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Batavia, NY--- A new era gets underway at America's oldest lighted harness track on Monday (July 25) when Batavia Downs raises the curtain on its 70th season of live harness racing action. Opening night features the $100,000 New York Sires Stakes division for 2-year-old trotting fillies along with free racing programs and magnetic racing schedules for the fans on track. Post time is set for 6:15 p.m. The 2016 season (that runs through December 10) features 70 race dates and includes seven matinees and three twilight programs. Live racing will be presented on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday nights to begin the season with a new post time of 6:15 p.m. Sunday afternoon will replace Monday night beginning on July 31. Holiday matinees include Labor Day (Sept. 5) and Columbus Day (Oct. 10). All matinee post times are 1:15 p.m. A special Breeders Cup program on Saturday (Nov. 5) begins at 3:30 p.m. The renaissance begins with the new "Hotel at Batavia Downs, which is located trackside between the grandstand and the paddock. Racing fans can check into this fantastic 82-room facility and access the track and the gaming floor for the duration of their stay without ever having to leave the premises. Half of the rooms in the hotel overlook the home stretch of the track and members of bataviabets.com can watch and wager from their room. There are even four balcony suites facing the track. The hotel is slated to open in September. Fans will see the best racing possible after the Downs invested $125,000 in racetrack improvements under the guidance of new track superintendent, Peter Arrigenna. Arrigenna designed and directed the re-banking of the turns, leveling of the straightaways and then topping it off with 5,000 tons of new surface material to provide the fastest and safest racing strip possible. Once the track sets up, the competition should produce record speeds all year. "These are very exciting times for Batavia Downs" said Todd Haight, Director/GM of Live Racing. "There has been a lot of money invested in the racing side of this facility this year between the new hotel and track improvements and the entire management and staff cannot wait for our customers to come out and enjoy them." Over $1,000,000 in purse money will be up for grabs in stake races during the meet and that will draw some of the top horses and drivers in North America to the Genesee County oval. Eight divisions of the New York Sire Stakes (NYSS) each going for an estimated $100,000, will highlight the best youthful performers in the Empire State this year and that should provide competition for the fans that is both exciting to watch and profitable to wager on. NYSS divisions by age, sex and gait will be at Batavia on Monday (July 25, opening night), August 7, 13, 20 and 31, and September 3, 10 and 14. And eight New York County Fair finals, each vying for $10,000, will be contested on Wednesday (Sept. 7). Batavia Downs signature stake, the $50,000 Robert J. Kane Memorial Pace, will be held on Saturday (Oct. 8) and will draw some of the top older Open pacers from the northeast. This race has become a highly anticipated event by the fans as it presents an opportunity to break the all-age track record each year. During the 70 cards of racing there will be 25 major promotions scattered throughout the year. Highlights of these special events include Sunday Dollar Days in August, the very popular wiener dog races and Family Fun Day, the first ever Racing Under Saddle (RUS) non-wagering exhibition at Batavia Downs (pending NYS Gaming approval), the Labor Day driver's bike race, a Columbus Day Chicken BBQ and another "Diamonds are a Girl's Best Friend" promotion, when the racetrack will be giving away a pair of diamond earrings valued at $4,000. There are buffet specials in the clubhouse every racing night all year, and the chef will once again be serving up his famous prime rib, crab leg, and shrimp buffet every Saturday night for the entire meet. All clubhouse buffet specials include gaming free play offers. "We have put together the most aggressive entertainment package possible and believe we offer something for every member of the family all year" Haight continued. "Between the caliber of horses that will compete over the new surface and the new amenities our customers will enjoy, we are looking for our seventieth year of racing to be the most memorable one yet." For more information and updates as they happen, log onto the track's website at www.bataviadownsgaming.com and click on "Live Racing" and follow us on Facebook as well. Tim Bojarski

Batavia, NY--- The 2016 live harness racing meet at Batavia Downs gets underway on Monday (July 25) at 6:15 p.m. and the draw for that initial card will be held this Thursday (July 21). Opening night will feature the $100,000 New York Sire Stakes for 2-year-old trotting fillies and those horses will also need to be declared that day. Entries can be made by calling Race Secretary Joe Zambito directly at 585-344-6161 or online through the USTA entry service. The box closes at 9 a.m. Condition sheets for the entire first week of racing are now available at www.bataviadownsgaming.com by selecting "Live Racing" and then "Horsemen". A total of 70 live racing cards will be held during the 2016 meet, which will run through Saturday (Dec. 10). Tim Bojarski  

