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It has been reported that John Brennan, chairman of USTA District 12 and a  native of Rockaway Beach, N.Y, has passed away. He was 69. He was the first reported death in New Jersey from the coronavirus.  He was hospitalized at Hackensack University Medical Center last Friday, and had conditions that included emphysema, diabetes and hypertension, said state Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli. He suffered a heart attack Monday night and was revived, but died Tuesday morning after a second heart attack, Persichilli said. Brennan had not recently traveled outside the United States, she said. Brennan finished school in 1968 and worked as a steamfitter for four years before he began his career in harness racing in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. Has been training horses for more than 40 years, racing stables in New York and New Jersey. He won the 1995 Merrie Annabelle with Missy Will Do It. Was previously part-owner and trainer of Sugar Trader, winner of the 2003 Yonkers Trot and runner-up in the 2003 Hambletonian. He was on the board of the SOA of N.Y. for more than 30 years, an HHI delegate for more than 20 years, and a USTA director for 22 years. He was currently the horsemen’s representative at Yonkers Raceway.  More information on funeral service will be posted when available.  by Steve Wolf, for Harnesslink  

Columbus, OH - The U.S. Trotting Association has been cooperating for several years with official investigations, several of which now have reached the indictment stage in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York. "Having worked in the criminal justice system some years ago, I'm acutely aware of the presumption of innocence that applies from indictment through trial," said Russell Williams, USTA President. "At the same time, it's essential to the administration of justice and to the health of our industry for anyone with knowledge of possibly illegal activity to cooperate with law enforcement authorities. It is imperative that our sport is conducted fairly and with integrity." In his official statement, U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman states that "the care and respect due to the animals competing, as well as the integrity of racing, are matters of deep concern." We fully concur. The USTA will continue to monitor the situation, but as a matter of policy regarding all pending legal proceedings, will have no further comment. From the USTA Communications Department  

Columbus, OH - The United States Trotting Association has announced that its in-person 2020 Board of Directors meeting, scheduled for this coming weekend (March 13-16) in Columbus, Ohio, has been canceled due to travel concerns related to the global coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. "The Federal Centers for Disease Control and Protection has characterized COVID-19 as an emerging, rapidly evolving situation, and has issued advisories regarding the travel of those at heightened risk to the virus," explained Russell Williams, President of the USTA. "In such matters, it is important to err on the side of caution. Canceling the meeting is the prudent course of action." It is not known at this time whether the assembly will be rescheduled. In the near term, USTA rule change proposals will be voted upon electronically, and officer elections will be conducted by an independent, third-party accounting firm, similar to how the Association operates district director elections. The Association will provide further updates as they become available. From the USTA Communications Department    

