The Pennsylvania Fair Circuit concluded it’s summer-long season this past Saturday (October 5) at The Meadows in Washington County. The top point earners competed in eight championship events, with purses totaling $200,000. 

Stickler Hanover wins the first race of the 2019 season in 2:14:2. (Seth Dowling Photo)

When the season began on the second Saturday in June at Erie County’s Wattsburg, the first horse to enter the winners circle was two-year-old colt trotter Stickler Hanover. Stickler Hanover won in 2:14:2 for trainer/driver Steve Schoeffel and owners Virginia & Kathy Schoeffel, Dan Goehle, and Mike Munn. Stickler Hanover went on to end his season with 8 wins in 14 starts and earnings of $62,806, nicely increased by a 1:57:2 win in his $25,000 PA Fair Championship, 17 seconds faster than his win that started the circuit’s season. 

The fastest horse on the circuit in 2019 was Crew Sock Hanover. Owned by Dave Brickell and Mitch York, Crew Sock Hanover erased Audie K’s 27-year-old all age track record at the Butler Fair on June 28th, winning in 2:00:1. Later in the season, she would go on to pace a 1:56:1 mile at Gratz, just missing the track record for three-year-old filly pacers by ⅖ of a second. After the season came to a close, that mile was the fastest in any division on the circuit for 2019. 

Silver Springs Ranch (Seth Dowling Photo)

For the first time in 17 years, the PA Fairs added a new stop to the circuit at Silver Springs Ranch in Harvey’s Lake. Silver Springs also became the first new venue for harness racing in PA since 2006 when Harrah’s Philadelphia, then Harrah’s Chester, opened near Philadelphia. The first race at the new facility was won by Halliwell Hanover for Dave Brickell and Mitch York. Halliwell Hanover circled the infield oasis in 1:59:2, a time which was equaled on day two by Dancin With Rose and Tony Schadel, and will stand as the all age track record moving in the 2020 season. 

Aaron Johnston (Mustard), Dave Brickell (Hot Dog), Kyle Bolon (Ketchup)

From Silver Springs the circuit moved down the Susquehanna River to the Lycoming County Fair in Hughesville. The highlight of Hughesville was likely Dave Brickell warming up dressed as a hot dog in recognition of National Hot Dog Day for the PHRA. Kyle Bolon and Aaron Johnston also participated by wearing Ketchup and Mustard costumes before the races.

The Todd Schadel trained Find One More led all horses this season for the number of 2:00 miles, pacing his first of four sub two minute miles at the Clearfield County Fair. His 1:59:4 mile at Clearfield was the third fastest mile of the Clearfield meet, and he established it in a “B” division of the PA Sire Stakes. That mile was the co-fastest “B” division mile by a three-year-old pacing colt in 2019, the co-holder was stablemate Motive Hanover. Find One More’s fastest win, and the fastest on the circuit by a three-year-old pacing colt in 2019, was his 1:57:3 mile at Gratz with John Wagner in the bike. 

The Bloomsburg Fair proved to be the fastest stop for the trotters in 2019. 2:00:2 was the fastest time recorded on the trot overall at a fair, set twice, by two-year-old trotting colt Vulcan Hanover and three-year-old trotting colt Andovers Asset. Vulcan Hanover’s mile was the fastest ever at a PA Fair by a two-year-old trotter, the only circuit record of the year. Eric Neal drove Vulcan Hanover for trainer Michael Whitaker. 

In points totals, two-year-old filly trotter Lindy Pretty Lady completed the season with more points than any other horse, ending 430 points. A total that was 186 points ahead of second place point earner Jean Jeanie. Bobby Rougeaux trained Lindy Pretty Lady for the Brocious Racing Stable. Kyle Bolon was aboard for most, if not all, of Lindy Pretty Lady’s sixteen fair starts, where she never missed the board. Lindy Pretty Lady was one of four Rougeaux trainees who topped the points standings in 2019. 

The season wrapped up at The Meadows with the $200,000 Pennsylvania Fair Finals on October 5th, 112 days after the season started. Under Paid kicked off Championship Saturday, winning the three-year-old colt pace in 1:52 for Dave Palone and Ron Burke. That mile was a stakes record for the PA Fair Championship Three Year Old Colt and Gelding Pace. 

In the Two Year Old Filly Pacing Championship, Silly But Serious and Dream Dancing provided the first ever dead heat for win in a PA Fair Championship, hitting the wire together in 1:56:4. Shawn Johnston drove Silly But Serious for his father and trainer Gary Johnston, who co-owns Silly But Serious with Joyce Benkart. Dream Dancing was driven and trained by Dave Brickell, who co-owns alongside his son-in-law, Mitch York. 

Andovers Asset wins the PA Fair Final 3CT. (Seth Dowling Photo)

Andovers Asset was the only point leader to win his championship, and in the process re-wrote the record books with his 1:56 win. The mile was the fastest ever by a trotter in a PA Fair Championship and a stakes record for the three-year-old colt trotters. Aaron Merriman catch drove Andovers Asset for trainer Linda Schadel, who co-owns along with her husband Tony.

On the human side, Todd Schadel held the top spot in both the trainer and driver categories. Todd ended the season with 55 driving wins, 10 more than second place Shawn Johnston. There was a tie for third between Kyle Bolon and Roger Hammer, each finishing the season with 38 wins. Eric Neal was fifth with 29 driving trips to the winners circle. In the trainers category, Todd Shadel led yet again with 62 wins, Roger Hammer was second with 48, Bobby Rougeaux was third with 30, Dave Brickell and Gary Johnston tied for 4th with 25 trips to the winners circle. 

The “What A Ride” promotion was a new fair feature in 2019. (Tiffany Small Photo)

Another new feature this season was the Pennsylvania Horse Racing Association and Martin Starting Gates teaming up for the “What A Ride”promotion. Fairs were offered a registration blank that they could put into the program for fans to fill out. Once filled out, names were drawn to win rides in the starting gate. Throughout the season, the promotion also included Martin Starting Gates/PHRA t-shirt tosses in the grandstand. 

At the end of the season, six divisional track records were established at five different fairs (excluding Silver Springs). Twenty-three miles were two minutes or faster, with the three-year-old pacing fillies and three-year-old trotting colts being responsible for eight of those each.

The top point earners and Fair Final winners will be honored at the PA Fair Banquet, which will be held this winter at the Bedford Omni Springs Resort in Bedford. The 2020 season will get underway in June at a location that will be determined after the annual fair convention, held each year in Hershey.

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