Confederate is 2023 Horse of the Year

Orlando, FL — Harness racing’s richest and fastest performer last season, Confederate, added another honor to his résumé Sunday (Feb. 25) when he was named the 2023 Horse of the Year to conclude the U.S. Harness Writers Association’s Dan Patch Awards banquet, presented by Caesars Entertainment, before a crowd of 300 at Rosen Centre.

Confederate, a 3-year-old colt who also received Pacer of the Year on Sunday, was named Horse of the Year on 112 of the 129 returned ballots. Three-year-old colt Tactical Approach, who was announced as Trotter of the Year on Sunday, was second with seven votes.

They were followed by 3-year-old pacing filly Sylvia Hanover with three, 4-year-old pacing gelding Bythemissal and 4-year-old trotting mare Jiggy Jog S with two, and 6-year-old trotting stallion It’s Academic and 2-year-old trotting colt Karl with one.

Confederate added another honor to his résumé Sunday when he was named the 2023 Horse of the Year. USTA/Mark Hall photo.

Confederate became the eighth 3-year-old male pacer this century to be honored as Horse of the Year, and the 20th overall since the award was first given in 1947.

In balloting for Pacer of the Year, Confederate received 122 votes to top a group of four horses to receive at least one nod. In balloting for Trotter of the Year, Tactical Approach garnered 99 votes, followed by Jiggy Jog S with 10 and Karl with nine. Four other trotters received at least one vote.

Confederate won 13 of 15 races last season and earned $1.63 million. In addition to leading the sport in purses, Confederate became the fastest 3-year-old pacer in history thanks to his 1:46.1 score in September at Lexington’s Red Mile. His time bettered the previous mark by three-fifths of a second and only four older pacers have gone faster, topped by Bulldog Hanover’s 1:45.4 mile in 2022.

A son of Sweet Lou-Geothermal, Confederate was trained by Brett Pelling, driven by Tim Tetrick, owned by Diamond Creek Racing, and bred by Diamond Creek Farm. Diamond Creek Racing was honored as the 2023 Owner of the Year while Diamond Creek Farm was the Breeder of the Year.

The colt was Pelling’s second Horse of the Year winner in three years, joining Test Of Faith in 2021, and his third overall, with Rocknroll Hanover in 2005. Tetrick has been the regular driver of three Horse of the Year honorees, with Confederate joining Shartin N in 2019 and Chapter Seven in 2012.

Confederate’s wins included the Meadowlands Pace, Breeders Crown, Cane Pace, Max C. Hempt Memorial, and Kentucky Sire Stakes Championship Series final. After finishing second by a head in the North America Cup, he reeled off 11 consecutive victories, with nine coming by two lengths or more.

“I asked the question the other day to my group, do you think that he was that much better than everybody else, or do you think he just liked to win?” Diamond Creek’s Adam Bowden said. “And I think he was just that much better than everybody else talent-wise. I don’t even know if we figured out if he liked to win or not because he was just that much better than everybody else. I think that was the difference.

“I think I kind of knew that early on. He was just different than the other horses. I don’t know how to describe it, other than it was a feeling.”

Tactical Approach was announced as Trotter of the Year on Sunday. USTA/Mark Hall photo.

Tactical Approach was the season’s richest trotter, with $1.50 million in purses, good for 10th in history for a 3-year-old male trotter. The colt hit the board in 17 of 19 races, winning 10, with his triumphs including the Hambletonian, Breeders Crown and Kentucky Futurity.

A son of Tactical Landing-Sarcy, Tactical Approach was trained by Nancy Takter, driven by Scott Zeron, owned by Robert LeBlanc, John Fielding, and Joe Sbrocco & JAF Racing, and bred by Steve Stewart and Oakwood Farms. Zeron was the 2023 Driver of the Year.

“(Tactical Approach) has given us unbelievable thrills,” LeBlanc said. “We had a blast. When we started him in April, he was racing in non-winners at The Meadowlands and I remember both Nancy and (her father) Jimmy saying watching this guy, he’s going to get better and better as the season goes on.

“This horse always found a way to win. We’re very, very proud of him. These horses don’t come along very often. This is what it’s all about. This is a lot of fun. This is why we’re all in the game.”

Previously announced Dan Patch Award divisional champions also were honored Sunday at the banquet.

Division-winning pacers were 2-year-old colt Captain Albano, 2-year-old filly Geocentric, 3-year-old filly Sylvia Hanover, 4-year-old gelding Bythemissal, 5-year-old mare Grace Hill, and Confederate.

Division-winning trotters were 2-year-old colt Karl, 2-year-old filly Soiree Hanover, 3-year-old filly Bond, 6-year-old stallion It’s Academic, 4-year-old mare Jiggy Jog S, and Tactical Approach.

Other honorees included Stan Bergstein-Proximity Achievement Award winners Brittany Farms and Jason Settlemoir, Trainer of the Year Ake Svanstedt, and Rising Star Jay Hochstetler.

Also recognized at the banquet were the members of the 2024 Hall of Fame class, which will be inducted on July 7 in Goshen, N.Y.: Jim Campbell, Ed Lohmeyer, and David McDuffee, as well as communicators Tim Bojarski and the late Dave Brower.

A complete list of winners can be found here on the U.S. Harness Writers Association’s website. For complete Horse of the Year, Pacer of the Year, and Trotter of the Year vote totals, click here. To watch a replay of the Dan Patch Awards banquet, click here.

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