August 3, 2012

Harness horse racing up close [Photos & Video]

About eight miles north of Yankee Stadium there is a horse racing track. It's called Yonkers Raceway, and you can bet on horses there five nights a week, or waste your money at the slots in Empire City.

I didn't know a thing about horse racing except for when we watch the Kentucky Derby and hear about horses vying for the Triple Crown. In the past two days, I've learned more than I could ever imagine about harness horse racing while participating in the Clyde Hirt Sports Media Workshop.

Yonkers Raceway, click to enlarge
Quick guide: the Kentucky Derby is for galloping Thoroughbred horses. The Hambletonian, the biggest harness racing event of the year that I'm covering for the New York Daily News this Saturday, is for trotting Standardbred horses. You all know what the Kentucky Derby looks like, but I bet you've never seen the type of race shown above.

I was at Yonkers last night, but I have spent most of my time at the Meadowlands Racetrack, which hosts the Hambletonian and is right next door to the home of the New York Giants. As a special treat, I got to see a race start from inside a starting gate car, which is used to align the horses evenly before the race begins. (The horses get a running start.) I bet you'll never get this close to a horse race.

Before the races, I visited the recently renovated New York Daily News office and saw Gary Cohen and Bobby Ojeda host a Mets pregame show at SNY's studio. I also got my first byline for NYDN, a preview for the Hambletonian Oaks, a race for fillies, female horses. The Hambletonian is usually just for colts, male horses.

Not a bad day at all.

I wish I could have met the late, great NYDN cartoonist Bill Gallo.

A view of the Hambletonian track from the press box.
Me with Bobby Ojeda, Gary Cohen and other workshop participants at SNY.
The new, sleek NYDN offices.

The office has about 10 front pages framed about 8-by-5 feet.  I couldn't resist. 

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