Vernon Downs Is a Desolate Dump – All While Enjoying Millions in Corporate Welfare

Long in decline, NY’s harness-racing industry is currently kept afloat by state subsidies. In fact, if not for this welfare, all seven harness tracks would have closed years ago. (The seven harness tracks and Finger Lakes receive roughly $100 million in annual support payments.) And they look like the moribund businesses they are.

A couple weeks back, HW activists visited Vernon Downs in western NY. The place, as attested by the photos below, is dreary and decrepit. And desolate: Decades ago, it was not uncommon for Vernon to draw thousands on a Friday night. On this Friday, most of the grandstand was curtained-off and the “picnic” area sparsely populated – in all, less than a hundred souls, most of them old, inveterate “horseplayers” (bettors).

And finally, here is a brief clip of the stretch run of one of the races that night. Note the whipping of (and yelling at) the lead horse:


  1. So much money is going down the drain at these subsidized race tracks. How do the politicians justify it unless they are receiving kick backs in the form of campaign contributions? The entire U.S. government is hopelessly corrupt.

  2. Someone please call the Health Department about the condition of this facility ASAP! The bird droppings and that pan of something, whatever it is, looks like an inspection from the Health Department is warranted!!!
    If only the Health Department and the Humane Society could SHUT THIS PLACE DOWN!!!!!
    If any of the bettors are winning any bets, it’s because of the Corporate Welfare this racetrack is receiving from the State of New York. Without the government bankrolling this horrendous CRUELTY to horses, there would be no bets placed on horses here!!!! This must be terminated and the funds redirected to the basic necessities that the public needs!!!! Horseracing is NOT A NECESSITY. This deliberate ANIMAL CRUELTY should be punished by law!!!!! Stop this morally depraved gambling racket that tortures and kills horses!!!!!

  3. Here’s is a direct quote from a standardbred website (HRAction) that is talking about the 90% decline in attendance and Tim Finley offering reasons why and how they need to change it in order to get their attendance back up.
    ” There is way too much time spent for such little excitement. To make matters worse, if there is rain, there is a rain delay, and if a wreck occurs, there is extra time to euthanize the horses and clean up the mess.”
    Indeed, a horse suffering a catastrophic breakdown is awfully inconvenient isn’t it?
    After all, I’m sure you have to get out a magnifying glass to find all the broken pieces of bone scattered on your death rings.
    “Everyone involved in the Standardbred industry must be aware of the enemies of our sport beginning with organizations such as PETA and Horseracing Wrongs. They are spending a lot of time and money to abolish horseracing. Watch this video to get started.” The video is Edie Falco’s message which was posted here.
    Anyways, that’s part of their plan to increase their attendance and we know that nothing will ever do this and that’s why our elected officials need to END the subsidies.

  4. I will agree that Vernon should be closed not because of cruelty but because of neccessity. There are enough harness and thoroughbred horses in New York State most of which are connected to slot parlors which contributes millions to the state. there is no reason why 5 tracks in New York (or more) should be operating at the same time. No wonder the horses are “abused”. Close the non profitable ones and let them race elsewhere.

    • Steve, it is only TOO OBVIOUS that you are okay with the CRUELTY to horses because it is NOT YOU out there getting your ass whipped, your legs broken or you scared out of your wits!!!!! You are not forced to endure the life of being routinely tortured as a racehorse. We know you, Steve, are not capable (incapable) of discerning the difference between what is cruel, sadistic, brutal and INHUMANE to horses and what is kind and thoughtful. We know that it is not your life on the line. You can sit on your fat ass and enjoy the show of indifference and ABUSE to the horses and think it is great because that’s what a low-life animal abuser does.

  5. Please, someone, help me to understand why this industry is supported by tax dollars when it is so clearly failing. I truly do not understand the logic (?) behind it. Who is gaining from this??

    • Why is ROUTINELY ABUSING HORSES funded by public funds? It’s Felony Animal Cruelty. Why do animal abusers get a free pass to commit crimes against horses? Child pornography is a crime against children but is it funded by public funds? I think not!
      Both children and horses do not choose to be victims of morally depraved people! They need to be protected in real ways, not just talk!
      Legislation needs to be passed to punish the criminals and to stop the funding of the CRUELTY!!!!

  6. I am a huge fan of harness racing. I am very good friends with the best trainer and stables in the business. I have seen first hand their operation I can assure you that NONE of their horses are mistreated or abused in any way shape or form. ? Are the CLYDESDALE’S on your endangered animal list? Police horses? AMISH horses?

    • Amish horses are mostly discarded racing Standardbreds. Duh. That’s what happens to those “not mistreated or abused horses” when they can’t/won’t race well anymore. It’s called “Amishing them out” around the harness world here. At any given day here at Northfield park you will see a bunch of Amish guys watching the races. They are also a big supplier of horses to the racing industry. And we know how well they treat THEIR horses and what the end is for the large majority of them!!

    • Steve, using horses as gambling chips has nothing to do with being endangered. Being endangered is not even close to being the same thing as being exploited in a cruel event that routinely uses horses in such a way that deprives the horses of having a normal healthy life.

    • Oh, here we go, another racing supporter trying to deflect from the shit going on in his personal slice by pointing to other equine venues. And of course, a good friend of those trainers, who will swear up hill and down dale that there is NO abuse going on. If you really are privy to the shed rows, Steve, then you know damn well the abuse that goes on back there – I’m not even going to describe it. And if you’re just another ignorant fan over here shooting his mouth off, then you’ve seen first hand the breakdowns on the track and obviously don’t have enough of a moral compass left to acknowledge the horror these horses have to live. Take your self righteousness back to the SS Racing Industry and sit in that dingy little tub until it sinks.

  7. If the public areas look that bad do you even want to imagine what the barns look like?

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