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LATHAM, N.Y. - The harness racing schedule and updated conditions for the 2020 New York Sire Stakes (NYSS) racing season were approved Monday (Dec. 30) at a meeting of the Agriculture and New York State Horse Breeding Development Fund Board of Trustees. The NYSS racing season will open on Tuesday, May 5, at Yonkers Raceway with 3-Year-Old Filly Trotters and provide eight legs for all eight divisions of 2 and 3 year olds. The $1.8 million NYSS Day of Champions, featuring eight Finals worth $225,000, will be held Saturday, Sept. 12, at Yonkers Raceway. The program will also feature the International Trot and offer a special afternoon post. "Racing fans had such a great response to the NYSS Day of Champions and International Trot in 2017. We are so excited to partner with Yonkers Raceway again to offer another blockbuster card in 2020," said M. Kelly Young, executive director, Agriculture & NYS Horse Breeding Development Fund. "The New York Sire Stakes program is key to the success of the state's harness racing and Standardbred breeding industries and we look forward to working with all tracks in the state to offer another outstanding year of state-bred racing." The NYSS Consolations are scheduled at Monticello Raceway on Monday, Sept. 14. The Excelsior Series Finals are scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 19, at Tioga Downs. The purses for the Consolations and Excelsior Finals have been adjusted and each division will offer $50,000 purses for the season-concluding events. The full schedule of NYSS and Excelsior racing dates is now available. Dates for the County Fair Racing Series will be announced in the coming weeks. Total purses paid out for the three tiers of the New York Sire Stakes program equaled $14.79 million in 2019. Purses are budgeted to be similar in 2020 with more than $13 million in added money approved at the meeting. The newly approved conditions for the Excelsior and County Fair Series in 2020, along with conditions for yearlings nominating in 2020 (foals of 2019), can be found at the New York Sire Stakes website: www.nysirestakes.com. Also approved at the meeting, $150,000 has been made available for next year's Grant Awards. A grant application will be issued in early 2020 encouraging certified 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organizations to apply for consideration. Organizations are asked to review the Fund's Grants Policy to determine their eligibility before applying. Deadline for submission will be March 2, 2020. From the New York Sire Stakes      

SCHENECTADY, N.Y. - The New York Sire Stakes has announced annual Breeders Awards for the 2018 racing season, totaling $1,000,000. Payment packages will be mailed to the recipients over the coming days. The full list of awards can be found at the New York Sire Stakes website. The Breeders Awards program provides rewards for each level of New York Sire Stakes racing: Sire Stakes, Excelsior Series and County Fairs. The awards are residency based, rewarding breeders who keep their mares in New York State for at least 180 days during the year of conception, thereby contributing to the agricultural economy. The program is designed to stimulate New York State's agriculture sector and support New York farms. Top award winners in 2018, with key earners in parenthesis, include: Blue Chip Bloodstock Inc. - $165,587.44 (Plunge Blue Chip, Quincy Blue Chip), Winbak Farm - $87,405.15 (Courtly Choice, My Delight), Crawford Farms LLC - $58,525.64 (St Somewhere), Richard Balog - $44,833.48 (Helpisontheway), and Steve Jones - $43,541.87 (Hickfromfrenchlick). "Breeders are the foundation of the harness racing industry. We are proud to support the investment they make in maintaining exceptional broodmares right here in the Empire State when breeding to New York-registered stallions," said M. Kelly Young, executive director, Agriculture and New York State Horse Breeding Development Fund. "As the demand and quality of New York horses continues to be strong, so will the economic and agricultural benefits that the Standardbred breeding and racing industries provide to the State of New York." This year, the equivalent of nearly 20 percent of a 2-year-old's earnings were returned to their breeder and more than 15 percent of a 3-year-old's earnings were returned to their breeder. This calculation is made each year depending on the pool of resident mares and the Sire Stakes program earnings of the resulting foals. In addition, 12 breeders earned more than $15,000 in Breeders Awards and 161 different entities will receive funds in 2018. The largest single Breeders Award earner this year was Helpisontheway (Chapter Seven), the 3-year-old trotting filly who won on the Night of Champions and earned $262,000 of her $485,000 in purses this season in the New York Sire Stakes program. Her performance alone returned $40,846.43 to breeder Richard Balog. The top Breeders Awards earners over their 2- and 3-year-old seasons combined were all fillies. Pacer Alexis Faith earned $54,230.79 for breeder Melvin Segal during her Sire Stakes career. Close behind were trotters Lucky Ava, who earned $52,803.99 over two years for breeder Little E LLC, and Plunge Blue Chip, who scored $49,300.05 for breeder Blue Chip Bloodstock. The New York Sire Stakes is the state's premier harness racing program for 2- and 3-year-old Standardbreds designed to stimulate the breeding, buying and racing of Standardbred horses in New York State. It is the nation's oldest harness racing program of its kind has served as a model for state-bred racing programs. About the Agriculture and New York State Horse Breeding Development Fund: The Agriculture and New York State Horse Breeding Development Fund (the Fund) is a public benefitcorporation established in 1965 by the Laverne Law (Laws of New York, Chapter 567 of the Laws of 1965). The mission of the Fund is to promote agriculture through the breeding of Standardbred horses and the conduct of equine research within the State. To carry out its legislative mission, the Fund administers the New York Sire Stakes races, Excelsior/State Fair Series races, and County Fair Races. Additionally, the Fund provides assistance to county agriculture societies and contributes to the statewide 4-H program and to the Harry M. Zweig Fund for Equine Research. From the New York Sire Stakes

