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October 19, 2014 - 2:27pm
posted by Billie Owens in Batavia Downs, sports, harness racing.

Bolt The Duer with driver John Cummings Jr.

By Tim Bojarski for Batavia Downs

It was the biggest night of the year at Batavia Downs Saturday (Oct. 18) as the track presented the 12th edition of the $50,000 Robert J. Kane Memorial Invitational pace. One of the largest live crowds was on hand to see the action and after the most anticipated race of the season hit the wire, world champion Bolt The Duer bested a stellar field of top Open pacers to take the trophy.

When the car pulled away, the Ron Burke stablemates Aracache Hanover (Kevin Cummings) and Easy Again (Aaron Merriman) found themselves sitting one-two at a :26.3 quarter with Bolt The Duer (John Cummings Jr.) tracking a close third. The positions remained unchanged to the half when Apprentice Hanover (Anthony MacDonald) pulled first over and led Aslan (Ronnie Wrenn Jr.) and Wazzup Wazzup (Drew Monti) in the outer flow.

Apprentice Hanover cleared and took the lead at the three-quarters in 1:24.1 when Aslan and Wazzup Wazzup fanned three-wide to take their shots around the turn. But Bolt The Duer, who had been riding the pylons waiting for his chance, got it at the top of the stretch when the passing lane opened up and Cummings Jr. shot him through the gap and outpaced a game Aslan to the wire to win in 1:53.4. Aslan finished second and Wazzup Wazzup finished third.

It was the fourth win in 18 starts this year for Bolt The Duer ($11) and pushed his career earnings to over $1.82 million for owners All Star Racing, Inc. The 5-year-old son of Ponder is trained by Peter Foley.

After the race driver John Cummings Jr. said “I was hoping to be on the lead or have the two-hole but I got away third. But we were following the two best horses in the race and we were lucky to slide out up the backside and get back to the rail at the head of the lane and then he did the rest. There is no question this is the best horse I’ve ever driven and I would like to thank Pete (Foley) for giving me the drive.”

You can watch the replay of the race by clicking here. Insert this link http://youtu.be/i2GjbuZY3hk

BZ Glide with driver Mike Caprio

The co-feature of the night was the $12,500 Brian Schroeder Memorial trot that was won by local star BZ Glide. After the heavy favorite Money On My Mind (Aaron Merriman) made a break, Sailer Eddie (Jack Flanigen) took the lead and dictated the race until BZ Glide (Mike Caprio) pulled at the half and started his trek on the outside. He overtook the lead at the three-quarters and trotted away to an easy three-length victory in 1:58.2.

It was the eighth win in 20 starts for BZ Glide ($5.90) and inflated his bankroll to $60,667 for the trainer/driver team of Alana and Mike Caprio, who owns the horse.

It was an emotional winners circle after the race as Caprio, who was a friend of the late Schroeder, commented “It was an honor for me to win this race because Brian (Schroeder) was a good friend of mine. He helped me straighten out some horses years ago and was always willing to help anyone out.”

In the overnight feature $10,000 horse and gelding Open pace, Caprio doubled his pleasure by winning with Fireyourguns in 1:55. After getting away fifth, Fireyourguns waited until the top of the far turn to pull and swing wide before unleashing his patented pacing flurry down the lane. After making up about five lengths while streaking down the center of the track, Fireyourguns beat Best Ears (Jack Flanigen) who was on the rail, by a nose. There were four horses across the track at the wire and a mere neck separated first through fourth place.

It was the 13th victory of the year for Fireyourguns raising his earning total to $90,335 for owners Jennifer and Robert Lowe and Terrence McClory, who also trains him.

Aaron Merriman, who is currently the leading dash winning driver in North America, made a rare western New York appearance and put on a driving clinic for the fans. He registered a grand slam winning with Set Me Up ($4.40), Whata Donato ($3.10), Cheyenne Cam ($19.40) and Mondatta ($13).

And not to be outdone by the National season’s leader, local driving favorite Drew Monti also scored a four-bagger with Rock To Glory ($5.90), Deuces And Jacks ($16.20), Machman ($5.50) and Bandicoot (6.50).

Racing resumes at Batavia Downs on Wednesday (Oct. 22) with post time set for 6:35.

October 18, 2014 - 1:40pm
posted by Billie Owens in Batavia Downs, sports, harness racing.

