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Dylan Davis knows his pacing mare Apple Bottom Jeans faces a difficult task competing against the 2019 Horse of the Year Shartin N and Breeders Crown champion Caviart Ally, but he also believes his harness racing horse is pretty special, too. "She's almost the perfect horse," Davis said. "She does everything you want her to do, she never disappoints you in any way; she's just so professional about everything. She's an absolute sweetheart to be around and when it's time to do her job, she does it." Apple Bottom Jeans makes her 2020 debut in Wednesday's (March 4) $50,000 fillies-and-mares invitational at Dover Downs, where Shartin N also makes her seasonal bow. Shartin N, who won 15 of 19 races last year and was worse than second only once, is the 8-5 morning-line favorite. The 7-year-old Apple Bottom Jeans won five of 24 races last season and hit the board a total of 20 times on her way to $314,505. Her earnings ranked fourth among pacing mares in 2019. "I couldn't have been any happier with her," said Davis, who trains Apple Bottom Jeans for owners Howard Taylor, Robert Cooper Stables, and Ed Gold. "I'm very happy with the way she's trained back; she's really good. I expect her to do very well again this year." Apple Bottom Jeans' wins last year included three preliminary divisions of the Blue Chip Matchmaker Series. She finished second to Shartin N in the Clara Barton Pace and was third behind Shartin N and Caviart Ally in the Golden Girls and Betsy Ross Invitational as well as a preliminary round of the Great Northeast Series. She was second to Caviart Ally in the Rainbow Blue Series final. "She never stopped trying," Davis said. "She just was third best." Following Wednesday's start, Apple Bottom Jeans will head to the Blue Chip Matchmaker Series at Yonkers Raceway. The six-week event begins March 13 and ends April 18. She finished third in last year's final, which was won by Shartin N. Another Matchmaker-eligible mare, Major Occasion A, is the 2-1 second choice in Wednesday's race at Dover. Major Occasion A has won three of six races this year, her first in North America after a well-regarded career Down Under. The 6-year-old Australian-bred mare is trained by Richard "Nifty" Norman and owned by Norman's Enzed Racing Stable. Major Occasion A is 2-for-3 at Dover, including a 1:49.4 win on Feb. 5 in the fillies-and-mares open. "She's been a real pleasant surprise," Norman said. "I knew she was a nice mare, but she's nice in every respect. She's a nice mare to be around. She's a big really good-looking mare, she's game, she can race either way; she's just a pretty good horse." Norman has staked Major Occasion A to some other races on the Grand Circuit in addition to the Matchmaker. "I wasn't really sure if she was good enough, but she's made a bit of money so I did put her in a few stakes races at The Meadowlands so far just to make sure she's got somewhere to race," Norman said. "I've been real happy with her. I didn't think she was at this level, but I guess we'll find out a lot more about her on Wednesday when she races against a really good field of mares." Racing begins at 4:30 p.m. (EST) Wednesday at Dover Downs. The fillies-and-mares invitational is race 12 on the 14-race card. For complete entries, click here. by Ken Weingartner, for the USTA   

None Bettor A and Rodeo Rock hope to make strong impressions on the Grand Circuit this year and the two older male pacers will begin their journey together by making their harness racing seasonal debuts in Saturday's (Feb. 29) preferred at The Meadowlands. None Bettor A captured last year's Battle of Lake Erie as part of a campaign that saw him win 12 of 18 races and $375,970. Rodeo Rock, who won eight of 21 starts and $349,650, was victorious in two preliminary rounds of the George Morton Levy Memorial Pacing Series and finished second in the final. He also was second in the Commodore Barry Invitational. The two 7-year-old geldings are expected to head to the MGM Borgata Pacing Series (formerly Levy) at Yonkers Raceway when it begins March 14. The six-week series concludes April 18. None Bettor A won a qualifier in 1:51.2 on Feb. 22 at The Meadowlands. He finished second in a qualifier on Feb. 15. "He'll race this week and then get next week off before jumping into the (Borgata) series," trainer Andrew Harris said. "Hopefully he can earn himself a week off sometime in the series, but if not, this way he can go four or five races in a row if need be. It's tough. Things have to go right from the get-go. "He qualified great last week. It looks like they're ready to go (1):48 this week so I'm sure he'll get stretched out and whatever happens it will be good for moving him forward." Harris began training None Bettor A this past August. After joining his stable, the gelding won the Great Northeast Open Series final and finished second in the Bobby Quillen Memorial. The 2019 season was the Australian-bred horse's first year racing in North America. He is owned by Joe P Racing and Oldford Racing. "He's just one of the coolest horses I have in the barn," Harris said. "He doesn't do anything wrong. He was real anxious in his first qualifier but he'd been away (from the track) for a little while. Last week he was back to his normal self. "He's got good gate speed, but on a personal level, I just really like his demeanor in the barn and how he handles himself." None Bettor A, then in the stable of trainer Jennifer Bongiorno, won the Battle of Lake Erie at half-mile Northfield Park in a world-record equaling 1:49. "I think he's probably one of the better half-mile horses we'll see this year," Harris said. "But we've staked him to everything, so he's going to get his opportunities on the big track too." Rodeo Rock enters Saturday's preferred off a fourth-place finish in last week's qualifier won by None Bettor A. He was timed in 1:51.4. "He's been very good (coming back)," trainer Robert Cleary said. "We were very happy with the way he qualified last week. I thought it was pretty good, really." Rodeo Rock was sidelined because of health issues in midseason last year. He was away from the races for nearly two months but ended his campaign with four wins and two seconds in his last eight starts. "I was super happy with the way he raced in the Levy and the early stakes," said Cleary, who trains Rodeo Rock for owner Royal Wire Products Inc. "Then he ran into some health issues and we had to give him some time off, but he came back strong at the end of the year." Cleary plans to race Rodeo Rock on the Grand Circuit but will keep the horse close to his base in New Jersey rather than send him on extended trips. "He's a bad shipper, so I only staked him to the local tracks," Cleary said. "But he's as good on a small track as he is on a big track, you can race him anywhere and any way. He's going to have opportunities to make money. "He can carry his speed a long way, which is probably one of his biggest attributes. He's just a real good racehorse. He shows up every week." Racing begins at 6:55 p.m. (EST) Saturday at The Meadowlands. For complete entries, click here. by Ken Weingartner, for the USTA    

