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North Island reinsman Andre Poutama claimed the title of Australasian Young Drivers Champion after the final heat was held at Tabcorp Park Menangle in New South Wales yesterday. The Championships were held over six days, with ten heats run over that period. Ten drivers from across Australasia competed in the Championships. Poutama took the lead in the second day of competition and maintained a comfortable lead throughout. From the ten heats, Poutama picked up one win, two seconds, four thirds and a fourth. The two other representatives from New Zealand, Samantha Ottley and Simon McMullan, also drove well The two other representatives from New Zealand, Samantha Ottley and Simon McMullan, also drove well throughout the Championship. Ottley was the only driver that could have beaten Poutama heading into the final heat, but after an unlucky run she finished in third place overall. Dylan Ford from Tasmania finished into second, after winning the last heat. The three representatives from New Zealand are made up of the best North Island driver, the best South Island driver and the driver with the best UDR (Universal Driver Rating), these drivers are all junior drivers as they must be under 25 to qualify for the event. The 2015 Australasian Young Drivers Championship is set to be held in New Zealand. Harness Racing New Zealand

The Harness Racing Museum & Hall of Fame is proud to offer a breeding to Guccio as part of our stallion breeding auction.  This is a unique opportunity as his book is sure to be full and closed very shortly.   The world champion and million-dollar winning trotter Guccio 4,1:51.1f ($1,021,809) begins stud duty at Victory Hill Farm, one of the leading farms in Indiana.  He will stand for a fee of $5,000 for the 2014 breeding season.    Trained by Hall of Famer Jimmy Takter, Guccio is a son of Yankee Glide and the $181,000 winner Southern Senorita. He showed talent early as a 2-year-old, taking a mark of 1:55.4 as a freshman and winning the Champlain. He became one of the top contenders of his generation as a 3-year-old and missed winning the $1.5 million Hambletonian by a neck. His 3-year-old record of 1:52.1 was earned via a victory in a Bluegrass division at The Red Mile and then as a 4-year-old in 2013 he trotted to his personal best of 1:51.1f, establishing a world record for 4-year-old trotters.   “Guccio is a very classy and beautiful horse and one of my personal favorites,” said Takter.   “He is a world champion and a perfect racehorse in every way.  It was our plan to race in Europe in 2014 had this opportunity for him to enter the stud not developed.  Indiana clearly has one of the most attractive regional programs and we do plan to breed to Guccio as I believe he has every quality to become an outstanding trotting sire.”   Income raised by the stallion auction, nearly $540,000 over the past 15 years, supports the Museum's General Operating Fund. It helps to ensure quality services, special exhibitions, traveling exhibits, promotional support and educational programming for children and adults. Our efforts also help to encourage new owners and fans!   For additional information on the auction, to donate breedings, or to receive a complete list of stallions and conditions for bidding, please contact Joanne Young at 845.294.6330, or visit, where updates will also be posted.    The Harness Racing Museum & Hall of Fame is located at 240 Main Street in Goshen, N.Y. and is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. (last tour 4 p.m.). Thanks to USTA support, the Museum is currently offering free admission for walk-in visitors and group docent-guided tours at a minimal charge per person. For additional information about the Museum, its membership program, special events and educational programs please call 845.294.6330 or visit   From the Harness Racing Museum & Hall of Fame  

Last night heats 6 and 7 of the Australasian Young Drivers Championship were held at Young. Andre Poutama continued his great run, picking up two more third placings. In the first heat of the night, Andre’s runner had to work hard early, but managed to hold on for third place. Sam Ottley and Simon McMullan struck some bad luck when the horse in front of them paced roughly and carried them back to finish 8th and 9th respectively. The second heat saw Narissa McMullen from Queensland pick up her second win of the Championships after a confident drive. Sam tried to chase down the leader but came short and ran 2nd; Andre wasn’t far off Sam and finished in 3rd position. Simon’s horse held on for 6th after doing some work during the running. Dylan Egerton-Green from Western Australia closed the gap at the top of the leader board, but Andre still sits in front with a lead of 7 points. Andre has now had seven drives in the Championship for one win and five placings, only being out of the top three in one heat. The current leader board after the first seven heats is as follows: Position Driver Points 1st Andre Poutama (NZ North) 66 2nd Dylan Egerton-Green (WA) 59 3rd Narissa McMullen (QLD) 54 4th Samantha Ottley (NZ Sth) 46 5th Amanda Turnbull (NSW) 42 5th Aiden De Campo (WA) 42 7th Aaron Bain (SA) 41 8th Dylan Ford (TAS) 40 9th Joshua Duggan (VIC) 33 10th Simon McMullan (NZ) 29 Heats continue at Bankstown tonight with Heat 8 (5:14pm NZT) & Heat 9 (5:53pm NZT), with the final heat being the first race on Inter Dominion Grand Final day on Sunday afternoon (2:30pm NZT).                

Three bonuses will add to the Carnival Of Cups at Albury, Wagga and Young early next month with more than $250,000 prizemoney to be distributed. The three $1000 bonuses have been offered by the three clubs along with ITP (Income Tax Professionals). The first bonus will be for the best performed horse in the three cups, the second to the leading Riverina trainer over the three meetings and the last will be an open draw. Albury will commence the big three on March 1, followed by Wagga and Young on consecutive Saturday nights. Young Harness Racing Club secretary Brian Ingram said the bonuses would add extra interest to the meetings. “It’s a great thing for the three clubs to get together to offer the bonuses,” he said. “It gives the Riverina owners and trainers a great chance to earn additional money.” Young’s meeting will be the richest in the region with a $45,000 Cup and $16,000 Oaks for three-year-old fillies. Albury’s carnival will be held next Saturday and is expected to attract a lot of interest from Victorian trainers. Albury president Jeff Hogan hopes the bonuses will help draw additional horses. “There is a lot of money being offered between the three meetings and the bonuses allow every owner and trainer the chance to earn something extra,” he said. Wagga is the middle leg of the three Carnival Of Cups and the first the club has held since October, 2012. “We held two Carnival Of Cups in the space of six months in 2012 and not one in 2013 because of the way the dates fell,” Wagga Harness Racing Club chief executive Graeme White said. “This date on a Saturday night at the start of autumn is ideal. “I’m expecting it to be the biggest meeting we have held at Wagga for a few seasons for that reason.” ITP franchisee Simon Rosengren said his business was pleased to support the bonus for the trainers who race their pacers week in and week out. “The open draw bonus allows every trainer the chance to win $1000 even if their horse runs last,” he said. Wagga will also offer a $1000 holiday prize for one lucky racegoer, while country music star Adam Brand will perform between races on March 8. Meanwhile, Wagga is supporting the fundraiser for Ganmain boy Jake Underwood who was recently diagnosed with leukaemia. Fund raising organisers will conduct a major raffle at Wagga’s meeting where first prize is a 420 litre fridge. Harness Racing New South Wales

