Sunday, July 28, 2013

Royalty For Life tunes up for Hambletonian with easy win

Royalty For Life and Chris Lems
Chris Lems enjoyed a stupendous Saturday night at Vernon Downs, logging five first-place finishes, including feature race wins with the highly-regarded sophomore trotter Royalty For Life in the $13,200 third contest and the fleet-footed pacer JK Panache in the week's $10,000 Open event.

The five victories tied Lems with Rick Plano and Roman Lopez for most driving victories on a single Vernon program through July 27.

The 26-year-old horseman started his brilliant evening with a front-striding, 1:53 Preferred victory behind the George Ducharme-trained Royalty For Life in Saturday's third race that tied the fastest mile by a diagonally-gaited performer at the 42-program meeting.  The 4-3/4 length triumph by the bay son of Rc Royalty-Bourbon 'n Grits served as a solid tune-up for an expected start in the prestigious 88th Hambletonian Stake at The Meadowlands Racetrack on Aug. 3.  Saturday's score was the second this season and the ninth all-time for the career-winner of $494,438, who is shared in ownership by Alfred Ross, Raymond W. J. Campbell, Jr. and Paul A. Fontaine.

Following a win behind his pacer Mackenzie's Bliss in race seven, Lems urged the laterally-gaited speedster JK Panache on to an exciting 1:51.3 victory (good track) in Saturday's 10th event.  It marked the fastest mile of the rainy night, and the sixth season's score for the track record-holder (4-year-old geldings), who is owned by trainer Dave Dewhurst and Philip K. Hale.

Lems completed his awesome evening with victories behind Linda Manzi's pacer Touch Of The Past (1:53.2) in race 11, and the John Minckler-leased-and-trained side-wheeler Speed Skater (1:56) in race 12.

In addition to Lems's heroics, leading pilot Plano picked up two win-credits, as did driver John Mac Donald and trainer Dewhurst.   

DOWNS DOINGS—Plano, who leads in driving doubles at the meet with 14, teamed the Maurice Bazinet-owned-and-conditioned pacer Ideally Magic to a 1:52 triumph in Saturday's second race that tied the 11-year-old gelding with fellow side-wheeler Canaco Star and the trotters Hold On Tightly, Don Dinero, Ulay Boko and Glorious Winner at five for most equine wins after 42 programs…The Downs will offer live racing at 6:45 p.m. Thursday-Saturday next week…A prestigious New York Sire Stakes for 3-year-old filly trotters is slated for Aug. 2, while the track will offer simulcast wagering on the Aug. 3 Hambletonian program…A revised 2013 racing and stakes calendar, as well as additional information regarding Vernon Downs, its casino, hotel, racing and promotional events can be obtained at

Saturday, July 27, 2013

She's All In wins Friday's $8,000 featured event

She's All In and Rick Plano win Friday's feature

Leading driver Rick Plano posted his 80th win of the 41-program meeting at Vernon Downs after guiding She's All In to a 1:56 victory in Friday night's $8,000 featured seventh race.

The defending dash and conditioning champ urged She's All In to the front from the outside eight-post at the start, and the slick-striding 4-year-old mare took over from there.  The brown daughter of Revenue S-Simply Royal recorded splits of :28.2, :59 and 1:27.2 en route to a solid 1-1/2 length tally over Oaklea Tyson in the "winner's over" trotting contest.

Friday's first-place finish was second locally, the third this season and the 12th all-time for the diagonally-gaited distaffer, who lifted her lifetime winnings to more than $93,600 for owner and trainer Plano.

Provisional pilot Peter Carney secured his initial driving victory after steering his trotter Frisky Joe to a 1:56.4 decision over eight energetic rivals in Friday's $5,000 fifth event.  It was the third current score and 13th lifetime win for the 6-year-old son of Frisky Fighter.

Earning doubles during Friday's 11-race card were drivers Brian Connor, Jimmy Whittemore, Howard Okusko, Jr., and trainer Andy Gardner.

DOWNS DOINGS—Gardner's two-win outing was the result of first-place finishes by the trotter Ilovemymommy (1:56.2) in race four and the pacer Style Advisor (1:56.3) in race nine…The Lewis Miller-owned 4-year-old trotter Winbak Meadow recorded his first pari-mutuel victory after a 1:58.2 performance with Connor teaming for trainer Wes Miller in Friday's first contest…Saturday night's 13-race program will feature the Vernon-based sophomore trotter Royalty For Life in a final tune-up for the Aug. 3 Hambletonian at The Meadowlands Racetrack…A revised 2013 racing and stakes calendar, as well as additional information regarding Vernon Downs, its casino, hotel, racing and promotional events can be obtained at

Table Games rallies to win Thursday feature

Table Games rallied along the inside in Thursday night's $8,000 featured ninth race at Vernon Downs and pulled off a career-fastest 1:52.3 victory.

