Chha LogoLogo

--- California Harness Racing History ---
(1949)

Trail Blazer

Bernie Kearney Has Played Prominent Role in Staging Big Time Harness Meets on Pacific Coast


BernieTHE young race track executive mopped his brow with his left hand, clenched his right fist and made a solemn vow that he, with the able assistance of his fellow officials, would give California and the harness racing world one of the greatest meetings that ever took place.


He had been a follower of the trotters and pacers for a number of years but most of his experience had been with the thoroughbred end of the racing sport. He, like his cohorts, knew they were exploring a new field in the Golden Bear State—the Pacific Coast in fact—but they were determined to face the problems one by one and handle them to the best of their abilities.


The young executive to which reference is being made is Bernard, best known in the harness racing fraternity as Bernie Kearney

.
Bernie had been used to facing problems that required keen judgment from the time he was a kid in school. After a brilliant career in high school sports, Bernie moved on to Loyola University where he became one of the best all‑around athletes in the history of the school.


This story began to take shape over four years ago when the Western Harness Racing Association initiated plans for its first pari‑mutuel meeting at the famous thoroughbred track, Santa Anita Park in Arcadia, California.


Since the time of the decision to stage a big time harness meeting at Santa Anita a lot of water has passed over the dam. And if the last chapter had been written by now, it would be one crammed full of success. But there is nothing to indicate that the finale is near. In fact, Kearney and Western Harness have made it plain that they've just begun.


Said Kearney: "We're proud that we've been able to do so well, but we're not content to rest on our laurels. We've already introduced several new innovations in our current meeting which got under way October 8th and is slated to continue through November 26th. And just as fast as we can see ways to advance the harness racing sport, Western Harness will adopt them."


Prior to the time of the Santa Anita and Hollywood Park "big time" meetings, a valiant, but small group of owners, breeders and officials were seeing to it that the Standardbred horse was holding his own through many lean years at state and county fairs in California. They are the ones that deserve an immeasurable amount of credit for keeping the ball rolling and preparing it for the time it was to gain big league status.


Kearney hurriedly points out too that "those same people that were holding the harness racing sport together several years ago are still making major contributions to the sport" and that Western Harness Racing Association "has been helped to a great extent by these men."


As has already been pointed out, Kearney is not a "Johnny come lately" to the harness sport nor the complexities of management. He has a long and varied background in racing. He started in as manager of Grandstand operations for the Los Angeles Turf Club's Santa Anita Park. Later he served as manager of operations at Bing Crosby's Del Mar track and held the same position with the California jockey Club.


Following these early training activities in management and the handling of crowds, he switched his talents to the Cali' fornia Racing Board. With this body be served as assistant secretary for five years. No better opportunity could have been afforded for the acquisition of an overall horse racing knowledge along with an understanding of the problems to be faced in the promotion and conduct of the sport in the west. He traveled the Western Fair Circuit, doubling in brass as state steward and judge. In so doing be got his introduction to harness racing. It was at that point be fell in love with the trotters and pacers.


During the war Kearney served in the Naval Air Force, winding up as administration officer of Bombing Squadron 80, with the rank of lieutenant commander. Shortly after leaving the service he was selected by WHRA as its general manager.


"Let the best race for the best," is an expression that Kearney coined. And he follows that up with, "That way you assure, the public of a top show."


BERNARD KEARNEY in his four years as executive vice-president and general manager of Western Harness Racing Association has ascended to a lofty spot in the realm of the Standardbred sport. Many of the same qualities that have made him such a success in the promotion of the California Grand Circuit meetings have made him equally as competent as a director of the U. S. Trotting Association.