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Vernon, N.Y. -- The 2015 season at Vernon Downs came to a close on Saturday (November 21) evening, with a nine-race card bringing the curtain down on the 90-program meeting.   "We thank all of the horsemen who raced at Vernon Downs this year for another successful meet," said Jason M. Settlemoir, Vice President of Racing at Vernon Downs. " As always, we also thank our loyal customers, and we look forward to seeing everyone back in the spring for the 2016 racing season at the Miracle Mile."   John MacDonald took top driving honours for the meet, winning 151 races, 14 more than runner-up Chris Lems. MacDonald teamed up with Vernon Downs training champion Dave Dewhurst in the evening's $4800 first event, prevailing with odds-on favourite Fox Valley Cadet ($2.60) in pillar-to-post fashion in 1:55.1.   Dewhurst successfully defended his 2014 training championship, concluding the 2015 season with 69 winners, 16 more than Truman Gale. Among Dewhurst's triumphs were a pair on Closing Night, as he also found success with Pantheon Hanover ($6.30) in a $5400 pacing event.   Co-featured $9000 races on both gaits shared the spotlight, with Shock N Rock ($12.00) kicking cover to defeat a quartet of pacers in 1:51. Justin Huckabone drove the 5-year-old Rocknroll Hanover gelding for owner-trainer Scott West. Among an octet of trotters contesting their feature, War Hero ($3.90) took advantage of a pocket trip behind Write That Down, vacating the pegs in mid-stretch and lunging to a narrow 1:54.2 win under Howard Okusko, Jr. Jessica Okusko trains the 7-year-old Ken Warkentin gelding for Howard Gill.   A pair of events for 9-year-olds and upward closed the season, with trotter Yankee Manny ($3.20, Lems, 1:59) and pacer Veal Marsala ($12.60, Jimmy Whittemore, 1:54.4) capturing the "War Horse" events. Another veteran took his curtain call earlier in the evening: 14-year-old My Fella, owned and trained by Allie Berube and driven by Fern Paquet, Jr., made his final Vernon Downs appearance after a 12-season career on the racetrack with a third-place finish in a $3000 conditioned event.   Live racing will return to Vernon Downs in the spring of 2016. Once made final, the schedule will be available at   by James Witherite, for Vernon Downs 

Vernon, N.Y. -- Taking full advantage of a soft second quarter, The Triple C Stables, LLC's Sweet Bettor ($6.80) blitzed to the fore, passing all five of her harness racing rivals before reaching the far turn and subsequently winning Friday (November 20) evening's featured $6600 distaff pace at Vernon Downs.   Trainer-driver Chris Lems settled at the back of the pack with the 6-year-old Bettor's Delight mare, not involved at all with the early pace. After Table Games (John MacDonald) and Crucial Moment (Jimmy Whittemore) dueled through a :27.2 initial quarter, MacDonald tried to pull the pace back with 2-1 favourite Table Games--but to no avail. After Table Games rated a :57.2 half, she was overpowered by Sweet Bettor, who seized command just upon reaching the far turn. Not only would the 13-time winner ultimately stave off Table Games, but also a late bid up the pegs from Aritzia Hanover (Claude Huckabone, III) who narrowly captured second. Sweet Bettor ultimately prevailed by 1-1/4 lengths in 1:53.4.   The win was the third for Lems on the card; he swept the early double aboard Muscles N Luck ($10.40, 1:58.4) and My Lucky Word ($6.00, 1:55.4). MacDonald and Truman Gale each notched two driving wins on the nine-race card   The 2015 meet at Vernon Downs comes to a close Saturday (November 21) evening, with a long-sleeve shirt giveaway (while supplies last), a $350 handicapping contest, and a fireworks spectacular on tap in addition to a nine-race program. Post time is 6:45 p.m. Eastern.   by James Witherite, Vernon Downs

