Saturday, September 29, 2012

Late Bloomer Series debuts at Vernon Downs

A Penny Earned used a powerful closing kick to finish first in Friday's $8,500 Junior Open trot at Vernon Downs, while Celebrity Obsesion chalked up the fastest flight in the night's $42,000 leg of the track's new Late Bloomer Series for three and 4-year-old trotters.

A Penny Earned drew off in the stretch (final quarter in :28.3) to record a solid six-length score in Friday's $8,500 eighth event, stopping the timer in 1:55 over a track labeled sloppy to record a personal best win-mark. 

Chris Lems held the lines as the 3-year-old son of Conway Hall-Penny Dream delivered his second season's victory and seventh all-time tally, while bumping his career earnings to more than $189,100 for trainer George Ducharme and his ownership partners Alfred Ross, Paul Fontaine and Nicola Oliva.

With Vernon's leading driver Rick Plano doing the teaming, Celebrity Obsesion turned a pocket trip into a 1:56.1 triumph in Friday's $6,000 first race, earning a 1:56.1 record, his second season's score and fourth lifetime victory for trainer Susanne Strandqvist and owner Sam Stathis.

Friday's other Late Bloomer Series winners were Liborio in 1:58.1, Zanna Royal in 1:58.3, Mrs. D in 1:58.4, Miss Eva Cash in 1:59.2, Helios in 2:00.1 and Painite in 2:00.2.

Driver Dan Daley captured the final three events of Friday's 13-race program to record his initial driving triple at the 75-program meeting, while Chris Lems also piloted three winners for the 10th time at the meet.  

DOWNS DOINGS—A Penny Earned, Mrs. D, Mr. Avalanche, Up Front Ben, Small Bills and Liborio all became two-time winning trotters at the meet as a result of their Friday first-place finishes…Saturday night's 12-race card, which includes an $8,500 Junior Open pace in the eighth event, will begin at 6:55 p.m…Additional information regarding Vernon Downs, its casino, hotel, racing and promotional events can be obtained at

Friday, September 28, 2012

Elleofnxample upsets Thursday feature

Elleofnxample got the nod in a tight photo to capture Thursday night's $8,500 Junior Open pace at Vernon Downs.

With a lot of lead changes going on early in the featured first race, Elleofnxample ($19.60) ambled along in fourth to the half before beginning an overland journey that found her second, and closing, entering the stretch drive.  In the final furlong, the brown mare overtook the pace-setting Southwest and held off Tanned For Life to prevail by a nose in a 1:52.2 mile performance.

Elleofnxample is #3, Tanned for Life is #5, Steuben Ruthless is #3.
Todd Frocione did the teaming for his father, owner Lon Frocione, and trainer Tony Mondi as the 6-year-old daughter of N Xample-Fairline Hanover collected her fifth season's score and 19th lifetime victory, while increasing her career winnings to more than $209,500.  The time was just three ticks of the timer off of her all-time speed mark.

The pacer Bay Girl tied Elleofnxample for fastest mile-of-the-night honors with a 1:52.2 triumph in Thursday's 11th event.  Luke Plano did the teaming for his dad, Rick, the 5-year-old mare's conditioner, and owner Michael Sergi.

Leading driver Rick Plano picked up three wins during Thursday's 12-race program, including a fourth straight score with the streaking filly R U For Me, which gave the steady-going sophomore the second-longest winning streak by a pacer at the 74-program meet.  Eric Felter conditions the bay daughter of Artiscape-Ru In The Game for Kathryn Wood and Joseph Bien.

Defending driving champion Jimmy Whittemore also bagged three Thursday tallies, all of the horses conditioned by his father, Dennis, while Roman Lopez logged a driving and training double during the evening.

