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Pompano Beach, FL --- Steven Wolf, president of the Florida Chapter of the United States Harness Racing Writers Association (USHWA), has announced that the chapter is now accepting applications for its 2020 Allen J. Finkelson Scholarship Awards. The scholarship fund was established in memory of Hall of Famer Allen J. Finkelson, the former Vice President of Public Relations at Pompano Park and longtime Chairman of the Board of the national USHWA organization. "While our Florida Chapter was hesitant at first due to the pandemic that canceled our annual fundraising Florida Harness Racing Hall of Fame banquet," said Steve Wolf, "we still felt we needed to continue our scholarship program, which is important for our young people to help them with the costs of tuition." Preference for these scholarship awards will be given to a student majoring in journalism, communications or veterinarian related studies. This year there are two sponsors of the scholarships. They are Maggie LaClair and Jay Farrar and Kathleen and Thomas H. Hicks. Applicants must be a resident of the state of Florida and currently accepted or enrolled in a fully accredited college or university in the United States. Criteria for selection include community service, academic achievement, and leadership. Applicants must have demonstrated scholastic ability with a cumulative grade point average of at least 3.0 and show evidence of community service and leadership through certificates, awards and/or letters of commendation. Fully completed applications must be postmarked no later than July 1, 2020, for consideration of an August 2020 award. Recipients may reapply annually for a maximum of four years. Applications should be submitted/addressed to the Florida Chapter USHWA, Scholarship Committee, 3508 Sahara Springs Blvd., Pompano Beach, FL 33069. For more information or to receive an application on the internet, visit http://www.ushwa-florida.com/ or contact via e-mail to Thomas H. Hicks at renparlc@gate.net or Steven Wolf at stevenwolf1956@gmail.com. From the Florida Chapter of USHWA  

HARRISBURG PA - Roger Huston, the Communicators Hall of Fame member who ended a 44-year announcing career at The Meadows racetrack last November but continues harness racing involvement in his native state of Ohio, has been voted the highest honor annually given by the Keystone Chapter of the United States Harness Writers Association (USHWA), the Mary Lib Miller Award, named for the lifelong helpmate of "Mr. Harness Racing," Delvin Miller, founder of The Meadows - a couple Roger knew quite well. Huston got his start in broadcasting at a radio station in his native Xenia OH; his uncle Don was the announcer at Lebanon Raceway and some nearby fairs, which became Roger's introduction to going behind the microphone in the sport. Besides announcing at The Meadows, Roger will in 2020 calling at Delaware OH at the Little Brown Jug for the 53rd straight year, and he has been the announcer at several western Pennsylvania fairs. Besides his new role as "brand ambassador" for the Ohio horsemen's association, Huston continues to serve as a Director of USHWA for the Keystone Chapter (for whom he served as founding president), and he was the Director with the most years of USHWA membership (52) at the association's Florida annual meetings in February. About the only harness racing "force" that has been going longer than Roger is Hanover Shoe Farms, which again was voted Pennsylvania Breeder of the Year. The Shoe Farms has been the sport's leading breeder every year since records started to be kept in 1948, and while recording their 72nd straight win they established a single-season high for the winnings of their produce, $34.0M. Another repeat winner is George Napolitano Jr., who was voted his second straight Pennsylvania Driver of the Year award and fourth in the twelve years the award has been given. Napolitano, who recorded his 10,000th career victory at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono on October 12, won 638 Pennsylvania races between The Downs (337), where he was the top sulkywinner for the eighth straight year, and Harrah's Philadelphia (301). "George Nap" was third in all of North America last year with 651 driving wins. Kim Hankins, the longtime executive director of the Meadows Standardbred Association and one of the most well-rounded and well-respected individuals in harness racing, was named a Friend of Pennsylvania Harness Racing for his leadership of his horsemen's group in such diverse areas as racetrack negotiations, marketing, and intrastate partnerships and communications. A longtime top horseman in Illinois for many years, Hankins is currently 1st Vice President of Harness Horsemen International, and served for many years on the board of directors of the U.S. Trotting Association. Two smaller stables raised their profiles in 2019 to a degree that they were voted awards by Keystone USHWA. Longtime Meadows horseman Bill Bercury, campaigning a five-horse stable most of the year, saw his barn earn over $590,000 for the sixth straight year (with only 123 starts), and he posted the #1 trainers percentage in North America for those with fewer than 300 starts, a .580 "batting average." The constant sharpness and success shown by his stable earned Bercury Pennsylvania Trainer of the Year honors. Bob Rougeaux III campaigns the horses of the Brocious Racing Stable of the late Harold "Lefty" Brocious, and the "Rocky Top" stable, as they style themselves, sent out four of the eight blanketwinners at the Pennsylvania Fair Banquet for having amassed the most points in their respective divisions during the twenty-stop fair season in the Keystone state. As with Bercury, "quality" trumped "quality" here, and the Rougeaux/Brocious "team" were named the Small Stable of the Year in Pennsylvania. Missy Rothfuss, the outrider at The Meadows, is this year's recipient of the Keystone Unsung Hero Award. Rothfuss started her career while a senior in high school and has been at The Meadows 24 years. She is the first responder when accidents happen on the racetrack, often anticipating problems and arriving before anyone else at the site of trouble, and because of her record is well-respected by Meadows horsemen. Between races Missy is meeting fans, letting them pet her equine partner, and educating them about harness racing. She has ridden in Breeders Crown events and also is the head outrider at The Little Brown Jug in Delaware, OH. And after many years toiling in semi-anonymity, Missy is not only receiving this award but was also recently featured in Vicki Howard's "Superstar Females of Harness Racing" column in the online journal Harness Racing Update. The now-11-year-old pacer Atta Boy Dan started his season in the western part of the state, but the record he put up while operating at Pocono was the major contributor to his being named Pennsylvania Horse of the Year, for horses making over half their starts within the borders of Pennsylvania. The winner of over $900,000 lifetime won 19 times (earning over $200,000) during 2019, the most victories of any horse in the United States, and he set an unofficial record by being claimed in fourteen consecutive starts. The state writers initiated a Keystone Chapter Member of the Year this past season to recognize outstanding efforts made by those within their ranks, and in this inaugural season a recognition will be given to a member in both the western and the eastern parts of the state. Chris Gooden, who has been a Smallsreed Photo awardwinner in the national competition for the last two years, was selected as the top Keystoner from the west; on the eastern side, the honors went to Jennifer Starr, the multitalented and tireless Racing Marketing Manager at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono. Ordinarily, the Keystone USHWA awardwinners would have had a moment in the spotlight as they received their awards in a trackside ceremony. But with the coronavirus throwing unprecedented uncertainty into everyone's schedules, it was thought to send the recipients their trophies through delivery, before the shine of their 2019 accomplishments became too faded by time. Jerry Connors

