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Hightstown, NJ --- With a full year of harness racing and learning under his belt, 25-year-old Lucas Wallin is looking forward to his second season training his own stable. And while Wallin is interested in seeing how his young horses develop through the remainder of this winter with an eye toward summer success, he is happy to have a seasoned veteran to watch right now. Rossini, an 8-year-old gelding, will try to make it two wins in a row at the Meadowlands Racetrack when he competes against nine rivals in a conditioned trot Friday. Rossini, who won in 1:54.2 on Feb. 3, is 9-2 on the morning line and will have the services of regular driver Eric Carlson. The race will air as part of the Meadowlands Harness Live broadcast from 9-10 p.m. on SNY (SportsNet New York). Prior to the current Meadowlands meet, Rossini had made only 16 starts in his career, a span of 100 races, on a big track (either one mile or seventh-eighths). His past five starts, though, all have been at the Big M and he has posted two victories as well as a third-place finish. “He was racing well before, but he really seems to like the Meadowlands,” Wallin said. “He’s feeling really good. His last race when he won at the Meadowlands he raced really good. He feels the same right now. We gave him a week off and he’s training good into this race. “It looks really interesting (Friday). If everything works out in the race and he has some luck, he will be there, I think.” Rossini, a son of Classic Photo-Beverly Crusher, has won 29 of 105 lifetime starts and earned $457,552 in purses. He is owned by Steve Organ, who also bred the horse. He is a three-quarter brother to stakes-winners In Focus and Not Afraid. Rossini’s top win came in the 2013 Galt Stakes at Maywood Park. “I enjoy his personality,” Wallin said about Rossini. “He’s 8 years old, but he’s acting like a 2-year-old. He’s playing all day. He really enjoys his life.” Wallin grew up in Sweden, where he was driving ponies at the age of 8. Several years later, he began helping at his uncle Joakim Wallin’s stable. In mid-2014, he was alerted to an opportunity to work for Ake Svanstedt’s stable in the U.S. by childhood friend Oskar Florhed. Wallin spent two years with Svanstedt before deciding to go on his own. Last year, Wallin’s stable won 18 of 110 races and earned $183,712 in purses. This season, he has 19 horses in training, with nine being 2-year-olds. “I learned a lot of things, that’s for sure,” Wallin said about his first full season. “It was an OK year. The horses that raced, they raced good, and we won a couple of smaller stakes races. Of course you always want to win more and bigger races, but I was happy with my first year. “It’s a lot of responsibility and I have really good owners that trust me and tell me to do the best for the horses. They never rush.” Wallin’s 2-year-olds are Anniversary Magic (Lucky Chucky-Beach Magic), Bartolo (Muscles Yankeee-Cameo Credit), Cotton To You (Trixton-Polyester Hanover), Death Bringer (Exposive Matter-Agenda Tom Ridge), Luisa (Andover Hall-Ashley’s Carousel), Quiksilvr Bluechip (Credit Winner-Sea Raven), Rendezvous Kemp (Trixton-Smarty Had A Party), Tenacious Seelster (Trixton-Tara Seelster), and Valentin (Muscle Massive-Nirvana Blue Chip). Another new addition to his stable is stakes-winner Signal Hill, a 4-year-old trotter purchased for $95,000 at the Tattersalls January Select Mixed Sale at the Meadowlands. “Of course every year you want to see the 2-year-olds. Last year we had five 2-year-olds and this year we have nine 2-year-olds. We bought a little better breedings and we’re looking forward to them. They look good. We’re not in a rush. Some stick out a little more than the others, but all of them are doing good right now. I don’t want to say any names, but there are a couple that look really interesting. We’re hoping for a good season. “I have a couple of 3-year-olds, especially the fillies, that look really interesting. We took it easy with them last year; they only raced like five to seven times. They won some overnights and they did good. I think they can develop and be in a little bigger races this year.” For Friday’s Meadowlands entries, click here. Racing begins at 6:35 p.m. (EST). by Ken Weingartner, USTA Media Relations Manager

Doug McNair does not remember the exact moment he knew driving racehorses is what he wanted to do for a living, but he knows it came early. Probably around the time he was 6 or 7 years old and his father, harness racing trainer Gregg McNair, would let Doug hop into the race bike following a training mile and bring the horse back to the barn. “I’d go on Saturdays down to the farm and watch them,” McNair said. “I’d walk a quarter of a mile up the track and as soon as they got done finishing, dad would jump off and let me drive the horse back in the race bike and he would walk back. That was pretty cool, especially being 7 years old or 6 years old, whatever it was. “That’s probably when I knew that’s what I wanted to do. That was a lot of fun.” A little more than two decades later, McNair is still having a lot of fun. Eleven days ago, McNair received the O’Brien Award for Canada’s Driver of the Year. McNair, who was a finalist for the honor in 2013, was the top driver on the WEG circuit. He led all drivers in Canada with C$5.92 million in purses and was third in wins with 318. In addition, McNair was the regular driver of three O’Brien Award winners -- Stay Hungry, Bettor’s Up, and Sandbetweenurtoes -- captured his first Breeders Crown (with Stay Hungry), won two Ontario Sire Stakes championships (with Western Passage and The Joy Luck Club) and drove Dr J Hanover to the fastest mile in Canadian history, 1:46.4, in June at Mohawk Racetrack. “It’s a pretty good feeling when they call your name,” the 28-year-old McNair said. “I was nervous. I had a pretty good year, and you never know if you’re going to have a nice year like that again to have a shot at winning an O’Brien. I’m glad I got it.” McNair started driving in 2008 and has won at least $1 million in purses every year of his career. He was the youngest driver to earn $1 million, at the age of 18, and in 2010 became, at the time, the youngest driver to 1,000 wins. He has won 2,906 races lifetime. Over the years, McNair has seen himself mature as a driver. “You just take it race by race,” he said. “You race horses the style they like to race. You try not to get in too much of a hurry. I noticed that (I’m not in as much of a hurry) in the last year and a half, even in overnight races. I see myself not getting in a big hurry off the gate. Sometimes, you have to. Other times, you just slow things down and watch what everyone else is doing and try to make the best choices as it comes. “Everybody has one or two game plans, but it doesn’t always work out, and you don’t have much time to think. I think I’ve been able to read a race a lot different. Confidence is a big thing, too, for a driver. Even if you get a lot of top drives, you have to have the confidence or you’re not going to win those races. You have to be confident in yourself and know the right choices are coming.” McNair hopes to build off his 2017 campaign and continue to attract attention, particularly when it comes to Grand Circuit races. “I’m hopefully going to get a lot of opportunities when guys are bringing live horses up from the States for stakes races,” McNair said. “Hopefully they’ll think of my name. I think (the O’Brien Award) really helps. There are a lot of good drivers. You want to be on the best horse. When you’re winning a lot of races, guys are going to give you a shot. I used to be second and third shot and now you get top shots at it. It makes a big difference. “I just hope I stay at the same level; that things keep working out. There are going to be a lot of bad days, too, so you just have to stay positive. I just want to keep trying to win a lot of races.” by Ken Weingartner, USTA Media Relations Manager 

