By John Manzi
MONTICELLO December 26, 2003 Theres no doubt that amateur racing has made tremendous inroads in the sport in recent times. Boosted largely by the Grand Circuit of Amateur Racing, the annual C.K.G. Billings Amateur Trotting Classic, and by numerous local amateur clubs formed at many of the raceways, the North American amateur movement has gained respectability to the extent that nearly all race tracks card betting races for amateur drivers. And each year as interest in amateur driving grows, more people join the movement.
For the past decade, the United States Harness Writers Association (USHWA) has annually cited the nations most outstanding amateur driver.
Selected by a committee headed by the president of USHWA and the presidents of the Delvin Miller Amateur Drivers Association (DMADA) and the North American Amateur Drivers Association (NAADA), this years recipient is Brent Davis.
According to the committee, anyone of five or six candidates could have been tapped as the Amateur Driver of the Year for this past season. But when all the criteria was reviewed, Davis was declared the national winner.
With the book closed on what arguably was the greatest season amateur racing has enjoyed in the modern era, Davis, owner of a beauty salon in Zanesville, Ohio, was deemed to have the most impressive credentials. Not only did he rein eight winners and have 11 seconds and two thirds in 36 starts, but his .410 UDR was the best in the Billings Amateur Driving Series among drivers having more than 12 starts.
During the seven-month Billings competition this year, Davis proved himself worthy of his accolade. He finished sixth in points in the Midwest region and was sixth in the combined points category. But perhaps most importantly, the 41-year-old amateur reinsmen guided his own Hooty And The Fish to a 2:24 victory in the one and three sixteenths-mile $35,000 Delvin Miller Memorial Gold Cup at the Meadowlands on November 28.
I was really excited when I won the Billings Gold Cup, Davis said after his biggest victory in 20 years as an amateur driver. Being a farm boy from Ohio, just to drive at the Meadowlands is a great thrill, but to win the biggest amateur race of the year is unbelievable. I cant even imagine how great the professional drivers must feel after they win a top race in the sport.
Davis got involved in harness racing through his dad, Mac, a longtime barber who owned and raced horses for decades. As a youngster, Brent spent much of his spare time at the stables caring for, jogging and training some of his dads stock. He began driving competitively strictly on an amateur basis as soon as he was old enough to obtain a license. He drove his first race in 1982 and reined his first winner that year, too. From a limited amount of lifetime starts mostly at the Ohio Fairs he has driven 111 winners.
Today, Brent and his dad together own seven horses, many of which campaign throughout Ohio and in western Pennsylvania.
This year marks the 10th season that Davis is a member of the Delvin Miller Amateur Drivers Association, which sponsors of the Billings Classic.
I really love the Billings Amateur Series, he said. Its very competitive, but a lot of fun. And, besides, you meet some very nice people along the way.
Davis will receive his National Amateur Driver of the Year Award on Sunday, February 8, 2004 at the U.S. Harness Writers Awards Banquet at Caesars Hotel and Casino in Atlantic City, NJ.