Jim Avritt Sr. bought his first Standardbred in 1963 when he was a senior at Xavier University and nearly 60 years later continues to enjoy the thrills of harness racing and breeding. On Feb. 23 in Orlando, Fla., Avritt's Precocious Beauty will be honored as the Pacing Broodmare of the Year at the U.S. Harness Writers Association's Dan Patch Award banquet. Precocious Beauty is the dam of Tall Dark Stranger, who that same night will receive the Dan Patch Award for best 2-year-old male pacer. Earlier this month, Tall Dark Stranger picked up the O'Brien Award in Canada. Avritt bred and raced Precocious Beauty, who in 2013 also captured O'Brien and Dan Patch awards. Tall Dark Stranger, a Bettor's Delight-sired colt who sold for $330,000 at the 2018 Lexington Selected Sale, was her second foal. Her first foal, an Avritt-owned filly by Somebeachsomewhere named Beautyonthebeach, was a two-time Kentucky Sire Stakes champion. She was retired following the 2019 season and will be bred to Bettor's Delight this week. "It's incredible, really incredible," the 79-year-old Avritt said. "I never thought when I started out that I'd reach this point, that's for sure. I never dreamed at that time I would have something like Precocious Beauty down the road, either as a race filly or a broodmare. Precocious Beauty "I can't wait (for the awards weekend). I'm going to hit some of the training centers on Saturday morning before heading to Orlando. I'm looking forward to it." Avritt traces his successes to the purchase of Dominique Semalu as a broodmare in 1995. Dominque Semalu is the dam of Precious Beauty, whose offspring in addition to Precocious Beauty include O'Brien and Dan Patch awards winner Sportswriter and Grand Circuit winner Prescient Beauty. The family also includes the grandam of Dan Patch Award winner Downbytheseaside. "I've said it before, if I hadn't been lucky enough to buy Dominique Semalu nobody would have ever heard of me," Avritt said. "I've sold some high-priced yearlings out of her. Although she didn't produce any really top stakes winners, she had good raceway horses that earned quite a bit of money, and every daughter she ever had turned out to be a tremendous producer." Avritt generally keeps fillies out of his broodmares and sells the colts. Precocious Beauty's third foal, a colt by Somebeachsomewhere named Beach Party, sold for $190,000 last fall at Lexington. Avritt has kept a yearling filly out of Precocious Beauty, by American Ideal, named Elegant Beauty. He also has a 2-year-old homebred filly out of Barefoot Beauty that he is training. She is by Shadow Play and named Barefoot'npregnant. "She is a really, really nice filly," Avritt said. "She's probably as nice as anything I've trained. If she's good enough, she'll go up to Gregg (McNair) when he goes north from Florida. Otherwise, she'll stay down here and I'll race her some at the fairs and see how much she can improve." Avritt still likes to drive in races, although he does not do it often. "Every now and then I drive," he said. "I really enjoy that part of it. There is no feeling in the world like going behind the gate." Even if he does not get on the track, the Kentucky resident still gets to enjoy watching his small broodmare band's offspring compete. "I'm hoping it's not over yet," Avritt said. "I just wish I was younger so I could enjoy it a lot longer." by Ken Weingartner, USTA Media Relations Manager

It is last call to make room reservations at the luxurious Rosen Shingle Creek in Orlando, Fla., for the U.S. Harness Writers Association's (USHWA) annual Dan Patch Awards banquet on Sunday, Feb. 23. If you are planning to attend the gala festivities that will honor the best equines and humans in the sport in 2019, room reservations must be made by Friday, Jan. 31. Rooms are nearly sold out so make sure you don't get shut out! The USHWA rate for a standard room at Rosen Shingle Creek is $199 (plus tax). For a direct link to the Rosen Shingle Creek special page to make USHWA room reservations, please click here. Depending on availability, rooms may still be available after Jan. 31, but can only be made by calling the hotel directly at (866) 996-6338 and asking for the "Dan Patch Awards rate." This is the third year Rosen Shingle Creek will host the Dan Patch Awards banquet. This year's banquet, which will be held in the Gaitlin B ballroom, gets underway with the Red Carpet at 5:30 p.m., with the awards ceremony starting promptly at 6:30 p.m. Be on hand when the Pacer of the Year, Trotter of the Year and Horse of the Year are announced. Tickets for the Dan Patch Awards Banquet are $180, with a filet mignon dinner featured. Tickets can be ordered until Feb. 17 by contacting Judy Davis-Wilson at zoe8874@aol.com or (302) 359-3630. Remember, all attendees will receive a 10 percent discount at all of the hotel's restaurants, a 10 percent discount at the Spa at Shingle Creek, and a green fees discount at the Shingle Creek Golf Club. There is still limited space available in the USHWA journal. The deadline is Friday, Jan. 31. To take out a congratulatory ad please contact Kim Rinker at trotrink@aol.com or (708) 557-2790. From the U.S. Harness Writers Association  

