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August 17, 2018 - 10:56pm
posted by Billie Owens in sports, news, harness racing, Batavia Downs.

Photo of Southern Palms with driver Kevin Cummings.

By Tim Bojarski, for Batavia Downs

Two longtime Batavia Downs regulars put up big numbers on Friday night (Aug. 17) in front of a packed apron and sold out clubhouse on a beautiful late summer evening in Genesee County. 

First, perennial driving leader Kevin Cummings won half the card, scoring five wins on the night, pulling away from his fellow drivers for the dash lead at the meet. Cummings won with Keystone Keen (1:56.4, $4.10), Striker Ace (1:57.2, $5.40), Gold Star Sonata (1:57.1, $4), Southern Palms (1:57, $21.20) and Northern Matador (1:59, $3). 

Cummings is firmly entrenched as the current driving leader to this point with 27 wins; seven ahead of his nearest competitor. He is chasing his fifth title at the Downs and is off to a flying start. 

Then legendary western New York horseman Gerry Sarama conditioned the winners of both featured trots, winning each with ease and returning double-digit payouts to boot. 

In the $10,000 Open Handicap, Southern Palms (Kevin Cummings) got off to a slow start fourth as Ruddy Rusty (Jim McNeight Jr.) was rolling down the road with a four-length lead in a fast :56.4 half. Southern Palms took advantage of the fraction and became second over at three-quarters behind Call My Broker (Ray Fisher Jr.) who was rushing the leader. At the head of the stretch the three were even across the track but Southern Palms trotted home the best and won by two lengths in 1:57, which was a new seasonal mark. 

The very next race in the $8,000 Open II, Sarama decided to send Theresnoway (Ray Fisher Jr.) right down the road and he never looked back. After getting to the half in :58.2, Fisher let out the lines and Theresnoway opened up five by three-quarters and eight by the top of the stretch and from there he cruised to the wire much the best by eight in 1:57.1, which was also a new seasonal mark. 

Southern Palms ($21.20) and Theresnoway ($11.40) are both owned by Mike Torcello.

Bedsides the big nights had by Cummings and Sarama, driver Drew Monti and trainer John Mungillo each added two wins to their meet totals. 

The annual Race to Defeat Breast Cancer fundraiser and silent auction that was held by the Breast Cancer Coalition of Rochester (BCCR) and sponsored by Batavia Downs was a rousing success as donations collected amounted to over $12,000 and beat last year’s total.

Live racing resumes at Batavia Downs on Saturday night (Aug. 18) with post time set at 6 o'clock.

August 16, 2018 - 3:35pm
posted by Billie Owens in harness racing, Batavia Downs, sports.

By Tim Bojarski, for Batavia Downs

Although Batavia Downs has had their 2018 live racing season underway since Monday (July 23), this will be the first regularly scheduled Friday (Aug. 17) of the meet due to other events going on at the facility. Friday racing will now be conducted weekly until the end of the meet with a 6 p.m. post time. 

This Friday will feature the best trotters on the grounds vying in Open I, II and III classes. But aside from the racing, there will be much more going on in front of an almost sold out clubhouse. 

The “Races to Benefit the Breast Cancer Coalition of Rochester” (www.bccr.org) fundraiser will be held at the track raising both awareness and dollars to fight this deadly disease. This annual event is one of the bigger fundraisers held by this organization and Batavia Downs has partnered with them for  years now and is proud to be a part of this very worthy cause. 

“We have partnered with BCCR for several years now and each year this event gets bigger and better” said Todd Haight, Director/General Manager of Live Racing. “It’s an opportunity for us to help raise money to defeat the scourge of cancer in our lifetime. The generosity of our patrons and horsemen always shine through and I’m sure we will see that again this week.”

There will be a silent auction held adjacent to the clubhouse with a list of prizes that will please anyone’s taste. They include: two suite tickets to the Justin Timberlake concert at Key Bank Center on Sunday (Oct. 28); two suite tickets for the Buffalo Bills versus Jacksonville Jaguars game at New Era Field on Sunday (Nov. 25); four suite tickets to the Buffalo Sabres versus Tampa Bay Lightning game at Key Bank Center on Tuesday (Nov. 13); a Buffalo Sabres autographed Jack Eichel jersey; a Buffalo Sabres autographed Danny Gare jersey; one Batavia Downs Hotel night and racing package; two Batavia Downs clubhouse racing packages; and a recliner form Max Pies Furniture in Batavia. 

The track will also be taking cash donations that will be forwarded directly to BCCR. 

Also on Friday, Batavia Downs will be offering a guaranteed $1,750 early Pick-5 pool with an $838 carry over. It's a 50-cent base wager that runs from race one to race five. Post time for the first race is 6 p.m.

August 16, 2018 - 3:26pm
posted by Billie Owens in Batavia Downs, harness racing, batavia, sports.

Kaitlyn Rae with driver Ray Fisher Jr. in the forefront.

By Tim Bojarski, for Batavia Downs​

After having no luck in three top class attempts at Batavia Downs so far this year, Kaitlyn Rae had a reversal of fortunes as she knocked the apple cart at 12-1 and won the $9,500 fillies and mares Open Handicap pacing feature on Wednesday afternoon (Aug. 15).

Kaitlyn Rae (Ray Fisher Jr.) saw All Charged Up (John Macdonald) whiz by her to take the lead and was content to sit in the garden spot for most of the mile. Positions remained unchanged from there through a :27.4 quarter and :58 half.

