Day At The Track
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Every horse has the dream of writing their name in the history books, and some accomplish just that. But in recent years, there was one special Australasian pacer who was so captivating on the track and also captivated the hearts of so many off the track that he was simply too memorable for a place in just the history books. The only fitting testament to his greatness was for him to have his very own book. So, his co-owner Marcus Kirkwood, a Hunter Valley resident in Australia, set out to do just that. Gathering some of Smolda’s best mates who were all eager to tell their stories of the champion, who to them was a friend more than a horse, a book quickly began to take shape. Marcus’s dream of having a book about Smolda was becoming a reality.  In the end, this book has not one author, but many; making it truly one of a kind. You are probably wondering how I fit into this story about a story. Well, I became friends with Marcus through social media. After many messages via Twitter, Marcus and I met in person when I attended the prestigious Miracle Mile in 2016, in which Smolda was a contender, as a part of my trip to Australia. It was nice to finally be able to put a face to the name.  After that, we remained connected through social media. When he told me about the idea for a book about Smolda I thought it was a great idea. When he told me how it was going to be written by people who were friends of Smolda,  I thought it was an even better idea. Who better to tell the story of a champion than the best friends of the champion.  One day I received a message from Marcus giving me an update on his horses and how the idea of writing a book about Smolda was getting lots of positive feedback from industry participants he had been talking to. Reading this message, I was very happy for him. This is when the message took a surprising turn, which had me at a loss for words. Marcus asked me if I would be interested in contributing to Smolda’s story. As my fingers hovered over my keyboard  I tried to find the right words to say. I felt so honoured to be asked that I was not sure what words to use that would fully convey how honoured I truly felt.     I wrote back to Marcus expressing how grateful I felt that he asked me, but I mentioned that I was concerned about how much I would be able to contribute as I had only had the pleasure of watching Smolda race in person on one occasion. Nevertheless, I got to work as I waited for a response. Thinking back to my time of meeting Marcus and the night of the Miracle Mile.  Soon Marcus responded to my concern and told me told not to worry. That is when I had a realization, which had a profound effect on me, and the piece I was working on. I realized that when it comes to Smolda and me, like in many friendships the length of time you have known one another is not always the most important aspect, it is about how close you become in a short amount of time.  With this in mind, I had a new source of inspiration. I was a friend of Smolda and Smolda gave me Marcus as a friend. Smolda touched my life in more ways than I previously realized. His greatness touched my life beyond watching him race; without him, Marcus and I would not have the friendship we do. Soon, a short chapter lay before me. Writing the chapter provided me with great joy and a chance to reflect on what Smolda and Marcus meant to me. As I typed the last words, I was filled with a greater sense of appreciation of not only of the champion racehorse Smolda was but what he meant to me on a personal level and the true friend I gained through him.  Marcus kept me updated on how the book was progressing. Then one day I got a message saying that it was complete! I was so happy for Marcus and Smolda, and I felt truly honoured to have been included.  Marcus kindly put a copy in the post for me. It arrived at my home address while I was away at university. My mom sent me a message to say it had arrived and tucked the precious package away until I came home for Christmas break a few weeks later. With a slit to the envelope, I pulled out the special contents. On the front cover in a stunning colour photo was Smolda,  and in a charming font, it read Our Mate Smolda and I was in awe. I opened the front cover to heartwarming surprise. On the first page, Marcus had inscribed it to me. This made an already cherished gift even more of a treasure.  I delicately turn the pages, stopping to admire the photos which were woven throughout the book. Then my eyes fell on the page that had my name on it. Seeing my name in print, as a part of a  unique collection was truly surreal. I knew what I had written just a few months prior, but seeing those same words as a chapter, complete with photographs made it more overwhelming, real and, it ‘hit home for me’.  Even after a minute or so, a part of me remained in disbelief. Here is my writing in with some of the greatest people in the sport of harness racing. They were names I look up to, and most of them I only by association or through social media, or I met them once or twice. But, one horse… one common friend brought us all together, and his name was Smolda. But my story is not about me. It is about Smolda and his everlasting legacy. To an outsider who does not know who Smolda is, this story, which in a way is his biography, offers a window back in time to experience his greatness. To those who knew him best and worked with him every day, this serves as a reminder of the unforgettable times and accomplishments they shared over the years. To those who were there in the grandstands when he raced, it acts as an opportunity to reminisce about memories made not so long ago. No matter who you are or how you are connected to Smolda, this collection of anecdotes can mean something to you. That is why it so precious, everyone can still be a part of his legacy if they are not already. The unique multi-perspective biography which tells the life of Smolda ensures everyone can be a part of his journey to greatness and beyond. Just how they say many hands make light work, it takes many hands, and hearts to write a wonderful book about a remarkable pacer. This story is one that everyone who loves harness racing should read, at least once. To learn more about Smolda and his book, or to purchase a copy and become a part of his legacy, please visit: https://www.ourmatesmolda.com.au/product/our-mate-smolda/   By Sydney Weaver, for Harnesslink

Christen Me N, Nike Franco N, Kept Under Wraps A, Anythingforlove A, Sky Major N, Lazarus N, among many other champions who raced in Australia and or New Zealand before making their way to North America. Aside from their gifts of gait speed and racing racing ability they also brought with them an incredible power,  they united two harness racing industries in two hemispheres. I am have been fortunate to see some of these now North American harness racing champions and sit along the rail to watch them race. I am always captivated by their racing ability. I have even had the chance to meet a few of them up and I am always a little star-struck when I do. I find it inspiring how people have been brought together because of these horses. I wonder if in adjusting to a new climate, new people and new routines if these champions realize how they have positively impacted the global harness racing industry? Personally, I have made new friends and made existing friendships stronger because of these champions. Here are my stories on some of the former  “Down Under” champions, racing in North America and the amazing friendships I made because of them. He was known as the “the Prince” when he faced Terror To Love, at tracks across his native New Zealand. Chances are you do not who I am talking about, unless you are involved in New Zealand racing or are like me and follow it. But, in the barn and with those that knew him best, he was “CC”. When the news broke that Christen Me N would be coming to race in the United States, I have to admit I was both thrilled and disappointed.  I have a soft spot for Christen Me N because he was the first New Zealand bred horse I took an interest in after I met his former driver Dexter Dunn in Ireland in 2016. I was thrilled because this meant I would have the opportunity to watch him race, but I also knew that he would be greatly missed by many in New Zealand. Then, I remembered that him coming to the North America meant friendships would be created and that was a good thing. He would be showcasing the very best of New Zealand racing talent, in the place some argue is the pinnacle of harness racing- the United States of America. Upon arrival in the United States, Christen Me N was placed in the care of Jim King Jr. and Joann Looney -King. I looked forward to the day that I would get to meet the famous “C.C”. One day in early summer of 2017, I got my opportunity because he was entered to race at what was at that time Mohawk Racetrack .That afternoon, I stopped by the farm where the King’s were stabling to see him in addition to some other horses they had racing in Ontario. As I arrived, Christen Me N was coming in from the paddock. He was so regal, standing there in the warmth of the sunshine while I admired him. I was at a loss for words and he looked like he knew what I was feeling. I got a little closer and he bowed his head, allowing me to stroke his face, and give him a kiss. Meeting him is an experience I will remember and cherish. That night he raced at what is now Woodbine- Mohawk Park, and of course I cheered. However, I was cheering him on for his fans in the southern hemisphere too. He unfortunately did not win that night, but just to be able watch him race live was a thrill for me.  When I posted the pictures from our visit and of him racing the following day; my social media buzzed. I received comments about how he was doing and how his race went and a few friend requests from people in New Zealand. The photos were also shared by people in New Zealand. Knowing that the small gesture of posting a few pictures meant a great deal to so many people warmed my heart. Next is my story of the horse who inspired this story- Nike Franco N. Nike Franco N is also is the care of Joann and Jim King Jr. I first met her on that same visit that I met ¨C.C” and she also raced on that same night. When she began racing in North America, a person by the name of Amanda Grieve was always tagged in many posts on Twitter (tweets) about Nike Franco N. So, after I met Nike Franco and posted the pictures of us, I decided to send her a message and find out she loved this mare. It turned that when Nike Franco N raced in Australia, Amanda was the caretaker for top mare and trained her for a period of time too.  Now Amanda and I talk every couple of weeks.Our friendship is all thanks to Nike Franco N. If it was not Nike Franco N being sold to American interests there is a very good chance that Amanda and I never would have met.  Earlier this season, when Nike Franco N raced in Canada in the Roses Are Red elimination and final, I video chatted with Amanda from the rail at Woodbine- Mohawk Park and I turned the camera so she could see the race, even though she lives on the other side of the world we were both cheering on Nike Franco N who she affectionately calls “Darling”.  It was truly a special opportunity for me and one I will cherish forever. In a recent conversation with Amanda,  she said something that tugged at my heartstrings and I felt was fitting for the sentiment of this very story. She said, “You get very attached to them. Especially working with them every day. And travelling with them too. Yes, I do miss her. But, I am still watching her race now.”  I can sympathize with how she feels, I would feel the same it was a horse I cared about. But, that is the great thing about social media. Nike Franco N may be across the Pacific [ocean], but the two of them are still connected through people in North America. Amanda is able to stay updated on Nike Franco N’s racing career and receive pictures is because of the friendships that Nike Franco N racing in North America has prompted. The horses that have crossed the Equator that I have also made friendships that I had before their move much stronger. Sired by Bettors Delight and foaled in 2011, Kept Under Wraps A was voted the two-year-old of the year for the state of Victoria. My friend Marcus Kirkwood owned a part of him, before Kept Under Wraps A was sold to North American interests.  I became friends with Marcus through Twitter, and when I went to Australia in February of 2017, we met in person. So, now that Kept Under Wraps A in racing in the United States, I periodically check the entries and results pages on the United States Trotting Association website to see how he is doing and then I send Marcus a message with an update. Anythingforlove A (spelled Anything For Love when racing in Australia) was bred by my friend Paul Humphreys. We became friends through social media and I also met him when I went to Australia in 2017.  When the horse had his first couple of starts in the United States, Paul and I messaged back and forth. I remember watching the race on my laptop. It was neat to be able to say “I know who bred that horse”. Anythingforlove gave us one more thing to talk about.  The story of how I got to meet Sky Major N is unique. My dad was talking with the trainer of Sky Major N, Duane Marfisi, and he it came up in conversation where he happened to be stabled, turns out we were at the same training center. When my dad told me I was elated. My filly, a future champion, was stabled steps away from a former New Zealand champion. Trevor Casey owns Sky Major N. I talk with his partner Kate Marriott often. I truly consider her a friend. During my visits with Sky Major N I gave him treats and kisses and my mom would take pictures. When I returned home I always sent Kate the pictures as soon as I could and told all about our visit.  Similarly, Trevor Casey also owned a share of the world-renowned champion, Lazarus N. Now that Lazarus N is in the United States being trained by Jimmy Takter, I send Kate all of the news and pictures I see of Lazarus. It always makes my day to send her updates of both of these champions. Every time the name of an overseas champion is printed in a North American [racing] program or their name graces a headline an “N” or an “A” is placed after their name to symbolize to everyone reading the program or the article they mentions them,  this horse is from Australia or New Zealand. I think of it as a symbol of pride.That extra letter also symbolizes the countless hours of care, hard work and dedication that the team of people looked after them in Australia or New Zealand put in that made them into the champion that now races in North America. I will forever be grateful for the friendships I have gained because of these horses. They have added so much joy to my life. I also look forward to creating many more friendships through these horses in the future. To everyone who has ever loved, taken care of, trained, owned or driven one of these now North American champions, thank you. Thank you for making these champions who they are. Without you they would not have broken the records they did, had the jaw-dropping victories they did. In addition, thank you for sharing your your champions with us here in North America. You will always be a part of who they are, no matter where in the world they race. To everyone in North America who has a horse who previously raced in Australia and New Zealand, know that these horses are extra special. I encourage you to find out who the connections were when the horse raced in Australia and or New Zealand and connect with them, if you have not already. I hope through these dual hemisphere champions you will make friendships like I have. These champions that have etched their names into greatness in both hemispheres make the big world seem a little smaller by bringing people together who are passionate about the same sport, but are oceans apart that is the power of these dual hemisphere champions. Sydney Weaver is 18 years old and resides in Acton, Ontario, Canada. She has been involved with harness racing for years, groom's horses, jogs them on the track, owns both a Standardbred and a Thoroughbred racehorse and has already won major youth writing awards. Sydney also has Cerebral Palsy and spends most of her time in a wheelchair, but has never let her disability hold her back from achieving her goals. She will be attending Carleton University this fall in their Communications and Media Studies Honors Program. Footnote: Since I began writing this piece, Christen Me N, “C.C.” is no longer in the care of the Jim King Jr. and Joann Looney-King, he is now with other caring connections.

