For years Pennsylvania has been to Standardbreds what Kentucky is to Thoroughbreds. With some of the best stallions and mares, along with hosting some of the sports most prestigious races, PA has been the premier state in which to breed and race Standardbreds. This summer, the PHRA will take a look at some of the greatest Standardbreds in the sports history and their connections to Pennsylvania.
From the Pennsylvania Fairs to the Hambletonian Winner’s Circle: Vivid Photo
Vivid Photo was born March 26, 2002 at Winbak Farm in Chesapeake City, Maryland. By SJ’s Photo and out of the Garland Lobell mare Miss Garland, Vivid Photo was owned by Roger Hammer of Bedford, PA and Todd Schadel of Gratz, PA after being purchased at the 2003 Harrisburg Sale for $30,000.
Vivid Photo kicked off his two-year-old season on May 26, 2004 while finishing second in a qualifier at Maryland’s Rosecroft Raceway. Following another qualifier at Rosecroft, Vivid Photo would make his first career start in a $2,115 PA Fair Sire Stake event at the Bloomsburg Fairgrounds in Columbia County. That start would result in a 2:10:1 win with Roger Hammer in the bike. Following his first pari-mutuel win at Rosecroft, Vivid Photo returned to the PA Fair Circuit at the Big Butler Fair, winning in 2:12:1 in another PA Fair Sire Stake event.
One day after Governor Ed Rendell would sign the Horse Racing and Gaming Act into law, Vivid Photo was making his first pari-mutuel stakes start in a $31,704 PA Sire Stake at The Meadows. Leaving from post 3, Vivid Photo went to the front and maintained a large lead throughout, reaching as much as 8 lengths at the ¾ pole, and he would hold on to win by 2-¼ lengths in 2:03 as the favorite.
Vivid Photo would wrap up this freshman campaign with a start in the Reynolds at Pocono, a second at the Clearfield County Fair, and a record of 6: 4-1-0 with earnings of $19,819.
Vivid Photo made his return to the races in March of 2005 as a gelding. After finishing fourth in a qualifier at Pocono and seventh at The Meadows, Vivid Photo found the winner’s circle for the first time as a three-year-old in a NW2 event at The Meadows, and would achieve his first three-year-old stakes win there as well when he captured a PA Sire Stake on May 28.
After a sire stakes win at Pocono (setting a world record), a Maryland Sire Stakes win at Rosecroft, and a Tompkins-Geers win at Scioto, Vivid Photo would head to The Meadowlands for his Hambletonian Elimination. He took the lead from Ken Warkentin (the horse, not the announcer) just past the ¼ and never looked back, winning by a neck over Self Possessed in 1:53:2.
In the week leading up to The Hambletonian, not much seemed different for Roger Hammer and Todd Schadel. Both were at the Clearfield County Fair where they won a combined 14 races over the four-day meet. After the Clearfield meet they would head back to New Jersey, where Vivid Photo had drawn post 6 for the $1,500,000 final of The Hambletonian.
Sent off at odds of 7/1, Vivid Photo ducked to sit 7th as Muscle Memory set the pace. He would follow the cover of favorite Classic Photo before charging down the center of the track from sixth to win in 1:52:3, a world record for three-year-old gelding trotters.
Following The Hambletonian Vivid Photo returned to The Meadows for a sire stakes win before heading to the World Trotting Derby at the Illinois State Fair in Duquoin. In the first heat he would break his own world record winning in 1:51:3, but it wouldn’t stand for very long.
Returning in the $525,000 final, Vivid Photo would again break his own world record, this time just hours after he had set it. Sent off as the favorite, the gelding went around pacesetter Great George Two in the stretch to win by 2-½ lengths in 1:51:2.
Returning to the races in the Kentucky Futurity at Lexington, Vivid Photo would finish 5th in the first heat before returning to win the second. To win the Kentucky Futurity a horse must win twice in one day. By winning the second heat, Vivid Photo created the need for a third heat match race between first heat winner Strong Yankee and himself. In the third heat, Vivid Photo was sent off as the favorite, but came up a length short, finishing second in a 1:51:2 mile.
