Day At The Track
You're Majestic

You're Majestic holds off challengers

WASHINGTON, PA, Jan. 22, 2020 -- Challenged inside and outside in deep stretch, You're Majestic dug deep and captured Wednesday's harness racing feature at The Meadows, an $11,500 Filly & Mare Conditioned Trot. You're Majestic threw down a quick 1:25.1 three-quarters, which made her appear vulnerable to the menacing first-over move of Tamar and the Lightning Lane charge of Bessie. But the 8-year-old daughter of Majestic Son-You're Adorable held firm for trainer/driver Doug Snyder and prevailed in 1:55.2. Tamar was x back in second with Bessie third. Frank Poerio, Jr. campaigns You're Majestic, who vaulted over $600,000 in career earnings. Chris Shaw and Mike Wilder each collected three wins on the 13-race card. Live racing at The Meadows resumes Friday when the program features an $11,463.27 carryover in the final-race Super Hi-5. First post is 1:05 PM. By Evan Pattak for The Meadows Standardbred Owners Association  

Post Time with Mike and Mike, Harness Racing

Woebkenberg highlights Post Time Thursday

Elkton, MD -- Post Time with Mike and Mike presented by the USTA/BetAmerica, is excited to announce the harness racing line-up for Thursday morning (Jan. 22) at 10:30 a.m. The show will be highlighted by Mike Woebkenberg, Brittany Bounds, and Ashley Holliday. Woebkenberg joins the program this week to discuss his promotion of the sport of harness racing through his starting car rides in Southern Ohio. Woebkenberg was a nominee for Innovator of the Year this season. Up and coming Mid-Atlantic trainer Brittany Bounds will join the duo for the first time. Bounds is fresh off a pair of seasonal earnings that eclipsed $100,000 in back to back years. Nominated for the Small Stable of the Year, Bounds is just shy of 100 career training wins. Holliday, a nominee for the Horsewoman of the Year, joins to discuss her outriding and ownership career. Holliday is currently the outrider at Hollywood Gaming at Dayton Raceway and Miami Valley Gaming. She will discuss her daily roles at the tracks, and take listeners through her career. Post Time with Mike and Mike presented by USTA/BetAmerica can be heard live every Thursday at 10:30 a.m. via their website www.posttimewithmikeandmike.com or on the archive at www.betamerica.com/BARN. Michael Carter Social Media and Publicity Coordinator U.S. Trotting Association | 6130 S. Sunbury Rd. | Westerville, OH 43081-3909

Wanda Polisseni, harness racing

Polisseni on receiving Unsung Hero Award

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

Roger Huston, harness racing

OHHA Top of the Stretch podcast

In the latest edition of Top of Stretch, the Ohio Harness Horsemen's Association (OHHA) Brand Ambassador Roger Huston catches up with the connections of 2019 Ohio Horse of the Year, Elver Hanover. Here is the link to podcast: https://player.captivate.fm/d7dea386-e3bc-4bf5-a169-8c0a8497d9ad        

John Manzi, superstar PR man, Hall of Famer, former trainer-driver and Radio Legend joins Freddie, Bob & Trade on their Harness Racing Alumni Show. Manzi's exuberant personality shines through while we're all discussing the exciting times at Monticello Raceway years ago along with many of John's innovative promotional concepts, challenges and his winning ways...!!!   Don't miss this fantastic Alumni broadcast.....!!! Harness Racing Alumni Show John Manzi 1 22 20     Fred Hudson  

Pompano Beach, FL...Jan. 22, 2020...With the Pompano Park Pick-5 unable to be solved on Tuesday night, the carryover to the Wednesday harness racing program is $12,884 with the result being a lofty $60,000 guaranteed pool on the mid-week card. The Pick-5 is contested beginning with race one with post time set for 7:20 p.m. for the 10 race program, which is highlighted by the $10,000 Open I Trot. That event features the "BIG-3" at Pompano Park--Prairie Fortune, The Lionking AS and Born To Thrive, along with Buckeyeonbroadway, Perfect Chapter AS and Keegan Ho. Prairie Fortune comes off a 1:53 performance in his last start, a track record for aged trotters. The track's Super Hi-5 finale also features a jackpot which has vaulted to near $80,000--$78,395 to be precise. Post time is set for 7:20 p.m. Reported by John Berry for Pompano Park    

