Vernon, NY --- The Tioga/Vernon All-Star Drivers’ Championship has changed formats and locations during its first six years, but one thing has remained constant throughout: the driver representing the host track has never won the top prize.
Rick Plano and Jimmy Marohn, Jr. are out to change that when the all-star competition begins with its first round at Vernon Downs on Sunday night (Aug. 25).
Sunday’s first round includes four races. Points will then be carried over to the final round at Tioga Downs on Sept. 2, with a card that will include five races.
“I’ve always said these guys are the easiest to race with but the toughest to beat,” said Jimmy Marohn, Jr., who is the leading driver at Tioga Downs with 59 wins, but finished ninth in his only other appearance in the Drivers’ Championship. “They know how to give their horse a good trip and they get every bit of power out of every horse they drive.”
|Leading Vernon Downs driver Rick Plano is the oldest competitor at age 61.|
Plano will compete in his first Drivers’ Championship by virtue of leading the Vernon Downs driver standings by 26 wins over his closest pursuer.
“With the exception of Ronnie Pierce, I’ve got a few years on all those boys,” said the 61-year-old Plano. “I don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing though.”
In addition to age, Plano, a native of nearby Frankfort, will have a unique advantage on all of his competitors on Sunday night. Three of the four horses he’ll drive are horses he also trains.
“My other advantage is that I know all of the horses I’ll be racing against,” said Plano. “Any driver will tell you it’s a big advantage when you know your opponent; you know who can leave and who can do what during a race. I feel like I got a shot at $10,000 before we even start just because it’s my home court.”
The leader at the end of Sunday’s first round will get $10,000. The overall winner of the competition after the final round at Tioga Downs wins $25,000.
Sunday night’s card at Vernon also includes the $360,000 Zweig Memorial Trot featuring Hambletonian winner Royalty For Life, who will race on his home track for the first time since capturing harness racing’s most prestigious race.
A driver autograph session, Corey Callahan bobblehead and commemorative t-shirt giveaway will begin at 5:45 p.m. First race post time is 6:45 p.m.