On Sunday night (July 4), in front of an overflow crowd of more than 275, 11 individuals and eight equines were inducted into the Harness Racing Hall of Fame in ceremonies held under the tent on the lawn of the Harness Racing Museum.
Although elected two years ago, with ceremonies placed on pause last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Hall of Fame officially welcomed the 2020 class — Tom Charters, Jeff Gural, Bill Popfinger and Tim Tetrick as well as Phil Pikelny and Ken Weingartner into the Communicators Hall of Fame.
Because of last year’s cancellation, Sunday night’s six Immortal honourees and the eight horses enshrined into the Living Hall of Fame includes a combined class of both 2020 and 2021.
Roy Davis, Arlene Siegel, Ken Marshall, Geoff Stein and Bob Tucker were enshrined into the Hall as Immortal honourees.
Charters, a former caretaker, moved up the ladder in harness racing to be president and CEO of the Hambletonian Society, an organization he served for 35 years.
“Welcome to Goshen!” exclaimed Charters as he opened his remarks. “This is one of my favourite places in the world. I came here for the first time in 1968 as a groom for the Delvin Miller Stable and we slept under the awning since there weren’t any tack rooms.”
An Ohio native, Charters first worked for the Dick Hackett Stable at Scioto Downs from 1965 through 1968 as well as briefly for Dick Buxton, while also studying print making at Miami University in Ohio. In 1969, Charters hired on with the late, great Delvin Miller. In 1976, Charters moved frontside, as assistant race secretary at The Meadows — the track founded by Miller. He was soon promoted to racing secretary, but in 1982 left to serve as director of racing in Macau, a trotting club in China.
Charters was hired by the Hambletonian Society in 1984 as executive director of the fledgling Breeders Crown. An instant classic, the Breeders Crown quickly became established as harness racing’s year-end championship. In 1994, he was named executive director of the Hambletonian Society and in 1998 he was elected the Hambletonian Society’s president and chief executive officer.
Jeff Gural was already a well-established member of the harness racing community as a breeder, owner, proprietor of two breeding farms and two upstate New York racetracks and casinos (Vernon Downs and Tioga Downs) when he was approached in 2010 to head the group which privatized the sport’s premier facility, The Meadowlands. The chairman of American Racing & Entertainment formed New Meadowlands Racetrack LLC and assumed control of racetrack operations in December of 2011. A new 155,000-square-foot grandstand, costing nearly $100 million, was built on the backstretch side of the racing oval and opened on Nov. 23, 2013. Gural also opened Winners Bayonne OTW in Bayonne, N.J. in July of 2012. Gural also owns Allerage Farms, with locations in Stanfordville, N.Y. and Sayre, Pa.
“This is one of my favorite places to come to,” said Gural, who turns 79 on July 6. “To walk around and see (Billy) Haughton, Del Miller, Stanley Dancer, all the great horses and horsemen. Never in a million years did I think that I’d ever be standing here.”
Tim Tetrick began his career in 1998 at the age of 16 on the Illinois fair circuit and posted his first win that year at the Paris County Fair. Tetrick started driving full-time at Fairmount Park, moving on to Hoosier Park and the Illinois circuit of Balmoral and Maywood Parks. Tetrick headed east in late 2006 to race at Dover Downs.
In 2007 at age 25, Tetrick smashed the all-time record for wins in a year by amassing 1,189 victories. In addition, horses steered by Tetrick that year earned an all-time record (at the time) of $18,350,047. He led North America in earnings for seven straight years, including breaking his own record with a $19,734,781 total in 2008. For 14 consecutive years, he has been in the top 10 among drivers for single-season wins. From 2005 to 2016 he averaged 689 wins per year and finished in the top five in North America nine times. Tetrick currently ranks third on the all-time money list with $231.3 million, and with more than 12,500 victories he stands sixth on that all-time list.
“This has made all my dreams come true,” said a teary-eyed Tetrick as he tried to gather himself. “I love this, it’s all I wanted to do with my life.”
