Throughout the month of December, 19 nominees in two categories vied against each other for the Railbird Recognition Awards, the fan-voted accolade sponsored by the United States Harness Writers Association and the United States Trotting Association.
Ten individuals squared off for ‘Horseperson of the Year’ and nine events battled for ‘Racing Moment of the Year.’ When the pools closed on New Year’s Eve, the fans of harness racing chose Joe Bellino and Wiggle It Jiggleit’s Little Brown Jug win as the categorical winners.
Bellino has been very successful in harness racing, but he remembers where he came from and respects everyone who works in the industry. Having campaigned such notable horses as Rock N Roll Heaven and Pet Rock, he knows what it’s like to win the big race. But he also remembers that there are many people involved at all levels of this sport and goes out of his way to help them when he can.
Bellino’s benevolence is one of the worst kept secrets in the business. Although he reaches out to those in need and tries to help at every turn, he never looks for any thanks or praise for his actions. But the many people that he has helped both in and out of harness racing will be the first ones to let you know what an unselfish individual he is.
Clearly people in the grandstand and on the backstretch know of his good deeds and that is why he garnered 77 per cent of the total vote for Horseperson of the Year. This is the largest margin of victory for either category in the eight-year history of the Railbird Recognition voting.
Anyone who saw the final heat of the 2015 Little Brown Jug will more than likely tell you that it was the greatest horse race they ever witnessed. After taking a bad step in the first turn, Wiggle It Jiggleit was parked-out for almost three quarters of the mile before getting passed at the head of the lane by Lost For Words. But Wiggle It Jiggleit swelled up and fought back down the stretch to win one of the most epic battles two pacers ever undertook in the history of the sport.
The race was an indelible memory that everyone who attended live in Delaware, Ohio and watched remotely around the world has and those fans relived it while voting to make Wiggle It Jiggleit’s Little Brown Jug win the Racing Moment of the Year for 2015.
Joe Bellino and Team Teague will be presented their Railbird Recognition trophies during the Dan Patch Awards Banquet, held this year at the Hyatt Pier 66 in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida on Sunday (March 6), 2016. Information on tickets and accommodations for that event can be found at ushwa.org .
Below are the top three voting results for each Railbird Recognition category:
HORSEPERSON OF THE YEAR
• Joe Bellino for his behind the scenes benevolence – 77%
• Breanna Carsey for donating winnings from MJB Got Faith – 6.5%
• Montrell Teague for his handling of Wiggle It Jiggleit in 2015 – 5.9%
RACING MOMENT OF THE YEAR
• Wiggle It Jiggleit defeats Lost For Words in second Jug heat – 55%
• Freaky Feet Pete wins Breeders Crown – 15%
• International Trot returns to Yonkers after 20 years – 5.7%