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Sebastian K, Yoder ‘Railbird’ Winners

Published: January 8, 2015 10:58 am ET

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Fan voting for the Railbird Recognition Awards concluded this past New Year’s Eve and each categorical winner was realized in different ways – one in a photo and one by a landslide.

Verlin Yoder, who drove Natural Herbie to an upset victory in the International Trot at Yonkers, was voted as the Horseperson of the Year for 2015. That decision came with the closest margin ever in the five-year history of the award – one vote.

On the other end of the spectrum, Sebastian K was the landslide winner of Racing Moment of the Year for setting the new world record trotting mark of 1:49 at Pocono Downs on June 28, 2014. He took 34 per cent of the ballots which more than doubled his nearest competitor for support.

Yoder is a 42-year-old horseman from Indiana that has posted very respectable numbers during his training and driving career, but not quite near the top reinsman on the Grand Circuit. However, that didn’t dissuade him from taking on the ‘big boys’ and carrying out one of the best David and Goliath stories in racing this year.

After a stellar spring and early summer campaign at Hoosier Park, Natural Herbie was entered in the Vincennes Stakes on Hambletonian Day in August. Yoder sent Natural Herbie to the front and after getting parked to the quarter, was never headed the rest of the way.

In September he won the Sam Noble Memorial Trot at Scioto Downs after being parked-out virtually the whole mile. Then after two Indiana Sire-Stake victories, the pair stepped into the eye of the storm.

Natural Herbie was entered in the $250,000 International Trot at Yonkers against a field that many felt was far his superior. But in the end the consensus was wrong and the pride of the Kokomo steered his charge to victory over the likes of Sebastian K, Commander Crowe and Bee A Magician to score an incredible win and complete what could only be described as a Cinderella season.

Sebastian K shipped in from Europe early in 2014 and immediately caught the eye of the racing faithful when he won three consecutive starts in 1:50 and change at the Meadowlands. But it was the fourth start at Pocono Downs that will forever be remembered.

That night in the $100,000 Sun Invitational, driver Aka Svanstedt sent Sebastian K off the wings of the gate and straight into the record books. After easily getting the lead and pulling away to a seven-length romp, Sebastian K put the exclamation mark on that race by tripping the timer in 1:49 to set the new standard that all trotters will be measured against for the foreseeable future.

Sebastian K went on to win a total of eight races in 2014 and earned $663,853 in purses in North America. But he will always be remembered for the overpowering way he made history.

The Railbird Recognition Awards are a joint venture between the United States Harness Writers Association and the United States Trotting Association and is the only fan-voted award in the industry.

Yoder and the connections of Sebastian K will receive their awards, along with the Dan Patch Horse of the Year and additional human award trophies, on Sunday, February 22 in Orlando, Fla.

Tickets for the Dan Patch Awards Banquet are now available and can be reserved via telephone or email by contacting Judy Davis-Wilson at 302-359-3630 or email [email protected] or Steve Wolf at 954-654-3757 or email [email protected].

Substantial savings on hotel rooms can be attained for this event, which is being held at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Orlando at SeaWorld. A special rate of $115 can be reserved by calling 407-352-1100 before January 25 and mentioning code ‘Dan Patch’ or by clicking this link.

For more information, visit ushwa.org.

(With files from USHWA)


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