Monday, November 29, 2010

Vernon Downs/Tioga Downs Racing Handle Comparison

Tioga Downs and the Southern Tier Harness Horsemen’s Association (STHHA) opted to try a lower takeout rate initiative for the 2010 race season, where all takeout rates were lowered to New York state minimums.

The results of the takeout initiative were promising compared to industry standards.

Where most other handles are dropping, the Tioga Downs handle showed an increase of 7.8% over 2009.

Vernon Downs’ takeout rates stayed the same as in 2009.

The 2010 handle showed a 5.6% decrease.

The live on track handle for the Vernon Downs season was only down just under 1%, but the export number plummeted at Vernon Downs in 2010 with a 9.5% decrease in export compared to 2009.

The end result of the takeout rate reduction at Tioga showed an actual revenue loss in 2010 compared to 2009, but management feels that as part of repairing our broken business model in harness racing, a takeout reduction is worth exploring.

“The horseplayers have spoken and they want more value on the product they are betting on," said Jason M. Settlemoir, VP of Racing and Simulcast. "It’s past time to look at our business model and make adjustments, and we have to begin with the most important piece of the puzzle, the bettors. With the high amount of product available for bettors to wager on they are going to go where they are getting the best value and we believe that we are providing that for them at Tioga.”

“Hopefully we will someday also provide our customer with a better product by keeping our stars racing as we recently saw by the dramatic increase in news coverage and TV ratings when Zenyatta raced in the Breeders’ Cup."

For more information on Tioga Downs or Vernon Downs please visit us online at or

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Vernon Downs’ 2010 Year in Review

Vernon Downs wrapped up its 2010 race season this past weekend in Vernon, New York for the 57th time in track history.

A total of 13 track records highlighted a 90 day race meet in which the all age trotting track record was re-written by Lucky Jim and Andy Miller on September 17th in the Credit Winner Open Trot in 1:52.

Stonebridge Wish posted the fastest mile of the season with a 1:49.4 score on June 5 that equaled him for the fastest mile in Vernon Downs’ history.

Yursa Hanover captured the fourth edition of the Conway Hall Trot as she upset defending Champion Buck I St Pat in 1:54.2 with driver Dan Dube.

Also highlighting the 2010 stakes schedule and kicking off the sire stakes in New York was the Empire Breeders’ Classic at Vernon Downs for sophomore trotters.

Southwind Samurai and Pat Berry captured the 2010 edition for sophomore trotting fillies in stakes record time of 1:54.4.

The Bjorn Noren trainee upset Impressive Kemp, to take home the lion’s share of the $234,900 purse.

In the $235,900 Empire Breeders’ Classic Final for 3-year old colt trotters, Strong Hope and Ron Pierce upset a field of nine at 15-1 to post a 1:55.2 victory for trainer Noel Daley.

Tracy Brainard was crowned 2010 Trainer of the year on Saturday night, while Jimmy Whittemore defended his Driver of the year title to make it two in a row for the young Maine native.

“We would like to thank all the fans who supported us for the 2010 race season," said Jason M. Settlemoir, VP of Racing and Simulcast. "We continue to bring in some of the top horses and drivers in the country for many marquee races during the heart of the stakes season. We look forward to another successful year in 2011 and wish everyone the best in the offseason."

Sunday, November 21, 2010

2010 Racing Season Concludes

Touch Of The Past saved the best for last on closing night to prevail in 1:51.2 during Saturday’s $13,200 featured ninth race at Vernon Downs.

Competing in the final Miracle Mile-1 pace of Vernon’s 57th season, Touch Of The Past advanced from fourth at the half to second at the top of the stretch, and then closed with a flurry to defeat the on-rushing Four One One by a head in a career-best time of 1:51.2.

Joe Nassimos did the teaming for veteran trainer Howard Okusko, Sr. as the 4-year-old son of Village Jove-My Place earned his second win in succession, seventh at the 90-card meeting and 16th all-time.

Rocco Manzi and Paul Tandlmayer own the career-winner of nearly $75,000.