Past the stands, Roll With Sparky (Billy Davis Jr.) came to play and hung outside prompting the leader all that way through the top of the last turn. Roll With Sparky tired at that point and Kaitlyn Rae was able to extract herself from the two hole at the head of the stretch. All Charged Up had a two-length lead, but Kaitlyn Rae was pacing out of her hobbles under jack-in-the-box urging by Fisher and collared All Charged Up at the wire in 1:55.

It was the ninth win in 22 starts for Kaitlyn Rae ($26.00) and it pushed her earnings to $44,695 this year for owner/trainer Riley Asher-Stalbaum.

The $8,000 ladies Open II saw Odysseus (Ray Fisher Jr.) get away eighth at the quarter before pulling second over behind Quicksilvercandy A (Ron Beback Jr.) at the half and tip three-deep around the final turn to outpace the leading Aritzia Hanover (John Cummings Jr.) at the wire in 1:57.1.

Odysseus ($9.60) got her third win in her last five starts over three different tracks, but it was the first for her new connections Elm Racing and trainer Russell Bratt.

There was no winner in either Pick-5 wager on Wednesday and as a result, Batavia Downs will be offering a guaranteed $1,750 early Pick-5 pool with an $838 carry over on Friday (Aug. 17). The Breast Cancer Coalition of Rochester will also be holding their fundraiser and silent auction on Friday with Buffalo Bills, Sabres and Justin Timberlake suite tickets available for bid all night. Post time for the first race is 6 p.m.

August 12, 2018 - 6:56pm
posted by Billie Owens in sports, news, harness racing, Batavia Downs.

By Tim Bojarski, for Batavia Downs

Shawn Gray had the night of his life on Saturday (Aug. 11) as he won seven of the 12 races he drove at Batavia Downs and during that run, garnered his 4,000th career driving win.

Gray came into the night needing four wins to reach that plateau and once “The Maine Event” got rolling, there was seemingly no stopping him from getting to the winner’s circle. Besides his seven wins (which included the last five straight races of the night), Gray also had a second and two thirds giving him a stellar universal driver rating (UDR) of .685 for the night.

A native of Waterville, Maine, the 44-year-old Gray has been driving since 1993 when he got his first pari-mutuel win with Timer Choice at Presque Isle, Maine. He has been a regular on the New England circuit for his entire life, but in 2012 he came to western New York and made an instant impact on the racing scene here, taking the driving title at Batavia Downs that year.

Gray has also been a regular at Saratoga Raceway and Plainridge Park in recent years and enjoys the same success at those tracks as he does everywhere else.

In 19,230 starts, Gray has now won 4,003, has been second 3,098 times and third 2,709 more times making him more than 50 percent in the money for his career. That high percentage performance has earned him $15,114,821 in purses over that time.

Gray’s best career year was 2012 when he captured 356 victories and earned $1.859 million in purses. A habitual high percentage driver, Gray posted a personal best .440 UDR in 2011 but consistently ends the year in the high .300 range. Gray is currently second in North America in 2018 for UDR with a .404.

There was another horseman making history at Batavia Downs. Trainer James Clouser Jr. won a track record seven races on the card and posted an unbelievable universal training rating (UTR) of .917 in the process.

Clouser won with Freak On A Leash (1:55.2, $7.10), Whosurpapa (1:54.2, $3.20), Lenny Mac (1:57.3, $7.90), Upfront Countryboy (1:53.2, $4.20), Tyler (1:54.4, $2.90), Zipnthruthehall (1:54.3, $3.40) and Autobiographical (1:54.3, $2.60).

Gray drove six of Clouser’s seven winners.

The top Open pacing and trotting features were also contested on Saturday night.

Validus Deo, below, ($4.40) won the $10,500 Open Handicap pace in 1:54.3 for driver Kevin Cummings who also trains and co-owns the winner with Matthew Rosiek and Robert Johnson.

And BZ Glide, bottom photo, $29.60) upset in the $10,500 Open Handicap trot in 1:56.2 for driver Mike Caprio. Alana Caprio trains the winner for owner the Caprio Stable.

Live racing resumes at Batavia Down on Wednesday (Aug. 15) with post time set at 5 p.m.

August 11, 2018 - 1:37pm
posted by Billie Owens in sports, Batavia Downs, harness racing.

By Tim Bojarski, for Batavia Downs

As a result of no winning ticket once again on Wednesday (Aug. 8), Batavia Downs will offer a $2,500 guaranteed early Pick-5 pool when racing resumes on Saturday (Aug. 11) at the oldest lighted harness track in America.

The Pick-5 is a 50-cent base wager that begins in race one and runs through race five. There is no consolation payoff, meaning if no one selects all five winners, the entire pool (minus takeout) will be carried over to the Late Pick-5 that begins in race seven. The late Pick-5 is a $1 minimum bet.

Post time for the first race today (Aug. 11) is 6 p.m. 

August 9, 2018 - 1:27pm
posted by Billie Owens in harness racing, sports, Batavia Downs.

Thunder with driver Kevin Cummings.

By Tim Bojarski, for Batavia Downs

Thrilling stretch drives with close finishes were the order of the day at Batavia Downs on Wednesday (Aug. 8) when the 2-year-old trotting colts and geldings visited the Genesee County oval to compete in the New York Sire Stakes (NYSS) for the $109,000 in available purses.

Thunder (Conway Hall-Cr Oh Suzanna) won the first $54,500 division with a big brush from behind.

JNR Express (Jim Morrill Jr.) cut a decent first quarter before slowing the half forcing Chip Chip Conway (Jim Taggart Jr.) to pull first up with Thunder (Kevin Cummings) following right behind. JNR Express and Chip Chip Conway hooked up and went at it toe to toe from the five eighths all around the last turn with Thunder drafting behind. Thunder tipped three deep at the head of the lane and ran down Chip Chip Conway in deep stretch to win in 1:58.3.

