Pompano Beach, FL - Screaming and shouting, cries of joy echoing throughout the grandstand. These echoes travel across the racetrack to where drivers, trainers, owners, and grooms can hear. Anyone within an ears distance can hear these chants and cheers. The atmosphere of the racetrack brings a variety of emotions whether it be tears of joy or sadness, screams of happiness or anger, the crowd is never silent. The noise doesn't fall short of the horsemen and women that work behind the scenes and stand near the paddock gate watching their horse race on any given night. However, there is one voice that overpowers them all, draining out all of the noise. Rather than putting the name to the face, people put the name to the voice for one track announcer, John Berry. John Berry is a man of many talents and wears many hats as most would say. “He is the Picasso of Harness Racing. Journalistic knowledge and professionalism second to none,” Wally Hennessey, Hall of Fame Driver and leading trainer at Pompano Park, recounts. Aside from a race announcer, John Berry has played a vital role in harness racing as anything from a race office assistant to a publicity man to a live broadcaster. It's no doubt that John Berry is one of many that form the base of the horse racing business. In the February 5, 1964 edition of The Horseman and Fair World, the week Pompano Park opened, there was a letter to the editor concerning time trials by John Berry. And here we are, 53 years later, and Berry is still at it---writing brilliant, informative stories, announcing on occasion, co-hosting the Pompano Park pre-race show, writing a handicapping column, and serving the horsemen and our sport with the same enthusiasm that was evident back more than a half century ago. Inducted into the Hall of Fame as a communicator several years ago, he has participated in school career days, countless charitable events, seminars, and many promotions to enhance the image of harness racing. He was even highlighted on a CBS (Chicago) news segment entitled “Someone You Should Know.” The feeling all horsemen know or come to know at some point in their careers is the moment when your horse is pacing or trotting lengths ahead of the pack at the three-quarter pole. Down the stretch and the win is a guarantee. That moment in time is brief but the memory of the feeling lasts a lifetime. At this point in John Berry’s life, it was like he had experienced this brief moment forever. “That was amazing, I must admit,” Berry smiled. “It was a surreal moment. “I used to get films from Sportsman’s Park---16 millimeter films---and I went to different nursing homes and rehab facilities lugging my 50-pound projector to put racing programs on for the patients there. “I went to the administrators of these facilities to see who needed a morale boost, so to speak.” Berry explained. “Then, I made programs up and put patients down as drivers of the horses. On this one occasion, the ‘winning’ driver was a lady that had a stroke several months prior and could not speak. “Well, after the race,” Berry said. “I went right up to her with her daughter alongside and congratulated her on her win. I asked her to tell me how she won the race (as the doctors and nurses were cautioning me that she couldn't speak) and she grabbed the ‘mike’ and, after struggling a bit, said, “I tried hard’. “To say that the doctors and nurses were amazed is an understatement,” Berry recalled. “Their jaws literally dropped. The administrators got ahold of CBS news about this miracle of sorts and, a few weeks later, when another show at the facility was arranged, CBS was there with a crew and it became a segment on a newscast in Chicago. “It wasn't necessary,” John said, “but they said this story must be told. “It merely propelled me to keep trying and looking for yet another miracle.” John Berry, a man with a long history that keeps growing. Aside from racing, he holds his own titles himself - for bowling. Interestingly enough, the 16-year-old's career in bowling led him to harness racing. In Chicago of 1959, Berry won a match that began his new and long lived career. “It was a match,” Berry recalled, “where four of us put up five dollars apiece with the winner taking $15, second place getting his money back and the lowest two scorers paying for the highest two bowler’s lines (games). “I bowled a 248, 268, and 258 and I took the money.” Berry said with a smile. “A gentleman by the name of Luke Schroer approached me after that match to give me a “tip” of sorts,” Berry added, “as he won some money betting on the match.” Although John refused the offer, they ended up going out for a bite to eat. On that August in 1959, Schroer had taken John Berry to the racetrack, up to a box at Sportsman's Park---”41-A” Berry recalls. From that night on, Berry had an ever-growing interest in the sport. The gentleman who arranged for Berry to get Sportsman's Park films, Don Stevens, introduced him to Stan Bergstein. Bergstein, who later would become harness racing’s only double Hall of Famer, being inducted to both the Living Hall of Fame and as a Communicator, helped John to get his very first position in the harness racing world, as an Associate Editor of the ‘The Illinois Sulky News,’ working for the Illinois Harness Horsemen’s Association. His first position led to other doors opening. These ‘doors’ included jobs in publicity and public relations at Balmoral Park. At Balmoral, he wrote press releases and worked on handicapping and interviews. “It was demanding since it turned out to be a seven day a week grind from early morning to late at night.” John said. Developing a passion as well as a talent for writing, John Berry won a few regional awards for journalistic evidence. In 1979, Berry accepted a position with the Standardbred Breeders and Owners Association of New Jersey. His new agenda included handling publicity and public relations; and hosting the long running series of television shows featuring Stakes races from The Meadowlands, Freehold Raceway and Garden State Park. He also created and designed New Jersey's Stallion Directory and hosted several Miss Equine New Jersey contests. “The Board of the SBOANJ was extremely active in partnering with the racetracks to publicize the sport,” Berry said. “Tony Abbatiello and Ronnie Dancer led the brigade back then and one couldn't have asked for a more dedicated Board of Directors looking to move the sport in the right direction. “I worked with John Higgins, then the Executive Director, a very knowledgeable horseman.” Berry added. “I also worked with an extremely talented gentleman by the name of Leon Zimmerman, who know every nook and cranny in Trenton, New Jersey, where the political stuff went on. “Leon and I got elected to the Hall of Fame the same year,” Berry said. “and it was an honor to work with him and gain a bit of insight into the world of politics.” During that time, Berry won the prestigious National John Hervey Award for an article he wrote