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CAPITOL — Two harness racing tracks that host electronic casino operations are looking to the state for help amid increased competition from the proliferation of casinos across upstate New York. One piece of legislation would allow Saratoga Casino Hotel in Saratoga Springs to use 4 percent of its net win for capital improvements.  Another would increase the percentage of the net win retained by Vernon Downs Casino Hotel in Vernon, near Utica. The owner has threatened to shut down if the measure is not approved, and on Wednesday, as a preparatory measure, filed the required state notice that all 345 employees will lose their jobs this autumn. Both bills have been approved by the state Senate but have been sitting in committee in the state Assembly. The 2017 legislative session is scheduled to end Wenesday. The bill to benefit the Saratoga Casino Hotel was sponsored in the Senate by Sen. Kathy Marchione, R-Halfmoon, and in the Assembly by Assemblywoman Carrie Woerner, D-Round Lake. Marchione explained in a news release that racinos classified as “small” -- those with fewer than 1,100 video gambling terminals -- already get to keep 4 percent for capital upgrades but “medium” racinos -- those with 1,100 to 1,900 terminals, such as Saratoga -- do not. “This legislation is all about fairness for Saratoga and ensuring a level playing field for our community’s video gaming facility to receive further investments that will support the facility, benefit our economy, help create more jobs and generate additional funding for education,” Marchione said in the news release. A billboard on Route 9 entering the city of Saratoga Springs advertisers Rivers Casino in late February. (Erica Miller) Woerner told The Gazette that one reason for the measure is the arrival earlier this year of Rivers Casino & Resort in Schenectady, which has cut into Saratoga Casino Hotel’s revenue. “With the opening of the Rivers Casino,” she said, “they are definitely seeing an impact on their business, so making it easier for them to start capital projects that will both create new construction jobs but also help make their facility more attractive to patrons supports the long-term health of the business, and I think it’s important to remember that the racino supports both education funding as well as the harness track and the purses for the standardbred horses.” A spokeswoman for Saratoga Casino Hotel did not return a call seeking comment for this story. The situation is similar but worse for Vernon Downs Casino Hotel, said owner Jeff Gural. When the harness track added a racino and hotel, it had one competing operation: The Oneida Indian Nation’s Turning Stone in Verona. There are now full-scale non-Indian casinos close enough to offer competition in Schenectady and Waterloo; Turning Stone, just seven miles north; and the Oneidas’ new Yellow Brick Road Casino in Chittenango, 21 miles west. And in April, the Oneidas began construction of Point Place Casino in Bridgeport, 26 miles northwest of Vernon Downs. Yellow Brick Road and Point Place were the Oneidas' angry response to the state’s allowing del Lago to open so close to Turning Stone, Gural said. “As a result, Vernon Downs is like an innocent bystander in this tumult,” he added.  “Before this, we only had to deal with Turning Stone. We were able to compete with Turning Stone, we are not able to compete with all four of them.” Under the legislation approved by the Senate, Vernon Downs would get to keep a larger percentage of net revenue from gambling done on site, and pay less to the state. Gural called it a reasonable investment by the state for an operation that employs more than 300 people in an area where jobs are not plentiful; pays $2 million a year in various local taxes; contributes $8 million to $10 million annually to education funding; and creates a positive ripple in the area economy, especially from the horses and horsemen during harness-racing season. The problem, he added, is that the taxation for the state’s racinos was established by agreement under circumstances that have since changed. “I was actually party to it,” said Gural, who also owns the Tioga Downs harness track in Nichols and the full-scale casino there, which was converted from a racino last year. Under that formula, racinos in wealthier and/or more populous areas were taxed at a higher rate, as they were likely to be more lucrative operations, he explained, while those near existing Indian casinos and/or less-wealthy areas were taxed at a lower rate. With all the new competition, Vernon Downs is less lucrative now, he said. Finger Lakes Gaming & Racetrack, near Canandaigua, which also was struggling, received a tax break from the state in 2016. Published reports indicate some speculation among the horsemen that Vernon Downs won’t actually close, that the planned shutdown is a bit of brinksmanship by Gural. Gural hopes they’re right. “I would really be shocked if this wasn’t resolved next week, but anything can happen,” he said. “I lose about $5,000 a day, so I figured I might as well start the process of closing.” The circa-1953 track was closed for two years in the mid-2000s, reopening in 2006 after reaching an agreement with its horsemen and being approved for a state racino license. Vernon Downs’ layoff notice to the state indicates the casino would close Sept. 10, the race track Nov. 11, and the hotel Dec. 18. One or more on-site eateries would close on each of those dates, as well, and the last of the 345 employees would be gone Dec. 18. But at this point, the notice is intended only as preparation for a potential shutdown, not as the first step in an actual shutdown. “I’m highly optimistic,” Gural said. Gazette reporter Ned Campbell contributed to this story. Reprinted with permission of The Daily Gazette

