Ostriches, camels race at Vernon Downs

Ostriches flew down the race track at Vernon Downs on Friday night.

Camels and ostriches raced at Vernon Downs on Friday night. It was the first time the race track has hosted the exotic animals.

Joe Hedrick, of Hedrick Productions, travels with the animals to racetracks nationwide, and has been doing so for the last 15 years. "I love animals, and I love people, and I put them together," said Hendrick. "And the animals are having fun, and the people are having fun, and it just works."

Hendrick raises the animals from birth at his Kansas farm, and has taken them as far away as Hawaii. Their appearance at Vernon Downs significantly increased attendance at the track. The business says an average Friday night attracts between 1,000-1,200 guests, but estimated at least 3,500 people were there for the exotic animals.

Betting on ostriches or camels is not allowed in New York, but Vernon Downs estimates that concession sales were at least 20 times higher tonight for the special event.

Many at the racetrack were kids, out with their families to see the animals. "It gives the kids something to do other than sit at home and play with games," said mom Tabatha Armstrong.

The racetrack expects to bring the exotic animals back again, given the number of people the event attracted on Friday night.

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