in 1979 for Hub Rail Magazine about the Little Brown Jug. “I have written many, many articles,” he said, “but this is, absolutely, one of my favorites because, when I put it in the typewriter---yes, we still used typewriters back then---the words just kept flowing and I, literally, didn't make any changes once the article was finished. “It included a Roger Huston race call and I have been told on many occasions that the reader could ‘hear’ Roger’s voice while reading it.” After three years with the SBOANJ, he accepted a position with the USTA as Public Relations Manager, working from an office, in Freehold, New Jersey, to cover the New York-New Jersey and eastern racing scene, which was blossoming at the time. When they asked him to move to Columbus, Ohio, he parted ways with the USTA and accepted a position with Sports Information Database (SIDB) as a Senior Editor for harness racing with the objective of putting the entire history of harness racing on computer. “I was honored to work with many of the great minds in sport, including Bill Shannon, the famed official scorer for baseball; Logan Hobson and Bob Canobbio, the inventors of ‘punch-stat’ for boxing matches; and one of harness racing’s great geniuses, Phil Sporn.” A consolidation deal fell through and SIDB went out of business. Berry was asked if he was interested in moving to South Florida to be Public Relations Director at Pompano Park. The track enjoyed its finest two seasons in history benefitting from promotions like a car giveaway, cruise nights, where 10,000 cruise passes were distributed to guests, and mall promotions. John Berry has always worked to make the name of harness racing go viral across the world. He gained more exposure to the track when he became the host of his own radio show, featuring big bands and jazz from the 1920’s and 1930’s. “The show featured music from many of the great bands that were left somewhat obscure to the vast majority,” Berry explained. “I guess you would call them ‘territory bands.’ While modern and pop music was taking over the radio stations, Berry’s interests in the ‘throwback’ tunes caught on in the public ‘ear’, so to say, and he had a lot of loyal listeners. Around this time, Berry was elected President of the United States Harness Writers Association and served that organization for a two-year term. In the 1980’s, he was lured into taking a position with a newly formed company--brainchild of well-known owner and breeder Eric Cherry. The start-up company, National Raceline, had a goal to provide results and race calls from tracks coast-to-coast. Within the company, Berry secured many racetracks that sent in results by fax for the information to be disseminated over a “900” network of telephone lines. In short order, the “Raceline” became the nation's leader in providing information on racing results with nightly calls growing by “leaps and bounds”. Later, he was approached by Allen Greenberg to see if he would be interested in conducting auctions aboard cruise ships. “I agreed to ‘try it for a couple of weeks’ to see if I liked it enough to continue.” Not only did Berry like the position, he was “auctioneer of the year” the first two years the award was given and broke several records along the way. During one of the auctions at sea, a representative of WPBT-Channel 2 Public Television approached John with an offer to go on the air during the station’s membership drives. Accepting the offer, John became one of the hosts of the show and eventually served the station during their on-air auctions. Conducting over 1,800 auctions within his career and raising money for many charitable organizations, libraries, and his beloved Harness Writers Association; the most expensive item sold at one of his auctions was an internet domain name --Sex.net--for $450,000. Serving as an auctioneer, Berry was absent from the sport for a few years. However, like any true horseman who cannot stray too far from the track, he returned after an offer from Isle of Capri’s director, Jim Patton, and Director of Publicity and Marketing, Steve Wolf, in 2004. Both directors persuaded Berry to return to the track, to work in publicity, serving as a “point man” for the upcoming referendum on allowing casinos to be built in Broward County. “Steve (Wolf) came up with an ingenious plan to canvas the area to try and secure support for the casino referendum,” Berry said. “which had failed in two previous attempts. “Well, we got it done and it was quite a scene as we broke ground and, here we are, with a now well established casino that has a 10-year history and racing is still flourishing in South Florida.” Today, Berry, now approaching his mid-70’s, continues to perform several duties at the track---a “three-of-all-trades” ---as he says. He particularly enjoys handicapping for his many followers and looks for “value” in his selections. “Hardly a man in now alive,” he says, “who paid his mortgage at 3 to 5!” One of his most memorable recollections from the handicapping floor comes from the time he predicted a dead-heat during a seminar at The Meadowlands in 1980. Other moments being earning his PHD--Professional Handicapping Degree-- from Tele-Track in 1983 after a six-for-six night there, selecting a “cold” pentafecta at Pompano Park this season, and a string of recent longshot winners in his nightly Pickin’ Berrys handicapping column, one as high as 50 to 1. “The prediction of a dead-heat was as much luck and handicapping skill---something like Babe Ruth predicting his home run at Wrigley Field. “I couldn't separate numbers six and seven and just happened to blurt out, ‘to tell you the truth, I cannot separate these two horses, so I think it'll wind up to be a dead-heat and it was!” Aside from picking his most memorable handicapping memory, John claims the most memorable race he has ever seen was on March 17, 1962 at Maywood Park in Chicago. “I've seen a lot, yes, from Su Mac Lad to Bret Hanover to Albatross to Niatross to Nihalator, to the stars of today but [this] was my most memorable race.” John describes the temperatures to have been wavering in the 30’s mixed with snow, sleet, and rain. “The track had turned into a quagmire,” John explained. “There was a horse named Scotsman, driven by Ken Lighthill, who won in 3:38 ⅗… yes, 3:38 ⅗, which was the slowest winning pari-mutuel mile in history. “It's a record that will ever be broken and it, indeed, is the most memorable race I have ever seen.” John has gotten some well-deserved accolades when in the announcer's booth, too, subbing for Gabe Prewitt when called upon. Racing fan Rich Stern from Chicago lamented, “I love his race calls. They are clear and concise and he's added some nice terms like ‘double-bubbled’ when a horse is three wide. “He gives those behind the scenes nice credit, too. I like that!” His meticulous morning lines have also drawn praise and he was the first and only Morning Line maker to make all horses the same odds--7 to 2--in a six-horse