USTA Executive Vice President Mike Tanner has been awarded the Dominic Frinzi Person of the Year award by Harness Horseman International. Tanner, 49, has been the helm of the USTA since late 2008, the youngest person at the time to fill that position. The New Jersey native was first introduced to racing when visiting Liberty Bell Park in the mid-1970s, and spent time as a groom and hot walker at Philadelphia Park and Garden State Park. After graduating from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill in 1988 and Bowling Green University in 1991, Tanner began his professional career as a Ladbroke's Detroit Race Course publicist in 1992. Tanner has also served as director of marketing, media, and simulcasting, as assistant to the president, and as director of communications at Gulfstream Park from 1993-2005, and also worked for the Breeders' Cup, from 2001 through 2003. In 2002, Tanner was a member of the National Thoroughbred Racing Association Technology Group's Communications Task Force and in 2005 was director of racing operations at Harrah's Chester Casino and Racetrack, in Chester, Pa. He and his wife Gail have two sons. Ron Battoni, who recently retired as the Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Harness Horsemen's Association, is honored with the HHI Appreciation Award. Battoni managed the PHHA's day-to-day operations including contract negotiations, government relations, interfacing with the state commission and track officials and overseeing the PHHA staff. The former horseman has been active in racing for more than four decades, and will continue to assist the PHHA in a reduced capacity for three to five years. During his tenure as a driver-trainer, from 1977 to 1987, he scored 394 wins and $760,738 in purse monies. Battoni joined the PHHA in 1987 and helped lead it through a number of positive changes in including full-card simulcasting of out-of-state racetracks in the 1990s. .He also worked to implement the passage of the Race Horse Development and Gaming Act in 2004 which brought slot machines to Pennsylvania tracks and oversaw the development and opening of Harrah's Philadelphia Casino & Racetrack in 2007. Writer Ken Weingartner is HHI's Clyde Hirt Media Award winner for this year. As the USTA's Media Relations Manager, Weingartner has already earned numerous journalistic accolades, including the Phil Pines Award recently bestowed upon him from the Monticello-Goshen chapter of the US Harness Writer's Association on Nov. 16, 2015. He also has awards from the New Jersey Press Association and the College Sports Information Directors of America. Weingartner, who is in his 13th year with the USTA, is a central New Jersey native who got interested in harness racing via his father, who took him to Freehold Raceway as a child. After stints at the Williamsport Sun-Gazette and Allentown Messenger-Press, Weingartner joined the USTA in 2002. He won the Golden Pen Award from the Standardbred Marketing and Media Association in 2007. All three gentlemen will be feted at the HHI Annual Awards Banquet at the Embassy Suites Resort, Deerfield Beach, Florida on Wednesday, March 9, 2016. Harness Horsemen International 319 High St. Suite 2 Burlington, NJ 08016 (609) 747-1000
Columbus, OH --- USTA President Phil Langley, accompanied by Executive Vice President Mike Tanner, presented the USTA’s position on a number of medication issues to the Ohio State Racing Commission at their monthly meeting on Monday afternoon (March 30) at the Riffe Center in Columbus, Ohio. At the previous commission meeting on Feb. 21, Chairman Robert K. Schmitz invited representatives of the U.S. Trotting Association, national and state branches of the Horsemen’s Benevolent & Protective Association, and the Ohio Harness Horsemen’s Association to address the commission. Langley focused on the need for uniform but separate medication rules for the different breeds, the use of therapeutic medications and USTA research on cobalt. He emphasized that in harness racing, the horses race much more often than Thoroughbreds and that harness racing doesn’t have the same problems with breakdowns. “The USTA strongly believes in uniform medication rules,” said Langley. “But we believe in uniform rules for harness racing and uniform rules for Thoroughbreds, but different rules. The way we race is not compatible with the way they race. We would like the rules to reflect the harness use, not the Thoroughbred use. “Recently, Ed Martin from RCI (Association of Racing Commissioners International) has indicated that they have no problem with separate rules.” Langley discussed a USTA-funded research study on cobalt conducted by Dr. George Maylin from the New York Drug Testing and Research Program at Morrisville State College with assistance from Director Dr. Karyn Malinowski and Associate Director Dr. Ken McKeever from