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In Harness: TV Star Waco Hanover, 42, Dies

Barbara Livingston/USTA

Caretaker Donnie MacAdams
with Waco Hanover.

(Courtesy of USTA Media Relations)

Editor's notes -
Waco Hanover spans an incredible length of harness racing history. He was foaled in 1977. That same year, the greatest racehorse that ever stepped on a track, the legendary Niatross, was born. So many generations of pacing stars have come and gone since; all under the watchful eye of Waco Hanover.

In 1950, one of harness racing's most devoted fans, yours truly, was born. That year, the star 'baby' was 2-year-old pacing sensation Tar Heel. a year later, Hanover Shoe Farms would pay $100,000 for Tar Heel as a stud prospect. It marked the first time $6-figures had been exchanged for a harness horse.

Tar Heel would pay dividends for decades. So many of his sons and daughters were top-class performers. This included Dottie Pick, the mare that beat Bret Hanover, and Herve Filion's Nansemond, who denied Albatross a Triple Crown in the Little Brown Jug.

Waco Hanover was not one of Tar Heel's standout offspring. He didn't race against Niatross (then again, who could?). Yet, thanks in such large part to Donnie MacAdams, Waco Hanover became a heat-warming addition to Harness Racing lore. - Steve Phillips, Nassau OTB.


Hightstown, NJ – Waco Hanover, whose longevity led to stardom well after his career on the racetrack concluded, died Saturday (Feb. 9) at the age of 42. The CBS Sunday Morning Show, which two years ago featured Waco Hanover and his relationship with caretaker Donnie MacAdams, reported Waco Hanover’s passing on its Facebook page Monday (Feb. 11).

A son of Tar Heel out of Wanda Hanover, Waco Hanover was owned by Everett Kettler of Vermont. Kettler bought the gelding in 1983 at the age of 6 and spent the summers racing Waco Hanover at the fairs in New England. Following Waco Hanover’s retirement from racing at the age of 14 in 1991, Kettler retained ownership of the horse and maintained his share of a farm where Waco Hanover resided for the remainder of his life.

Waco Hanover was among the horses featured in the book Standardbred Old Friends, published in 2014, by author Ellen Harvey and photographer Barbara Livingston.

“There was something in his efforts that inspired tenacity in my life,” Kettler told Harvey. “Perhaps I appreciated Waco because of a common trait. Or maybe he inspired tenacity that wouldn’t have been available without his life intermingling with mine.”

During the latter part of Waco Hanover’s life, the gelding was looked after by MacAdams, who cared for Kettler’s horses. The story of their relationship appeared on CBS Sunday Morning in January 2017. Two months later, MacAdam’s was a guest of former Sen. Bill Bradley on his Sirius XM show “American Voices.”

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