Trenton, NJ — Apparently, there is one chink in the amazing Wanda Polisseni’s armor. Ask her what it means to receive this year’s harness racing Unsung Hero Award from the U.S. Harness Writers Association, and you discover the kryptonite. “I’m speechless,” the 80-year-old philanthropist said. “I don’t do well in these instances. I’m blown away. I don’t know what to say.” After that, of course, the woman who defines class knew exactly what to say; and she said it with the dignity that has made her a beloved figure in harness racing this century. “I never even think of receiving anything like this,” Polisseni said. “I don’t go about my days doing the things I do, thinking that it’s going to be rewarded with recognition. I know people appreciate what I do. I know my babies (her horses) all appreciate what I do. That in itself is enough for me. That’s what it’s all about.” Lest one think that is false humility, Wanda is honest enough to admit that while she doesn’t expect awards, she does enjoy receiving them. “I would say this one is probably one of my favorites, right near the top or at the top,” she said. “This is a great organization, a large organization. This ranks with getting a doctorate of humane letters from Keuka College. But every one of them is important. Each and every one. I don’t care if it’s from the local boy scouts or whatever. I’m appreciative of everything, although I don’t strive for that. I’d rather be under the radar.” Polisseni was informed of her award by longtime friend Betty Holt, a former Unsung Hero Award recipient and the executive director of Wanda’s newest endeavor, the Purple Haze Standardbred Adoption Program in Oxford, N.Y. Their relationship dates back to 2004, when Polisseni first got into the racing game as an owner. Her 2-year-old gelding, Smoky Bonz, won at Saratoga. Holt was involved in the breeding of the horse and visited the winner’s circle after the race. A friendship was born. “Whoever called Betty (from the U.S. Harness Writers Association), said it would mean more to me coming from her, and they were right,” Polisseni said. “Smoky Bonz is one of my all-time favorites, I have a huge oil painting of him in my living room and she foaled him. I worked along with her with the breeders and horsemen’s association and I knew without a doubt when I started talking about (the adoption center) that she would be the best one for the executive director. She’s doing a terrific job. So yes, hearing the news from her meant a lot.” The adoption center got underway in earnest last fall and recently placed its first two horses with new owners. There are seven more waiting for new homes in the 20-stall facility and funding has been provided by Polisseni and numerous private donations, “some of which came from people I wouldn’t have expected.” The center must wait between one and two years to petition for grants, but the face lift has been a typical Polisseni operation — first class. “I wanted to freshen it up and add stalls so we’d have more babies available for adoption,” she said. “If I ever wanted to live on a farm again (which is where she grew up), I would love to live on this farm, it’s so beautiful. But that’s not my aspiration. I just want a lot of babies there and a lot of babies to be adopted out.” Polisseni’s other babies can be found in her family-owned Purple Haze Stables, which houses 100 horses. Many have been successful over the years and she feels somewhat chagrined about that but, at the same time, unashamed. “I started in 2004,” she said. “That’s not many years compared to some of these people, these trainers and owners that have been in it for 50 years. I feel a little guilty for the success I’ve had, because they are due. They are long overdue. “But it is what it is. I’m going to take the wins and I’m going to take the losses. I’m happy if my baby comes in fourth or fifth and he’s done the best he can and he’s safe and healthy.” Tending to her babies and overseeing the adoption center is just a fraction of what makes Polisseni special. Showing an unheard of amount of energy for an 80-year-old, the upstate New York icon currently sits on eight different boards, including The Finger Lakes Horsemen Benevolent Protective Association, the Finger Lakes Thoroughbred Adoption Program, and the Harness Horse Breeders of New York. Beyond the business, she is involved with the New York State Trooper Foundation, Thompson Health, St. John Fisher College and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. She refuses to be on any board in name only and makes a firm commitment to each one. Polisseni is the epitome of someone who feels blessed with what they have been given, and truly wants to give back. She is unsung, because she will never sing her own praises. That will be especially true when she receives her honor at the Feb. 23 Dan Patch Awards banquet in Orlando, Fla., where the speech will be short and sweet. “Whenever anything like this comes along with all these organizations and galas, and it has many times in my years, they don’t want to sit there and listen to speeches; they don’t want to be inundated with speech after speech after speech,” Polisseni said. “Some people in the audience can’t relate to those experiences, so why make them have to listen to it? “I might just say a few words. I’ve always done that. I always get up and tell the audience ‘I’m going to make your night. I’m only going to say thank you very much and that’s it.’” She then added with a touch of whimsy, “That’s gone over very well at many of the galas I’ve attended.” For more information about the Dan Patch Awards banquet, visit the U.S. Harness Writers Association’s website. by Rich Fisher, USTA Web Newsroom Senior Correspondent

