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December 5, 2016 - 12:45pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Batavia Downs, batavia, news.

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Batavia Downs hosted its first ever Winterfest on Sunday and more than 2,000 people turned out.

Attractions included pictures with Santa, mini-golf, a ride on a horse-drawn carriage and a holiday movie.

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October 30, 2016 - 5:46pm
posted by Billie Owens in sports, Batavia Downs, harness racing.

(Photo of China Dream with reinsman Shawn Gray.)

By Tim Bojarski, for Batavia Downs

A scratch-shortened field of six top class pacers became a mere group of spectators who watched China Dream command their fate from the start of the race as he won the $10,500 Open feature at Batavia Downs on Saturday night (Oct. 29).

China Dream (Shawn Gray) left sharply and crossed over to the pylons before the field rounded the first turn and then opened up a gapped advantage he would maintain for the remainder of the race. After Gray hit the brakes with a :29.3 second quarter, Littlebitaclass (Jim Morrill Jr.) pulled first up in an attempt to advance to the front with Knocking Around (Dave McNeight III) right on his back. But after hearing the footsteps, Gray asked his charge for more and more is what he got. China Dream pulled away in a quick :28 third panel and found himself leading by seven lengths at the top of the stretch. He continued his momentum all the way to the wire and cruised to a wrapped-up 1:54.4 victory.

It was the 10th win of the year for China Dream ($4.40) and it inflated his one-year earnings to $77,680 for owners Jack and Maria Rice. Maria Rice trains the winner.

In the co-featured $9,000 Open II, Thunderbolt Jaxon (Jim Morrill Jr.) took the lead just past the quarter and cruised to an easy three-length win in 1:54.1. It was the third straight win for Thunderbolt Jaxon ($5) and seventh of the season. Mike Torcello owns the winner who is trained by Gerry Sarama.

Jim Morrill Jr. led all drivers on Saturday night with four wins while Drew Monti, Jim McNeight Jr. and Ray Fisher Jr. all scored doubles. Trainers Gerry Sarama, Jim McNeight and Mihajlo Zdjelar Jr. each sent two winners for pictures.

Racing resumes at Batavia Downs on Wednesday (Nov. 2) with a 6:15 p.m. post.

October 29, 2016 - 12:54pm
posted by Billie Owens in sports, harness racing, Batavia Downs.

(Photo of My Tallia Ideal pulling ahead with reinsman Dave McNeight III)

By Tim Bojarski, for Batavia Downs

My Tallia Ideal followed live cover that she eventually overtook to win the $10,000 Open mares pacing feature at Batavia Downs on Friday night (Oct. 28).

Leaving from post six, My Tallia Ideal (Dave McNeight III) got away last and trailed as Kaitlyn Akeeper (Kevin Cummings) led the field through quarters of :28.3 and :58.3. Who Says That (Shawn Gray) pulled first-up at the half and My Tallia Ideal traveled second over as the two advanced and eventually drew even with the leader by three-quarters in 1:27.4.

Who Says That took the lead from Kaitlyn Akeeper when they turned for home, but My Tallia Ideal then tipped outside of her to challenge immediately. With more than a length to make up, My Tallia Ideal dug in and methodically closed in with every stride, eventually getting up to win by a head in 1:56.3.

It was the eighth win of the year for My Tallia Ideal ($9.00) and the purse increased her 2016 earnings to $63,410 for owners Peter Kibler, Kenneth Owczarczak and Courtney McNeight. Dave McNeight Jr. trains the winner.

(Photo of Kahoku with reinsman Ron Beback Jr.)

In the co-featured $9,000 Open I-II trot, Kahoku ($13.80) regained his early season form when he went wire to wire in unfettered fashion to win by two lengths in 1:57. Ron Beback Jr. drove for owner Colleen Girdlestone. Mark Laidlaw trains Kahoku.

It was bombs away in the ninth race as Jim Dandy (Jim McNeight Jr.) rallied from seventh at the half to pull the upset of the meet when he trotted away by two lengths at 48-1. The winner returned $99.50 to win and spurred a $660 exacta (7-4) and $1,829.00 late Double (5-7).

Racing resumes at Batavia Downs on tonight (Oct. 29) with post time at 6:15.

October 27, 2016 - 3:57pm
posted by Billie Owens in harness racing, Batavia Downs, sports.

Drew Monti at the reins with Wild Ride, his second win for the night on Wednesday.

By Tim Bojarski, for Batavia Downs

On a night when he could seemingly do nothing wrong, Drew Monti put on a driving clinic Wednesday (Oct. 26) at Batavia Downs, winning seven of the 10 races he competed in. And among his drives, he also scored a second and a third and posted a lofty .788 UDR for the evening.

