Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Vernon Downs concludes season with double-digit increase in export handle

Vernon Downs saw a double-digit increase in export wagering handle and single-digit growth in live handle during its recently concluded live racing season.

The export handle (money wagered on Vernon's races at off-track facilities) increased by 14 percent while the live handle (money wager on-track on live races) increased by one percent.

"We are delighted by the double-digit increase in our export handle and continue to be pleased to see positive on-track numbers," said Jason M. Settlemoir, Vice President of Racing and Simulcast. "We thank all of the horseplayers across the U.S. and Canada for their support and look forward to continue to provide them with an attractive wagering product in the future."

The 2012 season wrapped up on November 2-3 and featured the second annual Turn Back the Clock Rewind Races, a series of 7/8 mile races contested in the clockwise direction. More than 2,500 fans attended the races on Closing Night despite temperatures hovering in the upper 30s.

60-year-old Rick Plano topped the driver and trainer standings, the first time such a feat had been accomplished during a full Vernon Downs season since 1989.

Other seasonal highlights included Ron Pierce's dramatic victory in the 6th Annual Drivers' Championship, held at Vernon Downs for the first time. On that same August afternoon, Hambletonian champion Market Share set a track record while winning the Zweig Memorial and super filly Check Me Out broke her own world record of 1:51.3.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Buffet proceeds to benefit New York Hurricane Sandy victims

Vernon Downs Casino and Hotel is announcing that they will donate all proceeds from Champions Buffet at their property in aid of victims of Hurricane Sandy. Between Sunday, November 11 and Sunday, November 18, Vernon Downs, in conjunction with Tioga Downs Casino, hopes to raise $100,000 to give to the American Red Cross.

During that week, patrons who donate $5 Sunday through Thursday, and those who donate $10 on Friday and Saturday, will receive a FREE buffet. Patrons are also encouraged to donate additional funds above $5 and $10, as Chairman of American Racing and Entertainment Jeff Gural will generously match the additional donations up to $50 per person.

According to Mr. Gural, "I think everyone here knows how devastating floods can be and we hope to do our share to help our neighbors along the shore and also give our customers a bargain as well."

The Veterans Day Program and Buffet Special previously scheduled for November 12 at Vernon Downs will be rescheduled to November 26.

For more information, go to vernondowns.com, or visit us on Facebook.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Plano completes historic double at Vernon Downs

Rick Plano has proven once again that even in harness racing, age is only a number.

The 60-year-old native of nearby Frankfort, New York earned leading driver and trainer honors at the recently concluded Vernon Downs meet to become the first horseman since Del Richards in 1989 to sweep both categories during a full racing season.

Plano recorded 159 driving wins, 62 more than his closest pursuer.  He added 78 training tallies, three more than two-time defending champion Tracy Brainard.
"You always set out with goals but you don't say you want to be the leading trainer or leading driver," said Plano. "It's a prestigious thing and anybody that says it's not probably isn't telling the truth."

Plano missed the opening week of the Vernon Downs season but made an immediate impact when he arrived; winning four races his first night, one of six grand slams in 2012. He also recorded six wins on a single card in October.

"It obviously takes good horses to be the top guy," said Plano. "I drive for a lot of good stables and I have a good stable of my own. But the reality of it is the older you get the more you take care of yourself."

For Plano, that includes a daily workout routine he's sworn by for decades. The 25-minute regimen includes 250 sit-ups and some light dumbbell exercises. All of it keeps Plano in top physical shape while competing on a nightly basis against competitors who are frequently half his age.

"There's nothing to it," said Plano. "My wife is a workout gal herself. She tells me I don't do the crunches right but finally she gave in and said it works for me so that's good enough."

Plano posted his 6,000th career driving win earlier in the Vernon Downs season and has career purse earnings of more than $39 million since recording his first win in 1977.

He'll spend the winter hoping to continue piling up wins at Pompano Park in south Florida.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

2012 season concludes

Tioga Thunder set a track record for trotters racing 7/8ths-of-a-mile clockwise during Saturday night's 13-race card as Vernon Downs completed its 59th season.

