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Fresh off a win over upper-level conditioned company, Robert Orr's Barbarian ($4.30) accelerated off the far turn en route to a 1:52 victory in Saturday (October 10) evening's $7,000 harness racing pacing feature at Vernon Downs.   The 4-year-old Somebeachsomewhere gelding took no involvement in the early pace, last of the sextet through a :56.1 half mile as 1.6-1 second choice Sassy Hanover (John MacDonald) controlled the early terms. On approach to the far turn, Greg Merton angled Barbarian first-over, and the pair steadily advanced through the entire turn. After reaching the three-quarter point in 1:25, Sassy Hanover failed to repel the challenge of Barbarian, who struck the front in the final eighth and subsequently held clear of a late bid from Shock N Rock (Justin Huckabone) by 1-1/4 lengths. Sassy Hanover faded to third after giving way.   Barbarian, trained by Edgar "Sparky" Clarke, posted a :26.2 final quarter over fast going to cap his successful first-over bid.   Live racing returns to Vernon Downs on Wednesday (October 14) evening, with the first of nine races due off at 6:45 p.m. Eastern time.   by James Witherite, Vernon Downs

Vernon, N.Y. -- On a Friday (October 9) evening where steady rain and a stiff headwind in the home straight severely affected the closing ability of many, only one horse of the 78 which raced at Vernon Downs on the 10-race program could muster a final quarter mile faster than 29 seconds.   That horse was 3-year-old trotting colt J A T O ($3.00), and his :28.2 closing sectional propelled him to his fourth win in as many local starts after he enjoyed dominance on the New York State fair circuit.   Fern Paquet, Jr. settled the son of Big Apple Deli well off a soft early pace in the $5,500 sub-featured event, rated well off a 1:00.3 initial half mile from Charming Dream (Claude Huckabone, III) before angling second-over to track Jersey Boy (Josh Kinney) on approach to the far turn. While Jersey Boy forced a quickening :29.2 third quarter from Charming Dream by stepping up the pressure through the turn, J A T O fanned three-wide off the corner, vaulting clear in the final furlong. The William Okusko trainee drew off by 4-1/4 lengths for a 1:59 triumph over sloppy going, earning his 23rd career win in 25 races for Margaret and Amy Butler.   In the evening's featured $8,000 Open II Trot, War Hero ($3.80) brushed to the lead at race's midpoint, drawing clear at will for a 7-1/4 length win over Big Chocolate (Jimmy Whittemore) and the mildly gaining Oh No Three O (Jeffrey Long), stopping the timer in 1:58.4 after posting a monstrous :27.4 third quarter. Ben McNeil drove the homebred 7-year-old Ken Warkentin gelding for owner Howard Gill and trainer Jessica Okusko.   Live racing returns to Vernon Downs on Saturday (October 10) evening, with the first of nine races due off at 6:45 p.m. Eastern time.   by James Witherite, Vernon Downs

Vernon, N.Y. -- Ellen McNeil's Looney Dune ($3.80) made all the pace in Wednesday (October 7) evening's featured $7,000 top-level conditioned pace for harness racing mares at Vernon Downs, turning aside a mid-race challenge from Table Games before holding off the late-charging Asset Management.   Ben McNeil used his inside post to protect the early lead with the 7-year-old Bettor's Delight mare, pocketing Express Jet (John MacDonald) through a :26.3 initial quarter mile before responding to a stout first-over challenge from Table Games (Frank Davis) through the middle half. As Looney Dune dug in through a :27.4 third quarter, the third-over Asset Management (Fern Paquet, Jr.) launched her bid from off cover, charging stoutly through the stretch. Despite 18-1 shot Asset Management's rally, Looney Dune had plenty left to hold by half a length, prevailing in 1:52.1. Kardashian (Truman Gale) emerged from traffic to just take third, while 9-5 second choice Pancakes (Chris Lems) only managed a fourth-place effort from her second-over trip after she was caught in a blind switch a quarter mile from home.   John McNeil, III trains Looney Dune.   Claude Huckabone, III led all drivers on the card with three wins, teaming up with Turn Em On ($21.00, 1:55.3), Act of Valor ($6.80, 1:58.2), and Day to Ponder ($15.80, 1:53.4).   Live racing returns to Vernon Downs on Friday (October 9) evening, with the first of 10 races due off at 6:45 p.m. Eastern time.   by James Witherite, Vernon Downs

