Sunday, April 29, 2012

Diamond Stick Pin wins season's first Open Pace

Local favorite Diamond Stick Pin lowered the local season's speed standard to 1:52 with his explosive victory in Saturday night's $9,500 featured ninth race at Vernon Downs.

Off as the second wagering choice, Diamond Stick Pin rallied from third in the early going, began to challenge entering the homestretch and then closed with momentum to defeat the on-rushing Home Again Dragon by 1-1/2 lengths.

Saturday's score was the second in six season's starts for the 6-year-old son of Bettor's Delight-Silksndiamonds, who is shared in ownership by Conrad Zurich, Edwin Gold and Wanda Polisseni's Purple Haze Stables.

Diamond Stick Pin's 21st lifetime victory gave driver Chris Lems and trainer Jessica Okusko three first-place finishes during Saturday's 12-race card.

Okusko's other win credits were provided by the pacer Major's Centerfold (1:58.1) and trotter Belles Of Churton (2:01.4).

Defending dash-winning champ Jimmy Whittemore also posted a hat trick during the track's second pari-mutuel program.

DOWNS DOINGS—Lems sports a pair of three-win outings after two official nights of competition over Vernon's 7/8ths-mile oval…Mickey Holiday joined James Dodson and Josh Kinney on Vernon's provisional driving chart following his 1:55 win behind the pacer Rush Of Fools in Saturday's seventh event…The track's basic Thursday-Saturday night weekly schedule begins on May 3…Additional facts regarding Vernon Downs, its casino, hotel, racing and promotional events can be obtained at

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Large Crowd Packs Vernon Downs on Opening Night

A large (3,764) and enthusiastic crowd helped usher in the 59th live harness racing season at Vernon Downs on Friday night.

The pacer Dovetail (1:54.1) and trotter Aruba Vacation (1:54.3) shrugged off mid-30-degree temperatures to record the evening's fastest miles as the central New York 7/8ths-mile track kicked off its 90-card campaign in speedy style.

"The fan support on this chilly evening was great and helped set the tone for a successful launch to our live racing schedule," said Jason Settlemoir, vice-president for racing and simulcasting at both Vernon Downs and its sister track Tioga Downs, located in Nichols. "We hope to parlay this auspicious opening into one of the finest and most exciting seasons in the track's long and proud history."

Dovetail earned her fourth win on the current campaign with her quick-footed score in the $9,500 Open test for female pacers.

With Fern Paquet, Jr. driving, the determined mare chased down the pace-setting Glam Cam in the final strides to post a head victory in the featured sixth event.

It marked the 14th lifetime victory for the brown daughter of Dragon Again-Western Dove, who is trained by Jamie Paquet and owned by the FBP Racing Stable.

Aruba Vacation's sterling effort occurred in the next event, a $7,600 "Winners Over" contest, with Paquet again doing the teaming, this time for trainer Guy Howard and the Howard Stables.

The confident 5-year-old gelding led throughout and stretched his winning advantage to eight lengths at the finish.

It was the initial season's outing for the productive homebred son of Dream Vacation-Dixie Hit, who bumped his career winnings to more than $346,500.

In addition to Paquet's two-bagger, drivers Chris Lems and Jimmy Whittemore chalked up a triple and double, respectively, during the evening's 10-race program.

DOWNS DOINGS—Josh Kinney became the meet's first provisional driving victor following his first place finish behind the veteran claiming pacer in Friday's final event... The Downs will present a 12-race card, including the weekend's $9,500 Open pace, starting at 6:55 p.m. on Saturday (April 28).  The track's basic Thursday-Saturday night weekly slate begins on May 3…Additional facts regarding Vernon Downs, its casino, hotel, racing and promotional events can be obtained at

Friday, April 27, 2012

Vernon Downs Set for Derby Fest 5

Vernon Downs Casino in Vernon, NY will host Derby Fest 5 on Saturday, May 5th, celebrating the 138th Kentucky Derby live from Churchill Downs.

