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Shipping in from Yonkers after finding himself overmatched in a Levy Series preliminary, Harmon Racing's That'll Be the Rei ($7.50) vaulted clear in the final yards of Saturday (April 18) evening's $10,000 Open Pace at Vernon Downs, scoring a 1:50.2 triumph for his second win of the year.   The five-year-old gelded son of Cheyenne Rei tracked early pacesetters JK Panache (Chris Lems) and Hunchie (Truman Gale) through a strong early pace, drafting a close third through a :54.2 half mile. While 3-5 favorite Ashley's Husband (Fern Paquet, Jr.) sustained a first-over bid on the far turn, That'll Be the Rei was never in danger of traffic trouble, angled three-wide by Mike Merton in the final eighth of a mile to pounce on the softened JK Panache. That'll Be the Rei struck the front a sixteenth from home, driven clear to a three-length win. Ashley's Husband was a game--but outkicked--second, and Hunchie saved third with a mild bid after suffering traffic woes in upper stretch.   Rob Harmon trains That'll Be the Rei, who scored his thirtieth career win.   Driver Chuck Connor, Jr. and trainer Janice Connor teamed up for a Saturday night hat trick, proving victorious was Mattjesty Bluechip ($8.40, 1:55.3), impressive first-time starter Shadowmisty ($3.30, 1:56.2), and 86-1 longshot Candid Man ($175.50, 1:57.1).   Live racing returns at Vernon Downs on Friday evening, April 24, with first post scheduled for 6:45 p.m. EDT.   by James Witherite, Vernon Downs

Howard Gill's homebred War Hero($11.40) took advantage of a pocket trip, pouncing late and drawing clear to a 1:55.2 victory in the featured $10,000 Open Trot on Friday (April 17) evening's Vernon Downs program. The seven-year-old Ken Warkentin gelding secured the pocket behind pacesetter Grey Ice (Jimmy Whittemore) through a :28.2 opening quarter, drafting patiently through the race's intermediate stages. As Grey Ice accelerated on the far turn, War Hero stayed right with him from the pocket, angling off the pegs when first-over challenger Jaipur (Fern Paquet, Jr.) flattened at the apex of the turn. The two pacesetters were on level terms past three-quarters in 1:26.4, but War Hero kicked clear in the final eighth of a mile, kept to task through a 4-1/2 length triumph. Grey Ice was all-out to narrowly hold second, while Ozymandias (Roman Lopez) rallied from the back of the pack to take third. The favored A Penny Earned (Chris Lems) flattened amid his late rally, only mustering fourth honors. Howard Okusko, Jr. handled the driving duties for trainer Jessica Okusko. While Okusko and defending Vernon Downs driving champion Chris Lems each recorded two wins on the night, Jimmy Whittemore led all drivers with an opening-night hat trick. Live racing resumes on Saturday (April 18), with the first of 12 races slated for a 6:45 p.m. EDT post time. by James Witherite, Vernon Downs

Vernon, NY - Trotters and distaffers headline Friday (April 17) evening's Opening Night harness racing program at Vernon Downs, with 21-time winner A Penny Earned making his return to the Miracle Mile in the featured $10,000 Open Trot.   The six-year-old Conway Hall gelding proved victorious in 7 of 26 races last year, staying close to trainer George Ducharme's central New York home base throughout. He took a seasonal mark of 1:53.3 while earning just over $60,000, and he's reunited with his regular driver from last season, defending Vernon Downs driving champion Chris Lems.   Lems has nine drives on the ten-race card, with three of them for last season's top trainer David Dewhurst. The pair will look to establish themselves atop their respective leader boards with Kyler's Valentine (race 1, 7-2 morning line), Ziegler Hanover (race 2, 5-2 ML), and Pounce K (race 6, 6-1 ML).   Fans are encouraged to arrive well before first post time of 6:45 p.m. EDT, as racing calendar magnets and T-shirts will be distributed starting one hour before the first race (while supplies last). Arriving fans can also meet their favorite drivers prior to the races, and all are welcome to remain for the post-racing fireworks display.   by James Witherite, Vernon Downs

