Four major, national and international Standardbred racing organizations–Harness Horsemen International (HHI), Harness Tracks of America (HTA), United States Harness Writers' Association (USHWA) and United States Trotting Association (USTA)–have announced that they will participate in the 2013 Harness Racing Congress to be held from Feb. 28 through March 4 in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. at the Westin Beach Resort & Spa.
The event will mark the first time that the four organizations have met jointly for an industry summit since the 2009 Racing Congress in Las Vegas, Nev. that also included the Thoroughbred Racing Association.
Each organization will conduct its annual meeting during the event with joint, general sessions slated for Saturday, March 2, and Sunday, March 3, 2013. In addition, the USHWA Dan Patch Awards Banquet, where the 2012 Horse of the Year will be announced, is scheduled for Sunday evening, March 3.
"The Harness Racing Congress in 2013 will be a great chance for members of the industry to get together to exchange ideas and to honor horses and horseman at the USHWA Dan Patch Awards,” said USTA president Phil Langley. "We also expect to invite experts in other fields to share their ideas on racing and how some of their business successes might help us strengthen our industry.”
During his time as HTA executive vice president, the late Stan Bergstein, was perhaps the greatest advocate for these industry-wide discussions.
"Harness racing is facing many challenges, and while stakeholders have varied interests, it's important for us to put aside our parochial differences and work in a unified manner to explore ways to strengthen the industry,” said Bergstein's successor and HTA executive vice president and general counsel Paul Estok. "The Harness Racing Congress has always been about exploring and debating issues in the hope of creating a better future.”
For the writers' association, the joint Congress provides a grander stage to showcase the industry's annual Dan Patch Awards honoring the year's most outstanding performances by horses and horsemen.
"USHWA is excited about being part of the Congress,” said USHWA president Steven Wolf. "It's a great thing to get all of the powers that be together to work toward the common goals of educating and promoting our sport.”
HHI president Gene Oldford is eagerly anticipating the opportunity to interact with other important members of the harness racing community again.
"When I went to my first Congress in Orlando, I came away so enthused and excited to be able to sit and talk with owners of racetracks and directors of the USTA,” said Oldford. "It's a great opportunity to be able to share and build on information as a team rather than as individuals, especially for newcomers, who get to know what the harness industry is all about.”
Further details on the agenda, topics of discussion and guest speakers will be released at a later date.
Harness Horsemen International, formed in 1964, was created for the primary purpose of promoting harness racing in the U.S. and Canada. The organization provides and encourages ideas and suggestions aimed at improving the sport. HHI functions as a clearinghouse of information for its member groups by disseminating federal- and state-level news. HHI provides several group insurance policies such as a national fire disaster policy, a third-party public liability policy and a term life policy.
Harness Tracks of America, or HTA, is the trade association of 26 major pari-mutuel harness racing organizations in both the United States and Canada. Organized in 1954, it is dedicated to the advancement and progress of the sport. Association activities include economic and management studies and surveys; position papers; promotions; sponsorship of scholarships; sponsorship of research; production of promotional and advertising materials for its member tracks; preparation of materials for legislative research; periodic meetings and seminars; issuance of two widely-circulated newsletters, Track Topics and Promotions at HTA Tracks; an annual directory of the pari-mutuel industry; and the HTA Daily Executive Newsletter.
Founded in 1947, the United States Harness Writers' Association is the organization of newspaper, magazine, radio, and television reporters of harness racing news as well as many involved in publicizing and promoting the sport. USHWA also works with the USTA Communications Department in selecting the "Dan Patch Harness Horse of the Year,” and is the organization that conducts the Hervey, Broadcasters', and Smallsreed Awards programs. Members also nominate and elect candidates to the sport's Living Hall of Fame.
The United States Trotting Association, founded in 1938 and now in its 74th year of operation, was created to unify what had been a fragmented Standardbred industry. Although its first offices were located in Goshen, N.Y., the USTA has been based in Columbus, Ohio since 1948 and serves the entire United States. Its basic objectives are: licensing owners, trainers, drivers and officials; formulating rules of racing; maintaining and disseminating racing information and records; endeavoring to ensure the integrity of harness racing; insisting on the humane treatment of Standardbreds; and promoting the sport of harness racing and the Standardbred breed. In addition, the USTA makes substantial contributions to other segments of the Standardbred industry, such as donating funds for research on a variety of equine health questions and sponsoring training seminars for racing officials. (USTA)