Although “Z” is the last letter of the alphabet, it ranked at the top of the voting done by the U.S. Harness Writers Association in honouring the top young people in the sport.
Canadian Scott Zeron won the Rising Star Award, for trainers and/or drivers, in a landslide, while after tabulating ballots to decide the Lew Barasch Breakthrough Award, for ascending stars outside those two occupations, the photo-finish camera could not separate two members of the (Jeff) “Gural Corral” of top young racetrack executives: Justin Horowitz and Darin Zoccali.
Scott Zeron is the son of a Canadian legend, Quebec and Ontario star Rick Zeron, but in the last few years he has certainly shown that he can stay right with his illustrious dad. In this past year he contended for the Woodbine Entertainment Group driving title, bankrolled over $8.5 million in drives, and had the “big horse” that thrust him squarely into the North American harness consciousness: Michaels Power, winner of the fabled Little Brown Jug (after his horse drew the all-important rail for the second heat, Scott reportedly yet out a yell that could be heard back across the border), Ontario Sires Stakes champion, O'Brien Award finalist and second in U.S. Pacer of the Year voting to Captaintreacherous.
All at age 23. Hard to imagine what the next few years might bring for Zeron – although one guess might be an extended stay at a major U.S. track, to further establish his star ability.
The guru of The Meadowlands, Tioga Downs, and Vernon Downs, Jeff Gural has gotten outstanding results while assembling management personnel far younger than the team gathered at most raceways, and two of his best lieutenants, Horowitz and Zoccali, got enough respect from the voters to share their Breakthrough Award.
Both Horowitz and Zoccali are known for their command of the difficult television medium at any early age, but both have taken different methods: Horowitz was a reporter for commercial stations, while Zoccali gradually increased his exposure on the nightly signature Racing From The Meadowlands TV show. Both have also taken the big step to national mainstream media exposure: Zoccali on Sirius-XM Radio, and Horowitz as a reporter for this year CBS Sports’ presentation of the Hambletonian.
Horowitz currently serves as Regional Racing Marketing Manager for Tioga Downs and Vernon Downs, while recently Zoccali was named Director of Racing Operations at The Meadowlands. Their supervisor Jason Settlemoir was a 2006 winner of this very award, and all together Horowitz and Zoccali are part of the alert, savvy raceway management team Gural has assembled for his eastern equine emporium empire – a team where individuals like Horowitz and Zoccali are making their own impressive individual and substantial contributions.
Scott Zeron, Justin Horowitz, and Darin Zoccali will all be honoured on Sunday, March 3, at the Dan Patch Awards Banquet, the climatic event of Harness Congress VI weekend, to be held at the Westin Beach Resort and Spa in Fort Lauderdale, FL.