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Friday Feature

Stan Bergstein remembered with featured trot

Friday evening’s Stan Bergstein Trot is named for the legendary figure in harness racing who passed away in 2011 at the age of 87.

Mr. Bergstein was a harness-racing titan who advocated for cooperation between the Standardbred and Thoroughbred industries to solve the sports' common problems. He stepped down in 2011 after 50 years as the executive vice president of Harness Tracks of America, the Standardbred industry's trade association.

He was immediately appointed as the organization's first executive emeritus, and continued to advise the association and write guest columns for the Daily Racing Form until the weeks before his death.

The only person to ever be inducted into the Harness Racing Hall of Fame and its Communicators Hall of Fame, Mr. Bergstein worked in a wide variety of roles at racetracks, auction houses, announcer's booths, and racing publications, and he maintained extensive collections of harness-racing books and artwork.

He was widely respected not only in the harness industry, but also in the Thoroughbred industry, and he served as a mentor to generations of young racing professionals through a close association with the University of Arizona Race Track Industry Program, located in Tucson, for the past 40 years.

Mr. Bergstein was a forceful proponent of forging closer ties between the Standardbred and Thoroughbred industries, most notably in tackling medication abuse and problems with drug-testing. In dozens of commentaries,

Bergstein maintained that the Standardbred industry's problems were, or would be those of the Thoroughbred industry, and that neglect of a problem in one sport would damage the other. Bergstein borrowed from the Thoroughbred industry early in his career, incorporating claiming races as a racing secretary while working at the Chicago tracks in the 1950's.

At the time, the harness racing industry did not run claiming races, and they are now as commonplace in Standardbred racing as they are in Thoroughbred racing Bergstein also spearheaded the creation of Standardbred Investigative Services, a security agency modeled on the Thoroughbred Racing Protective Bureau.

A native of Illinois, Bergstein attended harness races as a young man and received a journalism degree from Northwestern University. He was the former executive editor of Hoof Beats magazine, and the former vice president of publicity and public relations for the United States Trotting Association.

Cal Expo trackman/program director Marty Bridges credits Stan Bergstein with bringing him into harness racing as a profession.

“After college and two years in the Army, I was employed by the small business association. At night, after work, I was a regular patron at Sportsmans Park and Maywood in Chicago.

“My supervisor, a former sportswriter for the Chicago Daily News, knew of my interest and called Stan to set up a meeting. Surprisingly, I was to meet him at Du Quoin on Hambletonian Day. Watching Stan call the races from a slightly elevated booth on the infield adjacent to the finish line was thrilling and between races we talked about racing, horses, drivers and trainers.

“His knowledge of the sport was amazing and I had never met anyone like him, and still haven’t. He introduced me to John Tinsley, the program director for all the Chicago tracks and John hired me on the spot. Its been a great ride, doing something I love.”

Gene Vallandingham first met Stan Bergstein in 1959 when he was working for the legendary Joe OBrien. “Stan came to Joe’s farm every spring for the annual Camptown racing weekend, when all of Shafter would be there for a day of racing. Stan was the true voice of harness racing, he was liked by all and I miss him.”

Chris Schick said, "Stan was foremost a kind and compassionate person. He was a true visionary in the harness racing industry. In 1979 well before simulcasting, he so rightly stated the future of the industry was in how well we brought the product to the public. He was also very vocal of the industry for being reluctant to embrace change. Our industry lost a giant when he passed.”