The harness writers presented their prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award to Joe Thomson, the squire of Winbak Farms which has bred three Horses of the Year and two Hambletonian winners in the last decade. Joe is also a trustee of the Harness Racing Museum, co-owner of the Red Mile, honoree at the Little Brown Jug Hall of Fame and recently elected president of the Pennsylvania Standardbred Breeders Association.
The Chapter honored Mark Ford with their Laurel Award. Ford, one of the leading conditioners of all time, recently passed the 3,000-win plateau which makes him one of the winningest trainers of all-time. Ford’s top pupil, Gallo Blue Chip, was the 2000 Horse of the Year and a winner of more than $4.2 million. Mark is also the operator of the Ford Training Center, a multi-million dollar state of the art facility in Middletown, N.Y.
Also honored was Chris Wittstruck, who became the fourth recipient of the Phil Pines Award. Wittstruck is a two-time John Hervey Award winner and a recipient of the USTA Presidents Award. A lawyer by trade, Wittstruck’s Racing and the Law column on the USTA website keeps horsemen up to speed in the new rules that regulate our industry.
The Chapter was very proud to present its Excelsior Award to the Historic Track Board of Directors. The Board consists of a group of 19 local professionals from all walks of life who are all volunteers and responsible for carrying on all business at the famed double-oval.
Linda Myers was the unanimous choice for the 29th annual Amy Bull Krist Award for her dedicated service at Historic Track. She has long been secretary to the Board and most recently stepped up and was a major force behind the success of this year's matinee and Grand Circuit racing programs.
This year’s Amateur Driver of the Year Award went unquestionably to Alan Schwartz, who doubles as president of the Monticello Harness Horsemen’ Association. Now approaching 500 career wins as an amateur driver, Schwartz is among the elite amateur drivers and he is a major force behind Monticello Raceway’s All-Amateur Racing Days.
An Award of Appreciation was given to Maureen Flynn, the longtime director of pari-mutuels and simulcasting at the Mighty M. One of the pre-eminent simulcast minds in the country, much of the Mighty M’s success can be attributed to Maureen’s ability to adapt to the ever-changing simulcasting landscape.
Greg Annaloro was the recipient of the Comeback of the Year Award and John Oney, a groom in the Frank Yanoti Stable, received the Caretaker of the Year Award.
The Rising Star Award went to 20-year-old Cory Stratton, who is following in his brother Jordan’s footsteps and has blossomed into a sought after catch driver, now with more than 75 wins at the current meet.
Horse of the Year honors went to the Baron Racing Stable’s Court Jester who won 10 races, of which five consecutive were timed in 1:54.3 or better. The pacer is trained by Peter Pellegrino and reently took a record of 1:50.3 at Pocono Downs.
Gaelic And Garlic was the 3-year-old trotter of the year while Jammin Sammie was named 3-year-old pacer of the year. Playa Tulum was named trotter of the year and Court Jester also garnered the older pacer of the year award.
Claiming pacer awards went to Southwind Irvin, Art Glass, Imposter A, Don’t Make Me Laugh, DVC Gifted Indeed, Farewell Sky, Arts Day, Fuguzzi and Community Spirit. Claiming trotter awards were garnered by Strongbow, Famous Dude, Four Star F, Strength’s Victory, Chrome Finish, R George and Mac Atack Mac.
More than 200 guests attended the banquet and track publicist John Manzi served as the master of ceremonies.