Hightstown, NJ --- Chuck Sylvester believes he’s got a nice trotter returning from last season in 3-year-old filly Hey Blondie. He’s hoping to discover additional nice ones among the six harness racing 2-year-olds joining Hey Blondie in his winter stable at Spring Garden Ranch in Florida. That group includes $240,000 yearling purchase Girl With A Past. Hey Blondie won five of 13 races and earned $295,595 last year, ranking No. 3 in purses among all 2-year-old female trotters in North America. Her victories included the Kindergarten Series championship and a division of the International Stallion Stakes. Her best win time of 1:53.1, set in her International Stallion triumph at Lexington’s Red Mile, was tied for fourth fastest among 2-year-old female trotters. “She just came back into training,” Sylvester said. “If we handle her like last year I think she should have a real nice year. We let her race from behind and she liked that; she passed horses all the time. When it was right toward the end (of the season) we let her roll and she responded. She’s just not a filly that can go to the front and race every week. But I think in spots she’ll do fine.” Hey Blondie, who flashed final quarter-mile speed as fast as :26.4, led at the halfway point of a race only three times last season, winning twice. Her loss came in the season-ending Goldsmith Maid, where she went off stride and finished 10th. The race was won by Plunge Blue Chip. “I didn’t have her quite right her last start or she would have had some more money,” Sylvester said. “It was my fault. (Plunge Blue Chip) was sharp right then; I don’t know if we would have beaten her, but we should have been an easy second.” Hey Blondie is a daughter of Cantab Hall out of Winbak Blondie -- who is a full sister to 2009 Horse of the Year Muscle Hill -- and sold for $125,000 under the name Whovian Hanover at the 2016 Standardbred Horse Sale. Andy McCarthy drove her throughout last year. The filly is owned by Steve Jones, Mary Kinsey Arnold, Paul Bordogna, and David McDuffee. Last season’s group of 2-year-old filly trotters was led by undefeated Dan Patch Award winner Manchego, trained by Jimmy Takter. Other fillies at the top of the division in earnings included Ake Svanstedt’s Plunge Blue Chip, Julie Miller’s Seviyorum, and Trond Smedshammer’s Phaetosive. “If Manchego comes back as good as she was last year, she’s going to be tough,” Sylvester said. “Ake, I’m sure he’ll have his filly right when the time comes. It won’t be easy, but we’ll pick up some piece and we’ll be OK.” Sylvester’s group of 2-year-olds is made up of four filly trotters and two colt trotters. Girl With A Past (Cantab Hall-Shared Past) sold for $240,000 under the name So Diane Hanover at last year’s Standardbred Horse Sale. Her dam was a New Jersey Sire Stakes champion and her family includes millionaires Dejarmbro and Manofmanymissions. The remaining fillies are Chanel De Vie (Cantab Hall-Lola De Vie), Lollipop Lindy (Cantab Hall-Dana Boko) and Shes A Bronxbomber (Donato Hanover-Housethatruthbuilt). Lola De Vie was an Empire Breeders Classic champion. Housethatruthbuilt was a Dan Patch Award winner and is the dam of three horses to earn six figures, including stakes winners Real Babe and Murderers Row. The colts are Gardepat (Father Patrick-My Dream Gar It; original name Patrick’s Diamond) and Lucky Weekend (Lucky Chucky-Weekend Vacation). Sylvester trained Lucky Chucky, a two-time Dan Patch Award winner and earner of $2 million lifetime. “Right now they’re all training and nobody is on the shelf, so that’s good,” Sylvester said. “We’ve been in the (2):40s, that’s all, which is OK. “The weather hasn’t been very favorable. We’ve had a lot of rain and we’ve missed a lot of days. It’s just been nice the last 10 days where we’ve been able to train more consistently. But it seems like no matter what, when it’s time to go the good ones will be ready. I’m not one that’s going to drop one from (2):40 to (2):25, but if we have good weather and nothing happens we’ll be ready whenever the time comes.” by Ken Weingartner, USTA Media Relations Manager

And the winner of the E. Roland Harriman Award as the 2017 Horse of the Year is .......... At approximately 10 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 25, emcees Roger Huston and Jason Settlemoir will fill in the blank at the annual U.S. Harness Writers Association's Dan Patch Awards banquet at Rosen Shingle Creek in Orlando, Fla. If you aren't among the attendees at the dinner you can still watch the big announcement -- as well as that of Trotter of the Year and Pacer of the Year -- as the entire awards ceremony, sponsored by Weaver Bruscemi LLC and Ron Burke, will be broadcast live on USHWA's Facebook page, which can be accessed here. The entire video will also be available on the U.S. Trotting Association's YouTube page the following day, Monday, Feb. 26. Dinner tickets must be ordered by Tuesday, Feb. 20, by contacting Judy Wilson via email at zoe8874@aol.com or by phone at (302) 359-3630. You can also order the $175 dinner tickets on the USHWA website at www.ushwa.net. Dinner selections must be made at the time of ordering, with the choices either filet mignon, Caribbean spiced grouper or a vegetable plate. All meals are prepared gluten-free. Post time for the evening is 6 p.m. with a one-hour cocktail reception sponsored by the Downbytheseaside Syndicate getting things under way. A special guest will be Ric "The Nature Boy" Flair, considered by many to be the greatest professional wrestler of all-time. Flair is attending the Dan Patch Awards dinner as a guest of one of the honorees and will also be meeting and greeting attendees on the Dan Patch Red Carpet, sponsored by Hoosier Park. Also starring on USHWA's version of 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 at facebook.com/heather.k.wilder. Rooms at Rosen Shingle Creek are nearly sold out so if you plan to attend and still need to book, you can access USHWA's special portal by going to the website www.ushwa.net. Ken Weingartner

