Indiana celebrates its best of 2017

The annual awards banquet capped a tremendous year in the Hoosier State.

by James Platz

The best in Indiana harness racing during the 2017 season were feted Saturday evening, Feb. 3 in downtown Indianapolis. There was much to celebrate at the Indiana Roof Ballroom as the industry reflected on a year that included Hoosier Park Racing & Casino playing host to the Breeders Crown and many memorable performances by Indiana-sired trotters and pacers.

A trio of Indiana products claimed victory in the Breeders Crown, and each took home hardware for their efforts. Superstar trotting mare Hannelore Hanover, winner of the $526,250 Breeders Crown Open Trot, was named Aged Trotter of the Year for the partnership of Burke Racing Stable, Weaver Bruscemi, Frank Baldachino and J&T Silva Stables, while $600,000 two-year-old colt trot victor Fiftydallarbill took home honors as Trotter of the Year in Indiana for owner John Barnard. Z Tam Stables star Beckhams Z Tam was awarded Pacer of the Year after a season that included multiple Indiana Sires Stakes triumphs and capped by his $527,500 Breeders Crown score.

Swan For All was a big winner during the banquet, named Indiana Trotting Sire of the Year. Not only did he produce Hannelore Hanover and Fiftydallarbill, he also sired three of the four freshman and sophomore Indiana Sires Stakes Super Final winners. Swan For All swept the two-year-old divisions with filly Meadow Brook Grace and colt All On Black. Sophomore colt Swan Chase rounded out the trio of divisional winners for the stallion, which stands at Jeff and Maria King’s Victory Hill Farm.

Rockin Image, another Victory Hill stallion, was named Pacing Sire of the Year. Rockin Image led all pacing stallions in the state in Indiana Sires Stakes earnings, and was represented by sophomore divisional champion and Super Final winner Rock N Tony. That honor led to a clean sweep for Victory Hill, also recognized as Large Breeder of the Year for 2017. John L. Miller, breeder of Fiftydallarbill, was named Small Breeder of the Year.

Other divisional champions that were honored included pacing mare Au D Lox Bluegrass. The product of Panspacificflight won the Super Final for owners Tom Pollack and Jeff Cullipher. The four-year-old went on to win 10 of 22 starts and was named Aged Pacer of the Year. Sire Always A Virgin had a trio of divisional champions and Super Final winners in freshman filly pacer Always Woggy and two-year-old colt Always Bet De Gray, as well as sophomore filly pace champion Carol’s Z Tam.

Trace Tetrick was named Indiana’s Pari-Mutuel Driver of the Year on the strength of another successful Hoosier Park meet. The Illinois native collected his sixth driving title at the Anderson track, and fourth consecutive at Hoosier Park, with 366 trips to the winner’s circle and earnings in excess of $4.6 million. Cullipher and Jamie Macomber shared honors as Pari-Mutuel Trainer of the Year in the state. Each conditioner sent out 92 winners over the course of the 163-day meet.

In what has become an annual event, horseman Don Eash swept both the Fair Circuit Driver and Trainer awards for 2017. His Eash Racing Stable once again had a strong showing at the fairs, with the veteran topping both driving and training categories in wins.

Centaur was specially recognized during the evening for its contributions to Indiana’s racing industry. The Indiana-based company, which has owned and operated Hoosier Park and Indiana Grand, has entered into an agreement to sell the two racing/casino operations to Caesars Entertainment Corporation. Rod Ratcliff, Centaur Chairman & CEO, President & COO Jim Brown and Rick Moore, Vice President & General Manager of Racing at Hoosier Park, were on hand to accept the award.