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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

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  

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 

Last year it was "Elvis" who greeted the attendees at the U.S. Harness Writers Association's (USHWA) annual Dan Patch Awards dinner in Las Vegas, and this year on Sunday night, Feb. 25, it will be retired professional wrestler Ric "The Nature Boy" Flair who will welcome everyone at the Rosen Shingle Creek resort in Orlando, Fla. Flair, who will be attending the dinner as a guest of one of the honorees, is a 16-time world champion over a career that spanned 40 years and is considered by many to be the greatest professional wrestler of all time. He is a two-time inductee into the World Wrestling Entertainment Hall of Fame, first inducted in 2008 for his wrestling career and four years later as a member -- ironically -- of The Four Horsemen, a professional wrestling stable in the National Wrestling Alliance and later World Championship Wrestling. Flair will meet and greet the attendees on the Dan Patch Awards Red Carpet. The one-hour reception begins at 6 p.m. and will be followed by the awards ceremony and dinner beginning at 7 p.m. The Red Carpet hour will be broadcast live on the Facebook pages of well-known harness names Heather Vitale and Heather Wilder. The two Heathers will roam the Red Carpet area and interview several of the award winners and attendees. To watch a video message from Flair about the event, click here. In addition, the awards ceremony, hosted by Roger Huston and Jason Settlemoir, will be broadcast live on the USHWA Facebook page, with viewing available the following day on the U.S. Trotting Association website www.ustrotting.com and its YouTube page. Information about the banquet and the entire week, which will also contain the annual meetings of USHWA, can be found at www.ushwa.net, including links for making hotel reservations at special rates; banquet tickets; and congratulatory or acknowledgment ads in the keepsake souvenir journal. From the U.S. Harness Writers Association

Dave Briggs swept the writing categories in the 2017 John Hervey Awards competition, capturing the feature division with a story written for Hoof Beats magazine and the news/commentary division with a story written for Harness Racing Update, the U.S. Harness Writers Association announced Monday. In addition, the U.S. Trotting Association's ustrotting.com was selected the winner of the Hervey Awards for excellence in harness racing broadcasting and Chris Gooden and Jacob Cohen were named the winners in the George Smallsreed Awards for excellence in harness racing photography. The winners will be recognized at the Dan Patch Awards banquet Feb. 25 in Orlando. Meadowlands Racetrack Chairman Jeffrey Gural is continuing his longstanding sponsorship of the Hervey and Smallsreed awards by providing banquet tickets for the winners. Briggs won in the feature writing category for his story on John Campbell's retirement, "End of an Era," which appeared in the October issue of Hoof Beats. Click here to read the story. He won in the news/commentary category for his story, "What the heck happened in the Hambletonian," which appeared in the Aug. 12 issue of Harness Racing Update. Click here to read the story. With the two wins, Briggs extended his record for Hervey honors to 11. Honorable mentions in the feature category went to Steve Montemarano and Rich Fisher. Montemarano was recognized for his story on trainer Dan Ater and his battle with cancer, "Picture of Courage," which appeared in the November issue of Hoof Beats. Fisher was recognized for his story on driver Mike Lachance's retirement days, "Out of the Spotlight," which appeared in the August issue of Hoof Beats. Honorable mentions in the news/commentary category went to Gordon Waterstone and Darryl Kaplan. Waterstone was recognized for his story on the Hambletonian, "Swedish Surprise," which appeared in the Aug. 16 issue of The Horseman And Fair World magazine. Kaplan was recognized for three segments of his series, "On the Road: Horse Racing 250," that was published on the Standardbred Canada website between June 30 and July 2. The writing categories were judged by a panel consisting of former Philadelphia Inquirer Sports Editor John Quinn, BloodHorse Racing Editor Alicia Wincze Hughes, and Associated Press racing writer Mike Farrell. In the broadcast division, ustrotting.com was honored for its coverage of John Campbell's retirement. The video was produced by Rich Johnston and the reporters were T.J. Burkett, Allison Conte, and Dave Briggs. Click here to watch the video. Honorable mention went to CBS Sports Network's coverage of the Sam McKee Memorial, with a tribute to McKee, produced by Oz Colon. The segment was co-produced by Peter Lasser. The broadcast category was judged by multiple Emmy Award and Hervey Award-winning producer Bruce Casella, who has covered Standardbred and Thoroughbred racing throughout his career. In the Smallsreed competition, Gooden won in the race action category for his photograph "Shadow Racing," which appeared in the December issue of Hoof Beats. Cohen won in the feature category for his sunset photograph of a horse on the track at Woodbine Racetrack that appeared on the Woodbine Facebook page on Oct. 19. Honorable mention in the race action category went to Clive Cohen for his photograph "Fog," which appeared on the Woodbine Facebook and Instagram pages. Honorable mention in the feature division went to Michael Burns for his photograph "Into the Sun," which appeared on the Woodbine website. Judges for the photography categories were racetrack and newspaper photographer Bill Denver, multiple Eclipse Award-winning photographer Barbara Livingston, and former harness racing groom and longtime newspaper/magazine photographer Phil McAuliffe. For more information about the Dan Patch Awards banquet, visit www.ushwa.org. From the U.S. Harness Writers Association  

