Vernon Downs Is Still a Dump Living Off the Public Teat

Vernon Downs, a harness track in western NY, opened its “season” yesterday. In a press release carried in HarnessLink, the track’s assistant GM said: “Vernon Downs is a historic venue, and we are thrilled to have the support of top local horsemen and fans as we kick off our 70th year! We’ve lined up some great promotions and hope our fans enjoy the Vernon Downs experience.” This photo accompanied the release…

Talk about deceptive advertising. Contrast the above with this photo of Vernon taken last summer, on a Friday night no less (other photos and full post here):

Truth is, attendance at not just Vernon but all seven NY harness tracks is so embarrassing they don’t even bother to count and report anymore. No wonder, as the press release says, “entry to the track is free every race day.”

As I wrote in that prior post (aptly titled, “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. And they look like the moribund businesses they are. (We are of course working to right this wrong, with legislation that would redirect those millions to where they belong: education, schoolchildren.)

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  1. Even if the first picture represented the turn out accurately, the majority of the folks in that pic are older. That’s the majority of the horse players at this point, and thank goodness it’s a dwindling demographic.
    Most young folks are not getting into being horseplayers.

    • My guess is that there are more rodents, such as rats and mice, than human beings “attending” the harness races in New York State.

    • Marie, speaking of age demographics:
      I posted this once, but it’s worth repeating:
      When I asked a friend of mine to accompany me to the race track for a date, she replied “Why do you think I would want to watch a bunch of old men screaming at television sets?!?”

      I’m glad I am no longer one of those old men..

  2. They tossed in a photo from the 70’s. If you check the race results from last night you find that not a single race had a betting pool sufficient to pay the purses.

  3. The harness track (my words), Monticello Casino & Raceway (“MCR”) will be ceasing its casino operations as of April 23, 2019. MCR will be consolidating with our nearby Resorts World Catskills Casino Resort, allowing us to offer our guests unmatched experiences in gaming, entertainment, and hospitality.

    Without the subsidies, as you so accurately point out, Patrick, these tracks would fold.

    • It’s always been a source of irritation for me that even average backyard horse owners – who really do care about their horses – will not accept the blatant abuse and outright torture taking place daily on the racetrack and playing out in real time right in front of the cameras. I’ve tried talking to some of them and they just shut me down, telling me that I’m “exaggerating” and that I can’t believe everything I read on an animal activist site. They also refuse to come here and see the documented evidence for themselves.
      I wish the equine community as a whole would stand up and speak out against horse racing.

      • That would be something if organizations such as the American Horse Council would point out the fundamental abuse of young and underdeveloped colts and fillies for racing. It seems that most, if not all, organizations geared for “horsemen and horsewomen” are more inclined to emphasize the activities and the money, not the abuse.

  4. Our old 1 mile oval track here Oregon, Portland Meadows, offered free admission for years because of dwindling attendance and interest. Sometimes they would even offer discounted beer and programs! Of course that track has now been redeveloped as an Amazon warehouse distribution center. The use of the property was much higher value in warehousing then as a racetrack.

  5. Speaking of harness tracks, word the street is that Jeff Gural (owner of the Meadowlands NJ) wants out and is looking to sell the facility, if he hasn’t already done so already. Not by any means an animal activist, Gural undoubtedly sees the writing on the wall, and is most likely looking to put his money somewhere where it’ll do more good than a failing enterprise like horse racing.

    In the “golden years” of horse racing the tracks generated more than enough income to support themselves, but at one point revenue from the Meadowlands supported the entire NJ sports complex. Now, it’s a ghost town most days.

    I stopped wagering on horse racing a year ago. Nothing I see can entice me back.

    • Joe, have you been able to convince anyone you know who places wagers on racehorses that it is a very corrupt and crooked game and not worth supporting it with their money…? Of course, you don’t have to answer if you choose not to.

      • Wanda, I have no problem answering any questions. However, I have, on occasion, spoken to some of my old wagering buddies, and while I believe they still bet on horses, (they won’t admit to me one way or another) I do get the impression that they are getting ever-so-slowly disgusted with the game. However, this is no longer my peer group, so contact is infrequent, at best.

        Obviously, they are not animal activists in any sense of the word. But I think they ARE getting the feeling that they are being cheated – more so now than ever. The drugging and doping of horses is an issue among bettors, and I have explained to many of them that the present-day illegally-administered drug use does render your handicapping prowess much less effective than ever before. But even more so, the small fields and shorter prices are turning many of them off.

        Whether they listen is anybody’s guess. But the advent of legalized sports betting is probably one of your greatest assets in the fight, as a great deal of wagering handle that USED to go to horse racing is now being legally bet on pro sports.

      • Yes it is, sir, and you can bet on that!

        I never liked losing, or being on the “wrong” side of the bet. I used to work hard to handicap the horse races. But horse racing IS losing, and they all know it – it’s only a matter of time before they go the way of the dog racing ‘sport’. Guaranteed, the last few dog tracks left in the U.S. will shutter before long, as well.

        Folks, bet on pro sports, bet in casinos, bet on cruise ships, bet in your friend or neighbor’s weekly poker game, but leave the animals out of it. It took me a long time, but I’ve seen the light.

        • While I certainly agree that we are heading in the right direction, we cannot simply wait for racing to run its course. First, there are no guarantees, but also lives are literally at stake. Every day.

  6. The Kentucky Derby and the Breeder’s Cup will unquestionably be the last to go.

    But before horse racing shuts down completely, and that is where it’s heading – I believe you might see it become a ‘seasonal’ sport first, like baseball, football, etc. with, possibly, winter racing eliminated entirely – I don’t know. But that would be a step in the right direction. The Kentucky Derby is in two weeks. A comparison of the betting handle from years past might be illuminating.

    I have many friends, not real horse racing fans, who bet once a year on the Derby. Both last year, and this year, when they asked for my picks, I said I have none. I also said to them, I no longer support racing, I no longer bet the horses, and neither should you. I also recommended they visit this site..

    But a real chink in the armor is that the once-storied Saratoga meet is experiencing a much smaller turnout, especially on weekdays. In addition to the industry shooting itself in the foot every day, I believe your protests there are helping a great deal. Before I quit betting, I needed to call DAYS in advance, even on weekdays, to get a table in the Turf Terrace, or the downstairs dining area.. Last time I was there, over two years ago, it was beginning to look like Aqueduct in the winter! Not a good sign for the racing industry, for sure.

    The best of luck to you – and no, I would not bet against you!

    • I wish people could have understanding of the horses and stop exploiting young and underdeveloped colts and fillies; especially under saddle. These colts and fillies are not developed sufficiently to withstand the demands of riding or racing! At 18-months-old, they can be taught certain things from the ground, but wait until later on for riding.
      Many of the necropsy reports reveal that the Thoroughbreds have Degenerative Joint Disease. They start them way too young and continue to demand way too much from the underdeveloped colts and fillies. The GREED of the people who have been involved in this industry all of their lives is unacceptable. There are so many other ways to make a living and the filthy rich make their living at other things anyway.

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