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Battoni wins top Keystone Chapter USHWA award
Monday, April 11, 2016 - by Jerry Connors

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Harrisburg, PA --- Ron Battoni, recently-retired executive vice-president of the Pennsylvania Harness Horsemen’s Association and one of the leaders of Pennsylvania’s re-emergence to the uppermost ranks of North American harness racing, has been selected to receive the Mary Lib Miller Award, the highest annual honor given by the Keystone Chapter of the United States Harness Writers Association, for long and meritorious service to the Commonwealth’s Standardbred industry.

A former horseman, Battoni served for more than a quarter-century at the helm of the PHHA, and was one of the leaders for the horsemen’s viewpoint when the enabling legislation of expanded gaming opportunities was being drifted in the early- and mid-2000s. He along with other influential horsemen “rode herd” on the drafting of the bill, known as “The Race Horse Development and Gaming Bill,” to maintain that some semblance of that pecking order would be, and has been, maintained in the decade since slots came to Pennsylvania -- fittingly, first at Battoni’s home track of The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono in November 2006.

Battoni also was the first to recognize the changing relationship between racetracks and horsemen’s organizations, often bringing promotional ideas and other information to track management, so that both sides could participate in a win-win partnership that added a third winner -- the state’s harness racing program.

He also never lost sight of the fact that he and his PHHA board were the protectors of the horsemen, both large and small, and constantly championed their rights within the ever-changing relationships within the sport’s gaming interests.

The Keystone Chapter of USHWA has also announced winners for outstanding performance in Pennsylvania (and beyond) during the 2015 racing season:

PA Driver of the Year: George Napolitano Jr., who set single-season records for dashes won at both the Downs and Harrah’s Philadelphia, the latter arguably the single-toughest drivers’ community in North America, and who had four months of 100 or more winners en route to finishing second in the North American dashwinning derby.

PA Trainer of the Year: Ron Burke, again the dominating trainer of not only his home base of The Meadows, but also of the entire North American scene, with early development of future stars at The Meadows and the state’s other tracks leading to a stable which produced 984 victories and $24.9 million in 2015 purse money.

PA Breeder of the Year: Hanover Shoe Farms, the leading breeder in North America every year since records began to be kept in 1949. This past year they outdid even themselves by posting a single-season record of $30,167,751 in earnings from their “graduates.”

PA-Sired Horse of the Year: Pinkman, 2015 North American Trotter of the Year, winner of $1.8 million in 2015 including the prestigious Hambletonian. He also won at all three PA tracks in 2015, including the Beal championship at Pocono. 

PA Sire Stakes Horse of the Year: Pure Country, also the national 2-year-old filly pace champion after going undefeated in 10 starts and winning the Breeders Crown. Half of those 10 wins came in PA Sire Stakes company, where she swept her prelims and the championship, setting a Sires single-year money record of $286,918.

PA Horse of the Year, for a horse who campaigned with great success in overnight races at the state’s racetracks: Atta Boy Dan, who raced in Pennsylvania’s top classes, primarily at The Meadows, in 10 of the 12 months, won in nine of them, and won in sub-1:50 in six of them, fastest 1:49.1 at The Meadows.

These awards will be presented in mid-spring to the winners and/or their connections, at their home Pennsylvania tracks or when they come to the state for stakes competition.

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