The Ohio Chapter of the United States Harness Writers Association will hand out its annual awards at the Ohio Harness Horsemen's Association banquet on Saturday (Jan. 13) at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Columbus (Worthington). The Ohio Chapter has voted Brian Brown as the recipient of the Winner's Circle Award for the Ohioan who has achieved outstanding accomplishments in the past year; Cameron McCown as the Peter Haughton Memorial Award winner as the young Ohioan who is an "up-and-coming" star among harness horsemen; Joe Adamsky into the Immortal Hall of Fame; Feelin Friskie into the Standardbred Hall of Fame; and Ed Mullinax as the winner of the Rambling Willie Award for the Ohioan who has done the most for harness racing over the past two decades. Brown, 53, enjoyed a career year as he conditioned three of the top pacers in the country; Downbytheseaside ($1,602,452 in seasonal earnings), Fear The Dragon ($1,350,146), and filly Blazin Britches ($540,424). The Brown Stable earned $5.8 million this season and secured a .402 UTR and was selected as the "Trainer of the Year" by the United States Harness Writers Association. McCown is a 29-year-old resident of Ostrander, Ohio. McCown had 86 wins and his drives earned $330,892 in purse money. McCown started driving in 2014 and earned an impressive .379 UDRS this season. Adamsky was one of the top drivers in Ohio during the 1980s and 1990s. For his career he posted 2,707 victories and more than $11.4 million in purses. The native of Rochester, Michigan, won 12 Ohio Sires Stakes finals, including four with Ohio Standardbred Hall of Fame member, Majestic Osborne. Adamsky received the Achievement award from the Ohio Chapter of the U.S. Harness Writers' Association in 2002 and was the first Jerry Kaltenbach Trophy winner, awarded to the top driver in the Ohio Sire Stakes series. Feelin Friskie earned $784,210 during his racing career, but the son of Artiscape left his mark on Ohio racing in the breeding shed. Owned by Wayne Whebby and Midland Acres, Feelin Friskie sired winners of $12.9 million and 78 foals in 1:55, including Igotafeelinfran ($569,650), Noble Finesse ($415,886) and Feelin Lika Winner ($344,996). Mullinax, is a successful breeder and owner of Standardbreds, including P Forty Seven, winner of the 2005 Little Brown Jug, and Dragon Again, winner of $2.3 million and a successful stallion, who fathered the sports richest performer, Foiled Again ($7.5 million). Mullinax is a supporter and sponsor of many industry events including the Hambletonian, the Harness Racing Hall of Fame and the Breeders Crown. By Jay Wolf      

HARRISBURG PA - Three entities who gained a large measure of harness racing success while connected to "Upstate New York," used here to refer to the part of the state not in the immediate neighborhood of New York City, have been named Dan Patch award winners in voting by the U. S. Harness Writers Association, the largest media organization in the sport. Two of them are still very much part of the upper New York scene - Betty Holt, winner of the Unsung Hero award, and the team of Pacing Broodmare of the Year Wild West Show and owner Ray Schnittker - while the other - Michael Carter, winner of the Breakthrough Award for an up-and-coming non-horseperson, has furthered his profile elsewhere after gaining valuable early training in his craft while in the area. Betty Holt is the executive director of the Harness Horse Breeders of New York State, an association based in Latham NY (just north of Albany), which, as one could expect from its name, furthers the cause of the breeders of Standardbreds in the Empire State. The tireless Holt monitors all New York-restricted harness activity in the state, from the Sire Stakes to sales to industry meetings, to promotion of the sport and ownership seminars. Holt is also the prime force behind a program that provides a "safety net" for at-risk New York-bred trotters and pacers, eventually hoping to land them on a restructuring and rehoming path, an activity funded by consignments to the Morrisville yearling sale. If there is an gathering, event, or movement that furthers the development of the breed and its shareholders in New York State, Betty Holt likely has a prominent role somewhere along the path to the winners circle. Wild West Show's victory was referred to as a "shootout" above because she was involved in the closest contest in the voting, beating out rival Western Montana by a single vote. But as is said in racing, you don't ask "how much?" - you just praise the winner, and the offspring of Wild West Show, who is owned by Ray Schnittker of Middletown/Goshen after his partner Charles Iannazzo passed away earlier this year, certainly had an outstanding 2017. Huntsville, the 2016 two-year-old pacing colt of the year, came back in 2017 for Schnittker and earned over a million dollars while engaging with his two Brian Brown-trained archrivals, Downbytheseaside and Fear The Dragon, in many an important stakes contest. His full brother Wild Bill scored in 1:52.3f in an abbreviated freshman campaign and offered promise for the coming year's big-money stakes. Michael Carter, a native of Virginia, worked at his home state's tracks of Colonial Downs and the Shenandoah County Fair, then got his big break by being named the primary track announcer at Buffalo Raceway in 2013, establishing himself as an accurate, interesting, and entertaining man behind the microphone while also assisting in mutuels and simulcasting. From there Carter went on to his current position at Northfield Park, where he is the deputy announcer, also working in mutuels and the Ohio track's social media efforts. Carter has extended his "footprint" to the national level of the sport by joining with Mike Bozich of Harrah's Philadelphia as half of the "Post Time With Mike And Mike" internet podcast. During its three years, the show has drawn a progressively-larger audience with its news reporting, extensive interviewing of the newsmaking horsemen and track executives, live remotes from the sites of big races, and the annual "Mike And Mike Awards." Betty Holt, Wild West Show and owner Ray Schnittker, and Michael Carter will all be honored at the upcoming Dan Patch Awards Banquet, to be held on Sunday, February 25 at the Rosen Shingle Creek Resort in Orlando FL. Those wishing to take out a congratulatory ad in the Banquet's Awards Journal should contact Kim Rinker, Journal Committee chair, at trotrink@aol.com. Those wishing to attend the banquet can make room reservations online via a special "portal" on the USHWA website - but do so quickly to take advantage of the special room rates USHWA has obtained. Tickets for the banquet, priced at $175, can be obtained through Judy Davis-Wilson, Dinner Planning Committee chair, at zoe8874@aol.com. Jerry Connors

