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Harness racing drver Tim Tetrick drove the 8,000th winner of his remarkable career on Thursday night at The Meadowlands, in the process becoming the youngest driver to reach that plateau in harness racing history at age 32 years and 4 months. Tim passed the milestone in the seventh race behind Spender Hanover, affording the veteran a typical Tetrick steer placed second over behind the favorite and wearing that one down in the stretch. Spender Hanover, an eight year old with career earnings of nearly $300,000, took a new record of 1:51.2 in the process for trainer Jeff Smith and owner Howard Ouriel. Tetrick was greeted in the winner's circle celebration on a cold, windy night by his wife Ashley and daughter Tessa along with Meadowlands representatives Jenn Bongiorno and Justin Horowitz. Tim is currently twenty second on the all time wins list and seventh in career earnings with over $141 million, all at the tender age of thirty two.  Tetrick continues a pace that would put him in position to break every record the sport has by the time his career is complete. The equine performer that stood out on the card was a young trotting filly.  In the second race, Take The Money, a three year old daughter of Donato Hanover made it a perfect two for two in 2014 with a dominant five length romp in 1:56.1 for team Orange Crush, Andy and Julie Miller. The filly is owned by Black Horse Racing. Racing resumes on Friday with a stellar 13-race program, including the first round of The Horse & Groom Trotting Series and a compelling Free For All Trot.  Post time is 7:15 P.M. Darin Zoccali

Not just anyone can come back in 52 days from hip replacement surgery to drive a car, let alone drive a racehorse, but that exactly what The Bionic Man, Tim Tetrick did. Not only did he drive, he won his first race back at The Meadowlands, guiding Eagle Say to a score in the third race Filly & Mare C-2 Trot in 1:58. Tetrick made his move to the half, sensing a soft clip through a 58.3 half-mile and easily launched past a tired Rel Postage Due. It was that middle move that won the race, as Eagle Say (7-2) scored a decisive two length victory over Bluebird Kidsqueen. Tetrick drove the winner for trainer Eric Mollor and winning owner Gary Wolfinger. "It feels good (to get the first win out of the way)," said Tetrick in a paddock interview with Justin Horowitz. "It was a little rougher trip to get back, but I feel good. I'm definitely out of shape a little bit, but hopefully that will all come back." The full interview can be seen on The Meadowlands Youtube page at Yannick Gingras and Dave Miller both dominated the rest of the card, winning six of the remaining nine races, splitting those six at three-a-piece. In fact, Miller put up a natural hat trick, sweeping races five, six and seven on the card. The Pick 5 carryover of $18,083 led to a total pool in the Pick 5 of $137,829. The sequence returned $2,712.30 on the fifty-cent investment, thanks to the win by Casino King and driver/trainer Joe Martin in the 4th race C-2 Pace, who scored at 23-1 in 1:54.4 for owner Beauty Bridle Racing Stable Incorporated. In addition the Winter Survival Online Challenge kicked off Thursday night with 5,393 participants, a 54-percent increase from last year and the most ever seen in the contest, which runs every race night through the end of the Winter/Spring meet on Saturday April 26th. The contest can be found at Racing returns to The Meadowlands on Friday night with post time of 7:15 P.M. by Darin Zoccali, for the Meadowlands    

NICHOLS, NY - The holiday season was a little brighter for hundreds of area families thanks to the generosity of the Southern Tier Harness Horsemen's Association. The group, whose members compete at Tioga Downs, made a $10,000 donation in December to the Food Bank of the Southern Tier, which serves a six-county region in and around Tioga Downs. "This donation has become a yearly tradition for our organization and we are thrilled to support the Food Bank especially during the holiday season," said Guy Howard, president of the S.T.H.H.A. "We have a great working relationship with Tioga Downs and Jeff Gural, and since they are such strong supporters of the Food Bank, we are happy to follow their lead and join them with our support." The ninth season of live racing at Tioga Downs is scheduled to begin on Kentucky Derby Day, May 3, 2014 (pending regulatory approval). by Justin Horowitz for Tioga Downs  

