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Aaron Merriman led all harness racing drivers in wins for the second consecutive year, setting career highs for victories and purses in the process, but his favorite sports-related moment of 2016 came away from the track. It came when Merriman's beloved Cleveland Cavaliers won their first NBA title and brought the city of Cleveland its first championship in 52 years. "It's not even a contest," said the 38-year-old Merriman, a northern Ohio native and lifelong Cleveland sports fan. "It was phenomenal, for the city and our state and the franchise. Cleveland is actually on a big resurgence; it's getting to be a place to go and to travel to. "Everybody in my family likes sports," he continued. "This is something I grew up with. It's just like racing to me. Sports are something to bring people together. That's one of the main reasons I think I like it. There's some rivalry involved, and there are friendly arguments and friendly competition. It's just enjoyable to be a part of it." Merriman is a Browns season-ticket holder and gets ticket packages for the Cavaliers. He also is a big fan of the Indians and manager Terry Francona (who spent his early childhood in Cleveland while his father Tito played for the Indians) and was proud of the team's run to the World Series, even though it ended with a seven-game loss to the Chicago Cubs. "One thing about me, I bleed my city," Merriman said. "I love the Browns, as bad as we are, it doesn't even bother me too much. I don't give up on my teams. That's for sure." He doesn't give up on much. In 2016 Merriman led all drivers in starts for the third consecutive year - he was the only driver to surpass 4,000 in any of those seasons - and he joined Tony Morgan as the only other driver in history to win at least 800 races in three consecutive years. Merriman won a career-best 891 races last year, on the heels of posting 874 victories in 2015 and 841 in 2014. Horses driven by Merriman earned $7.67 million in purses, topping his previous high of $7.42 million set in 2015. Not that Merriman would know, unless told. "I know it's hard to believe, and no one wants to believe it, but I don't look," Merriman said. "If you start thinking you have to be at (a certain number) you start psyching yourself out for no reason. There becomes this imaginary pressure and sometimes it can get to you. I don't care who you are, you begin to press. "I try to take it, not even day by day, but card by card. Even race by race, if possible, but that's sometimes tough when you have a bad day. I just try to maximize my performance by race card." Merriman drives regularly at Northfield Park, near Cleveland, and at The Meadows, near Pittsburgh. Three times a week, he drives at both tracks --- The Meadows in the afternoon and Northfield in the evening. "Physically it's tough," Merriman said. "But mentally, to me, it's a lot easier to turn the page when I don't have to wait three days for another race. If I have a couple days off, I'm happy, but a lot of times I've got 20 horses to drive. I've got the opportunity to put a bad day behind me and fix it immediately." On Jan. 21, Merriman will be honored by the Ohio chapter of the U.S. Harness Writers Association with the Winner's Circle Award, given for outstanding accomplishments in the previous year. In February, Merriman will be honored in Las Vegas by the national USHWA organization for leading all drivers in North America in wins. While Merriman can easily identify his favorite sports moments away from the racetrack, he has difficulty picking favorite accomplishments resulting from his work. Each day at the track produces its own moments. "Just being able to stay healthy and race all year, to me, is an accomplishment," said Merriman, who missed several months of action in 2010 after an accident in which he broke both wrists and an elbow. "To stay at a high level and stay as fresh as possible throughout the year. "I don't pride myself on what I've won. I'd rather just be known as a guy that works hard, stays focused, and is determined to do the best I can. I have more pride in showing up and giving maximum effort every day." Merriman got 2017 off to a fast start, winning eight races at Northfield Park on New Year's Day. He leads North America in wins with 41. "New Year's Day, a few guys didn't show up and I had the opportunity to drive some good horses," said Merriman, who has won 8,771 races in his career, which is good for 21st place among all drivers in history. "When you have the opportunity to drive nice horses in good spots, you're going to win races. It's opportunity, opportunity, opportunity." And while Merriman focuses his energy on racing at The Meadows and Northfield, he also has picked up Grand Circuit stakes drives at tracks around the country. He would like to possibly expand his Grand Circuit schedule this year, but it's not a priority. "We'll see what opportunities come along," Merriman said. "Everybody wants to follow a great horse. But I've driven a lot of good horses. I've never had 'The One,' but I'm blessed to drive any horse in any race that has desire to do good. Hopefully I do, but if I don't, I'll take advantage of every other opportunity I get. "It's not necessary for me to be at any certain place at any certain time --- except the winner's circle, ideally." Ken Weingartner

Dave Brickell trains and drives his own horses, but Chris Shaw got the first chance to sit behind the then harness racing 2-year-old pacing filly Camera Lady in a qualifier last May because Brickell was driving another of his horses. Shaw guided Camera Lady to a 1:58.4 winning mile at The Meadows that day and when he got off the track he told Brickell, "The only person that's going to beat her is you." Adds Brickell with a laugh, "And that's exactly what happened." Maybe, but not often. Camera Lady won 15 of 20 starts last year and earned $42,640 for Brickell and co-owner Mitchell York. Her 15 victories were the most by any 2-year-old in North American harness racing last year. "A blind pig finds an acorn every once in a while," said Brickell, who raced Camera Lady primarily on the Pennsylvania fair circuit. "She just wanted to do it; she always wanted to do it. She was eager to please. You could do whatever you wanted with her. She was nice to work around in the barn too." Brickell bought Camera Lady for $5,000 at the 2015 Goshen Yearling Sale. She is a daughter of stallion Dragon Again out of the mare Ann Van Go. She was Ann Van Go's first foal. "I've never had a Dragon Again (sired) horse," Brickell said. "Everybody says they're tough. The price was right and she looked good, so I got her. I like to buy first foals, too; a lot of them. "I take chances on them." In this case, the chance paid off, although it took a little time to see Camera Lady develop. York, who is Brickell's son-in-law, liked a Crazed-sired trotter named HS Miss Nutcracker the best of three 2-year-olds he owned with Brickell. "He said the trotter was going to be our No. 1 horse; I said he was writing (Camera Lady) off," Brickell said. "When I broke her and first started going with her, she was kind of flaky. She was nice to be with and work around, but she just shied at everything. But I said I'll take her. She's going to be No. 1; she's going to be our diamond in the rough." Camera Lady proved to be the best of the bunch, although all three won multiple races and earned at least $16,000. The three were purchased for a total of $17,700. "I was very fortunate," said Brickell, who lives in Smicksburg, Pa., about 15 miles southwest of Punxsutawney. Camera Lady won 15 of her first 16 races, with her only setback coming when she stepped up to the top-level of the Pennsylvania Sire Stakes at The Meadows. She finished second in the Pennsylvania Fair championship, beaten by Gemalous, driven by none other than Shaw. As for Camera Lady's schedule for this season, Brickell said it was "up in the air," although it will include the Pennsylvania Sire Stakes, Stallion Series, and fairs. He also might consider an early-closer at The Meadows. "I just started back with her, she's been jogging about three weeks now," said Brickell, who has 475 wins as a driver and 314 victories as a trainer. "As soon as the weather starts cooperating she'll start training a little bit. She grew a little bit; she got a little longer and a little stronger. "If I would let the professional drivers drive, I guess she would be a little quicker, but I haven't given into that urge yet. I like to be able to (drive). I think she'll be a (1):52 or (1):53 pacer. I don't have a problem with that. She'll do fine, I think. But I don't like to make predictions because then you get in trouble." So Brickell certainly will not predict whether Camera Lady can lead her age group in wins again. But he is going to try to get her there. "I'll definitely give it a whirl," Brickell said. "That's for sure." Ken Weingartner

