Monday, January 30, 2012

20 finalists selected for Tioga Downs Rockokie competition

More than 50 of the area's finest wannabe singing sensations strutted their stuff at the Tioga Downs Rockokie Auditions on this past Thursday.

They were all trying to impress the judges enough to earn one of the 20 spots in the main competition.

Those 20 singers will compete for 4 weeks leading up to the finals on March 30th at 7:00pm. A complete schedule of the competition can be found here

The first round of the competition is February 17th at 7:00pm.

The winner of the Rockokie Star Contest receives $5,000. The second place finisher gets $2,000; third place gets $1,000 and all finishers in the top 12 will receive at least $100.

Here is the list of the 20 singers who will compete for the top prize:
1. Angel Acosta
2. Bobby Neira
3. Angelica Carozzi
4. Tiffany Jhingoor
5. Shawn Delahanty
6. Dean Wheeler
7. Matt Smith
8. Hailey Wiggins
9. Joanna Yaeger
10. Mariah Conrad
11. Mary Brown
12. Ashley Lux
13. Tyler Wells
14. Nick Pasquale
15. Amanda Hungerford
16. Tory Daral
17. Kylie Taft
18. Kathleen Collins
19. Jeremy Cramer
20. Marissa Hromek

Here is video of some of the highlights of the auditions.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Miss Versatility Series Enriched for 2012

In its short history, the Miss Versatility series has become a highlight on the annual schedule for trotting mares and the 2012 edition will be bigger and richer.

The purses for the series legs have been raised from $25,000 to $40,000 ($30,000 div) and the number of legs has been increased from three to four.

For the first time, the Woodbine Entertainment Group will be a participant and will host the first two legs at Mohawk on Sunday, May 20 and Sunday, July 1.

The Meadowlands will present leg #3 on Friday, August 17 with Tioga Downs the stage for the fourth leg on Sunday, August 26.

The $100,000E final will again be raced on Jug Day (Thursday, September 20) at the Delaware County fairgrounds.

The connections of those mares racing in the final will once again be entitled to complimentary tickets for the tent festivities courtesy of the Little Brown Jug Society.

Complete nomination information and forms are available at the Tioga Downs website.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Stakes and race schedule set for 2012 at Tioga & Vernon Downs

Tioga Downs and Vernon Downs have finalized their 2012 race and stakes schedule for the upcoming race season (pending regulatory approval).

Tioga Downs will hold 61 live racing days in 2012, set to begin on Saturday, May 5th (Kentucky Derby Day) in Nichols, New York.

Highlighting the 2012 stakes calendar at Tioga Downs is the $200,000 estimated Artiscape Pace for open mare pacers and the $200,000 estimated Bettor's Delight Open Pace.

Both races are scheduled for Sunday, June 10.

Tioga Downs will once again host the first leg of Pacing's Triple Crown, the Cane Pace, with eliminations on Sunday, August 26th and the final on Monday, September 3rd.

The Empire Breeders' Classic for 3-year-old New York bred pacers will be held later in the year, as in years past, with eliminations on Sunday, August 5th, and the $250,000 estimated finals being held a week later on Sunday, August 12th.

Other marquee events held at Tioga Downs in 2012 will include: Tompkins-Geers, a leg of the Miss Versatility, The Shady Daisy, and the Historic Stakes.

Vernon Downs will kick off its 2012 race season on Friday, April 27th to open up its 90-day race meet from April 27th through November 3rd.

Vernon Downs will be the 2012 host of American Racing and Entertainment's marquee event, the $50,000 Drivers' Championship, which has been held at Tioga Downs since it inception in 2007.
The Drivers' Championship will share the spotlight at Vernon Downs with the $700,000 estimated Zweig Memorial Trot, on Sunday, August 26th.

The $200,000 estimated Muscle Hill Open Mare Trot and $200,000 estimated Credit Winner Open Trot will also return to Vernon Downs in 2012 on Friday, September 7th.

The $500,000 estimated Empire Breeders' Classic for New York bred trotters will headline the month of June at Vernon Downs, with the eliminations on Friday, June 1st and the $250,000 estimated finals a week later on Friday, June 8th.

Also scattered around the 2012 stakes schedule at Vernon Downs will be a leg of the Miss Versatility Trotting Series, Historic Stakes, along with legs and the final of the $175,000 Kindergarten Classic.

