by Frank Carulli
February 26, 2018
Pro wrestling legend Ric Flair often says "to be the man, you have to beat the man." His point, in some respects, was well taken by the U.S. Harness Writers Association members who met Flair at the Dan Patch Awards banquet Sunday in Orlando.
They voted 6-year-old mare Hannelore Hanover as 2017 Horse of the Year, largely on the premise that she beat male rivals in the $526,250 Breeders Crown Open Trot along the way.
Hannelore Hanover won 10 of 17 races during a $1 million season and trotted a world record 1:49.2 in winning the Allerage Farms Open Trot at the Red Mile. But her 1-1/4-length victory in the Breeders Crown in 1:52.1 enabled her to turn what could have been a photo finish into a handy victory over sevral worthy division champions. She earned 95 first-place votes, out-distancing millionaire trotter Ariana G (15) and undefeated Manchego (12), her nearest rivals, in the final balloting.
Hannelore Hanover is the first mare this century to beat the boys in the Breeders Crown and the first Horse of the Year winner for trainer Ron Burke, the perennial North America leader with more than $100 million in earnings over the last five years. She is owned by Burke Racing Stable, the partnership of Mark Weaver and Mike Bruscemi, Frank Baldachino and J & T Silva Stables. Yannick Gingras was her regular driver.
"Since 1954, I’ve been walking around picking up papers, trying to find something," said Mickey Burke Sr., the patriarch of Burke Racing Stable. "I found it. The winner for the fastest trotting mare that ever lived. I’m so proud of her. She's just a dream horse."
Hannelore Hanover upstaged her lofty status from earlier in the month when she was named the 2017 O'Brien Award winner as Canadian Horse of the Year. She parlayed a victory in the Maple Leaf Trot -- you guessed it, against the boys -- to join JK Shesalady (2014) as the only Standardbreds this decade to earn top year-end honors in the U.S. and Canada.