DOWNS DOINGS—Plano also procured three training tallies during the program to move within one win of top trainer and defending champion Tracy Brainard, 63-62, with 16 racing nights remaining during the track's 59th season…The trotter My Buddy Hall Lee owns the longest winning streak at the meet—six straight scores, while the pacer Steuben Ruthless is second with five wins in succession…Friday night's 13-race card, which includes an $8,500 Junior Open Trot in race eight and seven $6,000 divisions of the new Late Bloomer Trotting Series, will begin at 6:55 p.m…Additional information regarding Vernon Downs, its casino, hotel, racing and promotional events can be obtained at

Monday, September 24, 2012

No Monkeys Allowed gets up late to win Saturday feature

No Monkeys Allowed pounced on the pace-setting Restless Yankee in the final stride to pull out a head victory in Saturday night's $8,400 featured seventh race at Vernon Downs.

Brian Connor was at the controls as No Monkeys Allowed ($8.70) moved up from fourth at the quarter to third on the outside at the half, timed in :55-seconds over a track labeled "sloppy."  Having rallied to second with about 850 yards of real estate remaining in the mile contest, the gritty bay gelding got up with a head bob at the finish to secure his third local score, seventh season's victory and 15th lifetime win.
The 1:51.2 clocking equaled his lifetime record and advanced his career earnings to $193,116.

The first-place finish was one of two during Saturday's 13-race program for Connor, trainer Edgar Clarke and owners Robert J. Orr and Garry J. Jonas.  Their pacer Placeitonluckydan (Connor teaming) captured the evening's 10th event in 1:53.1.

Vernon's second leg of the C.K.G. Billings Series for amateur drivers of trotters was won by David Yarock, who guided his trotter Guiding Light to a 1:58.2 triumph over Gate Keeper (local horseman Vladimir Melnichenko doing the steering) in Saturday's $4,000 third race.  The come-from-behind tally was the first this season and 14th all-time for the 8-year-old son of Dream Vacation-Lighthouse, who is conditioned by Jim Doherty, Jr.

Leading driver Rick Plano collected three victories during Vernon's 73rd program, as did driver Roman Lopez, who scored twice with horses trained by Sam Serianni (Skyway Major and Centerfold Lady). 

Driver Jonathan Roberts, who posted three wins in his Downs debut on Friday evening, bounced back with a pair of first-place finishes on Saturday.  

DOWNS DOINGS—The track's initial 2012 Billings leg was won by Anthony Verruso (driving Sam's Honeybee) back on Aug. 18…Vernon will continue with live harness racing at 6:55 p.m. Thursday-Saturday next week…Additional information regarding Vernon Downs, its casino, hotel, racing and promotional events can be obtained at

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Four Damsals captures Friday night feature

Four Damsals unleashed a strong stretch kick to capture Friday night's $8,400 featured ninth race at Vernon Downs.

Howard Okusko, Jr. was at the controls as Four Damsals ($9.90) kept an eye on the pace-setting Man O Matic from fourth at the quarter and half, and from third past the three-quarter mile mark.  The 4-year-old daughter of Cr Excalibur-Lotstoliveupto closed from second in the final furlong to overtake Man O Matic and then trot on to a 2-1/4 length tally over the on-rushing Dreamanotherdream.

Friday's first-place finish was the fifth this season (all at the Downs) and the seventh all time for the battlin' brown mare, who is owned by trainer George Ducharme and his partners, Steven and Patricia Diamond. She's now a career-earner of more than $145,600.

The win was one of three during Friday's 12-race program for Okusko, who also snared a pair of first-place finishes here on Thursday night. 

Leading trainer Tracy Brainard also collected three triumphs during the card, all of them driven by newcomer Jonathan Roberts (Mr. Hallowell in the fourth, Up Front Ben in the seventh, and Trust My Heart in the nightcap).