YONKERS, NY, Tuesday, January 21, 2020--Consider this a friendly reminder from Yonkers Raceway, where Thursday night's (Jan. 23rd) harness racing Pick 5 wager begins with a $6,092.67 carryover and $20,000 guaranteed pool. The guarantee has been approved by the New York State Gaming Commission and is in conjunction with the U.S. Trotting Association's Strategic Wagering Program. The Pick 5 wager now encompasses races 5 through 9 nightly. Yonkers Raceway is offering advance wagering for Gulfstream Park’s entire Pegasus World Cup card of this Saturday (Jan. 25th). Advance wagering begins Friday (Jan. 24th), when mutuel windows open at 12 Noon. Post time for the Saturday Gulfstream program is 11:30 AM, with the $1 million World Cup Turf (11th race) and $3 million World Cup (12th race) going at 4:49 PM and 5:34 PM, respectively.  Frank Drucker

WASHINGTON, PA, Jan. 21, 2020 -- Icanflylikeanangel set sail after the leader, Perlucky, at the three-quarters, collared him in mid-stretch and went on to capture Tuesday's harness racing $18,000 Open Handicap Trot at The Meadows. Icanflylikeanangel was third when Mike Wilder tipped him off the cones. The 6-year-old Archangel-Fox Valley London gelding advanced determinedly on Perlucky, downing him by 1/2 length in 1:53.3. Final Breath earned show. Randy Bendis trains the winner, who lifted his lifetime bankroll to $318,176, and owns with Pollack Racing LLC. In Tuesday's co-feature, the $20,000 Filly & Mare Open Handicap Pace, 10-1 outsider Dark Force followed the live cover of McDazzle and edged her at the wire to pull off the upset for Tony Hall. The 5-year-old daughter of Bettor's Delight-Skinny Dip scored in 1:52.2 in extending her career earnings to $194,638 -- and giving Bendis and Pollack a sweep of the day's co-features. It was one of three wins for Hall on the 13-race card. Dark Force Live racing at The Meadows continues Wednesday when the program features a trio of rich wagering opportunities: a $7,102.98 carryover in the final-race Super Hi-5; a $5,931.69 carryover in the Pick 5 (races 2-6); a $1,677.48 carryover in the Pick 4 (races 3-6). First post is 1:05 PM. By Evan Pattak for The Meadows Standardbred Owners Association  

Home’N Dry, after racing in the slop his last three harness racing starts, found the dry surface much to his liking.   Home’N Dry, Jack Vernon and Lagerfeld all left alertly and settled in at the quarter pole. Home’N Dry and driver Tyler Davis took the field to the quarter in 27.2. Jack Vernon and driver Tim Tetrick argued the lead and were parked out by Home’N Dry to the half in 55 seconds flat. They trotted a 27.3 quarter. Jack Vernon finally cleared the lead past the half and led the field to the ¾ pole in 1:23.3.   Tyler Davis confidently pulled the pocket at the ¾ pole and simply wore down Jack Vernon, the ½ race favorite, in the final strides.   Home’N Dry won by a half length and established a lifetime mark of 1:52.2.   He was sent off at odds of 8-1. Brian Malone is the trainer for owner Peter Paul Venturini. Jack Vernon finished a battle worn 2nd, for for trainer Dylan Davis. Royal Becca J. and driver Jack Parker Jr. for trainer Carol Jamieson Parker finished third.   Driver Tim Tetrick won 5 races on the card.   Dover Downs post time is 4:30 pm.     Alex Kraszewski Dover Downs

LEBANON, OH. - Sweet Mr Pinetucky (Trace Tetrick) returned to the harness racing winner's circle for the second time in three weeks on Tuesday afternoon (Jan. 21) at Miami Valley Raceway, winning the $25,000 Open Handicap Trot in 1:53.3 over Walter White (Jeremy Smith) and Trumpets (Ed Greeno Jr.). The quick clocking, on a frigid 27 degree afternoon, equaled the winner's lifetime best and raised the 6-year-old's lifetime earnings over $230,000. He is owned by trainer Lester Raber in partnership with his breeder Floyd Raber. Finalists were also determined in a pair of Claim To Fame series, each carrying $22,500 purses in their championship finals next Tuesday. M E Radar Girl swept both preliminary legs to emerge as the money earning leader among the $12,500 claiming mares group. The remaining top nine earners were Smash, Don't Mach Mia, Galyns Gift, Crazy Bad K, Grant Me This, Sweet Western, Keystone Nikki and Grimalkin. Blacklist Z Tam topped the earnings list among $8000 claiming horses and geldings, who competed in seven preliminary divisions to determine the final field. Others who secured spots are N Expense, Legal Transfer, Double Impact, Putnams Attack, Colossal, Totally Kissed, New Patrol and Beachboy Desire. Gregg Keidel

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

Northfield, OH - The 20-cent harness racing Northfield Single Six was taken down by a lone combination for a monstrous $49,040.14 return on Monday (Jan. 20). The payoff was hit by a patron wagering at MGM Northfield Park on Monday night. The Single Six wager premiered in 2018, and has become with bettors chasing colossal returns. The unique combination Pick-6 offers a low 14% takeout rate. The 20-cent wager carries over 50% of its nightly pool until it is solved by a single combination. Monday's payoff is evidence that the 20-cent wager is doing exactly what it was designed to do; offering handicappers monstrous jackpot. By Ayers Ratliff, for MGM Northfield Park.