No one needs to worry about Shartin N resting on her laurels, although she might get to relax a little more this year than her previous two seasons. In 2018, Shartin N made at least one start in every month from January through November on her way to the first million-dollar season for a pacing mare and a Dan Patch Award for best older female pacer. Last year, she made at least one start in every month from March through November. She won 15 of 19, finished second on three occasions, earned $982,177, set the record (1:46.4) for the fastest mile ever by a female pacer, and was named top pacing mare, Pacer of the Year, and Horse of the Year. She became the first pacing mare in history to be named Horse of the Year, as well as the first horse bred outside North America to receive the honor. The 7-year-old New Zealand import is already working toward her return to the races, which is expected to come next week at Dover Downs. Then it's off to Yonkers Raceway's Blue Chip Matchmaker Series, a six-week event that Shartin N has won each of the past two years. Following the Matchmaker, which begins March 13 and ends April 18, trainer Jim King Jr. will look to give Shartin N some time off. "We've decided to try to give her a split year instead of trying to go all the way through the year," King said. "If that works out, when we get done with the Matchmaker hopefully we can give her a pretty good break and then get her back ready to take off from there. It won't be a real long break, but there are some races that we're going to try to miss. "If she can be good early and be good late, she can still accomplish a lot. That's a lot to ask of a horse that you just got done racing for 10 months, twice. But so far, she hasn't minded me doing foolish things." Shartin N, bred in New Zealand by Grant Crabbe, was purchased in the fall of 2017 by Richard Poillucci. She is now owned by Poillucci, Jo Ann Looney-King, and Tim Tetrick LLC. Since arriving in North America, Shartin N has won 34 of 43 races and $2.03 million. "It's just absolutely amazing for us to be in a position to buy a Down Under mare and become Horse of the Year," Poillucci said. "I was just hoping for a nice open mare. This has far exceeded all expectations. What she's done at that level of racing is unbelievable. To keep them on their toes in those kinds of miles is a very difficult task. "I think that's what most impresses me, her ability to carry speed the way she does and standout in races where they're going (fast fractions) and she's still charging. Horses don't do that stuff on a regular basis." Tetrick has driven Shartin N in all her North American starts. "She was pretty tough (to handle) when she started," Tetrick said during this past Sunday's Dan Patch Awards banquet, when the Horse of the Year announcement was made. "But she had big lungs and you couldn't get her tired. When she was on her game she was as good as any horse I've ever sat behind. She has a ton of speed and grit. She had a mind of her own, but she worked with us and we got it done." Shartin N qualified on Feb. 19 at Dover Downs, winning in 1:51.3. Poillucci called the qualifier "absolutely perfect." "Here it comes again," King said, referring to a new season. "Every indication is that she's come back very good." Shartin N will attempt to become the first horse to repeat as Horse of the Year since trotting mare Moni Maker in 1998-99 and the first pacer to repeat since Cam Fella in 1982-83. She finished second to McWicked in balloting for 2018 Horse of the Year and, according to noted harness racing historian Bob "Hollywood" Heyden, is the first since Matt's Scooter in 1989 to be runner-up one year and come back the next season to receive Horse of the Year. "I just want to say thank you to all the voters, and most of all thank you to Shartin," King said Sunday at the banquet, adding later, "She's definitely been life changing for us." by Ken Weingartner, for the USTA

