by James Witherite, Tioga Downs racing media
Nichols, NY – Tioga Downs and Vernon Downs have announced their 2014 stakes schedule, with an estimated $4.3 million in purses to attract the top horses in New York and across North America throughout the season.
Tioga Downs opens their stakes season on Sunday, June 1 with the $200,000e Roll With Joe Open Pace. New York Sire Stakes races mark the calendar through June and July, leading up to the $350,000e Tompkins-Geers Stakes for two- and three-year-olds of both gaits. Unlike years past, where the Tompkins-Geers Stakes have been contested throughout an entire week of racing, two-year-old pacers will have their events on Sunday, August 3, while two-year-old trotters and three-year-olds of both gaits will race on Sunday, August 17. Between the Tompkins-Geers events, New York-sired sophomore pacers will take the spotlight on Sunday, August 10 in the $500,000e Empire Breeders Classic, with separate events for each sex. If needed, eliminations are scheduled for the week prior.
Labor Day (Monday, September 1) proves to be a banner day in the Southern Tier, with a trio of stakes events headlining the afternoon. The $110,000e Shady Daisy for three-year-old pacing fillies and a $40,000e preliminary leg of the Miss Versatility for older trotting mares comprise the undercard features for the day, while three-year-old pacers take center stage in the $350,000e Cane Pace—the first leg of the Triple Crown for pacers.
The $125,000 Reynolds Stakes for two-year-olds closes out the stakes schedule at Tioga, with trotting divisions on Thursday, September 4, and pacing divisions on Friday, September 12.
Vernon Downs kicks off their stakes season on Sunday, June 8, with New York-sired three-year-old trotters contesting the $500,000e Empire Breeders Classic (like the pacers, separate events are held for each sex). If eliminations are necessary, they will take place on Friday, May 30. New York Sire Stakes events cover the early summer months, leading up to the first of two big nights at Vernon on Friday, August 29. The $700,000e Harry Zweig Memorial Trot for three-year-olds once again serves as the centerpiece of the Vernon Downs stakes schedule, with top open trotters sharing the spotlight that night in the $200,000e Crawford Farms Trot (formerly known as the Credit Winner).
Two-year-olds of both gaits and sexes contest the $100,000e Simpson Stakes on Friday, October 24, leading up to a blockbuster Closing Night program, featuring a trio of rich events on Saturday, November 1. Two-year-old trotters wrap up the Kindergarten Classic series with a $200,000e final, and top distaffers compete in a pair of $200,000e events as well—trotters in the Muscle Hill, and pacers in the Artiscape, which moved to Vernon after being raced at Tioga in past seasons.