Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Stakes Nominations Increase at Tioga and Vernon Downs

With the March 15 payments taken and tallied, several of the marquee events scheduled for the 2011 Tioga & Vernon season have realized substantial increases.

The popular Free For All early closers are up slightly and have again captured the best and most recognizable equine personalities harness racing has to offer.

The anticipation of the excitement created by the enduring stars of the sport speaks directly to the importance of their continued participation on the racetrack.

In last season’s inaugural Bettor’s Delight Open Pace, Hypnotic Blue Chip, Won The West and Foiled Again chased the now retired Shark Gesture to the wire in an overall Tioga track record of 1:48.3.

Those three will find some extremely talented opposition awaiting them in their quest to capture this year’s trophy.

Dreamfair Eternal is slated to defend her 2010 Artiscape tiara (resulting in a divisional standard of 1:49.4) against a deep representation of the finest older pacing mares in the game.

Both of these important races, each with an estimated purse of $200,000, will go at Tioga on Sunday, June 12.

The Miss Versatility for trotting mares has a leg at each track and Buck I St Pat will attempt to recapture the crown that Autumn Escapade wrestled away in 2010.

The diagonal divas will make another appearance at Vernon Downs on September 2nd for the newly christened $200,000E Muscle Hill.

On that same evening, The Credit Winner Open Trot (also estimated at $200,000) will feature last year’s winner Lucky Jim defending his title against reigning Older Trotter of the Year Enough Talk and 2010 3YO Breeders Crown winner Break The Bank K, among a number of formidable foes.

The numbers for the 2011 Empire Breeders Classic (EBC) for New York sired sophomores are up substantially over last season.

That group of races will reward the connections of the participants with well in excess of $1 million in purses over Memorial Day weekend.

The Kindergarten Trotting Classics launched Breeders Crown winner Manofmanymissions’ career last year and those races are up 30‐40% in nominations going into this season.

The Red Mile will host two Kindergarten legs in September with the finals to be raced at Vernon in late October.

Tioga & Vernon are proud to host the prestigious Historic stakes for the first time in 2011.

The 3YO Historic events will be raced at Tioga in late June/early July and the 2YO races will go over Vernon’s 7/8’s mile oval on September 2nd.

The John F. Simpson Memorial stakes return to Tioga & Vernon in 2011 with the 3YO nominees up 74% over last year’s numbers.

The Tompkins‐Geers stakes have enjoyed a renaissance at Tioga since landing there in 2006 and will again offer a mid summer treat to the racing fans of Nichols, NY.

“It is very gratifying to see such an enthusiastic response to our stakes program. We wish to convey our appreciation to the faithful sponsors of these events; The Agriculture & New York State Horse Breeding Development Fund & New York Stallion Owners (EBC), Allerage Farms (Miss Versatility), Blue Chip Farm (Credit Winner & Bettor’s Delight), Brittany Farm (Artiscape), and the Muscle Hill Syndicate (Muscle Hill Mare Trot), and Hanover Shoe Farm’s Jim Simpson (John F. Simpson Memorial)," from Tioga/Vernon Racing VP Jason Settlemoir.

Nomination information will be posted on the Tioga & Vernon web sites soon.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Tioga Downs Stall Apps Still Available

Stalls are still available at Tioga Downs as the March 12th deadline has been extended.

Through March 23rd, about 100 stalls were still available.

“In the past, Pompano had been shutting down around the time we opened, and then we were shutting down around the time they reopened, so we had a nice little thing going there,” said Director of Racing Jason Bluhm. “Now that Pompano is racing year-round, we lost some of the Florida guys and have room for some new stables.”

Tioga Downs recently announced a purse increase of 10 percent to kick off the 2011 meet.

The Open will go from $15,000 to $16,500 and average daily purses are now $70,000.

Tioga also hosts eight legs of the Sire Stakes as well as the following stakes: the Simpson, the Empire Breeders Classic, the Bettor’s Delight, the Artiscape, the Miss Versatility, the Historics, the Tompkins-Geers, the NY State Fair, and the Zweig.