Tetrick has driven multiple champions over his career, including Hambletonian champ Market Share, four-time Older Pacing Mare of the Year Anndrovette, two-time Dan Patch Award winner Captaintreacherous, and Horses of the Year Chapter Seven, JK Shesalady and Shartin N.
Bill Popfinger has been training and driving horses for more than 50 years. He began by paying his dues at county fairs and smaller tracks in the 1950s and early ‘60s.
“It took awhile but good things happen and we made it,” said the 84-year-old Popfinger. “It only happens in America.”
Popfinger’s top horses over the next 25-plus years read like a "who’s who" of harness racing. And by the 1990s, when he cut back on his driving, he had won more than 1,500 races and more than $12 million in purses.
Popfinger developed a top trotting filly in the ‘60s named Lady B Fast who beat both Fresh Yankee and Nevele Pride, considered to be two of the greatest trotters of all time. She was his first major driving win — that victory came in 1969 in the Goshen Cup at the Historic Track. Popfinger won the 1978 Little Brown Jug with Happy Escort in a three-horse race-off. Other stars driven by Popfinger include Happy Motoring, Shirley’s Beau, Princess Glory, Praised Dignity, Kassa Branca and Spellbound Hanover.
Phil Pikelny began his career in racing working for The Horseman And Fair World magazine, and then at age 23 became the youngest national publicity director in any sport when he joined the U.S. Trotting Association. While at the USTA, he co-authored the book Rambling Willie: The Horse That God Loved about the sport’s first double millionaire. Pikelny also later served as publicity director at Scioto Downs.
“I have thousands of stories to tell and when this event is over, those of you who want to hear a few of them, I’m more than happy to share them,” Pikelny said inviting the Hall of Fame audience who wished to extend the festivities.
Ken Weingartner’s early days as a newspaper reporter included stories about harness racing, which attracted the attention of the USTA.
“It’s hard to believe I’m here,” said Weingartner. “I am very humbled and honoured to be here.”
Weingartner currently serves as the USTA’s media relations manager and is one of the most familiar faces on the backside as he is arguably the sport’s most prolific writer. Weingartner has also been honoured by the Harness Publicists Association with its Golden Pen Award and by Harness Horsemen International with its Media Award.
Roy Davis was a director of the Hambletonian Society and Little Brown Jug Society, and served as a USTA director in the late 1970s. He was a founding member of the Meadows Standardbred Owners Association, serving as its president and officer for several years. He won two Little Brown Jugs as owner of Barberry Spur (1986) and Jaguar Spur (1987), two Breeders Crowns with Kentucky Spur (1998) and Esquire Spur (1989), and 1986 Yonkers Trot winner Gunslinger Spur.
Arlene Siegel, along with her husband Jules, who is already a member of the Hall of Fame, started Fashion Farms in New Hope, Pa. in 1984. Siegel was involved in the selection and purchase of yearlings and foaling operations. Fashion Farms’ Tagliabue won the 1995 Hambletonian and the 2009 Hambletonian Oaks with Broadway Schooner. The Fashion Farms’ stallion Broadway Hall sired 2011 Hambo champ Broad Bahn.
Ken Marshall had a 50-plus year career as a harness racing official and track manager, serving primarily in Florida, Kentucky, Pennsylvania and Michigan. His first job in the race office came as an assistant to Hall of Famer Bill Connors at Northville Downs. The two became a tandem, traveling to many other tracks over the years. A member of the Hall of Fame in Michigan and Florida, Marshall served as race secretary at Hazel Park Raceway through the 1980s and ’90s, becoming the track’s director of racing in 1997 and then the director of racetrack operations in 2008, a title he held until his death in 2016.
Geoff Stein was the co-owner of Preferred Equine Marketing and co-manager of both the Lexington Selected Yearling Sale and Tattersalls Mixed Sales. He began his career in racing as a chart caller for Sports Eye. Stein was among the owners of the Hall of Fame trotting mare Moni Maker, who earned $5,589,256 on the racetrack.
