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Harness Highlights: Pennachio Named Top Amateur Driver

by Frank Carulli

December 11, 2018

Joe Pennacchio, a US Trotting Association board member and Florida Standardbred Breeders and Owners Association president, proved he had far more than administrative talents in 2018.

Pennacchio might look good in a suit and tie, but he looked good wearing driver silks, too. He was in the bike 65 times, winning 14 times with 11 seconds and earning National Amateur Driver of the Year by the US Harness Writers Association. He finished with a .330 UDR rating in an ever-growing field of amateur drivers.

Pennacchio has been in the harness racing business for more than 30 years. He has owned more than 100 Standardbreds, including 2004 Breeders Crown sophomore trotting champion Yankee Slide and $650,000 earner Super Manning, who he guided to a series victory at the Meadowlands. He also drove Cheeky Little Minx to wins at Monticello and Yonkers in the second half of this year to help pin down driver of the year honors.

He will be honored at the Dan Patch Awards banquet in Florida in February.


The U.S. Harness Writers Association will vote this month for Horse of the Year. If the weekly Hambletonian Society/Breeders Crown poll in an indicator, there could be a decisive winner.

McWicked earned 27 of 35 first-place votes to earn top honors in the final Top 10 poll of the season. He closed the year with four stakes victories at as many tracks, including the Breeders Crown Open Pace. He was one of five seasonal millionaires in the rankings.

Breeders Crown Mare Pace champion Shartin N received the remaining eight first-place votes and finished a clear second. She set a single-season earnings record for a pacing mare and led the Top 10 contingent with 19 victories in 24 starts.

Hambletonian winner Atlanta finished third, ahead of multiple stakes-winner Tactical Slide and millionaire Six Pack in a talented group of 3-year-old trotters that earned their way into the Top 10. Freshman trotters Woodside Charm and Gimpanzee finished unbeaten and were ranked fourth and sixth, respectively.