Dover Downs is capital of the sport this Sunday (Feb. 23). The U.S. Harness Writers Association's (USHWA) Night of Champions comes to Dover Downs for its 67th annual awards-dinner in the Rollins Center. The highlight of the evening will be announcement of the 2013 Horse of the Year. Among champion division winning horses and individuals being honored are three local horsepersons, Corey Callahan receives the "Rising Star Award," Judy Davis -Wilson is USHWAn of the Year while Janet Davis receives the Harness Horse Youth Foundations 'Service to Youth' award for her charitable voluntary work to make the Christmas season a happy time for hundreds of youngster in Delaware. Complete information on the awards-dinner visit the USHWA website: ----------------------------------- For those not at the USHWA 'Night of Champions' at Dover Downs, check the USTA website:  for video streaming of the sports biggest night of the year starting at approximately 6 p.m. ---------------------------------------- Also on Sunday, a Dan Patch dinner auction will take place with items such as: Yannick Gingras colors and helmet, personally autographed; an original Mary Lou Dondarski acrylic painting of Bee A Magician and another acrylic painting of Captaintreacherous; Bill Haught's winning engraved clock trophy training Nihilator in the $2-million Woodrow Wilson Pace.; Now River bracelets, LV Harkness-etched clock; a breeding to Dream Away amony many more items. Those not at the banquet can bid on any or all of the items by calling 954-654-3757 or 732-306-6713 or 732-547-9459 until 7 p.m. ------------------------------------------ Statistics for the early 2014 season show Dover Downs regulars Corey Callahan and Ron Piece off to fast starts. Currently, Callahan leads all drivers in the sport with more than 100 wins. Ron Pierce is now second in the standing some 25 behind. Ross Wolfenden is 11th with 48 wins, ------------------------------------------------------------- Corey Callahan is alone at the top of the track leading driver category in quest of a fifth consecutive track title.  This meet, Callahan has won 178 races. Ross Wolfenden has moved into second place with 887 wins.  Allan Davis is third with 61 winners. Ron Pierce has moved into third with 75 wins and Vic Kirby, fifth, with 74 wins. ------------------------------------ Callahan's second win on Thursday (2/20), came with #8 Chrusher Man in the 5th race. The 8-1 official odds turned out 55-1 and Callahan drove the four-year-old pacer to one of his four wins that night, a lifetime mark of 153. By the way, the horse went off at 55-1 and paid $113.40 for a $2-dollar win ticket ------------------------------------------ Dylan Davis has extended his first place lead in the trainer standings with 50 wins. Wayne Givens is second with 39 winners. Trish Foulk is third with 37 wins. Joe Hundertpfund is fourth, 36 wins and Les Givens, 33, is fifth in the standings.   by Marv Bachrad, for Dover Downs

There is a “grass roots” movement currently going on in harness racing, which is being led by two prominent horse owners, Richard and Joanne Young of South Florida. They have been owners in the Standardbred industry for 20 plus years. Joanne has been riding and showing Arabian horses for 30 years. Over the years they have had the pleasure of owning not one, but two world champion performers, Put On A Show (31 wins in 50 starts with earnings of $2.4 million) and I Luv The Nitelife (17 wins in 25 stars with earnings of $1.9 million) in addition to other stakes winners over the years. I Luv The Nitelife was recently announced as the Three-Year-Old Pacing Filly of the Year for 2013. They travel throughout the country to watch their horse’s race and are big supporters of the industry. Now the Young’s are on a different mission, one that has been involved in a series of hotly debated discussions for years but solutions have been far from being solved. The Young’s want every track and state racing commission that has harness racing to put a stop to drivers who over use the whip in races and take their feet and touch or kick their horse during a race. This all came about because someone did a blog on the internet last Fall, regarding the non compliance with the rules regarding kicking and whipping that woke Joanne Young up. The Young’s took the initiative and started asking and inquiring about the rules and regulations of various states. They sent letters and emails to major race and industry officials throughout the country and learned quite a bit. “I couldn’t tell you how many emails, letters and calls we made,” Joanne said. “ We got back some calls and about a half dozen emails and some of them were so encouraging. Most states have rules but track management and the judges need to enforce them and in some cases increase the fines and suspensions significantly so drivers will not abuse the horses as many do.” “Tracks and judges make their own rules and maybe give a fine after a couple of offenses.” Young said. “It’s like a slap on the wrist and some drivers may say it’s worth the fine to win the race because of the purse. Personally I don’t see why either method is used.  These horses are bred to race and I don’t believe that a whip or a “kick” does anything to make the horse perform better.  To those people that say the “kick” is nothing and does not hurt the horse, I say all you have to do is watch what happens to the driver’s leg when he comes into contact with the hock.  The leg is forcefully pushed back and looks like kicking.  So whatever you want to call it, it looks horrible and the public perceives it as abuse.  For that reason alone it needs to be banned.”  According The United States Trotting Association’s penalties that are suggestions as guidelines to pari-mutuel state gaming commission and racetracks are:  “The penalty for kicking as defined herein shall not be less than 9 days suspension.”  For excessive whipping the suggestion is, “The mandatory minimum penalty for a whipping violation shall be a fine in the amount of $100 and a 3 day suspension from driving for the first offense and for each subsequent violation the mandatory minimum penalty shall increase in the amount of $100 and 3 days (e.g. $200 and 6 days for the 2nd offense, $300 and 9 days for the 3rd offense, etc.)”  “These rules are a joke and everyone in the harness racing business knows it, because either they are not enforced or the penalty is too lenient.” Joanne Young said. “ We want to see a cohesive rule that states that the right hand remain on the right line and the left hand remain on the left line during the race and that the feet must have no contact with the horse.    “The penalty for not following these rules will be suspension for 2 months and a $5,000 fine,” Young continued, “or placement of the horse. We need to make the punishment harsh enough to stop the actions.  Of course an easier fix is just to ban both practices immediately. Other countries have rules in place and no kicking or one handing whipping is allowed or tolerated. If the owners/drivers/trainers lose money you can bet that the drivers will stop immediately. We need to bring some credibility back to this sport.” Jeff Gural, the prominent owner and CEO of three racetracks, the Meadowlands, Tioga Downs and Vernon Downs, wrote back and also talked with the Young’s about their quest and encouraged them with this scenario. “I met with the drivers before the start of the meet,” Gural said, “and told them anyone kicking a horse would not be allowed to drive at our tracks, period. No one complained. The whipping is tricky because to change the rule in NJ you need public hearings, etc. The drivers are opposed to this but we have implemented a temporary rule which has cut it way down, but I will back any effort to make the rules stricter.” Joanne has been in touch with the Ohio and Kentucky Racing Commission in regards to their recent rule changes.  She is also in the midst of trying to get a rule change on the agenda with the New Jersey Racing Commission. The Young’s also have had encouraging conversations with prominent owners, drivers and trainers who are on board with rule changes and harsher penalties.  Not everyone though wants to publicly share his or her personal views.  According to Joanne, this is due to the fact that the  “old school” of racing sees nothing wrong with the status quo and some fear repercussions.  “We had one judge,” Richard Young said, “Who actually said he had no problem with a driver touching the hock or flank of a horse when racing and that as long as a driver did not slash a horse with a whip, it was okay. He said horses are tough and can take it. That just infuriated us to no end. How can anyone, especially, a racing judge, say something like that?  “We want this movement to be in a positive light,” Joanne Young explained. “There is a public perception of abuse and we can and should stop it. It is an easy fix for the harness racing commissions to all agree to a cohesive and enforceable rule. I also believe the drivers would like the same rule for all the harness tracks making their job easier.  The USTA is going to be meeting this March. If you a proponent of banning the kicking and one handed whipping please voice your opinion with them or contact me. All we need is for the racing commissions to agree, and we can finally put this controversial subject to rest.” By Steve Wolf for