"I had to get after him to get him started; he was a little lazy. But he was good once he got started. He's a nice going trotter," said Cummings after the race.

It was the second straight win and a new lifetime mark for Thunder ($9.60) who is owned by Crawford Farms Racing, Jeremy Day and the VIP Internet Stable. John Butenschoen trains the winner. Thunder was bred by Walnut Hall Limited.

Cavill Hanover (Muscle Mass-Cr Calendar Girl), in photo above with driver Ake Svanstedt, took the second $54,500 split after a very hard fought battle to the wire.

Horns For Three (Kevin Cummings) went right to the front and Cavill Hanover dropped in right in behind him. With the field single file to the half, Cummings backed it off considerably forcing Cavill Hanover to pull and challenge just pass that station. Drawing alongside the leader by the three quarters, Cavill Hanover and Horns For Three were now hooked up in a match race. The two trotted like a mirror image around the final bend, down the stretch and all the way to the wire where Cavill Hanover just got the advantage and won in 1:59.3, with a snappy back half of :57.4.

Svanstedt was complimentary of both his horse as well as Horns For Three: "My horse went good, but the horse we beat went good too. The race was very competitive."

Cavill Hanover ($3.90) has now won three out of his last four races for his connections, Little E, Vanersol Inc. and Wolfgang A Stable. His driver Ake Svanstedt also does the training. Cavill Hanover was bred at Hanover Shoe Farm.

There were also three $15,000 Excel “A” races on the card.

Lucky June Bug (Lucky Chucky-Ebbtide Hall) trotted in 2:00 flat and registered a new lifetime mark for driver John Macdonald and trainer Stanley Zombick Jr. Lucky June Bug ($9.30) is owned by Michael Pozefsky, William Pozefsky and Myron Eckstein. Sam Stoltzfus Jr. bred the winner.

Lights Come On (Chapter Seven-Starlit Eyes) won in 2:02.4 and took a new lifetime mark as directed by Drew Monti for trainer Anette Lorentzen. Lights Come On ($3.10) is owned by ACL Stuteri AB, Theodore Gewertz and Anette Lorentzen. Winbak Farm was the breeder.

Jason’s Camden (Muscle Mass-Palm Beach Chic) went wire to wire in 2:00.3 for team Orange Crush: Andy Miller in the bike for trainer Julie Miller. Jason’s Camden ($2.90) is owned by the Andy Miller Stable, Harvey Eisman and Little E, who also bred the colt.

August 7, 2018 - 2:23pm
posted by Billie Owens in sports, harness racing, Batavia Downs.

(Photo of driver Scott Zeron courtesy of Geri Schwarz.)

By Tim Bojarski, for Batavia Downs

Fresh off his $1 million Hambletonian win with the filly Atlanta on Saturday (Aug. 4), driver Scott Zeron will be competing at Batavia Downs on Wednesday (Aug. 8) in the $109,000 New York Sire Stakes (NYSS) for 2-year-old trotting colts and geldings. 

Zeron will drive in both $54,500 divisions as well as two of the three $15,000 Excel “A” races on the card. 

The NYSS are in races two and six with post time for the first race at 5 p.m.

Zeron had a huge afternoon at the Meadowlands on Saturday. Besides winning the Hambletonian with Atlanta (who became only the 14th filly to win that 3-year-old trotting stake in its 93-year history), he also won the $286,650 John Cashman Memorial trot with Marion Marauder (who Zeron also won the 2016 Hambletonian with) and the $260,100 Sam McKee Memorial pace with Western Joe.   

In the first NYSS division at Batavia on Wednesday, Zeron will drive Thunder (Conway Hall-Cr Oh Suzanna) for trainer John Butenschoen. 

Thunder has had some issues, making a bad break two starts ago. However last week at Saratoga Raceway he seems to have righted the ship by winning in 1:59.2 to gain his first lifetime win. Zeron drove him last week in that NYSS event and will look for a chance to have him double up in this race, starting from post seven. 

He will have to take on the morning line favorite Chip Chip Conway (Conway Hall-Get Chipped) who is coming in off two strong outings. 

After making two consecutive breaks in his first two NYSS starts, trainer Gary Messenger added trotting hobbles and the gelding qualified back fine. Since then he has won in a lifetime best 1:58 at Tioga Downs and finished second by a head to Thunder last week. Regular driver Jim Taggart Jr. will be back in the bike once again, leaving from post six.

In the second division, Our White Knight (Crazed-Psychotherapist) gets the services of Zeron and looks to up his game. So far this year he is a perfect four for four finishing second and is still looking for that first win. 

Our White Knight got away well last week and became forwardly placed early, which helped his good closing ability to be more effective at the end of the mile. With an inside post this week, look for a similar situation with Zeron up from post two. John Butenschoen also trains this gelding.

The main rival here is morning line favorite Labadee AS (Conway Hall-Smith Hall) who has two consecutive open-length wins in Excel “A” action. However this week he moves back up to the top tier for this race, which is the first time he has been in a NYSS event since his first lifetime start on July 9. Andy Miller, who finished second to Atlanta in the Hambletonian with Met’s Hall, picks up the lines for trainer Anette Lorentzen for the first time behind Labadee AS with post one. 

In the Excel “A” races, Zeron will also drive Simple Kaos (RC Royalty-Ksenia) from post one in the eighth race for trainer George Ducharme and Crazy Every Time (Crazed-Bar Ballad) from post five in the ninth race for trainer Jim Mc Donald. 

Although only driving for 12 years, the 29-year-old Zeron has posted some phenomenal numbers through his career, starting out on the very competitive Ontario tracks and then moving to the Grand Circuit. 