$200 Million PA Racing Fund In Jeopardy

This articlecolumn was written by John Pricci for  Once again, the Thoroughbred racing industry is at loggerheads, only this time appearing before a Congressional Subcommittee hearing which has held these types of inquiries before but perhaps none as meaningful. Never has the industry faced an existential crisis of major proportions. “Too big to fail” is no longer a justifiable defense for a sport whose end-product is more about the sales ring than what happens between the fences. Everyone knows why this is happening, even though some version of the Horseracing Integrity Act has been kicking around since 2015 which, by Capitol Hill standards, is the blink of an eye. On one side people are fighting hard for the lives of horses and the men and women who ride them. On the other are champions of the upperdog who invoke the health of the bottom line in order to maintain the status quo. The solutions proposed by the latter never go quite far enough. What replaces doing the right thing is to question process, making a call for compromise knowing all too well that patchwork unity has never worked. This ersatz search for middle ground is the same kind of hypocrisy practiced by those in Washington who would save the country’s top executive at the cost of a democratic republic. But I digress. As was widely reported in racing publications, Bloodhorse and the Thoroughbred Daily News, to name just two, speaking for the health of the living and breathing was a Hall of Fame jockey who won over 7,000 races. Another advocating for the Horseracing Integrity Act was the former CEO of the Maryland Jockey Club who is now an advisor to the Humane Society of America. In favor of those who hesitate to turn a page and would keep the present frozen in time is a person whose organization would become anachronistic if legislation is enacted, and another who represents a group that would take an economic hit if raceday medication were eliminated. The bipartisan bill – which in this climate should put the legislation over the top without further discussion – would have the United States Anti-Doping Agency form an authority including major industry players to regulate medication rules, policies, testing and sanctions. Indeed, the elephant in the room that H.R. 1754 would attempt to carry across the finish line is the elimination of raceday medication, legal and otherwise, a policy that would end the use of Lasix in competition. “Instead of giving the animal the rest it needs, a trainer can rely on his/her veterinarian to administer a medication to mask pain by reducing inflammation caused by an injury,” said Chris McCarron. “This bill directly addresses one of the leading causes of breakdowns.” “The bar for effectively detecting and punishing cheaters is so low that it is difficult to fail,” reasoned Joe DeFrancis. “Each trainer knows what they’re being tested for and when they are being tested. There is little if any out-of-competition testing, the kind of testing that has proven so effective in catching athletes who dope in Olympic sports,” DeFrancis concluded. In favor of maintaining the 38-state patchwork with enhancements and modifications, effectively protecting the franchise, was Ed Martin, President of the Association of Racing Commissioners International. “I don’t think this bill as presently written is going to improve the integrity of the sport,” said Martin. “But I think it would improve the integrity of the sport if it were to take [a non-governmental organization and turn it into a multi-jurisdictional investigative organization] to do out-of-competition testing as well as out-of-competition suitability exams that are red-flagged because of their vet records and procedures.” Promises of meaningful enhancements puts lipstick on the same-old pig even if the stricter protocols advanced by Santa Anita’s management group has enjoyed statistical success with improved protocols. And at least the company continues to walk its talk; as the Lasix-less Pegasus Cup proved. The Thoroughbred industry has had decades to police itself and clean up its act. But if it were not for the fact that 37 horses lost their lives last winter at Santa Anita, the raceday medication elephant would remain in a lockbox. After the hearing concluded, the Thoroughbred Safety Coalition, comprised of a 14-member majority of leading Thoroughbred stakeholders and racetracks, issued a statement re continuing industry-led advanced safety measures with a promise to enact meaningful change. But the industry has had decades to accomplish these goals. The major group yet to endorse medication reform is the National Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association, who use their veto power to stop simulcasting in its tracks. The final version of HIA must address this roadblock. Absent independent national uniformity, no effort to clean up the game will succeed in a meaningful way. If there’s a segment of horse racing that has reason to embrace the status quo on raceday medication it’s the harness racing industry, which did not get a seat at the table. Indeed, Mike Tanner, Executive Vice-President of the United States Trotting Association, was interviewed but not selected to appear. And the irony is that harness horse owners will pay more than Thoroughbred counterparts to fund the proposed commission established by the possible legislation. With an anticipated $43-45 per-start fee, and with the average Standardbred racing 18 times per year on average, compared to six for Thoroughbreds, it will cost harness owners more. There are other fundamentals to have different rules for different breeds considering the routine way each sport is conducted. Many harness juveniles, e.g., begin their careers without Lasix though they gravitate to it with age. The ARCI, which passed 12 harness specific model-rules amendments last August in Saratoga, acknowledges that separate standards may be appropriate. Statistics indicate that Standardbreds sustain three times the damage of Thoroughbreds in the course of a racing year and can race until age 14. Both breeds train and race with Lasix, but “training miles” are a routine part of maintaining condition in Standardbreds. As in Thoroughbred racing, most violations are a result of therapeutic medication overages. But unlike the crop flap at Santa Anita last season, sanctions for whipping violations and kicking that abuse the animal, as well as dangerous interference infractions have existed. Racetracks in various states for either breed fail to report catastrophic injuries. But the USTA has statistics for both breeds that, according to the California Horse Racing Board database, are eye-opening. A decade’s worth of statistics was compiled from 2009 through 2018. [Thoroughbred starters in 2009 were estimated at 45,000]. During this period all Standardbreds made 83,592 starts at Cal-Expo, compared to 381,531 Thoroughbred starters state-wide. There were 914 Thoroughbred fatalities during this time. While the numbers have improved markedly since, that translates to 2.40 deaths per 1000 starters. The Standardbred ledger shows seven fatalities. In five of the 10 years, there were no fatalities; the mortality rate was 0.08 per 1000 starters. Given that Standardbreds annually race three times more often, raceday medication in harness racing seems to be working as intended, therapeutically. Thoroughbred racing if a different game, of course. “Let’s not make the perfect the enemy of the good; we need to take action right away,” DeFrancis added. “Every day we delay we’re losing more and more public support, more and more fans, more and more customers. And it’s getting that much more difficult to get them back.” Said HIA co-sponsor Rep. Paul Tonko (D-NY): “We’re all in theory talking about the same goals, and yet each of you [who testified against it] opposes the very piece of legislation that would make [uniformity] a reality instead of a tired talking point.”