Hightstown, NJ --- Carl Becker was barely a teenager when he provided play-by-play for a summer softball league in Altamont, Ill., but at that moment he knew he wanted a career behind a microphone. Becker’s election to harness racing’s Communicators Hall of Fame is the result of his ambitions fulfilled, although not exactly as he imagined during those early days. “I thought I was the next Cardinals baseball broadcaster; I had no doubt in my mind that’s what I was going to be,” Becker said with a laugh as he recalled his start. “Things took a little turn. It worked out the best for all of us, including the Cardinals fans probably.” Becker, who has spent more than five decades calling horse races, will be honored at the Dan Patch Awards banquet in Orlando, Fla., on Feb. 25, with his official enshrinement in the Communicators Hall of Fame coming July 1 at the Harness Racing Museum and Hall of Fame in Goshen, N.Y. “It’s a tremendous honor when you think about the people that are in the Hall and the ones that are going in,” Becker said. “It’s something I didn’t expect and I really appreciate it.” Also elected to the Communicators Hall of Fame was writer Dave Briggs. Elected to the Hall of Fame were Jules Siegel and Margareta Wallenius-Kleberg, two of the sport’s most successful breeders and owners. Becker’s introduction to harness racing came at the Effingham County Fair in Altamont. “I would watch the horse races and I loved them,” Becker said. “When I got to high school, my buddies and I would pick a number and play for a penny or a nickel. I couldn’t get away from it. I liked the excitement of it. I had a favorite horse named Trigger Colleen. When he raced at Altamont I was on edge the night before and couldn’t wait to see what happened the next day. It just kind of grew from there.” His path to the racetrack announcer’s booth was gradual, but his career picked up steam quickly once he headed that direction. Becker graduated from the University of Illinois, where he majored in agricultural education and minored in animal science, and spent five years as a teacher. He was 27 when he began calling races regularly at the fairs and soon found himself on some of the sport’s biggest stages. “The announcing part, I thought I could do that,” Becker said. “It all just fell into place. I just thoroughly enjoy watching horses race. We would have some very competitive races at the county fairs. “I did the Illinois State Fair, and that was a dream come true. Back then, the Grand Circuit went from Springfield to Indianapolis to Du Quoin, and The Red Mile was a few weeks later. I did the Illinois State Fair, and I did Indiana, and Du Quoin and The Red Mile. It was a six-week period and it was exciting. I saw all the great drivers, all the great horses. It just was a real trip.” Two of Becker’s many memorable days occurred in 1980. The first was Billy Haughton winning the final Hambletonian Stakes at Du Quoin with Burgomeister, a horse owned by his late son Peter, who had died in a car accident earlier that year. The second was Niatross’ 1:49.1 world record time trial at The Red Mile, which marked the first time a horse broke the 1:50 barrier. “I was very blessed,” Becker said. “Two of the greatest moments in harness racing I was fortunate to be part of. The Haughton win with Burgomeister, there were a lot of tears flowing. It was a very emotional time. “The Niatross time trial, to this day I haven’t seen anything like it. The emotion was unbelievable. When he hit the wire the crowd erupted. People were rushing onto the track wanting to touch the horse. (Trainer/driver) Clint Galbraith was so generous and so good; he spent a lot extra time on the track making sure people did get to touch Niatross.” Other top races for Becker included Workaholic’s win in the first Breeders Crown in 1984, the world-record 1:51.2 dead heat between Jaguar Spur and Laag in 1987, and Trim The Tree’s world-record 1:53.3 mile in the rain in 1982. All three were at The Red Mile. Becker’s career in harness racing has also involved owning and breeding horses as well as serving as a pedigree reader for numerous auctions. The 80-year-old remains active as a pedigree reader and still calls races at the fairs. “I do seven or eight fairs a year now,” Becker said. “I do as many as they ask me to do. It’s fun. My son Kurt does a few fairs when he’s home. Between us we do most of the fairs in the area.” Becker’s enthusiasm for harness racing has been a key to his success. “You have to be excited about what you’re doing,” Becker said. “If you’re not excited, it’s hard to call races. For two minutes, you have to put something into it. I believe it’s always come naturally because I’ve always felt that way. I’ve always been excited.” by Ken Weingartner, USTA Media Relations Manager

Harrisburg, PA --- The Dan Patch Awards Dinner is rapidly approaching and along with it, the annual silent auction held in conjunction with the evening's festivities on Feb. 25 in Orlando. Once again the Harness Horse Youth Foundation and USHWA's industry outreach will benefit from the sales. This year's auction features a wide variety of items so there is sure to be something of interest for everyone in attendance. Phone bidding is possible but must be arranged prior to February 24. Lots available include: 14K horsehead necklace with diamond and chain (donated by Bow River Jewelry); 2018 Preakness Stakes Package (donated by Maryland Jockey Club); The "Campbell Collection" of memorabilia including board game, posters, shirts, hats, programs and more - most autographed by the one and only John Campbell; Custom harness racing stained glass panel (donated by Barbara Dresser and Callie Davies Gooch); Signed and numbered Always B Miki mounted pen & ink print (donated by Michelle Hogan); "Night on the Meadowlands TV Set" experience; "Handicapping Session with Garnet Barnsdale"; Production of audio advertising piece by Retromedia; (PR services for audio production, script and voiceover: donated and provided by Mark McKelvie and Melissa Keith) Red Mile Package $1000 value Dinner and programs for 4 in The Red Mile Clubhouse (excluding alcohol) and Railbird Box Seats (for up to 6 people) - all during  2018 The Red Mile Grand Circuit meet! Exact location for box seats to be determined. (Donated by the Red Mile) Rosen Shingle Creek hotel vacation package (donated by same); Baseball package including tickets for Mets and Phillies games (donated by Nick Saponara); Collection of framed, vintage cigar box labels of Ashwood, Peter Manning, and Single Kay; Off & Pacing game package; Limited-edition Cam Fella print by equine artist Fred Stone: (donated by The Farm Ventures (Off and Pacing/Ryan Clements/Landon Mulhall) Set of 6 hand-painted goblets (donated by Suzanne D'Ambrose); Variety of gift baskets from Batavia Downs, Hoosier Park, Ohio Sires Stakes, Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame, and Hambletonian/Breeders Crown; (Canadian horse racing gift basket: items donated by Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame, Retromedia Publishing, and Melissa Keith) Gift certificates from Fennell's, Big D's and The Red Mile Gift Shop; And perhaps a few late entries! Proceeds from the silent auction go to fund the Harness Horse Youth Foundation's Summer Programs as well as the U.S. Harness Writers Association's industry outreach initiative, which this past year made contributions to the Harness Racing Museum, Historic Track rebuilding fund, the Filion family and the Clyde Hirt Media Workshop during Hambletonian week. For complete information, item descriptions, available photos and bidding instructions, please visit www.ushwa.org or call Steven Wolf at 954-654-3757 or Ellen Taylor at 317-908-0029. by Ken Weingartner, for USHWA