DOWNS DOINGS—Okusko's other tallies were behind Sweet Sally (2:00.2) in race one and Donna's Scape (1:56.3) in race 10.  It was the initial pari-mutual victories for both Standardbreds…Driver Jimmy Whittemore scored twice during Friday's program, tying Rick Plano at 14 for the lead in driving doubles at the 72-program meeting…Leading driver Plano increased his win count to 111 and his training total to 58 (four scores behind Brainard's total of 62) with a first-place finish behind the trotter He'smyman (1:56.4) in Friday's second session…Tomorrow night (Sept. 22), Vernon will offer a 13-race live program starting at 6:55 p.m., as well as a full-card simulcast from Yonkers Raceway of this season's rich New York Sire Stakes championship program…Additional information regarding Vernon Downs, its casino, hotel, racing and promotional events can be obtained at

Friday, September 21, 2012

Steuben Ruthless wins 5th straight

The streaking side-wheeler Steuben Ruthless continued to shine and score during Thursday night's $7,000 featured sixth race at Vernon Downs.

For the second straight week, Luke Plano did the steering for trainer Mary Fisher as the crowd's choice, Steuben Ruthless ($4.60), extended the meeting's longest winning streak by a representative of the lateral gait to five, and became the local campaign's initial eight-time equine victor after a career-best 1:51.4 performance.

Drafting along in third to the half, timed in :54.3, Stueben Ruthless rallied to overtake the pace-setting Cheap N Easy early in the payoff patch, and then accelerated (last quarter in :28.1) to a 2-1/4-length triumph. She's earned more than $30,800 in 23 career outings for her New York breeder, the Steuben Farms. 

The 3-year-old bay daughter of Dragon Again-Ruthless Jen began her winning streak here back on Aug. 23.  The fast-paced filly is now just one win behind the trotter My Buddy Hall Lee for most consecutive tallies at the Downs thus far in 2012.

She presently owns a two-win lead over My Buddy Hall Lee, plus the trotter Whispur, and pacers Mia's Star and Mach My Word after 71 current Vernon programs.

Ten-time track driving champion Howard Okusko, Jr. and his wife, trainer Jessica Okusko, each recorded a pair of first-place finishes during Thursday's 11-race program.

DOWNS DOINGS—The 2-year-old trotting colt Bar Back (Malabar Man-Winbak Flame) secured his initial pari-mutual victory after a 2:01.1 effort for trainer/driver Dan Daley and owners Ann-Mari Daley (Dan's wife) and Richard Lombardo in Thursday's ninth race…Tracy Brainard increased her leading conditioning count to 59 after the pacer JK Geronimo notched a 1:54.4 score in Thursday's eighth event…Top driver Rick Plano (Luke's father) upped his win total to 110 after finishing first with the Eric Felter-trained pacer R U For Me in the evening's 11th event…Friday night's 12-race program will begin at 6:55 p.m…Additional information regarding Vernon Downs, its casino, hotel, racing and promotional events can be obtained at

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Doctor Butch leads New York Sire Stakes winners on Saturday night

Doctor Butch and Just Bettor became the fastest local colt and gelding, respectively, of 2012 during Saturday night's $171,464 New York Sire Stakes-sponsored program for state-bred 2-year-old pacers at Vernon Downs.

Doctor Butch wins in 1:52
The colt Doctor Butch equaled his 1:52 win record with a front-striding performance in Saturday's sixth race, opening division of a $120,064 regular New York Sire Stake, while Just Bettor established the season's swiftest mile by an altered freshman with his bold-going 1:53.2 effort in the 11th event, fourth and final division of the NYSS's Excelsior Series contest.

Jim Morrill, Jr. did the teaming for noted trainer Linda Toscano in the first of two standard NYSS segments, as the favorite Doctor Butch ($3.80) continued his strong season's showing with a 3-1/4 length triumph over the John Campbell-driven second wagering choice Hail The Taxi.  It marked the seventh victory, coupled with three second-place finishes, for the bay son of Art Major-Classical Yankee, who has returned more than $210,000 in 10 starts to owner Ken Jacobs.

Just Bettor ($12.60) had former Downs driving champion Brian Sears aboard as he rushed into the lead from third at the half and continued on to a career-best clocking, while improving his season's summary to 2-1-3 after eight outings for the Angelo Frassetto, Kenneth Klein, Old Block Stable and Team S Racing Stable.  The Bettor's Delight-Just Great offspring's strong showing provided Vernon's leading trainer Tracy Brainard with a double and her 58th victory of 2012 here.