BEDFORD, PA - Following the afternoon annual meeting of District 7 (Pennsylvania), the Bedford Springs Omni Resort in this southwestern Pennsylvania city hosted the annual Pennsylvania Fair Banquet, co-sponsored by the Pennsylvania Harness Horsemen's Association, the Meadows Standardbred Owners Association, the U.S. Trotting Association, and the Pennsylvania Fair Harness Horseman's Association. New to the Fair Banquet this year was a 24-page souvenir program, put together by the Keystone Chapter of the U. S. Harness Writers Association as both a fundraiser for their own activities and a keepsake for all the people associated with the horses who were the stars of the 2019 Pennsylvania fair circuit. Harrah's Philadelphia announcer Mike Bozich served as master of ceremonies for the evening. The first group to be in the spotlight were the connections of the top pointwinners along the Pennsylvania fair circuit, who received a blanket in their stable colors: 2YO TROTTING MALE - PENANCE (g, Father Patrick - Yankee Etta), trained by Bob Rougeaux III for Brocious Racing Stable Inc. (winningest horse at the fairs with nine triumphs.) 2YO TROTTING FEMALE - LINDY PRETTY LADY (Explosive Matter - Dreamgirl Lindy), trained by Bob Rougeaux III for Brocious Racing Stable Inc. (#1 pointwinner among all fair contestants.) 2YO PACING MALE - LIFE'S MARVALOUS (g, Delmarvalous - Life'sarealbeach), trained and owned by Roger Hammer (#1 pointwinner among all males.) 2YO PACING FEMALE - RT DON'T SPEAK (Artspeak - Carousel Frame), trained by Bob Rougeaux III for Brocious Racing Stable Inc. 3YO TROTTING MALE - ANDOVERS ASSET (g, Andover Hall - Lively), trained by Linda Schadel and owned by Linda and Tony Schadel. 3YO TROTTING FEMALE - RT GLORIA DE DIOS (Muscle Massive - RT Sun Poco), trained by Bob Rougeaux III for Brocious Racing Stable Inc. 3YO PACING MALE - STRANGER THINGS (g, Western Terror - Southwind Prairie), trained by Steve Schoeffel for owners Virginia and Kathy Schoeffel and James Reuther. 3YO PACING FEMALE - CREW SOCK HANOVER (Well Said - Chantal Hanover), trained by David Brickell and owned by David Brickell and Mitchell York (#1 pointwinner among all three-year-olds in 2019). Then the team behind the winner of their Fair Sire Stakes Championships at The Meadows in October each received a warm jacket courtesy of MH Eby Inc.: 2YO TROTTING MALE - STICKLER HANOVER (c, Explosive Matter - Secret Credit), trained by Steve Schoeffel for owners Virginia and Kathy Schoeffel, Daniel Goethe, and Michael Munn. 2YO TROTTING FEMALE - BETTER SONG (Better Caviar - Jessie's Song), trained and co-owned by Rick Beinhauer with Regina Beinhauer (set stake record of 1:57.2). 2YO PACING MALE - CHAMP CHARBEL (c, Ponder - Odds On Affair), trained and owned by Joseph Karrat. 2YO PACING FEMALE - DEAD HEAT (1st DEAD HEAT TO WIN IN A PA FAIR CHAMPIONSHIP): --DREAM DANCING (A Rocknroll Dance - Clearly Foxy), trained and co-owned by David Brickell with Mitchell York; and --SILLY BUT SERIOUS (Captaintreacherous - I Need Hotstuff), trained and co-owned by Gary Johnston with Joyce Benkart. 3YO TROTTING MALE - ANDOVERS ASSET (g, Andover Hall - Lively), trained and co-owned by Linda Schadel with Tony Schadel (tied all-time Fair Championship trot record and stake record of 1:56; only pointleader to win Championship). 3YO TROTTING FEMALE - MISTY LANE (Muscle Massive - Dundee Lane), trained and co-owned by David Brickell with Mitchell York. 3YO PACING MALE - UNDER PAID (c, A Rocknroll Dance - Upfront Cruisin), trained by Ron Burke for owners Burke Racing Stable LLC and Weaver Bruscemi LLC, Lawrence Karr, and Phillip Collura (set stake record of 1:52, fastest Fair Championship ever by 3YO). 3YO PACING FEMALE - APRIL AVA (Delmarvalous - Jeneva), trained by Scott Betts for Nicholas Catalano and Timothy Betts. Mitchell York, a retired Pennsylvania state trooper who began his sulky career in June and within two weeks of his first drive set the all-time track standard at Butler (Crew Sock Hanover, 2:00.1), was honored as "Rookie of the Year" after finishing in the Top Ten in the fair dash standings with 15 triumphs. The drawings for equipment and other prizes generously donated by a host of PA fair supporters again allowed the average $40 dinner ticketbuyer to emerge with a profit on the evening, such were the value of the drawing prizes. The grand prize winner, a Spyder race bike, was Tom Loughryof the Bob Rougeaux stable. by Jerry Connors, Jr., for the Pennsylvania Sire Stakes quFair Circuit

