Three weeks after winning Canada’s Horse of the Year award, McWicked has been voted the U.S. Horse of the Year and Pacer of the Year for 2018. Older pacing mare Shartin N was second in the Horse of the Year balloting. Hambletonian winner Atlanta was voted Trotter of the Year.

by Ken Weingartner on behalf of the U.S. Harness Writers Association | quotes by Dave Briggs

McWicked on Sunday became the oldest pacer in history to be named Horse of the Year, receiving harness racing’s top honor to cap the U.S. Harness Writers Association’s Dan Patch Award banquet at Rosen Shingle Creek. The 7-year-old stallion bested pacing mare Shartin N, 86-27, to claim the trophy. Atlanta, who was named Trotter of the Year, finished third with eight votes.

Earlier in the night, retired pacer Foiled Again entered the banquet hall to receive accept his Stan Bergstein Proximity Award in person.

In other awards, McWicked was named Pacer of the Year, 95-31, over Shartin N. McWicked was also voted Canada’s Horse of the Year and Older Pacer of the Year earlier this month at the O’Brien Awards.

McWicked is owned by Ed James’ SSG Stables and trained by Casie Coleman. Brian Sears was McWicked’s primary driver, but David Miller also won on the Grand Circuit with the stallion. A son of McArdle out of Western Sahara, McWicked was bred by Andray Farm.

“Winning double (Horse of the Year titles) with him — and to do it with a horse that’s seven, turning eight now, it’s not often that happens,” Coleman said. “Now we’ve just got to hope that he can do it again this year. He’s another year older, but I see no reason why he can’t be just as good this year.”

McWicked led the sport in earnings last year, with $1.57 million, and became the oldest horse in 43 years to top the money standings. For the season, McWicked won 12 of 19 races, capping his campaign with a five-race win streak, and hit the board a total of 17 times.

The previous oldest pacer to be named Horse of the Year was Good Time, who was 6 when he received the award in 1952.

Coleman has trained three Horse of the Year winners in Canada, but McWicked was her first in the U.S., as well as the first for owner James. Sears, who drove McWicked in 12 of his 19 races, has sat behind four Horse of the Year honorees.

“Casie is a good trainer, good personality. She knows what she’s talking about and is as smart as anybody I’ve met at that level,” said James who has owned horses for some 60 years.

McWicked’s victories last season included the Breeders Crown, Ben Franklin Pace, William R. Haughton Memorial, Canadian Pacing Derby, TVG Series Open championship, Dan Rooney Invitational, and Allerage Farms Open. His 1:46.2 clocking in the Allerage was the second-fastest race mile in history.

“When he won the Canadian Pacing Derby, he just dominated Lazarus, who was all the talk at the time,” Coleman said. “They way he did that, I said, ‘We’re going to end this year really good.’ Every single tie this horse went on the track he didn’t get tired. I don’t know how many first-over miles he had. It seemed like he was always first-over and it didn’t matter. He’d just keep grinding and grinding and put them away.”

Atlanta became the first filly to win the Hambletonian since 1996 when she captured the $1 million final Aug. 4 at the Meadowlands. Driven by Scott Zeron, she won eight of 14 races last year and led all 3-year-old filly trotters with $1.01 million in purses. Her victories also included the Kentucky Filly Futurity and Empire Breeders Classic.

A daughter of Chapter Seven out of Hemi Blue Chip, Atlanta was owned in 2018 by trainer Rick Zeron, Michelle and Al Crawford’s Crawford Farms, William Holland’s Holland Racing Stable, Howard Taylor, and Brad Grant. She was bred by Order By Stable. The horse sold recently for a record $1.55 million to a group led by Michelle Crawford.

“I feel like (Atlanta) is the belle of the ball, like I was the belle of the ball,” Michelle Crawford said, laughing. “It was awesome. It was a huge surprise.”

“She should be Trotter of the Year,” Michelle said. “She did something that was unprecedented. Not a lot of fillies have done what she’s done.”

The announcements of Horse, Pacer, and Trotter of the Year were made during Sunday’s banquet. Previously announced divisional champions also were honored at the event.

Division-winning pacers were 2-year-old colt Captain Crunch, 2-year-old filly Warrawee Ubeaut, 3-year-old gelding Dorsoduro Hanover, 3-year-old filly Kissin In The Sand, Shartin N, and McWicked. Division-winning trotters were 2-year-old colt Gimpanzee, 2-year-old filly Woodside Charm, 3-year-old colt Six Pack, 6-year-old gelding Homicide Hunter, 4-year-old mare Ariana G, and Atlanta.

Other honorees included Driver of the Year Aaron Merriman, Trainer of the Year Ron Burke, Breeder of the Year Order By Stable, Owners of the Year Burke Racing and the partnership of Mark Weaver and Mike Bruscemi, and Rising Star Marcus Melander.

Also recognized were the members of the 2018 Hall of Fame class, which will be inducted in July: Blair Burgess, Ted Gewertz, Joe Holloway, Jerry Silverman, Linda Toscano, and Ted Wing, as well as Communicators Hall of Famers Dave Little and Mark Hall.

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