(John Campbell, photo courtesy of Mark Hall of the USTA.)
By Tim Bojarski, for Batavia Downs:
The 2016 live harness racing season at Batavia Downs starts tonight (July 25) and will do so in style as some of the biggest names in harness racing will be on hand to take part in three divisions of the New York Sire Stakes for 2-year-old trotting fillies, vying for $111,801.
John Campbell and Ron Burke are the all-time leading money earning driver and trainer (respectively) in the history of the sport and they will be racing some of the finest freshman fillies New York State has to offer this year.
Campbell has competed at Batavia Downs a couple times over the past decade and while his appearances are infrequent, they are highly anticipated by the fans.
Campbell has lifetime earnings of $297,000,000 and a particular fondness for young trotters. This past Friday night (July 22) at the Meadowlands in their Kindergarten series for 2-year-old trotters, Campbell had mounts in two of the divisions and pulled off major upsets in both.
“I particularly follow the 2-year-old trotting fillies and colts and in New York, it was Batavia’s turn. It was good the way the schedule worked out and I was able to get up here to drive,” Campbell said. “I like to stay on the same schedule they’re on because I have some decent rides with the colts. I may be back again for the trotting colt divisions if there are no other conflicts at the time.”
Whereas many times young horses train and race over mile tracks early in their careers, competing over a half can be challenging for these inexperienced starters. But Campbell treats it like a learning curve rather than an impediment.
“Well certainly Batavia is a half mile track and it’s an adjustment for these trotting fillies. But Batavia is a little easier track to get around than Buffalo and these trotting fillies have already been to Buffalo and been to Monticello, so it gave them some experience and it makes it a little easier when it’s the third track in the order,” Campbell concluded.
Campbell will be driving a total of six on the card, three of which were tabbed as morning line favorites.
Ron Burke is the all-time training leader including 7,133 wins and over $157,000,000 in purse money. He will send forth three members of “The Burke Brigade” on Monday, all to be driven by Matt Kakaley.
The first division has Mighty Surf (Prayer I Am-Big Surfer) installed as the prohibitive 2-1 morning line favorite after her overpowering win at Monticello Raceway last week. After sitting chilly in the two-hole to the half, driver Bruce Aldrich Jr. pulled and left the field in his dust as the filly trotted to a 10-length victory timed in 2:01.1, which was a lifetime best.
Mighty Surf is a perfect two-for-two coming in for trainer Dennis Laterza and local driving favorite Kevin Cummings picks up the lines for this outing from post one. Cummings drove Mighty Surf to victory last month at Buffalo Raceway.
Royal Pinot (RC Royalty-Graduation Party) is the Burke Stable representative and finished second and third in two NYSS starts this year. Last week she made a break just past the quarter but Kakaley was able to regain quick composure and maintain position to take place money, only beaten a length and a half.
Kakaley is back up behind the 5-2 second choice and departs from post two.
Cherry Royal Ruby (RC Royalty-Nowerland Kristen) won her first start of the year at Buffalo by six lengths in a very respectable 2:02.1 clocking. Last week she finished third after taking an early lead before yielding to Scarey Karie and Maewegonow who battled to the wire.
Trainer/driver Dan Daley will guide Cherry Royal Ruby from post five at 7-2.
In the second division, Maewegonow (Deweycheatumnhowe-Mauresmo) fell just short last week, finishing second at Monticello. The filly pulled first-over past the half and cleared, but was immediately pressured for the rest of the mile by Scary Karie, who trotted the back half in :59.4 and won by a half-length.
Charlie Norris who trains, is again in charge of the lines as the 5-2 favorite from post 3.
Heels On Wheels (Conway Hall-Go Go Dancer) puts her two-race winning streak on the line from post seven. Last week off the pylons, the filly got away third and stayed there until Kakaley pulled first at the five-eighths pole and put on a measured drive that garnered a length victory in 2:01.
The Burke trained Heels On Wheels will have Matt Kakaley in tow once again at 3-1 from post seven.
Flyhawk Charm (Deweycheatumnhowe-Final Time) won her first lifetime start in NYSS action last week but was aided by the entire field breaking by the quarter pole. The filly trotted on as the group trailed behind her, and registered a conservative 2:03 win.
Chris Lems is once again up from post two, listed at 4-1 for trainer Joe Flynn.
In the final split, Mamora Bay (Chapter Seven-Giulie Bi) is coming off her first lifetime win at Monticello last week and the 2:00.1 clocking just happened to be the fastest of all the heats. Moving from third towards three quarters, Mamora Bay out-trotted race leader Hotel Royale to the wire to win by a length.
Former Batavia regular Sam Schillaci both trains and drives the 5-2 morning line choice and leaves from post two.
Scarey Karie (Conway Hall-Alabama Hotel) has won two straight NYSS events, the last in 2:01 flat at Monticello. The filly has shown the ability to leave as well as come from behind, and she also possesses excellent closing speed.
Phil Fluet both trains and drives and will begin from post eight at 7-2.
There are also three divisions of the Excelsior Series that go for $15,000 each and two divisions of Excelsior B events that offer $6,600 respectively.
Post time for the first race is 6:15 p.m.