field last season at Pompano Park. The horses had all been around the same time, been beaten about the same number of lengths and were so evenly matched that they all deserved consideration. “I decided to make them all the same in the morning line and that race got huge attention from the media because of it!” Clearly, John Berry has a knack for talent as well as talent himself, in the harness racing world. As a publicity man, fill-in announcer, and writer among many other hats that Berry wears, he covers all bases of harness racing. “He is the equivalent of an encyclopedia of harness racing, a true gentleman,” Standardbred owner and trainer, John Hallett, conveys. Outside of racing, as mentioned before, John was a champion bowler, including capturing the Illinois State Bowling Singles in 1970 by averaging 246 for the tournament. And he is one of few who have ever bowled a perfect 300 game. He lives with his “bride of many years,” Abby and their Quaker Parrot, Pistachio, who, as he says, “brings us joy beyond belief.” Berry has had a lot of “firsts” during his career and plans on helping the sport he loves and its participants as long as possible. Today, John splits his time helping publicize the sport for the Florida Standardbred Breeders and Owners Association in the am and doing the late shift in Pompano Park's racing operations office in the afternoon and night. Many horsemen know and recognize John Berry for his talent as a writer and his character as a horseman. “I've known John for many years. He's a nice guy and fun to be around. Working with him sure makes the day go by faster,” iterates Rosie Huff, who works with Berry at the FSBOA office. Berry related, “at the FSBOA, I am lucky enough to work with Rosie Huff, one of the most dedicated individuals with whom I have ever worked. At Pompano, I am honored to work alongside someone as great as Gabe Prewitt, who has an enthusiasm for the sport like no other. “We enjoy and respect each other's talent and company. “You could call it a ‘pari-mutuel’ admiration society!” If there is anyone that the sport of harness racing needs to clone to help promote the industry, they should look no further than John Berry. By Jessica Hallett, for Harnesslink Jessica Hallett is a new correspondent for Harnesslink. Jessica, 17, lives in Margate, Florida and is currently a senior at Deerfield Beach High School. She is the daughter of Pompano Park owner/trainers John and Michelle Hallett.
Spots are still available in a workshop for those who would like to learn to call a horse race. The United States Trotting Association, in conjunction with the Meadowlands Racetrack, is sponsoring the educational event on Saturday (June 17) at The Meadowlands in East Rutherford, N.J. The workshop, open to all ages, will be conducted by Meadowlands and Freehold Raceway announcer Ken Warkentin, who has called Standardbred and Thoroughbred races, including 17 Hambletonians. Warkentin, who started calling races at age 16, anchors the Meadowlands show on SNY and has also been on racing broadcast teams for CBS, NBC and ESPN. He provides voice overs for a variety of outlets and has a website, www.kenvoice.com. The workshop was last conducted in 2015 with announcer Tom Durkin as the instructor. Video of that workshop can be seen here. The two hour workshop has been logged so viewers can skip to the segments of most interest to them if they do not want to watch the entire segment. The day's events will start at 8 a.m. at the track and wrap up with students who wish to do so calling one of the non-betting, non-purse races for 2-year-olds that will start at 10 a.m. If the number of students who want to call a race exceeds the number of races that day, a random draw will be held to match a student with a race. Tuition is $40 for adults and $10 for high school and college students. Tuition will take the form of a tax deductible donation to the Harness Horse Youth Foundation. Class size is limited to 30. As a tribute to Sam McKee, the late Meadowlands announcer who started calling races at age 14, the USTA and the Harness Horse Youth Foundation have teamed up to provide travel grants, if needed, for high school and college students attending the class. For more information or to sign up, contact Ellen Harvey at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 732.780.3700. by Ellen Harvey, Harness Racing Communications
The United States Trotting Association announced Tuesday (May 9) that the social media-based, content hub website, www.HarnessRacingFanZone.com, has been re-launched with a new look and additional information. The newly-designed site focuses on four important pillars: Own, Watch, Wager, with an emphasis to Share on social media plus it is more mobile friendly. The homepage, which maintains the social wall from the original site, will be highlighted by more feature content concentrating on interesting and entertaining stories that will be refreshed more frequently than in the past. It also includes top headlines for the most important latest news. In addition to the content that will posted by the USTA, a “Tell Us Your Stories” form has been added to provide a method for harness racing fans to submit their own stories to share with others. Also on the homepage, there is a tab for mobile phone wallpaper downloads. The Own page, which has been a consistent source for providing ownership leads, still provides basic information on different forms of ownership as well as a form to contact the USTA’s Ownership Committee to get more specific details on how to become an owner. There is also a Recent Owners Posts section for stories about current owners in the industry. The expanded Watch page has added many more historical videos and will now include a wide range of video for major races and events that will include USTA original productions utilizing Go Pro, 360 degree camera and drone footage. The page also provides a listing with links to all harness tracks currently racing, including many that have live racing and video replays on their websites to watch harness racing. Current carryovers and Strategic Wagers now appear each day on the new Wager page as well as a list of all racetracks with links to their Advance Deposit Wagering partner websites. Also, there are handicapping and wagering features in the Recent Wager Post section and an RSS feed with handicapping analysis from Daily Racing Form. USTA Communications Department