Derick Giwner and Melissa Keith were named winners of the 2019 John Hervey Awards for excellence in harness racing journalism while Chris Gooden and Mark Hall were named recipients of the George Smallsreed Awards for photography and Woodbine Entertainment Group was selected winner of the Sam McKee Award for broadcasting, the U.S. Harness Writers Association announced Tuesday. The winners will be recognized at the Dan Patch Awards banquet Feb. 23 at Rosen Shingle Creek resort in Orlando, Fla. Meadowlands Racetrack Chairman Jeffrey Gural is continuing his longstanding sponsorship of the awards by providing banquet tickets for the winners. Giwner won in the news or commentary category for his column, "Rolling the sport into the future," which appeared in the Feb. 9 edition of DRF Harness Weekend. To read the piece, click here. It is Giwner's first Hervey Award. Keith won in the feature writing category for her two-part story on the death of Ron Graham that appeared in Harness Racing Update. The first part, "The tragic and mysterious death of a harness horseman," appeared April 14 and can be read here. The second part, "A wanderer with an incredible heart," appeared May 24 and can be read here. It is Keith's third Hervey Award and second in this category. Honorable mentions went to Mike Farrell (writing for the Hambletonian Society) and James Platz (Harness Racing Update) in news/commentary and to Platz, Brandon Valvo (writing for the Breeders Crown) and Gordon Waterstone (The Horseman and Fair World) in feature writing. The writing categories were judged by NTRA Director of Communications Alicia Hughes, Eclipse Award-winning writer Joe Nevills, and former Philadelphia Inquirer Sports Editor John Quinn. In the Smallsreed competition, Gooden won in the race/action category for his photograph, "Noses on the Gate," which appeared online Feb. 19 on The Meadows Racing website. Gooden is a three-time Smallsreed winner. Chris Gooden Photo Hall won in the feature category for his photograph, "Shining Moment," that appeared on the cover of the July issue of Hoof Beats. It is Hall's seventh Smallsreed honor. Honorable mentions went to Clive Cohen (Woodbine Mohawk Park Facebook and Instagram) in race/action and to Michael Burns (Woodbine Mohawk Park website) and Dave Landry (Harness Racing Update) in feature. Judges for the photography categories were racetrack and newspaper photographer Bill Denver and former harness racing groom and longtime newspaper/magazine photographer Phil McAuliffe. In the McKee competition, Woodbine Entertainment Group broadcast department was honored for its story on French trotter Bold Eagle's appearance in the Breeders Crown, which aired Oct. 26 on the TSN4 television network. The producer was Phil McSween, director of photography was Gage Fletcher and David Syrie, and the editor was Jason Vanderzee. The win gave WEG its fourth award in the broadcast division. To watch the piece, click here. Honorable mention went to True Nature Communications Inc.'s feature on Trevor Ritchie for the Breeders Crown. Entries for the Sam McKee Award were judged by former longtime Thoroughbred Week host and co-producer John Henderson. For more information about the Dan Patch Awards banquet, visit the U.S. Harness Writers Association's website. by Ken Weingartner, for the U.S. Harness Writers Association

HARRISBURG PA – The partnership of Courant Inc., which encompasses principal owner Anders Ström and individual partners on several horses, teamed exceptionally well with harness racing trainer Marcus Melander during 2019, campaigning the “Three G’s” – Greenshoe, Gimpanzee, and Green Manalishi S – who dominated the three-year-old trotting colt ranks while earning over $3 million among them this year alone. They also raced freshman trotting filly Hypnotic AM and other quality performers, with the result that Courant and Melander were voted Owner of the Year and Trainer of the Year, respectively, during voting conducted by the United States Harness Writers Association, the sport’s leading media organization. In addition, New Zealander Dexter Dunn, who had a sensational first full year campaigning in the United States and Canada, was voted as the Driver of the Year by USHWA. Ström, who with his outright-owned horses campaigns in red-and-gold colors worn by the driver, saw Greenshoe and Gimpanzee each earn over $1 million while winning the majority of the sport’s major stakes for their group – Greenshoe a Dancer division, the Zweig, a Bluegrass division, the Kentucky Futurity, the Sire Stakes crown in New Jersey, and the Kentucky program’s championship; Gimpanzee the Yonkers Trot, the Breeders Crown, the Matron, and the New York Sire Stakes championship. Green Manalishi S added a Tompkins-Geers division, the Simcoe, and the Canadian Trotting Classic; Hypnotic AM won her New York Sire Stakes finale and the Doherty Memorial. Despite sending only 16 starters, Courant and partners saw their horses earn over $3.9 million, putting them in the North American Top Ten. Courant also has powerful divisions of the stable in Sweden and in France, and Ström put himself in position for future success by spending over $1.6 million at the major yearling sales in Lexington and Harrisburg. Melander, still only 27 years of age and coming off winning USHWA’s Rising Star Award, continued his rapid ascent to harness racing’s top circles, with his horses earning almost $5.4 million during 2019, fourth among all North American trainers. The “Three G’s” who dominated the sophomore trotting ranks of course were the primary contributors to that amount, but along with Hypnotic AM Melander also sent out Cutler Memorial winner Cruzado Dela Noche, a 2018 winner of the Yonkers International Trot. In addition, there were a host of young, bright prospects who showed talent in limited campaigns and could come on like gangbusters in 2020 (remember, Greenshoe only started four times at two). With the firm support of his family and staff (who frequently overlap), Melander certainly didn’t have the “sophomore jinx” in 2019, and it would be no surprise if the winning continued this coming year. Melander’s family (including a Hambletonian-winning uncle) is from Sweden – another North American “import,” Kiwi-born Dexter Dunn, came from Down Under with sterling credentials, having won multiple New Zealand driving titles and even the 2015 World Driving Championship. But his first full season of driving in the United States and Canada produced success in quantity and quality that few, not even Dexter, would have predicted. Horses handled by the red-and-black-clad driver won over $11 million during 2019, putting him third behind the perennial top pairing of Tim Tetrick and Yannick Gingras. The fact that he won 457 races, also putting him in the North American Top Ten, was also impressive but not that surprising since he had won ten “Enzed” sulky dash titles before he reached his current age of 30, but his seamless assimilation into the rarefied circles of top stakes competition was the exclamation point on his year. Dunn was the driver for sophomore colt pacer Bettor’s Wish, who was the leading moneywinner of 2019 with over $1.6M in earnings and a 19-13-6-0 record primarily completing in the “glamour division.” Amigo Volo (2TC) and Manchego (OTM) benefited from his expertise in winning Breeders Crown events. He won championships in state programs with Bettor’s Wish in Kentucky, Milles Possesion in Pennsylvania, and Fortune Starlet in New Jersey. In his first full year of driving at Harrah’s Philadelphia, Dunn finished third in the drivers win standings, behind Tim Tetrick and George Napolitano Jr. – who between them have won the last thirteen victory belts at the oval. And just as Melander had some “family” behind him, so did Dunn – Chris Ryder was the first to regularly use Dunn upon coming over, and a disproportionate share of Australian and New Zealand expatriate  conditions quickly, and soon unhesitatingly, gave him regular work. The remainder of the human and broodmare Dan Patch awardwinners are being announced today and tomorrow; the twelve racehorse divisional champions will be announced this Friday, January 3, at 6:30 p.m. on The Meadowlands’ “pre-races” show, with media releases following (availability to view that announcement will be released shortly). Anders Ström and Courant, Inc., Marcus Melander, and Dexter Dunn will be honored at USHWA’s annual Dan Patch Awards Banquet, celebrating the best and brightest of harness racing in the past year. The banquet honoring the champions of 2019 will be held on Sunday, February 23, 2020 at the Rosen Shingle Creek Resort in Orlando FL, the climax of a weekend that also finds USHWA holding its annual national meetings. The Trotter of the Year, Pacer of the Year, and Horse of the Year will be revealed for the first time at the Banquet. Tickets for the Dan Patch Awards Banquet are $180, with a filet mignon dinner featured; “post times” on February 23 are cocktails at 5:30 p.m., with dinner to follow. Tickets, and other Banquet-related information, can be obtained through Dinner Planning Committee Chair Judy Davis-Wilson, at zoe8874@aol.com or 302 359 3630.   Hotel reservations for those attending can be made through USHWA’s website, www.ushwa.net; a link to the hotel’s computer is on the front page of the website. Those who would like to take out congratulatory ads for awardwinners in the always-popular Dan Patch Awards Journal can do so by contacting Kim Rinker at trotrink@aol.com (the 2019 journal is online at the writers’ website). From the United States Harness Writers Association