Lucid Thoughts (Cash Hall) has been a picture of consistency this season. The nine year old harness racing trotter hit the board in twelve of his fifteen starts this season heading into his try in the $14,500 Open Trot on Sunday afternoon at Saratoga Casino Hotel. Shawn Gray piloted the John Macdonald trainee and got away in the two-hole behind Cincinnati Miss (Frank Coppola Jr) who won the Open just two weeks ago. Cincinnati Miss carved out the fractions and after checking in at three quarters in 1:26 extended her lead around the final turn. Longshot Lucid Thoughts then gathered a head of steam and came charging hard in the stretch. The veteran high-stepper reeled in Cincinnati Miss in the final strides before stopping the timer in 1:55.1, a time that matched the effort from trotting mare Charmed Life on April 23rd as the fastest of the season for a trotter at Saratoga. Cincinnati Miss was the runner-up while the favored Boli (Wally Hennessey) was late on the scene to earn the show spot. Lucid Thoughts paid a hefty $33.40 to win in the upset while the exacta and triple came back $178 and $310, respectively. Live racing resumes on Thursday afternoon at Saratoga with a matinee beginning at 12:15pm. Mike Sardella

The track's defending Filly and Mare Pacer of the Year So Nice (Ponder) won the Open at Saratoga Casino Hotel for the first time this season on Friday night. The Amber Buter-trained distaffer recorded eleven victories in 2016, several of which came in the local Fillies and Mares Open. After her award-winning '16 campaign, So Nice got off to a bit of a slow start this year before turning things around in late April. On Friday, Stephane Bouchard put the seven year old mare on the front end and after enduring a first quarter in 27 seconds flat, fought gamely while tested in the final quarter. A two-pronged challenge came for So Nice in the stretch as pocket-sitter Her Own Land (Mark Beckwith) closed up the inside while the race's 1-5 favorite Godiva Seelster (Wally Hennessey) came charging hard from the back of the pack. So Nice won the three-horse photo while Godiva Seelster had to settle for second. Her Own Land earned the show spot in the $13,000 Open that went in 1:52.2 over a track labeled 'good.' So Nice paid $11.60 to win and started an exacta with Godiva Seelster second that returned $19.80. Live racing continues on Saturday night at Saratoga with a 6:45pm first post. Mike Sardella

Hotel Royale (Rc Royalty) handled her step up in class with relative ease on Thursday afternoon at Saratoga Casino Hotel. The George Ducharme-trained three year old filly prevailed in the $9,950 co-feature for New York sired trotters as reinsman Frank Coppola Jr. marched the talented distaffer out to the early lead. Hotel Royale, who had a fourth place finish in her May start in the New York Sire Stakes, went coast to coast on Thursday before stopping the timer in 1:58, a time that matched her victory from last week in which she set a lifetime mark. Since the addition of lasix, the three year old trotting filly has gone three-for-three at Saratoga, recording all of her wins in front-running fashion with Coppola in the sulky. The other co-feature on Thursday was won by Prince Of Fame (Crazed) who cruised to a front-running score in 1:57 with Wally Hennessey in the bike. Live racing continues on Friday night with a 6:45pm first post. Mike Sardella

