Three of the most prominent faces behind the Breeders Crown and Hambletonian telecasts -- Dave Brower, Moira Fanning and Gary Seibel were featured on the Sunday evening (April 26) episode of COSA TV.
Hosted by Greg Blanchard and produced by Curtis MacDonald’s CUJO Entertainment, the trio revisited some of their favourite and most memorable moments throughout the years and discussed the history behind the prestigious events and also informed viewers on how they are staying busy during unprecedented times.
Dave Brower, one of the faces behind the Hambletonian on network TV, filled fans in on how he has been keeping busy during the COVID-19 pandemic by trying his luck in the kitchen.
“I’ve got a couple things in the pipeline that I haven’t tried yet, like a tuna noodle casserole but we’re doing okay food wise. My schedule consists of lots of TV, watching press conferences of our governors in New York and New Jersey. A couple nights a week, I also night manage a supermarket. Am I putting myself at risk? Yeah I am. But, we haven’t been overrun and we’re staying in good shape, so between that and playing with the cats, that's how I get through my day.”
Moira Fanning, who is getting settled into her new position as the C.O.O. of the Hambletonian Society, filled guests in on how orchestrating events like the Breeders Crown and Hambletonian are still possible while still practicing social distancing.
“We’re fortunate to have a small office where we can all take turns going in during the week so that we aren't all there at the same time. I think the worst part of all this is not knowing when racing is going to resume. We just put April 15th stake payments to bed and have had to refund the Dexter Cup and Lady Suffolk, the stakes races have not been totally affected yet but it all works in a domino effect, we need to have a date in mind so that we can move forward. The horses and the people are raring to go. We just need an official word to resume.”
Gary Seibel filled viewers in on why the decision was made to suspend racing at Cal Expo, which was the last Standardbred track in North America to shut down due to COVID-19.
“It was odd to be the only harness racing track going in North America, maybe you feel like you have a little more weight on your shoulders because you want your races to be good and your race calls to be good, you just want to show the audience watching you that you are doing the right thing social distancing and that everyone at the racetrack is doing their part to stay safe. When I would arrive at the track I would get out of my car and get to the announcer's booth without seeing one human being. In the end, I think as hard as it is to completely social distance at the racetrack, when you’re dealing with racehorses there are certainly times where you would have to be within six feet of one another and there’s nothing that can be done about it. The Sacramento Department of Health were the ones who came in and shut racing down. It was a very difficult matter.”
The trio continued to discuss how they first dipped their feet into the world of harness racing which was followed by revisiting some of their favourite races and historical moments throughout the history of the Breeders Crown and the Hambletonian.
A memorable moment in time for Seibel is the 1988 Breeders Crown where a trotter named Valley Victory made quite the name for himself as the underdog of the field.
“Even though his record did not necessarily show it, and he had the least amount of money made and the least amount of starts in the field, his performance in the Breeders Crown for two-year-old colt trotters, you couldn't help but think that here is a future superstar or a current superstar. He was just unbelievable, that horse, and he was simply amazing on that particular night.”
Fanning continued the conversation heaping praise upon the great Artsplace when recalling memorable moments in history.
“A horse that could put together three years of racing like he did...Delvin Miller told me once before that the fastest horse will always be a two-year-old because they don’t know their limits and Artsplace proved that to be right. He rain into roadblocks as a three-year-old and still put forth a very good year and then came back at age four to go undefeated -- those things just rarely ever happen in harness racing. Artsplace was just such a special animal.”
Brower revisited memorable moments such as the 1996 Breeders Crown with Doug Brown and His Mattjesty and the 2001 Breeders Crown with Varenne. Brower also gave credit to Varenne for setting the stage for European horses to ship to North America for the prestigious Breeders Crown event.
Fanning also added to the conversation of European imports attesting to their true greatness being able to overcome a tiring ship overseas among many other things.
“It's a grueling trip over here for them. They have to be in quarantine and they have to be away from other horses, there is a lot to overcome and it certainly is the measure of a great horse when they overcome those types of minor inconveniences. My personal favourite was Varenne up until last year with Bold Eagle.”
Seibel switched gears from the Breeders Crown to the Hambletonian, reflecting on the first Hambletonain dead heat between Probe and Park Avenue Joe in 1989.
“It was just phenomenal, the photo was out for a long time and Tom Durkin said that it was too close to call, it was a spectacular day and and it was amazing to be a part of and to this day is the only dead heat in the Hambletonian.”
The engaging episode which featured many fabulous trips down memory lane is available for viewing below.