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Jeff Gural is perhaps the most criticized individual in harness racing. The head of the Meadowlands, Tioga and Vernon is equally deserving and undeserving of the public ire.  Most will agree that Gural swooped in at the eleventh hour and saved the Meadowlands from disaster, but those same people have grown tired of hearing about it over and over. They applauded him a few years back and have since washed their hands and want to move on. Is that fair to Gural considering his efforts? Therein lies one of the public disagreements between the industry and the often outspoken head honcho.  Having just completed another impromptu sit-down with Gural, I came away once again seeing that he is equal parts sugar and salt. Joining a crowded club, he is not a perfect man, but at least on the surface desires to see the sport prosper. By Derick Giwner for To view the rest of this story click here.

The Tioga Downs and Vernon Downs race offices remind harness racing horsemen that nominations for their spring and summer late-closing series close Wednesday, April 1. Nomination blanks and complete details for the pair of late-closing events at Vernon Downs--the Anthony Farina pacing series and Catherine Burton trotting series ($10,000 added final for both)--are available here: Nomination blanks and complete details for the quartet of Tioga late-closers--the Morrisville College Sale and Williams Auto Group trotting series along with the Nichols True Value and M&J Oil & Lube pacing series ($40,000 estimated finals for all)--are available here: Additionally, the 2015 Tioga Downs and Vernon Downs media guides are available on the tracks' respective websites. The links below lead to the media guides, which include racing and stakes schedules, stakes history, and statistics. Tioga media guide: Vernon media guide: The 2015 live racing season at Vernon Downs kicks off Friday, April 17, while Tioga raises the curtain on Saturday, May 2.   by James Witherite, Tioga/Vernon Downs Racing Media

When Brett Risi started tagging along with his dad and older brother to the horse races at Vernon Downs at age 12, he never thought it would lead to the opportunity of a lifetime. After winning a qualifying tournament at Vernon Downs last month, Risi, now 21, will compete against 100 of North America's best horseplayers for a $50,000 prize pool in the World Harness Handicapping Championship (WHHC) in April at Meadowlands Racing & Entertainment in East Rutherford, NJ. "I am honored to have a chance to play against the best handicappers in the country," said Risi, who will be the second youngest person ever to compete in the WHHC Final. "It makes me feel good about myself and I hope more kids my age will come to be as interested in the game as I am." Now in its tenth year, the WHHC is harness racing's premier handicapping tournament and allows players from across the U.S. and Canada the chance to qualify through both live and online events, in addition to buying a seat for $800. In the WHHC Final, each player begins with a $300 bankroll and contestants are required to wager at least $30 on ten designated contest races. The player who amasses the largest bankroll is declared the winner. Risi, a Herkimer, NY resident, is a college student and works part-time. He is a self-described regular at Vernon Downs and says he has won a few other smaller tournaments, but none that would provide a first-place prize of $20,000. "As I got older, I learned how to bet and really expanded my knowledge of strategic wagering," explained Risi. "By the time I was 19, I knew I had figured out just about everything I could on how to bet." Risi says he already spends a lot of time handicapping the races and will devote even more time to his craft if he wins next month. Three other horseplayers from Vernon Downs and Tioga Downs also won qualifying tournaments recently at the two Upstate New York racinos and will compete at the WHHC Final: Phil Melancon from Clay, NY; Mark "Duke" Smolinsky of Endicott, NY; and Kim Wahila of Vestal, NY. For more information on the World Harness Handicapping Championship, click here Justin Horowitz

Racing applications for the 2015 season are now available on the Vernon Downs website. The deadline for applications that wish to have stabling privileges is March 16. The entire barn area will open April 1. Harness Racing applications are required for anyone that intends to race at Vernon in 2015. Vernon Downs would like to remind all horsemen that nominations for both the Catherine Burton Trotting Series and the Anthony Farina Pacing Series are due April 1.  The Catherine Burton Trotting Series will conduct preliminary legs on Friday (April 24) and Friday (May 1). The Anthony Farina Pacing Series is slated for Saturday (April 25) and Saturday (May 2). The finals for each will be on Mother’s Day (May 10). Both legs of each series will go for $4,000 with $10,000 added to each final. The conditions for each series are non-winners 2(F&M 3) pari-mutuel races and/or $20,000 lifetime through and including March 31, 2015 (Winners over $50,000 lifetime not eligible). The nomination fee for each is $100 payable to Vernon Downs, Attention: Scott Warren, P.O. Box 860, Vernon, NY 13476. Nominations must be postmarked by April 1. Vernon Downs kicks off its 62nd year of racing on Friday (April 17) with a first race post of 6:45 p.m. The meet will consist of 90 days of racing, spanning from April 17 through November 21. For more information about racing visit  

