Merrie Annabelle Renamed Jim Doherty
Officials with the Meadowlands Racetrack have announced that beginning with the 2015 edition, the Merrie Annabelle for two-year-old trotting fillies will be re-titled the ‘Jim Doherty Memorial’ recognizing the legacy of the Hall of Fame horseman.
Jim Doherty was born in New Brunswick and learned horsemanship at the hand of his father, Frank, at Exhibition Park in Saint John and drove his first winner in 1959. Honing his skills while rising through the levels of racetrack quality, Doherty eventually excelled on the ultra-competitive New England circuit through the 1970s.
New England was where his talents would draw the interest of Joe DeFrank when the Hall of Fame Racing Secretary was assembling the nucleus of horsemen that would launch the inaugural Meadowlands meet in 1976. Jim became a part of the fabric at the fantastic new venue and his talents as both a horseman and a driver led to his operating a large and powerful stable for decades.
On the racetrack his stars were many, led by the champion trotter Fools Goal who earned more than $3 million while winning all the major races for his division. No Nonsense Woman was a million-dollar winner, counting the Goldsmith Maid, World Filly Trotting Derby and Breeders Crown among her successes. Starchip Enterprise promised greatness before succumbing to a career-ending injury at three.
Beyond his Meadowlands achievements, Doherty enjoyed great success on a national level including the 2002 Glen Garnsey Trainer of the Year award. His life's work culminated in his 2002 induction into the Living Hall of Fame, the highest award bestowed upon a Standardbred horseman.
In a game that is defined by competition, ‘Gentleman Jim’ Doherty's class and grace earned him the respect of his peers as few have in the long history of racing.
The inaugural Merrie Annabelle was raced in 1977 for a purse of just $30,000. It quickly became the ‘must win’ race for the feminine freshmen and by 1985 the purse had risen to its apex at $627,250.
Past winners of the stakes event include champions like Peace Corps, CR Kay Suzie, Check Me Out, Shake It Cerry and last year's sensation Mission Brief (who set the stakes record at 1:52.2).
“Jim Doherty was one of the horsemen that helped put the Meadowlands on the map more than 30 years ago,” said Meadowlands chairman Jeffrey Gural. “His contributions to the Meadowlands and harness racing are numerous and this is another way to honour his legacy.”
“As a young harness racing fan growing up in Ohio, you couldn’t help but look up to ‘Gentleman Jim’ Doherty,” said Jason M. Settlemoir, Meadowlands CEO and general manager. “He was the consummate horseman that you always respected and rooted for on the sport’s biggest stage. He touched so many people in this industry and we hope attaching his name to one of the sport’s premier races will help keep his memory alive forever.”
The 2015 $350,000E Jim Doherty Memorial will be raced on Hambletonian Day, August 8, 2015.