by Bob Heyden
The last pacer to repeat as Horse of the Year was Cam Fella “The Pacing Machine” in 1982 and 1983.
He stands as the HOY with the most wins (30) and most starts (36) in a year. Both were set in 1983.
He won the 1982 HOY race 164-48 over Genghis Khan.
In 1982, Cam Fella raced every month from January through November.
In 1983, he raced every month from February through December.
1983 – 36 30-4-2, $1,144,056
1982 – 33 28-2-0, $879,723
In 1983 he won the HOY vote 183-90 over Triple Crown winner Ralph Hanover.
Cam Fella started his 3YO season with 11 straight wins and ended his 4YO season with 28 straight wins.
His 58 wins and 69 starts over two years are both, by far, the most of any repeat HOY.
Cam Fella is also the last sire to have two different progeny named HOY — Precious Bunny in 1991 and Cams Card Shark in 1994.
Now, for the best Cam stat of the day: In 1982, when he was HOY, he took his 1:54.4 race mark in a $1,500 invitational on Oct. 8 at the Red Mile. The runnerup in the HOY balloting, Genghis Khan, took his Mark of 1:51.4 — a world record — in a $1,000 non-betting, but official race. He won over Strike Le Ru and Major Knight at 7:30 before the betting card began at the Meadowlands. So, the top two finishers in the Horse of the Year balloting of 1982 took their respective race marks in two races carrying a combined purse of $2,500.
Double Triple Crown winners
In 1968, there were two Triple Crown winners. Naturally, Nevele Pride and Rum Customer would finish 1-2 in the end of the year ballot for Horse of the Year, right? Right, but barely.
Nevele Pride had 171.5 votes, Rum Customer had 8 votes for second place, but Laverne Hanover earned 7.5 votes, while Cardigan Bay had 7 votes.
The curious case of Miss Morristown
Also in 1968, Nevele Pride totally dominated the balloting for HOY — with 171.5 of the 202 votes cast going his way after winning the Triple Crown and setting a world record, too (1:56.3). But, he did not win his division unanimously. Then the 3YO trotters were all lumped together. So the final 3YOT tally looked like this:
200 votes for Nevele Pride
1 vote for Miss Morristown
How did Miss Morristown get a vote? Of the top 10 3YO trotting earners, she was not on there and #10 had $52,000 and change. A look through the stakes winners from the Trotting & Pacing Guide for the season showed no victories at all. What gives?
Sticking with 1968, that year the harness racing writers that cast the 202 ballots included:
Marv Bachrad of the Delaware chapter
Roger Huston from the Pompano Florida chapter
Ed Sullivan from Matapan, MA. Yes THAT Ed Sullivan (He brought Cardigan Bay on stage the next to last Sunday of September that year right after Cardigan Bay became the first ever $1 million winner for Stanley Dancer)
Lou Boudreau From Chicago. Yes, the baseball player and announcer
Allen Finkelson from Monticello
Murray Brown — AT LARGE from Hanover, PA
Ben Webster’s early dominance
Perusing through Meadowlands race programs from 1976 I came across this:
On October 28, 1976 at the Meadowlands, just eight weeks after the track opened, the driver standings through October 26, 1976 were: 1. Buddy Gilmour 345 54-38-38, 2. Greg Wright 238 43-26-29 and 3. Ben Webster 217 31-22-22
But get a load of the track record section:
2 YO Pacing Colt — Tremor 1:58.2 BEN WEBSTER
2 YO Pacing Filly — Mistral Sam 2:01.2 BEN WEBSTER
3 YO Pacing Colt — Oil Burner 1:55.1 BEN WEBSTER
3 YO Pacing Filly — Keystone Model 1:58 BEN WEBSTER
4 YO Horse — Nero 1:55.2 BEN WEBSTER
4 YOG — Seatrain 1:56 BEN WEBSTER
(Gilmour had one — 2YOTC ABC Freight 2:00.2 and Greg Wright also had one 3YOPG Coaches Dream 1:58.4 )
It’s not always earnings
The 2017 HOY is likely not going to be the highest earner — Downbytheseaside ($1.602 million). That will make it the sixth time in the last seven years that the top earner was not named the HOY.
The year 1986 illustrates this phenomenon best. HOY Forrest Skipper earned $637,675, Jate Lobell earned $585,804 and both combined for a 31-for-31 perfect record. But, that same year, Redskin made $1,407,263 — a record for any freshman that has stood for 31 years! That is $183,784 more than the top pair combined.
New Meadowlands records
On Friday, Dec. 22, 2017, 102 different trainers appeared on the Big M card, 77 of those with a lone entrant.
Thirty-six of the 140 horses entered are conditioned by a female trainer.
Nineteen-year-old Mitchell Cushing has four drives on the card. That’s the most of any teen for a single race card.