HARRISBURG PA – There was a “dead heat for win” in the voting for the most prestigious harness racing award for which the United States Harness Writers Association (USHWA) are the sole arbiters – the Stan Bergstein/Proximity Award. The joint winners are New York horseman Joe Faraldo and the Ontario owning/breeding partnership of Al Libfeld and Marvin Katz – the first time there has been a tie in the top of the voting in the 68-year history of the award, which is voted on by the sport’s leading media organization. Joe Faraldo, an attorney by trade and an owner/amateur driver, is heading into his 40th year as President and CEO of the Standardbred Owners Association of New York, the horsemen’s group that serves Yonkers Raceway, the track which pays the highest purses in the North American sport. He has been a staunch advocate of horsemen’s rights, and is the only attorney who has argued a harness racing-related case before the U.S. Supreme Court. Faraldo has been a director of the U.S. Trotting Association for over 20 years, and currently serves as Chair of the USTA’s District 8-A (lower New York). He is the chair of the important Harness Racing Medication Collaborative, which not only keeps up to date with substances and testing procedure in the sport, but also seeks to find common ground among the pari-mutuel sports’ breeds and jurisdictions. Faraldo is also an amateur driver of some note, and has driven in several countries during competitions. His international presence helped Yonkers re-establish the International Trot after a two-decade absence. He has been honored by Harness Horsemen’s International, the USTA, and USHWA. Joe Faraldo The partnership of Marvin Katz and Al Libfeld, both of whom are in the southern Ontario real estate field, was not an instantaneous success by their own admission; the horse which started a turnaround for them was 1997 Meadowlands Pace winner Dream Away. But it is hard to miss the impression they have made on the owning and breeding of quality horses, especially in the last decade. The racehorse list includes millionaires Ariana G and Dream Away; the most recent of their breeding accomplishments was the selling of the sport’s first million-dollar yearling, Maverick, a Father Patrick full brother to this year’s spectacular three-year-old Greenshoe, who sold for $1,100,000 at Lexington this past fall. Horses they have owned and/or bred have accounted for the Hambletonian, Kentucky Futurity, Canadian Trotting Classic and other world-class events. The pair have been honored on both sides of the North American racing border previously. Libfeld/Katz were also the Presenting Sponsors of the 2019 Breeders Crown championships when they came to their nearby Woodbine at Mohawk Raceway, and the associated Breeders Crown Charity Challenge raised over $200,000 for area charities. The Bergstein / Proximity Award honors the great trotting mare Proximity, who was Harness Horse of the Year in 1950, and Stan Bergstein, the sport’s only “double Hall of Famer” and an industry visionary and leader for going on half a century until his passing in 2011. The remainder of the human and broodmare Dan Patch awardwinners are being announced today and tomorrow; the twelve racehorse divisional champions will be announced this Friday, January 3, at 6:30 p.m. on The Meadowlands’ “pre-races” show, with media releases following (availability to view that announcement will be released shortly). Joe Faraldo, Marvin Katz, and Al Libfeld will be honored at USHWA’s annual Dan Patch Awards Banquet, celebrating the best and brightest of harness racing in the past year. The banquet honoring the champions of 2019 will be held on Sunday, February 23, 2020 at the Rosen Shingle Creek Resort in Orlando FL, the climax of a weekend that also finds USHWA holding its annual national meetings. The Trotter of the Year, Pacer of the Year, and Horse of the Year will be revealed for the first time at the Banquet. Tickets for the Dan Patch Awards Banquet are $180, with a filet mignon dinner featured; “post times” on February 23 are cocktails at 5:30 p.m., with dinner to follow. Tickets, and other Banquet-related information, can be obtained through Dinner Planning Committee Chair Judy Davis-Wilson, at zoe8874@aol.com or 302 359 3630.   Hotel reservations for those attending can be made through USHWA’s website, www.ushwa.net; a link to the hotel’s computer is on the front page of the website. Those who would like to take out congratulatory ads for awardwinners in the always-popular Dan Patch Awards Journal can do so by contacting Kim Rinker at trotrink@aol.com (the 2019 journal is online at the writers’ website). From the United States Harness Writers Association

