News Briefs From the Backstretch

Besim Odza, who was introduced to harness racing through a Harness Horse Youth Foundation camp, is interviewed on the Meadowlands set with Bob “Hollywood” Heyden. Credits: Provided by HHYF

Batavia Downs Honors Top Horses

BATAVIA, N.Y. — The Upstate New York Chapter of the United States Harness Writers Association announced their Horses of the Meet for 2017 at Batavia Downs.

Pacer of the Meet is Focus Power. After being claimed at Yonkers just prior to the start of the Batavia meet, Focus Power made an immediate impact to the good fortunes of owner James Caradori and trainer Darrin Monti. Driver Drew Monti was aboard for every start.

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Overall Focus Power has nine wins in 2017 and earnings that total $97,395.

Trotter of the Meet is BZ Glide, a fixture in the weekly Open Trot. In 15 starts against the local best, BZ Glide won three with six seconds and a third, banking $34,405 in the process. He also set a seasonal mark of 1:56.3. Alana Caprio trains while Mike Caprio drives, and they own the gelding together.

For the year, BZ Glide has a total of five wins and earnings of $52,405.

Mare of the Meet is Voltina, owned by CHS Racing LLC, and trained by Tony Cummings. Kevin Cummings was aboard for the majority of her starts.

Claimer of the Meet: Quicksilvercandy A, owned and driven by Larry Stalbaum under the training of Kim Asher.

Most Improved Horse of the Meet: In Runaway Bay N, owned by Super Mile LLC and trained by Angelo Nappo. Kevin Cummings was in the bike for the bulk of the work.

The 10th annual Night of Distinction awards ceremony was held Dec. 16.

Kelly to Retire From Jockey Club Foundations

Nancy C. Kelly, the vice president of development of Grayson-Jockey Club Research Foundation and executive director of The Jockey Club Safety Net Foundation, will retire from fulltime duties at the end of 2017, it was announced by James L. Gagliano, the president and chief operating officer of The Jockey Club.

She will be succeeded by Shannon Kelly (no relation), who has served as development manager for Grayson-Jockey Club Research Foundation and The Jockey Club Safety Net Foundation since 2013.

Nancy Kelly will continue to assist with fund-raising efforts for both Grayson-Jockey Club Research Foundation and The Jockey Club Safety Net Foundation and with the Round Table Conference.

Shannon Kelly, a native of Carle Place, N.Y., and a resident of New York City, graduated from Providence College with a degree in history. Prior to joining The Jockey Club staff, she served as an account coordinator at Nancy J. Friedman PR, a public relations agency in New York City.

Kelly has deep roots in the horse racing industry. Her father, Timothy Kelly, is a former trainer and the current clerk of scales for the New York Racing Association; her uncle, Patrick Kelly, is an active trainer; and her late grandfather was hall-of-fame trainer Thomas J. “T.J.” Kelly.

Nancy Kelly joined The Jockey Club staff in 1985 following eight years as the manager of clubhouse relations for the New York Racing Association.

She has been responsible for the creation and orchestration of countless fund-raisers for The Jockey Club’s two charities, including the Fashionable Fillies Luncheon and Charity Golf Tournament, both held in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., and the Belmont Stakes Charity Celebration held in and around the New York City area.

Kelly spearheaded and/or supported countless backstretch assistance programs through the years and worked closely with chaplains and other Thoroughbred industry charities throughout the country. She serves on the board of directors for the Belmont Child Care Association and previously served on the board of the Backstretch Employees Services Team (BEST), two New York-based backstretch programs.

She has organized The Jockey Club’s annual Round Table Conference in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., for the past 30 years, the Pan American Conferences in New York and Washington, D.C., in recent years, and countless other fund-raising events.

A resident of Westbury, N.Y., she has received several honors for her work, including the Red Smith “Good Guy” Award from the New York Turf Writers Association, the Racetrack Chaplaincy of America’s Award of Excellence, and the Eddie Arcaro Award from the Jockeys’ Guild.

Grayson-Jockey Club Research Foundation is traditionally the nation's leading source of private funding for equine medical research that benefits all breeds of horses. Since 1983, the foundation has provided more than $24.8 million to fund 346 projects at 43 universities in North America and overseas. Additional information about the foundation and is available at

The Jockey Club Safety Net Foundation is a charitable trust created in 1943 that provides financial relief and assistance to the individuals who are the backbone of the Thoroughbred racing industry: grooms, hot walkers, night watchmen, jockeys and exercise riders, as well as office personnel, and farm and training center workers. In the last 30 years, the foundation has helped more than 1,000 individuals with more than $15.5 million in support. Additional information about The Jockey Club Safety Net Foundation is available at

Luce Named Director of Communications

Shannon Luce, who has served as The Jockey Club’s communications manager since January 2012, has been named director of communications, it was announced by James L. Gagliano, the president and chief operating officer. The appointment is effective Jan. 1.

Luce will succeed Bob Curran Jr., who is retiring as vice president of corporate communications at the end of the year.

“Shannon has taken on a growing number of responsibilities over the course of the past 12 years or so, and she has handled them all with the utmost diligence,” Gagliano said. “Her industry knowledge, her familiarity with various stakeholders, and her writing and editing skills will all help her thrive in this new assignment.

