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JK Panache ($8.10) sustained a first-over bid to wear down the odds-on Fireyourguns in Saturday (April 30) evening's featured $8,500 Open Handicap Pace at Vernon Downs, while harness racing driver John MacDonald captured five of the evening's 13 races.   In the Open Pace, 1-5 favorite Fireyourguns (Claude Huckabone, III) was stretched out by All Stienam (John MacDonald) through a :25.3 first quarter while Chris Lems waited from well off the pace with JK Panache. On the backstretch, JK Panache commenced a gradual first-over bid, working to within a length of the lead through a :55.4 middle half.   Lems remarked, "At the head of the stretch, I was real confident when he (JK Panache) swelled up alongside Fireyourguns, especially after the fractions they went." After dueling briefly in mid-stretch, JK Panache struck the front and drew off to a length victory in 1:49.2.   "I had to chase him, but once he got a head in front, it was all him," Lems concluded. "He's a real good horse."   Fireyourguns was a game second, while Titus Seelster (Jimmy Whittemore) negotiated traffic to save a best-of-the-rest third.   Trainer Dave Dewhurst co-owns JK Panache, now a 38-time winner, with Philip Hale.   In the second round of the Anthony Farina late-closing series for pacers, JDs Brent N Sheree ($2.10, 1:53.4) completed a sweep of the preliminary legs, posting a 4-1/4 length win in his division in rein to trainer-driver Truman Gale. No Shame Blue Chip ($2.70, 1:52.3) controlled the terms in the other division, edging clear under Brian Connor for a 2-3/4 length win after holding Long Legs Linguine (Fern Paquet, Jr.) at bay.   Defending Miracle Mile driving champion John MacDonald led all drivers with five wins on the night, victorious with Stirling Electra ($2.90, 1:55.1), Fox Valley Cadet ($12.40, 1:52.3), Damon Blue Chip ($8.10, 1:52), Little Man Cam ($28.340, 1:53), and Van Gundy Hanover ($10.20, 1:54.1).   The 50¢ Pick 5 was not hit, resulting in a $405.29 carryover to Friday's card. Post time on Friday (May 6) evening is slated for 6:45 p.m. EDT.   by James Witherite, Vernon Downs

A fast pace and a tracking trip both proved beneficial for the J P Stables' Lucid Thoughts ($20.40), as he had ample late trot to just nab defending Open winner Stirling Cadet in Friday (April 29) evening's $9,000 harness racing Open Handicap Trot at Vernon Downs.   Trainer-driver John MacDonald secured a close tracking trip with the 8-year-old Cash Hall gelding, yielding to Stirling Cadet (Jimmy Whittemore) and Lutetium (Truman Gale) through a sharp :26.3 initial quarter. Lucid Thoughts would end up locked in through intermediate sectionals of :56 and 1:24.1 by the first-over Pocket Trip (Fern Paquet, Jr.), but found room to shake free off the corner as the outer tier weakened. Lucid Thoughts vacated the pegs at head-stretch, working into second over the all-out Lutetium at the eighth pole and ultimately just collaring Stirling Cadet by half a length for a 1:52.4 triumph, the 28th of his career. Stirling Cadet was valiant in defeat, holding second by 3-1/2 lengths over Lutetium.   MacDonald's victory with Lucid Thoughts capped a driving hat trick, as he swept the early double with odds-on winners Elm Grove Inarush ($2.30, 1:52.3) and Have a Parodi ($2.90, 1:55.2).   In the evening's Catherine Burton late-closing series divisions, Janice Connor trainee Chukkar ($4.30) was the only repeat winner from last week. Chuck Connor, Jr. drove the 3-year-old Crazed colt to a hard-fought 1:57.4 win over Golden Son in the first division, while Walk the Floor ($3.10, Angus MacDonald, 1:57) and Thats a Bad Boy ($18.00, Tyler Freese, 1:57.2) captured the subsequent $4,000 splits.   Live racing returns to Vernon Downs with a 13-race card on Saturday (April 30) evening. First post is slated for 6:45 p.m. EDT.   by James Witherite

From a mile away, Allerage Farm’s magnificent harness racing barn can be seen amid rail fences, rolling pastures and red and white outbuildings on a hill rising some 1,500 feet from the Susquehanna River basin. Drawing near, the Bradford County, Pennsylvania postcard comes to life. Foals gambol near watchful mares. Staff, dressed smartly in black polo shirts, lead their equine charges to assigned stables and pastures. At the very top of the hill sits a gabled manor from which the farm’s owner — real estate and racetrack magnate Jeff Gural — can take it all in. Yet for all its beauty, Gural's horse-breeding farm holds a disturbing mystery health experts and the federal government are working hard to solve. For three years, the mares have been bearing foals with dysphagia — a rare, life-threatening condition preventing them from swallowing properly. Although researchers have yet to pinpoint a cause, a Cornell University veterinary team that saved 17 of Gural's standardbred foals has identified a primary suspect — a gas well drilled directly next to the farm by Chesapeake Appalachia LLC.  An investigation by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection confirmed the farm’s water was contaminated. However, it concluded Chesapeake operations was not the cause. Big money, land rights and health hazards have been salient story lines in Pennsylvania’s shale gas bonanza. The mystery on Gural’s farm, however, represents a new twist in the power play between landowners, regulators and the gas industry. For years, farmers have been dealing with water contamination and illnesses that common sense tells them is caused by nearby shale gas operations. But they generally face a burden of proof requiring legal and scientific resources beyond their means. Regulators, industry and health officials, meanwhile, often explain problems like polluted water wells as resulting from natural and pre-existing phenomenon. But Allerage is not your average farm, and the foals are not your typical animals. Colts playing at Allerage Farm in Sayre, Pa Thomas La Barbera / Correspondent Photo (Photo: THOMAS LABARBERA)   With some horses potentially worth six figures, Gural wants answers. His lawyers have filed an appeal with the Pennsylvania Environmental Hearing Board demanding state regulators conduct a more thorough investigation of his farm’s water. “We are protecting our interests,” Gural said. “If you don’t respond now, it’s hard to come back a year later and say there was a problem.” The farm, which opened in Pennsylvania in 2007, is more than an investment for Gural. It’s a passion. The name, Allerage, is a combination of the names of his three children: Aileen, Eric and Roger. Gural’s veterinary team at Cornell has been conducting its own study funded by a $240,000 grant from the National Institutes of Health, an arm of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the nation’s medical research agency. This study involves not only water chemistry, but a search for compounds in the soil, air and forage as well as in the blood and tissue of the horses themselves. Gural arguably could be one of the most influential part-time farmers in the Northeast. His breeding operations include more than 100 horses distributed between Sayre and a second farm in Dutchess County, N.Y. Jeff Grual questions why foals on his Bradford County, Pa. standardbred horse breeding farm are being born with a unique malady that requires immediate treatment at Cornell, (Photo: Jeff Platsky/Press & Sun-Bulletin)   Allerage Farm is a quick 6-mile drive south over the state border from his Tioga Downs Casino Racing & Entertainment complex in Nichols, N.Y. — a facility this year due to explode into a full-scale casino with table games. A big part of the current operation is the Tioga harness racetrack. In addition to real estate operations in New York and New Jersey, he also operates Meadowlands Racetrack in East Rutherford, New Jersey and Vernon Downs in Oneida County. At the heart of the mystery of the foal's illnesses at Allerage is the proximity of gas wells. The foals on the Dutchess County farm, where there is no drilling, all have been healthy. But 17 foals on the farm in Bradford County near the Chesapeake well have been stricken at birth over the past three years. Although all the sick foals have been cured with treatment at Cornell University’s College of Veterinary Medicine, the problem has posed a life-and-death struggle during the first weeks of their lives. The most recent victim was Flash, a bay beauty with an impressive pedigree. His father, Yankee Glide, was a dominant trotting champion winning more than $500,000 in purses in two years of racing. His mother won more than $150,000. Flash seemed perfectly healthy when he dropped into the world in late March. But, within hours, as he stood on his spindly legs and began nursing, his handlers recognized the telltale signs. Milky froth bubbled out his nostrils. Later, a rattling noise developed in his chest. The hungry foal was aspirating his mother’s milk. Without emergency care, he would die of pneumonia. When treatment is required, the foals, accompanied by their anxious mothers' handlers, are guided into a trailer for the 50-mile back-road trip to Cornell. There, clinicians usher the team into a medically-equipped stable, insert a catheter to administer sedatives and antibiotics and a tube down the foal’s trachea for nourishment. Each foal has been cured after treatment, with the regimen lasting from a week to a month and costing between $5,000 and $10,000. “We’re lucky to have the resources,” said Ashleigh Bennett, the farm manager. “If it wasn’t for Jeff, these foals would be euthanized.” Gas drilling supporter Five of 10 foals born on Gural’s Pennsylvania farm were afflicted with dysphagia in 2014 and 10 of 11 in 2015. Although mares are sometimes moved between the New York and Pennsylvania farms, mothers of the sick foals share one obvious connection — they drank water at the Pennsylvania farm during their pregnancy. Some mares have also had problems with their reproductive cycles, a major concern on a breeding farm. With the water a prime suspect, Gural added a $40,000 upgrade to the Pennsylvania farm’s water filtration system in October. Meanwhile, farm staff awaited the birth this spring of three foals whose mothers had been exposed to the water prior to the upgrade. The foals arrived in March. Two of them — Flash and Oscar  — developed the telltale rattle in their chest within a day of their deliveries.   Allerage Farm's water filtration system Tom LaBarbera / Correspondent Video The babies will be given race names when they grow into competitors. Their “barn names” typically reflect the circumstances of their birth. Flash was a quick delivery that came a week early. Oscar was born during the Academy Awards, and Ester, a biblical name, was born over Easter weekend. Like puppies or kittens, foals have distinct personalities and a universal cuteness. When Flash gets riled, he bucks and kicks in jerky sideways movements to show his machismo — a display comical in a foal but intimidating in a colt. It’s a drill the colts on the farm are always practicing against each other while loose in the corrals. Gural and his team are counting on the new water filter to put an end to the problem, but with the equine gestation period lasting 11 to 12 months the results won’t be known until later this year and early next. Though wary, Gural is not rushing to judgment about the nearby gas well. He is on record as a supporter of shale gas development — a position he emphasized in a recent interview at the farm. Allerage Farm in Sayre, Pa owned by Jeff Gural, and owner of Tioga Downs has had more than a dozen foals born on the farm have been sick, afflicted with dysphagia, a problem swallowing that prevents them from nursing. Researchers suspect the problem is related to a shale gas well on adjacent property. Thomas La Barbera / Correspondent Photo (Photo: THOMAS LA BARBERA)   “It created jobs in Pennsylvania, and look what it’s done for the price of gas,” said Gural, noting oil and gas prices have dropped to the lowest levels in recent memory. “It’s been a boom for the economy.” Roughnecks and roustabouts, pioneers in developing northern Pennsylvania gas fields, were frequent and welcome customers at Tioga Downs, less than an hour’s drive for many of them. So were landowners receiving royalty payments who might have spent some of it at Gural's casino complex. Gural said he would entertain the idea of putting a shale gas well on his Tioga Downs property if fracking were approved in New York. But he does not unconditionally hold the industry blameless, making it clear he doesn't approve of some of Chesapeake's business practices. Mostly though, his support for shale gas development is tempered by skepticism about regulation in Pennsylvania and a lack of oversight. “The way they do this in Pennsylvania is loosey-goosey,” he said. “I believe they would do a better job in New York.” Gural, candid and approachable, was dressed in jeans, work shirt and a cap bearing the name of a feed company. With casual exchanges with his barn staff, he conveyed an impression more of a farmer than a real estate/casino tycoon. He walked toward a stall where Flash, recently returned from Cornell, lay resting in the hay near his mother. Gural reported his wife, Paula, feels strongly the dysphagia was unrelated to shale gas development. The conversation turned to a federal exemption — commonly known as the “Haliburton loophole” — allowing the fracking industry to withhold specifics about chemicals injected into the ground to stimulate gas production. Chesapeake's Struble Well sits near the south border of the farm. Thomas La Barbera / Correspondent Photo (Photo: THOMAS LABARBERA)   “That they don’t have to tell you what chemicals they are using is ridiculous,” Gural said. “I haven’t met a politician yet who thinks that’s a good idea. Yet it shows you what kind of lobby they [the gas and oil industry] have.” The complaint over secrecy is at the center of his appeal to the Pennsylvania hearing board reviewing his case against the state environmental agency. Testing has shown Allerage Farm's well water is contaminated with levels of manganese, iron, aluminum and turbidity exceeding state standards. Before installing the new filter system in October, the farm used a sediment filter, which was effective until problems began cropping up with increasing frequency in 2014. The nearby gas well in question, Struble 5H, was drilled in March, 2011 about 300 feet from the farm's southern property line. Production began after it was fracked in 2012. The Pennsylvania DEP, taking into consideration samples prior to drilling, reported water quality on the farm “does not appear to have changed appreciably from before the commencement of oil and gas activities.” Gural’s lawyer, Martin Siegel, says the scope of the tests — covering only two dozen fundamental compounds — was too narrow. According to the appeal, the DEP failed to request or even consider information from Chesapeake regarding hundreds of substances used or possibly spilled at the well pad, let alone test for them. “Substances used by Chesapeake but not sampled for could be … the cause of the health problems suffered by the foals,” states the appeal, filed with the hearing board in February. In other words, the DEP results won't show an offending chemical if it was never part of the test. “You have to know what you are looking for to figure out what’s causing it,” Bennett said. “You have to find the needle in the haystack, if it’s even in the haystack.” Ashleigh Bennett, right, farm manager with the horses, leads Oscar as Amber Pruchnik, left, leads the mom to the stable at Allerage Farm in Sayre, Pa Thomas La Barbera / Correspondent Photo (Photo: THOMAS LABARBERA)   Suspicion about the water represents “the needle in the haystack” for which Gural and his breeders are looking. If the source of the mystery isn't the water, a solution can be far more complicated. “Water, we can fix,” Bennett said. “If it’s in the ground or in the air, that’s a different problem.” On the farm Drilling has been known to compound existing water problems. Gas wells also produce air emissions from methane and other constituents rising from a mile below the ground. These impurities are bled off at wellheads and compressor stations or escape through leaks in the system. In addition to the gas well adjacent to Gural’s farm property, 10 other sites operate within 5 miles of the farm. Their emissions are invisible but potent. While the exact recipes for millions of gallons of solutions and fluids injected into and produced from the sites are proprietary, studies put the number of chemical compounds at 632. Of these, 353 cause illnesses to people or animals exposed to enough of them. Reprinted with permission of the pressconnects.com site Writen by Tom Wilber, twilber@gannett.com | @wilberwrites