In addition to Derby Fest 5, and live racing at 6:55 pm, Vernon Downs has another reason to have a party, Cinco de Mayo.

On top of having Mint Juleps, there will be Margaritas, a Sombrero Hat contest, and our ever-popular Kentucky Derby Hat Contest.

The exciting day of events, which always draws an impressive crowd for the festivities, begins with simulcast racing from Churchill Downs starting at 10:30am.

Guests can watch and wager on all of the races leading up to the 138th Run for the Roses (post time approximately 6:24pm).

Kentucky Derby Fest 5 will be bigger and better than ever with more excitement and entertainment, including live performances throughout the day including a Mariachi Band at 4:30pm, and more.

The Derby and Sombrero Hat Contests will be held in the grandstand area at 6:00 pm, with registration beginning at 5:00 pm.

Wear your best Kentucky Derby or Sombrero hat for a chance at a $500 race voucher.

Go to for further information and event times.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Vernon Downs set for its 2012 opening weekend of live racing

 Vernon Downs is all set for the 2012 opening weekend of live racing with 10 races being drawn for opening night (April 27) with a post time of 6:55 PM.

Fans of Vernon Downs will be welcomed back with a free race date t-shirt and race date magnet giveaway at the front entrance of Vernon Downs (while supplies last).

Also on tap for opening night will be the promotion, Cash It or Stash It, the ever popular Horseplay Car Giveaway and the night will round out with fireworks immediately following live racing.

Race Secretary Scott Warren has put together a 12-race card for Saturday night (April 28) with a post time of 6:55 PM, led by a $9,500 seven-horse Open Pace.

The seven-horse race has stirred up some talented pacers led by Western Trademark, Sheer Brilliance, and the Vernon Downs hometown favorite, Diamond Stick Pin.

Saturday night's track promotion, in addition to the Horseplay Car Giveaway - night two, is That's My Driver.

For more information on Vernon Downs, please visit us online at

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Vernon Downs Announces Details of Bruce Springsteen Concert

Before a packed crowd of media and local dignitaries, Vernon Downs owner Jeff Gural announced details of the August 29 Bruce Springsteen's "Wrecking Ball" Tour concert stop.

Tickets will be $108 and include parking.  Tickets go on sale April 28th at the Vernon Downs Ticket Office and all Ticketmaster outlets including online via this link.

Approximately 30,000 tickets will be available. All seating is general admission, festival style, in the Vernon Downs infield.

To hear more about this historic concert and what it means for the future of Vernon Downs, watch the video below.

Media Night and Final Preseason Qualifiers at Vernon Downs

The trotters BJ's Superman (2:02), Centerfold Lady (2:01.4), Delcrest Grace (2:01.2), as well as pacers Shortest Distance (1:57.1) and Paltrow Blue Chip (1:58.1) were qualifying winners during Tuesday's annual Media Night program at Vernon Downs.

Roman Lopez (Centerfold Lady for trainer Sam Serianni and Delcrest Grace for conditioner Maria Rice) won two of Tuesday's practice events as the central New York harness track continued to prepare for its 59th pari-mutual season this Friday night (April 27).

Master of Ceremonies Jason Settlemoir, vice-president of racing and simulcasting for Vernon Downs and its sister track, Tioga Downs (which opens at 6:50 on Saturday night, May 5), welcomed the enthusiastic crowd and provided information pertaining to this year's 90-card campaign, which is scheduled to continue through Nov. 3.

"We’re looking forward to having the seventh season under current management showcase the best Standardbred horses and horsemen during the upcoming campaign, especially on Sunday afternoon, Aug. 26 when Vernon will host the $700,000 (est.) Zweig Memorial for 3-year-old trotters and a $50,000 Driver's Championship (that previously has been held at Tioga Downs)," Settlemoir said.