Saturday's $60,032 10th race, the second standard NYSS test, was won by Framed Art in a career-fastest 1:52.3 mile.  Hall-of-Fame driver Campbell did the teaming as the bay son of Artiscape-Lo Gophobia rallied from fifth at the half and closed from second in the stretch to secure a head victory over the mile-cutting Bet The Moon.  The hard-charging effort improved the colt's performance line to 3-1-2 after eight appearances for owners Andrew Stafford, the trainer, and Arthur C. Stafford.

Saturday's other Excelsior Series winners were Bettorsluckystreak (Bettor's Delight-Cheeky Hanover) in 1:56.2 with Morrill, Jr. driving for trainer Gary Messenger and his ownership partners Kenneth Weckstein and Richard Rubin; Art Bettor Now (Bettor's Delight-Patsy's Art) in 1:55.1 with Jeff Gregory teaming for trainer Margaret Spagnola and owner Michael Polansky, and Clustercuss (Riverboat King-Happy Doris) in 1:55.4 with Sears steering for trainer Mark Ford and owner Robert O. Di Nozzi.

Saturday's $11,000 Open pace was won by newcomer Transcending, who raced around Vernon's 7/8ths-mile oval in a very impressive 1:50.1 mile showing.  Sears did the piloting for trainer Ron Burke as the 8-year-old son of Grinfromeartoear-Apopka Dream secured his seventh season's score and 31st lifetime triumph for the Lawrence Karr, Burke Racing Stable, Weaver Bruscemi and JJK Stables ownership contingent.  The sizzling score raised the quick-footed horse's lifetime winnings to $709,488.

Morrill, Jr. and Sears each collected four sulky scores during the 13-race program, while driver Chris Lems captured the first and last races on the card to earn his 11th double of the 70th-program meeting. Morrill, Jr.'s first-place finishes were in races 3-6.  

DOWNS DOINGS—Just Bettor's time was just two-fifths of a second off the all-time Vernon standard for frosh pacing geldings that was set by Memory King in 2011…Doctor Butch's clocking missed the freshman colt mark by one second.  That mark was set by Schoolkids in 2008...Vernon will offer live racing at 6:55 p.m. Thursday-Saturday next week…Additional information regarding Vernon Downs, its casino, hotel, racing and promotional events can be obtained at

Whittemore wins four on rainy Friday night

The pacer Some Or Lis logged the fastest mile of a mostly rainy evening, while top drivers Jimmy Whittemore and Rick Plano captured seven of Friday's 13 races at Vernon Downs.

Competing over a good track in Friday's eighth event, Some Or Lis ($17.40) went right to the front from the eight post position and wired his eight rivals in 1:53.3.

The hard-charging, determined effort resulted in the third straight score and seventh lifetime win for the 3-year-old son of Lis Mara-Grabbersome, currently a career earner of more than $40,400 for owner and trainer Richard Dow.

The tally was one of four during the program for second-leading driver Whittemore, who also secured four scores here on Thursday evening.  His fourth four-win outing of the track's 59th season raised his current Vernon win output to 78.

Plano, the track's leading reinsman with 108 first-place finishes, including three on Friday and four this week, also collected a pair of training tallies to tie Tracy Brainard at 56 for most conditioning credits after 69 programs.

Also posting two-win outings on Friday were trainers Peter Carney and Gates Brunet.

DOWNS DOINGS—Plano's triple was his meet-leading 12th of the local campaign...The 3-year-old pacing filly Kelly Blue Chip earned her initial pari-mutuel victory following a 1:56.4 performance for driver Truman Gale, trainer Sean Campbell and the Curran Racing Stable in Friday's second race…The Downs will offer a New York Sire Stake for 2-year-old male pacers and an $11,000 Open contest during Saturday's 13-race card, that'll begin at 6:55 p.m…Additional information regarding Vernon Downs, its casino, hotel, racing and promotional events can be obtained at