JK Panache ($9.60) took full advantage of a pocket trip on the far turn of Saturday (April 23) evening's $8,500 Open Handicap Pace at Vernon Downs, finding a seam up the pegs in the final eighth and kicking clear to a 1:50.4 victory in the night's harness racing featured race.   Chris Lems vaulted clear with the 7-year-old Art Major gelding at race's outset, setting demanding early splits of :26.2 and :54.2 before ceding command to 1-5 favorite Ashley's Husband (Fern Paquet, Jr.) on approach to the far turn. As Ashley's Husband worked to stave off pressure from an uncovered Titus Seelster (Jimmy Whittemore) off the far turn, JK Panache was able to draft along behind their :27 third-quarter duel before finding a seam up the inside in mid-stretch and bursting through. JK Panache ultimately put 3-1/2 lengths on his competition, earning his 37th career win and his fourth on the year. Ashley's Husband held second, while Titus Seelster barely saved third from a late-rallying Ilikethemtrashy.   Trainer Dave Dewhurst shares ownership of JK Panache with Philip Hale.   In the first round of the Anthony Farina late-closing series for pacers, JDs Brent N Sheree ($2.40, Truman Gale, 1:53.3) and Galows Nightmare ($7.60, Chris Lems, 1:53) proved dominant in their respective $4,000 first-round divisions.   Truman Gale and John MacDonald each drove three winners on the 13-race card. Of note, Gale also recorded a training hat trick and an owning double.   The evening's 50¢ Pick 5 paid $420.00, with mid-price winners All Stienam ($11.60) and I'm a Pop Star ($14.00) heading the sequence.   Live racing returns to Vernon Downs on Friday (April 29) evening, with post time slated for 6:45 p.m. Eastern time.   by James Witherite, Vernon Downs

