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February 15, 2018 - 1:55pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Batavia Downs, music, arts, entertainment, news, notify.

bataviadownsfeb152018.jpg

Last summer's concert series is one of many reasons Batavia Downs has been able to grow revenue and remain competitive in a saturated gaming market, said Henry Wojtaszek, president of Western OTB, and Mike Nolan, CEO, today at a press conference announcing an eight-show lineup for this season.

"We offer a lot of different things," Nolan said. "We have our own little niche here."

Wojtaszek said the key is offering options for customers and when you get them in the door, treating them right.

"That includes entertainment, it includes better food, it includes a cigar lounge, and frankly, just provide the best customer service," Wojtaszek said. "We like to think that’s why we’re growing. That’s what we like to concentrate on. Our focus is on providing excellent customer service."

The eight shows announced for this summer:

  • Eddie Money, June 22
  • Grand Funk Railroad, June 29
  • Blue Oyster Cult, July 6
  • Rik Emmett of the Band Triumph along with Carl Dixon of Coney Hatch, July 13
  • Rumours, a Fleetwood Mac Tribute, July 20th
  • Puddle of Mudd, July 27
  • Three Dog Night, Aug. 3
  • Lee Ann Womack, Aug. 10.

Wojtaszek said the concert series went so well last year that Batavia Downs would like to add more shows, but one step at a time.

He also said Batavia Downs will be working with the City and the Town to accommodate larger crowds. Last year, attendance was about 4,000 and this year the casino would like to attract 5,000 to 6,000 fans to the shows.

The concentration on classic rock and country is a conscious effort to bring in shows more appealing to older music fans, Wojtaszek said.

"They are the patrons coming into Batavia Downs and we wanted to provide them with the entertainment they’re looking for at a reasonable cost," Wojtaszek said.

Tickets for the shows will be $10 each.

Batavia Downs is hosting several other events this year sure to bring people from throughout the region to Genesee County.

There will be professional wrestling Feb. 24, a Whiskyfest in June, a Mixed Martial Arts event during the summer, plus Batavia Downs is in the midst of a $4 million capital improvement project that includes opening a cigar lounge, expanding 34 Rush sports bar, Fortune's Restaurant, and the conference center.

"There’s a lot of demand to have things here and it’s amazing to see the response we get to the events we do have," Wojtaszek said. "It’s a perfect location, right between Buffalo and Rochester and we're even getting people here from as far as Syracuse."

January 12, 2018 - 2:08pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Batavia Downs, business, michael ranzenhofer.

Press release:

Senator Michael H. Ranzenhofer (R-C-I, Amherst) has introduced legislation (S7397) today in the State Senate to establish tax parity between Batavia Downs and other gaming facilities in New York State.

“New York State imposes one of the highest tax rates on Batavia Downs, and it’s one of the smallest gaming facilities in our region,” Ranzenhofer said. “This regressive rate deprives taxpayers across 15 counties an equitable portion of revenues.

"Lowering the tax rate will make Batavia Downs more competitive with other gaming facilities while ensuring a fairer share of revenues are returned to taxpayers through our local governments.”

In 2015, the facility had a total economic impact of $83.4 million, generating $21.5 million for state education funding, and $3.4 million to participating municipalities.

“We applaud Senator Ranzenhofer’s legislative efforts to level the playing field for Batavia Downs Gaming. This bill will allow us to return more resources to our member communities,” said Western Region Off-Track Betting Corporation (WROTB) Board of Directors Chairman Richard Bianchi.

The legislation would lower Batavia Down’s taxes paid to New York State by increasing the facility’s portion of net winnings from 35 percent to 41 percent. If enacted, the act would take effect on April 1, 2019.

Under existing state law, the oldest nighttime harness track in the country pays one of the highest effective tax rates among gaming centers in the region.

 

Gaming Operation

Facility’s Portion of Net Winnings* (%)

Batavia Downs

35

del Lago Resort & Casino

70.18

Vernon Downs

41

Hamburg Gaming

41

*2017-18 Fiscal Year

 
Batavia Downs Gaming, operated by WROTB, is a standardbred racetrack and gaming facility. WROTB is a public benefit corporation – owned by 15 Western New York counties, including Cattaraugus, Cayuga, Chautauqua, Erie, Genesee, Livingston, Monroe, Niagara, Orleans, Oswego, Schuyler, Seneca, Steuben, Wayne, and Wyoming, as well as the cities of Rochester and Buffalo. Since its inception, WROTB has generated hundreds of millions of dollars in operating and surcharge revenues to the residents of those participating municipalities.
December 31, 2017 - 4:18pm
posted by Billie Owens in news, batavia, sports, Batavia Downs, harness racing, boxing.

