2013 WNY YEAR-END AWARD WINNERS
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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.
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.