Sports Outside the Beltway

Another doomed horse racing track- Vernon Downs

Officials there want to end its racing season early.

VERNON, N.Y. (AP) – After struggling to open this year, a harness track in central New York wants to pull the plug on its racing season to save money.

Officials at Vernon Downs near Utica say they want to cancel the last four racing days of the year. The track’s owners want to close for the season after Saturday’s races. Vernon Downs had been scheduled to race on weekends until November 10th.

The track’s owners were hoping that legislation would be passed in the state Assembly earlier this week that would increase vendor license fees for video lottery at New York’s race tracks.

That would have given track operators a higher percentage of revenue from their video lottery terminals.

The state Senate approved a bill in June, but the Assembly postponed voting on Tuesday because of revenue concerns raised by horsemen’s groups across the state.

The decision to close early must be approved by the state’s Racing and Wagering Board.

My father took me to Vernon Downs once, it was in 1972. The track was 3/4 of a mile then, which is an unusual length for a standardbred venue. Most racing are done on 1/2 mile, 5/8 mile or mile tracks. Pompano Park here in Florida is 5/8ths of a mile around.

Sadly Vernon, like many horse tracks, can’t survive on horse racing alone. In this track’s case, other forms of gambling haven’t created adequate enough revenue to finance racing.(Note Vernon Downs financial difficulties go back many years) Having grown up around the sport of horse, I feel sad at what is happening. In honest truth, I don’t even follow the sport much any more. Take for instance, The Little Brown Jug which some call The Kentucky Derby for Standardbred Pacers, was raced last month. It went totally unnoticed by me.

Side note- The Little Brown Jug website contradicts itself. Saying that Strike Out in 1972 went 156.3 then both a Jug and I believe World Record for a 3-year-old on a half mile track at the time, but on another page saying a record set in 1965 stood till 1977.

I know about Strike Out’s record outing, for I was there. My father owned Fast Clip, the horse who came in second to Strike Out. Clip went 156.4 for the race.

Back to Vernon Downs. Rather than hoping for help from the state legislature, the owners of the track may want to re-evaluate whether horse racing should continue at the track. Another band aid is only putting off the inevitable.

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