News From The US Hall Of Fame

Published: July 8, 2018 11:23 am EDT

The Hall of Fame Screening Committee of the United States Harness Writers Association (USHWA) annually meets on the first Sunday in July, in consultation with a group of Hall of Fame members, and considers nominees submitted by USHWA’s chapters to determine those to advance to the possibility of earning the sport’s highest honour, membership in the Hall of Fame.

Quality always results from the deliberation about the best of the best by the Screening Committee. What was unprecedented on Sunday, July 1 was the quantity of outstanding individuals that the Committee selected to advance beyond their consideration stage.

One person was selected for direct admission to the Hall, through USHWA’s bylaws and its Veteran category, which once every three years allows the Committee to choose one nominee (aged 70+) who will directly become a Hall of Famer. That honouree was the veteran trainer of Standardbred stars, Jerry Silverman.

Five other individuals were put forward by the Committee to appear on a midsummer ballot, conducted among ‘USHWAns’ and Hall of Famers. If the nominee secures 75 per cent of the ‘yes-no’ votes in the balloting, they will join Silverman as inductees into the hallowed Hall on July 7, 2019. This quality quintet includes Blair Burgess, Ted Gewertz, Joe Holloway, Linda Toscano, and Ted Wing.

Jerry Silverman, named by the Committee to the Hall of Fame in the Veteran category, was one of the leading Grand Circuit trainers for five decades, from the 1960s through the 2000s. He made a big impact in 1996, when he was 31 (a ‘mere pup’ among the trainers of his days), with Triple Crown winner Romeo Hanover, and the subsequent years saw a stream of champions such as Fame, Hit Parade, Masquerade, Saccharum, Die Laughing, and Glowing Report (the last-named a stakes winner 40 years after Romeo Hanover) among the large stable that he ran with intelligence and endurance. Silverman retired four years ago, but continues assisting his son, Richie, who is himself a fine horseman.

The five candidates to be placed on the summer ballot for Hall election have all contributed to top-level racing in a variety of different ways:

Blair Burgess will look to complete a ‘Hall of Fame double,’ having been voted into the Hall in his native Canada last year. Burgess has been a frequent figure in the winner’s circle of the sport’s top races: the Hambletonian (Amigo Hall and Triple Crown winner Glidemaster), Breeders Crown (Real Desire), Meadowlands Pace (Frugal Gourmet and Real Desire) and Little Brown Jug (Tell All). Real Desire and Glidemaster were both voted Horse of the Year by the Harness Writers. Twice the Trainer of the Year in Canada, Burgess is the son of Canadian Hall of Fame breeder/owner/executive Bob Burgess.

Ted Gewertz first caught the harness racing ‘bug’ when Kennedy was President, and his love for the sport has not waned over the years. He has been co-owner of three Hambletonian winners – Giant Victory, Windsongs Legacy (Triple Crown winner and Trotter of the Year), and Deweycheatumnhowe – in addition to such horses as Huntsville and Housethatruthbuilt, the latter having her best year in 2004, when USHWA named Gewertz the Owner of the Year. Conscious of keeping the highest standards in the sport, Gewertz is a director of the Hambletonian Society and a trustee of the Harness Racing Museum.

Joe Holloway started in the sport as a caretaker in his native Delaware when he was an altar boy, as the new local priest took up harness racing as a way to connect with his flock. Holloway connected with the uppermost level of the sport with his masterful handling of Jennas Beach Boy, three-time Breeders Crown winner, twice Pacer of the Year, and a horse whose record for a race mile of 1:47.3 stood for a decade. Holloway, voted the sport’s top trainer in 1995, has since buffed up his resume by developing Shes A Great Lady, Shebestingin, and Somwherovrarainbow, as well as the handling of 1:46 pacer Always B Miki at two and three.

Linda Toscano has long had a harness background association, dating back to her driving ponies in races when her age was in single digits. She served an apprenticeship with legendary NYC horseman Buddy Regan, then went out on her own in 1985. Linda has attracted widespread attention throughout much of the current decade, including being named 2012 Trainer of the Year by USHWA – in that year alone she had the Hambletonian winner Market Share, but he was a (high-class) second fiddle that year to Horse of the Year winner Chapter Seven. The champion colts Walner and Heston Blue Chip, and half-mile track world champion Jet Laag N, have also benefited from her care and tutelage.

Ted Wing was an Olympic-calibre skier before suffering an injury, and the loss of the downhill sport was harness racing’s gain, as the native of Maine captured titles in New England in his early years of the sport, then emerged as one of the leading horsemen in the founding days of The Meadowlands, balancing his racing at that track with regular duty at Roosevelt/Yonkers. Inducted into the New England Harness Racing Hall of Fame the same year as Bill O’Donnell and Jim Doherty, who would later go on to the national Hall, Wing has been an important part in the success of such stars as Skip By Night, Gallo Blue Chip, Butler BG, and Calvert.

There will also be midsummer balloting (75-per-cent-plus of ‘yes/no’ ballots required) of ‘USHWAns’ on writer/commentator Dave Little and photographer Mark Hall, who were nominated for the Communicators Hall of Fame at the annual Directors meeting of USHWA this past February.


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