E. Rutherford, NJ ­-- Perhaps the most anticipated night of racing over the entire year, the TVG FFA Finals and the Fall Final Four at the new Meadowlands Racing and Entertainment, was just as exciting as the hype that lead up to the historic events. And, it was the fans of harness racing, a sometimes forgotten lot, who were the ultimate winners. While social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter have taken the world by storm, harness racing enthusiasts were also quick to feed the digital platforms with comments and photos of their favorite equine heroes, as well as to champion the merits between Foiled Again and Captaintreacherous in the half million dollar pace for the ages.   The crowd favorite, but second betting choice, Foiled Again wowed his rail bird supporters with a pre-race final score. Yannick Gingras blasted the 9-year-old by the stands in what appeared to be a 6 second, sixteenth of a mile, leaving the throngs of spectators buzzing with expectation and snapping pictures with their iPhones. Moments later, TV analyst Ken Warkentin aptly prepared the crowd, "Strap in and hold on!"   When the dust settled from the 1:49.2 mile, a scant couple of lengths separated the new "Six Million Dollar Man," Foiled Again, from his 3-year-old challenger Captaintreacherous and several other rivals. Evident in slow motion on the massive infield tote board, Golden Receiver looked as if he got a head in front of Foiled Again, only to be thwarted at the wire. The crowd roared again as the replay reminded fans of how close the race really was.   The Burke Brigade, led by trainer Ron Burke, posed for congratulatory photos holding up six fingers, honoring the sport's favorite seasoned warrior and his new plateau. Breaking records seem almost commonplace for this high-powered stable that just broke $20 million and 1,000 wins for the season. "Foiled leads us." Burke noted. "We go as he goes. When you have him as the starter for the barn, you are going to have a great year. I can't ask for more than for what he has done."   The winner of the companion race, the TVG Trot was equally impressive in his victory. Market Share, "the little horse that could," won when he was on harness racing's biggest stage. Facing the challenge of the outer most post (7) in a tough field of older millionaire trotters, Tim Tetrick rushed the horse out of the gate to take the top in a :26.2 opening panel, cruising home in 1:51.   The win put Market Share over a million dollars on the season, and also presented more questions than it did answers. Peppered with questions about the horse's future, trainer Linda Toscano was optimistic. "If he comes back as good as he finished up, or better, then we are certainly going to give it a shot. They have invited us [to the Elitloppet] and it would be one of those 'once in a lifetime' kind of things that would be difficult to pass up if the horse is good."   Market Share's hard-working caretaker, Shelly Grieco quickly posted her feelings directly to her Facebook status. "Wow! There aren't any words left to describe just how proud I am of Market Share! Little man... You showed your true grit tonight with that win! Another million $ season to boot!"   Fans and industry leaders alike are have also been quick to recognize the impact that social media has on our sport, and the possibilities and potential for the future.   Rob Key, CEO of Converseon, an award winning social media agency, has been on the forefront of engaging harness racing fans through digital platforms. "I am very optimistic for 2014. We have two things that have never happened in harness racing before. We have a new showcase for harness racing to repackage the sport and the experience of the sport. Number two, we will have an innovative marketing program with the components that will be a platform for the entire sport."   Meadowlands media mogul, Justin Horowitz agrees, "We have a beautiful new building that we can use to showcase the best racing the sport has to offer. We have a lot of people in place that are super passionate about the game. We have a lot of young people that have fresh ideas, a great work ethic, and the desire to utilize social media. And we have an owner [Jeff Gural] and general manager [Jason Settlemoir] who give us the freedom to explore new ideas. Hopefully we can find the right formula and put harness racing back on the map."   If Saturday night's racing card was any indication, harness racing is alive and well and here to stay in East Rutherford, New Jersey!   Check out on Facebook and Twitter (@Harnesslink)   by Chris Tully for    

