both Balmoral Park and Maywood Park, served as treasurer of Balmoral and was director of racing at both tracks. In addition, he was a member of the Illinois Department of Agriculture Advisory Board, Racing Industry Charitable Foundation Board of Directors, Harness Racing Museum and Hall of Fame Board of Trustees and the North American Harness Racing Secretaries Association. He also served in an advisory capacity for both the Illinois State Fair and Du Quoin State Fair. Langley was inducted in the Living Hall of Fame in Goshen, N.Y., on July 1, 2007 and was previously inducted into the Illinois Harness Horsemen's Hall of Fame in 1994. Steve McCoy McCoy, who chairs the USTA's Subcommittee on Board Protocol, was appointed by the District 1 directors to the USTA Board on Jan. 22, 2014 to replace Sam "Chip" Noble. "In several sensitive and complex matters, Steve's analytical and drafting skills have made the USTA a stronger, more up-to-date organization that is more responsive to the membership than ever before," said Williams in making the announcement. McCoy is a former president of the Ohio Harness Horsemen's Association and has served the OHHA Board of Directors for more than 15 years. He was introduced to harness racing by his father, an owner, breeder and equine veterinarian, and has been involved in the sport for more than 30 years as an owner himself. Among his top horses were Power Score, Spider Woman, Chip And Run, Striking Mystery and Give 'Em The Ax. He earned a B.A. degree (summa cum laude) from The Ohio State University in 1970 and a Juris Doctor degree from the University of California at Berkley in 1973. McCoy currently serves as the General Counsel for The Showe Companies and is a member of Phi Beta Kappa and the Best Lawyers of America since 1987. Ken Weingartner

Joe Holloway knows Rainbow Room will have to make up for lost time, but the harness racing trainer believes his pacing mare is ready for the challenge. Following a 15-month absence from competition because of an injury, multiple-stakes-winner Rainbow Room returns Wednesday (March 6) when she faces eight rivals in a conditioned race at Dover Downs. Rainbow Room drew post seven and is the 2-1 morning-line favorite with driver Corey Callahan. The now 4-year-old Rainbow Room won seven of 12 races at age 2, never finished worse than third, and earned $467,880 for owners Crawford Farms Racing, Val D'Or Farms, and Ted Gewertz. She qualified once in preparation for her 3-year-old campaign, but suffered a broken coffin bone and was sidelined for the season. "She looks good, she's sound," Holloway said. "But it's already a tough transition from (age) 3 to 4 and she didn't even get a 3-year-old season. She's basically going from 2 to 4 and I know I'm going to have to deal with little bumps in the road in the beginning. "Usually at 2 you just overpower horses. At 3 you have to be a little more versatile, but not as much as by the time you race the aged ones. Then you have to be versatile, you have to be able to handle stuff, so she's got a pretty steep learning curve in front of her. But I think she's going to be fine. I expect by the end we're going to be just where we want to be." Rainbow Room is a daughter of two Horse of the Year Award winners, sire Somebeachsomewhere and dam Rainbow Blue. She was purchased for $100,000 at the 2016 Lexington Selected Sale and is a full sister to 2012 Dan Patch Award-winner Somwherovrarainbow. As a 2-year-old, Rainbow Room won three preliminary divisions of the Pennsylvania Sire Stakes and the series championship. She also won the Kentuckiana Stallion Management Stakes and her elimination of the Breeders Crown. She finished third in the Breeders Crown final. She prepped for Wednesday's start by qualifying twice at the Meadowlands. She finished sixth in the first, timed in 1:53.3, and was third in the most recent on Feb. 15, timed in 1:53.2 with a :26 final quarter-mile. "I was happy with the second qualifier, happier than with the first," Holloway said. "Although with the first she went (1):53 and a piece and that's what I expected she could do. It's tough. It's a year from when she qualified (in 2018) but she only qualified once so she is a year-and-a-half away from competitive racing. "Hopefully I can race her in a couple of overnights before I race in the open. And then I can get a couple opens before I race top open company. But I expect her to have a great season. The main thing to be happy about is she's sound. Now we'll see what happens." Racing begins at 4:30 p.m. (EST) Wednesday at Dover Downs. Rainbow Room is in the 11th race, with an approximate 7:50 p.m. post time. For complete entries, click here. Ken Weingartner

