By Tim Bojarski, for Batavia Downs
On Saturday (Dec. 17), the curtain came down on the 70th anniversary season of racing at Batavia Downs. America’s oldest lighted harness track’s meet that began on Monday (July 25), ran two days longer than originally scheduled after racing was extended for an extra weekend.
As usual, the stake season was highlighted by eight divisions of the New York Sire Stake series, which featured the best state bred horses and Grand Circuit horsemen. The series featured visits from the likes of John Campbell and Andy Miller and produced two new track records.
On Saturday (Sept. 3) Pointomygranson (Marcus Miller) toured the facility in 1:53.2 and set a new standard for 2-year-old pacing geldings and on Wednesday (Sept. 14) Zack’s Zoomer (Marcus Miller) trotted a mile in 1:58.1 and established a new track record for 2-year-old trotting colts.
Racing under saddle (RUS) made its debut at the Downs on Wednesday (Sept. 7) and that produced a new track record as well. Admirable Hanover who was ridden by Vanessa Karlewicz won the $4,000 event in 2:03.4.
On Saturday (Oct. 9), Batavia Downs signature stake, the $50,000 Robert J. Kane Memorial trot saw the $7 million man, Foiled Again (Kevin Cummings) come from well off the pace to win by a length in 1:52.2 on the strength of an exciting stretch drive at 9-1. That win marked the 90th trip to the winner’s circle for the richest standardbred in the history of the sport.
For the first time ever, Batavia Downs offered a new claiming series that ran throughout the whole meet. Claimers of both gaits accrued points month to month in order to make finals worth between $15,000 and $20,000. On Saturday (Nov. 13) trotters Love U Forever and Chrome Finish, and pacers Outoftexas, War Front, Vals Jett, Big Unit and Can U Be Fun won the finals in their respective divisions.
In September, Batavia Downs hosted a new owners' seminar in conjunction with the United States Trotting Association and the Harness Horse Breeders of New York State. Twenty-six people took part in the workshop that took them from the classroom to the paddock and provided them with everything they needed to learn in order to make informed decisions about standardbred ownership.
On the track, one of the best driving colonies in some time put on quite a show. Perennial local favorite Jim Morrill Jr. put in another stellar effort that was highlighted by a seven-win night, two six-win nights and four five-win nights.
But it was 22-year-old Drew Monti who eventually won the dash driving title with 116 wins for the meet. Monti also registered a seven-win night and two five-win efforts as well. It was the first ever driving title won by Monti.
Jim Morrill Jr. did set a new single meet earnings record at the Downs after he banked $849,024 in purses from July to December.
JD Perrin “three-peated” his training crown, finishing first again this year with 47 wins. Perrin’s meet started off strong before many of his horses fell ill. But after a trying middle stretch, the stable got back on track over the last month and Perrin was able to defend his title again.
The winningest post position was post one with 231 wins followed by post two (151), post four (138) and post three (126). Post one also made the board 63 percent of the time.
Also, the favorites won the race 46 percent of the time during the course of the meet.
“We had a very exciting year at Batavia Downs this year. The product on the track was very competitive and having drivers like Jim Morrill Jr., Drew Monti, Shawn Gray and newcomer Larry Stalbaum joining the fray, the competition was fierce every night” said Todd Haight, GM/Director of Live Racing. “Despite our handle being down 5 percent for the meet, we paid out a record $5.9 million in purse money and we look forward to doing that again next year.”
Pending approval from the New York State Gaming Commission, the 2017 live racing meet at Batavia Downs will start on Wednesday (July 26).
The management and horsemen of Batavia Downs would like to wish everyone in the industry a very happy Holiday Season and the best of luck in the upcoming new year.