Donn Lewandrowski and Gail Farrell's Card Knock Life ($42.60) cleared his five rivals and never looked back in Saturday (October 3) evening's $8,000 Open II Pace at the harness racing meeting at Vernon Downs, sprinting off late for a 20-1 upset in the featured event.   Trainer-driver Truman Gale left aggressively with the 5-year-old Western Ideal gelding, clearing Sassy Hanover (Claude Huckabone, III) and Golden Gun (Tyler Freese) in the opening furlong.   Card Knock Life managed to rate a :56 first half mile before accelerating through the far turn, posting a :27.3 third sectional while edging clear of Sassy Hanover.   Meanwhile, Greg Merton commenced a first-over rally with odds-on favourite No Monkeys Allowed, slow to gain through the far turn but improving drastically upon turning for home.   Despite No Monkeys Allowed's late rally, Card Knock Life held clear by 1-3/4 lengths, driven to prevail in 1:51.1.   Fresh off his 3,000th career driving win, John MacDonald registered a grand slam on the evening's 11-race program. The Prince Edward Island native teamed up with Fox Valley Cadet ($4.10, 1:58.2), Shock N Rock ($2.60, 1:53.3), Tarport Andy ($5.30, 1:55), and HMS Firecracker ($14.00, 1:57.3).   Live racing returns to Vernon Downs with an eight-race program on Wednesday (October 7) evening. Post time is 6:45 p.m. Eastern.   James Witherite

Vernon, N.Y. -- While Richard Keys's Big Chocolate overcame a loss of cover on the far turn to take Friday (October 2) evening's $7,000 top-level conditioned trot at Vernon Downs, a pair of harness racing war horses now with 117 wins and over $1.2 million in career earnings between them stole the show in a $4,000 claiming event.   The evening's ninth race featured a septet of claiming pacers, with I Scoot For Cash (Ben McNeil) wasting no time securing the pacesetting role in the initial stages. After sprinting clear of Team Edward (Truman Gale) and Majo Just Do It (Claude Huckabone, III), I Scoot For Cash backed down the tempo through a reasonable :56.4 first half mile while proven veterans Veal Marsala and My Fella kicked into gear from the back of the pack. Jimmy Whittemore angled Veal Marsala off the pegs on the backstretch to flush the cover of King of Kings (Frank Davis), while Fern Paquet, Jr. tipped My Fella third-over on approach to the far turn. As King of Kings worked to the lead a :29 third quarter, Veal Marsala kicked cover, striking the front in mid-stretch--but he wasn't home free. The 11-year-old Real Artist gelding subsequently staved off the late charge of 14-year-old My Fella, holding sway by a neck in 1:54.4 over fast going.   Dennis Whittemore owns and trains Veal Marsala, whose fourth consecutive victory brought him to 54 career wins and over $570,000 in career earnings. Runner-up My Fella remains a 63-time winner, having earned in excess of $660,000. Veal Marsala returned his backers $4.30 to win.   The younger Whittemore also prevailed in the evening's featured trot, establishing a second-over trip with Big Chocolate on the backstretch, tracking the cover of Yankee Manny (Chris Lems) in pursuit of Grey Ice (Dan Daley) through the far turn. Despite a loss of cover when Yankee Manny broke stride, Big Chocolate continued to make inroads, taking over from a beleaguered Grey Ice in upper stretch. Much like Veal Marsala would do just twenty minutes later, Big Chocolate dug in to stave off the beneficiary of his cover, Drinksforthehouse (Truman Gale), by three-quarters of a length, prevailing in 1:55.1.   Homer Hochstetler trains the 6-year-old Chocolatier entire who returned his backers $5.60 to win.   J A T O dominates again   Earlier in the evening's 10-race program, Margaret and Amy Butler's J A T O scored his third open-length win in as many starts, capturing a $5,600 conditioned trot in 1:54.4 by 9-1/2 lengths over Proud Flag and Lucky Ten K. Fern Paquet, Jr. drove the 3-year-old Big Apple Deli colt, who tallied 19 wins on the New York fair circuit before making a remarkable transition to pari-mutuel racing. William Okusko handles the training duties of the 22-time winner.   Live racing returns to Vernon Downs on Saturday (October 3) evening, with the first of 11 races due off at 6:45 p.m. Eastern time.   by James Witherite, Vernon Downs

