Harness Racing Champions About to be Determined

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Ted Black

December 3rd, 2016

While there are still several weeks left on the calendar year and several harness racing venues will race through the winter, many of the sport's top trotters and pacers have already been retired or turned out for the year. So earlier this week ballots were distributed to members of the United States Harness Writers Association to determine the various division champions, pacer of the year and horse of the year.

Two-year-old filly trotter - Ariana G won nine of 11 starts and earned over $740,000 and took a mark of 1:51.4 for trainer Jimmy Takter and looks like a lock for this honor.

Two-year-old colt trotter - Walner emerged on the scene late in the season but wowed onlookers at Lexington and again at the Meadowlands and concluded his freshman campaign with seven wins from eight starts and over $480,000 banked and a mark of 1:51.3.

Two-year-old colt pacer - Both Huntsville and Downbytheseaside will get plenty of support in this division, with the former posting a 7-4-0 slate and $700,000 bankroll from 11 starts while the latter had an 8-3-2 slate and $575,000 banked from 13 tries.

Two-year-old filly pacer - Idyllic Beach posted an 8-4-2 slate and $650,000 bankroll from 14 starts and appears the obvious choice in this division.

Three-year-old filly trotter - Broadway Donna gets the nod in this division after a solid season in which she won seven of 12 starts and banked over $660,000 for trainer Jim Campbell and owner-breeder Fashion Farm.

Three-year-old colt trotter - Marion Marauder won 10 of 15 starts and banked over $1.5 million for trainer Paula Wellwood, highlighted by a sweep of the trotting Triple Crown - Hambeltonian, Yonkers Trot and Kentucky Futurity.

Three-year-old colt pacer - Betting Line finished second in his seasonal debut then proceeded to win his next 14 races, including the North America Cup, the Little Brown Jug and several other lucrative stakes en route to banking nearly $1.5 million for trainer Casie Coleman.

Three-year-old filly pacer - Pure Country arrived as the defending champion of her age group and promptly recorded a 10-4-3 slate and over $1 million banked in 21 starts for Takter, including several tries against the boys. Obvious choice here for her second straight Dan Patch Award.

Aged trotter - Resolve won five of 13 starts and finished second four times and earned over $1.3 million, capped by a victory in the Maple Leaf Trot and a second-place finish in the Elitlopp.

Aged trotting mare - Hannelore Hanover emerged on the scene with a vengeance, taking 17 of 20 starts while earning just over $1.1 million for trainer Ron Burke.
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Aged pacer - Throughout the season, Always B Miki and Wiggle It Jiggleit traded blows on the track and took turns occupying the top spot in the weekly Hambletonian Society Top 10 poll. Wiggle It Jiggleit, the 2015 harness horse of the year, concluded the year with better numbers, posting a stellar 15-7-2 slate and $1.7 million bankroll while traveling extensively to face the best older pacers in the land for owner-trainer George Teague, Jr. Always B Miki did not win as many races or as much money, but his 12 wins from 18 starts and $1.5 million bankroll were highlighted by a 1:46 score at Lexington, the fastest race mile in the sport's history, and he also notched three 1:47 triumphs for Takter. Through much of the summer and fall this battle could have gone either way, but the edge goes to Always B Miki despite Wiggle It's statistical advantage across the board.

Aged pacing mare - Lady Shadow won 12 of 20 starts and earned nearly $850,000 this year and at times looked as if she could successfully tackle many of the best male pacers in the land. She is a lock for this title and should garner the honor of Maryland-bred harness horse of the year as well.

Trotter of the year - Marion Marauder won the Trotting Triple Crown and gets the nod over Hannelore Hanover, Walner and Ariana G.

Pacer of the year - Always B Miki should edge out Wiggle It Jiggleit and Betting Line for this honor. Betting Line only tasted defeat once, but he bypassed a number of events - Meadowlands Pace, Adios, Breeders Crown, Matron, Progress - that could have launched him higher into the argument.

Horse of the year - Always B Miki defeated Wiggle It Jiggleit four times in their seven meetings, so if the axiom holds true that in order to be the champ you have to beat the champ then 'Miki' deserves the honor for 2016.