United States Harness Writers Association

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Make your plans and reservations to attend the annual Dan Patch Awards banquet at the Rosen Shingle Creek Resort in Orlando now! The banquet that honors the best equines and humans in the sport will take place on Sunday night, Feb. 23, 2020.

Rosen Shingle Creek played host to the Dan Patch Awards weekend (which includes the annual meetings of the Harness Writers) for the first time in 2018 and proved such a popular venue the past two years that it was unanimously voted to return again to the stunning 230-acre property. After four-star reviews of the last two dinners, including a surprise appearance by Stan Bergstein-Proximity Award winner Foiled Again this year that many proclaimed one of the most memorable moments ever in racing, it's never too early to consider sponsorship opportunities that are available.

To inquire about sponsorship opportunities for the weekend, including Dan Patch Presenting Sponsor, live video streaming sponsor, Red Carpet reception sponsor, and live feed sponsor hosted by Heather Vitale and Heather Wilder, please contact USHWA President Shawn Wiles at: swiles@empireresorts.com.

Rosen Shingle Creek, the site is located just off Universal Boulevard, within 10 minutes of the Orlando International Airport and minutes from all area attractions. Rosen Shingle Creek is a five-star property that is ranked a top-20 U.S. meeting hotel by Cvent. The property includes an 18-hole, Arnold Palmer-redesigned golf course, four swimming pools, a spa that includes nine treatment rooms, two lighted tennis courts, sand volleyball, basketball and a state-of-the-art fitness center.

There are 15 restaurant/lounges located on the property, including the upscale steakhouse A Land Remembered, the fine-dining bistro Cala Bella, Banrai Sushi, Mi Casa Tequila Taqueria, and a 24-hour deli.

As noted, as part of the weekend, USHWA's board of directors meeting will take place on Saturday, Feb. 22, and its annual general membership meeting will take place on Sunday morning,

More details will be made available as they become available throughout the year.

"The Voice" Roger Huston to leave the meadows

Communications Hall of Famer and Bergstein Proximity Award winner Roger Huston, generally known as “The Voice of Harness Racing,” will be leaving his present position of announcer and host of The Meadows Racing Network on Saturday, November 2 – one day after the 36th anniversary of the first MRN broadcast – and soon will be taking the post of Brand Ambassador for the Ohio Harness Horsemen’s Association in his native state. “This is not a retirement – I’m just cutting back a bit,” Huston notes.

The other accolades which have gone Huston’s way over his distinguished career, now in its 60th year, are more numerous than the number of rings on his fingers. He has been a member of USHWA for 52 years, more than any other current Director of the Association; Roger represents the Keystone Chapter of USHWA.

Charters, Gural, Popfinger, Tetrick elected to HOF 

Results from the balloting for harness racing’s highest honor, membership in the Harness Racing Hall of Fame, and from the balloting for the Communicators Hall of Fame, have been tabulated and certified.

Four candidates have received the sport’s highest honor, election into the Harness Racing Hall Of Fame: Tom Charters, of the Hambletonian Society and Breeders Crown; Jeff Gural, racetrack executive and owner/breeder; Bill Popfinger, a respected horseman for over half a century; and Tim Tetrick, who has set new standards for harness racing sulky success before reaching the age of 40.

In addition, Phil Pikelny, noted primarily as an author and a publicist for the U.S. Trotting Association and Columbus (OH)’s Scioto Downs, and Ken Weingartner, the USTA’s Media Relations Manager, have been elected into the Harness Racing Communicators Hall of Fame.

The Hall of Famers achieved their distinction by getting 75%+ of the “yes-no” ballots distributed in mid-summer; eligible for voting for the Hall of Famers were qualified members of USHWA and the existing Hall of Fame members. Those on the ballot were decided by the USHWA Screening Committee from the nominations of the Writers’ chapters.

Tom Charters worked his way through the ranks in harness racing, starting out as a caretaker (among his charges was Horse of the Year Delmonica Hanover) before becoming a racing secretary. In 1984 the Hambletonian Society hired Charters as executive director of the Breeders Crown, a newly-created series of season-end championship races, and his work in establishing the Crowns as signature events led to his being named executive director of the Society in 1994, then being promoted in 1998 to president and chief executive officer. Charters’ tireless work in such diverse fields as increasing racing handle, simulcasting and television production, international racing, and brand name establishment, plus the temperament to juggle all of these jobs along with dealing the wide range of personalities at the highest levels of the sport, firmly established him as one of the captains of the industry.

Jeff Gural was a longtime racing fan, owner, and breeder, associated with Allerage Farms, Little E LLC, and other equine partnerships, along with proprietorship of New York’s Vernon Downs and Tioga Downs racetracks, when he undertook the monumental task of leading the privatization of the sport’s flagship track in North America, The Meadowlands, away from a state-run operation of New Jersey. Enlisting the aid of many of the sport’s top figures in addition to large investments of his own money, time, and expertise, Gural has been the directing force of the revitalization of the mile oval, with a new grandstand built on the old backstretch side of the track, a facility and the parallel racing program aimed squarely at maximizing revenue for all of racing’s interlinked parties in today’s changing, challenging gaming environment.

Bill Popfinger has been a horseman for over 50 years, going from success at smaller tracks to operating a powerful Grand Circuit stable, and he continues his winning tradition today – a trainee of his won at Pocono on Monday. Popfinger first hit the harness limelight 50 years when he guided Lady B Fast to an upset win over the great trotters Fresh Yankee and Nevele Pride at Yonkers, and he cemented his stardom with his famous daring early move to the lead with Happy Escort, “the lights on, the horn honking, and the pedal to the metal,” to defeat heavy favorites Falcon Almahurst and Flight Director in the 1978 Little Brown Jug raceoff. That quote also cemented Popfinger’s nickname of “Showbiz,” and over the years he campaigned such marquee horses as Happy Motoring, Praised Dignity, Spellbound Hanover, Say Hello, and Spicy Charlie.

Tim Tetrick, at age 37, has already become one of only four drivers to have driven the winners of over $200 million in his career, and few doubt he will contend for the top spot, John Campbell’s $299M+ career total, before all is done – after all, any possible mishaps may not slow a man who already has two “bionic hips” after replacement surgery. Also the single-season money record holder for a driver with $19.7M in 2008, Tetrick also produces quantity with quality, driving his 11,000th winner earlier this year, putting him ninth all-time, fifth among active drivers, and second in the 2019 dash winning standings. The list of top horses associated with Tetrick is too long to mention here, but it is fairly safe to say that when it comes to Breeders Crown time and the selection of year-end award winners, the name “Tetrick” will be associated with several of the champions.

Phil Pikelny was first noticed by harness executive Stan Bergstein while still at Northwestern University. He worked for the Horseman and Fair World, then at age 23 he became the youngest national publicity director in any sport when joining the U.S. Trotting Association. During that period he authored, with Don Evans, the book od about the sport’s first double millionaire, who had his earnings tithed to an Ohio church. He then was publicity director at Scioto Downs for a number of years. He was the president of the Harness Publicists Association, and the president of the Ohio Chapter of USHWA.

Ken Weingartner first went to the harness races with his father “before I could walk,” and upon returning to his native New Jersey after college and early newspaper work, his harness racing stories attracted the notice of the U.S. Trotting Association, for whom he now works as Media Relations Manager, writing stories about the leading horses and humans in the sport and conducting the national Top 10 weekly balloting. He received the Allen Finkelson Golden Pen Award for excellence in harness racing publicity, and also has been honored by Harness Horsemen International.

The honorees will first be publicly honored at the USHWA Dan Patch Banquet, to be held on Sunday, February 23, 2020 at the Rosen Shingle Creek Resort in Orlando FL, where the Halls of Famers will take their first ensemble bow during the banquet honoring the top humans and equines of the previous year’s racing. Then comes next July 5’s formal induction to the Halls of Fame, at a dinner set just outside the building in which their likeness will be placed to immortalize their selection as harness racing’s best of the best.

USHWA sponsors race at Goshen Historic

Members of USHWA were on hand on Sunday (July 7) to sponsor a race at Goshen Historic Track and made the presentation in the winner's circle. (Photo courtesy of Geri Schwarz)

Foiled Again’s Dan Patch awards surprise party was a big hit

Moments into his speech to accept the Stan Bergstein-Proximity Award on behalf of legendary pacer Foiled Again during Sunday’s U.S. Harness Writers Association’s Dan Patch Awards banquet, co-owner Joe Koury Jr. was halted by USHWA member Gordon Waterstone. Koury knew he had not exceeded his time limit because he was just getting started, so he was surprised.

Surprise was about to turn to shock.

“Don’t you think we ought to have the award-winner here?” Waterstone soon said to Koury.

Enter Foiled Again.

Foiled Again turned the idea of a surprise party upside down when he emerged from behind the curtained stage area to the delight of the 320 banquet attendees at Rosen Shingle Creek resort. Only a handful of people knew in advance of Foiled Again’s appearance, which was conceived by Waterstone with Foiled Again’s co-owners Ron Burke and Mark Weaver.

“I was wondering what was going on,” said Koury, who like the entire Burke Brigade other than Burke, Weaver and Foiled Again’s caretaker for the night, Devan Miller, had no idea of the plan. “Next thing you know, Foiled was coming out. I was absolutely shocked. It was a great experience. It was exciting.”

Said Joe Koury Sr., “When Foiled showed up, it was unbelievable. I was shocked. Tears were rolling down my cheeks, it was just amazing.”

“I didn’t expect it; that’s the last thing that would have crossed my mind,” said Yannick Gingras, who drove Foiled Again for the majority of the gelding’s career and won numerous major stakes together. “I thought it was really cool, something different.”

Many others had the same reaction, which was what Burke and his co-planners had hoped.

“It was unbelievable,” Burke said. “I knew it would be a hit, especially with my father (Mickey), but it was a hit with everybody. It was one of the coolest moments ever. We thought it would be something nobody would be expecting and would add a little bit of fun, and it did.”

