(Left: Joe Faraldo, USTA photo. Right: Marvin Katz and Al Libfeld, racehorsephoto.com photo.)
There was a “dead heat for win” in the voting for the most prestigious award for which the United States Harness Writers Association (USHWA) are the sole arbiters: the Stan Bergstein/Proximity Award. The joint winners are New York horseman Joe Faraldo and the Ontario owning and breeding partnership of Al Libfeld and Marvin Katz.
It is the first time there has been a tie in the top of the voting in the 68-year history of the award, which is voted on by the sport’s leading media organization. The award is given for outstanding achievement in/service to the harness racing industry.
Joe Faraldo, an attorney by trade and an owner and amateur driver, is heading into his 40th year as president and CEO of the Standardbred Owners Association of New York, the horsemen’s group that serves Yonkers Raceway. He has been a staunch advocate of horsemen’s rights, and is the only attorney who has argued a harness racing-related case before the United States Supreme Court.
Faraldo has been a director of the United States Trotting Association for over 20 years, and currently serves as Chair of the USTA’s District 8-A (lower New York). He is the chair of the important Harness Racing Medication Collaborative, which not only keeps up to date with substances and testing procedure in the sport, but also seeks to find common ground among the pari-mutuel sports’ breeds and jurisdictions.
Faraldo is also an amateur driver of some note, having driven in several countries during competitions. His international presence helped Yonkers re-establish the International Trot after a two-decade absence. He has been honoured by Harness Horsemen’s International, the USTA and USHWA.
The partnership of Marvin Katz and Al Libfeld, both of whom are in the southern Ontario real estate field, was not an instantaneous success by their own admission; the horse which started a turnaround for them was 1997 Meadowlands Pace winner Dream Away. But it is hard to miss the impression they have made on the owning and breeding of quality horses, especially in the last decade.
The racehorse list includes millionaires Ariana G and Dream Away; the most recent of their breeding accomplishments was the selling of the sport’s first million-dollar yearling, Maverick, a Father Patrick full brother to this year’s spectacular three-year-old Greenshoe. Horses they have owned and bred have accounted for the Hambletonian, Kentucky Futurity, Canadian Trotting Classic and other world-class events. The pair have been honoured on both sides of the North American racing border previously.
Libfeld and Katz were also the presenting sponsors of the 2019 Breeders Crown championships when they came to their nearby Woodbine Mohawk Park, and the associated Breeders Crown Charity Challenge raised over $200,000 for area charities.
The Bergstein/Proximity Award honours the great trotting mare Proximity, who was Harness Horse of the Year in 1950, and Stan Bergstein, the sport’s only “double Hall of Famer” and an industry visionary and leader for nearly half a century until his passing in 2011.
The remainder of the human and broodmare Dan Patch award winners are being announced today and tomorrow; the 12 racehorse divisional champions will be announced this Friday (Jan. 3) at 6:30 p.m. on The Meadowlands pre-race show, with media releases following (availability to view that announcement will be released shortly).
The above individuals will be honoured at USHWA’s annual Dan Patch Awards Banquet, celebrating the best and brightest of harness racing in the past year. The banquet honouring the champions of 2019 will be held on Sunday, Feb. 23, 2020 at the Rosen Shingle Creek Resort in Orlando, Fla., the climax of a weekend that also finds USHWA holding its annual national meetings. The Trotter of the Year, Pacer of the Year, and Horse of the Year will be revealed for the first time at the Banquet.
Tickets for the Dan Patch Awards Banquet are $180, with a filet mignon dinner featured. “Post times” on Feb. 23 are cocktails at 5:30 p.m. with dinner to follow. Tickets and other banquet-related information can be obtained through Dinner Planning Committee Chair Judy Davis-Wilson at [email protected] or 302.359.3630.
Hotel reservations for those attending can be made through USHWA’s website, www.ushwa.net; a link to the hotel’s reservation system is on the front page of the website. Those who would like to take out congratulatory ads for award winners in the Dan Patch Awards Journal can do so by contacting Kim Rinker at [email protected].