Columbus, OH - Changes to United States Trotting Association rules and bylaws that were approved at the annual meeting of the harness racing Board of Directors in February 2017, were enacted and went into effect on Monday (May 1). The changes apply to venues in which the USTA is the sole regulatory authority. As specified in the USTA Rulebook's preface, "the rules...are applicable only to those non-pari-mutuel meetings over which no State Racing Commission, or other State Regulatory Body asserts primary jurisdiction." It is not uncommon, however, to see state racing commissions adopt USTA rules. The bylaw pertaining to procedures and eligibility for election of directors representing racetracks was approved to specify a variety of issues, including timing and eligibility of individuals for election. It was discussed and debated in Las Vegas in February, then remanded to an ad hoc committee for further review and amendment before being ratified by the full board again in early April. Track directors now will serve three-year terms, as opposed to the previous two-year standard. Districts 1 (Ohio) and 7 (Pennsylvania) each picked up one additional track director seat, with Dave Bianconi (Northfield Park) and Kevin Decker (The Meadows) both recently elected to fill those positions, while Districts 2 (Michigan) and 5 (Illinois) each lost one seat. Among the regulations pertaining to racing and breeding, dead heats in races where a point system is in place for eligibility to subsequent events, the points and purses will now be divided and/or shared. The components of an official chart are now expanded to include trainer's name, reason for a scratch, removal of hobbles from both trotters and pacers, and designation of a second tier starting position. The requirement for specifying monetary allowances for age and gender in claiming races has been eliminated; the overall claiming price remains in place. Regulations regarding horses that go inside the pylons were amended to specify the number of pylons crossed to constitute a violation, placing of horses that do so, and delineation of escalating fines and suspensions for drivers who commit pylon violations. The new regulations largely mirror those employed at racing venues in Ontario, Canada. Drivers who believe their horse's performance in a race has been compromised by another driver and wish to appeal the matter to their USTA District Board are no longer required to lodge the initial complaint before they dismount the sulky. They must still appeal to the District Board within 10 days of the decision or ruling they wish to appeal. For breeders, signature requirements for mare owners registering progeny have been simplified to remove the requirement when there is no change of ownership. Those seeking to register a horse as "Non-Standardbred" will no longer be required to spay or neuter their horse before such registration can be granted. Rule book production is currently in progress, and a PDF reflecting all of the changes will be posted online at www.ustrotting.com by the end of May. Ken Weingartner
The U.S. Trotting Association's annual Driving School will be May 31-June 3 at the Delaware County Fairgrounds, home of the Little Brown Jug, in central Ohio. As this year's school approaches, the USTA will periodically profile "graduates" of the program. For more information about the harness racing school, click here. Sitting behind a horse wasn't Mike Cayouette's first time around a track. Before he found harness racing, Cayouette was active in snowmobile racing. "We raced on horse tracks; they iced them down in the wintertime and we raced on them," said Cayouette, who lives in Maine. "(Racing) a snowmobile is a little easier," he added with a laugh. "You've got a little more control with that one." Solving issues with a snowmobile and making one go fast might be easier, but working with a horse and unraveling the mysteries to each one's success is what drives Cayouette now. "It's fun with the horses, figuring out what they need to have, need to wear," said Cayouette, who has eight horses in training. "You're learning as much as they're learning." Cayouette, who owns the Sidney Training Center, started his own learning at the U.S. Trotting Association Driving School in 2010. Cayouette owned racehorses for a decade, but wanted to get more involved as a trainer and driver. Since the school, the 59-year-old Cayouette has posted 93 wins as a trainer --- including a career-best 22 last year --- and 24 victories as a driver. "It's been good," said Cayouette, who also operates a retail flooring business. "The school was a lot of help to me because I was pretty green as far as being a trainer or driver. Mostly I was just an owner and occasionally I would jog some now and then. "At the school, I liked the part about the shoeing a lot. And Aaron Merriman spoke and he was quite helpful, too, as far as driving. I would definitely recommend the school." Seven years after attending the school, Merriman drove one of Cayouette's homebred pacers at Ohio's Northfield Park. Merriman won with the horse, Sinners Prayer, in a then-lifetime-best 1:53 on Feb. 27. "That was awesome," Cayouette said. This year's Driving School will begin Wednesday, May 31, with a welcoming reception/dinner featuring Bob Boni, co-owner of 2016 Horse of the Year Always B Miki. Participants work alongside grooms and trainers stabled at the fairgrounds Thursday-Saturday mornings. Each afternoon, topics such as horse ownership, veterinary care, driving strategy, training and conditioning and stable management will be covered by guest speakers. As for Cayouette's biggest accomplishment since the school, he said "just driving is an accomplishment to me." He won 10 of 72 races as a driver in 2012, but has cut back on his driving in recent years. "In the future I'd really like to have a nice open (level) horse," Cayouette said. "We don't have the better grade of horses, but we get around. My wife (Brenda) loves the horses and is an owner on a lot of them. It's a lot of fun." Ken Weingartner
Columbus, OH --- The U.S. Trotting Association is looking for entries for the 2017 International Media Awards, held in part with the World Trotting Conference hosted by Standardbred Canada in August. Entries must be received by the USTA by March 31. In categories with more than one U.S. submission, the entries will be posted for an online vote to be conducted between April 3 and April 24. One U.S. based entry will be submitted per category to Standardbred Canada. No entry fees are required for submission. All entries must have been published, originally broadcast or otherwise first distributed between Jan. 1, 2015 and Dec. 31, 2016. After the U.S. entrants have been submitted to Standardbred Canada, finalists for all participating countries will be voted on by International Trotting Association members between July 24 and Aug. 15. All submissions should include a cover letter with the name, address, phone number and e-mail address of the producer, author or photographer, and the name of the station, cable system or publication on/or in which it appeared, along with the date of broadcast/publication. There are no cash rewards; the winners will receive a trophy from the 2017 host organization, Standardbred Canada. Please make your submissions digitally to Allison.email@example.com and include a brief summary. For those submissions requiring a physical submission, please send to: U.S. Trotting Association, Attn: Allison Conte, 6130 S. Sunbury