02/14/2012 5:18PM

My daily grumble: Dan Patch Awards


I am fresh off a trip to Orlando to attend the United States Harness Writers Dan Patch Awards banquet. Well, I’m actually sitting in the airport in Orlando as I write this . . . details.

San Pail won Trotter and Horse of the Year, while Foiled Again took home Pacer of the Year honors. The festivities ran quite long and attendance was down from 2010, but all in all it was a good night. I even came away with a Tim Tetrick bobblehead in the nightly raffle.

The problem with the awards, as I see it, is the lack of drama, and award winners which feel the need to relay a detailed account of their lives to a captive audience.

Can you name another award ceremony where you know all of the winners except two before you get to the event? There were some close divisional races this year that could have produced a much more exciting evening. Economy Terror and American Jewel in the 2-year-old pacing filly division was certainly a close call that could have produced anticipation. What about Foiled Again and We Will See in the older pacing ranks?

Some would suggest that often enough there are no close races and the drama would not present itself regardless. But I have a plan. After the votes are tabulated, any divisional race which falls within 15 votes is not announced. The obvious landslide winners would be disseminated to the public, but the other classes are kept under wraps.

Now we have something to look forward to on awards night. Let’s say there are two undecided awards and also Trotter, Pacer and Horse of the Year. I would present one of the unknown awards early in the evening, one in the middle and the big awards at the end. Poof - anticipation throughout the evening.

Anyone who was in the hotel on Sunday surely heard the loud burst of excitement from Team Burke when Foiled Again was announced as Pacer of the Year. That was a nice moment.

A big bonus of keeping more awards unannounced is added attendance. If multiple connections do not know whether they have won, more owners, trainers and drivers may show up hoping for the opportunity to receive some hardware.

The award winners used to be kept a secret some years ago. I do not recall what inspired the change in format. I’m probably just as much to blame as anyone, because I have never pursued becoming a director or taking a leadership role in the organization.

Regardless, there was some chatter at this year’s meeting about some changes. Let’s see what the future holds.

As far as the speeches are concerned, I have no problem if Jeff Gural wants to get on the stage and plead for five percent of the purse money going towards improving the sport. But do we really need to hear more than a minutes worth of Mr. or Ms. X and their life story? Maybe we need an orchestra to play music like at the Oscars to get them off the stage.

I promise if I ever receive an award (maybe Complainer of the Year), I’ll keep it short and sweet. Hopefully, I will remember to thank my wife for putting up with all my complaints.

There was one additional interesting topic that came up at the general member meeting. It involved stakes race classification. I’ll save that topic for next week. Sorry to be a tease.

Also, I will post a Pick 5 ticket on Thursday for those looking to grab a piece of the $27k carryover.

Moira More than 1 year ago
Derick, you don't even come within 15 votes of winning Complainer of the Year. As for The O'Briens they have finalists in each category- BUT their dinner is the same place every year and draws from mostly local people. USHWA has tried that format in the past, but people were not fond of paying a lot of money to fly to a location like Vegas or Florida, pay for tickets and then not win. But maybe they should try it again. [Hey Moi - I am certainly in favor of the dinner being held somewhere in the Northeast. People may travel from many locations to attend the banquet, but I imagine the largest number of people are coming from that area. - DG]
Paul Kelley More than 1 year ago
....keeping the divisional winners as secretive as possible will surely enhance the drama of the event...and I would agree with the above post...hold the awards in NYC on a non-racing evening..make it an event that more owners and horsemen can realistically attend.
Steve Wolf More than 1 year ago
Derick raises some good points about keeping close contests a secret until award night. The dinner had been held up north years ago but many felt they wanted to try and escape the recent cold winters and enjoy some warm and sun in Florida. What a surprise they got when Orlando had record cold temps most of the weekend. Attendance has always varied at these events, even when held up north. And USHWA almost always varies where the event is held.
michael bilinskas More than 1 year ago
I'm not sure where they do these awards each year, do they do them in the same place or move it around, because i think it would make more sense to them up on the east coast where more of the horseman are located, at least i think they are with the abundance of tracks up here.