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Pact Between Vernon And Horsemen

Published: January 9, 2009 1:28 pm ET

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New York State Racing and Wagering Board Chairman John D. Sabini today announced a new agreement has been reached that allows horsemen to keep their horses at the Vernon Downs harness track through the spring of 2011 and thus retains vital jobs in the Oneida County region.

“This agreement was struck in the spirit of compromise after days of delicate negotiations,” said chairman Sabini. “I am very pleased that Vernon Downs management and the Harness Horse Association of Central New York have agreed to terms that I believe are in the best interest of the parties and the Oneida region itself. In his upstate agenda, Governor David A. Paterson has made job retention and growth a top priority -- and this agreement dovetails perfectly with that objective. The agreement helps to avoid potential disruption and hardship to those involved in the racing industry.”

Under the agreement negotiated with assistance of Racing and Wagering Board staff, Vernon Downs has agreed to provide 90 race days in the year ahead and charge winter stall rates of $100 to horse owners – the same charge as last year.

Jeff Gural, the chairman of Vernon Downs, stated: “I am glad that we were able to negotiate a new contract because we all have enough to worry about in these difficult times. I appreciate the help of Bill Sekellick (a staff attorney for the Racing and Wagering Board) and Ron Ochrym (the executive director) of the New York State Racing and Wagering Board in helping to bring about a resolution on the open issues. We hope that this is the beginning of a better working relationship with the HHA of CNY and Vernon Management, and we encourage everyone who races at Vernon to join the horsemen’s association and take an active interest. We look forward to the 2009 racing season at Vernon Downs.”

Rick Papa, the president of the Harness Horse Association of Central New York, was also pleased with the agreement. “This brings about a great amount of stability for the horsemen for the next two years. The agreement was constructed in a way that reflects a willingness to compromise and work with one another for the common good.”

The contract between the horsemen and Vernon Downs has a term ending December 31, 2010, with an automatic 90-day extension, thus assuring winter training through three successive winters.

Approximately 200 horses will remain at Vernon Downs for winter season training as a result of the agreement.

(New York State Racing and Wagering Board)

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