The 2014 George M Levy Memorial Series Finals was certainly one for the books. As PH Supercam came from the last turn to take the lead in the straightaway, we were right in the winner’s circle caught up in the excitement.
To celebrate the Levy Finals this year, we traveled with an ambassador from the Harness Racing Fan Zone and local online influencers to share a new perspective on America’s oldest past time. Though the weather wasn’t cooperative, our intrepid group shook off the rain and arrived just as the evening’s races were starting to explore Yonkers Raceway. We met up with Joe Feraldo, a United States Trotting Association director, and Alex Dadoyan, Executive Director of the Standardbred Owner’s Association of New York, to share the rich history of the sport with the influencers over a meal.
We headed up to one of the new gems at Empire City Casino, Pinch, an updated 1950s diner concept by acclaimed chef Alain Ducasse. With over 30 New York state breweries on tap and a menu that comfortably showcased comfort classics like black angus beef cheeseburgers with fancier fare like bigeye tuna tartare, plates were shared as we went through reading a racing program the right way and the how-tos of placing a bet.
Full and ready to go, we headed to the paddock to meet the drivers, trainers and grooms that make harness racing their life. Our group got to chat with drivers storing their sulkies after a race and grooms sharing jokes with each other as they got tack ready for horses. We heard the stories of people like Noel who has been working with the saddle pads for twenty years and even chatted with Jason Bartlett before the surprise win of the night.
It’s quite an experience to see the horses and drivers head up the ramp to warm up on the track before a race. A camera crew is filming and the air is buzzing with a mix of excitement and anticipation as the rain pauses to give a clear sky for the championship race.
“Would I ever have gone to a race on my own no but I would now. I would actually take my family to a race. It’s a wonderful experience,” said Ramon Nuez, an attendee, after the races. Alejandra Ramos, a food and TV personality, encourages people to “Try something new every day” and give harness racing a chance. We all can’t wait to head to another local track again soon and will keep posting from the field as we introduce this amazing sport to new fans.