The signature crystal trophies that have graced the Breeders Crown championship series since 1984 will bear additional etching this year- in memory of Frederick Van Lennep and William B. Weaver, two men with enormous influence on the sport of harness racing and the Breeders Crown championship series in particular.
Frederick Van Lennep was a vital advocate in the advancement and promotion of harness racing. Inducted into the Harness Racing Hall of Fame in 1974, Van Lennep was Chairman of the Board of Pompano Harness Track, The Red Mile, and owner of Lexington-based Castleton Farms, one of the world`s foremost Standardbred horse-breeding operations.
In 1983, Van Lennep, a director of the Hambletonian Society, was instrumental in creating and executing the concept that led to the Breeders Crown series, the year-end championship races for each age, sex and gait. Van Lennep, along with close friend and business partner, thoroughbred breeder John Gaines, conceived a season-ending championship forum for their respective breeds, similar to baseball’s World Series or the Super Bowl in football. Both versions, thoroughbred racing’s Breeder’s Cup and harness racing’s Breeders Crown, were an immediate success. The two-year-old filly trot trophy will be named the Frederick Van Lennep Memorial Trophy in his honor.
Van Lennep passed away in 1987, and one year later a 2-year-old colt trotter named Valley Victory took the harness world by storm, winning the Breeders Crown at Pompano Park and subsequent divisional honors. Bill Weaver was responsible for the mating that produced Valley Victory, who sent a shockwave of speed through the bloodlines of the modern day trotter. His first crop featured five offspring in the Hambletonian, with Victory Dream winning. His stupendous daughter Continentalvictory won one of the most memorable versions of America’s trotting classic the next year (1996) in straight heats. Valley Victory’s third Hambo winner in five crops was the equally impactful Muscles Yankee (1998). Over a span of 15 years, Valley Victory sired the winners of $35 million, highlighted by champions like Lookout Victory, Rum Boogie, Lindy Lane, Donerail, Southwind Allaire, Armbro Monarch, Act Of Grace, Bullville Victory and Must Be Victory.
That is the impact of just one horse Bill Weaver bred. Additional breeders credits of only Breeders Crown champions Valley Victory, Chocolatier, Juliet's Fate (a rare pacing-bred Breeders Crown winner by Weaver), Wheeling N Dealin and To Dream On ranks Valley High is 13th on the all-time earners list of Breeders Crown breeders, which is dominated by commercial entities like Hanover, Brittany, Kentuckiana and Winbak Farms. From just 26 Breeders Crown finalists, Weaver bred five champions and four runner-ups for an astonishing record of 26-5-4-0 and $2,064,315 in purse money in the series.
William B. Weaver, a 2013 Hall of Fame inductee, will be honored by the Hambletonian Society with the Bill Weaver Memorial Trophy for 2-year-old trotting colts.
These trophies join the H. A. Grant Jr. Memorial Three-Year-Old Colt Pace Trophy, the John Cashman Jr. Memorial Three-Year-Old Colt Trot Trophy, the Max C. Hempt Memorial Three-Year-Old Filly Pace Trophy and the John Simpson Sr. Memorial Three-Year-Old Trotting Filly Trophy.
The Hambletonian Society, which owns and administrates the Breeders Crown races, will continue to designate Breeders Crown memorial trophies annually, as a tribute to the legacies of those who have guided the 32-year-old series so successfully.
Crystal Apex Awards and Design of Sheridan, Ontario, handcrafts the winner’s trophies that feature 12-inch high crystal monoliths individually deep-etched to carry the ornate Breeders Crown logo. Each crystal piece is mounted atop a tiered, ebonized wood base upon which a plaque is hand engraved with the name of the Breeders Crown champion.