Jules Siegel and Margareta Wallenius-Kleberg took different roads to success as harness racing breeders and owners, but those paths merged Sunday when they were inducted into the sport’s Hall of Fame during ceremonies on the grounds of the Harness Racing Museum and Hall of Fame.
Siegel, a retired pharmacist who operated a chain of drug stores before turning his full attention to harness racing, owns Pennsylvania’s Fashion Farms. Siegel and his late wife Arlene owned 1995 Hambletonian Stakes winner Tagliabue. Other successes have included eight divisional champion horses and five victories in the Breeders Crown.
Wallenius-Kleberg, the first woman inducted into the Hall of Fame, is widely regarded as the First Lady of International Trotting. She owns Menhammar Stuteri, the renowned breeding farm that has led Sweden in purses each of the past 11 years. The farm was purchased by her father, shipping magnate Olof Wallenius, in 1947 and has produced an impressive list of notable trotters.
She was introduced by USTA President Russell Williams, who spoke first in Swedish and then in English.
"Being here tonight is the result of a fantastic combination of American and Swedish friends and partnerships through the years," Wallenius-Kleberg said. "I do hope I can fulfill what is expected of me as a Hall of Famer. And as the first woman with this title, I hope I can be inspiration to all girls and young women out there."
Also honored Sunday were the late horseman Hakan Wallner, who was inducted into the Hall of Immortals; writer Dave Briggs and announcer Carl Becker, who were inducted into the Communicators Hall of Fame; horses Cantab Hall, Western Ideal, Gala Dream, and Sweet Future; and amateur driving champion Hannah Miller.
Siegel was steered into harness racing by his wife Arlene, a retired nurse whom Jules has called "the real inspiration" for a retirement spent with horses. The couple worked together at Fashion Farms, with Arlene among those who guided Jules through the early years of the farm’s operation, even getting him to assist with mares when foals were born.
"This honor is by far one of the most unbelievable experiences of my 90 years," Siegel said. "First, mostly John Campbell was my go-to guy in the beginning. I was amazed at his consistent ability to make good horses into great winners. Jim Campbell, my trainer, taught me how the horse business works. How in the world can I ever reward him for all he’s done for me?
"The one person who is responsible for my standing here is my wife Arlene who made all this possible. She told me ‘dear, I will not let you retire to nothing.’"
The Siegels received the Owner of the Year Award from the U.S. Harness Writers Association in 2002 and 2009 and Siegel was Standardbred Canada’s Owner of the Decade for the 2000s. Other honors included being named the Pennsylvania chapter of the U.S. Harness Writers Association’s Breeder of the Year in 2008 and 2009.
Tagliabue was the first of the Siegels’ Dan Patch Award-winning horses, followed by two-time recipient Galleria, Broadway Hall, Broadway Schooner, Possess The Will, and two-time honoree Broadway Donna.
Broadway Schooner, a daughter of Broadway Hall bred by the Siegels, won the 2009 Hambletonian Oaks and is the dam of Broadway Donna.
Wallenius-Kleberg was one of the first people to recognize the importance of international bonds among trotting breeders and regulators. She created a North American-European comingling of racing and breeding talent with her partner, the late Hall of Famer Norman Woolworth, headed by stallions Zoot Suit and Smokin Yankee.
Zoot Suit was Sweden’s top sire for six consecutive years, 1991-96, and was preceded at the top of the list by Smokin Yankee in 1990. Menhammar Stuteri also was home to two-time U.S. Horse of the Year Mack Lobell.
One of Menhammar’s earliest stars was Big Noon, who was Scandinavia’s version of American’s early 20th century star Dan Patch. Among the horses bred by the farm are 2014 Prix d’Amerique winner Maharajah, 2013 Elitloppet winner From Above, and 2005 Hambletonian Oaks winner Jalopy.
Beginning this year, Menhammar Stuteri stands recently retired Nuncio, who was a star in North America and Europe. Nuncio’s wins included the Kentucky Futurity, Yonkers Trot, and Elitloppet.
After Wallenius-Kleberg’s purchase of Zoot Suit from Woolworth, the two trotting devotees developed a bond that opened doors in North America for her burgeoning interests in trotting. Wallenius-Kleberg began keeping and breeding mares in the U.S. and having fillies trained and raced in North America before they entered the Menhammar broodmare band.
By the 1980s, Wallenius-Kleberg was a familiar figure at the Hambletonian, the Grand Circuit meet at The Red Mile, and the Hall of Fame weekend in Goshen. She also traveled to Florida regularly to see her young horses in training.
Concurrently she was developing contacts and friendships throughout Europe so that she could broaden the Menhammar influence on the continent. She was a regular at the Prix d’Amerique in Paris and cultivated contacts among French horsemen and breeders.
Recognizing the importance of sustaining the trotting sport, Margareta has assisted and encouraged many young people in racing. She always insisted on the highest standards in the horses she acquired and used her business skills to operate successfully.
Already a member of Sweden’s Trotting Hall of Fame, Wallenius-Kleberg has held numerous positions in organizations related to the sport in her native country and abroad and worked to promote harness racing on both sides of the Atlantic. She is a Hambletonian Society director and received the Harness Racing Museum’s Pinnacle Award in 2011.
Wallner, too, was a globe-trotting pioneer who raised the bar of Swedish racing and breeding to an international level. Wallner, who won the Elitloppet and Prix d’Amerique in Europe, was convinced he could succeed in the U.S. as a trainer of trotters and in a short amount of time he was competing at the highest level and affecting every facet of harness racing from the yearling sales to the Grand Circuit.
Racing as Continental Farm with fellow Swedish horsemen Bernstein Lindstedt and Jan Johnson, the stable counted among its many accomplishments winning the first-ever Breeders Crown race with Workaholic in 1984. The stable was a force in the series, winning four trophies and $2.85 million in the first eight years of the Breeders Crown. Its $3.94 million in purses overall in the event remain No. 6 among all trainers in history.
Continental Farm also won the Hambletonian in 1988 with Armbro Goal and multiple editions of the Hambletonian Oaks.
Wallner led the way for other Scandinavian and European horsemen to move to the U.S. and compete at the sport’s highest level. The list includes Soren and Jan Nordin, Jimmy Takter, Per Eriksson, Per Henrikson, Stefan Melander, Mario Zuanetti and Pekka Korpi. Collectively that group has nine Hambletonian winners.
Wallner died Jan. 20, 2001, in Treviso, Italy. He was inducted to the Swedish Trotting Hall of Fame in 2015.--By Ken Weingartner/USTA