This year USHWA’s National Amateur Driver of the Year Award goes to Bob Krivelin, and it could be said that Krivelin won the honor in a split decision.
His name rose to the top over other prolific drivers, some of whom race almost exclusively against professionals.
When Krivelin was notified, he was on his cell phone while was driving (this time a car).
“Wait until I get where I’m going and I’ll call you back,” he told the messenger.
And he did -- and was jubilant, to be sure.
“The amateur driving colony is the best it’s ever been, and to be chosen over the others is really an honor,” Krivelin said via cell phone. “I drove with more confidence this year and I’m grateful to the trainers who allowed me to drive their stock at the various tracks where we raced. They should be acknowledged because they are the backbone of the movement.
“I drove for, and won races for, trainers Diane Hellen, Joe Peruso, Richie Banca, Elisha Lafrenier, Gary Messenger and Jennifer Lappe.”
Krivelin also said he is grateful for the help and knowledge he received—and still receives--from professional horsemen such as Ray Schnittker, Ray Remmen, Jimmy Doherty Jr. and John Brennan, to mention a few.
Sure, Krivelin owns horses, but when he drives-- and it’s usually not more than 60 or 70 times a year, if that many--he’s often handling a different horse at each of the venues, be it a Billings contest or events from NAADA (North American Amateur Drivers Association) or local amateur clubs.
With seasonal stats of 60-13-11-10 and a .325 UDR (“batting average”), his victories with various horses at various racetracks were paramount and helped push him over the top in his quest for this year’s Amateur Driver of the Year Award.
Of course his seven driving victories in the CKG Billings Amateur Driving Series this year, where he won the Eastern Region Points Championship and the Combined Points Trophy, along with his victories in two legs and the Final of NAADA Trotting Series, certainly helped him being chosen top amateur driver in 2012.
Krivelin is no stranger to amateur racing; this past season marks the second time that he earned the title as the National Amateur Driver of the Year. His initial accomplishment came in 2001. That year he reined 22 winners in 99 trips to post and won the Billings Gold Cup Championship Final.
From a young age Krivelin was bitten by the harness racing bug.
“When I was a youngster I used to sneak into Yonkers Raceway with some friends after the seventh race when they opened the gates,” Krivelin said unashamedly. “Those days, foolishly, youngsters weren’t allowed in the grandstand. “It was from the excitement and fun of the races at Yonkers that I got hooked on harness racing. The crowds were tremendous, the racing top-notch, so what wasn’t there to like?”
After becoming a successful businessman and then spending much of his leisure time around the Meadowlands, he purchased a few horses and in 1996 “Kriv," as many of his friends call him, drove his first race. He finished fifth with Straight Talk at the Meadowlands in 1996 and it was behind that same trotter that year that he won his first race (2:04.2) at Rosecroft Raceway.
Winning your first race is often like that first girlfriend whom most men usually remember with reverence. But not Kriv.
Although in 2003 he drove his own Rapid Rail to a Hambletonian Oaks elimination victory and then finished second in the final, still he claims his greatest thrill thus far was winning his first race against professional drivers at the Meadowlands in 2001.
“I won with a trotter by the name of Heathen Hall who was by Incredible Abe and my dad’s (first) name was Abe," Krivelin said as he recalled the joy of that victory. “Although I had won some amateur races at the Meadowlands before, it was my first win against field of professionals and it came from the 10-hole. I not only beat pros, but the top drivers that night.”
But Krivelin is an amateur driver in the true sense of the word. Although he currently owns 16 horses and employs multiple trainers, his main profession is a wholesale food purveyor—or as he claims "a distributor"--and he and his partner supply 500 restaurants in New York City.
Much of the money he has earned from his vocation Krivelin has put into the racing game, and he says, maybe with tongue in cheek--and maybe not--“It’s great when you get hooked on harness racing, but when you do it’s all that you think of and it takes up your whole life.”
Krivelin will be honored on Sunday (March 3) at the Dan Patch Awards Banquet, the climatic event of Harness Congress VI weekend, to be held at the Westin Beach Resort and Spa in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Further information about the banquet, the Congress, and related events is available at www.ushwa.org.