New York Sire Stakes Finals and Consolations All horses must be entered at Yonkers Raceway by Monday, Sept. 17, 2018, no later than 3:30 p.m. for both the New York Sire Stakes Finals and Consolations. Yonkers Raceway will draw post positions for the Finals, to be contested on Saturday, Sept. 22, and transmit the remaining entries to Batavia Downs to draw post positions for the Consolations, to be contested on Friday, Sept. 21. Purses for the New York Sire Stakes finals will be $225,000 for each division. Purses for the Consolations will be $40,000 for each division if five or more horses are carded. Purses will be prorated for divisions with four horses. New York Excelsior A Series Finals All horses must be entered at Saratoga Raceway by Thursday, Sept. 20, 2018, no later than 9:00 a.m. for the Excelsior A Finals, held on Sunday, Sept. 23. Purses for the Excelsior A Finals will be $55,000 for each division. Racing Reminders 1) To enter, horsemen are reminded that horses must still meet the requirements of: (a) a charted satisfactory performance line within 30 days of declaration that meets the qualifying standards in the conditions, and (b) cannot have two consecutive breaks in the last two charted performance lines. If a horse does not meet these criteria, it must qualify before being entered. 2) Horses must start in at least three legs of the Sire Stakes or Excelsior Series to be eligible for the finals. If not enough horses with three starts enter, the highest point earner which entered with two starts will be selected, etc., to fill the first tier. 3) Only two entries from a common owner will be permitted to race in the final events. There is no limit on horses from the same training stable with separate ownership. Any horse that changes ownership within 30 days before the date of entry for the finals must have these changed approved by the Fund to race in the final events. 4) If there is a tie in the point standings for the last entry in a final event, the judges will draw by lot from the horses tied. 5) A horse may only race in one final event-NYSS Final, Consolation or Excelsior A Final. 6) There are no entry fees for any final events in 2018. **NOTE: This is a summary of conditions related to the Finals and Consolations meant to assist with the most frequent questions by participants and is not meant to replace or supplant the conditions governing the New York Sire Stakes and New York Excelsior Series. The NYSS Finals and Consolations and the Excelsior Finals are governed by the conditions and the rules of the New York State Gaming Commission. Questions regarding the NYSS Finals, Consolations or Excelsior Series Finals should be directed to Kelly Young, Executive Director of the Agriculture and New York State Horse Breeding Development Fund at 518-388-0178 or Kelly.young@gaming.ny.gov. From the Agriculture and New York State Horse Breeding Development Fund   

Dave Briggs, writing for the Guelph Mercury newspaper, and M. Kelly Young, writing for Hoof Beats magazine, were named the winners in the 52nd annual John Hervey Awards for excellence in harness racing journalism, the U.S. Harness Writers Association (USHWA) announced Monday. Meadowlands Racetrack photographer Michael Lisa and Dave Witten of Horseman and Fair World magazine were the winners in the 14th annual George Smallsreed Awards for excellence in harness racing photography. Woodbine Entertainment won the 30th edition of the John Hervey Award for excellence in broadcasting for a feature on Sydney Weaver, a 13-year-old with cerebral palsy who is a licensed groom, horse owner, award-winning writer and public speaker. Briggs won the news/commentary category for his story titled “Horse barns at Mohawk ‘silent as a grave,’” which examined the shutting of the backstretch stables at Mohawk, and appeared in the Jan. 9, 2013 edition of the Guelph Mercury newspaper. Briggs has been awarded a record six Hervey honors. Melissa Keith received honorable mention in the news/commentary division for her story, “What Women Want; Can Racing Attract the Female Horseplayer?” It appeared in the April issue of Trot magazine. In the feature category, Young won for her story, “Win One for Ryan; Pacer races for stricken youngster,” which appeared in the November issue of Hoof Beats. The story recounted the chance meeting between Marc Reynolds and Marie Hunt and Reynolds naming a horse, River Run For Ryan, in honor of Hunt’s son, who has a rare genetic disease called Hunter Syndrome. Susan Higgins and Lauren Lee received honorable mention in the feature category. Higgins was recognized for her story, “‘Make Sure Things Go Right;’ Maine Cast fulfills a dying wish with sire stakes championship,” which appeared on the U.S. Trotting Association website on Nov. 21 and in the December issue of Hoof Beats. Lee was recognized for her story, “The Cornerstones,” about Meadowlands media duo Bob Heyden and Sam McKee entering the Communicators Corner of the Harness Racing Hall of Fame, which appeared in June 20 issue of The Canadian Sportsman. The writing categories were judged by a panel consisting of longtime horseracing writer Neil Milbert, Dorf Feature Service newsroom assistant/writer Lou Monaco and Philadelphia Inquirer Sports Editor John Quinn. In the photography categories, Lisa won in the race feature division for a photograph of driver David Miller heading onto the track on a snowy night at the Meadowlands. The photo appeared in the March 13 issue of Horseman and Fair World as well as the March 14 issue of The Canadian Sportsman. Witten won in the race action category for a photograph of the first turn of the Hambletonian. The photo appeared in the Aug. 15 issue of Horseman and Fair World. Claus Andersen and Mark Hall received honorable mention in the race action category; Andersen for a photo of Bee A Magician winning the Hambletonian Oaks that appeared on the Oct. 17 cover of The Canadian Sportsman and Hall for a photo of Pet Rock winning the Winbak Pace that appeared on the USTA website on Sept. 19. Dave Landry and Barbara Livingston received honorable mention in the race feature category; Landry for a photo of John Campbell driving with his great nephew Tyler McLinchey that appeared on the Sept. 12 cover of The Canadian Sportsman and Livingston for a photo of retired star Staying Together and Kentucky Horse Park Equine Operations Director Wes Lanter that appeared on the USTA website on Oct. 1. The photography categories were judged by Bill Denver, the track photographer at Monmouth Park and Parx Racing as well as a regular contributor to the New York Daily News and Wall Street Journal, and Phil McAuliffe, a longtime newspaper and magazine photographer who worked as a harness racing groom while a teenager. In the broadcast category, Woodbine’s feature on Sydney Weaver was written, voiced and produced by Paul Salvalaggio. It originally aired on June 26 as part of the one-hour North America Cup presentation on The Score television network. To watch the video, click here. The writing categories were judged by a panel consisting of award-winning longtime horseracing writer Neil Milbert, Daily Racing Form Programming Manager Lou Monaco and Philadelphia Inquirer Sports Editor John Quinn. Hervey Award winners will be honored as part of the U.S. Harness Writers Association’s Dan Patch Awards banquet Feb. 23 at Dover Downs. For more information about the banquet, visit www.ushwa.org. by Ken Weingartner for USHWA