Twisted Pretzel (Crazed) won his first career Open Trot at Saratoga Casino Hotel on Sunday afternoon. The Scott Mongeon-trained seven year old came into the race off back to back victories and was assigned post position two in the $13,000 feature. Invader J A T O (Stephane Bouchard) moved out to the early lead and held that advantage until turning for home. That's when Twisted Pretzel stepped on the gas and powered past J A T O en route to his sixth win of the season. Jimmy Devaux piloted the trotter to each of his three most recent scores. The race's favorite Boli (Wally Hennessey) came flying in the stretch but was too late to get the job done and had to settle for second while J A T O held to settle for third. Twisted Pretzel, whose win came in 1:55.3, paid $19.60 in the upset. The exacta and triple came back $74.50 and $207, respectively. Live racing resumes on Thursday with a matinee set to begin at 12:15pm. Mike Sardella

Settlemoir (Western Ideal) went coast to coast in the Saturday harness racing feature at Saratoga Casino Hotel. In his local debut last week, the Rene Allard-trained Settlemoir finished second in the $12,500 Winners Over and subsequently was the 8-5 betting favorite this week as he looked to wire the feature field. Wally Hennessey sat behind the four year old pacer as he clicked off a first quarter of 27 seconds flat. Following an effective breather in quarter two that led to a half in 56.3, Settlemoir wound up having just enough left to hold off the late bid by pocket-sitter Panocchio (Gerry Mattison) who had to settle for second. Bet You (Stephane Bouchard) earned the show spot. Settlemoir, who stopped the timer in 1:52.4 for his fourth win of the season, prevailed in just his second start following the claim by Allard at Yonkers in May. Live racing continues on Sunday afternoon with a matinee first post set for 12:15pm. Mike Sardella

Betabcool N (Bettor's Delight) scored her first win in the local harness racing Fillies and Mares Open at Saratoga Casino Hotel on Friday night. Bruce Aldrich Jr. piloted the seven year old Al Annunziata trainee in the $14,500 feature and wasted no time moving the 4-5 betting favorite out to the early lead. After sizzling through a first quarter in 27 seconds, Betabcool N got a big time second quarter breather before reaching the half in 57.1. Hounded by several rivals in the second half, Betabcool N held strong in the stretch and prevailed in 1:53.3. Last week's Open winner Godiva Seelster (Wally Hennessey) came up second best on Friday while last week's runner-up So Nice (Stephane Bouchard) had to settle for third this week. Betabcool N was the first of three winners on the night for her connections as fellow distaffers Quick Draft A (Art Major) and Tracey's Desire (Real Desire) also scored victories for Aldrich and Annunziata. Live racing continues on Saturday night at Saratoga with a ten race card set to kick off at 6:45pm. Mike Sardella

Scarey Karie (Conway Hall) prevailed in the $9,950 harness racing co-feature on Thursday afternoon at Saratoga Casino Hotel. Phil Fluet trains and drives the filly who was fresh off a second place finish in a $40,000+ New York Sire Stakes try in her last start. On Thursday, Fluet moved the odds-on favorite out to the early lead, a lead she would never surrender. The sophomore stopped the timer in 1:58.1 for a new lifetime mark in the co-feature for New York sired trotters. In just twelve career starts, Fluet's Scarey Karie now has four wins and four seconds en route to more than $72,000 in earnings. Starlingmoon (Stephane Bouchard) pulled off the upset for the second straight week in the other co-feature as the Andy Byler-trained trotter came from well off the pace to prevail in a career best 1:58.2 at odds of 10-1. Live racing continues on Friday night at Saratoga with a first post time of 6:45pm. Mike Sardella

