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: