09/18/2017 12:32PM

Harness: Siegel, Wallenius-Kleberg to Hall of Fame

Email

Longtime Pennsylvania owner and breeder Jules Siegel, less than two months short of his 90th birthday, joins Margareta Wallenius-Kleberg, one of the driving forces of harness racing in her native Sweden and a leader in European-American harness connections, as members of the Harness Racing Hall of Fame after their election by a joint polling of the members of the U.S. Harness Writers Association (USHWA), the sport’s leading media organization, and elected members of the Hall of Fame.

Elected as members of the Harness Racing Communicators Hall of Fame by a vote of USHWA members were Carl Becker, veteran announcer-pedigree expert-auctioneer based in his native Midwest, and Dave Briggs, whose nine Hervey Awards for outstanding writing have set the standard for quality harness racing journalism in recent years.

In both cases, nominations were made by chapters of the harness writers, and then winnowed down to these four by blue-ribbon panels of veteran journalists. Each nominee needed 75 percent of the yes-no votes cast by eligible electors to gain the sport’s ultimate honor.

IRREPRESSIBLE SIEGEL ENTERS HALL; WALLENIUS-KLEBERG FIRST FEMALE INDUCTEE

Jules Siegel was at Pocono Downs a couple of weeks ago when his Fashionwoodchopper (carrying the name of his Fashion Farms) won a Pennsylvania Sire Stakes championship. And it is safe to say that of the large group in and near the winner’s circle, no one was more excited that the soon-to-be nonagenarian.

Siegel and his late wife Arlene established Fashion Farms in eastern Pennsylvania for their own pleasure, but when the college pharmacy major sold his successful chain of drugstores and retired in 1995, Arlene insisted “you cannot retire to nothing,” so the Siegels acquired first-rate broodmares, bred them to top sires to achieve successful racehorses, then retained the females for future breeding and built success upon success, lasting to this day.

Tagliabue, the Hambletonian winner in Siegel’s retirement year of 1995, was the first of his eight Dan Patch Award seasonal champions. He has five Breeders Crown winners to his credit as well, two of them homebreds: Broadway Schooner in 2009 and Broadway Schooner’s daughter, Broadway Donna, last year.

Siegel and his wife were twice named Owner of the Year by USHWA, in 2002 and 2009, and Siegel was Standardbred Canada’s Owner of the Decade for the 2000s.

Margareta Wallenius-Kleberg, the first woman elected to the Hall of Fame, is the owner of Menhammar Stuteri AB, a breeding farm which has been in her family for 70 years and has been the leading breeder in her native Sweden for the last nine years. Wallenius-Kleberg created a North America-Europe comingling of racing and breeding talent with her partner, the late Hall of Famer Norman Woolworth, headed by stallions Zoot Suit and Smokin Yankee. The farm also stood two-time U.S. Horse of the Year Mack Lobell.

A tireless worker for the sport, Wallenius-Kleberg is a director of the Hambletonian Society in the U.S., and in 2011 received the Pinnacle Award for promotion of the sport. In Sweden, she was the former chair of the Swedish Breeders Association and of the organization operating Solvalla Racetrack, home of the famous Elitlopp, and is an honorary lifetime member of these two organizations and of the Swedish Trotting Association

BECKER, BRIGGS TAKE DIFFERENT PATHS TO COMMUNICATORS HALL OF FAME

One, though a good writer, made his mark on harness racing through announcing and presentation of pedigrees at auction; the other, though an intelligent and glib speaker, has set the standard for writing excellence through his domination of the Hervey Awards. But Carl Becker and Dave Briggs share the characteristics of clarity, class, exhaustive knowledge, and insight, and thus both have risen to the top of their professions and a place in the Communicators Hall.

Carl Becker, a native of Illinois, began his career in harness announcing in 1963, traveling 300 miles to a matinee in Iowa where he worked without pay just to gain experience. Soon, major tracks were seeking him out to provide his insightful calls and commentary, most notably Du Quoin, Ill., where he called the Hambletonian and World Trotting Derby; The Red Mile in Lexington, where he announced Niatross’s historic 1:49.1 time-trial; and Louisville Downs.

Becker helped to transform the job of auctioneer and pedigree reader with his prodigious knowledge of breeding, family achievement, and “nicks,” combining these with his enthusiastic announcing style to “draw out” the assembled bidders, pointing out a tidbit that might keep an auction going. In this capacity, he worked the sport’s two major sales, Harrisburg and Lexington (and later both when two companies offered at Lexington), as well as for Garden State Sales and Blooded Horse Sales.

Dave Briggs, a native of western Ontario, achieved most of his early journalistic success through a series of increasingly-responsible roles at the venerable Canadian Sportsman magazine, while also writing for other top trade journals. In the last couple of years Dave has been in charge of the reborn Harness Racing Update online newsletter, which provides coverage of the sport’s major events along with commentary examining trends on the current harness scene.

With this workload have come awards – lots of them. Before Briggs, the most USHWA Dan Patch journalism awards won had been five, achieved by the late Hall of Famer Phil Pines. Briggs has shattered this standard by winning nine John Hervey awards, including an award in each of the last five years – and in 2012-2015, for four different publications. He has an equally long list of Canadian and international awards for journalism to his credit.

The new Hall of Famers will first be feted at USHWA’s Dan Patch Awards Banquet, to be held Sunday, Feb. 25, 2018 at the Rosen Shingle Creek Resort in Orlando, in conjunction with USHWA’s annual meetings. The new Hall of Fame class will be formally inducted during 2018’s Hall of Fame ceremony on July 1 at the Harness Racing Museum and Hall of Fame in Goshen, N.Y.

-release (U.S. Harness Writers Association)