Category Archives: Harness racing
Mike LaChance (Harness racing. Born, St. Augustin, P.Q., Dec. 12, 1950.) Coming from a small cattle farm in Quebec, Michel Lachance became a leading driver at Yonkers, Roosevelt, and the Meadowlands racetracks. Lachance arrived in New York in 1982 and soon supplanted Carmine Abbatiello as the king of the New York half-mile tracks. He erased Abbatiello’s single-season marks in 1984 by becoming the first driver to win 200 races in one year at both Yonkers and Roosevelt. Lachance shifted to the Meadowlands in 1988 and ranked in the top five at the sport’s leading track for 15 straight seasons. Lachance teamed with trained Ron Gurfein to win three Hambletonians with Victory Dream (1994), Continentalvictory (1996), and Self Possessed (1999). In 2003, he won a fourth Hambletonian with Amigo Hall. Lachance was inducted into harness racing’s living Hall of Fame in 1995. – M.F.
Cat Manzi (Harness racing. Born, Monticello, NY, June 27, 1950.) Scion of a harness racing family, Catello Manzi won the 2005 North American driving title with 727 victories. Along the way, Manzi became only the second driver ever to earn his 11,000th career victory. Herve Filion has over 15,000. Manzi’s greatest season made him the oldest driver, at 55, to ever win the championship. In 2006, he won the $1 million Meadowlands Pace for the first time and captured several other major events, mainly riding behind Artistic Fella. Manzi has been a dominant driver at Freehold, leading the lists there 17 times. His late father, Al, was active in the sport, as are several brothers, uncles, and cousins. By 2007, Manzi ranked in the top four at the Meadowlands in both wins and career earnings. Earlier in his career, he drove Artsplace, the 1992 Horse of the Year, Pacific Fella, Beat the Wheel, and other top horses. From its opening in 1976, Manzi won at least once every year at the Meadowlands, finishing 2007 with 3,406 wins there without ever being the leading driver. In Dec. 2010, Manzi won his 14,000th race, trailing, at that point, only Filion and Dave Palone.
Gerry Mastellone (Harness racing. Born, New York, NY, Dec. 5, 1927; died, Yonkers, NY, Feb. 26, 1993.) Considered the best standard-bred handicapper of his time, Gerald Mastellone made selections for the World-Telegram for over a decade. In 1966, with his paper shut down by a prolonged strike after its merger into the World Journal Tribune combine, Mastellone began working for tip sheets at the local harness tracks (“The Green Street” at Yonkers and “The Orange Trotter” at Roosevelt). He died in the press box at Yonkers Raceway after watching workouts on a Friday morning.
Bill O’Donnell (Harness racing. Born, Spring Hill, Nova Scotia, May 4, 1948.) Honing his talent as a harness driver in New England and at the Saratoga (N.Y.) harness track, William A. O’Donnell came into national prominence at the Meadowlands racetrack. O’Donnell vied with John Campbell to dominate the Big M in the 1980s with three driving titles (and five second-place finishes) in that decade. He is third in all-time money won with almost $95 million and left his mark on two of the sport’s biggest events in 1985 with victories in the Hambletonian with Prakas and The Meadowlands Pace with Nihilator. – M.F.