Dunkster never wanted to be caught. Not in his stall, not in a field, not on the racetrack. It was on the racetrack that this trait proved most valuable. Dunkster won 89 lifetime races - which puts him in a tie for eighth place among all trotters in North American harness racing history - and earned $894,320 in a career that spanned from 2001 through 2011. On Jan. 21, Dunkster will be inducted into Ohio's Standardbred Hall of Fame at the Ohio Harness Horsemen's Association banquet at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Columbus (Worthington). "He knew what winning was," said Kurt Sugg, who trained and drove Dunkster in the majority of the horse's 287 races, "and he liked to do it." Dunkster's most lucrative victory came in the 2006 Dygert Memorial at Hawthorne Race Course for a purse of $105,000. Sugg and Dunkster made a three-wide move at the three-quarter pole and then held off hard-charging Dink Adoo in a stretch battle to win by a head in 1:54. "Ryan Anderson was driving Dink Adoo and they were coming at (Dunkster) so fast it looked like they were going to go right by," Sugg said. "When that horse got up to Dunkster's withers, he wore an open bridle, he turned his head and he fought that horse off. Hawthorne is a very long stretch and he fought him off the whole way. He never got any closer than that. He just had a willingness to win." Sugg never expected Dunkster to enjoy such a successful and lengthy career. Dean Davis, who passed away at the age of 82 in September, bought five-month-old Dunkster and his mom, Rosemary T, for $5,000 at a sale in Ohio in 1999. When Sugg went to pick up Dunkster as a yearling at Spring Run Farm, he had a good deal of difficulty catching the young horse. It was the start of a trend that continued throughout Dunkster's career. "There were quite a few times the night before his race I'd have about 10 people out in the pasture field trying to catch him so he could go race the next day," Sugg said. "I think he enjoyed the pasture life. Even though he was a very good racehorse, he liked to be outside with the rest of the horses. He got plenty of extra exercise out there running from me. He never did train very often. When he was racing, he would go on the (exerciser) in the morning and then be in the field the rest of the day." At ages 2 and 3, Dunkster often went off stride because he hit his knees. Sugg tried knee boots, then knee spreaders, only to discover by chance that the trotter preferred to go without either. "I think I had him over-equipped for 2-1/2 years of his life," Sugg said, laughing. "As a 4-year-old I was racing him at Northfield. I was by myself, taking care of him and racing him. I had the knee spreaders and they were such a pain to put on and take off by yourself, so I decided to leave them off that night. He raced unbelievable, maybe the best he ever raced. "From then on, he was a really good horse. It's like I finally let him be what he wanted to be, and he said, 'OK, I'm going to go good now.' He totally changed." Dunkster won seven of 12 races the remainder of the year, and then won 50 times in the ensuing four seasons, including a world-record 1:54.2 triumph at Northfield in 2004. He was an Ohio Sire Stakes champion at age 4, a four-time Scarlet and Gray champion, and finished second to Dan Patch Award-winner Sand Vic in the 2006 American-National Stakes. He finished his career with victories at 21 different racetracks and competed in nine different states plus Ontario. "He was an iron horse," Sugg said. "I've never had a horse in the Hall of Fame, so that's pretty special to get him there, to know that I had a little something to do with it. He was an all-around good horse." Dunkster has enjoyed his retirement days at Spring Run Farm, and the horse was still on his toes in the field the last time Sugg visited. "You couldn't catch him," Sugg said. Ken Weingartner

Harness racing owner Christine Czernyson, who has helped lead an ovarian cancer awareness effort with assistance from horses Aldebaran Eagle and Side Bet Hanover, has been named the 2016 recipient of the January Davies Humanitarian Award presented by the U.S. Harness Writers Association. The award was created in 2008 by U.S. Harness Writers Association member Callie Davies-Gooch in memory of her daughter to recognize contributions beyond harness racing. Czernyson and her husband, trainer Jonas Czernyson, have contributed more than $4,000 to the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund Alliance by donating a percentage of their earnings from Aldebaran Eagle's and Side Bet Hanover's purses. In addition, the horses wear ribbons in their manes with the names of nearly 80 women who are either ovarian cancer survivors or in tribute to women who have been taken from loved ones by the disease. "Christine has done so much to bring attention to this cause," Davies-Gooch said. "She is one of the great ladies of harness racing and a great example of humanitarianism, providing not only financial assistance to ovarian cancer research and awareness but touching the lives of those affected by the disease through the personal connections incorporated into her efforts. When her name came before our board we felt she was the perfect choice for this award." The cause hits close to home for Czernyson, who lost her aunt, Kathy Terrazas, to ovarian cancer. Furthermore, Duncan McPherson, who owns Aldebaran Eagle, lost his wife, Lyn, to the disease and is active in promoting ovarian cancer awareness programs in his homeland of Australia. "This is totally humbling because it's not about me, it's about the women and families that fight with this disease on a daily basis and their struggles," Czernyson said. "If I can take up a fight for them, I'm willing to do so. For me personally, my aunt passed away from ovarian cancer. Watching her struggle with that disease was not an easy thing. The impact has lasted for years. "When Duncan McPherson came into our stable, he had lost his wife Lyn to ovarian cancer. He is very active in Australia with ovarian cancer awareness. We just wanted to give something back to Duncan. But we wanted to honor not only his wife and my aunt, but the many other women who are fighting this disease. I don't think a lot of people realize, but one in 75 women will have ovarian cancer. That's a pretty staggering statistic." The Czernysons started their awareness effort in 2015 with Aldebaran Eagle and extended it to Side Bet Hanover last year when the female trotter raced in the Hambletonian Oaks on Hambletonian Day at the Meadowlands. Sherry Pollex, the longtime girlfriend of last year's Hambletonian trophy presenter, NASCAR driver Martin Truex, is an ovarian cancer survivor and advocate for others fighting the disease. Pollex signed a teal ribbon, with teal being the color for ovarian cancer awareness, worn by Side Bet Hanover in the Oaks. Side Bet Hanover and Aldebaran Eagle will continue to race for ovarian cancer awareness this year, although it will soon be on two different continents. "Eagle will be leaving to go to Australia in March," Czernyson said. "We have no doubt he will continue to soar for ovarian cancer down there as well. He's going to race and then stand stud. Side Bet Hanover will carry on here after Eagle has made the trip to Australia." While raising money for ovarian cancer research and awareness has been an important aspect of Czernyson's effort, the connections made with people affected by the disease has been even more priceless. "We get a lot of messages whenever those two horses race," Czernyson said. "I have quite a few women that we stay in contact with that have really fallen in love with this idea and the concept of it and giving them something to cheer for. They're so appreciative for that. They can say 'That horse is racing for me.' "That's probably given us the biggest joy, just having that knowledge that it goes beyond the money and the horserace. It gives some personal meaning to it. It makes you realize what you're doing is making a difference. But this isn't about me or Jonas or the horses, it's about the women and families affected by this disease. It's really all about them." Czernyson will be honored at the "Night of Champions," the Dan Patch Awards Banquet presented by Hoosier Park, which will take place on Sunday, Feb. 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 at - 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. Ken Weingartner

