Sunday, November 20, 2011

Vernon Downs Closes out the 2011 Racing Season

The fleet-footed pacer Western Tsunami wired five feisty foes in 1:51.3 to capture the $10,000 featured eighth event as Vernon Downs closed out its 58th live harness racing season on Saturday night (Nov. 19).

With Brandon Simpson sulky-sitting for trainer Tracy Brainard in the 90-card meeting's final Open contest, Western Tsunami ($7.00) sped through splits of :26.2, :55.2 and 1:23.4 en route to a three-quarter length decision over Restless Yankee.

Saturday's score was the first at the Downs this year, the fourth in 2011 and 39th all-time for the 8-year-old son of Western Hanover-Ron's Girl, who is shared in ownership by Brainard and her partner Andrew Herzog.

The win pushed the gritty gelding's lifetime earnings to more than $307,800.

Former provisional driving champion Leon Bailey earned three victories during Saturday's card, while drivers Simpson, Brian Connor and trainer Brainard were each credited with a pair of first-place finishes.

During Saturday's 10-race card, former track driving champions John Stark, Jr. and the late Gary Gibson were inducted into the Upstate New York Chapter of the United States Harness Writers Association's Hall of Fame for 2011.
Jason Settlemoir, vice-president of racing and simulcasting for both Vernon and its sister track, Tioga Downs, and a 2011 UNYC Hall of Fame inductee himself, presented championship checks to the meet's leading driver, Jimmy Whittemore (108 wins), and trainer, Brainard (56 victories).

Also recognized during the program was Track Superintendent Tony Rossi, whose well-manicured seven-eighths-mile oval yielded 1,079 miles in 2:00 for faster during the April 15 to Nov. 19 campaign, including the fastest trotting mile in the track's history, a 1:51.1 effort by San Pail on Sept. 2.

The Vernon all-time 1:49.4 pacing standard was equaled for the third time in 2011 by Go Go Solano on Nov. 12.

A total of 15 track records were set or equaled during the seven-month meeting.

The pacer Hay Goodlooking was the winningest equine of 2011 locally with eight wins, while DL Cruiser and Enlightened tied as the top race-winning trotters with seven scores each.

"We had a very good race meeting this year at the Downs," said Settlemoir during the program. "I'd like to thank all of our customers and the horsemen who support us and the great sport of harness racing year after year in central New York. We look forward to another live meeting starting in mid-April next year, pending regulatory approval."

DOWNS DOINGS - Settlemoir also wished the track's fans and horsemen a happy and healthy holiday season... Truman Gale emerged as Vernon's top provisional driver for 2011 with 20 triumphs... All of the track's simulcasting during the off-season (afternoons and evenings) will be conducted in Vernon's hotel simulcasting center... A fireworks display was conducted after the evening's 10th race... Additional information regarding the track, its casino and newly-renovated hotel can be obtained at, and on Facebook.