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Harness: Simpson, Takter, Miller, Teague receive USHWA honors
Hanover Shoe Farms President and CEO James W. Simpson, trainer Jimmy Takter, driver David Miller, and owner George Teague Jr. were voted year-end honors by the U.S. Harness Writers Association, the organization announced Monday.
Simpson was named the Stan Bergstein Proximity Award winner while Takter was voted the Trainer of the Year for the fifth time in his career and David Miller was named Driver of the Year for the second time. Teague, who owns Dan Patch Award Horse of the Year winner Wiggle It Jiggleit, was voted Owner of the Year.
The Stan Bergstein Proximity Award is the highest honor bestowed by the U.S. Harness Writers Association that is voted on solely by its membership.
Simpson followed his father John’s footsteps as a successful driver and trainer. The younger Simpson handled such stars as Sugarcane Hanover and Noxie Hanover, whose speed record of 1:55 as a 2-year-old filly trotter stood for nearly 20 years. He also trained many of the fillies who became noted producers in Hanover Shoe Farm’s broodmare band.
In 1992, Simpson traded his maroon-and-white driver’s colors for the orange-and-blue attire of Hanover Shoe Farms, where he became vice president. The famed Hanover, Pa., nursery has bred a record 14 Little Brown Jug champions, 10 Hambletonian winners and has been the world’s leading Standardbred breeder every year for as long as records have been kept. Simpson was promoted to the position of president and CEO at Hanover in 1997.
Throughout the years Jim Simpson has been a great contributor to harness racing with his time and knowledge of the industry. He is a sought after guest speaker for many events and sits on many of the major decision making committees in our sport.
He is a director of the Hambletonian and Little Brown Jug societies and achieved the pinnacle of recognition in the sport when he joined his father and brother, John Simpson Jr., in the Harness Racing Hall of Fame in Goshen, N.Y., in July 2011. In 2013 he was inducted into the Little Brown Jug Wall of Fame.
Simpson has also been a very quiet, but generous financial supporter of harness racing from horse racing rescue groups, the Harness Racing Museum and Hall of Fame plus countless other industry and local charitable organizations.
Takter, who was nominated by every U.S. Harness Writers Association chapter for Trainer of the Year and therefore an uncontested winner of the honor, continued to write his name into the record books in 2015. He set a record by training six Breeders Crown champions and won the Hambletonian and Hambletonian Oaks for the second consecutive year, making him the only trainer to ever capture both prestigious trotting events in the same year on two occasions.
He won 16 races worth at least $350,000 this year, with eight different horses. Takter had the two richest trotters in North America in 3-year-olds Pinkman (Hambletonian winner) and Wild Honey (Hambletonian Oaks) plus the richest 2-year-old pacer in undefeated filly Pure Country (10-for-10).
Pinkman’s wins also included the Kentucky Futurity, Canadian Trotting Classic, and Beal Memorial while Wild Honey won the Kentucky Filly Futurity and a Breeders Crown. Pinkman was voted the Dan Patch Award Trotter of the Year by the U.S. Harness Writers Association.
Takter’s other Breeders Crown champs were All The Time, Always B Miki, Creatine, Pure Country, and The Bank. Pure Country received the Dan Patch Award for best 2-year-old female pacer.
Other notable stakes-winners from the stable included Father Patrick, French Laundry, JK Endofanera, Lagerfeld, Master Of Law, and Shake It Cerry.
Takter, who was elected to the Harness Racing Hall of Fame in 2011, has won 183 races and $12.94 million in purses this year. His average earnings per start were $16,533.
Miller also enjoyed a record-setting season on his way to the Driver of the Year Award, besting Yannick Gingras and Aaron Merriman for the honor. Miller won a record five Breeders Crown events this year, finding the winner’s circle with trotting mare D’One, older male pacer Always B Miki, 3-year-old female pacer Divine Caroline, 3-year-old male trotter The Bank, and pacing mare Color’s A Virgin.
Divine Caroline was voted the Dan Patch Award for best 3-year-old female pacer and Miller also was the regular driver behind Dan Patch Award winning 2-year-old female trotter Broadway Donna. In addition, he scored stakes wins with Dan Patch Award honorees State Treasurer and Bee A Magician.
Miller, whose previous Driver of the Year honor came in 2003, ranks second among all drivers in North America in purses this year, with a career-best $12.36 million. He has ranked among the top five in purses in 16 of the last 17 years and his earnings this season push his lifetime total to $199.3 million, good for third on the all-time money list. He was elected to the Harness Racing Hall of Fame in 2013.
Teague’s Wiggle It Jiggleit won 22 of 26 races this year and led all harness racing horses in North America with $2.18 million in purses.
Wiggle It Jiggleit is Teague’s second Horse of the Year Award winner. He co-owned and trained 2004 Horse of the Year Rainbow Blue, a female pacer. Teague campaigned Wiggle It Jiggleit across North America from January through November, with the gelding’s 26 starts being exceeded only once by a Horse of the Year Award winner in the last 26 years --- by Gallo Blue Chip with 29 races in 2000.
Driven all season by Teague’s 24-year-old son Montrell, Wiggle It Jiggleit’s victories included the Meadowlands Pace, Little Brown Jug, Battle of the Brandywine, Max C. Hempt Memorial, Carl Milstein Memorial, Hap Hansen Progress Pace, and Matron Stakes.
In addition, Wiggle It Jiggleit paced the fastest mile ever by a 3-year-old on a half-mile track when he won in 1:49 at Harrington Raceway. His time of 1:48 in winning the Battle of the Brandywine set the world record for a 3-year-old gelding on a five-eighths-mile oval.
Wiggle It Jiggleit, trained by Teague’s longtime assistant Clyde Francis, is a son of stallion Mr Wiggles out of the mare Mozzi Hanover. Teague raced both Mr Wiggles and Mozzi Hanover during their careers on the track, and owns both horses now.
Teague also owns 2-year-old pacing filly Ohio Sire Stakes champion Miss Me Yet.
All the winners will be presented their awards during the Dan Patch Awards banquet, which will be held at the Hyatt Pier 66 in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., on Sunday, March 6. Information on tickets and accommodations for the event can be found at www.ushwa.org.
Winners of the U.S. Harness Writers Association’s Rising Star, Breakthrough and Unsung Hero awards will be announced Tuesday.
--Edited release (U.S. Harness Writers Association)
I think the chapters got it right. Always tough when voting is as subjective as it can be.