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The United States Trotting Association has reported that Standardbred owner Ralph Branca, 90, the beloved three-time All-Star pitcher for the Brooklyn Dodgers who gave up a home run known as the ‘Shot Heard 'Round the World,’ passed away on Wednesday, November 23. On October 3, 1951, Branca gave up a three-run homer by outfielder Bobby Thomson as the New York Giants beat the Dodgers at the Polo Grounds in the ninth inning of a playoff game in the National League. The Shot Heard 'Round the World lifted the New York Giants right into the World Series. Branca was born January 6, 1926, in Mount Vernon, N.Y. He played 12 seasons in the MLB, from 1944 through the 1956 season. The right-handed starting pitcher threw for three teams: the Dodgers from 1944 to 1953 and then again in 1956, the Detroit Tigers from 1953 to 1954, and the New York Yankees in 1954. Branca was also a member of the USTA and was an owner of Standardbreds, most notably under the nom de course of Bramble Patch Farm. World champion pacer Kassa Branca p,2,1:52.3 ($743,893), a son of No Nukes who was foaled in 1986, was named after Branca and co-owner Doug Kass. The pacer won the million-dollar Woodrow Wilson in 1988 at the Meadowlands Racetrack in a world record time of 1:52.3.

Columbus, OH --- U.S. Trotting Association President and Director Phil Langley announced Sunday (Nov. 20) at a meeting of the USTA Board of Directors executive committee at the Columbus (OH) Airport Marriott hotel that he will resign from those positions effective Dec. 31, 2016. His current harness racing term was set to expire in 2019. Langley explained that given the situation in Illinois, where both Balmoral and Maywood Parks have been closed, he feels that he can no longer fairly address the ongoing concerns of the USTA. "I no longer have a track to represent and there is little quality racing in Illinois anymore," said Langley. "For years, my tracks were involved on a national basis with the American Nationals, the World Trotting Derby, the Windy City Pace and the Hanover Stakes among others. Without that base, I no longer feel a part of the national scene that is necessary for the USTA President." In accordance with USTA bylaw 11.04, since the vacancy in the presidency will occur within 60 days of the next USTA Annual Meeting, which is scheduled for Feb. 26-28, 2017 in Las Vegas (NV), USTA Chairman of the Board Ivan Axelrod will serve as interim president until the election of a new president at that time who will serve the remainder of Langley's term until 2019. USTA bylaw 11.04 states, "If a vacancy occurs in the office of the president, a meeting of the executive committee shall be called immediately to elect an interim president who shall serve until the next annual meeting of the full board of directors, at which time a president shall be elected for the balance of the term or a new four-year term if the existing term has expired. However, if the vacancy occurs within sixty (60) days of the next scheduled annual meeting, the chairman of the board shall serve as president until said meeting." Langley was first elected to the USTA Board of Directors from District 5 in 1983. He began the first of his four terms as USTA president in 2003. A 1959 graduate of Dartmouth College, Langley became racing director and racing secretary for the Chicago Downs Association and Fox Valley Trotting Club in 1965. He served in those positions as well as vice president of Fox Valley until 1998 when Sportsman's Park discontinued harness racing. Langley also was a member of the ownership group for both Balmoral Park and Maywood Park as served as treasurer of Balmoral and director of racing at both tracks. In addition, he was a member of the Illinois Department of Agriculture Advisory Board, Racing Industry Charitable Foundation board of directors, Harness Racing Museum and Hall of Fame board of trustees and the North American Harness Racing Secretaries Association. He also served in an advisory capacity for both the Illinois State Fair and Du Quoin State Fair. Langley was inducted in the Living Hall of Fame in Goshen, N.Y. on July 1, 2007 and was previously inducted into the Illinois Harness Horsemen's Hall of Fame in 1994. USTA Communications Department