Harnesslink's columnist, Sydney Weaver, of Acton, Ontario, has been selected as the 2018 Provincial Easter Seals Ambassador.  Weaver says, “Representing kids with physical disabilities is an honour.” It’s in part because of this attitude that Weaver has been selected as a 2018 Provincial Easter Seals Ambassador. Along with her male counterpart, Alex Krenta from Ottawa, Weaver looks forward to representing all children and youth who live with a physical disability in Ontario. Weaver, a chatty 17-year-old from Acton, Ontario, is thrilled to have been chosen as a 2018 Provincial Easter Seals Ambassador, and her mom and dad, Lisa and Don, along with her older brother, Scott, couldn’t be more proud. Born with spastic diplegic cerebral palsy that sometimes causes muscle spasms, Sydney uses a wheelchair for mobility and requires help picking up items and getting dressed. With assistance from Easter Seals, her family was able to modify her van to be more accessible, making it easier for her to get around her community. Sydney is an accomplished young woman with many interests and hobbies. In 2015, she was a torch bearer at the Parapan Am Games. In addition, she has an orange belt in jiu jitsu and a junior lifeguard badge in swimming. Currently in Grade 12, Sydney’s favourite subjects are History and English. She also enjoys writing, listening to music and singing, though she freely admits that “I can’t sing!” In addition, Sydney loves harness racing, and writes for an online industry publication, and is developing a love of Thoroughbred racing, as well. In 2012, she won the Marie Hill Youth Writing Contest for HoofBeats, an American harness racing magazine. In considering her future path, Sydney hopes to pursue a career in journalism and communications. “I enjoy writing because it gives me a chance to express myself through words and I think that’s an incredible power, and it can bring people together.” When discussing her disability, Sydney says, “My life is so typical of any teenager, the only difference is that when planning activities I have to take my physical disability into account, and make adjustments. Other than that, I can do anything any other kid is capable of.” An Easter Seals camp veteran, Sydney has been to Camp Woodeden for six summers, where she’s been able to try new activities, meet old and new friends, and be independent. She says, “Easter Seals has meant so much to me over the course of my young life. I can go to camp and meet other kids like me, do any activity, and I can get the equipment I need to be more independent.” On becoming an Easter Seals Provincial Ambassador, Sydney says, “Because Easter Seals has been life changing for me, I want to be able to help kids have the same experiences I’ve had, the ones that Easter Seals has allowed me to have. I’m looking forward to letting people know that kids with physical disabilities are just like other kids. Sometimes we just have to alter how we do things to accomplish our tasks.” For the past 95 years, Easter Seals has played an important role in providing support for children and youth with physical disabilities from all ethnic and religious backgrounds. Thanks to its generous donors, Easter Seals continues to offer programs to allow kids to experience freedom, independence and a sense of accomplishment. Easter Seals helps by providing financial assistance for mobility equipment and communication devices, as well as fully accessible summer camp opportunities at its two properties, Camp Merrywood and Camp Woodeden. Easter Seals helps kids BE KIDS. For more information or to donate, visit easterseals.org. From Easter Seals Ontario