By Tim Bojarski for Batavia Downs

The 12th annual $50,000 Robert J. Kane Memorial Invitational pace will be held tonight (Oct. 18) and the star-studded group of Open class performers competing is led by Ron Burke stablemates $1.7 million winner Aracahe Hanover and Easy Again.

The race is named in honor of the former chairman of the Western Regional Off Track Betting Corporation (WROTB) and his vision for a defunct racetrack. In 1998 Robert Kane saw the opportunity for WROTB to keep harness racing alive in Western New York and convinced the group to purchase the shuttered Batavia Downs. He then worked diligently for four years to obtain a racing license from the State of New York in order to reopen the track in 2002.

With the improvement of the live racing product and the multiple expansions of the gaming floor in the years since the acquisition, what once was an empty building is now the preeminent attraction in all of Genesee County and that is due to the vision of Robert J. Kane.

The race has played host to many great horses over the years including the six-million-dollar man, Foiled Again, who won it twice. But it was also won by one of this year’s entrants and he set the all-time track record for pacers there when he did it.

Aracache Hanover (Dragon Again-Armbro Cachet 1:48.1 = $1,726,616) was a multiple stakes winner at two and three, including the $525,000 Confederation Cup. As an aged horse, he has been one of the most consistent free-for-all pacers in North America. He comes into this race off two consecutive wins at Yonkers Raceway and looks to be the one to beat. Although he is owned locally in Clarence Center by Bill Switala and James Martin, he has only ever raced at Batavia Downs once before. That was in when he won the 2011 Kane Memorial and set the all-time track record of 1:51.1. Aracache Hanover is 3-1 morning line and will be driven by leading Downs driver, Kevin Cummings.

Easy Again (Dragon Again-Kuklapanandollie 1:50.1 = $712,381) came into the Burke stable 10 months ago and immediately turned into a win machine. Since that time he has 11 victories in 26 starts and posted a lifetime mark of 1:50.1 at Scioto Downs while banking $264,360 in purse money. He currently has four wins out of his last seven starts, although he finished eighth last week. That was because he got parked the entire mile at Yonkers in Open handicap company. North American leading dash-winning driver Aaron Merriman makes the trip to the oldest lighted harness track in America to team Easy Again who was made the morning line favorite at 5-2.

Also in the race is $1.8 million winner Bolt The Duer (Ponder-Wonderbolt 1:47.4 = $1,801,995) Bolt The Duer won the $500,000 Adios and the $415,000 Messenger Stake at three and has faced the toughest older pacers each week ever since. This year he has battled Sweet Lou, Foiled Again and Captaintreacherous just to name a few. Last week at Pocono Downs he drew the rail after six consecutive outside posts, only to get locked in behind a stalled horse while the eventual winner was pacing away. He brings ability and back class to the table here and will be heard from for sure. John Cummings Jr. and his aggressive driving style will be in the bike for trainer Peter Foley.

Scoring from the outside is Aslan (Mach Three-Skyview 1:49.2 = $207,377). He does not have the lofty stakes resume or million dollar earnings of some in this field because he was lightly raced at two and three. But he does have a lot of speed and it would appear that he comes into this race in his best condition ever based on his performance at Pocono Downs on Sept. 20. He just got beat a neck in 1:47.3 and that clocking is two seconds faster than his lifetime mark taken in 2013. Plus this horse is handy; he can leave or he can come from behind. Ronnie Wrenn Jr. who is currently second in North America in dash-winning drives is at the lines for trainer Tony O’Sullivan.

Here is a look at the entire field:

1)              Wazzup Wazzup                   Drew Monti                        9-2-8      8-1

2)              Easy Again                            Aaron Merriman                8-1-4

3)              Bolt The Duer                       John Cummings Jr.           4-6-2      4-1

4)              Aracache Hanover                Kevin Cummings              1-1-2      3-1

5)              Apprentice Hanover              Anthony McDonald           1-6-3      7-2

6)              WhatTheSheik                    Dave McNeight III             3-1-3      12-1

7)              Aslan                                     Ronnie Wrenn Jr.              1-2-1      6-1

The Kane Memorial Pace is carded as the seventh race of the night. The program also includes the $12,500 Brian Schroeder Memorial Trot, a $10,000 horses and geldings Open pace and a $10,000 mares Open pace. Post time for the evening is 6:35.

October 16, 2014 - 1:14pm
posted by Billie Owens in Batavia Downs, sports, harness racing.