Fourth in a series of stories about 2013’s leading drivers, the vehicles they drive in pursuit of victory, and other current relevant facts. 2013 North American dashwinning champion Ronnie Wrenn Jr. owes a good deal of thanks for his learning the skills that helped win him that title to his father, Michigan Hall of Famer Ron Wrenn Sr. – and he also is appreciative of his dad for providing another kind of “horsepower.” “I did most of the driving in my truck, a 2011 Ford F-150, between racetracks during last summer,” said the 27-year-old recently, “but when I decided to race at Northfield during the week and take advantage of the fact that Colonial Downs (near Richmond VA, 450 miles away) raced on weekends last fall, my dad, along with a Northfield regular named “Road Dog,’ got behind the wheel of the truck most of the time so I could get some sleep between the Friday night Northfield card and the Saturday afternoon racing at Colonial.” The truck had 160,000 miles on it by year’s end – “probably 60,000 or 70,000 miles just last year,” Ron Jr., also known as "Ronnie," adds – but also at year’s end Ron had 714 wins, clear by 69 victories for the North American crown. Among the top ten drivers, only he and another Ron (Pierce) had 50 or more wins at four different tracks, and no one but Wrenn had 20+ wins at seven different ovals. One of those tracks, Raceway Park in Toledo, isn’t back in 2014, which Ron Jr. laments (you would too if you had a .532 UDR at a track that was closing). But he’s trying his hand at the new Miami Valley oval presently, and he’s only four wins behind leader Tony Hall while driving a limited schedule as he continues to make Northfield, the track where he won 388 races last year, his base. In fact, it’s remarkable that Wrenn has climbed back to third in the Northfield 2014 standings already – considering he underwent surgery at the start of the season and didn’t race at the Cleveland oval until January 29. “I had to get my right wrist, which I broke playing football when I was younger, operated on. I had been dealing with the situation for a while – I had been going to therapy for three years for it – but it was just time to get the situation fixed properly. I’ve recovered well, and I’m feeling awesome right now.” Which is bad news for those trying to keep Wrenn from defending his dash title. Despite driving on only 17 cards this year, Ronnie has 40 victories at press time, good for 21st in North America in “half the season” the others have had available to them. (One win higher in the standings – his uncle Peter, at 9,200+ career wins.) Ron Wrenn Jr. says he tries to keep up with sports news when he is driving his truck – “My favorite is ESPN Sports, and I can usually find a station with it wherever I drive.” If he keeps up his winning rate since coming back from his injury, Ronnie may hear his name over the airwaves in ten months or so -- the national media will have to sit up and take note if a 28-year-old already has two national win titles to his career credit. Driver                      Total Wins        Tracks                           Wins Ron Wrenn Jr. 714 Northfield 388     Northville 96     Scioto 88     Raceway Park 52     Buffalo 29     Colonial 27     Batavia 21     Hazel Park 7     Monticello 4     Wooster 2 By Jerry Connors for

If you attended the SBOA banquet February 15, 2014 you might have missed the quiet young couple sitting at the back of the room.  They were unique in this crowd of veteran breeders. Dave and Helen Friesen were there to bid on a stud’s service fee for their first horse, a Standardbred broodmare, named Roxanna Hanover. While others these days are selling their stock and leaving the business, this young pair are jumping in with a passion. Dave and Helen live in South Woodslee, a little town east of Windsor, Ontario. Dave works in a manufacturing plant near their home, while Helen stays home and looks after their four children (all under the age of six). Their next door neighbours, Tom and Liz Knight, were the ones that peaked their interest in the sport of horse racing. After joining the Knights on a trip to Dresden and getting their pictures taken in the winner’s circle, they wanted to learn more about the sport. Dave and Helen loaded their four children and their parents in the SUV and headed off to Leamington for the race days in September and October 2013. Caleb, their youngest son had just been born, so they would park close to the track’s outside fence and leave Mom and son in the car to watch. The other three kids, with Dave and grandparents in tow, visited the pony rides, got their faces painted, petted the animals in the mini zoo and clapped at the fence as they watched the horses race by. It was the family atmosphere at the track that convinced the Friesens that this was something their whole family could enjoy. Tom and Liz Knight helped them pick out, Roxanna Hanover, a daughter of Real Artist out of a Matt Scooter mare with a mark of 1.53.2 and earnings of over $160,000 Jack McIntosh,  father of the famous horse trainers  Robert and Doug McIntosh, often said” When everyone walks you run, and when everyone runs, you walk.” This young couple may be walking when everyone else is running. Who knows maybe they will be the owners of future champions in this great sport of harness racing. Good luck Dave and Helen, we will look for you in the winner’s circle. By Ruleen Lilley, for SBOA (Ontario)