the Equine Science Center at Rutgers University. He informed the commissioners that the USTA is planning a new study with that team of equine experts. “Now we going to commission a new study with Drs. Maylin, Malinowski and McKeever to see exactly what cobalt does to horses,” said Langley. “One of the challenges is that the scientists have to figure out how to test horses that are racing.” When asked by Chairman Schmitz for the reason that the USTA resigned from the Racing Medication and Testing Consortium in September 2013, Langley cited the USTA’s $100,000 annual contribution being made to an organization that refused to consider harness racing’s issues. “Our money could be used better for studies on harness racing than for funding the RMTC who were not considering harness racing,” explained Langley. The Ohio State Racing Commission is collecting information prior to consideration of model medication rules proposed by the Association of Racing Commissioners International. The commissioners heard presentations by RCI President Edward J. Martin and Dr. Dionne Benson, executive director of the Racing Medication and Testing Consortium, at their February meeting. According to Chairman Schmitz, the commission will invite veterinarians and scientists to present in the next two months. USTA Communications Department
Columbus, OH --- The Harness Racing Social Ambassador Program, launched in Q4 2013 to help industry advocates spread the word about harness racing through social media, today announced that it has expanded its capabilities and mission to become the industry's first-ever consumer-rewards program. The new enhancements make the platform easier-to-use for even novice social media users while adding a more sophisticated point and tracking system to better support new and current fans, participating tracks and industry sponsors. "After testing the initial program with key industry Ambassadors and collecting valuable feedback and insight, we're excited to now take the program to the next level and open it up to a wider range of potential participants," said Rob Key, CEO of Converseon, which is helping to spearhead the initiative in partnership with the USTA. "While it was always the plan to eventually evolve the program into a broader consumer rewards initiative, we decided to accelerate it so that we could leverage and scale it more effectively this year, including to better support the industry's TV initiative. "The first phase was designed to bring in our most important advocates and we thank them for their participation; while this next phase is about opening the program up to all of our current and potential fans." He notes that the platform is also being utilized by select other major league sports and clubs, like the Los Angeles Dodgers. Currently, there are more than 70 Ambassadors in the program whose efforts have reached more than 200,000 current and potential fans through harness racing related conversations across social media. The new features are designed to accommodate tens of thousands of current and new fans and provide enhanced tracking capabilities that allow consumers to be rewarded not only for spreading the word through social media, but also for a wide range of other desired actions, such as watching the sport on television, checking in at a racetrack, purchasing items from a store, participating in contests and even supporting industry sponsors. The platform also presents an opportunity for harness racetracks, venues and industry events to integrate "point-of-purchase" systems as an added benefit to better provide support for attendance and participation. It creates the possibility that participating tracks could allow consumers to earn or redeem points and receive rewards at their locations. These rewards can range from free drinks or dinner, to magazine subscriptions, industry "swag" and more personal behind-the-scenes, "VIP-type" experiences. Converseon says that while initial rewards are limited, it is beginning outreach to key constituents to provide them an opportunity to participate and drive greater visibility, awareness, engagement and attendance. Tracks and other related industry groups are all invited to participate and participation is completely voluntary. "The program is a powerful way to achieve several key objectives," said Mike Tanner, Executive Vice President and CEO of the USTA. "It inspires consumers to help spread the word through social media about our sport; incentivizes them to tune into key events (whether on television, online or in person); and provides us a mechanism to reward them in a highly-compelling way for their support and loyalty while enhancing the overall consumer experience of the sport. With the enhanced tracking, we will also now be able to even better support tracks that want to participate as well as potential sponsors, which