Currently Zeron has 3,390 wins, 2,870 seconds and 2,785 thirds out of 22,014 start with $62,507,595 in earnings. 

Zeron was the youngest Canadian driver to reach 1,000 wins and the youngest driver in history to reach 2,000 wins. He was also the youngest driver ever to win the Little Brown Jug with Michael's Power in 2012. 

In 2012 Zeron received the Rising Star Award from the United States Harness Writers Association (USHWA) and showed why he got that honor with the biggest year of his career (to that point) in 2016 when he won the Meadowlands driving title and the trotting Triple Crown with Marion Marauder.

August 5, 2018 - 10:29pm
posted by Billie Owens in sports, harness racing, Batavia Downs.

Photo of Icanflylikeanangel with reinsman Drew Monti.

By Tim Bojarski, for Batavia Downs

After a narrow defeat in his first start here, the second time was the charm for Icanflylikeanangel who overpowered the early leader to win the $10,000 Open Handicap trotting feature at Batavia Downs on this afternoon (Aug. 5).

The short field of six was shortened even further with the scratch of last week’s winner Dragin The Wagon who called in sick. But the fast five left the gate with usual pace-setter and track record holder Chelseas Chance (Billy Davis Jr.) on the point once again. After a solid :28.3 quarter with the trailers all sitting in, Davis tried to put them to sleep with a :31 second panel as no one would come off the rail. However Icanflylikeanangel (Drew Monti) who had gotten away last, had enough and pulled in front of the stands to make his way up the rim.

With moderate acceleration towards the front up the backside, Icanflylikeanangel drew near the leader by the three-quarters in 1:28.3 and the race was on from there. The two trotted around the last turn less than a length apart but when they hit the top of the stretch, Monti woke up Icanflylikeanangel with a spirited drive and hit the wire a winner by a neck in 1:57.2.

It was the fifth win in 16 2018 starts for Icanflylikeanangel ($6.80) and it increased his coffers to $48,670 for this year. The 4-year-old Archangel gelding is owned by Joseph Hess and is trained by D Benny Eggers.

In the $8,000 Open II Handicap trot, Empire Earl N (Shawn Gray) was a gate to wire winner from the outside post six, besting his five competitors in 1:57.1. It was the seventh win of the year for Empire Earl N ($6.80) is owned by Kim Asher and is trained by Riley Asher-Stalbaum.

Driver Drew Monti had a natural Grand Slam on the card, winning races six through nine. Besides winning with Icanflylikeanangel, he also scored with Sara Cola (1:55.3, $10.20), Theresnoway (1:57.4, $5.30) and Stonebridge Marvel (1:57, $6.10).

Live racing resumes on Monday (Aug. 6) at Batavia Downs with a first race post time of 5 p.m. This is the only Monday of racing in August.

August 5, 2018 - 1:36pm
posted by Billie Owens in harness racing, Batavia Downs, sports.

In Runaway Bay with reinsman Kevin Cummings.

By Tim Bojarski, for Batavia Downs

In Runaway Bay made his 2018 Batavia Downs debut a winning one after moving up in class and tripping out the mile to win the $10,500 Open Handicap pace on Saturday night (Aug. 4).

Bugatti (Ron Beback Jr.) got away sharp off the gate and went right for the lead. But Lucan Hanover (John Cummings Jr.) wanted to command the race as well and the fight for the front was on. Going hoof to hoof through quarters of :27.3, :56.1 and 1:25 flat, Bugatti and Lucan Hanover duked it out while In Runaway Bay (Kevin Cummings) laid-in-wait third on the pegs.

Halfway around the final bend, Lucan Hanover succumbed to the pace, making room for In Runaway Bay to pull and advance in the stretch. Bugatti was still live but In Runaway Bay had fresh legs and ran him down at the wire to win in 1:54.1 by a half-length.

In Runaway Bay ($17.20) has now earned $34,795 on the strength of four 2018 wins for owner Mark Jakubik and trainer Angelo Nappo.

In the $9,000 Open II pacing sub-feature, Validus Deo (Kevin Cummings) sat a perfect pocket trip behind Tioga Downs invader Believe This Bob (Mike Caprio) from the start of the race until just past the three-quarters when Cummings pulled right-line and drew next to the leader. They paced around the final bend together, but then Validus Deo accelerated past Believe This Bob in mid-stretch under strong urging to win by two lengths in 1:54.

Looking very sharp off the sick scratch in his last start, Validus Deo ($15.80) now has six wins this year and $35,376 in earnings for owners Matthew Rosiek, Robert Johnson and Kevin Cummings, who also trains the winner.

Cummings completed the natural driving hat trick with Rock Fame ($11.20) who paced a season’s best 1:54.1 for owner Mike Torcello and trainer Gerry Sarama.

There is a $328 carryover pool for the early Pick-5 wager on Sunday afternoon (Aug. 5) which runs from race one through race five. Post time for Sunday’s card was 1:15 p.m.

August 4, 2018 - 8:45am

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Three Dog Night packed Batavia Downs' summer concert series last evening in front of a few thousand people. The band formed in L.A. in  1968 and scored a succession of 21 hit singles, including 11 Top Tens, and 12 consecutive gold albums from 1969 to 1975.

Batavia fans were dancing and grooving to the band's multiple favorite tunes, crowd-pleasers that entertained at the most packed concert yet of this summer series.

(The band's name comes from an Australian expression describing low nocturnal temperatures in the Outback (the colder the night, the more dogs needed to keep warm while sleeping.))