(Photo from 1953 Golden Gloves fight "Franny Bond (left) vs. Edson Brown" from the archives of the New York Daily News.)

By Tim Bojarski, for Batavia Downs

Batavia, NY --- Francis R. Bond, 86, a longtime owner, driver and trainer at Batavia Downs and Buffalo Raceway, died peacefully Tuesday morning, Dec. 26, at United Memorial Medical Center in Batavia.

“Franny” Bond was born in Buffalo on July 27, 1931. He became a Marine after leaving school and began boxing while in the service in the Armed Forces Title Fights.

He fought in the lightweight class and eventually worked into the featherweight division. The then 126-pound “fighting Marine” was described as “a game and lively scrapper who could take a hit and come back with a better one.”

Corporal Bond became one of the Marines' top boxers, winning a featherweight title in 1953 while often times fighting men from the professional ranks between service bouts and sometimes competing in higher weight classes.  

Bond continued to fight professionally in the Golden Gloves after he left the service under the name Bobby Bond and was trained by Angelo Dundee who also conditioned the likes of Muhammad Ali, George Foremen, Sugar Ray Leonard and Carmen Basilio. He competed in 15 professional fights all over the Eastern Seaboard including New York City at Madison Square Garden.

Bond first got involved in harness racing in 1966 and eventually got his trainer and driver’s licenses. He ran a small stable for the next 39 years, seeing most of his driving success in the 1970s (where he scored 135 of his 189 careers victories) and most of his training accomplishments (total of 108) between 1990 and 2000. Bond also occasionally catch-drove horses when the opportunity arose.

Bond’s last winning effort came on May 16, 1996 behind H F Harriet at Buffalo Raceway.

Bond was an entrepreneur and made a buck anyway he could. He owned a soft drink distributorship, ran the track kitchen at Batavia Downs and sold hay, straw and feed for many years while, and after, he was competing himself. He was known by everyone on the backstretch and was an affable individual his entire life.

No memorial information has been relayed. 

December 20, 2017 - 12:36pm
posted by Billie Owens in Batavia Downs, harness racing, sports.

By Tim Bojarski, for Batavia Downs

The 2017 Batavia Downs summer-fall meet that ended on Saturday (Dec. 16) left track management feeling good after setting records for total betting and purse money paid out during the year.

The track’s export signal drew an increased handle of 15.9% over 2016 and total betting was up 8.1% (over $600,000) with 17 less races than last year. That produced $8.2 million dollars wagered on the live harness racing product, which was the most ever handled at Batavia Downs during a meet since Western Regional OTB purchased and reopened the track in 2002. 

The Downs also set a record handle in their Pick-5 wager when the pool reached $25,312 as a result of being part of the USTA Strategic Wagering Program on Wednesday (Nov. 22).   

Total purses paid out including New York Sire Stakes were $6,072,800, the first time ever the track distributed in excess of $6 million in purse money.

The 2017 meet was also the first time Batavia Downs adopted a new 5 p.m. post time on Wednesdays and that seemed to contribute to the better numbers witnessed from the off-track outlets as handle was up 25 percent from the export signal midweek. It was also a big reason the track eclipsed the $8 million mark in total handle.

A quality product on the track drove those numbers along with a closely contested driver’s race that saw three reinsmen with a shot at the title all year.

When the dust had cleared, Larry Stalbaum won his first ever Batavia Downs driving title with 134 wins. Second was Ray Fisher Jr. with 124 and just one back in third was Drew Monti with 123.

On the conditioner side, Kim Asher also won her first Batavia Downs training title in a romp with 94 wins, 52 ahead of JD Perrin who was second with 42. Maria Rice was third with 40 victories.

Post one won 201 out of the 808 races run followed by post four with 135 and post three with 123.

Favorites won 45 percent of the time during the course of the meet.

“When the lights went down for the last time this year and we looked at the numbers, we were very happy with the results we saw” said Todd Haight, director/general manager of Live Racing at Batavia Downs.

“We had great action on the track with competitive, bettable races and the money wagered through the windows shows our customers felt the same way.”

Upon approval of the New York State Gaming Commission, live racing will resume at Batavia Downs on Monday, July 23.