Nominations are now being accepted for the 2017 Caretaker of the Year. The aharness racing ward, in its third year of sponsorship by Hard Rock Rocksino Northfield Park (HRRNP) in conjunction with the United States Harness Writers Association (USHWA), recognizes the unsung heroes of the sport - the caretakers who maintain the health and welfare of the horses on a daily basis. Initially titled Groom of the Year Award when first presented in 1982, the honor was instituted as a result of a suggestion made by Delvin Miller at the annual Harness Tracks of America meeting when he received HTA's Stanley F. Bergstein Messenger Award. Previously sponsored annually by HTA and Hanover Shoe Farms, the tradition lapsed in 2014 but was re-established in 2015 by HRRNP and USHWA. The HRRNP Caretaker of the Year will receive a cash prize of $500, a trophy, and transportation costs to the USHWA Dan Patch Awards banquet in Orlando, Fla., on Sunday evening, Feb. 25, 2018, where he or she will be recognized. The winner will also enjoy a two-night stay at Rosen Shingle Creek, host hotel for the USHWA activities, as well as two complimentary dinner tickets. "It is so important that we recognize the people who are hands-on everyday with all our great horses because they are the ones the animals most closely relate to and are responsible for the care that keeps them sound and competitive week to week," said Tim Bojarski, president of USHWA. "I along with all the members of USHWA could not be more proud to co-sponsor this award and take the time to appreciate and thank not only the winner, but all the nominees as well." Any caretaker working for any stable in North America is eligible. All that is need to nominate is a letter or email, 200 words minimum, from an individual or group detailing the skills and special qualities of the caretaker. The winner will be chosen by a seven-person selection committee comprised of USHWA members, all of whom are former caretakers: Tim Bojarski (chair), Tom Charters, Moira Fanning, Dean Hoffman, Rob Pennington, Kim Rinker and Shawn Wiles. All nomination letters and emails must be received and/or postmarked by Monday, Jan. 8, 2018, and sent to chairman Bojarski at a159star@gmail.com or mailed to Tim Bojarski, 7523 Maple Road, Akron, N.Y. 14001. From the U.S. Harness Writers Association  

HARRISBURG PA - In a year when he drove the horses ranking 1-2-3 in the Final Top Ten polls and making a sweep of the female trotter divisional characters while contributing almost a quarter of his $12.9M seasonal sulky earnings, Yannick Gingras was selected harness racing 'Driver of the Year' in balloting conducted among the U.S. Harness Writers Association, the sport's leading media organization. One of this awesome distaff threesome benefiting from Gingras's driving talents was older trotting mare champion Hannelore Hanover, whose dam, High Sobriety, earned honors as Trotting Broodmare of the Year. And that mother-daughter connection certainly factored into Hanover Shoe Farms being picked as Breeder of the Year - they bred Hannelore, but perhaps just as importantly they set a single-season record for the earnings of the produce of one nursery, with $31.3M registered into the last days of the season. Yannick Gingras has earned the respect of the leading horsemen of this era to the extent that he is principal catch-driver for most of the top stakes performers trained by both Ron Burke and Jimmy Takter, the "friendly rivals" almost always battling for #1 bragging rights in the sport. For Burke, Gingras guided the above-mentioned Hannelore Hanover, and for Takter, he steered three-year-old Ariana G (a repeat divisional champion) and the undefeated two-year-old Manchego. The group won fifteen $100,000+ stakes among themselves, and each won her respective Breeders Crown division, with the three Crowns for Gingras putting him at the top of the 2017 table. But it wasn't all just going out there with the best horse and winning as expected for Gingras in 2017 - he drove Filibuster Hanover, who going into the Little Brown Jug Final was 2-for-13 on the season, and they combined to upset the "hometown favorite" 1-2 punch of Downbytheseaside and Fear The Dragon. In total, Gingras won 33 stakes races worth $100,000 or more in 2017. Before Hannelore Hanover made the spotlight, if someone had told you that High Sobriety would be in contention for the Trotting Broodmare of the Year award, you might have good reason to question that person's sobriety - she had won once in a two-year racing career, and her first three foals had earned a combined total of $65,000. But then along came Hannelore Hanover, who added 10 wins, over $1M in earnings, and the second-fastest trotting mile in history - a 1:49.2 win at Lexington - to her already sizable accomplishments, and the glory of her campaign, where she defeated "the boys" on several occasions, brought honors to High Sobriety. Hanover Shoe Farms is usually among the top names considered for Breeder of the Year honors - and that only makes sense, for they have led the list of money winning graduates for each of the 69 years that the USTA has been keeping that record. Along the way, there of course have been many, many champions bred by Hanover, with Hannelore Hanover joining the very highest of those ranks this year. But the signal accomplishment of Hanover's 2017 was the $31+M intake by graduates of the Farm. This broke the old record of $30.4 - which Hanover set in 2015 - with that one breaking the old record set by Hanover in 2014 ... Hanover aggressively replenishes and adds to its breeding stock year after year, and the results speak for themselves. Yannick Gingras and Hanover Shoe Farms (as Breeder of the Year and as owner of the Trotting Broodmare of the Year High Sobriety) will be honored at the upcoming Dan Patch Awards Banquet, to be held on Sunday, February 25 at the Rosen Shingle Creek Resort in Orlando FL. Those wishing to take out a congratulatory ad in the Banquet's Awards Journal should contact Kim Rinker, Journal Committee chair, at trotrink@aol.com. Those wishing to attend the banquet can make room reservations online via a special "portal" on the USHWA website - but do so quickly to take advantage of the special room rates USHWA has obtained. Tickets for the banquet, priced at $175, can be obtained through Judy Davis-Wilson, Dinner Planning Committee chair, at zoe8874@aol.com. Jerry Connors

