by Frank Carulli
January 28, 2020
Age did not slow down harness racing’s winningest performers in 2019. Six of the Top 10 on the North America leaderboard were at least 10 years old and the leading trotter was 14 before he was forced into mandatory retirement on January 1 of this year.
Rustys Flying, who competed mostly at Flamboro Downs, Kawartha Downs and Rideau Carleton Raceway in Canada, hit the finish line first with 20 wins from 41 starts. The 11-year-old mare pacer has been claimed 15 times since 2018, three times by current trainer David Gibson. “She’s never been a stakes horse or anything like that,” Gibson said of the 98-race career winner in an interview with Standardbred Canada. “She’s done this week after week after week for so many years now, it’s really amazing. … She’ll just keep digging to the wire and give you everything she’s got.”
Rustys Flying won in a photo finish over 10-year-old pacer Atta Boy Dan, whose 19 wins earned him Horse of the Year honors at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono. He, too, changed hands repeatedly in upper-level claiming races at the Pennsylvania track.
Defending champion Southwind Amazon was among eight standardbreds tied for third with 18 wins last season. The Northfield Park-based sensation, now 10 years old, completed a remarkable three-year run with 57 wins from 118 starts.
With 18 wins, Anderlecht deserves special recognition, too, ending his career with 82 victories and C$1 million in earnings.
Elias Joy raced 42 times at age 14 for owner Andrew Gannon and trainer Robert Lounsbury. He won 18 of them – more than any other trotter in 2019 -- including his farewell race at Monticello in New York.
In the earnings category, four Dan Patch Award divisional champions led the way. Bettors Wish parlayed multiple stakes victories and a perfect in-the-money record into a $1.64 million bankroll. Greenshoe and Gimpanzee both trotted to $1 million in seasonal earnings for trainer Marcus Melander. McWicked, the 2018 Horse of the Year, closed one of the best careers in harness racing history, with another $1 million season.