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Neither favorite prevailed in New York Sire Stakes action at Vernon Downs on Saturday (May 21) evening, with harness racing 3-year-old trotting colts Smalltownthrowdown ($8.70) and Sir Royson ($42.00) prevailing in their respective $61,300 events.   In the first division, carded as race six, Smalltownthrowdown yielded to even-money choice Allerage Echo (Jim Morrill, Jr.) upon reaching the backstretch, vacating the pegs and dueling to a 1-1/4 length victory after enjoying a clear tracking journey. Trainer Dan Daley drove the Cash Hall colt to a 1:56 score over sloppy going, defeating Allerage Echo by 1-1/4 lengths. Third-place finisher A Jersey Contract (Jeff Gregory) was 2-3/4 lengths farther back.   Ann-Mari Daley, James Crawford, IV, Donald renner, and Richard Lombardo own Smalltownthrowdown.   The compexion of the eighth-race second division changed entirely when 2-5 favorite Dayson (Morrill) broke stride at race's midpoint. Jim Marohn, Jr. worked Sir Royson out of traffic on the far turn, drawing off to a 3-1/4 length victory in 1:56 after reeling in pacesetter Sweet Royalty (Gregory) in upper stretch. The Crazed colt sprinted off through a :27.4 final quarter mile to defeat Dexter Cup winner Dante (Oskar Florhed) and Reve Royale (Chris Lems) for trainer Linda Toscano and owner R-and-I Farms, LLC.   Marohn led all drivers with three wins on the 12-race program, also teaming up with Southern Palms ($15.60, 1:57.2) and Uncle Mack ($21.40, 1:58.1) in $15,000 Excelsior A events.   Live racing returns to Vernon Downs on Friday (May 27) evening, with post time scheduled for 6:45 p.m. Eastern time.   by James Witherite, Vernon Downs

Regina Dewhurst's Pounce K ($16.60) made sustained progress from race's midpoint en route to a two-length harness racing victory in Friday (May 20) evening's featured $7,500 top-level Miracle Mile Trot at Vernon Downs.   Chris Lems was in no hurry with the 6-year-old Donato Hanover gelding, sitting last but one in the initial stages while Winding Hill (Jimmy Whittemore) engaged Ulster (Brian Russo) in a speed duel through fractions of :28 and :56.1. As the battle intensified on the backstretch, Pounce K began his extended uncovered bid, working into second on the far turn as Winding Hill claimed an outright lead. Pounce K ultimately reeled in Winding Hill at the eighth pole, stretching out his lead and holding two lengths clear of a resurgent Ulster for a 1:55 win. Walk the Floor (Angus MacDonald) rallied from last to take third.   Dave Dewhurst trains Pounce K, now a 20-time winner.   John MacDonald led all drivers with a treble on the 11-race card.   Live racing returns to Vernon Downs with a 12-race card on Saturday (May 21) evening, featuring a pair of New York Sire Stakes races for 3-year-old trotting colts and geldings. First post is slated for 6:45 p.m. EDT.   by James Witherite, Vernon Downs

The J P Stables' All Charged Up ($4.60) made all the pace en route to a 1:51.2 triumph in Thursday (May 19) evening's harness racing featured $8,500 Mares Open Pace at Vernon Downs, and the 50¢ Pick 5 yielded a dividend of $3,044.75, the highest to date for the new offering at the Miracle Mile.   Trainer-driver John MacDonald wasted no time with All Charged Up, sprinting clear from midfield to clear Keene Olivia (Chris Lems) through a :26.3 first quarter before easing the tempo down through middle splits of :56 and 1:23.2. At no point did the 5-year-old Ponder mare face any pressure, in fact edging away off the far turn to amass four length clearance on Keene Olivia. While Keene Olivia labored amid her chase, Love Live Laugh (Jimmy Whittemore) mounted a bid to take second in mid-stretch, checking in 2-3/4 lengths in arrears of All Charged Up in the end. Third-place finisher Keene Olivia and also-rans Kelli Rachelle, Shutthefrontdoor, and Little Santamonica were all covered by no more than a length.   For MacDonald, the win was one of two on the night. Chris Lems led all drivers with a hat trick on the 10-race card.   While favorites accounted for the last three winners in the night's 50¢ Pick 5 sequence, a 15-1 last-to-first upset by Tiger Boudoir (Truman Gale) in the first leg buoyed a $3,044.75 dividend. The Vernon Pick 5 is offered on the last five races of each card.   Trotting colts contest Sire Stakes Saturday   While an 11-race Friday (May 20) card is slated for a 6:45 p.m. post time, top New York-sired 3-year-old trotting colts and geldings will converge on the Miracle Mile on Saturday (May 21) evening in a pair of $61,300 New York Sire Stakes events. Allerage Echo (Jim Morrill, Jr.) and Smalltownthrowdown (Dan Daley), first and second in last year's $225,000 New York Sire Stakes final, renew their rivalry in the sixth-race first division, while eight-time winner Dayson (Morrill) and Dexter Cup winner Dante (Oskar Florhed) headline the eighth-race second division.   by James Witherite, Vernon Downs