Vernon, N.Y. -- Having won earlier on the harness racing card with Make It Kate ($14.00) and HMS Firecracker ($4.70), driver John MacDonald tallied his 3,000th career win in Wednesday (September 30) evening's sixth race at Vernon Downs, capturing the second-level conditioned pace for mares with the pacesetting I Saw Red ($5.80).   Beginning from the extreme inside in the field of nine, MacDonald sent the 4-year-old If I Can Dream mare up the pegs to secure the lead, forcing Shelby Lu (Dan Daley) in the pocket and setting sectionals of :28.2, :57.2, and 1:25.4 while uncontested. At the top of the stretch, Shelby Lu vacated the pocket to give chase, but I Saw Red responded, just holding sway by a neck in 1:55.3.   MacDonald, a 33-year-old native of Charlottetown, PEI, has amassed 123 driving wins so far this year en route to the the 3,000-win plateau. His career single-season mark came in 2009, where he won 411 of 1706 races in Ontario and the Maritime provinces. He currently ranks second in the Vernon Downs standings, trailing just Chris Lems with two months remaining in the 2015 meet.   Looney Dune dominates in featured distaff   The evening's featured $7,000 top-level distaff pace saw Looney Dune ($4.10) repel a challenge from the first-over Summer Snow (Lems) on the far turn and subsequently draw clear of pocket rival Express Jet (MacDonald) by 4-1/2 lengths for a 1:52.1 victory. Ben McNeil drove the 7-year-old Bettor's Delight mare for owner Ellen McNeil and trainer John McNeil, III.   Live racing returns to the Miracle Mile on Friday (October 2) evening, with the first of 10 races due off at 6:45 p.m.   by James Witherite, Vernon Downs

Harness racing has always been an integral part of David "Proud Poppa" Glasser's life since his folks, Arthur and Evelyn were prominent horse owners during his youth and his love for the sport never diminished over the years. True, he got a college education but he always dabbled in and loved any opportunity that afforded him a chance to sit behind a spirited steed. And on Saturday evening (Sept. 26) at Vernon Downs the president of a litigation support company scored his first seasonal driving victory when he copped a Billings trot in a time of 1:57.2 with Celebrity Stimulus, a 5-year-old altered son of Cantab Hall which he co-owns with Joel Golub. After starting from the two-hole Glasser was content to allow "Howie the Horse" Gelfand to take command with De Nada at the first stanza as the timer flashed :27.2. From there Glasser sat chilly and followed the cover afforded by Gelfand's charge even when trailing horses made moves up the backside to challenge the leader. But on the final turn Glasser saw daylight and moved his trotter alongside Da Nada and then charged to the lead as Bob "the Headhunter" Hechkoff rallied with favored Berkshire. Both trotters raced side-by-side down the lane but after their covered trip Celebrity Stimulus was the strong horse and spurted off to a 1-1/2 length triumph. Although Berkshire faded in the deep stretch he held on for second place a length ahead of Pixel Queen who was in rein to Scott "the Driving Doctor" Woogen. Celebrity Stimulus, trained by Homer Hochstetler, was sent off as second choice in the race and paid $5.50 for win. The Billings Series moves on with races slated at both Yonkers Raceway and the Red Mile on Thursday, Oct.1st. by John Manzi for the Billings Series  

No Monkeys Allowed used a 3 wide move and a deep stretch burst to take victory at the harness racing meeting at  Vernon Downs on Saturday night . Big Jer with pilot Mike Merton pressed for the lead early thru a 25.4 opening quarter. Before the half was complete, Fern Paquet, Jr. and Golden Receiver rallied alongside to challenge for the top spot in 55. Big Jer was able to fight off a tiring Golden Receiver to the 3 quarters in 1:22.3, but that's when driver Greg Merton and the Sparky Clarke trained No Monkeys Allowed used his 3 wide move off a 3rd over trip to chase down and wrangle Big Jer in 1:50.4. The win was No Monkeys Allowed 2nd in a row at Vernon and his 4th win in his last 6 starts. It was also the 2nd of the night for trainer Edgar "Sparky" Clarke as his other trainee Gold Star Spike scored an earlier victory which was likewise piloted by Greg Merton. The win was Greg Merton's 4th of the night. Driver John MacDonald picked up 2 victories (Shock N Rock, Damon Blue Chip) on tonight's card leaving him just 3 triumphs shy of 3,000 career wins His next chance to join the 3,000 club will come when Live racing returns to Vernon Downs on Wednesday (September 30) evening, with the first of 10 races due off at 6:45 p.m. Eastern time. Jason Bluhm          

