By John Manzi
MONTICELLO October 18, 2002 For the 44th consecutive year, the Monticello-Goshen Chapter of the United States Harness Writers Association will honor the best performances, both human and equine at Monticello Raceway and at Goshen Historic Track.
In what is always a gala affair the best performances of the season will be cited on Sunday evening October 27 at the beautiful Raleigh Hotel in South Fallsburg. Our host, Mannie Halbert, always does a wonderful job with the banquet which consists of a cocktail hour-which usually stretches to an hour and 15 or 20 minutes and includes some of the most wonderful hors doeuvres and then a sit-down full course dinner. And since Mannies outstanding chef, Sammy Rice, is in the kitchen, we are always guaranteed a sumptuous feast.
But that night isnt really about the good food or drink. Its about honoring some outstanding industry people along with the top horsemen and the best horses that competed at the Mighty M and to a lesser extent at Historic Track, this year.
Our main honoree for the evening is U.S. Congressman Ben Gilman, whom the Chapter will honor with its inaugural Appreciation Award for all the support hes given harness racing over the decades. Over the year Congressman Gilman has registered the names of many harness racing personnel in the U.S. Congressional Record and presented numerous Congressional Citations to deserving harness racing recipients at various banquet and racing functions.
The chapter is honored to present Congressman Gilman with the award, which, in years to come, will carry his name and be presented to deserving individuals who support the wonderful Standardbred sport.
The local scribes will also honor Dr. Howard E. Gill with the chapters Lifetime Achievement Award for his lifelong dedication to the sport. Doc Gill, as all of the horsemen call him, recently retired after 40 years of practicing veterinarian medicine. And during those years he also bred, trained and raced harness horses. At the tender age of 76, the good doctor now devotes his time to the 25 or 30 horses he has at his farm in Pine Bush. Doc has about half of those horses in training and is currently racing five or six at the Mighty M.
The evenings two other main honorees will be Bill Murray and George Casale.
Murray, a resident of Goshen and a member of the Goshen Historic Tracks Board of Directors and a Vice President of the Board will be the 19th recipient of the Amy Bull Crist Distinguished Service Award for his contributions and dedicated service to Historic Track. Casale, from Brooklyn, is being honored with the Amateur Driver of the Year Award.
Initially George owned horses but a promotion we did here at the Mighty M back in 1993 called the Battle of the Bosses got him involved in driving. It was a promotion where owners (bosses) who were not professional trainers or drivers got behind a spirited steed and competed against one another in a series of non-wagering races. From that humble beginning Casale has developed into a force on the greatly expanding amateur driving circuit.
A bevy of horse awards will also be presented that evening for the best trotters and pacers in various different categories.
The most coveted equine award obviously is the Horse of the Year Award. The harness writers will bestow that honor on Chatham Hoochee, a pacer from the Art Green Stable who has won eight races and earned a record of 1:57:1 while amassing over $30,000 competing exclusively here at Monticello.
One of the more prestigious human awards is the chapters Rising Star Award. This years recipient is Claude Huckabone, Jr. who, in his first full season of competition here has driven 110 winners and is a threat to win every time hes behind a horse.
Though they will be recognized at the banquet, the leading driver and trainer awards wont be presented until December 31, the final day of the 2002 season.
In all, over 30 various awards will be presented to deserving individuals on October 27 at the Raleigh Hotel.
Oh, by the way, the banquet is open to the public. Should you want to join us for what is always a wonderful evening, including dancing after the banquet, please contact me at the raceway by calling 794-4100, extension 455. Tickets are $50 each.