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Batavia Downs

May 15, 2015 - 12:04pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Batavia Downs, business, batavia, Western OTB.

gcplanningboardmay142015.jpg

Officials at Western OTB think the odds of hitting a jackpot are better if their proposed hotel overlooks the Batavia Downs racetrack.

It is, after all, the oldest lighted harness racing track in America and the reason Batavia Downs exists in the first place.

Shoehorning it into the constrained space around the track, however, will require some bending of the rules.

There are zoning variances needed to lot size, lot frontage, front, side and rear setbacks and building height.

The scope of the variances prompted county planning staff to recommend disapproval of the project.

After Western OTB VP Mike Nolan pleaded with the board to support the project, saying it's the only viable option to ensure Batavia Downs continues to thrive and generate millions of dollars for the local economy, planning board members were unwilling to say no to the plan. They also didn't say yes.

The board took no action and the plan is now kicked back with no recommendation to Town of Batavia planners. It will be up to the town's Planning Board to decide whether to grant the variances.

Yes, Town of Batavia, not City of Batavia.

When the hotel plans were first announced, for the 80- to 100-room hotel, officials were talking about a location on the south end of the track, near Tops Plaza, but Nolan said further study on that location indicated it just wasn't viable. It's simply not big enough.

The current proposed location is on the north end of the track and would require the removal of some of the current paddock area.

It's critical, Nolan said, that the hotel be attached to the gaming facility and that it have suites with balconies overlooking the track.

A board member asked, why not in the parking lot on the west side of Park Road?

"It's important that horse racing stays strong and vibrant," Nolan said. "Over in the parking lot, it wouldn't have the same appeal as overlooking the oldest lighted harness racing track in America."

The target audience for the hotel aren't travelers passing through the area, but people willing to travel to Batavia specifically to place bets on races and drop coins in slots.

The desk for the hotel would, in fact, be in the gaming facility itself. (Some of us might call it a casino, but the state's compact with the Senecas prohibits Batavia Downs officials from calling it a casino).

The gaming environment in WNY is getting more competitive, Nolan said, and with the Senecas planning a new $400-million casino a short drive away, it's critical Batavia Downs up its wager on local gaming. Western OTB recently completed a $28-million upgrade to Batavia Downs and the hotel represents the next phase in making Batavia Downs more attractive to gambling dollars.

The land for the hotel would be sold to private investors who would own the hotel and operate it as a franchise of a national hotel company.

Nolan noted that when Western OTB took over Batavia Downs, since Western OTB is a public benefit corporation, it took $3 million in assessed value off the tax roles. The new hotel would be assessed at something in the neighborhood of $7 million, and while tax abatements used to help fund development would delay the full value of that tax levy being realized by some local governments, eventually it would generate substantial tax revenue for the county and school district.

Even if the private developers decided to eventually sell the property and Western OTB became the owner, the property would stay on the tax roll, Nolan said.

gcplanningboardmay142015-2.jpg

May 6, 2015 - 4:39pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Batavia Downs, sports.

Press release:

Representatives from Western Regional Off-Track Betting Corporation (WROTB) announced that total wagering at WROTB on Saturday’s Kentucky Derby topped out at $1,930,585.30 with payouts of 2,067,622.80. Wagering handle was the second highest in WROTB’s history, and its payout to winning bettors was $800,000 more than last year and higher than it took in wagers, a first. 

“It’s the first time we’ve ever seen more payouts than money taken in," said WROTB Handicapper and Live Racing GM Todd Haight.

The complimentary Derby programs given out at WROTB Branches, EZ Bets and at Batavia Downs on Saturday touted Haight’s Hot Picks on the cover, which correctly selected the top four Derby finishers in exact order. The bettors of Western New York certainly benefitted as WROTB paid out $600,000 in winning Trifecta bets and over $630,000 in winning Superfecta wagers, both records.

Wagers placed at Batavia Downs Gaming totaled $62,248.50, an increase of nearly 5 percent over last year. Wagering using BataviaBets.com, WROTB’s online Web site, on the Derby was $53,821, a 26.6-percent increase over last year. Nationally the handle on the Kentucky Derby was up 4 percent and was its highest ever at $197 Million.

“It’s so exciting to see that interest in the Kentucky Derby is alive and well in Western New York," said Ryan Hasenauer, director of Marketing of Batavia Downs and WROTB. “We’re all pulling for a Triple Crown contender in American Pharoah. All our Branches will be open at 10 a.m. on May 16th, the morning of the Preakness, and we’ll be having another party with live tellers at Batavia Downs. Our Trifecta special includes food, Free Play and a complimentary Preakness wager like we had for the Derby.”

Owned and operated by 15 Western New York counties and the cities of Rochester and Buffalo, Western Regional OTB is a public benefit corporation with headquarters in Batavia. WROTB owns and operates 28 branches, as well as Batavia Downs Gaming, a standardbred racetrack and gaming facility.

March 29, 2015 - 6:35pm
posted by James Burns in batavia, Batavia Downs, Train show.

