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The tragic passing of West Australian horsewoman Alysha Johnston has had a widespread effect on the harness racing industry even on the Eastern Seaboard. Johnston took her own life on Tuesday morning, aged 27, having driven at Pinjarra the night before. Leaving behind her seven-year-old son Corey, the industry was shocked by her passing. There has been a flow of support for the family since and Johnston's friend Jamie Durnberger-Smith, part-owner of Arms Of An Angel and Breeders Challenge Semi Final winner Decapria, has since set up a 'GoFundMe' page for Corey. So far $5,430 has been raised. "Alysha and I worked together at Gary Hall's stable for many years and became good friends," Durnberger-Smith said. "I only spoke to her a couple pf days before her passing. "I didn't feel like it was my place to do this but I had to do something to help her son so I have set up a GoFundMe page to ensure his future after consulting with the family. "Corey will be able to access the trust fund when he turns 21. "We've had great support already." Durnberger-Smith will also be contributing his share of earnings from Arms Of An Angel's last two wins. Sydney trainer-driver Kevin Pizzuto recently got to know Johnston when campaigning his pacer Freyberg in Perth for the Inter Dominion series. Johnston was teaching Pizzuto's son how to ride and spent a lot of time with her when over in WA. For more information or to make a donation head to   AMANDA RANDO

Jo Ann Hertlein, 69, of Bronxville, N.Y., daughter of the late Anna and Joseph Stivala, died after a battle with cholangiocarcinoma on Dec. 17, 2016. She was born and raised in Scranton, Pa., before moving to Bronxville upon her marriage. For the last several years she had faithfully worked as an office administrator for the SOA of NY. She will be remembered for her incredible warmth and kindness, her delicious meals and her contagious laughter. She is survived by her devoted husband of 42 years, William; loving daughters and sons-in-law, Victoria (Marco) and Deborah (James); and her brother, John Stivala. Calling hours are at the Fred McGrath & Sons Funeral home, Bronxville N.Y., on Tuesday (Dec. 20) from 2-4 and 7-9 p.m. Mass of Christian Burial will be at 10:45 a.m. on Wednesday (Dec. 21) at St. Joseph’s Church. Private interment at Cathedral Cemetery, Scranton, PA. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made in her name to Save the Children. from the SOA of New York

The harness racing industry was saddened to learn of the passing of Cowra horseman Ken Smith. Ken passed away on Wednesday afternoon after a lengthy battle with ill health, aged 80. He had many great years in the sport as a hobby trainer and driver with many winners. Ken learnt his horsemanship skills off his father Ossie Smith, who was one of the first drivers to win under lights at Harold Park when Moko Robert caused an upset at 50-1 at the official opening of night trotting. Formerly based at Katoomba, some of Ken’s top performers included 1957 New South Wales Oaks winner Bangaroo Lass, Bangaroo Prince and What A Verdict just to name a few.  A funeral for Ken will be held on Friday December 16 at Cowra Anglican Church at 11am. Harness Racing NSW extends its deepest sympathies to Ken’s family and friends. Amanda Rando

FREEHOLD, NJ -- November 21, 2016 -- John W. Blackwell, lifelong resident of the Freehold area, died Nov. 14, 2016. Best known for his love of horses, he transported race horses for stables in and around Monmouth County for many years. He is survived by his wife, Marie Woolfolk Blackwell and daughters Yolanda Blackwell and Shavon Coleman. A memorial service will be held at 1:00 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 22, 2016 at the Higgins Memorial Home, 20 Center Street, Freehold, N.J. Courtney Stafford  