Batavia, NY --- If you have ever attended live harness racing and realized you may be interested in becoming an active participant in America's oldest organized sport, Batavia Downs in conjunction with the United States Trotting Association and the Harness Horse Breeders of New York State is offering a new owner seminar on Saturday (Sept. 10) at 3:00 p.m. in the Robert J. Kane board room located in the lower grandstand. The program will include a two and a half hour classroom presentation by representatives of the United States Trotting Association (USTA) and the Harness Horse Breeders of New York (HHBNYS) and will include guest trainers, drivers, owners and management from Batavia Downs Race Track. Topics being discussed will be risk and reward, what it costs, choosing your horse, trainer and driver and will allow time for questions and answers throughout the evening. The package includes all needed classroom materials, a hands-on tour of the paddock as horses prepare for the nights action, reserved seating in the clubhouse, dinner at the prime rib, crab leg and shrimp buffet, a trip to the winner's circle for a win picture after a race, membership to the Harness Horse Breeders of New York State, $20 worth of free-play on the gaming floor and a free one-year subscription to the industry's award winning publication, Hoof Beats Magazine. The cost is only $30 for a single and $50 for a couple. Reservations should be made in advance but payment will be made at the door. There are several ways to register. There are links on both USTA and Batavia Downs Facebook pages or go to and click Prospective Owners Events. You can also e-mail or call 877-800-8782 ext. 5555 or 585-343-375 ext. 6322. This is your opportunity to own your own sports franchise and go from the grandstand to the winner's circle with your winning horse. Purses have never been higher at many tracks in North America and there has never been a better time to get involved in all the fun and excitement of harness racing ownership than right now.By Tim Bojarski, for Batavia Downs

The United States Trotting Association, in conjunction with the Goshen (NY) Yearling Sale, will conduct a free seminar on Saturday (Sept. 17) for current or former harness racing owners considering making the transition to owning yearlings for the first time. The seminar will run from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Topics include making a business plan and budget, staking considerations, the basics of pedigree and conformation analysis and how to evaluate pre-sale videos. Students will have the chance to inspect some of the yearlings in the next day's sale for real life examples of conformation strengths and weaknesses. "While it is exciting to own a proven raceway performer, there is little to compare with selecting a yearling and then watching that horse possibly develop into an accomplished stakes performer," says Bob Boni, president of the Goshen Yearling Sale. "The satisfaction is unmatched and the enjoyment can be unlimited. This USTA educational service can be very helpful in making that dream come true." The seminar will be held on the sales grounds at the Ford Training Center at 90 Slaughter Road in Middletown, N.Y. The next day, (Sunday, Sept. 18), approximately 175 yearlings will be sold at public auction. To sign up, go to the USTA store or call 732.780.3700, Ken Weingartner

Harnesslink has learned that a memo from United States Trotting Association (USTA) Executive Director Mike Tanner, was sent out on July 8 to all USTA Directors informing them that Converseon has opted out of its contract with the USTA. As per their agreement, Converseon had provided 60 days’ notice and will work with the USTA Marketing/Communications department through the transition period. The USTA had been working with Converseon for the past three years. Tanner said a strategy for 2017 would be developed in Columbus (OH) in preparation for a presentation to the USTA Executive Committee in November. Also that the Social Media Advisory Committee has been disbanded. “We were already entering our last year with the USTA,” said Rob Key, CEO of Converseon. “I alerted the USTA late last week since now seems a good time to begin a transition. “It is time for the sport to begin to take this over itself,” Key explained, “and more groups need to get involved. I’m very proud of what's been accomplished so far. “We have a first rate digital platform, ambassador program and more.” Key said, “We have reached millions of potential new fans. We are now generating new owner leads. Everything is now in place to go to next level. So this is time for us to step aside so that it can go to next level. “Two things are important moving forward,” Key added, “That this remains a first rate professional initiative platform and that more groups, including horseman groups, need to get involved too. Can't be all USTA only.” By Steve Wolf, for Harnesslink

After winning a race several years ago at Goshen Historic Track as a "student," Kimberly Gilman-Daios hopes to notch a victory at the upstate New York oval as a "teacher." Gilman-Daios won the U.S. Trotting Association Driving School exhibition race at Historic Track in 2012, with assistance from professional driver Gareth Dowse. Gilman-Daios attended the USTA Driving School because she wanted to get licensed as a trainer and driver, which she did soon after completing the program. On Friday, Gilman-Daios returns to Historic Track with Steuben Magic Ride, who competes in the first of two divisions of the New York Excelsior Series B for 3-year-old male pacers. Gilman-Daios owns and trains the gelding. "I'm looking forward to getting back there," Gilman-Daios said. "I love Goshen. That was like the best time of my life. It was a learning experience, definitely. I was in Ray Schnittker's barn and he does a really good job with his horses. Some of the things that he does I was able to take back with me and use on my own." Friday's eight-race card, which begins at 1 p.m., kicks off the Grand Circuit meet at Historic Track. There will be four days of racing at the track and Sunday's festivities include Hall of Fame inductions at the adjacent Harness Racing Museum and Hall of Fame. Steuben Magic Ride heads to his race Friday looking for his first win, but the pacer has posted two second-place finishes and two thirds in five career races. Four of his starts came last year, when Gilman-Daios drove the horse herself on the New York fair circuit. "He's still learning to race this year," Gilman-Daios said. "I wanted to win with him last year in the worst way, but he wasn't ready yet. He wasn't a fighter. But this year he's a tiger." Gilman-Daios got married last fall and gets help from husband Greg when he has time. "He wasn't into the horses before, but he married into it so he has no choice," Gilman-Daios said, laughing. "He works full time for a company, but he's been giving me a hand at the barn when he can." Gilman-Daios' family has been involved in harness racing for generations. She lived in New Hampshire when she attended the Driving School, but has moved to Vernon, N.Y., where she has a four-horse stable. She owns three of the horses and also trains a horse for another 2012 Driving School graduate, Sophie Engerran. "So far so good," said Gilman-Daios, who worked for a utilities company prior to deciding to focus on training horses. "Before I was at a retirement stage I wanted to have a stable and do this as a job. At the time (of the Driving School) it wasn't the right time because I had a career. Now I've made the time to do it. I enjoy it, I really do." by Ken Weingartner/Harness Racing Communications/USTA

Columbus, OH --- The U.S. Trotting Association announced on Wednesday (June 29) that a new, online version of the Trotting & Pacing Guide, the harness racing industry's media guide, was launched on its website, "Through the efforts of several departments at the USTA who have worked closely together on this project, we now have the most complete compilation of up-to-date information, statistics and records in the history of our industry," said USTA Executive Vice President and CEO Mike Tanner in making the announcement. "The new, online T&P Guide contains more current information than the annual, printed publication and it is available anywhere, anytime on any internet-capable device." The online version contains much more information than the printed edition and provides up-to-date information, statistics and records on a daily basis instead of being restricted to annual updates. It will now provide interactive features for desktop and laptop computers as well as mobile devices. Since the information resides in a number of different places, a new landing page was created for the T&P Guide that will provide navigation to the previous information in the book as well as all of the new information that is now available. A new T&P Guide tab is located on the top (black) menu bar on every page of beside the existing PATHWAY link for ease of access. Up-to-date, industry-wide statistical information will reside in PATHWAY to provide greatly expanded reports and categories. Many reports will be available at no cost, but will also include hyperlinks and the ability to research other paid PATHWAY offerings, including video replays. In addition, a new All-Time category is offered for the Top Performers' reports. Updated daily for current leaders, this will also allow easy online research of all previous year's Top Performers' information without the need for a library of the annual, printed editions of the T&P Guide books. Additional statistical categories and more new information will be added moving forward. From the USTA Communications Department  

ANDERSON, Ind.-June 22, 2016 - With carry-overs in excess of $5,000, Hoosier Park Racing & Casino has announced a $15,000 Guaranteed Pick-4 pool and a $15,000 Guaranteed Hoosier High-5 pool for Thursday, June 23 at Hoosier Park Racing & Casino. In partnership with the United States Trotting Association Strategic Wagering program and the Indiana Standardbred Association, Hoosier Park will offer these signature wagers for the 14-race harness racing card on Thursday that is set to begin at 5:45 p.m. Two long-shot winners in Wednesday's Pick-4 sequence at Hoosier Park sparked a carryover of $5,163.92 and will kick-start the Pick-4 pool for Thursday. The long shot trend continued throughout Wednesday evening and produced carry-overs in both the pick-5 sequence and the Hoosier High-5. The Pick-5, which will start in race 10, will feature a $1,499.36 carry-over. The Hoosier High-5 is featured in the last race of every program and will offer a $15,000 Guaranteed pool with $5,701.72 in carry-over money. The 14-race card slated for Thursday, will be highlighted by the $21,000 Invitational Trot and the $20,000 Ralph and Dorothy Rose Series Final. The Pick-4, which offers a 50-cent minimum wager, begins in the third race and will continue through the sixth race. Approximate post time for the first leg of the wager, the third race, is 6:25 p.m. (est.). Free past performances for the Pick 4 and Hoosier High-5 races will be available on the Hoosier Park website. Expert selections and handicapping tools are also available on Hoosier Park's website and The United States Trotting Association's website. The USTA Strategic Wagering program, which began five years ago, is a cooperative program among the USTA and its member tracks that is designed to provide value to horseplayers by guaranteeing the size of designated betting pools. Live racing at Hoosier Park will follow a Tuesday-Saturday schedule, with a daily post time of 5:45 p.m. The 160-day, all harness racing meet will be conducted through November 12. Racing fans are reminded of an upcoming adjusted 4:30 p.m. post time at Hoosier Park on Saturday, May 25 to accommodate the Steve Miller Band concert in Hoosier Park's outdoor music center. For more information on the upcoming entertainment of live racing schedule, please visit Emily Gaskin

Columbus, OH --- The Meadowlands Racetrack and the U.S. Trotting Association will host a special Night at the Races on July 30 for new and prospective harness racing owners. The event will begin at 5 p.m. with an educational session on the basics of racehorse ownership and will feature a lineup of successful owners and trainers to share their knowledge and experience. An exciting night of live harness racing will follow, featuring eliminations for the Hambletonian Oaks, hosted in a Pink Skybox. There will be on-site opportunities to purchase shares of horses already racing, as well as a special invitation to the Preferred Equine Summer Mixed Sale the following day (July 31) with a sales concierge to guide the experience. Special guests include: David Reid - President, Preferred Equine Marketing, Inc. Tony Alagna - trainer Paul Kelley - trainer Julie Miller - trainer Tom Janes - VIP Stable Frank Baldachino - owner Christine Czernyson - Team JC Stable Brian and Ira Wallach - owners David Glasser - amateur driver and owner Interested parties can sign up now at USTA Communications Department      

STICKNEY, IL - Beginning this Thursday, June 2, Hawthorne Race Course and the United States Trotting Association have teamed up to offere guaranteed pools in a pair of pick 4 harness racing wagers at Hawthorne. Through the USTA Strategic Wagering Program, with assistance from, guaranteed pools for the Late Pick 4 at Hawthorne every Thursday and Sunday will be offered. On Thursdays, the guarantee in the Late Pick 4 pool will be $15,000, covering races 8-11. On Sundays, the guarantee in the Late Pick 4 pool will be $20,000, covering races 7-10. At Hawthorne Race Course, the Pick 4 wagers carry a $.50 minimum wager and a low 15% takeout. By joining with the USTA Strategic Wagering Program, bettors will receive free past performances through for both of these wagering sequences. Jim Miller

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

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

For horse owner Joe Battaglia, a trip to the United States Trotting Association Driving School in 2012 had little to do with becoming a trainer or driver, but everything to do with enhancing his enjoyment of harness racing, not to mention his level of participation. Battaglia, who got his first horse in 2006 and two years ago joined the ownership group of top older male pacer Rockeyed Optimist, attended the USTA Driving School in Goshen, N.Y., not far from his home near Saratoga Springs. It was the first of four consecutive years of the school being conducted in upstate New York. This year, the 17th annual edition of the Driving School will be held at the Delaware County Fairgrounds, Delaware, Ohio, home of the Little Brown Jug, June 1-4. The school begins Wednesday evening (June 1) with a welcome reception/dinner and keynote address from George Teague Jr., owner of 2015 Horse of the Year Wiggle It Jiggleit and trainer of 2004 Horse of the Year Rainbow Blue. Classroom and hands-on instruction will be conducted each day Thursday through Saturday. In addition to offering basics for driving and training, the school’s curriculum has been expanded to include information on ownership of Standardbreds. “It was a great experience,” said Battaglia, a CPA who has horses with trainer John Mongeon in Saratoga. “It was a lot of fun. I wanted to be a little more hands on. I like going to the barn. I try to stay out of the way because everyone there knows what they’re doing, but I thought if I could occasionally jog a horse it would be interesting to learn how to do it. “I don’t have any aspirations of driving or training; I think those are beyond my skill level. But it’s fun to know I can take one of my horses out and jog them.” Battaglia grew up going to the Thoroughbred and Standardbred races in Saratoga Springs. When he and some friends decided to give horse ownership a try, they partnered on a harness racing horse. “We started with Standardbreds not knowing where it would go from there,” Battaglia said. “I just really enjoyed the breed and the people I dealt with, so that’s where I stayed. There are options for Thoroughbred ownership up here, but I like the Standardbred game because you can be more hands on, more involved.” In addition to owning horses, Battaglia is the president of Heading for Home Racehorse Retraining/Adoption Center in Saratoga Springs. The not-for-profit organization was founded in 2011 and also features equine-assisted therapy in cooperation with ECS Psychological Services of Saratoga. A therapy arena was constructed with funds raised in memory of horseman Alan Kirschenbaum. Standardbred horse owner Erin Christopher-Sisk founded ECS Psychological Services and serves as clinical director. Her husband, Jim, also attended the USTA Driving School in 2012, as did Heading for Home Treasurer John Cimino. “It was a spinoff of ownership,” Battaglia said about the organization, which currently is home to seven horses, primarily Standardbreds. “We thought there should be an organization formed to better help provide an option for people who wanted to stand behind a horse after their racing days were over. We slowly gathered momentum and now have a permanent location.” Battaglia looks back fondly on his participation in the USTA Driving School and still keeps in touch with a number of people who were involved in the program. “It was nice to be around people who were enthusiastic about the business,” Battaglia said. “The people who worked with us were very nice and very helpful, from the USTA to the people in the barns. I was in (trainer) Rob Harmon’s barn. It was fun to learn the behind-the-scenes aspect of the business. As an owner, being around the barn is as much fun as race day. “It was a great time. I would recommend that anyone interested in the business go try it out.” For more information about this year’s Driving School, or to enroll online, click here. Those interested in attending should not delay; enrollment is limited. Click here to learn about incentives for attending the program. by Ken Weingartner, Harness Racing Communications 

In conjunction with BetAmerica and the $50,000 World Harness Handicapping Championship, the U.S. Trotting Association announced that they will sponsor a free, online harness racing qualifying contest at on Friday (April 1), with the top 10 finishers earning an entry ($800 value) into the WHHC final to be held at the Meadowlands on Saturday (April 30). TrackMaster will provide free Platinum Plus past performances for the online qualifying contest. Contestants can enter the online qualifying contest for free at by clicking here. Players new to BetAmerica can register for free to be able to participate in the contest. The contest format will be the selection of one horse and an alternate, in case of a late scratch, for a $2 Win-Place wager on each race at the Meadowlands on April 1 and will feature the LIVE PLAY option that allows selections for each race to be made up until approximately two minutes to post time. Winning pari-mutuel payouts will be limited to 20-1 ($42) for win and 10-1 ($22) for place. If both selections are scratched, the player will receive the post-time favorite for that race. Entries will be limited to one per player. The 2016 World Harness Handicapping Championship will bring together horseplayers from across North America to compete for $50,000 in prize money (based upon 100 entries) in a one-day contest on April 30. The buy-in fee to enter the WHHC final at the Meadowlands is $800, with $500 for the entry fee and $300 as the contest bankroll. For more information on the 2016 WHHC contest format and rules, click here. is the only online licensed and regulated operator offering both pari-mutuel wagering, on more than 300 tracks from across the globe, and handicapping contests every day of the week. Powered by BAM Software's Interactive Platform, in association with Lien Games Racing LLC, BetAmerica holds all required licenses and approvals from applicable racing commissions. All wagers are securely commingled into host track betting pools and all winning wagers are paid at full track odds. Members have access to instantaneous wagering and bet verification, free live streaming video, and current track odds. Ken Weingartner USTA Communications Department

U.S. Trotting Association President Phil Langley announced Friday (March 18) that the USTA will make a $5,000 donation to the Florida Standardbred Breeders and Owners Association to assist harness racing horsemen involved in the fire at the South Florida Trotting Center near Lake Worth on March 16. The fire led to the death of 12 horses and injuries to many others. "Long ago, in 1960, the stable owned by Billy Johnston and managed by my dad was wiped out in a fire at Maywood Park and I still remember the horrible smell and the sight of burned horses to this day," said Langley. "It was heart-rending. "This is a terrible tragedy for all of the people and horses involved. These are the times when we see the incredible support of others in the harness racing industry and the USTA wants to assist in the fundraising effort for those involved," added Langley. A horse racing online radio program, Post Time with Mike and Mike, quickly set up a GoFund Me account to help the horsemen and the training center that has raised more than $36,000 in the first two days. Anyone wishing to donate to the fund can go to or by visiting Ken Weingartner Harness Racing Communications

A line item on the USTA budget exhibited to the Finance Committee at the recently concluded annual meeting revealed that $15,000 of members’ money was spent to perform Out of Competition testing by the Meadowlands at a lab outside the USA. This is odd to say the least, and is an indication that perhaps we should all be looking a little more closely at the issue of USTA spending and transparency. On this particular issue, while the Meadowlands claims that track management does foreign testing out of its own pocket, it is USTA members’ money that is being used for that purpose. When further inquiry was made, it was revealed that the cost of the Hong Kong tests amounted to an outrageous $600.00 per test. From what I understand, that is far in excess of drug testing costs charged by USA labs, which range from $90.00 to $150.00 per test.  Inasmuch as there are labs in America that are highly competent, one has to wonder why a foreign lab is being used in the first place.  More importantly, why is members’ money being used while track management insists that these tests – purportedly being conducted in the interest of a much heralded need for integrity – are already being paid for by the Meadowlands management? USTA President Langley says that the Board approved the expenditure of USTA funds’ to any track that sought to conduct out of competition testing. Indeed, if such an expenditure was approved by the USTA board, I have since found it difficult to find anyone who remembers such a USTA vote. That said, and assuming that it was duly approved somehow, why didn’t the use of members ' money come with mandatory due process protections for horsemen – such as split sample confirmation testing by an independent USA lab? After all, a portion of that $15,000 given to the Meadowlands for Hong Kong testing, was generated in part from the then accused horsemen's dues and fees. As a membership-elected Director, I sought only to fully understand exactly what was happening with our members’ money and I did not receive an answer I thought satisfactory.   And beyond the issue of transparency on USTA spending itself, there is also the issue of transparency in testing. If there was a split sample and confirmation afforded, then a state commission could conduct an inquiry and let the entire industry know if a rule violation indeed occurred.  If someone actually cheated, shouldn't the entire industry be made aware of it and a US commission therefore be put in a position to penalize some one? Or are we to be satisfied with just one man's pronouncement? On another issue, the USTA has approved (and I supported) the setting aside of up to $120,000 for subsidizing the TV broadcast of major races up to a maximum of $37,000 per track.  While the same limit was in place in 2015, it appears that the number was indeed exceeded for two particular events in 2015. One track received $60,000 and another $56,000, overrides of nearly $23,000 and $19,000 respectively.  While these events are important, I learned that the USTA agreed to cover any overrides on these events. That is obviously troubling and raises the question of whether the directors are being told one thing at the annual meeting and then learn about subsequent decisions long after they are sent home.  At the end of the day, the directors should feel confident that they know who is controlling the expenditures of money and whether any of these expenditures are beyond, or in contravention of, the Board's expressed will. Again, as I can best discern the authority granted was to spend no more than $37,000 per event. In addition to the above, the USTA is about to raise dues and fees in 2018 – – in anticipation of a near $1,000,000 budget deficit in 5 years or so. That increase will come the year after the Board meets in, of all places, Las Vegas, in 2017.  So with that said , what the heck is the USTA doing to justify the expenditure of  budget items like $15,000 for the Meadowlands’ Hong Kong drug testing, overrides for TV expenditures or even $250,000 for high-priced social media initiatives with admittedly no metrics to allow the directors to determine their efficacy? Especially on the heels of a dues and fees increase, if one is necessary for projects deemed necessary and fruitful, one can fully support those. The TV project is “guesstimated” to have reached an estimated 40,000 households out of a US population of 323,000,000, which doesn’t seem worthy of any cost override being absorbed by the USTA or a justification to be part of a dues and fees increase any more than the social media effort can be. The social media expenditure of an even greater sum has no metric except the main proponent’s full court press with uninformed members, and a structured e mail and letter writing campaign that was coupled with the disgraceful last minute intimidation of directors.  On this item, remember that our social media expert told us when we first embarked on this venture that spending money on TV was cost inefficient. However, after the public campaign to make the USTA change its position on TV funding, the expert changed oars and we were told TV was a necessary component to the social media effort. While social media is very important and worth continuing and evaluating, don't we as directors have a responsibility to act as fiduciaries when spending members' money and insure that our social media efforts are worth the expenditure. Are we blindly to follow the presentation and politicking of the party interested in us spending money on social media when there is admittedly no metric to guide us? Is that good economic sense or responsible stewardship of our members’ money? At least the young director from Wisconsin, Gabe Wand, sought to inject some oversight on our social media guru in the future.  Many of us saw an increased role in the future for those very capable employees, like Allison Conte to name just one, at the USTA who do much of the work anyway. By the way, horsemen’s’ associations, track social media outlets and members like Ashley Tetrick and Ryan Macedonio also do great jobs in the social media arena with much less media dollars. I am certain that the position I espouse here will be vociferously attacked, but so be it. In conclusion, the USTA has a responsibility to clearly and transparently demonstrate that our funds are being used well, whether it is a social media campaign, TV overrides, or the arbitrary use of Hong Kong tests.  It seems to me that the USTA may need its stall mucked unless, as some horsemen say, the reality is that USTA actually stands for the United States Track Association. By Joe Faraldo

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