Batavia, NY --- Batavia Downs will once again be conducting the Genesee County Fair races which feature the New York Sire Stakes Fair Series. This special day of racing is slated for Monday (July 18) with post time for the first race set at 2:00 p.m. The race secretary for this event is Donna Kerr and she can be reached via phone at 716-338-5387. The entry box closes Thursday (July 14) at 10 a.m., but entries can be made in advance of that date. The 2016 live meet at America's oldest lighted harness track features a Claiming Championship Series this year and kicks off on Monday (July 25) with the New York Sire Stakes for 2-year-old trotting fillies. Live racing will continue through Saturday (Dec. 10). Questions concerning any event of the upcoming racing season should be directed to Todd Haight, Director/General Manager of Live Racing, at 585-343-3750 or racing secretary Joe Zambito at 585-344-6161. By Tim Bojarski, for Batavia Downs

The 2016 Batavia Downs season will feature a new earning incentive for horsemen when the Claiming Championship Series will make its debut in July. The point-based competition will be broken down by gait and claiming price and the accrual of points will be on a monthly basis. There is no nomination or entry fee to participate and the event will be conducted under the rules and regulations of the New York State Gaming Commission, the USTA and Batavia Downs. Divisions will include $4,000, $5,000-$6,000 and $8,000-$10,000 claimers on the pace and $4,000-$5,000 and $7,500-$10,000 claimers on the trot. Points will be awarded to the top-five finishers of each race. The top eight horses from each class category making the final will be comprised of the top three pointe earners in August, (July 25 - August 31) and September, (September 1- 30) and the top two point earners in October, (October 1- 31). They will advance to the Claiming Championship Finals on November 12. Once a new month starts, all the points earned will revert back to zero (with the exception of July, which will carry over into August). The $4,000 and $4,000-$5,000 categories will compete for $15,000 in the final and all other categories will vie for $20,000. As is the case with all horses racing at Batavia Downs, horses entered in these races must have a current negative Coggins test, current proof of a rabies vaccination and a current health certificate. All owners, trainers and drivers must also have a current membership with the USTA. Click here (http://www.bataviadownsgaming.com/live-racing/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/LRW-ClaimChampSeries-Fullpg-16-0778.pdf) for complete rules or log onto www.bataviadownsgaming.com and click the "Live Racing" tab and then the "Horsemen" tab. By Tim Bojarski for Batavia Downs

In a first-of-its-kind agreement, the United States Harness Writers Association announced Monday (June 27) that Centaur Gaming-owned Hoosier Park will be the lead title sponsor of next year's Dan Patch Awards banquet in Las Vegas. The event, to be held at Planet Hollywood on Feb. 26, will be named "The 2017 Dan Patch Awards presented by Hoosier Park." The Dan Patch Awards are for top equine and human performers, Harness Horse of the Year honors, as well as the first introduction of the newest member(s) to the Hall of Fame. The spotlight will shine on Hoosier Park in the fall of 2017 when the Breeders Crown makes its first visit to the Indiana racetrack. But several months prior to that big event, Hoosier Park will help direct the limelight toward harness racing's equine and human stars thanks to a new partnership with another of the sport's premier festivities. The awards, first presented in 1947, are named in honor of one of the great stars of the early 20th century --- in any sport --- the Indiana-born pacer Dan Patch. Born in 1896 in Oxford, Ind., Dan Patch attracted huge crowds wherever he traveled and set numerous world records. His mark of1:55-1/4 set at age 9 in 1905 stood for more than three decades and his name and image endorsed products from breakfast cereals to washing machines. Indiana-sired horses have also garnered national attention more recently, with the most notable examples including 2015 Horse of the Year Wiggle It Jiggleit and Breeders Crown champions Always B Miki, Color's A Virgin, and Freaky Feet Pete, all hailing from the Hoosier State. "Hoosier Park and Centaur could not be more honored to serve as the first title sponsor for these prestigious awards," said Jim Brown, president and COO of Centaur Gaming. "Considering Dan Patch was an Indiana-bred made the opportunity feel even more appropriate. "Indiana harness racing is being recognized nationally, with some of the top horses and racing in the country, and sponsoring the 2017 USHWA awards and hosting the 2017 Breeders Crown races should both contribute to making this a year to remember for Indiana racing." The 2017 Dan Patch Awards will honor this season's top performers, including divisional champions plus Trotter, Pacer, and Horse of the Year. "This is a great opportunity for USHWA to team up with an outstanding racing organization like Hoosier Park to present our 2017 Dan Patch Awards banquet," said Tim Bojarski, president of the U.S. Harness Writers Association. "We believe the synergy of this partnership will better enhance the promotion of harness racing and its stars throughout the upcoming year and hope it will lead the way for other entities of the sport to work together for the same reason. "I can promise everyone a night to remember at Planet Hollywood in Las Vegas on Feb. 26, 2017." For more information on the Dan Patch Awards presented by Hoosier Park, log onto www.ushwa.org, where all the latest news and announcements will be available throughout the year. From the U.S. Harness Writers Association