By Tim Bojarski for Batavia Downs

On Friday, Oct. 17, Batavia Downs will look back and honor the careers of two longtime female trainers who plied their trade on the Western New York circuit for many years. Mary Ann Sarama-Luce and Brenda Ohol will have races named in their honor and presentations made with their families in the winner’s circle as the local horsemen pay their respects and remember their careers at Batavia Downs.

Mary Ann Sarama-Luce passed away in July of 2011 at 73 years of age after a long battle with leukemia. She ended her driving career in 1990 with 109 wins and $201,435 in earnings. At that point she started training full time and continued to do so until her passing. As a conditioner she sent 107 horses to the winner’s circle whose efforts earned $334,835. Some of the top horses Sarama-Luce trained included Gold Bandit N, Top Dog Alex, Top Dog Nicholas, Easy L Bar and Guy Lee Debbie.

After her passing, her son Carl and husband Richard have carried on with her stable.

“Harness racing was her number-one priority and passion” her daughter Lynette McGiveron said. “Her horses were the driving force behind her battle to recover. Even in her final days she worried more about her horses than herself.”

McGiveron continued “A passion of Mary Ann's was to have her mares bred and to raise the foals to race. She named them after her kids and grandchildren and had planned on doing so until every child and grandchild was named. The last foal to be born on her farm was "Top Dog Morgan" named after her grandson. Unfortunately Mary Ann never got to see it in person. He was born the night she went into the hospital for her final stay.”

Bruce Tubin, president of the Western New York Harness Horsemen's Association, described Mary Ann as “A fierce competitor both as a trainer and a driver.”

After the fifth race, named the Mary Ann Sarama-Luce Memorial Trot, we will remember a great mother, person, horseman and friend to so many in Western New York.

Brenda Ohol died in August of 2013 after a long battle with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig's disease.

She was born in Batavia and raised in Akron, New York, and was around horses her entire life. She was always in the barn with her father Ron Lederhouse who campaigned his own stable for many years and then as an adult, married Mike Ohol who was an established trainer/driver on the Western New York circuit.

During her 22-year training career she sent 691 winners to post and amassed earnings of $2.85 million. Her most prolific year came in 2009 when she had 1,018 starters with 79 winners, 91 seconds and 122 thirds along with $396,953 in monies won. Some of her best known horses included Little Man Cam, Adelia’s Prince, Honeybee Hershey, Fundy Breeze, Collier St. Bobby and Sunray Kash.

She left a legacy of women in racing behind as her daughter Courtney and granddaughter Brittney are now currently active full time trainers at Batavia. Ohol’s sister Lisa Lederhouse is an accomplished trainer as well.

Bruce Tubin, president of the western New York Harness Horsemen’s Association, said “Brenda was a hands-on, hardworking trainer who left us way too soon.”

Jim Mulcahy, treasurer of the Western New York Harness Horsemen’s Association said “Brenda always had a nice stable of horses that were always competitive. She was one of the top female conditioners on this circuit.”

After the seventh race, named the Brenda Ohol Memorial Pace, we will remember our other great mother, person, horseman and friend to everyone who raced on this circuit.

Post time for the first race is 6:35 p.m.

October 14, 2014 - 9:02am
posted by Billie Owens in Batavia Downs, sports, harness racing.

By Tim Bojarski for Batavia Downs

It was ability more than chance that saw Lucky Charm go gate to wire in the $7,500 mares Open trot at Batavia Downs on a special Monday afternoon (Oct. 13) Columbus Day matinee card at the Genesee County oval.

Kevin Cummings shook-up Lucky Charm off the gate and took an effortless lead around the first turn. From there the 8-year-old Malabar Man mare towed the field through a pedestrian half before picking up the tempo from there. After a :29.1 third quarter that saw Highway Cash (Doug Ackley) and Day Planner (Ray Fisher Jr.) advance into contention, Lucky Charm came home in :28.4 to fend off the three wide attack from her competition and win in 1:58.3. Day Planner was second and Highway Cash finished third.

It was the fourth win in 21 starts for Lucky Charm and brought her 2014 earnings up to $23,800 for owners Finish Line Investors and Johnny Yoder. Lucky Charm is trained by John Mungillo.