December 17, 2017 - 2:51pm
posted by Billie Owens in harness racing, sports, Batavia Downs.

Photo of Chumlee A in the forefront with driver Larry Stalbaum.

By Tim Bojarski, for Batavia Downs​

The Western New York “Wonder from Down Under” Chumlee A, proved once again that he is the best pacer currently on the grounds as he led a fast :57 back half under heavy duress on a cold night to win the final $10,000 Open Handicap pacing feature of the meet at Batavia Downs on closing night (Dec. 16).

It took Chumlee A (Larry Stalbaum) over a quarter of a mile to get the lead as Don’tcallmefrancis (Billy Davis Jr.) played hardball on the front-end. But eventually the Aussie got there after a quick :28 second split before he put on the brakes to the half to get a short breather. Not content with the slowing pace, Focus Power (Drew Monti) pulled at the half and started one heck of a fight.

Drawing alongside Chumlee A, Focus Power pushed the issue as the two matched strides in a :28.1 third panel. Also pacing together around the far turn, Chumlee A’s lead was getting shorter but he continued to look strong on the point. Halfway down the lane the overland route had gotten to Focus Power but Don’tcallmefrancis, who had gotten the perfect two-hole trip the entire mile, popped into the passing lane and made a late bid. However Chumlee A had enough in the tank and hung on by a head in 1:54.2.

It was the second straight Open victory and fourth straight win at Batavia Downs and in northern hemisphere for Chumlee A ($3.60) who has been racing in the United States for just over a month. The 6-year-old gelded son of Somebeachsomewhere is owned by Mark Jakubik and Kim Asher, who also does the training.

It was a big night for trainer Kim Asher and driver Larry Stalbaum. Besides winning the feature with Chumlee A they also teamed up to win three other races during the night including the 17th win of 2017 for Saint William A and the 21st victory of the year for Quicksilvercandy A, who now moves back into a tie with Safe From Terror as the winningest Standardbred in North America.

Then after the 10th race, Asher and Stalbaum were honored in the winner's circle as the top dash winning trainer and driver of the meet at Batavia Downs.

The staff and management of Batavia Downs would like to wish everyone a very happy Holiday Season and a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year. Racing resumes at the oldest lighted harness track in America in July.

December 16, 2017 - 2:11pm
posted by Billie Owens in harness racing, sports, Batavia Downs.

By Tim Bojarski, for Batavia Downs

Closing night of the 2017 racing season at Batavia Downs features a guaranteed $2,500 early Pick-5 pool and a $1,000 Pick-6 contest, both with mandatory payouts on Saturday (Dec. 16).

The $2,500 guaranteed early Pick-5 pool begins in race one and runs through race five. The Pick-5 is a 50-cent base wager and as it’s the final one of the meet, there will be a mandatory payout. This means if no one picks all five winners, the person(s) selecting the most winners will be paid. (There is no late Pick-5 on Saturday)  

Saturday's guaranteed pool is part of the USTA’s Strategic Wagering Program and as such, free program pages courtesy of Trackmaster are available on the USTA’s website.

This link will take you directly to those program pages.

Then starting in race four, the free-to-enter $1,000 Pick-6 contest is offered and it too will have a mandatory payout.

In order to win, contestants must pick the winners of races four through nine. Those wishing to play must pick up their entry blank at Player’s Club beginning at 4:30 p.m. and then deposit their completed selections no later than the start of the fourth race. There is only one entry per person. If no one correctly picks all six winners, the person(s) selecting the most winners will be paid.

Post time for the first race on closing night is 6 p.m.

December 16, 2017 - 2:09pm
posted by Billie Owens in sports, harness racing, Batavia Downs.

By Tim Bojarski, for Batavia Downs

Longtime western New York horseman Jim McNeight reached a career milestone as he won his 1,000 race as a trainer.

McNeight was at 999 before his pacer Open Water finished second on Wednesday (Dec. 6) and was placed first through a disqualification. But McNeight made it official on Friday (Dec. 15) when his trotter Millbrook Hanover driven by his son Jim McNeight Jr., won easily in the snow to notch his 1,000th career victory.   

McNeight got started in the business while in his teens and learned under the guidance of his father Ed McNeight Sr. He got his driver’s license in 1981 and became a go-to catch driver in western New York within a few years.

Focusing mainly on driving for the first part of his career, McNeight added training to his daily duties when he father retired in 1992 and since that time has been a mainstay at Batavia Downs and Buffalo Raceway ever since.

