EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - The "Lady" is the champ.
JK She'salady, who was undefeated in 12 races for breeder/owner 3 Brothers Stables and trainer Nancy Johansson, became the first 2-year-old female pacer in harness racing history to be named Horse of the Year, the U.S. Harness Writers Association announced Thursday during a Dan Patch Awards presentation at Meadowlands Racetrack.
The filly won by five votes, 57-52, over fellow pacer Sweet Lou in the tightest Horse of the Year finish since 7-year-old trotting gelding Savoir beat 3-year-old filly pacer Silk Stockings, 52-49, in 1975.
Five-year-old Sweet Lou, however, was named Pacer of the Year after besting JK She'salady by one vote, 74-73, in that category. It is the first time a Pacer of the Year or Trotter of the Year - categories introduced in 1970 - failed to receive Horse of the Year.
Voters, who are members of the U.S. Harness Writers Association and American Harness Racing Secretaries, must choose their Horse of the Year from either their Pacer of the Year or Trotter of the Year selection. A total of 157 ballots were returned.
The anomaly occurred because a greater number of voters that selected JK She'salady for Pacer of the Year on their ballot also voted her their Horse of the Year. Only 16 people that voted JK She'salady as the best pacer gave their Horse of the Year vote to their Trotter of the Year selection, compared to 22 for Sweet Lou.
Three-year-old filly Shake It Cerry was named Trotter of the Year, finishing 22 votes ahead of runner-up Sebastian K, 59-37.
Shake It Cerry, owned by Solveig's Racing Partners and trained by Jimmy Takter, received 14 votes for Horse of the Year. A total of nine horses received at least one vote for Horse of the Year.
JK She'salady is the fourth 2-year-old to receive Horse of the Year, joining pacer Niatross (1979), trotter Nevele Pride (1967) and pacer Bret Hanover (1964). The three previous 2-year-old winners were colts.
She is the first female pacer to be voted Horse of the Year since Rainbow Blue in 2004 and the fourth female pacer overall to receive the honor. The others were Bunny Lake in 2001 and Fan Hanover in 1981.
"It's unbelievable," Johansson said. "I don't know if it's completely sunk in. The hard work paid off. She's just such a special horse.
"She's as perfect as they come now, and I guess finishing off with Horse of the Year exemplifies how perfect she is."
JK She'salady, who on Wednesday was named the sport's best 2-year-old filly pacer, won her final nine starts by a minimum of one length and closed her campaign with a stakes-record victory in the Breeders Crown. She equaled the world record of 1:50.1 for a 2-year-old female pacer in winning the She's A Great Lady Stakes at Mohawk and also captured the Three Diamonds Stakes.
For the year, the homebred filly earned $883,330. She was driven by Tim Tetrick in the Breeders Crown and by Yannick Gingras in her previous starts.
It is the first Horse of the Year honor for the 33-year-old Johansson, who is Takter's daughter and previously worked as a caretaker in her father's stable. Takter has won three Horse of the Year awards, two with Moni Maker (1998-99) and one with Malabar Man (1997).
Sweet Lou, who was driven by Ron Pierce and set a record with six consecutive wins in faster than 1:48, captured 11 of 19 races for the season and earned $1.36 million for trainer Ron Burke and owners Burke Racing Stable, Weaver Bruscemi LLC, Larry Karr, and Phil Collura.
He won the Ben Franklin Pace at Pocono Downs in 1:47, the fastest-ever mile on a five-eighths track, and won the Dan Patch Invitational in 1:47.2, the fastest-ever mile at Hoosier Park. Other victories for Sweet Lou included the TVG Free For All Series championship, William R. Haughton Memorial, U.S. Pacing Championship, and the Roll With Joe.
Sweet Lou, who was the Dan Patch Award winner for best 2-year-old male pacer in 2011 and added the award for best older male pacer this season, is Burke's second Pacer of the Year winner. Burke also won with Foiled Again in 2011.
"We got Pacer of the Year, I'm OK with that," co-owner Collura said. "We'll have some fun with that. It was a little disappointing [not to receive Horse of the Year], but I'm still happy. Pacer of the Year is a great achievement for Lou. It's a nice way to end the year regardless."
Shake It Cerry won 15 of 17 races this year, earning $1.23 million for the Solveig's Racing Partners ownership group and driver Pierce. Most of the members of the ownership group are also members of Solveig's Breeders, which bred the filly.
The Takter-trained filly, who on Tuesday was named the best 3-year-old filly trotter, finished her season by winning the Breeders Crown in a stakes-record 1:52.2. She also won the Matron Stakes in a stakes- and track-record 1:52.4 over a "good" surface at Dover Downs, the American-National in a stakes-record 1:52.2 and equaled the stakes record of 1:52.1 in capturing the Elegantimage.
"This filly, she really deserved Trotter of the Year," Takter said. "Besides the Hambletonian (Oaks), what a season she had, and she finished up in style. She's just a fantastic horse."
Both of Shake It Cerry's parents were Dan Patch Award winners. Donato Hanover was Horse of the Year at age 3 in 2007 and Solveig was voted best 2-year-old female trotter in 2004. Solveig also was trained by Takter, who named the filly in honor of his mother.