Orlando, FL --- Shartin N on Sunday night became the first pacing mare to be named Horse of the Year, receiving harness racing's top honor to cap the U.S. Harness Writers Association's Dan Patch Awards banquet at Rosen Shingle Creek resort. The New Zealand import also became the first horse bred outside North America to receive the award. Shartin N, who also was named Pacer of the Year, captured 83 votes in Horse of the Year balloting. Three-year-old colt pacer Bettor's Wish was second with 42 and 3-year-old colt trotter Greenshoe, the Trotter of the Year, was third with 14. Also receiving Horse of the Year votes were Manchego (three), Warrawee Ubeaut (two), and Atlanta, Six Pack, and When Dovescry (one each). In balloting for Pacer of the Year, Shartin N received 94 votes while Bettor's Wish got 48. Warrawee Ubeaut (three) and Lather Up and McWicked (one each) rounded out the Pacer of the Year voting. Greenshoe led Trotter of the Year balloting with 95 votes, followed by Manchego with 23, Atlanta with nine, and Gimpanzee and Six Pack with six each. Real Cool Sam (three), Bold Eagle and When Dovescry (two each), and Guardian Angel As (one) completed the balloting. Shartin N, who was a 6-year-old in 2019, is the fifth female pacer to be named Horse of the Year and first since 2-year-old filly JK She'salady in 2014. The others were 3-year-old fillies Rainbow Blue (2004), Bunny Lake (2001), and Fan Hanover (1981). Trained by Jim King Jr. and driven by Tim Tetrick, Shartin N won 15 of 19 races and finished worse than second only once. She earned $982,177 for owners Richard Poillucci, Jo Ann Looney-King, and Tim Tetrick LLC. She is the first Horse of the Year for the ownership group and trainer King. She is the third Horse of the Year for Tetrick as a driver. Shartin N's wins last year included eight races worth six figures --- the Blue Chip Matchmaker Series championship, Roses Are Red, Lady Liberty, Golden Girls, Artiscape, Clara Barton, Betsy Ross, and Sam "Chip" Noble III Memorial. Her 1:46.4 victory in the Lady Liberty on Aug. 3 at The Meadowlands is the fastest mile by a female pacer in history. "It's crazy good," King Jr. said. "It's unexplainable. It's one of those feelings that everybody should get the chance to experience. Unfortunately, everybody can't do this. "I was pretty confident, but I was pretty confident last year and it didn't work. I've got special feelings toward her. If I don't think so, who would?" Shartin N, a daughter of Tintin In America out of Bagdarin bred by Grant (G J) Crabbe, was runner-up to McWicked in Horse of the Year voting in 2018. "I wasn't a voter; she would have gotten my vote," King Jr. said with a laugh. "She had a tremendous season (in 2018) and to come back and do it again is special. Life is great." Trotter of the Year Greenshoe won 10 of 13 races and never was worse than second. His victories included the Kentucky Futurity and Dr. Harry M. Zweig Memorial. He was second in the Hambletonian, Breeders Crown and Earl Beal Jr. Memorial. Greenshoe was trained by Marcus Melander, driven by Brian Sears, and owned by Courant Inc., Hans Backe, Lars Granqvist, and Morten Langli. A son of Father Patrick out of Designed To Be, he was bred by Al Libfeld and Marvin Katz. Greenshoe connections                            --Mark Hall USTA photo "It's great," Melander said. "Of course, we had our hopes that we could be that. It was fun. "He had a good season. Missing to win the Hambletonian was the biggest disappointment, but we can't go back in time. That race is done. We're happy that he won some other big races and performed as well as he did all year. It was a privilege to train the horse and hopefully I'll train some of his babies in the future." The announcements of Horse, Pacer, and Trotter of the Year were made during Sunday's banquet. Previously announced divisional champions also were honored at the event. Division-winning pacers were 2-year-old colt Tall Dark Stranger, 2-year-old filly Lyons Sentinel, 3-year-old colt Bettor's Wish, 3-year-old filly Warrawee Ubeaut, stallion McWicked, and mare Shartin N. Division-winning trotters were 2-year-old gelding Real Cool Sam, 2-year-old filly Ramona Hill, 3-year-old colt Greenshoe, 3-year-old filly When Dovescry, stallion Six Pack, and mare Atlanta. Other honorees included Stan Bergstein-Proximity Award winners Joe Faraldo and the Libfeld-Katz partnership, Driver of the Year Dexter Dunn, Trainer of the Year Marcus Melander, Owner of the Year Courant Inc., Breeder of the Year Brittany Farms, and Rising Star Bob McClure. Also recognized Sunday at the banquet were the members of the 2019 Hall of Fame class, which will be inducted in July: Tom Charters, Jeff Gural, Bill Popfinger, and Tetrick. For a list of winners, visit the U.S. Harness Writers Association's website.   Ken Weingartner Media Relations Manager U.S. Trotting Association www.ustrotting.com

The name of the 2019 Horse of the Year will be announced Sunday night (Feb. 23) at the annual U.S. Harness Writers Association’s Dan Patch Awards dinner at Rosen Shingle Creek in Orlando, Fla. But even if you aren’t among the attendees you will be able to watch the announcement live via USHWA’s YouTube page. After a one-hour cocktail hour, the awards ceremony gets underway at 6:30 p.m.(12:30pm NZ time) and will be available via the U.S. Trotting Association’s YouTube page. At approximately 9:30 p.m (3:30pm NZ time), emcees Roger Huston and Jason Settlemoir will announce the winner of the E. Roland Harriman Horse of the Year trophy, which follows the revealing of the names of the Pacer of the Year and Trotter of the Year. To access YouTube page, please click here. The entire video will also be available on the U.S. Trotting Association’s YouTube page on Monday (Feb. 24). Post time for the evening is 5:30 p.m., with a one-hour Red Carpet cocktail reception sponsored by Shartin N. Also starring on the Red Carpet will be Heather Vitale and Heather Wilder, with the two Heathers broadcasting live on their individual Facebook pages. It’s your guarantee to see who’s wearing what and what the attendees have to say about the festivities. Heather Vitale’s Facebook page can be found here. Heather Wilder’s Facebook page can be found here. (USHWA)   Ken Weingartner Media Relations Manager U.S. Trotting Association www.ustrotting.com

