Thursday, August 22, 2013


Leading local drivers to represent host tracks against North America’s premier drivers beginning at Vernon Downs on Sunday night

VERNON, NY – The Tioga/Vernon All-Star Drivers’ Championship has changed formats and locations during its first six years, but one thing has remained constant throughout: the driver representing the host track has never won the top prize.

Rick Plano and Jimmy Marohn, Jr are out to change that when the all-star competition begins with its first round at Vernon Downs on Sunday night. Sunday’s first round includes four races. Points will then be carried over to the final round at Tioga Downs on September 2 that will include five races.
Marohn scoring 1 of his 59 wins this year at Tioga Downs

“I’ve always said these guys are the easiest to race with but the toughest to beat,” said Jimmy Marohn, Jr. who is the leading driver at Tioga Downs with 59 wins, but finished 9th in his only other appearance in the Drivers’ Championship. “They know how to give their horse a good trip and they get every bit of power out of every horse they drive.”

Plano will compete in his first Drivers’ Championship by virtue of leading the Vernon Downs driver standings by 26 wins over his closest pursuer.

“With the exception of Ronnie Pierce, I’ve got a few years on all those boys,” said the 61-year-old Plano, “I don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing though.”

In addition to age, Plano, a native of nearby Frankfort, will have a unique advantage on all of his competitors on Sunday night. Three of the four horses he’ll drive are horses he also trains.

Rick Plano at Vernon Downs
“My other advantage is that I know all of the horses I’ll be racing against,” said Plano. “Any driver will tell you it’s a big advantage when you know your opponent; you know who can leave and who can do what during a race. I feel like I got a shot at $10,000 before we even start just because it’s my home court.”

The leader at the end of Sunday’s first round will get $10,000. The overall winner of the competition after the final round at Tioga Downs wins $25,000.

Sunday night’s card at Vernon also includes the $360,000 Zweig Memorial Trot featuring Hambletonian winner Royalty For Life, who will race on his home track for the first time since capturing harness racing’s most prestigious race.

A driver autograph session, Corey Callahan bobblehead and commemorative t-shirt giveaway will begin at 5:45 p.m. First race post time is 6:45 p.m.

Story by Nick Salvi for Vernon Downs
VERNON, NY - The Saturday card at Vernon Downs contrasts the old and the new as trotting's "Grand Old Man" Arch Madness makes an appearance in the $10,000 Open trot and seven divisions of State Fair races for freshman colts fill out the card.

"Archie" seeks a little relief from battling the very best in the world as he closes in on $4 million in career earnings in the opener. His longtime companion Trond Smedshammer will drive for Marc Goldberg and Willow Pond LLC.

Three splits of colt pacers go beginning in races two, eight and eleven. Riverview Racing & Alagna Racing's Great American looks to break maiden in the first split. Chris Lems will drive.

Division two favorite is Frost, Phillips & Fielding’s Natural Leda. He’s winless in five starts but catches a soft spot here with the meet’s top driver Rick Plano aboard. Then in the last division Lauren & Robert Tucker’s Believeinthespirit ships back in from Jersey looking to follow up his impressive 1:53.2 win at Tioga. Roman Lopez has the drive.

Trotting colts begin in race five, where Bob Key’s Karets is the oddsmaker’s pick, dropping from Sire Stakes to Excelsior level with Rick Plano. Race seven contains the Purple Haze Stable’s Hallanet. He was second in his career debut at Vernon a few weeks ago for Smedshammer. High Q is winless in four thus far despite showing speed and consistency for trainer/driver Gates Brunet and owner Ted Gewertz in the tenth race. That same combo, along with partners Jean and Debbie Brunet, sends out the cleverly named Wild And Crazy Guy in the twelfth. He has flashed high speed, including closing out a 1:57.2 win with a 27.1 final stanza in his last.