Vernon, NY -- Vernon Downs opens the curtain on their 2015 live harness racing season later this week, as Friday, April 17 marks the first of 90 programs over the critically acclaimed 7/8-mile stonedust track. "We're excited to kick off another season of harness racing at the home of the Miracle Mile," said Jason M. Settlemoir, Vice President of Racing at Vernon Downs. "It's been a long winter, but we're ready for the upcoming meet, featuring world-class stakes races, the New York Sire Stakes, and a slew of fun promotions for our loyal fans." Fans will be welcomed back to the home of the Miracle Mile with race date magnets and T-shirts given away at the main entrance beginning at 5:45 p.m. (while supplies last). Fans will also be able to meet their favorite Vernon Downs drivers before the races. During the races, six lucky fans will be selected to win a $50 wager on the house, and after the last race, all are invited to enjoy a spectacular fireworks display. The first Horseplay Car Giveaway finalist will be chosen on opening night as well (weather permitting), as the popular season-long contest returns with a Volkswagen Jetta on the line. Fans can earn entries every live race night through Monday, September 7, when one lucky winner will drive away with the new car. Later in the season, Vernon Downs will again host the trotting divisions of the Empire Breeders Classic (June 21), along with a number of top trotting and distaff events. Stakes action continues with the Zweig Memorial Trot (for three-year-olds) slated for July 26, while the August 21 card boasts a trio of top events--the Crawford Farms Trot, the Muscle Hill Mares Trot, and the Artiscape Open Mare Pace. As the weather cools down, Vernon Downs will once again host the New York Sire Stakes Excelsior Series finals on September 19, the Simpson Stakes for two-year-olds on October 16, and the Kindergarten Classic trotting finals on October 31. As last year's major open stakes were won by Dan Patch champions Father Patrick, Shake It Cerry, Sebastian K, and Rocklamation, the Miracle Mile is sure to once again host a number of present and future world champions throughout the year. Additionally, Vernon Downs will play host to a full complement of New York Sire Stakes preliminary events for two- and three-year-old pacers and trotters. Post time for the opening night program is slated for 6:45 p.m. EDT. Racing will take place on Friday and Saturday evenings through closing night, November 21, with Sunday afternoon cards added from mid-May through the end of August and Wednesday evening cards added in September and October. For a complete schedule, visit vernondowns.com/racing. by James Witherite, Vernon Downs

Horsemen are reminded that nominations for the spring/summer late closing series held at Tioga and Vernon Downs must be postmarked by Wednesday, April 1.   Vernon Downs offers a pair of spring series--one each for pacers and trotters--for non-winners of two pari-mutuel races or $20,000 (fillies are allowed one additional pari-mutuel win; winners of $50,000 are ineligible) through Tuesday, March 31. These series culminate in a pair of $10,000 added finals on Sunday, May 10.   Tioga Downs offers a quartet of summer series separated by gait and sex, all of which are for three-, four-, and five-year-olds which have not won five pari-mutuel races or $60,000 (winners of $100,000 are ineligible) through Tuesday, March 31. They end with $40,000 estimated finals held in the last two weeks of June.   Nomination blanks are available through the following links:   Vernon Downs: http://www.vernondowns.com/media/racing/lcad.pdf   Tioga Downs: http://www.tiogadowns.com/media/racing/lcad.pdf   by James Witherite

Horsemen are advised that initial payments for early-closing harness racing events at Tioga and Vernon Downs are due postmarked no later than Tuesday, March 17.   These payments are necessary to establish and/or maintain eligibility to the Empire Breeders Classic, Kindergarten Classic, Crawford Farms, Artiscape, Muscle Hill, Roll With Joe, and Miss Versatility events.   Checks should be made payable to Tioga Downs, and sent to Racing Office, c/o Tioga Downs, LLC, 2384 West River Road, Nichols, NY 13812.   For complete stakes information, follow this link: http://tiogadowns.com/media/racing/stakesad.pdf   by James Witherite

Nichols, NY -- Tioga Downs announces their 2015 late-closing program for three, four, and five-year-olds, and also advises harness racing horsemen that stall applications are now available online.   As in past seasons, the Morrisville College Sale Trot (for horses, colts, and geldings), Williams Auto Trot (fillies and mares), Nichols True Value Pace (horses, colts, and geldings), and M&J Oil & Lube Pace (fillies and mares) will feature entrants who have not won five pari-mutuel races or $60,000 through the end of March. Both trotting series will culminate in $40,000 (estimated) finals on Sunday, June 21, while the pacing series will wrap up with $40,000 (estimated) finals on Sunday, June 28.   The nomination fee is $400 per horse, and is made payable to Tioga Downs (2384 W. River Rd., Nichols NY 13812) no later than Wednesday, April 1. Please be advised the deadline for nomination is earlier than in past years.   Nomination forms, along with the 2015 stall application, are available at this link: http://www.tiogadowns.com/racing/horsemen.php   by James Witherite, Tioga Downs Racing Media  

Tioga Downs is in search of a track superintendent for the 2015 season.   Interested individuals are asked to contact Tioga Downs Director of Racing Jason Bluhm via email at jbluhm@tiogadowns.com or 607.372.1693.   by James Witherite, for Tioga Downs