will become increasingly important as harness racing scales out its marketing efforts." The Ambassador program is fully integrated with the www.harnessracingfanzone.com which is designed to be a central content hub for current and new fans to show them the "best of" the sport of harness racing. To sign up for the program, please visit www.harnessracingfanzone.com or www.harnessracingambassadors.com. Interested tracks and other industry constituents can contact Rob Key directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. About the Harness Racing Social Media Initiative Launched in September 2013, the Harness Racing Social Media Initiative is a partnership between the United States Trotting Association, the social media consultancy, Converseon, and key industry groups to help drive marketing innovation and engagement with current and new fans for the sport. The initiative's mission is to help support key racetracks, industry groups and help provide foundational support and a common, "best practice" framework by leveraging social technologies and platforms and strategies to help positively brand the sport of harness racing and generate greater awareness, visibility and engagement with a new generation of fans. From the USTA Communications Department
Columbus, OH --- The U.S. Trotting Association announced Friday that they have reached agreement with the Little Brown Jug to assist financially in funding the broadcast of the race on Sept. 18. The USTA has agreed to contribute substantial funding to help offset the costs of production and air time. "Since the initial proposal made by the Meadowlands and Little Brown Jug, the Little Brown Jug came back with some revisions and suggestions that address many of the concerns that the USTA Executive Committee had with the original funding request," said USTA President Phil Langley. "Mike Tanner, Rob Key and Dan Leary have worked diligently with Sam McKee and Phil Terry during this past week and I think we now have a proposal worthy of our support." The Little Brown Jug principals have clarified the role of the race's main sponsor and their intent to cross promote the race and harness racing through their retail and social media outlets to complement the social media capabilities of the USTA that were a key component in the sponsor's interest in this proposal. "We appreciate this opportunity to be involved with the Little Brown Jug," said Fazoli's Director of Marketing Jon Quinn. "It's a nice match and excellent for the Fazoli's brand." "It appears that this is all coming together," said Little Brown Jug Director of Marketing Phil Terry. "We are pleased that everyone is working together to permit the Jug to be broadcast this fall and excited about the promotions, social media aspect and contest that will support it. In addition, the Little Brown Jug has also secured additional funding. "We appreciate this funding from the USTA to go along with the support from our primary sponsor and the Ohio Harness Horsemen's Association as well as all of the work from Sam McKee in coordinating this effort," added Terry. With the additional clarification from the Little Brown Jug representatives that demonstrated this is the more comprehensive approach that the Executive Committee sought, the members now enthusiastically endorse this commitment to the Little Brown Jug. "I'd like to thank all of the members of the Executive Committee whose response has been so overwhelmingly positive," said Langley. "With just under five months left before the Jug takes place, these cooperative efforts have a chance to do many of the things the Executive Committee suggested last week." The final details of the contract for the broadcast and the possible acquisition of additional sponsors and advertisers are still pending. "Our contribution will give them the wherewithal to finalize their plans," added Langley. Final details will be announced when they become available. by Dan Leary, for the USTA
Columbus, OH --- The 2014 USTA annual meetings are scheduled for Sunday (March 30) and Monday (March 31) at the Hilton Columbus at Easton in Columbus, Ohio. Following Rules and Executive Committee meetings in the morning on Sunday, the Board of Directors general session, which will be streamed live on the USTA website (www.ustrotting.com), will begin at 12:30 p.m. (EDT). Keynote speaker for the general session will be Ohio State Racing Commission Chairman Robert Schmitz. Among the topics on the agenda are: the introduction of new USTA directors, proclamations and recognition of former directors, an election of officers, the president’s report from Phil Langley and executive vice president’s report from Mike Tanner, a financial report, presentation/vote on revised bylaws, and rule change proposals. The final item on the general session agenda will include a discussion of medication