Churning at Yonkers; Tioga and Vernon Release 2017 Dates

by John Furgele

The Sagamore Series took center stage at Yonkers Raceway on Tuesday evening with the $61,800 final and $30,000 consolation paces.  Buoyed by strong casino revenues, Yonkers continues to up the purses and tonight was yet another example.

In the consolation, Century Churchill took the field through panels of 27.1 and 57.1.  In the third quarter, Dakota Jack made a sweeping move to garner the lead in 1:25.4, but down the stretch, Magical Cowboy surged ahead to win in 1:55.2 on a sloppy track.  Total handle for this race was $30,984.

In the final, Prejudice was ambitious from the get-go and took the runners through the quarter in 28.1, the half in 58.1 and three quarters in 1:26.2.  He tired in the stretch giving way to Never Say Never who surged to win in 1:54.2, returning $7.10, $2.60 and $2.10.  Race handle was $43,205.

On Friday, it’s the next leg in the Bluechip Matchmaker series with three paces and purses of $40,000 each.  Post time will be 7:10 pm.

On Wednesday, Buffalo Raceway is back at it with two $8,200 races highlighting the 11-race card.  There is also live racing on Friday and Saturday at the Hamburg Fairgrounds.

Saratoga Harness returns to action Thursday with 11 races and a 12:15 pm post and Monticello will race Wednesday and Thursday with 12:50 pm post times.

Both Vernon and Tioga Downs have announced their 2017 racing schedules.  Tioga, which now has a full-scale casino will open the season Saturday, May 6 (Kentucky Derby day) and will run 59 dates, closing on September 16.  Tioga features a 5/8 mile racing surface.

Vernon Downs will race 82 cards in 2017 and will open on April 21 and close November 4.  There are four major dates on the Vernon calendar to take note of.  The first comes on June 18 when 3-year old trotters compete for $500,000 in the Empire Breeders Classics finals.  The feature race of the Vernon calendar comes on August 18 when 3-year old trotters compete in the $700,000 Zweig Memorial Trot.  With the Hambletonian being contested on August 5, Vernon organizers are hopeful that all the runners from East Rutherford will come to Vernon for a rematch 14 days later.  And, with a 7/8 mile track, it shouldn’t be too hard a transition for the Hambletonian runners to come west to Vernon.

The New York Excelsior finals will be contested for two and three year old trotters and pacers on October 15 with purses totaling $360,000 and the Kindergarten finals will take place for two and three year old trotters and pacers on November 3 with $600,000 on the line.

Say what you want about scheduling, but there is a lot of harness racing going on at the same time.  Is this good or bad for the sport?  Would the sport be better off spacing things out between tracks with less overlap?   Soon, Monticello, Buffalo, Tioga, Yonkers, Saratoga and Vernon will all be running at the same time.  On the positive, there seems to be plenty of horses willing to race and New York, with seven harness tracks seems to be filling their race cards.

See you at the races!

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