John Ducharme has enjoyed a varied career in harness racing, from attorney to racetrack presiding judge, to breeder, trainer, driver, and owner. And as he approaches his 90th birthday, in March, he considers himself fortunate. "When you get the chance to live out your passion," Ducharme said, "it doesn't get any better than that." Right now, it doesn't get any better than the ride Ducharme is on with 7-year-old male trotter Valley Of Sin. Ducharme bought Valley Of Sin privately in October 2015 with the idea of breeding him to his small band of broodmares, but has put those plans on hold after watching the horse's successful return from injury. Last year, Valley Of Sin won eight of 28 races and earned $87,240. The son of Yankee Glide-Anklet Hanover was at his best as the year came to an end, capturing four of his final five starts of 2016, all at The Meadows. On Saturday, he is the 2-1 morning line favorite in the $22,000 Preferred Handicap at The Meadows, leaving from post No. 9 with trainer-driver Wilbur Yoder. For his career, Valley Of Sin has won 18 of 48 races and earned $256,899. He has won six of nine races lifetime at The Meadows, finishing worse than second only once. "He's a nice horse," Ducharme said of Valley Of Sin, who at age 3 was a multiple winner on the Pennsylvania Sire Stakes circuit and also won the Townsend Ackerman at the Meadowlands Racetrack. "When he was young and sound, he raced well wherever he was." Ducharme is no stranger to success with trotters. He bred, trained and co-owned 1995 Breeders Crown 3-year-old colt champion Abundance (who also won a Hambletonian heat before finishing second to Tagliabue in the final); bred, trained and owned stakes-winner High Tech (a Breeders Crown runner-up in 1999); and trained 1975 Elitlopp runner-up Quick Work and 1982 Canadian Trotting Classic runner-up Crowntron. When Ducharme watched Valley Of Sin win a division of the Pennsylvania Sire Stakes in a track-record 1:52.3 at The Meadows in 2013, he decided to keep an eye on the horse. Unfortunately, Valley Of Sin suffered a suspensory injury and was limited to only four starts (three wins and a second) in the ensuing two years. "I saw that (sire stakes) race and thought he was the best I'd seen in a while," Ducharme said. "I followed his career because I thought I might like to buy him, and I finally did. I was going to breed him to a few of my mares, but he seemed to be sound, so while we were waiting to breed him we decided to see how he would hold up in training. Wilbur has done a great job with him. He's showing the type of horse that he was, and is." Said Yoder, "I like everything about him. The minute he walked in the door, he was just a nice horse. You can do whatever you want with him. He's got a lot of speed and he's got a lot of manners. He handles nice, he's quiet, he does his work, his ears are always up; he's just hap py to be a racehorse." For now, Valley Of Sin, who is a ridgling, will remain a racehorse. Ducharme has 10 mares, but wants to keep Valley Of Sin "in racing mode" as long as the horse is healthy. "I'm an older man, so I enjoy having him race," Ducharme said, laughing. "Of course, racing horses is race to race. I think he's capable of racing at the top level and I'd like to maybe give him that opportunity (this year) on a limited basis. It's a management issue, but hope is eternal. "We're just enjoying this," he added. "It's been a good ride." by Ken Weingartner, Harness Racing Communications/USTA

Freehold, NJ --- Harness racing owner Barbara Arnstine celebrated her 82nd birthday by going for a drive. It wasn’t a leisurely trip along the Pacific Coast Highway or any other scenic journey through northern California. It was far more breathtaking and exhilarating. Arnstine jogged a trotter last Saturday morning (Dec. 17) at Cal Expo. A resident of Sacramento, Arnstine and her husband Don have owned racehorses since the early 1970s. The two retired university professors enjoy their time around the stable, and Barbara enjoys getting on the track whenever possible. And she knows how to play her hand to get her family to agree to it. “I got to jog on my 80th birthday and I thought that was pretty good, so I’ve kind of been insisting since then,” said Arnstine, who drove a horse for the first time in 1974. “I’ve got four children and when you’re in your 80s you can always pull a guilt trip on your children because they’re never sure how long you’re going to last. You can look wistful and say this might be my last jog.” Arnstine laughed at her approach, but it worked. She drove 4-year-old mare Cantoria “a couple miles” and enjoyed every moment. Her only regret was the trip wasn’t longer. “They didn’t tell me how long I could go,” Arnstine said. “I only did a couple of miles, but I could have done a couple more. The horse was glad; I was disappointed. She thought it was great: ‘Oh, we’re done early.’ But she was very sweet. “I was out on the track and Chip Lackey was driving by and he looked at me and said, ‘That really is a well-mannered horse.’ We weren’t pretending I was skillful. Everyone lines up on the fence because they don’t know what’s going to happen. But I’m not that incompetent.” Although experienced with horses, Arnstine never took her passion for sitting behind a racehorse to the next level, not even as an amateur (such as her son, Stephen Chambers). But she did think about it. “Of course I did,” she said, adding with a laugh, “And when I was 13 I considered being a ballerina, too, but that didn’t work out with me. I’m much better with words. I love horses and I rode all the time. I do go to the barn and visit a great deal, but I know my limitations. But it sure is great fun.” Arnstine and her husband claimed their first horse, Big Time, at Hollywood Park in 1973. The couple has 11 horses at the moment, racing in both California and on the East Coast. “We’d been going to the races for years and we felt it was finally time to become owners,” Arnstine said. “We’ve been in and out ever since then. “They’re all my favorites, but my favorite horse of all time was Big Time. He was the most winning horse at Hollywood Park, ever. He loved that track. And he didn’t like to be beaten, at all. (Female trotter) Fortunista was our biggest success. She made a half-million dollars and was a finalist in the (2012) New York Sire Stakes.” Now that Arnstine has gotten her birthday wish to jog a horse again, is she satisfied with returning to the sidelines? “I’ll be back in the barn whining again next week and trying to think of some reason to bother everybody into letting me go out there,” Arnstine said. “My generation, we figured when you retired you’d have a couple of years if you were lucky and then you’d die. Here I am in my 20th year of retirement and thinking this is very cool. If I’d only known I’d have anticipated it more. “The horses are a great way to go. I heartily recommend it. And they’re not that expensive if you own with other people. A lot of people could manage it, but they don’t realize they could manage it. I think if people knew they could manage it with a couple of partners they’d find it a great thing to do. And I think it’s great for the elderly. You always have something to get up for in the morning.” Like a drive. by Ken Weingartner, Harness Racing Communications 

The U.S. Trotting Association will be hosting a free Standardbred Owner's School at Sunshine Meadows Equestrian Village in Delray Beach, Fla., on Jan. 21-22, 2017. While there is no fee to attend, participants are required to register in advance on the USTA website at Enrollment may be limited. The second annual Owner's School will provide both hands-on and classroom instruction to those interested in learning more about owning a Standardbred racehorse. Participants will have the opportunity to get up close and personal to the horses during morning hours, including jogging horses on the track, followed by presentations and discussions with some of the leading owners and trainers in harness racing. Attendees will learn about the different ownership opportunities available and how easy it is to get involved. To enroll online, click here. For more information on the USTA Owner's School, e-mail Chip Hastings at or call 877.800.8782, ext. 3250. For other questions about ownership in harness racing, e-mail   Ken Weingartner