"We pride ourselves at Tioga & Vernon on the racing product and promotions we offer our fans during the summer months in upstate New York, and look forward to what we hope will be the best year yet for Tioga and Vernon Downs," said Jason M. Settlemoir, VP of Racing and Simulcast.

For more information on Tioga Downs or Vernon Downs, please visit us online at and

Friday, January 13, 2012

Revenue up at Tioga Downs in 2011

American Racing and Entertainment, which operates two Racetracks and Casinos in Upstate New York, showed impressive gains in numbers in 2011 at both Tioga Downs and Vernon Downs.

Tioga Downs posted a 9.8% increase in casino credits played ($66.5 million) for 2011 when compared to 2010, with net revenue for the casino up 7.5%, or $4 million dollars.

The food and beverage numbers at Tioga Downs also saw a large increase, due in part to a $5 buffet promotion held the last quarter of the year.

The Food and Beverage number closed out 2011 with a 7.7% increase.

The Tioga Downs gift shop showed the largest increase in business in 2011 with a 92.7% increase over 2010.

Vernon Downs also posted strong increases in business in 2011 with casino credits played at the upstate casino increasing 14.1% ($64 million) over 2010, with net revenue for the casino posting a 2.6% increase in business, good for $1.1 million dollars.

The Food and Beverage department also posted strong gains in 2011, increasing business 18.3% over 2010.

Vernon Downs also had traffic at the property increase sharply during 2011, with attendance being up 11.6% over 2010.

Vernon Downs' significant increases in casino play were helped with the addition of the tax-exempt free play program that began in April 2011.

Also driving business in 2011 for Vernon Downs was the opening of the $8.9 million hotel expansion that included a multi-purpose convention space for concerts, weddings, catering, and receptions, along with a new state-of-the-art simulcasting facility and the luxurious Mr. G's Food and Spirits restaurant.

Tioga Downs Casino is open year-round with video gaming machines, simulcast horse racing, restaurants, a sports bar and special entertainment events.

It is located along the north side of NY Route 17/ I-86, two miles west of exit 62 in Nichols, NY.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

New Boat for Nichols Fire Department thanks to Tioga Downs

Tioga Downs Casino will hold a Press Conference Saturday, January 14th at 1pm at the Nichols Fire Department on 104 West River Road in Nichols, to unveil the Nichols Fire Department's new Rescue Boat.

The boat was made possible by a contribution from Jeff Gural, owner of Tioga Downs and President of American Racing and Entertainment.

The Nichols Fire Department's previous rescue boat, which they had acquired after the 2006 flood, was damaged by debris during rescue operations on September 8, 2011.

They were forced to use a smaller boat owned by a fire department member for the rest of the flood recovery operations.

When the loss of the rescue boat came to the attention of Tioga Downs's staffers, Chief Kittle of the Nichols Fire Department was contacted and Mr. Gural offered financial assistance to make the purchase of the $22,000 craft a reality.

According to Mr. Gural,"We are pleased to be able to help provide this important piece of equipment to the Nichols Fire Department Water Rescue Team, which greatly improves their ability to keep our community safe."

Tioga Downs Casino is open year-round with video gaming machines, simulcast horse racing, restaurants, a sports bar and special entertainment events. It is located along the north side of NY Route 17/ I-86, two miles west of exit 62 in Nichols, NY.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Jeff Gural wins Railbird Recognition Award as Horseperson of the Year

Courtesy of the United States Harness Writers Association:

Voting for the Railbird Recognition Awards ended on New Year's Eve and the voice of the fans of harness racing have been heard. After nearly 8,000 votes were cast, Jeff Gural was named the 2011 Horseperson of the Year and Big Bad John's Little Brown Jug win was tabbed as the most memorable Racing Moment of 2011.

Jeff Gural, who owns and operates Tioga Downs and Vernon Downs in New York State and who also spearheaded major change in the racing landscape there, stepped in and took the lead role in an attempt to save Meadowlands Racetrack from being permanently shuttered after the State of New Jersey decided to cut ties with the racing industry.

A longtime owner and breeder himself, Gural knew if the Meadowlands went down, the rest of the industry would more than likely follow.

In a short time and without many options, Gural was able to broker agreements with the state of New Jersey as well as various labor unions and horsemen's groups in order to lay the foundation that would ultimately lead to the re-opening of the mecca of harness racing this Friday (January 6) and guarantee its survival with a 30-year lease.

