‘Legislators’ Challenge’ Sets the Pace at Yonkers Raceway

17 New York State elected officials enjoy ‘phenomenal’ racing experience, and friendly competition on the track at Empire City Casino on Saturday (Yonkers, NY) – It wasn’t parimutuel but rather political bragging rights that were up for grabs Saturday night (Oct. 19th) with Yonkers Raceway at Empire City Casino by MGM Resorts bringing back the Legislative Pace for the first time since 2014

. The Legislative Pace was comprised of four before-the-card races featuring 17 New York State elected officials competing in double-seated jog carts…with sporadic assistance from the Raceway’s leading drivers.“The Legislative Pace truly created a memorable day, not only for the 17 New York State Senate and Assembly members who got to experience first-hand the excitement of harness racing at Yonkers Raceway, but for all racing fans who attended Saturday,” said Uri Clinton, President and Chief Operating Officer of Empire City Casino by MGM Resorts.

“We welcomed legislators to participate in this `inside the track’ friendly competition at the historic 120-year-old Yonkers Raceway. It was a fun-filled day that we dubbed ‘the hottest political race of the year’.”  The first of four races saw State SenatorJamaal Bailey, whose district spans Bronx & Westchester, carry harness horse Pembroke Joey and driver Jim Marohn Jr. across the finish line in first place in a time of 2:11.1.Assembly Member Andy Raia (Suffolk) was second, with Assembly Member Steve Stern (Suffolk) third and Assembly Member Stacy Pheffer Amato (Queens) fourth.

“This was wonderful, a great opportunity to see what the harness drivers really do, and how important their job is,” Senator Bailey said. “Jim (Marohn Jr.) was excellent, a great steward, and I helped him out a little bit as well. It worked out pretty well.” Bailey continued, “These are real athletes and it’s a real skill set. You can’t just wake up, roll out of bed, and think you’re going to hop in a harness and do it, right? We have to respect these athletes and what they do. I have a greater appreciation today than I did yesterday, and even before that when I did the training. Phenomenal day.” 

Bronx representatives found themselves at it again in the second race as Assembly Member Marcos Crespo—with Shaun Vallee assisting in driving Galactic Galleon N—edged past Senator Shelley Mayer (Westchester) in the final lengths to win in 2:10.1.The five-participant field in race two was completed by Assembly Member Andrew Garbarino (Suffolk)Assembly Member Michael DenDekker (Queens) and Assembly Member Taylor Darling (Nassau).

Winner Assemblyman Michael Benedetto. Credit: Katy Gazzini

“I’ve missed some of the previous events due to scheduling conflicts, but that won’t happen again,” said Assembly Member Crespo.  “I’m grateful to Yonkers and MGM for this opportunity, and really, a great experience to see the joy and the respect that people have for these racehorses and just the entire function of these races. It’s a great experience.” Crespo continued, “I think the plans (for MGM here) are exciting, and certainly the Bronx is one of the great beneficiaries. So many people call this place home, and this is their workplace. This is how they provide for their families, and also Bronxites who love to come here and enjoy their time. It’s a great opportunity and hopefully we’ll see how things play out.” 

A Bronx hat trick was finalized in the third race as Assembly Member Michael Benedetto (Bronx) accompanied by Jordan Stratton driving Grand Master led from start to finish in 2:10.2.It was a match race to the wire, as multiple-season Legislative Pace champion and Assembly Racing and Wagering Committee Chair, Assembly Member Gary Pretlow (Westchester) took his shot from the pocket but missed. The quartet was completed by Assembly Member Anthony Palumbo (Suffolk) and Assembly Member Michaelle Solages (Nassau).

Credit: Katy Gazzini

“It was exhilarating,” Assembly Member Benedetto said, joking that “I was able to break the Pretlow Curse. We’re looking forward to working with MGM in its effort to do more at Empire City Casino.”The fourth and final Legislative Pace race prevented a clean sweep by the Bronx when Senator and Chair of Committee on Racing, Gaming and Wagering Joe Addabbo Jr. (Queens),driving Vanquished N, circled their rivals from last to win in a night’s-fastest time of 2:09.1.Addabbo defeated Assembly Member Steven Cymbrowitz (Brooklyn), Assembly Member Joe DeStefano (Suffolk) and Assembly Member Nathalia Fernandez (Bronx).

“It’s about time Queens came in first in something,” Senator Addabbo joked. “We had a good strategy and I had a great time.”All four winners have committed to defending their titles at next year’s Legislative Pace.The event was a joint effort by Empire City Casino by MGM Resorts and the Standardbred Owners Association of New York.

Upon conclusion, many of the participants and their guests stayed to enjoy the evening’s wagering races and try their luck on the casino floor.For more information about Empire City Casino, please visit www.empirecitycasino.com.

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