Driver Kevin Cummings was on fire Monday, with five wins, three seconds and a third out of the 11 races he was in. He scored with Love Me Do ($5), Donegal Jim ($2.10), Lucky Charm ($5.60), Emmys Junior Grin ($7) and Serendipitious ($2.50).

The “Race for the Cannoli’s,” which is held annually on Columbus Day at Batavia Downs and pits drivers of Italian-American descent against each other, was won by Rock C. Vinci aboard Windsong Destroyer in 1:58.2. The 10-year-old won by a length over Evening Shadows (Mike Caprio) after getting a perfect two-hole trip.

Racing resumes at Batavia Downs on Wednesday night (Oct. 15) with post time set for 6:35.

October 12, 2014 - 12:37pm
posted by Billie Owens in Batavia Downs, sports, harness racing.

Western Alumni with driver Jim McNeight

By Tim Bojarski for Batavia Downs

After being victorious in the first Open pace of the season at Batavia Downs on July 26, Western Alumni hasn't visited the winners circle since. But that drought came to an end on Saturday night (Oct. 11) when he put on a powerful performance in winning the $9,250 pacing feature at the Downs.

Western Alumni (Jim McNeight) left sharp and took the lead before Best Ears (Jack Flanigen) brushed by to unseat him at the quarter. The rest of the field stayed single file to the half before Fireyourguns (Mike Caprio) came off the wood and started motoring.

As the group went up the backside, Peenie (Mickey Holliday) pulled underneath Fireyourguns and went backward, causing Fireyourguns to tip three-deep. Then around the far turn the top two broke away from the field and it appeared obvious the race was going to one of them. Western Alumni tipped and out-dueled Best Ears to the wire, winning in a sparkling 1:53.2. The time was a seasonal mark for Western Alumni. Best Ears hung on for second and What The Sheik brushed home to be third.

It was the seventh win in 30 starts for Western Alumni ($13.80) and pushed his 2014 earnings to $61,517 for owner North Creek Racing, LLC. The 6-year-old son of Western Hanover is trained by Jerry Nugent Jr.

Drew Monti, Shawn McDonough and Jim McNeight all scored driving doubles on the night.

Racing resumes at Batavia Downs with a special Columbus Day matinee card on Monday (Oct. 13) with a 1:15 post time.

October 11, 2014 - 3:01pm
posted by Billie Owens in Batavia Downs, sports, harness racing.

Justgottogetthere with driver Jim McNeight

By Tim Bojarski for Batavia Downs

It was déjà vu all over again in the $9,250 Open trotting feature at Batavia Downs on Friday (Oct. 10) when Justgottogetthere ($8) scored his second consecutive top-class triumph in convincing style.

Justgottogetthere (Jim McNeight) left quickly to take the lead before yielding to Armed Dangerously (Jim Morrill Jr.) at the quarter. The rest of the field watched in post-position order as these two stood pat to the three-quarters in 1:27.2. At that point Justgottogetthere pulled the pocket to challenge the leader and the duel began. The pair trotted as one around the far turn before Justgottogetthere gained the advantage and opened a little space before holding off a late charge from BZ Glide (Mike Caprio) to win in 1:56.4. That was a new seasonal mark for Justgottogetthere. BZ Glide was second and Armed Dangerously hung on for third.

It was the second straight Open class victory for Justgottogetthere and the third win in 12 starts for the year. The purse pushed his 2014 earnings to $25,440 for owners Antonietta Landi and North Creek Racing, LLC. The 5-year-old son of Valley Victor is trained by Jerry Nugent Jr.

The co-feature Open II trot went even faster than the headliner when Second Hand News (Kevin Cummings) led wire to wire to win by four lengths in 1:56 flat. Second Hand News ninth win of the year tied his seasonal mark and inflated his bank account to $52,455 for owners Vogel & Wags Nags Stable and Kent Conshafter. Second Hand News is trained by Ron Van Wagoner.

Jim Morrill Jr. and Jim McNeight both scored driving triples while leading driver Kevin Cummings had a double.

Racing resumes at Batavia Downs on tonight (Oct. 11) with 12 events starting at 6:35.

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.

October 11, 2014 - 2:43pm
posted by Billie Owens in Batavia Downs, sports, harness racing, columbus day.

By Tim Bojarski for Batavia Downs

A special matinee card of harness racing will be held on Columbus Day (Monday, Oct. 13) at Batavia Downs and the afternoon will do more than offer the finest racing in Western New York. A complete slate of activities to honor the Italian-American heritage that is so prevalent in Batavia starts at noon and runs through the last race.

