Douglas J. "Doug" Ackerman, a native of Michigan and third generation horseman, and Robitaille, p, 6, 1:50.4s ($885,290) will be inducted into the California Harness Horseman's Hall of Fame at the annual meeting of the group this coming March.
Ackerman came to California in the late 1940s, racing at such tracks as Hollywood Park, Santa Anita, Bay Meadows and Los Alamitos and did his winter training at Del Mar Racetrack. A resident of San Diego for many years, Ackerman has driven the winners of more than $11 million and as both a trainer and driver has earned the respect of many horsemen over the years.
A big supporter of the California breeding program, Ackerman was responsible for making sure such stallions as Leading Edge, Denali and Ever So Free stood in California, giving a boost to the breeding program.
In 1989 Ackerman became the first American to win a race since at the Moscow Hippodrome since World War II, during the driver's challenge against Russian, German and American drivers. In 1994, Ackerman was inducted into the Living Hall of Fame at Goshen, N.Y., and later into the Indiana Harness Racing Hall of Fame.
Also to be inducted will be the California-bred horse Robitaille. A son of Denali and out of the Flying Bret mare Flying Tip, Robitaille is the winningest California-bred, ever, with 99 wins in of 313 starts. The speedy gelding also recorded the most victories timed in 1:55 or faster in the sport's history, 81.
Bred by Wayne and Rodney Knittel of Bakersfield, Ca., Robitaille was named after Nathalie Trembley's favorite hockey player, Luc Robitaille. Then owned by Wayne and Nathalie, and trained by the late Nicol Trembley, Robitaille was sent to Chicago where he exploded on the racing scene. Eventually claimed by Kevin Wallis, Robitaille had his best years racing in the Free For All class, winning no less than 10 races a year between 1996 and 2000. Robitaille eventually made his way back to the Golden State to race before being retired.
The Lifetime Commitment award will be given to the late Alan Kirschenbaum, a longtime horseman, owner and huge supporter of California racing. In the last 30 years, his involvement in harness racing covered many catagories, as a groom, owner, breeder, trainer, amateur driver, writer, broadcaster, stallion syndicator and benevolent supporter of horse rescue and charitable causes.
Kirschenbaum's passion was ignited in the Catskills, where his family summered, with nearby Moncicello Raceway proving an irresistible lure. Eventually grooming for such trainers as Eddie Cobb and George Berkner, with his sights on being a trainer, despite his Ivy League background and ability behind a microphone. Kirschenbaum was part of the Breeders Crown broadcast team on ESPN in the early 1980s.
His talent and passion as a comedy writer eventually brought him to California, where his other passion of harness racing again pulled him in. As president of the California Harness Horsemen's Association and California Sire Stakes Committee, he eventually started a breeding farm in Wilton, Ca. called Cherry Tree Farm, where he stood his former racehorses Little Steven and British Sterling.
His contributions to California racing, which has struggled for survival in the past decade, cannot be underestimated. He served as president of the CHHA, supported the Sire Stakes and breeding programs -- even donating his stallion's services so that the horsemen could continue to breed their mares. Kirschenbaum was a tireless ambassador for the west coast racing and horsemen will be forever grateful for his impact on California. (Calif. Harness Racing Hall of Fame)