East Rutherford, NJ – Harness fans, eager to check out the new Meadowlands Racing & Entertainment complex, stormed into the facility Saturday night (Nov. 23) by the thousands.  Shortly after the opening ceremonies, a series of snow squalls also stormed into the East Rutherford Sports Complex.    Despite the high winds, the spirit of the estimated 15,000 fans would never be diminished as the new facility was as exciting as the racing product.  Five of the thirteen races were determined by winning margins of less than a length and ten were won by 2 lengths or less.  Possibly the most exciting was the neck victory by Foiled Again over Warrawee Needy in the final leg of the TVG FFA in 1:49.3.   Interestingly, just three hours before his race, Foiled Again joined Gallo Blue Chip for a ceremonial ribbon cutting ceremony by the two richest pacers of all time.  With combined earnings over $10 million dollars, the two harness heroes posed for throngs of photographers in the new “Blue Chip Farms Winners Circle.”   Previous to the ribbon cutting, Miss Rodeo New Jersey delivered a poignant national anthem, followed by opening remarks by Sam McKee, Chairman Jeff Gural, SBOA/NJ President Tom Luchento, and CEO Jason Settlemoir.  Fans were reminded that three years ago the SBOA/NJ and Gural met with the NJ Governor’s administration and helped rescue the Meadowlands Racetrack from governmental extinction.   “Three years later, we are here in a magnificent new building, at the premier track in North America, looking forward to showcasing the best harness racing presented anywhere in the world,” Luchento said.   Patrons on the apron for the race two-TVG trot found themselves in a mini white-out due to a rapid burst of wind and snow.  Some of the best trotters in the world went behind the gate, where five out of the six starters were Hambletonian finalists.  Wishing Stone was victorious, and paid his supporters handsomely at odds of 9-1.   One big fan of racing, USTA Executive Director Mike Tanner found himself caught in the whirlwind.  He proclaimed, “This place is great,” as he tweeted ‘Not Pompano’ in response to the sudden blast of arctic air.   Fans and horsepeople alike were ecstatic about the new building.  Janet Terhune, director of the Harness Racing Museum & Hall of Fame, exclaimed, “The New Meadowlands is absolutely fantastic.  Trotters (Owners club) is a great experience—it is very ‘clubby.’  The whole facility is filled with people and everybody loves racing.”   Enjoying the atmosphere in Trotters was the breeder of Deweycheatumnhowe, Steve Jones.  Clearly enjoying his well appointed surroundings, “Jonesy” stated, “The facility is fantastic.  Gural and his partners have done a great job.  There is a lot of enthusiasm here.  I like the night club, and all the gambling areas, the bars and everything!  I really think this is going to be a great place to be.”   Hall of Famer Jimmy Doherty, who is one of the few drivers to win a race every year that the Meadowlands has been open, noted that, “I think it is tremendous.  Everyone is very excited about the future.  This place was built for a new generation.”    Ray Remmen, who won the first race on the 1976 opening night with Quick Baron, presented the trophy to the first race winner Alexie Matosie and David Miller.  Another guy who was active on the original opening night on Sept. 1, 1976 was Ted Wing.  He was back as the trainer of a horse in the new opening’s twelfth race.   When reminiscing about historical races, one need not venture any further than the statistician to the stars, Bob “Hollywood” Heyden.  From his TV studio he reminded fans that on the ’76 opener, eight Hall of Famers drove on the card—and only ONE found the winners circle:  Robert Farrington with Rambling Willie.   When quizzed about his observations of this opening night Holly opined that, “Three things stand out.  An unmistakable buzz in the building.  A steady stream of patrons entering from 4 pm through 9 pm, reminiscent of Niatross winning the Meadowlands Pace or a heavy-weight title fight.  And, the sense of anticipation for the overall future of the facility.”   As fans poured into the main entrance, they were eager to enter the Million Dollar Pick 13 challenge.  Many a punter stopped to ogle over the suitcase full of cash, prominently on display in the center of the ground floor betting area.  Alas, the promotion turned elusive as the new racing configuration created a new and distinct track bias.   Perhaps it was a night for underdogs, as only four betting favorites found the winners circle.  Ironically, horses named after 1976 movie icon, Rocky, had a big night: Salevster Stallion (Race 1, fin. 2nd), Stallone Blue Chip (R3,1st) & Yo Cheyenne Rocky (R9, 1st).  Nonetheless, Team Gural showed the world that they were up for the task! by Chris Tully for  