Batavia, NY---Stall applications for the 70th season of live harness racing at Batavia Downs Gaming are now available on the track's website . Simply click on 'Live Racing' and then the 'Horsemen' tab. Stall applications are also available at the Western New York Harness Horsemen's Association website (www.wnyhha.net ) or in person at the Buffalo Raceway race office. Stall applications must be received by Friday (July 8) according to Racing Secretary Joe Zambito. The 2016 season at America's oldest lighted harness track features 70 race dates and includes six matinees and three twilight programs. The meet opens on Monday (July 25) and concludes on Saturday (Dec. 10). Live racing will be presented on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday nights to begin the season with a new post time of 6:15 p.m. Sunday afternoon will replace Monday night beginning on July 31. Holiday matinees include Labor Day (Sept. 5) and Columbus Day (Oct. 10). All matinee post times are 1:15 p.m. A special Breeders Cup program on Saturday (Nov. 5) begins at 3:30 p.m. The backstretch opens for tack on Sunday (July 17) at 8 a.m. Horses may begin arriving on Tuesday (July 19) also at 8 a.m. The draw for opening night, which features New York Sires Stake action, takes place on Thursday (July 21). Batavia Downs will also be featuring a claiming series this year which will begin in August. More details on that will be available when the meet begins. Anyone with questions should contact Todd Haight, Director/GM of Live Racing at 585-343-3750; extension 6322. By Tim Bojarski, for Batavia Downs

Peter Arrigenna, a long time harness racing horseman who also serves as a trustee of the Agriculture and New York State Horse Breeding Development Fund and a Director of the Horse Harness Breeders of New York State, has been named the new track superintendent at Batavia Downs. Arrigenna will replace Ralph Horton, who has retired after working at the Downs for 14 years. Besides running a successful stable that produced 2012 Yonkers Trot champion, Archangel (Credit Winner-Michelle's Angel 1:50 $1,140,972), Arrigenna also runs his own construction company. And it's the combined experience from both fields that has provided him the insight and knowledge to design, construct and maintain very fast race tracks. Arrigenna has built many farm tracks from scratch, but he also resurfaced Buffalo Raceway in 2014 to the rave reviews of the horsemen and was hired this year as a consultant at Harrah's Philadelphia. Although the meet doesn't begin for another two months, Arrigenna's duties will start immediately as his first order of business will be to rebuild the track. "We will be leveling and filling the existing track to the grade indicated from a survey done in 2009. It will entail filling the ditches where it washed out, banking the turns better and putting it back to the original grade" said Arrigenna. "Once that is complete, we will be putting a new surface on top of that which should make it much better for the horses competing there." This will be the first time the track at Batavia has been resurfaced since 2010 and the $125,000 project will see the turns banked up to eight percent and over 5,000 tons of new material (a mixture of washed screenings and washed crushed stone) added to the surface. The project is scheduled to begin on Monday (June 6) and be completed by Friday (July 1), well in advance of opening night of live racing, which is Monday (July 25). "I look forward to starting at Batavia because it's close to home and it's a project I like to do" Said Arrigenna. Todd Haight is the Director/General Manager of live racing at the Downs and he has high praise for Arrigenna's abilities. "We're thrilled to have Peter as our Track superintendent" said Haight. "He knows what it takes to make a race track fair, but also safe, because he is a horseman as well as a contractor. His knowledge and experience will serve him well in his new position." "I would also like to thank Ralph Horton for his many years of service to the track and wish him the best in his retirement" added Haight. By Tim Bojarski, for Batavia Downs