Hightstown, NJ --- When Jim Marohn Jr. was a teenager, he worked on the backstretch at the Meadowlands and got to observe some of the sport’s top stables in action. These days, the 35-year-old Marohn is still working at the Big M, but is part of the action as one of the racetrack’s top harness racing drivers. No one won more races at the Meadowlands in 2017 than Marohn, who had 109. He did not win the track’s driving title -- captured by Brett Miller -- because the meet ran from October 2016 to August 2017, but his 93 victories during that span resulted in a career-best third-place finish in the standings. Since the conclusion of last year’s meet in August, Marohn has won 46 races at the Meadowlands, which leads all drivers at the track. He has won races at a 19-percent clip, which trails only Corey Callahan and Yannick Gingras among regulars. Marohn’s next chance to win at the Meadowlands comes Friday, when three of his drives will be part of the “Meadowlands Harness Live” broadcast from 9-10 p.m. on SNY (SportsNet New York). “That’s where I grew up; I started working on horses right on that backstretch,” Marohn said. “I got to absorb a lot of different methods and work for a lot of good stables that were there. That was and is the mecca of harness racing. It’s very satisfying to go there and race at a high level.” Marohn’s success in 2017 was not limited to the Meadowlands. He won a career-best 496 races overall and finished No. 10 among all drivers in North America. His $5.04 million in purses also were a lifetime best. “I’ve never set any specific goals or numbers that I want to reach,” Marohn said. “I just take the opportunities as they come. “I got to drive for a lot of good barns last year, and I think that’s what I was most satisfied about. Not really the wins or the earnings, but the bigger barns, not only giving me a chance, but sticking with me. That’s big. I appreciate that.” Born on Long Island, Marohn grew up mostly in New Jersey and followed his father -- the winner of 5,358 career races as a driver -- into the sport. Marohn got his first win at the age of 20 in 2002 and has won driving titles at Tioga Downs and Monticello Raceway during his career. In addition to his strong year at the Meadowlands, Marohn finished third in the driver standings at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono, where he notched career victory No. 4,000 in November, and had the fourth-most wins in 2017 at Freehold Raceway. He enjoyed most of his stakes success in sire stakes races, but also picked up a handful of wins on the Grand Circuit. He is hoping for more opportunities in the future. “If I could do a little work on the Grand Circuit it would be satisfying,” Marohn said. “If I could follow some young horses around and be competitive, that would be great. I’ve had some opportunities with horses here and there, but nothing extremely serious. I’ve never driven for a barn that had a group of those horses that I could go and race. I would love it. It’s always been a goal. “But I’m going to do the same thing I did last year. I like the hustle. I try to be somewhere as much as I can. I take the opportunities where I can.” For Friday’s Meadowlands entries, click here. Racing begins at 6:35 p.m. (EST). by Ken Weingartner, USTA Media Relations Manager

Hightstown, NJ --- Stanley Wildharber might not have been born to race at the Kentucky fairs, but it seems close to the case. Wildharber grew up two blocks from the Ballard County Fairgrounds in La Center and at an early age was riding his bicycle there to be around the horses. Eventually, he was cleaning stalls, harnessing horses, jogging, training and traveling to other fairs. Today, the 46-year-old Wildharber remains a fixture at the fairgrounds, helping to maintain the track and promote harness racing, even when he had no horses of his own to race. Right now, though, Wildharber has a horse. Her name is Worldofrockzee and she is one of the queens of the fair circuit. Last year at the age of 2, the homebred filly pacer won four of 11 starts, including the Kentucky Fair Stakes championship, and earned $19,372 in purses. “It was a great year,” said Wildharber, whose harness racing operation is made up of two horses: Worldofrockzee and her dam, Cara Mia Hall. Cara Mia Hall was Wildharber’s first horse, and she came into his life as a gift. Literally. An acquaintance gave the filly to Wildharber soon after she was purchased as a yearling in 2005. Cara Mia Hall was unraced as a 2-year-old because of an injury, but won her debut at 3 by 16-1/2 lengths at Bluegrass Downs. Unfortunately, health issues continued to hamper Cara Mia Hall, prompting Wildharber to give her a try as a broodmare. “She was meant to be a racehorse, but she had something always going wrong with her,” Wildharber said. “But she wanted to be a racehorse. She is all heart.” Worldofrockzee, sired by World Of Rocknroll, is Cara Mia Hall’s fourth foal and the third to find the winner’s circle multiple times on the fair circuit. “She was mean from the day she was born,” Wildharber said about Worldofrockzee. “I didn’t have anybody to help me break her, so I took her to a guy in Illinois and got her broke. She was ornery from there on, but she was a natural pacer from the start. She’s not very tall, but she has a very long gait. And a big muscular rear end. “I wasn’t going to breed my mare back, but after I got (Worldofrockzee) to pacing, I knew I had to breed her again. She is expecting a foal by Riggins in the middle of March.” Wildharber brought Worldofrockzee to the fairs in western Kentucky, where she finished second in all three starts, before turning the filly over to his friend Jack Gray Jr. to handle the training. Worldofrockzee, driven regularly by Randy Crisler, won her next four in a row, culminating with her victory in the fair championship at Lexington’s Red Mile. Worldofrockzee raced four more times at Lexington the remainder of the campaign. She finished third in an overnight behind Kentucky Sire Stakes champion Band Stand and concluded the season with a sixth-place finish in a late closer, after which she was found to be sick. “She raced pretty good, but she didn’t have the pop she had been having,” Wildharber said. “That was it. We treated her, brought her home, and turned her out. She’s been back jogging now for a week. I took her to Jack and he’s going to get her ready. We’re going to try to race maybe in Ohio a little bit before the fairs start. “Maybe we’ll be good and ready and win all the fairs this year,” he added, laughing. “That’s the hope.” Wildharber said Worldofrockzee filled out during her time off, but had not changed in other ways. “She’s still mean as ever,” he said. “You just have to make her think she’s getting her way even though she’s not. She’s pretty headstrong.” Wildharber, who works in a power plant, says harness racing is a hobby, but a big part of his life. “I have a lot of good friends that I’ve made over the years through horseracing,” Wildharber said. “Jack Gray is like my second dad. We talk every couple days. I’ve really bonded with a lot of people through the horseracing.” Worldofrockzee, who last year was seventh, beaten by five lengths, in her only start in the sire stakes, will again look to rock the fair circuit in 2018. The fair program, administered by the Kentucky Colt Association, offers purses of $5,000 for each race in seven preliminary rounds and $15,000 for each final. The Kentucky Sire Stakes and Kentucky Fair Stakes have both enjoyed resurgences thanks to a change in eligibility requirements to permit foals out of “resident mares” to compete regardless of where the stallion stands. This season marks the second year of racing under those conditions. Worldofrockzee's sire, World Of Rocknroll, was standing stud in Ohio when bred to Wildharber's Cara Mia Hall in 2014. “We’re going to focus on the fairs,” Wildharber said about Worldofrockzee’s 2018 schedule. “For the money they’re going for, I just can’t not go for the fairs. “I can’t wait for this year. We’ve got high hopes.” by Ken Weingartner, USTA Media Relations Manager