A total of 152 yearlings passed over the auction block at the Morrisville College Yearling Sale on Monday, Sept. 24, for an average of $8,813. Trotting specialist Trond Smedshammer walked away with the two sale toppers. He picked up Planet Hallywood for $45,000, a Cash Hall half-brother to last year's 2-year-old New York Sire Stakes champion Royal Shyster. The colt was consigned by Morrisville College Equine Institute.

It's been a long road to breeding success for John O'Connor, but he seems to have found the right path with his 3-year-old trotting gelding Brookroad Knight. The son of CR Excalibur is a winner of more than a quarter-million dollars already this year and will be competing in the $225,000 New York Sire Stakes final on the $1.8 million Night of Champions at Yonkers Raceway on Saturday night (Sept. 22).

Breeding a star racehorse is rewarding. Getting to the $1.8 million New York Night of Champions at Yonkers Raceway is thrilling. But doing it all with a group of harness racing owners you have known since childhood, that might be priceless.

Theodore "Ted" H. Zornow was there at the conception of the New York Sire Stakes and he has been helping to shape the program ever since. For his outstanding contributions to harness racing and improvements of the breeding of Standardbred horses in the State of New York, Harness Horse Breeders of New York State will award Zornow the fifth annual Bruce Hamilton Memorial Medal.

When 2-year-old trotting colt Royal Shyster steps out onto the track Saturday (October 30) for the Breeders Crown final at Woodbine, it won't just be a big moment for his harness racing connections, but also for his sire, RC Royalty.

The Saratoga Harness Hall of Fame honored one horseman and two horses during the 30th annual induction ceremonies at the museum on Tuesday night, June 14. Harness racing trainer-driver Frank Coppola Jr. and pacing mares Quick Comeonover and Bo Scott's Horn were inducted in front of a packed crowd.

Batavia Downs has announced a brand new scholarship race to give away $7,500 for college-bound students. The event will feature students from area schools accompanied by professional harness racing drivers in a dash for the cash on Saturday, Sept. 11.

Over 240 people turned out at Kutshers Country Club in Monticello, New York on October 25th when the Monticello-Goshen Chapter of the U.S. Harness Writers Association held their 51st Annual Awards Banquet.

Harness Horse Breeders of New York State has announced James A. Crawford Jr. as the third annual recipient of the Bruce Hamilton Memorial Medal. This award recognizes outstanding contributions to harness horse racing and improvements of the breeding of Standardbred horses in the State of New York.

The action on the track for the first edition of the $1.4 million New York Sire Stakes Night of Champions held at Vernon Downs was hot, despite being interrupted for more than an hour in the middle of theharnes racing program due to a transformer fire on the backstretch.

William S. 'Bill' Brown has been selected by Harness Horse Breeders of New York State as the second annual recipient of the Bruce Hamilton Memorial Medal. This award recognizes outstanding contributions to harness horse racing and improvements of the breeding of Standardbred horses in the State of New York.

DANCING WITH THIS STAR - Maybe it is the training in ballroom dancing but when M. Kelly Young walks into a room, she does so with grace and confidence that belies her youth. (November 4, 2007)

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