Five-year-old stallion Always B Miki on Monday was named harness racing’s Pacer of the Year and Horse of the Year by the U.S. Harness Writers Association while 3-year-old colt Marion Marauder was named Trotter of the Year in the closest vote in the 46-year history of the award.
Always B Miki, who on Friday was named the Dan Patch Award winner for best older male pacer, defeated 4-year-old gelding Wiggle It Jiggleit in the voting for Pacer of the Year, 109-37, and for Horse of the Year, 102-32. Wiggle It Jiggleit was the 2015 Horse of the Year.
Marion Marauder, who this year became the ninth horse in history to win the Trotting Triple Crown, edged 4-year-old mare Hannelore Hanover in the voting for Trotter of the Year, 73-72. The previous closest finish for Trotter of the Year was in 1971 when Speedy Crown defeated Fresh Yankee, 71-68.
Hannelore Hanover finished third in Horse of the Year balloting, with 10 votes, while Marion Marauder was tied with 3-year-old male pacer Betting Line with four votes apiece.
Always B Miki was trained by Jimmy Takter, who joins Stanley Dancer as the only trainers to condition at least three different Horse of the Year winners. Takter’s previous Horse of the Year champions were trotters Moni Maker, who captured the award in 1998 and 1999, and Malabar Man in 1997.
In addition, Takter is the fifth trainer to have both a pacer and trotter receive Horse of the Year honors. He joins Dancer, Blair Burgess, Billy Haughton and Clint Hodgins in that group.
Always B Miki, who was twice sidelined by injuries that forced him to miss the end of his 3-year-old season and the majority of his 4-year-old campaign, paced the fastest mile in harness racing history on Oct. 9 at Lexington’s Red Mile when he won the Allerage Open Pace in 1:46.
His time eclipsed Cambest’s 1:46.1 mark, which was established in a time trial and stood as the record for 23 years, and lowered the race record, shared by multiple horses, by four-fifths of a second.
In addition to becoming the fastest horse in history, Always B Miki shares the world record of 1:47 for the fastest mile by a horse on a five-eighths-mile track. Always B Miki paced 1:47 on a five-eighths oval on three occasions, an unprecedented feat. He also holds the record of 1:47.1 for the fastest mile ever paced in Canada.
Always B Miki, driven by David Miller, won 12 of 18 races this year and finished worse than second only once. His victories included the Breeders Crown, Ben Franklin, William Haughton Memorial, and TVG Series championship for male pacers.
“I think he’s the greatest pacer to ever walk on this earth,” Takter said earlier this year. “I really do. If everything would have been his way, could you imagine how much even better he could have been? He’s a great, great horse.”
A son of Always A Virgin out of the mare Artstopper, Always B Miki was bred by Joe Hurley’s Roll The Dice Stable, which owns the stallion with Bluewood Stable and Christina Takter.
“If someone said I could win Powerball for some ridiculous amount of money or have Miki, it wouldn’t even be a question. It would be Miki,” Hurley said earlier this year. “This is like Powerball on steroids.”
Marion Marauder, who was named the sport’s best 3-year-old male trotter last Thursday, was the first Trotting Triple Crown winner since 2006, sweeping the Hambletonian, Yonkers Trot, and Kentucky Futurity. In addition, he won the Goodtimes Stakes and a division of the Stanley Dancer Memorial on his way to $1.48 million in purses. His earnings led all trotters in North America.
Marion Marauder won 10 of 15 starts and finished second three times this season for the wife-and-husband training team of Paula Wellwood and Mike Keeling. Marion Marauder is owned by the couple’s son, Devin Keeling, and Wellwood’s mother, Marion Jean Wellwood. Scott Zeron was the colt’s regular driver.
A son of stallion Muscle Hill out of the mare Spellbound Hanover, Marion Marauder was bred by William Mulligan.
Hannelore Hanover, who was named the sport’s best older female trotter, won 17 of 20 races and earned $1.11 million in purses, leading all female trotters in earnings.
The remaining divisional champion trotters were Walner (2-year-old male), Ariana G (2-year-old female), Broadway Donna (3-year-old female), and Obrigado (older male). Other divisional champion pacers were Huntsville (2-year-old male), Idyllic Beach (2-year-old female), Betting Line (3-year-old male), Pure Country (3-year-old female), and Lady Shadow (older female).
All winners will be honored at the Dan Patch Awards banquet presented by Hoosier Park on Sunday, Feb. 26 at the Planet Hollywood casino in Las Vegas.
Dan Patch awards: ushwa.org.
Voting totals: ustrotting.com