Track photographer Paul White spent some quality time with Monti in the Purple Haze Winner's Circle as he took his picture with Jimi Wind Ricks ($5.00, 1:59.1), Wild Ride ($4.60, 2:01.4), Hustleonhome ($14.60, 1:57.4), Heavenly Way ($4.80, 1:57), Springhouse Star ($10, 1:56.3), Girls Luv Diamonds ($3.50, 1:56.2) and Always An Optimist ($4.20, 1:56.4).

By the end of the year, Monti has a chance to eclipse his career best numbers for wins and money earned that he set in 2015. In his short four-year career, the 22-year-old Monti has won 649 races and has bankrolled just under $3.5 million in purses.  

With his two closest competitors for the dash driving title not in action on Wednesday, Monti jumped into a two-win lead as a result of his efforts. He now sits alone atop the standings with 75 wins, ahead of Jim Morrill Jr. who is second with 73 and Kevin Cummings who is third with 68.

With 20 nights of racing remaining in the meet, it will most likely be a battle to the last race on the final night to decide this year’s driving winner.

Racing resumes at Batavia Downs on Friday (Oct. 28) with the first race post time set at 6:15 p.m.

October 24, 2016 - 12:52pm
posted by Billie Owens in sports, harness racing, Batavia Downs.

Jim Morrill Jr. was on fire at Batavia Downs Saturday night (Oct. 22) as he won seven of the 13 races carded and vaulted himself into the dash driving lead for the meet.

Morrill started early and was relentless as the night went on. He scored with Thunderbolt Jaxon ($4.80, 1:56.3), Outoftexas ($5.50, 1:55.3), Green Olives ($3.30, 1:56.2), Dodger Hanover ($2.80, 1:57.3), Littlebitaclass ($7.00, 1:54.2), Adversary Seelster ($3.50, 1:57.1) and Zipnthruthehall ($2.90, 1:57).

The current record for wins on one card at Batavia Downs is eight, set by Jim Morrill Jr. in 2005 and matched by John Cummings Jr. in 2006.

Beside his septuple successes, Morrill also had three seconds and a third among his 12 drives for the night and that added up to a .750 UDR for the evening.  

Morrill is currently ranked third in North America for UDR in 2016, sporting a gaudy .415 for the year. He has amassed 322 wins in 1,197 starts and earned $3,776,654 as a result to this point.

Photo of Littlebitaclass taking the lead with driver Jim Morrill Jr. at the reins.

By Tim Bojarski, for Batavia Downs

The fifth win of the night for Jim Morrill Jr. was with Littlebitaclass who won the $10,000 Open pacing feature.

Claimed two weeks ago for $20,000 and victorious in each start since, Littlebitaclass left and out-legged China Dream (Shawn Gray) to the front shortly after they passed the quarter pole. From there, Morrill grabbed leather to settle the gelding until Knocking Around (Dave McNeight III) drew alongside approaching three-quarters.

When they tripped the timer in 1:25.2 at that station, Knocking Around took a half-length lead and appeared to have gotten the best of the leader. But Littlebitaclass gallantly fought back and regained a neck advantage by the head of the stretch. But Knocking Around would not go away and was joined in the fray by China Dream, who had gotten the trip and came up the passing lane. Flanked by adversaries on both sides, Littlebitaclass dug in hard and refused to lose, hitting the wire first by a mere head in 1:54.2.

It was the ninth win of the year for Littlebitaclass and it boosted his earnings to $52,201 for 2016. The 5-year-old gelded son of Santana Blue Chip is owned by Mike Torcello and trained by Gerry Sarama.

Trainer Alex Giuliani sent three winners postward while fellow conditioners Gerry Sarama and Mihajlo Zdjelar Jr. each doubled up.

As was previously mentioned, there is a new dash driving title leader at Batavia Downs in Morrill, who now tops everyone with 73 wins. Kevin Cummings, who was not in action Saturday, is tied for second with Drew Monti with 68 wins and Ray Fisher Jr. is a close fourth with 62.

Racing resumes at Batavia Downs on Wednesday (Oct. 26) with post time at 6:15 p.m.

October 22, 2016 - 7:09pm
posted by Billie Owens in sports, Batavia Downs, harness racing.

(Photo of Who Says That with driver Shawn Gray.)

By Tim Bojarski, for Batavia Downs

On a night not fit for man nor beast, Shawn Gray and Who Says That overcame a day-long deluge of rain along with five fit female pacers to win the $9,500 Open mares featured pace at Batavia Downs on Friday evening (Oct. 21).