BEDFORD, PA - The annual meeting of District 7 (Pennsylvania) of the United States Trotting Association was held Saturday afternoon at the Bedford Springs Omni Resort in this southwest Pennsylvania city. Sam Beegle, Chairman of District 7, presided over the meeting; also in attendance were District 7 Directors Rich Gillock and Tom Leasure. It was announced that Mark Loewe would be taking Mr. Leasure's place on the USTA national Board of Directors at the annual March meetings in Ohio. Fred Strathmeyer, Deputy Secretary of the PA State Department of Agriculture, attended the meeting, as did Anthony Salerno, Bureau Director, Standardbred Racing, of the PA Horse Racing Commission. USTA Director Barry Brown, Kim Hankins and Mike Harant, the Executive Directors of the Meadows Standardbred Owners Association and the Pennsylvania Harness Horsemen's Association, respectively, were also present; those associations' presidents are respectively Gillock and Beegle. After the Pledge of Allegiance, the USTA rule change proposals were discussed among the 41 attendees, so that the Directors could represent their wishes at the upcoming national Board of Directors meeting. Below is how the District 7 members voted: 1. Eliminate heat racing - REJECTED 2. "Ext. p/m meet" now defined as 6+ days - REJECTED 3. Prohibit "gene doping" - ACCEPTED 4. Pylon physical requirements - REJECTED 5. Standardized saddle pads - REJECTED 6. Define "proper racetrack action maintenance" at ext. p/m tracks - REJECTED 7. Claiming price after horse claimed - REJECTED 8. Purse distribution after interference - REJECTED 9. Post position conditioned by money won - REJECTED 10. Starting "pole" at starting point - REJECTED 11. Adjusting date in qualifying rule - ACCEPTED 12. Location of "fair start" pole - REJECTED 13-14. Definition of "amateur driver" - TABLED 15. Requirements for training license - ACCEPTED 16. Require "P" drivers to register colors - ACCEPTED 17. Restructuring of "whipping rule" - REJECTED 18. Mandatory notification for new geldings/spayed mares - First moved to TABLE, but that motion failed for lack of a second; then REJECTED 19. Track measurement rule - REJECTED 20. Percentage of ownership to be noted - REJECTED 21. Allowing embryo transfer donor mares to register two foals per year - REJECTED 22. Clarification of term "Standardbred" - ACCEPTED 23. Clarification of term "non-standard" - ACCEPTED It was determined that the meeting attendees were satisfied with the system by which Pennsylvania fair entries are being taken. The matter of horses wearing / not wearing trotting hopples, and consistency of their usage, along with the responsibilities of various parties in ascertaining the situation, was also discussed. by Jerry Connors, for the PHHA

Lexington, KY — is reporting that horseman Jay Sears, a consummate horseman and father of Hall of Fame driver Brian Sears, died Sunday night at age 78. Mr. Sears, who lived on a farm in Osteen, Fla., on the St. John’s River, had been working on his farm just days earlier. Mr. Sears was the son of horseman Gene Sears and followed in his father’s footsteps. After graduating from high school in Indianapolis, Ind., Mr. Sears began working for his father full-time, before moving on to a groom’s position for trainer Joe O’Brien. Mr. Sears went out on his own in 1961, and it was in that year he drove his first winner at Monticello Raceway. At age 22 in 1963, he became one of the youngest ever to drive a two-minute mile when he won with Georgia Red in 2:00 at Hollywood Park. Mr. Sears’ career then flourished, as he set up shop at Vernon Downs in the summer months and Pompano Park in the winter, where his children, Brian and daughter Jennifer, attended schools. While Mr. Sears raced many stakes colts in the prime of his career, in the later years of his life he and his second wife, Kim, concentrated on Florida-breds and campaigned many “Sunshine” stakes winners. In addition, in 2007-2008 Mr. Sears developed the pacing filly Native Bride, who in 2008 won the Garnsey Memorial, Matron and a Breeders Crown elimination. Native Bride was driven by his son, Brian, putting the father-son in the winner’s circle together. Mr. Sears was inducted into the Florida Harness Racing Hall of Fame in 1992. His father, Gene, joined him three years later in 1995. Mr. Sears also was active as a leader in the Florida harness racing community, serving as president of the Florida Standardbred Owners and Breeders Association. Sears was elected to the U.S. Trotting Association Board of Directors in 1992 and served 25 years before retiring in 2016. From

