The Keystone Chapter of the U.S. Harness Writers Association has announced its awardwinners for their outstanding accomplishments in Pennsylvania racing during 2016.
And of the seven award categories put to the voters, three of them resulted in two winners – which was quite predictable! Let’s see how that could be:
–The Mary Lib Miller Award, named after the wife of Hall of Famer Delvin Miller and herself an integral part of Delvin’s many success stories, is the highest award the Chapter gives annually, for overall outstanding contributions to Pennsylvania racing. This year, two members of the Bedford (PA) Sports Hall of Fame, Sam Beegle and Roger Hammer, were the nominees, and there were three choices for the voters: Beegle individually, Hammer individually, or Beegle and Hammer jointly.
And the writers chose to honor both, longtime friendly rivals since their days both wrestling in southwest Pennsylvania area high schools. Their sports’ accomplishments continue to this day – Hammer, an 8-time national U.D.R. champion, was the leading trainer and driver at the PA Fairs this past season, while Beegle, who also is in charge of his own shedrow and takes an occasional turn in the sulky, makes an impact, statewide as the president of the Pennsylvania Harness Horsemen’s Association, and nationally as Chairman of USTA’s District 7 (Pennsylvania).
–The PA Horse of the Year, restricted to horses who made more than 50% of their starts at a Keystone state oval and thus usually earned by a top-flight overnight horse, resulted in a tie between two Invitational pacers who both earned in the neighborhood of $120,000 just during their fine campaigns at The Meadows: the stallion Unlocked and the mare Medusa. This result also was not a shocker – for both Unlocked and Medusa had also tied for top honors when the Meadows Standardbred Owners Association gave their 2016 prizes!
–For PA Breeder of the Year, the Keystone voters cast an equal number of ballots for Bill Mulligan, breeder of Trotting Triple Crown winner Marion Marauder, and the legendary Hanover Shoe Farms, who bred $1M+-winning mare Hannelore Hanover – thus figuring the two “even closer” than the 2016 Trotter of the Year contest, where Marion Marauder edged Hannelore Hanover by a single vote!
Other awardwinners voted by the state communicators include:
–Double honors for North America’s leading trainer Ron Burke, who won Pennsylvania Trainer of the Year for the eighth straight year, and also garnered Owner of the Year honors through his Burke Racing Stable LLC (a partnership with his mother Sylvia), who were picked for honors alongside their solid partners, the Weaver Bruscemi LLC of Mike Bruscemi and Mark Weaver.
–PA Driver of the Year laurels to Aaron Merriman, who has parlayed consistently high finishes in the driving ranks at The Meadows with consistent 1-2 rankings in the horseman’s colony of Northfield Park to become the two-time defending North American dashwinning king among all drivers.
–PA Sire Stakes Horse of the Year Broadway Donna, a three-year-old trotting filly who was national champion at both two and three and the only sophomore to repeat from freshman form as the 2016 Sire Stakes champion. She earned $429,106 at 2 and 3 in PA Sire Stakes competition alone.
–And a special award from Chapter President Kevin Decker to Pastor Joe DiDonato, one of the most popular figures on the Meadows backstretch for many years, a man who brings calm, aid and comfort on several levels to the people to whom he ministers.
Each of the honorees will soon be feted at their home racetrack – unless it is decided to honor Beegle and Hammer together at the Bedford Fair in late July.