Put away the posters and the palm cards; the debates and TV commercials can wait. This Saturday evening, harness racing Yonkers Raceway hosts the most vivid political event of the year, as eleven New York State legislators compete for top honors in the 2nd Annual Legislative Challenge.
The harness races, pairing Albany lawmakers with veteran "journeymen drivers" in two-seated jog carts, are being held in conjunction with the track's annual Fall Harvest Festival; a celebration of NYS Agricultural Products including wine, apples, maple syrup, pumpkins, cheese and also featuring live music, pony rides, face painting, a petting zoo, a blacksmith demonstration and some special giveaways.
This year, one of the 2009 inaugural race winners with attempt to get "re-elected" as champ.
Assemblyman J. Gary Pretlow from Mount Vernon, Chairman of the Assembly's Racing and Gaming Committee, will defend his perfect driving record. Chairman Pretlow will attempt to once again prove that he can get around the Hilltop Oval with the same ease and success he displays in dealing with complicated issues involving the racing industry in Albany. Joining him are 4 returning campaigners, all colleagues in the Assembly: the Honorable Michael Benedetto and Honorable Nelson Castro of the Bronx; the Honorable Michael Cusick from Staten Island and the Honorable Michael Dendekker from Queens.
Joining these veteran drivers are six lawmakers making their maiden voyage in harness. Assemblymen Andrew Raia of Suffolk County, Joseph Saladino of Nassau County, Philip Boyle of Suffolk County and Darryl Towns of Brooklyn will be joined by two members of the State Senate: The Honorable Kevin Parker of Brooklyn and the first-ever female legislator to drive in history; the Honorable Ruth Hassell-Thompson, whose Bronx/Westchester district is in close proximity to Yonkers Raceway.
Like the horses they will drive, all of these legislators have received proper "schooling" for the event. In the months and weeks leading up to the contest, the lawmakers were assisted with their on-track studies at Saratoga Raceway with the assistance of trainer Barry Segel, President of the Saratoga Harness Horseperson's Association and at Yonkers with the assistance of Standardbred Owners Association President Joe Faraldo, and SOA director Peter Younger along with trainer/driver Dennis Laterza, Jr.
Members of the general public are invited to come out and enjoy all that New York agriculture has to offer; and make sure to bring the kids! The Festival starts at 5:00 PM. Don't miss out on a memorable night of fun, food and giveaways! The same will be a variation of the inaugural Fall Harvest Festival of 2009 and the Summer Festival of 2010
We're New York Harness Racing; and we approve this message!
Chris E. WITTSTRUCK