Roman Lopez earned a driving triple during the evening's top test for female pacers by sending Table Games up the pylon path from third in the final 16th-of-the-mile and was rewarded with a neck triumph over the favorite, Bells Are Ringing.

Thursday's tight tally marked the second season's score and the eighth lifetime win for the 4-year-old daughter of Bettor's Delight-Mack's Table, who is trained by Sam Serianni and owned by the Slo-Down Stable, Edmund Namiotka, Jr. and Frank H. Kane.  She increased her all-time winnings to $104,140.

Thursday's racing also saw provisional pilot Michael Mancini earn his first pari-mutual driving victory (behind the pacer Rocks N Bagels in the fourth race), E. J. Treadway's Misty Major become the fastest 2-year-old filly pacer of the track's 60th meeting with a 1:54.3 "maiden" score in the second race (Jimmy Whittemore steering for veteran conditioner Angus Mac Donald), and the freshman colt trotter Resolve, driven by trainer Lopez for owners Michael Pozefsky, William Pozefsky and Edward W. Wilson, became the swiftest member of his class after 40 program with a 1:58.1 initial career victory in the third event.

Thursday's three-win outing by Lopez was his ninth of the season locally, tying him with leading dash-winning driver Plano (79 first-place finishes), who also earned a "hat-trick" during the card's competition.  Whittemore recorded a pair of scores, as did trainer Mac Donald during the 10-race program.

DOWNS DOINGS—Mancini drove Rocks N Bagels for trainer Jordan Hope and owner Kelly Dawn Hope of Vernon…Plano's victories were in races five (Sweet Baby Jane), six (Heckuvarosa) and seven (Steuben Ruthless)…Friday night's 11-race card, which features an $8,000 trot in race seven, will begin at 6:45 p.m…Saturday night's 13-race program will feature the highly-regarded sophomore trotter Royalty For Life in a final tune-up for the Aug. 3 Hambletonian at The Meadowlands Racetrack…A revised 2013 racing and stakes calendar, as well as additional information regarding Vernon Downs, its casino, hotel, racing and promotional events can be obtained at

Wednesday, July 24, 2013


Royalty For Life to face four rivals in $13,200 Preferred Trot Saturday night

VERNON, NY – Top rated Hambletonian contender Royalty For Life will start Saturday night at Vernon Downs in a $13,200 Preferred Trot in his final Hambletonian prep.

The 3-year-old son of RC Royalty, who stands at the nearby Morrisville College Equine Center, headlines a field of five, one week before he's scheduled to contest harness racing's ultimate prize, the $1.2 million Hambletonian at the Meadowlands Racetrack in New Jersey.

Royalty For Life wins the Stanley Dancer at The Meadowlands
"I'm not looking to empty him out or anything," said trainer George Ducharme. "If he can win and do it under wraps, then great. But we're going to give him a shot and let him roll along so he's prepped for next week."

Royalty For Life entered the year as one of the most exciting Hambletonian prospects coming off a 2-year-old season that saw him win half of his 14 starts with earnings of more than $334,000, including a runner-up finish in the Breeders Crown behind champion Wheeling N Dealin.

But 2013 has not gone according to plan.

Just before he was set to qualify at his Vernon Downs base in early May, an infectious disease outbreak swept through the Central New York track, locking the entire barn area down in a month-long quarantine and leaving Royalty For Life unable to do anything but train.

"I wanted to get a race into him before we raced for the Empire Breeders Classic in June but I really just had to back off of him then start him up all over again and then the horse was just feeling way too good," said Ducharme.

In his first race of 2013, Royalty For Life made a break in stride in his Empire Breeders Classic elimination and finished last. He made another break in the Earl Beal eliminations at Mohegan Sun Pocono Downs three weeks later. He recovered to qualify for the final but made another break in the final and finished last again.

"I think the one in the Beal Final was just a circumstance of where he was positioned that night and got caught in a bad spot," said Ducharme. "The times before, I really believe he just needed to get racing and get some consistency to his program that we weren't able to obtain when we were quarantined."

The Winner's Circle after the Dancer win
After an eye-popping qualifying win at the Meadowlands in 1:51.3 and a game 1:52 victory in the Stanley Dancer on July 13, Royalty For Life will represent "the little guy" when he races on the sport's biggest stage. It's been 25 years since a horse stabled at Vernon Downs has won the Hambletonian and the 52-year-old Ducharme has never had a horse this good during his 20+ years as a trainer.

"This ride's been great, a little up and down obviously," said Ducharme, "but this is what we all dream of when we're kids and we decide to get into horses. "I'm trying to enjoy the ride and prep him and concentrate on him as much as I can."

Sunday, July 21, 2013

No Monkeys Allowed earns his way into the winner's circle

No Monkeys Allowed

Generally speaking, monkeys aren't allowed in the winner's circle at Vernon Downs, but Saturday night was the exception.

After a text-book journey in Saturday's $6,200 featured seventh race, No Monkeys Allowed earned the right to enter that charmed circle after a splendid 1:51.2 pacing performance.

Brian Connor did the teaming for trainer Edgar Clarke as No Monkeys Allowed followed the pace-setting Oh My Joepa off the gate and dropped into the two spot.  Even though the on-rushing Vroom Hanover became the chief threat on the outside for a bit in the far turn, the patient 6-year-old gelding remained in the garden spot until the stretch drive, and then accelerated in the final strides to defeat Oh My Joepa by a half-length at the finish.

Saturday's slick score was the first in seven season's starts and the 18th overall for the bay son of Rocknroll Hanover-Weeping Wanabe.  The career-winner of $214,209 is shared in ownership by Robert J. Orr and Gary J. Jonas.

The first-place finish was one of two during Saturday's 12-race program for Connor, while it gave Clarke his third training credit of the weekend.

Leading driver Rick Plano tied runner-up Roman Lopez at eight after collecting a triple during the track's 39th program, while former Vernon champ and current 2:00-mile driving leader Howard Okusko, Jr. (1,180) registered a pair of victories, as did his wife, former local training champ Jessica Okusko.

DOWNS DOINGS— The Okusko's daughter, Kayla Prentice was recently named the winner of a $15,000 Gallo Blue Chip Scholarship for 2013 by the Harness Horse Youth Foundation.  The 17-year-old recent graduate of Vernon-Verona-Sherrill High School (with a 4.0 GPA) will attend Syracuse University this fall, where she will study health and exercise science…Through July 20, Plano leads Lopez 76-59 in driving tallies and 27-25 in conditioning credits…Jocelyn Lavigne is currently third in training tallies with 24…The HHYF conducted a pair of non-betting pony races on Saturday to complete their week-long summer camp at the track. Participating in the program, headed up by Ellen Taylor, were Abigail Dingman, Dasha Fedroff, Dylan Huckabone, Rebecca Randall, Holly Roux, Rachel Siegel, Becca Vineall and Victoria Windey…The Downs will present live racing at 6:45 p.m. Thursday-Saturday next week…A revised 2013 racing and stakes calendar, as well as additional information regarding Vernon Downs, its casino, hotel, racing and promotional events can be obtained at

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Dreamanotherdream takes Friday's Open Trot

Dreamanotherdream wins Friday's Open Trot

The steady-striding trotter Dreamanotherdream became a reality after a front-ending 1:54.3 victory in Friday night's $10,000 featured Open-1 contest at Vernon Downs.

John MacDonald was at the controls for trainer Edgar Clark in Friday's 10th event as Dreamanotherdream led at every station and had enough left at the finish to defeat the pocket-sitting Client Nine by three-quarters of a length, and earn a fresh win mark.  The bold-going journey resulted in the third season's score (second at the Downs) and 24th lifetime victory for the gritty 7-year-old gelding that hasn't finished worse than second in his last three outings.  Dennis Goyette owns the career winner of more than $130,000.

Clark was credited with a conditioning double after his charge, Style Advisor, paced to her maiden victory (1:56.2) in Friday's 12th event.

Roman Lopez logged three driving victories and a pair of training credits during Vernon's 38th program and moved into sole possession of second place on the meet's conditioning chart with 24 victories.  Driving doubles were recorded during the 12-race card by Rick Plano (his meet-leading 13th), Jimmy Whittemore and Brian Connor.

Lopez leads in driving triples at the meet with eight.

DOWNS DOINGS—Gary Haas's pacer Zack Lee (1:54) posted his initial pari-mutual triumph in Friday's opener and became the first 2-year-old pacing winner at the Downs this season…The Tanah Merah Farm's trotter Glorious Winner secured his fifth win at the meet in Friday's eighth event and tied fellow high-stepper Hold On Tightly, Don Dinero, Ulay Boko and the pacer Canaco Star for most equine tallies through July 19…A 1:56.2 tie by the trotters Soprano Hanover and Small Bills in Friday's fourth race resulted in the track's first dead-heat for win thus far this season…Saturday's 12-race card will begin at 6:45 p.m. and include a Beanie Horse Toy Giveaway…A revised 2013 racing and stakes calendar, as well as additional information regarding Vernon Downs, its casino, hotel, racing and promotional events can be obtained at