Competing in Saturday's second race, a “Turn Back The Clock Rewind Race,” Tioga Thunder had owner and trainer Adam Capizzano at the controls as he went right to the front at the start and wired seven other practitioners of the diagonal stride, stopping the timer in 1:45.3.  The previous 1:47 record for this event and gait had been established by Famous Image last year.

Two other 7/8ths-mile rewind races were conducted during the track's 90th program, both on the pace.  Dunkirk Beach missed the pacing standard for this event by one tick of the timer with his 1:42.4 performance in race eight, while Mata Harry posted a 1:44.2 clocking in race four.

Drivers Chris Lems, Jonathan Roberts, Roman Lopez, Lewayne Miller, trainer Lonny Hale, plus owners Dr. Michael J. Kessler and the Speed To Burn Racing Stable were each credited with a pair of victories during Saturday's action.

The 14-year-old campaigners Crowbar Hotel, owned by trainer Gene Denney and his wife, Lynne, and Camviction, registered to trainer Lynn Whitmer and her husband, Charles, Jr., were recognized in retirement ceremonies after the second and eighth events, respectively.  The trotter Crowbar Hotel is a career winner of more than $106,000, while the home-bred pacer Camviction has recorded earnings of nearly $75,000.

Twelve different track records were set or tied during the April 27-Nov. 3 meeting, with the fastest pacing mile a 1:48.3 sizzler turned in by He's Gorgeous on May 19.  The fastest trotting mile was a 1:51.2 effort by Hot Shot Blue Chip on Sept. 7 in the Credit Winner Open trot.

The winningest pacer at the meet was Steuben Ruthless with eight first-place finishes, while the top trotter in tallies was Whispur with seven scores.

Rick Plano, who was the runner-up in both driving and training here last season, ended up finishing first in both categories this season.  The 60-year-old horsemen won 159 races and chalked up 78 conditioning credits.  The Frankfort-native led in driving doubles with 18, triples with 16, four-win program with six, tied Jim Morrill, Jr. in five-win performances with two, and joined Morrill, Jr. and Tim Tetrick as the only reinsmen to hit the six-win mark during the meet.

Provisional pilots Josh Kinney and Michael Miller tied at six for top honors in that developing category.

More than 1,100 miles in 2:00 or faster were recorded during the season, raising the track's all-time total to 22,785.

"We would like to thank all of our customers and the horsemen who help support Vernon Downs racing year after year, and we look forward to seeing all of them again next season," said Jason M. Settlemoir, VP of Racing and Simulcast.

DOWNS DOINGS—Additional information regarding Vernon Downs, its casino, hotel, racing and promotional events can be obtained at www.vernondowns.com.

Daley records driving/training triple on cold, rainy night

The trotter Hallin Cash collected his fourth win of 2012, and gave Dan Daley his second driving triple of the 59th season at Vernon Downs following a 1:59 tally in Friday's $6,000 featured eighth event.

Leaving from post four, Hallin Cash ($8.70) drafted along behind the pace-setting Mystic Splendor until the final quarter, then pulled out of the pocket and spurted on to a three-quarter length victory. 

The quick-striking score, achieved on a cold, rainy evening and over a sloppy track, was the 11th all-time for the 4-year-old son of Cash Hall-Conway's Jewel, who has earned nearly $97,000 for Wanda Polisseni's Purple Haze Stables.

Daley also won with the trotters Getinonthesecret (1:58.3) and Liborio (2:01.3) to also author a training trifecta.

Roman Lopez took over sole possession of fourth place in Vernon's current driver standings after posting first-place finishes with the  trotters Zigaro (2:01.3), Sharpshootennorris (1:58.1) and Nanticoke Snazz (1:58).  The three-win performance raised his victory total to 65, one more than part-time Downs reinsman Jim Morrill, Jr.

Driver Lewayne Miller secured wins behind the trotters Champagne Magic (1:59.4) and Maever B Graver (2:01.1) to record his third driving double at the 89-program meeting.

DOWNS DOINGS—Vernon will complete its 90-card campaign with Saturday night's 13-race program that will start with a special 6 p.m. post time.  The line-up will include three "Turn Back The Clock Rewind Races" that will be raced clockwise around Vernon's 7/8ths-mile oval…Additional information regarding Vernon Downs, its casino, hotel, racing and promotional events can be obtained at www.vernondowns.com.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Vernon Downs gears up for closing weekend

Vernon Downs is gearing up for its closing weekend of the 2012 race season on Friday, November 2 and Saturday, November 3.

