KAYLA PRENTICE AWARDED 2013 DEWEY
The members of the Upstate New York Chapter of the United States Harness Writers Association are proud to announce that Kayla Prentice is the recipient of the 2013 Dewey Degree Scholarship.
Prentice graduated from the Vernon-Verona-Sherrill High School with high honors this year and stood out among her peers for several reasons. She carried a 4.0 GPA for four consecutive years, was a scholar athlete in two sports and received the school’s President’s Award for excellence as well. During her time there, she was described as “a joiner” and was very active in school and community service activities as a member of the National Honor Society, the Red Cross Club, LEAD USA and Relay for Life. She was also a member of the cross country and track teams where she served as Captain for both. Besides her school activities she also worked several part time jobs for small businesses and families in her community as well as helping her family with their stable both in the morning and on race nights.
In her application, Prentice pointed out that “Not many kids can say they grew up with parents in the harness horse industry, and even fewer can say that they had the experience of nursing a harness horse with a broken leg back to health. Perhaps this is where my love for helping others developed” And it was that experience that prompted her to pursue a career in physical therapy. Prentice will be attending Syracuse University this fall majoring in health and exercise science as well as pre-med.
Kayla Prentice is the daughter of Jessica and Howard Okusko, Jr. who are both longtime trainers (and driver) at Vernon Downs and will receive her check in the winner’s circle that her parents so often visit, on Sunday August 25th, the same night that will feature the $700,000 Zweig Memorial trot and the first round of the $50,000 Drivers’ Championship.
The Dewey Degree Scholarship is funded through generous donations from Ray Schnittker and Jeff Gural and is administered by the Upstate New York Chapter of the United States Harness Writers Association. It was named after Schnittker’s great Hambletonian winning trotter Deweycheatumnhowe.
MANGES, MENCHI TO UNY HOF
The Upstate New York Chapter of the United States Harness Writers Association is proud to announce that trainer/driver Delbert Manges and breeder Pat Menchi have been chosen to go into their Hall of Fame.
Del Manges was one of the top trainer-drivers on the Buffalo Raceway-Batavia Downs circuit for more than 25 years. Born in Hutchinson, Kansas in 1920, he began working with trotters while in his teens. His early career found him moving eastward from his home to Indiana, then Ohio and finally Upstate New York. During the 1960s and ‘70s, he became one of the leading reinsmen there and a popular catch driver for locals as well as top stables like the Armstrong Brothers, Joe O’Brien and John Simpson.
He first received national attention when he scored 79 wins in 1959, to rank 14th in North America that year. He exceeded $1,000,000 in purses by 1967 and was averaging over 600 starts a season. During the 60's his UDRS was always at or near the .300 level and he won multiple driving crowns at both Buffalo and Batavia during his tenure at those tracks.
His career hit a pinnacle when he drove Rain Water in the 1964 Hambletonian.
Royal Deluxe (2:00.2M $48,532), a top campaigner in the 1950s was said to be his favorite horse. Other top pacers he raced included the hard hitting Open campaigner Andios (2:02.3H $71,112), Avalon Jr. (2:00.2M $46,492) and Lieutenant Frisco (2:02.4H $47,221)
In 1978, Manges returned to his winter home in Harrington and moved his stable to Delaware year around. From there he developed several top end race horses that competed on the Delaware Valley circuit. These horses included Ad Hoc (1:58.1F $138,581), World Cup (1:54.4M $69,340), Stargell Lobell (1:55.3M $150,395) and World Exclusive (1:59.4M $78,220).
Manges drove his last winner, a trotter named Count Every Star (1:59.4Q $41,087), at Brandywine Raceway in 1987. He retired from driving with 1,462 wins and over $1.8 million in earnings. He did, however, continue to train a small stable for 11 years after he stopped driving.
Over the years, a number of notable horsemen got their start or worked under Manges including Ken McNutt, Jack Boring, Lester Hopkins, Reig Outten, Jim Webb, John Moffett and Ron Teague.