Live harness racing doesn't return to Batavia Downs until Monday (July 25), but the grandstand will be filled of race fans this Saturday (May 7) as the track will host its annual Kentucky Derby bash in the Paddock Room from 11:30 a.m. until 6:30 p.m. The $10 "Kentucky Derby Meal Deal" deal includes your choice of five entrees, a $2.00 Kentucky Derby wager and $5.00 in free play on the gaming floor. Programs, live tellers and plenty of big screen TV's will be available throughout the facility. In Thurman Thomas's 34 Rush Sports Bar, drink specials include $6 mint juleps served in the official Kentucky Derby commemorative glass along with $2 drafts. Both will be available from 11:30 a.m. until 7 p.m. "The Derby party has really developed since 2005 and we are expecting in excess of 400 people to attend this year" Said Todd Haight, General Manager/Director of Racing at Batavia Downs. "It's amazing how popular it has become and how much it has grown". All the Western Regional OTB branches in Western New York will open at 10 a.m. Friday (Kentucky Oaks day) for advance wagering on the Derby and again at 10 a.m. on Derby day. Last year, WROTB had its second best handle ever and paid out more than it took in for the first time, dating back to 1974. Tim Bojarski

HARRISBURG PA – The United States Harness Writers Association (USHWA), the trade organization of harness racing communicators and the largest organization of its kind in the world, has announced that it will be holding its 2017 Dan Patch Awards Banquet at the Planet Hollywood Las Vegas Resort and Casino on Sunday, February 26, with the organization’s annual meetings to be conducted the day before and that day. A part of the Caesars chain of gaming resorts, Planet Hollywood started operation on its present site, formerly the Aladdin casino/hotel, on the famous Las Vegas Strip next to the Vegas and Bally’s casino/hotels, in 2007, and the property was acquired by Caesars in 2010. It was the first resort operated by Planet Hollywood, which is an upscale restaurant chain owned by many Hollywood stars and founded in 1991. Among its features at the Las Vegas site are The Miracle Mile, a 170-store shopping mall, and AXIS, the largest auditorium on the Vegas strip, where performers such as Britney Spears, Jennifer Lopez, and Lionel Richie have performed “in residence.” Its variety of on-site eating establishments run the gamut from a Gordon Ramsay-overseen restaurant to a Starbuck’s. The Dan Patch Awards Banquet annually honors the best and brightest performers, both human and equine, of the previous season. The awardwinners are selected by USHWA, which will be holding its Directors meeting on Saturday and its General Membership meeting on the banquet Sunday. The United States Trotting Association (USTA) will be meeting in Las Vegas starting the day after the banquet, Monday, February 27, headquartered at the Rio Hotel and Casino; Harness Horsemen International (HHI) is also having its annual meetings in Las Vegas in the general timeframe. A synergistic joint session of organizations is under discussion, but nothing has been finalized yet. “I’d like to thank chairman Gordon Waterstone and his entire Banquet Location Committee for its hard work in exploring options and then selecting and signing with Planet Hollywood,” said Tim Bojarski, president of USHWA. “Our organization is excited at the prospect of again going to Las Vegas, and Planet Hollywood has all of the necessary accommodations and infrastructure so that we can continue to present a first-class Dan Patch Awards Banquet, truly honoring the champions of our sport.” Details will be made available at the USHWA website, www.ushwa.org, and through trade media as they become available. by Jerry Connors, for USHWA

As people continue to move away from their desktop computers and make their mobile phone the everyday workhorse, the format of USHWA's traditional website needed to adapt. With that in mind, USHWA has launched m.ushwa.org, a new mobile website that formats all of our content for your iPhone or Android device and loads it for you up to eight times faster than our traditional site. This is not an app and nothing needs to be downloaded. Simply type the address in your browser and then bookmark it to your screen. All the information and downloads you look for at the full website is now also available on the mobile site, only in a faster and more user-friendly platform. The USHWA website you have known will continue to be where it has always been; the mobile site is simply an extension of it for mobile devices. The organization has also put a .com domain in its stable moving forward as well. www.ushwa.com will now also take you to our full homepage. So whether it's www.ushwa.org , www.ushwa.com or m.ushwa.org; each will all take you to the USHWA site best suited for you for the latest news and information about the organization and the sport it represents. By Tim Bojarski, president of USHWA  

