by Frank Carulli
December 12, 2017
The U.S. Harness Writers Association will have the final say later this month, but perhaps the writing for Horse of the Year is on the wall. Hannelore Hanover occupied the No. 1 spot in the final Hambletonian Society/Breeders Crown poll of 2017, edging Ariana G in photo finish.
Hannelore Hanover, who defeated the boys in the Breeders Crown Open Trot, received 14 first-place votes and 320 points overall as voters ranked their picks on a 10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 basis. Ariana G, a repeat Breeders Crown champion during a $1.1 million sophomore season, finished with 312 points and 13 first-place votes. Manchego, undefeated in 12 starts, got four first-place votes as trotters swept the top three spots. Pacing stablemates Downbytheseaside and Fear The Dragon, who combined for 26 wins and $2.9 million, rounded out the Top 5.
Stay tuned for the Horse of the Year vote. ....
'YANKEE JOE' LEE IS TOP AMATEUR DRIVER
Joe Lee, an assistant equipment manager for the New York Yankees, worked overtime to pursue his other passion in 2017. He sat behind the sulky in harness races for amateur drivers when time allowed.
Lee drove a career-high15 winners for various trainers and was named the U.S. Harness Writers Association National Amateur Driver of the Year by a unanimous vote.
Lee, 38, capped his season with a win behind Dizzy Rizzi in the $25,000 CKG Billings Gold Cup at Yonkers November 26. He will be honored at the USHWA Awards Banquet in Orlando in February.
IN THE XPRESSLANE: George Napolitano Jr. drove seven winner on the December 7 Harrah's Philadelphia card, six for leading trainer Gilbert Garcia-Herrera. Napolitano has 308 wins at the meet, good for more than $3 million in purses. ... Details for the inaugural Penn National Gaming Harness Racing Challenge series have been announced. Six stakes races totaling an estimated $800,000 in purses will be held throughout 2018 at Freehold Raceway, Dayton Raceway and Plainridge Park Casino, with the top owner, driver and trainer in the series winning a trip to Las Vegas.