Tom Charters, a former caretaker, moved up the ladder in harness racing to president and CEO of the Hambletonian Society/Breeders Crown, an organization he served for 35 years.
Born in Springfield, Ohio, Charters was already a race fan at eight years old, tagging along with family to Hilliard Raceway. When old enough, he worked for the Dick Hackett Stable at Scioto Downs from 1965 through 1968 as well as briefly for Dick Buxton, while also studying print making at Miami University in Ohio.
In 1969, Charters hired on with the late, great Delvin Miller, then served in the army before going back to school (UK), earning a degree in animal science, which he put to use traveling the Grand Circuit for Miller.
In 1976, Charters moved frontside, as assistant race secretary at The Meadows – the track founded by Miller. He was soon promoted to racing secretary, but in 1982 left to serve as director of racing in Macau, a trotting club in China, where he staged a memorable edition of the World Driving Championship.
Charters was hired by the Hambletonian Society in 1984 as executive director of the fledgling Breeders Crown. An instant classic, the Breeders Crown quickly became established as harness racing’s year-end championship. The program set high industry standards for: brand imagery and recognition, media exposure including television, sponsorship, owner recognition and hospitality, attracting international superstars such as Varenne and Commander Crowe, and achieving record pari-mutuel business and fan exposure for the sport.
In 1994 he was named executive director of the Hambletonian Society, overseeing its administration of 120-plus stakes and early-closing races. In 1998 he was elected the Hambletonian Society’s president and chief executive officer. The Society’s contractual partnership with Meadowlands and Charters’ small staff has set high standards in categories such as: pari-mutuel handle; attendance; network television production and unparalleled purses. Under Charters’ 35-year watch, the Hambletonian and Breeders Crown have been two of the sport’s finest showcases for international trotting; as well as what are annually the two biggest business days of the year.
Charters remains a director of the Hambletonian Society, Inc. During his tenure on the board he was the Society’s representative on the Racing Committee of the American Horse Council and the Racing Medication & Testing Consortium, where he also served as treasurer. He is a trustee of the Harness Racing Museum, a director of the Little Brown Jug Society, a steward of the Grand Circuit, a member and former president of the American Harness Racing Secretaries and former trustee of the Harness Horse Youth Foundation. He is a member of: the U.S. Harness Writers Association (N.J. chapter); the Honorable Order of Kentucky Colonels, the University of Kentucky Alumni Association among other organizations. He resides in Cranbury, N.J., with his wife, Dr. Susan Saravalli, Ph.D.