VERNON, N.Y. -- After a quick pace did him in the week prior at Saratoga, Stirling Cadet ($4.90) found a change in venue and the cut back to a mile welcome, as he turned in a dominating 1:53.2 effort in Friday (April 22) evening's featured $9,000 Open Trot on Vernon Downs's inaugural program of 2016.   Jimmy Whittemore wasted no time with the 5-year-old Conway Hall gelding, seizing command from Pocket Trip (Fern Paquet, Jr.) through a :28.1 initial quarter. After a :56.3 middle half, Stirling Cadet edged clear of his five rivals while in hand, amassing 6-1/2 lengths of separation before he reached the winning post. Pocket Trip held sway for second, while A Penny Earned (Chris Lems) made a mild bid off the far turn to capture third.   Jackie Rousse trains 22-time winner Stirling Cadet for the Kellogg Racing Stables, LLC and Janie Martin.   The featured win capped a treble for Whittemore on the 12-race card. Chris Lems also recorded three driving wins on the evening. Angus MacDonald led all trainers with two wins.   Total betting turnover on the Opening Night card--both on-track and off-track--rose significantly compared to the first program of 2015. As no one had all five winners in the inaugural Pick 5, Saturday's Pick 5 (starting in race nine) will sport a $413 carryover.   Live racing returns to Vernon Downs on Saturday (April 23) evening, with the first of 13 races due off at 6:45 p.m. EDT.   by James Witherite, for Vernon Downs