Columbus, OH - Total handle, purses, wagering per race and per betting interest in the United States all increased while the number of harness racing days decreased slightly in 2019 compared to 2018, according to the United States Trotting Association. Total wagering increased by $48,525,862 (3.53 percent) from $1,376,360,696 in 2018 to $1,424,886,558 in 2019. On average, the amount bet per race in 2019 was $39,991, a 4.54 percent increase from $38,253 the year before, and the average wagered per betting interest increased from $4,850 to $5,008 in 2019, a 3.26 percent gain. Total purses distributed in 2019 were $439,546,019, which was a $10,125,350 (2.36 percent) increase from the $429,420,669 in 2018. Each of the above economic indicators showed increases despite a 1.33 percent decrease of 46 race days to 3,424 in 2019 compared to 3,470 in 2018. Following are the comparative economic indicators for U.S. harness racing from 2019 and 2018.   2019 2018 % Change Total Wagered $1,424,886,558 $1,376,360,696 +3.53% Per Race avg. $39,991 $38,253 +4.54% Per Betting Interest $5,008 $4,850 +3.26% Purses $439,546,019 $429,420,669 +2.36% Race Days 3,424 3,470 -1.33% Please note: Includes U.S. and Canadian common and separate pool wagers on races contested in the U.S. From the USTA Communications Department    

Standardbred Canada today reports that data from Standardbred Canada and the United States Trotting Association indicates that pari-mutuel wagering on harness racing posted an increase North America-wide in 2019. Numbers indicate that total wagering on Canadian racing surpassed $491.4 million in 2019, up more than 8.3 per cent from the $453.7 million total in 2018. The number of races with pari-mutuel wagering stood at 11,671 for the year, providing a per race handle of $42,303, up 9.39 per cent from 2018's per race handle of $38,672. Total purses across Canada were also up in 2019. Combined purses offered reached $119.7 million, up from the $106.6 million offered in 2018. The total wagering on harness racing at U.S. tracks in 2019 surpassed $1.42 billion, a 3.53 percent increase compared to 2018 according to statistics provided by the U.S. Trotting Association. During the past year, the $1,424,886,558 wagered on pari-mutuel harness racing stateside was up from the 2018 total of $1,376,360,696. Despite a 1.3 percent drop in race days, the average handle per race was up 4.45 per cent. The $39,991 average handle per race bested the $38,253 average posted in 2018. In addition, there was an 2.36 per cent increase in total purses awarded nationally with $439.5 million distributed in 2019 versus $429.4 million in 2018. (Please note: Includes U.S. and Canadian common and separate pool wagers on races contested in the U.S. Data source: United Tote (US) and Standardbred Canada.)

Columbus, OH - According to his wife Kristine Keller-Pawlak's Facebook page, former U.S. Trotting Association Director of Publicity John Pawlak, 71, died Dec. 27, 2019, at 10:40 p.m. "He is now with the angels and free of his pain," stated Keller-Pawlak in her Facebook post. "He fought a long and difficult battle for over six years. He will be greatly missed by his family and friends." Former USTA President Phil Langley has fond memories of his time working together with Mr. Pawlak. "No matter what the circumstance John was enthusiastic about life and especially harness racing," said Langley. "We spent many years together at the USTA and his writings and announcing always gave us a positive feeling about our sport. He was at his best at World Trotting Conferences no matter what the country and especially covering the World Driving Championship. He was so well thought of by the people from other countries they made him a life member. The last few years have been tough for John and Kris but whenever I talked to him, he was upbeat. Go in peace John!" An Ohio native, Mr. Pawlak attended Bowling Green State University, where he majored in marketing while also studying broadcasting and journalism. After graduating from Bowling Green State University in 1971, Mr. Pawlak went to work for WTOL-TV, the CBS affiliate television station in Toledo, Ohio, as a reporter and photographer. In 1973, he was promoted to sports anchor on the weekends and a sports reporter during the week but was also involved in harness racing by doing freelance jobs and voice-over work for Raceway Park. In 1978 when there were wholesale changes at his TV station, Mr. Pawlak was hired by Raceway Park and did some odd jobs until he took over the announcer's job in March 1979. During his time as announcer, he also assisted the track's publicist with promotions, advertising and public relations. After about a year, he was named the publicist at Raceway Park and eventually traded in his announcer's microphone to focus on his publicity and marketing duties. Mr. Pawlak joined the USTA in 1985 as the director of publicity. For his work at the USTA, he was well known for both his writing and editing as well as his broadcasting. He was responsible for compiling and editing The Trotting & Pacing Guide, the definitive annual fact book on North American harness racing and the historical USTA Directors book. With his television background, Mr. Pawlak was the face of the USTA and led the organization into the age of online video and served as the host of the USTA's popular "Eye on Harness Racing" series. Mr. Pawlak was ever present at many harness racing events including the Little Brown Jug, the annual USTA Board of Directors meetings, district meetings and county fairs. But he also was known world-wide for his work coordinating the biennial World Driving Championship and the World Trotting Conference. Mr. Pawlak retired from the USTA in 2013. After a career that spanned 35 years, Mr. Pawlak was inducted into the Communicators Hall of Fame in 2014. In addition to his induction into the Hall of Fame, the multiple award-winning Mr. Pawlak won the North American Harness Publicist's Golden Pen Award in 1993, the Harness Horsemen International's 2010 Clyde Hirt Media Award and in 2011 was voted a lifetime member of the International Trotting Association, one of only 20 individuals to receive that honor in the 30-year history of that group. From the USTA Media Department  