After rising steadily through the harness racing  ranks amid three wins in as many starts, the J P Stables' Damon Blue Chip ($5.90) extended his streak to four in Saturday (May 14) night's $7,500 top-level pace at Vernon Downs.   Trainer-driver John MacDonald sent the 7-year-old Rocknroll Hanover gelding to the front, but had to work clear of Pantehon Hanover (Chris Lems) through a :26.4 first quarter. Once clear, Damon Blue Chip maintained a blistering pace over off going, reeling off middle fractions of :54.3 and 1:22.4 before gaining some separation in upper stretch. The now 31-time winner ultimately drew off from Pantheon Hanover by 2-1/4 lengths for a 1:52.1 score, while The Green Knight (Truman Gale) was a farther 10-1/4 lengths back in third after a mild rally out of last on the far turn.   Jimmy Whittemore led all drivers with three wins on the nine-race card, teaming up with Mower'sbigmike ($14.00, 1:56.1), Veal Marsala ($5.50, 1:55.1), and Western Toro ($9.70, 1:56.4).   The 50¢ Pick 5 once again evaded the Vernon punters, leading to a $1,626.50 carryover to Thursday (May 19) evening. A 10-race program is due to commence at 6:45 p.m. EDT.   by James Witherite, Vernon Downs

A Penny Earned ($3.00) lived up to odds-on billing in the harness racing featured trotting event Vernon Downs on Friday (May 13) night, posting a 1:54.2 mile to claim the winner's share of a $7,500 purse.   Chris Lems sent the 7-year-old Conway Hall gelding to the front from the outset, working clear of My Lucky Word (John MacDonald) through a :27.3 first quarter mile. After rating a :29.2 breather in the second quarter and dismissing of My Lucky Word, A Penny Earned was forced to accelerate by the first-over Winding Hill (Jimmy Whittemore), who pressed to within three-quarters of a length on approach to the far turn. A Penny Earned responded immediately to the challenge, ultimately edging clear to a two-length triumph, the 28th of his career. Winding Hill sustained his pursuit in second, while My Lucky Word was nine lengths detached in third.   Trainer George Ducharme co-owns A Penny Earned with Alfred Ross, Paul Fontaine, and Nicola Oliva.   John MacDonald led all drivers with three wins on the nine-race card, while Lems recorded a double.   The 50¢ Pick 5 once again went uncovered, resulting in a carryover of $1,101 to Saturday (May 14) evening's program. First post is slated for 6:45 p.m. EDT.   by James Witherite, Vernon Downs

While her previous Vernon Downs appearance saw her give futile chase to Shutthefrontdoor, harness racing owner-trainer Jordan Hope's Little Santamonica ($6.00) was the one who could not be caught in Thursday (May 12) evening's $8,500 Mares Open Pace at the Miracle Mile.   Frank Davis was patient early with the California-bred, rating off dueling leaders Wanna Rock N Roll (Jimmy Whittemore) and All Charged Up (John MacDonald) through a :26.3 first quarter before brushing clear on the backstretch. After intermediate splits of :55.1 and 1:24.2, the 8-year-old Little Steven mare edged clear of All Charged Up to a 2-1/2 length lead at the eighth pole. While odds-on favorite All Charged Up made up part of that margin in the stretch, Little Santamonica's :27.3 last quarter was enough to keep her a length in front for a 1:52 score, the 42nd of her career. All Charged Up was two lengths clear of Looney Dune (Fern Paquet, Jr.) for second.   Hope and Davis also teamed up in the opener with Regally Blonde ($10.40), a 1:54.3 winner from the pocket in a $3,500 distaff pace. Additionally, Jimmy Whittemore notched a driving double on the 9-race card.   The 50¢ Pick 5 was not hit, due in large part to a narrow 79-1 upset by Steuben Bentley (2:01.3, Claude Huckabone, III) in the evening's sixth race, a $3,000 maiden trot. Friday (May 13) evening's Pick 5--starting in the fifth race--will have a $712.43 carryover added to the pool.   Vernon Downs is full swing into a three-nights-weekly schedule, racing on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays with a 6:45 p.m. first post.   by James Witherite, Vernon Downs