VERNON, N.Y. -- The opening round of the Catherine Burton late-closing series share center stage with a $9000 Open Trot on opening night at Vernon Downs, and the Miracle Mile unveils its new 50¢ Pick 5 wager in the last five races of Friday (April 22) evening's program.   Twenty-two trotters contest a trio of Catherine Burton divisions on Friday night, each one for a $4,000 purse. Among the standouts are Pompano invader Ado Duharas (race 3, John Cummings, Jr.), who enters off back-to-back wins, stakes-placed Love Crazy Love (race 5, Gaetan Brunet), who took second in her New York Sire Stakes consolation as a 2-year-old, and Royal Right (race 11, Chris Lems), a stakes winner in Massachusetts during her freshman campaign.   The evening's top event is the $9000 Open Trot, carded as race 9 on the 12-race program. P L Houdini (post 3) has been installed the 2-1 morning line favorite after three wins in his last five races, including a 1:55.4 triumph in an upper-level event at Pocono on April 9. John Cummings, Jr. drives the 5-year-old Kadabra gelding for trainer Mike Sinclair. Among his six rivals are Pounce K (Billy Davis, Jr., post 6), who returns to Vernon for defending training champion Dave Dewhurst, and 26-time winner A Penny Earned (Lems, post 5), who proved a consistent contender in the local Open ranks throughout the past two seasons.   The 2016 season at Vernon Downs features a brand new wager to Central New York: the 50¢ Pick 5. The wager will take place on the last five races of each program, with a carryover provision should no bettor correctly select all five winners. Additionally, a mid-card double has been slated for races five and six on a nightly basis.   Post time for the first of 84 programs this season at Vernon Downs is 6:45 p.m. EDT.   by James Witherite,  for Vernon Downs

East Rutherford, NJ - Stakes and Early Closers at The Meadowlands that require an April 15 sustaining payment and information pertinent to that payment may be found on The Meadowlands website. Any question will be answered by the Racing Office at (201) 842-5130.   Please be reminded that April 15 sustaining payments are due for the Free For All Early Closing events at Tioga and Vernon Downs. The Tioga Downs Late Closers have been held open until April 15 as well. Details are available on the track website or by calling the Racing Office at (607) 699-7688.   Meadowlands, Tioga, Vernon Downs Media Departments    

Harness racing will soon return to Central New York's "Miracle Mile", as Vernon Downs readies for an 84-date season slated to begin on Friday, April 22, 2016. As in seasons past, top trotters from across North America will visit Vernon Downs through the summer of 2016, as the Zweig Memorial for 3-year-old trotters comes back in July. Likewise, the Crawford Farms and Muscle Hill trotting events for top older trotters are slated for August. In addition to the top-tier Grand Circuit stakes, New York-sired 2- and 3-year-olds will visit the Miracle Mile for a full slate of New York Sire Stakes events through the summer, including Empire Breeders Classic events for 3-year-old trotters. Locally-based young horses are availed a pair of late-closing events in the opening weeks of the season, as well. The 2016 meet will carry a standard post time of 6:45 p.m., and returns to a Thursday-through-Saturday schedule (along the lines of the 2014 meet) due to run through Saturday, November 5. As in seasons past, fans on-track will be greeted by a wide variety of promotions, including the always popular Change Your Luck drawings and Horseplay Car Giveaway. The Vernon Downs Simulcast Network has undergone a winter makeover, and will seek to prove more bettor-friendly for players on- and off-track alike. Horsemen are reminded that nomination blanks for the Catherine Burton and Anthony Farina late closing series are due Friday, April 1. Further information about the 2016 season at Vernon Downs is available at www.vernondowns.com. by James Witherite, Vernon Downs