The Genesee Society of Model Engineers held its biannual model railroad show at the Clarion Hotel in Batavia this weekend. There were about 100 vendors and railroad preservation societies exhibiting. Attendance was very strong. The Clarion parking lot was filled and cars were parked in the mall and the streets. Attendees came from all over the state as well as Pennsylvania and Ontario, Canada.

 

February 27, 2015 - 12:44pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, Batavia Downs, business.

The city is ready, willing and able to help get construction started quickly on a new, five-story, 80- to 100-room hotel at Batavia Downs, said City Manager Jason Molino.

While developers and Western OTB officials have yet to agree on the precise location of the hotel, COO Mike Nolan said this morning the most likely spot is overlooking the southwest turn of the track, adjacent the grandstands, near the Tops Plaza.

That location is within the boundaries of the City of Batavia, meaning it will be the city's zoning and planning boards that will be called on for plan, design and environmental reviews.

"Being able to get this project reviewed and in front of all the proper boards is something we're committed to," Molino said. "We will make every effort, including holding special meetings, to move this along as swiftly and as smoothly as we can to meet the goals of the developers. I don't think this is a concern for us. We've worked with these size projects before and we can get it through smoothly."

Nolan said the developers, a Buffalo-based group that will purchase the property for the hotel from Western OTB, would like to break ground in 60 days and have the hotel open within nine months.

"The best part of this story is that back in 1998, when Western OTB bought Batavia Downs, it took $3 million (in assessed value) off the tax rolls," Nolan said. "Now, in 2015, $7 million plus is going back on the tax rolls for a facility that was closed and drawing nothing but cobwebs."

The increase in tax revenue won't hit local governments all at once, since the developers are likely to seek tax abatements from Genesee County Economic Development Center, but the exact structure of tax relief won't be clear until applications are made and abatements are approved.

Typically, tax abatements from GCEDC include relief on sales tax for construction material and furnishing, mortgage tax and a PILOT, which graduates the amount of property tax paid over a 10-year time frame, until the property owner is paying 100 percent of the taxes on the fully assessed value.

State law prohibits industrial development agencies from providing tax assistance to retail projects, unless they qualify as tourist destinations or are intended to attract visitors from outside the area.

Projects that are with economically distressed areas, or adjacent to such areas, are also exempt from the law.

Julie Pacatte, coordinator for the Batavia Development Corp., said one advantage Batavia Downs can realize by building the hotel on property within city limits (Batavia Downs straddles the City/Town line) is the census track is adjacent to a census track that includes Downtown Batavia, which qualifies as an economically distressed area.

"We're thrilled at the idea of having a distinctive hotel within the city," Pacatte said. "What they're planning, where you arrive in a very Vegas-style, shared lobby area, where you can check into the hotel and stay within the facility throughout your weekend, and being on the track, overlooking the last turn from a balcony, is pretty exciting."

Because the hotel won't offer other amenities, but is geared entirely toward the visitor looking for casino and harness racing entertainment, the folks at Western OTB don't believe it will compete with existing hotels, Nolan said.

"With this becoming a more competitive casino market in Upstate New York, we felt we needed to step up," Nolan said. "There's a casino coming to Seneca County, and the Seneca's already have casinos at their Niagara and Salamanca properties. In this new and up and coming casino market the way it is, we needed to offer some hospitality for our casino customers."

The other advantage the city offers a water-hungry facility like a hotel is lower water rates. Rates in the city are $3.14 per thousand gallons of water compared to $5.46 in the town.

The developers are negotiating with a couple of different hotel chains, so it's possible the new hotel will be operated under the banner of a Hilton Garden Inn or a Courtyard Marriott, or some other banner.

Batavia Downs is just wrapping up a $28 million remodeling and expansion effort and th hotel will complement that growth, Nolan said.

"We have a tremendous opportunity for convention-type of events and banquet-type of events that require lodging," Nolan said.

The hotel, Molino said, will certainly be a boost to the local economy, bringing in more visitors, creating jobs and spurring other types of economic growth. 

"This is a great opportunity and a great project," Molino said. "Everybody in my office, with the BDC and in planning are excited to work with the developers. We're going to do everything in our power to make sure it moves as quickly as it can and move as promptly as possible. That would be a win-win for everybody involved."

December 22, 2014 - 7:03pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, Batavia Downs, business.

The new entrance and lobby for Batavia Downs is nearly complete and is open now.

There is some finish-up, "trim" work to complete, said Ryan Hasenauer, marketing director for Western OTB, but otherwise, it's good to go.

November 21, 2014 - 3:19pm
posted by Billie Owens in Batavia Downs, sports, harness racing.

Press release:

As a direct result of the relentless snowstorm that has crippled most of Western New York, Batavia Downs has announced that it will forgo live racing for the remainder of the week. The programs that were originally scheduled for tonight (Nov. 21) and Saturday (Nov. 22) have been cancelled.

The decision was made jointly on Thursday by Batavia Downs management and the Western New York Harness Horsemen’s Association (WNYHHA) and both parties agreed it was the only thing to do.

