Harness ballots due today 12/16/14

Ted Black

December 16th, 2014

Ballots that were distributed to the various members of the United States Harness Writers Association and the United Trotting Association were due back to the USTA by Tuesday afternoon and on Thursday afternoon the numerous division champions as well as trotters of the year, pacer of the year and horse of the year will be announced.

As a member of the United States Harness Writers Association since 1990, I take great pride in participating in the voting for the top standardbred honors - I also vote in the Eclipse Awards as a member of the National Turf Writers & Broadcasters Association - and each December I encourage my chapter members to take part in the process. All of the ballots were completed and returned, hopefully, by each of all members and below is the list of horses I selected for the numerous Dan Patch Awards.

Two-year-old colt trotter - Pinkman - This freshman colt won six of eight starts and earned over $560,000, capped by a victory in the Breeders Crown final that should enable this Jim Takter trainee to garner 75-80 percent of the votes in this category.

Two-year-old filly trotter - Mission Brief - When she stayed flat she was better than the boys, winning nine of 13 starts and nearly $600,000, capped by a handy score in the Breeders Crown final in which she posted a faster clocking than the three-year-old filly trot winner, Shake It Cerry.

Three-year-old colt trotter - Nuncio - This vote is going to be very close, especially since the final statistics for both Nuncio and Father Patrick, the two-year-old trotting colt champ, are virtually identical. Nuncio won 11 of 17 starts and earned over $1.45 million and he was worse than second only once, finishing third in the Breeders Crown final that Father Patrick won. Father Patrick won 12 of 17 starts and earned nearly $1.7 million, but until his Breeders Crown triumph his sophomore campaign was checkered with failure. His stablemate, Trixton, won the Hambletonian, while his other stablemate, Nuncio, finished second in the Hambo, won the Kentucky Futurity, Yonkers Trot and Matron Stakes. Their numbers may seem nearly identical, but Nuncio had the better campaign.

Three-year-old filly trotter - Shake It Cerry - This Takter trainee won 15 of 17 starts, including her last 10, and dominated stablemate Lifetime Pursuit, who won the Hambo Oaks but proved no match for Cerry thereafter.

Older male trotter - Intimidate - In all likelihood, Sebastian K is going to take home this title, but he peaked during the summer when his performances electrified fans and horsemen alike. But Intimidate won 5 of 14 starts and earned over $625,000, slightly less than Sebastian, and he posted a shocker over the Swedish invader in two major stakes.

Older female trotter - Maven - She won four of 12 starts and earned nearly $325,000, but her last three starts were against the boys and she beat them in the Breeders Crown elim. Maven gets the nod of two other very good distaff trotters, Classic Martine and Bee A Magician, the 2013 harness horse of the year.

Two-year-old colt pacer - Artspeak - Although he bypassed the Breeders Crown, Artspeak should be a cinch to take home this title after the Tony Alagna trainee won 8 of 10 starts and earned nearly $750,000 thanks to victories in the Metro Stakes and Governor's Cup.

Two-year-old filly pacer - JK She'salady - Not only the best member of her division, but likely the best of her gate, which is saying alot among pacers. JK She'salady won all 12 of her starts and earned $900,000 and she captured several major stakes along the way, capped by a game score in the Breeders Crown final.

Three-year-old colt pacer - McWicked - In a division in which none of the sophomore pacers truly stood out, McWicked ended the campaign on a stellar note. Boasting an 11-5-4 slate and $1.3 million bankroll from 22 starts on the season, McWicked capped the year by taking the Breeders Crown and Progress Pace finals.

Three-year-old filly pacers - Weeper - Much like the boys there was not a standout among the girls, so Weeper gets the nod in this division. She won eight of 16 starts and banked $425,000 and was also tabbed by the USHWA Mid-Atlantic Chapter as Maryland-bred horse of the year for 2014, edging Peter Haughton winner Centurion ATM.

Older pacer - Sweet Lou - Like Sebastian K, Sweet Lou was dominant throughout the summer then went off form in the fall. But this Ron Burke trainee rebounded to win the TVG Free-For-All Championship in the final start of his career, capping a season in which he won 11 of 19 starts and earned over $1.35 million.

Older mare pacer - Yagonnakissmeornot - Like the sophomore colt and filly divisions, none of the mares in this division truly stood out so the nod here went to this mare who won 14 of 30 starts and finished second seven times, banking over $500,000 along the way.

Trotter of the year - Shake It Cerry - At times both Mission Brief and Sebastian K dazzled, while Nuncio rated the best of the Takter trio. But the vote here went to another Takter trainee, Shake It Cerry, who won 15 of 17 starts and toyed with her opponents in numerous stakes. On the night that she won the Matron Stakes in the slop at Dover Downs in 1:52.4, Nuncio won his Matron event in 1:54 and both cut the mile in their respective events. Any number of five or six horses could take home trotter of the year, but the edge went to Shake It Cerry.

Pacer of the year - JK She'salady - It is almost impossible to knock an undefeated horse, especially one that spent the season competing in open stakes. While two-year-old colt pacers have been named pacer of the year before, a freshman filly pacer has never gotten that distinction. JK She'salady was impressive in all 12 of her victories and she deserves the nod as pacer of the year over likely candidates Sweet Lou and McWicked.

Horse of the year - JK She'salady - It was not easy to choose between Shake It Cerry and JK She'salady for horse of the year since both fillies d0minated their respective divisions throughout the summer and fall. In actuality, Shake It Cerry has history on her side since three-year-old filly trotters have earned horse of the year on several occasions, but a freshman filly pacer has never been pacer of the year let alone horse of the year. But JK She'salady got my vote thanks to a perfect campaign in which she gave every indication that she was truly something special.