HARRISBURG PA - Brian Brown, who trains at the fairgrounds in the Little Brown Jug's hometown of Delaware OH and had been steadily making a bigger mark among North American harness racing conditioners over the last couple of years, had his breakthrough year in 2017, training two three-year-old colt pacers who were the leaders of their division much of the year and who were 1-2 in seasonal earnings, along with a star age/gait counterpart filly. These achievements earned Brown the Trainer of the Year Award as voted by the sport's leading media organization, the U.S. Harness Writers Association, and they contributed mightily to his also being named the organization's Good Guy Award winner for consistent, intelligent cooperation with the sport's media. The 53-year-old Brown saw his two top sophomore colts earn $2.95M between them - Downbytheseaside ($1,602,452), whose late-season heroics included a win in the Breeders Crown and being named divisional champion, and Fear The Dragon ($1,350,146), who had ranked #1 in the weekly pools for much of the summer into the fall after major stakes wins throughout North America. (Ironically, one of the few major events not taken by one or the other of the Brown sophomore powerhouses was the Little Brown Jug, although Fear The Dragon did win the first heat.) Joining Downbytheseaside as a Breeders Crown winner and divisional champion was three-year-old pacing filly Blazin Britches, an $800,000+ earner. And the rest of the Brown barn contributed earnings in the vicinity of $2 million, giving Brian a lifetime seasonal high bankroll of over $5.7M, despite starting fewer than 550 horses (he had a .402 UTR). There were many highs during the campaigns of these three top horses, but there were also the inevitable dips in form and bouts with minor illnesses that virtually all racehorses experience. Whether in the winners circle, puzzling over an off performance, or pondering his charges' upcoming races, Brown kept up an honest, informational stream of conversation (with consistent praise for the members of "Team Brown") to a media whose readers wanted to know more about these equine stars. If Brown was elated by a horse's top effort to win a big stake, there was no mistaking his enjoyment; similarly, if a horse's form was rollercoastering a bit, you felt like you were on the up-and-down ride with Brown, awaiting the next turn in the journey. His intelligent candor enabled Brown to be selected for the Good Guy award, along with his Trainer of the Year honors. Brown's adept handling of Fear The Dragon and Blazin Britches brought out one solid performance after another from those talented horses, with their biggest cheerleader - owner Bruce Trogdon of Emerald Highlands Farm - usually present to share in the glory. Trogdon was also the breeder of Blazin Britches, and he bought the dam of Fear The Dragon with him in utero (already carrying the embryo), so Trogdon has been there from the literal very beginning of their lives through their two seasons of racing, including the successes of 2017. Thus the former newspaperman celebrated the 25th year of existence of his Emerald Highlands operation in the most successful way imaginable, capped by his winning the Owner of the Year award. Trogdon's former "small operation," Emerald Highlands, now has 37 broodmares, and likely a future champion or two maturing as they traverse the farm's mid-Ohio fields. Brian Brown, as both Trainer of the Year and the Good Guy Award winner, and owner Bruce Trogdon's Emerald Highlands Farm, will be honored at the upcoming Dan Patch Awards Banquet, to be held on Sunday, February 25 at the Rosen Shingle Creek Resort in Orlando FL. Those wishing to take out a congratulatory ad in the Banquet's Awards Journal should contact Kim Rinker, Journal Committee chair, at trotrink@aol.com. Those wishing to attend the banquet can make room reservations online via a special "portal" on the USHWA website - but do so quickly to take advantage of the special room rates USHWA has obtained. Tickets for the banquet, priced at $175, can be obtained through Judy Davis-Wilson, Dinner Planning Committee chair, at zoe8874@aol.com. Jerry Connors

HARRISBURG PA - The theme generated within Hoosier Park, host track for the 2017 Breeders Crowns, was "It's Indiana Time," and the track's embodiment of that philosophy in all quarters, resulting in a superior show for harness racing's year-end showcase, has earned it the Stan Bergstein/Proximity Award in year-end Dan Patch Awards voting by the United States Harness Writers Association (USHWA), the sport's leading communications trade group. In addition, the Writers singled out two other "Hoosiers" for awards - Trace Tetrick, the track's leading driver and a double Breeders Crown winner at Hoosier, was voted the sport's Rising Star among the backstretch set; and Tim Konkle, the hardworking editor of the important monthly Midwest Harness Report and an equally tireless supporter of USHWA, has been named USHWA's Member of the Year. Hoosier Park, in the town of Andersonville northeast of Indianapolis, in its 24th season of racing during 2017, was chosen to host the $6M Breeders Crown Championship Series, a gathering of the best horses in North American harness racing. Although the weather was not at its best throughout the weekend of the Championships, the racing proved fair to all horses and excellently-competitive - and the Hoosier Park staff rolled out the red carpet to racing's elite horses and humans in a big way. No amount of effort was spared in making the Breeders Crown experience memorable to everyone connected to it, right down to the Hoosier Park faithful who turned out en masse to see the national-caliber racing. All who were at the 7/8-mile track that weekend came away raving about Hoosier Park and its first-rate job in showcasing the Breeders Crown (and it didn't hurt that a couple of Indiana-bred and Indiana-based horsemen showed up in Victory Lane, either). The leading driver at Hoosier Park over the last couple of years, Trace Tetrick, again led the sulkysitter's colony in 2017, but it was largely his work on his track's big weekend that drew the national attention to his developing abilities. Trace visited the Crown winners circle with three-year-old pacing filly Blazin Britches, last week voted champion in her division, and with the homegrown Indiana stakes competitor, two-year-old colt trotter Fiftydallarbill, among five winners on the weekend's two cards. Trace Tetrick, who was fourth in North America in wins at press time with 559 and who set a personal seasonal money record with $6.7M in horses driven, joins his brother Tim, who won the Rising Star Award exactly ten years ago, and who has since gone on to have "some success" in the sulky on the North American scene. Tim Konkle has been chronicling the Indiana scene for going on 20 years now, giving the racing at Hoosier, Indiana Downs when it raced Standardbreds, and the Indiana fairs and sales prominent attention in his magazine. Formerly best-known as the Hoosier Horse Review, Konkle expanded the purview of the publication when Ohio brought in gaming legislature, and under the name Midwest Harness Review Tim now keeps his readership posted on the major stories in the Hoosier state, the Buckeye state, and the surrounding harness racing area. For USHWA, Konkle has served as a Director of the At-Large membership group for two years. His preliminary spadework aided greatly with Hoosier Park being the title sponsor of the latest Dan Patch Awards Banquet, and he continues in his efforts to help the organization raise money and then use it wisely in its various activities. Hoosier Park, Trace Tetrick, and Tim Konkle will all be honored at the upcoming Dan Patch Awards Banquet, to be held on Sunday, February 25 at the Rosen Shingle Creek Resort in Orlando FL. Those wishing to take out a congratulatory ad in the Banquet's Awards Journal should contact Kim Rinker, Journal Committee chair, at trotrink@aol.com. Those wishing to attend the banquet can make room reservations online via a special "portal" on the USHWA website - but do so quickly to take advantage of the special room rates USHWA has obtained. Tickets for the banquet, priced at $175, can be obtained through Judy Davis-Wilson, Dinner Planning Committee chair, at zoe8874@aol.com. (Full voting results for all categories will be sent along with Friday's release, the last in the sequence of four.) Jerry Connors  

