(Article and photos submitted by George Starks)
GREENVILLE – The 2013 edition of Darke County harness racing was officially closed out Feb. 1 at the Greenville Elks.
Local drivers and horses were recognized with 12 classes of Standardbreds filling the bill, with all drivers and horses listed at the bottom.
Also, the election of officers were held as Kerby Wilcox was re-elected as the DCHHA president while his long running vice president, Ronnie Richards, stepped down with Gavin Bixler receiving the votes as the new vice to Wilcox.
Debbie Nisonger was re-elected as the association secretary with Cassie Bixler elected as the treasurer.
Richards, along with Dave Brumbaugh were elected as the new three year trustees.
Ohio State Representative Jim Buchy, longtime member of the Horseman’s Association, along with Judy Foureman, secretary/treasurer of the Ohio Colt Racing Association were awarded Honorary Achievement awards. Dick Holsapple and Carl Wade were honored with Lifetime Achievement Awards.
Buchy served as the keynote speaker for the evening.
“There is no county fair in Ohio that is better for racing than Darke County,” said Buchy. “We are the MECCA of harness horse racing in the state and it’s only going to get better.”
As with any sport, there are highs and lows and Buchy touched on the passing of longtime driver, Chip Noble.
“Chip, like most of us in this room, grew up working in horse stalls,” Buchy pointed out. “He, like our own Gene Riegle, was the epitome of what it means to be ‘gentlemen’ in this sport. What they did by example, if we all emulate that, we will all have very successful careers. Chip gave tremendously to the sport and he raced practically every year in Darke County.”
After touching on Noble, Buchy went to the excitement of what’s happening in the sport, starting with the Sire Stakes.
“In 2011, the Sire Stakes finals in Ohio was $75,000,” Buchy stated. “In 2012 it was $100,000 and in 2013, it was $150,000. This year, it will be $200,000 so it’s just unbelievable right now with how fast we’re coming and that’s with Scioto Downs being the only track open. When the other three get to running, lookout! It’s only going to get better. We had a big influx of cash last year and we got another infusion this year. Our goal for The Little Brown Jug is to get to a million or a million and a half dollars as fast as possible. If we can get there, the best horses won’t skip it. I don’t care what”
Ohio Harness Horsemen’s Association General Manager Jerry Knappenberger was also present and gave an update on racing in Ohio It was just over a week ago when the Ohio Harness Horsemen’s Association had its annual Banquet.
At that banquet, Hall of Fame Driver John Campbell was one of the guest speakers.
Buchy quoted Campbell saying, “As horsemen, we can’t take this phase, the new influx of money, without promoting the product. The gaming companies aren’t going to promote horseracing,” said Buchy. “They have their hands full promoting their own product so we have to do that. Our number one priority should be to promote a product that is competitive, exciting and one that offers multiple betting opportunities. Let’s face it, the more money that’s spent, the more money that comes back to the horsemen.”
Buchy also spoke about rules that have been on the books for quite some time that the commission has started to force.
“Kicking horses, leaning back and other things need to stop and the commission in Columbus is enforcing these rules,” Buchy pointed out. “We have to keep the illegal drugs out of the barns. We have to put the finest product on the track and when we do, we will grow. The betting handle was up at Scioto and we have obtained new fans to the sport. They were coming over from the racino to the track by the droves. When Monroe, Dayton and Northfield are running, the people are going to come. We got competitive races and bigger purses. We are going to get better. If we don’t have an honest product on the track, we’re going to lose the fans as fast as we got them. It’s that simple. If we do our jobs in the barns and on the track, we’ll be the powerhouse we once were. Not only in Ohio but right here in Darke County, just like we’ve always been.”
The 2014 Spring Matinee will be held on May 18, starting at noon.
According to Wilcox, the 2013 Matinee featured 120 horses with 22 heats being contested.
Again in 2014, the Horsemen will be selling chicken dinners. Wilcox said in 2013, there were 280 dinners sold.
Top horses in 2013:
2 year old Colt pace; Cherokeewowowillie - Owned by Indian Creek Farms and trained by Kent Wilcox
2 year old Filly Pace; Miss Metro Fitz - Owned by Kirby and Lori Sutton and Shayla Urlage. The horse is trained by Steve Weimer
2 year old Colt Trot; Hoosier Rascal - Owned and trained by Bill Clark
2 year old Filly Trot; Baby Steps – Owned by Michael Bardo and trained by Dan Purdue
3 year old Colt Trot; Truly My Way – Owned by Mandy Jones and trained by Brian Jones
3 year old Filly Pace; Virgin Girl – Owned by Scott and Kim Rudnick. Trained by Katie Dircksen
3 year old Colt Trot; Futuristic Bride – Owned and trained by Jeff Bolyard
Aged Horse Pace; Charley’s Fastcat – Owned by Indian Creek Farms and trained by Kent Wilcox
Aged Mare Pace; Sugar Foot – Owned by Gavin and Brad Bixler and trained by Gavin Bixler
Aged Horse Trot; Online Auction – Owned by Jeff Bolyard and trained by Jeff Bolyard
Aged Mare Trot; Telsa – Owned by Gene Brown and Jeff Simmons. Trainer is David Brumbaugh
|Shown are the horsemen winning awards at the annual banquet.|
|Honorary Achievement Award winners pictured with DCHHA officers: Debbie Nisonger, Judy Foureman, Kerby Wilcox, Jim Buchy, and Ronnie Richards|
|Lifetime Achievement Award winners are Dick Holsapple and Carl Wade|
|The 2014 officers are Cassie and Gavin Bixler, Kerby Wilcox, Ronnie Richards, Brian Jones, Debbie Nisonger, and Dick Delk. (Not pictured Trustee Dave Brumbaugh)|