Exclusive video highlights from the USTA of the six Dan Patch Award winning trotters announced today by the U.S. Harness Writers Association are now available to watch or download on Dropbox. The winning trotter videos for Marion Marauder, Broadway Donna, Hannelore Hanover, Obrigado, Walner and Ariana G are available by clicking here. For the first time, the U.S. Trotting Association is providing assorted video highlights that can be downloaded for each of the Dan Patch Award divisional winners in conjunction with the announcement of those winners this week. The video features exclusive footage captured by the USTA of major races won, winner's circle presentations and b-roll of each winner. Video courtesy for use of the footage should be -- U.S. Trotting Association. Some race replays are also included. Videos for the pacing award winners will be available on Friday (Dec. 16) at approximately 1 p.m. Links to the video files will be posted on and sent out in a press release. The videos will remain available at the same links for the announcement of the Trotter, Pacer and Harness Horse of the Year awards on Monday (Dec. 19) at noon. According to USHWA, Monday's Trotter, Pacer and Harness Horse of the Year awards announcements will be streamed live starting at noon on the Facebook pages of USHWA, Hoosier Park and the Harness Racing FanZone hosted by Emily Gaskin, Hoosier's race marketing manager and the winner of USHWA's 2014 Breakthrough Award. Ken Weingartner

Top-earning female trotter Hannelore Hanover and Triple Crown winner Marion Marauder were among six trotters named Dan Patch Award winners Thursday by the U.S. Harness Writers Association. Ariana G, Broadway Donna, Obrigado, and Walner also were named divisional champs by the organization. A total of 155 Dan Patch Award ballots were returned by USHWA's membership. Ariana G, Hannelore Hanover, Marion Marauder, and Walner all were selected on at least 94 percent. Broadway Donna, who received 83 percent of the vote among 3-year-old female trotters, is a repeat winner. The six champions came from six different training stables. Divisional honors for pacers will be announced Friday. Trotter of the Year, Pacer of the Year, and Horse of the Year will be announced at noon Monday in a live show streamed over the Facebook pages of USHWA, Hoosier Park, and the Harness Racing FanZone. The presentation will be hosted by Emily Gaskin, Hoosier Park's race marketing manager. Marion Marauder was named the sport's best 3-year-old male trotter following a campaign that saw the colt become the ninth Trotting Triple Crown winner - and first since 2006 - by sweeping the Hambletonian, Yonkers Trot, and Kentucky Futurity. In addition, Marion Marauder won the Goodtimes Stakes and a division of the Stanley Dancer Memorial on his way to $1.48 million in purses. His earnings led all trotters in North America. Marion Marauder won 10 of 15 starts and finished second three times this season for the wife-and-husband training team of Paula Wellwood and Mike Keeling. Marion Marauder is owned by the couple's son, Devin Keeling, and Wellwood's mother, Marion Jean Wellwood. Scott Zeron was the colt's regular driver. A son of stallion Muscle Hill out of the mare Spellbound Hanover, Marion Marauder was bred by William Mulligan. For the second consecutive year, filly Broadway Donna was named a divisional champion and in the process joined her dam, Broadway Schooner, in receiving a Dan Patch Award at age 3. Broadway Schooner was honored in 2009. Broadway Donna, a daughter of stallion Donato Hanover, won seven of 12 starts and earned $664,708 in purses for breeder/owner Fashion Farms. Trained by Jim Campbell and driven by David Miller, her wins included the Breeders Crown for 3-year-old female trotters, Kentucky Filly Futurity, and the Pennsylvania Sire Stakes championship. Four-year-old mare Hannelore Hanover was named the sport's best older female trotter. She won 17 of 20 races and earned $1.11 million in purses, leading all female trotters in earnings. Her victories included the Breeders Crown Mare Trot and the Hambletonian Maturity, where she defeated male rivals. She also beat the boys in the Centaur Trotting Classic in addition to winning the Armbro Flight Stakes, TVG Series championship for female trotters, Fresh Yankee, Muscle Hill, and Miami Valley Distaff. Her mile time of 1:51 in winning the Armbro Flight equaled the world record for a 4-year-old trotting mare. Hannelore Hanover, trained by Ron Burke and driven by Yannick Gingras and Ricky Macomber Jr., is owned by Burke Racing, the partnership of Mark Weaver and Mike Bruscemi, Frank Baldachino, and J&T Silva Stables. A daughter of stallion Swan For All out of the mare High Sobriety, she was bred by Hanover Shoe Farms. Obrigado was named the best older male trotter. The 6-year-old gelding's wins included a world-record-equaling 1:53.2 performance around Northfield Park's half-mile oval in the Cleveland Trotting Classic and victories in the TVG Series championship for male trotters, Maxie Lee Memorial, Charlie Hill Memorial, Crawford Farms Open, and Dayton Trotting Derby. He won more than $800,000. The gelding, trained by Paul Kelley and driven by Mark MacDonald, is owned by the Paul Kelley Racing Stable, SRF Stable, Linwood Higgins, and Stable 45. Obrigado, bred by Mike Andrew, is a son of stallion Boy Band out of the mare Malimony. Walner won seven of eight races and finished the season with a five-race victory streak that included triumphs in the Breeders Crown for 2-year-old male trotters, Kindergarten Classic Series championship, and a division of the International Stallion Stakes in a world-record 1:51.3. Linda Toscano trained Walner for owner Ken Jacobs. Tim Tetrick handled the driving. The colt is a son of stallion Chapter Seven out of the mare Random Destiny. He was bred by Overseas Farms. Owners Al Libfeld and Marvin Katz finished second with All The Time in last year's voting for best 2-year-old female trotter, but captured the division this year with the aforementioned filly's sister, Ariana G. The homebred daughter of Muscle Hill out of Cantab It All won nine of 11 races and earned $743,967. Trained by Jimmy Takter and driven by Gingras, Ariana G's wins included the Breeders Crown for 2-year-old female trotters, Jim Doherty Memorial, Peaceful Way Stakes, and New Jersey Sire Stakes championship. 2-YEAR-OLD MALE TROTTER Walner (151 votes) Chapter Seven---Random Destiny---Ken Warkentin Yearling Price: $90,000 at Lexington Selected Sale Breeder: Overseas Farms Ltd. Owner: Ken Jacobs Trainer: Linda Toscano Driver: Tim Tetrick Races: 8-7-0-0 Purses: $484,037 Mark: 1:51.3 at Red Mile (world record) Top wins: $600,000 Breeders Crown; $200,600 Kindergarten Classic; $56,000 International Stallion Stakes division 2-YEAR-OLD FEMALE TROTTER Ariana G (152 votes) Muscle Hill---Cantab It All---Cantab Hall Yearling Price: Homebred Breeders: Marvin Katz, Al Libfeld Owners: Marvin Katz, Al Libfeld Trainer: Jimmy Takter Driver: Yannick Gingras Races: 11-9-1-0 Purses: $743,967 Mark: 1:51.4 at Red Mile Top wins: $600,000 Breeders Crown; $306,500 Doherty Memorial; $275,880 Peaceful Way 3-YEAR-OLD MALE TROTTER Marion Marauder (146 votes) Muscle Hill---Spellbound Hanover---Donerail Yearling Price: $37,000 under name Marion Monopoly at Lexington Selected Sale Breeder: William Mulligan Owners: Marion Jean Wellwood, Devin Keeling Trainers: Paula Wellwood, Mike Keeling Driver: Scott Zeron Races: 15-10-3-0 Purses: $1.48 million Mark: 1:51.3 at Meadowlands Top wins: $1 million Hambletonian; $500,000 Yonkers Trot; $431,000 Kentucky Futurity; $209,040 Goodtimes 3-YEAR-OLD FEMALE TROTTER Broadway Donna (129 votes) Donato Hanover---Broadway Schooner---Broadway Hall Yearling Price: Homebred Breeder: Fashion Farms Owner: Fashion Farms Trainer: Jim Campbell Driver: David Miller Races: 12-7-2-1 Purses: $664,708 Mark: 1:51.1 at Red Mile Top wins: $500,000 Breeders Crown; $312,000 Kentucky Filly Futurity; $252,000 Pennsylvania Sire Stakes final OLDER MALE TROTTER Obrigado (88 votes) Boy Band---Malimony---Malabar Man Sale Price: $53,000 at 2013 Standardbred Horse Sale Mixed Sale Breeder: Michael Andrew Owners: Paul Kelley Racing Stable, SRF Stable, Linwood Higgins, Stable 45 Trainer: Paul Kelley Driver: Mark MacDonald Races: 17-7-2-4 Purses: $808,320 Mark: 1:51.2 at Vernon Downs Top wins: $400,000 TVG Series final; $210,000 Hill Memorial; $200,000 Maxie Lee Memorial OLDER FEMALE TROTTER Hannelore Hanover (151 votes) Swan For All---High Sobriety---Dream Vacation Yearling Price: $32,000 at Standardbred Horse Sale Breeder: Hanover Shoe Farms Owners: Burke Racing Stable, Weaver Bruscemi LLC, Frank Baldachino, J&T Silva Stables Trainer: Ron Burke Drivers: Yannick Gingras, Ricky Macomber Jr. Races: 20-17-2-0 Purses: $1.11 million Mark: 1:51 at Mohawk (equals world record) Top wins: $471,200 Hambletonian Maturity; $250,000 Breeders Crown; $220,000 Centaur Trotting Classic by Ken Weingartner, for the US Harness Writers Association