Vernon, N.Y. -- Taking advantage of a pocket trip off a pressured third quarter, Hold On Tightly ($12.60) slid through an opening at the pegs to just take Friday (September 25) evening's harness racing featured $7,000 upper-level conditioned trot at Vernon Downs.   Greg Merton left with the 6-year-old Cash Hall gelding and was able to duck into the pocket to track pacesetter Keystone Thomas (Fern Paquet, Jr.) through a :28.1 initial quarter. On the backstretch, Keystone Thomas faced pressure from the first-over Yankee Manny (Chris Lems), and the latter would go on to force a :28.3 third quarter while gaining to within half a length.   As the pace picked up, Hold On Tightly found himself boxed by A Lister (John MacDonald) on approach to the top of the stretch, and Fleetwood Hall (Roman Lopez) was gearing up for a four-wide stretch bid. Keystone Thomas eventually dismissed Yankee Manny in upper stretch, but was engulfed in the final yards not only by Fleetwood Hall, but also by Hold On Tightly, who found a seam up the inside to just prevail in 1:55.4. Runner-up Fleetwood Hall just missed by a nose, while Keystone Thomas checked in a gamely beaten third.   Edgar "Sparky" Clarke trains Hold On Tightly for Timothy Lopez.   Chris Lems led all drivers with three wins on the 11-race program.   Live racing returns to Vernon Downs on Saturday (September 26) evening, with the first of 11 races due off at 6:45 p.m. Eastern time.   by James Witherite, Vernon Downs  

Vernon, N.Y. -- Employing a first-over bid through the far turn, Barn Girl ($2.20) delivered as the prohibitive harness racing favourite in her $45,000 New York Excelsior Series final, one of four to headline Saturday (September 19) evening's program at Vernon Downs.   The 3-year-old trotting daughter of Cash Hall and Turquoise Sweetie earned her 14th career win in the first Excelsior event of the evening, angling first-over just as Miss B'ville J (Jim Morrill, Jr.) took the lead through a :57.3 half. Barn Girl progressed steadily through the far turn, making ground in the second flight through a :28.2 third quarter before collaring Miss B'ville J in deep stretch for a 1:54.2 triumph. Jeff Gregory drove Barn Girl for trainer Howard Okusko, Sr. and owners Steven Pratt, Nancy Pratt, and the Out in the Country Stable.   Andy Ray ($9.10) took top honours among 3-year-old trotting colts and geldings in their Excelsior final, placed second-over by Andy Miller behind the live cover of 4-5 faavourite Crazshana (Trond Smedshammer) before kicking cover to narrowly prevail in 1:54.1. Erv Miller trains the gelded son of Crazed and Crown N Lindy for Paymaq Racing, Ronald Michelon, and Harvey Eisman.   The 3-year-old filly pace saw Matt Kakaley slid second-over with Hey Kobe ($5.40) to track a live B Stern through a :55.2 half, only to be left uncovered on the far turn and sustain a bid to a deep-stretch lead. The daughter of Bettor's Delight and American West was able to wear down B Stern through a :27 final quarter for a 1:51.2 triumph. Jean Drolet trains Hey Kobe for Stephen Schneider and William Siegel.   In the 3-year-old pace for colts and geldings, Masterson ($3.50, part of entry) emerged late from a tracking trip, drawing clear for a 1:50 win to extend his win streak to five. Tracy Brainard trains the gelded son of Bettor's Delight and Tug River Princess for Blue Chip Bloodstock, and Jim Morrill, Jr. was aboard for the winning drive.   Morrill also captured two of the evening's four $50,000 New York Sire Stakes consolations, teaming up with Fashion Creditor (3-year-old colt trot, 1:53.2) and Penji Hanover (3-year-old colt pace, 1:49.4). Also victorious were My Lucky Word (3-year-old filly trot, 1:56.2, Corey Callahan) and Luck Be a Lindy (3-year-old filly pace, 1:51, Gregory).   Live racing returns to Vernon Downs on Wednesday (September 23) evening, with post time at 6:45 p.m. Eastern.   by James Witherite, Vernon Downs