Post time for Friday, November 2 is slated for 6:55 pm, while closing night - Saturday, November 3 will begin with a special post time of 6:00 pm.

Saturday night will also host three rewind races with horses racing the opposite direction of the racetrack, two of which will be raced at the distance of 7/8ths of a mile, a special retirement ceremony for 14-year-old Camviction, long sleeve t-shirt giveaway beginning at 5:00 pm, and fireworks immediately following live racing.

"We are looking forward to wrapping up another successful season at Vernon Downs on what should be a great weekend with coverage of the Breeders' Cup, live racing, and some of the special promotions we have going on," said Jason M. Settlemoir, VP of Racing and Simulcast. "We would like to once again thank all of our customers and horsemen that help support Vernon Downs racing year after year, and we look forward to seeing you again next year."

For more information on Vernon Downs please visit us online at www.vernondowns.com

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Plano honored as leading horseman of 2012

The gritty gelding Western Tsunami toughed out a 1:50.3 victory in Saturday night's $11,000 Open pace, while Rick Plano was honored as the leading horseman of the 59th harness racing season at Vernon Downs.

Taking on four fleet-footed foes in Saturday's featured first race, Western Tsunami ($8.10) stalked the race's pace-setters—Sheer Brilliance at the quarter and Pacinello for most of the remainder of the mile---before rallying from fifth in the final quarter to overtake the Plano-piloted Pacinello and pull out a one-length triumph.

Rick Plano with race secretary Scott Warren and wife Maryann
Western Tsunami, who has only finished off the payoff board once in his last nine trips to the track, earned his fourth Vernon victory of 2012, his sixth season's score and 46th lifetime tally.  Jonathan Roberts did the teaming for trainer Tracy Brainard and her ownership partner, Andrew Herzog, as the 9-year-old son of Western Hanover-Rons Girl increased his career winnings to $360,620.  The time was just two-ticks of the clock off of his all-time speed mark, earned three seasons ago.

Roberts went on to capture Saturday's fifth race with the Hale Storm Stable's pacer Stettin Hanover and record his fourth driving double at the 88-program meeting. 

Plano posted victories with the pacers Moonlight Ransom (1:51.3), Lucky Sniper (1:53.2) and trotter Dipietrantonio (1:58.3) to conclude his current Vernon venture as the leading driver with 159 first-place finishes and top trainer with 78 tallies.  He will be shipping his strong stable to Florida's Pompano Park early next week, missing the final two programs (Nov. 2 and 3) of the track's season.

Former Downs training champ Lonny Hale was also credited with a pair of first-place finishes during Saturday's12-race card.  

DOWNS DOINGS—Josh Kinney, who steered the Jessica Okusko-owned and trained trotter Oldmanandthesea to a lifetime-best 1:58.3 victory in Saturday's second race, tied Michael Miller at six for most wins among provisional drivers at the meet...Vernon will offer live racing at 6:55 p.m. next Friday, and at 6 p.m. on Saturday to complete its current 90-card campaign…Additional information regarding Vernon Downs, its casino, hotel, racing and promotional events can be obtained at www.vernondowns.com.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Ma Chere Hall and Banco Solo capture Kindergarten Classic Finals

Ma Chere Hall and Banco Solo each earned champion status as a result of their impressive victories in Friday night's $408,500 finals of the 2012 Kindergarten Classic Series for 2-year-old trotters at Vernon Downs.

Ma Chere Hall, who tied the Vernon record for her age, sex and gait with a 1:56 clocking in last Friday's fifth and final KCS preliminary leg here, followed that remarkable score up with a 1:54.3 mile in the $202,500 filly flight to establish a new Downs standard for her class.

Ma Chere Hall wins Kindergarten Filly in track record time
Banco Solo's 1:55.3 victory for driver Jeff Gregory in the $206,000 male title test proved to be a personal best effort, and the fastest mile by a freshman colt trotter at the 87-program meeting.  The previous 1:55.4 speed standard was shared by Lauderdale, a divisional winner in this event last week, and Royalty For Life, who established the mark on Aug. 25.

Competing as part of a three-filly Jonas Czernyson stable entry in Friday's sixth session, Ma Chere Hall and driver Corey Callahan drafted along behind stablemate Shared Past, who cut fractions of :27-seconds, :57, and 1:25.4.  The fleet-footed daughter of Deweycheatumnhowe-Margarita Hall used a speed spurt in the final 16th to earn a head triumph over the Yannick Gingras-steered pace-setter. 

Friday's first-place finish by Ma Chere Hall marked the third this season for the career-winner of $145,101, who is shared in ownership by Walnut Hall, Ltd., Aldebaran Park, Inc. and Joe Sbrocco.

Banco Solo scores with Jeff Gregory
Banco Solo's speedy score was his second locally and seventh in 10 season's starts.

"I just happened to pick up the drive behind him from trainer Kenneth Oscarsson last week and it has worked out well for both of us.  He's a very nice colt," said Gregory, a former Vernon regular, who is now one of the Standardbred sports leading catch-drivers. 

The fast-closing, 1-1/4 length triumph by the brown son of Master Glide-Silver Thatch over All Laid Out (Jim Rattray driving) raised his career winnings to $157,481 for Atlantic Trot, Inc.

Friday's $8,500 Junior Open trot was won by Aruba Vacation, who wired seven select rivals with a 1:56 performance in race eight.  Jim Morrill, Jr. did the steering for trainer Guy Howard and the Howard Stables.

Truman Gale, last season's top provisional driver at the Downs, steering Cash In Watsu and Photo Master to victories, earned his second driving double of the meet during Friday's 11-race program.      

DOWNS DOINGS—Morrill, Jr., another one of the sport's leading catch-drivers, earned his 64th victory despite limited appearances at the Downs in 2012…Saturday's 12-race line-up, which includes an $11,000 Open pace in race one, will begin at 6:55 p.m…Just three more live racing cards remain during the track's 90-card campaign…Additional information regarding Vernon Downs, its casino, hotel, racing and promotional events can be obtained at www.vernondowns.com.

Friday, October 26, 2012

High Speed Life upsets Thursday night feature

High Speed Life wired six select foes to capture Thursday night's $11,000 Open for female pacers at Vernon Downs.

With trainer Roman Lopez doing the driving in Thursday's featured first race, High Speed Life ($23.40) beat back an early challenge from Windows On Line (Rick Plano piloting) before taking command and cruising to a 2-1/2 length tally over her chief and only challenger.

Thursday's triumph was the sixth locally, the ninth this year and 30th all-time for the speedy 6-year-old daughter of Lease On Life-Nano, who is owned by Lopez and Mitchell A. Frair.  She's now a career-winner of $507,780.

Trainer Lopez went on to record a 1:55.3 victory behind the Brian Earl Doolittle-owned pacer Cruising West in race nine, chalking up his 10th driving double of the track's 59th season.

Leading driver Rick Plano also posted a pair of first-place finishes during the track's 86th program, as did driver Jonathan Roberts and trainer Tracy Brainard.

DOWNS DOINGS—The late-blooming 3-year-old pacer R U For Me improved her summary line to 6-1-1 after nine career outings following a 1:54.1 score for driver Howard Okusko, Jr. in Thursday's fifth event.  Eric Felter conditions the steady-striding filly for owners Joseph Bien and Kathryn Wood…The 2-year-old trotter I'm A Pop Star (2:00.1) and 3-year-old pacer P L Finest (1:56) each earned their initial pari-mutuel victories during Thursday's 12-race card…The win by P L Finest resulted in the fourth provisional driving tally for trainer Leslie Hale…Friday night's (Oct. 26) 11-race line-up includes the $202,500 final of the Kindergarten Classic for 2-year-old filly trotters in race six, and the $206,000 championship clash in the KCS for freshman male members of the diagonal gait in race seven.  An $8,500 junior Open trot is also slated for race eight.  Friday's first post will be at 6:55 p.m…Just four more live racing cards remain during the track's 90-card campaign…Additional information regarding Vernon Downs, its casino, hotel, racing and promotional events can be obtained at www.vernondowns.com.