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Canada Well Represented At Dan Patch

Published: February 24, 2019 11:30 pm ET

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McWicked, Horse of the Year and Pacer of the Year, and Atlanta, Trotter of the Year, led a healthy Canadian contingent at Sunday night's (Feb. 24) Dan Patch Awards, held at Rosen Shingle Creek Resort in Orlando, Fla.

"To win Horse of the Year is pretty unreal," said trainer Casie Coleman. "We've never had the opportunity to win Horse of the Year in the United States.

"I didn't know which way this would go; Shartin N was just amazing — all these horses were very deserving."

McWicked, who capped his seven-year-old season with five consecutive wins, took the Breeders Crown and the TVG Open in the fall after winning the Canadian Pacing Derby, William Haughton Memorial and Ben Franklin earlier in the season.

Owner Ed James was equally thrilled with the honour, quipping, "I didn't know I had this many friends! It's very, very good; very acceptable and pleasant. Sixty years I've been doing this, and finally I've got the brass ring."

Ed James, accepting seasonal honours on behalf of McWicked.

Trotter of the Year Atlanta was the first filly to win the Hambletonian since 1996, and won seven other races through her three-year-old season en route to over $1 million in seasonal earnings.

"The only thing I really have to talk about is Hambo Day," said driver Scott Zeron. "After every single start she had, I said 'She's something. She's so push-button, she can do anything. We can win the Hambo.' We go out there, and I miscalculated the fractions a little bit, but it really to me showed how effortless she is. It was really surreal; it was the most exciting race I've ever had. For anybody growing up to ever think you can go out and win a race of that stature for your father, it's surreal. It's one thing I'll never forget."

Scott Zeron's father Rick trained Atlanta, along with having a share in her ownership with Crawford Farms, the Holland Racing Stable, Howard Taylor and Ontarian Brad Grant.

Ariana G took top honours among older female trotters, winning five of 14 races this year — including the Hambletonian Maturity and the Graduate Series final — for Canadian owners Marvin Katz and Al Libfeld.

Katz enjoyed a Dan Patch double, sharing ownership of Three-Year-Old Pacing Filly of the Year Kissin In The Sand with the Hatfield Stables.

"A great combination: Scott Zeron, Nancy Johansson, and Kissin In The Sand," Katz said of the team behind the winner of the Mistletoe Shalee, the James Lynch Memorial, and the Pennsylvania Sire Stakes final, among seven other wins in 2018 for over $800,000 in seasonal earnings. "We couldn't have asked for anything more."

By way of her Ontario-based breeders at Warrawee Farm, Warrawee Ubeaut was the fifth horse to bring Dan Patch honours to Canada after a 1:48.3 win at the Red Mile and capping her seven-win season with a Breeders Crown title.

Blair Burgess was honoured for the work of his career by being voted into the Harness Racing Hall of Fame, with induction to follow in July in Goshen, N.Y. Brad Grant, whose involvement in harness racing rivals only his involvement in Canadian junior hockey, was awarded the Dan Patch Humanitarian Award after his contributions to the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League Assistance Program.

Canadian media were well represented as well, as Dave Briggs earned his 12th John Hervey Award in the feature writing category, and the Woodbine Entertainment Group earned the Sam McKee Award for broadcasting.

Briggs, who wrote a two-part series entitled "Inside the Mind of Jimmy Takter" for Harness Racing Update, simply stated: "I wrote this story about Jimmy Takter, and I want to acknowledge all he contributed to this industry. What an outstanding career he had."

"For our broadcast team to win an award named after the great, late Sam McKee, I know it's very special," said Mark McKelvie, who accepted the award on behalf of WEG for their story on Lather Up, which appeared as part of their North America Cup coverage on TSN. "Sam was an incredible individual and we miss him dearly. He meant so much for our sport, and for our photographer Michael Burns, he's one of the best."

Burns won his George Smallsreed award for a photograph of pacers lining up behind the Woodbine Mohawk Park starting gate.

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