“Bob retires at the very top of his profession. His high integrity standards, intense work ethic and dedication to his craft set him apart,” continued Gagliano. “His daily presence will be missed by everyone at The Jockey Club and by his many colleagues throughout the sport.”

Luce, a longtime resident of Versailles, Ky., was hired as a staff writer in March 2005 and was later promoted to communications coordinator before becoming communications manager.

Prior to joining The Jockey Club, Luce served as a writer/editor for SpecComm International and the Research Triangle Institute in Raleigh, N.C., and as a technical writer/editor for GE Interlogix in Corvallis, Ore.

In addition to the vital roles she has played in the production of both internal and external publications and conferences for The Jockey Club, Luce has managed production of the International Federation of Horseracing Authorities’ annual conference in Paris for the past three years.

Curran joined The Jockey Club staff in December 1998 after spending almost 12 years with Thoroughbred Racing Communications, an industry-funded national media relations office that was based in The Jockey Club’s New York office. He was promoted to vice president of corporate communications for the organization in November 2001.

In addition to serving as president of the Turf Publicists of America (TPA) during 2001 and 2002, Curran was an active member of several communications committees in the Thoroughbred industry through the years. The Race Track Industry Program at the University of Arizona named him the recipient of the Clay Puett Award at its annual Global Symposium on Racing on Dec. 5, 2017. The award is bestowed upon a person or persons for outstanding contributions to the racing industry.

Curran will serve as a consultant for The Jockey Club during 2018.

Young Named Executive Director of the Agriculture & NYS Horse Breeding Development Fund

The Agriculture and New York State Horse Breeding Development Fund Board of Trustees, which runs the prestigious New York Sire Stakes series, unanimously approved the appointment of harness racing expert M. Kelly Young as the Fund’s Executive Director.

Young, a fifth-generation participant in harness racing, grew up on a leading horse breeding farm outside Goshen. She most recently served as Deputy Director of Public Policy for the New York Farm Bureau where her legislative and regulatory portfolio has included dairy, forestry, aquaculture and food policy and access. She has held various positions over the past decade with the Farm Bureau and has expertise in general agricultural matters, which are critical to the Fund’s mission to support the state’s harness racing industry.

“I am excited to help New York’s storied harness racing industry grow and thrive in this new position,” said Young. “I thank the Board of Trustees for their confidence in my abilities, and look forward to working with horsepersons, breeders, tracks, fans and everyone in the industry to uphold harness racing’s important place in our state’s agricultural sector.”

Richard A. Ball, Commissioner of the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets and Fund Trustee, said, “Kelly’s extensive knowledge and understanding of both the Standardbred breeding industry and New York agriculture make her a great fit for this position. I have no doubt that she will be a tremendous asset to the Fund. Her energy, enthusiasm and focus will help us identify new opportunities for New York’s Standardbred farms to prosper and strengthen the overall racing industry for years to come. I am excited to work with her as she takes on this new role.”

Barry Sample, Chairman of the New York State Gaming Commission and Fund Trustee, said, “Kelly’s knowledge of New York’s harness racing is second-to-none, and her dedication to the sport is commendable as evidenced through her career including service on the New York Racing Fan Advisory Council. Her leadership skills are exactly what the industry needs at this exact time and I look forward to continuing to work with her in her new role.”

Peter Arrigenna, Standardbred Breeder and Fund Trustee, said, “Kelly brings a fresh perspective with welcome expertise and leadership to the Fund. She is well-respected by all facets of the industry and deservedly so. I welcome her to the Fund as we continue to grow the sport and enhance our state’s racing infrastructure to get more breeders in the game.”

Mike Kimelman, Standardbred Breeder and Fund Trustee said, “In an ever-increasingly competitive marketplace, harness racing is at a crossroads. We need unmatched leadership and expertise to ensure our sport’s continued viability. Kelly was literally born into this job, with a harness racing industry pedigree and a lifetime of experience. She is up to the task and a great fit. I look forward to working with her.”

Young previously served as Executive Director for the Harness Horse Breeders of New York State and was Associate Editor of The Horseman and Fair World, where she developed and wrote stories on harness racing.

Young was selected for a 2013 McCloy Fellowship in Agriculture and was a member of Class 13 of the Empire State Food and Agricultural Leadership Institute (LEAD-NY). She received multiple awards for her writing from the American Farm Bureau Federation, the U.S. Harness Writers Association and the New York Agricultural Society.

Young is currently a member of the New York State Racing Fan Advisory Council, which provides recommendations to the New York State Gaming Commission on matters related to growing the fan base of horse racing. She also serves as president of the Saratoga Harness Hall of Fame and is a member of the U.S. Harness Writers Association. Young holds a B.A. from Boston University.

Established in 1965, the Fund’s primary mission is to promote and preserve agriculture through the promotion of horse breeding and equine research in New York State. It directs the state’s premier harness racing program designed to stimulate the breeding, buying and racing of Standardbred horses in New York. Because of the State’s unparalleled breeding industry, there is strong international demand for New York-bred Standardbred horses.

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