After a couple slow nights, defending Vernon Downs driver champion John MacDonald righted the ship on Sunday (May 8) afternoon, teaming up with four winners on the 10-race harness racing program.   The centerpiece of MacDonald's grand slam was his featured win aboard Damon Blue Chip ($5.30), a 7-year-old Rocknroll Hanover gelding he trains for the J P Stables. Damon Blue Chip sustained a first-over bid through the far turn, passing Ilikethemtrashy (Truman Gale) in upper stretch and holding off a late charge from Nubble Light (Claude Huckabone, III) for a 1:54.1 score in the $7,500 top-level conditioned pace. Panpero Firpo (Chris Lems) stayed on for third from a pocket trip.   The native Canadian also posted driving wins with Fox Valley Cadet ($2.40, 1:55), Rugged Heart ($39.80, 2:01.3), and Screenplay ($15.00, 1:57).   Live racing returns to Vernon Downs on Thursday (May 12) with a nine-race program. Post time is 6:45 p.m. EDT.   by James Witherite, Vernon Downs

A pair of odds-on favorites proved victorious in the $12,100 Anthony Farina Pacing Series and the $12,900 Catherine Burton Trotting Series finals at Vernon Downs on Saturday (May 7) evening, both employing first-over tactics en route to the harness racing winner's enclosure.   In the Farina final, Galows Nightmare ($3.00, part of entry) began his first-over ascent with half a mile to go, sustaining pressure on early pacesetter No Shame Blue Chip (Brian Connor) through a three-quarters split of 1:22.2 after the latter vaulted clear to set strong early splits of :26.1 and :54.1. Galows Nightmare--a 4-year-old Sportswriter gelding--edged clear off the far turn, ultimately drawing off to a 2-1/2 length win in 1:51.2 under trainer-driver Chris Lems. No Shame Blue Chip held second by 5-3/4 lengths over An Officers Duty (John MacDonald), a distant third off his loose second-over trip.   The Burton final saw Walk the Floor ($3.80) apply heavy pressure to pacesetter Chukkar (Chuck Connor, Jr.) on the far turn, working clear in upper stretch before holding off pocket rival Thats a Bad Boy (Tyler Freese) for a 1:55.3 win. Trainer Angus MacDonald drove the 5-year-old Crazed gelding to a three-quarter length triumph.   Live racing returns to Vernon Downs on Sunday (May 8), with the 10-race Mother's Day card due to begin at 1:25 p.m. EDT.   by James Witherite, Vernon Downs

Perched perfectly from second-over on the far turn, Pocono harness racing invader Shutthefrontdoor ($4.70) vaulted clear in mid-stretch to take Friday (May 6) night's $8,000 Mares Open Pace at Vernon Downs.   The 5-year-old Well Said mare settled well off the pace from the outset, allowing Looney Dune (Billy Davis, Jr.) to establish solid early sectionals of :26.4 and :55.3 before working closer through the far turn. Shutthefrontdoor ended up second-over through a 1:24.2 three-quarters split when Little Santamonica (Frank Davis) vacated the pocket to head Looney Dune off the corner. Despite striking the front strongly at head-stretch, Little Santamonica ultimately gave way to Shutthefrontdoor, who drew off by 2-1/2 lengths in 1:51.3 over good going. Little Santamonica was a clear second, 2-1/2 lengths in advance of third-place finisher Keene Olivia (Chris Lems).   Trainer Mike Sinclair co-owns Shutthefrontdoor with Guy Beaulieu and Richard Villeneuve.   Chris Lems led all drivers with four wins on the night, teaming up with Grizzly Mama ($2.40, 1:57), Wings of Royalty ($3.70, 1:55), Hello I'm Johnny ($5.90, 1:58.2), and Gelato Man ($16.80, 1:57.2) Lems's 11 wins on the young season bring him to within one win of leading driver John MacDonald, who was blanked on the 10-race card.   Live racing returns with a nine-race program on Saturday (May 7). Kentucky Derby festivities abound at the Miracle Mile, including a hat contest, mint juleps, and a $1,000 Derby Dream Bet to one lucky fan. First post is scheduled for 5:10 p.m. EDT.   by James Witherite, Vernon Downs

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    

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