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August 2, 2018 - 4:41pm
posted by Billie Owens in harness racing, Batavia Downs, sports.

So Awesome with driver Jim Morrill Jr.

By Tim Bojarski, for Batavia Downs

With $105,000 up for grabs in the New York Sires Stakes (NYSS) at Batavia Downs on Wednesday night, 10 of the best state-bred 2-year-old pacing fillies were on hand to compete in two divisions for the spoils and both winners put in career best efforts to get the job done.

So Awesome (So Surreal-Teddy Ballgirl) lived up to her name in the first $52,500 division as she led the race at every station of the mile. 

So Awesome (Jim Morrill Jr.) got away second momentarily before pulling past the eighth and taking the front by the quarter. With the field in single file behind, Morrill grabbed leather and had So Awesome set a pedestrian :58 half before picking up the pace in the third panel with a crisp :28.4. It was then JK American Beauty (Daniel Dube) pulled the pocket and came after at the leader. 

JK American Beauty accelerated into the final turn got almost even with So Awesome around that bend. But Morrill fed So Awesome some line and she switched gears and paced away to the wire, finishing a wrapped-up winner in 1:55, which was a new lifetime mark for the filly. 

“She had good position and when I got her to the front she did all the work. I was just a passenger the whole mile,” said Morrill after the race.

So Awesome ($3.00) now has three wins in five lifetime starts and $96,615 in earnings for owner William Hartt. Scott Di Domenico trains the winner. 

The second $52,500 split saw Hurrikane Norakane (Art Major-Western Heat) win decisively off of a strong front-end effort.

(Hurrikane Norakane with driver Dan Dube.)

Taking the lead when the gate opened, Hurrikane Norakane (Dan Dube) was immediately pressured by Gia’s Surreal (John Macdonald) who tried to leave and then lost the hole. With post time favorite Brooklyn Lilacs (Jim Morrill Jr.) sitting second behind the her, Hurrikane Norakane held Gia’s Surreal at bay to the half in :56.3 and Gia’s Surreal kept Brooklyn Lilacs locked in until almost the three-quarters when she finally faded. 

As soon as the opportunity presented itself, Brooklyn Lilacs pulled at the apex of the far turn and tried to get to Hurrikane Norakane. But the filly in front would have none of that. Hurrikane Norakane opened up a quick three-length lead while Dube sat like a statue and won in 1:55.1, which was another lifetime mark this night.

“I thought she was the best from the rail and that’s why I went down the road with her. I never even popped the plugs” Dube recounted in the winner’s circle. 

Now with her first NYSS win, Hurrikane Norakane ($6.70) has put $73,300 in the bank so far this year for owners Jonathan Klee Racing, Kuhen Racing, Pegasis Investment Group and George Vierno. John Mc Dermott trains the winner. 

There were also two divisions of the $15,000 Excel “A” series on the card.

Dorothy’s Legacy (Art Major-Put On A Display) was a gate to wire winner in 1:58.1 for driver Daniel Dube in the first division. Dorothy’s Legacy ($7.20) is owned by R. B. H. Ventures Inc., Capital Call and Joe Sbrocco and is trained by Kevin Mc Dermott. 

The second set was bested by Sun Viser (Heston Blue Chip-Beach Bonnet) who upset the field when he came first-over at three-quarters and pulled away to a two-length victory in 1:57.2, which was a new lifetime mark. Sun Viser ($38.80) is owned by Triple D Stables and is trained by Scott Di Domenico. 

Di Domenico ended up with a training triple on Wednesday’s card. Besides the aforementioned So Awesome and Sun Viser, he also sent Joe’s Girl (Roll With Joe-Donna’s Girl) to the winner’s circle after a 1:57.1, career best effort in Excel “B” action for owners Triple D Stables and JFE Enterprise. Jim Morrill Jr. drove. 

Overall in New York bred action, Daniel Dube had a driving triple while Jim Morrill Jr. captured two wins.

August 1, 2018 - 3:26pm
posted by Billie Owens in harness racing, sports, Batavia Downs.

By Tim Bojarski, for Batavia Downs

Horsemen at Batavia Downs please note that there will be a double draw on Thursday (Aug. 2) for Sunday (Aug. 5) and Monday (Aug. 6). The box will close for both days on Thursday at 9 a.ms

August 1, 2018 - 3:15pm
posted by Billie Owens in news, Batavia Downs, concerts, batavia, music, entertainment.

Press release:

Batavia Downs Gaming & Hotel has announced the lineup for their fall and winter tribute shows, with one concert each month featuring music from great artists.

The Paddock Room will play host to Abbamania – A tribute to Abba, based out of Toronto, Ontario, Canada.  The cast looks and sounds like the famous Swedish rock group and will roll through all your favorites on Saturday, Sept. 8th.

Saturday, Oct. 6th is the date for American Graffiti starring Johnny Gems and the Red Hot Bananas. These artists have collectively been performing for 30 years.  The show brings back every major hit from every major artist, from 1955 to 1965.  You’ll hear hits by Elvis, Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis, Fats Domino, Bo Diddley and Bill Haley and the Comets! Into the 1960s with The Beatles, The Beach Boys, The Four Seasons, Roy Orbison, Del Shannon and a highlight to Danny and the Juniors with “At the Hop” and “Rock and Roll is Here to Stay”!

Next up, on Saturday, Nov. 17th, Batavia Downs welcomes Walk the Line – A Tribute to Johnny Cash.  With Gavan Rosseau playing the part of “The Man in Black” with a four-piece backing band, this tribute show showcases Rosseau’s ability to emulate the voice, look and mannerisms of the late singer. Songs performed include the Sun Record days all the way to those from the 1970s.