The 20th edition of the World Cup for amateur harness racing drivers will be held next week at Florida's Pompano Park and U.S. representative Joe Pennacchio will be aiming to make history. No American has ever won the event, which this year brings together participants from 12 countries from around the globe. "I'm honored to race under the U.S. flag and represent our country," Pennacchio said. "It's very exciting to be doing it, and it would be an incredible treat to be able to win. We're going to try to get it done. But I know all the other drivers are very capable. I'll just see how the races unfold and do the best I can to be in a good position. We'll see how it shakes out." Pennacchio, a retired CEO who spent most of his career in department store retailing, has won 186 races in his career and was the U.S. Harness Writers Association's Amateur Driver of the Year in 2018. Pennacchio won 15 of 67 races that season. His victory total was one shy of his career high. In addition to driving, Pennacchio has enjoyed success as an owner, most notably with 2004 Breeders Crown winner Yankee Slide. He is the past president of the Florida Standardbred Breeders & Owners Association, a director of the U.S. Trotting Association, and a member of the Florida Amateur Driving Club. The club is hosting the World Cup. "I've driven internationally quite a bit and many of those drivers have multiple hundreds of wins over their careers," Pennacchio said. "They tend to drive a lot more over the course of the year than we do. But our amateur series in the United States has grown incredibly in the last five to 10 years. There are more races than any one person could want to go to at this point. The opportunities are all over the place. "We have a great club in Florida. We race three or four times every weekend. The only problem for me is I'm old. I wish I was 30 years younger. I've got more behind me than I've got in front of me. So, it's even more special for me (to drive in the World Cup) because I don't know if I would get another opportunity to do something like this." The World Cup consists of eight races, with each driver getting five starts. The first four races are Monday (Feb. 24) and the final four are Tuesday (Feb. 25). Argentina's Leonardo Agusti is the defending World Cup champion. Agusti has won more than 1,300 races in his career, which began in 1966. He has raced in the U.S. on several occasions and owns a win at Pompano Park, which he picked up in 2008. The remaining drivers in the event are Switzerland's Barbara Aebischer, Spain's Miquel Vich Capo, Canada's David Drew, Hungary's Andrea Fazekas, Denmark's Lars Munk, Belgium's Piet Van Pollaert, New Zealand's Warren Rich, Austria's Thomas Royer, Italy's Andrea Sallustio, and Sweden's Lukas Svedin. Fazekas also has a win at Pompano Park, which came in 2016. Two years later, she picked up a victory at Monticello Raceway. She and Agusti are the only non-North American drivers with wins in the States. Fazekas has won nearly 180 races since beginning her career in 2003. "It will be amazing to return to this track (Pompano)," Fazekas wrote via Facebook Messenger. "Having won there before brings me confidence. I'm looking forward to the World Cup and will try to do my best. I believe in myself and cross my fingers for good horses. "I enjoy the excitement of racing," she added. "Driving new horses, getting to know them; it's always a good experience." The drivers will arrive in Florida on Saturday and be treated to a number of excursions, including a trip to Sunshine Meadows Equestrian Village and boat tour of Fort Lauderdale. "Steve (Oldford) and Dein (Spriggs) have done a remarkable job putting together a great program," Pennacchio said. "People are going to have the opportunity to be busy every minute of the day. They're going to take them all over the place." He then added with a laugh, "Maybe they can get them really tired and I can win." Pennacchio, who drew posts eight and two on Monday and posts three, five, and three on Tuesday, knows it will not be that easy. "When you go on the racetrack it's incredibly competitive," Pennacchio said. "When you come off the racetrack everybody is friends and we laugh about it. We'll have a great time. We'll have a greater time if we win, but we'll have a great time no matter what." For the program pages for the Monday races in the competition, click here. For the program pages for the Tuesday races in the competition click here. by Ken Weingartner, for the USTA 

When opportunity knocked, Drew Monti answered. It led to the best season of the 25-year-old driver's career. Monti was amid what he called a "pedestrian" campaign at his home track, Buffalo Raceway, when he was presented an opportunity to drive regularly at Plainridge Park. It gave Monti the chance to make new, as well as strengthen previous, connections and drive in an increased number of stakes. By the end of 2019, his purse earnings were a career-best $2.24 million. Prior to last year, Monti had driven in two races worth at least $100,000. In 2019, he drove in 11. He won a Massachusetts Sire Stakes championship with Odds On Orlando and competed in Grand Circuit events at multiple tracks. He did not arrive at Plainridge until early June, but with the notable backing of Lindy Farms, posted 89 wins the rest of the meet. Only Mitchell Cushing and Drew Campbell won more races during that time. Monti also enjoyed success at Red Mile, winning 13 of 75 starts (only Dexter Dunn won more among drivers with fewer than 130 starts at the Lexington oval) while still finishing third in the standings at Buffalo and fourth at Batavia. "It was definitely my best year so far, including exposure," Monti said. "It's nothing even compared to what I'd gone through. Even just going to Plainridge for Lindy Farms and stuff, I feel like I made some big strides as far as taking it to the next level. "It's a great circuit at home, but if you really want to be in the game and do well, you have to get out there. Lindy really got me going. They got me out there and the rest of it snowballed from there. I'm very grateful to them for that." Monti has kicked off this year by driving at The Meadowlands and Buffalo. It is his first trip back to the Big M since the winter of 2017. He has nine wins in 86 starts at The Meadowlands heading into this weekend's action, when he will have a total of 17 drives on Friday and Saturday. "I talked with people about coming down and I'm glad I did," Monti said. "I'm happy to be there. It's been going pretty well, I think. "It's hard to pick where you're going to go. You kind of go where you're needed. Obviously, you've got to have enough work to make it worth your while. Anyone can say they're going somewhere, but to actually compete and have enough work to make it worthwhile is the key." Monti, a Buffalo native, has won 1,532 races in his career with earnings of $9.50 million. In addition to driving, he helps his dad, Darrin, with the family's training stable. The family ties make for difficult decisions when it comes to traveling. "I don't think it's a secret, I love Buffalo," Monti said. "I'm not saying I would be opposed to moving anywhere, but I like the area I live in and I'm very close with my family. That was one thing that was difficult for me. You can't be everywhere all the time. You've got to make sacrifices. Sometimes it was with our own horses back home. I'd be watching our horses race and it was the first time I wasn't the one driving them. That said, I can see the rewards. "I'm very happy with the last couple years and the way things have progressed. I'd like to continue at that pace. I'm not one to really push things. I like to kind of let it come to me. (Early last year) I was a little bummed because I wasn't doing that great at home. I was winning races, but it was just very pedestrian. It's funny; it just shows you how things can change." Monti, who so far in his career has won two driving titles at Batavia and one at Buffalo, hopes to have a schedule similar to 2019 this year. "I'm planning on going back to Plainridge, I'm planning to be available for stakes, Grand Circuit, stuff like that," Monti said. "I'll still make appearances at Buffalo as much as I can. It's hard to say because things can change so quickly and unpredictably. It's hard to plan exactly what you're doing." Because you never know when opportunity will knock.  by Ken Weingartner, for the USTA   

