What’s new at the Harness Racing Museum?


Freehold, NJ – Longtime Pennsylvania owner and breeder Jules Siegel, less than two months short of his 90th birthday, joins Margareta Wallenius-Kleberg, one of the driving forces of harness racing in her native Sweden and a leader in European-American harness connections, as members of the Harness Racing Hall of Fame after their election by a joint polling of the members of the U.S. Harness Writers Association (USHWA), the sport’s leading media organization, and elected members of the Hall of Fame.

Also elected were Carl Becker, veteran announcer-pedigree expert-auctioneer based in his native Midwest, and Dave Briggs, whose nine Hervey awards for outstanding writing have set the standard for quality harness journalism in recent years, have been elected as members of the Harness Racing Communicators Hall of Fame by a vote of USHWA members.

In both cases, nominations were made by chapters of the Harness Writers, and then winnowed down to these four by blue-ribbon panels of veteran journalists. The quartet needed 75% of the yes-no votes cast by eligible electors to gain the sport’s ultimate honor.


Jules Siegel was at Pocono Downs a couple of weeks ago when his Fashionwoodchopper (carrying the name of his Fashion Farms) won a Pennsylvania Sire Stakes Championship. And it is safe to say that of the large group in and near the winner’s circle, no one was more excited that the soon-to-be nonagenarian.

Siegel and his late wife Arlene established Fashion Farms in eastern Pennsylvania for their own pleasure, but when the college pharmacy major sold his successful chain of drugstores and retired in 1995, Arlene insisted “that you cannot do nothing,” so the Siegels acquired first-rate broodmares, bred them to top sires to achieve successful racehorses, then retained the females for future breeding and built success upon success, lasting to this day.

Tagliabue, the Hambletonian winner in Siegel’s retirement year of 1995, was the first of his eight Dan Patch Award seasonal champions. He has five Breeders Crown winners to his credit as well, three of them homebreds carrying another farm-naming trademark, “Broadway”: 2002’s undefeated champion Broadway Hall, his daughter Broadway Schooner, and then “Schooner”’s daughter by Donato Hanover, Broadway Donna last year.

Margareta Wallenius-Kleberg, the first woman elected to the Hall of Fame, is the owner of Menhammar Stuteri AB, a breeding farm which has been in her family for 70 years and has been the leading breeder in her native Sweden for the last nine years. Wallenius-Kleberg created a North America-Europe comingling of racing and breeding talent with her partner, the late Hall of Famer Norman Woolworth, headed by champion horses such as Mack Lobell, Zoot Suit, and Smokin Yankee.

A tireless worker for the sport, Wallenius-Kleberg is a director of the Hambletonian Society in the U.S., and in 2011 received the Pinnacle Award for promotion of the sport. In Sweden, she was the former chair of the Swedish Breeders Association and of the organization operating Solvalla Racetrack, home of the famous Elitlopp, and is an honorary lifetime member of these two organizations and of the Swedish Trotting Association


One, though a good writer, made his mark on harness racing through announcing and presentation of pedigrees at auction; the other, though an intelligent and glib speaker, has set the standard for writing excellence through his domination of the Hervey Awards. But Carl Becker and Dave Briggs share the characteristics of clarity, class, exhaustive knowledge, and insight, and thus both have risen to the top of their professions and a place in the Communicators Hall.

Carl Becker, a native of Illinois, began his career in harness announcing in 1963, traveling 300 miles to a matinee in Iowa where he worked without pay, just to gain experience. Soon, major tracks were seeking him out to provide his insightful calls and commentary, most notably DuQuoin IL, where he called the Hambletonian and World Trotting Derby (and where Stan Bergstein took the young but obviously-talented Becker under his wing); The Red Mile in Lexington, where he announced Niatross’s historic 1:49.1 time-trial; and Louisville Downs.

Becker helped to transform the job of auctioneer and pedigree reader with his prodigious knowledge of breeding, family achievement, and “nicks,” combining these with his enthusiastic announcing style to “draw out” the assembled bidders, pointing out a tidbit that might keep an auction going. In this capacity, he worked the sport’s two major sales, Harrisburg and Lexington (and later both when two companies offered at Lexington), as well as for Garden State Sales and Blooded Horse Sales.

Dave Briggs, a native of Western Ontario, achieved most of his early journalistic success through a series of increasingly-responsible roles at the venerable Canadian Sportsman magazine, while also writing for other top trade journals. In the last couple of years Dave has been in charge of the reborn Harness Racing Update online newsletter, which provides coverage of the sport’s major events along with commentary examining trends on the current harness scene.

With this workload have come awards – lots of them. Before Briggs, the most USHWA Dan Patch journalism awards won had been five, achieved by the late Hall of Famer Phil Pines (curiously, also the former director of the Harness Racing Museum). Briggs has shattered this standard by winning nine John Hervey awards, including an award in each of the last five years – and in 2012-2015, for four different publications! He has an equally long list of Canadian and international awards for journalism to his credit.

The new Hall of Famers will first be feted at USHWA’s Dan Patch Awards Banquet, to be held Sunday, February 25, 2018 at the Rosen Shingle Creek Resort in Orlando, in conjunction with USHWA’s annual meetings. The new Hall of Fame class will then be formally inducted during 2018’s Hall of Fame Sunday Dinner, on July 1.

 - United States Harness Writers Association