Jeff Gural, Chairman of American Racing and Entertainment, excited the audience when he announced that Vernon would be the site of two major concerts in 2012, with the chart-topping group "America" set to perform on Thursday night, July 5, and "The Boss," Bruce Springsteen, to conduct a leg of his current "Wrecking Ball" tour on Wednesday evening, Aug. 29.

Both events will benefit the Food Bank of Central New York.

"I recognize that many people in this community continue to struggle during these difficult times, and I thought this was the best way for myself and our company to express our thanks to everyone for the support we have received here over the past six years," Gural stated.  

DOWNS DOINGS—The Downs has slated 10 races starting at 6:55 this Friday night…Vernon will conduct its next qualifying session at 11 o'clock on Friday morning… Friday night's promotional activities include a T-shirt and magnet schedule giveaway, plus a fireworks show following the last live race…Additional facts regarding Vernon Downs, its casino, hotel, racing and promotional events can be obtained at Added information and concert tickets can be obtained at the track's ticket office, or at all Ticketmaster locations.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Defending champs dominate in Vernon Downs qualifiers

Defending driving champion Jimmy Whittemore and training titleist Tracy Brainard were each credited with victories during Friday's qualifying program at Vernon Downs.

104 harness horses performed during the morning's 17 races as the Central New York harness track prepared for its 59th season.

Whittemore, who was tops in wins during Vernon's 2011 campaign with 108 first-place finishes, guided JK Panache to a 1:54.4 triumph in Friday's fifth race.  It proved to be a career-fastest mile for the 3-year-old pacing colt that is shared in ownership by trainer Dave Dewhurst and Philip Hale.

Brainard, who led all conditioners at the Downs last year with 56 victories, received a 2:00.4 score from her veteran trotter Armbro Doyle in Friday's 10th event.  Provisional reinsman Jordan Hope did the teaming.

Veteran driver Chris Lems recorded three tallies during Friday's second practice session of the season, two of them for trainer Deedra Johnson and the other for owner and conditioner Gary Bryant.

Driving and/or training doubles were also posted over Vernon's 7/8ths-mile track by Brian Connor, Leon Bailey, Adam Capizzano, Gary Minckler and Paul Minckler.

Vernon will conduct its annual Media Night program at 6:55 p.m. on Tuesday (April 24) and another qualifying session at 11 a.m. next Friday (April 27).   The track's official 90-card campaign will follow at 6:55 p.m. that Friday evening (Apr. 27).

DOWNS DOINGS--Additional information regarding the track's 59th schedule and its casino can be obtained at

Friday, April 13, 2012

Friday Qualifiers Recap

Veteran horseman Roman Lopez appeared in mid-season form while winning six of Friday's 16 qualifying races at Vernon Downs.

In preparation for its 59th campaign, which officially begins in two weeks, the central New York harness track featured eight trotting and a like number of pacing races starting at 11 a.m. on a clear morning and over a fast track.

Lopez, who has been a trainer and driver at the Downs for several seasons, began his successful string with a 1:58.2 win behind the pacer Miracle Freeluck in Friday's first race.  The 52-year-old reinsman shares ownership of the 7-year-old son of Coal Luck along with Mitchell Frair of Sherrill.

Lopez also finished first with the trotter La Braba in race four, the trotter Forever Bachelor in race six, the pacer Precious Medal in race nine, the pacer White Jade in race 13 and the trotter Glorious Winner in race 14.

Robert Siemski's pacer Winbak Your Kash turned in Friday's fastest mile, a 1:57.3 victory, with Howard Okusko, Jr. teaming for his father, trainer Howard Okusko, Sr.

A total of 107 Standardbreds competed in Friday's practice races over Vernon's 7/8ths-mile oval.

The Downs will hold qualifying sessions at 11 a.m. next Friday (April 20), and at 6:55 p.m. on Tuesday, April 24 (Media Night at the track), before beginning its official 90-card campaign at 6:55 on Friday night, April 27.

DOWNS DOINGS--Additional information regarding the track's 59th season and its casino can be obtained at

Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band's "Wrecking Ball" World Tour Coming to Vernon Downs

Vernon Downs is proud to announce that Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band's 2012 "Wrecking Ball" World Tour will stop at Vernon Downs on Wednesday, August 29th.