East Rutherford, N.J. (December 12th) - Thanks to a work share agreement between Meadowlands Racetrack, Freehold Raceway, and Vernon Downs, some new harness racing voices will be heard describing the racing action at those facilities during the 2015 season. Effective January 2nd, Ken Warkentin will become the full-time announcer at Freehold Raceway. Warkentin will still remain an integral part of the Meadowlands broadcast team as well as sharing duties with longtime Meadowlands announcer and host Sam McKee. "We're excited to begin our 2015 racing season with an announcer of Ken's caliber," said Freehold Raceway General Manger Howard Bruno. "We think our patrons will enjoy having Ken call our races on a daily basis beginning in January. We're fortunate to be able to work out this arrangement with the Meadowlands." Vernon Downs patrons will hear a combination of race callers including James Witherite, Ken Warkentin and Director of Racing Scott Warren during the 2015 season. Witherite will also be back as the regular voice of Tioga Downs. "We're blessed to have several talented announcers on staff at the three facilities operated by Jeff Gural," said Meadowlands CEO/GM Jason M. Settlemoir. "Thanks to the work share agreements now in place, we can maximize opportunities and further utilize our talented line-up to help provide guests with top quality announcers at multiple facilities. We appreciate Freehold Raceway working with us and see it as a win-win for both organizations. At anytime during the upcoming year, you could hear Sam McKee, Ken Warkentin, Scott Warren, James Witherite, Darin Zoccali, or myself calling the races at any of our three properties." Both Freehold and Meadowlands begin their 2015 season on Friday, January 2nd. Vernon Downs is scheduled to open for live racing on April 10th. by Darin Zoccali, for the Meadowlands  

Saratoga shipper An Artist's Dream ($20.40) managed to escape the pocket in the final 150 yards of Friday (October 31) evening's featured $6,500 Four One One Pace for grey and roan horses at Vernon Downs, scoring a 1:52.2 minor upset.   Settling into the pocket amid a three-way pace battle with Ontario invader Zambuca Gass (John Macdonald) and top local mare Artic Byrd (Truman Gale), An Artist's Dream tracked blistering early fractions of :26 and :54.2. While close to the fast pace, the five-year-old Admirals Galley gelding was boxed in on the far turn, as Artic Byrd commenced a first-over bid, applying pressure on Zambuca Gass through three-quarters in 1:23 and in upper stretch. With Artic Byrd flattening, Jimmy Whittemore was able to wedge An Artist's Dream between rivals with 150 yards to go, taking the lead in deep stretch to beat the favored Zambuca Gass by a widening 1-1/4 lengths. The Grey Bullet (Joe Nassimos) made a late rally up the pegs to finish third off a ground-saving trip.   Ray Sharpe owns and trains An Artist's Dream, now a six-time winner.   The race was named for Four One One, a 12-year-old grey pacer who was honored earlier in the card with a special retirement ceremony. He and longtime trainer Wayne Hughes led the post parade for the evening's featured race.   The 2014 season at Vernon Downs wraps up on Saturday (November 1), with the first of 11 races scheduled for a special 6:00 p.m. EDT post time.   by James Witherite, for Vernon Downs 

Shuffled to last at the top of the stretch, Itstimeformetofly ($27.40) found room to hook to the grandstand side in the final eighth of a mile, rallying to a 1:53 victory in the featured $7,300 conditioned pace for fillies and mares on Thursday (October 30) evening at Vernon Downs.   The six-year-old Cheyenne Rei mare secured the pocket between dueling leaders Always Flash-n (Frank Davis) and Spotlight On (John Macdonald) through a scorching :26.1 initial quarter, left to track the pair from third on the backstretch.   As Bring Them Home (Justin Huckabone) commenced a first-over bid on the entry to the far turn, Itstimeformetofly found herself hard pressed for racing room, shuffled badly through the third quarter. Relegated to last off the corner, Fern Paquet, Jr. hooked four-wide with Itstimeformetofly, charging up alongside mid-stretch leader Thats My Dream (Jimmy Whittemore), who took the lead after kicking cover.   Itstimeformetofly continued on to take charge in the final yards, prevailing by three-quarters of a length over Thats My Dream. Always Flash-n, also a victim of traffic trouble, re-rallied to save third after steadying hard mid-stretch.   Scott West trains Itstimeformetofly for owner Marie Roberts.   Paquet and Truman Gale each scored three wins on the evening's 10-race card.   Live racing returns to Vernon Downs on Friday (October 31), with the first of 11 races scheduled for 6:45 p.m. EDT.   by James Witherite, for Vernon Downs