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  

With a deadline of this Friday, Dec. 20, there are only a few days left to submit nominations for the 2019 Caretaker of the Year. The award, sponsored by Fair Island Farm in conjunction with the United States Harness Writers Association (USHWA), recognizes the unsung heroes of the sport-the caretakers who maintain the health and welfare of the horses on a daily basis. With the deadline looming, nominations should be made by email (by Dec. 20) to Committee chairman Tim Bojarski at a159star@gmail.com. Any caretaker working for any stable or farm in North America is eligible to win the Fair Island Farm Caretaker of the Year Award. All that is needed to nominate is an email, 200 words minimum, from an individual or group detailing the skills and special qualities of the caretaker. The Fair Island Farm Caretaker of the Year will receive a cash prize of $500, a trophy, and transportation costs to the USHWA Dan Patch Awards banquet in Orlando, Fla., on Sunday evening, Feb. 23, 2020, where he or she will be recognized. The winner will also enjoy a two-night stay at Rosen Shingle Creek, host hotel for the USHWA activities, as well as two complimentary dinner tickets. 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. From the United States Harness Writers Association  

Nominations are still being accepted for the 2019 Caretaker of the Year. The award, sponsored by Art Zubrod and Leah Cheverie's Fair Island Farm in conjunction with the United States Harness Writers Association (USHWA), recognizes the unsung heroes of the sport - the 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 suggestion made by Delvin Miller at the annual Harness Tracks of America meeting when he received HTA's Stanley F. Bergstein Messenger Award. Previously sponsored annually by HTA and Hanover Shoe Farms, the tradition lapsed in 2014 but was re-established in 2015 by Hard Rock Northfield Park and USHWA, with Fair Island Farm coming on this year. "We have been presenting trophies to the winning caretakers during the Grand Circuit meet at The Red Mile for a couple of years now, so we are very honored and happy to be able to now recognize the national Caretaker of the Year," said Zubrod. The Fair Island Farm Caretaker of the Year will receive a cash prize of $500, a trophy, and transportation costs to the USHWA Dan Patch Awards banquet in Orlando, Fla., on Sunday evening, Feb. 23, 2020, where he or she will be recognized. The winner will also enjoy a two-night stay at Rosen Shingle Creek, host hotel for the USHWA activities, as well as two complimentary dinner tickets. "Caretakers are the day-to-day unsung heroes of the industry, long before and after the spotlight of the grandstand lights," said USHWA President Shawn Wiles. "This cadre toils in anonymity, not looking for a pat on the back, but always looking out for the best interests of their charges health and welfare. We are fortunate to have many outstanding caretakers in our industry to look after our equine athletes." Any caretaker working for any stable or farm in North America is eligible to be the Fair Island Farm Caretaker of the Year. All that is needed to nominate is a letter or email, 200 words minimum, 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 Friday, Dec. 20, 2019, and sent to chairman Bojarski at a159star@gmail.com or mailed to Tim Bojarski, 7523 Maple Road, Akron, N.Y. 14001. (USHWA) From the United States Harness Writers Association

The best of harness racing journalism in 2019 will be honored by the U.S. Harness Writers Association with the John Hervey Awards for writing, Sam McKee Award for broadcasting, and George Smallsreed Awards for photography. The deadline for entries is extended 24 hours, to 5 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 10. Entries will be accepted for news/commentary writing, feature writing, broadcasting, race photography and feature photography. Entries published or broadcast between Dec. 1, 2018 and Nov. 30, 2019, are eligible. All entries must be in English. Judges in each category will select a winner and, where appropriate, up to two honorable mentions. There are no entry fees or cash prizes. Winners will be announced in January and will be recognized at the U.S. Harness Writers Association's annual Dan Patch Awards festivities Feb. 23 in Orlando. Winners will receive a plaque/trophy as well as two tickets to the Dan Patch Awards dinner. Photo and written submissions must have appeared in a paid-circulation publication or on the website that is the same-name affiliate of a paid-circulation publication, recognized broadcast news organization, or established industry/news website. Content that appeared on personal websites, message boards or lists, and similar entities is not valid for inclusion in the competition. The final decision on eligibility is in the hands of the Hervey Committee. Broadcast entries will be an accepted feature or live racing segment no longer than 10 minutes. The entry must have aired on a network television or cable station, recognized news and/or industry website, or have been included in a racetrack's simulcasting presentation. Documentaries or other long-form productions are not eligible although one segment of that documentary, edited only to fit the length limitations of no more than 10 minutes, may be submitted for consideration. The awards are not open to entries that are fiction, in the form of Q&As, or were prepared for commercial purposes (for advertisements/promo/publicity purposes). There is a limit of one submission per person per category. A person may enter more than one category, but not with the same submission. An entry may only be submitted in one category and the category must be indicated clearly. The Hervey Committee, at its discretion, may disqualify an entry at any time in the process, and reserves the right not to bestow an award in a particular category based on the quality and quantity of entries. All entries must originate with the author/photographer/producer and must include a signed cover letter expressing the wish to enter materials in the contest and granting permission for the materials to be used for promoting the awards in press releases. The letter must also include the following contact information for the writer/producer/photographer: name, full address, telephone numbers (home, office, cell) and email address. The letter must also include the date that the media organization published/aired the submission and specify the category for which the entry is being submitted. Editors may submit entries provided the cover letter includes contact information for the writer/producer/photographer as well as for the person submitting the entry. All other third-party entries will be rejected. Written entries must specify the category - news or feature - for consideration. All print entries must include a tear sheet of the entry (a PDF is acceptable) as it appeared in print and a plain text version with no identifying information (bylines, publication name, graphs, photos or other graphic elements). Broadcast entries must not exceed 10 minutes and must not contain commercials. Each submission (one per person or organization) should have a cover letter. Submissions can be in the form of a mailed DVD or provided via a file-sharing service. Photography entries must include a cover letter designating the category for the photo - race or feature - and a tear sheet of the published photo, showing the date, name of publication and photographer's name. Tear sheets for Internet-based submissions will consist of a screen shot. Photographs should not be digitally enhanced beyond the basics needed to achieve realistic color balance and sharpness. Failure to follow these rules will result in disqualification. Photographs may be sent via email. If mailed, three prints of the entry must be provided. The decisions of the Hervey Committee and the judges are final. Email entries, or file shared for broadcast, should be sent to Ken Weingartner, chairman of the Hervey Committee, at ken.weingartner@ustrotting.com. by Ken Weingartner, for USHWA  

