Northfield, OH --- Dean Davis, Monica Drago, Nadine Habke, Deb Sweney and Dr. Dan Wilson will all be recognized as part of the Wall of Fame ceremonies at Northfield Park on Sunday (Aug. 10). The banquet festivities begin at 5 p.m.
Dean Davis is the newest recipient of Northfield Park’s Distinguished Owner Award. Davis has had success in harness racing on and off the racetrack. He has made tremendous contributions to the sport, earning respect as a loyal and encouraging owner with a keen eye for young racing prospects. His racing stock has been extremely successful. Davis has owned such prominent horses as Lisa Mac, Blastaway Sahbra, Gramma Gordie and his pride and joy, Dunkster.
Davis convinced Northwestern Ohio trainer Ivan Sugg’s son, Kurt, to go out on his own and helped the younger Sugg throughout his career launch. The two have been an owner/trainer team since 1995.
“He’s treated me like a son,” described Kurt of their relationship.
Monica Drago and Deb Sweney will be recognized with the Outstanding Caretaker Awards. They are very important to their stables’ operations, and both exude passion and dedication toward their craft.
Drago, a native of Stockholm Sweden, works for 2004 Wall of Fame inductee Clair Umholtz. At the barn each morning by 5:15 a.m., she is responsible for the same five horses every day. Monica can be found in the Umholtz barn seven days a week, usually leaving by 2 p.m. She often returns at night to groom one of her horses or catch-paddock. Her cooperative nature and knowledge of horses makes her an asset to Umholtz and to the entire horse scene at Northfield Park.
“Everyone on the backstretch knows that Monica is the best,” Clair Umholtz flatly stated.
Outstanding Caretaker Deb Sweney has been a groom at Northfield for 22 years. She has worked for Kathy Shermak, John Lee, Don McKirgan, Ray Crawford, Mike Weller, Mark Deaton and, since 2007, Tye Loy, a 2010 Wall of Fame inductee. Deb is at the Loy barn by 7 a.m., usually six days a week, and stated she is done by 2 or 3 p.m. She gets Sundays off. Sweney, consistent with her quiet and unassuming nature, is known as a caring groom with a soft touch. She goes the extra mile and truly loves horses.
“She can work anybody under the table,” stated Loy, echoing the sentiments of co-workers and former employers who extol her work ethic.
Nadine Habke will be the recipient of the Willie C. Banks Ideal Employee Award. Loyalty, dedication, ability and desire are sought-after qualities in an ideal employee, and Nadine embodies them all. Her ability is unquestioned, and when one talks to Nadine, it becomes very clear how much she likes outriding and how strong her dedication is to the sport of racing and to Northfield Park.
The outrider at Northfield since 2001, Habke’s proven competence has earned the respect and confidence of the driver-trainer colony. Summed up Aaron Merriman, the nation’s leading dash driver: “She is completely awesome. I cannot say enough good things about her.”
Dr. Dan Wilson will receive the John Lee Good Fellowship Award. He has been a fixture on the Northfield backstretch for nearly 40 years. Wilson is known as an extremely honest and skilled veterinarian who cares deeply about horses and horsemen.
“There is no nicer person than Doc. He comes to the barns every day with a smile on his face, always asking how he can help,” said Amy Hollar, Northfield Park track representative for the Ohio Harness Horsemen’s Association. “In the 14 years he has been our vet, I have never seen him have a bad day.”
Northfield Park’s Wall of Fame banquet is a triennial event. Candidates are nominated and considered by the Wall of Fame Trustees. Once a consensus is reached among the trustees, additional input and final approval is sought from the track’s Wall of Fame Advisory Committee.
Ronnie Wrenn Jr. and Dan Noble also will be recognized for their national dash driving championships at the banquet. The highlight of the evening will be the induction of five new members into the Northfield Park Wall of Fame.