For the first time, the U.S. Trotting Association will provide assorted video highlights that can be downloaded for each of the Dan Patch Award divisional winners in conjunction with the announcement of those winners by the U.S. Harness Writers Association this week. The video, which will be made available via Dropbox, will feature exclusive footage captured by the USTA of major races won, winner's circle presentations and b-roll of each winner. Video courtesy for use of the footage should be -- U.S. Trotting Association. Some race replays will also be included. As announced today by USHWA, the six winners in the various age/sex divisions for trotters will be announced shortly after noon (EST) on Thursday (Dec. 15) with the winning pacers following on Friday (Dec. 16) at the same time. The winning trotter videos will be available on Thursday at approximately 2 p.m. The videos for the pacing award winners will be available on Friday at approximately 2 p.m. Links to the video files will be posted on and sent out in a press release. The videos will remain available at the same links for the announcement of the Trotter, Pacer and Harness Horse of the Year awards on Monday (Dec. 19) at noon. According to USHWA, Monday's Trotter, Pacer and Harness Horse of the Year awards announcements will be streamed live starting at noon on the Facebook pages of USHWA, Hoosier Park and the Harness Racing FanZone hosted by Emily Gaskin, Hoosier's Race Marketing Manager and the winner of USHWA's 2014 Breakthrough Award. Ken Weingartner

