Helene Gregory, who spearheaded the movement in harness racing that has brought Racing Under Saddle (RUS) to prominence in North America, has been selected by United States Harness Writers Association (USHWA) president, Steven Wolf, as the recipient of the 2012 President's Award.
Also, Kimberly Rinker, who has devoted most of her career to the writing about and promoting the industry she loves, has been voted by her peers as the 2012 USHWA Member of the Year.
Gregory, who resides in East Windsor, NJ is originally from Malmo, Sweden, which, she says, is five minutes from Jagersro, the third biggest racetrack in Sweden. She grew up watching, learning and training horses and has been riding Standardbreds her whole life.
When not working as track photographer at Freehold Raceway or watching her husband, successful harness driver Jeff Gregory, competing in races, Helene has been working relentlessly on RUS and has succeeded with it beyond her dreams.
"Not only did Helene do a heroic job in developing the RUS program, getting people involved, working with the United States Trotting Association and race secretaries, helping to secure sponsorships and setting up the tracks to host events, but also competed in the races and won several times.” USHWA president Wolf said. "Helene is very worthy of this special honor and I can only hope it will help keep her desire thriving for RUS to continue growing within our industry.”
During the first season as she competed in seven RUS events at six tracks with purses totaling $86,950....Helene Gregory was a standout. She ended the year with three victories and set a mile race record of 1:57.1 riding Master Pine to a dramatic head victory at the Meadowlands on Hambletonian Day. She also set a record for a five-eighths mile track, winning with Armbro Doyle in 2:00.2 at Pocono Downs and she also won before her hometown crowd at Freehold Raceway with Armbro Doyle in 2:06.4. She finished the season with $16,612 in purse earnings and an amazing URR (Universal Riding Rating or batting average) of .685.
"I started working on RUS a little after an exhibition race at Yonkers in 2011,” Gregory said. "I then went to Sweden in January and bought a race saddle there, without even knowing if I would get it going. But it was my intentions all along. I have had a lot of people telling me to give it up because it was a lot of work and sometimes I was worn out from it, but I am a very stubborn soul and my motto is ‘if there is a will, there is a way.'”
Rinker, who originally is from Ohio and is now a Chicago resident, is a 2007 USHWA Hervey Writing Award winner and a 2004 Hervey Award runner-up for excellence in magazine writing. In 2006 she won the Charlie Silver Award winner in co-writing a series of articles in Produce Business, a food-trade publication. For the past three years she has also been USHWA's Dan Patch Awards Journal Chairwoman.
In addition, she has assisted every year with the USHWA National Meetings and Dan Patch Awards dinner, the Breeders Crown events and the Ohio Harness Horsemen's Association. She also writes for the Examiner.com, Harness Edge, Hoof Beats, Horsemen & Fair World, and Midwest Thoroughbred. In 2009 Rinker published Chicago's Horse Racing Venues (Images of America with Arcadia Publishing), and currently her transcription of the personal "oral history” recited by Ralph Jones, longtime fair official and PA Harness Commission worker is ready to be published under the title Buckeye Side Wheelers and Keystone Tail Sitters. .. Reflections of Harness Racing's Glory Days.
Rinker is also an avid horsewoman, having competed in the hunter jumper, dressage, eventing and competitive trail riding ranks. She is also a United States Trotting Association (USTA) licensed trainer-driver who represented the United States in the 1995 International Drivers Competition in Moscow, Russia, and currently trains a stable of Standardbred racehorses in Chicago. Kim holds a 4-H & Open Horse Show Judges License, and is a member of not just USHWA and the USTA but also is a director for the Illinois Harness Horsemen's Association and a member of the Association of Women Journalists, Chicago Association of Writers & Writers' Programs, National Turf Writers Association, Silent Film Society of Chicago and the Society of Professional Journalists.
"Kim has shown time and again her devotion not just to USHWA, but to the sport of harness racing through her superb writing talents, professional assistance when ever called upon, dedication and enthusiasm,” said USHWA president Wolf. "And during the 20 plus years I have known her she has been always smiling and always has an energetic character. All of these things combined merits her being the recipient of the 2012 USHWA Member of the Year Award.”
Gregory and Rinker will be honored on Sunday, March 3, at the Dan Patch Awards Banquet, the climatic event of Harness Congress VI weekend, to be held at the Westin Beach Resort and Spa in Fort Lauderdale FL. Further information about the banquet, the Congress, and related events is available at http://www.ushwa.org/