Top older mares of both gaits and two-year-old trotters of both sexes will vie for over $800,000 in purses on a blockbuster closing night card this Saturday (November 1) at Vernon Downs.   Triple millionaire Anndrovette headlines the $178,000 Artiscape Mares Pace (race six), and the seven-year-old veteran will square off against seven rivals in the first leg of an all-stakes Pick 4. Trainer PJ Fraley listed Tim Tetrick to drive the 41-time winner, and she'll line up in post 3, just outside her entrymates Krispy Apple (Brett Miller) and Shelliscape (John Campbell).   Double millionaire Rocklamation also figures to be among the standouts, having won the Lady Liberty and the Golden Girls at the Meadowlands this summer. Yannick Gingras is listed to drive the six-year-old for trainer Ron Burke. In all, the Artiscape field boasts 200 career wins, along with combined earnings in excess of $11.9 million.   Races seven and eight are the culmination of the Kindergarten Classic series, with nine two-year-old trotting colts and geldings competing for a $240,500 purse in the seventh race. Indiana standout Airman Batten (Marcus Miller, post 1) has won 10 of 13 career races, and the Erv Miller-trained Swan For All colt figures to be prominent along with the Jimmy Takter-trained French Laundry (Yannick Gingras, post 5). The son of Muscles Yankee has won five of his nine career races, taking a 1:54.4 lifetime mark in his Kindergarten preliminary at the Red Mile on September 18.   Freshman fillies contest a $250,000 purse in the eighth race, with five-time winner Bee the Queen (Brian Sears, post 9) coming in off multiple Kindergarten preliminary wins. While she consistently shows speed, the George Ducharme-trained daughter of Donato Hanover has a number of four-time winners lining up to her inside, including Allerage Star (Corey Callahan, post 1), Josie's Joy (Tim Tetrick, post 5), Lady Clarabella (David Miller, post 6), and Sweet Thing (Charlie Norris, post 8).   Ten top distaff trotters square off in the $178,000 Muscle Hill, carded as race nine on the 11-race program. Bee a Magician, fresh off her third-place finish to Natural Herbie and Commander Crowe in the Yonkers International Trot Preview, has drawn post 9 in the full field. Usual driver Brian Sears is listed to drive the 30-time winner for trainer Richard "Nifty" Norman. The other millionaire in the field is 27-time winner Maven (post 7), making her debut from the Ron Burke stable off a sharp 1:54 qualifier at Pocono. Yannick Gingras has been nominated to retain his drive aboard the five-year-old Glidemaster mare.   The closing night card is scheduled for a 6:00 p.m. EDT start time, with a long-sleeve T-shirt giveaway to commence an hour earlier (while supplies last). A fireworks display over the Central New York Sky will take place following the evening's final race.   by James Witherite, for Vernon Downs 

John Macdonald was the star of the show at Vernon Downs on Saturday (October 25) evening, winning four of 13 races on the harness racing card--three of them with his own trainees.   He kicked off his driving grand slam in the featured second race, a $6,500 upper-level conditioned pace. Dragon Fever ($7.60), a four-year-old Dragon Again gelding from the MacDonald stable, sprinted to the front from race's outset, set sensible fractions of :27.3 and :56.3, turning aside a bid from the pocket-sitting Barbarian (Fern Paquet, Jr.) on the far turn before kicking clear to a 2-1/2 length victory in 1:53.1.   In the fourth race, a $3,000 second-level conditioned pace, MacDonald pounced from the pocket in mid-stretch with Firethorn ($6.10), beating the pacesetting Donna's Scape in a 1:52.3 mile. MacKenzie's Bliss ($16.20) gave MacDonald a training and driving hat trick in the eighth race, also kicking to the fore to take the $5,100 fifth-level conditioned pace in 1:53.1.   In the ninth race, a $4,000-$5,000 claiming handicap trot, MacDonald teamed up with the Arnold Marks-trained Windsun Galliano ($9.60), working clear through a :28.1 first quarter before rating a more conservative tempo on the backstretch. After dismissing a first-over challenge from Funny Photo (Lems), Windsun Galliano drew clear in the stretch for a 1:57.1 triumph, ending up five lengths in front at the line when the pocket-sitting Nineanddivine (Claude Huckabone, III) broke stride in deep stretch.   Only three nights of racing remain in the 2014 season at Vernon Downs. Closing week kicks off on Thursday (October 30) with a 10-race program, due to start at 6:45 p.m. EDT.   by James Witherite