HARRISBURG, PA - Nicholas J. Saponara, a member of the Harness Racing Communicators Hall of Fame, and a past president of the U.S. Harness Writers Association, an organization to which he belonged for 57 years, passed away on Saturday after health issues. A graduate of Northeast Catholic High School in Philadelphia in 1957, that same year Saponara joined the sports department of the Philadelphia Bulletin, at that time the major evening newspaper of the Greater Philadelphia metro area. He worked for the Bulletin for 25 years, and he served as the handicapper and morning line oddsmaker for the tracks covered by the Bulletin, also making the official track morning line at Brandywine, Liberty Bell, Atlantic City Harness, and the Keystone thoroughbred track. Saponara was a co-founder of the Delaware Valley Chapter of the Harness Writers in 1962, and served many years as the chapter's secretary. He served as national President of USHWA for three years, 1980-1983, and sat on the association Board of Directors for 29 years. Nick was also the driving force in spreading the annual national awards dinner beyond its traditional New York City home, and was the organizer behind many successful events, notably having the famed Philadelphia Mummers perform at an Atlantic City gathering. Saponara was also a harness horse owner, along with longtime friend Marv Bachrad. They entrusted their horses to an up-and-coming French-Canadian horsemen named Herve Filion, and they enjoyed the success rate that Herve enjoyed as a rising comet in the sport. Saponara also owned thoroughbred horses, and was a member of the Pennsylvania Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association board of directors. In September of 2019, Parx thoroughbred track honored Saponara with inclusion into its Hall of Fame (video link: A viewing for Mr. Saponara will take place this Wednesday, December 11, at St. Ephrem Church, 5340 Hulmeville Road, Bensalem PA, from 9:30 to 11:15 a.m. A funeral mass will follow at 11:30 a.m. Burial will take place at Holy Sepulchre Cemetery, 3301 W. Cheltenham Ave., Cheltenham PA. by Jerry Connors, for USHWA

