12/22/2015 12:27PM

Harness: Montrell Teague, Joann Looney-King among human award winners


The United States Harness Writers Association, the industry’s organization of communicators, announced the following Dan Patch award winners for their accomplishments during the 2015 racing season:

Rising Star Award – Montrell Teague

Breakthrough Award – Gabe Prewitt

Good Guy Award – Joann Looney-King

Unsung Hero Award – Joanne Young

Breeder of the Year – Hanover Shoe Farms

Trotting Broodmare of the Year – Margie Seelster

Pacing Broodmare of the Year – Mozzi Hanover

It is interesting to see this list of honorees and note the various relationships that these people and horses have with the winners announced yesterday: Bergstein Proximity Award winner Jim Simpson, Owner of the Year George Teague Jr., Trainer of the Year Jimmy Takter, and Driver of the Year David Miller.

Jim Simpson gets two additional pieces of good news today. His Hanover Shoe Farms has been voted the Breeder of the Year, as it leads the industry tables in money won by its graduates for the 67th straight year – ever since records started to be kept. And with Aaron Merriman now in control of the drivers’ dashwinning derby, the last major statistical race of the year focuses squarely on Hanover and the record books in relation to the calendar – Hanover “offspring” had earned $29,920,074 this season through Sunday, only $92,135 shy of their own all-time one year record of $30,016,209, set in 2012. Granted, this is not “prime time” for racing opportunities, but Hanover could still rewrite the record – especially seeing as their produce earned $88,595 between Thursday and Sunday.

Hanover was also the seller of Pacing Broodmare of the Year Mozzi Hanover as a yearling. The daughter of Jenna’s Beach Boy – Movie Star Laag was purchased by a partnership that included George Teague Jr., who campaigned her successfully as a racehorse. In the summer of 2012, Teague went back and purchased “Mozzi” with a suckling colt at her side – that baby of course turning out to be Wiggle It Jiggleit, 2015’s Harness Horse of the Year, a winner of over $2 million last year with a 1:47 4/5 mark, a sophomore who earned admiration throughout the harness community for his talent, durability, and courage.

As much as George delights in his “equine family” members “Mozzi” and “Wiggle,” his warmest family feelings are for his son Montrell, who has won the Rising Star Award, for trainer/drivers 35 years of age or less. Montrell, who will turn 25 the day after New Year’s, went into 2015 with fewer than 700 lifetime wins. However, in the ultimate “pressure cooker” of weekly being the driver of the horse to beat in a major stake, his handling of Wiggle It Jiggleit, by turns aggressive and temporizing as needed, marked him as a star – right now, let alone “Rising” -- no doubt with an occasional word of guidance from his dad. Montrell also showed a level-headedness in handling whatever racing fortunes were thrown at him, and was friendly and cooperative with the media despite its blazing spotlight on him all year.

When Wiggle It Jiggleit won a qualifier at the Teagues’ home base of Harrington Raceway on April 22, finishing second in that race was a fellow sophomore named Wakizashi Hanover, who is trained by Joanne Looney-King. “Wakizashi” would go on to win $1.15 million in 2015, winning the North America Cup at Mohawk over his chief foe and giving “Wiggle” all he wanted on several other occasions. Through it all Looney-King, a pioneering female driver who now focuses on training, maintained delight in her horse’s performances, a warm nature which was conveyed to the media throughout the season, and which earned her the Harness Writers’ “Good (GAL) Award.”

Jimmy Takter and David Miller have been both selected for harness racing’s highest honor, induction into the sport’s Living Hall of Fame. The Hall, which is located in Goshen NY, near Monticello Raceway and north of New York City, benefits from having a staff of knowledgeable, resourceful people – among whom Joanne Young ranks at the very top of the list. The Director of Development for the Museum, Joanne’s primary responsibilities (she can do most any job there) include overseeing membership, and the sale of the bricks and pavers that are a unique feature of the entrance to the Museum. For basically contacting people to request money from them, doing so with a smile, and NEVER getting turned down for a request, Joanne Young is truly an Unsung Hero in the continued success of the Hall/Museum, and thus was voted the Unsung Hero Award by USHWA.

Takter and Miller had their fair share of success this season during Grand Circuit action at Lexington’s Red Mile, where this year’s Breakthrough Award winner Gabe Prewitt serves as the announcer during the fall meet and in several managerial capacities during the Grand Circuit meet. At 32, the multi-talented Prewitt has already served as a horsemen’s representative, media representative, and “Manager of Post Times” (an important job in this simulcasting era), and is currently employed as the announcer at Pompano Park in addition to The Red Mile, at both venues conveying the urgencies and drama of a developing race in a professional yet dynamic style.

Finally, Takter also figured prominently in the election of the Trotting Broodmare of the Year, Margie Seelster, a daughter of Angus Hall – Meadowbranch Gal. Like her pacing counterpart Mozzi Hanover, Margie Seelster struck it big with her first foal – Pinkman, this past season’s Trotter of the Year, a winner of $2.4 million lifetime with a mark of 1:51, and the Hambletonian winner, all under the tutelage of trainer Takter. An ownership combine of Team Takter has since purchased Margie Seelster.

All of the winners will be presented their awards during the Dan Patch Awards Banquet, to be held on Sunday, March 6 at the Hyatt Pier 66 in Fort Lauderdale FL. Information on dinner tickets, accommodations, and related topics for the event can be found at http://www.ushwa.org.

-edited realease (USWHA)