Eugene D. "Gene" Oldford, 86, whose career in harness racing as a breeder, owner, and administrator led to his induction into the Michigan Harness Horsemen's Association Hall of Fame in 2013 as well as numerous other accolades, passed away peacefully on Feb. 25, 2019, at Blue Water Hospice Home in Michigan. Mr. Oldford was a longtime member of the MHHA board of directors, past president of Harness Horsemen International, and member of the U.S. Trotting Association. He received the 2014 HHI Person of the Year Award as well as multiple honors from MHHA including Board Member of the Year, Owner of the Year, and an Appreciation Award. Among his favorite horses was Godiva Hall, a multiple-stakes-winner and world-record-setting female trotter, in the mid-2000s. Other top horses included pacers Billmar Scooter and Park Avenue. His current group of horses included stakes-winners Two AM and Chin Chin Hall, a 3-year-old trotter who is eligible to this summer's Hambletonian. His son Stephen is a U.S. Trotting Association director and amateur driving champion. Eugene D. Oldford was born to parents Stephen and Clara (Hallett) Oldford on July 28, 1932, in Detroit. He graduated from Croswell-Lexington High School in 1950 and attended St. Clair County Jr. College and the University of Michigan. He served in the U.S. Army during the Korean War and was stationed in Panama. Mr. Oldford, along with his brother Bill, acquired Huron Tool and Manufacturing, now Huron Inc., in Lexington, from their father Stephen in 1958. The company was sold to US Industries in 1968. He founded Oldford and Associates, an automotive manufacturer's representative sales firm, in 1973 where he continued to work until his unexpected death. He was also co-founder of Black River Manufacturing, Port Huron, along with partners Jarold Hawks and Isaac Lang Jr. Always active in his community, Mr. Oldford served in various leadership roles on the Worth Township Board, Boy Scouts of America, Jaycees, Croswell-Lexington Little League, Masonic Lodge and Trinity Episcopal Church. Over the years, he gave generously to his community establishing the Stephen and Clara Oldford Scholarship fund to assist students attending St. Clair County Community College. Mr. Oldford is survived by his three children, Stephen (Gale), Susan Zappa and Laurie. He was blessed with five loving grandchildren, Michelle (Manny) Chavez, Troy (Kelly), Kara, Joey Zappa and Vincent; and three great-grandchildren; Alex Chavez, Bensen Chavez, and Brooklyn. He is also survived by special friend, Nancy Edmonson; brother, William; sister-in-law, Jill Meyers; niece, Kathy (Gwen) Johansen; and nephews, Will (Ann Marie) and Douglas (Amy) Gough. He was preceded in death by Sandra S., Barbara L. Edwards and Joseph R. Zappa. Mr. Oldford was a loving and generous man who made friends wherever he went. He deeply loved his family and friends and lived a very active and full life. Please join the family to celebrate Gene's life. A visitation will take place on Friday (March 1) at the Pomeroy Funeral Home in Lexington from 2-9 p.m. On Saturday (March 2), a funeral service will be held at 11 a.m. in Trinity Episcopal Church, Lexington, with visitation in the church beginning at 10 a.m. until the time of the service. Memorials contributions may be made to Trinity Episcopal Church, Project Blessing, Blue Water Hospice, The Harness Racing Museum and Hall of Fame or New Vocations Racehorse Adoption Program.   Ken Weingartner Media Relations Manager U.S. Trotting Association www.ustrotting.com @harnessracenews @HarnessKenW    

Orlando, FL -- Moments into his speech to accept the Stan Bergstein-Proximity Award on behalf of legendary pacer Foiled Again during Sunday's U.S. Harness Writers Association's Dan Patch Awards banquet, co-owner Joe Koury Jr. was halted by USHWA member Gordon Waterstone. Koury knew he had not exceeded his time limit because he was just getting started, so he was surprised. Surprise was about to turn to shock. "Don't you think we ought to have the award-winner here?" Waterstone soon said to Koury. Enter Foiled Again. Foiled Again turned the idea of a surprise party upside down when he emerged from behind the curtained stage area to the delight of the 320 banquet attendees at Rosen Shingle Creek resort. Only a handful of people knew in advance of Foiled Again's appearance, which was conceived by Waterstone with Foiled Again's co-owners Ron Burke and Mark Weaver. "I was wondering what was going on," said Koury, who like the entire Burke Brigade other than Burke, Weaver and Foiled Again's caretaker for the night, Devan Miller, had no idea of the plan. "Next thing you know, Foiled was coming out. I was absolutely shocked. It was a great experience. It was exciting." Said Joe Koury Sr., "When Foiled showed up, it was unbelievable. I was shocked. Tears were rolling down my cheeks, it was just amazing." "I didn't expect it; that's the last thing that would have crossed my mind," said Yannick Gingras, who drove Foiled Again for the majority of the gelding's career and won numerous major stakes together. "I thought it was really cool, something different." Many others had the same reaction, which was what Burke and his co-planners had hoped. "It was unbelievable," Burke said. "I knew it would be a