Gray took Who Says That off the gate and tucked her in fifth along the pylons and was content to sit off the pace to the half as My Tallia Ideal (Dave McNeight III) smoked that fraction in :57.4 over the rain-soaked track. At that point, Who Says That pulled and coaxed cover in the outer flow from last week’s Open winner, Dontch Remember (Jim Morrill Jr.) as the field passed the five-eighths marker and motored up the backside.  

When it became evident that Dontch Remember would not pace on, Gray tipped Who Says That three deep and proceeded to advance expeditiously. Fourth, third, second and finally first at the head of the lane; Who Says That splashed away from the competition and opened up a five length lead before hitting the wire a wrapped-up winner in 1:57.

My Tallia Ideal was second and the recently claimed Kaitlyn Akeeper (Kevin Cummings) brushed up to be third.

Although it was the first win for Who Says That ($10.60) since Aug. 10, it was also her eleventh win of the year overall. The 5-year-old Badlands Hanover mare has now earned $57,557 in 2016 for owners Vogel & Wags Nags Stable, Chris Shambo and Jack Rice. The winner is trained by Maria Rice.

Maria Rice had a very profitable night at Batavia Friday as she conditioned three winners on the card. Besides Who Says That, she also sent Southwind Serenity ($5.70) and Lucky Pablo ($3.50) to the winners circle. Shawn Gray scored a driving triple teaming all of Rice’s entries.

Ray Fisher Jr. also drove three winners, two of which were trained by John Hallett, who scored a stable double.

Racing resumes at Batavia Downs on tonight (Oct. 22) with the first post set at 6:15.

October 18, 2016 - 9:24am
posted by Billie Owens in Batavia Downs, batavia, news.

A horseman is down on the track at Batavia Downs and reportedly has suffered a minor injury, possibly a hip injury. Mercy medics and city Ladder 15 are responding. It is a possible sign-off.

Medics are to go to Richmond Avenue to the stable entrance to access the track.

October 16, 2016 - 1:45pm
posted by Billie Owens in sports, harness racing, Batavia Downs.

(Photo of BJ's Guy out front (#4), driven by Drew Monti.)

By Tim Bojarski, for Batavia Downs

Fresh off a win in the Yonkers preferred pace last week, BJ’s Guy shipped into Batavia Downs to take on the best local talent on Saturday night (Oct. 15) and went from worst to first in the $9,500 Open pacing feature.

Normandy Invasion (Jim Morrill Jr.) took a methodical stroll to the front off the gate and eventually opened up a two-length lead at the quarter in :27.2. Positions remained unchanged to the half in :55.2, when BJ’s Guy (Drew Monti) started up on the outside from last and prompted Brees Creek (Kevin Cummings) and China Dream (Shawn Gray) to pull in front of him, establishing a three-horse outer flow going up the backside.

When the group passed three-quarters, China Dream tipped three-deep and BJ’s Guy followed in step and they both began to chip away at Normandy Invasion’s lead. As they came off the turn and stormed down the lane, Normandy Invasion began to tire and China Dream got to the front, but BJ’s Guy brushed harder and overtook him in the middle of the track and got home first in 1:53.4. China Dream did hold on for second and Junior Pride (Ray Fisher Jr.) snuck up the passing lane to grab third.

It was the ninth win of the season for BJ’s Guy ($7.70) who has now earned $91,902 during the year for owners Blindswitch Racing Stable, David Sebolsky and Stanley Yoskowitz. The 7-year-old gelded son of Towner’s Big Guy is trained by Jose Godinez.

Jim Morrill Jr. won four more races on Saturday night and those wins pushed him into second place for the dash winning lead with 65 victories behind Kevin Cummings who has 68. The quadruple also gave him 12 wins in the last three nights of racing at Batavia.

Also on Saturday, Shawn Gray scored a driving hat trick while Drew Monti doubled up on the card.

Racing resumes at Batavia Downs on Wednesday night (Oct. 19) with post time set at 6:15.

October 15, 2016 - 1:32pm
posted by Billie Owens in sports, Batavia Downs, harness racing.

(Photo of Noble Legend with driver Shawn Gray.)

By Tim Bojarski, for Batavia Downs

After finishing second in the top local trot twice last month, Noble Legend ($25.40) blew up the tote board along with his rivals in winning the $10,500 Open trotting feature at Batavia Downs on Friday night (Oct. 14).

After taking last week off, Noble Legend returned to the track with a new attitude and approach. Driver Shawn Gray sent Noble Legend right to the front and took no prisoners from there. He lead the troops by two open lengths through fractions of :28.1, :57.3 and 1:26.2 while the trailers were struggling to keep up.

