Wednesday, December 27, 2023

For the second time in the last four elections, the voting of the members of the United States Harness Writers Association (USHWA) for the Stan Bergstein Proximity Award, given for outstanding achievement in the sport, yielded a “dead-heat for win” – Brittany Farms, the longtime racing and breeding giant, received the same number of votes as Jason Settlemoir, the energetic chief operating officer of the flagship Meadowlands Racetrack. (In 2019, Joe Faraldo tied in voting for the award, the most prestigious honor voted on solely by USHWA, with the partnership of Al Libfeld and Marvin Katz.)


This year’s winners present an interesting contrast of veteran savvy and youthful dynamism, of course sharing the clarity of vision and effectiveness of action that earned them the top honor.


Brittany Farms, owned and overseen by Hall Of Famer George Segal, has been in operation for approaching four decades, and its successes have been repeated year after year since well before the turn of the millennium. They and Hanover Shoe Farms have been a headbob apart for the honor of breeding the most winners in the Breeders Crown series, and they rank squarely in the number one spot among owners in both champions and earnings in the “Crown.”


The racetrack and breeding shed success stories linked with Brittany encompass many of the sport’s recent major stars: names such as Manchego and Artsplace ($3 million+ dollar winners at the races), Art Major, Bettor’s Wish, and Passionate Glide (earners of $2 million+ at the races), and a total of 46 millionaires. Then there is their stock’s contribution to the proliferation of future champions from their foal crops: in addition to many of their top moneywinners, add the names of Western Ideal, American Jewel, and Life Sign, and others.


Segal and his top-notch “Team,” with Myron Bell and the husband-wife partnership of Art Zubrod and Leah Cheverie among the prime contributors, have not only kept Brittany’s name near the top of the racing and breeding news, but have also given back to the sport in other ways, serving as board members, award sponsors, and contributors to many of harness racing’s top organizations.


Brittany’s illustrious history is winding to a close – the yearling crop of 2025 will be their last, and the facility will be sold. But no one will soon forget the accomplishment and impact of Brittany Farms.


As Brittany scales down, Jason Settlemoir just seems to have his star grow brighter and brighter in the racing firmament. A 2006 winner of USHWA’s Breakthrough Award, Settlemoir absorbed the knowledge offered in his early home base of Ohio, then got his “big break” going to work for the two upstate New York tracks owned by Hall Of Famer Jeff Gural, stabilizing and building up venerable Vernon Downs and overseeing the start of Tioga Downs as a harness operation, then continuing to make the racecourse a major player in the game.


Such work did not go unnoticed by Gural, and Settlemoir next went to work at The Meadowlands, rising to his current positions of chief operating officer and general manager at the New Jersey mile oval, the host of both great overnight racing and many of the sport’s most important stakes, topped by the Hambletonian. Settlemoir has shown a particular eye and ear towards recognizing the desire of patrons and bettors, and has built a formidable array of bets popular with the racing public.

In addition to directing the fortunes of “The Big M,” Settlemoir has contributed to the overall success of harness racing by serving as a director of several top governing bodies (USTA, the Grand Circuit, the Little Brown Jug, as well as being the former president of USHWA) and also involving himself in community civic organizations. He also is a successful harness horse owner. And at the “youthful veteran” age of 46, it is impossible to see Jason Settlemoir not having a large impact in the industry for many years to come.


Brittany Farms and Jason Settlemoir will both be in the spotlight to be honored at the annual Dan Patch Awards Banquet, presented by Caesars Entertainment, to be held Sunday, February 25, 2024 at the Rosen Centre in Orlando FL.


Room reservations at Rosen Centre for the star-studded Dan Patch Awards weekend can be made at the USHWA website at usharnesswriters.com.

Sponsorship opportunities for the event can be procured from sponsorship chairman Shawn Wiles at swiles@rwcatskills.com.

Advertisements in the souvenir journal can be arranged with journal chairman Kim Rinker at trotrink@aol.com.

Tickets for the banquet can be procured from ticket chairman Judy Davis-Wilson at zoe8874@aol.com or Liz Cheesman at Elizabeth.Cheesman@winbakfarm.com.