02/27/2018 3:03PM

Harness: U.S. Harness Writers meet to discuss rule changes


The United States Harness Writers Association (USHWA), the leading organization of harness racing’s chroniclers, held their annual meetings this past Saturday and Sunday at the Rosen Shingle Creek Resort in Orlando FL, in conjunction with its annual Dan Patch Awards Banquet, which on Sunday evening celebrated the best of brightest of the sport during the 2017 campaign.

Saturday’s meeting gathered the organization’s board of directors, while Sunday’s session was an open gathering for all of USHWA’s members.

Two major developments, one affecting the size of the Board and one broadening the parameters of USHWA membership, took place on Saturday as the directors voted on amending USHWA’s By-Laws and Rules & Regulations (R&Rs). A by-law change saw the number of directors from each of the sport’s “chapters” (regions) reduced from two to one, in part of the organization’s ongoing effort to streamline in keeping with the harness racing times. There will now be 5 Officers, 11 Past Presidents, and 13 chapter directors guiding the affairs of the organization.

In an effort to encourage younger harness fans to explore the possibilities of sulky journalism, the Board created a “Youth” category of membership, with interested parties able to gain a non-voting membership at a lower price while increasing their exposure to established members of the sport’s media. More information on the process of applying for USHWA Youth membership status will soon be posted on the organization’s website, www.ushwa.net.

An operation R&R change will see the organization reaching out to racetracks to allow full USHWAns access to horsemen, the race paddock, and other important sources of stories, while an Awards R&R sets new parameters for the Rising Star Award, which honors an up-and-coming young trainer or driver.

Another Awards change saw the Broadcasters Award for outstanding achievement in video named after the late Sam McKee, the Hall of Famer (and former winner of the award) who set the highest standards for the sport as an announcer, media director, and other employments in communications areas.

USHWA continued its renewed efforts to improve the financial situation of the organization, with a profit being shown in 2017, and every expectation of another plus figure after the highly-successful Dan Patch Banquet. The group seeks to establish a winning association of streamlining costs with growing revenue sources such as advertising in the annual Dinner Journal and with sponsorships of the Association’s activities.

As reported earlier, USTA photographer Mark Hall joined with Meadowlands media man and former New York Daily News Racing Editor Dave Little as ballot candidates for this summer’s election for the status on being a member of the Communicators Hall of Fame.

Shawn Wiles, Executive Director of Racing and Facilities at Monticello Raceway in the Catskills of New York, was voted president of the organization after Tim Bojarski, who now becomes the Chairman of the Board of Directors, completed his two-year term at the top, a standard length of service in USHWA. Kim Rinker will now serve as the organization’s Vice President, with Barry Lefkowitz and Jerry Connors returned as treasurer and secretary in the voting.

At the Dan Patch Awards Banquet, trotting matron Hannelore Hanover was named Harness Horse of the Year, as that announcement was reserved for the banquet this year to heighten excitement. Hannelore was also named Trotter of the Year, while the richest harness horse of 2017, Downbytheseaside, won honors as Pacer of the Year.

Also honored were Jules Siegel and Margareta Wallenius-Kleberg upon their election to the sport’s highest honor, the Hall of Fame, along with were Carl Becker and Dave Briggs, who were voted into the Communicators Hall of Fame. This quartet will be formally inducted on the first of July at the site of the sport’s Hall, Goshen NY.

-Jerry Connors for USHWA