History-making Pure Country and Manchego, unanimous harness racing selections Ariana G and Hannelore Hanover, and money-leader Downbytheseaside were among the 12 horses named 2017 Dan Patch Award winners Thursday by the U.S. Harness Writers Association. Pure Country became the first female pacer in history to receive Dan Patch honors at ages 2, 3 and 4. The complete list of award-winning pacers is Pure Country (older female), Downbytheseaside (3-year-old male), Blazin Britches (3-year-old female) Lost In Time (2-year-old male), Youaremycandygirl (2-year-old female) and Keystone Velocity (older male). Manchego became the first undefeated 2-year-old female trotter to win a Dan Patch trophy since the category for fillies was created in 1978. In addition to Manchego, the divisional award-winning trotters are Ariana G (3-year-old female), Hannelore Hanover (older female), Fourth Dimension (2-year-old male), What The Hill (3-year-old male) and Marion Marauder (older male). Ariana G, Hannelore Hanover, and Marion Marauder are repeat winners. A total of 131 Dan Patch Award ballots were returned by the U.S. Harness Writers Association's membership this year. Dan Patch Award winners will be honored at a banquet Feb. 25 at Rosen Shingle Creek resort in Orlando, Fla., at which time Trotter, Pacer, and Horse of the Year will be announced. Ariana G, one of four Dan Patch Award winners from the stable of trainer Jimmy Takter, won 12 of 15 races this year and earned $1.12 million for owners Marvin Katz and Al Libfeld, who also bred the filly. Driven by Yannick Gingras, her victories included the Hambletonian Oaks, Breeders Crown, and Elegantimage Stakes. Five-year-old Hannelore Hanover, the first repeat winner in the trotting mare division since Buck I St Pat captured three trophies in a row from 2008-10, won 10 of 17 races this season and earned $1.04 million. She became the fastest female trotter in history when she won the Allerage Farms Open Trot in 1:49.2 at Lexington's Red Mile and was the first mare to beat the boys in the Breeders Crown Open since Moni Maker in 1998. Other wins for the Ron Burke-trained Hannelore Hanover included the Maple Leaf Trot, where she also defeated male rivals, and the Armbro Flight Stakes. She is owned by the Burke Racing Stable, Weaver Bruscemi partnership, Frank Baldachino, and J&T Silva Stables. Gingras was her regular driver. Marion Marauder, a 4-year-old stallion who was last season's Trotter of the Year, won three of 10 races this year and earned $769,182 for owners Marion Jean Wellwood and Devin Keeling. Marion Marauder's victories included the Hambletonian Maturity and Graduate Series championship and he was second in the International Trot. He was trained by the wife-and-husband team of Paula Wellwood and Mike Keeling and driven by Scott Zeron. What The Hill, another trotter from the Burke stable, won nine of 18 races this year and earned $948,178 for owners Burke Racing Stable, Our Horse Cents Stables, J&T Silva Stables, and Deo Volente Farms. His triumphs included the Breeders Crown and Canadian Trotting Classic and he concluded his campaign by beating older horses in the TVG Series championship. He was driven by David Miller. Manchego was a perfect 12-for-12 this season and earned $873,948 for owners Black Horse Racing, John Fielding, and Herb Liverman. Trained by Takter and driven by Gingras, her wins included the Breeders Crown, Jim Doherty Memorial, and Peaceful Way Stakes. Fourth Dimension, trained by Marcus Melander for owner Courant Inc., won eight of 11 races and earned $397,410. His wins included the Valley Victory Stakes. He was driven by Brian Sears. All of the winning trotters received at least 78 percent of the vote with the exception of Marion Marauder, who garnered 53.4 percent as he outdistanced runner-up Crazy Wow by 31 votes. Pure Country joined male pacer Jenna's Beach Boy as the only pacers in the last 45 years to receive divisional honors at ages 2, 3 and 4. Jenna's Beach Boy accomplished the feat from 1994-96. The homebred Pure Country won five of 16 races and earned $461,168 for owner Diamond Creek Racing and trainer Takter. All her wins came in her final 10 starts, with Mark MacDonald in the sulky, and included the Breeders Crown, TVG Series championship, and Lady Liberty. Downbytheseaside finished his campaign with a four-race win streak on his way to leading the sport with $1.60 million in purses. The colt's victories included the Messenger Stakes, Progress Pace, Carl Milstein Memorial, and Art Rooney Pace. He was trained by Brian Brown and owned by Country Club Acres, Joe Sbrocco, Richard Lombardo, and Diamond Creek Racing. Chris Page, Brian Sears, and David Miller all guided the horse to stakes wins. He received 89.3 percent of the vote as he outpaced runner-up Fear The Dragon, who also was trained by Brown. Youaremycandygirl, history's fastest 2-year-old female pacer thanks to her 1:50 mile in a division of the International Stallion Stakes in Lexington, won nine of 11 races this year and closed the season with a seven-race win streak. Her victories included the Breeders Crown, She's A Great Lady, and Three Diamonds. She earned $895,615 for owner Bill Donovan, trainer Burke and drivers Gingras and Louis-Philippe Roy. Lost In Time, who was trained by Jim Mulinix before heading to the Takter stable for his final two starts, won five of nine races and earned $608,112 for owners A Rocknroll Dance Racing, Denny Miller, William Rufenacht, and Team S Racing Stable. His victories included the Metro Pace and Governor's Cup. He was driven by Zeron. Blazin Britches won the balloting's closest vote, defeating runner-up Agent Q by 14 votes among 3-year-old female pacers. Blazin Britches, trained by Brown for breeder/owner Emerald Highlands Farm, won 11 of 15 races and earned $540,424. Her triumphs included the Breeders Crown, Nadia Lobell, and Shady Daisy. She was driven primarily by Trace Tetrick, but also scored a stakes victory with David Miller. In the division for older male pacers, nine horses received at least one vote, with Keystone Velocity coming out on top by 31 votes over runner-up Mach It So. The 9-year-old Keystone Velocity won eight of 22 races and earned $783,442 for owners Allard Racing, Kapildeo Singh, Earl Hill Jr., and VIP Internet Stable. His victories included the Ben Franklin Pace and Levy Memorial Series championship. Trained by Rene Allard, he was driven by Dan Dube and Simon Allard. Information regarding the Dan Patch Awards banquet is available at www.ushwa.org. Follow are profiles for the 12 divisional champions. TROTTERS 2-YEAR-OLD MALE TROTTER Fourth Dimension (103 votes/78.6 percent) Chapter Seven - Corazon Blue Chip - Muscle Hill Yearling price: $200,000 under name Seventh Wonder at Lexington Selected Sale. Breeders: Ray Schnittker, Steven Arnold, Blue Chip Bloodstock Inc., Arden Homestead Stable. Owner: Courant Inc. Trainer: Marcus Melander. Driver: Brian Sears. Races: 11-8-1-0. Purses: $397,410. Mark: 1:52.4 at Lexington. Top wins: $464,650 Valley Victory; $59,400 International Stallion Stakes division.   2-YEAR-OLD FEMALE TROTTER Manchego (130 votes/99.2 percent) Muscle Hill - Secret Magic - Cantab Hall Yearling price: $120,000 under name Whispering Hills at Lexington Selected Sale. Breeder: Brittany Farms. Owners: Black Horse Racing, John Fielding, Herb Liverman. Trainer: Jimmy Takter. Driver: Yannick Gingras. Races: 12-12-0-0. Purses: $873,948. Mark: 1:52.4 at Mohawk. Top wins: $600,000 Breeders Crown; $330,800 Jim Doherty Memorial; $307,500 Peaceful Way.   3-YEAR-OLD MALE TROTTER What The Hill (120 votes/91.6 percent) Muscle Hill - K T Cha Cha - Angus Hall Yearling price: $65,000 at Lexington Selected Sale. Breeder: Stan Klemencic. Owners: Burke Racing Stable, Our Horse Cents Stables, J&T Silva Stables, Deo Volente Farms. Trainer: Ron Burke. Driver: David Miller. Races: 18-9-1-2. Purses: $948,178. Mark: 1:51.4 at Mohawk. Top wins: $560,880 Canadian Trotting Classic; $527,500 Breeders Crown; $350,000 TVG Championship.   3-YEAR-OLD FEMALE TROTTER Ariana G (131 votes/100 percent) Muscle Hill - Cantab It All - Cantab Hall Yearling price: Homebred. Breeders: Marvin Katz, Al Libfeld. Owners: Marvin Katz, Al Libfeld. Trainer: Jimmy Takter. Driver: Yannick Gingras. Races: 15-12-2-1. Purses: $1.12 million. Mark: 1:51.1 at Meadowlands. Top wins: $500,000 Breeders Crown; $500,000 Hambletonian Oaks; $315,700 Elegantimage.   OLDER MALE TROTTER Marion Marauder (70 votes/53.4 percent) Muscle Hill - Spellbound Hanover - Donerail Yearling price: $37,000 under name Marion Monopoly at Lexington Selected Sale. Breeder: William Mulligan. Owners: Marion Jean Wellwood, Devin Keeling. Trainers: Mike Keeling, Paula Wellwood. Driver: Scott Zeron. Races: 10-3-3-2. Purses: $769,182. Mark: 1:51.2 at Meadowlands. Top wins: $458,750 Hambletonian Maturity; $240,000 Graduate Championship.   OLDER FEMALE TROTTER Hannelore Hanover (131 votes/100 percent) Swan For All - High Sobriety - Dream Vacation Yearling price: $32,000 at Standardbred Horse Sale. Breeder: Hanover Shoe Farms. Owners: Burke Racing Stable, Weaver Bruscemi partnership, Frank Baldachino, J&T Silva Stables. Trainer: Ron Burke. Driver: Yannick Gingras. Races: 17-10-5-0. Purses: $1.04 million. Mark: 1:49.2 (world record) at Lexington. Top wins: $526,250 Breeders Crown Open; $486,260 Maple Leaf Trot; $184,690 Armbro Flight.   PACERS 2-YEAR-OLD MALE PACER Lost In Time (96 votes/73.2 percent) A Rocknroll Dance - Summer Mystery - Artiscape Yearling price: $47,000 at Lexington Selected Sale. Breeder: Diamond Creek Farm. Owners: A Rocknroll Dance Racing, Denny Miller, William Rufenacht, Team S Racing Stable. Trainers: Jim Mulinix, Jimmy Takter. Driver: Scott Zeron. Races: 9-5-2-0. Purses: $608,112. Mark: 1:50.1 at Mohawk. Top wins: $660,960 Metro Pace; $411,700 Governor's Cup; $58,000 International Stallion Stakes division.   2-YEAR-OLD FEMALE PACER Youaremycandygirl (128 votes/97.7 percent) American Ideal - Sweet Lady Jane - Somebeachsomewhere Yearling price: $150,000 at Standardbred Horse Sale. Breeder: Birnam Wood Farms. Owner: W J (Bill) Donovan. Trainer: Ron Burke. Drivers: Yannick Gingras, Louis Roy. Races: 11-9-0-0. Purses: $895,615. Mark: 1:50 (world record) at Lexington. Top wins: $600,000 Breeders Crown; $405,000 She's A Great Lady; $381,200 Three Diamonds.   3-YEAR-OLD MALE PACER Downbytheseaside (117 votes/89.3 percent) Somebeachsomewhere - Sprig Hanover - Allamerican Native Yearling price: $65,000 under name Beach Blue Chip at Lexington Selected Sale. Breeders: Blue Chip Farms, Janet Seltzer, Jeffrey Scott Rabinowitz, Jordan Farkas, Robert Wood. Owners: Country Club Acres, Joe Sbrocco, Richard Lombardo, Diamond Creek Racing. Trainer: Brian Brown. Drivers: Chris Page, Brian Sears, David Miller. Races: 22-14-2-3. Purses: $1.60 million. Mark: 1:48.3 at Dover Downs. Top wins: $500,000 Messenger; $308,060 Progress; $300,000 Carl Milstein Memorial; $300,000 Art Rooney Pace.   3-YEAR-OLD FEMALE PACER Blazin Britches (66 votes/50.3 percent) Rock N Roll Heaven - Soggy Britches - Allamerican Ingot Yearling price: Homebred. Breeder: Emerald Highlands Farm. Owner: Emerald Highlands Farm. Trainer: Brian Brown. Drivers: Trace Tetrick, David Miller. Races: 15-11-2-0. Purses: $540,424. Mark: 1:48.4 at Meadowlands. Top wins: $500,000 Breeders Crown; $160,000 Nadia Lobell; $113,950 Shady Daisy.   OLDER MALE PACER Keystone Velocity (65 votes/49.6 percent) Western Hanover - Venus Killean - Run The Table Yearling price: $3,000 at Standardbred Horse Sale. Breeder: George Hempt. Owners: Allard Racing, Kapildeo Singh, Earl Hill Jr., VIP Internet Stable. Trainer: Rene Allard. Drivers: Dan Dube, Simon Allard. Races: 22-8-3-1. Purses: $783,442. Mark: 1:47.3 at Rosecroft. Top wins: $529,000 Levy Championship; $500,000 Ben Franklin; $100,000 Potomac Pace.   OLDER FEMALE PACER Pure Country (121 votes/92.3 percent) Somebeachsomewhere - Western Montana - Western Hanover Yearling price: Homebred. Breeder: Diamond Creek Farm. Owner: Diamond Creek Racing. Trainer: Jimmy Takter. Driver: Mark MacDonald. Races: 16-5-3-1. Purses: $461,168. Mark: 1:48 (Q) at Meadowlands. Top wins: $250,000 Breeders Crown; $200,400 Lady Liberty; $175,000 TVG Championship.   U.S. Harness Writers Association

