MADISON — Platteville’s Gabe Wand continued his kingpin status on the Wisconsin Fair Racing Circuit by capturing this third consecutive Driver of the Year title at the Wisconsin Harness Horse Association (WHHA) annual awards banquet held at Madison’s Howard Johnson Plaza Hotel on Saturday, Jan. 21.
Wand’s three WHHA driving titles put him behind just Jay Garrels of Clinton, Wis., who won seven career titles, and Robert Yohn of Beloit, who won four titles.
Wand drove in 55 races during the season and finished in the top three in 46 of those races to finish with a 1,480 point total for the year– 415 better than runner-up Ben DeLong. The Shullsburg native garnered 19 firsts on the season, while posting 15 second-place finishes and 12 thirds along the way.
At the last race meet of the season in Viroqua, Wand piloted Lemondrop Martini, a horse he co-owns with his father, Robert Wand of Shullsburg, to victory. This marked his 100th trip to the winner’s circle since he started driving at the tender age of 13.
“When I started driving horses sixteen years ago, I was hoping to win just one race. I never dreamed of winning one hundred and doing it so soon,” Wand commented. “I have been very fortunate to drive some great horses the past couple of seasons, and can’t wait to see what’s in store for me this year.”
Besides his success on the racetrack, Wand has been the association’s president for the past eight years. Upon going ‘off script’ of the evenings agenda, Vice President Del Moldenhauer, Jefferson, publicly acknowledged him for his unmatched devotion to the Wisconsin racing industry which resulted in a unanimous standing ovation.
Wand, the son of Mary Lou and Robert Wand of Shullsburg, continues to train horses on his family’s rural racetrack in Shullsburg.
Another member of the Wand family was honored at the WHHA’s annual banquet as well as father Robert had his broodmare, Miss Gypsy Witt, inducted into the Wisconsin Harness Racing Hall of Fame.
Miss Gypsy Witt had her first foal for Wand and then co-owner, David Sullivan, Chicago, Ill., in 1990, right in the back yard of Wand’s Shullsburg home. The first of eight Wisconsin-based foals proved to be the best as Gypsy Falcon went on to earn over $180,000 and take a mark of 1:53.3.
In 1993, Gypsy Falcon paced the fastest last half of the year in the state of Wisconsin, a 59.1 second mark at the Mineral Point Late Race Meet.
As the years went on, Miss Gypsy Witt foaled seven more racehorses that were trained by Wand at his rural Wisconsin training track. All seven made it to the races and all but one foal became victorious. She’s proven herself as a versatile producer, producing winners from six different stallions; and one that produces durable racehorses with her foals averaging over 100 starts each.
Her Wisconsin-based foals have a combined bankroll of over a half a million dollars, and three of them each went on to earn in excess of $100,000 (Gypsy Falcon, $183,236; Wand’s High Gypsy, $121,771; Wand’s Banjo, $103,677).
Wand’s High Gypsy was tied for fourth in the entire United States in 2005 for the number of wins (17) in a single season.
The WHHA saw all eight foals race at some point on Wisconsin soil and bestowed Pacer of the Year honors to her final foal, Wand’s Banjo (2007) and Top Ten Pacing honors to Wand’s High Gypsy (2004) and Wand’s Little Gypsy (2005).
Wand Stables is now working with the second generation of Miss Gypsy Witt babies as her offspring Ancient Gypsy is the proud dam of two winners, both of which began racing at the Southwest Wisconsin Wind-Up Circuit—Wand’s Cowgirl, 1:53.4, $54,504; and Wand’s Little Alex, 1:51.3, $87,214.
Wand’s Little Alex is also the fifth fastest horse to be bred by a Wisconsin resident and to have been trained and raced in the state of Wisconsin at some point during their career.
Very few mares have matched the versatility and durability of Miss Gypsy Witt. She has proven her offspring competitive not only in the state of Wisconsin, but on tracks all over the country from the Midwest to New York and even The Meadowlands in New Jersey.
To follow the 2012 racing season, log on to the association’s website at www.wiharnessracing.com or visit their Facebook page under WI Harness Racing.