At the top of the lane, Noble Legend was cruising under mild urging from Gray when Studio City (Dave McNeight III) who was second the whole mile, drifted off the pegs in an attempt to collar the leader. But all that did was allow BZ Glide (Mike Caprio) to slide up inside him and get into the action. Noble Legend trotted on to win in 1:56.4 by a length over the fast-closing BZ Glide and Studio City, who finished second and third respectively.

It was the eighth win of the season for Noble Legend who increased his 2016 bankroll to $55,983 for owners Vogel & Wags Nags and Jack Rice. Maria Rice trains the 4-year-old son of Kadabra. 

In the co-featured $10,000 Open mares pace, Dontch Remember ($26.20) shook off a two-month winless streak and led the ladies wire-to-wire by gapped lengths to win her eighth race of the year in a new lifetime mark of 1:54.4. Gerry Sarama trains the 6-year-old Western Terror mare for owner Mike Torcello.

Driver Jim Morrill Jr. continued his torrid pace at the Downs, winning another five races on the card. He scored with Love U Forever ($3.70, 1:58.3), The Bronx Bumper ($7.10, 1:58.4), Keystone Wild Card ($4.10, 2:02), Dontch Remember ($26.20, 1:54.4) and Son Of Nordic ($9.90, 1:58.3). The five wins and one second in eight starts gave Morrill a .694 UDR for the night.

Drew Monti had a driving double and Mike Ohol had two winners on the training side.

The dash driving leader board continues to be tight. Kevin Cummings, despite not visiting the winner’s circle on Friday, remains on top with 67 wins. Drew Monti is second with 62 and Jim Morrill Jr. vaulted into third on the strength of his performance with 61 victories.

Racing resumes at Batavia Downs on Saturday night (Oct. 15) at 6:15.

October 13, 2016 - 8:50pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Batavia Downs, batavia, news, business.

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The new Hotel at Batavia Downs opened for business today.

The ribbon cutting for the new facility won't be until early November.

October 13, 2016 - 2:34pm
posted by Billie Owens in Batavia Downs, harness racing, sports.

By Tim Bojarski, for Batavia Downs

For the second week in a row, Kaitlyn Akeeper shown best in winning the $7,800 mares Open II/optional claiming feature race at Batavia Downs on Wednesday night (Oct. 12).

Rather than bolt for the lead as he had done over the last three weeks, Jim Morrill Jr. took Kaitlyn Akeeper off the gate and allowed Mondatta (Dave McNeight III) and Terrorcam (Wade Tomaszewski) to duke it out for the front. When they had finally settled, Morrill tipped Kaitlyn Akeeper early and took the lead from them before the three-eighths pole. From there the race was history.

Kaitlyn Akeeper got to the half in :58.1 and three-quarters in 1:26.4, all the time with horses in two-rows behind her. With a gapped two-length lead going around the far turn, the win looked assured and the race would be for minor spoils. As they headed down the lane, Mayabelle (Kevin Cummings) shook loose from behind the fading Mondatta and made a run at the leader, but Kaitlyn Akeeper hung on to win in 1:55.4 by a diminishing two lengths.

Mayabelle was second and Mondatta hung on for third.

It was the seventh victory of the year for Kaitlyn Akeeper ($2.60) and it raised her purse total to $45,272 for owner Mike Torcello. The winner was trained by Gerry Sarama.

Kaitlyn Akeeper was also claimed out of the race for $21,750 by Mark Jakubik.

Jim Morrill Jr. scored a driving triple on Wednesday night while Kevin Cummings, Shawn Gray and Dave McNeight III all had two wins apiece. Trainer Dave McNeight Jr. also conditioned two winners on the card.

Live racing resumes at Batavia Downs on Friday (Oct. 14) with post time at 6:15 p.m.

October 12, 2016 - 3:25pm
posted by Billie Owens in sports, harness racing, Batavia Downs.

Photo of Beechwood Wayne and driver Drew Monti (wearing helmet), winners of the "Run for the Cannolis" Italian drivers' race held on Columbus Day (Oct. 10) at Batavia Downs.

By Tim Bojarski, for Batavia Downs

The temperature was cool for the final matinee card of racing at Batavia Downs for 2016 but Drew Monti was red hot, winning five races on Monday afternoon (Oct. 10) including the special Columbus Day featured $5,000 “Run for the Cannolis” Italian drivers' race.

The Run for the Cannolis is an annual tradition at the Downs to honor the large Italian population in the City of Batavia. It was started decades ago and has continued each year on Columbus Day.

In this year’s edition, Monti drove Beechwood Wayne to a three-length win in 1:58.1. After getting away second, Beechwood Wayne followed closely as Goddess’s Justin (at the pylons) and First Of Fun (outside) battled side-by-side for the lead for over a quarter mile. When First Of Fun finally failed, Beechwood Wayne popped the pocket at three-quarters and blew right by Goddess’s Justin.

