Giving thanks

The Meadowlands family takes stock of its blessings for Thanksgiving.

by Debbie Little

Most people have holiday traditions and my family is no different. On Thanksgiving, we would sit around the table and say what we were most thankful for.

Sometimes, it was as simple as being thankful that it didn’t snow so no one ended up in a ditch on the side of the road. Yes, that happened. (Hearing my husband complain if the forecast called for snow is not a holiday treat).

We’d also be thankful for my sisters, Linda and Patti, for taking the time to make such a great meal, or the joy on my mom’s face when she plopped the cranberry sauce out of the can without it rolling off the plate.

If going through the pandemic taught us anything, it was to value health and family and to appreciate what we have because nothing is promised.

What are members of The Meadowlands harness racing family most thankful for this year?

Let’s see.

Stu Berman, director of mutuels – “Good health for me and my family. With COVID all around us, staying safe and being very careful.”

George Brennan, driver – “Simple: My good health.”

Dave Brower, Meadowlands TV talent/track oddsmaker – “Having a good job in a renewed thriving industry in New Jersey.”

Shelly Grieco, caretaker – “This year and every year, I am most thankful for my family. Knowing unequivocally that I have a handful of people that I can rely on to celebrate my highest of highs and carry me through my lowest of lows definitely makes life easier to handle. I couldn’t imagine getting through the peaks and valleys – especially in our business – without their support.”

Mike Gulotta, owner/breeder – “I have a lot to be thankful for: 1. For my family and their health; 2. For my phenomenal staff at Deo Volente Farms for their tireless devotion and dedication to the success of our venture; and 3. I’m thankful to Marty Granoff and George Segal for standing Perfect Sting at Deo Volente Farms and I’m also thankful, quite frankly – I don’t think he gets enough thanks – to Jeff Gural, for not only stepping in to save the industry 10 or 11 years ago, but also for continuing to try to improve the industry and help his fellow horsemen.”

Edison Hatter, Freehold Raceway announcer/Meadowlands TV talent – “I am most thankful for all the wonderful opportunities in racing I’ve been given this year as well as the wonderful colleagues in New Jersey that I’ve gotten to know and work with in the past year.”

Joe Holloway, trainer – “For me, winning the Breeders Crown with Perfect Sting. It was a lot of fun this year, but also a lot of stress. Things didn’t always work out the way I wanted, and at least it came together at the very end.”

Diane Lewis, caretaker – “I’m thankful for the people and opportunities that are in my life. Of course, Perfect Sting goes without saying. He’s my one-in-a-million horse.”

Jim Lisa, track photographer – “I guess I’m thankful for my health and my dog, Darby, and all the adventures we’ve had and yet to have.”

Mark MacDonald, driver – “Grateful to have the opportunities I have gotten all year. Grateful for Ray [Schnittker] to give me a chance to have a Peter Haughton winner, Wellwood winner and New Jersey Sires Stakes-winning trotter like King Of The North. Grateful for Ian Moore to call me and give me the great opportunity to drive a Meadowlands Pace winner and a Hempt winner like Lawless Shadow. And very grateful to be able to show people that on the biggest stage, I always could and can still get the job done. Been an amazing year family wise, everyone is healthy, and horse racing-wise I have a lot to be grateful for in 2021.”

Todd McCarthy, driver – “Thankful for the opportunities from trainers and owners throughout this great year.”

Kim McCusker, Meadowlands TV – “I’m thankful for all my family and friends for putting up with me.”

Dave Miller, driver – “My family and friends, the people that want to hang out with you.”

Julie Miller, trainer – “Of course family, friends and my faith. I get to do what I love every day. Horses!”

George Napolitano Jr., driver – “So thankful for Jesus watching over me and my family and having great trainers to support my journey.”

Nifty Norman, trainer – “Definitely, my family’s health. The good horses I have been lucky enough to train. The well-being of all my fellow horseman.”

Brett Pelling, trainer – “1. My family for understanding the crazy schedule we have; 2. The wonderful horses that have performed all year for us; and 3. Not getting one of the phony positives that this industry allows to happen.”

Katie Remmerswaal, caretaker – “My friends, family and health that allows me to do what I love every day. And, of course, the horses. I’m thankful for Manchego’s owner, who let us race her one more season – although cut short – it gave memories to last a lifetime.”

Shades, Meadowlands TV – “Thankful that my family has remained healthy, and have had a wonderful year. From one of my cousins getting married, another having his first child and my brother being on the road to receiving tenure as a Special Ed teacher, my family is doing well. Since moving back to the East Coast, I realize how important family is, and I’m lucky to have a great one.”

Tim Tetrick, driver – “Family and health. And to the horses for giving me a great life.”

Mark Weaver, owner – “My family. That people are starting to live their lives again after the last year and a half, Sweet Lou and harness racing.”

Matt Zuccarello, amateur driver – “I am thankful for my family, my wife for putting up with my expensive hobby and time away from home, and all the owners and trainers who gave me a chance this year to win and make it my best year ever (16 wins so far!)”

Scott Zeron, driver – “Thankful to have everyone in my circle of friends and family with another year of good health.”

*    *    *

On a personal note, I am most thankful for my mother-in-law being well enough to be out of the ICU, for the healthy arrival of my great-nephew Scotty and for everyone who works or races at The Meadowlands for giving me something to write about as this column celebrates its one-year anniversary.

I hope everyone had a great holiday.