Middletown, NY - When the Monticello-Goshen Chapter of the United States Harness Writers (USHWA) held their 59th annual awards banquet on Dec. 3rd, in the midst of the prominent slate of harness racing honorees and award winners, the chapter also presented Goshen Historic Track with an annual donation of three thousand dollars ($3,000). Accepting on behalf of the non-profit organization was Tim Masters, this year's recipient of the Amy Bull Crist Distinguished Service Award, and the catalyst behind many of the ongoing renovations and improvements at the "Cradle of the Trotter." Masters' vision is simple, but nonetheless a challenge: "To restore the track to its previous glory while improving its reputation and status as a training facility." While performing his duties as the facilities manager and general manager, Masters brings a practical "can-do" attitude to track operations. The iconic site has undergone progressive renovation to the one hundred year old grandstand with Masters directing the replacement of all the seats and the floors. But all of that costs money, so, in just the last ten years the Monticello-Goshen chapter has donated nearly $40,000 to the 'World's Oldest Harness Track.' USHWA National Vice President Shawn Wiles was quick to point out the chapter's continued dedication to Goshen: "As long as the local harness racing community continues to support the Monticello-Goshen USHWA banquets and souvenir journal, we will continue to support both Goshen Historic Track and the Harness Racing Museum & Hall of Fame. For all the good that both these institutions do for our sport, it is our honor to continue to raise money on their behalf." GHT President Steve Jones stated, "The board of directors at Goshen Historic Track is grateful to the Monticello-Goshen chapter for their continued financial support. The track's needs are greater now than ever, and this truly helps us to carry on with rebuilding and improvements to our National Historic Landmark." Matinee racing for the 2018 season begins on June 3, and again on subsequent Sundays 10 & 17. Grand Circuit racing starts at Goshen Historic Track on Friday, June 29. Hall of Fame day is Sunday, July 1, with two more race dates slated for Saturday (June 30) and Monday (July 2). Established in 1838, Goshen Historic Track encourages membership in their iconic facility. For more information check out their website: GoshenHistoricTrack.com Chris Tully

