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Vernon, Tioga 2009 Wrap-Ups

Published: November 12, 2009 12:11 pm ET

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Tioga Downs and Vernon Downs each showed increases as well as decreases in their handle numbers for the 2009 race seasons. Tioga was down 6.8 per cent in live handle compared to 2008, with export being up 1.3 per cent over last year’s numbers. Vernon showed numbers moving with live handle being up 1.6 per cent over 2008, and export being down 4 per cent compared to last year. Currently the import numbers at both properties are tracking to be well up from the 2008 numbers.

“The numbers at Tioga and Vernon for the 2009 race meets were very pleasing given the current economic status around the country," said Jason Settlemoir, vice president of racing and simulcast for both Tioga and Vernon. "We saw a few ups and downs from 2008, but were very happy with the entire race season of 2009. We have to thank our fans and employees at both properties who supported racing by coming to the track and our employees for the great customer service which made those fans want to return to the track.”

Fans at Tioga Downs got to see some world champions stomp through their backyard during the 2009 race meet including One More Laugh, Buck I St Pat, and some of the top free for all pacing mares in the country. Tioga saw a dozen of its track records fall by the wayside to new occupants during its fourth live season, including the all age track record for trotters when Buck I St Pat won a leg of the Miss Versatility in 1:53.1. The fastest track record mile set in 2009 belongs to Hypnotic Blue Chip who won the Empire Breeders Classic Final in May with a mile of 1:50.3 for Tim Tetrick.

Jason Bartlett captured the title of the third annual Drivers’ Championship by winning two divisions of the seven-race championship. Bartlett got points in six out of the seven divisions and established a new track record for aged geldings with a 1:50.3 score in the Open Pace with Cinderella Guy. Total prize money for the 2009 Drivers’ Championship was $45,000 with Champion Jason Bartlett taking home $25,000.

Another highlight of the 2009 race season happened on Saturday, July 18 when driver Jim Morrill, Jr. captured eight wins in eight starts on the card. The feat tied the North American record for consecutive wins, one raceway program held by Stephane Bouchard and Brad Kramer.

Tioga Down’s signature event, the Zweig Memorial, was captured by Judge Joe (D R Ackerman) and Copy Catch (John Campbell) after the $303,340 was split into two divisions for three-year old trotting colts and geldings. While Celebrity Athern (Marcus Johannson), Brandnewgirlfriend (Wally Hennessey), and Celebrity Juliet (Mike Lachance) each captured a division of the $136,341 Zweig Trot for three-year old trotting fillies.

Jimmy Marohn, Jr. captured the 2009 driving title with 72 wins, while Phil Fluet and Michael Deters were co-trainers of the year with 31 training victories. Lucy Lucy who was campaigned out of the Michael Deters Stable for Jay Sears captured pacer of the year, while Righteous from the Paul Bernardo Stable was named trotter of the year.

Seven track records were rewritten and one tied during the 56th harness racing season at Vernon Downs which extended from April 17 through November 7 for a total of 90 programs.

Three of the new standards were authored during Vernon’s $1.4 million New York Sires Stakes Night of Champions program on September 26. Hulas Z Tam turned in a 1:52.3 record for two-year-old pacing fillies; Munis Blue Chip cranked out a 1:57.3 mark for two-year-old filly trotters, and Blacktuswhitesocks produced a new 1:56.2 yardstick for two-year-old colt trotters.

In the $139,500 Conway Hall Mare Trot on Labor Day afternoon (September 7), the distinguished Buck I St. Pat fashioned a 1:54.3 victory that stands as a local milestone for aged trotting mares. Driver Tim Tetrick collected six wins during the day, which was high for the meet and one shy of the track’s single program standard.

After Waltrip Hanover had equaled the local 1:51.3 model for four-year-old pacing horses on June 27, Riggins dropped the standard for that category to 1:50.2 on August 1. That sizzling score was just three-fifths of a second off the fastest mile in the track’s history (My Little Dragon, 1:49.4 in 2008) and held up as the quickest of 945 'two-minute' clockings.

Golden Receiver roared to a 1:51.1 triumph on September 19 that tied the Downs' ideal for four-year-old pacing geldings, set by On The Way Again in 2002.

Jimmy Whittemore, the meet’s dash-winning leader with 122 victories, steered Red Brandy to a 2:47.2 Vernon standard for trotters competing at the one and three-eighths mile distance on June 25.

In the $187,000 Credit Winner Open Trot on September 18, sponsored by Blue Chip Farms, Arch Madness powered to a 1:52.4 score for driver Trond Smedshammer that became the fastest mile by a diagonally gaited performer at the meet. His time was just three-fifths of a second off the track’s all-time record for aged trotting geldings, set by Vivid Photo in 2007.

That same evening (September 18), Autumn Escapade reeled off a 1:55.1 victory in Vernon’s $25,000 leg of the Miss Versatility Open Mare Trot with David Miller driving for trainer Jonas Czernyson.

During the Memorial Day matinee card on May 25, Russell Hill hustled to a 1:57.1 triumph in the $206,275 Empire Breeders Classic final for sophomore male trotters, while Honorable Daughter secured a 1:57 score in the event’s $212,875 counterpart for three-year-old fillies. Jim Morrill, Jr. steered both first-place finishers.

Other meet highlights included Four Starz Speed’s 1:55.1 win in the $60,000 James Crawford Memorial Trot on September 25 and a 1:50.3 victory by Riggins in the $60,000 Bruce Hamilton Memorial Pace the same evening, plus Kindergarten Classic Series two-year-old championship tallies by Dancinwiththestarz ($105,250 filly pace), One More Laugh ($84,250 male pace), Full Tank ($82,750 filly trot), and Coco Lindy ($87,250 male trot) on October 31.

Vernon Downs will begin live racing in 2010 on Friday, April 16 with Tioga getting underway on Saturday, May 1 (Kentucky Derby Day) both pending regulatory approval.


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