Bob Tucker, the owner and operator of Stonegate Standardbred Farms in Glen Gardner, N.J., was involved with the sport of harness racing for more than five decades. Under Tucker’s guidance, Stonegate bred and raced many top performers over the years, with its horses trained by Ed Lohmeyer for more than 45 years. One of their first great horses together was the pacer Landslide. Other top horses include Indulge Me, Classic Lane and Ideal Nuggets. Tucker also bred Messenger Stakes winner All Bets Off. Stallions that stood at Stonegate include Cam Fella, Dream Away, Albert Albert and Pacific Fella. Stonegate also had a strong band of broodmares, including Headline Hanover, Summer Child, and Western Azure.
Eight horses were inducted into the Living Horse Hall of Fame including 2021 electees Chapter Seven, Father Patrick and Peaceful Way as well as the 2020 class of Always B Miki, Bee A Magician, Sweet Lou, Danae and Precious Beauty.
Chapter Seven, voted the 2012 Horse of the Year, retired with 20 wins in 28 starts and $1,954,966 in earnings. A Breeders Crown champion at age 3, Chapter Seven’s Horse of the Year campaign included a repeat Breeders Crown victory as well as 1:50.4 world-record wins in the Titan Cup Prep and Titan Cup. As a stallion with five crops racing, Chapter Seven has sired winners of nearly $30 million, including world champions Atlanta and Gimpanzee.
Father Patrick had a lifetime race record of 23 wins in 33 starts, with $2,558,123 in earnings. A two-time Dan Patch Award divisional champ at 2 and 3, Father Patrick was a two-time Breeders Crown champion, with his other victories including the William Wellwood and Peter Haughton Memorial at 2, and the Zweig Memorial, Dancer Memorial and Beal Memorial at 3, the latter a world-record 1:50.2 effort.
Peaceful Way won 33 of 52 starts with $2,746,240 in earnings, the third most ever by a trotting mare in North America. Peaceful Way was a four-time O’Brien Award winner as Canada’s divisional champion, as well as a two-time Dan Patch Award winner in the United States. Her biggest victories came in the Goldsmith Maid at 2, the Delvin Miller Memorial at 3, the Breeders Crown at 4, and the Maple Leaf Trot, Armbro Flight and Matchmaker at 5.
The 2016 Horse of the Year, Always B Miki won 30 of 53 starts with $2,715,368 in earnings. On Oct. 9, 2016, Always B Miki became the fastest Standardbred ever, winning at The Red Mile in 1:46. A two-time Breeders Crown champ, Always B Miki is the only horse in history with four 1:47 or faster victories.
After a 2-year-old season in which she was the leading money-winning freshman trotter, Bee A Magician went undefeated in 17 starts as a 3-year-old as she easily won 2013 Horse of the Year honors in both the United States and Canada. A world champion, Bee A Magician won 45 of 72 starts, with $4,055,865 in earnings. As a 4-year-old, Bee A Magician’s biggest win came in the Breeders Crown Open Mare Trot. In 2015 at age 5, Bee A Magican once again captured divisional honours in Canada and the US, with her victories that year including the Maple Leaf Trot and Armbro Flight.
Sweet Lou, Dan Patch divisional champion at ages 2 and 4, posted 33 wins in 74 starts, with $3,478,894 in earnings. In 2011, he paced the fastest mile ever by a 2-year-old on a mile track when he captured the Breeders Crown in 1:49. In 2014, as a 5-year-old, Sweet Lou notched a 10-race win streak that included six consecutive sub-1:48 miles, including a world-record-equaling 1:47 win in the Ben Franklin.
Danae and Precious Beauty are broodmare inductees. Danae’s offspring include 2019 Swedish Horse of the Year Propulsion, 2017 Matron winner Dream Together, and world champion D’Orsay. Precious Beauty’s offspring include 2009 2-Year-Old Colt Pacer of the Year and world champion Sportswriter, the 2013 2-Year-Old Filly Pacer of the Year and world champion Precocious Beauty, and 2018 Three Diamonds winner Prescient Beauty.