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

Janine McIlvain laughs when discussing the names of her family's harness racing horses. That's exactly what Janine's daughter Leigh intended. Leigh was a teenager when she began naming the family's horses some number of years ago. It was her love of horses as a young girl that had helped prompt Janine's father, Bill Mears, and Janine's husband, Bob, to invest in their own passion and start racing and breeding Standardbreds. One of their homebreds, an 8-year-old pacing stallion, races Saturday in the first round of a Leap Year Series division at The Meadowlands. His name belies the fact he's hit the board in more than half of his 139 career starts and earned $240,862. He is Time Out I'm Tired. "She's got a little quirky sense of humor," Janine said about Leigh. "When she was a little girl, all she wanted to do was horses. Of course, my husband and father were thrilled. They just went headlong into these horses. She loved it. She grew up around horses, helped with the horses, jogged horses. "That's where the whole thing began, with a little girl about 4 years old wanting horses. That little 4-year-old grew up and decided to be funny with naming all of them. She is quite a character." Time Out I'm Tired is a son of Artiscape out of Badlands Laura. The mare, named by Janine's father after the oldest of the McIlvain's two girls, is out of Hollys Premium. Janine's father and husband bought Hollys Premium for $250 a little more than 20 years ago and all their homebreds are out of her or her daughters. Around the McIlvain house, Time Out I'm Tired is known as Timmy. So how did his name come about? "When Timmy was born, we had not had a lot of what my father would call world-beaters," Janine said. "They would get so far and that would be it. So, Leigh said maybe these horses just need a little timeout during the race. So, she named the horse Time Out I'm Tired. "We kind of laugh every time the announcer says the name because you would think he'd be at the rear of the pack. But he's doing OK. He's got a lot of heart. He doesn't like to lose. He likes to chase them at the end. Sometimes he's able to win, other times he's just a little bit short and we wish we had a couple more yards on that track." Leigh had already showed her budding penchant for offbeat names before Time Out I'm Tired was born. She named Timmy's older sister Some Brown Horse just so she could hear track announcers say, "Here comes Some Brown Horse." Another family favorite is Justa Ordinary Guy, who is now 17 and living the life of Riley on the McIlvains' property. Some of the names are related to family, such as Mean Janine. "She thought that was funny," Janine said. Janine, though, did laugh at the name, maybe because some years later there was a Jolly Janine. Hurricane Joyce was named as a reference to the temper possessed by Janine's mom. Pretty Patty Pat was named after Bob's mom, who will turn 88 on St. Patrick's Day. "There is a meaning behind all the horses' names," Janine said. "All from a quirky little girl who thinks it's funny to name these horses these names." by Ken Weingartner, for the USTA    

To paraphrase horse owner Mark Weaver, everything old is new again. Weaver, part of the Weaver Bruscemi partnership that owns horses with trainer Ron Burke, is resurrecting the practice of offering two horses -- at the same time -- for sale at auction. On Tuesday, 4-year-old female trotters Matterlei and Wildfire Seelster will be sold as hip numbers 120B and 120A, respectively, at the Blooded Horse Sales' Winter Speed Sale. The winning bidder will have his or her choice of one of the horses. The unselected horse will return to the Burke Brigade. Murray Brown, the former Hanover Shoe Farms public relations director and general manager/VP of the Standardbred Horse Sales Company, recently wrote about the practice in Harness Racing Update. "I've heard Murray Brown and Eric Cherry (horse owner-breeder and co-owner of online auction onGait.com) talk about it," Weaver said. "We need to get rid of horses. Particularly, with these two, they fit the same class and they've had to race against each other and that just doesn't make good business sense. They're very similar horses. "I've had a lot of feedback. People said they'll be watching to see what happens. Just to see two horses in the ring will be kind of different." Matterlei, by Explosive Matter out of Hawaiian Lei, has won five of her last seven races dating back to November. Wildfire Seelster, by Explosive Matter out of Warrawee Lassie, has won six of her last eight starts, also dating back to November. "We figure we'll sell them and let the buyer decide which one they want, and we'll keep the other one," Weaver said. "I think that gives the buyer an added level of confidence. I think the buyers will appreciate it. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. We're keeping the other one, so it's not like we're trying to dump anything. It'll be interesting. It's an old idea, but I think it's a new idea. It'll be cool." Weaver plans to continue the practice of offering two horses together in upcoming auctions at onGait.com. He said, though, it might not be two horses of the same type, as is the case with Tuesday's sale. For example, a 4-year-old pacing gelding might be offered with a 6-year-old trotting mare. "I really like the concept," Weaver said. "They have to be similar in value, but it really doesn't matter if they're like horses. You're still giving the buyer the option to pick. "Every year, we need to move about 30 or 40 horses to make room for others. It's a big cycle. We try to sell horses when they'll bring good money based on their current form. If we sell a bunch of horses and none of them go on, we're going to have trouble selling horses (in the future). We want them to do well. Fortunately, over the last six, eight, 10 years many of our horses have." The Blooded Horse Sales' Winter Speed Sale begins at 9:30 a.m. (EST) at Champions Center Expo in Springfield, Ohio. For more information, click here. by Ken Weingartner, for the USTA