"Welcome to Australia," the flight attendant says, their voice made raspy by the speaker, as we descend. The butterflies flutter in my stomach. One simple word, "wow" breaks the silence of the plane as I look out the window next to me. It is the only word that can sum up how in awe I am.  I knew from that point on my trip could only get more magical. To be here, does not seem real. It feels as though I am in a dream and I wait for someone to pinch me or wake me up. I have to keep reminding myself that this is really happening. To be here is a dream come true and I feel truly blessed. This amazing adventure was possible by Alan Galloway of Alabar Farms, whom I met in Ireland in August of 2016; while attending the Vincent Delaney Memorial. Some friends and industry partners of Alan Galloway also helped to make this trip possible. Brett Coffey, who works for Alabar Farms planned the entire trip from beginning to end and he did an incredible job. To all of them, I am forever grateful.    After getting settled into our hotel, my parents and I decide to walk through the city. Sydney is a beautiful city.  We walked to see the Sydney Opera House. It is a truly magnificent work of architecture. Seeing it at sunset is breathtaking. Today has been a busy day, but definitely one to remember. I wake up full of excitement for a couple reasons. It is my first full day in Australia and tonight is a special night for harness racing in Australia. It is the night of the esteemed Miracle Mile. It is one night when some of the best gathers to compete. I feel so honored to have the opportunity to be in attendance for this celebrated night of racing. Through Twitter, I had been seeing all of the updates leading up to tonight, but to be in the grandstand is overwhelming for me. Driving into Tabcorp Park Menangle I am filled with joy. I could not believe I am actually here. I am lost for words. I am filled with captivation. Walking up the front stairs and through the front doors, I look around in amazement.  There is a buzz in the air and there is no need to ask why, it is Miracle Mile night. The grandstand is absolutely stunning. The weather is perfect for a prized night of racing and for sitting outside to enjoy it. I flip through my form (program). It is a little different than North American programs. In the Australian forms, there are pictures of the colors the drivers are wearing. This is useful as drivers do not have their own colors. They wear the colors of the owner or owners they are driving for. Some of the races span two or three pages because having more than ten horses in a race is not uncommon. But for me, this is incredible to see. I walk up the hill to where the paddock is. I am just in time to see the horses parade in the walking ring before horses and drivers head to the track. The walking ring is a surprise.  In North American harness racing horses parade on the track. I enjoy watching the horses warm up, before heading back to my spot along the rail. It is finally time for the much-anticipated Miracle Mile. As the horses and their drivers step onto the track, full of focus and wanting to win. The winning horse, owner(s) trainer, and driver of this prized race will forever have their names in Miracle Mile history. Everyone gathers as close to the fence as possible. My eyes are fixed on the track as the horses line up behind the mobile (start car). The crowds begin to scream, they are deafening as they reach the half. The horses stride for home in pursuit of victory. As they come into view, my heart is pounding. With one final cheer from the crowd and one final stride, Lennytheshark crosses the wire. He has won the 2017 Miracle Mile, with driver Chris Alford and trainer David Aiken. I have the pleasure of meeting three special individuals during the night as well; all of whom I met through social media and have been looking forward to meeting in person during my trip.  Up and coming commentator Luke Humphreys, his dad, Paul, who owns a Pet Rock colt (a half sibling to my yearling filly, Jo), and Marcus Kirkwood, who is a co-owner of Miracle Mile participant Smolda. I am very happy I finally get to meet them in person.  The next day I am off to APG Sydney Yearling Sale.  The sales complex is beautiful.  Today, I can potentially see a future Miracle Mile winner go through the ring. I pass potential buyers asking to see yearlings. There is excitement in the air. I make my way to sales ring. It is a beautiful day for a yearling sale. The sun was shining and there is not a cloud in the sky. The sale is set to begin shortly. I find a seat in the front row. I scan through the pages of the sale catalog, studying the bloodlines. My mom reminds me that I could not put my hand up as it would cost too much to ship a yearling back home, chuckling as she does. I take in the serenity of the arena before the sale gets underway, knowing that for next few hours, it would be the opposite. Both buyers and sellers begin to file in. The auctioneers are setting up for their big day. The first yearling of the day enters the ring.  The booming voice of the auctioneer thunders in the afternoon. Quiet nods are given and silent hands are raised; that silence being transformed into hollers from the bid spotters. I continue to study the pedigrees, then I noticed something, none of the yearlings have names, unlike when yearlings in North America are sold.   As each yearling passes through the ring the auctioneer, the bid spotters and auctioneer continue to work together to take bids. Before long the sale concludes. I had a great day watching the action, socializing and meeting new people. Another day in Australia is complete.  The next morning I am ready for another day packed full of memories. Today I have the opportunity to visit with two of the top trainers in the Sydney area and gain insight about training in New South Wales. My first visit is to Menangle Training Facility.  I arrive and walk into the barn of David Aiken and there he is, the one and only Lennytheshark. He is so handsome. I walk over to him and tell him how amazing he raced in the Miracle Mile. He lowers his head and I reach to stroke his head.  After spending some time with me and taking pictures with me, he is happy to go back enjoying his lunch. Stablemate to Lennytheshark,  Hectorjayjay already has his head over his gate and is waiting for me to come and see him. I tell Hectorjayjay how handsome he is and how impressive he too raced in the Miracle Mile. I give him a kiss and say goodbye. I look forward to keeping up to date on the success of these two champions. After spending a delightful morning at Aiken Racing, I am back in the car and on the road again, this time heading to see Luke McCarthy’s farm.  I am greeted by Ashley Hart, who works for Luke McCarthy. She shows me around the property, and what a beautiful farm it is. We walk into the barn, walking down the shed row until we come to Bling It On. He steps out and rests his head on my knee. I begin to give him kisses. In return, he begins to lick my knee. He is so sweet and gentle.  After we bond some more, we part ways, I leave him to enjoy the rest of the afternoon. Sitting in the car going back to our hotel, I could only think how honored I feel that I got to meet three champions in one day.  I spend the next two days touring Sydney and being a tourist. On my travels, I get to see some iconic Australian animals. I get to pet a kangaroo and get to see a koala up close. That night my parents pack because as in the morning the next chapter of my journey is beginning. In the morning, we fly from Sydney to Melbourne. After boarding the plane, I sit in my seat while I wait for the rest of the passengers to board. It is a short flight, only a couple of hours.  I am filled with excitement and melancholy. I am excited for the memories that are to come, but melancholy because this flight marks the halfway point in this incredible journey. My adventures in Melbourne begin the moment I arrive and, it is a memorable one. I attend a dual code night.  In this case, it means both Thoroughbreds and Standardbreds are both racing on one card. This very special night of racing is presented by Cranbourne Turf Club and Cranbourne Harness Racing Club; featuring the TAB Cranbourne Cup for the Thoroughbreds and Decron Cranbourne Pacing Cup for the Standardbreds.   I am in awe.  The track and the grandstand are beautiful. The energy that fills the grandstand is incredible. I find the perfect spot along the rail, it is close to the finish line and the Winner’s Circle. With having two codes racing on the same night there is almost always a race to watch. The Thoroughbreds and Standardbreds alternate races.  When a Standardbred race enters the track, the Winner’s Circle presentations for the Thoroughbred race that had just finished are taking place.  It is mesmerizing and powerful to see two breeds come together for one spectacular night of racing.  It is time for the prestigious TAB Cranbourne Cup. There is a hum rippling through the grandstand. All eyes are fixed on the track. The horses and their jockeys come around each turn, the cheering in the grandstand gets louder and louder, almost drowning out the announcer. As the winning connections gather in Winner's Circle and celebrate their victory, the horses and their drivers enter the track. The energy that was exhibited during the Thoroughbred race spills into the Decon Pacing Gold Cup that follows. The pacers and their drivers line up behind the mobile, taking off they fight for positions. With each turn, the grandstand roars with excitement and drivers see the finish line coming closer with each stride, victory is one step closer. With screams and the slapping of programs, the winning pacer and driver cross the wire. After the races, I see my friend and President of Cranbourne Harness Club, Bill Hutchinson, it is lovely to see him again. I had another unforgettable night and made many memories and friends. After a busy night, I return to my hotel to get a good night of sleep in preparation for tomorrow. I drift off to sleep with the echoes of cheers and the sound of hooves hitting the track.      So far on my trip, I have been able to witness top quality racing, I have witnessed champions be crowned. Today, I am off to see the champions of tomorrow. I will be visiting two breeding farms, Aldebaran Park and Alabar Farms, as I am keen to learn about the breeding industry in Australia. Aldebaran Park is very pretty. I walk along path between the paddock with the mares and foals before stopping to see the yearlings. The foals were very playful in the morning sun as their mares watch carefully. I go and see the yearlings who are enjoying the morning sunshine, they are happy to receive the extra attention. Then I am off to Alabar Farms. When I arrive at Alabar, I am overwhelmed, to be here feels so surreal. My tour begins with having the opportunity to meet the legendary Presidential Ball and his best mate, the renowned Safely Kept. Both past champions are so sweet. I feel so blessed and honored I get to spend time with them in their paddock.  Alabar is looking after them extremely well. They are happy and living the life of leisure.  I spend some time in a paddock with some of the mares and soon to be weanlings, who are being separated the next day. As I approach the gate to go in, two foals and their mares look at me intrigued. When I am in the paddock, they come straight over to me without hesitation.  Smelling me, playing with my hat, snuggling me and giving me kisses. They were so adorable. both mares and foals refuse to leave my side. I am happy to give them kisses and snuggles.  Soon It is time to continue on my way; the foals want me to stay as much I want to. With one final kiss for each of them, I say my goodbyes before walking through the gate. It warms my heart to know that in a couple of years those weanlings will be champions; possibly winning the Miracle Mile, I can say I knew them when they were just babies before they were they winning trophies and setting records. Seeing as I am at the top breeding farm in Australia. I had to see Australia’s stallions. I have the pleasure of meeting Courage Under Fire. He is a regal looking stallion. I also meet the handsome Alta Christiano, he has the best view a stallion could ask for; his paddock overlooks all of the mares. After a lovely day spent to learn more about breeding in Australia. I go to the trots  (races) at Echuca Harness Racing Club for the evening. It is a charming track. A memorable night gets even more special when I have the opportunity to go for a ride in the mobile (start car), and sit in the front passenger seat, that was awesome. I see the whole track and the entire grandstand.  I meet the president of the club, Michael McMahon, who invites me for a tour of the paddock. I have the honor of meeting harness racing esteemed trainer and driver, Brian Gath. The following day I take a trip to Ballarat to meet Emma Stewart and Clayton Tonkin, followed by a visit to Anton Golino. Talking with them, I add to the knowledge I have gained so far and get to hear what it is like to be a trainer in the state of Victoria. The next day I have the pleasure of learning more about the wonderful work that the Harness Education and Rehoming Opportunites (H.E.R.O.) program does from Tanya McDermott. The H.E.R.O. program provides Standardbreds with new careers, and new people to have new experiences with, such as riding and showing. I meet two new horses currently in the program, Jadahson, and He’s Kinky. They are lovely boys and I know they will go on to do great things. I look forward to seeing what new their new careers have in store for them. It warms my heart to know that the H.E.R.O exists for Standardbreds after they have finished racing.  After a lovely morning, I travel to meet Andy and Kate Gath and their staff. It is an afternoon spent laughing and sharing stories. For my final night in Australia, it is the Lyn McPherson Memorial at Tabcorp Park Melton and the final night for "Team Teal" in support of Ovarian Cancer. The color teal was chosen as that is the color which represents Ovarian Cancer.  The fundraiser began February 1st. I am honored I can be part of the special night support of a great cause. Because of social media, I was aware of this heart-warming initiative. So, when I packed to come I made sure to pack my teal colored dress. Walking in the grandstand and up into the reception area, there is a wave of vibrant teal in memoriam of Lyn MacPherson. The family of Lyn MacPherson and the harness racing community has come together to celebrate her legacy and started this annual event to help others. I spend my last night at the trots in Australia in great company of friends. I feel special I get to spend my last night supporting an important cause in an unforgettable way.  I make my way to the fence to take in my last few races in Australia. As the field steps onto the track, I wish I could stop time, just for a moment, so I can enjoy the time I have left at the trots a little longer. But I cannot stop time and in the blink of an eye, I am walking through the doors and towards my car.   Sitting in my hotel room, and thinking about my trip as a whole and the thought of having to leave is not without a few tears. Maybe my tears have to do with me feeling so at home here, and now I feel I have to leave. The next morning I was up before the sun. It had already begun to rain. The weather outside reflects how I feel in my heart, dreary and sad. With a heavy heart, I step out of my taxi with my luggage in tow. I take in one last breath of the crisp Melbourne air as I step through the doors of the Melbourne International Airport, with a heavy heart and longing to stay. Being in Australia for the time that I have, it has begun to feel like home.  I will never forget all the heartwarming memories that I have made. I will never forget all of the truly amazing people who I got to meet. A part of my heart will forever be in Australia. One day, I do not know when, or how long it will take me, but I will return to this amazing place. Having to say goodbye brings tears to my eyes and makes me extremely sad. So, it is not goodbye, it is simply, see you again Australia. Many photos were taken, laughs and stories shared. I also learned a lot about how different Australian harness racing is, and how it is the same. I also gained a lot of knowledge on horsemanship and I will carry and apply that knowledge in the future when I work with my own horses. I board my first flight, taking me from Melbourne to Los Angeles, similar to the flight path I had taken to come to this magical place, flying from Los Angeles. As the plane ascends into the sky, I look out my window taking in one final glimpse of Australia. After what feels like forever the plane lands at Los Angeles International Airport. I cannot help but think how it felt so much longer doing the return trip than, going to Australia. I replay the memories, the conversations, the laughs, the smiles, the thundering of hooves, the screams of excitement in the stretch, the joyous cheers as horses make the final strides across the finish line. These memories become a blend of colors, as I see the brightly colored sets of silks rush past. All of this happens as clear as it did when the events happened for the first time. The memories flood my mind for the duration of my second flight from Los Angeles to Toronto. I still continue to replay moments, this helps to distract me from the reality. Now that I am back to the routine of going to school and doing homework, at just the right time in my day, even if only for a brief moment, as if it is like magic, I flash back to Australia.  I also want to especially thank all the sponsors who helped make this trip possible for myself and my family.... Alan Galloway of Alabar Farms... sponsored in part also by Adam Bowden’s Diamond Creek Farm, A Rocknroll Dance Syndicate, Nevele R Stud, Blue Chip Farm, Pepper Tree Farm (Art Major’s owners), the owners of Auckland Reactor and Joe Bellino and the owners of Rock N Roll Heaven (Pepper Tree Farm and Alabar). THANK YOU ALL! Sydney Weaver is 16 years old and resides in Acton, Ontario, Canada. She has been involved with harness racing for years, groom's horses, jogs them on the track, owns both a Standardbred and a Thoroughbred racehorse and has already won major youth writing awards. Sydney also has Cerebral Palsy and spends most of her time in a wheelchair, but has never let her disability hold her back from achieving her goals.

Having inspired many with her love for the trots Sydney Weaver has spread that sporting joy throughout Australia’s harness racing community in a whirlwind tour. The Canadian trots owner has toured major race days, sales, studs and trainers’ farms across a classic few weeks that will culminate at Tabcorp Park Melton on Saturday night for the all-trotting card. “But we aren’t going to talk about having to leave because it makes me sad,” Sydney said. “Everyone has been so good out here.” VIDEO: MEET SYDNEY WEAVER Sydney, who writes for harnesslink.com, has been a guest of Alan Galloway and Brett Coffey of Alabar Farms, a friendship forged from a chance meeting on foreign soil. “I met Alan Galloway in Ireland at the Vincent Delaney Memorial race weekend,” Sydney said. “I chatted with him and we became friends and afterwards, once I’d got home, Alan shot me a message on Facebook and said that we’d love to have you in Australia and it snowballed from there. “It’s my first time travelling to Australia. I didn’t know what to expect, because a lot of it was set up to be a surprise. Brett Coffey has planned it and it has been an amazing trip.” Having arrived from Toronto on February 21, Sydney’s first taste of Australian racing was the Miracle Mile at Menangle, when she watched trots heavyweights battle in front of more than 10,000 people. “The Miracle Mile was fantastic,” Sydney said. “The energy and passion was amazing and to see the truly great racing was incredible.” Her trip then continued with a visit to the APG sales, to Alabar farms and to the training stables of Luke McCarthy, Emma Stewart, Anton Golino and Andy Gath. “Going to the sales was pretty cool, to see the champs of tomorrow and to pick out a favourite or two to follow, they are all bred beautifully,” Sydney said. “All of the(trainers’) farms have been quite impressive. It’s been cool to see how they differ.” Ahead of a planned visit to tonight’s Lyn McPherson Memorial all-trotting card at Tabcorp Park Melton, Sydney has also been trackside at the dual codes Cranbourne Cup night and racing at Yarra Valley. “Seeing the dual codes at Cranbourne, it was pretty interesting how they have them on the one card. That’s something we don’t have back home,” she said. “I’m really looking forward to Melton and am excited about being part of such a great event and a great night of racing.” Sydney said the unforgettable trip would not have happened without the assistance of many. “It wouldn’t have been possible without the support of Alabar Farms, Adam Bowden of Diamond Creek Farm in the US, Joe Bellino, Blue Chips Farms, the Art Major and Auckland Reactor syndicates and Nevele R Stud. “What makes me want to be a part of the sport is the people, they are like family to me. All the people in the sport I’ve been lucky enough to meet have changed my life for the better.” Michael Howard (HRV Media/Communications Co-Ordinator)