Hightstown, NJ --- Julie Miller enjoyed a memorable 2017. The year began with her induction into the Iowa Harness Racing Hall of Fame, where she joined her father, Owen Julius, and continued through the season with a string of stakes wins and notable Grand Circuit performances. Miller’s stable last year included millionaire trotter Devious Man and Yonkers Trot champion Top Flight Angel, who helped the Iowa native set her career high for purses with $4.67 million, a total that ranked fifth among all trainers in North America, while posting a 22-percent win rate. Other stakes-winners for Miller last season included Hayden Hanover, who was the fastest 2-year-old male pacer of the year with a mark of 1:50, 3-year-old female trotter Overdraft Volo, 2-year-old female trotter Seviyorum, and 2-year-old male trotter Met’s Hall. Miller, who moved with husband Andy and children Tyler and Olivia to central New Jersey a dozen years ago, recently took time from her 2018 preparations to talk with the USTA’s Ken Weingartner about her past, present, and future. KW: You had a great year last year with a career high in earnings. What were your highlights? JM: I’d say winning the Beal (with Devious Man) and the Yonkers Trot (with Top Flight Angel). Those were the top two highlights. Top Flight Angel is coming back this year and Devious Man went to stud at Blue Chip. I’m looking forward to both those opportunities; seeing little baby Deviouses running around and having Top Flight Angel. KW: How do you think Top Flight Angel will come back? JM: He’s turned out at Walnridge right now. I went out and looked at him and I couldn’t believe the growth and maturity. He was already a nice, big, strong colt. I can’t wait for him to get back. That’s a hard division. It’s a hard division every year. The 4-year-old year is always difficult. We’re just going to stake him conservatively, but I’m really excited to have him back in the barn. KW: When is he coming back? JM: The end of February. I’m waiting that long so I don’t get him ready early. I’m forcing myself to wait. I haven’t even brought in Met’s Hall or Seviyorum yet. I know if I do, they’ll be ready the first of May and I don’t want them ready the first of May. I’m trying to hold my horses, literally. KW: Is this something new or is what you’ve always done? JM: It just depends on the situation; how many starts they had, how long the season was. If I turned out one early, I bring it in early. If I turned them out later, I bring them in later. They need that R&R. You can always tell when they come in because they’re fresh and have matured. It’s a real benefit. They need the time to develop. KW: What were you most pleased with from last year? JM: I would say Devious Man going over a million dollars. He’s the first horse that Andy and I have ever owned part of that’s done that. That’s pretty exciting. He’s up there with my horses. He had a lot of issues he dealt with and his consistency was amazing. To start racing in May in the New York Sire Stakes and Empire Breeders and go all the way to the Matron (in November) says a lot about a horse. I just can’t say enough about how proud I am that he put his best foot forward every time I asked. He came out fighting like a champ. Horses like that don’t come along all the time. KW: How many horses do you have right now and how many are 2-year-olds? JM: I have 60, with half being 2-year-olds. KW: I know it’s early, but how do you like your 2-year-olds so far? JM: Like you said, it’s early, but I like my group. My only frustration has been we had a lot of virus go through the barn, a lot of high fevers, in December. You can’t train a sick horse. So it was just basically getting them healthy. The main thing at this time of year is just getting the fundamentals down. I just want to get them gaited and make sure they have good mannerisms before we start honing in on the actual training. KW: Do you have a particular approach or program to get started? JM: I never put it in terms of having an actual program, but we have a basic model that we approach all the horses with. Of course when you have 30 yearlings, now 2-year-olds, you start with that model and then adjust it to each horse and what benefits them. Like I said, you get the fundamentals in, and then you start to fine-tune each horse’s program. KW: We had two bad weeks recently with the cold and snow. How does the weather affect your schedule? JM: Gaitway has done a heck of a job keeping the tracks open. But I’d say, compared to previous years, I’m a bit delayed. But it always seems to work out. When June comes around we all seem to be ready, whether you’ve been in Florida, New Jersey, or Canada. So I’m not fretting about anything just yet. If you want to be in the horse game, you better have a strong stomach because there are variables that you can’t control. But the play always seems to come together when you want it to. KW: Do you have 2-year-olds you really like at this point? JM: I play my cards close to my vest (laughs). I’d rather have people be pleasantly surprised than put horses up on a pedestal right now. I’m going to keep it to myself for now. I’m pretty optimistic about the first-crop 2-year-olds; they’re coming along nicely. I’ve been happy with them. KW: You recently were voted a director of the Standardbred Breeders and Owners Association of New Jersey. Why did you want to become a director? JM: It’s my passion for the racing. I don’t want to be on the sidelines, on the bench, complaining. I want to be on the court trying to make a difference. I’m really excited for the opportunity. I’m glad people thought enough of me to vote for me and I hope to contribute and be an asset. KW: You grew up in Iowa, and your dad was a trainer. Is he still training horses? JM: He trains with me every morning. He comes to the barn every day. He gave me my foundation in this sport and work ethic. I’m so blessed to have him here every day helping me out. I don’t care how old you are, I still ask him for advice. A lot of time people focus on the new ways, but sometimes if you talk to a veteran you get way better advice. KW: What was it like growing up? Was it all horses? JM: No. My parents had real jobs. My dad was a counselor for the state for rehabilitation people and my mom (Ellen) drove a school bus. (Horses) were a part-time Iowa thing at the county fairs. It wasn’t until I got older that we started racing at Quad City Downs and Fairmount (Park). That’s when I learned about that aspect of the business. It was good experience for me. KW: Did you always love the horses? JM: Always. I stopped playing some sports in high school because I wanted to be with the horses. It was more important to be with your horse than anywhere else. I have a passion for it. I don’t think you can do this sport if you don’t have a love for it. You eat, sleep and breathe it. And I like that. It doesn’t bother me a bit that it’s that way. KW: What other sports did you play? JM: Volleyball, and I was really good at softball, but that was a summer sport so I quit after eighth grade. I played volleyball all four years and I was a pom-pom girl (laughing). Do they even have that anymore? I think it’s just cheerleading. I varsity lettered in pom-poms and volleyball (laughs). KW: Did you know this was the career you wanted? JM: A hundred percent. I always wanted to drive and train. The more I experienced, the more horses I could sit behind, the better. The only problem is when you’re an 18-year-old girl and you want to go out on your own, there’s not many people going to give you a chance. So I thought I’d better go to college and get a degree. So that’s when I got my bachelor’s in science and graduated. After I graduated, my dad gave me two or three horses to take to Chicago to see what I could do. So in 1996 I took three horses to Sportsman’s Park and that’s how I started. Andy was driving and I was training. It just developed from a three-horse Iowa stable. KW: You had just gotten married, right? JM: Yep. I graduated in December of ’95 and we got married that spring. Andy quit working for Tex Moats as his assistant trainer and we moved. KW: Your dad has been a big influence on your life all along. JM: Completely. Him and my mom. When you grow up in Iowa, you learn a lot of horsemanship because you don’t have vets coming around all the time, shoers, feed people. We grew our own hay, we maintained our own track, my dad was the blacksmith, we shipped our own horses. You learn a lot if you’re doing the whole job. You fix the fence, you drag the track, you empty the manure spreader, you bail the hay. I guess that maybe doesn’t make you a better horse trainer, but you understand more. All those little things help, I think. KW: What else has contributed to your success? JM: I have a great staff. I attribute a lot of my success to the barn management and organization. We wouldn’t be as successful as we are if we didn’t have a great team. by Ken Weingartner, USTA Media Relations Manager 