Bruce Tubin, president of the WNYHHA said “In view of the devastating storm that has kept our horses from their daily exercise routine, our trainers from leaving their homes, and our blacksmiths and veterinarians from attending to our horses, I have mutually agreed with Batavia Downs management to cancel our Friday and Saturday race cards. There was physically no way for us to properly prepare our horses to race this weekend.”

Todd Haight, director/GM of live racing at Batavia Downs added “It would have been impossible for the equine athletes to compete at the highest level when most haven't been able to leave the barn for days. The decision to cancel this early takes the pressure off all parties involved.

"Our main goal now is get the barn area cleared of snow and the racetrack in the best possible condition for next Wednesday. We regret having to cancel but it was the right thing to do to make sure we didn’t experience any injuries on or off the track.”

Further concerns cited were about horsemen who ship in from areas that have been devastated by the snow and the changing conditions forecast over the next two days taking the weather from cold and snowy to a rapid meltdown and flooding by the weekend.

In light of these cancellations, pending approval from the New York State Gaming Commission, there will be two double-headers carded on the last two Saturdays of the meet. Nov. 29 and Dec. 6 will now offer two complete cards of racing at 12:15 and 6:35. Live racing at the Downs is scheduled to resume on Wednesday, Nov. 26. That leaves eight cards of live racing over six days.

Please note the new draw schedule. The Friday and Saturday afternoon cards will be drawn on Tuesday. The Saturday night cards will be drawn on Wednesday. And the final two Wednesday’s will be drawn on Friday, as always. The box will close at 9 a.m. If you have any questions please contact Race Secretary Joe Zambito at 585-344-6161.

Haight also noted that starting Wednesday, Nov. 26, the purses will increase by 20 percent in an effort to help the horsemen through the cancellations and as they come to the five week winter break at the end of this meet.

November 6, 2014 - 3:30pm
posted by Billie Owens in Batavia Downs, sports, harness racing.

By Tom Bojarski for Batavia Downs

Jacob "Jake" Baumeister, a 24-year-old provisional reinsman, was released from the United Memorial Medical Center in Batavia late Wednesday night (Nov. 5) after being involved in a racing accident at Batavia Downs.

Baumeister, driving 99-1 shot Vital Speed, appeared to hit the wheel of early leader (53-1) Call Her Quick with Jack Flanigen at the controls, as the field of winners of one but not more than three pacers were heading to the three-quarters.

Call Her Quick got rough gaited and went off stride. Baumeister and Vital Speed were directly behind and couldn’t avoid the breaker and went down. Baumeister was catapulted from the race bike.

Also involved in the accident was Justrollwithit and driver Truman Gale. They appeared to hook the wheel of the sulky of Vital Speed. Gale, a Vernon Downs regular, was also catapulted from the sulky.

Jacob Baumeister, the son of longtime Western New York trainer/driver Mike Baumeister and grandson of Ronald, who also raced at Batavia and Buffalo Raceway, suffered a concussion and facial lacerations. Gale walked off under his own power.

Vital Speed suffered minor abrasions and walked back to the paddock while Justrollwithit, who ran loose after unseating Gale, was apprehended by paddock personnel with no apparent injuries.

“We were definitely lucky that involved parties will be okay,” said Todd Haight, director/GM of live racing. “That was a very nasty spill. Jake is the nicest young man you’re ever going to meet and we all wish him a speedy recovery.”

October 30, 2014 - 12:00pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, Batavia Downs, business.

Batavia Downs is in the home stretch of a $20 million expansion that includes a new gaming floor, a new sign, new offices, and in the final phase, a new facade and entry on Park Road.

Today, a pair of 7,500-pound escalators are being installed and soon a statue of Fortuna, the goddess of good luck, will arrive from Wisconsin.

With the last major pieces in place, it's just a matter of putting on the finishing touches.

The new gaming floor, now on the first floor, opened last October. The old gaming floor on the second level is now offices for Batavia Downs and Western OTB staff.

The escalator to the second floor will provide access to the clubhouse and grandstands as well as a new OTB inter-track wagering facility, which will move from its current location across the street on Park Road.

The entry way will feature lighted neon and Fortuna will stand through a hole in the ceiling so she can be viewed from ground level or from up above.

"It's just going to look incredible," said Ryan Hasenauer, marketing director for Batavia Downs.

October 11, 2014 - 2:55pm
posted by Billie Owens in Batavia Downs, Italian-American, columbus day.

Press release:

Batavia Downs Gaming is pleased to announce that Laurie Napoleone is the historic racetrack’s recipient of its annual Italian-American of the Year award. Napoleone will receive her award on Oct. 13, Columbus Day, with a special trackside ceremony after the seventh race. Mr. Joe Gerace, the first recipient of this award, will act as Master Ceremony.

She’ll also be joined by other past award winners, Chuck Zambito, Ray Cianfrini, Joe Teresi, Charles Ruffino and Russ Romano.

Laurie (Pero) Napoleone is the wife of Mark Napoleone and the proud mother of four children, Mark Jr., Ashley, Christen, and her angel, Michael. She is the daughter of the late Charles and Marien Pero, and the sister of Charles, David and Adelyn Pero.