It is the place where dreams begin; it is the place where the top drivers and trainers of the future are born. It is the place where friends become family, and complete strangers become friends. This is the place where many trainers and drivers capture their first victories and dream of making it to the big leagues. These are the “B” tracks.  In the communities where these tracks are located, race nights are a time for family, friends, and neighbors to come together to laugh, enjoy each other’s company and create memories; and if they are lucky, maybe even cash a winning ticket or two. The people who race horses here, may not be racing for a million dollars, but to them, their horses are worth just that. Even though they may be racing in a claiming race, they are worth so much more to those that love them. For many fans, it is where they first experienced the thrill of betting and winning. For some owners like myself, it is where we got our first thrill of winning too.  Sometimes the trainer may have roles other than just a trainer. They may be the owner, as well as the driver, as well as the caretaker. In some rare cases, they have also bred the horse. I am going to share with you some of my favorite memories which were created at a “B” track.  There are many, and all of them mean something to me. Not every horse can race at an “A” track like Mohawk Raceway; that is precisely why there are “B” tracks. “B” tracks provide another place for horses to race and be successful. For example, Sydney Seelster (Pinky) liked the tight turns the smaller tracks have, in addition to the speed being a little more manageable for her. This was discovered after we tried racing her once at Mohawk Raceway and once at Woodbine, in both races she tried her very best, came fifth in one of those starts but she definitely raced more competitively on the “B” tracks. The majority of my experiences as an owner came from racing at Flamboro Downs, Georgian Downs, and Grand River Raceway- all “B” tracks. When Pinky won her first race for me on a Saturday afternoon, at Flamboro Downs, I felt like I had won a stakes race. I cried tears of joy. It is because of a “B” track my dream of being a winning owner came true. It is where my adventure with Pinky begins.  It is the place where I discovered the thrill of being an owner. Every track has their big day; their day to shine. It could be holding a stakes race or a track’s opening day for the season. This is one aspect of the sport which unites both “A” and “B” tracks. Whatever the occasion or event is, the ‘little’ tracks always make the occasion a big deal. I look forward to attending these special events and I do my best not to miss one.   Every year on the holiday Monday in August, Grand River Raceway, in Elora, hosts an annual event celebrating the harness racing industry in the province of Ontario. The day is called Industry Day. The day features the finals of the Battle of Waterloo for Ontario-sired colts and the Battle of the Belles for Ontario- sired fillies. The Industry Day of 2011 was my first time attending Industry Day. It is also the first time I recall going to another track other than Mohawk Raceway. Walking through the grandstand, I marveled at the new sights, it is a bee hive of activity. The atmosphere is lively and the passion is remarkable.  That day, driving stars Scott Zeron and Doug McNair were there to take pictures with fans, so I got mine taken with them. That was a highlight for me. The races were fast paced and action packed. The crowd was passionate and excited. There was clapping and cheering. The atmosphere was celebratory and made an impression on me. Many memories were made that day, and I will cherish them always. Since that Industry Day, I have attended every one. Like many people, going to Industry Day has become a tradition for me, and I look forward to going every summer. In the summer of 2012, I made the journey to Hanover Raceway for the Dream of Glory Stake and the fireworks which followed the races. It was time for me to experience another track. Hanover Raceway was a charming track. It was not fancy but that is what makes Hanover Raceway so special. The Dream of Glory may not be the most celebrated stakes race, but for fans in the small town of Hanover, they look forward to it every year. I was honored to be asked to present the trophy. After the races finished, everyone was anticipating the fireworks. The firework show was mesmerizing. To add to the colorful spectacle, snow-like flakes fell on me, they were ashes from the fireworks. In a strange way, it added charm to the night and was something unique, an experience I will always remember. Flamboro Downs holds the Confederation Cup and I look forward to going every year. It is a day where some of the best horses and drivers come to compete on the same track Pinky did. To think of it like that always makes me smile. I was given the signs which have the names of the horses in the Confederation Cup that are used when assigning post positions. I have the ones from 2015 and 2016 (with the exception of the winner, as that gets displayed). They are something I treasure. I have proudly displayed them in my room. My parents and I visit Flamboro Downs often. We go for dinner, to watch the exciting races and cheer on our friends who are racing. I always enjoy talking with the friendly staff. All levels of staff at Flamboro Downs always makes me feel special. Gary Guy is the announcer for Flamboro, as well as Grand River Raceway and Georgian Downs. He is always sure to give me a shout out when he sees me sitting along the rail. I always feel so special when he does. I appreciate how he takes the time to do that. When Pinky won he always tried to play a song that mentioned pink as Pinky returned to the Winner’s Circle.  That made winning even more sweet. Every second-year Clinton Raceway holds an event which is like no other. Legendary drivers including Bill O’Donnell, Ron Waples, and Wally Hennessey, just to name a few, compete in one signature race. Although he did not drive, Keith Waples was also there. Hence, this day is called Legend's Day. The first time my parents and I went, every driver I wished good luck to in post parade won that race. My dad thought I was wearing horseshoes that day. After the Legend's Day race, all of the Legend's went to have a group photo taken.  I said hello to Wally Hennessey on his way to get his picture taken. He asked if I could watch his helmet and gloves. I agree and when he returned he gave his gloves and signed them. For the rest of the day, I wore those gloves with such pride. Later that afternoon it rained a lot. While we were taking cover [outside] from the rain, under an overhang at the end of the grandstand, we met a caretaker who had a horse in the last race on the card, we told her how ‘lucky’ I had been with telling drivers good luck. She told me “Trevor Henry is driving my horse is the last race, wish him good luck, and if we happen to win, come out for your picture”. Trevor Henry won that race. The rain was now teeming down. I raced through the rain to the winner’s circle. I was still wearing the gloves given to me by Wally Hennessey. I had to shield the signature from the rain, so the ink would not run. The drive home that afternoon was spent drying out.  I was drenched, but it added to the memories from that day. Today, those gloves have dried and are in a safe place for me to cherish. Two years later, I returned to Clinton Raceway for Legend's Day. I had the pleasure of interviewing a few of the legends for a story a friend was doing. He is a journalist and was unable to make it. That was an experience which I was honored to have. This past October I made four-hour journey to Leamington Raceway. My parents thought it would be the perfect way to spend a Sunday afternoon. I sat in the backseat, with my iPod and snacks, and we were on the road bound for Leamington Raceway. It was my first time visiting Leamington Raceway.  I love to visit new tracks and meet new friends. My dad was excited to be going too because Leamington was one of the few tracks he had not visited either. Before long, we are driving through small towns and countryside, soon we arrived at Leamington Raceway. I stepped out of my car and I was greeted by smiling faces. Then I received an awesome surprise, I was speechless. It was a sign which read “Stop! Parking for Sydney Weaver”. I felt so special, like a celebrity. It was just a small gesture that made my day even more special. I have always believed it is the little things in life that take up the most room in our hearts. That is something "B" tracks have in common. They add little personal touches, that make you feel welcome. For example, at Grand River, when you walk in the front doors, you are greeted by a gentleman, whose name is Tom, in a top hat and tails. He is happy and always smiling. That warm welcome is so special and has a big impact. The grandstand at Leamington was packed with people of all ages, and lots of kids. Everyone was having a grand time. Lawn chairs lined the fence. The day was picture perfect  We met up with friends and watched a few races, before being invited to take a tour of the new paddock. While in the paddock I had the opportunity to meet the people who were instrumental in getting the new paddock built.    The lovely people of Leamington Raceway were kind and gave me a Leamington Raceway sweater and baseball cap. I helped with on track draws too. Overall it was a fun day, and the day passed quickly. Before I know it, my parents and I are on the road again.  This time headed for home. As we drove, we reminisce about the memories that were created. “B” tracks might not be as well-known as the major tracks, but we need to embrace and support them. “B” tracks make our industry what it is. They are the foundation of our industry.  It is because of the smaller tracks that major tracks are able to prosper.  “B” tracks provide strength and support which is vital to the success of our sport. That is the beauty of a “B” track. Sydney Weaver is 16 years old and resides in Acton, Ontario, Canada. She has been involved with harness racing for years, groom's horses, jogs them on the track, owns both a Standardbred and a Thoroughbred racehorse and has already won major youth writing awards. Sydney also has Cerebral Palsy and spends most of her time in a wheelchair, but has never let her disability hold her back from achieving her goals.

Harnesslink’s award winning columnist, Sydney Weaver, is set to go on another world adventure starting this week. Last August it was Ireland and now she’s headed to Australia. Weaver, along with her parents, Lisa and Don, will be enjoying the trip of a lifetime down under, compliments of a host of sponsors making this “dream come true” for the Weaver’s. “I am truly blessed to be going on this trip,” Weaver said. “It’s the trip of a lifetime. It is hard to put into words my excitement, joy and gratitude. Being able to go to Australia is a dream come true!” The sports leading breeders, owners and trainers, many of whom met Sydney for the first time in Ireland, were enchanted by the young women’s enthusiasm for harness racing and her passion to achieve whatever goals she set for herself despite having Cerebral Palsy. Led by Alan Galloway of Alabar Farms, Sydney Weaver and family will be spending three weeks in Australia, sponsored in part by Adam Bowden’s Diamond Creek Farm, A Rocknroll Dance Syndicate, Nevele R Stud, Blue Chip Farm, Pepper Tree Farm (Art Major’s owners), the owners of Auckland Reactor and Joe Bellino and the owners of Rock N Roll Heaven (Pepper Tree Farm and Alabar).  "Sydney is a very inspirational person," Said Alabar's Alan Galloway. "When I first met her in Ireland I was just blown away by her enthusiasm for Harness Racing. I just knew we had to help her come down to Australia. This trip will enable her and her parents, Don and Lisa, to see some of the best horses and racing in the World. We can't thank our fellow stallion owners enough for their support as well."  Once Sydney arrives in Sydney, the funs gets started right away as she will be attending the $750,000 Miracle Mile at Menangle Park in New South Wales this Saturday, February 25. Her trip will also feature attending the APG Sydney Yearling Sales, the Lyn McPherson Memorial Night at Tabcorp Park Melton on March 11, tours of Alabar Farm, the training facilities of Andy Gath and Emma Stewart in Victoria, Aldebaran Park in Victoria plus getting to visit Tanya McDermott, who is the manager of Harness Racing Victoria’s HERO (Harness Education & Rehoming Opportunities) operations. “To think that soon I am leaving on a grand adventure still feels surreal.” Weaver explained. “I have so much to look forward to, but I am most looking forward to meeting new friends and getting to meet those who I have connected with on social media.” Of course, Sydney will be posting daily on her great adventure to Australia. By Steven Wolf, for Harnesslink

Going to Ireland truly made me realize why I love the sport of harness racing- it is the people. I will never ever forget the people, their kindness and their passion for the sport. They made me more passionate. I got to meet people from all around the world and I came home with new found friendships. As I reflect on my trip to Ireland as a whole, the words that come to mind are: amazing, unforgettable, surreal and overwhelming and the phrase "it was the trip of a lifetime" is an understatement. Having the opportunity to go to Ireland to attend the Ladbrokes Vincent Delaney Memorial Racing Weekend (VDM) is an experience I will always remember and cherish. I was invited over to Ireland to attend the VDM by the Delaney family, who organize the weekend. I was able to get to Ireland with help from a sponsorship from Mr. Ed James of SSG Gloves and my friend Bill Galvin. I will be forever grateful for to them for their generosity. I had been looking forward to this trip for a long time. This would be my first trip outside of North America. My trip become somewhat real for me the night before my parents and I were scheduled to leave. I still could not believe what is happening. My mom packs the last few things and makes the final preparations. She sews my SSG Gloves patch on the sleeve of my colors. I try to contain my excitement, so I decide to go to bed to get some sleep so I could be well rested for the upcoming days. As hard as it was I did my best to fall asleep with the excitement of the week to come bouncing about in my head. The next day I wake up filled with pure joy. I had been anticipating this day and now it had arrived. It was departure day! August 9th- a date I will always remember. We walk through the doors of the airport. Only now did I realize that in a couple of hours I would be on a plane bound for Ireland. I find my seat and settle in for my flight. The time passes moderately fast. Ireland is the only thing on my mind. My mom suggests I have a nap. I tried to close my eyes a few times. I am too thrilled to be going on this trip to sleep. So, I sit silently dreaming of the days to come. Before I know it, we land in Ireland, it was 5:30 in the morning, local time. Normally, I would complain about how early it was. But, I was so thrilled to be in Ireland I did not care about the time, I did not even feel tired. The Delaney family started the Vincent Delaney Memorial as a single race in memorial in honor of their late loved one, Vincent, who shared the love for harness racing. He tragically passed away at age 26 in 2011. Since then the Vincent Delaney Memorial has grown into a full two-day event. It has become a major racing event for fans to watch and a prestigious event to win. At the hotel, I try my first Guinness that very evening, thank you to Steve Wolf for making the memory; because when in Ireland, do as the Irish do. It was not my favorite, I guess that means I will have to go to Ireland and try it again. That night I went to bed looking very forward to my first full day in Ireland. The next morning, I wake up filled with joy, I just know it is going it to be an amazing day. We travel through downtown Dublin in a horse drawn carriage. I feel so fancy and privileged. Dublin is a beautiful city, full of charm and history. We stop at a local pub right next to the Guinness factory for some drinks. With the exception of a few people in the pub, it is all people involved in the Vincent Delaney Memorial Racing Weekend. Everyone was laughing and sharing stories. Within the pub was the who's who for international harness racing. The atmosphere is cozy and it feels like I am home, where I belong. Then, again we were off, this time bound for a restaurant for lunch. After lunch, I had the opportunity to see do some exploring on foot in the Temple Bar District. Temple Bar is a very tourist ordinated area. It has a lively atmosphere, all of the buildings are brightly colored and the streets were lined with cobblestones. I go to a couple of shops and pick up some souvenirs. This is where I see my first Leprechaun, and yes, they do exist. My first full day in Dublin is complete. The day was better than anything I ever imagined. I could not wait to see what the next day would bring. That night I went to bed with a smile on my face and my dreams were retracing my steps because I did not want to forget a single moment. The next day, I board the bus and head for the Irish countryside. As the bus rolls and weaves through the winding roads, my gaze is glued to the window beside me. The countryside is so picturesque, with what appears to look like never ending fields, and walls of stones that lined the road. Before long the bus pulls into Oakwood Stud. The farm is beautiful. I walk into the main barn and all the horses look out happily and greet me. There is one filly - Oakwood Delight, who I walk to, and we bond instantly. She cuddles with me, blowing in my ear. She did not want me to leave her. Every time I go to step away to go and see the next horse, Oakwood Delight sticks her head out and draws me back in. Oakwood Stud has the world- renowned stallion Foreclosure N. He is gorgeous and has regal presence about him. His dapples glisten in the late morning sun. Then everyone walks to where an oak tree is planted in memory of Vincent Delaney. There are also plaques commemorating the honored guest over the years, I could feel something special about this spot as the 2016 plaque was unveiled. After that everyone travels to the other farm owned by Oakwood Stud which is home to their mares and foals. James Delaney was kind and took Roger Huston and myself in the field in his car. As we pull into the field, all of the mares and their foals came over to the car. That is one of the most unique experiences I have ever had. The mares and their foals investigate the car and were sticking their heads in the windows, seeing if I had any treats to give them. I had none, but stroking their faces seem to suffice. Then everyone is treated to a delicious lunch at a local pub down the road, where the best vegetable soup I have ever had was served. After visiting Oakwood Stud, I had the incredibly special opportunity to go to Cari's Closet; a dress shop in Dublin, to pick out a dress for the VDM kick off gala dinner that was taking place the following evening. Thanks to Chris and Lisa Kavanagh, the staff of Cari's Closet and Lillian and Lexi Delaney. The dress I pick out was a fuchsia- raspberry in color. It is a truly stunning dress. The dress is a gift and to top it all off, Cari's Closet even gave me the accessories to go with my dress. In my dress I feel like a princess, it is another memory that adds to my Ireland fairy-tale. The following evening is the VDM Kick-Off Gala, which means it is time for me to put on my dress and get ready for the gala. I still remember the joy I felt when I put my dress on. Then, I went downstairs to get my hair and makeup done, thanks to Lillian Delaney, I feel so glamorous. At the gala, I meet more friends and pictures are taken. I walk by the table where the items that were to be auctioned off later in the evening were sitting. The memorabilia that is being auctioned off is amazing. There are sets of colors and horse memorabilia, such as halters. The night is splendid. I get to watch Irish dancing, which is magnificent. After the auction Roger Huston comes to chat about the night so far, and hands me a gift, a set of colors. The colors were that of the legendary driver Dave Palone. Thank you so much Roger Huston for giving such a special gift. Today, those colors are proudly hanging in my room. I will forever cherish and treasure them. I consider it a true honor to have the colors of such an iconic individual. That night there were many unforgettable memories made. It was truly a night I will always remember. I did not want to forget a minute of what happened. One of the highlights was getting to dance with World Driving Champion Dexter Dunn. Someone even video taped Dexter and I dancing https://drive.google.com/file/d/0ByButnVgha-qY2FQV1lTeFpQTVk/view?usp=drive_web. With that, I fell as sleep. The next two days were going to be spent at Portmarnock Raceway watching the races. It is Saturday morning and the bus pulls into Portmarnock Raceway. There is a sense of excitement in the air, it feels like a special day and it is. I walk through the grandstand and I am in awe. The grandstand and track were both beautiful. I open my program and flip to the first race; I am stunned. The programs are very different than what I am used to seeing, the major difference was this program has a picture of the driver's colors but no racing lines for the horses. I really like seeing the driver's colors and this made the program much more fun to read. I walk through the grandstand; the atmosphere draws me and fills me with happiness and awe. It is difficult to put into words because it is just so amazing and unique, so special. The passion is so heartwarming. The Ladbrokes Vincent Delaney Memorial Racing Weekend is something a person just has to experience in order to fully comprehend what passion for harness racing is. The grandstand gets busy and the bookmakers are setting up. Their bright colored umbrellas marking their places. I take in the picturesque surroundings. That is one image that is forever stuck in my mind. The rosettes for the winners hang ready and waiting for an incredible day of racing. I sit along the fence and in the distance there is a white rod iron carriage. The carriage looks like it belongs to Cinderella and is decorated in pink. The horses, are wearing pink feathers. They trot along the fence and stop in front of me. Lillian Delaney then says to me: "This is the last surprise". I am speechless and feel truly special. Lillian, her daughter Lexi and Rihanna (Vincent Delaney's daughter), myself and some other harness racing princesses board the carriage and go for a tour of the track. I have a truly special time going around the track as so many racing fans are clapping for us, I get to see the grandstand from an entirely different perspective and I get to see the paddock. That is another major difference. The paddock at Portmarnock is the trailer you ship in with. There is no actual paddock barn. I was also told as a result everyone brings their own water. I am so surprised, and filled with a greater appreciation for their love of harness racing. As the first race drew near people rushed up to the bookmakers to place their bets. It is like nothing I have ever seen - it is incredible just to watch. People were yelling so the bookmaker would hear them and take their bets. Each bookmaker provides their own odds, some had electronic boards others have whiteboards. That was one unique things that was different than at home. The bookmakers add so much more hype to the scene. Oh, and there is only one type of bet - win. The passion people in Ireland have for the sport from both horsemen and fans is immeasurable and refreshing. Everyone in attendance is bounded by a common love for harness racing. One thing I find remarkable is the starting gate; I have never seen anything so unique. The gate is only five [horses] wide, but to be safe they only go three four wide except for the Free-For-All races. So, in most races there are three tiers. The first and second tiers have four horses each with the third tier having two three or four. This made the races even more interesting. Horses that start on the second and third tier do win. As the gate let the field go for the first race, the tiered field picks up speed, and everyone in the grandstand is cheering. I will never forget the warm and fuzzy feeling I got with everyone cheering around me. I felt at home, everyone cheers as loud as I do. Portmarnock Raceway is only a half mile track. The racing is intense, and like nothing I have ever seen. The style of driving is extraordinary. It is so different than what I am used to seeing. I did not understand how they do what they do sometimes; some of the moves they make blow my mind. I also see something I have not seen before, a driver with a whip in one hand and a stopwatch in other. The weekend features two international driving talents, acclaimed driver Dexter Dunn of New Zealand returned for the Vincent Delaney Memorial Weekend; and winning driver Aaron Merriman of the United States attended for his first time. There was also races which featured trotters from France. They are interesting to watch as French trotters also go the opposite way than what I am used to. They raced clockwise in one event, the distance they race is also longer. The famous announcer Roger Huston and United Kingdom commentator Darren Owen would share announcing duties. The first day of racing features the eliminations of both the fillies and the colts divisions of the Vincent Delaney Memorial, with the finals being held the following day. The long wait of anticipation is over, as the fillies make their way to the track. Everyone is as close to the fence as they can get; all eyes are on the fillies. I take a quick glance at each of the driver's faces as they pass by. They are focused, and the filly which they sit behind mirrors their determination to win. Everyone wants to race in the final, but only a few will have the chance to do so. The voice of Roger Huston echoes over the speakers as the fillies go to the gate. The fillies take up their positions, the gate lets them go and the crowd cheers. My eyes are gripped on the track as the fillies battle it out. Dirt flies and the thunderous pounding of hooves hitting the track gets louder, as does the cheering. The fillies whiz past me- they are at the half. They race around the track for the second time, as quick as the field disappears, they reappear. The fillies' hooves look as though they barely make contact with the track as they pace. I start screaming as loud as I could; drivers are urging their horses in every way they can, and fans are smacking their programs. With one final stride the fillies cross the wire. Then it is time for the boys to face off. The colts step on the track, all of them want to come back and race again tomorrow. The colts score out, their drivers in tow. They move behind the gate and pick up speed. The colts captivate my attention. Drivers lean back in the seat of their bikes. Screams echo around me, I am solely concentrating on the race. The colts cross the wire with same powerful presence they had displayed through the entire race. The battle is intense and I am entranced. The look in the colts' eyes all reflect determination; how much they want to be in the final, they battle until the end and they cross the finish line. That is it for today. It was a day of spectacular racing, all of the rosettes and trophies had been handed out, and the display where they once were is empty, waiting for more rosettes and trophies to take their place. The next morning I return to Portmarnock Raceway. I am eager for another special day. Today the winners of the 2016 Ladbrokes Vincent Delaney Memorial weekend would be crowned. It is a special day so in spirit of the occupation everyone dresses up. It is known as "Ladies Day". Everyone looks fancy. I wore my yellow dress and of course a fancy hat. My hat was perfect for the occasion- it is horse themed; and I made it. There are horses on the brim standing in a field which is actually green felt; and to top it all off there is a mini trophy on top. Yes, it is a little heavy to wear. As the day begins more and more people file in. Although I did not think it was possible there is even more enthusiasm and passion than the day before. Everyone, including myself is thinking the same question: Who will win the 2016 Ladbrokes Vincent Delaney Memorial races? Walking through the grandstand I am further inspired by the love and passion, everyone was socializing and just enjoying the day. I had the honor of being interviewed by Darren Owen. Mr. Owen asks me a variety of questions: about why I love for harness racing, my experience in Ireland so far and what racing back home [in Canada] is like. It gives time to reflect on how blessed I feel. I truly love the atmosphere here, it provides so much joy to me. As I continue to walk through the grandstand I see the cutest sight. There are four young lads (I am in Ireland, I have picked up some of the language), all wearing driving colors. Seeing this warms my heart. This further demonstrates the passion everyone over here has. No matter what their age, the passion for harness racing is the same. As part of Ladies' Day there are a variety of categories in relation to being dressed up; including Best Dressed Couple, Lady, Man and Best Hat. It is a great and fun idea and the contests add even more ways to celebrate the special day. It made the day even greater when they announced that I won the Best Hat Competition. The closer it got to the finals the more enthusiastic I become. It all comes down to this. Whoever crosses the finish line first will be the winner of 2016 Vincent Delaney Memorial Filly Final. As the fillies and their driver's circle the track in preparation everyone watches and listens to Roger Huston announce each filly's presence. All of the fans in the grandstand wait with baited breath as the fillies turn for the gate. My heart begins to beat faster and faster as the field picks up speed. I watch as the fillies' battle it out with a little help from their driver's. The crowd yells in encouragement. I scream as loud I can. As they turn for home, the crowd becomes deafening. With one final stride the fillies push past the wire with grace. One filly and her driver has written their name in Ladbrokes Vincent Delaney Memorial history, that being I B Coyote driven by Dexter Dunn. The final for the colts holds the same captivation and exhilaration as the filly's final had. The screams boom like thunder in the afternoon sun. Dirt flies and the whips of drivers crack. As the wire draws near, with one final gallant stride the colts cross and the winner for the 2016 Vincent Delaney Memorial Final is crowned. The colts and gelding final goes to celebrity pacer Tyrion Hanover. This Winner's Circle was something truly special. The connections were over the moon. They also happen to be Facebook friends, and I had not had a chance to meet them yet, and being a part of their Winner's Circle was the perfect way to do so. During the Winner Circle celebration, the driver of Tyrion Hanover, Richard Haythornwaite, turned to me, introduced himself and said "I want you to have this", handing me his whip. I was honored to be given this special memento, it is something I will always cherish. I will never forget the pure joy I am filled with as I stood back in admiration as the connections celebrated in the Winner's Circle. I felt special and blessed to be a part of the celebrations. Helping the Delaney family hand out rosettes throughout the day was an honor and a thrill. Seeing the look of excitement and gratitude as I handed the winning connections their rosette was such a rewarding experience, one which I will never forget. I am blessed to be given rosettes from winning connections, it was very kind of them. I felt honored that they wanted me to have them. Everyone gathers in the grandstand one more time. It is here I get to talk with the connections of Tyrion Hanover. They give me a hat with "Tyrion Hanover" inscribed on the front. As the second day of racing comes to a close, it marks the end of another Vincent Delaney Memorial Weekend and everyone look forwards next year's race at the same time in the late summer at the same track. The Delaney family memorialized Vincent- someone who loved horses and harness racing in the greatest way. Not only are they keeping his memory alive, but they bring people together and create friendships and lifelong memories. They have built something which is full of passion for everything that is great about harness racing. As I left Portmarnock on Sunday, I began to realize that my trip to Ireland was slowly coming to a close as on Tuesday morning I would board a plane bound for Canada and that meant going back to reality. But, it was not Tuesday yet! On Monday I decide to go sightseeing, do a little more shopping and see the Irish seaside. When I return to the hotel, I go into the restaurant to socialize. There, I see Derek Delaney and we chat and then he says he has something to give me on behalf of Dexter Dunn. Out of his pocket Derek pulls out a pair white gloves, Mr. Dunn's driving gloves. I am speechless, in awe and honored. Today, those gloves proudly hang above my bed. As we pack to go home, and I put my treasures in my suitcase, I begin to realize that my week in this magical place is coming to a close. The week felt like it happened in the blink of an eye. So many memories had been created in a short amount of time. This story is only a small snapshot of my magical time in Ireland. This story does not even begin to describe my experience, no story I could write would ever do it justice. I have said it before and I will say it again: going to the Vincent Delaney Memorial is something everyone who has a passion for harness racing needs to experience. I could not pick just one favorite memory. All of the memories I made in Ireland are my favorite, and they all hold a special place in my heart. The week I was in Ireland felt like one continuous dream that I can relieve through pictures that were captured truly amazing memories forever frozen in time. To this day, I still hear the thunderous echo of the crowds cheering. Every now and again I even watch the replays from the finals to fill my heart with the warm nostalgia being in Ireland. Going to Ireland changed my life; although I may be Canadian, a little piece of me will forever be Irish. I hope to return to Dublin again one day to experience the magic all over again. There are not enough words of thanks I could say to Derek and Lillian Delaney, the VDM Committee and Steve Wolf, who made our trip to Ireland possible and everyone who made this dream a reality. Sydney Weaver is 16 years old and resides in Acton, Ontario, Canada. She has been involved with harness racing for years, groom's horses, jogs them on the track, owns both a Standardbred and a Thoroughbred racehorse and has already won major youth writing awards. Sydney also has Cerebral Palsy and spends most of her time in a wheelchair, but has never let her disability hold her back from achieving her goals.