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

Westfield, IN- The Harness Horse Youth Foundation has released its 2015 summer event schedule and once again Vernon Downs is on the itinerary. Vernon will host a five-day overnight horsemanship camp from July 14-18. Camp registration fee, which includes all materials, meals and lodging, is $150.   Complete 2015 schedule information, along with applications for the Vernon Downs camp, is available at For questions or more details, contact HHYF Executive Director Ellen Taylor at (317) 867-5877 or by e-mail, Application deadline is May 15. HHYF’s popular five-day overnight camps, for students 12-14, are intense, hands-on introduction to horsemanship. Participants learn to care for horses including grooming, proper equipment and safety techniques, and how to drive a horse, assisted by licensed trainers and drivers.  HHYF travels with its own stable of Trottingbreds, a slightly smaller breed of horse than the Standardbreds that normally race at the track. The Vernon camp culminates with a driving exhibition behind the starting gate in full racing colors, where one participant will be chosen to represent Vernon Downs on Hambletonian Day at The Meadowlands, Saturday, August 8, in a similar exhibition featuring representatives of other camps. “We are pleased to again be presenting our horsemanship camp this summer at Vernon Downs. We are very fortunate to have supportive sponsors and volunteers who recognize our mission’s importance. We look forward to sharing with even more people the enthusiasm of the participants as they discover the fun of driving and caring for a racehorse,” explained HHYF Executive Director Ellen Taylor. The Harness Horse Youth Foundation is a charitable 501(c)3 organization dedicated to providing young people and their families educational opportunities with  harness horses, in order to foster the next generation of participants and fans. The Foundation has been making a difference in young people’s lives since 1976, and its programs include interactive learning experiences with these versatile animals, scholarship programs, and creation and distribution of educational materials. For more information on opportunities through HHYF, or to support its mission, go to  

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ (February 17, 2015) - A trio of live money qualifying events that will offer a total of six seats to the $50,000 World Harness Handicapping Championship are scheduled for Saturday, February 21 at Meadowlands Racing & Entertainment, Tioga Downs and Vernon Downs. The Meadowlands tournament offers a total of four seats. It requires a $200 entry fee plus the purchase of a $200 betting card. The entire $200 entry fee goes into the prize pool and will be distributed amongst the top ten finishers. Contestants will bet a total of 10 races on the Meadowlands card. Players keep all pari-mutuel earnings and in addition to prize money, the top four finishers will receive a seat in the WHHC Final on April 25. For more information, visit Tioga Downs and Vernon Downs will also offer live money tournaments on Saturday. The contests each require a $40 entry fee that will be used for 10 separate $2 win/place wagers on the 10 designated contest races. The contests will use five races from the Meadowlands and five races from Yonkers. In addition to keeping all pari-mutuel earnings, the top finisher in each contest will receive a seat in the WHHC Final on April 25. For more information, visit or Rachel Ryan

Racing applications for the 2015 harness racing season are now available on the Vernon Downs website, at The deadline for applications is March 16. The entire barn area will open April 1 with the main track opening on March 16. Vernon Downs would like to remind all horsemen that nominations for both the Catherine Burton Trotting Series and the Anthony Farina Pacing Series are due April 1. The Catherine Burton Trotting Series will conduct preliminary legs on Friday, April 24 and Friday, May 1. The Anthony Farina Pacing Series is slated for Saturday, April 25 and Saturday, May 2. The finals for each will be on Mother's Day (May 10). The preliminary legs of each series will be contested for $4,000, with $10,000 added to each final. The conditions for each series are non-winners of 2 (fillies & mares 3) pari-mutuel races and/or $20,000 lifetime through and including March 31, 2015 (winners over $50,000 lifetime are not eligible). The nomination fee for each horse is $100, made payable to Vernon Downs. Mail entry blanks and nomination fees to Vernon Downs, Attention: Scott Warren, P.O. Box 860, Vernon, NY 13476. Nominations must be postmarked by April 1. Vernon Downs kicks off its 62nd year of racing on Friday (April 17) with a first race post of 6:45 p.m. The meet will consist of 90 days of racing, spanning from April 17 through November 21. For more information about racing, visit  

