Each year, the American Quarter Horse Association recognizes the hard work of several individuals in the racing industry with special achievement awards.
For 2020, the John Andreini Special Recognition Award goes to Dr. Charles Graham of Elgin, Texas; the Mildred N. Vessels Special Achievement Award to Betty Raper of Norman, Oklahoma; and the Gordon Crone Special Achievement Award to Matt Vance of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.
Dr. Charles Graham is a member of the American Quarter Horse Hall of Fame. The respected Texas horseman is known as a veterinarian, a horseman and an influential voice in governance and political matters that benefit the horse industry.
He founded the Elgin Veterinary Clinic and Southwest Stallion Station, is a co-owner of Heritage Place Sale Co. and has numerous other businesses, including a 30,000-head feedyard. He was influential in getting Texas pari-mutual legislation passed, and in 2019 was instrumental in assisting with the passage of Texas legislation that boosted purses and significantly benefitted Quarter Horse racing in the state.
Dr. Graham is an AQHA director-at-large and has served on the AQHA Equine Research Committee.
Mildred N. Vessels Special Achievement winner Betty Raper has dedicated herself to the industry and is best known as the co-owner of Belle Mere Farm at Norman, Oklahoma. She and husband Dee stood legendary stallions Easy Jet, Mr Eye Opener and Bully Bullion. Belle Mere was inducted into the Oklahoma Quarter Horse Association Hall of Fame in 2019.
As the vice president of racing operations at Remington Park, Matt Vance was instrumental in helping the Oklahoma City racetrack operate during the earliest months of the COVID-19 pandemic. For that, Vance earns the Gordon Crone Special Achievement Award. The racetrack not only operated through its season, it also shattered records with a 271.8 increase in pari-mutual handle and helped introduce people all over the world to American Quarter Horse racing.
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