Last updated: October 18. 2013 2:24AM - 797 Views
TOM FOX For The Times Leader

Dale Rapson, the vice president of racing operations at Pocono Downs, helped put together Saturday's return of the Breeders Crown to the track.
Dale Rapson, the vice president of racing operations at Pocono Downs, helped put together Saturday's return of the Breeders Crown to the track.
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PLAINS TWP. — For the hardcore followers of horse racing, it’s an opportunity that doesn’t come to the local area every year.

It’s the one night where the best of the best will gather.

The one night where champions are crowned, and legends are made.

Welcome to Breeders Crown 2013 at Pocono Downs.

“This is the Kentucky Derby, The Preakness, The Belmont and the Super Bowl all packed into one night,” said Jennifer Starr, racing marketing manager. “This is harness racing’s biggest night. You have 12 races, and $6 million in purses.

What can you expect?

One amazing night under the lights.

Pocono Downs hosted the event in 2010 where close to 10,000 people packed the facility to soak in the sights, sounds and anticipation of lightning-fast fractions on the track.

Basically, expect the same in 2013 – if last weekend was any indication where several records were broken during the elimination heats for the Breeders Crown races.

“You have the top trainers, drivers and horses all at our facility,” Starr said. “We have people coming from places like Canada and Australia. If this is anything like it was in 2010, we are in store for something special. Looking at the weather, it looks perfect. We’re looking forward to one amazing night.”

Of course, an event like this doesn’t just happen.

It takes time, almost a year, to prepare for this moment.

“I would have to say that we began to plan for this about 11 months ago when we found out that we would host the Breeders Crown,” Starr said. “You start to figure out the logistics of what you need. You really think of everything from how to set up the patio to how to reorganize the paddocks. You have to find the extra employees and figure out how many you are going to need. Plus, we still had the Sun Stakes Saturday in June and the Super Stakes Saturday in August to prepare for — which were two big, important events for us.

“It’s been a crazy few months, but it’s also been fun. We have a great staff. We are small, but everyone is willing to go above and behind the call of duty here. They don’t ask questions. All they do is ask how they can help. They are willing to do whatever it takes to make this truly special.”

With people coming from as far as Canada and Australia, it’s also an economic boost for all of Luzerne County.

“We were hoping that the hotel would be open, but once we found out that it wasn’t going to be, we drew up a list of hotels and places where our out-of-town guest could stay,” Starr said. “Most of the places have been booked for one or two months now. When they found out they would be in the crown or racing in an elimination the week prior, they began to fill up. Some people have been here one week already, so they’ve been in our restaurants, and frequented our local shops. It’s great for Northeastern Pennsylvania.”

Patience needs to be applied in some areas this weekend.

Parking is free, but people who frequent the casino and horse track know the facility does fill up pretty quick, especially on a Saturday.

While it’s fairly simple to navigate the outside of the complex, and the parking lots are pretty accessible, they will fill up.

“Hopefully, everyone will come early, grab a bite to eat and enjoy the entire day here,” Starr said.

One of the bigger changes is tickets.

While access to most of the sections will remain free, there are two areas where tickets can be purchased.

The first, which probably provides the best view, is the patio overlook. Tickets there, which could be purchased online, were extremely limited as Starr said only a handful existed last week.

The second area is a VIP tent in the track apron. The cost is $40 per ticket.

Post time for the Breeders Crown is 5 p.m. Most of the general admission sections open around 3 p.m., while the VIP tent opens at 4 p.m.

Programs for the big day will go on sale at 11 a.m., while track employees will also be walking the facility selling the books.

“We will also have a good amount of souvenirs for sale,” she said. “We will have anything from T-shirts to hats to fleeces. Another interesting twist we will have is a complimentary photo booth for all the fans where they can take their picture and show their friends. Thurman Thomas is also going to be here, signing autographs from 3 to 5 p.m.”

As for wagering, that’s covered as well.

“Wagering, for some newer fans, could be intimidating,” she said. “We put some pages in the program that shows you some types of wagers, explains the different types and will teach you what to say when you walk to a teller. Plus, everyone is there to help you and we advise people to ask questions if they have one.

“We want everyone to enjoy their experience Saturday night. I’m so excited, and I can’t wait for the day to get here. I’m looking forward to talking with the fans, and I’m excited for the fans that maybe haven’t been to our facility before so they could see how beautiful it really is.”

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