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: https://www.youtube.com/watch?reload=9&v=bFGtP_A3ss0). 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

The best of harness racing journalism in 2019 will be honored by the U.S. Harness Writers Association with the John Hervey Awards for writing, Sam McKee Award for broadcasting, and George Smallsreed Awards for photography. The deadline for entries is 5 p.m. Dec. 9. Entries will be accepted for news/commentary writing, feature writing, broadcasting, race photography and feature photography. Entries published or broadcast between Dec. 1, 2018 and Nov. 30, 2019, are eligible. All entries must be in English. Judges in each category will select a winner and, where appropriate, up to two honorable mentions. There are no entry fees or cash prizes. Winners will be announced in January and will be recognized at the U.S. Harness Writers Association's annual Dan Patch Awards festivities Feb. 23 in Orlando. Winners will receive a plaque/trophy as well as two tickets to the Dan Patch Awards dinner. Photo and written submissions must have appeared in a paid-circulation publication or on the website that is the same-name affiliate of a paid-circulation publication, recognized broadcast news organization, or established industry/news website. Content that appeared on personal websites, message boards or lists, and similar entities is not valid for inclusion in the competition. The final decision on eligibility is in the hands of the Hervey Committee. Broadcast entries will be an accepted feature or live racing segment no longer than 10 minutes. The entry must have aired on a network television or cable station, recognized news and/or industry website, or have been included in a racetrack's simulcasting presentation. Documentaries or other long-form productions are not eligible although one segment of that documentary, edited only to fit the length limitations of no more than 10 minutes, may be submitted for consideration. The awards are not open to entries that are fiction, in the form of Q&As, or were prepared for commercial purposes (for advertisements/promo/publicity purposes). There is a limit of one submission per person per category. A person may enter more than one category, but not with the same submission. An entry may only be submitted in one category and the category must be indicated clearly. The Hervey Committee, at its discretion, may disqualify an entry at any time in the process, and reserves the right not to bestow an award in a particular category based on the quality and quantity of entries. All entries must originate with the author/photographer/producer and must include a signed cover letter expressing the wish to enter materials in the contest and granting permission for the materials to be used for promoting the awards in press releases. The letter must also include the following contact information for the writer/producer/photographer: name, full address, telephone numbers (home, office, cell) and email address. The letter must also include the date that the media organization published/aired the submission and specify the category for which the entry is being submitted. Editors may submit entries provided the cover letter includes contact information for the writer/producer/photographer as well as for the person submitting the entry. All other third-party entries will be rejected. Written entries must specify the category - news or feature - for consideration. All print entries must include a tear sheet of the entry (a PDF is acceptable) as it appeared in print and a plain text version with no identifying information (bylines, publication name, graphs, photos or other graphic elements). Broadcast entries must not exceed 10 minutes and must not contain commercials. Each submission (one per person or organization) should have a cover letter. Submissions can be in the form of a mailed DVD or provided via a file-sharing service. Photography entries must include a cover letter designating the category for the photo - race or feature - and a tear sheet of the published photo, showing the date, name of publication and photographer's name. Tear sheets for Internet-based submissions will consist of a screen shot. Photographs should not be digitally enhanced beyond the basics needed to achieve realistic color balance and sharpness. Failure to follow these rules will result in disqualification. Photographs may be sent via email. If mailed, three prints of the entry must be provided. The decisions of the Hervey Committee and the judges are final. Email entries, or file shared for broadcast, are encouraged. Email entries should be sent to ken.weingartner@ustrotting.com. Mailed entries should be sent to Ken Weingartner, 425 S. Main St., Hightstown, NJ 08520. Questions can be directed to Ken Weingartner, chairman of the Hervey Committee, at the above email address. by Ken Weingartner, for USHWA  

Akron, NY --- Please note that due to a change in our hosting package with web.com, there has been some delays in getting our .org and .com web extensions functional with the modifications we have made. As a result, www.ushwa.net is currently the only way to access our website.   We are working with web.com to rectify this issue and hope to have all three extensions up and running properly in the near future.   By Tim Bojarski, for USHWA

