For the first time in 54 years of presenting awards banquets, the Monticello-Goshen Chapter of the United States Harness Writers Association held its annual affair in Middletown, New York at The Fountains on Sands Road on Sunday, November 18.
The night got underway with a cocktail hour at 5:30 p.m. followed by dinner at 7:00 p.m. During the evening, awards were presented to the deserving recipients.
USHWA presented its prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award to Joe Thomson, the squire of Winbak Farms which has bred three US Horse of the Years and two Hambletonian winners in the last decade. Thomson is also a trustee of the Harness Racing Museum; co-owner of the Red Mile, honouree at the Little Brown Jug Hall of Fame, and recently-elected president of the Pennsylvania Standardbred Breeders Association.
USHWA honoured Mark Ford with its Laurel Award. Ford is one of the leading conditioners of all time has recently passed the 3,000-win plateau, which makes him one of the winningest trainers of all time. Ford’s top pupil, Gallo Blue Chip, was the 2000 US Horse of the Year and a winner of over $4.2 million in career purses. Ford is also the operator of the Ford Training Center, a multi-million-dollar state-of-the-art facility in Middletown, New York.
Also honoured was Chris Wittstruck, who became the fourth recipient of the Phil Pines Award.
Wittstruck is a two-time John Hervey Award winner and a recipient of the USTA Presidents Award. A lawyer by trade, Wittstruck’s 'Racing and the Law' column keeps horsemen up to speed in the new rules that regulate our industry.
USHWA was very proud to present its Excelsior Award to the Historic Track Board of Directors. The board consists of a group of 19 local professionals from all walks of life that are all volunteers and responsible for carrying on all business at the famed double-oval.
Linda Myers was the unanimous choice for the 29th annual Amy Bull Krist Award for her dedicated service at Historic Track. She has long been secretary to the board, and she most recently stepped up and was a major force behind the success of this year's matinee and Grand Circuit racing programs.
This year’s Amateur Driver of the Year Award went unquestionably to Alan Schwartz, who doubles as president of the Monticello Harness Horses Association. Now approaching 500 career wins as an amateur driver, Schwartz is among the elite amateur drivers and he is a major force behind Monticello Raceway’s all-amateur racing days.
An Award of Appreciation was given to Maureen Flynn, the longtime director of pari-mutuels and simulcasting at the 'Mighty M.' One of the pre-eminent simulcast minds in the country, much of the Mighty M’s success can be attributed to Flynn’s ability to adapt to the ever-changing simulcasting landscape.
Greg Annaloro was the recipient of the Comeback of the Year Award and John Oney, a groom in the Frank Yanoti Stable, received the Caretaker of the Year Award.
The Rising Star Award went to 20-year-old Cory Stratton, who is following in his brother Jordan’s footsteps. Cory has blossomed into a sought-after catch driver that has over 75 wins at the current meet.
Horse of the Year honours went to the Baron Racing Stable’s Court Jester, who won 10 races. The pacer is trained by Peter Pellegrino and recently took a record of 1:50.3 at Pocono Downs.
Gaelic And Garlic was the three-year-old trotter of the year, while Jammin Sammie was named three-year-old pacer of the year.
Playa Tulum was named trotter of the year and Court Jester also garnered the older pacer of the year award.
Claiming pacer awards went to Southwind Irvin, Art Glass, Imposter A, Dont Make Me Laugh, DVC Gifted Indeed, Farewell Sky, Arts Day, Fuguzzi and Community Spirit. Claiming trotter awards were garnered by Strongbow, Famous Dude, Four Star F, Strengths Victory, Chrome Finish, R George and Mac Atack Mac.
More than 200 guests attended the banquet and track publicist John Manzi served as the master of ceremonies.