It is usually never good when the phone rings in the middle of the night. But, when the phone rang at my house at 11:50 pm on April 11th , the exact opposite was true. Pinky (Sydney Seelster) was going into labor. I was so excited. This meant my wait for Baby Jo[e] was finally over, I had been waiting for this day for so long. Normally, I do not like it when my bedroom light is turned on because I like my room really dark when sleep. So, when my light is abruptly turned on, the light is blinding. This makes me cranky, usually, but when my dad flicked it on it was an exception on the night of April 11th . I woke up and sprung to life. To be truthful, I was not really sleeping. I was listening for the phone. My parents and I had been preparing for this moment for weeks. My mom grabbed my clothes which were sitting on the table ready to go. I brushed my teeth and changed as fast as I could. Then, we piled into the car and headed to see Pinky. Unfortunately, Mother Nature didn't get the memo that tonight was an important night. It was raining with a mix of sleet when we were driving to see Pinky, this slowed us down a little bit. At 12:34 I walked into the barn. All was quiet, I peeked in the stall where Pinky and now Jo was. I was in a state of pure joy. After watching for a few minutes, the person who had been looking after Pinky, who is in expert in broodmares turned to me and said, "It's a filly, born at 12:06". I was filled with delight. I could have watched Pinky lick Jo forever. Pinky is the perfect mom to Jo. She is protective, caring, and has shown Jo so many things that will help Jo be a success racehorse in the future. I watched as Jo would try to stand up, I would encourage her. After a few attempts Jo finally stood up, a little wobbly at first and then she walked over to Pinky and began to drink. I was filled with pride at her determination to stand. Jo even looked proud of herself when she managed to stand. Soon after Jo decided she would try to run. Needless to say, it was not long before she fell. Although I laughed at my silly little girl, I admire her will of trying to run. After staring at the beauty of Pinky and Jo I thought I would leave so the two of them could bond. But I wasn't ready to leave, not just yet. So, I went around the corner to watch the monitor which was connected to the camera in Pinky and now Jo's stall. I watch Pinky bond with her baby. I watched Jo get more confident on her feet. I was in love. I could have watched that monitor forever. Finally, it was time for me to leave. I sat in my car as we drove home and was full of joy and sleep was the last thing on my mind. As we drove I was absorbing the events that had just happened and the event felt so magical. I got a feeling, that night would change my life. I dreamed of the days to come, and further into the future. It was close to five in the morning when my parents and I arrived home. Sure, I should have gone to bed so I could get up in a few hours and go to school. But my mom said I could stay home. So, I logged onto Facebook and posted that Baby Jo had arrived, and said that ''we will be going to the Jugette instead of the Jug" to let people know Pinky had had a filly, along with all the pictures, my mom had taken. I still remember how happy and excited I was to tell everyone that Pinky had had her foal. I still remember how excited Pinky's and my friends on Facebook were for us, it was a true celebration. I went to bed and fell into a deep sleep knowing know the phone would not ring. The next morning, I sent pictures to all of my teachers explaining why that was the reason I was not in class. My mom recommended that we skip going to see Pinky and Jo that day, so the two of them could bond. As much as I really wanted to go and see them, I knew it was best for both mare and foal. All day I wondered how Pinky and Jo were. The next day I went to school, because sadly, I could not stay home forever and when I got home the only thing I wanted to do was to go see Pinky and Jo. Every day that I go and visit Jo I am always excited to see how she has changed since the last time I saw her. She is growing so fast and getting so big! I love brushing Jo, it is my favorite part to do during our visits. I love brushing Jo and Jo loves being brushed. Pinky has passed on the connection we share to Jo. When I go into the stall Pinky relaxes and lets Jo come right to me. There was one day when Jo was starting to act too silly and Pinky gave this deep nicker, it was almost like Pinky was saying to Jo, "be careful with her. Don't you hurt her". I look forward to seeing what silly things Jo comes up with to entertain me during each visit. She always makes me laugh and makes me smile bigger and brighter than she did the time before. Jo has never been shy of my wheelchair. In fact, Jo feels quite the opposite. When Jo was younger, she would always want to sit on my lap. Most of the time it happened when I would brush her tail, and other times when I brushed her side. I still do not know why she did it, and where she developed the idea. I would always push off, she would stand up, and I would tell her, "No, Jo. Only one per chair". As she continued to grow, she continued to want to sit on my lap, the harder it got to push her off. Every time she did it I would laugh even more than I did the time before. I know Jo is going to go on to do amazing things in her career and I always want to protect her and keep her safe. Unfortunately I cannot wrap her in bubble wrap, so I had to find with another way to keep her safe. I thought of the idea to have Jo blessed. On one afternoon Chaplin Ken Carter of the Standardbred Racetrack Chaplaincy came out and blessed Jo. It was a small ceremony with a couple of close friends. Since that day I have felt comfortable knowing that no matter what, Jo is safe and in good hands. When Jo was two and a half weeks old, the accomplished equine photographer Dave Landry was kind to come out and take pictures of Pinky and Jo. That day was a great day. While Dave Landry was snapping photos Jo hit the pace for the first time! I was so happy and proud of her, not to mention impressed. On that same day, Jo was acting for the camera. There were a couple of photos Dave Landry captured and it looked as if Jo was posing. She would run and stop, then look at the camera and I thought to myself "oh goodness, Jo's going to be quite the handful, if at two and a half weeks she is already acting like this". Jo is the perfect filly now and all she needed was the perfect name. I knew Jo's name was going to the biggest decision I would have make. To make it easier, I came up certain criteria the name had to fit: her name had to fit well in a race call, the name had to meaning and fit with her personality. It took some time to finally get the perfect name but at last I came up with what would become Jo's official race name. It happened while I was a school, counting down the hours until I could go out and see Pinky and Jo, with a song by one of my favorite singers- Justin Hines, stuck in my head. The name I came up with is "And Now There's You". The inspiration came from Justin Hines's song Now There's You; and because I have Pinky and now I have Jo too. I checked it see if it fit the criteria, and it did! I made up race calls in my mind- the name worked, it had meaning and it most certainly fit her personality. Jo brings so much joy into my life. When I look into her eyes I feel like she sees my heart. Every time I look deep into Jo's big brown eyes I find the missing pieces of myself. If I am feeling blue she knows exactly what to do to make me smile and laugh. If I am stressed she will sit with me and make me relax. Although we do not communicate in the same way, she knows is exactly what I am thinking and how I am feeling. Although she has only been outside of Pinky for a few months, Jo and I fit perfectly, like two puzzle pieces. She is like the younger sister I had never had. When Jo looks at me her eyes are filled with kindness, gentleness, curiosity and an eagerness to play and learn. Now that Jo is here I cannot wait to see the adventures we will have together. I look forward to whatever lays ahead. Even though she is growing and changing so much every day, I am so happy she is in my life. Now it is off to summer camp and then to IRELAND for the Vincent Delaney Memorial. I am sure I will have a story or two from this super trip! Sydney Weaver is 16 years old and resides in Acton, Ontario, Canada. She has been involved with harness racing for years, groom's horses, jogs them on the track, owns both a Standardbred and a Thoroughbred racehorse and has already won major youth writing awards. Sydney also has Cerebral Palsy and spends most of her time in a wheelchair, but has never let her disability hold her back from achieving her goals.

