A driving force for the horsemen of Pennsylvania racing at the Meadows Racetrack, Kim Hankins will be honored at the United States Trotting Association District 7 Pennsylvania Fairs Banquet on Saturday, January 20th at the Omni in Bedford Springs.
Mr. Hankins will receive the group’s highest award, the Mary Lib Miller Award. His selection for this prestigious award was by the Keystone Chapter of the United States Harness Writers Association (USHWA), the industry’s leading media organization, for outstanding contributions to harness racing, particularly in Pennsylvania.*
With a long career that began at an early age, Mr. Hankins has dedicated his life to helping the men and women of harness racing. “I understand what horsemen need,” he explained. “I don’t like to brag on myself, but I do have empathy, and I take action when action is necessary to help the horsemen.”
The affable and personable Hankins is a fifth generation horseman on his mother’s side and third generation on his father’s side. “It was bred into me,” he laughed. “I groomed horses for my parents when I was in my teens, and started driving in my late teens and early twenties, and stayed at that for about twenty years, racing in the Chicago circuit.”
A move to Springfield, Illinois followed where he trained colts. “At that time, I decided to try to buy and sell horses for people. Be an agent. So I took a couple horses to the sale, and it ended up that the agency got so big that I didn’t have time to train and drive horses. So I started doing that full time for about twelve or thirteen years.”
He followed that successful journey with a year-long position as a judge, and then received a phone call to head out west. “I was called from California about an opening as an Executive Director for the California Harness Horsemen’s Association, so I went there for three years. Then I heard about the Meadows need for an Executive Director, (at the Meadows Standardbred Owners Association), and they had slots, and at that point didn’t have a health insurance program or a retirement program, or any kind of legislative effort going on, so I thought that would be a nice challenge. So I moved here, and I’ve been here sixteen years!”
Mr. Hankins feels that horsemen face many obstacles, particularly from governing bodies, and cites the most pressing challenges. “One of the most important is the oversight from government as to how we are treated. Here in Pennsylvania, Act 71 was created in 2004, and has been a boon to the industry, but there’s been several raids on the fund over the years and there’s been more activities that aren’t good for racing, let’s put it that way.”
“Protecting the income from slot legislation is probably the most important. I think there’s other big ones, like negotiating contracts for the benefit of the horsemen. We were fortunate here (at the Meadows) to negotiate a ten-year contract, which was, at that time, very novel in the industry to have one that long. It’s been a great thing for us, because we don’t have to negotiate, hassle and fight each other, so it’s made a better relationship between track and horsemen, because we don’t have those fights every year, every two years, every three years.”
He praises not only the racing product in Pennsylvania, but the breeding program as well. “The breeding and Sire Stakes here are great, and big investments were made into farms here when Act 71 came in. It’s not just for the protection of the on-track horsemen and the horsemen that ship in, it’s for the breeders also. Diamond Creek Farm came and bought their farm here, and there have been others that bought and invested in Pennsylvania because of the program they have. It has to be protected or else their investments go south.”
“The quality of drivers here is top-notch,” he added. “There are other jurisdictions that have great ones too, but when push comes to shove, these guys can go against just about anybody.”
Photo Credit to Chris Gooden

With all of his impressive accomplishments in his career, Kim is looking forward to the future in the business that he loves, and he has options he’s considering . “We’re talking about me staying on as a legislative consultant. Over the years here, I’ve made good relationships with legislators, especially in western Pennsylvania, but also throughout the state. We have two big things on the agenda this year and the Spring session, one of them being to alleviate the remainder of the stake ‘take’, for lack of a better term, they’ve had for years. We need to get the other $9.3 million removed from that take. We got $10 million removed from it, (over the last two years), so we need to continue that. Also, the chance of getting skill games legalized without our participation has been very scary. Those are two things that we need to work on legislatively, and I think my board wants to keep me on as a legislative consultant.”

His love of harness racing extends to owning horses. He has a broodmare currently in foal to Papi Rob Hanover, and also owns a piece of a trotting colt with his brother and a group of individuals for Dick Stillings. “We bought an expensive colt, but he didn’t turn out to be a good horse. That’s the yearling game. He chugs along, and pays his way, and for my partners, that okay.”
His contributions to harness racing and to the horsemen have been immeasurable, and his dedication and commitment has been appreciated by countless individuals over the years. He remains humble, and thankful for the opportunities to have helped and continue to help those in the business. “I’ve been blessed, so greatly. I thank God every day to be able to help my horsemen.”
*United States Harness Writers Association – Keystone Chapter
Cover Photo Credit to Chris Gooden
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