rules and a presentation on harness racing’s social media initiative by Rob Key, CEO of Converseon, the USTA’s social media marketing agency. Meetings are scheduled Sunday afternoon and Monday morning involving the following committees: Fairs, Pari-Mutuel, Regulatory, and Registration-Owners/Breeders on Sunday and Driver/Trainer, Finance, Rules and Communications/Marketing on Monday. The President’s Awards luncheon honoring 2014 recipients Bob Carson and Gabe Wand will be held on Sunday at 11:45 a.m. The 2014 USTA annual meetings will conclude with a general session commencing at 2:30 p.m. (EDT) on Monday that will include committee reports, ad hoc committee assignments, approval of the budget, and announcement of the location and dates for the 2015 annual meetings. All USTA members are welcome to attend the meetings with the exception of the Executive Committee, which is limited to committee members only. Visit www.ustrotting.com for the live video stream of Sunday’s Board of Director’s general session from 12:30–3 p.m. (EDT) as well as daily recaps of the important news from the meetings. From the USTA Communications Department
Columbus, OH -- To help drive greater awareness of and engagement with the sport of harness racing to current and new fans, the United States Trotting Association ("USTA"), in partnership with social consultancy, Converseon and key industry constituents, have officially launched a new socially powered, consumer-facing website, The Harness Racing Fan Zone (www.HarnessRacingFanZone.com). The Harness Racing Fan Zone is an innovative new, online content hub designed for current and potential new fans and owners to "see, share, connect and play" through the power of social media. The mission of the Fan Zone is not to replace current industry websites or marketing initiatives but to serve as a key central platform that will help unify, amplify and positively brand the sport. "The Fan Zone is designed to meet the increasing demands and expectations of a new generation of digitally and socially-savvy consumers who have grown accustomed to key features that let them become not just spectators to a particular sport, but active digital participants," said Mike Tanner, USTA executive vice president and CEO. "The Fan Zone now provides harness racing with a new 'major league' consumer experience that fully leverages social media for fans, potential fans, owners and sponsors. We expect this to be a key resource for racetracks, large and small, and other related groups to better amplify and support their marketing efforts." Select key features include: Allows fans to deeply engage with the sport via social media functionality, videos, photos, plugins and more. Interconnects with other key social platforms, including Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Vimeo, YouTube, Vine, Instagram and more to help create a more comprehensive Fan Zone presence for the sport. Provides pages for individual tracks and industry groups to be profiled. Aggregates and promotes all industry/track promotions in one place so they are easy to find and participate in. The Fan Zone's first promotion is its recently launched 100 Top Moments in Harness Racing. Click here. Shows real time conversations about the sport so that fans can listen, share or join in. Celebrates the owners, fans, and horseman involved in the sport and helps show fans the personalities and stories behind the names. Provides a place for socially-active fans to sign up and become part of the sport's Ambassador Program. Via the Ambassador Program, fans can win rewards, visibility, and points for helping to spread the word about the sport. Provides key marketing and sponsorship support assets for sponsors Allows fans to upload their photos/videos and stories to be featured in the Fan Zone About the USTA The United States Trotting Association, located in Columbus, Ohio, is a not-for-profit association of Standardbred owners, breeders, drivers, trainers, and officials organized to provide administrative, rulemaking, licensing and breed registry services to its members. For more information on the USTA, please visit www.ustrotting.com. About the Harness Racing Social Media Initiative Launched in September, 2013, the Harness Racing Social Media Initiative is a partnership between the United States Trotting Association, the social media consultancy, Converseon, and key industry groups to help drive marketing innovation and engagement with current and new fans for the sport. The initiative's mission is to help support key racetracks, industry groups and help provide foundational support and a common, "best practice" framework by leveraging social technologies and platforms and strategies to help positively brand the sport of harness racing and generate greater awareness, visibility and engagement with a new generation of fans. by Dan Leary, for USTA Communications Department
