Four major, national and international Standardbred racing organizations – Harness Horsemen International (HHI), Harness Tracks of America (HTA), United States Harness Writers’ Association (USHWA) and United States Trotting Association (USTA) – have announced that they will participate in the 2013 Harness Racing Congress to be held from Feb. 28 through March 4 in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. at the Westin Beach Resort & Spa.

The event will mark the first time that the four organizations have met jointly for an industry summit since the 2009 Racing Congress in Las Vegas, Nev. that also included the Thoroughbred Racing Association.

Each organization will conduct its annual meeting during the event with joint, general sessions slated for Saturday, March 2 and Sunday, March 3, 2013. In addition, the USHWA Dan Patch Awards Banquet, where the 2012 Horse of the Year will be announced, is scheduled for Sunday evening, March 3.

“The Harness Racing Congress in 2013 will be a great chance for members of the industry to get together to exchange ideas and to honor horses and horseman at the USHWA Dan Patch Awards,” said USTA President Phil Langley. “We also expect to invite experts in other fields to share their ideas on racing and how some of their business successes might help us strengthen our industry.”

During his time as HTA executive vice president, the late Stan Bergstein, was perhaps the greatest advocate for these industry-wide discussions.

“Harness racing is facing many challenges, and while stakeholders have varied interests, it’s important for us to put aside our parochial differences and work in a unified manner to explore ways to strengthen the industry,” said Bergstein’s successor and HTA Executive Vice President and General Counsel Paul Estok. “The Harness Racing Congress has always been about exploring and debating issues in the hope of creating a better future.”

For the writers’ association, the joint Congress provides a grander stage to showcase the industry’s annual Dan Patch Awards honoring the year’s most outstanding performances by horses and horsemen.

“USHWA is excited about being part of the Congress,” said USHWA President Steven Wolf. “It’s a great thing to get all of the powers that be together to work toward the common goals of educating and promoting our sport.”

HHI President Gene Oldford is eagerly anticipating the opportunity to interact with other important members of the harness racing community again.

“When I went to my first Congress in Orlando, I came away so enthused and excited to be able to sit and talk with owners of racetracks and directors of the USTA,” said Oldford. “It’s a great opportunity to be able to share and build on information as a team rather than as individuals, especially for newcomers, who get to know what the harness industry is all about.”

Further details on the agenda, topics of discussion and guest speakers will be released at a later date.

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