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Goshen, NY -- Harness racing enthusiasts have been envisioning sub-1:50 trotting miles for a long time. Prognosticators are somewhat relieved that Sebastian K has finally eclipsed the previously held record by trotting in 1:49 last Saturday night over Pocono Downs' three-turn, five-eighths-mile track.   Immediately following this "monsters" 1:50.1 US debut on May 10, many suggested it was not a question of "if" the Swedish-bred superhorse would break the lofty barrier, but a matter of "when." No one, other than the competition, has been disappointed as Ãke Svanstedt has managed the horse perfectly since crossing the pond. With the help of Bernie Noren and staff, they look to make the Svanstedt Stable a household name in the states, as it is in their native Sweden.   Some have also suggested that the previous plateau-breaking record of 1:49.3 set at Colonial Downs should have an asterisk, as the Virginia oval is a one-turn track. Standardbreds racing over that 1¼-mile track, start from a chute on the backstretch and travel an entire half mile before they enter a turn. The fact that Colonial is the only pari-mutuel track in the United States that still has a hub rail is another anomaly.   Also, Colonial's 11/4 mile track is second only to Belmont in length, which is very telling about the propensity for horses to make speed over this oval. Nonetheless, for Harness Racing aficionados, Pocono Downs is still light years ahead. The last two Saturday nights provided the two fastest race cards in the history of the Standardbred.   Although all eyes were on Pennsylvania's Wyoming Valley for Sun Stakes Saturday and the nearly $2.3 million in purses, 18 different US tracks had racing on Friday and Saturday nights. With the Friday night debut of 2-year-olds in New Jersey Sire Stakes competition at the Meadowlands, I found myself surrounded by fans on the apron. However, not all of them had their eyes fixed upon the racetrack.   $7,500 in total prize money was plenty of incentive to attract a couple dozen beautiful women to the Meadowlands for the annual Ms. Hot to Trot contest. Of course, to go along with all those perfectly proportioned gals in string bikinis was several hundred very inquisitive men of all shapes and sizes. Several M1 staffers got the call to perform the duty of judging these bevvy of babes, including Nick Salvi who may have been the most experienced of the panelists. Justin Horowitz, AKA M.C. J-Ho, provided the ladies with thought-provoking questions to ensure that the contestants had beautiful minds to go along with their ample tangible assets.   Even Yonkers Raceway's "The Manager" made a special appearance. More than likely it was to cheer for Brian Sears in the early sire stakes events. Taking the subway from Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn to Port Authority, and then a bus to the Big M, he arrived early and was doing his iconic dance before each race. His plan was to catch the Route 120 bus after the third and be back to Yonkers by the eighth. Now that is dedication!   In between sessions of judging hotties, some great harness racing took place, with the babies having graduated from breakfast to supper time. Eddie Hart's Cam's Card Shark colt, Dealt A Winner, is now the fastest 2-year-old pacer in the country following a 1:52.4 romp with David Miller at the controls. The Jeffrey Snyner-owned, Hanover-bred lad was a $35,000 Harrisburg yearling purchase who looks every bit the bargain at this stage.   Wishing Stone, the double-duty sire/racehorse removed any doubt that his particular style of breeding and breezing suits him. Going off at 10-1, the betting public was clearly not anticipating this kind of opening-night performance as the 7-year-old son of Conway Hall cruised wire-to-wire from post 10. Yannick Gingras drove the $2.23 million earner like he was the best in a 1:52.4 rout for the powerful Ron Burke stable.   And when it comes to vintage horse power, Burke Racing may have cornered the market!   