VERNON, NY – For the third consecutive season, Vernon Downs experienced a double-digit increase in export handle, the amount of money wagered at off-track locations on races at Vernon Downs. For the 2013 season, which concluded November 9, export handle was up 17 percent. In the past three seasons, the export handle has increased a total of 63 percent. “Posting a third straight handle increase reaffirms that the horseplayers across North America are in favor of full competitive fields and a strong stakes program,” said Scott Warren, Director of Racing.  “We worked very hard this year to expand the reach of our simulcast signal into new markets like California, and this season showed that the effort of our entire staff continues to pay off.” Export handle increased 175 percent on Empire Breeders Classic day in June, 110 percent on Credit Winner/Muscle Hill night in September and 26 percent on Drivers’ Championship/Zweig Memorial night in August. “A tremendous amount of credit needs to go to Scott Warren who continues to put together full, competitive fields that drive our handle in the positive direction,” said Jason Settlemoir, Vice President of Racing. “A big thank you also goes to the horsemen and fans that supported Vernon Downs racing in 2013.” On the track, more history was made during the track’s 60th anniversary of racing. Vernon Downs based Royalty For Life captured the $1.5 million Hambletonian in August; harness racing’s most prestigious race held at the Meadowlands. Royalty For Life then came back to his home track and won Vernon’s Zweig Memorial over a field of star-studded 3-year-old trotters. Canadian trotter Intimidate broke the all-time Vernon Downs track record with his thrilling win in the Credit Winner Open Trot in September in a final time of 1:51. In June, the largest on-track crowd of the season, nearly 6,000, witnessed the first ever camel and ostrich races in Vernon Downs history. Rick Plano finished the season as the track’s runaway leading driver and trainer. The 62-year-old Central New York native achieved the feat for the second straight year. by Justin Horowitz for Vernon Downs

NICHOLS, NY - Tioga Downs is proud to announce that James Witherite, one of the top young announcers in harness racing, will become the track's full-time race caller beginning with the 2014 racing season. The 27-year-old Pennsylvania native has spent the past seven years as the track announcer at Harrah's Philadelphia Casino and Racetrack. Witherite has also called races at more than 60 harness and thoroughbred tracks throughout North America. "I have always been impressed with every aspect of the racing product at Tioga," said Witherite, who has had the opportunity over the past few years to call a couple of race cards each season at Tioga Downs. "While I've enjoyed a great seven years at Philadelphia and called some remarkable miles there, I'm looking forward to this new endeavor." In addition to announcing the races, Witherite will provide his race analysis and commentary in the racing program and on the Tioga Downs website. He will also conduct fan education seminars, meet-and-greets with on-track visitors and even play live music. Witherite is an accomplished multi-instrumental musician and composer. "We've always had a rotating cast of announcers during our race meet, but when it became apparent that James was available, we jumped at the opportunity to get not only one of the premier race callers in our sport, but also a talented and passionate promoter of all aspects of the industry," said Jason Settlemoir, Vice President of Racing. "We have great racing here at Tioga and James will only enhance that product," said Jason Bluhm, Senior Director of Racing. "We plan on creating a pre-race show among other enhancements to our live product and James will be an important part of that. I feel privileged to have him join the team." Witherite will begin his new role this winter working as a fan education ambassador at Meadowlands Racing and Entertainment, Tioga's sister property located in East Rutherford, New Jersey. He will then relocate to Tioga Downs when its racing season begins. The ninth season of live racing at Tioga Downs is scheduled to begin on Kentucky Derby Day, May 3, 2014 (pending regulatory approval). by Justin Horowitz for Tioga Downs  

NICHOLS, NY - Come to the races and drive home in a new car. That's the opportunity for area harness racing fans this Saturday night as Tioga Downs celebrates the closing night of its 2013 live racing season. The first of 10 live races begins at 6:50 p.m. Fans will have an opportunity to earn the final entry into the season-long Horseplay Car Giveaway following the third race of the evening. Then all 56 finalists will be placed into a barrel and a backwards draw will be conducted. Names will be drawn one-by-one until only one name remains. That person will be the winner of the Scion iQ automobile courtesy of the Williams Auto Group in Sayre. There will also be drawings to win a laptop computer and gift cards to MaineSource Food & Party Warehouse. Following the last race of the season, a spectacular fireworks display will light up the skies over Tioga County. On the track, some of the country's premier two-year-olds will race for more than $144,000 in prize money in the Reynolds Stakes, hosted by Tioga Downs for the first time. Justin Horowitz