Jason Settlemoir, a "youthful veteran" of the sport who has spent a quarter-century working in harness racing at several of its premier locations, has been selected for a six-year term as a member of the Hall of Fame Screening Committee, appointed by Tim Bojarski, president of the U.S. Harness Writers Association, per the organization's By-Laws.   Settlemoir started his harness career as a teenager, being associated with the Terry Holton Stable and working in various media and operational capacities at Ohio's racing venues, including the Little Brown Jug Grand Circuit meets at the Delaware County Fairgrounds. Settlemoir was then tapped to be an executive by Jeff Gural when he purchased New York tracks Tioga Downs and Vernon Downs, and again later when Gural took over operations of Meadowlands Racetrack in New Jersey. There, Settlemoir continued on to his present position of General Manager and Chief Executive Officer of the world-famous mile oval.   He also serves on the executive boards of the U.S. Trotting Association and Harness Tracks of America.   Settlemoir has already served two years on the Screening Committee as a voting member while president of USHWA between 2010 and 2012, as all USHWA presidents are voting members of every USHWA committee.   "Jason Settlemoir is a rare combination of old school and new breed when it comes to harness racing. Despite his age, his vast experience in the sport began while working for midwest racing legends 20 years ago and continued to develop through today, where he now oversees meets that feature the best trainers and drivers in North America," said Bojarski.   "Settlemoir's high moral standards, hands-on knowledge of harness racing and overall love of the sport make him uniquely qualified to view potential Hall of Fame candidates through the eyes of both horseman and administrator. And it's that perspective that will vet and deliver the best possible candidates to the highest accolade in racing."   The USHWA Hall of Fame Screening Committee gathers together the biographies of nominations for the Hall, which must come from the chapters of USHWA, and discusses them at meetings over the Fourth of July weekend in Goshen NY, the home of the Hall and the Harness Racing Museum.   The nominations are also discussed with an Advisory Committee of members of the Hall of Fame, and then the group's choices for ballot candidates are decided and go before the electorate, eligible USHWAns and Hall of Famers, later in the summer.   Jerry Connors    

Michael P. McDonald of Batavia, NY, died peacefully Friday morning (Mar. 4) at Strong Memorial Hospital in Rochester, NY after a lengthy illness. Mr. McDonald was born October 28, 1964 in Rochester, NY; son of the late Paul McDonald and the late Barbara (Provenzano) Samberg. Mr. McDonald graduated from the Aquinas Institute in 1982 and moved quickly into the family business. In 1984, he took over as the publicity director of Batavia Downs Racetrack, which was then owned by his mother Barbara Samberg (who was the first female Director of the USTA) and his Aunt Donna Warner, after the passing of their father Pat Provenzano, who founded the track in 1940. For fourteen years, Mr. McDonald publicized and organized the activities of the top names in the industry and managed many high level racing events held at Batavia Downs that included Grand Circuit races, New York Sire Stakes and a Breeders Crown in 1988. When the track was eventually sold to Western Regional Off Track Betting (WROTB) in 1998, Mr. McDonald stayed on staff and became the facilities operations manager and inter-track wagering (ITW) manager and served in both capacities until 2006. A member of Resurrection Parish in Batavia, Mr. McDonald was an avid sports fan (in particular of the Minnesota Vikings) and was very active in local youth sports. He was also very involved with his two sons and their activities. He enjoyed playing golf and participated in the local men's hockey league. He was a youth football coach, little league baseball coach and a volunteer for Notre Dame High School football. Mr. McDonald is survived by his step-father Jim Samberg of Webster; his pride and joy, sons Cam and Aaron McDonald both of Batavia; loving sisters, Martha Smith of Rochester, Margo Conheady of Rochester, Meghan (Scott Boone) McDonald of Scottsville and dear brother, Mark (Jacquie) McDonald of Atlanta, GA; his former wife, Kelly McDonald and many aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces and nephews. The McDonald family will be present from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. and from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Wednesday (Mar. 9) at the Michael S. Tomaszewski Funeral & Cremation Chapel located at 4120 West Main Street Road Batavia, New York. Prayers will be recited at 9:30 a.m. on Thursday (Mar. 10) followed by a Mass of Christian Burial at 10 a.m. celebrated by the Rev. Bill Donnelly at Resurrection Parish (St. Joseph's Site). Memorials can be made in his honor to Notre Dame High School, 73 Union Street Batavia, New York 14020. Please share your words of comfort with Mike's family at www.tomaszewskifh.com or for more information please call (585)343-7500. By Tim Bojarski for Batavia Downs

