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IHHA to Fete Lewandowski's (01/27/13)
Posted Sunday January 27, 2013
By Mike Paradise
Two weeks from tonight on Sunday, Feb. 10 the I.H.H.A. will to honor Tom and Rose Lewandowski as its 2012 Persons of the Year at its annual Hall of Fame Banquet.
In 2012 the Lewandowski’s donated $5,000 towards a “Big Tom” College Scholarship which was shared Emily Magee and Chas Walker for their winning essays on what Illinois harness racing means to them.
“We wanted to give back to the industry,” said long-time Standardbred owner Tom Lewandowski. “About 14 years ago our daughter won a $5,000 scholarship provided by the I.H.H.A.
“Since Rose and I and all our children are doing well we wanted to give back to horse racing with the Big Tom Scholarship. We’ve been very successful in the industry with horses like Big Tom and Milliondollarbye who we owned with Joe Anderson and John Leahy.
“And this year we’ll be giving $5,000 towards another Big Tom Scholarship and John Leahy is adding another $2,500 to it, so it’ll be bigger in 2013.”
Both Big Tom (1:48.2, $1,539,630) and Milliondollarbye (1:53.3, $1,277,141) are enshrined in the Illinois Harness Racing Hall of Fame.
“Through the years we met a lot of nice people in the horse racing industry and have a lot of fond memories,” continued Tom, a successful land developer and general contractor.
“The Big Tom memory that sticks out the most in my mind was his clash with Red Bow Tie. There was a lot of hype about the race since Big Tom was the best in Illinois and Red Bow Tie was the best on the east coast (The 1988 and 1999 Pacer of the Year).
“To win that American National and beat Red Bow Tie was very exciting.”
Big Tom, a son of Cole Muffler, became the first horse to win a Super Night Championship as a 2, 3 and 4-year-old, accomplishing the fete in 1997, 1998 and 1999.
Big Tom still shares the Balmoral Park track record for an aged pacer of 1:49.1. The horse took his mark of 1:48.2 at The Meadowlands as a 5-year-old in 2000, the same year he won the $275,000 Classic Final in New Jersey.
Lewandowski’s occupation as a developer and contractor in Illinois’ south suburbs and northwest Indiana put him on the path to become a Standardbred owner.
“I got into the horse racing business after I met George Thomas. At that time George owned horses with Joe Anderson who was coming in from California,” explained Tom. “George was the roofer on a new house to be built for the Anderson’s and he asked me to the general contractor and I did.
“That’s how I became friends with George and I ended up buying 10 per cent of his horse Vance Lobell (1:53, $530,523). That got me started in horse racing where I also met Joe Anderson and John Leahy and all of us got to be close friends.
“Later on I built Odds On Acres in Crete for (trainer and manager) Robin Schadt. I also ended up being the general contractor for the Double Dakota facility for Joe (Anderson) and John (Leahy), also in Crete.
Success on and off the racetracks have facilitated the Lewandowski’s to give back to our industry, earning them the IHHA’s 2012 Persons of the Year award.
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