Nassimos and driver Claude Huckabone, III each recorded three wins during Saturday’s 10-race program, while trainer Adam Wahl posted two tallies.

"I would like to thank the racing fans, employees and horsemen of Vernon Downs for making the 2010 racing season a success,” said Jason Settlemoir, the track’s regional vice-president for racing and simulcasting. “Vernon Downs continues to strive to bring top quality harness racing action to its fans in Central New York, and this year alone we set thirteen track records at the home of the Miracle Mile. We are already looking forward to the 2011 racing season in the spring with hope and optimism."

The pacer Stonebridge Wish recorded the season’s fastest mile, a 1:49.4 performance on June 5 that tied the fastest mile in Vernon’s history, while Lucky Jim established a 1:52 all-time track trotting standard on Sept. 17.

The pacer Saranac Hanover was the track’s winningest equine with 10 first-place finishes, while Fox Valley Majesty topped all trotters with eight scores.

Jimmy Whittemore successfully defended his dash-winning driving title, while Tracy Brainard was the season’s leading trainer.

Leon Bailey led all provisional reinsman for the second straight season.

DOWNS DOINGS—Vernon’s 57th season covered 90 programs from April 16 through November 20…The pacing mare My Little Dragon set Vernon’s 1:49.4 all-time speed standard in 2008.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Huckabone, III Notches 2,000th Career Win

Touch Of The Past won the $10,800 featured eight event, while 36-year-old local horseman Claude Huckabone, III achieved his 2,000th career driving victory during Saturday night’s 10-race program at Vernon Downs.

Touch Of The Past ($4.70) closed from fourth in the final quarter and displayed the most lick in the lane to record a 1:52.3 victory in Saturday’s top Miracle Mile pacing contest, while Huckabone, son of Vernon veteran Claude Huckabone, Jr., converted a pocket-sitting trip behind his pacer Deau Best into a memorable 1:55.4 triumph in the second session.

Joe Nassimos did the teaming for trainer Howard Okusko, Sr. as betting favorite Touch Of The Past earned his sixth season’s score and 15th lifetime victory.

Rocco Manzi and Paul Tandlmayer own the career-winner of more than $68,000.

Huckabone, who grew up in Vernon’s backstretch and posted his initial driving victory here, realized his 1,000th lifetime win at Monticello Raceway in 2004.

“This is a nice milestone in my chosen career,” said the personable Utica (NY) native. “I’m glad I got this one here at Vernon, where it all began.”

Huckabone, who also finished first with Lu Ann Huckabone’s pacer Willfully in Saturday’s fifth race and the pacer Joan’s Bad Boy, owned by Bennett Velocci and John Alutto, Jr., in the sixth race, increased his win total for the meet to 47.

In addition to Huckabone’s triple, Ruel “Dude” Goodblood, Jr. collected a pair of victories during the track’s 88th program.

DOWNS DOINGS—Huckabone is the owner and trainer of Deau Best…Tioga Thunder, the first youngster to be named by the fans in Tioga Downs’s “Name That Colt” contest a couple of years back, earned his “maiden” victory with owner and trainer Adam Capizzano doing the driving in Saturday’s opening event…The Downs with complete its 57th season with live harness racing next Friday and Saturday nights (Nov. 19 & 20). First post time will be at 6:55 both evenings.

Leading Trainer Brainard Sweeps Friday Co-Features

Keep It Fair displayed speed and stamina while winning Friday night’s $13,200 featured pacing contest in 1:52.4 at Vernon Downs.

With Jack Rice at the controls for trainer Tracy Brainard, Keep It Fair ($2.80) advanced from fourth at the quarter to first before the half, and then kept on digging until she had defeated newcomer Snapper in Friday’s seventh race, the week’s top Miracle Mile contest for female representatives of the lateral gait.

The half-length tally was the third in succession, sixth at the meeting, eighth in 2010 and 10th all-time for the 4-year-old daughter of Art Major-Direct Service, who is shared in ownership by Brainard and Andrew Herzog.

Brainard, this year’s leading trainer after 87 local programs with 67 first-place finishes, also owns and conditions Brick ($18.00), who turned a pocket trip into a 1:56.2 victory in Friday’s $10,800 ninth race, the weekend’s top Miracle Mile trot.