Blame it all on Their Roots –  Garth Brooks and Shania Twain Tribute takes the stage on Saturday, Dec. 15th. This high energy show performs all this hits of the two country headliners whose records have sold more than 230 million albums worldwide.

Each concert will take place on a Saturday immediately following live racing. General admission tickets are $10 and are on sale now at www.BataviaConcerts.com for each show.

Each concert begins at 8:30 p.m. with doors at 8 p.m. Each ticket is redeemable on the gaming floor the day of the concert or the next day for $10 in Free Play. Tickets can also be purchased in-person at Batavia Downs Gaming & Hotel at their “Lucky Treasures” Gift Shop located in the lobby.

“We are looking forward to these indoor tribute shows,” said Henry Wojtaszek, CEO/president at Batavia Downs Gaming. “Building on the success of our summer concert series, we’re happy to keep General Admission ticket prices at a reasonable $10 to make sure everyone can enjoy these great tribute shows.”

About Batavia Downs/WROTB

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

August 1, 2018 - 11:47am
posted by Howard B. Owens in Batavia Downs, batavia, news.

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Mike Nolan, executive VP and COO of Western OTB, and Tom Turnbull, president of the Chamber of Commerce, along with officials from the Town of Batavia and NYSERDA, cut the ribbon this morning on the first electric vehicle charging station installed at Batavia Downs.

NYSERDA, New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, assisted with the installation of the EV station.

Batavia Downs charging station is one of several stations installed throughout the Genesee-Finger Lakes region through implementation of the Genesee Region Electric Vehicle Charging Station Plan, prepared by the Greater Rochester Clean Cities coalition in 2016 with NYSERDA support. Other local communities recommended by the Plan to increase electric vehicle infrastructure and have recently installed charging stations include the villages of Victor, Geneseo, and Brockport and the City of Canandaigua.

The new station is in the southwest parking lot, near the door for valet parking.

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July 31, 2018 - 5:27pm
posted by Billie Owens in news, sports, Batavia Downs, harness racing.

Press release:

The Agriculture and New York State Horse Breeding Development Fund is hosting a seminar for new and prospective Standardbred horse owners at the Batavia Downs from 3 to 5:30 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 25.

Participants are invited to gather at 3 p.m. for informational panel discussions, a tour of the backstretch, followed by dinner and live racing.

Panels discussions will be led by industry veterans and cover a variety of topics relating to Standardbred ownership, including types of ownership, the risks and rewards of owning a Standardbred racehorse, training costs, vet bills, tax issues/incentives, and other financial considerations.

Reservations are requested to ensure sufficient materials are available. For additional information, including pricing details and to RSVP, please contact Angie McGrath at [email protected] or call 518-694-5002.

July 31, 2018 - 5:24pm
posted by Billie Owens in sports, Batavia Downs, harness racing.

By Tim Bojarski, for Batavia Downs

A total of $105,000 is up for grabs with only 10 entrants on hand to compete for it in two divisions as the New York Sire Stakes (NYSS) for 2-year-old pacing fillies rolls into Batavia Downs on Wednesday afternoon (Aug. 1).

The NYSS events are carded as race one and seven with post time for the first race at 5 p.m.

So Awesome (So Surreal-Teddy Ballgirl) will lead the way in the first $52,500, five-horse division and has some impressive early career stats to back her. She has two lifetime wins in four lifetime starts and both were in NYSS action. Oddly enough they were both scored at Yonkers Raceway and both timed in 1:55.3.

As a result of her work, So Awesome has put $70,365 on her card thus far making her the richest, fastest and winningest filly entered here. So Awesome also ranks second in points and earnings in her age, gait and gender group overall in the state-bred series.

So Awesome is trained by Scott Di Domenico and will be leaving from post two with driver Jim Morrill Jr.

JK American Beauty (American Ideal-JK Black Beauty) has yet to win a NYSS race, but she hasn't been off the board either. With a second and two thirds to her credit, she has continued to learn each week while finishing well in all her starts. The filly is almost certain to get another good trip here from inside and could break her maiden if things go right.

JK American Beauty will be driven from post one by Daniel Dube for trainer Nancy Johansson.

Looking to get back on track in the second $52,500 five-horse split is Brooklyn Lilacs (Rock n Roll Heaven-Sombodythatiustono) who won her first two NYSS events, but got disqualified in the second after pacing erratically at the three-quarters. She had over two weeks off after that race and then qualified impressively at Harrah's Philadelphia in 1:56.1 by eight lengths. This will be her first start back since that outing and her current form appears to bode well for her chances in this race.

Trainer Joe Holloway has Jim Morrill Jr. back in the bike for Brooklyn Lilacs third NYSS start and they will start from post three.

Hurrikane Norakane (Art Major-Western Heat) appears to be the formidable foe. After getting her first NYSS win through the disqualification of Brooklyn Lilacs three starts back, she experienced a very rough trip at Tioga Downs the next week getting parked-out the better part of the mile. But she bounced back well in her last start which was back at Yonkers where she finished a strong second to top point-getter St. Somewhere in 1:53.4. Now finding herself right back in a week later in a short field, Hurrikane Norakane looks to put herself in the spotlight.

Hurrikane Norakane has post one for driver Daniel Dube and trainer John Mc Dermott.

There are also two $15,000 divisions of the Excel “A” series on the card.

July 29, 2018 - 9:33pm
posted by Billie Owens in sports, Batavia Downs, harness racing.

Photo of Chelsea’s Chance with driver Billy Davis Jr.

