Over the decades the Monticello-Goshen Chapter of the U.S. Harness Writers Association (USHWA) has held annual awards banquets to celebrate the accomplishments, both human and equine, at Monticello Raceway and Historic Track. Along with those accolades the scribes have also honored special individuals whose contributions to the sport have been exceptional.
Tom Charters, president and chief executive officer of the Hambletonian Society/Breeders Crown, will be the recipient of this year's Monticello-Goshen Chapter USHWA Lifetime Achievement Award at the chapter's upcoming banquet in mid-November.
If you ever have the opportunity to listen to Charters talk about his life you'll hear a soft-spoken, almost humble account of a long and meritorious career in harness racing. As he expounds his voice never changes a decibel but the more he tells of the people, places and things he been involved with, the more you realize you are listening to one of the true superstars in the sport.
Like most who are successful, Charters didn't start at the top. A native Buckeye from Springfield, Ohio, he began his distinguished career as a groom for Dick Hackett.
In the spring of 1968, while studying print making and painting at Ohio's Miami University, he took a summer job grooming horses for legendary Hall of Famer Delvin Miller, a move that was to play a key role in his life.
After a two-year stint in Vietnam, Charters returned to college, this time at the University of Kentucky, earning his degree in animal science in 1973.
"When I returned from Nam I wrote Delvin a letter stating if I bring my own rub-rags and my dog could I have a summertime job again to which Miller replied ‘yes but leave the dog home and I'll supply the towels.' That was the last job application I ever made,” Charters said with a laugh.
Working for Miller for four years, Charters cared for the 1974 Yonkers Trot winner Spitfire Hanover and then toured Europe with Delmonica Hanover, one of the greatest trotting mares the sport has ever known.
"My family was real proud,” Charters said with tongue in cheek. "Here I am with a college degree working for $100 a week caring for horses!”
In February 1976, Charters was named assistant racing secretary at The Meadows, the western Pennsylvania track founded by Miller, and in January 1980 he became racing secretary there. In May 1983 he left the Meadows on a long jaunt to China, where he became director of racing and racing secretary for the newly opened Macau Trotting Club. A year and a half later, again at Miller's suggestion, he returned stateside to become executive director of the Breeders Crown, the year-end championship series formed under the aegis of the Hambletonian Society Inc., one of the most prestigious and important organizations in the sport.
After ten years of distinguished leadership of the Crown, Charters was named executive director of administration for the Society, overseeing its administration of 130 races it owns or services across North America, including the sport's ultimate prize, the Hambletonian. Four years later in 1998, he was named president and chief executive officer.
During his outstanding career Charters has been honored in the Standardbred industry with the 1993 Bill Haughton "Good Guy” Award from the United States Harness Writers Association and the 1998 Meritorious Award which is presented annually by the Ohio Chapter of that group to a native Ohioan for a dedicated and significant career in the harness industry over the previous two decades. He also was recognized by the Hambletonian Society in 1994 with the F.L. Van Lennep Memorial Award, citing extraordinary and important contribution to the harness racing industry, and in 1999 by Sports Eye, the former New York area harness paper, with their William Haughton Award. In 2001 he received Harness Tracks of America's first Distinguished Service Medallion and in 2004 he was the recipient of the Proximity Achievement Award.
Charters is a director of the Hambletonian Society, Inc., as well as the Society's representative on the Racing Committee of the American Horse Council and the Racing Medication & Testing Consortium. He is a trustee of the Harness Racing Museum, a steward of the Grand Circuit, a former president of the American Harness Racing Secretaries, and a trustee of the Harness Horse Youth Foundation. He is a member of the U.S. Harness Writers Association (NJ chapter), the Honorable Order of Kentucky Colonels, the University of Kentucky Alumni Association, the Cranbury Lions Club and a parishioner of the Queenship of Mary R.C. Church in Plainsboro, N.J.
He resides in Cranbury, N.J., with his wife, Dr. Susan Saravalli, Ph.D.
Charters will receive his Lifetime Achievement Award when the scribes hold their 55th annual awards banquet at the Fountains in Middletown, N.Y. on Sunday (Nov. 17).
For reservations, or to place a congratulatory ad in the chapter's charity journal, please contact banquet chairman John Manzi at (845) 794-4100, ext. 455, or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. (Monticello)