hit, especially with my father (Mickey), but it was a hit with everybody. It was one of the coolest moments ever. We thought it would be something nobody would be expecting and would add a little bit of fun, and it did." Waterstone, who in addition to being a member of USHWA is associate editor of The Horseman And Fair World magazine, worked with the resort's staff to set up Foiled Again's appearance. It required an extra bit of insurance and a protective covering for the banquet room carpet, which was new. "I called Mark about bringing Foiled Again to the banquet and he said to talk to Ronnie," Waterstone said. "I called Ronnie and he said absolutely, but he wanted to do it as a secret. "It came off better than I thought it would. You keep your fingers crossed. The reaction was unbelievable. To be involved in this was really cool." Foiled Again was already staying near Orlando, at the Burke's winter stable in Astor. "Devan did a great job," Burke said. "She had to prep him for it and people were wondering why she was prepping him when he was just there hanging out. He looked incredible. I was thrilled." Unfazed by the cheers that filled the banquet room and the joyful commotion that soon engulfed him, Foiled Again stood perfectly for his admirers. photo Chris Tully "He was like a little showman," Joe Koury Sr. said. "He's like a celebrity, a celebrity of the humblest measure. It was just unbelievable. He's amazing. I love him to death." Foiled Again reached harness racing's mandatory retirement age of 15 when the calendar turned to 2019. He is the sport's all-time richest horse, with $7.63 million in purses, and ranks ninth with 109 lifetime wins. He received Dan Patch Awards for best older male pacer in 2011, 2012 and 2013 and was Pacer of the Year in 2011. Last year, he embarked on a Farewell Tour that attracted numerous fans to racetracks across North America, as well as garnering mainstream media attention. He will be inducted into the Harness Racing Hall of Fame in July. Foiled Again is owned by Burke Racing, the partnership of Weaver and Mike Bruscemi, and the Koury family's JJK Stables. The group bought the horse in 2008 when he was 4. He was trained by Mickey Burke briefly before Mickey retired and handed the lines to his son Ron. "He's a dream come true," Joe Koury Jr. said. "To be a part of this with such great friends and partners is amazing. We were all young guys who, for the most part, were just getting started. He brought us up all together and put us on a different level. It's just been a phenomenal ride." And now that the ride is completed, Foiled Again will enjoy a life of leisure. "He's basically going to live my dad's life," Ron Burke said with a laugh. "They'll be hanging out together forever."   Ken Weingartner Media Relations Manager U.S. Trotting Association

Orlando, FL --- McWicked on Sunday became the oldest pacer in history to be named Horse of the Year, receiving harness racing's top honor to cap the U.S. Harness Writers Association's Dan Patch Award banquet at Rosen Shingle Creek. The 7-year-old stallion bested pacing mare Shartin N, 86-27, to claim the trophy. Atlanta, who was named Trotter of the Year, finished third with eight votes. Earlier in the night, McWicked was named Pacer of the Year, 95-31, over Shartin N. McWicked is owned by Ed James' SSG Stables and trained by Casie Coleman. Brian Sears was McWicked's primary driver, but David Miller also won on the Grand Circuit with the stallion. A son of McArdle out of Western Sahara, he was bred by Andray Farm. McWicked led the sport in earnings last year, with $1.57 million, and became the oldest horse in 43 years to top the money standings. For the season, McWicked won 12 of 19 races, capping his campaign with a five-race win streak, and hit the board a total of 17 times. The previous oldest pacer to be named Horse of the Year was Good Time, who was 6 when he received the award in 1952. Earlier this month, McWicked was named Horse of the Year in Canada. Coleman has trained three Horse of the Year winners in Canada, but McWicked was her first in the U.S., as well as the first for owner James. Sears, who drove McWicked in 12 of his 19 races, has sat behind four Horse of the Year honorees. "We've been fortunate to have three horses of the year in Canada, and to get it done here is pretty awesome," Coleman said. "Winning a double (Horse of the Year) with him, and doing it with a horse that's 7 turned 8, it's not often that it happens. Now we have to hope he can do it again next year. He's going to be another year older, but I see no reason why he shouldn't be just as good next year. We'll see what happens." McWicked's victories last season included the Breeders Crown, Ben Franklin Pace, William R. Haughton Memorial, Canadian Pacing Derby, TVG Series Open championship, Dan Rooney Invitational, and Allerage Farms Open. His 1:46.2 clocking in the Allerage was the second-fastest race mile in history. "It was a very tough group all season, and