Tomy Terror ($2.70) took more than two seconds off the Vernon Downs track record for two-year-old pacing geldings with his 1:50.2 effort in the John Simpson Memorial on Friday (October 24) evening.   The son of Western Terror and Mib Hanover tracked entrymate Gold Coast Muscle (Mike Simons) through sizzling middle fractions of :54.1 and 1:22, pulling the pocket off the far turn and vaulting to the fore. Chased home by Bet You (Brett Miller) and Hall of Terror (Mark MacDonald), Tomy Terror and Corey Callahan prevailed by 1-1/2 lengths in 1:50.2.   John Butenschoen trains Tomy Terror for owners William Wiswell, Jeah Goehlen, Eugene Schick, and the VIP Internet Stable.   Two other Butenschoen trainees were victorious in their Simpson divisions, both in divisions for freshman trotting colts and geldings. Boots N Chains ($4.60, Callahan, 1:54.4) and Explosive Drama ($36.60, Simons, 1:56.1) rounded out the Butenschoen training hat trick.   Butenschoen's attempt to sweep the trio of male trotting divisions with Suit and Tie was thwarted by none other than Centurion ATM ($2.10). After rated patiently by trainer-driver Ã…ke Svanstedt off the top pair through a :56.4 half mile, the son of SJ's Caviar and Ens Tag Session began is move in the final three-eighths, taking over in upper stretch and holding off a late closing Sixteen Encores (Callahan) in 1:54.2. Centurion ATM, the Peter Haughton Memorial winner, was well in hand approaching the post, winning by 1-1/4 lengths with much in reserve.   Rounding out the Simpson winners for the evening were trotting fillies Model Behavior ($44.60, Simons, 1:55.1) and Deli Royal ($32.00, Jimmy Whittemore, 1:57.2) who both proved upset winners, while the lone event for pacing fillies ended in a 1:52.1 dead heat between Deli Beach ($4.60, John Campbell) and Heart Major ($4.50, Joe Pavia, Jr.).   Live racing returns to Vernon Downs on Saturday (October 25), with the first of 13 races scheduled for 6:45 p.m. EDT.   by James Witherite, for Vernon Downs      

Despite finding herself in constant battle, Southwind Trini ($8.00) proved unwavering in Thursday (October 23) night's $10,000 Fillies and Mares Open-Preferred Pace at Vernon Downs, capping a driving hat trick for Jim Marohn, Jr.   Coming off victories in her last two Vernon appearances, the six-year-old Rocknroll Hanover mare was hard used to clear JK Letitgo (Jimmy Whittemore) through a :26 first quarter.   The two were joined off the gate by 1-4 favorite Let's Go Higher (Chris Lems), who retreated to a tracking position before commencing her first-over bid on the backstretch. After forcing a :54.4 half mile, Let's Go Higher turned up the pressure on the far turn, gaining a narrow lead briefly, but Southwind Trini would not relent.   Off the far turn, she fought back to a 1-1/4 length lead, holding sway by three-quarters of a length for a 1:52.3 score over sloppy going. Thats My Dream (Claude Huckabone, III) finished third off a ground-saving trip, while JK Letitgo tired through the stretch after chasing the contested pace.   Patti Harmon trains Southwind Trini for Karma Racing, Inc.   Jim Marohn, Jr. led all drivers with three wins on the night, teaming up with Flying Fish ($13.60, 1:57) and Ace of Pace ($2.80, 1:53.4) in addition to his victory in the evening's featured event.   Live racing returns to Vernon Downs on Friday (October 24) evening, with the first of 13 races slated for 6:45 p.m.    by James Witherite, for Vernon Downs

While he employed different tactics from last week, the result was the same for owner-trainer-driver John Macdonald's Dragon Fever ($11.80), who held narrowly for a 1:54 win in Saturday (October 18) evening's featured $6,500 top-level conditioned pace at Vernon Downs.   MacDonald sent the four-year-old Dragon Again gelding straight to the lead, working clear of Celebrity Scandal (Fern Paquet, Jr.) through a :26.3 quarter over sloppy going.   After rating a :29.3 second-quarter breather, Dragon Fever found himself nudged along by UF Bettors Hanover (Justin Huckabone) on the far turn. Still maintaining control of the terms through three-quarters in 1:24.4, Dragon Fever repelled the challenge of UF Bettors Hanover, drawing off by two in mid-stretch--but bracing for Celebrity Scandal's late kick. Dragon Fever prevailed by a scant neck, just holding off Celebrity Scandal.   The favored Moonlight Ransom (Truman Gale) was forced wide off stalling cover, rallying to take third.   Roman Lopez led all drivers with three wins on the 13-race card.   Live racing returns to Vernon Downs on Thursday (October 23) evening, with first post scheduled for 6:45 p.m. EDT.   by James Witherite, for Vernon Downs

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