Most of you don’t know this, but I am a Hall of Famer. That’s right; I am a member of the Harness Racing Hall of Fame. Okay, full disclosure: anybody can be a member of the Harness Hall of Fame if they sign up and pay the membership fee. I’ve been a member for several years now and enjoy the privileges that go with it.
The museum is located in Goshen, New York and, if you’re ever in the area, it is worth visiting. I am biased of course, because I love the sport of harness racing. But as proof to how cool the Hall is, I took my daughters there in 2016 (ages 13 and 11 at the time) and had to drag them out. How’s that for a testimonial?
One of the cool things about being a member is that you get to vote on which living horses get inducted each summer. Each year, they mail me my ballot and, each year over the holidays, I mull over which three horses are most deserving.
This year, there were six horses on the Living Horse ballot. The nominated horses have to meet criteria to be eligible. For starters, they have to be retired from racing for two years and had to have had a drug-free racing career (horses over the age 12 that are still racing are also eligible for induction).
Horses can be nominated as a race horse, a race mare or stallion. Racehorses must meet this criterion:
-At least $2.5 million in lifetime earnings with two Dan Patch Awards, OR
-At least $3 million in lifetime earnings, OR
-Been named Dan Patch Horse of the Year
Because fillies and mares often race for less money, the qualifications are slightly different.
-At least $1.5 million in lifetime earnings with two Dan Patch Awards, OR
-At least $2.5 million in lifetime earnings, OR
-Been named Dan Patch Horse of the Year
Stallions need to meet these requirements:
-Must rank among the top 10 all-time leading money-winning sires at his gait, OR
-Have sired at least a hundred $200,000 winners, OR
-Been the leading money-winning sire at his gait in three or more seasons.
It’s not easy to make it, but each year, the committee goes through the data and narrows it down so voters like me can select three worthy candidates. There were six finalists for 2019:
As a fan and student of the sport, I have heard of all of these fine horses, but the Hall does a good job of summarizing each candidate, so fellow Hall members can make an educated decision.
As for my three, the first was the easiest. Foiled Again is the sport’s all-time leading money winner. By the time this piece is published, he will be retired. At 14, he is still out there racing — and winning — despite his advanced age. In 2018, the wily veteran raced 27 times with 11 wins. His connections have done a good job of finding suitable races for him, but on Dec. 22, he won at Woodbine Mohawk Park, stopping the clock in 1:53.1 — a more than respectful time for a more than respectful horse.
Foiled Again is not getting in, however, for being a compiler. He has won a Breeders Crown race — at age nine in 2013. He has won the Canadian Pacing Derby, the Molson Pace, the Indiana Pacing Derby, the American-National, the Ben Franklin, the TVG Final and the Bobby Quillen Memorial (three times).
In addition to $7.6 million in earnings, he has won multiple Dan Patch Awards and is a crowd favorite. I saw that first hand when I covered the Joe Gerrity Memorial Pace at Saratoga Casino Hotel in July. Racing Secretary PJ Iovino wrote a race for him and, even though he finished second to Artful Way, the crowd cheered and the horse was honored with a special blanket in the winner’s circle. I would be surprised if Foiled Again doesn’t go from racing to the Hall in short order.
My second choice is Art Major. He has been nominated as both a racehorse and a stallion and that made the decision easy for me. We all know that the best racehorses don’t always make for the best stallions and we also know that so-so racehorses often are great stallions. Art Major was great at both. As a racehorse, he did plenty of winning. In his 3-year old season (2002), he won 20 of 31 starts, including the Breeders Crown, Hoosier Cup, Cane Pace, Progress Pace, Confederation Cup, James Dancer Memorial, the Tattersails and the Bluegrass. He earned over $1.5 million in that memorable sophomore season and won the Dan Patch Award as Pacer of the Year.
As a 4-year old, he again won the Dan Patch Award and collected another $1.1 million in earnings. He won 8 of 11 starts, including the Breeders Crown.
He then headed off to the breeding shed and sired winners of over $119 million. Eight of his offspring are millionaires and 22 of them have paced 1:49 for the mile. Two of his sons — Art Official and JK Endofanbera — have cracked $2 million in career earnings.
As you can see, Art Major was no one-trick pony. He was good on the track and off.
My final choice is Father Patrick. He was nominated as a racehorse, but the soon-to-be-seven-year-old is seeing his offspring make inroads on the racetrack and that helped me put him over the top. In today’s racing, the Father Patrick name is starting to be heard more often. He retired in 2015, so his babies are just beginning their racing careers.
As a 2-year old, Father Patrick won 10 of 11 and earned $744,057. In his 2013 Breeders Crown elimination, he set the still-standing world record of 1:52.1 for 2-year-old trotting colts on a 5/8-mile track. He then won the final to lock up the Dan Patch award for 2-year-old trotting colts.
At 3, he won 15 of 17 starts and $1,693,081, with highlights including the Breeders Crown in a stakes record of 1:51.4 at the Meadowlands. His Beal Memorial performance of 1:50.2 is still the world record for 3-year old trotters on a 5/8-mile track.
So there it is — a Hall of Famer voting for the Hall of Fame… well, sort of. Anybody who wants to join the Hall of Fame can. All you have to do is visit harnessmuseum.com or call 845-294-6330 to find out more. Yearly membership starts at $35 and that includes voting for the Living Horse Hall of Fame. I’d like to tell you that I’m a living legend who gets to vote for the Hall, but like many, I’m a fan who gets the privilege. The Hall of Fame is the highest honor in any sport and being permitted to have a say on who gets in is a nice honor, don’t you think?
The inductees will be announced in late January and enshrinement is scheduled for Sunday, July 7, 2019.
As a kid growing up in the Buffalo suburbs in the 1970s and 80s, the radio was one of John Furgele’s best friends. In the evenings, he used to listen to a show on WBEN radio called “Free Form Sports,” hosted by Buffalo broadcast legend Stan Barron. The show ran weeknights from 6 to 11 pm and featured every kind of sport you could imagine. One minute, Mr. Barron was interviewing a Buffalo Sabres player; the next, he was giving high school field hockey scores.
But there was always one thing that caught John’s ear. During those five hours, Barron would give the results from Western New York’s two harness racing tracks — Buffalo Raceway and Batavia Downs. This is where John learned what exactas, quinellas, trifectas and daily doubles were all about. From then on, he always paid attention to harness racing, and when Niatross (a legendary Western New York horse) hit the scene in 1979, his interest began to blossom.
John believes harness racing is a sport that has the potential to grow and he will explore ways to get that done via marketing, promotion and, above all, the races themselves.
When he’s not watching races, John is busy with his family and his job in sales. Like the pacers and trotters, he does a little running himself and you’ll occasionally find him “going to post” in a local 5K race.