Veteran McKenzie Creek (Horsham District) harness racing horseman Ken Exell passed away peacefully last week. Ken's time in harness spanned more than 60 years. He drove his first winner under the lights at the Horsham Showgrounds in February 1954, with his father Arthur's pacer, Just Andy. The Exell family lived in the Goroke district at Karnak and campaigned their small team throughout the Wimmera and Western District. They enjoyed success with Captain Flare, Flash Durenda and General Flare in what is now regarded as the halcyon era of "the trots." Ken won Horsham Trainer of the Year Awards in both 1965 and 1970 - a period somewhat dominated by the legendary Hughie Jardine. In all Exell drove 26 winners on the tight showground circuit, a tally shared with his friendly rivals Graeme Lang, Trevor Martin and the late Stan Anyon. In later years when the family moved closer to Horsham, Ken also trained thoroughbreds and acted as a barrier attendant for both the Horsham Racing & Harness Racing Clubs. In more recent times the quietly spoken Exell gained enormous satisfaction with the trotter Allawart Ugo which debuted as a 6yo gelding at Charlton in January 2012. Under the patient trainer's guidance, "Ugo" slowly learned to be a racehorse. After ten starts the trotter recorded four consecutive minor placings then scored a well deserved home track victory in the Moore Bulk Haulage Trotters Handicap on July 2012. Exell's one horse team earned the Horsham Horse of the Year Award in 2013 and also gave his proud owner, consecutive Local Trainer Strike Rate Awards. Six of Allawart Ugo's eight career victories came on the spacious Horsham circuit and the trotter was to be Ken's final runner when unplaced at Mt Gambier recently. Our sincere sympathies are extended to the Exell family. Anthony Logan  

The winners circle at Monticello Raceway was overflowing with family, friends and fellow harness racing horseman on Wednesday November 2, as after the card 8th race a Memorial service was held in the winners for Brett Smith, on hand were Brett's parents Gary and Tracey Smith. Brett recently passed away from injuries sustained in a horse training accident "The strong showing is a testament of how much Brett was loved and miss by all" said Eric Warner, Monticello Raceway Race Secretary. Empire Resorts, Inc., 204 State Route 17B, Monticello, NY 12701 845-807-0001 by Shawn Wiles  

Last Thursday one of the State’s great harness racing trainer-drivers in Fred Hough died at the age of 86. Fred Hough was born in 1930 to a family steeped in trotting with his father Arthur a leading Perth trainer and driver and his mother Lella a daughter of legendary dual-code trainer Fred Thomas. Fred drove his first winner Gunplay as a 16yo on 18th January 1947 at Gloucester Park and after his last win with Regal Explorer on 28th September 1990, also at Gloucester Park, he had a tally of some 512 winners with 220 of them in the city. Fred’s tally of 512 winners ranks him in 39th place on the all-time list of successful drivers in this State. He was a part of history on 2nd September 1950 behind Step Lad when that horse dead-heated with Attaboy. It was the first dead-heat at Gloucester Park after the introduction of the photo-finish. Fred also won the first WA Oaks in 1968 when he trained and drove the outstanding filly Pyramus to victory. She was to go on and win a WA Pacing Cup for Les Marriott. Fred won ten races with Pyramus and he also developed another outstanding horse in Velvet Prince which later went on to run third in the 1978 Inter Dominion Final for Fred Kersley. While he was an outstanding educator of young horses, it was the fifties champion Frosty Nelson which took Fred Hough to the pinnacle of trotting in Western Australia. Frosty Nelson won 28 races whilst in Fred’s stables including the 1955 WA Pacing Cup and two heats of the 1957 Inter Dominion held at Gloucester Park and a State Sprint Championship. Fred won a second State Sprint in 1968 with Carpathian. Fred was also keenly sought after as a freelance reinsman and won a pair of Stratton Cups with Blue Pennant (for trainer Tom Charles) and Red Vicar (for trainer Geoff Sherriffs). Alan Parker  

Columbus, OH--- According to an article in Newsday published on Friday (Oct. 28), former leading harness racing owner/breeder David Brooks, died in federal prison on Thursday (Oct. 27) in Danbury, Conn. of undisclosed causes. Brooks, 61, was the former executive of DHB Industries Inc. and was in the midst of serving a 17-year sentence after he was convicted in 2010 on a 17-count indictment that included conspiracy; securities, wire and mail fraud; insider trading; and obstruction of justice. Operating as Perfect World Enterprises and Bulletproof Enterprises, Brooks and his brother Jeffrey owned more than 800 horses when he was convicted, including 2004 Little Brown Jug winner Timesareachanging. The prison where Brooks was recently transferred is expected to issue a detailed report regarding the circumstances of his death in the near future. To access the full article please click here. For an article that appeared in The Atlantic shortly before his conviction, please click here. USTA Communications Department 