Rd., Westerville, OH 43081. The nine categories are as follows: BEST NEWS ARTICLE For articles written 'on deadline' about 'breaking' events, including reporting about races, racing industry happenings and so forth, and published in daily or weekly newspapers or online publications. Please send an electronic word doc or pdf version of the article. BEST MAGAZINE ARTICLE For 'long-form' articles written as 'features' and published online or in magazines. Please send an electronic word doc or pdf version of the article. BEST PHOTOGRAPHY Photos, not enhanced by any computer-aided special effects, other than those used to clarify the subject matter contained in the photograph; must be submitted as an 8-inch by 10-inch print, along with a high resolution digital version of the photo (minimum 300 dpi jpeg file). BEST PRINTED OR WEB-BASED ADVERTISEMENT For advertisements promoting races, breeding services and any other product, service or activity related to the sport of harness racing or Standardbred horses. Please send an electronic pdf version of the ad. BEST VIDEO OR FILM (ONLINE VIDEO INCLUDED) ADVERTISEMENT Video or film-based advertisements for racing, breeding or any other product or service related to the Standardbred industry. Please send a DVD or provide a link via e-mail to the video/film and provide a short summary of what the submission is about. BEST TELEVISION PROGRAM OR DOCUMENTARY (ONLINE OR BROADCAST) For programs that air on broadcast or the internet, whether long or short-form that do not include advertising content. Please send a DVD or provide a link via e-mail to the program and provide a short summary of what the submission is about. BEST POSTER For printed posters used to promote racing, breeding or any other industry-related activity, product or service. Please mail the actual poster and e-mail an electronic pdf version. BEST WEBSITE For publications, organizations or non-commercial entities that appear on the internet. BEST SOCIAL MEDIA (NEW CATEGORY) For demonstrated excellence in social media usage and innovation. Please include a summary of the social media tools used, links to the social media tools, and relative measurements of reach and impact. From the USTA Communications Department
Las Vegas, NV --- Russell Williams was elected president of the USTA by a vote of Association directors during the first general session of the USTA board of directors annual meeting Monday (Feb. 27) at the Rio All-Suite Hotel and Casino. Williams, who represents District 7 as a membership director and most recently served as the Association’s vice chairman, was elected by a majority vote over four other candidates through two rounds of balloting of the 54 USTA directors in attendance. In the first ballot, Williams received 22 votes of the 28 needed to be elected. Joe Pennacchio of District 6 received 17 votes. Jason Settlemoir of District 8 received 14 votes. USTA member Ryan Macedonio received 1 vote; and USTA member Fred Hudson received zero votes. Before the second ballot was conducted, Hudson withdrew from the race and endorsed Settlemoir. In the second ballot, Williams received the 28 required votes. Pennacchio received 19 votes. Settlemoir received 7 votes. Macedonio received 0 votes. Williams, who works as chairman of both the Standardbred Horse Sales Co. and Hanover Shoe Farms, campaigned on a platform that the USTA is doing good work in the industry, citing statistics that mares bred in North America were up more than 700 in 2016 than in 2015. “We don’t have regulatory authority,” said Williams, 63. “Commissions have that. They also have enforcement authority. But we have something quite powerful: we have ideas. A good idea -- sooner or later -- is going to be embraced. Commissions watch us. And when we deliberate and argue over these rules, commissions watch and see what we think as a breed. “The excellent ideas that come from this board, from members and from staff, are a wealth of ideas that can solve the problems that we perceive. So let’s harness the power of our good ideas and drive on.” Ivan Axelrod, chairman of District 3, was re-elected chairman of the USTA, topping District 4 chairman Gabe Wand by a vote of 30-24. Don Marean, District 9 chairman, was elected vice chairman. He received 30 votes, defeating District 2 membership director Steve Oldford (19 votes), and District 6 chairman Alan Leavitt (4 votes). One director abstained. Sally Stauffer, USTA executive secretary, was voted secretary of the USTA. She ran unopposed, replacing Barbara Brooks, who retired from the USTA after 62 years of service and 22 years serving as secretary. Dick Brandt, a membership director from District 1, was voted treasurer of the USTA, also running unopposed. A protest was filed by District 8 director Jason Settlemoir regarding the seating of John Matarazzo of Saratoga as a track director in District 8. Matarazzo was voted a new track director for District 8 by the directors of that district, defeating Shawn Wiles of Monticello Raceway; however, Settlemoir cited Article 5, Section 1 of the USTA bylaws, which states that “all directors must be individual members of this association and must maintain that membership throughout the term of office.” He was refuted by Joe Faraldo of District 8A, who cited Article 5, Section 1, Subsection A, that states that “The full board of directors shall be the sole judge of the election and qualification of its members.” After a paper ballot of the 53 directors in attendance at that time, Matarazzo’s eligibility as director was approved by a vote of 45-6 (Matarazzo and Shawn Wiles abstained). The USTA added six new directors this year. District 2 sat Mike Carlo of Northville Downs as track director, replacing the late Ken Marshall; and membership director Sam Hedington, who replaced Jerry Landess. District 5 sat track director Jim Miller of Hawthorne Racecourse, who replaced Phil Langley, who stepped down as track director and USTA president (and received a standing ovation after his contributions to the industry were recognized by Axelrod). District 6 sat track director Joe Frasure Jr. of Pompano Park, who replaced Brett Revington. District 8 sat Matarazzo who replaced Wiles as mentioned previously. District 11 sat track director John Hensley Jr. of Dover Downs, who replaced Jim Boese of Harrington Raceway. The Meadowlands Racetrack asked the USTA to facilitate a survey of its members asking this question: “Are you in favor of dedicating 5 percent of the approximately $500 million in annual slots subsidies to fund a major marketing effort for a three-year trial period?” The directors voted to not pursue this survey by a vote of 7 “yes” to 47 “no.” The USTA invited four guest speakers who addressed the board: Dan Gall, president and CEO of Standardbred Canada; Tom Luchento, president of Harness Horsemen International (HHI); Ed Martin, president of the Association of Racing Commissioners International (ARCI); and Julie Broadway, president of the