After winning the Currier and Ives at The Meadows, Vivid Photo took a trip to the one-turn mile at Colonial Downs where he won a Winners Over event. Soon after, he headed to the Breeders Crown at The Meadowlands, finishing second in the elimination and the final. After finishing third in the Matron at Dover, Vivid Photo wrapped up his three-year-old season winning 16 of 25 starts, only missing the board three times for seasonal earnings of $1,481,020.
Returning to the races as a four year old with a win in a $35,000 W/O25000 life event at The Meadowlands, Vivid Photo continued his already extremely successful career. After wins in a Cutler Elimination and an Open win at Rosecroft, Vivid Photo went to The Meadowlands for the $800,000 Breeders Crown, which at the time was held in July. Sent off at odds of 10/1 Vivid Photo sat behind favorite Sand Vic and came up just a neck short, finishing second in 1:52:3.
Vivid Photo and Hammer would again find the winners circle in the $100,000 Patriot Invitational at Colonial Downs. The win put him just under $200,000 shy of $3,000,000 in career earnings. Vivid Photo would win three more times before making his final start as a four-year-old at Dover Downs going 1-¼ miles in 2:25. His four-year-old campaign would wrap up with a seasonal record of 21: 7-3-1-0 and earnings of $607,100.
Vivid Photo would continue to make his mark as an aged horse as a five-year-old, winning the $250,000 Classic Series Final at Mohawk, the Titan Cup at The Meadowlands, and the Credit Winner at Vernon before wrapping up the year at Colonial Downs while winning The Patriot for the second consecutive year. He would close out 2007 with 7 wins from 15 starts and seasonal earnings of $738,769.
Vivid Photo would inflate his career earning by more than $100,000 in both his six and seven-year-old seasons. In 2010 at the age of 8, he returned to where his career started at the Pennsylvania Fairs. At the Wayne County Fair in Honesdale, there was a $500 “bounty” set on the track record. Any horse that could win the $650 Free-For-All Trot and break the track record would collect the bounty.
Fans packed the wooden grandstand at the fairgrounds as Vivid Photo made the lead and never turned back. After cutting fractions of 30:2, 1:00, and 1:32, he went on to win in track record time of 2:02. That record still stands today, 10 years later.
In 2012, Vivid Photo was retired from racing at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono on Earl Beal Jr. Memorial Trot night with a special ceremony in the winners circle before retiring to Roger Hammer’s farm in Bedford. In his racing career, Vivid Photo went behind the gate 179 times, winning 49 races, finishing second 30 times, and third 20 times. He retired with a lifetime mark of 1:50:2 and career earnings of $3,273,387.
Cam Fella was born on May 14, 1979 in Lexington, KY. Bred by Wilfred Cameron of Washington, Pennsylvania, Cam Fella was by Most Happy Fella and out of the Bret Hanover mare, Nan Cam. He was purchased following his two-year-old campaign by Norm Clements and Norm Faulkner for $140,000.
Cam Fella returned as a three-year-old in 1982 and would go on to capture some of harness racing’s biggest prizes. Cam Fella would make his first Grand Circuit stakes start of the season in the first leg of pacing’s Triple Crown, the Cane Pace at Yonkers Raceway. Trained and driven by Pat Crowe, Cam Fella took the $205,320 contest in 1:57:3.
Despite winning the Cane, Cam Fella would never have the chance to capture the Triple Crown, as he was not eligible to the second leg, The Little Brown Jug. Following the Cane, Cam Fella would head across the Hudson River to The Meadowlands for the Meadowlands Pace Eliminations. Cam Fella wound up finishing seventh in the elimination. That seventh place finish would be the last time he would finish off the board.
After not being able to participate in the Little Brown Jug, Cam Fella returned to capture the third leg of the Triple Crown, winning the $259,578 Messenger Stakes at Roosevelt Raceway. After winning the first heat in a track record equalling 1:57:3, Cam Fella came back to capture the second heat after a duel with the Little Brown Jug winner, Merger.