Storied pacer Southwind Amazon became a millionaire winning the $15,000 Open Pace on Monday (January 20) in MGM Northfield Park’s ninth race.  Southwind Amazon went to the gate with 88 career wins and $998,216 in earnings.  Monday’s victory yielded $7,500, bringing his career tally to $1,005,716. The 10 year-old was assigned the outside post six in the evening’s featured pace.  He was fifth through the :26.4 opening quarter.  Southwind Amazon started his first-over bid in the second split and remained there through fractions of :55.1 and 1:23.  Amazon took the lead at the top of the stretch and bested his competition by ¾-length in 1:52.  Greg Grismore was given the evening’s driving assignment by Southwind Amazon’s trainer Paul Holzman.  The son of Camluck is owned by Ameer Najor of West Bloomfield, Michigan.  Southwind Amazon was the race favorite and returned $3.80 to win.  Paul Holzman with Southwind Amazon and his groom Alex Smith. (Raymond Lance Photo)   $20,000 Pick 5 Guaranteed Pool Tuesday at MGM Northfield Park MGM Northfield Park has announced the addition of a $20,000 Pick-5 total pool guarantee on Tuesday (Dec. 21). Beginning in race two, the $20,000 Pick-5 guaranteed total pool includes a carryover of $5,342. This wager is being offered as part of the Strategic Wagering Program through the United States Trotting Association. Northfield’s Pick-5, Pick-4s, Pick-3s, 20¢ Super High Five and 20¢ Northfield Single Six offer a reduced takeout rate of just 14%. Tuesday’s post time is 6 PM. Ayers Ratliff  

New South Wales harness racing has been rocked with the revelation the State's top training partnership is relocating to the United States. Record-breaking husband and wife partnership Shane and Lauren Tritton have decided to pursue their future careers in the New York region - a choice they say is prompted, in part, by the state of the industry in Australia. The couple shared their decision with family and friends this week and have advised key owners of their plans. "This decision has been made for many reasons, both business and personal, and to leave such a successful stable located in the world class facility (Menangle) is not without hesitation," Team Tritton said. "We would love to be staying in Australia for the rest of our careers, but the reality is the viability of a trainer and driver in harness racing in Australia is too volatile," they said. "We believe that in life we should always strive to reach our full ability, and the challenges of reinventing our stable in America will allow our techniques and understanding of this sport we both love to grow and prosper." Shane Tritton's father Peter has been operating successfully in the USA for many years. A number of the couple's key owners have elected to follow the stable and send their horses to the USA. "We're very grateful and proud they are willing to take this leap with us," the couple said. Team Tritton Stable at Menangle Park will continue with business as usual as the team prepares for the relocation. But the couple also sounded a clear "call to action" for the sport's governing bodies. "On a final note, we hope that those in control of harness racing can see they need to do more to make this great sport of harness racing bigger and better," they said. "In the past decade (it) has lost its viability to support participants who rely on it. "We have tried to stress this to those in charge without any reaction or concern for the issues that every trainer or driver in the country faces every week. "Please take notice those in charge need to do better for everyone in this industry who rely on it to survive. This is a sport and it should be fun - surviving isn't fun."   Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