The Saratoga Harness Racing Hall of Fame & Museum announces it's Annual Induction Ceremony/Open House, Tuesday June 13, 2017 at the Museum - 352 Jefferson St, Saratoga Springs, NY.   The gates will open for the event at 5:30 pm, with the ceremony starting at 6:30 pm. Refreshments and light food will be served.   The museum is located off the Jefferson St. Entrance to Saratoga Casino Hotel.   This year's inductees are Jim Mattison, trainer & River Of Glory, horse.   Mattison's career at Saratoga spans 39 years with several standout horses and honors along the way. See attached for more details   River Of Glory, currently owned by Hall of Fame trainer Dave Spagnola & Our Blue Streaks Stable was the 2003 Trotter of the Year. See attached for more information   In addition we will be presenting the seventh annual Virginia O'Brien Memorial 110% Award. This award honors individuals who devote their life to the pursuit of the sport of harness racing, such as a groom or backstretch worker, who might not otherwise be in the limelight. The nominees are chosen by their peers from the Saratoga Harness Horseperson's Association. This year Dave Truitt & Eric Cachaza will be the honorees   For more information contact Director, Dave Oxford at 518-728-7860 or email:   Jim Mattison Jim Mattison jogged his first horse for his uncle at age 13, he got the racing bug and never looked back. He considers that uncle, Clyde Mattison, a mentor-who instilled loyalty, honesty, and a winning work ethic that has guided him throughout his career. Soon after, Jim’s dad bought him a horse for $200…Lebanon Boy, a 14 YO pacer who was older than Jimmy himself at the time. Jim raced him at Hinsdale, earning mentions in The Bennington Banner, and around $1,100 in purses that summer and fall. He worked the circuit of Hinsdale, Green Mountain & Rockingham over the next 5 years with Clyde, and after a brief stint in the Army was back into racing full time in 1971. Jim made the decision to move to Saratoga in 1978, although finding it tough to get started, he hit his stride and was honored with the Peerless McGrath Award for up and coming trainer in 1980. He liked to have a dozen or so going, and enlisted the help of his brother Gerry who worked with him from 1978-1985, before striking out on his own. Jim was consistently in the top ten of the trainer-driver standings for much of the 1980’s with standout horses like Too Much Sugar (1985 Trotter of the Year); Princeton Collins (claiming pacer of the year); Power Swipe,  Jersey Gambler, Electro Jet, and Patented Design to name just a few. Other milestones during that time were his 1,000th win in 1983 and 1,500th in 1988. A fellow trainer describes Jim as “a quiet force” you don’t hear much about him but he does a lot of damage (collecting purses). Jim credits his wife Vicki, whom he married in 1985, with keeping their horses in top condition-“she does all the leg work”. These days they split their time between Saratoga and Pompano and have 2 children Amy & Jodi. One person who has enjoyed Jim’s success with him over the years is Emile Johnson, Jr. The pair has been together as owner and trainer for 45 years. Their first horse was Mar Con Cadet, a New Hampshire Sire Stakes champion;  and lately they have been enjoying great success with Panocchio who was horse of the year at Saratoga in 2014 and pacer of the year 2014 & 2015. Jim’s career currently spans 6 decades and his lifetime training stats are 3,493 starts for a record of 572-526-416 with purse earnings of $3,040,040, his driver stats are 1,728 starts with $2,919,403 in purses.         River Of Glory River Of Glory was foaled in 1997, in Ontario, Canada. A bay trotting mare by King Conch out of O’Glory, she was the third of four foals of her dam, and her talent far exceeded that of her siblings. She didn’t make her first start until 3, and raced around Canada and the U.S. mostly at larger tracks with a limited number of starts per year. A change in connections landed her at Saratoga in 2003, where she regularly appeared in the winner’s circle, racing in the upper divisions. At season’s end she had tallied a record of 8-6-6 for 35 starts, $41,407 in earnings, and a lifetime mark of 1:58 (H).  River Of Glory was honored for her efforts being awarded Aged Trotter of the Year and Trotter of the Year in 2003 at Saratoga. River Of Glory dominated the upper trotting classes at Saratoga over the next four years with a total of 108 starts for a record of 23-20-8 amassing over $175,000 in earnings. 2008 brought another change of connections and while she had lost a step or 2 along the way, River Of Glory was still a dominant force on the Spa Oval. She still holds the track record times for trotting mares as an 11YO (2008); 12YO (2009); 13YO (2010) and 14YO (2011). Upon her retirement in 2011, connections Dave Spagnola & Our Blue Streaks Stable sent her to the breeding shed where she currently has 4 registered foals, all mares.  Significantly, RiverofRoyalty foaled in 2013, continues her Mother’s winning ways and was named 3YO trotter of the year in 2016 at Saratoga. River Of Glory finished her career with 313 starts for a record of 66-55-33 and earnings of $478, 475 and a lifetime mark of 1:55.2 (M)