NICHOLS, NY – The eyes of the harness racing world will be focused on Tioga Downs on Labor Day as North America’s top drivers compete for a $25,000 first prize in the final round of the 7th Annual Tioga/Vernon All-Star Drivers’ Championship. The 13-race card also features the 59th edition of the $360,211 Cane Pace, opening leg of the Pacing Triple Crown. Superstar Captaintreacherous has been installed as the 8/5 morning line favorite and will be coupled in the wagering with stablemate Wake Up Peter. Captaintreacherous looks to bounce back from his first loss of the season when he finished second by a nose in a world record equaling 1:47.4 in the Battle of the Brandywine at Mohegan Sun Pocono Downs on August 17. Post time is 1:30 p.m. Leading Tioga Downs driver Jimmy Marohn, Jr. leads his eight competitors by 7 points after winning the opening leg of the Drivers’ Championship held last Sunday night at Vernon Downs. Marohn won $10,000 as the halfway leader. Monday’s final round includes five races. Drivers earn 10 points for a win, 7 points for a second-place finish, 5 points for third, 3 points for fourth and 1 point for finishing fifth. Another unique feature of the Drivers’ Championship is that all nine drivers will be donating their race earnings to a charity of their choice. The host tracks and Jeff Gural will each match the donations. The charities being supported are New Vocations Racehorse Adoption Program, Team Rubicon, Brian Michonski Pancreatic Cancer Research Fund, Standardbred Retirement Foundation, Harness Horse Youth Foundation, Ontario Standardbred Adoption Society, Best Friends Animal Society and Southern Tier Alternative Therapies. Plenty of other fun events and giveaways are planned for Labor Day including a Corey Callahan bobblehead giveaway, Drivers’ Championship T-Shirt giveaway, drawings to win iPads and a driver autograph session. All of the on-track excitement begins at 12:30 p.m. by Justin Horowitz  

VERNON, NY – Sunday night’s race card at Vernon Downs, headlined by the opening round of the All-Star Drivers’ Championship and Zweig Memorial Trot, produced the track’s highest single-card wagering handle since 2009. The total handle, including on-track and off-track simulcast locations, totaled $313,690, the track’s highest figure since hosting the New York Sire Stakes Night of Champions in September of 2009. It also represents a nearly 20% increase over last year’s Drivers’ Championship and Zweig Memorial Trot card. “We worked extremely hard to promote one of our signature nights of the season and we’re pleased to see how well-received it was by horseplayers nationwide,” said Scott Warren, Director of Racing. “By racing the card in the evening, we were able to get our simulcast signal distributed in California and a loaded on-track promotional schedule delivered the type of family-friendly event we strive to produce.” Hambletonian champion Royalty For Life cruised to victory in the $360,000 Zweig Memorial over a star-studded field of trotters and continued his magical season for Vernon Downs based trainer George Ducharme. Vernon Downs resumes racing with a four-day holiday schedule. Live racing takes place Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 6:45 p.m. and a special Labor Day matinee on Monday starting at 1:15 p.m. by Justin Horowitz  

NICHOLS, NY – Harness racing’s version of the All-Star Game returns to Upstate New York when North America’s premier drivers compete in the 7th Annual Tioga/Vernon Drivers’ Championship. The continent’s top six money-winning drivers have been confirmed to participate led by Tim Tetrick, whose mounts have earned more than $9.2 million in 2013. Tetrick has led North America in earnings for an unprecedented six straight years; however, he’s never finished first in the Drivers’ Championship in six appearances. This year’s field will also include Hambletonian winning driver and Florida native Brian Sears, two-time champion Yannick Gingras, defending champion Ron Pierce, David Miller and first-time participant Corey Callahan, who will also be honored with a bobblehead doll giveaway during the event. Those six drivers will compete against leading Tioga Downs driver Jimmy Marohn, Jr. and leading Vernon Downs driver Rick Plano. The final competitor in the nine-man field, the sponsor’s exemption, will be announced tomorrow. The first round of the event takes place at Vernon Downs during a special Sunday night of racing on August 25 with a 6:45 p.m. first race post time. The leader after the Vernon round will receive $10,000. The drivers and their accumulated points will then head to Tioga Downs on a special Labor Day card, September 2, with a 1:30 p.m. post time. The overall winner of the event receives $25,000. The Vernon Downs leg of the challenge shares a card with the $700,000 Zweig Memorial Trot featuring Hambletonian champion Royalty For Life racing on his home track. The Tioga Downs leg of the challenge shares a card with the $400,000 Cane Pace, opening leg of the Pacing Triple Crown. The Cane is expected to feature a long-awaited showdown between top-rated 3-year-olds Captaintreacherous and Vegas Vacation. In addition to the racing on the track, fans will be treated to a variety of giveaways and promotions including the annual bobblehead giveaway and t-shirt giveaway while supplies last and drawings to win iPads and laptop computers. There will also be pre-race autograph sessions with the drivers on both days of the event. Justin Horowitz

