Both 'experience' and 'youth' showed uncommon, award-winning excellence in harness racing in 2010
, in their different ways, which resulted in Frank Bellino being voted Woolworth Owner of the Year in recent balloting by the United States Harness Writers Association. Matt Kakaley was voted the Rising Star Award winner and Jessica Schroeder the Barasch Breakthrough Award winner.
Bellino insisted on the 2009 purchase of a package of horses that included Rock N Roll Heaven -- who only went on to win 16 of 21 races in a deep sophomore class -- take a mark of 1:47.3, and earn $2,160,292 in 2010. Another solid Bellinoite is Psilvuheartbreaker, who completed his fourth straight $250,000+ season to push his earnings over $1.4 million lifetime.
Bellino also showed his class in two other ways. He operates a 550-acre farm in Florida where racehorses go after their competitive days are over. And in midseason, when Rock N Roll Heaven’s regular driver, Dan Dube, was injured, Bellino assured Dube that he would regain the ride behind the big horse once he healed.
The Owner of the Year news brings some cheer into a tough period for Bellino and his family, as Frank’s son, George, recently passed away. George’s brother, Joe, joined him and their father in the Bellino racing operation, and the family must be glad that George got such a season of thrills in 2010.
Kakaley was the youngest driver to win 1,000 races when he did so last year, which earned him a call from top trainer Mickey Burke to be the #1 driver for his powerful string at Pocono Downs, where Kakaley finished third in the standings behind North America’s leading dashwinner George Napolitano, Jr. and Jim Morrill, Jr. And though these are lofty achievements, it’s not a stretch to see Kakaley improving on them in the near future.
Schroeder serves in liaison capacities for the Outreach and Fair divisions of the U.S. Trotting Association, the sport’s central organization in the U.S., and there seems to be hardly a major event where she is not there, teaching seminars, fulfilling constituent requests, and doing whatever is asked of her, despite being on the fulltime administrative side of the sport for only a few years. Jessica is a delegate to the annual national meetings of USHWA, and she and Lia Eustachewich, both graduates of USHWA’s Hirt Internship journalism program, were voted USHWA’s Members of the Year in 2009. Most importantly – nobody has EVER seen Jessica when she did not have a smile on her face.
Bellino, Kakaley, and Schroeder will be honored at the 'Night of Stars' awards banquet, to be held February 27 at the Marriott North in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Tickets, accommodations, and other questions can be handled by Steve Wolf at [email protected]. Anyone wishing to place an ad for these or any other award winners in the dinner’s Souvenir Journal should contact Kim Rinker at [email protected].