Laurie earned her bachelor of science in Nursing from Niagara University in 1982 and started working as a registered nurse after graduation at Strong Memorial Hospital in Rochester. After her marriage to Mark in 1983, she returned to her hometown and began working at St. Jerome Hospital, where she stayed for 15 years. After playing a role in the initial stages of the merger between St. Jerome Hospital  and Genesee Memorial Hospital, she decided on a career change into a school setting.

She worked for the Batavia City Schools as a school nurse / teacher at Robert Morris Elementary School. She earned a master‘s in Nursing from the University of Phoenix in 2004. Laurie then took her love for healthcare as well as teaching, and is currently employed by the Genesee Valley Educational Partnership. There she is an instructor in the Health Careers Academy, a program for high school seniors who are interested in pursuing a career in healthcare while gaining college credits.

Along with her husband, Laurie is the co-founder/member of the Michael Napoleone Memorial Foundation. After the passing of their youngest son, Michael, at the age of 8 to Burkitt’s lymphoma, (an aggressive form of blood cancer) the Napoleones created a foundation in Michael’s memory. It  helps families facing the challenges of a pediatric cancer diagnosis, supports research efforts in pediatric blood cancers, and assists youth sports and youth activities in the community.

Laurie speaks on behalf of the foundation and is a strong advocate for the families; has lobbied in Washington for more support of research efforts; and is passionate about the Foundation’s mission.

In her free time, Laurie enjoys entertaining with family and friends, Zumba, and writing.

Batavia Downs Gaming is proud to honor Laurie Napoleone as its 2014 Italian-American of the Year.

September 26, 2014 - 7:00am
posted by Howard B. Owens in baseball, Batavia Downs, Batavia Muckdogs, sports.

This past weekend we told you about the visit Hall of Famer Johnny Bench paid to Batavia Downs, and we mentioned that Bench expressed an interest in seeing a Batavia Muckdog's baseball cap.

The person with Bench at the time was season ticket holder Ross Fanara. Fanara called his wife and confirmed that they in fact had a brand new Muckdog's hat at home, so she brought it to Batavia Downs and they presented it to Bench.

Fanara sent over this picture of him with Bench wearing the Batavia Muckdogs hat.

Ross said, "Johnny Bench is a class act."

September 21, 2014 - 7:58am
posted by Howard B. Owens in baseball, Batavia Downs, sports.

Johnny Bench was just a 19-year-old kid from a town of 600 people in Oklahoma when he arrived in Buffalo 47 years ago.

"I didn't venture much beyond the Kenmore District and North Tonawanda," Bench said during an interview Saturday at Batavia Downs when asked if this was his first visit to Batavia. "I was still trying to figure out who I was and who I was supposed to be."

His 98 games as a Buffalo Bison in 1967 helped answer some of those questions.

"I matured (in Buffalo)," Bench said. "I had older players I played with. They gave me a lot of guidance, worked with me, helped me along. It was a great stepping stone, more importantly for the Dom Zannis, the Jim Duffalos, the Steve Boroses, the Duke Carmels, the Frank Obregons and the Gordy Colemans, and there was Dick Stigman, a pitcher, too, and Rollie Sheldon. It was a maturation process. These guys had pitched before. I kept calling games and learning stuff and doing stuff and you had to get the most out them. I felt like I could paint the picture, but I had to pull it all out of them. That was the secret and the thing I learned the most and enjoyed the most here."

That list of former Bisons -- who, unless you were a Bisons' fan in 1967, you probably never heard of -- were all 30 years old or older. Bench was the youngest player on the team, and one of only six players who hadn't yet turned 23.

But through the years, Buffalo stayed with Johnny Bench. All those names, easily recalled. He turned a question about his legacy into remembrance of a time before he became rookie of the year, an MVP, won two home run crowns, 10 gold gloves and played on two world championship teams.

"We played at the old War Memorial Stadium, but then they had the riots," Bench said. "We had to go over to Niagara Falls and play on the old football field with the temporary snow fence. The yardage lines were still there on the infield."

Arguably -- and some of us would say it's beyond dispute -- Johnny Bench was the greatest catcher in baseball history.

We can talk about his 389 career home runs, his 1,376 RBI, his 3,644 total bases, as well as two home run titles and three RBI titles, but suggest he's best remembered as an offensive catcher and he's quick to rebuff the audacity of dwelling on how he swung a bat.

"The 10 gold gloves didn't hurt," says the man whom base runners feared and pitchers counted on to do a very basic thing time after time: catch the ball.

"That was my main job, getting a win for the pitcher," Bench said. "I took great pride in the fact that I wanted to get that pitcher a win and if we got a win for him, we got a win for the team. Individually, I could throw runners out, I could block the plate, I could get hits, I could call a great game, but calling a great game was the most important."

And it was guys in Buffalo, like Zanni, Duffalo, Obregon, Stigman and Sheldon, who taught him to call a great game.

Bench was in town for a memorabilia show at the Downs. So were Pete Rose, Tony Perez and George Foster, along with other sports stars.

It's worth noting, perhaps, that Bench, Rose, Perez, Foster, and the other stars were signing autographs for a fee. Bench and Rose commanded the highest price, especially on a jersey or bat, but they all got paid.