East Rutherford, NJ - Six-year-old trotter Lindy The Great, who won last year's Caesars Trotting Classic and was second in the Allerage Farms Open Trot, brought the top price at Monday's (Jan. 20) Tattersalls Winter Mixed Sale at The Meadowlands, selling for $450,000, while 4-year-old pacer Escapetothebeach was No. 2 on the list, purchased for $250,000. Lindy The Great was acquired by an ownership group put together by trainer Rene Allard. The stallion, by Crazed out of Highscore Kemp, has won 14 of 47 career starts and $649,125. Other top wins include the 2016 Madison County and a division of the Bluegrass Stakes in 2017. He finished second in the 2017 Breeders Crown and third in the Kentucky Futurity. He was most recently trained by Domenico Cecere. "We're happy we got him, it's exciting," Allard said. "Those kinds of horses don't get offered at auctions too often. We're going to be looking forward to the season with him. "I think the horse is kind of coming into his own. He's lightly raced (and) trotters seem to do their best at ages 6, 7, 8. I think we bought him at the right time. He's a gorgeous horse, he's got some pedigree, and he's already shown he can win at a Grand Circuit level." Escapetothebeach, by Somebeachsomewhere out of Shelliscape, has won six of 35 career races and earned $289,571. He was purchased by trainer Virgil Morgan Jr. on behalf of owner Dana Parham. His career victories include the 2018 Kindergarten Classic Series championship. He was trained by Tony Alagna. "I liked the pedigree," Morgan said. "His miles at Yonkers were scary good; (1):51 there, that's a real mile. He raced against the best in the country last year and was competitive. He's a horse that Dana would like to race for a while. We'll sit down and get a game plan for him and map out a schedule. I would imagine the Graduate (Series) is part of that for the 4-year-olds and then we'll try to pick some other spots." Third on the best-sellers list was 4-year-old trotting mare Jezzys Legacy, who sold for $150,000 to agent Beachy Brothers on behalf of undisclosed owners. Jezzys Legacy, by Donato Hanover out of Jezzy, won six of 28 career starts and $164,923. She was trained by Ray Schnittker. "It's a great pedigree, a great family," agent Bobby Beachy said. "The gentlemen buying her want to breed her in Ohio. This group just wants this one (horse). They're excited about the program in Ohio, the money is getting better all the time. The breeders want to step it up." All three of the top sellers were consigned by Preferred Equine. A total of 128 horses and stallion shares sold for a gross of $5.27 million. Last year, a total of 150 horses and stallion shares sold for $4.39 million. For complete sales results, click here. by Ken Weingartner, USTA Media Relations Manager