Manges and his wife of 51 years, Dorothy, had one daughter, Midge, and five sons. Dean, Randy, Brian, Gene and Larry were all involved in the sport either part or full time.
Del Manges died on July 28, 1999 from an aneurysm.
Pat Menchi was born in Quincy, Massachusetts In 1921 and his interest in harness racing was kindled as a child when his father took him to watch the trotters at Old Orchard Beach, Maine. After serving in the navy during WWII, he settled in Buffalo, NY and his racing career started almost immediately. Although Menchi never trained or drove a standardbred, his keen acumen for breeding was unparalleled in the history if Western New York racing and his reputation for buying and breeding outstanding yearlings was widely known.
Two very successful early stars he campaigned were trotters Lucky Laird (2:04.1 $76,973) and Sam Kennedy (2:05.2 $67,634). But the cornerstone of his operation was a $2,700 trotting filly he purchased at the Delaware sale named Dotty Diller (2:01.3 $138,343). Not only was she an outstanding race horse, she also proved to be a phenomenal maternal progenitor. From seven breedings, she produced six with a race mark including stake winners Grant’s Memory (2:00.1M $240,880), Lady Bonefish (2:02.3H $113,495) and Noble Grant (2:01.3Q $107,497).
When their racing careers were finished, Menchi put these mares in the breeding shed too. And the results he achieved were even greater the second time.
Noble Grant foaled New Legend (1:57.2M $227,168) and Royally Noble (1:57.4 $136,614). Lady Bonefish threw Lila Lobell (1:55.4 $278,037), double-gaited star Fiery Flak (T- 1:56 $277,096, P- 2:00.2 $16,195), Lady Sport (1:56.3 $160,603) and Dame Catherine (1:57.0 $114,490).
As an owner, Menchi helped shape the careers of many young horsemen. Hall of Famer Clint Galbraith, Phil Logan, Paul Chambers and Dick Wilcox all can trace some of their career beginnings to their associations with Menchi.
Menchi and his wife, Betti, operated Pine Tree Farms in East Aurora, NY where they bred and raised horses for their principal partners that included Menchi’s sister Theodora Brown, and Leon and Joseph Zoladz.
Menchi was also active in fund-raising activities for the Multiple Sclerosis Association. He headed up the annual "Race Against MS" nights sponsored by Harness Horsemen International at the local tracks for 13 years.
Pat Menchi died at the age of 74 on February 26, 1996 after a long illness.
Upstate New York USHWA will announce several more inductees later this year that will go into the Hall representing Tioga Downs, Vernon Downs and Batavia Downs.
2012 UNY-USHWA WNY YEAR END AWARDS
ROBERT A. BROOKS NAMED TO UNY HALL
Brooks (yellow shirt) being presented the HOF trophy by Jeff Gural
The Upstate New York Chapter of the United States Harness Writers Association has announced that Robert A. Brooks will be the 24th horseman inducted into their Harness Racing Hall of Fame on Friday, September 14th, during a presentation in the winner’s circle at Tioga Downs.
Bob Brooks has worn just about every hat you can imagine during his lifelong participation in harness racing, but the singular objective he has had through every stage of his involvement was what he could do for the betterment of the sport.
Brook’s first exposure was attending the track while in fifth grade with his friend and his father. It was love at first sight and the affair has continued. His initial investment came as a $4,000 gamble on a new trainer through the word of a friend and 30 years later he’s still in the business. In that time he has owned and raced harness horses, many who were eligible to the New York Sire Stakes, and has recently expanded his small breeding operation at his farm in Greene, New York.
For several years, Brooks served on the Board of Directors of the Harness Horse Breeders of New York State (HHBNYS) while his good friend Bruce Hamilton was the Executive Director. In September of 2003, Brooks took over the reins of Executive Director for that organization, and held the post until he retired in January of 2009.
During his time there, the New York Sire Stakes (NYSS) program went from a position of precarious status to one of the finest breeding programs of its kind in North America. And Brooks efforts helped facilitate many of the changes that made that transition possible.