Vernon, N.Y. -- Fresh off a six-win effort last night, leading driver John MacDonald led all drivers with four victories on Saturday (November 14) night's 11-race program at Vernon Downs.   The Prince Edward Island native kicked off his grand slam in the evening's featured $7500 top-level pace, sustaining a first-over bid with Damon Blue Chip ($4.90) to wear down the valiant Golden Gun for a 1:52.3 score. MacDonald also owns and trains the 6-year-old Rocknroll Hanover gelding who, after leveling off at head-stretch, fought back to not only collar pacesetter Golden Gun (Fern Paquet, Jr.), but also stave off a late charge from pocket rival Dodger Hanover (Jimmy Whittemore).   MacDonald subsequently teamed up with The Grey Bullet ($9.40, 1:56.1), Fox Valley Cadet ($4.60, 1:56), and Tarport Andy ($2.20, 1:55.2). His closest pursuer in the local standings, Chris Lems, remains 15 wins in arrears despite a driving double of his own.   Two programs remain in the 2015 Vernon Downs season: Friday (November 20) and Saturday (November 21) evenings both will see the first race due off at 6:45 p.m. Eastern time.   by James Witherite, for Vernon Downs    

Vernon, N.Y. -- Amid chilly and windy conditions, John MacDonald--the leading harness racing driver at Vernon Downs--enjoyed good fortunes on Friday the 13th, prevailing in six of the evening's 10 races.   After wins aboard I Saw Red ($14.20, 1:55.4) and Lucky Taryn ($5.50, 1:56) for trainer Andy Gardner, the 33-year-old MacDonald captured the co-featured $5500 top-level trot with Jen Sansone trainee Governor Victory ($6.30, 1:56.2).   Not only did his first three victories come in pacesetting fashion, but so would the three to follow, as he swept the evening's final three races. Robert Gale trainee Megaparfaite ($17.40, 1:56.2) and the Bette Calice-trained Sharpshootennorris ($6.90, 1:59.1) would bring MacDonald's win total to five, and his own trainee Express Jet ($4.60, 1:57) proved victorious in a first-level distaff pace to cap the six-win evening.   MacDonald extended his lead over Chris Lems to 13 wins with three programs remaining in the 2015 season at the Miracle Mile. Live racing returns on Saturday (November 14) evening, with the first of 11 races due off at 6:45 p.m.   by James Witherite, Vernon Downs

Vernon, N.Y. -- As the curtain comes down on the 2015 racing season at Vernon Downs on Saturday, November 21, Director of Racing Scott Warren has announced a pair of special events for the "war horses" who battle week in and week out.   These events--one each for pacers and trotters--will be open to horses at least 10 years of age with over $100,000 in career earnings over at least 200 starts. Interested horsemen should contact Warren via phone at 315.829.6825 or via email at   The Closing Night card will see one of those plucky veterans honoured, as 14-year-old My Fella will take one last curtain call at the Miracle Mile (Standardbreds are required to retire from racing at 15 years of age). Allie Berube owns and trains the son of Pacific Fella, who has amassed 63 wins in his career (as of this writing) and has earned over $660,000.   by James Witherite, for Vernon Downs

Vernon, N.Y. -- After pouncing from the pocket in mid-stretch, the Harmon Racing Stable's That'll Be the Rei ($2.50) gamely held off a valiant stand-side charge from Damon Blue Chip to take Saturday (November 7) evening's featured $7000 top-level conditioned pace at Vernon Downs.   Mike Merton secured the pocket with the 5-year-old Cheyenne Rei gelding, drafting behind Sassy Hanover (Chris Lems) through sectionals of :26.3, :55.1, and 1:23.1. Momentarily pinned to the pegs by the first-over Dodger Hanover (Jimmy Whittemore), That'll Be the Rei had room to make his move just above the eighth pole as Dodger Hanover flattened off the turn.   Upon asking, That'll Be the Rei accelerated clear of Sassy Hanover, easily doing away with the pacesetter. His main danger--Damon Blue Chip (John MacDonald)--kicked cover off the far turn and was making steady ground down the grandstand side of the course. That'll Be the Rei ultimately prevailed by a neck, driven out for the slim 1:51.4 victory over Damon Blue Chip. Shock N Rock (Justin Huckabone) rallied up the pegs to take third.   Rob Harmon trains That'll Be the Rei.   The featured victory was one of three on the 11-race program for Merton, who also teamed up with Western Legend ($8.60, 1:53) and Forty Carrots ($32.60, 1:53.1).   Live racing returns to Vernon Downs on Friday (November 13) evening. Post time is scheduled for 6:45 p.m. Eastern Standard Time.   by James Witherite, for Vernon Downs