But the race wasn’t over.

Rock C. Vinci, who has won this race for the last two years, had tracked Monti’s move around the far turn and was now breathing down Beechwood Wayne back at the head of the lane. As both drivers went to the stick in the dash to the wire, “Drivin’ Drew” had the jump and got Beechwood Wayne there first to claim the cannolis for 2016.

It was the ninth win of the year for Beechwood Wayne ($3.60) and third in a row during his current streak. The 9-year-old gelded son of Western Terror is owned by Tessa Roland and trained by JD Perrin.

Monti also won with Big unit ($7.50, 1:58), Quick Silver ($9.40, 1:58.4), Mystical Valentine ($4, 1:56.4) and Girls Luv Diamonds ($4.10, 1:57) to complete the five-bagger. His wins combined with a second and two thirds saw Monti’s UDR soar to .519 for the day.  

Ray Fisher Jr. had a driving triple on Monday and Kevin Cummings scored a double. And the wins recorded by all three drivers have made the dash competition at the meet extremely close. After Monday’s races, Cummings sits on top with 62 wins, Monti is second with 60 and Fisher is third with 56. With 28 racing days left, the driving crown is definitely up for grabs.

Live racing resumes at Batavia Downs tonight (Oct. 12) with post time set for 6:15.

October 12, 2016 - 3:24pm
posted by Billie Owens in sports, harness racing, Batavia Downs.

Photo of Beechwood Wayne and driver Drew Monti (wearing helmet), winners of the "Run for the Cannolis" Italian drivers' race held on Columbus Day (Oct. 10) at Batavia Downs.

By Tim Bojarski, for Batavia Downs

The temperature was cool for the final matinee card of racing at Batavia Downs for 2016 but Drew Monti was red hot, winning five races on Monday afternoon (Oct. 10) including the special Columbus Day featured $5,000 “Run for the Cannolis” Italian drivers' race.

The Run for the Cannolis is an annual tradition at the Downs to honor the large Italian population in the City of Batavia. It was started decades ago and has continued each year on Columbus Day.

In this year’s edition, Monti drove Beechwood Wayne to a three-length win in 1:58.1. After getting away second, Beechwood Wayne followed closely as Goddess’s Justin (at the pylons) and First Of Fun (outside) battled side-by-side for the lead for over a quarter mile. When First Of Fun finally failed, Beechwood Wayne popped the pocket at three-quarters and blew right by Goddess’s Justin.

But the race wasn’t over.

Rock C. Vinci, who has won this race for the last two years, had tracked Monti’s move around the far turn and was now breathing down Beechwood Wayne back at the head of the lane. As both drivers went to the stick in the dash to the wire, “Drivin’ Drew” had the jump and got Beechwood Wayne there first to claim the cannolis for 2016.

It was the ninth win of the year for Beechwood Wayne ($3.60) and third in a row during his current streak. The 9-year-old gelded son of Western Terror is owned by Tessa Roland and trained by JD Perrin.

Monti also won with Big unit ($7.50, 1:58), Quick Silver ($9.40, 1:58.4), Mystical Valentine ($4, 1:56.4) and Girls Luv Diamonds ($4.10, 1:57) to complete the five-bagger. His wins combined with a second and two thirds saw Monti’s UDR soar to .519 for the day.  

Ray Fisher Jr. had a driving triple on Monday and Kevin Cummings scored a double. And the wins recorded by all three drivers have made the dash competition at the meet extremely close. After Monday’s races, Cummings sits on top with 62 wins, Monti is second with 60 and Fisher is third with 56. With 28 racing days left, the driving crown is definitely up for grabs.

Live racing resumes at Batavia Downs tonight (Oct. 12) with post time set for 6:15.

October 10, 2016 - 12:49pm
posted by Billie Owens in sports, harness racing, Batavia Downs.

(Photo of Foiled Again with driver Kevin Cummings courtesy of Paul White.)

By Tim Bojarski, for Batavia Downs

Although overlooked by many and sent off at a hearty 9-1, Foiled Again brought his A-game to Genesee County and exhibited the heart that has earned him over $7.4 million in lifetime earnings to win the 14th annual $50,000 Robert J. Kane Memorial pace at Batavia Downs on Saturday night (Oct. 8). 

Off the gate, Scott Rocks (John Cummings Jr.) and Mel Mara (Jim Morrill Jr.) argued for the lead and registered a swift :26.4 quarter in the process before Mel Mara relented and tucked in second. With Scott Rocks now dictating the proceedings, the field stayed in single-file around the far turn before Polak A (Shawn Gray) pulled first-over at the three-eighths to start the outer flow.