Harness racing driver Drew Monti has enjoyed a season to remember, and it’s not finished yet. Among the 22-year-old driver’s accomplishments so far are: graduating from college, winning a New York Sire Stakes race for the first time, and posting seven victories on a single card. He also is in the hunt for the driving title at Batavia Downs, where he trails Jim Morrill Jr. by 12 wins with eight more dates on the schedule. Following the conclusion of Batavia’s meet on Dec. 17, Monti might make a few trips to New Jersey to race at the Meadowlands before returning his focus to upstate New York and the start of a new meet at Buffalo Raceway. Monti finished fourth in this year’s standings at Buffalo. Monti, a Buffalo native, followed his father, Darrin, and grandfather, Carl, into harness racing. He began driving regularly in 2013 and has won 673 races in his career, including 202 this year. In 2015, Monti established career highs of 224 victories and $1.16 million in purses, but could surpass both totals this season. He needs less than $8,000 to establish a new best for earnings. In May, Monti graduated from Canisius College with an economics degree. In addition to driving, he also does some work for a financial advising firm. Monti recently took time to talk to Ken Weingartner from the U.S. Trotting Association’s Harness Racing Communications division about his career. KW: It’s been an exciting year for you in many different ways. DM: Yeah, absolutely. There are a lot of things to look back on. I had a good year last year, but I think this is my best year so far. I won a (New York) sire stakes this year, and I’d never done that before. That was exciting. I’m second in the standings at Batavia. It’s still tight. I’m a few behind (Jim Morrill Jr.) but we’ll see. Hopefully I can get there. That would be awesome if I could be leading driver here. And I won seven races (on a card) this year (on Oct. 26 at Batavia). That was a personal high. I’d won five a couple times, but never more than that. KW: I was going to bring that up. You won seven out of 10, right? What was that like? Is it a different feeling when you’re going through a night like that? DM: Not really. I’ll tell you, though, what is different --- it feels like the night goes right by.  When you don’t do any good, it feels like the night drags on forever. KW: Did you expect a big night? DM: I thought it was going to be a good card. I had some good posts and I had some horses that I’d been driving that were down in class and drew inside and were sharp. I didn’t really say anything to anybody; I never want to talk like that out loud. But I thought it could be a wicked good night. And it turned out like nothing could go wrong. I was getting breaks, getting good trips, horses that could beat me were coming up flat --- it was just left and right that I was getting breaks all night. (Laughs.) That’s how you win seven. KW: I’m sure there have been times when you’ve looked at a card and thought you could have a big night and maybe things didn’t go your way. DM: Lots of times. That happens way more often. You think you can really do some good and you don’t do any good at all. But that’s the game. KW: How old were you when you decided this is what you wanted to do? DM: Probably 14 or 15. I started helping my dad regularly. My grandfather has been in it for all his life. I was just brought up in it and we’ve always had horses, at least a few. I started qualifying horses and we had some decent horses throughout the last few years and it kind of showed people I could do a little good. Then I got some chances and it took off from there. I’m just very grateful to everyone that’s given me a chance. KW: What’s the most difficult thing when you’re starting out as a young driver? DM: If you have any success, not to get ahead of yourself. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. And also don’t get down if you don’t do well. I still struggle with that now. It takes a toll on you mentally and you can’t allow that to affect how you drive. You’ve got to go out there clear-minded and do your job the best you can do it. You have to focus on the things you’re doing right.  KW: When you’re trying to make a name for yourself do you take losses harder because you feel they’re missed opportunities? But, as you said, you also don’t want to get too high when you have the success. DM: Exactly. That’s the thing, you do well and you start thinking you should be doing well. And that should never be the case racing horses. There’s never any entitlement. You could do all your work, you could make all the right moves, and sometimes things just don’t line up right. Sometimes horses show up a little flat, sometimes other horses show up better. There are things that are out of your control. As hard as that is to accept, that’s how it is. KW: How do you learn as you’re going through it? DM: There are always different situations in races and you’re never going to do everything right. But you try to learn the kinds of horses you drive and adapt. You get better at that the more you drive. I just try to be really open-minded and listen to what the trainer has to say. I try not to have any preconceptions about the horse, or the trainer. I think you’ll be the most successful that way. KW: Do you watch other drivers and learn that way? DM: All the time. Morrill is right here at home. It’s really easy to watch him as he’s going by you. (Laughs.) I look up to Tony Morgan. I’m good friends with him and I watch him all the time. There are a lot of guys, really. If there is ever a race on, I’m not going to ignore it, it doesn’t matter where it is. You can always watch and try to think what you would do in certain situations. It’s always interesting, it doesn’t matter what race it is. KW: Do you set goals for yourself? DM: Not really numerical goals, like I want to win this many races or make this much money. But I’ll have goals like try to get all good trips, or try not to over-drive a horse, or try not to make a certain mistake again. Just little goals to try to improve. KW: What’s been your biggest thrill so far? DM: Winning the sire stakes, and I’ll tell you why. That’s something I’d never done and I haven’t had a lot of shots to do it. On top of that, Rick Dane trained the horse (Americanfirewater) and (his partner) Monica Banca was there with the horse. That horse was only (age) 2 and hadn’t had a win yet. I came off the track and she was in tears, happy. She said that was his first sire stakes win and I said it was my first sire stakes win, too, so I’m as happy as you are. She gave me the cooler and a hug and said she was so happy to be a part of it. I was like, please, thank you. I appreciate it more than anything. That was probably the coolest moment. It was awesome. That was meaningful. KW: How difficult was it to drive and go to college? DM: Very tough. I tried to schedule myself where I could go to the track. I usually went to school just in the morning, but I went every day because I couldn’t go a whole day. It was tough to manage my time. I’d come home from races and I’d be shot, but sometimes I had to study or finish a project. But I got through it and did pretty well. I can tell you, I’m glad it’s over. It was busy and taxing mentally. But it was fun. KW: Has it made you better now? DM: I think so. It was a situation where you had to be mature and make sacrifices, or you weren’t going to do it. I never got a chance to do a lot of extras (with friends) but that being said, I’ve been successful and made pretty good money racing. I have some things others don’t have the privilege to have, but I put work in to get them. KW: When you were in high school did you play any sports? DM: I played baseball all four years and I also bowled all four years. KW: Oh really. Were you good? DM: Yeah, my average was like a 210. If I ever get some time I’ll still throw a couple games. It’s just hard to find the time for it. KW: How about baseball? DM: I was pretty good. I pitched through high school. My junior year, we won the regional championship, it’s called the Georgetown Cup. That was a real big season for us. KW: You’ll be wrapping up at Batavia in a couple weeks. Then what’s the plan? DM: Buffalo opens Jan. 11 and obviously that’s home. I’m thinking of trying the Meadowlands when there’s nothing else going on. I’d have to have a lot of success to make it worth going to New Jersey every weekend. Tentatively, Buffalo is just the plan. But we’ll see what happens. I’m open to anything. I’ll probably go (to the Meadowlands) because I’ll be off, but as far as staying, we’ll have to see. KW: What do you most enjoy about doing this? DM: Honestly, one of the big reasons I even do it at all is because I can do it with my family. My grandfather, my father, and I are all at the barn every day. We get to spend time together. I get to spend a lot of time with my dad. Some people don’t get to do that with family. I think I’m lucky for that.   Ken Weingartner Media Relations Manager Harness Racing Communications A division of the U.S. Trotting Association

Freehold, NJ. - Five-year-old pacing stallion Always B Miki is harness racing’s No.1-ranked horse in this year’s final Hambletonian Society/Breeders Crown poll. Always B Miki received 27 first-place votes in the final poll and was second on the remaining eight ballots. Four-year-old pacing gelding Wiggle It Jiggleit received the other eight first-place votes. Always B Miki and Wiggle It Jiggleit were the only horses to be ranked No. 1 during the season. The Hambletonian Society/Breeders Crown poll does not determine Horse of the Year. The U.S. Harness Writers Association votes in December on all Dan Patch Award division winners plus Trotter of the Year, Pacer of the Year and Horse of the Year. Rankings based on the votes of harness racing media representatives on a 10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 basis. FINAL Hambletonian Society/Breeders Crown Standardbred Poll: Week 27 – 11/22/2016 Rank Name (First Place Votes) Age/Gait/Sex Record Earnings Points Pvs 1 Always B Miki (27) 5ph 18-12-5-0 $1,487,292 342 1 2 Wiggle It Jiggleit (8) 4pg 24-15-7-2 $1,719,062 307 2 3 Hannelore Hanover 4tm 20-17-2-0 $1,119,111 264 3 4 Betting Line 3pc 15-14-1-0 $1,467,386 191 4 5 Marion Marauder  3tc 15-10-3-0 $1,484,532 177 5 6 Lady Shadow 5pm 20-12-2-1 $851,981 122 6 7 Ariana G 2tf 11-9-1-0 $743,967 101 7 8 Walner 2tc 8-7-0-0 $484,037 93 8 9 Racing Hill 3pc 16-7-5-2 $1,594,366 81 9 10 Resolve 5th 13-5-4-1 $1,341,553 68 10 Also: Pure Country (40); Huntsville (35); Broadway Donna (34); Bar Hopping (17); Obrigado (16); Manhattan Beach, Southwind Frank (7); Downbytheseaside (6); Snowstorm Hanover (5); Krispy Apple (4); That’s The Ticket (3); Magic Presto (2); Bee A Magician, Someomensomewhere, The Real One (1). Always B Miki Retirement Ceremony at The Meadowlands Always B Miki World Record Allerage Farms by Ken Weingartner, Harness Racing Communications 