VERNON, NY - Vernon Downs and local horsemen are teaming up to race against hunger. During the live harness races on Saturday night, at least 10 horsemen will donate portions of their driving fees to the Food Bank of Central New York. The event follows another fundraiser in June when Vernon Downs raised more than $65,000 for the Food Bank of Central New York through proceeds from a Gretchen Wilson concert. The Food Bank will also have a table set up at the racetrack to collect additional donations from guests. The goal is to raise at least $1,000. "I've been thinking about doing something like this for a few weeks," said John Prescott, a Vernon Downs horseman and Chaplin with the Christian Harness Horsemen's Association. "I wanted to get the drivers to contribute back to the community in a positive way. Mr. Gural has donated generously to the Food Bank so I thought it'd be great if we all could get together and do something good." Prescott hopes to make fundraisers like this one an annual tradition as a way for horsemen to give back to the community in which they live. Live racing at Vernon Downs takes place Thursday, Friday and Saturday this week. Races begin at 6:45 p.m. all three nights. by Justin Horowitz  

Bobbleheads to celebrate 7th Annual Drivers’ Championship at Vernon Downs on Aug. 25 & Tioga Downs on Sept. 2. NICHOLS, NY – He may be in the midst of a career season with nearly $5 million in purse earnings already, but Corey Callahan jokes that “you know you’ve finally made it when you get a bobblehead.” Callahan, who recently was given the nickname “Captain” in a promotion at The Meadowlands Racetrack, will be honored with his very own bobblehead doll at Tioga Downs and Vernon Downs. The bobblehead giveaway coincides with the tracks’ 7th Annual Drivers’ Championship, billed this year as harness racing’s version of the All-Star Game (see attached promotional poster). Callahan will compete against the premier drivers in the sport for more than $40,000 in prize money, including a $25,000 first place prize, the equivalent of a driver’s share of winning a $1 million race. “I’m really looking forward to participating in the Drivers’ Championship for the first time,” said Callahan. “It’s the best of the best competing so to be included in that group is quite an honor.” For the first time, the event will be contested at both racetracks. The opening leg will take place at Vernon Downs on Sunday, August 25 and share the card with the $700,000 Zweig Memorial Trot. The final round will then go to Tioga Downs on Labor Day Monday, September 2 and share the spotlight with the $400,000 Cane Pace, opening leg of Pacing’s Triple Crown. This year, the Drivers’ Championship will pit North America’s top six money-winning drivers against the leading driver (by wins) at Tioga Downs and Vernon Downs plus a sponsor’s exemption. The qualifying cut off date is August 19. As for that bobblehead, Callahan said the plastic version of him looks just as good as the human version. “I was very surprised at how much the bobblehead actually looks like me. The people who made it are very talented.” Justin Horowitz  

We are pleased to announce that social media efforts for the 2013 Hambletonian are off-and-running, and the #hambo13 hashtag is picking up steam across all key social channels. Our Facebook presence - which was launched from scratch for the 2013 race only a few days ago - is well on its way to 1,000 fans, thanks to some great content combined with a targeted paid media effort focused on both engaging and growing the page's audience. On Twitter, we've more than doubled our following, and are beginning to see some fantastic earned media engagement via our influencer efforts. Additionally, we are working to post Instagram and Vine videos of many of the 20 Greatest Hambletonian Moments. There's been a great response thus far from our 20 Greatest Hambletonian Moments content (20-16 are currently live on Twitter, Facebook and Tumblr), as well as the first of several videos featuring Justin Horowitz, and our History of the Hambletonian Video, which has gained significant traction since being posted on Facebook yesterday evening (6 comments, 24 likes and over 5,500 users reached as a result of 34 shares). Samples of this content can be found at the following links: History of the Hambletonian Video Justin Horowitz Hambeltonian Day Video Hambletonian Greatest Moment #17 (Burgomeister) The attached press release went out yesterday, and buzz around the Hambletonian should continue to grow in the coming days. Stay tuned to all of our social channels (be sure to use #hambo13), and we look forward to seeing you all at the track on August 3rd. @hambletonian13 If you need any additional information, we'd love to talk to you. Please contact one of us at the contact information below. Jane Quigley Sean McCarthy Social Media & Platform Specialist, Converseon  