One of Brooks’ most rewarding accomplishments came when he spearheaded an effort to recover the Zweig Memorial Trot from New Hampshire and bring it back to New York State. Since its return, the stake has reclaimed the prestige it had when it was founded in honor of Dr. Harry M. Zweig, who was instrumental in establishing the NYSS in 1965. The race has since been held at Tioga Down from 2006 through 2011 and was contested at Vernon Downs this year. Every year since its return, it has gained value and popularity.
He also helped move the State Fair races away from the track in Syracuse which was used only one week a year for harness racing, to have them contested at established pari-mutual tracks in the state, where horses and horsemen could compete under the best racing conditions.
Bob and his wife, Lynn, are looking forward to participating in the sport for many more years and being a part of the great racing that the breeders, owners, trainers and drivers of New York State have been responsible for producing.
BOB ALTIZER IN HOF AT BATAVIA DOWNS
Bob's brother John (holding trophy) along with daughter Rebecca and son Jeff (holding colors) were on hand for the Hall of Fame induction ceremony at Batavia Downs
Family, friends and many fans came out to honor Bob Altizer as he was inducted into the Upstate New York Harness Racing Hall of Fame in the winners circle at Batavia Downs on Satruday, September 1st.
Bob Altizer was one of the most prolific horsemen in western New York during the 1960’s, 70’s and 80’s. In 1973 at age 36, he became (at the time) one of the youngest drivers ever to break the 1,000 win plateau and continued to set the bar high for his fellow horseman with his multi-faceted operation. Besides training and driving his own stable, he was also his own blacksmith and designed different types of equipment including an early lift-type sulky that was referred to as the “Moon Bike”. It featured a very noticeable arch over the horse’s saddle pad that made it look like a lunar rover. His many skills and innovations put his “You and Me Stable” near the top of the charts almost every meet.
Altizer had two nicknames that everyone knew him by; Mr. Cool and The Claiming King. The latter moniker referred to his uncanny ability to select cheap claimers and run them up the ladder. Time and time again, Altizer would turn mediocre horses into solid contenders while leaving his competitors shaking their heads. His stable roster was like a laundry list of recognizable campaigners that included Dominion High, Keystone O’Brien, Mark Minbar, Merry John A, Keystone Gallant, Admiral Mark, Gi Gi Lamour and Hugh Go First. But his most memorable horse to local racing fans was a pacing mare named Swifty.
In a 1974 USTA interview, Altizer explained his theory: "Each claim is different. Mainly I look at a horse's legs and, of course, whether I think he has any potential. If I think a horse's legs are sound enough to hold up on these hard tracks I'll claim him. I do my own horseshoeing, and that's the biggest difference. When you shoe a horse right, it makes all the difference in the world."
A native of Kahoka, Missouri, Altizer raced throughout the Midwest before settling into the Batavia/ Buffalo circuit. But once here, he won multiple driving and training titles at both tracks. Unfortunately his career was curtailed by a heart problem that developed in the late 1980’s and he was forced to roll back his schedule.
His last win came on June 11th, 1999 at Vernon Downs with a trotter named La Soeur De Lucy, who won by 10 lengths in 1.59.4.
He retired to Hawkinsville, Georgia where died on June 23rd, 2004.
Bob Altizer scored 2,227 career wins and won $3,216,745 in purses. But more important than the numbers, he left an indelible mark on the racing scene that people still talk about.
DEWEY DEGREE AWARDED AT TIOGA
Julia Zenker and Veronica Fanning were in the winners circle at Tioga Downs on Sunday evening (8-26) to receive their 2012 Dewey Degree Scholarships. While their families looked on, Jeff Gural and members of Upstate New York USHWA presented them each with a $1,500 check that will help offset their expenses for the upcoming school year.
Julia Zenker is the daughter of Deborah Lass and Drew Zenker and is currently attending Wagner College in Staten Island majoring in Philosophy and Spanish, in pursuit of a law degree. She is a member of the National Honors Society and has a 3.957 GPA that has kept her on the Dean’s list for all semesters.
Veronica Fanning is the daughter of Moira and Tom Fanning and will be attending Rowan University this fall to major in Liberal Studies-Humanities and Social Science. Her goal is to earn a degree in education, focusing on early education. She has a 3.423 GPA and was accepted at every college she applied to.
The Dewey Degree Scholarship is funded through the generosity of Jeff Gural and Ray Schnittker, and is facilitated by the Upstate New York Chapter of the United States Harness Writers Association. The fund is named for the Hambletonian champion trotter, Deweycheatumnhowe.
GARY GREGORY TO UNY HALL OF FAME
Presentation held at Buffalo Raceway during Back to the Track weekend
Each year, the members of the Upstate New York Chapter of the United States Harness Writers Association look to recognize and honor people that have both excelled and represented racing in the upstate region in a manner that keeps the sport significant both locally and nationally.
On Sunday, July 15th during Back to the Track weekend, lifetime western New York horseman Gary Gregory will be introduced in the winner’s circle at Buffalo Raceway as the newest member of the Upstate New York Harness Racing Hall of Fame.
Gregory started working around horses with his father while he was still in school. He eventually set off on his own and started a public stable that quickly became successful. Through the years he was always a “go to guy” when people were looking for a trainer because of his honesty and integrity when dealing with anyone.
Some of the many top horses that Gregory took through their paces include Keystone Astro (Bye Bye Byrd-Adios Marty 2.01.1 $136,204), Must B Lightning (Jolly Roger-Bunny B Hanover 1.57.1 $148,523), Spit fire Lauxmont (Precious Fella-Flashy Pass 1.56 $1124,271) Dreamin In The Rain (Call For Rain-Lady Loueen 1.53.4 $57,397) and Rambling Roxie (Adios Wilton-Molly Pence 2.02.4 $33,860) the horse that gave Gary’s son Jeff his first driving win.
Although a premier trainer for over 45 years, Gregory has never driven in a race. He attributes that to his early owners wanting the best drivers on the grounds to team their horses and him wanting to make his owners happy. It was a combination that worked well then and one he felt would continue to work moving forward.
Gary Gregory is a consummate gentleman and horseman that has the admiration and respect of all his peers. His career has allowed him to make over 300 horses better for having been in his barn and the connections of those horses to become friends.
Gregory’s portrait will be placed on the wall of the permanent home of the UNY Harness Racing Hall of Fame at Tioga Downs in Nichols, NY.
UNY-USHWA 2010 WESTERN NEW YORK HORSE OF THE YEAR FEATURED ON ESPN
Trotter Boomer Berman was named Horse of the Year on the Western New York Circuit by the members of this Chapter of USHWA during ceremonies at Batavia Downs on Saturday, December 4th. But he received National recognition on the occasion of his retirement for his outstanding career by his namesake, Chris "Boomer" Berman on the New Years Eve version of Sportcenter.
Click this link to see the video.
THE UPSTATE NEW YORK USHWA WEBSITE HAS GONE INTERNATIONAL
Since we have been online, our readership has grown steadily. We have also had many visitors from Canada, Germany, England, Russia, Netherlands, China, Serbia, Australia, New Zealand, Sweden, Portugal, Switzerland, Italy, Brazil, Czech Republic, Denmark, Norway, Belgium, Finland, France, Indonesia, Korea, Poland, Thailand, Taiwan, Estonia, Greece, Japan, Mexico, Romania, and Yugoslavia, just to name a few.
What is the United States Harness Writers Association?
USHWA was founded in 1947 by New York City area sportswriters who were covering harness racing at Roosevelt Raceway. 65 years later, it remains the only media organization in harness racing with a membership of newspaper, magazine, internet, radio, TV, and ad agency publicists harness racing communications. With more than 300 members, the association strives to bring about a closer relationship among the media, racetracks and horsemen to promote the centuries-old American-bred sport.