Yesterday’s announcement about the three winning bids for casino resorts in upper New York State has had positive and negative impacts on harness racing in the Empire State. The New York State Gaming Facility Location Board announced Wednesday the selection of the one winning bid for a casino in each of three defined regions of the State:  Catskills/Hudson Valley (Region One, Zone Two), Capital (Region Two, Zone Two) and Eastern Southern Tier/Finger Lakes (Region Five, Zone Two). In the Catskills/Hudson Valley Region, The Montreign Resort Casino in Thompson, N.Y. whose developer Empire Resorts operates through a subsidiary, the nearby Monticello Casino & Raceway, was selected over eight other applicants. What this means is that Monticello Raceway will hopefully be able to survive. The new resort will be built just a couple of miles away from the track and because the parent company is already running the racing, it should remain a viable attraction to compliment the resort. No word yet on whether the casino already at Monticello Raceway will remain open once the new resorts gets finished, which is now years away. In the Eastern Southern Tier/Finger Lakes Region, the Lago Resort & Casino in Tyre, N.Y. was selected over the other two applicants in the region, Tioga Downs Casino, Racing & Entertainment in Nichols, N.Y. and Traditions Resort & Casino in Union, N.Y. This move will have major devastating effects at Vernon Downs according to owner Jeff Gural, who stated after the meeting, "they probably put Vernon Down out of business." Gural's casino bid for Tioga Downs in the Eastern Southern Tier and Finger Lakes Region was not chosen and he suggested to the Capital New York that the future of Vernon Downs could be in trouble with a casino license being considered about 80 miles away at Lago Resort and Casino. “It will hurt me at Vernon. But, I don't give a sh*t about me, I’m wealthy,” Gural was quoted as saying in the Capital New York article. “But it certainly screwed the people who live in the Southern Tier. There are five casinos where Lago is and now there are no casinos in the Southern Tier. That's—that’s shocking! “I think the Southern Tier just got wiped out economically," he continued. "Poor people, they’re going to have no jobs. Take a ride around the Southern Tier and see what it looks like. It’s about as depressed an area as there is and when you had a chance to help these people, with the fracking and the casino, they give them a doubleheader. It’s just sickening. I feel bad for the people. Don’t worry about Jeff Gural, I’m fine.” To read Gural's comments in the Capital New York, click here. Along with The Montreign Resort Casino and Lago Resort & Casino, the Rivers Casino & Resort at Mohawk Harbor in Schenectady, NY from the Capital Region was the third entity that will be entitled to apply to the New York State Gaming Commission for a gaming facility license. To read the complete report, click here. By Steve Wolf, for