"It is an exciting place to race," said Bluhm. "We have a great barn area, a good drivers’ colony and we hope to attract some new stables.

Stall applications can be found by visiting Tioga Downs’ website at www.tiogadowns.com/racinginfo.php.

Jefferson Starship lands Saturday at Tioga Downs

Tioga Downs Casino is proud to welcome legendary group Jefferson Starship this Saturday, March 26th for two shows at 7pm and 9pm.

Tickets are $15 and available at the Tioga Downs Gift Shop or online at Ticketmaster by clicking here http://bit.ly/en8U0q

The group is celebrating its 40th anniversary on its current tour.

The Binghamton Press & Sun Bulletin wrote this story previewing the concerts in Thursday's newspaper:

Jefferson Starship, the band formed from remnants of the seminal San Francisco 1960s group Jefferson Airplane, will bring more than 40 years of its science fiction-influenced rock for two shows Saturday at Tioga Downs Casino in Nichols.

Led by Paul Kantner, who co-founded Jefferson Airplane with Marty Balin in 1965, Jefferson Starship carries a long rock pedigree.

After Jefferson Airplane broke up in the early 1970s, Kantner recorded a science fiction concept album, "Blows Against the Empire," which included performances by an all-star lineup: Jefferson Airplane bandmates Grace Slick, Jack Casady and David Freiberg, the Grateful Dead's Micky Hart, Bill Kreutzmann and Jerry Garcia, and singers David Crosby and Graham Nash, among others.

Kantner dubbed the group Jefferson Starship, and used that name for his touring band when they took the material on the road.

The band performed with a shuffling lineup, which included, at times, Slick, Freiberg, Balin and Papa John Creach, until the early 1980s.

Among the music it created was "Light the Sky on Fire" for the oft-lampooned "Star Wars Holiday Special."

Their hits include the Freiberg-penned "Jane," "Miracles," "Count on Me" and "Runaway."

Kantner left the band in 1984, and an offshoot continued to perform as Starship.

Kantner reorganized Jefferson Starship in the 1990s.

The current lineup includes Kantner, Freiberg, guitarist Mark Aguilar, drummer Donny Baldwin, keyboardist Chris Smith and singer Cathy Richardson.

Aguilar has played with Crosby and K.C. and the Sunshine Band, Baldwin was drummer for the Jerry Garcia Band and Smith has toured with the Supremes and Lou Bega.

Among Richardson's endeavors was performing the music of Janice Joplin with members of another early San Francisco rock band, Big Brother and the Holding Company.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Tioga Downs Crowns Rockokie Champ

24-year-old Madeline Ryder of Binghamton, NY outlasted the field of 20 singers to be crowned champion of the 2011 edition of the Rockokie Star Contest at Tioga Downs Casino in Nichols, NY. Ryder takes home a first place prize of $3,000 cash.

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Friday, March 18, 2011

Purse Increase at Tioga Downs

Tioga Downs is proud to announce that with the opening of live racing in 2011, the condition sheet will reflect a 10% purse increase across the board.

The top class at Tioga Downs in 2010 was going for $15,000 and will now be racing for $16,500 in 2011.

Stall applications can be found online at www.tiogadowns.com along with a list of Tioga’s early and late closing events for 2011.

“This goes to show how hard work between management and the horsemen’s group can pay off," said Jason M. Settlemoir, VP of Racing and Simulcast. "We feel that Tioga’s purses are very competitive with many of the locations around us in New York and Pennsylvania and give horsemen another great place to race.”

Tioga Downs is proud to announce that they will host a 61-day race meet in 2011 that kicks off on Saturday, May 7, 2011 (Kentucky Derby Day) and continues through Saturday, September 10.

This will mark the sixth year that Tioga Downs opens its doors for the much anticipated race season in Nichols, New York.

Tioga will continue with its Friday, Saturday, and Sunday race schedule and will also race on eight Mondays in 2011.

The marquee event of the race season at Tioga Downs, the Fifth Annual Drivers’ Championship, has been moved back later in the year for 2011 and will now fall on Sunday, August 28.

The Drivers’ Championship will co-highlight one of the biggest race days for the Empire State with the $420,000E Zweig Memorial Trot.

Another date to mark on the Tioga Downs’ calendar is Monday, August 1st as Tioga Downs has been given the honor of taking part in the World Drivers’ Championship.

Drivers from all over the world including Australia, Denmark, and New Zealand will compete in a five-round Championship on five different tracks on the East Coast.

Tioga Downs will be the second round of the championship on Monday, August 1st with a post time of 6:00 pm.

“We are looking forward to August 28, as we feel it is going to be one of the biggest race days that we have ever had at Tioga," said Settlemoir. "The Drivers’ Championship paired up with the Zweig is going to be a great day for fans to be in Nichols, New York to watch the sport's best drivers and horses compete for a lot of money."

For more information on Tioga Downs or Vernon Downs, along with racing calendars please visit us online at www.tiogadowns.com or www.vernondowns.com.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Tioga Downs Casino to Host Two Job Fairs

Tioga Downs Casino is looking to fill many positions throughout the facility as they prepare for the upcoming 2011 Harness Racing season. This, in turn, will help boost a sluggish local economy.

Tioga Downs will begin accepting applications immediately and will be holding two Job Fairs: Saturday, March 19th from 8am until 1pm, and Tuesday, March 22nd from 11am until 7pm.

Tioga Downs is looking to hire people to work in all areas of casino and racetrack operations.

These jobs range between part-time, full-time and seasonal employment.

During the Job Fairs, Department Managers will conduct interviews, pre-employment testing and make same-day job offers.

During Tuesday’s Job Fair, local and regional employers will also be in attendance and the New York State Department of Labor will be on hand to assist job seekers.

Businesses slated to attend Tuesday’s Job Fair include:
Tioga Downs Casino
Elmira Business Institute
Sage Technologies
New York Army National Guard
And more…

Tioga Downs kicks off their sixth season of live harness racing on Saturday, May 7th with the 4th Annual Derby Fest, featuring an exciting line-up of racing, live music, traditional mint juleps, a Derby Day hat contest, and much more!

Tioga Downs is open year-round with over 750 video gaming machines, simulcast horse
racing, a buffet restaurant, food outlets, a sports bar and special live entertainment events. The property employs almost 200 people and is looking to hire an additional 80-plus employees for the 2011 racing season.

Tioga Downs is located at Route17, Exit 62, Nichols, NY.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Zweig Purse to Double With New Format in 2012

As you select future stakes engagements for your current crop of freshman hopefuls, consider the fact that there has been a significant change to one of the marquee races for three year old trotters in 2012.

The Dr. Harry M. Zweig Memorial trot, a trophy coveted by many Hambletonian winners over the years and most recently won by no less than the 2010 Trotter of the Year, Lucky Chucky, has undergone a dramatic change for the future.

Beginning in 2012 (the required two year old payment to sustain eligibility for next year is due by March 15, 2011) the Zweig will shift from being raced in divisions with a split purse to the top (9) money winners formula that has proven so popular recently in harness racing.

The purse for the Open (Colt) Zweig has been increased to an estimated $400,000 with an $80,000E consolation for those not drawing into the top class.

The Zweig fillies will also see a substantial increase to $170,000E (top nine) and $40,000E for the consolation.

While the payments have been increased to reflect the higher purse, the added money has been doubled from $75,000 to $150,000 by Tioga & Vernon Downs.

Early projections see the Zweig being raced at Vernon Downs over Labor Day weekend in 2012, in the hope of providing a high dollar opportunity for the top sophomore trotters in place of the World Trotting Derby.

Link to conditions attached. http://horsemen.ustrotting.com/OnLinePDFConditions11/Zweig%20Mem%2038.pdf

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Meadowlands Update from Jeffrey Gural

I promised a quick update on the progress in leasing the Meadowlands prior to the 3/15 stakes payments.

The good news is that we continue to make progress in finalizing the plans and I have several groups interested in investing with us in the project.

We would still have to raise $40-$50 million in debt over and above the same amount of equity, which I think may be doable.