HARRISBURG PA - Judy Davis-Wilson, the current Executive Administrator of the Delaware Standardbred Breeders' Fund and involved at the highest levels of the sport for over 40 years, has been appointed by U.S. Harness Writers Association (USHWA) President Tim Bojarski to a six-year term on the Hall of Fame Screening Committee, which ultimately decides the ballot candidates for the sport's highest honor, the Hall of Fame, every summer. A daughter of two noted Delaware-based horsepeople (Olin and Ruth Davis), Judy has worked at tracks in her native state and nearby Pennsylvania, for the United States Trotting Association, and for the Hambletonian Society as stakes manager for ten years before assuming her current position. Davis-Wilson served as President of USHWA from 2006-2008 and as Treasurer for several years after that, and she has been voted the Alan Prince USHWA Member of the Year. "Judy Davis-Wilson has worked in the sport in many capacities since age 15, and has watched the careers of several generations of horsemen progress and produce statistics and performances that would make them Hall of Fame material," noted Bojarski. "The wealth of experience and exposure she has gained in harness racing, along with her integrity, makes her a desirable member of the Screening Committee." In a straight "Harrington-Harrington swap," as Davis-Wilson comes on the Screening Committee, her lifelong acquaintance from the midstate Delaware city, Randy Manges, concludes a twelve-year service on the Committee. Jerry Connors    