Columbus, OH --- History will be made on Saturday night (March 22) when Shark Fantasy competes in the seventh race at Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs. Not because the 4-year-old pacer, co-owned by Burke Racing Stable, Weaver Bruscemi LLC and Frank Baldachino, is trying for his third straight win, but because he will be the first horse ever in racing history to have been entered into a race electronically. With the USTA's new, online entry program, harness racing becomes the first of the racing breeds to have the capability to enter horses electronically. It allows trainers to enter their horses via the internet from computers or mobile devices days ahead of the current system. Shark Fantasy was the first of 15 electronic entries made for races Saturday at Pocono Downs by Ron Burke, the 2013 Trainer of the Year. The online entry project was spearheaded by T.C. Lane, the USTA's director of registry and member services, and Sherry Antion-Mohr, USTA director of information technology. "Trainers can now map out their racing schedules at their own leisure, a week or more in advance," said Lane. "It also makes things much easier for race secretaries at the tracks." Trainers can start to enter horses electronically as soon as the condition sheet is made available from the race office, typically seven to 10 days before the races. The system is currently in the beta testing phase at six racetracks - Balmoral Park, Dover Downs, Maywood Park, The Meadows, Northfield Park and Pocono Downs. Among the many trainers involved in the early testing are Ron Burke, Mark Ford, Homer Hochstetler, Julie Miller, Virgil Morgan and Jimmy Takter. The list of racetracks and trainers is growing every day during the test period and there have been rave reviews from those utilizing the system. "What I really like is the convenience," said trainer Julie Miller. "I set the timetable of when I want to look up my horses, what tracks they fit, what conditions they fit and to be able to submit it online is going to be really a key advantage that I know my horses are entered and I know I've done my homework properly. "What it really is going to do is allow me to come in and focus on my horses because I won't have to focus on office work from 7:30 in the morning until noon," added Miller. Peter Koch, race secretary at Meadowlands Racetrack, said he is looking forward to the project's rollout after being introduced to the new system at the race secretaries' meeting in December 2013. "Most tracks are in the situation without a barn area so everybody is calling in entries now," explained Koch. "If that is alleviated some, it will clearly let us do some other things in the morning to get ready for the draw. "Basically, anybody who races here is racing at multiple tracks," added Koch. "So if you are racing at multiple tracks and they have different draw times, it's really going to be beneficial to people to be able to enter all of their horses at one time on the internet and then make adjustments as the week goes along." The system will be fully operational beginning in April. "Mike Tanner, the USTA's executive vice president, told our board of directors last year that we would have an online entry system ready by this year's meeting at the end of March, so we went to work," said Lane. by Dan Leary for the USTA
Columbus, OH --- In celebration of the rich history of harness racing, the United States Trotting Association, in partnership with the Harness Racing Museum & Hall of Fame, announced today the launch of the “Top 100 Moments in Harness Racing” contest. The contest will allow fans from around the world to upload and share their favorite personal harness racing moments for industry recognition and a chance to be become part of the sport’s history. The winning top moments will be celebrated in a special exhibit at the Harness Racing Museum & Hall of Fame in Goshen, N.Y. The contest, which starts on Tuesday (March 18) at 9 a.m. (EDT), is accessible at Facebook.com/OfficialHarnessRacingFanZone and leverages Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms, together with the new Harness Racing Fan Zone (www.harnessracingfanzone.com). The Fan Zone is an exciting, new social media-oriented content hub that allows fans, new and old, a place to “See, Share, Engage and Play” with the best of the sport and interconnects with other key industry digital properties. Using a crowd-sourcing approach, the contest, which ends June 15 at 9 p.m. (EDT), allows participants to upload, display and share their photos, videos, stories and memories and enables fans to vote for their favorites. Entries will be divided in the following categories: Horses, People, Races, Places, as well as a special “Heart” category designed to celebrate some of the personal stories that exhibit