by Michael Chamberlain, Vernon Downs Publicity
Memorial Day weekend is a time when most Americans reflect on the sacrifices made by those who protect the rights and freedoms so very important to the United States. So, it might have been the proper result when War Hero rallied to win the Saturday night $9,500 featured race at Vernon Downs. War Hero is owned by Howard "Doc" Gill of Pine Bush, NY. Gill is a respected horsemen and a veteran, who had gained a large measure of fame a few years ago by driving Sealed N Delivered to victory at Monticello at the age of 81.
War Hero got the coveted pocket spot behind the betting favorite A Penny Earned through the early stages of the feature event. A Penny Earned carved out strong, but taxing, fractions of 26.2 for the quarter, 55.3 for the half, and 1:24.3 for three-quarters. Those times, however, did not earn A Penny Earned an easy lead moving to the far turn. Evil Urges fired past the competition from the back of the pack to race right alongside the leader as the field turned for home. In fact, Evil Urges assumed the lead midway through the lane before War Hero tipped out for a late surge. The resultant photo was indeed close as War Hero and Evil Urges hit the finish together, but the picture gave the victory to War Hero, driven to victory by Howard Okusko Jr. and trained by Jessica Okusko. War Hero won at odds of 9-1 and paid $20.40 for the win. The complete order of finish for the race was War Hero, Evil Urges, A Penny Earned, Mr Web Page, Sand Top Gun, and Michelangelo.
The $8,000 co-feature race on Saturday night was far more cut and dry. The betting favorite, Ilovemymommy, went right to the lead from the outside post position and never was really challenged in a gate-to-wire score. Ilovemymommy, expertly driven by Jimmy Whittemore, finished the mile trot in 1:53.3. MC Tiny's Hope did try to make a race of it on the second turn, but was summarily turned away by Ilovemymommy. Long Island Tea was able to pass MC Tiny's Hope for second in the final strides. The remainder of the order was Painite fourth and Canadian Justice fifth.
Driver Rick Plano continued his hot streak at Vernon Downs on Saturday night. He recorded his second straight night with four driving victories. Plano won three straight in the middle of the program with My Revenuer in the fifth, Naughty Not Nice in the sixth, and Spring Goal in the seventh. He then tacked on the fourth winner by taking the finale with Thekeptman. That seventh race did include an unfortunate incident on the far turn as Upfront Carol went down on the turn, but thankfully there were no injuries as a result of the incident. The drivers involved were able to continue driving on the Saturday evening program.
Live racing will resume at Vernon Downs with a special Memorial Day Monday holiday program of eleven races. Post time is scheduled for 1:15pm.
(A second e-mail will follow this one with photos from the Vernon Downs photographer of both War Hero and Ilovemymommy)