Sweet Lou, Bettor's Edge and Foiled Again finished 1-2-3 in the $500,000 Ben Franklin at Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs on Saturday night. 5-year-old Sweet Lou's 1:47f performance was the fastest pacing mile ever on a 5/8-mile track and only a fifth off the mile-track mark. This was the most exciting horse race of the night, as Sweet Lou appeared headed by stable mate Bettor's Edge down the stretch. Dead game, he fought back like a champion and regained the lead in a mere two steps before the wire. Captaintreacherous finished fifth in that event. Leaving from post 8 he had a rough voyage, parked nearly every step of the way and still paced in 1:47.3.   Overall, the Sun Stakes card produced 5 world records and 11 horses set new lifetime marks. Needless to say, the awesome display of horsepower in a span of a just few hours was breathtaking. A horse that we are sure to hear a lot more about is the McArdle colt, McWicked. Trained by Casie Coleman and driven by David Miller, he set a new world mark for 3YO pacers in 1:47.3f and looks to start the "Jug three-peat" dialog.   Max J. Hempt and his wife Amy were on hand to present the Max C. Hempt trophy to the winning connections. A product of the "Keystone" legacy, Max C. runs the family's PA state-wide construction business, is an aspiring pilot, and was recently elected to the Vice President's post of the Harness Racing Museum & Hall of Fame. One would be hard-pressed to meet nicer people in all of racing.   Although winning the Beal proclaimed Father Patrick as the evening's shining star of the Hambo hopefuls, it seems that his shed row disciples will be in close proximity. Perhaps Jimmy Takter has cornered the market on 3YO trotting colts this year as Trixton and Nuncio (who was second) both seem equally capable of sipping from the Hambletonian challis. Despite el Padre' lowering his seasonal mark by a full two and half seconds to 1:50.2f, it appears that the 'anointed one' has been blessed with enough speed to break the 1:50 barrier at three!   Ready to take on Godzilla himself, Sebastian K had the crowd buzzing all night following his track crushing performance. Now the talk is how fast he may trot on a hot Hambo day at The Meadowlands. Regardless of what transpires in racing between now and then, it will most likely captivate the trotting conversation until the first Saturday in August.   Speaking of New Jersey, Sunday's trek down the NE ext. of the PA pike brought this scribe to Fair Winds Farm in Cream Ridge for an open house featuring veterinary clinic tours with Dr. Patti Hogan, and another Svanstedt stable favorite, White Bliss. The rare 'white colt' returned to his place of foaling to dash around his paddock, much to the delight of onlookers young and old. It was a fun afternoon under clear blue skies that made the industry proud.   The festivities began with several local leaders addressing the crowd about their intentions to promote and garner support for New Jersey agriculture and the horse business. Assemblyman Ron Dancer has worked tirelessly for years to ensure that Trenton pays attention to harness racing. He plans on putting forth a resolution to bolster agricultural education in the Garden State through the Future Farmers of America.   Former mayor of Millstone Township, Nancy Grgelja, owned no horses when she originally took the oath of office. Subsequently she caught the bug, and ten years later she has had 10 Standardbreds, several of which are still racing. Lillian Burry, whose resume reads like a lady who never stops moving, is now the director of the Monmouth County Freeholders. Of course the always active Dr. Karen Malinowski of the Rutgers Equine Science Center helped coordinate the day's events, along with the gracious hosting of Mark Mullen.   With construction on the NJ Turnpike around exit 8, and Jersey shore traffic reaching epic proportions, it was my intention to complete the final leg of my 539 mile journey and make it back to the Catskills before nightfall.   by Chris Tully for Harnesslink.com