By Tim Bojarski, for Batavia Downs

Chelsea’s Chance took full advantage of a strong front-end bias at Batavia Downs on this afternoon (July 29) as she went gate to wire in the $8,000 Open II trot, stopping the clock in 1:56.1 and breaking the track record for aged trotting mares of 1:56.2 set just last year by Skyway Priss.

Chelsea’s Chance (Billy Davis Jr.) left from post one and never looked back. She set fractions of :28.2, :58 and 1:26.3 as a gapped leader before turning for home with Davis high-lining and a two-length advantage that she held to the wire.

The win time of 1:56.1 also equaled her own seasonal mark taken earlier this year.

It was the seventh win of the year and second consecutive victory at Batavia Downs for Chelsea’s Chance ($3.40) who is owned and trained by Sabrina Clevenger.

The top billed trot of the day was the $10,000 Open Handicap trot and front end speed prevailed once again. 

Tioga Downs invader Dragin The Wagon (Ray Fisher Jr.), in photo above, took the lead and dictated fractions the entire way.

Without any movement for most of the mile, Icanflylikeanangel (Billy Davis Jr.) made a bid past the five-eighths and pushed Dragin The Wagon around the final bend.

But Fisher kept Dragin The Wagon live enough to hold Icanflylikeanangel at bay yet didn't allow the pocket-sitting Empire Earl N (Drew Monti) any room to get out in the stretch and hung on to win by a half-length in 1:57.4.

Dragin The Wagon ($6.30) is owned by Cary, David and Michael Cantelon and is trained by Jeff Byron. 

Drew Monti led all drivers on Sunday with three wins that included Beechwood Wayne who scored his 57th lifetime victory. 

Live racing resumes at Batavia Downs on Monday afternoon (July 30) with a nine-race card that kicks off at 5 o' clock.

July 29, 2018 - 12:57pm
posted by Billie Owens in harness racing, Batavia Downs, sports.

(Photo courtesy of Paul White.)

By Tom Bojarski, for Batavia Downs

After a two-week furlough, Sir Ziggy’s Z Tam was back taking on a short but select field in the $10,000 Open pacing feature at Batavia Downs on Saturday night (July 28) and in the process, got back to his winning ways. 

Sir Ziggy’s Z Tam (Drew Monti) got away fourth as Classic American (Billy Davis Jr.) shot for the lead. The race got boring for the next five-eighths of a mile as position remained unchanged until just before three-quarters when Hardts Or Bettor (Ray Fisher Jr.) pulled from third and tried to advance. At this point, Sir Ziggy’s Z Tam was locked in last on the pylons. 

As they headed out of the last turn, Hardts Or Bettor’s bid failed and he was heading south. Barry Hanover (Kevin Cummings) who sat second the whole mile, popped the deuce and paced right by Classic American to take the lead. But Sir Ziggy’s Z Tam who was almost three lengths behind the new leader, roared down the center of the track under methodic urging by Monti to make up the deficit and win by a length in 1:54.4.  

It was the sixth win in nine starts for the high percentage Sir Ziggy’s Z Tam ($8.10) who now has banked $36,175 in 2018 for owner Tessa Roland and trainer JD Perrin. 

In the co-featured $9,000 Open II, Bugatti (Billy Davis Jr.) tripped-out behind an aggressively paced Brunello N (Drew Monti) and capitalized on the fractions when Davis pulled right leather and let his horse fly home in :27.4 to win by two lengths in 1:54. 

Bugatti ($7.10) is owned by Keith Pinkowski and trained by Mihajlo Zdjelar Jr. 

Billy Davis Jr. put on a show for the weekend faithful, winning five of the eleven races on the card. Besides the afore mentioned Bugatti, Davis also scored with OK Gemma (1:57, $18), Bold And Brassy (1:55, $3.30), Osprey Vision (1:58.2, $3.80) and Energizer Ivory (1:56.4, $4.50). 

The five wins by Davis bolted him from sixth to first in the driver standings, tying with Kevin Cummings for the lead with six wins on the meet. Cummings and Monti both scored doubles on Saturday. 

With no winner in the Pick-5 wager once again on Saturday, there will be a guaranteed pool of $2,000 for the early Pick-5 this afternoon (July 29) when live racing resumes at Batavia Downs. The early Pick-5 wager starts in race one and runs through race five. 

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

July 27, 2018 - 8:00am
posted by Howard B. Owens in Batavia Downs, harness racing, sports.

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Batavia Downs started a trend in harness racing in New York in 1989 by creating a passing lane, which seemed like the right move at the time to give horses behind the leader a better chance to move into position.

But times change. Over the years, the passing lane came to give favorites an advantage so after Yonkers removed its passing lane and races suddenly became more competitive, Batavia Downs, for the 2018 season, decided the passing lane was, indeed, passé.

"Taking out the passing lane affects the race because there’s more movement in the race," said Todd Haight, GM of live racing for Batavia Downs. "Instead of horses staying at the rail and closing up the inside and never moving, the passing lane being gone, they have to move to the outside at some point, so you’re seeing more flow."

That makes for more exciting racing, Height said.

"You heard the track announcer few times tonight say three in, four out," Haight said. "Those are things he never said because very few horses ever left the rail because they were just lined up along the inside. Now they can’t do that."

Yonkers was the first track in New York to remove the passing lane and it's reduced the times the favorite wins the race by 9 percent.

That reduction increases the odds for race fans to place money-winning wagers.

A lot has changed at Batavia Downs, Haight said, since he first came to the track in the 1970s. Back then, Batavia Downs was just harness racing. There are now multiple restaurants, the sports bar Rush 34, video terminal gaming, and a hotel.

"This is a destination now," Haight said. "We are now a designation and you can see by the size of our crowd tonight on a Wednesday, I can guarantee you there were more people in our clubhouse tonight than in any track in the country. I can guarantee that. People are responding and that’s why we’re doing so well right now."