In June of 2016, McNeight was involved in a bad accident at Buffalo Raceway and came away with a severe back injury that sidelined him for months. After time off and extensive rehab, he has been able to resume jogging and training but his doctors will not clear him to race due to the possibility of further damage in the event of another racing incident.

So now McNeight focuses fully on the training end of his current stable of 10 and is a full time coach for his son who does all the driving now and is a rising star on the same circuit his father excelled on for so many years.

Jim McNeight’s 1,000th training win was the result of 6,450 starts that also saw him finish second 932 times and third another 919. All told his earnings have amounted to just under $3.5 million.

“It’s very special to reach a milestone like this but you can’t do it without good, faithful owners and I have been blessed to have three of them” said McNeight. “Mike Ventura, Mike Calimeri and Dave Sanlorenzo have backed me for over 20 years and made those 1,000 wins possible.”

Mike Ventura owns Millbrook Hanover.

For his driving career McNeight has 3,587 wins and over $13 million earned in purses.

December 16, 2017 - 2:03pm
posted by Billie Owens in harness racing, sports, Batavia Downs.

 

Photo of Lenny Mac and driver Ron Beback Jr.

By Tim Bojarski, for Batavia Downs

It was girl’s night out in a winter wonderland as snow squalls blew through Genesee County. The mare Lenny Mac beat the boys in the $10,000 Open trot and Sportsmuffler scored in the $10,000 distaff Open pacing feature at Batavia Downs on Friday night (Dec. 15).

In the week’s top trot, Lenny Mac came from off the pace to win handily, overcoming the field and the elements with the greatest of ease.

Empire Earl N (Larry Stalbaum) went right to the front and led to the half in 1:00.2. Lenny Mac (Ron Beback Jr.) then pulled first up from fifth and motored quickly alongside Empire Earl N, and then right by him by the time they hit the backside.

From there it was all Lenny Mac as she opened up four lengths at the three-quarters, six lengths at the top of the stretch and eight lengths when she hit the wire like a runaway train in 2:00.2, blowing up the tote board at 12-1.  

It was the ninth win of the year for Lenny Mac ($27.40) and it padded her bank account to the amount of $54,077 for owner William Emmons and trainer James Clouser Jr.

Photo of Sportsmuffler with driver Ray Fisher Jr.

In the fillies and mares Open pace, Sportsmuffler, who had recently gotten back to her winning ways after not finishing a race on Nov. 22, caught a strong front runner at the wire in a thriller.

Miss Irish Rose A (Larry Stalbaum) left for a familiar front-end position and led the field in post-position order for almost a half mile before Squeeze This (Billy Davis Jr.) pulled and attacked at that station in :59.2.

With Miss Irish Rose A still in command by two, the outer flow stalled and Sportsmuffler (Ray Fisher Jr.) tipped three-deep around and moved to within one length of the leader. The two maintained their positions around the far turn but when they hit the top of the lane, Sportsmuffler dug in and drove on to capture a half-length victory in 1:57.4 in a three-horse photo.

It was the eleventh win in 42 starts this year for Sportsmuffler ($7.80) who now has $59,149 on her card for 2017. LAV Racing Stable Inc. owns the 5-year-old Sportsmaster mare that is trained by Mike Carrubba.

Larry Stalbaum widened his dash win lead again scoring three victories on the night. That pushed him to 130 wins for the meet, now six ahead of Ray Fisher Jr. and 11 ahead of Drew Monti. Barring a monumental turn of events it would appear Stalbaum has his first Batavia Downs driving title just about wrapped up.

One more night of racing remains at Batavia Downs in 2017 and that is Saturday (Dec. 16) with post time is 6 p.m.

There will be a guaranteed $2,500 early Pick-5 pool tomorrow with a mandatory payout. The wager runs from race one to race five and is a 50-cent minimum bet.

December 16, 2017 - 1:57pm
posted by Billie Owens in sports, harness racing, Batavia Downs.

Kim Asher

By Tim Bojarski, for UNY USHWA

The Upstate New York Chapter of the United States Harness Writers Association (USHWA) will present performance awards to the top dash winning trainer and driver of the meet during the 10th annual “Night of Distinction” ceremony in the winner’s circle at Batavia Downs tonight (Dec. 16) and whereas the top conditioner has been well identified, the driver’s race will likely go down to the final races of the weekend.

Kim Asher is currently the top percentage trainer in North America with a UTR of .427 and $1.1 million in earnings. She is also ranked eighth in North America for wins, currently with 208.