Dublin, Ireland - Through the generous support and sponsorship of the Vincent Delaney Memorial Committee in Ireland and SSG Gloves in Canada, Sydney Weaver and her parents, Lisa and Don, will be going to Ireland in early August for the Ladbrokes Vincent Delaney Memorial weekend. "We have invited Sydney to be our special guest speaker at our gala kickoff dinner Friday, August 12," said Derek Delaney, head of the VDM Committee. "I have been friends with her on Facebook and she is just wonderful. Her writing on harness racing and what she has achieved and done for our industry for a young woman is fantastic and she and her parents will be our honored guests at the races that weekend." The VDM weekend is the biggest harness racing weekend in all of Ireland and the UK. The VDM is named after Derek and James Delaney's younger brother Vincent, who worked with the horses at their Oakwood Stud training and breeding center. Vincent tragically died of a massive heart attack in 2011 at the age of 27 and the brothers came up with the VDM weekend as a tribute to their lost brother. The race weekend now features elimination races Saturday, August 13 for the VDM, which is for two-year-old pacers. A record number have entered and with the sponsorship support of Diamond Creek Farm and Adam Bowden, for the first time there will be a separate filly division too. The finals take place Sunday, August 14. Other top stakes that weekend include the Oakwood Stud Derby for three-year-olds, the Paul Murtagh, Sr. Memorial for four-year-olds, the RocknRoll Heaven/Pet Rock Irish-American FFA that is sponsored by Joe Bellino and the Bellino Racing Stable, LeTrot races plus other stakes events. Other sponsors from down under include Yirribee Stud and Pro-Dosa Boost feed suppliments.  "The VDM committee agreed to sponsor Sydney and her family for their hotel stay, dinner tickets and racetrack VIP access," Delaney added, "And they will be part of our tours to Oakwood Stud and carriage ride through downtown Dublin and have lunch in Temple Bar. They are going to have a super time in Ireland." Then steps in Ed James, owner of SSG Gloves. Ed is a big Sydney Weaver fan and when he heard about her being invited to come to Ireland, he set up SSG Gloves to sponsor the airfare for Sydney and her parents to go to Ireland. "I called up and talked to Sydney and told her the news." Ed James said. "And she was so excited. I also have sent her a few pairs of gloves to use when she goes jogging and to bring with her to Ireland. I know she will have a fantastic time." And what did Sydney have to say about all of this? "Unbelievable news, so fantastic and I can't believe this is all happening." Sydney said. "This is a dream trip come true. What great stories I am going to write about the people I meet, the places I see, the big dinner and the bigger race weekend. I have a lot of Facebook friends from Ireland and the UK and I hope to get to meet them in person now. "When I phoned and thanked Mr. James for the sponsorship," Sydney added, "I said I would proudly display an SSG Gloves patch on my racing colors that I will bring over, and Derek Delaney is getting me a Vincent Delaney Memorial patch too that will go on my colors once I get there. "I also got a very nice check from Hall of Famer and dear friend Bill Galvin, Sydney said. I still have to pinch myself that this is all for real." Sydney Weaver and her mom and dad are not the only ones who will be traveling to Ireland for the VDM weekend. Joining the Weavers will be Heather Vitale and her mom (JoAnn Looney-King) and sister (Susan Looney), the 2015 Dan Patch Driver of the Year, Aaron Merriman, New Zealand's top driver Dexter Dunn is returning along with Hall of Fame announcer, Roger Huston, who will be calling the races at Portmarnock Raceway for his third straight year. Michael Gallenti and Bill Hutchison of Harness Racing Travel is bringing a group of 40 from New Zealand and Australia, making the total nearly 70 that are coming to Ireland from down under. Their website is www.harnessracingtravel.com.au. Dublin, Ireland will be the place to be August 12 to 14 for the VDM and more announcements of top Standardbred visitors from the USA will be made soon. For more information, visit www.vincentdelaneymemorial.com. By Steve Wolf, for the Vincent Delaney Memorial Committee

Amidst the current controversy concerning the use of the word “God” in a race horse’s name, I have taken pen in hand to explain the mistake I have made concerning the Harnesslink “Name Pinky’s Foal Contest” of the past few days. I was the one who came up with the idea for the contest, procured the prizes and set up the promotion. It was never intended to have this outcome. I should have called Standardbred Canada and checked with Registrar Linda Bedard on the eligibility of the names of the six finalists before Sunday’s announcement at Flamboro Downs. I did not do that and I am wrong for not doing so. It might have saved all this commotion from happening. Then again, it may not have. That being said, I still feel adamant that both organizations, whom have stated that not permitting the use of the word “God” or a religious statement in a horse’s name has been “unofficially” instrumented for years, is still wrong. The USTA posted a story yesterday saying I was irresponsible and misleading and that was not the case. I was told by SC to check the names with the USTA and I did that. We did talk a lot and there was confusion as per the horse being bred by a USA stallion but foaled in Canada. The issues here are not as much where the foal must be registered and whom can approve names and whom cannot, but the fact that both organizations stated that they do not want the word God used in a horse’s name and that they do not state that in their official rules. A simple one-line statement in the rules of both organizations explaining this should have been placed in the official rules once the respective boards came up with this concept. It may well happen in the very near future. If not for this occurrence, I would never have known in a thousand years that the word God cannot be used in a horse’s name, as have many other people. It was explained to me that in prior years the word God was allowed and even through both organizations try their best, some improper names still slip by. Improper names, I consider, include Domedomedome, Porno Queen and Nickel Bag as these are totally either sexually explicit or are a pure illegal drug reference. There are many other cases like this in pretty much all breeds of horses that have official registered names. It happens. Many get a good laugh out of them, many are offended by them and have issues when they bring their children to the races and have to hear the announcer shout them out. But when I can look up and see a foal of 2016 (USTA) officially registered with the name, Bythegraceofgod, then I think to myself, what did Sydney Weaver do that is so wrong to not have her Only God Knows Why name rejected? Heck, there is even a very popular stable registered in Canada called "The Stable That God Loves". I apologized to Sydney Weaver and her mom and dad for not doing my due diligence in calling Standardbred Canada or the USTA to get the six finalist names approved before the announcement. While the Weaver’s say I did not do anything wrong, and are still dumfounded that both Standardbred Canada and the USTA would not accept the name because it has the word “God” in it, I still did not do right by them in insuring that the contest would run smoothly as possible. That being said, and with Standardbred Canada saying that God cannot be used in a horse’s name, then can someone explain to me how they could support and have this article/video produced for Standardbred Canada that was up for a major award in 2015? http://www.standardbredcanada.ca/news/3-2-16/so-god-made-racehorse-honoured.html There are two petitions online currently asking Standardbred Canada to allow the name to be used. I have signed both of them, even though one of them incorrectly states the USTA instead of Standardbred Canada. The Weavers have stated they will not end this battle for the name of the foal. I can’t blame them. I just wish people and organizations could get over this problem of being so “politically” correct in trying not to offend everyone that they forget common sense. By Steve Wolf, for Harnesslink