CBS Sports Network expands its coverage of harness racing in 2014 to include three of the sport's most prestigious stakes. CBS Sports Network has been the home of the guaranteed $1.5 million Hambletonian since 2012. The world's most famous harness race returns on Aug. 2 from 4 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. Eastern. This year, the $750,000 Meadowlands Pace and the $600,000 Little Brown Jug also will air on CBS Sports Network. The purses for both races are estimated, pending the number of entrants. The trio of races for 3-year-olds are among the most important in harness racing and are highly influential in determining the Dan Patch champions. Captaintreacherous, last year's Meadowlands Pace winner, was crowned Pacer of the Year and top 3-year-old Pacing Colt. The Hambletonian victory propelled Royalty for Life to the 3-year-old Trotting Colt title. While the Hambletonian is for trotters, The Meadowlands Pace and the Little Brown Jug brought to you by Fazolis are showcases for the leading pacers in the division. The Meadowlands Pace anchors a one hour telecast on July 12 starting at 9 p.m. Eastern. Both the Hambletonian and The Meadowlands Pace are contested at Meadowlands Racing & Entertainment in East Rutherford, N.J. “Live television of the premier events has always been a top priority of the Hambletonian Society,” said Tom Charters, president of the organization which owns and administrates 137 of racing’s most important events. “The Hambletonian has been televised for more than 40 years and we’re proud to be televised on CBS Sport Network, and pleased to see more harness racing added to the schedule.” The on-air team is a stellar quartet of harness racing veterans. Gary Seibel, a  host of racing coverage on ESPN, NBC, CBS and TVG, will anchor the coverage. A member of harness racing’s Communicators Hall of Fame, Seibel will be appearing on his 22nd straight Hambletonian broadcast. Seibel also hosted network TV coverage of the Breeders Crown, harness racing’s divisional championship series, and filled a similar role for the American Championship Harness Series. Dave Brower, one of harness racing’s sharpest handicappers, will be the co-anchor. Brower is an alumnus of "Racing from the Meadowlands" television program on SNY, Fox Sports New York, MSG Networks and TVG's “Drive Time”. This will be his third year as co-host of the Hambletonian on CBS Sports Network. Brower wrote “Harnessing Winners: The Complete Guide to Handicapping Harness Races,” published by Daily Racing Form’s press division in 2009. Justin Horowitz and Heather Vitale will provide trackside reports. Vitale sports a third generation pedigree in harness racing and hosts two popular regional television shows - Post Time and PA Harness Week, and has covered the sport nationally on espn2 and MAV-TV. Horowitz, a former sports video-journalist in Minnesota and New York, is now the racing and media manager for Tioga Downs and Vernon Downs in New York and Meadowlands Racing & Entertainment. Horowitz debuted on CBS Sports Network’s Hambletonian broadcast in 2012, and was awarded a Barasch Breakthrough Award the following year for his subsequent contributions. Two multiple award winners complete the package.  Bruce Casella is the executive producer for The Meadowlands Pace and the Little Brown Jug. Emmy Award winner Mike Trager and the Trager Group will produce the Hambletonian. CBS Sports Network, the 24-hour home of CBS Sports, is available across the country through local cable, video and telco providers and via satellite on DirecTV Channel 221 and Dish Network Channel 158. For more information, and to access the CBS Sports Network channel finder, go to www.cbssportsnetwork.com<http://www.cbssportsnetwork.com/>. by Rachel Ryan, for the Meadowlands

NICHOLS, NY (May 2014) - A $1,500 first place prize is up for grabs in the 2nd Annual Tioga Downs Showdown Contest. The online handicapping challenge begins this Sunday, June 1st. The contest requires contestants to select one horse racing at Tioga Downs. If that horse finishes third or better in its race, the contestant will advance to the next day of the contest. If the horse finishes worse than third, the contestant is eliminated. The contestant that survives the longest will win the $1,500 grand prize. The contest is free to enter and available to all fans 18 years and older in the United States and Canada. To register, fans can visit showdown.tiogadowns.com. Contestants are encouraged to take advantage of the new handicapping resources available on the Tioga Downs website including detailed analysis and trip notes compiled for each race. Live streaming video is also available on the Tioga Downs website for contestants that wish to follow along with the contest. by Justin Horowitz, for Tioga Downs

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 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YuroSY7Hau0. 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 http://wintersurvivalchallenge.com/. 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 Harnesslink.com on Facebook and Twitter (@Harnesslink)   by Chris Tully for Harnesslink.com    

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 Harnesslink.com  

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  

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