So it’s no surprise that Asher is also the trainer of the meet at Batavia Downs for 2017.

Asher has started 351 horses during the session winning 88 races, finishing second 55 times and third another 55 times and saw her horses hit the board 56% of the time. Those efforts gave her a stellar UTR of .390 and $479,491 in purses. Her win total more than doubled her closest competitor.

Competing for only the second year at Batavia, Asher’s training career spans 19 years and during that time she has won multiple training titles including most recently, the 2017 Buffalo Raceway meet. This year Asher has sent out 208 winners and that mark was a personal best. Her stable boast horses with gaudy win totals like Quicksilvercandy A (20), Saint William A (16), Itsonlyrocknroll A (13) and Kaitlyn Rae (11).   

During her career Asher has 1,934 wins, 1,456 seconds and 1,222 thirds out of 9,196 starts for a lifetime UTR of .342 and earnings of over $15 million.

The driving accolades for this meet are still up in the air.

Larry Stalbaum is the current dash win leader with 127 wins while Ray Fisher Jr. is second with 122 and Drew Monti is third with 117. With only one card of racing left and probably 20 starts apiece remaining for all three drivers, Stalbaum looks fairly solid with a five-race lead.

If Stalbaum does win the title it would be his first at Batavia Downs. However the long-tenured horseman is no stranger to being the best set of hands on any circuit. Over his 32-year career he has won dash honors at Northville Downs, Hazel Park, Sports Creek Park, Jackson Harness Raceway, Monticello Raceway, Raceway Park, Cal Expo and most recently, Buffalo Raceway earlier this year.

During his career, Stalbaum has driven 5,732 winners and earned just under $39 million in purses.

Ray Fisher Jr. has won two driving titles at Buffalo Raceway and four at Northfield Park. But since arriving at the Genesee County oval in 2007 has never taken the top spot there although he did finish second and third three times each. So winning it this year would definitely be a notch in his belt.

Since his career began in 1987, Fisher has won 4,200 races lifetime and just shy of $18 million in purses. 

Drew Monti is the defending dash driving winner at Batavia Downs, taking his first-ever driving title last year with 116 wins. He had a substantial lead this year earlier in the meet, but the competition stiffened and now he has a lot of work to do in order to repeat.

Although the 23-year-old Monti has only been driving for five years, he is already closing in on his 1,000th win (currently with 979) and has made $5.5 million in purses during that time.

The competition for the driving title will be decided tonight (Dec. 16). Post time is 6 p.m.

December 13, 2017 - 12:55pm
posted by Billie Owens in sports, harness racing, Batavia Downs.

By Tim Bojarski, for the Upstate New York Chapter of the United States Harness Writers Association:

Batavia, NY---The Upstate New York Chapter of the United States Harness Writers Association (USHWA) has announced its horses of the meet for 2017 at Batavia Downs.

Pacer of the Meet: Focus Power

While racing in the top Open class for 13 starts at Batavia, western New York newcomer Focus Power won three times and finished second another five while amassing $36,010 in purses. He was on fire in September when he won three out of four starts while setting two new lifetime marks during that period (September 2, 1:53 and September 23, 1:52.4).

After being claimed at Yonkers just prior to the start of the Batavia meet, Focus Power made an immediate impact to the good fortunes of owner James Caradori and trainer Darrin Monti. Driver Drew Monti was aboard for every start. Overall Focus Power has nine wins in 2017 and earnings that total $97,395.

 

Trotter of the Meet: BZ Glide

BZ Glide was a fixture in the weekly Open trot once again this year and showed although he’s getting older, he hasn’t lost a step. In 15 starts against the local best, BZ Glide won three with six seconds and a third banking $34,405 in the process. He also set a seasonal mark of 1:56.3.

As has been the case every year, the family affair of Alana Caprio training and Mike Caprio driving, the two also team up in ownership of the big trotting gelding. For the year, BZ Glide has a total of five wins and earnings of $52,405.

Mare of the Meet: Voltina

Competing the entire meet in the fillies and mares Open I or II, Voltina was as tough as they came winning three Open I’s and one Open II along with six second place finishes and took home purses totaling $34,060. She took her seasonal mark of 1:55 at Batavia as well.

Owned by CHS Racing LLC, the Tony Cummings-trained Voltina had a career year winning a total of eight races and earning $69,456 in purses. Kevin Cummings was aboard for the majority of her starts.

