Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Tioga and Vernon announce 2010 stakes schedule

by Dustin Ross, regional racing operations manager, Tioga/Vernon Downs

Nichols, NY --- Tioga Downs and Vernon Downs are proud to announce their 2010 stakes schedule which will offer more than $4.2 million in purse money.

The schedule includes several major changes including the addition of the Bettor's Delight Pace for older pacers with an estimated purse of $200,000, plus we have increased the purse of the three other events for older horses as well to an estimated $200,000.

We have also added the Simpson Stakes, formerly held at the Red Mile, with the 3-year-olds in mid-May as a prep for some of the major stakes, and the 2-year-olds in mid-October as a prep for the Lexington races a week later.

One of the other changes is that the New York State Fair races will be held in one weekend with the 2-year-olds racing at Vernon for the first time, and the 3-year-olds at Tioga.

Lastly, we have changed the Kindergarten Series to only include 2-year-old trotters, reduced the number of legs to four, and increased the purse for the final to an estimated $125,000.

Kicking off the 2010 stakes season will be the John F. Simpson Memorial Stakes for 2- and 3-year-old pacers and trotters. The Simpson stakes, originally named the Hanover-Hempt stakes, were renamed in 1993 to honor Hall of Fame horseman John F. Simpson Sr. Each division of the Simpson Stakes is named after a famous stallion bred by Hanover Shoe Farms. The Simpson Stakes will return to Vernon Downs, where the race held its longest tenure from 1974-1996, on Saturday, May 15, with divisions of the 3-year-old trotters. The 3-year- old pacers will race at Tioga Downs on Sunday, May 16. The 2-year-olds will race later in the year at Vernon Downs on October 7 and 8.

Following the Simpson stakes will be the third edition of the Empire Breeders Classic, a race for New York bred 3-year-old pacers and trotters. The $250,000 (est.) finals for the pacers will be held at Tioga Downs on Sunday, May 30, and will be followed at Vernon Downs on Memorial Day, Monday, May 31, with the $250,000 (est.) finals for the trotters. The EBC shows off the best New York has to offer a week before the 3-year-old New York Sire Stakes schedule starts.

Up next is the fifth edition of the $200,000 (est.) Artiscape open mare pace at Tioga Downs. The Artiscape is set to go on Sunday, June 6. Tug River Princess won last year’s edition in 1:52.1, where the entire field was only separated by three lengths.

The following week at Tioga Downs is the second new edition to the 2010 stakes schedule. The $200,000 (est.) Bettor's Delight, “Bred in New York to Take on the World” open pace will go forward on Sunday, June 13. The addition of an open pace completes the set of four races Tioga and Vernon offer to older horses of each sex and gait to help keep our stars of racing around past their 3-year-old seasons.

The dates of July 15, 16, and 18 mark the return of the Grand Circuit to Tioga Downs with the Tompkins-Geers stakes. An estimated $500,000 will be up for grabs for the sport's top 2- and 3-year-old pacers and trotters in its fourth year at Tioga.

Next up is the Kindergarten Trotting Classic for 2-year-olds. The Classic will offer four guaranteed $10,000 legs, the first of which will be held at the Meadowlands on July 21 and 22. The three remaining legs will be held at Vernon Downs and will take place on Friday, August 20, Friday, September 10 and Friday, September 17. The $125,000 (est.) final for each sex is scheduled for Friday, September 24 at Vernon Downs.

Friday, July 30, will round out the month with the first leg of the Miss Versatility at the mile sized Meadowlands. The Miss Versatility showcases the “versatility” of the sport's top open mare trotters as they will have to race over four different sized surfaces in order to claim the title of Miss Versatility. The second leg is held at five-eighth-mile sized Tioga Downs on Sunday, August 22, followed by the third leg at seven-eighth-mile sized Vernon Downs on Thursday, September 2. The $150,000 (est.) final is raced over the famous half- mile oval at the Delaware County Fairgrounds on the same day as the Little Brown Jug.

Kicking off the stakes schedule in August will be the fourth annual Drivers' Challenge held at Tioga Downs on Sunday, August 1. The Challenge puts the top seven money winning drivers, the top driver at Tioga Downs, and a sponsor’s exemption in seven-nine overnight races to see who comes out on top as the Tioga Downs Drivers’ Challenge champion. Jason Bartlett took home the 2009 edition, holding off Ron Pierce in the five-eighths-mile dash for the cash to take home the $25,000 grand prize. Yannick Gingras and Brian Sears co-owned the title in 2007, with Yannick Gingras taking home the title outright in 2008.

The New York State Fair comes to town next, kicking off at Vernon Downs on Thursday, August 12, and Friday, August 13, with the 2-year-old pacers and trotters. The 3-year-old pacers and trotters follow on Saturday, August 14, and Sunday, August 15, at Tioga Downs.

Rounding out the August schedule is the 36th edition of the $300,000 (est.) Dr. Harry M. Zweig Memorial Trot for 3-year-old colt and filly trotters. The race is set to go forward on Sunday, August 29, at Tioga Downs, the first time it has been held in late August. This will mark the fifth year of the Zweig at Tioga.

Friday, September 10, will mark the day for the $200,000 (est.) Conway Hall open mare trot. Defending champion Buck I St Pat will more than likely be back to defend her crown against a stout class of top mares in the 2010 edition at Vernon Downs.

The following week, Friday, September 17, at Vernon Downs marks the fourth edition of the $200,000 (est.) Credit Winner open trot. Arch Madness captured last year’s trophy with a quick 1:52.4 score with Brian Sears in the sulky.

Vernon Downs -- “The Place Where Trotters Come to Race” -- will open up its 90 day meet on Friday, April 16, at 6:55 p.m. Vernon races Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays throughout the meet at 6:55 p.m. with special 1:15 p.m. cards on Monday, July 5, and Monday, September 6.

Tioga Downs kicks off its meet on Kentucky Derby Day, Saturday, May 1, at 6:50 p.m. Tioga races Fridays and Saturdays at 6:50 p.m. and Sundays at 1:30 p.m. Tioga also has six special cards scheduled during the meet. Tioga will go with a special 6:30 p.m. post on Sunday, May 30, as well as Sunday, July 4. Two Monday and two Wednesday cards are also scheduled during the 2010 season with 1:30 p.m. posts.

For more information, visit www.tiogadowns.com and www.vernondowns.com. You may also call the Tioga race office at (607) 699-7688.