Sunday, June 26, 2011

Diamond Stick Pin Sparkles in Upset Victory


Diamond Stick Pin pulled off an upset victory in Saturday night's $10,000 featured sixth race at Vernon Downs.

Rated as the next-to-last choice by bettors in the week's Open-1 pace, Diamond Stick Pin ($26.40) idled in fifth place for most of the mile, rallied to fourth entering the final furlong and then closed like a door in the wind to nip the favorite Mystical Valentine by a neck in a 1:52.4 performance over a "sloppy" track.

Howard Okusko, Jr. drove for his wife, trainer Jessica Okusko, and owners Conrad Zurick, Edwin Gold and the Purple Haze Stables as the proven 5-year-old son of Bettor's Delight-Silksanddiamonds secured his initial Vernon victory of 2011, his third season's score and his 15th all-time tally, while increasing his lifetime earnings to $366,185.

The D & E Racing stable's Pacinello ($5.60) posted a gate-to-wire, 1:53.3 neck triumph in Saturday's $8,000 seventh session, the week's Open-2 pacing contest.

The Leslie Hale owned and trained pacer Johnny Midnight became the first six-time winning standardbred of Vernon's 30-card campaign after a 1:55 pacing achievement in the 10th test.

Trainer Hale, both Okuskos, leading driver Jimmy Whittemore, chauffeurs Rick Plano and Chris Lems all recorded two tallies during Saturday's 10-race program.

DOWNS DOINGS - Justice Wyoming is the winningest trotter at the one-third mark of Vernon's 90-card campaign with four first-place finishes... Howard Okusko, Jr. is the track's all-time leading driver of winning miles in two-minutes or faster with 1,130 such credits... Jim Topper of Cicero won a trip for two to the prestigious Hambletonian race for 3-year-old trotters at The Meadowlands in early August during Saturday's program... There will be no live racing at the Downs next Thursday (June 30) due to a Pat Benatar/Neil Giraldo concert at the track that begins at 8 p.m... Beginning next Friday (July 1), Vernon will switch back to a 6:55 p.m. post time for its live racing...A 1:15 matinee program is planned for Monday, July 4... Additional information regarding the track's 2011 season, its casino and newly-renovated hotel can be obtained at www.vernondowns.com, and on Facebook.