Top Flight Angel, the winner of the 2017 Yonkers Trot, is ready to return to the races this week and his connections hope he will be continuing his ascent to the million-dollar level. A 6-year-old stallion, Top Flight Angel has won 14 of 65 career races and $902,820 for breeder/owner Alan Hainsworth, a New Yorker who races under the name Legendary Standardbred Farm. Hainsworth has a special bond with the horse because he owns Top Flight Angel's sire, the 2012 Yonkers Trot winner Archangel, and dam, Top Photo. "It's fantastic," Hainsworth said. "He's grown up into a beautiful horse, so perfectly gaited, and he's very easy to drive. He's got a lot of brains. I want to race him until he makes a million dollars, then we'll see where we are with him. He's been a great horse." Top Flight Angel is beginning his fourth season in the barn of trainer Julie Miller. He battled sickness last year, limiting him to three victories, but after a nearly two-month respite won a qualifier last Friday at The Meadowlands in 1:54.2 and has been entered to race this weekend. "We gave him a lot of TLC and time to get over (his illness)," Miller said. "I thought that was a pretty decent qualifier the other day up there at The Meadowlands. "He's always been a pleasure to be around. He's a beautiful horse and he loves his job. You're not supposed to fall in love with them, but he would definitely be on my list of favorites. When he goes on the track, you know that no matter what, he's going to give it his all." Winning the Yonkers Trot with Archangel provided Hainsworth with a great memory. Capturing the Trotting Triple Crown event a second time with Top Flight Angel might even have topped the first. "Winning it once is like a miracle, and then to win it twice with the father and son and same owner, that was big," Hainsworth said. "To win it twice, there are hardly any words. If I ever got there again, I would probably be crying. I haven't given that thought up, either." Eleven days after Top Flight Angel won the Yonkers Trot, he rolled into Batavia Downs for a division of the New York Sire Stakes. He won in 1:54.3, equaling the track record set five years earlier by his father, Archangel. "That was another unbelievable night," Hainsworth said. "I was impressed with how he got around all those tracks in New York," Miller said. "You could send him anywhere and I knew he could handle those half-mile tracks and handle that grind. He was just that class of horse." Top Flight Angel, who finished second in the 2018 Breeders Crown Open Trot and was runner-up in the Harry Harvey Invitational the same year, will likely spend a good amount of time this season competing at The Meadowlands and Yonkers. "Hopefully he can make a couple hundred thousand this year," Hainsworth said. "I'd like to get him to the million-dollar mark," Miller said. "That's always a nice accomplishment for any horse to make it to that point." If Top Flight Angel reaches that level, he would join his father in the million-dollar club (Archangel banked $1.14 million) and become his father's second offspring to surpass the barrier (joining Guardian Angel AS). And while Hainsworth will be watching Top Flight Angel, he will also be keeping tabs on Archangel-sired newcomers heading to the races later this season. Hainsworth's own Angel Nation, purchased under the name Stable Genius for $60,000 at the 2018 Standardbred Horse Sale, is among them. He did not race last year as a 2-year-old. "He's a beautifully gaited horse, that's what is so nice about him, and he looks terrific," Hainsworth said. "It's exciting to have the stallion and watch these owners that have their new Archangel babies come on board. I spend quite a lot of time in Canada (where Archangel stands) watching these new ones come up. I get a big kick out of it. That's pretty exciting to me." by Ken Weingartner, for the USTA

Wherever he goes, JL Cruze is still the man. "Everybody knows him, everybody loves him," trainer Eric Ell said about the 9-year-old harness racing trotter, who was a Dan Patch Award winner in 2015. "He's a household name around here. Everybody asks about him when he's not racing to make sure he's all right. They keep track of him. When people see him, they come up hugging on him. He's been unbelievable." JL Cruze might not be the Grand Circuit warrior of old, but he remains a fighter. And with two wins in three races this season, including a 1:51.2 score that is as fast as any win time he's posted since he was 6, he could be looking to turn back the clock. In addition to his 1:51.2 victory at The Meadowlands on Jan. 11, JL Cruze won in 1:53.4 over a track rated good because of inclement weather on Jan. 18. "He was incredible his last two starts," Ell said. "Two starts ago, he did it the old-fashioned way, like his old self. He was parked to the half in :54.3 and he won by a length and a half, last quarter :27.3 on the end of it. The next week, that was a great mile that night and he did it easily. "He's probably as sound as he's been since I've had him, and he loves doing what he does. He's better this year, even with the turns. You used to almost have to grab into him a little bit because he could get rough going. (Driver) Dexter Dunn said he's just whistling right around the turns now." JL Cruze's next start is Saturday at The Meadowlands in the preferred trot. JL Cruze will start from post 10 in a field that includes Pappy Go Go, who brings a three-race win streak to the event. "If he's as good as he was the last three starts up there, they'll know he's in there for sure," Ell said about JL Cruze. For his career, JL Cruze has won 37 of 104 races and $1.46 million. His most memorable victory came at The Meadowlands in 2015 when he captured the Graduate Series championship in 1:49.4 to become the first trotter to go faster than 1:50 in Big M history. He was limited to six races in 2018 because of surgery for a twisted intestine but returned last year to win six times and earn $100,720. He made all but one of his 26 starts at either The Meadowlands or Hoosier Park and Ell plans to keep JL Cruze on the big tracks again this season. The gelding is owned by Ken Wood, Bill Dittmar Jr., and Steve Iaquinta. "We didn't stake him last year because we didn't even know how he would be," Ell said. "We just did the overnights and he ended up making a hundred (thousand dollars) that way. He's getting pretty long in the tooth now. He's still competing well, but I don't know how well he would take all the shipping (on the Grand Circuit). But the time off might have helped him. He's been really good." As for what JL Cruze has meant to Ell, well, he's still the man. "Words can't say," Ell said. "I've had a lot of open horses that I've trained in my life, but never a world champion like him. He's just a tough rascal." Racing begins at 7:15 p.m. (EST) Saturday at The Meadowlands. For complete entries, click here. by Ken Weingartner, for the USTA  