On the other side of the proverbial coin, of course, is that fact that as players, none of them were enriched the way today's stars are lavished with cash. Bench never earned as much as $500,000 in a season and Rose never made it to the million-dollar mark until his final year as a player-manager with the Reds.

So it's not surprising, perhaps, that these heros of so many youths so many years ago would travel to America's small towns, sit under bright lights on folding chairs at plastic tables and sign their names for fans and speculators for a fee.

While Bench was affable and at times chatty with patrons who came through his line about an hour after Rose had finished, Rose seemed detached from the parade of people pushing baseballs, bats, jerseys, baseball cards and 8x10s onto the table in front of him.

An assistant sternly rebuffed a fan who asked if Rose would pose for a picture. No, she said, but he could kneel in front of the table while somebody snapped a keepsake.

Rose didn't even look at the camera.  

Rather than a smile, Rose wore the look of a man who seems beaten down by a decades-long wrestling match with the Lords of Baseball over his legacy.

In contrast, there sat a youthful, smiling Johnny Bench, with his Hall of Fame ring secure on his left hand, scanning the field and letting nothing go unnoticed.

"That's my jersey," he says to a woman with a camera standing off to the side waiting to snap a picture of a friend who will get an autograph.

As a man tries to get a picture of his friend with Bench as Bench signs a picture, Bench tells him to wait. "I'm not looking up," he says.

When the same photographer seems to move the camera before the shutter snaps, Bench says, "that one's not going to turn out," but the quick-release snapper has moved on without noticing.

Without being asked, he poses for another photographer with a bat at the ready.

When he meets a Batavia Muckdogs season ticket holder, he says as he signs, "I don't even know what a Muckdog's baseball hat looks like. I'd like to see one."

The 66-year-old Johnny Bench smiled and signed and kept chatting even in the face of a line dozens of people long. His massive hands -- hands that make grizzly bears stand up and take notice -- etched a beautiful cursive on whatever he was asked to sign.

Johnny Bench is always the team player.

"Winning an MVP award or rookie of the year, it's a fantastic honor, but there is nothing like the feeling though when I walked into the clubhouse after game seven of the '75 World Series and we were World Champions," Bench said. "That's when I knew what it was all about, because every player was a world champion. Every player, every owner, every sponsor, every equipment manager, and all the fans were world champions. That's when you can really share and realize the importance of what team sport is about."

Bench isn't without some pride over his individual accomplishments. When asked to sign a 1972 San Diego Padres game program with Nate Colbert on the cover, Bench smiled, "Old Nate," he said. "I hit five homers in the last week of the season to beat him for a home run title."

In 1972, Colbert had 38 dingers. Bench had 40.

To enjoy a career like Johnny Bench, that's one in a billion, but just getting the chance to go pro for today's young athlete is nearly impossible.

Bench, who went straight from high school to the Reds instructional league team at age 17 in 1965, said today's young athlete should take advantage of the wealth of college scholarship opportunities.

"When I played, only one in every 500,000 kids who played Little League baseball ever signed a contract," Bench said. "I don't know if they want to go up against the numbers, but the fact that there's so many scholarships out there available, I'll still push education every chance I get. Be a good student, study various things, find something you love and be prepared in case athletics doesn't work out."

If you do want to be an athlete, Bench said, work hard, practice, study the sport, prepare, understand the game. Watch the great ones to figure out what they do and how they do it.

"I think Ozzie Smith is a guy who taught kids how to play shortstop," Bench said. "I taught kids how to catch better."

Which brings us to Johnny Bench's final word of advice: Catch every ball.

"My theory in life is, 'catch every ball.' Somebody says, 'my kid wants to be a catcher, what do I tell him?' and I say, 'catch every ball.' If you learn to catch everything that comes your way, then people say, 'wow, you're a great catcher,' or 'you're a great shortstop,' or 'you're a great first baseman,' or 'you're a great businessman.' If they throw stuff at you and you have the answers, they're going to say, 'this guy really knows what he's doing.' People are going to rely on you and they're going to trust you and more things will come your way."

Pete Rose

Tony Perez

Lou Piniella

After the show, Pete Rose stopped at Larry's Steakhouse for dinner. Pictured with Sandy Mullen and Brenden Mullen. Photo submitted by Steve Mullen.

September 5, 2014 - 11:38am
posted by Billie Owens in batavia, Batavia Downs, sports.

Great athletes and "4 actors from The Sopranos" will be at the Western New York Sports Card Expo at Batavia Downs on Sept. 20-21.

In addition to the unspecified cast members of The Sopranos, the event will feature: Dave Bing, Pete Rose, Johnny Bench, Lou Piniella, Jose Canseco, Gayle Sayers, and Ric Flair.

The Expo runs from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. both days. Parking is free. Admission is $5 and includes $5 in free play for those 18 and older. Children under 8 get in free.

September 2, 2014 - 11:38am
posted by Billie Owens in Batavia Downs, sports, harness racing.

Press release:

By Tim Bojarski for Batavia Downs

An unfortunate chain-reaction mishap occurred at the start of the third race at Batavia Downs on Monday (Sept.1) that sent two drivers to the hospital.