The annual Standardbred Breeders of Ontario Association (SBOA) Awards banquet honoured the breeders of the top Ontario Sires Stakes performers of 2013 on Saturday night at the Holiday Inn Guelph Hotel and Conference Centre. The evening included cocktails, dinner, a silent auction, a stallion auction and the awards presentations. The award winners are listed below. Two-Year-Old Pacing Filly Performing Art, bred by Bob Young, David Garrett, Premier & Associates 2013 OSS Earnings: $182,600 Two-Year-Old Pacing Colt/Gelding Bugger Bruiser, bred by Gerald Mijal 2013 OSS Earnings: $206,100 Two-Year-Old Trotting Filly Riveting Rosie, bred by Schare Adams 2013 OSS Earnings: $232,750 Two-Year-Old Trotting Colt/Gelding Muscle Matters, bred by Reg and Donna Higgs 2013 OSS Earnings: $216,300 Three-Year-Old Pacing Filly Pan Luis Obispo, bred by Peter Pan Stables Inc. 2013 OSS Earnings: $165,000 Three-Year-Old Pacing Colt/Gelding Mach It So, bred by Enviro Stables Ltd. 2013 OSS Earnings: $215,000 Three-Year-Old Trotting Filly Bee A Magician, bred by White Birch Farm 2013 OSS Earnings: $280,000 Three-Year-Old Trotting Colt/Gelding Flanagan Memory, bred by Michel Flanagan 2013 OSS Earnings: $271,500 Masterfeeds Awards - Outstanding Pacing Broodmare Teig N Riley, owned by Ballykeel Racing Masterfeeds Awards - Outstanding Trotting Broodmare Beehive, owned by White Birch Farm Lampman Cup Sylvain Filion Johnston Cup Gregg McNair Lloyd Chisholm Achievement Award Canadian Sportsman Chris Van Bussel Memorial Award Cool Creek Farms - Harry Rutherford and Diane Ingham Reprinted with permission by

An unexpected plus from the revitalization of harness racing in the state of Ohio: sharp Buckeye-based trainers, realizing that there is now money to be made, start advertising, looking for new owners – thereby giving the coffers of the trade press a little extra jingle! Dee Hotton, who is based at the Wooster OH fairgrounds, recently advertised that she is looking for new owners for whom to train their horses for campaigning in the state – but she has always been a bit “ahead of the curve,” though. (How many trainers do you know who have had their own website for years, and who use the word “behooves” – and before noon, no less?) Hotton was born on Long Island (or “Lon Gisland,” as the natives pronounce it) to a father who was a rabid fan of the trotters and pacers at Roosevelt and Yonkers. When her father was transferred by his business to Ohio when Dee was two, the family went along, and in the newly-adopted state the father undoubtedly found plenty of choices to scratch his harness racing itch – while his daughter “had decided by junior high that she was going to work with horses for her livelihood.” Graduating early from high school and from the Wooster branch campus of Ohio State University’s program for learning all ends of standardbred care, Hotton went into the care of the sulky set at a young age.  Dee was a harness “natural” across the board, too, driving in matinees at 15 and fair purse races at 16, and she carries a lifetime .292 UDR despite fewer than 500 career trips behind the gate! And August 9 of this year will mark the TENTH ANNIVERSARY of Dee last losing a purse race while in the sulky – OK, be a spoilsport and point out that she’s only driven once since 8-9-04. “And I wasn’t even supposed to drive that one,” Hotton recalled with a chuckle. “Don McKirgan had been driving my horse for me, but he decided he had a chance to make more money with the horses he was listed on at another fair, and mine didn’t look like much, so I decided I’d just drive him myself.” 6-1 in a 3-horse field, Hotton sent her charge right to the top and held on by ¾ of a length in her first drive in eight years. (Note: Any good story about Ohio fair racing is 50-50 to have McKirgan somewhere in it.) Despite this sulky success, Hotton is now devoting herself strictly to the training side, though she says, “I’m glad I did do some driving, because now I know exactly the sort of things to tell my drivers, and I might also have a little more credibility to them, having been a driver myself.” There is no doubting Hotton’s credibility on the training side, with a career UTR of .322 (she’s been over .300 in 14 of the last 17 years), and many talented horses benefitting from her tutelage. One star, however, might have taught Hotton, now the master conditioner, more about training than anyone else. Magnificent Mel, a 1976 son of Little Brown Jug winner Melvin’s Woe, raced when he was two, and was still on the track when he was 14, accumulating 81 wins and over $200,000 in earnings. If you know of Melvin’s Woe, you know how hard the Joe O’Brien stable had to work to keep the big-hearted racehorse something close to racehorse sound, and he passed on this last-named trait – plus his speed and huge heart -- to his son. “With Magnificent Mel, we had to do a little of almost everything over the course of his career – I worked him back from bowed tendons, had him stand in ice boots, used all kinds of therapy, and even used interval training back what it was an innovation,” Hotton remembers. “Working with that horse was the best education I could have, and he was a great horse – he went a 2:00 mile at Northfield in 1988, when he was 12, the first time a horse that old had broken 2:00 there.” Focusing on the Ohio Sire Stakes program in recent years, Hotton’s best horses have been a duo who were nice horses that unfortunately raced in a two-year period where there was a dominant OhSS performer in their class: “Glory Bound always had to go up against Dunkster, and Buckeye Man was in the same year as Sing Jesse Sing.”  Seeing as Dunkster and Sing Jesse Sing won about $1.400,000 between them, Hotton did some good schoolin’ to have horses who were second to the others’ caliber. “I’m looking for owners who want to race in Ohio, because I think with the slots money it’s a very good time to maximize the possible upside of horse ownership,” Dee continue. “I’ve been partners with owners on horses, and if I had a new owner who would have a little more confidence if the trainer owned a part of the horse, I’d certainly consider that option depending on the situation. “I’ve raced overnight horses, but right now I’m focusing on stakes horses, two- and three-year-olds, with the improvement in money that is coming to the Ohio Sire Stakes,” she added, and indeed Hotton was contacted for this piece in her winter training headquarters of Pinehurst NC, preparing, she hopes, some of 2014’s Ohio stakes stars. If Dee Hotton’s abilities and focus sound right for you and your horses, visit her website at by Jerry Connors for