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

An enthusiastic group of the top breeders and horsemen from the Empire state assembled at the Vernon Downs Hotel and Casino on Sunday, October 26 for the USTA District 8 meeting and annual presentation of the New York Sire Stakes (NYSS) awards banquet. As the human and equine honors were distributed, anticipation grew for the horse of the year announcement for 2014. Gural Hanover (Crazed-Givemearing) was named the NYSS 3-year-old male trotter of the year, USTA District 8 3-year-old male trotter of the year and the overall District 8 horse of the year. Gural Hanover was bred by Hanover Shoe Farms and was a $17,000 yearling purchase at the 2012 Harrisburg sale. After having only one start as a 2-year-old, he kicked off his 3-year-old campaign with an overnight win and a third in a NYSS event at Tioga on May 23. It was then the horse caught the eye of trainer Ron Burke who put together a group of notable stables to purchase the horse. A week later the gelding was under the ownership of the Burke Racing Stable LLC, Weaver Bruscemi LLC, Little E LLC and The Panhellenic Stable Corporation and from there with the guidance of Burke's training, the horse simply took off. He finished the year undefeated for his new owners in NYSS action, winning the seven remaining events as well as the $225,000 final at Yonkers Raceway. With Jim Morrill Jr. aboard as his regular driver in the series, he set new track records at Buffalo Raceway (1:56.1) and Monticello Raceway (1:55.2) and took a lifetime mark of 1:53.3 at Vernon Downs. His gaudy NYSS earnings total of $378,788 boosted his lifetime assets to $423,763. Other divisional winners included last year's District 8 horse of the year that was named this year's 3-year-old filly trotter of the year. Market Rally (Cash Hall-Supreme Dish) who was bred by Winbak Farm, is another member of the Ron Burke stable. Originally a $7,500 yearling purchase, the filly was privately acquired by Burke Racing Stable LLC, Our Horse Sense Stable, Weaver Bruscemi LLC and The Panhellenic Stable Corporation after finishing third in the 2013 Breeders Crown last fall. This year with Jim Morrill Jr. up, she won six of the eight NYSS legs and the $225,000 final. Those victories accounted for $375,400 in earnings which in turn boosted her lifetime take to $663,445. She set a track record at Saratoga Raceway (1:55.4) and lowered her own personal best to 1:54.4 at Tioga Downs. The best of the freshman class was Mosquito Blue Chip who took 2-year-old filly pacer of the year honors. Bred by Blue Chip Bloodstock Inc. and AV and Son Bloodstock LLC, Mosquito Blue Chip (Bettor's Delight-Sandfly Hanover) is owned by Our Three Sons Stable LLC, Donato Falcicchio and Paul Jessop, who also trains her. Although racing well throughout the year, the filly didn't find the winners circle until August 14 at Yonkers. But she hit her stride when it mattered and strung together four consecutive wins to close out the year, culminating in a victory in the $225,000 NYSS final with John Campbell aboard. The highlight of her year was setting a new track record at Tioga Downs (1:52.1) on September 4, which was also a new lifetime mark. Her NYSS earnings of $240,551 accounted for her entire year's income. On the diagonal gait, Barn Doll was named 2-year-old filly trotter of the year. Bred by Little E LLC, Barn Doll (Conway Hall-Headintheclouds) is owned by Steve and Nancy Pratt and The Purple Haze Stable LLC. She posted seven wins in nine lifetime starts, with six of those wins coming in NYSS events. After winning six of her last seven starts of the year, Barn Doll was scratched sick in the last event at Monticello. But despite the 19 day layoff, the filly came back sharp to take the $225,000 NYSS final by five lengths. She took a lifetime mark of 1:58.4 at Yonkers Raceway and earned $205,688 for her efforts during the year. Barn Doll is trained by Steve Pratt and was driven to all her series victories by Jeff Gregory. Driver of the year honors went to Jim Morrill Jr. who dominated the NYSS circuit all season long. Morrill had 48 wins out of 154 starts giving him a NYSS UDR of .441. His $2 million in earnings more than doubled his nearest competitor. Morrill is currently the third leading driver in North America for UDR with a .402 and has banked $4.2 million in purses for the year. Trainer of the year accolades were presented to Ron Burke. Burke's pupils won 44 races from 126 starts giving him a NYSS UTR of .459. Their combined NYSS earnings of over $2 million almost quadrupled that of the next highest earner. Nationally, Burke is setting unbelievable records for the second consecutive year with 970 wins, $24.5 million in earnings and a UTR of .356. Hanover Shoe Farm was the breeder of the state's top money earners. They saw 17 of their production make 89 starts and win 24 of their NYSS events. The combined purse total of their efforts was just under $1.2 million. That is an average earnings of $13,483 per start. Here is a complete list of all the NYSS Champions for 2014: 2-YEAR-OLD FILLY TROT - Barn Doll Conway Hall - Headintheclouds Owners: Steve Pratt, Nancy Pratt & Purple Haze Stables LLC Breeder: Little E LLC Trainer: Steve Pratt Driver: Jeff Gregory NYSS Earnings: $205,688 2-YEAR-OLD FILLY PACE - Mosquito Blue Chip Bettor's Delight - Sandfly Hanover Owners: Our Three Sons Stable LLC, Donato Falcicchio & Paul Jessop Breeders: Blue Chip Bloodstock Inc & AV & Son Bloodstock LLC Trainer: Paul Jessop  Driver: John Campbell  NYSS Earnings: $240,553 3-YEAR-OLD FILLY TROT - Market Rally Cash Hall - Supreme Dish Owners: Burke Racing Stable LLC, Our Horse Cents Stables, Weaver Bruscemi LLC & The Panhellenic Stb Corp Breeder: Winbak Farm Trainer: Ron Burke Driver: Jim Morrill Jr  NYSS Earnings: $375,400 3-YEAR-OLD FILLY PACE - It Was Fascination American Ideal - On The Catwalk Owners: Riverview Racing LLC, Alagna Racing LLC & The Bay's Stable LLC Breeders: Riverview Farms, Steve Stewart & Michael Sofer Trainer: Tony Alagna Driver: Brett Miller  NYSS Earnings: $198,400 2-YEAR-OLD COLT TROT - Crazy Wow Crazed - No Pan No Gain Owner: Joseph Hess  Breeder: Peter Pan Stables Inc Trainer: Dan O'Mara  Driver: Dan Rawlings  NYSS Earnings: $170,170 2-YEAR-OLD COLT PACE - Cartoon Daddy Art Major - Ask Alice Owners: Burke Racing Stable LLC & Joseph DiScala Jr Breeder: Robert Newman Trainer: Ron Burke Driver: Matt Kakaley NYSS Earnings: $195,443 3-YEAR-OLD COLT TROT - Gural Hanover  Crazed - Givemearing Owners: Burke Racing Stb LLC, Weaver Bruscemi LLC, Little E LLC & The Panhellenic Stb Corp Breeder: Hanover Shoe Farms Inc Trainer: Ron Burke Driver: Jim Morrill Jr  NYSS Earnings: $378,788 3-YEAR-OLD COLT PACE  - All Bets Off Bettor's Delight - Armbro Penelope Owners: Burke Racing Stable LLC, Frank Baldachino, The Panhellenic Stb Corp & Rosemary Shelswell Breeders: Robrt Tucker & Greg Tucker Trainer: Ron Burke Driver: Matt Kakaley NYSS Earnings: $190,175 By Tim Bojarski, for the Harness Horse Breeders of NY