extraordinary determination and courage. Voting will be split between fans and a five-person judging committee consisting of a representative from the USTA, the Harness Racing Museum & Hall of Fame, the Hambletonian Society, United States Harness Writers Association and sport historian Dean Hoffman. The committee will oversee final judging. “Social media provides us with a powerful new and innovative platform to drive forward our core mission of collecting, preserving and sharing the incredibly rich history of Harness Racing,” said Janet Terhune, Director of the Harness Racing Museum & Hall of Fame. “Through this exciting digital initiative, fans can become key contributors by sharing their stories and helping us pass our history to a new generation of fans. We encourage everyone to participate as we hope to uncover new stories, photos and moments that have not yet been archived or recognized. No story is too big or too small.” “The USTA is proud to support this initiative through our growing social media presence, which is allowing the industry to partner together and connect with current and potential fans in new and compelling ways,” said Mike Tanner, Executive Vice President and CEO of the USTA. “The sport of harness racing has a history second-to-none,” said Rob Key, CEO of Converseon. “Yet some of our greatest moments are hidden away in drawers and attics. This contest allows participants to dig through their archives, dust off their memories and share their stories in a new and exciting way. This is a chance to celebrate those moments, and become part of the history at one of the sport’s greatest jewels, the Harness Racing Museum & Hall of Fame.” About the Harness Racing Museum The Harness Racing Museum & Hall of Fame, founded in 1951, is located in the historic village of Goshen, N.Y., known as “The Cradle of the Trotter” for its origins in the sport of harness racing, which was America’s first national pastime. More than 20,000 visitors each year enjoy the many examples of local, state, national and international history and art preserved by the museum along with artifacts dating from harness racing’s beginnings to modern times and hands-on interactive exhibits, including a 3-D harness racing simulator. The museum also maintains an extensive research library of books, videos and industry periodicals documenting the great sport of harness racing. Serving as the Hall of Fame for the sport, the museum honors each inductee with a unique portrait sculpture and highlights each member’s illustrious career in informational interactives. About the Harness Racing Social Media Initiative Launched in September 2013, the Harness Racing Social Media Initiative is a partnership between the United States Trotting Association, the social media consultancy, Converseon, and key industry groups to help drive marketing innovation and engagement with current and new fans for the sport. The initiative’s mission is to help support key racetracks, industry groups and help provide foundational support and a common, “best practice” framework by leveraging social technologies and platforms and strategies to help positively brand the sport of harness racing and generate greater awareness, visibility and engagement with a new generation of fans. Key foundational elements of the initiative to date include the Harness Racing Ambassador Program and the newly-launched www.harnessracingfanzone.com. From the USTA
Hinsdale, IL --- The Mike Brink Stable’s King Mufasa, who dominated last season’s 3-year-old ICF colt and gelding trotting division, was named the 2013 Illinois Horse of the Year at last Saturday’s USTA District 5 awards banquet in Springfield. The son of Powerful Emotion, out of the Muscles Yankee mare Foxy N Diamonds, joined Brink after a modest 2-year-old campaign where he won two of eight starts and banked under $10,000 for owners H H Wright and Mystical Marker Farms. King Mufasa was absolutely sensational under the care of Brink, winning every major Illinois bred stake -- including the $50,800 Cardinal, the $51,000 Kadabra, both State Fair crowns at Springfield and Du Quoin and the $124,000 Su Mac Lad on Super Night -- along with open added money triumphs in Balmoral Park’s $37,000 Hanover and the $31,000 Circle City at Hoosier Park. At one time King Mufasa rattled off 12 consecutive victories when he earned $238,590 racing out of Brink’s barn. And to the surprise of many, the ICF star wasn’t sold out east after his huge season and will be back to campaign in Illinois and Indiana in 2014. “His owners like him so well that they didn’t want to put him in a sale. They’re letting me race him in the Midwest for another year,” said Brink, who turned 61 earlier this month. The veteran Springfield based conditioner concluded his most successful year in 2013 with career highs in winners (68) and money earned ($717,414) from his barn. King Mufasa was also voted the Illinois 3-year-old champion male trotter. Other sophomore division winners honored at the banquet were Mystical Walter (1:50, $195,259) as the male pacer for owners Paymaq Racing, D & M Trading of Illinois and Mystical Marker Farms; Auniqueaquistion (1:52.2, $249,235), owned by John Carver and Dandy Farms Inc., as the pacing filly; and Trot Fudge Sundae as the top trotting filly for the Illinois trio of James Bafia, Gene White and Sam Daddono. The 2013 ICF freshmen divisional champions were PQ Three (1:50, $111,899), owned by Obermeier & Quaid Stables as the male pacer; Thesleazyprincess (1:54, $159,615), owned and bred by the Marty Engel Stable of Illinois as the filly pacer; Jerry’s Graham’s Photo Surprise (1:57, $96,825) as the male trotter; and Bailey’s Wish (1:59, $112,710), co-owned by Illinoisans James Bafia and Gene White, as the top filly trotter. John Prentice and Neva Jane Ikeler’s Fort Silky (1:49.3, $269,075) took ICF older horse pacer honors. Jesse De Long’s Let’s Go Higher (1:50.3, $198,236) was the older mare pacing winner. Randall Bendis’ Zumba Mouse (1:54, $103,474) was best among the older trotting mares and Run And Tell Pap (1:53.2, $126,510) took the top spot for older trotting horses for owners Burke Racing LLC and Weaver Bruscemi LLC. The state’s 2013 champion pacing stallion was Yankee Skyscaper while Powerful Emotion was named the trotting stallion division titleholder. Shesoluvabull was voted the champion pacing broodmare for a second consecutive year while Just Having Fin took that honor in the trotting broodmare division. District 5 Director and Chairman Sam Lilly was the Master of Ceremonies at the well-attended banquet and dinner where USTA Executive Vice-President Mike Tanner was a special guest. by Mike Paradise, for IHHA
East Rutherford, NJ – Harness fans, eager to check out the new Meadowlands Racing & Entertainment complex, stormed into the facility Saturday night (Nov. 23) by the thousands. Shortly after the opening ceremonies, a series of snow squalls also stormed into the East Rutherford Sports Complex. Despite the high winds, the spirit of the estimated 15,000 fans would never be diminished as the new facility was as exciting as the racing product. Five of the thirteen races were determined by winning margins of less than a length and ten were won by 2 lengths or less. Possibly the most exciting was the neck victory by Foiled Again over Warrawee Needy in the final leg of the TVG FFA in 1:49.3. Interestingly, just three hours before his race, Foiled Again joined Gallo Blue Chip for a ceremonial ribbon cutting ceremony by the two richest pacers of all time. With combined earnings over $10 million dollars, the two harness heroes posed for throngs of photographers in the new “Blue Chip Farms Winners Circle.” Previous to the ribbon cutting, Miss Rodeo New Jersey delivered a poignant national anthem, followed by opening remarks by Sam McKee, Chairman Jeff Gural, SBOA/NJ President Tom Luchento, and CEO Jason Settlemoir. Fans were reminded that three years ago the SBOA/NJ and Gural met with the NJ Governor’s administration and helped rescue the Meadowlands Racetrack from governmental extinction. “Three years later, we are here in a magnificent new building, at the premier track in North America, looking forward to showcasing the best harness racing presented anywhere in the world,” Luchento said. Patrons on the apron for the race two-TVG trot found themselves in a mini white-out due to a rapid burst of wind and snow. Some of the best trotters in the world went behind the gate, where five out of the six starters were Hambletonian finalists. Wishing Stone was victorious, and paid his supporters handsomely at odds of 9-1. One big fan of racing, USTA Executive Director Mike Tanner found himself caught in the whirlwind. He proclaimed, “This place is great,” as he tweeted ‘Not Pompano’ in response to the sudden blast of arctic air. Fans and horsepeople alike were ecstatic about the new building. Janet Terhune, director of the Harness Racing Museum & Hall of Fame, exclaimed, “The New Meadowlands is absolutely fantastic. Trotters (Owners club) is a great experience—it is very ‘clubby.’ The whole facility is filled with people and everybody loves racing.” Enjoying the atmosphere in Trotters was the breeder of Deweycheatumnhowe, Steve Jones. Clearly enjoying his well appointed surroundings, “Jonesy” stated, “The facility is fantastic. Gural and his partners have done a great job. There is a lot of enthusiasm here. I like the night club, and all the gambling areas, the bars and everything! I really think this is going to be a great place to be.” Hall of Famer Jimmy Doherty, who is one of the few drivers to win a race every year that the Meadowlands has been open, noted that, “I think it is tremendous. Everyone is very excited about the future. This place was built for a new generation.” Ray Remmen, who won the first race on the 1976 opening night with Quick Baron, presented the trophy to the first race winner Alexie Matosie and David Miller. Another guy who was active on the original opening night on Sept. 1, 1976 was Ted Wing. He was back as the trainer of a horse in the new opening’s twelfth race. When reminiscing about historical races, one need not venture any further than the statistician to the stars, Bob “Hollywood” Heyden. From his TV studio he reminded fans that on the ’76 opener, eight Hall of Famers drove on the card—and only ONE found the winners circle: Robert Farrington with Rambling Willie. When quizzed about his observations of this opening night Holly opined that, “Three things stand out. An unmistakable buzz in the building. A steady stream of patrons entering from 4 pm through 9 pm, reminiscent of Niatross winning the Meadowlands Pace or a heavy-weight title fight. And, the sense of anticipation for the overall future of the facility.” As fans poured into the main entrance, they were eager to enter the Million Dollar Pick 13 challenge. Many a punter stopped to ogle over the suitcase full of cash, prominently on display in the center of the ground floor betting area. Alas, the promotion turned elusive as the new racing configuration created a new and distinct track bias. Perhaps it was a night for underdogs, as only four betting favorites found the winners circle. Ironically, horses named after 1976 movie icon, Rocky, had a big night: Salevster Stallion (Race 1, fin. 2nd), Stallone Blue Chip (R3,1st) & Yo Cheyenne Rocky (R9, 1st). Nonetheless, Team Gural showed the world that they were up for the task! by Chris Tully for Harnesslink.com
In order to develop comprehensive proposals on the use of therapeutic medications and recommended penalties for violations in harness racing, President Phil Langley has appointed a diverse panel of experts to a new United States Trotting Association (USTA) medication advisory committee. "Recognizing that some of the fault was that the USTA lacked sufficient scientific representation on the Racing Medication and Testing Consortium (RMTC)," said USTA President Phil Langley, "I have appointed a widely representative advisory committee to guide us in future medication proposals." The members of the USTA medication advisory committee are: eminent researchers Dr. George Maylin and Dr. Thomas Tobin; practicing veterinarians Dr. Jay Baldwin, Dr. Janet Durso and Dr. William Moffett; trainers Mark Ford, Sam Beegle, Ray Schnittker and David McCaffrey; racing commissioners Bob Schmitz and Alan Leavitt; attorneys Joe Faraldo and Chris Wittstruck; racing investigator Brice Cote; Hambletonian Society President and CEO Tom Charters; and Phil Langley, Mike Tanner, and T.C. Lane from the USTA. As has been widely reported during the past few weeks, the USTA has struggled with acceptance of some of the RMTC and Association of Racing Commissoners International (RCI) proposed uniform medication rules - especially those regarding clenbuterol and corticosteroids. "Under these proposed rules, both medications would become virtually useless in harness racing," said USTA President Phil Langley. "We are hopeful that after much discussion with RMTC and with testimony before racing commissions, some adjustments will be forthcoming." The USTA has already been working with the Pennsylvania horsemen groups to commission Dr. Larry Soma and Dr. Mary Robinson to conduct research on items like EPO, extracorporeal shock wave therapy and some of the unknown drugs that most threaten the integrity of harness racing. Their research also is pursuing alternatives to clenbuterol and the adjustment of threshold levels that can be utilized with Standardbreds. By Dan Leary, USTA director of marketing and communications
The 34th awards dinner of the New England Harness Writers is just three weeks away. Tickets are still available to the October 21 awards program which features citations to two web sites--the ustrotting.com and harnesslink.com.
Two local men will be among the recipients of harness racing awards given by the New England Harness Writers Chapter.
When John Curtin and Mike Tanner meet at the New England Harness Writers 34th awards harness racing program, they will have plenty to talk about.
Memories to last a lifetime is what I took home with me on the October 23 anniversary awards program at the Courtyard Marriott honoring 56 contributors of harness racing from all parts of New England and beyond.
Before a packed house Sunday (Oct. 23) the New England Harness Writers paid hommage to many recipients who have been responsible for the harness racing's growth. From racing's smallest owner to those with bigger stables the sport has prospered by their carring efforts and contributions.