Officials at Tioga Downs and Vernon Downs have unveiled a new-look stakes schedule for the 2017 season, with top horses converging on upstate New York to compete for over $3.7 million in purses.
Top veteran Standardbreds and 3-year-old New York-sired pacers take center stage on a pair of blockbuster Sundays at Tioga Downs. The Aug. 20 card features the $175,000 (est.) Roll With Joe for open pacers and both $250,000 (est.) Empire Breeders Classics for 3-year-old pacers. One week later (Aug. 27), distaff pacers contest the $175,000 (est.) Artiscape as a co-featured event with the $175,000 (est.) Crawford Farms Trot and the $175,000 (est.) Joie de Vie (formerly the Muscle Hill) Mares Trot, both of which move to the Southern Tier from Vernon Downs.
"We have an amazing stakes lineup on back-to-back Sundays in August," said Jason Bluhm, director of racing at Tioga Downs. "I think our fans will enjoy seeing all the sport's top stars—all the top horses, drivers and trainers—converge on Tioga for what should be some phenomenal racing."
Other stakes highlights at Tioga include a Graduate Series preliminary for 4 year olds on the pace and on the trot, the Geers Stakes for 2- and 3-year-old pacers, the Arthur Tompkins Memorial for 2-year-old trotters, the W. N. Reynolds Stakes for 2 year olds, and a Miss Versatility preliminary for distaff trotters.
At Vernon Downs, the marquee event remains the Harry M. Zweig Memorial for 3-year-old trotters, but it has been moved from its late July position to two weeks after the Hambletonian, where it will now take place on Friday, Aug. 18. The main event for top colts and geldings carries a $370,000 (est.) purse, while top fillies vie for $150,000 (est.).
"We thought it was the perfect opportunity to move into this spot when Pocono decided not to race the Colonial in 2017," remarked Vernon Downs' director of racing Scott Warren. "We are hopeful we'll be able to attract the Hambletonian and Hambletonian Oaks winners."
New York-sired 3-year-old trotters will compete in the $250,000 (est.) Empire Breeders Classics on Sunday, June 18, and the sport's finest 2-year-olds will compete for an estimated $600,000 as the Kindergarten Classic finals return to the Miracle Mile on Friday, Nov. 3. (Tioga/Vernon)