It's seemed lately that Yannick Gingras has had the Midas touch, racking up stakes wins with incredible ease. He continued in that fashion on Saturday (November 1) evening at Vernon Downs, taking home gold in three of the four stakes races on the 11-race closing night program.   His stakes hat trick began in the $178,000 Artiscape distaff pace, where he kept double millionaire Rocklamation ($7.30) off a strenuous early pace. Second-over on the far turn behind Shelliscape (John Campbell), Gingras moved the six-year-old Rocknroll Hanover mare three-wide at head-stretch, drawing clear of the pacesetting Somwherovrarainbow (David Miller) en route to a three-length 1:50.2 win. Triple millionaire Anndrovette (Tim Tetrick) faded to fourth after tracking from the pocket through the race's middle stages.   Ron Burke trains Rocklamation for the Our Horse Cents Stables, Stable 45, and the J & T Silva Stables.   Gingras came right back in the $240,500 Kindergarten Classic for two-year-old colts, holding sway wither French Laundry ($5.90) after a middle move to the fore. Clearing the front just past a :57.1 half mile, the son of Muscles Yankee and Creamy Mimi held off a first-over challenge from Airman Batten (Lewayne Miller), subsequently keeping pocket rival Boots N Chains (Corey Callahan) at bay for a 1-3/4 length triumph in 1:54.4.   Jimmy Takter trains French Laundry for the partnership of Takter, Fielding, Fielding, Katz, and Libfeld.   The $251,100 Kindergarten Classic for two-year-old fillies was next on the card, yielding a narrow miss for the Green Hornet--his only defeat for the evening. Lady Clarabella ($7.10), who scored a 1:54.2 track record performance at Vernon earlier in the season, tracked live cover from Allerage Star (Corey Callahan) through the far turn, left uncovered in the stretch. In the final yards, David Miller urged Lady Clarabella to the fore, having just enough to stave off the late charge of Sarcy (Gingras).   Randy Beeckman trains Lady Clarabella, a daughter of Lear Jetta and Jet By, for Paul Kinnear and Dreamland Farms.   Gingras rebounded amply in the $178,000 Muscle Hill distaff trot, retaining his usual drive aboard Maven ($5.10) in her pari-mutuel debut for trainer Ron Burke, and turning in a sensational track-record effort. The five-year-old Glidemaster mare took the lead from the sharply-clearing Bee a Magician (Brian Sears) after :26.3 initial quarter, controlling the terms through a :57.4 middle half while keeping the first-over Classic Martine (Tim Tetrick) at bay through the stretch. Maven would not be deined in the extended battle, defeating Classic Martine by a half length in 1:52, a track record for older trotting mares.   William Donovan owns the internationally-acclaimed Maven.   Earlier in the card, driving champion Chris Lems and training champion David Dewhurst were honored in the winner's enclosure, along with 2014 Vernon Downs Horse of the Year A Penny Earned.   by James Witherite, for Vernon Downs

