Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Rockokie Contest Down to Final 10 Singers

15 singers took the stage Friday night, but only 10 advanced to Round 3 coming up Friday, February 25th at 7pm.

The final 10 singers are:
• Amber Summers
• Mike Thomas
• Bobby Neira
• Evan Dillon
• Kristina Leszyk
• Amanda Hungerford
• Madeline Ryder
• Dean Wheeler
• Thorn Mendes
• Chris Hagquist

To watch some highlights of Round 2 including an awesome rendition of Sublime's "What I Got" by Mike Thomas, watch the video on our Youtube channel. And for all the latest information on Rockokie and other events, be sure to Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Tioga Downs & Vernon Downs to Sponsor Live Webstream of Awards Dinner

The first-ever videostreaming of the major annual awards event in harness racing, the U.S. Harness Writers Association’s “Night of Stars” banquet, will take place a week from this Sunday, February 27, and can be seen on the U.S. Trotting Association’s official website (www.ustrotting.com).

Todd Roberts, pioneering and world-renown expert in signal dissemination and video streaming, is spearheading the production efforts through his Roberts Communications Network, a Las Vegas-based organization. Roberts Communications will also be a sponsor of the pioneering narrowcast, along with the U.S. Trotting Association, and New York’s Tioga Downs and Vernon Downs racetracks.

The narrowcast will begin about 7:30 p.m., and figures to continue until approaching the 11:00 hour. The awards honoring the outstanding humans of harness racing in 2010 will kick off the broadcast; after a short dinner break, the honoring of the equine stars of this past year will round out the program.

Further information will be available on the USTA website in the days ahead.

FINISHING LINES – The Banquet is a sellout, with almost 400 expected to be in attendance. (Maybe a few of the attendees will bring along their Wi-Fi laptops and watch both the “live” and “web” shows!)

For those to be in attendance in Florida, USHWA alerts you to “GO Airport Shuttle,” a service that will take you to and fro the Fort Lauderdale Airport and the weekend’s headquarters hotel, the Marriott North Fort Lauderdale (and likely other area hotels if you are staying there). Reservations with GO can be made online at http://www.floridalimo.com, and a credit card can take care of payment on the spot.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

A Meadowlands Update from Jeffrey Gural

I know firsthand that this is the week that we all have to make stakes payments on our champion two-year-olds and those three-year-olds who would have been champions last year except for minor issues. Obviously, with the uncertainty at the Meadowlands, my advice would be to make the February payments because if we are not able to find a way to keep it open those payments will all be returned.

If there are other stakes at the same time as the Meadowlands stakes it might be a good idea to double stake your horse if the payments are not too great as there is certainly no guarantee that we are going to be able to work out a long-term lease.

I think the Governor has made it clear that he will allow a six-day meet in August to insure that the Hambletonian and Oakes are raced per the contract with the Hambletonian Society and my guess is there will be several other stakes races during that same period depending on the availability of purse money.

The biggest problem, as I see it, is how you finance a racetrack that does not have slots when it is obvious that wagering on horseracing continues to decline as our older customers either die or become too old to come to the tracks.

It is very discouraging to see that wagering on the Meadowlands signal so far this year is off 20%. Some of which can be blamed on the weather, some of which can be blamed on the closing of NYC OTB and the loss of the OTB TV channel in New York City and the outer boroughs which showed harness racing from the Meadowlands, Yonkers, Northfield and often Woodbine live. That channel has now been taken over by NYRA and they only show thoroughbred racing and go off the air at 8:00 pm.

While I think I could get people to come to a new Meadowlands, we also rely on customers at other tracks to wager on our product and if those tracks are not marketing the product, there is very little that I can do to change that dynamic.

One suggestion, if we are truly interested in the long-term future of our sport, would be for the horsemen at the tracks that have slots to take 5% of the slot money and use it to market the product with particular emphasis on bringing new and younger people to view the product. I think this is a small sacrifice to make in order to insure that the young people who work in our business have a future and do not find themselves without a career in 10 or 15 years.

I know four of the five people that work on my two farms are in their early 30’s and Jason is also in his early 30’s and these people deserve at least a chance to make a career out of our great sport.

I would hope to have a better idea of whether or not we can make a deal to lease the Meadowlands before the March 15th payments are due and I continue to work quite hard in order to accomplish our goal, which is to keep the Meadowlands open not only this year but for the long-term with a new grandstand, as well as opening several OTW facilities.

I hope this information is helpful as in all honesty this is a unique situation. Stakes payments are hard enough without this uncertainty but it is what it is.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Takeout Rates to remain the same in 2011 at Tioga Downs

Last year, Tioga Downs, in conjunction with its horsemen’s group, the STHHA, experimented with a pilot program to lower its takeout rates across the board to New York state minimums.

Tioga Downs is proud to announce that it will continue with the program in 2011.

For the 2011 race season the price of those wagers will be reduced as they were in 2010 to: 15% WPS; 17% Exacta/Double and 21% for all other exotics.

The original Tioga Downs takeout rates were 18% for WPS; 20% for Exactas/Doubles and 25% for all other exotics.

“We are happy that the program was a success last year and we will continue to support the racetracks lower rates this year," said Guy Howard, President of the Southern Tier Harness Horsemen Association. "The STHHA understands that management is focusing on our bettors' concerns and we support that 100 percent."