Harrisburg PA -- With voting currently underway for the top harness racing horse and human performers of 2017, there has been one major change made to the format of the announcements of this year's winners by the United States Harness Writers Association (USHWA). The process this year will have the pacer, trotter and horse of the year announced at the conclusion of the Dan Patch Awards Banquet that will be held at the Rosen Shingle Creek Resort in Orlando, Florida on Sunday. February 25. There will be no advance release of these three winners. On Thursday (Dec. 21) at 12 noon, USHWA will announce all the divisional winners for both genders and gaits via a Facebook Live stream hosted by Emily Gaskin and available for viewing on both the USHWA and Hoosier Park Facebook pages. A general press release will then be sent to all e-outlets following that broadcast. All human category winners will be announced via press release the week after Christmas starting on Tuesday (Dec. 26) and running through Friday (Dec. 29). USHWA member voting for all categories closes on Wednesday (Dec. 20) at 9 a.m. Follow all the news and announcements at www.ushwa.org . The live stream of the divisional announcements can be viewed at www.facebook.com/USHarnessWriters/ or www.facebook.com/HoosierParkCasino/ .  

Batavia, NY---The Upstate New York Chapter of the United States Harness Writers Association (USHWA) will present harness racing performance awards to the top dash winning trainer and driver of the meet during the 10th annual "Night of Distinction" ceremony in the winner's circle at Batavia Downs on Saturday (Dec. 16) and whereas the top conditioner has been well identified, the driver's race will likely go down to the final races of the weekend. Kim Asher is currently the top percentage trainer in North America with a UTR of .427 and $1.1 million in earnings. She is also ranked eighth in North America for wins, currently with 208. So it's no surprise that Asher is also the trainer of the meet at Batavia Downs for 2017. Asher has started 351 horses during the session winning 88 races, finishing second 55 times and third another 55 times and saw her horses hit the board 56% of the time. Those efforts gave her a stellar UTR of .390 and $479,491 in purses. Her win total more than doubled her closest competitor. Competing for only the second year at Batavia, Asher's training career spans 19 years and during that time she has won multiple training titles including most recently, the 2017 Buffalo Raceway meet. This year Asher has sent out 208 winners and that mark was a personal best. Her stable boast horses with gaudy win totals like Quicksilvercandy A (20), Saint William A (16), Itsonlyrocknroll A (13) and Kaitlyn Rae (11). During her career Asher has 1,934 wins, 1,456 seconds and 1,222 thirds out of 9,196 starts for a lifetime UTR of .342 and earnings of over $15 million. The driving accolades for this meet are still up in the air. Larry Stalbaum is the current dash win leader with 127 wins while Ray Fisher Jr. is second with 122 and Drew Monti is third with 117. With only two cards of racing left and probably 20 starts apiece remaining for all three drivers, Stalbaum looks fairly solid with a five-race lead. If Stalbaum does win the title it would be his first at Batavia Downs. However the long-tenured horseman is no stranger to being the best set of hands on any circuit. Over his 32-year career he has won dash honors at Northville Downs, Hazel Park, Sports Creek Park, Jackson Harness Raceway, Monticello Raceway, Raceway Park, Cal Expo and most recently, Buffalo Raceway earlier this year. During his career, Stalbaum has driven 5,732 winners and earned just under $39 million in purses. Ray Fisher Jr. has won two driving titles at Buffalo Raceway and four at Northfield Park. But since arriving at the Genesee County oval in 2007 has never taken the top spot there although he did finish second and third three times each. So winning it this year would definitely be a notch in his belt. Since his career began in 1987, Fisher has won 4,200 races lifetime and just shy of $18 million in purses. Drew Monti is the defending dash driving winner at Batavia Downs, taking his first-ever driving title last year with 116 wins. He had a substantial lead this year earlier in the meet, but the competition stiffened and now he has a lot of work to do in order to repeat. Although the 23-year-old Monti has only been driving for five years, he is already closing in on his 1,000th win (currently with 979) and has made $5.5 million in purses during that time. The competition for the driving title will resume on Friday night (Dec. 15) and will be decided on Saturday (Dec. 16). Post time for both nights is 6 p.m.   By Tim Bojarski, for UNY USHWA  

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