Polak A drew alongside Scott Rocks at the half, stalked him around the turn and then passed the tiring leader before crossing over at three-quarters in 1:22.4. At this point Foiled Again (Kevin Cummings) who had been tracking the race from fifth, tipped three-deep around Southwind Amazon (Shawn McDonough) and caught up to the leader by the top of the stretch. Then as they came down the lane, Foiled Again swelled up under mild urging from Cummings and paced right by Polak A to win by a length in 1:52.2.

Polak A hung on for second and Mel Mara overcame road trouble to grab third.

It was the third time Foiled Again has won the Kane Memorial, having also scored victories in the 2009 and 2013 editions and the second time Kevin Cummings has won it after taking the 2006 race with Michael Scores.

“He went real well tonight” said Cummings. “He was a little lazy early but he did a good job tracking the field. He knows his business and I was confident at the three-quarters that he could win this. It was great to win the Kane tonight.”

It was the 90th career win for Foiled Again ($20.20) who now sits just $13,492 short of $7.5 million lifetime. The 12-year-old Ron Burke trainee is owned by the Burke Racing Stable, Weaver Bruscemi and the JJK Stable.

(Photo of Serious George (#2) with driver Shawn Gray courtesy of Paul White.)

In the co-featured $15,000 Brian Schroeder Memorial Trot, Serious George (Shawn Gray) got away fourth before pulling first-over at the half to pound out an arduous journey and overtake the front-running BZ Glide (Mike Caprio) to win in a new lifetime mark of 1:57.2. Serious George ($23) is owned by James Palladino and trained by Rich Mays.

Driver Shawn Gray was red hot on Saturday, winning five races on the card. He scored with Studio City ($3.90, 1:58.1), Surfer’s Paradise ($8.60, 1:55.4), Serious George ($23.00, 1:57.2), Gallant Major ($5.40, 1:56.2) and Life’s Lessons ($4.40, 1:56.1).

Kevin Cummings and Jim Morrill Jr. both had driving hat tricks and trainers Ron Burke and Gerry Sarama each claimed three wins apiece.

Racing resumes at Batavia Downs on this afternoon (Oct. 10) for the last matinee card of the season. The Columbus Day special gets underway at 1:15 p.m.

October 7, 2016 - 1:15pm
posted by Billie Owens in Batavia Downs, harness racing, sports.

(Photo of Luck Be Withyou courtesy of Curtis Salonick) 

By Tim Bojarski, for Batavia Downs

Seven horses with a combined lifetime earnings of over $11 million comprise the field for the 14th annual $50,000 Robert J. Kane Memorial Pace which will be contested at Batavia Downs on Saturday night (Oct. 8).

The Kane Memorial is dedicated to the former chairman of the board of Western Regional Off-Track Betting Corporation (which owns and operates Batavia Downs), Robert J. Kane. Kane worked on the board for 26 years and had the vision to see the value in purchasing the track in 1998, that had been shuttered for three years after having its license revoked. The facility has gone through a complete turnaround since then and WROTB has developed the property into the premier entertainment destination spot in Genesee County.

The 2016 edition of the Kane (which goes as race seven) is also a homecoming of sorts for trainer Chris Oakes who is originally from nearby Akron. He started his career at the Downs in the 1980s and conditions two horses in this year's Kane, with his stable star Luck Be Withyou installed as the 5-2 morning line choice.

Luck Be Withyou has faced Wiggle It Jiggleit and Always B Miki many times this year and has always been formidable competition for those two dominant aged pacers. Luck Be Withyou took a lifetime mark of 1:47.4 at Pocono Downs on July 2 and has also been race-timed under 1:50 on seven other occasions this year. His best effort on a half-mile track was a 1:51.1 win at Saratoga Raceway in July, but he was race-timed in 1:50.3 at Harrington Raceway just two weeks ago.  

Leaving from post one, Luck Be Withyou will be driven by the Downs leading reinsman, Kevin Cummings.

Mel Mara is the second choice at 7-2 and is one speedy pacer. On June 4 at the Meadowlands, he beat a very talented Open class field and equalled the all-time race record for an older pacing stallion on a mile track when he stopped the clock in 1:47. In his 21 starts this year, Mel Mara was race timed under 1:50 15 times and his best effort over a half-mile track was a 1:50.1 win at Harrington Raceway three starts ago.

Jim Morrill Jr. takes the reins for trainer Dylan Davis and starts from post three.

Scott Rocks comes in sharp as a tack and knows this oval well. He just raced at Batavia Downs on Sept. 24 and jogged in 1:52. He was a wrapped up winner with a lot left in the tank and he did it after being off for three weeks. He took a lifetime mark of 1:48 at Pocono Downs on May 28, but he also won in a phenomenal 1:49 clocking at Northfield Park on Sept. 3.

