Results from the balloting for harness racing's highest honor, membership in the Harness Racing Hall of Fame, are in, and at the Sunday, July 7, 2019 Hall of Fame Induction Dinner in Goshen, N.Y., a record number of six people will be feted--new inductees Blair Burgess, Ted Gewertz, Joe Holloway, Linda Toscano, Ted Wing, and Jerry Silverman. The balloting was conducted by the U.S. Harness Writers Association (USHWA), the sport's leading group of communicators.
Burgess now completes a "Hall of Fame double," having been voted into the Hall in his native Canada last year. Burgess has been a frequent figure in the winner's circle of the sport's top races: the Hambletonian (Amigo Hall and Triple Crown winner Glidemaster), Breeders Crown (Real Desire), Meadowlands Pace (Frugal Gourmet and Real Desire) and Little Brown Jug (Tell All). Real Desire and Glidemaster were both voted Horse of the Year by the Harness Writers. Twice the trainer of the Year in Canada, Burgess is the son of Canadian Hall of Fame breeder/owner/executive Bob Burgess.
Gewertz first caught the harness racing "bug" when John F. Kennedy was President, and his love for the sport has not waned over the years. He has been co-owner of three Hambletonian winners – Giant Victory, Windsong's Legacy (Triple Crown winner and Trotter of the Year), and Deweycheatumnhowe – in addition to such horses as Huntsville and Housethatruthbuilt, the latter having her best year in 2004, when USHWA named Gewertz the Owner of the Year. Conscious of keeping the highest standards in the sport, Gewertz is a director of the Hambletonian Society and a trustee of the Harness Racing Museum.
Holloway started in the sport as a caretaker in his native Delaware when he was in grade school. Holloway connected with the uppermost level of the sport with his masterful handling of Jenna's Beach Boy, three-time Breeders Crown winner, twice Pacer of the Year, and a horse whose record for a race mile of 1:47.3 stood for a decade. Holloway, voted the sport's top trainer in 1995, has since buffed up his resume by developing She's A Great Lady, Shebestingin, and Somwherovrarainbow, as well as the handling of 1:46 pacer Always B Miki at two and three.
Toscano has long had a harness background association, dating back to her driving ponies in races when her age was in single digits. She served an apprenticeship with legendary NYC horseman Buddy Regan, then went out on her own in 1985. Toscano has attracted widespread attention throughout much of the current decade, including being named 2012 Trainer of the Year by USHWA – in that year alone she had the Hambletonian winner Market Share, but he was a (high-class) second fiddle that year to Horse of the Year winner Chapter Seven. The ill-fated Walner, champion 3-year-old Heston Blue Chip, and half-mile track world champion Jet Laag have also benefited from her care and tutelage.
Wing was an Olympic-caliber skier before suffering an injury, and the loss of the downhill sport was harness racing's gain, as the native of Maine captured titles in New England in his early years of the sport, then emerged as one of the leading horsemen in the founding days of the Meadowlands, balancing his racing at that track with regular duty at Roosevelt/Yonkers. Inducted into the New England Harness Racing Hall of Fame the same year as Bill O'Donnell and Jim Doherty, who would later go on to the national Hall, Wing has been an important part in the success of such stars as Skip By Night, Gallo Blue Chip, Butler BG, and Calvert.
Silverman was one of the leading Grand Circuit trainers for five decades, from the 1960s through the 2000s. He made a big impact in 1966, when he was 31 (a "mere pup" among the trainers of his days), with Triple Crown winner Romeo Hanover, and the subsequent years saw a stream of champions such as Fame, Hit Parade, Masquerade, Saccharum, Die Laughing, and Glowing Report (the last-named a stakes winner 40 years after Romeo Hanover) among the large stable that he ran with intelligence and endurance. Silverman retired four years ago, but continues assisting his son Richie, himself a fine horseman.
All of the Hall of Famers except Silverman achieved their distinction by getting 75 percent-plus of the "yes-no" ballots distributed in mid-summer; eligible for voting for the Hall of Famers were qualified members of USHWA and the existing Hall of Fame members. Those on the ballot were decided by the USHWA Screening Committee from the nominations of the Writers' chapters. Silverman was selected for direct admission to the Hall, through the bylaws of USHWA and its Veteran category, which once every three years allows its Hall of Fame Screening Committee to choose one nominee (aged 70-plus) to directly become a Hall of Famer, and was announced earlier.
The group will first be publicly honored at the USHWA Dan Patch Banquet, to be held on Sunday, Feb. 24, 2019 at the Rosen Shingle Creek Resort in Orlando, Fla., where the Hall of Famers will take their first ensemble bow during the banquet honoring the top humans and equines of the previous year's racing. Then comes the July 7 formal induction to the Hall of Fame, at a dinner set just outside the building in which their likeness will be placed to immortalize their selection as harness racing's best of the best. (USHWA)