NORWICH – Tuesday was the first day of the Chenango County Fair, which now has 167 years of rich tradition behind it. Along with a day of free admission, there was also the NY Sire Stakes that started at 1 p.m. There were 23 different races that were featured, 21 of which were standard horses hitched to sulkies, and two that were under saddle races.
“There are over 100 horses here today and they are all standard breed,” said Race Secretary Brenda Weidman. The races are divided into divisions that feature two-year-old trotters or pacers that are either fillies, geldings or colts. There is also the same thing for three-year-olds. The divisions are determined by the New York Harness Horse Breeders.
There is an entry fee of $50 for each driver, and Weidman said that this is just one race in a circuit of competitions that will ultimately lead to a race in Monticello in September. Those who won the races yesterday were accumulating points to see if they can compete in the final race of the circuit – only those with the highest points gained throughout the whole circuit can compete in Monticello. All of the drivers who compete in Monticello must compete in at least four races in the circuit in order to qualify.
When asked what keeps her involved with the races Weidman said, “We've done this all of our lives.”
Her husband, as well as her two sons, are involved in the Sire Stakes and have been for a long time.
“I just like horses and I'm sure everyone in here does too,” Weidman said.
The race track is a half mile and the horses circle twice to make the race a full mile in length. A decent time would be under two minutes and 10 seconds. A pacer car starts the drivers out and quickly leaves the track once the horses pass the start line.
“We go about 35 to 40 miles per hour then pull off,” said Michael Finley, the driver of the starter. Scott Campbell was the starter yesterday and the two work together as a team. Finley has been working at the track at Vernon Downs for 35 years driving the starting gate and Campbell has raced horses for almost 30 years.
“I like the excitement about being out on the track,” Finley said and explained that he also enjoys the hours as the races normally do not begin until the early afternoon and run into the evening.
When asked about how easy it is to make a living as a driver he said, “You definitely have to have a love for horses.”