Leaving from post two, John Cummings Jr. will once again team Scott Rocks, who is the other entrant for trainer Chris Oakes.

Southwind Amazon is fast on any surface. He took a lifetime mark of 1:49.2 at Pompano Park on March 13, but was also race timed in 1:49.2 at Northfield Park in a second place finish to Scott Rocks on Sept. 3. He has also won in 1:50.3 at Northfield and 1:50.4 at Saratoga Raceway. Southwind Amazon is having a career year with 11 wins and $109,599 earned and looks to add to those numbers in this event.

Shawn Mcdonough gets the nod from trainer Paul Holzman and will depart from post five.

The entire field is as follows:

1 Luck Be Withyou      Kevin Cummings       5-2

2 Scott Rocks              John Cummings Jr.   5-1

3 Mel Mara                  Jim Morrill Jr.             7-2

4 Polak A                     Shawn Gray              4-1

5 Southwind Amazon  Shawn McDonough   9-2

6 Foiled Again              Jack Flanigen           8-1

7 Rockin In Heaven      Drew Monti               6-1

The current all-time pacing track record at Batavia Downs is 1:51.1 set by Aracache Hanover in 2011 when he won the Kane Memorial that year. In recent weeks, the track at Batavia Downs has been lightning fast and with favorable weather forecast, this field has the ability to demolish that standard.

There is also an outstanding undercard on Saturday night’s 11-race schedule and it includes the $15,000 Brian Schroeder Memorial Trot, to go as race five.

Local favorite BZ Glide (Mike Caprio) is the 5-2 pick to hit against Yonkers Raceway invaders Lady’s Dude (Kevin Cummings, 3-1) and Auspicious Hanover (John Cummings Jr., 4-1). 

Post time for the first race is 6:15 p.m.

October 6, 2016 - 3:10pm
posted by Billie Owens in sports, Batavia Downs, harness racing.

By Tim Bojarski, for Batavia Downs

The draw for Wednesday (Oct. 12), which was originally scheduled for Friday (Oct. 7), has been postponed until Saturday morning (Oct. 8) at 9 a.m. The box will remain open for all classes until that time. 

If you have already entered your horse(s), they do not need to be re-entered. 

Also please note, as a result of this schedule change, horseman will have approximately one hour after the draw takes place on Saturday to make any program changes.

If you have any questions, please contact the race office at 585-344-6161.

October 6, 2016 - 12:45pm
posted by Billie Owens in sports, Batavia Downs, harness racing.

(Photo of Kaitlyn Akeeper with driver Jim Morrill Jr.)

By Tim Bojarski, for Batavia Downs

After dropping down from Open company and back into the claiming ranks, Kaitlyn Akeeper ($4.10) hung on to win the $7,800 mares pacing feature at Batavia Downs on Wednesday night (Oct. 5).

Jim Morrill Jr. shot off the gate and put Kaitlyn Akeeper on the lead and set early fractions of :27.4 and :57. At the five-eighths pole, Mayabelle (Kevin Cummings) pulled first over and applied pressure on the outside for the rest of the race. The group moved to three-quarters in 1:26.4 before rounding the turn and pacing down the lane. With just a length separating them, Mayabelle was outside, Kaitlyn Akeeper in the middle and Missevil (Shawn Gray) was on the pylons after getting the two-hole trip. But Kaitlyn Akeeper toughed it out and won by a neck over Missevil in 1:55. Mayabelle finished third.

It was the sixth win in 2016 for Kaitlyn Akeeper and the purse boosted her annual earnings to $41,372 for owner Mike Torcello. The 4-year-old American Ideal mare is trained by Gerry Sarama.

Ray Fisher Jr. had a big night, winning four races on the card; three of which provided substantial payoffs. He scored with Chrome finish ($14, 2:00), Sobhon Hanover ($26, 1:59.1), Twin B Sportsman ($3.90, 1:55) and Artistic Topaz ($28.20, 1:57.2).

Jim Morrill Jr. had a driving triple and Shawn Gray doubled up for the night. Trainers Gerry Sarama and John Mungillo also both sent two winners for pictures.

Racing resumes at Batavia Downs on Friday (Oct. 7) with post time at 6:15 p.m.

October 2, 2016 - 2:44pm
posted by Billie Owens in sports, harness racing, Batavia Downs.

(Photo of Highview Conall N with driver Jim Morrill Jr.)

