4-H Youth Participate in Vernon Downs Track Tour

Published Sep 21, 2018 at 4:00pm

VERNON — The 4-H of Oneida County hosted an educational event focusing on the Standardbred racing industry on Aug. 11.

Overall 15 youths and 20 4-H parents and volunteers participated from five counties, Oneida, Herkimer, Madison, Chenango and Onondaga.  

Rain could not keep the 4-H families from experiencing the joys of the track. The tour began at Vernon Downs with two drivers, Jimmy Whittemore and Jay Hochstetler, meeting with the group. They explained what they do as drivers/trainers, about the harness/equipment, the Standardbred breed and answered any questions the group had.

The rain inhibited the tour of the track backside, but participants were promised a closer view of the paddock area when they returned later that afternoon.  

The group then traveled to Crawford Farms in Durhamville. Here they were able to learn about the care and breeding process for the Standardbred mares as well as the foaling process and sale fitting of the yearlings.

Heather Reese, a former Oneida County 4-H member, and Brittany Gale gave the group a tour of the facilities including the Yearling and Training Barns and the Equine Spa where they saw a variety of rehabilitation equipment.

The 4-H members were also educated about Racing under Saddle by the tour guide who is a jockey on the NY RUS circuit.  

The 4-H group then headed to Carhart’s Feed and Pet Supply. Sophie Carhart spoke to the group about how they began their business with a harness repair shop at the racetrack before branching out.

Once the group was back at the track, they were able to meet up with Whittemore again and see the paddock area of the track. The 4-H youth were also able to sit in his race bike and ask more questions before dinner at the Gold Cup Buffet.

The presentations were a candid look at the racing industry from an insider’s perspective and set the stage prior the night of harness racing. The sixth race was the Oneida County 4-H Trophy Race and was titled this in the race program that the families received.

Just before the start of the sixth race youth and their families made their way trackside in order to be ready to present the winning horse and driver with the Oneida County 4-H Trophy.

Once youth presented the winners with their trophy, they were awarded a Winner’s Circle photo as a memento of their time spent.