Your guide to tonight’s Dan Patch Awards

A handy 20-item reference for the gala that will crown the 2021 Horse of the Year.

by Bob Heyden

Twenty short items you can refer to while watching tonight’s ceremonies (which can be viewed on USHWA’s Facebook page here beginning at 6:30 p.m. (EST)):

  1. The most unusual stat of the night is this: Brian Sears, Yannick Gingras and Tim Tetrick have combined for 18 of the top 25 driving single seasons of all time (72 per cent) by earnings, but on this night they account for just one divisional title: Tetrick with Lyons Sentinel in the Pacing Mare category. Oh, and the trio are the last three drivers of the Horse of the Year — Sears with McWicked in 2018; Tetrick with Shartin N in 2019 and Gingras with Tall Dark Stranger in 2020.
  2. Test Of Faith. When she is honored as Horse of the Year, we can only hope she has the life that 1954 HOY Stenographer had. She lived to be 35. Stenographer was a pioneer of sorts. She was the first female filly to win the HOY. She raced from 1953-1957 and banked $167,290.
  3. Middle men and one lady, too. These three Horses of the Year all won it multiple times. They also are the only three to have raced before and after their award-winning seasons:

Scott Frost 1954-1957 winning it in both in 1955 and 1956.

Mack Lobell 1986-1991 winning it back-to-back in 1987-1988.

Moni Maker 1995-2000 taking down the hardware in 1998 and 1999.

  1. Hall of a feat. Frank Ervin became the first driver to win the HOY award in three different decades: 1949, 1952, 1964-1966. John Campbell became the only driver to do so in four different decades: 1987-1988, 1991-1994, 2000-2002, 2006 and 2010. Note, he wasn’t the regular driver of Staying Together in 1993, Gallo Blue Chip in 2000 or Rock N Roll Heaven in 2010.
  2. Paving the way. From 1949-1976 Frank Ervin and Stanley Dancer trained and drove 12-of-the-28 Horses of the Year. Today, we don’t see many trainer/drivers. The last time a pacer was named HOY with a trainer/driver was 2001 with John Stark, Jr. and Bunny Lake. The last time a trainer/driver drove a trotter that was HOY was 1995 with C R Kay Suzie — if you count Rod and Carl Allen as one and 1977 with Billy Haughton and Green Speed if you don’t.
  3. Swede smell of youth. There has to be something in the water there. Per Eriksson won three Hambletonians before he turned 32 and had the 1985 HOY runner-up Prakas and 1991 HOY runner-up Giant Victory. Nancy Takter has had two Horses of the Year before age 40 — JK She’salady in 2014 and Tall Dark Stranger in 2020. Jimmy Takter had three HOY titles before 40 — 1997, 1998 and 1999 (Malabar Man and Moni Maker twice). Marcus Melander is not yet 30. Yet, nobody has been a bigger Hambletonian presence the last five years and in 2019 his star Greenshoe was voted Trotter of the Year.
  4. David Miller is also one sipping from the fountain of youth. Miller did not have a divisional winner in the 20th century, breaking through with Magician in 2000 in the Older Trotter category. Two drivers have three divisional winners each this year, but Miller is a quarter century older than Dexter Dunn (57-31).
  5. Will 2021’s award winners turn out to be similar to the way it was in 1948? There were four Horses of the Year in the top 10 that year:

Rodney #1 398 points

Proximity #4 138 points (1950 winner)

Good Time #5 126 points (1949 and 1952 winner)

Victory Song #10 with 51 points (defending champ in year one of the ballot in 1947).

  1. Longevity award. Which HOY later made it to their 10-year-old season? Just one: Savoir (1970-1978, $1,365,145), the 1975 HOY. He was a Hambletonian runner-up to Speedy Crown in 1971 and retired #1 in trotting earnings.
  2. Kentucky’s finest. Tonight is a big night for Kentucky. Kentuckiana Farms is part of the HOY ownership of Test Of Faith. In 1981, 40 years ago, they also bred a filly you might have heard of — Three Diamonds. And in 1947, year one of the HOY award, Kentucky’s Castleton Farms had the top pair — Victory Song and Hoot Mon.
  3. Good ‘ol boys club. Each of the last two HOY sires — Bettors Delight and Art Major — are 22. And, they were both right there in the HOY race on the track, too. It’s been a long time between drinks for the last time, consecutively the HOY sires were older than 20:

In 1975, Savoir was the HOY and sire, Stars Pride, was 28.

In 1976, Keystone Ore was the HOY and sire, Bye Bye Byrd, was 21.

  1. (Half) Billion dollar boys club. David Miller has career earnings of $261 million and Tim Tetrick is at $241 million.
  2. Two and six. If this was baseball, you might be packing your bags, but not here. Manchego is now the fourth member of the exclusive club of division winners at age 2 and 6:

Peace Corps all five years from 1988 to 1992.

Wesgate Crown in 1993 and 1997.

Eternal Camnation from four years from 1999-2003.

And now Manchego. Remember, she was undefeated as a freshman in 2017 and was third in the HOY balloting to Hannelore Hanover and Ariana G giving the trotting ladies a clean sweep of the board.

  1. Southern hemisphere-northern hospitality. Tonight’s Dan Patch Awards looks to be the biggest celebration/appreciation night for the land Down Under since 2004, when New Zealand trainers took down the first four spots in the MILLION $ Meadowlands Pace:

Holborn Hanover for Mark Harder

Timesareachanging for Brett Pelling

Metropolitan for Chris Ryder.

Camelot Hall for Harder.

Kiwis took $950,000 of the $1 million purse.

  1. IF… Venerable had gotten to and won the Breeders Crown final. She would have posted the biggest 2-year-old trotting season ever. As it is, Snow White remains the top dog at $1,252,646 from 2007.
  2. Déjà vu, anyone? Chris Ryder’s Niki Hill is the top 2-year-old pacing filly in 2021. His first divisional winner also came with a freshman pacer. Ryder was the trainer of the top rookie pacing colt in 1997: Sealed N Delivered.

Richard “Nifty” Norman had both trotting millionaires this year — both fillies. Sound familiar? His first divisional title came in 2009 with 2YOFT Poof She’s Gone.

Brett Pelling broke through with the outstanding pacing filly of 1996 — Mystical Maddy. He’s done it again, big time, with 2021 HOY Test Of Faith.

  1. Two weeks from this weekend (March 4, 1988) marks the anniversary of the passing of Cardigan Bay at age 32. He was the one who got the ball rolling for the Down Under invasion. He tied for divisional honors with Race Time in 1965 and then won it outright in 1968, the year he became the first career million-dollar winner.
  2. Test Of Faith will race in 2022. Of the prior 74 winners of the Horse of the Year who came back and who did?

Of the first 37 winners, just 10 did not return.

Of the last 37 winners, 18 did not return.

See a trend here? From 2005-2010 none of the six HOY winners came back.

  1. The words Triple Crown and Horse of the Year used to be synonymous. Not anymore. In the 1960s, there were seven Triple Crown winners. In the last 18 years, just two.
  2. If you shake anyone’s hand tonight, start with Chris Ryder. The guess here is that Niki Hill will be second in the HOY balloting to Test Of Faith. If true, Ryder will have just set the record of three straight years with the Horse of the Year runner-up with three different horses.

2019 — Shartin N won over Bettors Wish 83-42.

2020 — Tall Dark Stranger won over Party Girl Hill 89-29.

2021 — ?