Columbus, OH --- Gary John Bergmann, 65, a lifelong resident of Washington, N.J., died at home with his family by his side on Oct. 10, 2016. He was born on Dec. 5, 1950, in Phillipsburg, N.J., to the late Charles and Ethel Bergmann. Mr. Bergmann was a graduate of Warren Hills High School class of 1969. He was formerly employed as general manager for Stonegate Farms in Glen Gardner. He was adventurous, enjoyed sailing, and was captain of the seaworthy vessel, Sagacious. He was an avid reader, had a passion for cooking and above all he loved his family. Mr. Bergmann is survived by his beloved wife of 26 years, Kathleen; loving children, Will and Annalee; brothers, Kent (Kate) and Eric; brothers-in-law, William Costello, Kevin Costello, Padraic Costello, Dennis Costello and Tom Caracio; sisters-in-law, Moira (Robert) Ranney and Deirdre (Daniel) Codispoti; nieces and nephews, Megan (Keith) Wan, Kevin Ranney, Christina Coldispoti, Natalie Codispoti, Kevin, Keith, Jon, Chris Caracio and Shannon Iacobucci. He was preceded in death by his parents; and sister, Barbara. Family and friends may pay their respects on Thursday (Oct. 13) from 5-8 p.m. at the Warren Hills Memorial Home, 234 W. Washington Ave., Washington, NJ 07882. Funeral services will be Friday (Oct. 14) beginning at 9 a.m. at the funeral home followed by a 10 a.m. funeral mass at St. John Neumann Catholic Church, 398 County Road 513, Califon, NJ 07830. Interment will be conducted at Stewartville Presbyterian Cemetery in Greenwich, N.J. Memorial contributions may be made to the American Cancer Society, 6725 Lyons Street, P.O. Box 7, East Syracuse, NY 13057. Funeral arrangements have been entrusted to the Warren Hills Memorial Home. The USTA Communications Department 

An interesting footnote to the life of General "Bubba" Washington Jr., who recently passed away and whose obituary was listed on the sport's websites, is that he was the first African-American man to win a not-$100,000 race. Here's what we mean.   Washington had qualified Mary Ann Hobbs for the New York Sire Stakes three-year-old filly trot Championship, scheduled to race for a purse of $100,000 on October 8, 1974. I believe 1974 was the first year of the New York Sire Stakes Championships, based on an article written by Times writer Joe Nichols in the October 9 edition of the paper, which can be found online.   Going for the big money, Washington was going to put Herve Filion (who would win his 5000th race the next night) down to drive her, but I remember a story that one of Washington's sons, perhaps Cedric, who still campaigns at Monticello, persuaded "Daddy" to drive the horse himself, and Washington resolved to do so. (This parallels to some degree the Hambletonian of 2005, where a Pennsylvania horseman was bringing his horse to the big race, and was going to ask Cat Manzi to drive him, but Manzi told him -- Roger Hammer -- to drive, saying, "If you win, you'll remember it for the rest of your life." Hammer did drive Vivid Photo, and the rest is well-documented history.)   So Washington did drive Mary Ann Hobbs in the Championship, and she made a break. But so did three of her six other rivals. And Washington was able to rally Mary Ann Hobbs to the victory in the Championship.   Time: 2:12.1.   So General Washington Jr. became the first African-American driver to win a $100,000 race, right? Well, ...   The 3-5 favorite for the race, Coral Belle, warmed up lame before the race, and the judges ordered her scratched (necessitating an $80,000+ refund). Another figure that changed was the purse, as the official purse for the contest is listed as $98,000. It's just a guess that there was a $2000 starting fee, and with the scratch the starting fee was refunded, and thus the purse dipped to $98,000. But a good case can be made that it was "a $100,000 race."   Upon the man's passing, this seemed to be the time to tell this story, as one of the pioneer African-Americans in a sport where Wiggle It Jiggleit is currently the best pacer in North America.   Jerry Connors  

Arthur Cupitt, who died last Saturday night, was a veteran harness racing enthusiast and former Sydney trainer. Mr Cupitt, 72, who was first licensed as a trainer in 1983, handed his ticket in back in 2005, with his 403 starters for 22 winners and 72 minor placings. A helper at Jarrod Alchin's Tabcorp Park, Club Menangle stables in recent times, Mr Cupitt loved harness racing, and in particular the horses. "Arthur was friends with just about every trotting person around this area," Alchin said. "He was everyone's handyman, and his pleasant disposition saw him make friends easily, and keep them for life. "He'd turn up at the stables every Sunday morning with a hard luck punting story about the previous night - we'll all miss Arthur...our Sundays will never be the same without him." His favourite horses, and a multiple winner, was Society Princess, who won seven races in the early-mid 1990s, including Menangle Park. Mr Cupitt's last winner was Uwin, a 1:58.7 performer just after the turn of the century, before the mare left two sub-2:00 winners. Mr Cupitt, who died suddenly, is survived by two daughters and a son. Kate Dumesny