Following the Messenger, Cam Fella would travel north of the border to Canada for the Provincial Cup at Ontario’s Windsor Raceway. Established as the overwhelming favorite in the final, Cam Fella would record his 28th win of the year and would stop the timer in 1:55:4. The time was a track record for three-year-old pacing colts at Windsor and was the fifth track record that Cam Fella established in 1982, including his 22nd two-minute mile. This win would also make him only the third horse to record 22 two-minute miles in a single season. The other two were Abercrombie (22) and Niatross (24).
Cam Fella would end his three-year-old campaign with 28 wins in 33 starts and $879,723 in seasonal earnings. Other highlights of his sophomore season included wins in the Confederation Cup at Flamboro, the Prix d’Ete, and the Queen City Pace. Cam Fella also time trialed in 1:54 at Lexington’s Red Mile. He was voted Horse of the Year in both the United States and Canada.
Despite a slow start to his four-year-old year in 1983, Cam Fella hit his best stride by winning two-out-of-three legs of the World Cup series at The Meadowlands. He would not be beaten again in his racing career. 1983 would be the year he would earn his nickname The Pacing Machine after winning 30 of his 36 starts and 28 races in a row in a span of 29 weeks.
During the streak, he won some of harness racing’s most prestigious events, including the Driscoll, all three legs of the US Pacing Championship, the American National, Canadian Pacing Derby, the Graduate, and the Gold Cup.
On November 12, 1983, Cam Fella would equal his grandsire Bred Hanover’s record for 24 consecutive wins in a single season. A week later he would make his attempt for 25 wins in a row in the US Pacing Championship at Roosevelt Raceway in Long Island. After a brief early tussle with Millers Scout, Cam Fella made the lead through a 28 second quarter. Pat Crowe was able to slow things down to the half, hitting that mark in 58:1. In the second half mile, Cam Fella turned away a brief challenge from Mr Delrae through ¾ in 1:27:1. Around the last turn Cam Fella maintained the lead and held onto win over Millers Scout by a ½ length in 1:56:2.
Cam Fella would also break Courageous Red’s world record for the most miles under two minutes in a single season with 25. Cam Fella continued on to Chicago’s Maywood Park and captured the Rambling Willie to record his 26th win in a row. With that win now under his belt, Cam Fella found himself only around $60,000 short of Rambling Willie’s Standardbred earnings record.
After winning his final start at Toronto’s Greenwood Raceway, Cam Fella retired to stud. His winning streak would end at 28. Cam Fella’s win streak spanned 12 racetracks and 19 stakes races, 8 Invitationals, and an FFA. For the second year in a row he would be named Horse of the Year in both the United States and Canada. In addition to being voted Horse of the Year, he was also named 1983 Aged Champion Pacer and 1983 Pacer of the Year. His number of consecutive two-minute wins ended at 32, and he surpassed Rambling Willie as the richest standardbred of all time. He retired with a record of 80: 61-6-5, earnings of $2,041,367 and a lifetime mark of 1:53:1.
Standing his first year at stud at Stonegate Farm in New Jersey in 1984, Cam Fella quickly made his mark as a sire despite being a ridgeling. He sired five pacers who earned more than $2,000,000 and made their own major mark in harness racing history. Those included Presidential Ball, who earned over $3,000,000. He is also the sire of 1991 Horse of the Year Precious Bunny, 1994 Horse of the Year Cams Card Shark, as well as Camtastic and Goalie Jeff.
He is also the sire of nine other million-dollar earners, including Cambest. Cambest’s 1:46:1 time trial in 1993 stood as the fastest mile ever recorded by a standardbred until Always B Miki’s world record performance in 2016. Cam Fella was North America’s leading sire in 1993 and 1995. His offspring have amassed over $106.9 million in earnings, and he has produced 12 in 1:50.
Cam Fella was gelded in 1997 due to testicular cancer and retired to the Kentucky Horse Park. He was inducted into the Harness Racing Museum and Hall of Fame’s Living Horse Hall of Fame in 1998. There is also a street named Cam Fella Lane near the former Greenwood Raceway. He continued his battle with cancer until he was humanely euthanized in May of 2001.