American Horse Council. The USTA and HHI hosted a joint panel discussion about out-of-competition testing and uniformity of medication and licensing rules. Appearing on the panel were Dionne Benson DVM, executive director of the Racing Medication and Testing Consortium; Clara Fenger DVM of the North American Association of Racetrack Veterinarians; Alan Foreman, chairman and CEO of the Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association; Martin of ARCI; and moderator Sal DiMario, executive director of the Delaware Standardbred Owners Association. To view exclusive USTA video coverage of today's general session, click on the link at the top of this page. For full video coverage of today's meetings, click here. The board of directors annual meeting will continue through Tuesday (Feb. 28). Tuesday’s meeting includes the Racing Committee (combining the Driver/Trainer, Fairs, Pari-Mutuel, and Regulatory committees); Finance Committee; Rules Committee; and second general session, including the new president’s address, remarks by Executive Vice President and CEO Mike Tanner, and approval of the 2017 USTA budget. USTA Communications Department
BEDFORD PA – District 7 (Pennsylvania) of the United States Trotting Association held its annual meeting on Saturday (January 14) at the Omni Bedford Springs Resort in this city in the southwest corner of the Keystone State, the hometown of District Chairman Sam Beegle. Fellow directors Russell Williams and Rich Gillock, along with USTA CEO/VP Mike Tanner, were also present and helpful in discussions at the well-attended meeting. In polling attendees about the USTA proposed rule changes, so that the Pennsylvania directors can represent the opinions of its membership at the USTA annual meeting, starting on February 26 in Las Vegas, the following were the membership opinions: (Dead Heat language) – Rejected. (Driver Insurance by Racetrack) – Rejected. (Outrider) – Rejected. (Mile rate in program) – Rejected. (Symbol for 2nd tier starter) – Accepted. (15YOs in amateur races) – Rejected. (Purse Distribution) – Rejected. (% of trainer/driver % to retired horses) – Rejected. (Qualifiers from 60 days to 30 days) – Rejected, with one dissenting vote. (Omitted horse drawn, others out one PP) – Rejected. (Breaker must go outside or inside) – Accepted. (Specific pylon violation standards) – Accepted, with one dissenting vote. (Appeal / objection relationship) – Tabled, and asked to be reworded. (Registration without owner’s signature) – Accepted. (Delete “spayed or neutered”) – Accepted. (Register foal online) -- Withdrawn / moot with passage of #14. a. (Letters/spaces in names from 18 to 20) – Accepted. b. (Disallowing former names) – Rejected. 18. (Definition of “outstanding”) – Accepted. 19.-28. (RUS rules) – Tabled; no RUS racing in Pennsylvania. 29. (Movement after allowing tuck) – Rejected. 30. (Track Directors) – Accepted. 31. (Term lengths for Directors) – Rejected. 32. (Language housekeeping) – Accepted. The other major topic discussed at the meeting was the first of a set of revisions in the funding of fair racing in Pennsylvania. Saturday’s discussion focused on the initial item for which a framework had been reached, a revamping of the Fair Sire Stakes, which were strengthened by the PA Breeders giving a portion of their revenue stream to these PA-sired races. There will be an “A” and a “B” division in the Fair Sire Stakes for the first time, the latter in large part to replace the Quaker State races, which had no assured source of funding. Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture Deputy Secretary Fred Strathmeyer, whose departmental portfolio oversees harness racing, gave a broad overview of the proposed and possible future restructurings of fair funding that will allow Fair Sire Stake purses to increase and also shore up funding in administrative areas. Questions were asked about the developing program, specifically the Fair Sire Stakes proposal; as much information as could be was imparted to the gathering, with the prospect of further discussion likely this Thursday, with the annual Fair Sire Stakes meeting at the Pennsylvania Fair Convention in Hershey PA. Jerry Connors
HARRISBURG PA - The United States Trotting Association's annual meeting for District 7, Pennsylvania, will be held at the Bedford Springs Omni Hotel and Resort in Bedford PA on Saturday, January 14, with "post time" for the meeting in the southwest Pennsylvania town at 3 p.m. District 7 Chairman and PHHA President Sam Beegle, a native of Bedford, has stated, "I will fulfill my first pledge of 2017 - there will NOT be 24 inches of snow on the District 7 meeting's weekend, as there was last year." Beegle and fellow District 7 Directors Barry Brown, Rich Gillock, and Russell Williams will head the meeting for USTA members; also to be in attendance will be USTA Executive VP/CEO Mike Tanner. They will report on USTA activities of this past year, and they will take the recommendations of those assembled on the various proposed USTA rule changes (those wishing to "study in advance" can find the proposed changes at this link: http://www.ustrotting.com/pdf/USTARuleBook-Insert.pdf). The feedback from those on hand will guide the District 7 Directors when they attend the annual USTA Board of Directors meeting, which begins on February 26. Shortly after the USTA meeting, the annual banquet highlighting the best and brightest of the 2016 fair harness racing season in Pennsylvania will get underway, with a cash bar open at 5 p.m. and dinner to be served at 6 p.m. The meal will be followed by the annual awards, which will honor both the leading divisional point-winning horses during the 20-stop fair circuit and also the winners of the divisional Championship races held this past October 10 at The Meadows. Tickets for the dinner are priced at $40, and "insiders" know they are among the best investments anywhere in harness racing, thanks to the generosity of area harness suppliers and organizations in donating "door prizes" year after year. Tickets may be obtained from Sam Beegle; at this juncture it may be better to contact Mr. Beegle immediately about reserving tickets, via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Inquiries about availability of accommodations at the popular host Bedford Springs Omni Resort (2138 U.S. 220 Business, Bedford PA 15222) can be directed to 1 800 623 8100 - be sure to note that you are attending the USTA meetings and Fair Banquet. There are also many quality national-brand motels located right off the Bedford Exit of the PA Turnpike, a less than 10 minute drive to the Bedford Springs Omni - if Chairman Beegle holds up his end of the weather bargain. Pennsylvania Harness Horsemen's Association