Harness Racing Victoria (HRV) was saddened to learn of the passing on Saturday of long-time industry stalwart Brian Frawley, at age 82. Mr Frawley is the father of recently appointed HRV Board Member Danny Frawley. He enjoyed considerable success as a trainer, including multiple Moonee Valley winners Noble Man, Evarestis and Grumpy Ole Man, as well as other classy performers in Lahaina and Noble Gent. Mr Frawley served on the Committee of the Ballarat & District Trotting Club for in excess of 35 years, leading the club as President from 1981 to 1986 and being awarded Life Membership in 1988. His greatest moment in the sport came when Vanderport, a horse he part-owned, ran 2nd to Village Kid in the 1986 Inter Dominion Grand Final at Albion Park in Queensland, when driven by his daughter Anne. READ THE BALLARAT COURIER'S TRIBUTE TO BRIAN FRAWLEY HRV extends its sincere condolences to his wife Shirley, their six children and the extended Frawley family. Mr Frawley’s funeral will be held at 10.30am on Wednesday at St Patrick’s Cathedral in Sturt Street, Ballarat.   Cody Winnell (HRV Media/Communications Manager)

Columbus, OH --- Larry Rheinheimer, 72, a beloved bastion of Indiana harness racing and the breeder/trainer of Breeders Crown champion Freaky Feet Pete, died on Saturday (Sept. 24). In deference to the family, further details will be forthcoming when available.   USTA Communications Department 

The harness racing industry was saddened to learn of the sudden passing of former trainer-driver Oscar Gatt on Monday afternoon, aged 79. Oscar was tragically killed in a car accident, just a month out from his 80th Birthday. He trained and drove countless winners during his time in the sport. Some of Oscar's better performed horses were Izar De Pone, Undertaker and Post And Rail. Oscar was 72-years-old when he drove his last winner which was Cosmic Beauty at Penrith in May, 2009. The Maltese-born drove in races until he was 73-years-old. To all of Oscar's family and friends, Harness Racing New South Wales passes on its deepest condolences. AMANDA RANDO

Harness Racing New South Wales was saddened to learn of the passing of in one of the sport's stalwarts in Lionel Donald Clough OAM, aged 89. 'Donny' or 'Cloughie' as he was best known by his many friends had been struggling with his health for the last few months. He will certainly be remembered as an absolute legend of the sport as he truly did it all. For several years Don in his "retirement" helped in an administration role at Penrith Paceway until just recently and his memory will live on at that track forever with the new stabling complex named in his honour late last year. Prior to this, Don fulfilled virtually every role in harness racing, from owner, trainer, driver, breeder, studmaster and punter. To all of Don's family and many friends, Harness Racing NSW extends its deepest condolences. Further details to be announced. AMANDA RANDO

Bonnie Christine Insko, 82, wife of Hall of Fame harness racing driver Del Insko died August 25, 2016, in her home, with her husband and family at her side.   Born April 1, 1934, in Rolph, IA, daughter of Andrew and Christine (Stephensen) Nelson. United in marriage to Delmer Insko on March 26, 1951, in Humboldt, IA.   Bonnie was the co-owner of the Del Insko Stables, she was for 16 years employed with the Rockton School District and a longtime member of Christ Our Savior Lutheran Church.   She is survived by her husband, Del of South Beloit; children, Delvin (Katherine) Insko of Winnebago, Christy (Joe) Taddei of Tulsa, OK, Thomas (Sandra) Insko of South Beloit; grandchildren, Jackie, Erik, Andrew, Aaron, Danielle, Joshua, David, Rebecca, Elizabeth, Christy; great-grandchildren, Gemma, Gabriel, Judah, Mercy, Coby; siblings, DeLon "Butch" Nelson of Roscoe; and numerous nieces, nephews and cousins. Preceded in death by her parents and brother, Arlo Nelson. A "Celebration of Life" was held Sunday, August 28, 2016, at Christ Our Savior Lutheran Church.Share a memory or condolence at          

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