Carmelo J. Sabatino, a retired senior executive with Delaware North Co. and former general manager of Batavia Downs, died Sunday (Jan. 10) in Buffalo Veterans Affairs Medical Center. He was 95. Born in Buffalo, he was a graduate of Kenmore High School and the University of Buffalo, where he earned a bachelor's degree in business administration. Mr. Sabatino served in the Army during World War II and was stationed in the South Pacific. Upon returning home, he married the former Josephine Marino in 1946. That same year, he joined the Delaware North Co., which he helped to build under the direction of L.M. Jacobs. Following his retirement from the company in 1976, Mr. Sabatino joined the management staff at Batavia Downs, where he continued to work until 1999. Sabatino held a number of positions during his tenure at Batavia Downs including general manager in the early 1980's, and then a variety of executive capacities after that. Near the end of his career there, he was in charge of mostly special projects. He traveled extensively during his term with both Delaware North and Batavia Downs and met several celebrities. Even after his last retirement, Mr. Sabatino continued to help manage a private family business. Todd Haight, GM/Director of Live Racing at Batavia Downs said "Mr. Sabatino was always a well-dressed and reserved man, yet certainly was capable of getting the job done. He was at Batavia Downs for two of the tracks biggest races, 1980 Niatross and 1988 Breeders Crown Armbro Flori and helped to insure those marquee nights went off without a hitch. He was all business, all the time and garnered the respect of everyone who worked with and for him". Sabatino is survived by a daughter, Carolyn Sabatino Liarakos; two sons, Thomas C. and David G. and three grandchildren. Mr. Sabatino was predeceased by his wife, who died in February 2007. By Tim Bojarski, Batavia Downs Media Relations  

Throughout the month of December, 19 nominees in two categories vied against each other for the Railbird Recognition Awards, the harness racing fan-voted accolade sponsored by the United States Harness Writers Association and the United States Trotting Association. Ten individuals squared off for "Horseperson of the Year" and 9 events battled for "Racing Moment of the Year and when the pools closed on New Year's Eve, the fans of harness racing chose Joe Bellino and Wiggle It Jiggleit's Little Brown Jug win as the categorical winners. Joe Bellino has been very successful in harness racing, but he remembers where he came from and respects everyone who works in the industry. Having campaigned such notable horses as Psiluvyuheartbreaker, Rock N Roll Heaven and Pet Rock, he knows what it's like to win the big race. But he also remembers that there are many people involved at all levels of this sport and goes out of his way to help them when he can. Bellino's benevolence is one of the worst kept secrets in the business. Although he reaches out to those in need and tries to help at every turn, he never looks for any thanks or praise for his actions. But the many people that he has helped both in and out of harness racing will be the first ones to let you know what an unselfish individual he is. Clearly people in the grandstand and on the backstretch know of his good deeds and that is why he garnered 77% of the total vote for Horseperson of the Year. This is the largest margin of victory for either category in the 8-year history of the Railbird Recognition voting. Anyone who saw the final heat of the 2015 Little Brown Jug will more than likely tell you that it was "THE" greatest horse race they ever witnessed. After taking a bad step in the first turn, Wiggle It Jiggleit was parked-out for almost three quarters of the mile before getting passed at the head of the lane by Lost For Words. But Wiggle It Jiggleit swelled up and fought back down the stretch to win one of the most epic battles two pacers ever undertook in the history of the sport. The race was an indelible memory that everyone who attended live in Delaware, Ohio and watched remotely around the world has and those fans relived it while voting to make Wiggle It Jiggleit's Little Brown Jug win the Racing Moment of the Year for 2015. Joe Bellino and Team Teague will be presented their Railbird Recognition trophies during the Dan Patch Awards Banquet, held this year at the Hyatt Pier 66 in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida on Sunday (Mar. 6), 2016. Information on tickets and accommodations for that event can be found at www.ushwa.org . Below are the top three voting results for each Railbird Recognition category: Horseperson of the Year Joe Bellino for his behind the scenes benevolence 77% Breanna Carsey for donating winnings from MJB Got Faith 6.5% Montrell Teague for his handling of Wiggle It Jiggleit in 2015 5.9% Racing Moment of the Year Wiggle It Jiggleit defeats Lost For Words in second Jug heat 55% Freaky Feet Pete wins Breeders Crown 15% International Trot returns to Yonkers after 20 years 5.7% By Tim Bojarski for USHWA "I've often said there's nothing better for the inside of a man than the outside of a horse." -Winston Churchill