Vernon, N.Y. -- Charlene Long's Oh No Three O ($6.70) assumed command early in Friday (November 6) evening's $7000 featured trot at Vernon Downs, never looking back en route to a 5-1/4 length harness racing victory.   The 8-year-old Ken Warkentin gelding worked to clear Twice Too Nice (John MacDonald) through a :28.2 initial quarter mile, subsequently working clear and forcing his six rivals to chase him through intermediate splits of :57.1 and 1:25.2. Nearly three lengths clear on approach to the top of the stretch, Oh No Three O drew clearer yet as Wings of Royalty (Chris Lems) pursued more intently, ultimately prevailing in 1:56 for his 25th career victory and second consecutive triumph. Wings of Royalty was a clear second, while Fox Valley Steffen (John Kokinos) rallied mildly to save third. Twice Too Nice broke stride upon cornering for home, checking in last of the septet after her early involvement.   Jeffrey Long drove Oh No Three O for trainer Paul Long.   Chris Lems led all drivers with three wins on the 11-race card, teaming up with Sweet Bettor ($10.20, 1:54.2), Pounce K ($5.00, 1:56.1), and Transit Hanover ($2.10, 1:57.1). Current leading driver John MacDonald's lone tally with Socks and Shuzy ($3.80, 1:57) however kept him six wins clear of Lems with five programs remaining in the 2015 season.   Live racing continues at Vernon Downs with an 11-race program on Saturday (November 7) evening. The first race is due off at 6:45 Eastern Standard Time.   by James Witherite, Vernon Downs

Vernon, N.Y. -- In addition to the annual Turn Back the Clock races and the Four One One for grey pacers, Vernon Downs hosted the harness racing finals of the Kindergarten Classic series--worth a combined $366,000--on Saturday (October 31) evening.   The $191,500 Kindergarten final for 2-year-old colts and geldings saw eventual winner Dog Gone Lucky ($4.80) vault clear from his post 9 dispatch, controlling a :57.2 half mile before yielding briefly to a rapidly-advancing Celebrity Express (John Campbell) before exiting the back straight. As Celebrity Express started to struggling upon exiting the far turn, Corey Callahan edged off the pegs with Dog Gone Lucky, pressing to the lead just past reaching the three-quarter mark in 1:25.3. Dog Gone Lucky, narrowly in front on his own accord, inherited two lengths clearance over the others when Celebrity Express broke stride off the far turn. The son of Lucky Chucky and Ebbtide Hall would hold that lead intact over a late-rallying Waitlifter K (David Miller) and Mavens Way (Ã…ke Svanstedt), prevailing in 1:54.2.   Chuck Sylvester trains Dog Gone Lucky for owners Amy Stoltzfus and Charles Stansley.   In the $174,500 Kindergarten final for 2-year-old fillies, the complexion of the race changed when both halves of the Jimmy Takter-trained 1-10 entry--Haughty and Hollywood Hill--broke stride on approach to the far turn. An extended duel between Sweet Ashley T (Homer Hochstetler) and Radiant Beam (David Miller), joined at the quarter pole by Lookin Sharp (Callahan), ultimately dissolved as 91-1 outsider Wildflower ($185.50) split foes in the final sixteenth to just prevail in 1:55.4. Trainer-driver Ã…ke Svanstedt shares ownership of the daughter of Muscle Hill and Lightning Flower with Douglas Sipple along with Mal and Janet Burroughs.   Earlier in the program, Artic Byrd ($22.40) took advantage of a ground-saving trip to take the Four One One for grey pacers, taking over late in 1:54.2 under trainer-driver Truman Gale. The pair of Turn Back The Clock races, contested clockwise at seven furlogns, went to trotter Mystical Con ($29.40, Claude Huckabone, III, 1:43.1), and pacer Sucrose Hanover ($17.40, Chris Lems, 1:39.3).   Live racing returns to Vernon Downs on Friday (November 6) evening, with post time slated for 6:45 p.m. Eastern standard time.   by James Witherite, Vernon Downs   Attached: Dog Gone Lucky (Corey Callahan up) and Wildflower (#7, Ã…ke Svanstedt in white cap) take their respective Kindergarten Classic finals. Fotowon photos.

