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-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-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.
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 www.vernondowns.com.
By Jim MORAN