The deadline for entries for the 2016 John Hervey Awards, which honor the best of harness racing journalism, is Dec. 9. Entries will be accepted in four categories: news/commentary writing, feature writing, television, and the George Smallsreed Awards for race and feature photography. Winners will be recognized at the U.S. Harness Writers Association's annual Dan Patch Awards festivities Feb. 26 in Las Vegas. Judges in each category will select a winner and, where appropriate, up to two honorable mentions. Entries published or aired between Dec. 1, 2015 and Nov. 30, 2016 will be eligible. There are no entry fees or cash prizes. Email entries should be sent to Mailed entries should be sent to Ken Weingartner, Harness Racing Communications, 49 E. Main St. #5, Freehold, NJ 07728. If using an overnight service, please indicate that no signature is required. Rules for the 2016 John Hervey Awards The best of harness racing journalism in 2016 will be honored with the 55th edition of the John Hervey Awards for writing, the 33rd edition of the Broadcasters Awards for electronic media as well as the 17th edition of the George Smallsreed Awards for photography. Please read these rules carefully. Failure to follow instructions may result in disqualification of the entry. Entries will be judged in the following categories -- all must be in English: 1. News & Commentary Writing (hard news, opinion pieces and essays) 2. Feature Writing (articles not written on overnight deadline; involving background research or expanded profiles -- no Q&As) 3. Television (a featured or live racing segment no longer than 10 minutes which must have aired on a network, local or cable station or have been included in a racetrack's simulcasting presentation) 4. Racing Photography 5. Feature Photography Winners will receive a plaque/trophy as well as two dinner tickets to the Dan Patch Awards dinner on Feb. 26. There are no cash prizes. The decisions of the Hervey Committee and the judges are final. Photo and written submissions -- news or feature categories -- must have appeared in a paid-circulation publication or on the website that is the same-name affiliate of a paid-circulation publication, recognized broadcast news organization or established industry/news website. Content that appeared on personal websites, message boards or lists and similar entities is not valid for inclusion in the competition. The final decision on eligibility is in the hands of the Hervey Committee. Television entries must have aired on a commercial or public television/radio station or be part of a racetrack's simulcasting broadcast. Additionally, audio/podcasts are eligible if they were posted to the websites of recognized news organizations or established industry websites. Documentaries or other long-form productions are not eligible although one segment of that documentary, edited only to fit the length limitations of no more than 10 minutes, may be submitted for consideration. The final decision on eligibility is in the hands of the Hervey Committee. General Rules The decision for eligibility of Internet posted materials is at the discretion of the Hervey Committee and all decisions are final. These awards are not open to entries which are fiction or were prepared for commercial purposes (for advertisements/promo/publicity purposes). There is a limit of one submission per person in any one category. You may enter more than one category, but not with the same submission. The Hervey Committee, at its discretion, may disqualify an entry at any time in the process, and reserves the right not to bestow an award in a particular category based on the quality and quantity of entries. An entry may only be submitted in one category and the category for which someone is submitting must be clearly indicated. What You Must Submit All entries must originate with the author/photographer/producer and must include a signed cover letter expressing the wish to enter materials in the contest and granting permission for the materials to be used for promoting the awards in press releases. The letter must also include the following contact information for the writer/producer/photographer: name, full address, telephone numbers (home, office, cell) and email address. The letter must also include the date that the media organization published/aired the submission and specify the category for which the entry is being submitted. All the rules for submission must be followed. Editors may submit on behalf of authors provided that the cover letter is provided with information on the writer/producer/photographer as well as the person submitting the entry. All other third-party entries will be rejected. Rules for Submission All written entries -- news or feature -- must specify the category (news or feature) for which the author wishes to be considered. All print entries must include both a tearsheet of the entry (a PDF is acceptable via electronic submission) as it appeared in print and an electronic or emailed version that is plain text, without identifying information (no bylines, publication names, graphs, photos or other graphic elements). The emailed (or electronic) file must be named for the author so that it is easily identifiable as being by the author. The plain text version must be as it was published. The tearsheet from the publication must show the author's name, title and date of publication. Tearsheets for Internet-based submissions will consist of a "screen print" of the document. At the discretion of the Hervey Committee, an editor or similar senior official of the publication or website may be required to provide a letter attesting that the document is the work of the author who submitted it and it appeared on the website or in the publication on the date in question. If the author wishes to submit a multi-part series, it must be where the parts were published at the same time (sidebars with a primary story) or where it covers a single theme over the course of two or three publication dates. Multi-part submissions are not to exceed three parts. All television entries must not exceed 10 minutes and must not contain commercials. Each submission (one per person or group) should have its own cover letter. Each submission should be in the form of a DVD. Please provide two DVDs of each submission. The submission may be a segment from a live show or a pre-taped feature but must be submitted "as broadcasted" and not edited other than to meet the length restriction and to remove commercials. Commercials or promotional videos are not eligible. A single segment of a documentary may be submitted but not a full-length documentary. Photography entries must be in the form of three non-returnable 8-by-10 prints of each photograph as it appeared in print, with no identifying information on the front or back along with the cover letter that provides all the identifying information. The three prints should be accompanied by a single tearsheet of the published photo, showing the date, name of publication and photographer's name and info. Tearsheets for Internet-based submissions will consist of a "screen print" with an accompanying letter from the editor or similar senior official of the website, attesting to who submitted it and that it appeared on the date indicated in connection with a news-related story. Each photographer may submit one entry in each the race and feature categories. Additionally, the winners (and any honorable mentions) must be able to provide a JPG version of the photograph upon request from the Hervey Committee. Photographs should not be digitally enhanced beyond the basics needed to achieve realistic color balance and sharpness. Failure to follow these rules will result in disqualification. Deadline All entries must be in the hands of Hervey Chairman Ken Weingartner by 5 p.m. on Dec. 9. This is not a postmark deadline but actually when the entry must be received. You are urged to submit early to avoid missing the deadline. Where to send the entries Ken Weingartner, Harness Racing Communications, 49 E. Main St. #5, Freehold, NJ 07728. If using an overnight service, please indicate that no signature is required. Where to email the digital portion of the entry: Questions may be sent to Ken Weingartner at the above email address.   Ken Weingartner

Freehold, NJ --- Five-year-old pacing stallion Always B Miki finished his harness racing career in style with a 4-1/4 length win in the TVG Free For All Series championship for male pacers Saturday at the Meadowlands and extended his lead over idle Wiggle It Jiggleit for the top spot in this week’s Hambletonian Society/Breeders Crown poll. No. 1 Always B Miki holds a 48-point advantage over No. 2 Wiggle It Jiggleit, an increase of 14 points from a week ago. Other TVG Series winners included No. 3-ranked Hannelore Hanover, who won among older female trotters, and No. 6 Lady Shadow, who moved up four places in the rankings off her triumph in the pacing mare division. Next week will be the final Hambletonian Society/Breeders Crown poll of the year. The poll does not determine Horse of the Year. The U.S. Harness Writers Association votes in December on all Dan Patch Award division winners plus Trotter of the Year, Pacer of the Year and Horse of the Year. Rankings based on the votes of harness racing media representatives on a 10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 basis. Hambletonian Society/Breeders Crown Standardbred Poll: Week 26 – 11/15/2016  Rank Name (First Place Votes) A/G/S Record Earnings Points Pvs 1 Always B Miki (29) 5ph 18-12-5-0 $1,487,292 344 1 2 Wiggle It Jiggleit (6) 4pg 24-15-7-2 $1,719,062 296 2 3 Hannelore Hanover 4tm 20-17-2-0 $1,119,111 265 3 4 Betting Line 3pc 15-14-1-0 $1,467,386 181 4 5 Marion Marauder  3tc 15-10-3-0 $1,484,532 163 5 6 Lady Shadow 5pm 20-12-2-1 $851,981 122 10 7 Ariana G 2tf 11-9-1-0 $743,967 96 6 8 Walner 2tc 8-7-0-0 $484,037 87 9 9 Racing Hill 3pc 16-7-5-2 $1,594,366 81 7 10 Resolve 5th 13-5-4-1 $1,341,553 79 8 Also: Pure Country (52); Huntsville (44); Broadway Donna (37); Obrigado (27); Bar Hopping (19); Caprice Hill (9); Southwind Frank (7); Dayson (6); Boston Red Rocks (5); Bee A Magician (3); Hemi Seelster, Someomensomewhere (1) by Ken Weingartner, Harness Racing Communications  