Vernon, N.Y. -- After reeling off five wins in as many tries at Vernon Downs, New York State Fair Circuit standout J A T O ($4.70) handled the jump to the Open II ranks with aplomb, making easy work of more seasoned harness racing rivals in Friday (October 30) evening's $8,000 featured trot at Vernon Downs.   Chris Lems floated forward with the 3-year-old Big Apple Deli colt at race's outset, ducking into the third spot to track Lucid Thoughts (John MacDonald) and Photo Mass (Claude Huckabone, Jr.) through a tepid :29 initial quarter mile. Upon reaching the backstretch, Lems angled J A T O off the pegs, and the pair had to work to clear Lucid Thoughts, who strung them out before yielding to the pocket well after a :57.2 half mile.   Having cleared with just over three furlongs to go, J A T O--already softened a bit--braced for the first-over challenge from Waiting On a Woman, who charged past each of his six rivals through the middle half save for one. That one--J A T O--dug in stoutly to keep Waiting On a Woman at bay through a :28 third quarter, subsequently kicking clear off the corner and opening up to a 5-1/4 length win over Lucid Thoughts. Waiting On a Woman faded to third, while McKenzie's Star (Fern Paquet, Jr.) made mild late gains to take fourth.   William Okusko trains 25-time winner J A T O for owners Margaret and Amy Butler. The 1:54.1 mile time for J A T O improved his lifetime mark by a fifth of a second over two previous wins at the Miracle Mile.   Vernon Downs leading driver John MacDonald registered a treble on the evening's 10-race program, teaming up with Tarport Andy ($3.10, 1:55.1), Twice TOo Nice ($10.40, 1:56.1), and Fox Valley Cadet ($13.40, 1:54.1).   Live racing continues at Vernon Downs on Saturday (October 31), with an 11-race card kicking off at 6:00 p.m. Eastern time. In addition to the annual Four One One grey race and the Turn Back the Clock Rewind races, a pair of Kindergarten Classic finals for 2-year-old trotters feature over $300,000 in purses.   by James Witherite, Vernon Downs

Vernon, N.Y. -- Over sloppy going and amid windy conditions, the California-bred Little Santamonica ($9.40) parried a stiff first-over challenge from Pancakes (Jimmy Whittemore) en route to a 1:54.3 harness racing victory in Wednesday (October 28) evening's featured $7,000 top-level conditioned pace for mares at Vernon Downs.   Frank Davis sent the 7-year-old Little Steven mare right to the front from the extreme outside, crossing and clearing all six rivals through a :27.1 initial quarter. On the backstretch, Little Santamonica slowed the pace a bit, but was joined by 4.6-1 fourth choice Pancakes near the completion of a :56.4 half. The two dueled for the entirety of a :28.4 third sectional, but Little Santamonica maintained the upper hand, edging clear off the corner. Pocket rival and lukewarm 2.4-1 favourite Looney Dune (Ben McNeil) chased stoutly to hold second as Pancakes faded through the stretch, but she could only close to within 1-1/4 lengths of Little Santamonica.   Owner Jordan Hope also handles the training duties of Little Santamonica.   Leading driver John MacDonald kept his spot atop the standings intact with four wins on the evening's 10-race card, prevailing with Peanutbutternhoney ($34.60, 1:57), Northern Beauty ($2.30, 1:55), E R Rhonda ($2.40, 1:55.2), and Socks and Shuzy ($6.20, 1:57.1).   Live racing returns to Vernon Downs on Friday (October 30) evening, with the first of 10 races due off at 6:45 p.m. Eastern time.   by James Witherite, Vernon Downs

Vernon, N.Y. -- Not only working to overcome post 9 and a stiff first-over challenge from Gratias Deo on the far turn, Wade Wyatt's Flying Cowboy ($14.20) also withstood a stiff headwind on the backstretch while making all the pace in Saturday (October 24) evening's featured $5500 conditioned pace at Vernon Downs.   John MacDonald sent the 5-year-old Brandon's Cowboy gelding to a clear lead through a wind-aided :25.1 initial quarter, backing down the pace just as quickly upon reaching the backstretch and the severe headwind. After rating a :31.1 breather, Flying Cowboy dug in to stave off a stiff first-over challenge from 2-1 favourite Gratias Deo (Chris Lems) through the far turn. While Gratias Deo chased gamely through the stretch, the Joe Skowyra-trained Flying Cowboy held sway by 1-1/4 lengths, prevailing in 1:54.4. Dodger Hanover (Jimmy Whittemore) rallied into third after tracking live second-over cover through the far turn.   MacDonald and Jimmy Whittemore led all drivers on the 11-race card with three wins apiece.   Live racing returns to Vernon Downs on Wednesday (October 28). The final Wednesday program of the meet features 10 races, the first of which will be due off at 6:45 p.m. Eastern time.   by James Witherite, Vernon Downs  

