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Best in western PA honored

May 06, 2010

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The United States Harness Writers Association (USHWA) Keystone Chapter teamed with The Meadows before Wednesday’s card to honor the western Pennsylvania-based stars of harness racing who won USHWA awards as the state’s best in 2009.
The distinguished group includes Dave Palone, who will be inducted into the Harness Racing Living Hall of Fame later this year, and Ron Burke, who topped North America’s trainer standings in 2009.
Kevin Decker, Keystone Chapter president and director of racing for The Meadows, joined fellow USHWA members in making the presentations.
“When your regional awardees include a Hall of Famer and the sport’s leading trainer, you know you have an outstanding group,” Decker said. “The strength and accomplishments of our awardees reflect the deep pool of talent and robust state of harness racing in western Pennsylvania.”
Receiving plaques in winners’ circle ceremonies were:

* Driver of the Year — Palone, the leading driver at The Meadows for more than two decades. In 2009, he became only the third driver in harness racing history to pass 13,000 in career wins.
* Trainer of the Year — Burke, who set North American records for victories (761) and earnings  ($14.8 million) for a conditioner in 2009.
* Owners of the Year — Burke Racing Stable, Weaver Bruscemi LLC (Mark Weaver and Mike Bruscemi) and others who partner with them in horses trained by Burke.

* Mary Lib Miller Award — Fran Azur, a longtime owner based at The Meadows, who, among other 2009 community-serving achievements, donated $20,000 to assist horsemen devastated by a lethal fire at Lebanon Raceway.
* Horse of the Year/Trotter of the Year — Hidden Viggorish, whose 2006 mile in 1:53.1 remains the fastest ever trotted by a 3-year-old filly on a 5/8-mile track. She also holds three Meadows track records. Accepting was Mike Miller of Harmony Spring Stable, which owns Hidden Viggorish, and her trainer, Bill Zendt.

* Pacer of the Year — Bell on Wheels. She recorded 21 victories in 2009 — only one other horse won as many — and is enjoying a successful 4-year-old campaign. Accepting was Kyle Bolon, who drives Bell on Wheels for his father, trainer Rod Bolon, and owner Jim Snyder. Roger Hammer owned, trained and drove Bell on Wheels for most of 2009.  (The Meadows)
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