just the way he did it, his last start he was just as good as his first start," Coleman said. "His last start at the Meadowlands (in the TVG) he did it like there was nothing to it. It was scary how good we put him away. We're really excited to see what he can do again next year." Atlanta became the first filly to win the Hambletonian since 1996 when she captured the $1 million final Aug. 4 at the Meadowlands. Driven by Scott Zeron, she won eight of 14 races last year and led all 3-year-old filly trotters with $1.01 million in purses. Her victories also included the Kentucky Filly Futurity and Empire Breeders Classic. A daughter of Chapter Seven out of Hemi Blue Chip, Atlanta was owned in 2018 by trainer Rick Zeron, Michelle and Al Crawford's Crawford Farms, William Holland's Holland Racing Stable, Howard Taylor, and Brad Grant. She was bred by Order By Stable. The horse sold recently for a record $1.55 million to a group led by Michelle Crawford. "I'm very happy," Crawford said. "I was very excited to hear her for Trotter of the Year. I think she deserves it. I watched her from the beginning and she's just a freak, a really phenomenal filly. I can't wait to put her in the breeding shed and have her babies, but I'm not trying to get her off the track by any means. I'm excited for her future, but I'm not rushing her off the track. Not at all." The announcements of Horse, Pacer, and Trotter of the Year were made during Sunday's banquet. Previously announced divisional champions also were honored at the event. Division-winning pacers were 2-year-old colt Captain Crunch, 2-year-old filly Warrawee Ubeaut, 3-year-old gelding Dorsoduro Hanover, 3-year-old filly Kissin In The Sand, Shartin N, and McWicked. Division-winning trotters were 2-year-old colt Gimpanzee, 2-year-old filly Woodside Charm, 3-year-old colt Six Pack, 6-year-old gelding Homicide Hunter, 4-year-old mare Ariana G, and Atlanta. Other honorees included Stan Bergstein-Proximity Award winner Foiled Again, Driver of the Year Aaron Merriman, Trainer of the Year Ron Burke, Breeder of the Year Order By Stable, Owners of the Year Burke Racing and the partnership of Mark Weaver and Mike Bruscemi, and Rising Star Marcus Melander. Foiled Again surprised the audience of 320 by emerging from behind the curtained stage as part of the Bergstein-Proximity presentation that kicked off the festivities. The crowd rose to its feet and cheered Foiled Again, the sport's all-time richest horse who retired at the end of 2018 following a farewell tour that attracted numerous fans to racetracks across North America and garnered mainstream media attention. Also recognized Sunday at the banquet were the members of the 2018 Hall of Fame class, which will be inducted in July: Blair Burgess, Ted Gewertz, Joe Holloway, Jerry Silverman, Linda Toscano, and Ted Wing. For the complete list of award winners, click here.   Ken Weingartner Media Relations Manager U.S. Trotting Association www.ustrotting.com @harnessracenews @HarnessKenW      

The name of the 2018 Horse of the Year will be announced tonight (Feb. 24) at the annual U.S. Harness Racing Writers Association's Dan Patch Awards dinner at Rosen Shingle Creek in Orlando, Fla. But even if you aren't among the attendees you will be able to watch the announcement live via USHWA's Facebook page. After a cocktail hour and open bar sponsored by McWicked, the awards ceremony gets underway at 7 p.m. and will be available via the Facebook page, sponsored by Crawford Farms and Crazy Wow. At approximately 10 p.m., emcees Roger Huston and Jason Settlemoir will announce the winner of the E. Roland Harriman Horse of the Year trophy, which follows the revealing of the names of the Pacer of the Year and Trotter of the Year. To access USHWA's Facebook page, please click here. The entire video will also be available on the U.S. Trotting Association's YouTube page the following day (Monday, Feb. 25). Post time for the evening is 6 p.m., with a one-hour Red Carpet cocktail reception sponsored by the Southwind Frank Partners. Also starring on the Red Carpet will be Heather Vitale and Heather Wilder, with the two Heathers broadcasting live on their individual Facebook pages. It's your guarantee to see who's wearing what and what the attendees have to say about the festivities. Heather Vitale's Facebook page can be found here. Heather Wilder's Facebook page can be found here. Ken Weingartner