By Tim Bojarski, for Batavia Downs

An all-day rain left the track sloppy for the card at Batavia Downs on Saturday night (Oct. 1), but some of the fastest times of the meet were recorded during the evening. None the least the one Highview Conall N registered while winning the $10,000 featured Open pace at the Genesee County oval.

The red-hot Jim Morrill Jr. fired the New Zealand bred off the gate and to the lead as the rest of the field watched in single-file fashion. After fractions of :27.3 and :56.2, Highview Conall N and the second place Heaven Rocks (Kevin Cummings) had a two-horse breakaway in place as they opened up six-lengths on the rest of the field while motoring up the backside.

As those two continued to compete alone, Knocking Around (Dave McNeight III) pulled from fourth and started to close the distance with the leader. Around the far turn, Highview Conall N was widening the gap between himself and Heaven Rocks as Knocking around was closing it from third. When they straightened out down the lane it was Highview Conall N pacing strong to the wire for a 1:53.2 win with Knocking Around closing well for second over Heaven Rocks.

It was the eighth win of the year for Highview Conall N ($4.10) and it raised his annual income to $74,770. The 7-year-old son of Christian Cullen was a recent acquisition for owner/trainer Nick Gampietro Jr., who purchased him privately on September 26.

For the second night in a row, John Cummings Jr. scored a driving grand slam. He returned to the Purple Haze winner’s circle with Cheyenne Louie ($6.70, 1:54.4), Normandy Invasion ($2.70, 1:54.4), Youwillwishyouhad ($63.00, 1:55.1) and Bags of Money ($6.00, 1:57.4).

Jim Morrill Jr. was a close second with a triple and Drew Monti came through with two. Trained JD Perrin also conditioned two winners on the night.

Racing resumes at Batavia Downs on Wednesday night (Oct. 5) with the first post set at 6:15.

October 1, 2016 - 1:14pm
posted by Billie Owens in sports, harness racing, Batavia Downs.

Photo of Justgottogetthere with driver Jim Morrill Jr.

By Tim Bojarski, for Batavia Downs

Justgottogetthere was one of the best resident trotters in western New York last year, however 2016 has been a bit of a different story. But it was like old times for the gelding on Friday night (Sept. 30) as he won the $10,500 Open trotting feature at Batavia Downs.

Justgottogetthere (Jim Morrill Jr.) went right to the front at the start of the race and remained there until the end. While setting early panels of :28.2 and :58.4, the only challenge the leader got came from Snapshot Springs (Drew Monti) who pulled near the half and tried to engage the front. But the closest he could get was a half-length from second seated Noble Legend (Shawn Gray) who was tracking there the whole mile. After they hit three-quarters in 1:27.2, Justgottogetthere got busy and extended his lead around the far turn and just trotted away in the lane to win by three in 1:57.1.

Noble Legend was second and Snapshot Springs finished third.

It was the fourth win of the year and a seasonal mark for Justgottogetthere ($11.20), and the first trip to the winner’s circle with him for new owner Mike Torcello, who privately purchased the son of Valley Victor on Sept. 3rd. Gerry Sarama trains Justgottogetthere.

In the co-featured $8,500 Open II trot, Serious George ($5.50) came early to press the front running Socialdelight (Ray Fisher Jr.) before running her down to win in 1:57.4. Serious George is owned by James Palladino and is trained by Richard Mays.

John Cummings Jr. won four races Friday night. He had pictures taken with Gun Show ($4, 1:56.2), Hez a Buckeye ($5.60, 1:59), V I P ($9.20, 2:02) and Northern Matador ($13.20, 1:59).

Shawn Gray and Jim Morrill Jr. both chimed in with two wins apiece.

The Batavia Downs early Pick-5 which on Friday was part of the USTA Strategic Wager with a guaranteed $4,000 pool, recorded the track’s largest handle ever by 50%. The 3-2-1-2-6 combination returned $202.00.

Racing resumes at Batavia Downs tonight (Oct. 1) with a guaranteed early Pick-5 pool of $1,500. Post time is 6:15.

September 30, 2016 - 4:44pm
posted by Billie Owens in sports, Batavia Downs, harness racing.

By Tim Bojarski, for Batavia Downs

Batavia Downs Racetrack joins the United States Trotting Association's Strategic Wagering program Friday night (Sept.30) with the early Pick-5 pool guaranteed at $4,000.

The early Pick-5 which kicks off in race one, has an actual carryover of $2,422 and post time for that race is set at 6:15 p.m.

The Pick 5 is a 50-cent base wager that includes races one through five during every racing program. It has no consolation payoff; meaning if no one selects all five winners, the entire pool moves to the late Pick-5, which begins with race 7.

Program pages for the early Pick-5 races made available courtesy of Trackmaster can be found at http://handicapping.ustrotting.com

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