Brian Sears has been elected to the sport’s highest honour, the Hall of Fame, in balloting conducted by the United States Harness Writers Association, the trade organization of harness journalists.
Sears, a ‘youthful veteran’ of the sport of harness racing, stands fifth on the all-time list of money-winning drivers, and has driven some of the sport’s greatest horses of the last 15 years to victories in championship races.
In addition, USHWA has also announced that Gordon Waterstone and Steve Wolf, two veteran harness publicists and writers whose careers share many similar highlights and awards, though they never worked together directly, have been elected to the sport’s Communicators Hall of Fame.
Sears was named USHWA’s Rising Star of the Year in 1991 and hasn’t looked back. Sears, a 48-year-old native of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., who now resides in Secaucus, NJ, was at the top rungs of the driving colony of Vernon Downs, Pompano, Pocono, and the Meadows before moving eastward to the metro New York area a dozen years ago.
He has continued to dominate on the toughest circuits in harness racing, winning multiple driving championships at the Meadowlands and also topping the charts at Yonkers Raceway. Sears entered Monday with 9,670 career wins, good for 14th place among all drivers in North American history.
Among the horses that have helped boost his career driving earnings to $174 million all-time are three winners of the U.S. Horse of the Year title: Rocknroll Hanover in 2005, Muscle Hill in 2009, and Bee A Magician in 2013.
Sears is the only driver to twice win the Hambletonian and Hambletonian Oaks on the same day, accomplishing the feat with Muscle Hill and Broadway Schooner in 2009 and again with Royalty For Life and Bee A Magician in 2013. He also won the Hambletonian in 2015 with Pinkman in his only drive behind the horse that season.
The sport’s Driver of the Year in 2009, Sears has won 26 Breeders Crown titles, good for No. 4 on the all-time wins list in the series. Horses driven by Sears have earned more than $10 million in the series, which is among the top five in history.
Waterstone was for many years the publicist for Hazel Park in Detroit, also working at other area racetracks, before becoming associate editor of The Horseman And Fair World, which was a magazine when Waterstone started and for whom he wrote two John Hervey Award-winning stories, before becoming a multimedia enterprise in recent years.
Wolf was a publicist for several tracks in the immediate area of his native New Jersey and for the Standardbred Breeders and Owners Association of New Jersey before ‘shipping south’ to Pompano Park in Florida, rising through the ranks to become senior director of racing operations, until starting his own consulting agency. He also served on the Board, including as president, of the Harness Horse Youth Foundation.
The parallels in the careers of Wolf and Waterstone are striking. Both first entered the communications end of the industry in 1979. Both have been president of USHWA and both have won that organization’s Member of the Year (Wolf twice, the first to earn that distinction); both currently serve as their USHWA chapter’s president. Both have won the Harness Publicists Association’s Allen J. Finkelson Golden Pen Award for outstanding lifetime achievement in promoting harness racing, and both have won the Clyde Hirt Media Award from Harness Horsemen’s International. Both have chaired several important USHWA committees, and are teaming again for the 2017 USHWA annual convention and Dan Patch Award Banquet: Waterstone on the Location Committee and on-site planner/negotiator, and Wolf on the Dinner Committee, which he has chaired 15 times.
That USHWA event, to be held at the Planet Hollywood casino in Las Vegas on February 25-26 of next year, will be the first introduction of Sears, Waterstone, and Wolf as the newest members of the Halls of Fame. The formal induction ceremony will be held at the Hall of Fame dinner at the Harness Racing Museum and Hall of Fame in Goshen, N.Y., on Sunday, July 2, 2017.
Hall of Fame voting is conducted among eligible USHWAns and members of the Hall of Fame; Communicators Hall of Famers are voted on by all members of the Harness Writers Association.