Week 13

Day 82 Sunday, October 23

Mahoning ValleyMahoning Valley

Were heading into the final week of the tour and it may look like we're going all over the place, but that's the plan that will provide live racing almost every day. We leave the Mountaineer Resort heading north into Ohio on OH-11, this will take us into Austintown, the home of Mountaineer's newest competitor Mahoning Valley Racetrack and Casino. Mahoning Valley is another cookie cutter Hollywood Gaming site, that is the replacement track for Beulah Downs. It is a glass enclosed facility with a one mile dirt track for thoroughbreds, it also features year round simulcasting and 24/7 year round gaming. Racing is over for the year but it's open so will take a look around before heading for some live Sunday night racing.

Pocono DownsPocono Downs

We head out of Austintown heading east on I-80 into Pennsylvania for about four and a half hours to Wilkes Barrie. In Wilkes Barrie we'll be heading for The Mohegan Suns Casino which includes Pocono Downs. Opened for harness racing in 1965, Pocono Downs was also one of those Pennsylvania tracks that did double duty as a thoroughbred venue from 1969 to 1980. In 2006 Pocono Downs struck it rich when casino gaming was legalized in Pennsylvania. Today it is a sprawling facility that includes the race track, casino and hotel, with live racing from March to November, with year round simulcasting and 7/24 gaming. We'll stay here at the hotel for tonight. When you drive up to the track you can't help but notice the red color of it, is the the red five eights mile?     

Day 82 Miles Cost Lodging
Today 372 186.00 150.00
Total 23,448 13,068.00 11,705.00

Day 83 Monday, October 24

Tioga DownsTioga Downs

Today is the only day we don't get live racing, but we do end up at three racinos, actually every stop from now on will be at a racino, I Love NY. From the Pocono Resort we head north on I-81 till we hit Binghamton, New York, then we take RT-17 west to finish the two hour drive to Nichols. In Nichols we find Tioga Downs, which opened in 1976 as a quarter horse track. Lasting only three years the track closed in 1979 and sat idle for over twenty five years. After gaming was legalized in New York, Tioga Downs got some interest, in 2006 Tioga Downs re-opened as a racino, featuring harness racing. Today the five eight oval, with the glass enclosed grandstand hosts live racing over the summer months, with year round simulcasting and 7/24 gaming, so no problem looking around, but we still have a few stops to make.

Like I said earlier, this week will be a little weird especially today. From Nichols, we've got about a four hour drive west on I-86, back to Pennsylvania, where out target is Erie. In Erie we get a double header and the difference a few years make, well quite a few. From I-86, Take I-90 west to exit 16 in about 1,500 feet turn right on Klier Drive, which once was the main entrance for Commodore Downs. Opened in 1973, Commodore Downs lasted until 1982. In 1984, it was re-opened as Lake Shore Meadows, this time as a harness track, but that only lasted two seasons. In 1986, the runners returned for one last try, the track now named Erie Downs didn't have much success and also closed after two seasons. Today when you drive in you will come to Windsor Beach Technologies, that building is where the grandstand was located and behind it is the infield lake, about all that is recognizable from the original three quarter mile site. Next the difference twenty years makes.

Presque Isle DownsPresque Isle Downs

We head back on I-90 east a short ways to exit 27 where the successor to Commodore Downs, Presque Isle Downs is located. Presque Isle Downs opened in 2007 and is Pennsylvania's newest track, it is a state of the art racino complex, featuring a one mile dirt oval, where racing is held over the summer months. With a Purse Value Index of over 40 the quality of racing is a far cry from Commodore Downs, you won't see any seventeen year olds racing, never mind wining. No problem getting in here, Presque Isle is open 7/24 for gaming and year round for simulcasting. Now we can shuffle off to Buffalo for our last stop of the day.

Buffalo RacewayBuffalo Raceway

We're really going to shuffle off to Hamburg, about an hour and a half up I-90 from Erie. In Hamburg, we're going to head for the Fairgrounds, the home of Buffalo Raceway, where racing has been going on at the half mile oval since 1942. In 2004 the ground floor of the grandstand was converted into a casino, but in 2010 the casino was moved out of the raceway to a stand alone site at the Fairgrounds. In conjunction with sister track Batavia Downs harness racing is conducted almost year round in the Buffalo area with Buffalo Raceway racing from January to June and Batavia from July to December. Today Buffalo Raceway is open for simulcasting from Wednesday to Sunday, so we probably can't get inside, but there's a good view outside the track. The only problem is we can't get to the dinning room for a Beef on Weck, a Buffalo area tradition. We'll stay in the area tonight before some thoroughbreds tomorrow.   

Day 83 Miles Cost Lodging
Today 426 213.00 100.00
Total 23,874 13,271.00 11,805.00

Day 84 Tuesday, October 25

Finger LakesFinger Lakes

Today we're heading east on The New York Thruway, heading for the finger lakes area, actually our destination is Farmington, about an hour and a half down the road. Hey! isn't that Batavia Downs we just passed, whoopsy! I did say it was going to be a little crazy, maybe tomorrow, well definitely tomorrow. In Farmington we're headed for Finger Lakes Gaming and Race Track, for two days of thoroughbred racing. Opened in 1962, Finger Lakes is the only non NYRA thoroughbred track in New York, in 2004 the lower level of the grandstand was converted into a casino and the track was renamed Finger Lakes Gaming. Today Finger Lakes offers live racing from April to November as well as year round simulcasting and 7/24 gaming. Finger Lakes was the home base for the infamous Zippy Chippy, before being banned from racing here, it also was home to Fio Rita a local favorite who was an upset winner of the 1981 Whitney at Saratoga. Fio Rita won 19 of 27 at Finger Lakes and is buried in the track infield. In 2007, New York favorite Funny Cide won  his last career start here at Finger Lakes. So enjoy the day, tomorrow is double header day.