Any deal we make, however, is subject to obtaining concessions from the unions, as well as concessions from the State and I expect to have those discussions sometime next week.

I honestly believe that this will all come to a head by the end of the month so, at a bare minimum, the suspense will be over and you will be able to plan accordingly for the race season.

I would hope that people would continue to support the stakes program and, as I said previously, the Hambletonian and the Oaks will definitely go on as scheduled along with possibly some other stakes, but obviously that is not the answer we are all looking for.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Jeffrey Gural is Making Education Count

Tioga Downs Chairman and Owner Jeffrey Gural is featured in an article in the Wall Street Journal

The article highlight's Mr. Gural's involvement with a charity in New York City that's helping to change the lives of 80 inner-city youths.

Here's the full text of the article written by Melanie Grayce West:

Through the I Have a Dream Foundation, Jeffrey Gural is making dreams come true for 80 children living in New York City.

Mr. Gural, 68 years old, is chairman of Newmark Knight Frank, a full-service commercial-real-estate firm based in New York. The I Have a Dream Foundation seeks to provide long-term academic support to underprivileged children, including guaranteed college tuition.

Mr. Gural is part of a sponsorship team, including other individual supporters, corporate sponsors and the New York City Housing Authority, for 80 children who live in the Chelsea-Elliott public houses in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan.

Mr. Gural recently made a $200,000 donation to the foundation, an annual contribution that goes toward providing college tuition for the children. He contributes nearly half of the $3.2 million needed to send a class of "Dreamers" to college.

"Everybody recognizes from the president on down how important education is," says Mr. Gural. "If kids can graduate college now the likelihood is that they're going to have successful careers and a family of their own. And their children will be successful."

About 20 years ago, Eugene M. Lang, founder of the I Have a Dream Foundation, approached Mr. Gural to sponsor a group of students in the Chelsea houses. That group of Dreamers, now in their mid-20s, include a disc jockey, a social worker, an actress and a fund-raiser for a large international nonprofit. Watching the children go from first grade to young adulthood is "pretty unique in philanthropy," says Mr. Gural.

The current crop of 80 children are sixth- and seventh graders, an impressionable, tough time. The program aims to surround the children with opportunities, including tutoring, mentoring and counseling—whatever it takes to make sure the children graduate and go on to college. Mr. Gural looks at it as "leveling the playing field" and providing the same kind of help common to children who grow up middle class.

That help also includes getting to know the children personally. Mr. Gural hosts a monthly birthday dinner, trips to his upstate home, baseball and basketball games.

For his older group of Dreamers, he tries to be there "when they run in to trouble, like a parent would," helping to land internships, coach through an interview or underwrite a security deposit on an apartment.

"It's really been the most rewarding thing I've ever done," says Mr. Gural. "I look at my life and I know that on my deathbed that I've changed the lives of these kids."

Monday and Tuesday Simulcasting Resumes Starting April 4th

Starting April 4th and continuing full-time, Tioga Downs will resume offering full simulcasting on Mondays and Tuesdays.

For a complete simulcast calendar, visit our website at http://www.tiogadowns.com/racinginfo.php

Live harness racing returns to Tioga Downs on Kentucky Derby Day, Saturday May 7th and continues through Saturday, September 10th.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Construction projects completed at Tioga Downs Casino

If you’ve been to Tioga Downs Casino in recent weeks you may have noticed
multiple construction projects underway.

Recently, construction crews have been working on a new 450 square foot gaming expansion to make room for the electronic roulette games once they arrive.

Currently, eighteen new video gaming machines have been installed.

Also, Players’ Club received a face lift and a walk in gift shop with coat check, which is now located near simulcast.

The gift shop expansion gives Tioga Downs Casino the ability to offer more merchandise to the guests.

According to Chairman of American Racing & Entertainment Jeff Gural, “Tioga
Downs has shown significant growth over the past 5 years, and we are proud to be in a
position to continue to grow.”

Tioga Downs Casino “Great Value, Great Times. You must be 18 years old to play video gaming machines, please play responsibly. For more information please contact us at 888-WIN-TIOGA or online at www.tiogadowns.com