The Upstate New York Chapter of the United States Harness Writers Association has announced that Brian Sears, Jack Bailey, Jim Moran and Ken Jacobs will be inducted into its Hall of Fame representing Vernon Downs. The crystal keepsakes will be presented to them at Vernon Downs on Friday, September 10 during the Conway Hall Open night of racing.
Brian Sears grew up in Vernon, as his father, Jay, campaigned there for many years. After scoring his first win there with Alicia Blue Chip in 1987, Brian raced at Vernon until 1993. At the end of the 1991 season, Sears received the United States Harness Writers’ Rising Star Award. That year also marked the first of three consecutive UDR titles at Vernon for him. Sears moved from Vernon and campaigned at the Meadows, Pompano Park and Pocono Downs (he earned driving titles at the latter two tracks). Sears' career has been on a meteoric climb since 2003 when he relocated to the Meadowlands, and it appears as if his best efforts are still to come.
To date in his career, Brian Sears has scored just under 7,200 wins and has driven the winners of over $110 million in purse earnings.
Jack Bailey has been a fixture at Vernon Downs for longer than most people can remember, as the two names have been synonymous for decades. He started training horses over 50 years ago and found his way north after working in Pinehurst, NC. Since settling at Vernon, he has won over 293 'Miracle Miles' (2:00 or less) over the storied mid-state oval with such well known names as Bye Bye Max, Be Happy Jack, Biltmores Image, Black Knight, Good Knight Action, and Mighty Tar Heel. He has won 3,323 races lifetime with just under $9 million in purses. As a trainer he also tacks on another 436 wins and $2.5 million additional in purse cheques. These are very impressive numbers considering they were compiled in an era where overnight purses were not what they are now.
Jim Moran’s 48-year career started at Vernon Downs back in 1962 when his first job was Clerk of Course. He soon became the assistant race secretary and began calling races part time. His career took off swiftly and he was named full time race caller in 1964. Moran soon took over as director of publicity and public relations and also co-ordinated the track's marketing activities. During his Vernon career, Moran has called over 59,000 races. When you take into consideration the races he has called at other tracks, fairs, and qualifiers, that number escalates to more than 60,000 races in his announcing career.
His longevity has provided him the chance to call champions from several generations including the likes of Bret Hanover, Nevele Pride, Albatross, Niatross, and Deweycheatumnhowe. He was also privileged to make the call when Vernon native Brian Sears steered My Little Dragon and broke the track record, pacing the first ever sub-1.50 mile in the long and storied history of Vernon Downs.
Moran was inducted into the Greater Syracuse Sports Hall of Fame in 2003, and this past July 4 took his spot among so many other legends in the Communicators Corner of the Hall of Fame in Goshen, NY.
Ken Jacobs is the kind of owner any horseman would love to have. In the business since 1985, this is his Silver Anniversary in harness racing. A resident of Baldwinsville, NY, his base of operations has always been at the central New York oval. Ken has always raced young horses and the presence of his stable is always felt at the New York Sire Stakes and on the Grand Circuit. From his earlier horses like Lizbet Kash to $1.5 million dollar winner Kenneth J to current stake campaigners like Hes Gorgeous; Ken Jacobs has always brought the best he could to the track and has always supported the sport right here in Upstate New York.
This foursome will join the representatives from Buffalo Raceway, Batavia Downs, and Tioga Downs for the Hall of Fame induction banquet which will be held on Sunday, September 12th at 4PM at Tioga Downs, where the permanent Hall will be housed. Information on the banquet will be released later this week.