Columbus, OH -- In an announcement from the Racing Medication & Testing Consortium on Wednesday (Nov. 21) regarding NSAID administration time and intra-articular injections, that organization inaccurately portrayed their relationship with the U.S. Trotting Association when they stated that, "The RMTC consists of 23 racing industry stakeholders and organizations that represent Thoroughbred, Standardbred, American Quarter Horse and Arabian racing." "A review of the RMTC release reveals an unjustified and regrettable misrepresentation," said USTA President Russell Williams. "The RMTC does not represent the Standardbred breed in any way. Only the United States Trotting Association and the Harness Racing Medication Collaborative can speak for the Standardbred breed regarding medication issues." HRMC Chairman Joe Faraldo echoed Williams' declaration. "As chairman of the USTA's Harness Racing Medication Collaborative let me be quite clear that RMTC does NOT represent the Standardbred industry," said Faraldo. "The harness industry operates under an altogether different training regimen and is a more durable breed than our Thoroughbred counterparts," explained Faraldo. "The genesis for such a proposed rule is founded on the unfortunate reaction to the Santa Anita catastrophe, which has gathered significant negative public attention but has no relationship to any Standardbred experience. Our incidence of catastrophic breakdowns is a statistical anomaly as compared to other breeds and hence such rules such as these, should under no circumstances be made applicable to the Standardbred industry. "Rules such as these, referred to any state commission through RMTC or even RCI (Association of Racing Commissioners International), as its conduit, is not representative of rules more appropriately applicable to the harness racing industry and should therefore not be applied to it," added Faraldo. "The HRMC shall provide the state racing commissions and others with appropriate regulations that are consistent with any and all integrity concerns related to permitted, therapeutic medications whether directly or through RCI." On Sept. 25, 2013, the Executive Committee of the USTA unanimously voted to reject RCI proposed model medication rules and in a separate unanimous vote, agreed that the USTA would immediately withdraw its membership from the RMTC. "We have carefully considered the RCI proposals and have come to the conclusion that the physical characteristics of the breeds are significantly different. Trying to fit them together makes little sense," said then USTA President Phil Langley. "We believe both breeds, Standardbreds and Thoroughbreds, will benefit from having rules concentrated solely on their needs." On May 8, 2018, the USTA, through the Medication Subcommittee of the USTA Board of Directors, established the HRMC, a group that includes both academic and practicing veterinarians. The HRMC's purpose is to assist in identifying and developing the scientific background for medication regulation in Standardbred racing. The USTA utilizes HRMC's reports and supporting data to present to the RCI for dissemination to regulators in the various racing commissions. From the USTA Communications Department

Columbus, OH -- U.S. Trotting Association District 8 Director Bruce Tubin has resigned his position effective immediately, and the other harness racing district directors have elected Michael L. Torcello as his replacement. Torcello will make his official Board debut at the annual meeting in Columbus, OH in March 2020 and will serve the remainder of Bruce's term until the next scheduled District 8 meeting, at which time he will be able to stand for election if he so chooses. "While we are excited to have Torcello join the Board, it is with regret that we accepted Bruce Tubin's resignation," said USTA Executive Vice President and CEO Mike Tanner. "Bruce discontinued a growing law practice in 1976 to pursue his first love, harness racing, and was instrumental in advancing horsemen's interests in New York and in bringing video lottery terminals to Empire State racetracks. "Beyond that, he served actively and admirably as a USTA director since being elected in 1997, including his contribution of significant time and expertise to clean up and update the USTA Rule Book in 2016-2017 as part of an ad hoc committee first assigned by former USTA President, Phil Langley," added Tanner. "We thank Bruce for his service and wish him well as he transitions away from the Association." Torcello, a Western New York Harness Horsemen's Association board member, boasts a long involvement in our sport. He was first exposed to harness racing through his uncle, Ralph Torcello, who owned Standardbreds in western New York. Currently the owner of 15 horses and a USTA member since 1979, Torcello was a trainer from 1982 through 1998 before deciding to attend law school at SUNY-Buffalo. Since graduating, Torcello has worked as an attorney at Doran & Murphy, PLLC in Buffalo, where he focuses on representing railroad workers. He is a married father of two college-aged children. His wife is an elementary school teacher in the Orchard Park, NY district. She taught third grade for years and is now a math intervention specialist. His son is attending Harvard Law School while his daughter is an undergraduate at SUNY-Geneseo. Torcello's cousin, also named Mike Torcello, is the track superintendent at Harrah's Philadelphia. From the USTA Communications Department

On Friday (Nov. 8) , Young adults in harness racing from across the country gathered in Columbus, Ohio, for the inaugural USTA Youth Delegate Summit. Seven USTA Youth Delegates participated in the two-day event, which included an evening of team-building activities, a tour of Virgil Morgan's Winners Circle Training Center, and a visit to Hollywood Gaming at Dayton Raceway. On Saturday, delegates spent the morning learning about social media and event coverage from the USTA social media team. They then took turns practicing what they'd learned in a simulated reporting exercise with caretakers from the Brady Galliers stable. The group spent the afternoon discussing social media etiquette and the efficacy of the Youth Delegate program and heard presentations from social media coordinator Michael Carter, USTA director Gabe Wand and HHYF Executive Director Ellen Taylor. The summit concluded with an action-packed trip to Dayton Raceway. Delegates were given a special tour of the facility, met with race office personnel, and interviewed several top drivers including Chris Page, Tyler Smith, and Dan Noble. Following his interview with District 9 Youth Delegate Colin Boyle, Brett Miller gave his helmet to the young harness racing fan--a generous reward for a job well done. Serendipitously, the delegates also met and took a photo with State Representative J. Todd Smith who was visiting the racetrack, as well. "My favorite part of the summit would have to be the evening at Dayton Raceway," said 17-year-old Scarlett Wilder, the Youth Delegate Chairperson. "I'm really proud of our group and I think we performed very well. Everyone stepped up and went outside of their comfort zone, which helped this group grow tremendously." Launched in 2018, the USTA Youth Delegate program is designed to raise up young leaders in the sport of harness racing, encourage them to participate in local and regional racing-related events, and give them an opportunity to influence and shape the future of racing. The USTA Youth Delegates will next convene at the annual USTA Board of Directors meeting in Columbus, Ohio, March 13-16, 2020. From the USTA Communications Department

