dr. harry m. zweig
Dr. Harry M. Zweig, a native of New York State, was born on April 21, 1914. The son of a horse trader, Zweig grew up transporting and selling horses from the Midwest to East Coast farmers. In 1938 he graduated from the Ohio State Veterinary College and returned to his hometown of Nassau, New York to start a veterinary practice. Zweig’s passion for harness racing stemmed from a casual dinner with Aubrey Rodney, who trained horses for actor Jimmy Cagney. The United States had just entered the Second World War, and because the cost of shipping racehorses was becoming prohibitive the actor intended to sell one of his young trotters, Gypsy Hanover 2:05 ($5,442). Dr. Zweig couldn’t resist the terms and bought the mare, who went on to dominate trotting competitions in the Northeast over the next few years. In 1961, together with his wife Ann, Zweig founded Middlebrook Farm in Nassau where he bred and raised Standardbreds eligible to compete in New York-sired racing events. Over the years he bred many winners, including Happy Leader p,2:02.3f ($97,146) and Lady Romulus p,3,2:04.2h ($36,694).
Zweig was one of the master planners in the renewal of harness racing at the New York State Fairgrounds in Syracuse in the mid-1960s. Under his guidance the two-afternoon event grew to become a pari-mutuel meet held over several weekends. The $150,000 Empire State Trot was added, a modern 15,000-seat grandstand was built and the track was renamed the Syracuse Mile. Zweig took great pride in the growth of the meet and invariably could be found at trackside, in the stables or the racing secretary’s office.
Due to his experience as a breeder, Zweig understood there was a limited incentive to breed Standardbreds; the large expense it entailed offered only a small chance for a return on the investment. Zweig’s passion for the industry and the sport drove him to change that. He was instrumental in the passing of New York State’s Laverne Law in 1965. This legislation tapped into the state’s lucrative gambling tax revenues to return money to the Standardbred industry. The law created the Agriculture and New York State Horse Breeding Development Fund which provided the foundation for the first state-bred racing program, the New York Sire Stakes. The resulting enhancement in purse money increased the number of owners and breeders, improved the quality of the state’s racing stock and added to the income of the average horseman in the state. The initiative’s incredible success, a result of its innovative revenue-sharing model, caught the interest of the harness racing community across America and around the world by introducing new motivation to breed Standardbreds. Over the next few years many other states and countries borrowed elements of New York’s program to develop their own state-bred racing initiatives. It was Zweig’s aggressive campaigning, political savvy and dedication to the cause of improving the lot of the Standardbred breeding community that made this significant equine program a reality.
Aside from running his veterinary practice in the Albany, New York area for over thirty-eight years, Zweig also served as a member of the advisory board of Cornell Veterinary College. He was president of the Harness Horse Breeders of New York State, Inc. from 1964 to 1977, and was also a director of the United States Trotting Association for nine years.
Dr. Harry M. Zweig died on April 28, 1977 at the age of sixty-three. His contributions to the harness racing industry are honored by the Dr. Harry Zweig Memorial Trot, previously known as the Empire State Trot, and the Harry M. Zweig Memorial Fund for Equine Research to support and promote research at the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine. Dr. Zweig is survived by his wife Ann, sons Brian, Gregory and Robert, daughters Sandra, Susan and Sharon, and one granddaughter, Cassie.