More changes are planned, including opening up 34 Rush to the track side of the main building.

The 11th race Wednesday night also had a touch of nostalgia. By the time the 11th race rolled around, the regular starters truck had developed a mechanical issue, so the track put into service the sedan it used in the 1980s. It was the same sedan that paced the legendary harness racing horse Niatross, with trainer and driver ‎Clint Galbraith.

"Many people think to this day, Niatross is the greatest harness horse of all time," Haight said. "Niatross set world record after world record."

Top photo: Step Beyond, winner of the 11th race on Wednesday. All photos are from the 11th race.

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Video of Niatross racing at Batavia Downs, Sept. 6, 1980.

July 26, 2018 - 6:20pm
posted by Billie Owens in harness racing, Batavia Downs, sports.

(Wisdom Tree with driver Kevin Cummings.) Photos courtesy of Paul White.

By Tim Bojarski, for Batavia Downs

The heavily favored Wisdom Tree (Betterthancheddar-Wisdom) displayed why everyone from the track handicapper to the bettors heavily endorsed her as she dominated the field in her division of the $120,400 New York Sire Stakes (NYSS) for 3-year-old pacing fillies at Batavia Downs on Wednesday evening (July 25).

Wisdom Tree (Kevin Cummings) left for the lead but had to work hard for it; getting to the quarter in :27 flat. But once she cleared and settled in, the filly was in total control. Cummings backed the half off considerably before speeding up the proceedings up the backstretch, although no one was close enough to challenge. By the three-quarters Wisdom Tree had opened up a three-length advantage which she held as she cruised around the far turn and down the lane to win in 1:53, which was just one-fifth off the track record.

Cummings said after the race “That was pretty easy once she got to the front. I backed off the second quarter to :29.1 and it was pretty much over from there. I had to get after her in the third quarter because she was starting to go to sleep on me but around the last turn when I pulled the plugs, she responded well and was looking for horses because she was off by herself for most of the mile.”

It was the fourth win in her last five starts and eighth win of 2018 for Wisdom Tree ($2.70) who has now carded $215,785 for the year for owners Thomas Pollack and Jeffrey Cullipher. Ed Hart trains the winner.

Wisdom Tree was a $28,000 yearling purchase at the Lexington Select yearling sale and was bred by Winbak Farm.

(Alexis Faith with driver Jim Morrill Jr.)

Alexis Faith (American Ideal-Cannae Cammie) put in as impressive an effort in her division, but she did it from behind. Getting away sixth from post seven, Alexis Faith (Jim Morrill Jr.) watched from afar as Hurrikane Shorty (Jim Marohn Jr.) sped away with a loose lead in :27.1, :56 and 1:24.1. At that last station, Morrill was finally able to get his filly off the pylons from sixth and tipped three-deep into the last bend. She went from sixth to first during the arc of the turn and sped away to a two-length lead when they straightened out to win in 1:53.4.

"She was very good tonight; she's been good pretty much right along. She threw a clunker in her last start but we came to find out she was sick. So we have her healthy again and she's back. She made a big move three-wide tonight but she did the same thing at Yonkers two starts down, coming home in :27.1. Once she gets moving she's good," Morrill said.

It was the second win of the year for Alexis Faith ($6.60) but first of 2018 in the NYSS. The filly is owned by West Wins Stable, Jim Fielding, J. Robert Darrow and Kevin McKinlay and trained by Casie Coleman.

Alexis Faith was purchased at the Lexington Select yearling sale for $55,000 and was bred by Melvin Segal.

The third leg saw Ubettergo Go (Art Major-Ubetterthink Think) leave from post seven and tuck fourth at the eighth pole while Checkered Past (Jim Morrill Jr.) and Solitary (Jim Marohn Jr.) argued for the front. But halfway up the backside, her driver Mark Macdonald had her out and rolling and took the front by the quarter in :27.2. With the field in single file, Ubettergo Go slowed the pace and forced Apothic (Drew Monti) to advance an outer flow.

The field hit three-quarters in two rows with Ubettergo Go still calling the shots, but Apothic looked live and Checkered Past was ready to strike having gotten the perfect pocket trip to this point. At the head of the lane, Macdonald asked Ubettergo Go and she responded by opening up a two length lead and hitting the wire in first in 1:53.4.

"She went well. That was a bruising first quarter in :27.2 but she ended up pacing away anyway. She kind of stepped over a little shadow around the last turn there and it took her mind off her work for a minute, but then she just breezed her way home. She's a real nice filly," Macdonald said.

(Ubettergo Go with driver Mark Macdonald.)

Ubettergo Go ($4.40), in photo above, is owned by Blake Macintosh, Tony Basile, Reginald Petitpas and Ozzie Mackay and is trained by Blake Macintosh.

Ubettergo Go was a $13,000 Harrisburg yearling purchase and was bred by Concord Stud and Birnam Wood Farms.

There were also two $15,000 division of the Excel "A" series on the card.

The first division went to KJ's Justine (American Ideal-Day Blue Chip), winning gate to wire in 1:55.4. KJ's Justine ($6.10) was driven Jim Morrill Jr. for trainer Linda Toscano and owner Ken Jacobs.

The second division was won by Psychic Blue Chip (Art Major-All Spirit) who also led at every station in 1:56. Psychic Blue Chip ($9) was driven by Ray Fisher Jr. for trainer Joseph Skowyra and owners Jeffrey Clark and Vernon Cannon.

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Contact: Howard Owens, publisher (howard (at) the batavian dot com); (585) 250-4118

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