ORLANDO FL -- Ken Weingartner, the Media Relations Manager for the U.S. Trotting Association's Harness Racing Communications arm, and Phil Pikelny, who worked as a publicist, broadcaster, and co-author of a biography of the great pacer Rambling Willie, were selected for places in the mid-summer balloting which could lead to their being elected to harness racing's Communicators Hall of Fame, in voting conducted this afternoon (Saturday) by the directors of the U.S. Harness Writers Association (USHWA).   Weingartner, who first went to the racetrack pushed by his father in a stroller, graduated from Lycoming College and then worked in the central Pennsylvania area before returning to his native New Jersey. Ken's column "Horse Play" in the Allentown (NJ) Morning Press was honored in 2001 by the New Jersey Chapter of USHWA and brought him to the attention of the USTA, for whom he has worked in his present position since 2002.   In 2007 he was voted the Golden Pen Award by the Standardbred Media and Marketing Association, and Ken was doubly-honored in 2015, by USHWA's Monticello-Goshen Chapter and by Harness Horsemen International. Weingartner serves as the chair of USHWA's Journalism Awards Committee and is co-chair of its Hirt Sports Media Workshop Committee.   Pikelny was spotted by double Hall of Famer Stan Bergstein when he started a harness racing club at Northwestern University near Chicago, and then became the youngest publicity director in any major sport when he went to the U.S. Trotting Association at age 23. He combined with author Don Evans to produce the book Rambling Willie: The Horse That God Loved, which followed the career of the sensational standardbred who set records for both 2:00 victories and earnings -- with 10% of those earnings going to the church of Vivian Farrington, the wife of Willie's trainer. In 1981 Pikelny and the horse then went "on tour" throughout America, appearing at racetracks, shopping malls, and other media opportunities.   Phil worked as publicity director at Scioto Downs (OH) and at the standardbred meet at Del Mar (CA). He then went on to a long career in many facets of communications while continuing to speak at harness conventions and mentoring young publicists.   Pikelny and Weingartner will now be joined during mid-summer balloting by Hall of Fame nominees who will be decided in early July. Those that receive 75% of the yes-no voting will go on to receive the sport's ultimate prize, enshrinement in their respective Halls of Fame in Goshen NY.   The voting for the summer ballot spots for the communicators was very tight, with Weingartner getting 11 votes, Pikelny 10, Jay Bergman and Joe Kyle 9 each, and Bill Fidati 5 -- the last-named three sure to be strong candidates in upcoming years.     Jerry Connors

Dozens of harness racing pacers hailing from either Australia or New Zealand will compete at Yonkers Raceway in the next several days, which is a common occurrence. Less ordinary is the appearance of a trotter from Down Under, but that will be the case Thursday (Feb. 21) when Australian-bred La Grange makes his North American debut for trainer Per Engblom. La Grange, owned by Renee Spahr, is a son of Muscle Hill out of La Coocaracha. He was bred by Yabby Dam Farms in Australia and was a Group 2 winner during his 2- and 3-year-old seasons Down Under. Born in November 2014, he would be a 4-year-old back home, but is considered a 5-year-old in the U.S. because of the different breeding calendars. The stallion, who has won six of 22 career races and earned $68,723, drew post eight in Yonkers' sixth race, a $20,000 conditioned event, on Thursday and is 20-1 on the morning line with Yannick Gingras in the sulky. Four-year-old Seven Iron, a stakes-winner at age 2, is the 9-5 favorite from post one. "He's a nice horse," said Engblom, who welcomed La Grange to his stable in December. "I've seen in replays from Down Under, and from the way he feels when we're training, that he's a very strong horse. He can take a lot of air. He's very clean gaited; I just hope he's fast enough. He's more of a grinder than a speed horse, but I think he's OK." La Grange qualified twice at the Meadowlands ahead of Thursday's debut. He finished second, timed in 1:58, behind In Secret with Engblom driving and more recently won in 1:59 with Gingras in the bike. Engblom hoped to race La Grange last week at the Meadowlands, but the class did not fill. Rather than send the horse against open-level trotters, Engblom opted for the conditioned event at Yonkers. "There he can race in a class where he belongs," Engblom said. "Hopefully we can get him into the Meadowlands in a class where he fits so we can get started there. He's basically missing his 4-year-old year, so it's going to be a big transition. We'll see how he handles it. He was maybe a notch below the best ones Down Under, but he's a real good horse. La Grange will not be the first Australian-born son of Muscle Hill to compete in North America. Last year, colt Aldebaranwalkabout won two races, including a division of the Bluegrass Stakes, for owner Aldebaran Park Inc. and trainer Jonas Czernyson. Engblom will point La Grange toward several upcoming series for older trotters and also made the stallion eligible to some stakes races. "I don't know if he's going to be ready for the early stakes, but by this fall I wouldn't be surprised if he is," Engblom said. "He's got a series at Pocono, then we'll see. We'll see if he develops. He's a big horse, so I think he's going to be better with age. I think he'll be OK." by Ken Weingartner, for the USTA

Richard Poillucci is looking forward to watching his New Zealand-bred standout Shartin return to action this season and the 6-year-old Dan Patch Award-winning mare has a new stablemate that Poillucci hopes can keep her company on the stakes trail. Shartin hit the racetrack for the first time this year on Wednesday (Feb. 13) at Dover Downs, winning a qualifier in 1:56 as she prepares to defend her title in the upcoming Blue Chip Matchmaker Series at Yonkers Raceway. Expected to join Shartin in the series is New Zealand-bred Bettor Joy, who was purchased in December from the Down Under stable of Cran Dalgety and is owned by Poillucci and Jo Ann Looney-King. Bettor Joy, who is a dathe difference in breeding seasons, Bettor Joy, who was born in October 2014, is considered a 5-year-old in North America as opposed to a 4-year-old in New Zealand. Shartin, also owned by Poillucci and Looney-King, and Bettor Joy could provide their owners and trainer Jim King Jr. a strong one-two punch in the pacing mare division. "That's what we hope for, but you never know," Poillucci said. "Bettor Joy is a real good mare. She is just getting started. She raced once at Dover and came up sick on us and finished fourth. We'll probably race her again next week. We're looking for big things from her." Of course, Poillucci also is looking for big things from Shartin. Last year, she became the first pacing mare to earn $1 million in a season, finishing with $1.05 million thanks to 19 wins in 24 races. Her victories included the Breeders Crown, Roses Are Red, Lady Liberty, Blue Chip Matchmaker Series championship, TVG Series Mare championship, Artiscape, Betsy Ross Invitational, Chip Noble Memorial, and Allerage Farms Mare Pace. In December, she was named the sport's best older female pacer of 2018 and joined Hall of Famer Cardigan Bay as a "Down Under" import to receive a Dan Patch Award. Cardigan Bay, also from New Zealand, was a two-time honoree (1965 and 1968). Shartin's connections will accept her Dan Patch Award at the U.S. Harness Writers Association's Dan Patch Awards banquet at Rosen Shingle Creek in Orlando on Feb. 24. The mare remains a top contender for Pacer of the Year and Horse of the Year, which both will be announced at the banquet. "It was amazing, absolutely amazing," Poillucci said about Shartin's season. "Looking back at what she did, it's surreal trying to take it all in. You know how many people start out in January with horses and to end up the year with a mare that could stay as good as she stayed all year long is mindboggling. She's just a very special mare. If all goes well, I can't see why she can't come back this year and be a top contender again. There is no reason." Shartin can be a tricky horse to drive, so Poillucci gives credit to Tim Tetrick for playing an integral part in the mare's success. Tetrick has been Shartin's only driver in North America. "Jim King does a tremendous job as a trainer, but the key is Tim Tetrick," Poillucci said. "Timmy took the time to understand her and learned how to drive her. When she goes to the gate, he really has to work with her. She's aggressive. She's not a mean horse by any means, but when you put her behind the gate she just wants to roll. She just wants to go. Those few bobbles she made last year, those were her trying to outpace herself." The 2018 season was Shartin's first in North America. Poillucci hopes the mare can build upon last year's performances now that she has become more mature and acclimated to racing here. "I'm not saying that is going to happen, but that's what you would think," Poillucci said. "We're definitely in the hunt for a good year. I think it can happen. They said she was absolutely just running over horses (in her qualifier). That's a good sign. She doesn't like time off. She wants to race, that's her thing. "I know it's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity (to have a horse like her). They don't come along very often like this. I may have a couple of very good ones behind her and I'm hoping for good things, but to say they can do what she does, that's a tough act to follow. It's very rare to find a mare that can do what she does." by Ken Weingartner, for the USTA  