For the second straight week I lost money (-$4.10) on win bets but with the cold exactas and trifectas in the Messenger Stakes and Valley Victory, we made decent money for the weekend. This weekend we have super cards Friday at Hoosier Park and Saturday at Vernon Downs plus we travel north of the boarder to Woodbine Racetrack for their good Preferred Trot. Good Luck! $50,000 Pace Monument Circle consolation 3yo colts Hoosier 6th race FRIDAY - May only be the consolation race but still a very good match-up. I am going with Capital Account. Early season sensation has been putting in decent efforts except for his last outing against tougher. Draws well, rested and should be able to regain winning form against this field. Use Somestarsomewhere and Somesizesomestyle in exotic plays. $193,000 Trot Moni Maker 3yo fillies Hoosier Park 8th race FRIDAY - Best fillies in the nation will go out at it in here but the smart money has to go with Shake It Cerry. Won't be a walk in the park as she faces four other return winners in the field but she has beaten most of them throughout the season and can do it again. Use Lifetime Pursuit and Riveting Rosie in exotic plays. $176,500 Pace Nadia Lobell 3yo fillies Hoosier Park 9th race FRIDAY - Since winning the Jugette and rolling through five straight wins, Color's A Virgin has been sensational in Indiana for two years. She really gets tested once against facing the best in the nation. But even from post eight she is rightly the morning line favorite to win it all. Use Precocious Beauty and Katie Said in exotic plays. $230,000 Trot Carl Erskine 3yo colts Hoosier Park 10th race FRIDAY - Will be really interesting to see how Indiana's top colt, Rose Run Parker, who is going for his eighth straight win, will fare against the number one rated colt in the nation, Father Patrick. I am going to have to stick with Father Patrick as has beaten the best all season long. Use Rose Run Parker and Il Sogno Dream in exotic plays. $211,500 Pace Hoosier Park Pacing Derby FFA Hoosier Park 11th race FRIDAY - Half of the field are return winners but I am going with the horse who has lost his last three starts, only by a nose and a head. That's Foiled Again. Game class master can still show his heels to younger rivals and from outside post he might even be able to work out a trip to take this field. Use Sweet Lou and Clear Vision in exotic plays. $275,000 Pace The Monument Circle Final 3yo colts Hoosier 12th race FRIDAY - Wow...Limelight Beach, JK Endofanera, Always B Miki, Let's Drink On It, nearly all the best colts in the country going head and head for big money. I am taking a shot that Always B Miki got a week's rest after his big win at Hoosier where he romped by 8 ½ lengths and can do it again. Use JK Endofaneara and Limelight Beach in exotic plays. $34,000 Trot Preferred Woodbine Racetrack 5th race SATURDAY - Great matchup here between the return of Intimidate against Daylon Magician. When he is right he can beat any trotter there is and I think that Intimidate is ready to fire it up after good rest and very sharp qualifying win last week. Outside post is only hindrance. Use Daylon Magician and Slip Into Glide in exotic plays. $178,000 Pace Artiscape older mares Vernon Downs 6th race SATURDAY - Trainers PJ Fraley and Ron Burke seem to have the deck stacked, each with a three-horse entry. Doesn't matter because I am going with Joe Holloway's Somwherovrarainbow. She showed her former self last week with impressive win at Harrah's. All she needs is come live cover and she can score again. Use Fraley entry of Krispy Apple, Shelliscape, Anndrovette with Burke entry of Rocklamation, Summertime Lea and Camille in exotic plays. $240,500 Trot Kindergarten Final 2yo colts Vernon Downs 7th race SATURDAY - While the Erv Miller entry of Airman Batten and SS Poseidon are the race favorite, I am going with French Laundry. He has the gate speed to get good position and has shown great closing speed, :27.3 in his last start. Yannick will work his magic to get this one home. Use Airman Batten/SS Poseidon entry and Boots N Chairns/Suit And Tie entry in exotic plays. $251,100 Trot Kindergarten Final 2yo fillies Vernon Downs 8th race SATURDAY - Jimmy Takter's entry of Sarcy and Lil U Hanover have not been world beaters this season but have drawn well and have both shown good trot in recent action and gets a slim call in here over Allerage Star. Use Allerage Star and Queen The Bea in exotic plays. $178,000 Trot Muscle Hill older mares Vernon Downs 9th race SATURDAY - Great field of trotting mares featuring numerous world champions and a Horse of the Year! Who to pick? The class of the field is Bee A Magician, who last week was a game third in the International Trot against the world's best. Despite drawing outside post nine I think she is in a perfect spot for Brian Sears to work out a great trip to score from. Use Classic Martine and Perfect Alliance in exotic plays.