Freehold, NJ --- Harness racing trainer Ron Burke’s stable surpassed $20 million in purses for the fourth consecutive year on Monday night (Nov. 14) when Encore Deo won the seventh race at Yonkers Raceway. No other trainer in history has ever reached $20 million in purses in a season. In 2014, Burke’s stable set an all-breed record of $28.4 million in purses. Burke has led the sport in wins and purses each of the past seven years and is set to do it again in 2016. Burke leads the win standings with 799, holding an advantage of 397 wins over second-place Rene Allard, and has doubled second-place Jimmy Takter in earnings. For his career Burke has won 7,471 races and $168 million in purses, both records. The majority of the wins and earnings have been accumulated since 2008 when Burke took over his family’s stable fulltime. Burke was the U.S. Harness Writers Association’s Trainer of the Year in 2013 and 2011. His father Mickey was Trainer of the Year in 2006. In 2013, Burke Racing and the partnership of Mark Weaver and Mike Bruscemi received the Owner of the Year Award. by Ken Weingartner, Harness Racing Communications

Joe Hurley's run with Always B Miki is coming to an end. On Saturday night, Hurley, who at trackside ran down the final portion of the stretch at Lexington as Always B Miki made harness racing history with his 1:46 all-time record mile a month ago, will watch the 5-year-old pacing stallion he bred and co-owns compete for the final time in his career. Always B Miki, the No. 1-ranked horse in harness racing's Top 10 poll, is the 1-5 morning line favorite in Saturday's $400,000 TVG Free For All Series championship at the Meadowlands Racetrack, where regular driver David Miller will be at the lines for trainer Jimmy Takter. The only other horse in single digit odds in the seven-horse field is Shamballa, at 6-1, for the driver-trainer combo of Scott Zeron and Rick Zeron. The TVG was expected to be the final meeting between Always B Miki and No. 2-ranked Wiggle It Jiggleit, but Wiggle It Jiggleit was not entered because of a minor foot bruise and bout of sickness. Always B Miki and Wiggle It Jiggleit met eight times this season, with Always B Miki winning four times and Wiggle It Jiggleit winning three. Shamballa was an upset winner in the remaining race. For the year, Always B Miki has won 11 of 17 races, finished worse than second only once, and earned $1.29 million for Hurley's Roll The Dice Stable, Bluewood Stable, and Christina Takter. For his career, Always B Miki has won 29 of 52 starts, hit the board a total of 45 times, and banked $2.51 million. In addition to becoming the fastest horse in history, Always B Miki shares the world record of 1:47 for the fastest mile by a horse on a five-eighths-mile track. Always B Miki paced 1:47 on a five-eighths oval on three occasions, an unprecedented feat. He also holds the record of 1:47.1 for the fastest mile ever paced in Canada. "I have mixed emotions, for sure," said the 73-year-old Hurley, who is a prominent defense attorney from Delaware. "It's the ride of a lifetime that you can't possibly fathom unless you've been there. A magic carpet ride type thing and you don't want it to end. "When you see the end coming, you push it out of your mind. The highs that you get where you cry, you run, you scream, you yell, you jump --- things that you never thought you would do --- that are all in the past and you know there will never be another one like him. "Even though there are horses in the future, the way I am, I measure everything against the best experience, so it's going to be quite a fall off a cliff. But it's been fantastic." Always B Miki won 12 of 19 races as a 3-year-old, including the Indiana Sire Stakes championship, before being twice sidelined by injuries that required surgeries and forced him to miss nearly a year of action. He returned in October 2015 and won all four of his races, including the Breeders Crown Open Pace, the remainder of the season. He heads to the TVG championship off a second Breeders Crown Open Pace victory, Oct. 28 at the Meadowlands. Always B Miki's other wins this year include the Ben Franklin Pace, William Haughton Memorial, Jim Ewart Memorial, and Hoosier Pacing Derby. But for Hurley, Always B Miki's 1:46 mile in the Allerage Farms Open Pace at Lexington's Red Mile on Oct. 9 was the pacer's most magical moment. The time eclipsed Cambest's mark of 1:46.1, which was set in a time trial at Springfield, Ill., in 1993. No horse had ever paced faster than 1:46.4 in a race. "What I do is stand by myself, because I get so caught up in things, probably about the sixteenth pole and then literally run with him," Hurley said about his race day ritual with Always B Miki. "I can't keep up, but I begin running toward the finish line. "And in Lexington there was this buzz and it got louder and louder. I couldn't see because of the people in between and they were shouting and shouting. I'm running and I still don't know what's going on. And then I hear somebody say 'world record' and I hear somebody else say '1:46' and then it's just --- well, there's no feeling to describe it. I have a pretty wide vocabulary, but there is no word in the vocabulary to describe the feeling." Always B Miki is a son of Hurley's million-dollar-winning Always A Virgin out of the mare Artstopper. Hurley also bred both of Always B Miki's parents. "I don't know that much about breeding; I got lucky," Hurley said. "I'm an unlucky person, I think, so I was blessed. And now I'm cursed. That's the thing, you've never thought in your wildest dreams about something like this. If I won a sire stakes in all these years, you're happy. But not this elation where your body just goes out of control and you find yourself shouting and screaming at the top of your lungs and jumping up and down. "It's like you're not even in control of yourself. It's like somebody is puppeteering you." Hurley added, referring to his wife who named Always B Miki after her nickname, "She's usually not expressive, but she just goes into another dimension. The smile on her face is ear-to-ear. She jumps up and down. There's nothing like it. I can see the joy and happiness in her face." Always B Miki will be retired to stud duty at Diamond Creek Farm in Pennsylvania following Saturday's TVG final. The run will be completed, but the memories will remain. "The bond between me and him is like it's your child," Hurley said. "I don't get any big pleasure from standing in the winner's circle, but the idea of Miki --- there is a word that you attribute to animals, human emotions --- and I have this irrational sense that he knows that he beat Wiggle It Jiggleit and he's a star. "If someone said I could win Powerball for some ridiculous amount of money or have Miki, it wouldn't even be a question. It would be Miki," Hurley said. "This is like Powerball on steroids." TVG Series finals for male and female trotters plus female pacers are also on Saturday's Meadowlands card. Breeders Crown Mare Trot winner Hannelore Hanover is the 7-5 morning line favorite in the $200,000 TVG for trotting mares while defending series champion Resolve is the 7-5 choice in the TVG for male trotters. Breeders Crown Mare Pace winner Lady Shadow gets the 4-5 nod in the $200,000 TVG for female pacers. Complete entries for the Saturday Meadowlands card may be found at this link. Ken Weingartner Harness Racing Communications

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