Artful Way (Artistic Fella), the defending Pacer of the Year at Saratoga Casino Hotel, recorded the fastest mile of the year on Saturday night when he won the harness racing Open Pace in 1:50.1. Frank Coppola Jr. went pedal to the metal in the early going with the 7-5 betting favorite in the $14,500 Open and Artful Way hit the quarter in 26.3. The tempo didn't slow much and after checking in at three quarters in 1:22.3, the star pacer had enough left to draw away and win in 1:50.1. Don'tcallmefrancis (Bruce Aldrich Jr) was the runner-up for the second consecutive time in the Open while JK Panache (Jim Devaux) earned the show spot. For Artful Way, it was the third victory in the local Open Pace this year. His trainer Jackie Greene now has recorded six wins in the regular Saturday feature at the Spa this season. It was the 26th win in just 80 career starts for the five year old Artful Way whose 1:50.1 final time served as a new lifetime mark. Artful Way, who paid $4.80 to win, led an exacta and triple that came back $16.40 and $32, respectively. Live racing continues on Sunday afternoon at Saratoga with a matinee beginning at 12:15pm. Mike Sardella

Friday night featured the first harness racing installment of the New York Sire Stakes of the year at Saratoga Casino Hotel. The fourteen race card was comprised of solely lady pacers including four divisions of the $44,000+ Sire Stakes for sophomore fillies. Tequila Monday (American Ideal-Margarita Monday-Ponder) began her title defense as the Chris Oakes-trained filly was the two year old Sire Stakes champion last year. With earnings of just shy of $190,000 as a freshman, Tequila Monday came into Friday's stakes try off a career-best victory at Yonkers in which she stopped the timer in 1:52.2. Brian Sears piloted the sensational sophomore on Friday who after moving out to the early lead never looked back before scoring in 1:52.4, the fastest time of the night for all the Sire Stakes races. Roaring To Go (Brett Miller) who was the runner-up to Tequila Monday on the Night of Champions in 2016 came up second best to her once again on Friday despite a strong showing of her own. Daughters of Roll With Joe, Obvious Blue Chip (Scott Zeron) and Playing Favorites (Billy Dobson) each recorded stakes scores on Friday as did Artrageous (Art Major- In Deep Thought-Ponder) who went wire-to-wire with Brett Miller in the sulky. The next installment of the New York Sire Stakes at Saratoga won't take place until July 20th when three year old trotting fillies are featured. Live racing continues on Saturday night at the Spa with a 6:45pm first post. Mike Sardella

Red Cash (Cash Hall) set a harness racing new lifetime mark on Thursday afternoon at Saratoga Casino Hotel. John Podres owns and trains the six year old mare who came up second best while a beaten favorite during Monday's Memorial Day matinee. On Thursday, Red Cash moved first over on the favored Crazycat (Mark Beckwith) in the $9,000 feature for New York sired trotters. Red Cash cleared the lead and powered away to win in a career best 1:57.3 at odds of 5-2. Reigning Autumn (Alek Chartrand) came from the back of the pack to finish second while Crazycat had to settle for third. The win was one of three consecutive on the card for driver Jimmy Devaux who piloted a pair of winners for Harry Reddick Jr. on the day, guiding pacers Freedom Reigns and Dandy Do Right to Monday scores. Friday night racing will feature the New York Sire Stakes for the first time this season as three year old pacing fillies take center stage at the Spa. First post time is set for 6:45pm. Mike Sardella

