Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Top 10 Races of 2011

With the final days of 2011 winding down, our racing experts weighed in on the best races of the 2011 racing season. Let's count down our top 10.

#10 Coaching Club Trotting Oaks - June 25th
The Historic Series made its Tioga Downs debut this summer and special filly helped make it a memorable weekend. Jezzy was nearly perfect as a 2-year-old and came back in 2011 as a 3-year-old breathing fire again. Jezzy dominated her competition causing track announcer Darin Zoccali to proclaim her America's top trotting filly. Jezzy finished the year with 10 wins and earnings of $543,652.

#9 Tompkins Geers Grand Circuit Stakes - July 14th
Jezzy had been the Tioga Downs track record for 2-year-old trotting fillies until July's Tompkins-Geers. That's when a lightly raced filly lived up to her name and announced her arrival to harness racing stardom. Check Me Out smashed the track record by nearly two full seconds, trotting in 1:56 for trainer Ray Schnittker. Check Me Out earned the Dan Patch Award as divisional champion while winning 16 of 18 and earning more than $900,000.

#8 New York Sire Stakes - September 3rd
Turns out, Ray Schnittker knows a thing or two about young trotters. He makes his third straight appearance on this countdown; this time, with his 2-year-old trotting colt Delano. Speed was on full display when the New York Sire Stakes came to town in early September. Royal Shyster was the early clubhouse leader with a track record performance in Race 6, but his mark was short lived. Two races later, Schnittker struck with an eye-popping performance by Delano, racing the mile in 1:55.2.

#7 World Driving Championship - August 1st
August saw the first ever appearance by the World Driving Championship at Tioga Downs and the Kiwi sensation, Dexter Dunn, stole the show with his last-to-first burst with longshot Charismatic in the second leg of the series. Dunn and his fellow foreign drivers brought a whole new style of driving to the States that created some of the most exciting racing of the season. Dunn won the Tioga round of the World Driving Championship. Jody Jamieson won the overall championship and followed that up by winning the Tioga Downs Drivers Challenge later in August.

#6 Tompkins Geers Grand Circuit Stakes - July 17th
When the weather got hot, so did the racing surface at Tioga. July's Tompkins Geers Grand Circuit Stakes showed off some major horsepower. Flipper J had just set the track record at Goshen a week before he showed up at Tioga. Tim Tetrick left hard off the starting gate and never slowed down, pacing to a sub-1:50 mile and the track record for 3-year-old colt pacers.

#5 Empire Breeders Classic Final - May 29th
Memorial Day weekend has traditionally been home to the Empire Breeders Classic. This year's was truly a classic with favorites Feel Like a Fool and Fashion Delight needing every inch of the mile to decide a winner. In the end, Fashion Delight and David Miller held off Feel Like a Fool in another EBC thriller.

#4 Miss Versatility - June 19th
Father's Day saw the return of the Miss Versatility and even though it was June on the calendar, it felt more like autumn, thanks to the sensational trotting mare Autumn Escapade. She equaled the fastest trotting mile in Tioga Downs history. Autumn Escapade and driver George Brennan stopped the teletimer in 1:52.3, tying the all ages track record set by Manningly and setting the track record for an aged mare.

#3 Artiscape Open Mare Pace - June 12th
The Artiscape has become a major fixture on the racing calendar for the aged pacing mares. Last year's event was won by world champion Dreamfair Eternal. She could only manage fourth this year behind this year's Dan Patch champion Anndrovette, who sped away to a 1:49.4 win, the fastest mile ever for a 4-year-old pacing mare at Tioga Downs. Anndrovette added a Breeders' Crown win to her resume en route to banking nearly three-quarters of a million dollars.

#2 Empire Breeders Classic Final - May 29th
No horse captured the spotlight this year more than filly sensation See You at Peelers. She graced the pages of Sports Illustrated, the New York Times and USA Today thanks to her 22-race winning streak. Perhaps her most brilliant performance came in May's Empire Breeders Classic when Peelers raced her way into the world record books, with this eye popping 1:49 and 2 win.

#1 Bettor's Delight Open Pace - June 12th
It takes a lot to top that performance but this one will be talked about for years to come. With perhaps the deepest field ever assembled featuring no fewer than six millionaires, the 2nd edition of the Bettor's Delight was our race of the year. The sport's fastest horses went all-out with a gutsy son of Bettor's Delight refusing to be beaten in a world record mile. Bettor Sweet put his name into history with a 1:48.1 win in the Bettor's Delight and it's the Tioga Downs top race of 2011.