When the gate pulled away at the start of the race, driver Chris Long tried to go to the front with pacer Shakin In My Shoes from post five when the horse took a bad step and fell, throwing Long to the track. Following behind him was Shawn McDonough driving Police Car, who then appeared to run over Long, dumping McDonough out of his bike and to the track. Then while on the track, McDonough appeared to be run over by the sulky wheel of another trailing horse, Flight Crew driven by Jim McNeight.

At this point there were two drivers on the track, one horse down and another horse (McDonough’s) running loose without a driver. As horsemen and medical personnel ran to the aid of the fallen, the other drivers pulled out wide on the second lap to avoid the incident at the rail. However the loose horse did not follow suit and instead skirted the pylons, then jumped over the still down McDonough. The jump then caused that horse to fall himself.

The race was declared a “no contest” by the judges at the three-quarter pole and broadcast as such over the public address system by track announcer Joe Zambito who then immediately instructed the remaining drivers to pull up their horses before they finished the race. All wagers made on the race were refunded.

Shawn McDonough was transported to the Erie County Medical Center where he was examined and determined to have a slight concussion but no broken bones. Chris Long was taken to United Memorial Medical Center in Batavia where he was found to have a collapsed lung and possible fractures to the ribs and hip. Both drivers remained in the hospital pending further examination.

Shakin In My Shoes and Police Car, the two horses that went down, both came out of the incident with only a couple minor abrasions.

McDonough is 23 years old and is a regular at Batavia Downs. He is one of the up and coming young drivers in the sport and in his short career has steered 395 winners that have earned over $2 million in purses. He was the leading dash driver at the Downs last year and is currently second for this meet.

Long is 46 and has been driving at Saratoga Raceway and Plainridge Racecourse in Massachusetts. He just started driving at Batavia Downs last week. During his career he has teamed 3,198 winners and amassed purses totaling over $9 million.

Any further updates will be released as they become available.

August 24, 2014 - 10:44pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, Batavia Downs, sports, Wiener Dog Race.

Photographer Amanda Earl covered the wiener dog race at Batavia Downs. 

Press release from Batavia Downs:

Kristy Drabek’s 2-year-old dachshund named Brinkley stormed down the stretch of America’s oldest lighted harness racetrack to win the championship final of the 2014 Genesee Feeds wiener dog races on Sunday afternoon at Batavia Downs Gaming.

The official margin of victory was a half a (dog) length.

Six-year Pablo Penders, owned by Adrienne Penders, surged at the wire to nip another 5-year-old, early leader Ruby, owned by Sarah Farley, for second.

Over 70 fleet-footed wiener dogs participated in the annual races that act as the final piece of Family Fun Day at the races.

Brinkey’s win was worth $100 in gaming free for his happy owners while second and third paid off $50 and $25 in free play, respectively.

Reigning champion Gordon, who has won the last three years, did not enter.

“It was a great crowd and a great day,” Todd Haight, Director/GM of live racing, said. “Our marketing department put together a plethora of activities and it certainly brought a huge crowd.

Batavia Downs video:

 

August 22, 2014 - 5:45pm
posted by Billie Owens in Batavia Downs, weiner dog race.

By Tim Bojarski for Batavia Downs

Of all the promotions presented during the live harness racing meet at Batavia Downs each year, the Dachshund or “wiener dog” races have become the most popular. Since 2005, thousands of fans have congregated at the fence in front of the grandstand to position themselves for the best view of the starters in each of the carded heats.

This year the wiener dog races will be held Sunday, Aug. 24, during Family Fun Day at Batavia Downs. Sponsored by Genesee Feeds of Batavia, a total of 10 heats will be contested with eight wiener dogs in each race. The first race will begin after the last live harness race of the day, which will be approximately 4:20 p.m.

For the last three years, a fleet-footed flyer named Gordon has won this annual event. But he is not entered in the race this year so his reign as champion is over. Gordon's retirement will be welcome news for the other doggies who will be storming down the home stretch because, with the favorite out of the race, the field is wide open for a new titleholder.

The first 70 dogs entered will receive a canine gift bag courtesy of Genesee Feeds of Batavia. But the dogs won’t be the only winners here; their human counterparts are in line for a nice payoff as well. Each “puprietor” will be eligible to receive some nice prizes if their pet pooch proves prolific.

The owners of each heat winner (10 in all) will receive $25 in gaming free-play. And the winning, second- and third-place owner in the championship final will receive $100, $75 and $50 in gaming free-play, respectively, along with two complimentary clubhouse buffets each.

Besides the wiener dog races, other highlights of the Family Fun Day will include free pony rides from 2-4 p.m. (sponsored by Castilone Chrysler, Dodge and Jeep of Batavia), a bounce house and appearances by the ever popular Pringles the Clown, Mr. Scribbles and Jason the Juggler.

There will be $1 Sahlen’s hot dogs and $1 sodas available from noon until 4 at the concession on the track apron. Cotton Candy and Snow Cones will also be available for $1 all afternoon.