GOSHEN, NY - Results from the balloting for harness racing's highest honor, membership in the Harness Racing Hall of Fame, and from the balloting for the Communicators Hall of Fame, have been tabulated and certified. Four candidates have received the sport's highest honor, election into the Harness Racing Hall Of Fame: Tom Charters, of the Hambletonian Society and Breeders Crown; Jeff Gural, racetrack executive and owner/breeder; Bill Popfinger, a respected horseman for over half a century; and Tim Tetrick, who has set new standards for harness racing sulky success before reaching the age of 40. In addition, Phil Pikelny, noted primarily as an author and a publicist for the U.S. Trotting Association and Columbus (OH)'s Scioto Downs, and Ken Weingartner, the USTA's Media Relations Manager, have been elected into the Harness Racing Communicators Hall of Fame. The Hall of Famers achieved their distinction by getting 75%+ of the "yes-no" ballots distributed in mid-summer; eligible for voting for the Hall of Famers were qualified members of USHWA and the existing Hall of Fame members. Those on the ballot were decided by the USHWA Screening Committee from the nominations of the Writers' chapters. Tom Charters worked his way through the ranks in harness racing, starting out as a caretaker (among his charges was Horse of the Year Delmonica Hanover) before becoming a racing secretary. In 1984 the Hambletonian Society hired Charters as executive director of the Breeders Crown, a newly-created series of season-end championship races, and his work in establishing the Crowns as signature events led to his being named executive director of the Society in 1994, then being promoted in 1998 to president and chief executive officer. Charters' tireless work in such diverse fields as increasing racing handle, simulcasting and television production, international racing, and brand name establishment, plus the temperament to juggle all of these jobs along with dealing the wide range of personalities at the highest levels of the sport, firmly established him as one of the captains of the industry. Jeff Gural was a longtime racing fan, owner, and breeder, associated with Allerage Farms, Little E LLC, and other equine partnerships, along with proprietorship of New York's Vernon Downs and Tioga Downs racetracks, when he undertook the monumental task of leading the privatization of the sport's flagship track in North America, The Meadowlands, away from a state-run operation of New Jersey. Enlisting the aid of many of the sport's top figures in addition to large investments of his own money, time, and expertise, Gural has been the directing force of the revitalization of the mile oval, with a new grandstand built on the old backstretch side of the track, a facility and the parallel racing program aimed squarely at maximizing revenue for all of racing's interlinked parties in today's changing, challenging gaming environment. Bill Popfinger has been a horseman for over 50 years, going from success at smaller tracks to operating a powerful Grand Circuit stable, and he continues his winning tradition today. Popfinger first hit the harness limelight 50 years when he guided Lady B Fast to an upset win over the great trotters Fresh Yankee and Nevele Pride at Yonkers, and he cemented his stardom with his famous daring early move to the lead with Happy Escort, "the lights on, the horn honking, and the pedal to the metal," to defeat heavy favorites Falcon Almahurst and Flight Director in the 1978 Little Brown Jug raceoff. That quote also cemented Popfinger's nickname of "Showbiz," and over the years he campaigned such marquee horses as Happy Motoring, Praised Dignity, Spellbound Hanover, Say Hello, and Spicy Charlie. Tim Tetrick, at age 37, has already become one of only four drivers to have driven the winners of over $200 million in his career, and few doubt he will contend for the top spot, John Campbell's $299M+ career total, before all is done - after all, any possible mishaps may not slow a man who already has two "bionic hips" after replacement surgery. Also the single-season money recordholder for a driver with $19.7M in 2008, Tetrick also produces quantity with quality, driving his 11,000th winner earlier this year, putting him ninth all-time, fifth among active drivers, and second in the 2019 dashwinning standings. The list of top horses associated with Tetrick is too long to mention here, but it is fairly safe to say that when it comes to Breeders Crown time and the selection of year-end awardwinners, the name "Tetrick" will be associated with several of the champions. To determine the Communicators Hall of Famers, chapter nominees were whittled down to five finalists by a blue-ribbon panel of USHWAns, and then the organization's directors selected two of that quintet for placement on the summer election ballot. They too were elected by winning 75%+ of the "yes-no" ballots returned, with all Active members of USHWA eligible to vote. Phil Pikelny was first noticed by harness executive Stan Bergstein while still at Northwestern University. He worked for the Horseman and Fair World, then at age 23 he became the youngest national publicity director in any sport when joining the U.S. Trotting Association. During that period he authored, with Don Evans, the book Rambling Willie: The Horse That God Loved, about the sport's first double millionaire, who had his earnings tithed to an Ohio church. He then was publicity director at Scioto Downs for a number of years. He was the president of the Harness Publicists Association, and the president of the Ohio Chapter of USHWA. Ken Weingartner first went to the harness races with his father "before I could walk," and upon returning to his native New Jersey after college and early newspaper work, his harness racing stories attracted the notice of the U.S. Trotting Association, for whom he now works as Media Relations Manager, writing stories about the leading horses and humans in the sport and conducting the national Top 10 weekly balloting. He received the Allen Finkelson Golden Pen Award for excellence in harness racing publicity, and also has been honored by Harness Horsemen International. The honorees will first be publicly honored at the USHWA Dan Patch Banquet, to be held on Sunday, February 23, 2020 at the Rosen Shingle Creek Resort in Orlando FL, where the Halls of Famers will take their first ensemble bow during the banquet honoring the top humans and equines of the previous year's racing. Then comes next July 5's formal induction to the Halls of Fame, at a dinner set just outside the building in which their likeness will be placed to immortalize their selection as harness racing's best of the best. From the United States Harness Writers Association  

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