Claude Huckabone, Jr. did the teaming as Brick idled behind the pace-setting Queen Creek until the final furlong, and then rallied to earn a ½-length decision over the mile cutter.

It was the fourth season’s score (all at the Downs) and 30th lifetime win for the 8-year-old son of Conway Hall-Tees.

Defending driving champ Jimmy Whittemore posted three tallies during Friday’s 10-race card, while Leon Bailey, the track’s top provisional reinsman for the second straight season, also secured a pair of first-place finishes.

DOWNS DOINGS—Brainard, who won Vernon’s 2008 training title with a single-season record 101 triumphs, currently leads defending champ Jessica Okusko by 11 wins in this year’s conditioning contest…Whittemore now needs nine victories during the remaining three Vernon programs to retain the dash-winning driving championship that he earned for the first time here last season…Saturday night’s 10-race card, which features the week’s premier Miracle Mile pacing events, will begin at 6:55 p.m…The Downs is offering live harness racing on Friday and Saturday nights through November 20.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Bailey's Upset Win in Feature Caps Three Bagger

The streaking pacer Four One One pulled off an upset victory in Saturday night’s $12,000 featured 10th race at Vernon Downs.

Fresh off a Miracle Mile-2 class triumph here last Saturday, Four One One ($12.80) took charge in this week’s MM-1 contest at the half and continued on to a 1:52.4 triumph.

Leon Bailey, the meet’s top provisional driver for the second straight season, earned his initial triple of the current Vernon campaign after guiding his 8-year-old charge to a 1-1/2 score over Daley Deposit Only.

Saturday’s score was the third locally this season and the 20th all-time for the gray son of Sealed N Delivered-Jammin Jenna, who is owned by Robert Siemski.

Wayne Hughes conditions the career-winner of more than $335,000.

Bailey, whose win total after 86 programs is 33, also captured the track’s early double behind the trotter Annuity Hanover and pacer Speedy Valentine, who is trained by Hughes.

Veteran driver Joe Nassimos also collected three wins during Saturday’s 12-race card, while provisional reinsman Frank Davis earned his initial driving double at the meet.

DOWNS DOINGS—Saturday’s “trifecta” was also the first of the track’s 57th season for Nassimos…The Downs is currently offering live harness racing at 6:55 on Friday and Saturday nights through November 20.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Vernon's Top Trot To Scorpion Moon

Scorpion Moon captured the $13,200 featured trot, while PW Ivory Grin grabbed top honors in the weekend’s top female pace on Friday night at Vernon Downs.

With Jack Rice sitting in for trainer Tracy Brainard, Scorpion Moon wired six rivals in 1:56.3 to take home first place honours in Friday’s eighth event, the week’s Miracle Mile-1 contest for disciples of the diagonal gait.

While chalking up his second local score, the nine-year-old son of Armbro Scorpion-Angie’s Nugget also recorded his 15th season’s victory and 75th all-time.

Brainard, the meet’s top race-winning trainer with 65 first-place finishes, owns the career winner of more than $844,000 along with Andrew Herzog.

PW Ivory Grin’s come-from-behind tally came in the $10,800 co-feature 10th event.

Claude Huckabone, Jr. did the catch-driving for part-owner and trainer Arnie Marks as the four-year-old daughter of Grinfromeartoear-Ivory Tower rallied from fourth in the early going and closed from second in the homestretch to post a 1:56.3 victory, her fourth of the meet and sixth all-time.

William Williams, Jr. also owns the lifetime winner of $65,520.

Racing continues Saturday night with a special 7:15pm post time following the conclusion of the Breeders' Cup simulcast from Churchill Downs.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Vernon Downs Post Time Change

Vernon Downs will be moving its post time on Saturday, November 6th from 6:55 pm to 7:15 pm to accommodate for the Breeders' Cup from Churchill Downs.

A 12-race card has been scheduled for Saturday night, and the weekend racing action at Vernon Downs will begin on Friday, November 5th at 6:55 pm.