During the negotiations, Gural stated, "I would say this is mostly about my caring about harness racing. There are a lot of people whose livelihoods depend on this."

And as a result of Gural's hard work, the livelihoods of a lot of people will be protected for the foreseeable future.

After learning of how the fans of racing felt about his efforts, Gural said, "I was very happy to hear I was chosen by the fans to receive this award; it means a great deal to me. I would like to thank them all for their support and pledge to them that I will do everything I can to make the racing product at the new Meadowlands Racetrack something we can all be proud of."

In winning Horseperson of the Year, Jeff Gural received 47 percent of the fans' votes. George Brennan, who had an outstanding year driving, finished second with 28 percent.

September in Delaware, Ohio, is always an exciting time, but the scene this year was one that (obviously) a lot of people remembered.

Ohio owned by Ed Telle, Ohio trained by Ron Potter and Ohio driven by David Miller, local hero Big Bad John became the first horse stabled year round at the Delaware County Fairgrounds to win the Little Brown Jug.

Big Bad John's win didn't come easy as Up The Credit pushed him to the half before second heat winner Roll With Joe pulled and dueled him all the way to the wire.

But the hard fought win was an epic moment as the 50,000-plus on hand roared as the colt crossed the wire first and returned to the winner's circle.

When Ed Telle learned of winning this award he said, "That race was a moment I'll never forget. It was an all Buckeye win and we must have had 300 people in the winner's circle. It was exciting to hear the fans' reaction to such a special moment then, and I am happy that by virtue of this award, it has remained such a great racing memory for them now."

Telle continued, "Big Bad John is a very special horse. He knows his business and he knows what to do when he hits the track. He is in to go at Pompano Saturday (January 7) and if he wins, he will become a millionaire and he will be retired. He will be standing at Midland Acres in Ohio as we will try to start the next generation of Ohio-bred greatness with him. It's only right that he stands in Ohio."

Voting for Racing Moment of the Year was very close as Big Bad John's Jug received 28 percent of the fans' vote. George Brennan winning both the Hambo and the Oaks was second with 25 percent and San Pail's Breeders Crown victory was third with 24 percent.

Jeff Gural and the connections of Big Bad John will be presented the fan voted Railbird Recognition Awards at the 2012 Dan Patch Awards Banquet in Orlando, Fla., on Sunday, February 12.

Tickets for the dinner will be $125 per person, and tables of ten are available.

Ticket reservations can be made by e-mailing or calling Callie Davies-Gooch at or 732.547.9459 or Steven Wolf at or 954.654.3757.

Anyone attending the banquet should note that the host hotel for the weekend festivities, which includes the annual USHWA national meetings, is the Doubletree Orlando by Hilton Hotel at SeaWorld. Rooms are now available for booking, either by phone or internet, and are at a special rate of $109 per night, plus tax. The hotel has extended this special rate from February 7 through February 16 for those wishing to come in early or stay later. To make hotel reservations, call 800.327.0363 and ask for the special USHWA rate using the code "C-DPA."

The 2012 Dan Patch Awards will not only honor all the leading horsemen, horsewomen, and equine stars of the 2011 season, but will also pay tribute to the peerless career of the great Stanley F. Bergstein, the only person in the harness racing industry who is a member of both the Hall of Fame and its Communicators Corner.

The Railbird Recognition fan voting was a joint effort of the United States Harness Writers Association and the United States Trotting Association.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Paddock construction continues at Tioga Downs

With the mild winter weather thus far in the northeast, the new paddock for the 2012 race season at Tioga Downs has been progressing quickly.

The new paddock has been relocated to the western side of the racetrack to be located in the backstretch by the ship-in barn.

The new paddock is being increased to an eight race paddock and will also hold the race office and commission office for the New York State Racing $ Wagering Board.

The plan is to use the new paddock on opening day of the 2012 race season scheduled for Saturday, May 5, 2012 (Pending Regulatory Approval).

"We are excited about the new paddock being located in the backstretch for the 2012 race season, and believe that this will make Tioga Downs an even more attractive racing destination for horsemen on the East Coast," said Guy Howard, President of the Southern Tier Harness Horsemen's Association.

For more information on Tioga Downs please visit us online at