What a difference a year makes. Last January, the female harness racing pacer Golden Paradise was competing in the Claim to Fame Series at Miami Valley Raceway. This January, she is already a two-time winner of the fillies-and-mares open at the same track, where on Friday she will try to capture her third in a row. And, in between, she won the Indiana Sire Stakes championship for pacing mares. So, it's safe to say trainer/co-owner Tyler George is very grateful Golden Paradise was not claimed a year ago. "No kidding," George said with a laugh. "I would have been kicking myself, that's for sure." Golden Paradise, a 6-year-old daughter of Allthatgltrsisgold out of Paradise Island who began her career on the Indiana fairs circuit, is the 5-2 morning-line favorite in Friday's $22,500 fillies-and-mares open handicap. She will start from the outside, post No. 7, with driver Trace Tetrick. For her career, Golden Paradise has won 30 of 86 races and $259,302. Her current ownership group, made up of George, Sam Schillaci, and Wrenn Jr. Racing, came together in November 2018. After working with the mare to resolve tying-up issues and changing her routine, she began to click on a more consistent basis. Since the beginning of 2019, she has won 12 of 28 starts and $157,675. "She hasn't really changed physically much," George said. "She calmed down a little bit, just kind of matured. She's become a professional. We've had some nice mares that are faster than her, but she just never has a bad day. She just always puts in a good effort every time. "I really appreciate that about her. She's very consistent. And she's very easy to drive. Trace said the other day he could drive her with no handholds right now. That's hard to find. Plus, she's very versatile. She'll race just as well off a trip as if you put her in play." Golden Paradise's current form shows three wins and two seconds, both by a head, in her past five races. George, who was among the horse's trainers prior to owning the mare with Ronnie Wrenn Jr. and Schillaci, said her breeding also might be a factor in her development. "She's out of an Abercrombie (sired) mare, you don't see that very often in the program anymore, and those horses, years ago, just got really good when they got older," George said. After the mare began to show improvement last year, her connections supplemented her to the Indiana Sire Stakes. She will compete in the sire stakes again this season. "She fits pretty good with those horses, I think," George said. "Beyond that, it would probably be hard for her. We'll just keep her around here and have a little fun with her. We'll race at Miami Valley and Hoosier a little bit, maybe Scioto. She's already exceeded all our expectations." Regardless of where Golden Paradise does compete, it is safe to say where she will not race anytime soon. "No more claimers," George said, laughing. Racing begins at 6:05 p.m. (EST) Friday at Miami Valley Raceway. For complete entries, click here. by Ken Weingartner, for the USTA

Hightstown, NJ -- Chris Page put together quite the superfecta in 2019. The 36-year-old harness racing driver piloted Ohio's Horse of the Year in 2-year-old male pacer Elver Hanover, notched career victory 5,000, increased his workload on the Grand Circuit, and got married. "It was the best year of my life, horse racing wise and in my personal life," Page said. "I was very happy with all of it." Page won more than 400 races for the seventh consecutive year in 2019 and nearly set a career high for purses despite taking off all but one day in December for his honeymoon. The Ohio resident visited the winner's circle 435 times and earned $5.94 million. Although his purses failed to eclipse his $6.19 million in 2018, his average earnings per start were better in 2019. In addition to driving Elver Hanover, who was undefeated in nine races, Page drove Ohio champion 2-year-old filly pacer Looksgoodinaromper and had occasional drives with 4-year-old Mission Accepted, who was named Ohio's best older trotter. All three horses were from the stable of trainer Ron Burke. "It was a very good year," Page said. "Honestly, I've got to thank the Burkes. They're the ones that made it possible. Between them and (trainer) Brian Brown, they've been very good to me. "Everything just came together. The good thing about 2019 going into 2020, those horses that were 2-year-olds are coming back as 3-year-olds here in Ohio for the stakes program. With a little luck, we'll have a great year this year too." Page drove Elver Hanover, by Yankee Cruiser out of Edra Hanover, in all but one of his nine races last season. Yannick Gingras was in the bike for the gelding's 1:48.3 world-record score in a division of the Bluegrass Stakes at Lexington's Red Mile. Page was back behind Elver Hanover the following week when he closed his season with a win in a division of the International Stallion Stakes. "It's tough to say anything is perfect, but how do you say that he's not? More importantly, the horse got put away on top," Page said. "Anytime in the year, the horse never was taking tired steps. He was always pacing forward late. And he is user friendly. That makes my job so much easier when you can do whatever you want with a horse. "I saw a picture of him the other day and he looks like a tank. He might have grown a little bit, in height and filled out, and he's always been a good-looking horse, anyway. It makes 2020 exciting driving horses like that." Page drove Looksgoodinaromper in all 12 of her races, winning five. She became the fastest 2-year-old filly pacer on a half-mile track with a 1:52.3 victory at Northfield in a division of the Ohio Sire Stakes. "You can't forget about her," Page said. "I really liked her. I think she maybe got a little bit tired late in the year and we were drawing terrible. But she's a world-record-holder too." Page, who studied to be a veterinarian before turning his full attention to driving, got his first win in 2001 and topped 1,000 starts and 300 wins for the first time in 2009. With the exception of last season when he took his honeymoon break, he has been one of the five busiest drivers in North America on a regular basis. "Obviously, you have dreams; everybody dreams," Page said about his success. "But I kind of implemented a process and stuck to it. You've got to know a few people, but I believe in hard work. I put the work in, and I still do. Being there and trying to be cordial and respectful. These people, there are plenty of guys out there that they can choose to drive their horses. Sometimes, they might remember you for a simple hello. "That's kind of how I got started. I don't have family per se in the business. My parents didn't do it. I need every inch I can get. And timing. When I got started driving, we didn't have the slots here at the racetracks. Your Brett Millers, your Dave Millers, they went out east and it opened up some room for a young guy like myself to get started." Page likes to be as prepared as possible when he sits behind a horse. He also likes to help prepare a horse to maximize its potential. "I'm a program reader and nowadays with the replays, if I haven't driven a horse, I can type in his name and watch his last few races," Page said. "I do a lot of that; I watch replays quite a bit. It's like, Tom Brady watches film before he goes out and plays a game. You have to do your homework. I want to know as much as I can about the horse; what it can do and what it can't do. "The (young horses) I drive, the first few starts I kind of babysit them. I race them off a helmet and make sure they're pacing late. Once they get that figured out, then you can add another element. Most horses can leave or can learn to leave very easily. But on the flip side, not as many can race off the pace, do stuff like that, because they get hot. I really take pride in my work and really try to do best by the horse." Page was happy to take time off with his wife Brianna at the end of last year to enjoy a honeymoon, which included a week in the Bahamas and a week skiing in Michigan. The couple was married in September. "I never take time off," Page said. "I might take a day or two here or there, but not really any significant time since I started racing. She works in an orthodontist office. She works in the morning, I work at night, so to get to spend some time together is nice. Plus, it was Christmas time and we got to spend time with the families at Christmas. We just had a ball, really. It was the quickest month of my life." Was it difficult to adjust to not rushing around? "No, not at all," Page said. "I'm usually always looking at my watch because I have stuff to do, but for a whole month I didn't pay attention to the time. I kept telling myself I was on vacation and it didn't matter. My biggest chore was figuring out what to eat that day." A very good way to end a very good year. by Ken Weingartner, for the USTA