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WASHINGTON, PA, Jan. 22, 2020 -- Challenged inside and outside in deep stretch, You're Majestic dug deep and captured Wednesday's harness racing feature at The Meadows, an $11,500 Filly & Mare Conditioned Trot. You're Majestic threw down a quick 1:25.1 three-quarters, which made her appear vulnerable to the menacing first-over move of Tamar and the Lightning Lane charge of Bessie. But the 8-year-old daughter of Majestic Son-You're Adorable held firm for trainer/driver Doug Snyder and prevailed in 1:55.2. Tamar was x back in second with Bessie third. Frank Poerio, Jr. campaigns You're Majestic, who vaulted over $600,000 in career earnings. Chris Shaw and Mike Wilder each collected three wins on the 13-race card. Live racing at The Meadows resumes Friday when the program features an $11,463.27 carryover in the final-race Super Hi-5. First post is 1:05 PM. By Evan Pattak for The Meadows Standardbred Owners Association  
Elkton, MD -- Post Time with Mike and Mike presented by the USTA/BetAmerica, is excited to announce the harness racing line-up for Thursday morning (Jan. 22) at 10:30 a.m. The show will be highlighted by Mike Woebkenberg, Brittany Bounds, and Ashley Holliday. Woebkenberg joins the program this week to discuss his promotion of the sport of harness racing through his starting car rides in Southern Ohio. Woebkenberg was a nominee for Innovator of the Year this season. Up and coming Mid-Atlantic trainer Brittany Bounds will join the duo for the first time. Bounds is fresh off a pair of seasonal earnings that eclipsed $100,000 in back to back years. Nominated for the Small Stable of the Year, Bounds is just shy of 100 career training wins. Holliday, a nominee for the Horsewoman of the Year, joins to discuss her outriding and ownership career. Holliday is currently the outrider at Hollywood Gaming at Dayton Raceway and Miami Valley Gaming. She will discuss her daily roles at the tracks, and take listeners through her career. Post Time with Mike and Mike presented by USTA/BetAmerica can be heard live every Thursday at 10:30 a.m. via their website www.posttimewithmikeandmike.com or on the archive at www.betamerica.com/BARN. Michael Carter Social Media and Publicity Coordinator U.S. Trotting Association | 6130 S. Sunbury Rd. | Westerville, OH 43081-3909
Trenton, NJ — Apparently, there is one chink in the amazing Wanda Polisseni’s armor. Ask her what it means to receive this year’s harness racing Unsung Hero Award from the U.S. Harness Writers Association, and you discover the kryptonite. “I’m speechless,” the 80-year-old philanthropist said. “I don’t do well in these instances. I’m blown away. I don’t know what to say.” After that, of course, the woman who defines class knew exactly what to say; and she said it with the dignity that has made her a beloved figure in harness racing this century. “I never even think of receiving anything like this,” Polisseni said. “I don’t go about my days doing the things I do, thinking that it’s going to be rewarded with recognition. I know people appreciate what I do. I know my babies (her horses) all appreciate what I do. That in itself is enough for me. That’s what it’s all about.” Lest one think that is false humility, Wanda is honest enough to admit that while she doesn’t expect awards, she does enjoy receiving them. “I would say this one is probably one of my favorites, right near the top or at the top,” she said. “This is a great organization, a large organization. This ranks with getting a doctorate of humane letters from Keuka College. But every one of them is important. Each and every one. I don’t care if it’s from the local boy scouts or whatever. I’m appreciative of everything, although I don’t strive for that. I’d rather be under the radar.” Polisseni was informed of her award by longtime friend Betty Holt, a former Unsung Hero Award recipient and the executive director of Wanda’s newest endeavor, the Purple Haze Standardbred Adoption Program in Oxford, N.Y. Their relationship dates back to 2004, when Polisseni first got into the racing game as an owner. Her 2-year-old gelding, Smoky Bonz, won at Saratoga. Holt was involved in the breeding of the horse and visited the winner’s circle after the race. A friendship was born. “Whoever called Betty (from the U.S. Harness Writers Association), said it would mean more to me coming from her, and they were right,” Polisseni said. “Smoky Bonz is one of my all-time favorites, I have a huge oil painting of him in my living room and she foaled him. I worked along with her with the breeders and horsemen’s association and I knew without a doubt when I started talking about (the adoption center) that she would be the best one for the executive director. She’s doing a terrific job. So yes, hearing the news from her meant a lot.” The adoption center got underway in earnest last fall and recently placed its first two horses with new owners. There are seven more waiting for new homes in the 20-stall facility and funding has been provided by Polisseni and numerous private donations, “some of which came from people I wouldn’t have expected.” The center must wait between one and two years to petition for grants, but the face lift has been a typical Polisseni operation — first class. “I wanted to freshen it up and add stalls so we’d have more babies available for adoption,” she said. “If I ever wanted to live on a farm again (which is where she grew up), I would love to live on this farm, it’s so beautiful. But that’s not my aspiration. I just want a lot of babies there and a lot of babies to be adopted out.” Polisseni’s other babies can be found in her family-owned Purple Haze Stables, which houses 100 horses. Many have been successful over the years and she feels somewhat chagrined about that but, at the same time, unashamed. “I started in 2004,” she said. “That’s not many years compared to some of these people, these trainers and owners that have been in it for 50 years. I feel a little guilty for the success I’ve had, because they are due. They are long overdue. “But it is what it is. I’m going to take the wins and I’m going to take the losses. I’m happy if my baby comes in fourth or fifth and he’s done the best he can and he’s safe and healthy.” Tending to her babies and overseeing the adoption center is just a fraction of what makes Polisseni special. Showing an unheard of amount of energy for an 80-year-old, the upstate New York icon currently sits on eight different boards, including The Finger Lakes Horsemen Benevolent Protective Association, the Finger Lakes Thoroughbred Adoption Program, and the Harness Horse Breeders of New York. Beyond the business, she is involved with the New York State Trooper Foundation, Thompson Health, St. John Fisher College and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. She refuses to be on any board in name only and makes a firm commitment to each one. Polisseni is the epitome of someone who feels blessed with what they have been given, and truly wants to give back. She is unsung, because she will never sing her own praises. That will be especially true when she receives her honor at the Feb. 23 Dan Patch Awards banquet in Orlando, Fla., where the speech will be short and sweet. “Whenever anything like this comes along with all these organizations and galas, and it has many times in my years, they don’t want to sit there and listen to speeches; they don’t want to be inundated with speech after speech after speech,” Polisseni said. “Some people in the audience can’t relate to those experiences, so why make them have to listen to it? “I might just say a few words. I’ve always done that. I always get up and tell the audience ‘I’m going to make your night. I’m only going to say thank you very much and that’s it.’” She then added with a touch of whimsy, “That’s gone over very well at many of the galas I’ve attended.” For more information about the Dan Patch Awards banquet, visit the U.S. Harness Writers Association’s website. by Rich Fisher, USTA Web Newsroom Senior Correspondent
In the latest edition of Top of Stretch, the Ohio Harness Horsemen's Association (OHHA) Brand Ambassador Roger Huston catches up with the connections of 2019 Ohio Horse of the Year, Elver Hanover. Here is the link to podcast: https://player.captivate.fm/d7dea386-e3bc-4bf5-a169-8c0a8497d9ad        
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