HARRISBURG PA - Barbara Brooks, secretary of the United States Trotting Association (USTA), a person who during her remarkable 62-year career with the Association has worked with generations of harness racing horsemen and horses via the USTA's Registration Department, ensuring meticulous recordkeeping and a smile at every turn, has been voted the sport's Unsung Hero Award by the members of the United States Harness Writers Association (USHWA), the sport's leading group of communicators. When Barb first joined the USTA, the world record for a mile was 1:55; now it is 1:46. When she first went to work there, the tools of her trade were the typewriter and the file folder; now they are the computer and the database: just like the speed for a mile, research and production go much more quickly and efficiently. This upturn in individual production time is part of what has allowed the USTA to retain its ever-growing mass of records about the sport, and to explore and implement new ways of serving its public. The one constant, the other half of the equation for this progress, has been Barb Brooks, at the end of a telephone, mail, or (now) computer inquiry directed to the USTA's registry by a horseman or horsewoman wanting to make sure a horse, parentage, and ownership has been correctly recorded. Barb is by no means a "one-man team" - as she would be the first to acknowledge - but it seems no accident that the Registration Department has functioned so smoothly over decades in an exponentially-expanding sport, and she has represented the best of customer service, knowledge, and collegial cooperation. Barb Brooks retires from the USTA on Friday, but the effects of her service to the Association, to its history and its future via the registry, will be felt for decades to come. Mike Tanner, executive VP/CEO of the USTA, noted, "Barb Brooks exemplifies everything that is right about this industry." No higher tribute can be made. Barbara Brooks will be honored at the "Night Of Champions," the Dan Patch Awards Banquet Presented by Hoosier Park, which will take place on Sunday, February 26 at the Planet Hollywood hotel/casino in Las Vegas. Information about the banquet and the entire weekend, which will also contain the annual meetings of USHWA, can be found on the communicators' website, www.ushwa.org - including links for making hotel reservations at special rates at Planet Hollywood; banquet tickets; and congratulatory or acknowledgment ads in the keepsake Souvenir Banquet Journal, annually one of the best chronicles of a year in North American harness racing. United States Harness Writers Association
The new harness racing owner promotion at Yonkers Raceway held in conjunction with the Standardbred Owners Association of New York and the United States Trotting Association comes to a close with 10 lucky new owners tasting victory and some strong returns. In early November, 10 harness racing fans were randomly chosen from the USTA new owner's database to each receive five percent of the earnings of a designated horse racing at Yonkers Raceway through the end of the meet. The 3-year-old trotting gelding Emerald Chip was chosen for the promotion with trainer Andrew Harris. Emerald Chip made five starts, including a win in his first start of the promotion, a $20,000 non-winners of four conditioned event. He moved up in class and made four starts in non-winners of six trotting events at Yonkers for purses of $25,000 and $32,000. Emerald Chip picked up checks for $2000 with a fourth and $1600 with a fifth place finish and also earned $500 for starting in a 10-horse field at Yonkers. For the five starts, Emerald Chip earned $14,100, netting each of the 10 virtual owners $705. As part of the promotion, the winners were not responsible for any expenses associated with the horse. I have to thank the SOA of NY, Yonkers Raceway and the USTA, said trainer Andrew Harris. Without movements like this, it's hard to show people how easy it is to get involved. It just takes a push in the right direction. We can make this business great again! The 2016 racing season at Yonkers Raceway concludes Sunday December 18 with a 1pm first post. Yonkers Raceway has submitted a 2017 calendar of 238 racing dates to the New York Gaming Commission with a proposed return to racing Sunday afternoon January 8. The opening day card in 2017 will feature purses boosted from their normal levels in appreciation of horsemen both old and new. TIME CHANGE FOR FINAL ‘NEW YORK, NEW YORK DOUBLE’ A bit of change in times for this Sunday (Dec. 18th) final 2016 ‘New York, New York Double’. Aqueduct has moved its first post up an hour, to 11:20 AM, to accommodate more races. Thus, the third race—first half of the gimmick double—now goes at 12:20 PM, instead of the originally-scheduled 1:18 PM. Yonkers’ season-ending first post remains at 1 PM sharp, with our second race—second half of the wager—going at 1:30 PM, as planned. Past performance pages for these races shall again be made available in all corresponding on-track and simulcast programs. The ‘New York, New York Double,’ also available through Empire City Bets, is a one dollar minimum wager and an 18.5 percent takeout rate. With Aqueduct having moved up the start of its Sunday program, Yonkers’ mutuel windows shall now open at 10:30 AM. Frank Drucker
As part of ongoing efforts to simplify and streamline transactions for their members, the U.S. Trotting Association (USTA) now offers harness racing mare owners the option to register foals online. Members can register foals any time of the day, holidays or weekends, through the USTA’s Online Services. Additionally, there is an option for stallion owners or syndicate managers to issue paperless mating certificates. In order to take advantage of online registration, members must have a free account at myaccount.ustrotting.com. Once the account is activated, members can complete online registration by providing just a few details –foal color, gender, location, as well as an option to submit names. Markings will be documented by a USTA ID technician at the time the foal is permanently identified. Stallion owners and syndicate managers can also release mating certificates electronically with no need to mail the green paper certificates. In addition to online foal registration, myaccount.ustrotting.com also displays a new Owners Dashboard, which will supply a TrackMaster program page on any horse that they currently own as soon as it’s posted by the host track. The USTA processes approximately 7,000 registrations a year, and the new online registration program is expected to expedite the process and realize time and cost efficiencies for both USTA members and staff. On April 7th, 2013 the USTA launched an online entry service for racehorses, which has now seen more than 800,000 horses entered to race, replacing a process that formerly required a phone call for each trainer to each track where they raced horses and untold hours of time making those calls. The move to online registration will have a comparable effect. Paper registration continues to be available. If you have questions or need help with your online registration, please call 877.800.8782, ext. 1 or e-mail email@example.com.