Hightstown, NJ --- Over the years, Waiting On A Woman has proved himself a tough harness racing horse. It’s not a surprise because he’s been that way since the day he was born. He needed to be just to survive. The fastest Maritime-bred trotter of all time nearly died after being born in April 2008 at the Prince Edward Island farm of father-and-son breeders Dave and Mitch Tierney. He battled through multiple bouts of colic and sickness before finally turning the corner and embarking on a career that has seen him win 62 races and $501,844 in purses. “It was pretty touch-and-go for the first 10 days or so,” Mitch Tierney said. “He was so sick; we almost lost him a handful of times. He ended up pulling through and the rest is history. “From day one it wasn’t easy and straight through he’s been tough. He’s like nothing I’ve ever seen before. All he wants to do is win, and he’s done his fair share of it.” Waiting On A Woman gets his next chance to add to his win total Friday (Feb. 2) at the Meadowlands Racetrack. The 10-year-old gelding competes in the eighth race, a $20,000 conditioned trot, which is the second of three races that will be shown from 9-10 p.m. on SNY (SportsNet New York) as part of “Meadowlands Harness Live.” Tierney trained Waiting On A Woman at ages 2 and 3, when he set track records regularly on his way to Maritimes stardom. The horse has raced in the U.S. for the past five years and is now owned by New York’s Michael Polansky, but retains a strong fan following north of the border. “He’s pretty popular still, even at 10 years old,” Tierney said. “We watch the entries every week and when he’s in-to-go there’s a bunch of us that watch every start. There’s a lot of pride watching him, especially with the way he’s still racing at 10 years old. He’s put together eight solid, solid years.” Waiting On A Woman, a son of Northern Bailey out of Southwind Faith, was named by Tierney after a Brad Paisley song. The horse’s nickname is Charlie, which was bestowed on him by one of Tierney’s young cousins when he was a yearling. The nickname has remained with Waiting On A Woman wherever he’s called home. “It fits,” said Kyle Spagnola, who has trained Waiting On A Woman since the summer of 2015. “I don’t know if you can explain it. But if a horse ever looked like a Charlie, he’s a Charlie.” Waiting On A Woman is a big horse with a long stride when he walks, which adds to him getting attention. “He’s very tall,” Spagnola said. “His withers are over my head and I’m 6-foot. He’s one of the bigger ones I’ve ever seen. His legs are so long, he’s got this cool little walk to him. A lot of people notice that.” Of course, a lot of people simply notice winning. Waiting On A Woman, who set his career mark of 1:52.2 at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono in 2014 and equaled it at the Meadowlands in 2015, has won 62 of 188 lifetime starts for a nearly 33-percent victory rate. Spagnola gave Waiting On A Woman a three-month layoff, which ended in December, to freshen up for racing at the Meadowlands. He has two wins and a second in five starts since his return. “He’s a warhorse,” Spagnola said. “He’s had his problems, but you give him his time and he comes right back. He tries his heart out and he’s got a really cool personality. He’s a complete gentleman in everything he does. He just loves the game.” Racing begins at 6:35 p.m. Friday at the Meadowlands. For complete entries, click here.   by Ken Weingartner, USTA Media Relations Manager 

Hightstown, NJ --- Photography allows Chris Gooden to enjoy two of his passions. “I love being able to make art,” Gooden said. “And I’m a really tech-nerdy geek guy, so I love equipment. “Both sides go together and make me love my job.” Gooden is in his 16th year as the fulltime track photographer at The Meadows in western Pennsylvania. Earlier this month, he won the George Smallsreed Award for outstanding harness racing action photography with “Shadow Racing,” which appeared in the December issue of Hoof Beats magazine. The photograph was taken from a drone and captured horses -- as well as their shadow counterparts -- battling three wide just after the three-quarter-mile point of a race at The Meadows. Gooden’s inspiration for the shot came from a story he read online. “It was about a family photographer that had shot the same family for years and years,” Gooden said. “They wanted to come up with something different, so they decided to use a drone for their photo. It was at the time of day when the shadows would be perfectly stretched out. They were all holding hands together, so you see this line of people and the shadows holding hands. I thought it would be really interesting if I could come up with a way to do that during a race. “I looked at the track and could tell where I needed to fly the drone so the shadows would be falling away from the horses. With drones, when you take photos it’s not like a regular camera where I can take 10 photos a second. I get one shot at it. I took a sample shot and it was OK, but there wasn’t anything special about it. I adjusted the drone a little and as the horses were coming around I fired off one shot and that’s the shot I ended up getting. “I liked the fact they were three wide because it gives so much more depth than just horses in a line. I was really surprised that I got the shot that I did. It worked out perfectly.” Gooden grew up in western Pennsylvania, not far from The Meadows. He developed his interest in photography after taking a trip to Utah. “I wanted to buy a camera to take with me because I knew it was going to be pretty,” Gooden said. “I’d used my dad’s growing up, but not a huge amount. So I bought a camera, I was in my 20s, and I really enjoyed it. I don’t know if there was one thing about that trip, but I think I just fell in love with being behind the camera.” When he returned from his trip, Gooden began shooting sports at California University of Pennsylvania. In 1997, he started assisting track photographer Doug Bishop at The Meadows before taking over on a fulltime basis five years later. “I really enjoy the horse racing,” Gooden said. “I love horses. I’m a big animal right’s person, so it’s good to see the way everyone takes care of their animals. I know a lot of people look down on that, but I see a lot more than the average everyday person on what goes on and how important horses are to people.” In addition to taking photos, Gooden is active on social media, notably with live feeds on Facebook. “Social media has been the perfect outlet to get out as much content as possible,” Gooden said. “It’s worked out well. With the advent of live feeds, all that stuff, it really helps me get a lot of different things out; be able to do some video work, some photography work.” No matter the outlet, no matter the technology, Gooden is having a good time. “I can’t draw. I can’t paint. The only other artistic thing I did was play drums until I graduated high school,” Gooden said. “My eye for photography makes me view the world differently than most people do. I’ve always noticed that I pay attention more, like if I’m driving down the road or somewhere. I always look at the photography aspect of things rather than just looking at them. “There are many, many times where I’ve pulled over to take photos because something looked good. It happens quite often, actually. I guess I’m just a photographer at heart.” by Ken Weingartner, USTA Media Relations Manager 