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

Coming off a race described by trainer Dave Menary as "vicious," Charmed Life might finally be sitting pretty as she gets ready for Saturday's $178,000 Muscle Hill Stakes for older female trotters at Vernon Downs. Charmed Life drew outside starting spots in four of her previous five races, but will begin the Muscle Hill from post four with driver Jody Jamieson, who on Thursday night got career win No. 7,000. The 10-horse field features the four richest trotting mares this season: Classic Martine, Bee A Magician, Charmed Life, and Perfect Alliance. The Ron Burke-trained entry of Maven and Handover Belle was installed as the 2-1 morning line favorite, followed by Bee A Magician at 3-1 and the three-part Jonas Czernyson entry of Ma Chere Hall, Mistery Woman, and D'Orsay at 9-2. Charmed Life is 8-1. "I think any race (worth) over $100,000, I haven't drawn very well with anyone this year," Menary said. "You need a little bit of luck. This worked out good for her; the four hole should be a good spot. They're all tough, but a lot of the better mares are on the outside." Charmed Life, a 4-year-old daughter of Majestic Son-Christina M, has won six of 19 races this season and $186,953. She is owned by Menary Racing, Brad Gray and Michael Guerriero. The group purchased the mare in March, prior to the start of this year's campaign. "She could have had a better year with a little bit of luck, but she's a model of consistency," Menary said. "We've had a lot of fun with her and hopefully it's not over yet." Among Charmed Life's wins was a 1:52.2 victory in a preliminary round of the Miss Versatility Series at Tioga Downs. The time was the fastest trotting mile in track history. She started the $121,500 Miss Versatility Series final from post seven at the Delaware County Fair in Ohio and finished second by a neck to Classic Martine. Earlier in the season, she drew post eight for the $244,720 Armbro Flight Stakes and finished fourth. Charmed Life has hit the board in 13 of her 19 starts, and 10 of 12 since adding Lasix in July. "She's been good her whole life, and as long as we've had her, but since I put her on Lasix she's had a little bit extra kick coming home," Menary said about Charmed Life, who has won 13 of 53 career races and $629,613. "If she's in the right spot, like at Tioga, she can go with these mares." Last week, Charmed Life started from post seven in the preferred at Woodbine and rallied from ninth place at the half - a dozen lengths behind the leader - to win by two in 1:54. She trotted the second half of the race in :55. "She was vicious," Menary said. "She came from an impossible spot. She looked like she was probably a little too far back; not a lot of horses could have gotten up from there. But she really exploded. It was a good last quarter, but she really came a wicked last eighth. "I've been experimenting with her bridle the last couple starts. The week before she was kind of caught in, but still closed up good (to finish third by a nose in the preferred). It was maybe a little bit disappointing two weeks ago, but I changed her bridle again and she was vicious last week." Following the Muscle Hill, Charmed Life will be pointed toward the Breeders Crown at the Meadowlands. She will continue racing in 2015. "One hundred percent," Menary said. "I've contemplated racing her at home a little bit this winter. We'll just take things weeks by week." Saturday's card at Vernon Downs also includes the $178,000 Artiscape for older female pacers and Kindergarten Classic finals for 2-year-old male and female trotters. by Ken Weingartner, for Harness Racing Communications  

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

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