Sunday, May 12, 2013

Northern Companion debuts with a popular win

First time local starter Northern Companion took to the big oval at Vernon Downs with style and speed to capture Saturday night's $10,000 featured Open pace.

Northern Companion gives Robert Hoffman his first Vernon win
Trainer Robert Hoffman earned his initial Downs score after he steered Northern Companion to a breezy 1:53.3 victory in Saturday's eighth event.  Fourth behind the leader Oscar Oscar to the half, timed in :57.2, the nifty newcomer got shuffled back to fifth late in the far turn.  With Hoffman urging the 5-year-old gelding on, he bounced back to third entering the homestretch and came on in a :27-second final fraction to catch and defeat the pace-setting Special Strides by one length at the finish.

Saturday's score was the sixth in 11 season's starts and the 26th all-time for the bay son of Cambest-Smoke It Out.  The career-winner of more than $133,200 is owned by Dorothy A. Zarza.

Ten-time track driving champion Howard Okusko, Jr. began Saturday's 11-race program with a triple, while current driving leader Rick Plano also visited Vernon's winner’s circle on three occasions, as did his current sulky-sitting rival Roman Lopez.

After nine racing nights, Plano leads in driving wins with 23, while he and Lopez are tied atop the training standings with 11 credits each.

Veteran conditioner Howard Okusko, Sr. and owner, Linda Manzi each received wins from the pacers Touch Of The Past (1:53) and Rock Man (153.2) during Saturday's slate.

DOWNS DOINGS—The trotter Tamasin Hall (Okusko, Jr. driving) and pacers Bettor's Chance (Lopez) and Turning For Home (Plano) all earned their "maiden" victories on Saturday …Okusko, Jr. is presently the track's all-time leader in "two-minute" drives with 1,170…Downs officials have announced that due to the  Equine Herpes Virus (EHV-1) outbreak at the track, Vernon will continue with just Friday and Saturday night live competition (first post 6:45 p.m.), at least through May 25…A complete racing and stakes calendar, as well as additional information regarding Vernon Downs, its casino, hotel, racing and promotional events can be obtained at