 TORONTO, February 13 – Harness racing’s social media hottest news, Sydney Weaver,  was reunited with Sydney Seelster – A Valentine’s Day giftial media community erupted on Sunday Feb. 9 following the $6,250 claim of Sydney Seelster at Flamboro Downs. Horses are claimed every day in the harness racing world, but this particular claim upset many fans of the sport. To some, the horse might be just a $4,500 claimer (plus allowances), but for owner Sydney Weaver the pacing mare was worth a lot more. In 2012, Weaver, a thirteen-year-old girl with cerebral palsy, received the best Christmas gift any child could receive – a racehorse named Sydney Seelster, hand delivered by longtime owner Cesar Kowalski. Since then, Weaver and her namesake horse have been inseparable. On race day, the Weaver family can always be spotted wearing pink in light of Sydney Seelster’s nickname, ‘Pinky’. Weaver, of Acton, Ont., has a deep passion for the sport and is often found trackside at Mohawk throughout the summer. In addition to being a harness racing super fan, Weaver is also an ambassador for the sport as an award-winning writer, public speaker and inspirational leader. With the help of her father, Don, Weaver also founded Friends Of We Care – a charity designed to send special needs kids to summer camps. Needless to say, Weaver has certainly accomplished a lot at a young age. This past Sunday, Weaver was heartbroken Sydney Seelster was claimed by Guy Gagnon of Gatineau, Quebec. The standardbred racing community was taken aback by the news of Weaver losing her most prized possession.  Fans immediately took to Facebook and Twitter to offer their thoughts and support, demonstrating how the standardbred racing community can quickly band together. “At first, I couldn’t believe it. I actually thought it was a joke,” Weaver said. “Then it hit me and it wasn’t a very pleasant night. It was just an awful feeling to lose something or someone so close. We barely slept.” Though it may have seemed impossible to some supporters that Gagnon wouldn’t know the relationship Weaver had with Sydney Seelster, it turns out that the Quebec resident simply is not a participant on social media sites where Weaver’s story is prominent. “I honestly had absolutely no idea about the story behind Sydney Weaver and her horse,” Gagnon said. “I feel terrible for putting the claim in and certainly never would do that to the little girl and her horse. “My wife is a school teacher and deals with kids every day,” Gagnon continued. “I coach kids hockey and I’m very involved with children. We wouldn’t like it if something like that happened to us. I wish this never happened, but we are doing what is right and giving the horse back. It’s the right thing to do. I would like to meet Sydney and her family in the future and offer my sincere apologies in person.” Gagnon also offered his thought process behind seeking Sydney Seelster. “I had a horse claimed on me last week and wanted to fill the stall. I searched a bunch of cheaper horses at Western Fair and Flamboro and noticed Sydney Seelster.” Weaver is thankful that Sydney Seelster will be returning home. “I’m just happy to be getting ‘Pinky’ back,” Weaver said. “She’s a part of our family and we’re thankful to have so many caring friends.” Weaver’s mother, Lisa, is also appreciative for Gagnon’s efforts. “We thought it would be possible for him not to know the story and that turned out to be the case,” she said. “We’re very thankful for Mr. Gagnon’s understanding and doing what we felt was right. Mr. Gagnon was very apologetic and sincere throughout this entire process and we thank him for that. Something that started out awful has turned out for the better and we are very lucky to have so many caring friends in this sport. “We know horses are claimed everyday,” she continued. “We understand the business and logic of the sport. We just didn’t think in a million years that she would leave Sydney.” Sydney Seelster was entered into a $7,500 claimer (plus allowances) on Wednesday, February 12 at Flamboro Downs, in which the Weaver family claimed their loved one back. Gagnon also arranged to pay the difference in the claiming price ($3,125) as Sydney Seelster was raised in class and Gagnon offered the Weaver’s any prize money that the 22-time winner earns. Sydney Seelster finished third in the $5,000 event, earning $600 for the Weaver family. A simple misunderstanding has been rectified in lieu of one of harness racing’s most beloved owners. So is it a coincidence that Sydney Seelster is being re-united with Weaver two days before Valentine’s Day?  Maybe…maybe not, but it’s certainly a perfect time to mend a broken heart. by Greg Gangle for WEG

Imagine being pinned down for 20 to 30 seconds and having your right bicep savaged by a horse. Well that’s exactly what happened to Kumeu horseman Roydon Downey just before four o’clock last Sunday afternoon. “He held me down and I couldn’t do anything but just lay there and let him do what he had to. If I didn’t remain calm, and had I put up a fight, I would have been stuffed. “He would have savaged me more,” Downey told HRNZ from North Shore Hospital. Downey was trimming the feet of one of his father Errol’s horses at Kumeu, west of Auckland. “The horse was gelded late in life (six months ago) and was still displaying stallion tendencies. He started to get real angry when I was doing his last foot. “He latched onto my bicep and kept holding on to me, leaving me helpless on the ground. It was a bit scary alright, but it could have been worse,” the 26-year-old said.  “He bit me right down to the bone. If I had put up a fight I’m sure he would have ripped my arm right off, but I’ve got movement in my hand and the doctors said I will recover okay,” he added.  Surgeons operated on Downey on Monday afternoon (February 10) to remove bone chips from his upper arm.  “They said I was lucky that the bite didn’t hit any main arteries and it didn’t leave any infection in my bone. “I’ve had better days, but that’s one of my guns gone for a while,” Downey joked. The injury comes just three months after Downey took over from ‘Hall-of-Famer’ Maurice McKendry as the number one driver at Lincoln Farms, which employs him at Huapai.  In late November director, John Street, and trainer Ray Green, agreed that Downey should be their main man in the sulky. “Roydon doesn’t get to drive good winning chances all that often and it is hard for young guys like him to get a decent go. We are pleased that he now gets his chance and we have great confidence in him,” Green said at the time. Downey has been driving since the 2004-2005 season. Since then he has saluted the judge 82 times from 1,042 drives. He’s also placed on 148 occasions and netted $678,788 in stakes. He became an open driver this season and has so far won nine of his 75 drives. His best season was in 2009-2010 when he won 20 races and $142,267. “Downey said he was disappointed the prognosis would leave him on the side-line for four to six weeks – especially at Auckland Cup time. Downey was disappointed that wouldn’t be able to drive promising 4-year-old Love You trotter, San Diego Love which he qualified at Alexandra Park just a day before his accident. “I was also looking forward to driving Ray’s Young Guns heat winner, Chachingchaching, as well as Ray’s other good pacers including likely Auckland Cup starter Besotted, and filly Lincoln’s Megastar,” said Downey. It’s not the first injury Downey has suffered. He has broken bones in his hand, and about a year ago he tore the ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) in his knee. So what’s Downey going to do in his spare time? “Well there’s a five day (cricket) test starting on Friday, and then in the weekend there’s the Auckland (rugby league) Nines. “Who knows after that. I’ll be itching to get back though, because I really enjoy my job and I’m very grateful to my employers for the opportunities I have been given.” By Duane Ranger (Harness Racing New Zealand)

Ideal Shadow was bet off the board in Monday’s debut effort at Woodbine under the guidance of trainer/co-owner Ben Baillargeon, and the betting public was bang on in its assessment of the lightly-raced youngster. Purchased by Baillargeon and partners Nunzio & Santo Vena for $45,000 from the 2014 January Select Mixed Sale at The Meadowlands, Ideal Shadow appeared to barely break a sweat in what was just his second lifetime start. After making a break and failing to crack the top three in his first lifetime start on January 18 for former trainer Erv Miller, the three-year-old son of American Ideal-Shadow Baby cruised to an easy win by lengths in 1:54.3. Mario Baillargeon got away third with the new recruit, and the pacer maintained that position to the quarter pole before brushing his way to the lead in the backstretch. He cleared to the top without a tussle and successfully chopped out panels of :57.4 and 1:26.2 before using a :28.1 closing quarter to win by a pair of lengths in 1:54.3. Monday’s 11-race card also saw pacer All Chrome extend his personal winning streak to six thanks to a 1:54.4 score in come-from-behind fashion for the tandem of driver Sylvain Filion and trainer Corey Johnson. Filion got away fifth with the five-year-old son of Tell All-Ever Western before advancing the gelding on the rim in the middle stages of the mile. The 4-5 favourite then used a :28.4 final frame to prevail by a half-length margin over Canbec Kingkazimir, with third prize going to Rock N Go. Brian Paquet of Quebec owns the photogenic pacer who is now three-for-three this season after having gone 4-for-12 last year. The 10-time winner pushed his lifetime earnings over $50,000 with the victory. To view results for Monday's card of harness racing, click the following link: Monday Results – Woodbine Racetrack. Reprinted with permission by

On Sunday, harness racing's social media world exploded with outrage when Sydney Weaver's prized Standardbred Sydney Seelster was claimed at Flamboro Downs. The brown lass had been racing well in 2014 having won three of her four starts heading into Sunday’s race and had yet to miss the board in all of her races. It was learned after Sunday’s race that Sydney Seelster had been claimed by trainer Guy Gagnon. The resident of Gatineau, Que. is off to a strong start in 2014, as his stable has sent out 12 starters and has recorded five wins and four seconds, good for $12,865 in purse earnings and an impressive .601 UTR. The pride and joy of former ‘I Love Canadian Harness Racing’ fan club’s ambassador, Weaver was heartbroken with the news of her prized horse being claimed. Sydney Seelster and Weaver made headlines in 2012 when the mare was bought for Weaver so she could pursue her dream to become the trainer of a Standardbred. Gagnon told Trot Insider that he did not know of the story of Weaver and her mare and upon hearing about the young owner, agreed to allow the horse to be claimed back. "I never heard of her story before; I'm not on Facebook, I'm not on Twitter, I'm not a 'computer guy' and I didn't know the story before last night." The father of two kids and a hockey coach for young boys, Gagnon clearly meant no harm in claiming the pacing mare from the young fan and felt bad for the situation. He merely saw a horse in for a claiming tag that he thought would race well at Rideau Carleton Raceway after recently having a horse claimed from his barn. After the races, fans of harness racing were irate with the situation and posted numerous messages on Facebook and Twitter -- much like Gagnon, without knowing the entire situation. With a plan now in place to allow Weaver to get Sydney Seelster back, Gagnon added that he would like to meet Weaver one day and hopes that the same predicament doesn't happen again, fearing that someone else will come along and simply see a horse in for a claiming price. Reprinted with permission by

If you didn't know Mike Jeannot, I'm sorry you missed the opportunity. Mike served in various leadership capacities at The Meadows for over two decades until ovetaken by the one foe no one in racing, or in life, can withstand in the stretch -- death -- when he succumbed to cancer last week at age 61, a very young, vibrant, and humorous 61. The horseshoe of trainers and drivers in their colors, often with a led horse ahead of an empty sulky parading in front, along with family and other friends, forming in front of the grandstand in tribute to a departed member of the extended racing family, is, for me after 35 years working in the business, still one of the most moving sights in all of racing -- and believe me, I've seen far too many of them. But The Meadows, headed by the matchless Roger Huston, video wizard Jeff Zidek and coworkers, and track chaplain Pastor Joe DiDonato, may have put together one of the most moving of such ceremonies -- and certainly a world-class video -- when they honored Mike, his memory, and his legacy before their card on Friday. I'm supposed to be a writer, and I have many memories -- every one of them positive -- of Mike, but for once I will agree that "a picture is worth a thousand words." The entire 10-minute ceremony is attached with this story, and nothing I could say could capture the man and the moment as this video of the ceremony does. Mike, I'm glad I can do one last thing for you -- to "introduce" you, through the link to this video, to many people who otherwise may not have known what a very good racetrack manager, and even better human being, you were, and always will be to those you touched. Pastor Joe got it right: "Mike modeled behavior he wanted to see in others." When I cash in, if I could have something 1/10 as complimentary said about me, I'd considered my life well worthwhile. Mike Jeannot's life was extraordinary.   by Jerry Connors for  