The Morrisville Sale is pleased to announce their annual Yearling Sale will be held on Saturday, September 17, 2016 beginning at 12:00 noon. This will coincide with the NY Excelsior finals and the harness racing three-year-old New York Sire Stakes consolations to be held later that evening at Vernon Downs, located just 15 minutes from the Morrisville Sales facility.  As a convenience to the purchasers and consignors, a brunch will be served starting at 10:00 a.m. Anyone who purchases a yearling(s) will be allowed to leave their yearling(s) at the sale facility until Monday if needed. In the 2015 Morrisville Sale, a total of 62 yearlings comprised of 48 trotters and 14 pacers sold for an average price of $15,540. That represents the highest average of any sale in the state and was a 43% percent increase from the 2014 sale. The sale attendance was very impressive and all the seats were full until the last yearling went through the ring. This comes on the heels of several sales graduates racing at the highest level in the state in 2015 including leading two-year-olds DAYSON 2, 1:55.2-’15 ($182,612) and SMALLTOWNTHROWDOWN 2, 1:57-’15 ($121,965) as well as three-year-old performer’s ROYAL DECEPTOR 3,1:57.2h-‘15 ($207,965), SUMMER SCENT 3,1:59h-’15 ($123,434) and FROU FROU 3,1:56f-’15 ($115,133).  Other recent graduates include MARKET RALLY 3,1:54.4 ($704,445), BIG BOY DREAMS p,4,1:49.4f-’15 ($544,742), CASH ME OUT 4,1:53.3-’15 ($447,149), BARN BABE 3,1:54.2f ($350,463) and ROYAL SHYSTER 1:55 ($326,669). The Morrisville College students greatly appreciate hosting the sale and making industry contacts with the consignors. These industry connections often lead to internships and further employment for our students. See what some of our graduates have to say: "Before coming to MSC I had never heard of a Standardbred. Not only have I come to be a fan of the sport, I have fallen in love with the Standardbred horse. Morrisville's internship program has helped me land a career at New York's fastest growing breeding farm, Crawford Farms" - Bobbi Jean Carney '14 “While at Morrisville I learned how to properly care for stallions, mares, and foals.  My horse handling skills improved thanks to the yearling prep class I took. I gained experience learning to handle the workload and long hours that comes with working on a breeding farm. Through my experience while at Morrisville and my internship I was able to secure a position at a top Thoroughbred breeding farm in Kentucky.”- Alisha Hite ‘15 "This hands-on program taught me the fundamentals of breeding and has allowed me to enter the Standardbred breeding world with confidence. Morrisville not only taught me the textbook version of breeding, it allowed me to ask questions and broaden my knowledge. This program gave me the stepping stones and real world experiences I needed to be where I am today working at Allerage Farm.” Amber Pruchnik (current intern) ‘16 "To complete my degree I had to find a 15-week internship. My experiences at Morrisville allowed me to confidently take an internship at a Standardbred breeding farm located in Paris, Kentucky. Being in the equine program I was required to participate in the fall yearling sale. Over the four years I was able to work for different aspects in the sale and make connections in the industry. I worked as a groom for a consignor one year, Morrisville consignment for two years, and a first leader my senior year. After, working all four sales I was comfortable prepping and handling yearlings. Shortly before my 15 weeks were up I was offered a permanent job on the farm. I accepted. My first year on the farm I was a farm hand. I then became the assistant farm manager and by my fifth year I became the Kentucky farm manager. Morrisville gave me a solid foundation to start with. Without that foundation I may not have had the opportunity to be where I am today."  Gina Dailey ’10 - Diamond Creek Farm The New York breeding and racing program has been a strong economic supporter of the Morrisville Equine Program for many years. In addition to the annual Morrisville College consignment, this year’s sale will include support from Crawford Farm, Lakeview Equine, Allerage Farm, Brittany Farms, Preferred Equine Marketing, Brook Meadows Farm, Howard Stables, etc. Entries are now being accepting to the Sept. 17 Sale. Please visit http://morrisvillesale.com Jim Gillies

Nichols, N.Y. -- Tioga Downs has revamped its 2016 late-closing program to avail harness racing 3-year-olds opportunities to race in conjunction with the New York Sire Stakes schedule, with a quartet of estimated $25,000 finals scattered through May and June.   The Gail's Diner and Nichols True Value series, both for 3-year-old pacers which have not won two races or $25,000 at the close of nominations, will take place entirely in the month of May before the Sire Stakes season begins. The M&J Oil & Lube and Williams Auto series, both for trotters under the same conditions, are scheduled to take place in June while premier trotters compete in the Empire Breeders Classic at Vernon.   Each series will feature two preliminary legs worth $7500 apiece, with top earners reconvening for the final. Nominations close on March 15, 2016, with a fee of $300 per horse nominated due to the Tioga Downs Race Office along with the nomination blank available at http://tiogadowns.com/media/racing/lcad.pdf.   James Witherite

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

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

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

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

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

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

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