Claimer of the Meet: Quicksilvercandy A

Listed as the winning-est pacer in North America for a good portion of the year, Quicksilvercandy A had a field day racing at Batavia Downs. Moving up and down the class ladder, the mare ended up winning seven claiming races including the $20,000 Claiming Championship final for her division in November. Her four seconds and two thirds also helped bump up her bankroll to $40,165 for the meet.

Owned and driven by Larry Stalbaum, Quicksilvercandy A recorded a career year of 20 wins and $108,994 in earnings under the training of Kim Asher.

Most Improved Horse of the Meet: In Runaway Bay N

In Runaway Bay N came to Batavia Downs off a less than stellar early part of the year. He made his first start at Batavia in August, winning in the bottom class; non-winners of $1,000 in 1:55.1. He strung together four wins while working his way up to the Open where he finished second two weeks in a row. The following week he faced Foiled Again and finished a respectable fourth to the richest Standardbred of all time. Since then he has won three Open paces. For the meet, he took a seasonal mark of 1:53.1 and earned $39,050.

In Runaway Bay N is owned by Super Mile LLC and is trained by Angelo Nappo. Kevin Cummings was in the bike for the bulk of the work.

The connections of these horses will be presented their trophies in the winner’s circle at Batavia Downs on Saturday (Dec. 16) during the 10th annual “Night of Distinction” awards ceremony. Post time for the first race is 6 p.m.

(All photos are courstesy of Paul White.)

December 12, 2017 - 4:33pm
posted by Billie Owens in harness racing, sports, Batavia Downs.

Photo of Rusty Freeman, courtesy of Rusty Freeman.

By Tim Bojarski, for Upstate NewYork Chapter of the United States Harness Writers Association:

Anyone who has ever dealt with a quarter crack can appreciate what it takes to get their horse sound and racing again. Rusty Freeman is responsible for changing the way this debilitating condition is handled, reducing down time from weeks to days and turning the process into a state of the art form over the years.

As a result of his tireless work to help the breed, the Upstate New York Chapter of the United States Harness Writers Association (USHWA) will present Freeman with the Innovator’s Award for contributions to the sport of harness racing in the winner’s circle at Batavia Downs on Saturday (Dec. 16) during the 10th annual “Night of Distinction” awards ceremony.

Freeman was working as a factory machinist in western New York in the late 1970’s when he was first introduced to harness racing. While visiting a friend who had trotters, he was shown why a particular horse was lame with a hoof crack and the whole thing quickly intrigued him.

He developed a way to use a Dremel tool and cut out just the part of the hoof he felt was needed, and then put a tube under the patch. That way air could still get to the sore area to aid healing and it could also be flushed with antiseptic to keep it clean.

He then researched and developed an acrylic compound he uses instead of fiberglass and combines that with Kevlar cloth to do the patches. The combination of the tube under the new patch material gives the area every opportunity to heal and grow out properly in a short amount of time.

Freeman has been plying his trade at harness tracks in New Jersey, New York, Ohio and Pennsylvania for almost 40 years now and many times works hand in hand with vets. As a result, hundreds of horses have been made sound quicker, allowing them to get back in the box much sooner.  

Also a farrier, Freeman is an accredited member of the American Association of Professional Farriers (AAPF) and helps other professionals in the field understand and benefit from his technics.

Post time for the first race on Saturday is 6 p.m.

December 11, 2017 - 1:52pm
posted by Billie Owens in sports, Batavia Downs, news, harness racing.

Photo of Jim Compton and horse Michael Scores, courtesy of Tim Bojarski.

By Tim Bojarski, for the Upstate New York Chapter of the U.S. Harness Writers Association:

Jim Compton has been a respected western New York horseman for over 35 years. He trained, drove and bred many horses that are still remembered at his home tracks for their competitive nature and success.

For his years of dedication to the sport, the Upstate New York Chapter of the United States Harness Writers Association (USHWA) will present him with the Lifetime Achievement Award in the winner’s circle at Batavia Downs on Saturday (Dec. 16) during the 10th annual “Night of Distinction” awards ceremony.

Compton’s full time job was working for General Motors in Rochester, but his passion was for harness racing. So in 1978 he started moonlighting at the farm of local driving legend Fred Haslip to learn the ins and outs of the business. After a few years he got his trainer's license and in 1983 he drove his first race.