“We made the move last year to reduce the takeouts across the board and we got a lot of positive feedback from horseplayers across the country," said Jason M. Settlemoir, VP of Racing and Simulcast. "This is an initiative that we stand behind and believe that more tracks should make the move to lower takeouts."

Tioga Downs kicks off its 2011 race season on Kentucky Derby Day, Saturday, May 7, 2011 with a post time of 6:50 pm.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Tioga & Vernon Downs Offer A Bounty Of Stakes In 2011

The 2011 stakes season at Tioga & Vernon Downs has something to offer everyone, from the top older horses in the game to early lessons for freshman trotters in the Kindergarten Classic.

Stakes racing begins with the John Simpson Memorials for three-year-olds, which have been positioned in mid-May as a prep for the Empire Breeders Classics.

The $1,000,000 Empire Breeders Classics (EBC) are offered at both tracks over Memorial Day weekend. Restricted to New York bred sophomores, the EBC also signals the start to the lucrative NYSS season. The trotters will have eliminations on May 21st and a $250,000E Final for each sex on Monday, May 30th at Vernon Downs. The pacers will race at Tioga, elims on Sunday, May 22nd and the $250,000E Finals on the next Sunday.

The excitement builds in June when the promise of riches brings the best older horses in the sport to Tioga Downs. The $200,000E Bettor's Delight (open) and $200,000E Artiscape (mares) will make Tioga the center of the harness racing universe on Sunday, June 12th.

Shark Gesture set the all-age track record of 1:48.3f in the inaugural Bettor's Delight last season, while recently crowned Canadian Horse of the Year, Dreamfair Eternal posted the first sub 1:50 mile in Tioga history (1:49.4f) in the 2010 Artiscape.

Just a week later, the top older trotting mares will make their annual appearance at Tioga Downs for the $25,000 first leg of the popular Miss Versatility series.

Tioga and Vernon will host the tradition laden Historic Stakes ($600,000E) for the first time in 2011. The 3YO trots will be held on Saturday, June 25th and the 3YO pacers will come a week later on Saturday, July 2nd. Both sets of 3YO races are at Tioga. The payments for those events remain with the Hambletonian Society.

The Grand Circuit rolls into Tioga with the time-honored Tompkins-Geers stakes ($600,000E) scheduled for July 14th - 18th. The Tompkins-Geers series has served some of the game's top stakes outfits as a solid place to start their prized freshmen in anticipation of rich summer stakes.

The best harness drivers in the world will convene at Tioga Downs to participate in the 2011 World Drivers Championships. Tioga will host a leg of this prestigious event on Monday, August 1st.

Sunday, August 28th promises to be the highlight of the season at Tioga as, for the first time, the Tioga Drivers' Championship will be contested on the same card with the $500,000 Zweig Memorial (Open & Filly divisions). The lure of the rich Zweig trots and the ever increasing popularity among the drivers of the Tioga tryst should insure a bang up afternoon at the Nichols, NY venue.

Thing heat up at Vernon as the Tioga season draws to a close in September.

Friday, September 2nd will bring the very best trotters in the world to Vernon Downs for the $200,000E Credit Winner (open) and newly christened $200,000E Muscle Hill (mares). That evening will be enhanced with all two-year-old divisions of the Historic Stakes.

Vernon hosts the 3rd leg of the Miss Versatility a week later on September 9th, with the $100,000E Final of the Miss V staged on the Delaware, Ohio strip as a part of the Jug day program.

As the leaves fall in central NY, the sport's top freshman will travel to Vernon for the two-year-old divisions of the Simpson Memorial stakes on October 14th & 15th.

Some of those trotting fillies and colts will stay for the last leg of the popular Kindergarten Classic series on October 21st, hoping to secure a spot in the $150,000E Final the following Friday. Just last season, the Kindergarten graduating class included the Breeders Crown 2YO Colt Trot winner, Manofmanymissions, who began his career in the series.

The Red Mile will host two legs of the Kindergarten in 2011, scheduled in September to provide timely racing opportunities for the youngsters.

Information on all of the above races, including nomination forms and racing schedules may be accessed at http://www.tiogadowns.com/racinginfo.php

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Top 20 Finalists Announced for Rockokie Competition

After four hours of auditions, Tioga Downs is proud to announce the 20 finalists to compete for $3,000 in prize money in the 2nd Annual Rockokie Star Contest. The competition begins Friday, February 11 and continues until the finals on March 18. Remember, the audience has a say in who advances each week in the contest, so be sure to come out and join us each Friday night.

The 20 finalists, in no particular order, are:

• Eric Dejesus
• Victoria Lora
• Evin Acosta
• Thorn Mendes
• Jamie Hunt
• Rachel Hardy
• Jacki Leeson-Schatz
• Charisse Tully
• Christina O’herron
• Frank Perney
• Chris Hagquist
• Shawn Delahanty
• Mike Thomas
• Madeline Ryder
• Kristina Leszyk
• Bobby Neira
• Evan Dillon
• Amanda Hungerford
• Dean Wheeler
• Amber Summers

Check out this video of some of the auditions from the Rockokie Star contest.