Day 84 Miles Cost Lodging
Today 94 100.00 100.00
Total 23,968 13,371.00 11,905.00

Day 85 Wednesday, October 26

Batavia DownsBatavia Downs

Wednesday starts off at Finger Lakes for another day of live thoroughbred racing, but after that it's back on I-90 west for that date at Batavia. It was no accident that we blew by Batavia Downs the other day, because we knew we were coming back for live racing on Wednesday. The half mile oval at Batavia opened up for nighttime harness racing way back in 1940. Before being rescued by the gaming bill, Batavia had it's share of problems, in 1994 it was the first track in New York to lose it's license and it would be eight years before racing returned. Today Batavia Downs races from July to December with year round simulcasting and 7/24 gaming. Enjoy tonight's racing, tomorrow another live card at another harness track saved by the racino bell.

Day 85 Miles Cost Lodging
Today 48 100.00 100.00
Total 24,016 13,471.00 12,005.00

Day 86 Thursday, October 27

Vernon DownsVernon Downs

Wow! basically two days left before we head for home. No rush today, only one stop and that's for racing this evening. We're back on the New York State Thruway for the two and a half hour ride to Vernon. Where we find what else but Vernon Downs, this is one of the most interesting stops on the tour as the track, casino and hotel are all in separate buildings. If you saw the track when it opened in 1953, you would have probably thought it was intended for thoroughbreds not harness horses. The track was a six furlong oval with a quarter mile chute, which is where the races started. Records were listed for a three quarter mile track, but if you do the math, seems like a mile to me. That's all mute now, in 2000 they got rid of the chute and made the oval seven eights of a mile. Vernon Downs even looks like a thoroughbred track, but today most of it is closed off, only a portion is in use. Until it became a racino in 2006, there was always some sort of controversy floating around, but it's still standing and racing, so enjoy. Tomorrow we have the last hurrah in Saratoga Springs.

Day 86 Miles Cost Lodging
Today 144 72.00 150.00
Total 24,160 13,543.00 12,155.00

Day 87 Friday, October 28

SaratogaSaratoga Race Course

This is the next to last day and we've saved the best for last. From Vernon it's back on the New York Thruway till exit 28 in Fonda, where we connect with RT-29 to finish the two hour drive to Saratoga Springs. In Saratoga we get a triple treat, live racing, the nations oldest track and a Hall of Fame. We'll check in to our hotel at Saratoga Gaming and head down the road to the grand daddy of them all, Saratoga Race Course. Unfortunately the season is over and we can't get inside, but you can still get a good look at the track from a bunch of vantage points. There is nothing like a day of racing at Saratoga, yes, gone are the days when equine's and humans could mingle together under the saddling trees, but the jockeys still walk through the crowd before and after each race and fans flock to the rail to watch the races. The old open air wooden grandstand still stands as it did many years ago, maybe not like it did in 1863, but longer than most could remember, retaining the charm of a gone by era. If you want to know what racing was like in it's glory days a day at Saratoga will give you a pretty good idea. After we're done looking the majestic track over we can cross Union Avenue and visit The National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame, for a nostalgic trip back into the world of thoroughbred racing. After that we head back todays glitz and glamour of the racino.

SaratogaSaratoga Raceway

We make the few minute journey back to the harness track, I have to say it that way, because for the first time in seventy five years the word raceway has been banished from the name, probably not boding well for the future of racing here. So officially we're at Saratoga Casino Hotel, but to me it will be what it was back in 1941, Saratoga Raceway. One thing I will say about the half mile oval here, is that it never was a became a dumb like the other New York Harness Tracks. I can remember they even had a playground were you could drop your kids off, they would get ice cream and drinks from the staff there, if you left your kid in a place like that today you would end up in jail. In 2004, everything changed the era of the racino arrived the ground floor of the grandstand that once had the glass enclosed computer, where you could watch some geek mount tapes all night, was now a casino, now they've added a hotel, as for race fans everybody is crammed into the old clubhouse and the upper grandstand is still open. Anyway enjoy the evening, the trips over, save for one last nostalgic, undocumented stop tomorrow. 

Day 87 Miles Cost Lodging
Today 110 100.00 200.00
Total 24,270 13,643.00 12,355.00

Day 88 Saturday, October 29

RutlandVermont State Fair

This is it, after thirteen weeks and eighty eight days it's over, but one last stop. From Saratoga Springs we head north on I-87, at exit 20 we take RT-149 to the Vermont border where we find US-4 which will take us into Rutland, Vermont after about an hour and a half. In Rutland right on Main Street we find The Vermont State Fairgrounds, where pari mutual harness racing once took place at the fair. All I really know is that in the late eighties or early nineties they had harness racing there, when it started or when it ended, who knows. Although I was there a few times this venue is not documented on my web site so I never did much research on it. It does fit the timeline so maybe I should, but at least I covered it here. The track and grandstand are visible from the road so you can get a look. After that we head for the Green Mountains and I-91, back to the pile of rocks where it all began. Trip over, no hotel bill tonight!    

Day 88 Miles Cost Lodging
Today 154 77.00 .00
Total 24,420 13,720.00 12,355.00

Tracks Visited Live
Week 13 12 5
Total 223 33

Week 12    Epilogue