A top trainer who is a master harness spokesman, a pair of broodmare standouts, and a racetrack marshal par excellence all are connected, and all are receiving an award for their abilities as a result of recent balloting by the United States Harness Writers Association
Bruce Saunders had “the time of his life” this past summer and fall campaigning the great three-year-old pacing colt Rock N Roll Heaven, the overwhelming favourite to be Horse of the Year in the U.S. Saunders, a former high-ranking politician from the state of Delaware, was thrust into the media spotlight race after race after his colt established superstardom. The personable conditioner never missed a beat, praising the horse and his human connections at every opportunity, shrewdly analyzing the upcoming or just-completed race, and, in rare trying times (a certain couple of days in Campbellville, Ont.), forthrightly going before the scribes, keeping them informed. Saunders will receive the W.R. Haughton Good Guy Award, named after the legendary horseman who, like Saunders, always seemed to say the right thing at the right time to further the image of the sport.
Rock N Roll Heaven’s dam, Artistic Vision, was accorded honours as Pacing Broodmare of the Year. A daughter of Artsplace out of Armbro Omaha, Artistic Vision is under lease to a quartet of Kentuckians, the Nash family and Steve Stewart, who bred the remarkable Rock N Roll Heaven. But Artistic Vision was no 'one-trick pony' in 2010: her son, the sub-1:50 pacer Clear Vision, took home more than $223,000 in the past year.
Artistic Vision’s diamond-gaited counterpart as Trotting Broodmare of the Year is Graceful Touch, a daughter of Pine Chip out of Act Of Grace, who is owned by Perretti Farms of New Jersey. Perretti also was the breeder of Graceful Touch’s Muscle Massive, the 2010 Hambletonian winner, and she might just get herself a Hambo Oaks this coming year with 2010’s speedy filly Thatsnotmyname.
All of these fast horses are hard for rivals to catch on the racetrack – but harder still is, after a racetrack mishap, catching and rounding up horses who may have lost their drivers and gallop furiously and frighteningly, unguided, around the track. That’s when Cindi Johnson gets to work – and many agree that she is the best in the business at restoring equine calm after a chaotic situation. People still talk about the time there was a five-horse mishap, and three horses got loose – and Cindi caught all three! Johnson does her 'regular' marshalling job superbly, is a great assist in publicity efforts, and thus has earned the LeeAnne Pooler Unsung Hero Award – for doing a fine job when she is the least-visible person at the track, and for doing an outstanding job when she is the most-visible.
Saunders, Johnson, and the connections of the two winning broodmares will receive their awards at the 'Night of Stars' annual awards banquet, to be held Sunday, February 27 at the Marriott North in Fort Lauderdale Florida. Tickets, accommodations, and other information can be obtained from Steve Wolf at [email protected].