A 12-race card of afternoon harness racing is scheduled on Family Fun Day with the first post slated for 1:15. Admission and parking, as always, are free.

July 30, 2014 - 5:18pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, Batavia Downs, Attica.

A Batavia Downs patron is alive today because of the training and calm professionalism of a security guard who started CPR and helped administer defibrillation.

Cory Lapp is only 21, but he's already been a volunteer EMT with the Attica Fire Department for three years (he joined the department at age 16). His medical training came in handy while working security at the casino when he checked on a report of a patron who was down and unresponsive.

"There were a couple of people standing around, so I peaked over and realized he wasn't moving at all," Lapp said.

Lapp immediately started CPR and summoned a partner, Officer Bob Humphrey, to retrieve the defibrillator.

Together, they used the machine on the patient and the man revived and was later transported to the hospital.

The name of the patient has not been released.

As an EMT, Lapp has been called on to perform CPR before, but he said it still feels pretty good to save a life.

"It feels good to know that when he was in my hands, he was alive," Lapp said. "It's a good feeling. It's kind of hard to describe it."

As Lapp walked with a reporter through the facility, coworkers congratulated him.

"Good job, Cory," they said as he walked by.

July 24, 2014 - 8:35am
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, Batavia Downs, sports, harness racing.

Press release:

An enthusiastic crowd lined the fence to welcome back live harness racing at the oldest lighted harness track in North America and their zeal was rewarded with a great slate of exciting contests on a warm summer night.

The feature race was the $9,500 Mares Open Pace where newcomer Bazooka Terror established her status the first start out of the box as she soundly defeated her competition in 1:55.4.

Bazooka Terror is owned by her trainer, Leonard Segall of Clearwater, Fla. This was her sixth win of the year and it pushed her bankroll to $43,904 for 2014. She returned $6.20 for the win.

In the co-featured $7,500 Open Mares Trot, Love Me Do took a huge step in class and thought nothing of it as she cruised to a five-length victory in a seasonal best time of 1:59.

Love Me Do was claimed last week for $8,000 after winning that race from post seven in 2:00.1. Apparently liking what he bought, trainer Alex Giuliani wasted no time in promoting her to the top level for her sex and gait this week and the move paid off.

Love Me Do left and tucked third as 3-2 favorite Fiorentina (John Cummings Jr.) took the front and began to cut the mile. After a 29 second quarter and 59 second half, Love Me Do tipped at the five-eighths and took the lead past the three-quarters in 1:28.4. When she got the lead she got away from the pack and scored an easy five-length victory, her sixth of the year.

The time of 1:59 was a seasonal mark for Love Me Do and the winners share raised the annual earnings to $31,397. She paid $10.20 to win.

Love Me Do is owned by Mark Jakubik of West Seneca.

Reinsman Kevin Cummings carried his hot hand over from the recently concluded Buffalo meet winning four times on opening night while 2013 Batavia leading dash driver Shawn Mcdonough notched a triple.

Batavia Downs returns live this Friday night (July 25) with 12 races on the card. For more racing information, a list of racing promotions, or to watch race replays as soon as they are declared official, log on to www.bataviadonwsgaming.com. Or if you would like to bet online and watch live streaming coverage of the races as they occur, log on to www.bataviabets.com and open an account.

July 19, 2014 - 5:19am
posted by Billie Owens in Batavia Downs.

Information from Batavia Downs:

Wiener dog races return to Batavia Downs on Aug. 24 and sign-ups for the big event started Friday.

If you are interested in racing your Dachshund, call event coordinator Arna Tygart at 585-343-3750, ext. 437. There is an 80-dog limit and an also-eligible list will be started should the need arise. The first 70 dogs entered will receive a canine gift bag courtesy of Genesee Feeds of Batavia.

Of all the promotions presented during the live harness racing meet at Batavia Downs each year, the Dachshund, or “wiener dog” races have become the most popular. Since 2005, thousands of fans have congregated at the fence in front of the grandstand to position themselves for the best view of the starters in each of the carded heats.

This year the wiener dog races will be held on Sunday, Aug. 24, during Family Fun Day at Batavia Downs. Sponsored by Genesee Feeds of Batavia, a total of 10 heats will be contested with eight wiener dogs in each race. The first race will begin after the last live harness race of the day, which will be approximately 4:20 p.m.

For the last three years, a fleet-footed flyer named Gordon (who is owned by Lindsay Ryan-Radzwill of Lancaster, NY) has won this annual event. But his status for defending the crown in 2014 has come into question. The soon-to-be 7-year-old has had a few health issues recently and Radzwill isn't sure if she's going race him this year.

"Gordon just came up lame a few weeks ago. We took him to the vet and he checked out okay and he has been fine ever since. But at this point we're not sure what we're going to do. We may give him a year off; we'll have to see," Ryan-Radzwill said.

Gordon's misfortune could be welcome news for the other doggies who will be storming down the home stretch. With the favorite potentially out of the race, the field becomes ripe for an upset.

The dogs won’t be the only winners here either; each owner will be eligible to receive some nice prizes too if their pet pups prove to be speedy.

