Keystone USHWA announces 2023 Pennsylvania award winners

Harrisburg PA — Kim Hankins, the executive director of the Meadows Standardbred Owners Association and a fully-participating member in all aspects of the harness game for over a half-century, has been selected by the Keystone Chapter of the United States Harness Writers Association, the industry’s leading media organization, to receive the group’s highest award, the Mary Lib Miller Award for outstanding contributions to harness racing, particularly in Pennsylvania.

It is fitting that Mary Lib Miller, the wife of “Mr. Harness Racing” Delvin Miller, has recently been selected for the Pennsylvania Harness Racing Hall of Fame.

Also to be honored, along with the new PA Hall of Famers and the champions of the 2023 Pennsylvania fair circuit, are Clarence Martin Jr., horsemen and starter of the fair races, with a President’s Award; the sophomore pacer Seven Colors with the Pennsylvania Sire Stakes Harness Horse of the Year after achieving the program’s fastest-ever time in a Championship, 1:48.1, while winning his finale earlier this year; and Eric Neal, coming off his best sulky season ever, as the PA Fair Horseman of the Year.

All will be feted at the U.S. Trotting Association’s District 7/PA Fairs Banquet, to be held Saturday (Jan. 20) at the Omni in Bedford, Pa.

A member of one of Illinois’ most distinguished harness families, Hankins raced on that state’s top circuits for over two decades, then served as president or vice-president of the Illinois Harness Horsemen’s Association for a dozen years. A stint heading California’s horsemen preceded his 2007 taking the job at the MSOA, where he quickly became a driving force behind the positive effects expanded gaming brought to the state’s Standardbred spot and continues to work tirelessly for the backstretch community. A former USTA director, Hankins is currently first vice-president of Harness Horsemen International.

Martin also comes from a racing family: his father Clarence Sr. won both a dash and a UDR title during the early years of The Downs. After establishing himself as a solid horseman working for various top stables and then on his own, Martin was approached in 2009 to take over the starting gate duties at the Pennsylvania fairs, and now Clarence not only does an excellent job making sure all the horses get a fair and safe start, he has become quite the promoter of the sport, taking many fans in his gate for a unique view of the beginning of a race and also distributing marketing “swag,” all the while aiding in racing the family stable.

Seven Colors, a 3-year-old colt by Stay Hungry-Rainbowinthedark, came to top form after being purchased by William Pollock, Bruce Areman, and trainer Andrew Harris in early August, with a win in the Milstein at Northfield and a hard-luck pair of seconds in the $1 million Little Brown Jug. The race that sealed this award for him was his $252,000 Pennsylvania Sire Stakes Championship victory at Philadelphia on Sept. 3, where he paced the fastest mile ever in a PaSS finale, 1:48.1, which helped to boost his earnings over $685,000 for the campaign.

Eric Neal, 32, has been one of the steadiest of horsemen on the Keystone fair circuit for several seasons, and then this year things fell right into place for him. The son of Randal Neal, himself a top ten trainer this season, quickly established a rapport with the horses of trainers Tom Loughry Jr. and Mitchell York, respectively third and fourth in the conditioners derby, and while leading the meets at Honesdale, Meadville, Indiana and Gratz, Eric amassed 67 visits to Victory Lane while defeating the kingpin of recent years, Todd Schadel, by six (Todd did retain his trainers title). Neal currently ranks fourth in all of North America in his divisional UDR category.

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