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Phil Pines Award To Weingartner

Published: November 3, 2014 1:06 pm ET

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"There are so many mornings when I’m wandering around the training centres that I just feel so lucky, because it’s hardly a job."

There’s hardly anyone involved in harness racing who hasn’t heard of Ken Weingartner. And if by some chance they hadn’t, there’s a good probability they’ve read some of his news releases because Ken sends out plenty as the media relations manager for the U.S. Trotting Association.

Weingartner is precisely someone whom the late great Phil Pines would have been proud to be associated with. And an association of sorts will be formed on November 16 when the Monticello-Goshen USHWA Chapter presents the chapter’s prestigious Phil Pines Award to him at their 56th Annual Awards Banquet.

“I would guess I’ve written in the neighborhood of 3,000 stories since joining the USTA and HRC, and yet almost every day brings excitement and the potential to discover or witness something special,” Weingartner said. “Not a lot of people can say that about what they do.”

Weingartner is beginning his 13th year as the media relations manager for the U.S. Trotting Association’s Harness Racing Communications division since he was hired in 2002 by Ellen Harvey.

“I got to know Ellen and Gen Sullivan while writing for the Messenger-Press. So that’s how I landed here when Gen left,” he explained.

Weingartner grew up in central New Jersey and was introduced to harness racing by his father who began taking Kenny to Freehold Raceway before he could walk. In the ensuing years, Weingartner spent countless Saturday afternoons at the track, where he honed his skill for picking winners and betting losers.

Harness racing remained a leisure pursuit until the late 1990s, when Weingartner was named managing editor of the weekly Allentown Messenger-Press in New Jersey. With the opportunity to determine coverage in the newspaper, Weingartner began writing a column, called “Horse Play,” that focused on the harness racing community in central Jersey. The column appeared regularly until Weingartner was hired by the USTA in November 2002.

“When I started working as managing editor of the Messenger-Press, I was talking to someone about how disappointing it was that harness racing got so little attention in the area, particularly when so many of the top trainers and horses are in the area. And then it hit me, I’m the boss now. I can write about whatever I want. So I began writing about harness racing, without ever imagining where it would lead. It was just a fun way for me to become more involved in the sport, and bring it to a wider audience. Brian Magie let me jog a horse back then, which kind of led to the “Pitchfork Diaries” series when I started working at HRC.”

For someone who loves racing Ken believes he has the best job in the world.

“I enjoy the racing, for sure, but I really enjoy getting to know the people and the horses. And I love to tell their stories. I’m fortunate to get to tell the stories of a Foiled Again or Arch Madness or any great champion,” he added. But I’m also lucky to get to tell the stories of drivers, trainers and owners getting their first wins, or small family stables winning with a homebred.”

Weingartner’s professional career began prior to graduating college. In the winter of his senior year, he was named the public relations director of minor league baseball’s Williamsport Bills, the then-Class AA affiliate of the Cleveland Indians, and began working with the team while completing his degree in communications.

The franchise moved at the end of the season, but Weingartner was hired as a sportswriter by the Williamsport Sun-Gazette. He later served as the sports information director at his alma mater, Lycoming College, and as a sportswriter for several weekly newspapers in New Jersey.

Weingartner received multiple awards – spanning news, sports and editorial writing – from the New Jersey Press Association, as well as recognition from the College Sports Information Directors of America. Prior to joining HRC, he was honoured by the New Jersey chapter of the U.S. Harness Writers for his coverage of the sport. In 2007, he received the Golden Pen Award from the Standardbred Marketing and Media Association.

(USHWA)


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