Waterstone, who in addition to being a member of USHWA is associate editor of The Horseman And Fair World magazine, worked with the resort’s staff to set up Foiled Again’s appearance. It required an extra bit of insurance and a protective covering for the banquet room carpet, which was new.

“I called Mark about bringing Foiled Again to the banquet and he said to talk to Ronnie,” Waterstone said. “I called Ronnie and he said absolutely, but he wanted to do it as a secret.

“It came off better than I thought it would. You keep your fingers crossed. The reaction was unbelievable. To be involved in this was really cool.”

Foiled Again was already staying near Orlando, at the Burke’s winter stable in Astor.

“Devan did a great job,” Burke said. “She had to prep him for it and people were wondering why she was prepping him when he was just there hanging out. He looked incredible. I was thrilled.”

Unfazed by the cheers that filled the banquet room and the joyful commotion that soon engulfed him, Foiled Again stood perfectly for his admirers.

“He was like a little showman,” Joe Koury Sr. said. “He’s like a celebrity, a celebrity of the humblest measure. It was just unbelievable. He’s amazing. I love him to death.”

Foiled Again reached harness racing’s mandatory retirement age of 15 when the calendar turned to 2019. He is the sport’s all-time richest horse, with $7.63 million in purses, and ranks ninth with 109 lifetime wins. He received Dan Patch Awards for best older male pacer in 2011, 2012 and 2013 and was Pacer of the Year in 2011.

Last year, he embarked on a Farewell Tour that attracted numerous fans to racetracks across North America, as well as garnering mainstream media attention. He will be inducted into the Harness Racing Hall of Fame in July.

Foiled Again is owned by Burke Racing, the partnership of Weaver and Mike Bruscemi, and the Koury family’s JJK Stables. The group bought the horse in 2008 when he was 4. He was trained by Mickey Burke briefly before Mickey retired and handed the lines to his son Ron.

“He’s a dream come true,” Joe Koury Jr. said. “To be a part of this with such great friends and partners is amazing. We were all young guys who, for the most part, were just getting started. He brought us up all together and put us on a different level. It’s just been a phenomenal ride.”

And now that the ride is completed, Foiled Again will enjoy a life of leisure.

“He’s basically going to live my dad’s life,” Ron Burke said with a laugh. “They’ll be hanging out together forever.”

Dan Patch Awards Banquet Video available here

Whether you attended it in person and would like to relive the event or if you were unable to be there and want to see what everyone is talking about, you can now watch the entire 2019 Dan Patch Awards Banquet from the Rosen Shingle Creek Resort in Orlando, Florida.

The video is broken into two halves and follow the original order of the night's program. The videos are provided courtesy of the United States Trotting Association.

 

2019 Dan Patch Awards Pt1 from USTA on Vimeo.

2019 Dan Patch pt2 from USTA on Vimeo.

Dan Patch Awards Banquet Red Carpet Photos available here

All the Red Carpet photos taken as guests entered in are available by clicking here.

An album of photos taken throughout the course of the night can be viewed by clicking here.

All photos were provided by the award winning photo journalist Chris Gooden.

USHWA thanks all our 2019 DPA Banquet sponsors

McWicked

Crazy Wow and Crawford Farms

Ohio Harness Horsemen's Association

Southwind Frank Partners

United States Trotting Association

Hanover Shoe Farms

Shartin N Connections

AM Bloodstock

Six Pack Connections

Harrah's Hoosier Park

Delaware Valley USHWA

George Brennan

Bow River Jewelry

Embroidery Unlimited

Fennel's Tack Shop

United States Harness Writers Association

The United States Harness Writers Association (USHWA), the world's largest organization for industry communicators.

The United States Harness Writers Association is a group of more than 220 members committed to the chronicling of harness racing through the print and electronic media. It was founded in 1947 by New York City area sportswriters who were covering harness racing at Roosevelt Raceway. It remains the only media organization in harness racing with a membership of newspaper, magazine, radio and TV, ad agency, publicists and others involved in racing communications. With most of USHWA's members allied to one of 12 regional chapters, the association strives to bring about a closer relationship among the media, racetracks and horsemen to promote a centuries-old American-bred sport.

USHWA members, in annual voting, choose harness racing's most prestigious awards, such as the Living Hall of Fame and the Horse of the Year. Its Stanley F. Bergstein-Proximity Achievement Award is one of the sport's most cherished honors. It also recognizes top divisional winners and leading drivers and trainers at its annual awards dinner, which began in 1948.

The association is governed by a member board of directors, which represents the chapters and at-large members (those living or working in regions where there is no chapter). Also serving are seven national officers and past presidents.

USHWA, with input from the American Harness Racing Secretaries and logistic expertise provided by the United States Trotting Association, determines the Horse of the Year and other equine and human awards. USHWA also presents the John Hervey Awards for excellence in writing and broadcasting. Its members choose Hall of Famers, so the association also works closely with the Harness Racing Museum & Hall of Fame at Goshen, New York. A number of chapters hold annual awards or recognition dinners to salute the leading horses and drivers in their areas. Some chapters also raise money for local charities.

Contact USHWA at ushwainfo@gmail.com

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