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Inductees into Fla.'s Hall of Fame announced

February 05, 2020

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The Florida Chapter of the United States Harness Writers Association has announced the 2019 inductees to the Florida Harness Racing Hall of Fame.

The four new human inductees are Tony Alagna, Frank Antonacci, Tom Merriman and Laurie Poulin.

There was one equine inductee, the pacing stallion McWicked.

Their induction will take place on Friday, March 27, at McDivot’s at the Carolina Country Club in Margate.

Alagna, of Manalapan, N.J., has been a prominent Florida figure in harness racing, spending every winter training upwards of 80 two -and three-year-old trotters and pacers at Sunshine Meadows Equestrian Village in Delray Beach.

This season Alagna has the most expensive yearling ever sold, Maverick, for $1.1 million in his stable, along with a slew of promising 2 year olds and some great 3 year olds that includes Ramona Hill, the Dan Patch 2-Year-Old Trotting Filly of the Year last season.

Antonacci, of Somerville, Conn., is no stranger to Florida harness racing. He has had his Lindy Farm Stable wintering at Sunshine Meadows for nearly 30 straight years. Antonacci and the Antonacci family have a great passion for the sport of harness racing and have been actively involved in promoting the industry for decades.

Merriman, of Delray Beach, is one of only a handful of people who can boast of being at Pompano Park when the track first opened in 1964. But that’s where Merriman was driving that night. The top trainer of three million-dollar-winning horses, Civil Action, Monte Hall and Energy Burner, are just a few of the many great horses he has handled over the years. His trademark warming smile is always there to greet friends and it is just this year that Merriman has hung up the lines and no longer is training horses after 60 plus years in the sulky.

Poulin, of Okeechobee, continues to have very successful racing seasons for decades in Florida. The former trainer/driver has bred, foaled and owned numerous Florida Sire Stakes champions from her farm in Okeechobee. Current and past champions include Diamond Goal ($586,000), Prairie Jaguar ($408,000), Prairie Panther ($332,00) and many more top ‘Prairie’ horses over the years.

McWicked was the 2018 Harness Horse of the Year in both Canada and the U.S. In 2019 he was voted the Older Pacer of the Year and is now retired to stud duty in Canada. His career was amazing and every winter he was in Jim McDonald’s stable at Pompano Park. McWicked’s lifetime mark was 1:46.2 and he earned nearly $5 million in purses.

This year there will be two President’s Awards presented by Florida Chapter president Steve Wolf. The President's Award winners are Eric Cherry and Maurice Chodash, of Boca Raton, for the development of OnGait.com. The second President’s Award goes to Myron Bell of Boynton Beach, for his part in the development of On The Deck at Sunshine Meadows.

Other award winners who will be honored at the dinners are:

The Bill Popfinger Award for pacing goes to trainer Kim Sears of Osteen, the first person ever to win this award three times. The Stanley Dancer Award for trotting goes to driver/trainer Peter Wrenn of Carmel, Ind., who trains at Sunshine Meadows.

The Francis Dodge Van Lennep Award to an outstanding female in the industry goes to Casie Coleman-Herlihy of Cambridge, Ont. The Dan Gawlas Good Guy Award goes to John Hallett of Margate.

There are two Lifetime Achievement Awards that will go to farrier Phil Cable of Pompano Beach, and trainer Mike Murphy of Otisville, Mich.

The Caretaker of the Year Award will be presented posthumously to Joe Kroll, who died this past year. Kroll was an outstand caretaker during his career. He took care of two world champions in McWicked and Tarport Frenzy, plus many other stake champions. Accepting his award will be his widow, Shawna Kroll of Lake Worth.

Tickets are $80 per person for the full course dinner that begins at 6:30 pm with a one-hour open bar with appetizers. Tables of ten are available. There is free parking at McDivot’s at the Carolina Country Club, located just off Sample Road West on N. Rock Island Road. The address is 3011 N Rock Island Road, Margate, Fla. 33063.

For more information, to purchase tickets, or place a congratulatory ad in the program book, please contact Steven Wolf at (954) 654-3757 or email stevenwolf1956@gmail.com. (Fla. USHWA)

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