New Zealand-bred star Bit Of A Legend is ready to make his 2019 debut in Saturday's (Feb. 16) $44,000 Open Handicap at Yonkers Raceway and trainer Peter Tritton says the 10-year-old stallion looks as good as ever. Last year, Bit Of A Legend won five of 21 races, finished second seven times, and earned $549,315. His victories included the Battle of Lake Erie in a career-best 1:49.4 around Northfield Park's half-mile oval and he was runner-up in the George Morton Levy Memorial Pacing Series championship, Joe Gerrity Jr. Memorial, and Dan Rooney Invitational. Since arriving in the U.S. in 2016, Bit Of A Legend has won 26 of 77 races and earned $1.79 million. Other top wins include the Gerrity, Bobby Quillen Memorial, and Molson Pace in 2017 and the 2016 Levy championship. "To me, he seems to be coming up every bit as good as he did last year and the year before," said Tritton, who trains Bit Of A Legend for Vonknoblauch Stable LLC. "He's probably a little more forward this year than he was last year. We gave him a month off, but we couldn't give him much more because he got too full of himself. But he had a really good break. I'm very happy with where he is at the moment." Bit Of A Legend, driven regularly by Jordan Stratton, is a son of Bettor's Delight out of Soky's Legend. He was a two-time Australasian Breeders Crown champion Down Under, where he won 20 times and earned $659,686, giving him lifetime earnings of $2.45 million. Tritton will use the next month to prep Bit Of A Legend for the Levy Series, which begins March 16 at Yonkers. The series consists of five preliminary rounds followed by a $200,000-added final on April 20. "With any luck through the series he should be right there," Tritton said. "We'll give him one or two more runs before the (preliminary rounds). The beauty of him is that he can go right through without a break. He enjoys his work and Jordan looks after him pretty good. "I just hope we can get through the series and get to the final and draw good. I thought he could have won the last couple if he had drawn better, but he drew the outside both times. It's hard to win those finals from the outside." Tritton is planning to keep Bit Of A Legend on a schedule similar to previous years, although he might not stake the stallion to events on bigger tracks. Bit Of A Legend is winless in eight starts on tracks larger than a half, with two on-the-board finishes. "He can go around the big tracks, but he's so slick on a half and can get around those corners so quick," Tritton said. "I think he loses his advantage on the big tracks, where some of them gain an advantage." Bit Of A Legend is one of 10 horses in Tritton's stable. Three other New Zealand-breds could compete in series action at Yonkers, with Pacing Major pointed toward the Levy and mares Sell A Bit and Shezza GNP penciled in for the Blue Chip Matchmaker. "Pacing Major is not as good as Legend, but he's a good racehorse," Tritton said. "With the right trip he can go (1):51 around Yonkers. He's done it a couple of times. I think he'll acquit himself quite well. "In the Matchmaker, I'll run Shezza GNP. She's probably not good enough to win, but she'll be right there. She can go with those mares. I may run Sell A Bit. She's qualifying on Friday. She's getting close to a million dollars. I'd love to get her to a million dollars. I think I might give her another shot at it. "We'll keep our fingers crossed. We just need a bit of luck." For Saturday's complete Yonkers entries, click here. by Ken Weingartner, for the USTA 

Richard "Nifty" Norman is looking forward to watching his 3-year-old female trotters this season and is getting an early look at one of them that he didn't get to see in action on the racetrack last year. Haveoneforme was unraced at age 2 because of soundness issues. She made her career debut Jan. 25 and defeated a field of mostly older horses, both male and female, in a conditioned class at the Meadowlands. She returns to the same class Friday and is the 9-5 morning-line favorite from post eight with Dexter Dunn in the sulky. She is among a group of 3-year-old fillies that has Norman feeling hopeful as he looks ahead to stakes season. Others in the stable are returning Grand Circuit winners Evident Beauty and Princess Deo as well as lightly raced Mother Bonnie. Princess Deo and Mother Bonnie were trained previously by Noel Daley, who returned home to Australia to continue his career at the end of last year. "I've got a good group," Norman said. "I've got a couple others that are just maidens but have got some talent I think. It's good to have depth. Anytime you've got depth, you're all right." Haveoneforme adds to that depth, although she might be pointed more toward restricted-stakes action in Ontario. The filly is a daughter of Kadabra out of All Filled Up. Her second dam, Filly At Bigs, and third dam Mombasa were O'Brien Award winners. The family also includes stakes-winners Big Rigs, Miss Tezsla, and Bridger. "We trained her down last year and she got a bit sore," said Norman, whose Enzed Racing Stable owns Haveoneforme with Mel Hartman. "She went through the July (Tattersalls Summer Mixed) sale and we bought her back. She is pretty good this year; no killer, but handy. I'm probably just going to stake her in Ontario. I think she could maybe do well up there. "I liked her last year. She was nice enough, but she wasn't sound. We just turned her out and gave her some time, let her grow up. She's lovely to be around, has got a good head on her, and she is good gaited." Haveoneforme finished second in a qualifier prior to winning her debut in 1:58 on a 30-degree night at the Big M. "I wasn't sure if she had enough speed, but she actually showed good speed in her qualifier and her race," Norman said. "I liked the way she finished up both times. I just wanted to race her a few times to see if she's good enough to go to the next level. I'll maybe give her three starts and then give her another break and get her ready for Ontario." Racing begins at 7:15 p.m. (EST) at the Meadowlands. Six-year-old Trolley, trained by Erv Miller and driven by Marcus Miller, is the 2-1 morning-line favorite in the night's Preferred Handicap for trotters. Trolley is 2-for-2 this year and has won five of his past six races dating back to November. For Friday's complete entries, click here. by Ken Weingartner, for the USTA