VERNON, NY - Top rated Hambletonian contender Royalty For Life will start Saturday night at Vernon Downs in a $13,200 Preferred Trot in his final Hambletonian prep. The 3-year-old son of RC Royalty, who stands at the nearby Morrisville College Equine Center, headlines a field of five, one week before he's scheduled to contest harness racing's ultimate prize, the $1.2 million Hambletonian at the Meadowlands Racetrack in New Jersey. "I'm not looking to empty him out or anything," said trainer George Ducharme. "If he can win and do it under wraps, then great. But we're going to give him a shot and let him roll along so he's prepped for next week." Royalty For Life entered the year as one of the most exciting Hambletonian prospects coming off a 2-year-old season that saw him win half of his 14 starts with earnings of more than $334,000, including a runner-up finish in the Breeders Crown behind champion Wheeling N Dealin. But 2013 has not gone according to plan. Just before he was set to qualify at his Vernon Downs base in early May, an infectious disease outbreak swept through the Central New York track, locking the entire barn area down in a month-long quarantine and leaving Royalty For Life unable to do anything but train. "I wanted to get a race into him before we raced for the Empire Breeders Classic in June but I really just had to back off of him then start him up all over again and then the horse was just feeling way too good," said Ducharme. In his first race of 2013, Royalty For Life made a break in stride in his Empire Breeders Classic elimination and finished last. He made another break in the Earl Beal eliminations at Mohegan Sun Pocono Downs three weeks later. He recovered to qualify for the final but made another break in the final and finished last again. "I think the one in the Beal Final was just a circumstance of where he was positioned that night and got caught in a bad spot," said Ducharme. "The times before, I really believe he just needed to get racing and get some consistency to his program that we weren't able to obtain when we were quarantined." After an eye-popping qualifying win at the Meadowlands in 1:51.3 and a game 1:52 victory in the Stanley Dancer on July 13, Royalty For Life will represent "the little guy" when he races on the sport's biggest stage. It's been 25 years since a horse stabled at Vernon Downs has won the Hambletonian and the 52-year-old Ducharme has never had a horse this good during his 20+ years as a trainer. "This ride's been great, a little up and down obviously," said Ducharme, "but this is what we all dream of when we're kids and we decide to get into horses. "I'm trying to enjoy the ride and prep him and concentrate on him as much as I can." by Justin Horowitz  

NICHOLS, NY - He was a star receiver during his 11 years in the NFL with the New York Jets and now Wayne Chrebet is hoping to find the same success as the owner of standardbred racehorses. Chrebet was at Tioga Downs in Upstate New York on Thursday night, watching his 2-year-old trotting colt, Lukas Hall, race in the Tompkins Memorial Stakes. "Nothing replaces the rush of playing or running out of the tunnel," said Chrebet, who retired in 2005 as the second-leading receiver in Jets franchise history, "but it's a minute and 51 second rush. When they're turning for home and you're second-over or you're on the lead, your chest gets pounding and that's part of the reason I'm in it." Lukas Hall would finish third, following a fifth-place finish and third-place finish in his two previous starts. Chrebet owns the horse in partnership with Jeffrey Gural, the owner of Tioga Downs. Chrebet said he has been involved as an owner for 10 years, at one point owning as many as 15 horses. Now, he owns a trio of two-year-old horses. "I moved down to Colts Neck in New Jersey which is horse country," said Chrebet. I went to Freehold Raceway one day and I decided to get a horse. Then I found Kevin McDermott, he's my trainer now and my best friend. We had some success early, then bought some younger horses and we're still going." Not only has Chrebet been bitten by the racing bug, his family is along for the ride too. Chrebet was joined at Tioga Downs by his family, including son Lukas, who serves as the racehorse's namesake. "It's a family thing for me," said Chrebet. "The reason I bought a New York horse is so we can go to all the New York tracks together, we like to travel like that." After a football career that saw Chrebet go from undrafted out of Hofstra University to having his jersey retired by the Jets, the 39-year-old sums up his racing goals very simply. "Hopefully, we have some luck together." Note: A video replay of tonight's race is available by following this link: Justin Horowitz  

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