Vernon, N.Y. -- On Saturday (October 24) evening, Vernon Downs is doing their part to raise awareness of breast cancer and the research toward treatment of same, and the horsemen at the Miracle Mile will also pay tribute to a woman with Vernon Downs ties who sadly lost her battle to breast cancer a few years ago.   The fifth event on the evening's program has been named in memory of Suzy Parker, the late mother of Upstate New York trainer Allie Berube. In commemoration, the drivers will carry pink whips for that race, and outrider Debbie Havener will be clad in pink as well. Berube's charges all through the month of October have been racing for the noble cause that is breast cancer research and treatment, as the 5 per cent trainer's commission from her stable for the month will go directly to the American Cancer Society.   Saturday's post time at Vernon Downs is 6:45 p.m. (EDT).   by James Witherite, Vernon Downs

Vernon, N.Y. -- Harness racing drivers Truman Gale and Claude Huckabone, III each registered a treble on Wednesday (October 21) evening's nine-race program at Vernon Downs, with Gale capturing the featured $5,500 conditioned distaff pace as well.   Gale kicked off his hat trick in the featured event, sustaining a first-over bid with Tiger Boudoir ($12.40) off the far turn en route to a narrow half-length victory over pocket rival Table Games (John MacDonald) in 1:52.4. Gale also trains the 5-year-old Western Terror mare for Donn Lewandrowski and Gail Farrell.   The "New York Night Train" went on to take the evening's fifth event, also prevailing in first-over fashion. Cool Vicious ($3.40) prevailed at odds-on over 17-1 pacesetter Megaparfaite (MacDonald), just capturing the lead in the final yards of a 1:56 mile after dueling the length of the stretch. Trainer/driver Gale shares ownership of Cool Vicious with his wife Jocelyn.   The seventh race saw Gale team up with trainer Robert Gale and another odds-on favourite in E R Rhonda ($3.20). The 4-year-old kicked out from the pocket while exiting the far turn, edging clear for a 2-1/2 length victory over Make Magic (Huckabone, III) in 1:54.   Gale would be matched in his efforts on the night, as Claude Huckabone, III registered three wins of his own. His first came in the evening's third race, where he gave 1.2-1 favourite Summer Snow ($4.40) a second-over trip behind Drinkin N Dancin (Chris Lems), kicking cover at head-stretch to push clear of Escada de Vie (Jimmy Whittemore) in 1:52.4.   "Huck Three" then went on to sweep the late double, scoring a pillar-to-post 1:55.1 win with Polished Perfection ($13.20) in the eighth and vaulting off cover with 2.2-1 favourite Aritzia Hanover ($6.40) for a 1:54.1 triumph in the last.   Live racing returns to Vernon Downs on Friday (October 23) evening, with the first of 12 races due off at 6:45 p.m. Eastern time.   by James Witherite, Vernon Downs

Vernon, N.Y. -- After directly tracking a fast pace, Card Knock Life ($6.40) pounced from the pocket and kicked clear for a 4-1/2 length win in Saturday (October 17) night's harness racing featured $8,000 Open II Pace at Vernon Downs.   Trainer-driver Truman Gale situated the 5-year-old Western Ideal gelding in the pocket to track a rapid pace set by Sassy Hanover (John MacDonald). With the other four contenders well detached through sectionals of :26.3, :55.1, and 1:23, Card Knock Life was able to vault clear from the pocket with ease just upon straightening for home. As soon as he passed the tiring Sassy Hanover, he kicked away at will, staying well out of reach of No Monkeys Allowed (Greg Merton) and Shock N Rock (Justin Huckabone), both of whom rallied late to round out the top three positions.   Donn Lewandrowski and Gail Farrell own Card Knock Life, whose 1:51.3 victory was his second consecutive local triumph in the Open ranks.   John MacDonald led all drivers with four wins on the 11-race program, teaming up with Western Legend ($6.40, 1:52.4), Tarport Andy ($4.30, 1:55), Flying Cowboy ($4.20, 1:52), and Feel the Heat ($7.60, 1:53.2).   Live racing returns to Vernon Downs with a nine-race program on Wednesday (October 21). Post time is 6:45 p.m. Eastern.   by James Witherite, Vernon Downs