Growing up together in southeastern Illinois, Jazmin Arnold and Alesha Binkley were inseparable during their summers off from school. "If you saw me, you saw her; if you saw her, you saw me," Arnold said, laughing. "We were together so much that we would take turns staying at each other's house," Binkley said. "Our parents were good friends and we ran around together at all the county fairs while they were racing. We would go to the carnivals, ride rides, go swimming, hang out all summer long. That way our parents didn't have to worry about us too much." After graduating from their respective high schools, Arnold and Binkley went their separate ways. But last year, the two friends, now both living in central Ohio, reunited on harness racing's amateur driving circuits. Arnold, in her first full season, won 23 of 59 races in 2019 and was named the National Amateur of the Year by the U.S. Harness Writers Association. Binkley won eight of 38 races. On Saturday, the 25-year-olds both have multiple drives in the Great Lakes Amateur Driving Series at Northfield Park. The series, which began Dec. 7, concludes a week from Saturday. "We would have never thought when we were younger that we would be doing this," Arnold said. "I trained my first horse at 8 years old. She played a lot of sports. I played sports, too, but I was more into the horses. When her dad got her into the horses, she would jog a little bit, but she was never gung-ho about it like I was." Binkley, who played on high school and travel teams for softball, volleyball and basketball, agreed she had little interest in racing at that time. But after high school, she discovered she enjoyed going to the races and working around the horses. "I always kind of thought about driving," Binkley said, adding with a laugh, "I'm a professional sideline driver, I will say that. I critique everybody from the sidelines. So, I thought maybe I should try it myself." Binkley has worked for trainer Trent Stohler for six years. In 2018, Stohler encouraged Binkley to give driving a shot in the Ohio Ladies Pacing Series. Binkley won her debut and never looked back. Alesha Binkley "I was hooked," said Binkley, who won 10 of 20 starts her first year. "I was like, I want to do this all the time. I really love the adrenaline rush. A bunch of people say I'm so serious on the racetrack. At that point, I'm just trying to contain my excitement. I get so excited, I don't want to overdo it, overdrive, or drive bad. "Leaving the gate is probably my favorite thing. I just love flying out of the gate." Arnold was encouraged to begin driving by her boyfriend, trainer Adam Short, and given an additional boost from trainer Herman Hagerman. She was pleasantly surprised by her success. "I didn't expect it at all," said Arnold, who competed at 26 different tracks last year. "It was fun for me at first and then it became very competitive. Once I got kind of rolling, I had a goal and I just kept on going. It was tough, it was tiring, but it was worth every minute of it. "We'll see where it goes. It was a goal of mine to win an award for driving, but I never knew how it was going to go or when it would happen. I don't really have a plan for this year. I would like to succeed and go forward, but everybody would like to have everything." Arnold works with Short and also trains a 5-year-old female pacer, Knockout Queen, that she owns. Knockout Queen races Friday in the fillies-and-mares open handicap at Miami Valley Raceway. "I'm happy having one horse," Arnold said. "If I can have one and I can train her to my best ability and take care of her the best I can, that's enough." As close as Arnold and Binkley are as friends, they are equally competitive when it comes to facing each other on the racetrack. "We have to do what's best for us to win," Binkley said. "But if I get beat by her, I'm OK with it. Anyone else, and I'm kind of mad at myself." Said Arnold, "If I'm going to get beat by anybody, I'd rather get beat by her." On five occasions, Arnold and Binkley have finished 1-2 in races. Only a dead heat for win might be a more fitting outcome. Inseparable, again. Ken Weingartner Media Relations Manager U.S. Trotting Association

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

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