Compton and his wife Sandra always ran a small but successful stable, racing horses like Sly Hi, No Parking Zone, Splurging Rita, Gasper Again and Held For Ransom, who won multiple Opens at Batavia Down, Vernon Downs and Buffalo Raceway en route to amassing 51 lifetime wins.

When Held For Ransom’s career was over, Compton bred him to one of his race mares named Suspicious Burns and the result of that breeding was a horse named Michael Scores.

Michael Scores was a New York Sires Stake star and rock-solid overnight campaigner for 11 years. He won 86 races and earned $668,079 lifetime without ever seeing the Grand Circuit. He set track records at Tioga Downs (1:50.4) and at Batavia Downs (1:52.1) when he won the 2006 Kane Memorial Pace. And he will always be remembered for his “intentionally parked out” style of racing.

Compton’s numbers were not gaudy, however they were efficient. On the training side he had 578 wins out of 2,892 starts with $1.9 million in purses and a UTR of .337. As a driver he won 522 races out of 2,725 starts and made $1.13 million in purses and a UDR of .330. And all the horses he either trained or drove were 50 percent in the money over his entire career.

Post time for Saturday night’s card is 6 o'clock.

December 10, 2017 - 12:48pm
posted by Billie Owens in sports, harness racing, Batavia Downs.

Lucky McTrucky, driven by Drew Monti, wins at Batavia Downs.

By Tim Bojarski, for Batavia Downs

It was a hard fought race between two game opponents, but Lucky McTrucky came out on top of Jimi Wind Ricks in the $9,000 feature pace at Batavia Downs on Saturday night (Dec. 9).

Lucky McTrucky (Drew Monti) inherited the lead from the pylons as no one else in the field left. Now lined up in post-position order, the leader strolled the group to the half in a very pedestrian :59 split. Eager to challenge at that point, Jimi Wind Ricks (Billy Davis Jr.) came with a rush at the three-eighths and drew alongside Lucky McTrucky up the backside and that began a very contentious encounter.

After a :27.4 third panel, Jimi Wind Ricks got the lead on the outside by over a half-length but could not clear as Lucky McTrucky stayed game and would not let him go by. They continued to fight around the far turn with both Monti and Davis rocking and knocking their respective mounts, hoping each other would give way. They hit the straight and were still going at it but Lucky McTrucky gained a slight edge and held it to the wire where he won by a half-length in 1:55.1.

It was the 42nd lifetime win for Lucky McTrucky ($7.30) who is owned by Tessa Roland and trained by J.D. Perrin.

In the $8,500 Open III pace, Big Ricky (Ron Beback Jr.) took a mostly overland route to defeat the heavily favored David The Saint (Ray Fisher Jr.) by a length in 1:56.4. Big Ricky ($9.70) is owned by William Emmons and is trained by James Clouser Jr. 

Driver Shawn McDonough had a big night at the Downs, winning three races including the nightcap with Best Ears who blew up the tote board with an $86 mutuel.

The final week of the meet kicks-off when racing resumes at Batavia Downs on Friday (Dec. 15) with post time at 6 p.m. There are only two more nights of racing in 2017.

December 9, 2017 - 2:07pm
posted by Billie Owens in sports, harness racing, Batavia Downs.

By Tim Bojarski, for Batavia Downs

Horsemen racing at Batavia Downs are reminded of the draw schedule changes for the final week of racing.

A double draw will take place on Tuesday (Dec. 12) for race cards to be held on Friday (Dec. 15) and Saturday (Dec. 16). The entry box will close at the normal time of 9 a.m.

All program information, including driver changes for Friday's card, must be submitted to the judges by 1 p.m. on Tuesday (Dec. 12). 

Saturday's program changes must be received by the Judges no later than 9:30 a.m. on Wednesday (Dec. 13).

For more information please visit the horsemen's link at www.bataviadownsgaming.com.

December 9, 2017 - 1:31pm
posted by Billie Owens in sports, harness racing, Batavia Downs.
Photo of Fox Valley Veto with driver Billy Davis Jr.
 
By Tim Bojarski, for Batavia Downs
 
Winning two races in a row for the second time in his last six starts, Fox Valley Veto claimed top weekly trotting honors once again at Batavia Downs after winning the $10,000 Open Handicap on Friday night (Dec.8). 
 
Empire Earl N (Larry Stalbaum) went for the lead and took the field to the half in :58.1. At that station Fox Valley Veto (Billy Davis Jr.) pulled first-over from third and went right up to challenge the frontrunner. 
 