Vernon, N.Y. -- After rating a soft 1:00 middle half, Dayson ($3.10) kicked clear at will in upper stretch, keeping a career-long winning harness racing streak alive in Friday (September 18) evening's New York Sire Stakes races at Vernon Downs.   Twelve 2-year-old trotters, split into two equal divisions of six, vied for $107,000 in combined purses in the evening's co-featured events. Dayson, sent off the odds-on favourite in the second division (race 6), allowed Crown Point (Dan Daley) to vault clear in the initial furlong before making his move to the fore. Just having passed the winning post on the first occasion, Jeff Gregory floated the gelded son of Conway Hall and Nervey's Taurus clear, taking over through a :27.4 initial quarter before backing down a 1:00 middle half. Faced with a first-over challenge from Dog Gone Lucky (John Campbell) upon exiting the far turn, Dayson dug in at once, kicking clear upon cornering. While Dog Gone Lucky failed to sustain his bid, the second-over Allerage Echo (Chris Lems) gave late chase, only mustering a runner-up effort while 1-3/4 lengths in arrears of the undefeated Dayson's 1:55.2 mile.   Howard Okusko trains Dayson--now perfect through seven races--for Margaret and Amy Butler.   The earlier division saw Reve Royale ($3.50) make an early push to the lead, clearing Smalltownthrowdown (Daley) after a :28.3 initial quarter before rating a 1:00.2 middle half and subsequently holding off a stout challenge from his pocket rival for the length of the stretch to narrowly prevail in 1:57.1. Chris Lems drove the son of RC Royalty and Dream Street for trainer George Ducharme and owners Raymond Campbell, Jr., Paul Fontaine, and Alfred Ross.   Live racing returns to Vernon Downs on Saturday (September 19) evening, with the first of 14 races due off at 6:45 p.m. Eastern time. The program features the $45,000 finals of the New York Excelsior Series for 3-year-olds, along with the $50,000 New York Sire Stakes consolations for 3-year-olds.   by James Witherite, Vernon Downs

Vernon, N.Y. -- A dozen 2-year-old trotting colts and geldings square off in two $53,500 New York Sire Stakes events on Friday (September 18) evening at Vernon Downs, while top New York-sired 3-year-olds vie for their share of $380,000 in an octet of Excelsior finals and Sire Stakes consolations on the Saturday (September 19) program.   Friday's freshman card features undefeated Dayson, a winner six times in as many starts with a career bankroll of $155,862 and a mark of 1:56 taken at Tioga. The son of Conway Hall has been installed the 9-5 morning line favourite in his division, carded as race 6, and Jeff Gregory handles the driving duties for trainer Howard Okusko. Among the five rivals Dayson will face is Dog Gone Lucky (John Campbell), who proved a faster winner at Tioga earlier in the season with a 1:55.4 triumph.   Saturday's program features a quartet of Sire Stakes consolations for 3-year-olds, each with a purse of $50,000; and four Excelsior finals, each worth $45,000. Notable contenders on the evening's 14-race card include Fashion Creditor (NYSS colt trot, 1:52.3m, Jim Morrill, Jr.), Barn Girl (Excelsior filly trot, 1:56.1s, Jeff Gregory), Crazshana (Excelsior colt trot, 1:54.1s, Trond Smedshammer), and Gold Coast Muscle (Excelsior colt pace, 1:50.4f, Mike Simons).   The Saturday program at the Miracle Mile also includes the culmination of the Vernon Downs Racing Under Saddle series, featuring a field of five trotters to compete in a non-wagering event.   First post each night is 6:45 p.m. Eastern time.   by James Witherite, for Vernon Downs 