Hightstown, NJ --- Bill Donovan has participated in harness racing at multiple levels, from working as a groom to owning a breeding farm, but he is perhaps best known because of his involvement in the sport as a horse owner. And Dan Patch Award winner Youaremycandygirl has become the most recent to provide Donovan with the sweet taste of success. Youaremycandygirl was voted the sport’s best 2-year-old female pacer in 2017 after winning nine of 11 races and earning $895,615. She became the fastest 2-year-old female pacer in history thanks to her 1:50 victory in a division of the International Stallion Stakes at Lexington’s Red Mile, a time that tied colt Hayden Hanover for the best of any 2-year-old pacer last season. She will be among the honorees at the U.S. Harness Writers Association’s Dan Patch Awards banquet Feb. 25 in Orlando. “She had a great year,” Donovan said. “When I think of all the great fillies over the years, for her to come out of the year with the world record and the earnings that she had, you realize just how blessed you are.” Prior to last year, Donovan’s best known horse was the Dan Patch Award-winning trotter Maven, who made $1.75 million in her career and competed in Europe as well as North America. She retired in 2014. “Maven will always be special,” Donovan said. “Maven racing in the Elitlopp was a highlight for me. It’s such a great race and there’s such enthusiasm there from the Swedish fans. That was special.” Youaremycandygirl is proving capable of special moments too. Donovan bought the filly, by American Ideal out of Sweet Lady Jane, as a yearling for $150,000 at the 2016 Standardbred Horse Sale. Her dam is a half-sister to standouts Sweet Lou and Bettor Sweet. “I went to Harrisburg intent on purchasing a top pacing filly,” Donovan said. “I had two that I was adamant I was going to buy one or the other. The first was Kissin In The Sand, and I was the underbidder on her. Candygirl sold the following day and I was going to take Candygirl home with me no matter what. “She had everything going for her. I love the family. I was happy to get her because I think that’s one of the hottest maternal families in the sport right now.” Youaremycandygirl’s career got off to a rough start when she made an interference break in a division of the New York Sire Stakes at Vernon Downs. From there, though, she was nearly perfect as she captured the She’s A Great Lady Stakes, Breeders Crown, Matron, and Three Diamonds in addition to her division of the International Stallion. She finished the season on a seven-race win streak. Yannick Gingras drove her in six of those starts, with Louis Philippe-Roy at the lines in the She’s A Great Lady. “Her first start up at Vernon she got run into,” Donovan said. “That’s the way the sport is; you never know. She really only had one bad race, and that’s when she tied up at Yonkers (and finished fifth). She wasn’t at her best. But outside of those two races she was just outstanding. “She really had a great year, there’s no doubt about it. (Trainer Ron Burke) and his team did a great job in bringing her along. She can be a little headstrong. Yannick is the perfect driver for her. He gets along with horses like that better, I think, than some other drivers. He can rate her when he needs to, as much as he can. “It was good the season ended when it did because she raced hard. She enjoyed the time off. She needs to mature a little mentally over the winter, hopefully. We’re looking forward to next season.” Donovan was born and raised in Boston and developed his interest in harness racing by going to the races at the now defunct Foxboro Raceway. He worked as a groom during summers while in high school and college and was preparing to become a trainer before his father passed away and left Donovan needing to help with the family’s Mayflower moving agency. He eventually took over the company and also started a number of businesses involving trucking and logistics management. He has since sold all of the businesses except one logistics company. He also sold his breeding farm, which he started in 2010. “I got out of the breeding business several years ago,” Donovan said, adding with a laugh, “I found out I was a lot better bidder than I was a breeder.” Donovan currently owns 37 horses, with 21 being 2-year-olds. “When you put your heart and soul, and pocketbook, into the business, you hope for success,” Donovan said. “When you do achieve it, it’s most satisfying. Just having horses that are able to compete at the top level is rewarding.”   by Ken Weingartner, USTA Media Relations Manager

Charlie Williams, the stallion manager at harness racing's Southwind Farms in New Jersey, has been named the recipient of the 2017 Caretaker of the Year Award sponsored by Hard Rock Rocksino Northfield Park in conjunction with the U.S. Harness Writers Association (USHWA). Williams, 68, has worked at Southwind Farms for nearly three decades. Williams was born in Georgia and began working with horses as a young man in Florida. He spent the early part of his career with Thoroughbreds, as an exercise rider and caretaker, before a knee injury forced him to give up riding. While sidelined because of his injury, Williams answered an advertisement for a part-time job at Southwind Farms. His horsemanship and attention to detail eventually led him to his current position at the farm, where he has cared for some of the sport’s top stallions, beginning with Valley Victory and Artsplace right through to today with Muscle Hill. “This is something I’ll never forget,” Williams said of his Caretaker of the Year honor. “From picking cotton as a young kid to go on and take care of world champions, it’s been a dream come true. I started working at the bottom and worked my way to the top. I was very fortunate to luck out and work with horses. I’ve had the chance to take care of the best. “The sport has been really good to me and there are so many good people in the sport that have been really good to me. I love the sport, I love the horses, and I love the people.” All caretakers in North America are eligible for the Caretaker of the Year Award. A seven-member panel – all former caretakers – selected the winner after reviewing nomination letters detailing the skills and special qualities of each nominee. Williams will receive a cash prize of $500, transportation, and two tickets to USHWA’s annual Dan Patch Awards banquet Feb. 25 in Orlando, Fla., where he will be presented a trophy. He will also enjoy a two-night stay at Rosen Shingle Creek, host hotel for the USHWA activities. Williams received several nominations, with one writing, in part, “There are grooms and caretakers at all stages of a horse’s life and this man exemplifies the true embodiment of a caretaker and is truly worthy of Caretaker of the Year. This man puts his heart and soul into every stallion that is lucky enough to stand in a stall in his barn. “Please consider allowing this exceptional caretaker a moment to shine in an industry that sometimes forgets those of us who aren’t in winner’s circles but nevertheless are in a barn day in and day out, without vacation, wind, rain, and snow. You will not find a more true definition of an exceptional caretaker in our industry than Charlie Williams.” Williams is self-described “old school” when it comes to taking care of his horses. But the stallions are more than horses to Williams, they are friends. “I love everything about them,” Williams said. “They have personality. With Muscle Hill, he’s like my best friend out there. I know how he thinks and he knows how I think. It was the same thing with Artsplace. They’re like people. It’s unbelievable when you work in the barn with them. “I have a habit, I talk to them. I’m in the stallion barn, so I talk with all the horses like I’m talking to a human. And I never cut corners with them. I give them the love and attention and they give the love and attention to me. I’m 68 years old and I can’t wait to get up in the morning and come to work. When you walk in the barn, they know you and sound off. They’re happy to see you and you’re happy to see them.” For more information about the Dan Patch Awards banquet, visit www.ushwa.org. By Ken Weingartner, for the U.S. Harness Writers Association  

The U.S. Trotting Association announced Friday (Jan. 26) that all Fines and Suspensions Ruling Reports, which are searchable, are now available for free in Pathway (https://pathway.ustrotting.com), the online harness racing database on the USTA's website. Previously, only weekly Fines and Suspensions Bulletins in pdf format were available at no charge but were not searchable. "We realized that our searchable integrity-related information would be highly valuable to our track members, horsemen and prospective new owners," said USTA President Russell Williams in making the announcement. "Although we're highly conscious of funding all of our activities at the USTA and this will decrease some revenue in our budget, we feel that it is a significant item for racing integrity." To access the Fines and Suspensions data, users must have a Pathway account. There is no charge to set up an account. In addition to these rulings and other free reports, users also can purchase a wide variety of Standardbred performance and pedigree reports. To create a Pathway account, click here or on the Pathway tab on the USTA website. Under the Rulings tab in Pathway, Fines and Suspensions can be searched by People, Facility or State. There are three separate reports available in the People section that includes career rulings for all data available to the USTA: Rulings Summary Report All Rulings Report Major Rulings Report Within both the Facility, pari-mutuel tracks and fairs, and State sections, there are two types of reports that allow the user to input specific timeframes by start and stop dates. For each category, the reports are either: Summary Major Rulings Report Summary Rulings Report The information provided in the USTA rulings reports rulings is submitted by the judges/stewards and state racing commissions. The USTA is not responsible for the accuracy or timeliness of the information. For further details on specific rulings, please contact the racing commission where the ruling was issued. For questions regarding Pathway, please contact Pathway support at pathway@ustrotting.com or call 877.800.8782, ext. 4. Ken Weingartner      