Anette Lorentzon shares a special connection with Ultimate Shopper, and it goes beyond winning races and money. The 6-year-old harness racing mare, who competes Friday in the Howard Beissinger Memorial Medley for trotters at Miami Valley Raceway, was one of two yearlings Lorentzon bought at the 2014 Lexington Selected Sale after being diagnosed with cancer. Lorentzon, who has overcome bone cancer and last year posted career highs for training wins and purses, purchased Ultimate Shopper for $140,000. She was familiar with the horse's family, having conditioned Ultimate Shopper's dam, Adelaide Hall, who finished third behind Possess The Magic and Pampered Princess in the 2006 Breeders Crown for 2-year-old filly trotters. Adelaide Hall was injured while preparing for her 3-year-old season and never raced again. Her third foal was Ultimate Shopper, a full sister to stakes-winner All Laid Out. Ultimate Shopper has won 15 of 73 career starts and earned $351,515 for Lorentzon, who owns the mare with her family's ACL Stuteri and Kjell Johansson. "She means quite a bit to me and my family," Lorentzon said. "When they found out I had cancer, life changed in a heartbeat. I picked (Ultimate Shopper) out when I was going through my treatments. We didn't know what was going to happen. You never know how it's going to go when you get cancer. It might be the last thing you do. Luckily it didn't turn out that way." Lorentzon had femur replacement surgery as a result of her cancer. In December, she underwent a second operation to correct an issue with the first. She will be on crutches for a while, but is otherwise good. "The cancer has not been back," Lorentzon said. "Coming back after (the surgery) is what drives me crazy. I have to take it easy. I'm at the barn and checking on everything, but it's kind of tough because you really want to be out there. But in this case you've got to do what you've got to do." Lorentzon has nearly 70 horses in her stable, with 13 in New Jersey and the remainder in Kentucky. Last year, the stable produced 154 wins and earned $2.24 million. So far this season, it has 13 victories and $155,680. "The year has started out well on the track," Lorentzon said. "We just have to hope to keep it that way." Ultimate Shopper, who has won two of three starts this year, will try to do her part. The mare slumped after winning the Open Handicap at Northfield Park last August, but has returned refreshed after a two-month respite. She won a conditioned class by 10-1/4 lengths on Jan. 8 at Miami Valley, finished third in her next start, and after a bridle change bounced back with another victory. "She dropped in class when she was out of form," Lorentzon said. "If she didn't drop in class I might not have tried her back; we might have just bred her. I said to the owners that I wanted to give her a break and then try her and play it by ear. We do the breeding, but it is a lot of fun to have the good horses racing. That's what you want. As long as she is racing good she will be racing." Ultimate Shopper, who was a Grand Circuit winner at age 2, will start from post four in the first of two $12,500 opening-round divisions of the Beissinger. She will be driven by Elliott Deaton and is 7-2 on the morning line. Deweyknowigotit, with Brett Miller driving for Derek Watiker, is the 5-2 favorite. The races in the first round of the Beissinger Memorial Medley will be contested at five-eighths of a mile. The second-round will be contested at one mile and the final at 1-1/4 miles. The same format will be used in the Bill Dailey Memorial Medley for pacers, which will have two $12,500 opening-round divisions on Saturday. "I don't know what to think," Lorentzon said about the multiple-distances format. "I don't know how good she will be over the five-eighths (distance); I don't know how quick she is over five-eighths. I'm hoping she can be OK. She can leave the gate and all that, so that's why I'm hoping she will be OK. I think she will be better for the second week when we are racing the more normal distance. "But this (format) is the right thing, to try something new. There is nothing wrong with that. Hopefully she is all good and tight and ready to go." For Friday's complete Miami Valley entries, click here. by Ken Weingartner, for the USTA

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