The United States Trotting Association has reported that Standardbred owner Ralph Branca, 90, the beloved three-time All-Star pitcher for the Brooklyn Dodgers who gave up a home run known as the ‘Shot Heard 'Round the World,’ passed away on Wednesday, November 23. On October 3, 1951, Branca gave up a three-run homer by outfielder Bobby Thomson as the New York Giants beat the Dodgers at the Polo Grounds in the ninth inning of a playoff game in the National League. The Shot Heard 'Round the World lifted the New York Giants right into the World Series. Branca was born January 6, 1926, in Mount Vernon, N.Y. He played 12 seasons in the MLB, from 1944 through the 1956 season. The right-handed starting pitcher threw for three teams: the Dodgers from 1944 to 1953 and then again in 1956, the Detroit Tigers from 1953 to 1954, and the New York Yankees in 1954. Branca was also a member of the USTA and was an owner of Standardbreds, most notably under the nom de course of Bramble Patch Farm. World champion pacer Kassa Branca p,2,1:52.3 ($743,893), a son of No Nukes who was foaled in 1986, was named after Branca and co-owner Doug Kass. The pacer won the million-dollar Woodrow Wilson in 1988 at the Meadowlands Racetrack in a world record time of 1:52.3.
Columbus, OH --- U.S. Trotting Association President and Director Phil Langley announced Sunday (Nov. 20) at a meeting of the USTA Board of Directors executive committee at the Columbus (OH) Airport Marriott hotel that he will resign from those positions effective Dec. 31, 2016. His current harness racing term was set to expire in 2019. Langley explained that given the situation in Illinois, where both Balmoral and Maywood Parks have been closed, he feels that he can no longer fairly address the ongoing concerns of the USTA. "I no longer have a track to represent and there is little quality racing in Illinois anymore," said Langley. "For years, my tracks were involved on a national basis with the American Nationals, the World Trotting Derby, the Windy City Pace and the Hanover Stakes among others. Without that base, I no longer feel a part of the national scene that is necessary for the USTA President." In accordance with USTA bylaw 11.04, since the vacancy in the presidency will occur within 60 days of the next USTA Annual Meeting, which is scheduled for Feb. 26-28, 2017 in Las Vegas (NV), USTA Chairman of the Board Ivan Axelrod will serve as interim president until the election of a new president at that time who will serve the remainder of Langley's term until 2019. USTA bylaw 11.04 states, "If a vacancy occurs in the office of the president, a meeting of the executive committee shall be called immediately to elect an interim president who shall serve until the next annual meeting of the full board of directors, at which time a president shall be elected for the balance of the term or a new four-year term if the existing term has expired. However, if the vacancy occurs within sixty (60) days of the next scheduled annual meeting, the chairman of the board shall serve as president until said meeting." Langley was first elected to the USTA Board of Directors from District 5 in 1983. He began the first of his four terms as USTA president in 2003. A 1959 graduate of Dartmouth College, Langley became racing director and racing secretary for the Chicago Downs Association and Fox Valley Trotting Club in 1965. He served in those positions as well as vice president of Fox Valley until 1998 when Sportsman's Park discontinued harness racing. Langley also was a member of the ownership group for both Balmoral Park and Maywood Park as served as treasurer of Balmoral and director of racing at both tracks. In addition, he was a member of the Illinois Department of Agriculture Advisory Board, Racing Industry Charitable Foundation board of directors, Harness Racing Museum and Hall of Fame board of trustees and the North American Harness Racing Secretaries Association. He also served in an advisory capacity for both the Illinois State Fair and Du Quoin State Fair. Langley was inducted in the Living Hall of Fame in Goshen, N.Y. on July 1, 2007 and was previously inducted into the Illinois Harness Horsemen's Hall of Fame in 1994. USTA Communications Department
Batavia, NY --- If you have ever attended live harness racing and realized you may be interested in becoming an active participant in America's oldest organized sport, Batavia Downs in conjunction with the United States Trotting Association and the Harness Horse Breeders of New York State is offering a new owner seminar on Saturday (Sept. 10) at 3:00 p.m. in the Robert J. Kane board room located in the lower grandstand. The program will include a two and a half hour classroom presentation by representatives of the United States Trotting Association (USTA) and the Harness Horse Breeders of New York (HHBNYS) and will include guest trainers, drivers, owners and management from Batavia Downs Race Track. Topics being discussed will be risk and reward, what it costs, choosing your horse, trainer and driver and will allow time for questions and answers throughout the evening. The package includes all needed classroom materials, a hands-on tour of the paddock as horses prepare for the nights action, reserved seating in the clubhouse, dinner at the prime rib, crab leg and shrimp buffet, a trip to the winner's circle for a win picture after a race, membership to the Harness Horse Breeders of New York State, $20 worth of free-play on the gaming floor and a free one-year subscription to the industry's award winning publication, Hoof Beats Magazine. The cost is only $30 for a single and $50 for a couple. Reservations should be made in advance but payment will be made at the door. There are several ways to register. There are links on both USTA and Batavia Downs Facebook pages or go to shop.ustrotting.com and click Prospective Owners Events. You can also e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call 877-800-8782 ext. 5555 or 585-343-375 ext. 6322. This is your opportunity to own your own sports franchise and go from the grandstand to the winner's circle with your winning horse. Purses have never been higher at many tracks in North America and there has never been a better time to get involved in all the fun and excitement of harness racing ownership than right now.By Tim Bojarski, for Batavia Downs
The United States Trotting Association, in conjunction with the Goshen (NY) Yearling Sale, will conduct a free seminar on Saturday (Sept. 17) for current or former harness racing owners considering making the transition to owning yearlings for the first time. The seminar will run from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Topics include making a business plan and budget, staking considerations, the basics of pedigree and conformation analysis and how to evaluate pre-sale videos. Students will have the chance to inspect some of the yearlings in the next day's sale for real life examples of conformation strengths and weaknesses. "While it is exciting to own a proven raceway performer, there is little to compare with selecting a yearling and then watching that horse possibly develop into an accomplished stakes performer," says Bob Boni, president of the Goshen Yearling Sale. "The satisfaction is unmatched and the enjoyment can be unlimited. This USTA educational service can be very helpful in making that dream come true." The seminar will be held on the sales grounds at the Ford Training Center at 90 Slaughter Road in Middletown, N.Y. The next day, (Sunday, Sept. 18), approximately 175 yearlings will be sold at public auction. To sign up, go to the USTA store or call 732.780.3700, email@example.com. Ken Weingartner