The owners of each heat winner (10 in all) will receive $25 in gaming free-play. And the winning, second- and third-place owner in the championship final will receive $100, $75 and $50 in gaming free-play, respectively, along with two complimentary clubhouse buffets each as well.

A 12-race card of afternoon harness racing is scheduled on Family Fun Day with the first post slated for 1:15 p.m. Admission and parking, as always, are free.

Batavia Downs, the oldest lighted harness track in America, will kick off its 68th season of racing next week -- Wednesday, July 23 -- with a new post time of 6:35 p.m.

July 9, 2014 - 3:05pm
posted by Billie Owens in Batavia Downs, sports, harness racing, NY Sire Stakes.

Press release:

On Thursday, July 10, Batavia Downs will become the newest stop on the New York Sire Stakes (NYSS) fair circuit when the Genesee County leg of that series convenes for the first time.

It's been a long and circuitious route for this to occur.

The Genesee County Agricultural Society has held an annual fair in Batavia, NY, since 1839. And from 1890 through 1946 they called the current site of Batavia Downs their home. The track was known as Exposition Park and every year harness racing was one of the most anticipated events on the fair schedule.

But in 1947 when Batavia Downs founder Pat Provenzano bought the property he had originally leased from the society to expand his growing pari-mutuel empire, the fair relocated to another site and fair racing in Genesee County ceased.

Since the inception of the New York Sire Stake in 1961, there has never been a fair date contest in Genesee County until now and the addition became a reality because of a natural disaster that occurred last year.

Todd Haight, Batavia Downs director/general manager of live racing said “Last year we held the Caledonia Fair races at Batavia Downs when their track in Livingston County was washed out by heavy rain. And it was a great success. We had a large crowd here and the racing was great. So we thought, why not host fair racing here every year?”

Haight contacted the NYSS and the Genesee County Agricultural Society and the groups came together with a plan. The result of that collaboration is the return of fair racing to the track they left  seven decades ago.

“We’re happy to be partnering with the Genesee County Fair folks on hosting the races and all the activities that go along with them. I see no reason why the fair races couldn’t become an annual event here at Batavia Downs,” Haight concluded.

Nick O'Geen, Genesee County Agricultural Society Board member said “This is a unique opportunity for the Genesee County Fair to partner with Batavia Downs to bring harness racing to back the fair.”

Post time for the first race is 1:15 p.m.

In addition to the races, there will be events for the whole family on the track apron including carnival games, a bounce house, a juggler and a balloon artist. Also available will be a $3 lunch special for kids 12 and younger as well as $1 ice cream cones, snow cones and cotton candy. Fair events at Batavia Downs run from 11 until 4.

Batavia Downs will also be offering discounted advance sale tickets for other fair events and with the purchase of any ticket, will provide a $10 free-play voucher redeemable on their gaming floor.

May 16, 2014 - 12:19pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Batavia Downs, Gambling, Western OTB.

Press release:

In a letter to Monroe County Legislator Justin Wilcox, Seneca Nation President Barry Snyder Sr. announced that the Seneca Nation will no longer pursue the siting of a casino development project in Henrietta or Monroe County at this time. Subsequently, representatives of Western Region Off-Track Betting Corporation expressed appreciation to the people of the region for voicing their opposition to the proposal.

In the letter to Wilcox, Snyder stated, “We will not engage in the demanding and complex process required to get a casino approved pursuant to the laws and regulations governing Indian gaming without the support of the local community and New York State.”

To date, 17 towns and 11 counties, as well as the 19-member Inter-County Association of Western New York, have taken formal action opposing the expansion of casino gaming in Henrietta and Monroe County. In addition, 15 members of the State Legislature from across Western and Central New York have publicly expresses their opposition to the proposed expansion of casino gaming in the region. Governor Andrew Cuomo has stated that public support is critical when weighing the decision to expand casino gaming in the state. 

“From businesses, church groups, civic organizations, and everyday people from across the region to state leaders and local municipalities, the opposition to a casino in Monroe County has been overwhelming,” said Michael P. Nolan, executive vice president/COO of WROTB. “Clearly the Seneca Nation has heard the will of the people and responded accordingly.”

While acknowledging the Seneca Nation’s cessation of its efforts to expand casino gaming in Monroe County at this time, Nolan understands that the Senecas could reinitiate their efforts at a later date.

“If in the future the Seneca Nation should move forward with a proposal to expand casino gaming in Monroe County, we will once again emphatically oppose such a plan,” Nolan said. “The people of Monroe County recognize the fact that a Seneca-owned casino would adversely impact the local community and give the Seneca Nation a competitive advantage that will be damaging to businesses, both large and small, across the region. That is something that the people of this community are unwilling to accept, and they resoundingly made that point.”

Owned and operated by 15 Western New York counties and the cities of Rochester and Buffalo, Western Regional OTB is a public benefit corporation with headquarters in Batavia. WROTB owns and operates 29 branches, as well as Batavia Downs Gaming, a standard bred racetrack and gaming facility. Since its inception, Western OTB has generated more than $215 million in operating and surcharge revenues to the taxpayers of those participating municipalities.

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