Hightstown, NJ --- Yannick Gingras’ focus is on winning races, not harness racing awards, but when you win races like he did in 2017 it’s no surprise when recognition follows. Gingras drove four horses last year that captured Dan Patch Award divisional honors, including the three horses ranked at the top of the season’s final Hambletonian Society/Breeders Crown poll: No. 1 Hannelore Hanover, No. 2 Ariana G, and No. 3 Manchego. The remaining Dan Patch winner, Youaremycandygirl, was ranked seventh. He led the sport in purses for the fourth consecutive year, with $12.9 million, and topped the driver standings on the Grand Circuit. His Grand Circuit victories included four Breeders Crown finals, the Hambletonian Oaks (for a record-extending fourth consecutive year), the Maple Leaf Trot, and Little Brown Jug. All totaled, Gingras won 33 races worth at least $100,000 last season and did it with 16 different horses. And when it was all said and done, Gingras received his second Driver of the Year Award from the U.S. Harness Writers Association. His previous honor came in 2014. “It’s always nice, there’s no doubt,” Gingras said about the award. “Going into the year, it’s not what I’m looking to get. I’m trying to win the big races and stay healthy. But it’s nice recognition. It means you had a good year and the horses had a good year. “You go on the track and try to do your job,” he added. “I was lucky this year that the horses I drove stayed healthy. That’s the main thing.” There were numerous memorable moments for Gingras last year. In addition to winning his fourth Hambletonian Oaks, with Ariana G, he guided Hannelore Hanover to the fastest mile by a female trotter in history, 1:49.2 at Lexington’s Red Mile, and piloted Youaremycandygirl to the fastest mile ever by a 2-year-old female pacer, 1:50, also at the Red Mile. Ariana G, Hannelore Hanover, Youaremycandygirl, and Manchego all won their respective Breeders Crown finals, with Manchego becoming the first undefeated Breeders Crown 2-year-old female trotting champion in history. It was a rewarding weekend for Gingras, who said he never felt pressure with Ariana G, Hannelore Hanover, or Manchego other than at the Breeders Crown because he wanted to keep potential Horse of the Year honors alive for all three of the horses. “Going into the Breeders Crown I definitely did feel a little pressure on those three,” Gingras said. “I love all three of them in different ways and all three are special to me. You want all three of them to have the best shot at winning the Horse of the Year. You don’t want to come to a point where you win with two of them and one of them you mess up the drive. “It’s one thing if they get beat because they’re sick or some other horse is better and beats them. But it’s another thing to lose the race and maybe lose a chance for those owners to have a Horse of the Year because of my own mistake. Getting it done with all three of them was definitely very special. They got the job done. They did the work. But I put them in position to win and they all three did it.” As for which of the three should receive Horse of the Year, which will be announced at the Dan Patch Awards banquet Feb. 25 in Orlando, Gingras had a simple solution. “Personally, I hope it’s a triple dead-heat,” he said. “I think all three are very special.” With the horsepower Gingras has returning this year, the 38-year-old Quebec native could be looking forward to another strong season. “I’m really happy with the way (2017) went,” said Gingras, who was the sport’s Rising Star Award winner in 2003 and has won 6,672 races and $157 million in purses lifetime. “Hopefully we have a couple more like that.” by Ken Weingartner, USTA Media Relations Manager 

Hightstown, NJ --- Barry Guariglia bought his first horse in 1987, owned Dan Patch Award-winner Stienam’s Place a decade later, and has enjoyed his share of successful harness racing horses in the years that followed. But none of it compared to what he experienced last year with Manchego. It was, in a word, perfect. Manchego was a perfect 12-for-12 in 2017 and became the first undefeated 2-year-old female trotter in Breeders Crown history as well as the first unbeaten 2-year-old female trotter to win a Dan Patch Award. She will be among the honorees at the U.S. Harness Writers Association’s Dan Patch Awards banquet Feb. 25 in Orlando. “I’d have to put her on top,” said Guariglia, whose Black Horse Racing shares ownership of Manchego with John Fielding and Herb Liverman. “Stienam’s Place was the last million-dollar horse I had, ironically 20 years ago, and in the middle we’ve had some nice horses, but nothing quite like this.” Guariglia, a financial advisor, has enjoyed harness racing for more than 40 years. He was at the Meadowlands Racetrack when it opened in 1976 and got into racehorse ownership at the age of 27. “I bought my first yearling then; I didn’t know anything,” Guariglia said. “It’s just kind of grown since then. I like going to the track, I like the whole process. It’s one of the pleasures I have, a good diversion from what I do here.” In addition to owning Stienam’s Place and Manchego, some of Guariglia’s other successes have included stakes-winners Emotional Rescue, Money On My Mind, Muscle Mass, My Starchip, and Take The Money. He bred millionaire Green Day, the 2007 Yonkers Trot winner. Manchego was a $120,000 yearling buy, under the name Whispering Hills, at the 2016 Lexington Selected Sale. She is a daughter of Muscle Hill out of Secret Magic whose family includes millionaire Possess The Magic. She had four wins under her belt when she captured her first stakes final, the Jim Doherty Memorial on Hambletonian Day at the Meadowlands. Victories in the Pennsylvania Sire Stakes championship, Peaceful Way Stakes, Bluegrass and International Stallion stakes, and the Breeders Crown followed. She ended the year with $873,948 in purses. “Training down, I always heard good things,” Guariglia said about Manchego, who is trained by Jimmy Takter. “I saw her on a 15 degree day last February and I thought she was pretty mature for February. She looked all business. She’s not the biggest thing, but she always held her own. She was pretty nice. “When she won the Jim Doherty, I started to think she was a little special. Obviously, she just kind of rolled from there. I love her attitude. She pins those ears and she likes to be in front.” Guariglia was unaware Manchego could make history in the Breeders Crown until two days prior to the race. “I had no idea, which was probably better,” he said, laughing. Manchego won all but one of her races by at least 2-1/4 lengths and had an average margin of victory of nearly four lengths. “Hopefully she’s going to come back as good,” Guariglia said. “Of course, they always have to get a little better at 3. I always tell people that I never anticipate winning, because you never know what’s going to happen, but it’s kind of nice to have one that you feel has enough to handle anything you’re going against. “We’ll take it one race at a time. Something like this doesn’t come along too often.” by Ken Weingartner, Harness Racing Communications 

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