Briefly headed by odds-on favourite Asset Management in mid-stretch, Express Jet ($6.50) battled back in the final yards to just prevail in Wednesday (September 16) evening's featured $7,000 top-level distaff pace at the harness racing meeting at Vernon Downs.   The 6-year-old Jereme's Jet mare controlled the terms from the outset, uncontested through the first six furlongs in 1:27.1 before facing a challenge from the first-over Asset Management (Dan Daley).   In upper stretch, Express Jet briefly was headed, but she fought back gamely to not only reclaim the lead, but to also stave off pocket rival Love You Bye (Jimmy Whittemore), who chased valiantly in third once availed room, missing by just a half length.   Trainer John MacDonald was in the bike behind Express Jet, a 1:54.4 winner over good going.   MacDonald earned four other driving wins on the evening's 10-race program, teaming up with Kyler's Valentine ($6.50, 1:54.2), The African ($4.40, 1:59.1), I Saw Red ($3.60, 1:54.4), and Winbak Heavenly ($2.40, 1:52.1).   Live racing returns to Vernon Downs with a 14-race program on Friday (September 18) evening, featuring New York Sire Stakes events for 2-year-old trotting colts and geldings. Post time is 6:45 p.m. Eastern.   James Witherite  

Vernon, N.Y. -- Following the live cover of Oh My Joepa off the far turn, No Monkeys Allowed ($7.40) vaulted to a two-length harness racing victory in Saturday (September 12) evening's featured $7,000 top-level conditioned pace at Vernon Downs.   Mike Merton settled the 8-year-old Rocknroll Hanover gelding into midfield, 5-1/4 lengths off pacesetter Lilys Real Boy (Dan Daley) through a :26 initial quarter. Upon exiting the far turn, No Monkeys Allowed advanced nearer the front flight while tracking the cover of Oh My Joepa (John MacDonald), kicking to the fore in upper stretch. No Monkeys Allowed drew off to a 1:52 victory by way of a :27.2 final quarter, edging clear of Oh My Joepa while 6-5 favourite Gratias Deo (Chris Lems) could only muster a third-place finish despite having the winner's cover to follow.   Edgar "Sparky" Clarke trains No Monkeys Allowed for owner Robert Orr.   The win in the featured event was one of three on the 11-race card for Merton, who teamed up with another Clarke trainee in Wheels Ah Smokin ($14.00, 1:58.1) along with Rob Harmon trainee Nathan Feelsgood ($8.50, 1:52.3).   Live racing returns to Vernon Downs on Wednesday (September 16) evening. Post time is 6:45 p.m. Eastern.   by James Witherite, Vernon Downs

The owner of the Tioga Downs racino in New York’s Southern Tier says a recent presentation to state officials made him optimistic about his proposal to expand his facility into a full casino. Jeff Gural told The Associated Press on Friday that the recent meeting with the state’s casino location review board went well and he’s confident local residents will support his plans at a public hearing scheduled for Friday in Binghamton. Gural also owns Vernon Downs and has said the futures of both harness racing tracks are linked. Tioga Downs submitted a bid for a casino license last year but the board instead recommended three other projects around the state. Tioga Downs submitted a second application when bidding was reopened for a fourth license.  

Vernon, N.Y. -- Including his last-to-first victory in Friday (September 11) evening's featured $8,000 Open II Pace, Jimmy Whittemore captured five driving wins on the Patriot Day harness racing program at Vernon Downs.   After parlaying a pocket trip to victory in the opener with Try This ($5.90, 1:57), the Maine Native passed all four of his rivals in the feature with Big City Jewel ($3.80). Whittemore settled the 4-year-old Artiscape gelding at the back of the compact field, having no part of the pace while Card Knock Life (Frank Davis) controlled the terms through a rapid first six furlongs in 1:22. As Sassy Hanover (Claude Huckabone, Jr.) failed to fire from the pocket, Big City Jewel was carried three-wide off the far turn, chasing valiantly after Card Knock Life and ultimately prevailing in the final sixteenth of a 1:50.2 mile. Damon Blue Chip stayed on from a tracking trip to take third.   Homer Hochstetler trains Big City Jewel for Kristofer Heim.   Following his sweep of the early double, Whittemore teamed up with Veal Marsala ($4.70, 1:54.4), Ziegler Hanover ($4.50, 1:55.2), and The Grey Bullet ($4.10, 1:54.4) to round out his five-win evening.   Live racing returns to Vernon Downs on Saturday (September 12) evening, with post time at 6:45 p.m. Eastern.   by James Witherite, Vernon Downs

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