There is still time to send in nominations for the 2015 Caretaker of the Year Award. The award, sponsored by Hard Rock Rocksino Northfield Park in conjunction with the United States Harness Writers Association (USHWA), recognizes the unsung heroes of the sport -- the harness racing caretakers who maintain the health and welfare of the horses on a daily basis. Initially titled Groom of the Year Award when first presented in 1982, the honor was instituted as a result of a speech given by Delvin Miller at the annual Harness Tracks of America meeting when Miller received HTA's Stanley F. Bergstein Messenger Award. Previously sponsored annually by HTA and Hanover Shoe Farms, the tradition now continues. The HRRNP Caretaker of the Year will receive a cash prize of $500, a trophy, and transportation costs to the USHWA Dan Patch Awards Banquet in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, on Sunday evening, March 6, where he or she will be recognized for the achievement. The winner also will enjoy a two-night stay at the host hotel for the USHWA activities, as well as two complimentary dinner tickets. "We are proud to join with Hard Rock Rocksino Northfield Park in resuming this prestigious honor," said USHWA President Chris Tully. "We encourage owners, trainers and other stakeholders to support it by nominating the many worthy individuals who work in our great sport." Any caretaker working for any stable in North America is eligible. All that is needed to nominate is a letter or email from an individual or group detailing the skills and special qualities of the caretaker. The winner will be chosen by a seven-person selection committee comprised of USHWA members, all of whom are former caretakers: Tim Bojarski (chair), Tom Charters, Moira Fanning, Dean Hoffman, Rob Pennington, Kim Rinker and Shawn Wiles. All nomination letters and emails must be received and/or postmarked by Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2016, and sent to chair Bojarski at: Tim Bojarski 7523 Maple Road Akron, NY 14001 a159star@gmail.com      

Akron, NY---Thursday (Dec. 31) is the deadline for fans to cast their ballots in the 2015 Railbird Recognition fan vote for Horseperson of the Year. The vote that gives the fans of harness racing the opportunity to voice their opinion is sponsored by the United States Harness Writers Association, in conjunction with the United States Trotting Association. Voting is available by clicking on the "Railbird Voting" banner on the USTA homepage (www.ustrotting.com). The nominees for each award were compiled by members of USHWA for being the most impactful to the sport in 2015. Fans can make their selections by clicking one choice from those listed and then submitting their vote. Votes for the Horse Person of the Year will be taken until Thursday (Dec. 31) at midnight. Fans may only vote once per IP address. The ten nominees for horseperson of 2015 are: Joe Bellino for his behind the scenes benevolence for people in the industry Grant Boudreau for organizing an annual military memorial race that is simulcast to overseas troops Brian Brown for having a career best year on the Grand Circuit Ron Burke for going over the $20 million mark three straight years Breanna Carsey for donating winnings from MJB Got Faith to those in need Joe Faraldo for helping to bring back the International Trot Joanne Looney-King for her outstanding year with Wakizashi Hanover Dr. Ian Moore for his outstanding year with State Treasurer Jimmy Takter for his unprecedented performance in the Breeders Crown Montrell Teague for his handling of Wiggle It Jiggleit in 2015 All the winners of the Railbird Fan Voting (both racing moment and horseperson) will be announced on Thursday (Jan. 7) and they will be presented their awards during the Dan Patch Banquet, held this year at the Hyatt Pier 66 in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida on Sunday (Mar. 6), 2016. Information on tickets and accommodations for that event can be found at www.ushwa.org . Tim Bojarski

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