Vernon, N.Y. -- Twenty harness racing 2-year-olds contested a quartet of John Simpson Memorial events on Friday (October 16) evening at Vernon Downs, with driver Chris Lems capturing two of the four stakes races on the night's 12-race card.   In the $25,080 Bret Hanover for pacing colts and geldings, Lems and Toddler Tantrum ($3.00) made an early push to the fore, drawing clear of pocket rival Cenovis (Jim Marohn, Jr.) on the far turn and holding off a late bid from War-n-Munn (Jimmy Whittemore) for a 1:54.4 triumph over sloppy going. Don Tiger and Birnam Wood Farms own the son of Western Terror, and Jessica Okusko handles the training duties.   Lems would have to wait until the eleventh race to complete his stakes double, sweeping late to a narrow victory in the $23,492 Razzle Hanover for pacing fillies with Major Millie ($25.00). The daughter of Art Major tracked the top pair through a relaxed early pace, swinging wide off the far turn and charging late to collar Cut and Paste (Marohn) and Wine Snob (Mike Simons) for a 1:55.2 victory. Erv Miller trains Major Millie for Howard Schneidler's KDM Stables.   On the trotting side of the docket, Dan Daley trainees swept the top two spots in the $25,680 Super Bowl for colts and geldings. Smalltownthrowdown ($7.00, Daley, part of entry) took advantage of a pocket trip, holding off his entry-mate Royal Bachelor (Fern Paquet, Jr.) for a 1:57 triumph. The son of Cash Hall is owned by the partnership of Daley, Crawford, Lombardo, and Brenner.   In the $23,492 Davidia Hanover for trotting fillies, Radiant Beam ($4.40) pulled the pocket and kicked clear for a 3-1/2 length triumph. Jim Marohn, Jr. drove the daughter of Holiday Road to a 1:58.4 victory for trainer Andrew Harris and owner Arrhythmic, LC, defeating Dame Edna (D.R. Ackerman) and I Will Take Credit (Daley).   In the evening's overnight feature, a $7,000 top-level conditioned trot, Margaret and Amy Butler's J A T O ($2.50) earned his 24th career win in 26 starts, holding off a late challenge from Write That Down (John MacDonald) in 1:54.2 by a handy 1-1/2 lengths. Chris Lems handled the driving duties of the 3-year-old Big Apple Deli colt for trainer William Okusko.   Live racing returns to Vernon Downs on Saturday (October 17) evening, with the first of 11 races due off at 6:45 p.m. Eastern time.   by James Witherite, Vernon Downs

Vernon, N.Y. -- Pushed to the limit--and even headed--through a :26.4 third quarter, Ellen McNeil's Looney Dune ($3.90) found her best in upper stretch, kicking clear for a 1:52 harness racing triumph in Wednesday (October 14) evening's $7,000 featured distaff pace at Vernon Downs.   Ben McNeil sent the 7-year-old Bettor's Delight mare to the fore with no reservations, clearing Bell On Wheels (Harry Landy) en route to a :28 initial quarter before backing the tempo down on the backstretch.  After catching a :29 breather in the second sectional, Looney Dune faced stout pressure from Asset Management (Fern Paquet, Jr.), whose first-over bid momentarily eclipsed Looney Dune through the far turn.  Looney Dune, however, worked to hold her ground, and she drew off to defeat pocket rival Bell On Wheels by 4-3/4 lengths as Asset Management faded through the stretch.  Kardashian (Truman Gale) benefitted from a ground-saving trip to save third.   John McNeil, III trains Looney Dune.   Live racing returns to Vernon Downs on Friday (October 16) evening, with a quartet of John Simpson Memorial events for 2-year-olds sharing the spotlight on the 12-race program.  Post time is 6:45 p.m. Eastern.   by James Witherite, Vernon Downs    

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