Standardbred Canada has announced the winners of the 2013 O’Brien Awards, which honour Canada’s best in harness racing over the past season. In celebration of the 25th anniversary of the event, the annual Black Tie Gala was held in Charlottetown, PEI, at the Delta Prince Edward Hotel and PEI Convention Centre. The awards are named in honour of the late Joe O’Brien, an outstanding horseman and member of the Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame. O’Brien was born in Alberton, PEI. Bee A Magician who was perfect in her 2013 season, was the unanimous choice in the Three-Year -Old Trotting Filly division and was also voted Canada’s Horse of The Year. Bee A Magician won all 17 of her races last season and earned in excess of $1.57 million for a perfect sophomore campaign. The daughter of Hall of Fame sire Kadabra took a mark of 1:51 at the Meadowlands Racetrack. The invincible filly’s stakes victories included the SBOA elimination and final, the Casual Breeze, the Elegantimage elimination and final, three Ontario Sires Stakes events including the Super Final, the Delvin Miller, Hambletonian Oaks elimination and final, the Simcoe, Breeders Crown elimination and final, American National and Moni Maker. Sylvain Filion successfully defended his Driver of The Year title. In 2013 he led all reinsmen in the nation in terms of purse earnings, as his mounts banked $6,111,736. Filion finished as the leading money-winning driver on the Woodbine Entertainment Group circuit with over $5 million to his credit between Mohawk Racetrack and Woodbine Racetrack. The resident of Milton, Ont. earned the Lampman Cup for the second straight year, as he topped the Ontario Sires Stakes standings for drivers. Filion celebrated his richest win of the season while steering Boomboom Ballykeel to a 10-1 upset victory in the $683,000 Metro Pace at Mohawk Racetrack. Richard Moreau was voted Trainer of The Year following an impressive season that saw his stable win 279 races and earn $3,623,805 in purses. The resident of Puslinch, Ont. earned training titles across Ontario at Georgian Downs, Grand River Raceway, Mohawk Racetrack, The Raceway at Western Fair District and Woodbine Racetrack. Moreau topped the Canadian trainer standings with $3.5 million in earnings and 270 wins. He celebrated the biggest win of his career this past season when Boomboom Ballykeel captured the Metro Pace at Mohawk Racetrack. The 2013 season marked the 14th consecutive year that his stable has surpassed the $1-million mark in purse earnings. Alberta’s Kelly Hoerdt won the O’Brien Award of Horsemanship. Hoerdt is a successful driver/trainer who is annually near the top of the training and driving charts in Alberta. The 2013 season was another productive year for Hoerdt, as he trained 82 winners and horses to $623,000, and drove 66 winners and horses that earned over $490,000. Hoerdt was the leading trainer in terms of earnings at Alberta Downs. His stable was led by sophomore pacing colt Premium Attaction, a multiple stakes winner that rattled off six wins in 11 races and over $111,000 Precocious Beauty was honoured as Two-Year-Old Pacing Filly of The Year. Precocious Beauty won seven of 11 races, $462,912 in purses and took a mark of 1:50.1 which tied a world record for a one-mile track. Her richest payday was a victory in the Shes A Great Lady at Mohawk. The two-year-old pacing colt title went to Arthur Blue Chip, who scored six wins in 11 starts and bankrolled $400,120 for his connections. The son of Shadow Play took a mark of 1:51.2 in his Metro Pace elimination at Mohawk before being scratched ‘sick’ from the final. His most lucrative payday was a runner-up finish in the Governor’s Cup. He also won a handful of Ontario Sires Stakes races, an elimination of the Battle of Waterloo and a division of the Nassagaweya Stakes. I Luv The Nitelife returned as a seasoned sophomore in 2013 and added another O’Brien (Three-Year-Old Pacing Filly of The Year) to her trophy case. The talented filly boasted a record of 13-1-1 in 15 races and $1.2 million in earnings. She took a mark of 1:48.4 in the Valley Forge at Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs. She also set a two-heat world record of 3:42.2 in the Jugette. She swept the Fan Hanover, the Lynch, the Mistletoe Shalee and closed the season as strongly as she began with a win in the Breeders Crown and runner up finish in the American National. Little Brown Jug winner Vegas Vacation took the hardware home as Canada’s Three-Year-Old Pacing Colt of The Year. Vegas Vacation gave his connections the ride of a lifetime in 2013. Conditioned by Casie Coleman, the son of Bettors Delight put together a sophomore record reading 10-4-1 from 20 starts while banking $976,037 in purses. He wheeled off victories in his first four races which included the Somebeachsomewhere Stakes and an elimination of the Pepsi North America Cup. On September 19 he captured the Little Brown Jug in straight heats – both timed in 1:50. ‘Vegas’ finished his sophomore season with a win in the Matron Stakes to put his bankroll at just over $976,000. Anndrovette continued to dominate the pacing mare ranks in 2013, and, for the third consecutive year, was crowned Canada’s Older Pacing Mare of The Year. The daughter of Riverboat King was on the board in all but three of her 21 races. Some of her major wins included three legs of the Blue Chip Matchmaker Series at Yonkers Raceway along with the Roses Are Red and Breeders Crown eliminations. On July 20 at Mohawk Racetrack she captured the Roses Are Red final in a career best 1:48. The talented mare now has 35 lifetime wins and a career bankroll of almost $2.6 million. The $6 million horse, Foiled Again was voted Canada’s Older Pacing Horse of The Year. Foiled Again didn’t show any signs of slowing down in his nine-year-old season, as he won 11 of his 29 starts, including three Levy divisions, the Ben Franklin elimination and final, as well as the Breeders Crown elimination and final for his third straight million-dollar campaign. He entered the year within reach of the all-time earnings record for pacers, and he managed to obliterate that mark by adding $1.4 