Fox Valley Veto took command by the three-quarters, moving back to the pylons and stretching out to a two-length advantage. Around the last turn, Empire Earl N was trying to keep up but his race was run and Fox Valley Veto had won; wrapped up under the wire in 1:57.1.
 
It was the seventh win of the year for Fox Valley Veto ($7.40) and it pushed his earnings to $60,837 for owners Vogel & Wags Nags and Jack Rice. Maria Rice does the training. 
 
Then it was bombs away in the co-featured $8,000 Open II trot when 17-1 Court's N Session (Shawn McDonough) came from mid-pack at three-quarters to tip three-deep at the head of the lane and catch heavily favored Osprey Vision (Ray Fisher Jr.) in deep stretch to win by a neck in 1:59.4. 
 
Owned by Marie Houghtaling and trained by Ron Houghtaling, Court's N Session scored his fifth win of the year and paid $37.80. 
 
The Downs leading driver Larry Stalbaum scored four more wins Friday, pushing his meet-leading total to 126. Ray Fisher Jr. who currently sits in second had two wins and now has 121 victories at Batavia. 
 
Racing resumes at Batavia Downs tonight (Dec. 9) at 6 o'clock.
December 7, 2017 - 4:22pm
posted by Billie Owens in sports, Batavia Downs, harness racing.

Photo of Mydelight Bluechip with driver Ben Mc Neil.

By Tim Bojarski, for Batavia Downs

The lake effect snows blew into Genesee County making Batavia Downs look like the North Pole and Mydelight Bluechip made like Rudolph and led all the way to win the $10,000 Fillies and Mares Open Handicap Pace on the last Wednesday night (Dec. 6) of racing for the meet.

Mydelight Bluechip (Ben Mc Neil) was on a “take no prisoners” mission as she left and parked Little Joke (Billy Davis Jr.) and Voltina (Kevin Cummings) to the half in :56.3. As the race went on to the second circuit, Little Joke continued to apply the pressure but Voltina faded away, allowing Miss Irish Rose A (Larry Stalbaum) room to advance to the outside from sixth and move into a closer third position.

Moving through the last turn Mydelight Bluechip put away both of those challengers and led by two lengths. At that point it looked like she’d wrapped things up until Squeeze This (Drew Monti) and Hey Kobe (Shawn McDonough) came flying late, gobbling up ground in the stretch. But Mydelight Bluechip dug in and pulled out the win by a narrowing margin in 1:57.2.

Privately purchased on November 11 by Ellen Mc Neil, Mydelight Bluechip ($20.80) scored her first victory for her new owner and third of the year overall. The 5-year-old daughter of Bettor’s Delight is trained by John Mc Neil III, rounding out the Mc Neil trifecta in the race.

In the co-featured $8,000 distaff Open II, Sportsmuffler (Drew Monti) took the lead before the half and from there, left the rest of the field in her rear-view mirror as she pulled away to a seven-length win in 1:56.2. Owned by Lav Racing Stable and trained by Mike Carrubba, Sportsmuffler ($3.70) registered her 10th win of the year and pushed her earnings to $54,149 as a result.

Drew Monti was red hot on a cold night, winning four races on the card. Besides scoring with Sportsmuffler, Monti also won with Tymal Luckynpink (1:57.1, $5.50), Juxlivin My Dream (1:59.2, $10.20) and Hold On Tightly (2:02.3, $21.20). Monti actually won a fifth race with P L Hellcat in the tenth race but was disqualified and placed second for a Eurorail violation.

Open Water (Jim McNeight Jr.) who finished second in that tenth race was placed first and gave trainer Jim McNeight his 1,000th career training victory. McNeight’s training win total has earned $3,495,864 in purse money for his connections. McNeight also has 3,587 driving wins with an additional purse amount of $13,133,205 to go along.

In the Downs eleventh race, the heavily favored Heavenly Way (Ray Fisher Jr.) was soundly backed in the show pool and finished fourth in a five-horse wire photo. With Heavenly Way being off the board, it prompted eye-popping show payouts of $77.50, $108 and $264.

The driver's race just got a little more interesting after Wednesday night. Larry Stalbaum still leads with 122 wins and Ray Fisher Jr. is second with 119. But on the heels of his big performance, Drew Monti draws into a closer third with 116 wins, only six behind the leader with only four days of racing left in the 2017 meet.  

Racing resumes at Batavia Downs on Friday night (Dec. 8) with post time set at 6 o'clock.

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