It was a big afternoon on Monday at Saratoga Casino Hotel for harness racing trainer Kyle Spagnola. The young conditioner entered the week in fifth in the trainer standings and added two wins to his total on the matinee card. Spagnola's Skibbereen (Real Desire) made his return from Vernon Downs where he prevailed in the $12,000 final of the Farina Series and wound up as the betting public's 3-5 favorite in the field of colts and geldings competing for a purse of $5,750 on Monday despite twice being a beaten favorite in his local starts. Skibbereen powered up around the final turn and cruised past the leader before drawing away to win in 1:58.3 with Frank Coppola Jr. in the sulky. Skibbereen joined trotter The Franchise (Billy Dobson) in recording a win on the Monday card for Spagnola who scored a training double and had a second and a pair of thirds with his trainees on the day while in the midst of another strong season at the Spa. Live racing resumes on Thursday afternoon at Saratoga with a 12:15pm matinee when there will be a pick-5 carryover of $2,804. Mike Sardella

On The Podium (Donato Hanover) went coast to coast in the Sunday harness racing feature at Saratoga Casino Hotel. The Al Annunziata-trained trotter moved out to the early lead in the $15,000 Winners Over and never looked back. After getting a first half in 57.2, On The Podium didn't face any real pressure until the final turn when pocket sitter Cincinnati Miss (Frank Coppola Jr) came out of the two-hole to challenge. Those two trotters stepped away from their rivals before On The Podium reached the wire first in 1:55.4 for his third victory of the season. The race's lone lady Cincinnati Miss came up second best while Lucid Thoughts (John Macdonald) kept his "on the board" streak alive by closing for third. On The Podium returned $13.40 to win while pulling off the mild upset. Aldrich has rebounded well after a scary spill on Friday night. The 2015 leading driver at Saratoga piloted three winners on Saturday evening (two for Annunziata) and followed it up with a victory in the Sunday matinee's feature. Live racing continues on Monday afternoon with a Memorial Day matinee card set to kick off at 12:15pm. Mike Sardella

Givenupdreaming (If I Can Dream) paced the fastest mile of the year to date on Saturday night at Saratoga Casino Hotel. The Heidi Rohr trainee was one of five participants in the $13,000 Open Pace and with first half fractions of 27 and 55.3 to set the table, Givenupdreaming moved first over and powered up to take over the lead after three quarters in 1:23. The six year old standout cruised away in the stretch before stopping the timer in 1:50.3, the fastest clocking for any race in the 2017 campaign at the Spa. Somewhere Fancy (Billy Dobson) followed the winner's cover and wound up as the runner-up in the feature while Panocchio (Gerry Mattison) came on for third. It was the sixth victory of the season for Givenupdreaming and the first win in the local Open for the Rohr trainee who was piloted to the Saturday score by Stephane Bouchard. Live racing this holiday weekend with matinees scheduled for both Sunday and Monday afternoons both beginning at 12:15pm. Mike Sardella

Little Santamonica (Little Steven) has always loved competing at Saratoga Casino Hotel and the talented harness racing mare has always done her best work on the front end. In Friday night's $13,000 Fillies and Mares Open, the Jordan Hope trainee moved out to the lead. Driver Jimmy Devaux, who has said that Little Santamonica is one of his favorite horses as she always gives premium effort, gave the nine year old a second quarter breather before she was tested approaching three quarters. Little Santamonica recorded her seventh victory of the season as she held off pocket sitter Keene Olivia (Billy Dobson) and longshot Quick Draft A (Frank Coppola Jr) to prevail in 1:53.1. The race's 6-5 co-favorite in the wagering led an exacta and triple that paid $27.80 and $189, respectively. It was career win number 42 for Little Santamonica who earlier in the season paced the fastest mile of the year for distaffers when she stopped the timer in 1:51.4 in her previous Open win. Live racing continues on Saturday night with a 6:45pm first post time. Mike Sardella

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