More details including ticket information will be announced at the racetrack's Media Night press conference to be held on Tuesday, April 24 at 6:00pm.
Springsteen & the E Street Band are currently barnstorming across the United States and are earning accolades for their stellar performances.

Rolling Stone called the show "epic," the New York Times said "explosive" and the Boston Globe wrote of the concert's "energy that bordered on superhuman."

The "Wrecking Ball" World Tour heads to Europe between May 13th and July 31st before the new dates begin.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Vernon Downs qualifiers set for Friday

Vernon Downs is set to host its first set of qualifiers in preparation for the beginning of the 2012 race season.

A total of sixteen qualifiers will be held on Friday morning (April 13) at 11:00am.

Vernon will also host another set of qualifiers on Friday, April 20 at 11:00am, and then again on Tuesday, April 24 at 6:55pm as the racetrack hosts its "Press Night" for the local media and dignitaries commemorating another opening of live racing on Friday, April 27th with a post time of 6:55pm.

"We are looking forward to another great season of live harness racing in Vernon, New York this year, and will once again host some of the top racing New York has to offer during our 90-day race meet at Vernon," said Jason M. Settlemoir, VP of Racing and Simulcast.

For more information on Vernon Downs including qualifying standards, please visit us online at

Monday, April 9, 2012

Vernon Downs Casino Generates $15.1 Million For New York's Education

Vernon Downs Casino's Contribution Equivalent to 217 Teachers' Salaries

New York Lottery's Data for Fiscal Year 2011-2012 Reflects Extraordinary Revenue Generated by Vernon Downs Casino

Vernon Downs Casino generated more than $15.1 million for education during the 2011-2012 fiscal year, according to the recently released data by the Division of Lottery. As part of Vernon Downs Casino's ongoing support of New York's education, 35 percent of Vernon Downs Casino net win is given to the Lottery to fund education.

"Once again we have seen steady growth with the monies going to education and local government. For that we thank our customers and the lottery for working with us to constantly improve our product which allows us to continue to grow and increase our support of education," states Jeff Gural, CEO and Chairman of American Racing and Entertainment.

In 2011-2012, revenue generated by Vernon Downs Casino for education was equivalent to the annual salaries of approximately 217 teachers. With education budgets consistently tightening, this revenue will allow for students throughout New York State to continue to earn a high-quality public education. Since opening in 2006, Vernon Downs has generated more than $78.8 in education funding for New York.

In addition to these financial contributions to the Lottery, Vernon Downs also contributes to the state and supports the local community. In the same fiscal year (2011-2012), Vernon Downs has contributed $405,000 in aid to struggling local governments.

More information on Vernon Downs Casino & Hotel is available at and the full Lottery report is available at

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Top 5 compete tonight in Week 5 of Rockokie Star Contest

The $5,000 Rockokie Star Contest is down to its final five singers. All five will compete tonight starting at 6pm at the Ring Eyed Pete's Stage inside the casino.

They'll each sing two songs and be judged on a scale of 1 to 10 by the panel of judges AND all members of the live audience. The champion will take home a first place prize of $3,000.

The grand prize winners will be announced on April 20th.

Here are the five finalists and the songs they'll sing during tonight's performances:

1. Josh Leone: "Crazy Little Thing Called Love" by Michael Buble & "Ring of Fire" by Johnny Cash

2. Meghan Coe: "Give Me One Reason" by Tracy Chapman & "Fever" by Peggy Lee

3. Nicole Edsall: "Goodbye to You" by Scandal & "You're No Good" by Linda Ronstadt

4. Brian Nelson: "American Girl" by Tom Petty & "Get Rhythm" by Johnny Cash

5. Dorrie Giruzzi: "You and I" by Lady Gaga & "Something To Talk About" by Bonnie Raitt

And here are some video highlights from last week's performances: