The sophomore pacing filly — just the fourth in history to be named the year’s top horse — was also voted Pacer of the Year at the 2021 Dan Patch Awards in Florida. Jujubee was voted Trotter of the Year.
by Ken Weingartner for USHWA with quotes by HRU’s James Platz
Test Of Faith on Sunday (Feb. 20) became the fourth 3-year-old female pacer in history to be named Horse of the Year, receiving harness racing’s top honor for 2021 to conclude the U.S. Harness Writers Association’s Dan Patch Awards banquet at the Rosen Shingle Creek resort in Orlando, FL.
The Brett Pelling-trained filly joined Rainbow Blue (2004), Bunny Lake (2001), and Fan Hanover (1981) as 3-year-old female pacers to be named Horse of the Year.
“It’s been so special,” said Ken Jackson on behalf of Test Of Faith’s part-owner Kentuckiana Racing Stable. “The last two years have been so much fun… with the friends, the family and everybody in the community of Lexington. We’ve got a new group of friends following her and fans following her, so it’s been a lot of fun.
“(Kentuckiana has) been doing this forever. We’ve bred a Horse of the Year, but never owned a piece so you don’t know how special it is.”
Test Of Faith is also owned by Melvin Segal and Eddie Gran. The filly, by Art Major out of Cannae Cammie, was bred by Frederick Hertrich III.
“She was just really awesome,” Pelling said. “She’s a lovely horse to train. She’s a bit of an enigma. She doesn’t give anything away, but also she’s very athletic and very… you can look at her and tell when she’s ‘on.’ She’s nice and lean and very gazelle-like, very athletic and easy going. She’s quiet and likes her sleep. Likes to stand in the corner and watch what’s going on. She never misses a meal.
“She’s never worn a wrap in her life. I don’t think we’ve ever put a scope down her. I don’t think I’ve run her and flexed her. I’ve just never done anything with her, so it’s always, ‘Well, how’s her knees? How’s her feet?’ and it’s like, ‘Well, she’s perfect.’”
Test Of Faith, who also received Pacer of the Year on Sunday, was named Horse of the Year on 85 of the 146 returned ballots. Two-year-old female pacer Niki Hill was second with 19 votes, followed by 3-year-old female trotter Bella Bellini with 10 and, with nine apiece, 3-year-old male trotter Jujubee and 3-year-old male pacer Perfect Sting. A total of 13 horses received at least one vote for Horse of the Year.
Jujubee was named Trotter of the Year, receiving 61 votes to Bella Bellini’s 47 in the category. Two-year-old female trotter Venerable also reached double figures with 14. A total of eight horses received at least one vote for Trotter of the Year.
Jujubee was trained by Greg Wright Jr. and driven by Andrew McCarthy and Tony Hall.
“The horse deserves it,” Wright, Jr. said. “He had an unbelievable year and he accomplished something that no horse ever has before. It’s a real honor and I’m glad for the horse because he deserves the recognition.”
Jujubee, a son of Creatine out of La Cantera, is owned by his breeder Jon Erdner.
“It hasn’t sunk in yet, but he’s quite a horse and I’m looking forward to him even getting better,” Erdner said, adding that Jujubee will race in 2022.
“I’m really looking forward to that, too. I think it’s good for the business,” Erdner said.
In balloting for Pacer of the Year, Test Of Faith led with 97 votes, followed by Niki Hill with 24 and Perfect Sting with 15. A total of eight horses received at least one vote for Pacer of the Year.
Test Of Faith won 14 of 16 starts last year and finished second in her two remaining races. She banked $1.06 million to join Perfect Sting as the only seven-figure earners among pacers.
Her victories for trainer Pelling and driver David Miller included the Breeders Crown, Empire Breeders Classic, Glen Garnsey Memorial, New York Sire Stakes final, Park MGM Pace, Bluegrass, Matron, and Courageous Lady.
Pelling now has trained two Horse of the Year winners, with Test Of Faith joining Rocknroll Hanover in 2005. Miller was the regular driver of two previous Horse of the Year honorees, Always B Miki in 2016 and No Pan Intended in 2003.
Jujubee was the top money-earning male trotter last year, with $948,791. He finished no worse than second in 17 of 18 races, winning 14. His victories included the Breeders Crown, Kentucky Futurity, Pennsylvania Sire Stakes final, and Phil Langley Memorial.
The colt captured the Futurity in 1:49.3 and the Muscle Hill Trot in 1:49.4 to become the first 3-year-old male trotter with two sub-1:50 winning miles.
Previously announced Dan Patch Award divisional champions also were honored Sunday at the banquet.
Division-winning pacers were 2-year-old colt Monte Miki, Niki Hill, Perfect Sting, 4-year-old gelding Allywag Hanover, and 4-year-old mare Lyons Sentinel. Division-winning trotters were 2-year-old colt King Of The North, Venerable, Bella Bellini, 5-year-old stallion Forbidden Trade, and 6-year-old mare Manchego.
Other honorees included Stan Bergstein-Proximity Award winner Lindy Farms, Driver of the Year Dexter Dunn, Trainer of the Year Richard “Nifty” Norman, Owner of the Year David McDuffee, Breeder of the Year Hanover Shoe Farms, and Rising Star Todd McCarthy.
It is the third straight year Dunn has been Driver of the Year since coming to the U.S. from Australia.
“It means a lot, really,” Dunn said. “I really don’t take the award lightly because I’m racing against incredible drivers all year, so it really is an honor. The horses do all the talking, really. I just get the lucky job of sitting behind them.
“That’s why I’m getting my award, because of the horses that are getting the awards tonight. It’s always exciting to start the year off and try and find a good horse and I was lucky. The ride throughout the year with them is special, I think. To get a match on a great horse and win big races, that’s special.”
Also recognized Sunday at the banquet were the members of the 2022 Hall of Fame class, which will be inducted in July in Goshen, N.Y.: Chris Boring, Ron Burke, Yannick Gingras, and George Teague Jr.