Deerfield Beach, FL — Minnesota harness racing was well represented at the recent Harness Horsemen International awards banquet at the Embassy Suites Resort Hotel in Deerfield Beach, Fla., on Feb. 22.
Greg Budach was presented with the prestigious HHI Person of the Year award, which is named for the late Dominic Frinzi, who is a member of the Harness Racing Hall of Fame.
Greg became involved in harness racing at age 15 and would go on to race the county fair circuit across the upper Midwest. Since then he has settled in Minnesota where he has become an owner and breeder as well as a father of four, and he still finds time to dabble in training his own horses. His biggest success on the track has been with his two-time champion pacer Dream Chasin. He has served on the board of directors of Minnesota Harness Racing Inc. for 30 years and has been there through both the lean times as well as being an instrumental part of the growth of the sport in Minnesota in recent years.
Darin Gagne was presented with the prestigious Clyde Hirt Memorial Media award.
Gagne grew up in the sport of harness racing in New England and was always fascinated by the media aspects of the sport. He learned the trade of being a track announcer as an apprentice at Pompano Park in the mid-1990s before taking his first full-time announcing job on the Michigan B circuit of tracks for several years. He later accepted the position as track announcer at Running Aces, and is entering his ninth season at the Minnesota track. In addition to calling the races and hosting the live racing broadcast, he also handles the racing related publicity for the track, participates in weekly podcasts about Running Aces, writes a feature column in the Midwest Harness Report Magazine and maintains a strong social media presence for Running Aces and Minnesota Harness Racing.
The 2022 HHI Appreciation Award went to Senator Kim Ward (R) of the Pennsylvania State Senate. She was recognized for her consistent support of horse racing in the Keystone State.
Also attending the HHI annual meeting on behalf of MHRI were owner/breeder Cathy Dessert, owner/breeder Vikki Pfeilsticker and owner/breeder/trainer Jessica Johnson.
Dessert, who also serves as an at-large director for HHI, shared the following statement: “It was an honor to have two Minnesota horsepersons recognized for their achievements and passion for harness racing. The HHI is a great vehicle for gaining insights that can be helpful and useful to the harness racing community in Minnesota, and the industry networking connections that are made are invaluable; therefore we really look forward to participating in this conference each year.”