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - U.S. Trotting Association (USTA) District 8 has announced the winners of its 2019 year-end awards. George Ducharme has been named Trainer of the Year; Pari-Mutuel Driver of the Year is Tyler Buter; and Claude Huckabone Jr. is the County Fair Driver of the Year. Ducharme earned $705,226 in the New York Sire Stakes program this year with 113 starts. His stable was led by 3-year-old trotting filly Sensibility, who earned more than $250,000, and 2-year-old trotting colt Berkery J, who took home nearly $150,000. Ducharme was also the leading money earner at his home track, Vernon Downs, with $213,968 in purses. Overall, Ducharme's horses have banked $1,940,793 this season and he sports a .415 UTRS. Buter has $1.5 million in combined NY Sire Stakes and Excelsior earnings this season and 63 wins on the circuit. He drove New York County Fair Champions Certify (Credit Winner-Good Intentions) and Roll with Mimi (Roll With Joe-Dream of Mimi) into the winner's circle. He also steered American Mercury to a win in the $500,000 Messenger Stakes and a third-place finish in the Little Brown Jug. For the year, Buter has guided 306 winners to $5.2 million in earnings. Huckabone Jr. finished atop the New York County Fair earnings chart with $51,514 in 58 starts. He drove 2-year-old colt pacer Flow With Joe (Roll With Joe-Hidden Play) to a County Fair championship, and trained Champion 3-year-old filly pacer Roll With Mimi, whom he drove most of the season. Awards will be given at the joint NYSS and USTA District 8 Banquet at Saratoga Casino Hotel on Sunday, Nov. 10. Horse of the Year will be announced at the event. Also honored that evening will be these USTA Divisional Champions: Mr. Vicktor - 3-Year-Old Trotting Colt Owner: Robert Santagata, Jennifer Lappe, Diamond Pride and Joseph Lee Trainer: Jennifer Lappe Winndevie - 3-Year-Old Trotting Filly Owner: Purple Haze Stables Trainer: Trond Smedshammer Hickfromfrenchlick - 3-Year-Old Pacing Colt Owners: Raymond Schnittker, Nolamaura Racing and Thomas Spatorico Trainer: Ray Schnittker Brooklyn Lilacs - 3-Year-Old Pacing Filly Owner: Crawford Farms Racing Trainer: Jennifer Bongiorno Chaptiama - 2-Year-Old Trotting Colt Owners: Purple Haze Stables Trainer: Trond Smedshammer C And T's Credit - 2-Year-Old Trotting Filly Owner: Peter Barbato and Samuel Bova Trainer: John Stark Jr. Cigars And Port - 2-Year-Old Pacing Colt Owner: Raymond Schnittker, Nolamaura Racing, Theodore Gewertz and Steven Arnold Trainer: Ray Schnittker Racine Bell - 2-Year-Old Pacing Filly Owner: Chris Lawton and Dale Lawton Trainer: David Dewhurst "On behalf of our board of directors, I'd like to congratulate this year's winners," said USTA District 8 Chairman Michael Kane. "These horses and horsemen are shining examples of the level of quality coming out of this area and each has represented this district well, both at home and on the Grand Circuit. We are proud to have this opportunity each year to honor their contributions to our sport." The award winners were selected in balloting of the New York State race secretaries. Horses were selected from those with ownership in District 8. Tickets to the awards banquet are $35.00 and include reception and dinner. Special room rates are available in which banquet guests can receive 15% off a reservation at Saratoga Casino Hotel. Click here for booking information. A USTA District 8 meeting will precede the banquet and is scheduled for 5 p.m. at the hotel. Guests are asked to please RSVP no later than Monday, Nov. 4. RSVPs can be given to Sarah Quinn at or 518-694-5002. Payment should be made out and sent to: Agriculture & NYS Horse Breeding Fund c/o CHMS 230 Washington Avenue Extension, Suite 101 Albany, NY 12203 From the New York Sire Stakes

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