million to his bank account while visiting 11 different racetracks along the way. He closed the season by sweeping the elimination and final of the TVG Free For All Pace at the Meadowlands. Riveting Rosie was the winner in the two-year-old filly trotting category. Riveting Rosie closed out her rookie campaign with six wins in eight starts and earnings of $468,613. Her major victories included the Peaceful Way Final, her Ontario Stakes Super Final and a division of the Champlain Stakes. In the Two-Year-Old Trotting Colt division, it was Father Patrick who took the O’Brien trophy. He topped the earnings chart in his division and was flawless in 10 stakes starts with his only blemish coming in an early season two-year-old race where he was beaten by just a head. Father Patrick amassed $752,395 in earnings with major wins in the Breeders Crown, Peter Haughton Memorial, William Wellwood Memorial Trot, Champlain Stakes and Bluegrass Series. Flanagan Memory was voted Three-Year-Old Trotting Colt of the Year after a productive season which saw him win seven of 11 races and $408,798 in earnings. He clocked a season’s best 1:53 effort in winning his Ontario Sires Stakes Super Final at Mohawk. He also scored victories in the Goodtimes and several OSS events. Maven was voted Canada’s Older Trotting Mare of The Year. Since winning the 2012 Breeders Crown at Woodbine Racetrack, Maven has been one of the most consistent trotters in North America. She added wins in the Miss Versatility Trotting Series, an elimination and final of the Armbro Flight, and the Allerage. She showed just how good she was by claiming a second Breeders Crown title. At season’s end Maven had won 10 of 14 races, and added $513,485 to her bankroll. For the second consecutive year, Mister Herbie captured the title as Canada’s Older Trotting Horse of The Year. Although Mister Herbie only won one race in 2013, he was a strong contender in many of the major stakes and scored six runner-up finishes in stakes competition, including the Maple Leaf Trot, Allerage, John Cashman Memorial and Breeders Crown, finishing the season with $492,067 in purses. Seelster Farms, of Lucan, Ont. was honoured as the Armstrong Breeder of The Year. In 2013, Seelster-bred horses scored 248 wins and $2.1 million in earnings. In the Future Star category, the winner of this first-time award was trainer/driver Travis Cullen. The 21-year-old Alberta-based horseman closed out Alberta Downs' 2013 meet with five wins on the final card of the meet while securing both the Lacombe track's driving and training titles. Amidst a career-best year, the Edmonton horseman concluded the Alberta meet with a chart-topping 64 training victories and 86 driving wins. The complete list of winners follows. 2013 O’BRIEN AWARD WINNERS PACERS Two-Year-Old Filly Pacer - Precocious Beauty owned by James L Avritt Sr., Lebanon, KY Two-Year-Old Colt Pacer - Arthur Blue Chip owned by Dr. Ian Moore, Guelph, ON – R G McGroup Ltd., Bathurst, NB – Serge Savard, Saint-Bruno, QC Three-Year-Old Filly Pacer - I Luv The Nitelife owned by Richard P. Young, Boca Raton- Joanne Young, Coconut Creek, FL Three-Year-Old Colt Pacer - Vegas Vacation owned by West Wins Stable, Cambridge- Adriano Sorella, Milton – Anthony B Beaton, Waterdown – Phyllis M Saunders, Hamilton, ON Older Pacing Mare - Anndrovette owned by Bamond Racing LLC, Brick – Joseph Davino, Clarksburg, NJ Older Pacing Horse - Foiled Again owned by Burke Racing Stable LLC, Fredericktown – Weaver Bruscemi LLC, Canonsburg, PA – JJK Stables LLC, Fort Lauderdale, FL TROTTERS Two-Year-Old Filly Trotter - Riveting Rosie owned by Parkhill Stud Farm, Peterborough – Don Allensen, Wyoming – J And T Stable Newmarket – John F Hayes, Sharon, ON Two-Year-Old Colt Trotter - Father Patrick owned by Father Patrick Stable, East Windsor, NJ Three-Year-Old Filly Trotter - Bee A Magician owned by Melvin Hartman, Ottawa, ON – Herb Liverman, Miami Beach – David H McDuffee, Delray Beach, FL Three-Year-Old Colt Trotter - Flanagan Memory owned by Liette Flanagan, Repentigny-Rene Dion, Saint-Lazare, QC Older Trotting Mare - Maven owned by William J. Donovan, Ft Lauderdale, FL Older Trotting Horse - Mister Herbie owned by Jeffrey R Gillis, Hillsburgh – Mac T Nichol, Burlington, ON- Gerald T Stay, Buffalo, NY PEOPLE AWARDS O’Brien Award of Horsemanship Kelly Hoerdt, Beaumont, AB Armstrong Breeder of The Year Seelster Farms, Lucan, ON Driver of The Year Sylvain Filion, Milton, ON Trainer of The Year Richard Moreau, Puslinch, ON Future Star Award Travis Cullen, Edmonton, AB STANDARDBRED CANADA MEDIA EXCELLENCE AWARDS The Media Excellence Awards program, established by Standardbred Canada in 2008, is aimed at honouring exceptional work that covers Canadian harness racing in a manner that is extraordinary and of broad national appeal. Outstanding Written Work Paul Delean ’Reaching Improbable Heights’ 'Reaching Improbable Heights', written by Paul Delean, was published in the December, 2012 issue of Trot Magazine. It tells the story of trotter Intimidate’s incredible journey from obscurity to harness racing’s biggest stage and the ride of a lifetime that two smalltime owners from Quebec are still pinching themselves over. Outstanding Broadcast Woodbine Entertainment Group North America Cup HD Broadcast Woodbine Entertainment Group’s North America Cup broadcast aired across Canada on The Score television network on Saturday, June 26, 2013. The one-hour special of the $1-million North America Cup was the first live high definition broadcast of a standardbred race in Canada. The show featured live race coverage of the main event, a feature on Marvin Katz (co-owner of eventual winner Captaintreacherous) and a profile of a very special racing fan – Sydney Weaver. The broadcast was a production of WEG’s broadcast department, produced by Rob Platts and directed by Kris Platts. Outstanding Photography Clive Cohen Clive Cohen captured the sunset behind trainer Rene Dion warming up Ocean Mist Beauty on September 19, 2013 at Mohawk Racetrack. The image was published on WEG’s Facebook page later that night. Reprinted with permission by

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