The Florida Chapter of the United States Harness Writers Association (USHWA) held its annual awards banquet on Friday, March 7, during which both human and equine stalwarts received their 2013 Hall of Fame awards.
Chapter members Lucien Fontaine and communicator Steve Wolf, along with veteran driver/trainer Mark O'Mara, were inducted into the Hall of Fame. On the equine side Florida's leading pacing stallion Six Of Diamonds, open trotter Tweedle Dum and the pacer I'd Like To Win received accolades for their career performances.
After starting his career with Keith Waples and later Clint Hodgins in the US, Fontaine trained Bye Bye Byrd and Elaine Rodney before earning his stripes with an initial victory at Roosevelt Raceway in 1961 behind longshot Carmita Hanover. That start earned Fontaine the reputation as a leading catch-driver on the metro NY circuit and he also raced at Pompano Park during its initial season in 1964. At age 28 Fontaine became the youngest driver to reach $1 million in purse earnings and he also led efforts to have racetracks deduct driver/trainer purse percentages directly from the purse account for each race. In 1986 "Loosh” directed Forrest Skipper to an undefeated 15 race season (and named Horse of the Year) setting track records at Freehold, Rosecroft, Roosevelt, Canterbury and Dover followed by a track record tying Breeders Crown win at Los Alamitos. Fontaine also campaigned Big Towner, Country Don, Irish Napoleon, Pocomoonshine, Cigar Store Injun and W.W. Smith and he won the standardbred sport's most prestigious events (Breeders Crown, US Pacing Championship, Messenger, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Dan Patch, and others) in a career that produced over 3,400 wins and over $21 million in purses.
Mark O'Mara's driving career began at age 15 with a win behind Son Of Waygale at the Troy, OH matinee. Developed by his stall active training father, Frank, Mark successfully campaigned on the Grand Circuit during which he led 1986 Two Year-Old Pacer of the Year Jate Lobell. Jate was undefeated in 15 starts that year and the pair returned at age three to earn the Three Year-Old Pacer of the Year title before retiring with career earnings of $2.2 million. O'Mara also directed Breeders Crown winning trotters Firm Tribute and Lassie's Goal. The Michigan native and now Parkland, FL resident has 2,266 career victories as driver, good for over $24.3 million in purses earned. Mark also has 288 training wins that account for $3.3 million in earnings. Currently, Mark campaigns top class veteran pacer Cruizin KC and the open trotters Jolene's Pinehonker and HP Forte at Pompano Park and is an annual dominant driving and training leader at Hoosier Park during the summer season.
Steve Wolf is a worthy recipient of the Communicators Corner USHWA Florida award. Currently Director of North American Operations of Harnesslink.com, Steve first came to Florida as Isle Pompano Park's Director of Marketing and later as Senior Director of Racing Operations. He led numerous successful promotions including driver tournaments, claiming series events, family nights, live concerts, car shows, giveaway and cash contests, charity and celebrity events and the noteworthy "Hot to Trot” horse racing fireworks show featuring Australia's Vincent Silvestro and his chestnut pacer Hand Me Silver.
Wolf was previously Director of Marketing and Publicity and Freehold Raceway and Assistant Director of the Standardbred Breeders and Owners Association of New Jersey. He also worked in the publicity offices at Liberty Bell Park and Brandywine Raceway. Born and raised in Flemington. NY, Steve was part of the Leo Wolf & Son Inc. breeding and racing operation with his parents, Ruth and Manny Wolf, during which they bred million-dollar winning pacer Doc's Fella. Steve was a hands-on horseman, prepping yearlings at Lana Lobell Farm of New Jersey and as racehorse caretaker.
Other USHWA Florida, FSBOA and Florida Amateur Driver Awards
USHWA Florida awarded deserving attending recipients of its other prestigious awards to Joe Harvilla, Pam Senclair, Victoria Howard and Peter Roccasano, Laurie Poulin, Michelle Hallett, Tom Audley, Kim Sears and Jody Dancer. In addition, USHWA Florida held its traditional silent and live auctions of standardbred memorabilia and a 50/50 raffle that benefit university scholarship and Aime Choquette funds.
The well attended annual event had nearly 200 guests and also served as the presentation venue for the FSBOA Crystal Awards to its top 2013 stakes and overnight leaders, Breeder of the Year (Kim and Jay Sears) and Florida Amateur Driver of the Year (John Campagnuola).
Crystal Award Winners
Two-Year-Old Pacing Filly - Sandalonia
Two-Year-Old Pacing Colt - Tough Issue
Two-Year-Old Trotting Filly - Markie
Two-Year-old Trotting Colt - Showing Off
Three-Year-Old Pacing Filly - Tashia
Three-Year-Old Pacing Colt - Hillybilly
Three-Year-Old Trotting Filly - Tyree's Treasure
Three-Year-Old Trotting Colt - Railee Kwik
Older Pacing Mare - Diamond Amber
Older Pacing Horse - Diamond Cowboy
Older Trotting Mare - Briell T
Older Trotting Horse - Lugar
(By Tom Hicks, for Florida Chapter USHWA)