McWicked on Sunday (Feb. 24) became the oldest pacer in history to be named Horse of the Year, receiving harness racing’s top honour to cap the U.S. Harness Writers Association’s Dan Patch Award banquet at Rosen Shingle Creek in Orlando, Fla. The seven-year-old stallion bested pacing mare Shartin N, 86-27, to claim the trophy. Atlanta, who was named Trotter of the Year, finished third with eight votes.
Earlier in the night, McWicked was named Pacer of the Year, 95-31, over Shartin N. McWicked is owned by Ed James’ SSG Stables and trained by Casie Coleman. Brian Sears was McWicked’s primary driver, but David Miller also won on the Grand Circuit with the stallion. A son of McArdle out of Western Sahara, he was bred by Andray Farm.
McWicked led the sport in earnings last year, with $1.57 million, and became the oldest horse in 43 years to top the money standings. For the season, McWicked won 12 of 19 races, capping his campaign with a five-race win streak, and hit the board a total of 17 times.
The previous oldest pacer to be named Horse of the Year was Good Time, who was six when he received the award in 1952.
Earlier this month, McWicked was named Horse of the Year in Canada. Coleman has trained three Horse of the Year winners in Canada, but McWicked was her first in the U.S., as well as the first for owner James. Sears, who drove McWicked in 12 of his 19 races, has sat behind four Horse of the Year honourees.
“We’ve been fortunate to have three horses of the year in Canada, and to get it done here is pretty awesome,” Coleman said. “Winning a double (Horse of the Year) with him, and doing it with a horse that’s seven turned eight, it’s not often that it happens. Now we have to hope he can do it again next year. He’s going to be another year older, but I see no reason why he shouldn’t be just as good next year. We’ll see what happens.”
McWicked’s victories last season included the Breeders Crown, Ben Franklin Pace, William R. Haughton Memorial, Canadian Pacing Derby, TVG Series Open championship, Dan Rooney Invitational, and Allerage Farms Open. His 1:46.2 clocking in the Allerage was the second-fastest race mile in history.
“It was a very tough group all season, and just the way he did it, his last start he was just as good as his first start,” Coleman said. “His last start at the Meadowlands (in the TVG) he did it like there was nothing to it. It was scary how good we put him away. We’re really excited to see what he can do again next year.”
Atlanta became the first filly to win the Hambletonian since 1996 when she captured the $1 million final Aug. 4 at the Meadowlands. Driven by Scott Zeron, she won eight of 14 races last year and led all 3-year-old filly trotters with $1.01 million in purses. Her victories also included the Kentucky Filly Futurity and Empire Breeders Classic.
A daughter of Chapter Seven out of Hemi Blue Chip, Atlanta was owned in 2018 by trainer Rick Zeron, Michelle and Al Crawford’s Crawford Farms, William Holland’s Holland Racing Stable, Howard Taylor, and Brad Grant. She was bred by Order By Stable. The horse sold recently for a record $1.55 million to a group led by Michelle Crawford.
“I’m very happy,” Crawford said. “I was very excited to hear her for Trotter of the Year. I think she deserves it. I watched her from the beginning and she’s just a freak, a really phenomenal filly. I can’t wait to put her in the breeding shed and have her babies, but I’m not trying to get her off the track by any means. I’m excited for her future, but I’m not rushing her off the track. Not at all.”
The announcements of Horse, Pacer, and Trotter of the Year were made during Sunday’s banquet. Previously announced divisional champions also were honoured at the event.
Division-winning pacers were two-year-old colt Captain Crunch, two-year-old filly Warrawee Ubeaut, three-year-old gelding Dorsoduro Hanover, three-year-old filly Kissin In The Sand, Shartin N, and McWicked. Division-winning trotters were two-year-old colt Gimpanzee, two-year-old filly Woodside Charm, three-year-old colt Six Pack, six-year-old gelding Homicide Hunter, four-year-old mare Ariana G, and Atlanta.
Other honourees included Stan Bergstein-Proximity Award winner Foiled Again, Driver of the Year Aaron Merriman, Trainer of the Year Ron Burke, Breeder of the Year Order By Stable, Owners of the Year Burke Racing and the partnership of Mark Weaver and Mike Bruscemi, and Rising Star Marcus Melander.
Foiled Again surprised the audience of 320 by emerging from behind the curtained stage as part of the Bergstein-Proximity presentation that kicked off the festivities. The crowd rose to its feet and cheered Foiled Again, the sport’s all-time richest horse who retired at the end of 2018 following a farewell tour that attracted numerous fans to racetracks across North America and garnered mainstream media attention.
Also recognized Sunday at the banquet were the members of the 2018 Hall of Fame class, which will be inducted in July: Blair Burgess, Ted Gewertz, Joe Holloway, Jerry Silverman, Linda Toscano, and Ted Wing.
For the complete list of award winners, click here.