Below this article is the harness racing story about the naming of Sydney Weaver’s foal that took place at Flamboro Downs Sunday night. The story had been held up due to the refusal by Standardbred Canada (SC) to allow the name that Sydney Weaver chose to be used. The United States Trotting Association (USTA) also supports Standardbred Canada’s decision. This is because the winning name has the word God in it. Live on the air Sunday, the name Only God Knows Why was announced as the winner of the contest run by Harnesslink. Standardbred Canada’s Manager & Registrar, Linda Bedard, wrote to Harnesslink Monday morning and stated, “It has been brought to my attention that the winning name for "name Pinky's foal contest" is Only God Knows Why. The word "GOD" is not to be used in a horse name. Names for any contest should always be verified by the USTA or SC prior to releasing the winner.” The Weaver’s and Harnesslink gleaned through the rules and regulations and saw nowhere does it mention that God or religious names cannot be used. “There have been names of horses both in Canada and the USTA and in other countries that have God in it.” Said Lisa Weaver, Sydney’s mom. “There is God Only Knows, God Bless America, God Bless The USA, Goddess, Godspeed, Jesus Loves Me and many more God names. This is not right. “I understand that SC and the USTA have a job to do,” Weaver add, “they have to sort through so many names but why isn’t it listed in the rules that the word God or any religious references are not allowed or may be not accepted? We read these rules from top to bottom and it never mentions this. “Yes, they said they have final approval on all names and that we should have called them to check on the finalist’s names,” Weaver said, “but we never dreamed they stopped allowing the word God to be used and they have never updated it in the rules.” Harnesslink went back to SC and the USTA to try again and ask that the name be allowed. The answer from Linda Bedard was, “The rules states "...cannot be obscene or offensive, or endorse any form of hate or hate group". The word GOD can be offensive for some people, personally, I would be offended if a horse would be named "Only Allah Knows Why".  Words or references excluded in name are not listed as the list could be very long and can also change from time to time. There is a 39 year old horse named Terrorist, I remember in late September 2001 someone wanted to call their foal Terrorist and because of the timing the name was rejected. Nowadays, we do have to be very careful regarding religious references and for this reason the name Only God Knows Why will not be approved. While Standardbred Canada continues to work in co-operation with the United States Trotting Association to reserve horse names and reject those names that may be considered offensive or vulgar, the system is not foolproof and from time-to-time certain names do get passed us that are not within the guidelines of our rules, once found and the horse has not yet raced, the name is recalled and the horse is not allowed to race or breed until a new name is submitted. Most of USTA and SC members who are applying for horse names are familiar with the rules of naming horses which are published on both the USTA and SC websites and still hundreds of names are refused every year. Part of the process of naming a foal is to have the name verified and approved, which was not done in your case.” “I see names of horses racing that are offensive to myself and many others,” Lisa Weaver responded, “Names including Domedomedome, Nickle Bag and Porno Queen. Do you think we should allow our children to hear track announcers promoting those types of names at the races? You want to compare those names to using the word God? “When something wonderful happens to Sydney,” said Lisa Weaver, “and there has been times wonderful people cross our paths and we wonder why, and we believe everything happens for a reason -  Only God Knows Why is in the Cambridge Dictionary - dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/god-knows and states:  used to emphasize that you do not understand something at all or have no knowledge of something at all.” “Why is this name so special to Sydney and our family,” Lisa Weaver said, “Is because Sydney has Cerebral Palsy, and all her life when she should ask why did I get this disease, the majority of time the answer she would get was “Only God Knows Why” and that is why this name is so special to her. “You can say that myself and Don are the most upset about all of this,” Weaver said. “Sydney is so great, she never complains, but she was very disappointed when they said she can’t have that name for her foal. I am not looking for anything special because this is Sydney. It’s just not right to not have the word God or any religious names or meanings in a horse’s name listed in the rules.” The Weaver’s said they will now wait and see what other courses of action they may take. Harnesslink has officially named the winner and second place finisher in the contest and will award them their prizes accordingly, regardless of what Sydney Weaver’s foal is named in the future.   Sydney Weaver’s foal now has a name After months of anticipation, owner Sydney Weaver of Acton, Ontario, now has a name for her special mare’s foal, and its Only God Knows Why. Sydney “Pinky” Seelster gave birth to a beautiful filly by Pet Rock on April 11 and Weaver teamed up with Harnesslink to have a contest to allow race fans to name the filly. Top prize for the winning name was a free breeding to two-time world champion pacer, He’s Watching, and the second place finisher would win $500 in free wagers on WatchandWager.com. Flamboro Downs management graciously agreed to host the naming ceremony Sunday night and track announcer Gary Guy cleverly took Weaver’s top six choices for the filly and wove it into a race call.   The six finalist names were Just Pink It, Only God Knows Why, Pinky Promise, Seeled With A Kiss, Tickle Me Pink and When Dreams Are Real. Guy weaved all of the horses into the race and as they came down the stretch in the fictious race, it was Only God Knows Why winning with Seeled With A Kiss second and Tickle Me Pink third. “Tonight was an amazing night,” Sydney Weaver said. “There were so many great names that were submitted and I had a lot of fun going through them all. It was tough to pick just one name. Only God Knows Why was the name I kept coming back to every time I went over the list.” And the winner of the breeding to world champion He’s Watching is John Turnbull of Nova Scotia, Canada. He was the only one who entered the name God Only Knows Why. Turnbull works for Boilermaker Local 73 in Turo and has a small stable of horses with his father. “I knew about the announcement taking place Sunday night at Flamboro,” said John Turnbull, “But I was sound asleep after having just arrived back home after working for days in Fort McMurray in Alberta with the fires. “When I woke up the next morning there was a message from a friend of mine who was watching the races at Flamboro and he sent me a photo showing my name had won. Then there were all these emails and Facebook messages congratulating me. “I first saw the story about the contest to name Sydney’s foal,” Turnbull said. “And I started thinking of different names and remembered that was one of the names for a filly we had foaled last year but did not use it. So I figured I would enter that one. “Wow, it just blew me away that my name was selected by Sydney.” Turnbull added, “Then Sydney called me and congratulated me. That was great to speak with her.” John Turnbull has been involved in harness racing all his life. His father, Frazer Turnbull, has owned, bred and trained and drove horses since the late 1960’s. “I do the training and dad does the driving,” Turnbull said. Can John and his father make good use of the first place He’s Watching free breeding. “Oh yes,” Turnbull said. “My father and I had a decent race mare that we bred, Carol’s June Bug and her first foal is Junebugs Baby, who has made over $85,000 and has a record of 1:55.1. Dad was tickled pink when I told him we won the breeding to He’s Watching. It is perfect timing for the mare too!” The second place prize of $500 in wagering credit from WatchandWager.com went to Brenda Doherty of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Brenda was a former groom and owner who helped break Nononsensewoman as a yearling. She was also an under saddle jockey with Standardbreds. “This is so great,” Doherty said. “I was hoping that Sydney liked the name and I am so pleased even finishing second. I have not been working in harness racing for the last 17 years but still follow the sport and love it. I most certainly will have some fun with the $500 in free bets and thank you Harnesslink and WatchandWager!” “Thank you John Turnbull for submitting the name.” Sydney Weaver added, “Congratulations and hopefully you can come by and see her one of these days, or better yet, come in the winner’s circle when she wins her first race!” The breeding was generously donated by Muscara Racing Trust, Menary Racing, Inc., Brad Gray and Michael Guerriero. I want to thank everyone who submitted a name for the contest,” Weaver said. “You are all so wonderful. And I must thank Steve Wolf and Harnesslink for doing the contest, and Muscara Racing, Dave Menary, Brad Gray and Michael Guerriero for donating the breeding to He’s Watch. Also thank you Flamboro Downs for hosting the name drawing and to WatchandWager for putting up the $500 second place prize. Everyone made this such a special night and fun contest.” Sydney Weaver is 15 years old and resides in Acton, Canada. She has been involved with harness racing for years, groom’s horses, jogs them on the track, owns the Standardbred Sydney Seelster, a Thoroughbred racehorse, has already won major youth writing awards and does public speaking. Sydney also has Cerebral Palsy and spends most of her time in a wheelchair, but has never let her disability hold her back from achieving her goals. By Steve Wolf, for Harnesslink.com

DUNDAS, ONT - This Sunday night, Mother's Day at Flamboro Downs, is when Sydney "Pinky" Seelster's newborn foal, a filly, will be officially named after a month long contest held by Harnesslink.com. Pinky's owner, 15-year-old Sydney Weaver of Acton, has narrowed the list of nearly 500 names submitted from around the world to just six finalists and after the eighth race on Sunday at Flamboro Downs, the official name will be announced. The top prize winner will receive a breeding to two-time world champion pacer, He's Watching, who stands at both Tara Hills Farm in Port Perry and at Alabar Bloodstock in New Zealand. He's Watching's stud fee for the 2016 season is at $5,000. The breeding was generously donated by Muscara Racing Trust, Menary Racing, Inc., Brad Gray and Michael Guerriero. There is also a second place prize of $500 in free wagers on WatchandWager.com. That prize winner will also be announced after the eighth race. "This was so hard and also so much fun," said Sydney Weaver. "There were too many great names that people came up with. I feel sad that only one of the names will be used. "I want to thank everyone that took the time to enter a name," Weaver added, "and especially say thank you to my friend and editor, Steve Wolf at Harnesslink, who set up the whole contest. Now I just have to be patient until Sunday night and then my little filly will have a name." Of the names submitted, 44.7% came from Canada, 39.9% from the USA, 7.8% from Australia and New Zealand and the remaining 7.6% from Ireland, UK and Europe. After the eighth race Sunday, Flamboro Downs track announcer Gary Guy will be joined in the Grandstand by Sydney Weaver and her parents, Lisa and Don, for the special live and unique naming ceremony. "I also must say thank you again to Joe Bellino, who donated the breeding to Pet Rock for Pinky," Sydney Weaver said, "and to the owners of He's Watching for their generosity in offering the first place prize and to WatchandWager for the second place prize and to Flamboro Downs for allowing the naming to take place at the track on Sunday. Everyone has been so super throughout the contest." Sydney Weaver is 15 years old and resides in Acton, Canada. She has been involved with harness racing for years, grooms horses, jogs them on the track, owns the Standardbred Sydney "Pinky" Seelster, a Thoroughbred racehorse, has already won major youth writing awards and does public speaking. Sydney also has Cerebral Palsy and spends most of her time in a wheelchair, but has never let her disability hold her back from achieving her goals. By Steve Wolf, for Harnesslink    

Final weekend to enter Name “Pinky’s” Foal Contest

Acton, Ontario – Sydney Weaver’s unnamed Pet Rock filly was the center of attention yesterday as Sydney “Pinky” Seelster’s little girl was blessed in a special stall ceremony. Chaplain Ken Carter of the Standardbred Race Track Chaplaincy of Canada came out to the farm and officially blessed “Baby Joe”. “Today was a very special day for me,” Said Sydney Weaver. “It truly meant a lot. Thank you Ken Carter and also to Kim, Nicholas and Garnet Barnsdale for being part of our special day.” Sydney refers to Pinky’s filly as “Baby Joe” after Pet Rock’s owner, Joe Bellino, who donated the breeding for Pinky. “Every day Baby Joe and I are bonding more and more,” Sydney said. “This is such a wonderful experience. She now comes up to me in the stall and loves it when I brush her.” The beautiful filly still needs a name and everyone is encouraged to enter the “Name Pinky’s Foal Contest” before it closes next Sunday, May 1 at midnight. There is no purchase necessary to enter the contest. You must be age 18 or older and a legal resident of the country you live in. All entries must be submitted in English. Just go to  www.harnesslink.com/name-the-foal/ and fill out all the required information. The winning name selected will receive a free breeding to the multiple world champion pacing stallion HE’S WATCHING, who stands at both Tara Hills Farm in Port Perry, Ontario and at Alabar Bloodstock in New Zealand. His stud fee for the 2016 season is at $5,000. The breeding was generously donated by Muscara Racing Trust, Menary Racing, Inc., Brad Gray and Michael Guerriero. There is also second place prizes of $500 in wagers on WatchandWager.com. That prize winner must be a USA citizen residing in a state that does not have a conflict with www.WatchandWager.com. Flamboro Downs management is offering dinner for two packages to Canadian winners. Within one week after the deadline date, Sydney Weaver will select six approved names for the foal. Management at Flamboro Downs, where Pinky raced for most of her career, has graciously agreed to hold a Name Pinky’s Foal Contest Night at the track on Sunday, May 8 (Mother’s Day), when the final name will be announced in a unique presentation. By Steve Wolf, for Harnesslink

WIN FREE BREEDING TO HE’S WATCHING

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