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Free-Legged: USHWA award winners
Wednesday, October 31, 2007 - by Dean A. Hoffman

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Dean Hoffman

Columbus, OH --- I certainly was pleased to see that the U.S. Harness Writers Association is honoring Steve Elliott and David Carr at its 2008 banquet. Both are highly deserving.

Elliott, of course, has enjoyed a storybook season with Donato Hanover, as the colt has whirled unbeaten through a schedule that has taken him from a cozy haven at the Big M, to Du Quoin, to Canada and to Lexington. All Donato does is win races.

Donato has been so dominant this season that it’s easy to forget that Elliott also had the top horse in the harness polls last season for a good part of the year. His name was Artistic Fella and he sizzled through the summer on a lengthy winning streak before reality reared its ugly head in his final few starts.

One thing about Steve is that he knows that the wheels can come off a horse at any time in the season. He’s not exactly new to this game. Keep in mind that Steve trained Valley Victory through a perfect seven-for-seven season in 1989 before the colt took sick just prior to the Hambletonian. He never raced again.

Last year owner Joe Alborano alienated many people when he said that he wouldn’t race Artistic Fella in the Cane Pace or the Jug because he didn’t want to take the risks inherent in half-mile track races. I wrote about that on my blog and people responded by firing shots at Alborano. It got a bit heated there for a while.

During all the name calling and accusations, Steve e-mailed me and we talked the matter over. We said we’d sit down over dinner and a beer sometime and discuss it in greater detail. We never got that chance, but Steve was pretty calm, cool, and collected through it all. After all, he’s had his share of ups and downs in his career. Hasn’t everyone?

Part of the burden of having a top horse (if that is truly a burden), is having to deal with endless and occasionally inane media inquiries. Many trainers dislike that and duck the questions. Others allow their egos to swell to the size of a Macy’s Parade balloon. Not Steve. He answered the questions and went about his business, knowing that it can all fall apart tomorrow. That makes him worthy of the Good Guy Award.

David Carr was honored by USHWA with the Unsung Hero Award, but anyone who has relied on David’s expertise over the years is all too willing to sing his praises. David has been the MVP -- Most Valuable Person -- for the USTA for years in my opinion.

I do know that no one works longer hours than David. I can’t count the number of times I’ve seen him slaving away two hours after the office has emptied. I also can’t count the number of times I’ve tried to call David at home on a Saturday or Sunday, only to be told that he was in the office working on a project.

David has a comprehensive understanding of the sport, as befitting a guy who’s been a fan for more than three decades. He also has the best understanding of how the nuggets in the USTA database can be mined for the benefit of USTA members.

I take a lot of pride in David’s accomplishments because I hired him many long years ago. I don’t know if he’s ever forgiven me for that, but I know that the USTA has been the beneficiary. Early in my working career, I learned long ago that successful people hire people who are smarter than they are; in my particular case, that’s exceedingly easy, but in David Carr I hired a person with not only brains but with an unmatched work ethic. That’s a winning combination.

Many people in harness racing have known that David Carr is a hero for decades. Harness Tracks of America honored David several years ago, and it’s nice that USHWA is recognizing him, too.

But the recognition won’t change his work patterns at all. He’ll undoubtedly continue to put in long hours for the sport of harness racing. That habit is too deeply ingrained in him. And his award is richly deserved.

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