As you can see from the press release below, Central New York (and hopefully the Meadowlands) will be the place to be this summer as Tioga Downs and Vernon Downs puts on their strongest stakes calendar yet. In addition to their regular stakes races, the two tracks pick up the Historic Stakes which previously were raced at the Meadowlands. Also of note is that the Kindergarten Stakes, which had a leg raced at the Meadowlands in the past will now be divided between The Red Mile and Vernon Downs. In addition to these races will be the full compliment of NYSS and NY Late Closing events. For tracks of this size to have such a deep stakes calendar speaks a lot about the commitment Jeff Gural and company have to harness racing.
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 (Tioga Downs)