When the 12-race card kicks off at 1:15, there are two special races to watch for that will honor some very special people.

The sixth race is the Italian-American driver’s race which is also known as “the dash for the cannolis.” All eight drivers in the race are of Italian descent and will vie for bragging rights for the coming year. Rock Vinci, Denny Bucceri, Andy Torre, Rich Mays, Mike Caprio, Paul Zambito Jr., John Mungillo and Drew Monti will go postward to vie for the coveted Italian pastry prize (as well as the purse money).

Then after the seventh race, Batavia Downs Gaming will honor their 2014 Italian-American of the Year, Laurie Napoleone. An instructor at the Health Careers Academy of the Genesee Valley Educational Partnership, Napoleone (along with her husband Mark) founded the Michael Napoleone Memorial Foundation in honor of their 8-year-old son who died of Burkitt’s lymphoma. The foundation is designed to help families facing the challenges of pediatric cancer and to assist youth sports and activities in the community.

For racing fans who attend the live card, there are plenty of food and beverage specials throughout the facility.

The clubhouse will feature their famous $9.95 chicken barbeque. And for every dinner purchased you will receive a voucher back for $5 of free-play in the casino. So it’s like getting your dinner for $4.95. This offer is good from noon to 3 p.m. and reservations are strongly recommended.

On the track apron you will find $1 draft beer, $1 Sahlen’s hot dogs and $1 sodas. All will be available from noon through the last race.

If you want to get your weekend started early, Batavia Downs Gaming is giving away a free trip to Las Vegas on tonight (Oct. 11) sponsored by Trade Winds Travel. That’s all you have to do is swipe your Player’s Club card once when you get there and you are automatically eligible to win. That's all you need to do to have a chance at this $950 vacation.

Another great deal being offered this evening is the “Match Play” quinella wager in the sixth race. For every two $5 quinella bets you make you will receive $10 worth of free-play on the gaming floor. So it’s like getting a free $10 wager.

The Columbus Day matinee will be the last afternoon card of racing for 2014. Our racing schedule for the remainder of the meet will be Wednesday, Friday and Saturday with post time at 6:35.

October 9, 2014 - 11:47am
posted by Billie Owens in Batavia Downs, sports, harness racing.

By Tim Bojarski for Batavia Downs

Employing her patented late brush after tracking an early speed duel, Bazooka Terror ($4) dismantled a field of top distaff pacers in the $8,500 mares Open at Batavia Downs on Wednesday (Oct. 8) night.

Fiftyonefifty (John Cummings Jr.) and Soaring Honey (Dave McNeight III) battled each other hard for half a mile, each taking a lead through fractions of :27.1 and 56. By the time those two decided to play nice, last week’s winner Infrontigo Hanover (Jim McNeight) came first over with Dontch Remember (Shawn McDonough) and Bazooka Terror (Kevin Cummings) in tow. Just as Infrontigo Hanover took the lead halfway up the backside, Cummings tipped Bazooka Terror three-deep and paced around the field like they were tied to a post. Once the mare cleared, Cummings put the whip on his shoulder and let his charge close out the race. Bazooka Terror paced away to a devastating six-length wrapped-up victory in 1:53.4.

Dontch Remember was second and Mondatta (Mike Caprio) was third.

It was the ninth win in 35 starts for Bazooka Terror and pushed her 2014 earnings to $71,307 for owner Leonard Segall. Although the clocking was not a lifetime mark for the 5-year-old daughter of Western Terror, it was the fastest she had ever paced over a half-mile track. Bazooka Terror is trained by James Clouser Jr.

Kevin Cummings, John Cummings Jr., Ron Beback Jr. and Shawn McDonough all scored driving doubles on the night.

Racing resumes at Batavia Downs on Friday (Oct. 10) at 6:35.

October 9, 2014 - 11:20am
posted by Billie Owens in Batavia Downs, sports, harness racing.

By Tim Bojarski for Batavia Downs

Each year Batavia Downs signature event is the $50,000 Robert J. Kane Memorial invitational pace. The race has played host to some of the biggest names in harness racing. It is named for the former chairman of the board of the Western Regional Off-Track Betting Corporation, owner of Batavia Downs Gaming.

The six-million-dollar man, Foiled Again, won the race twice in 2009 and 2013 and Aracache Hanover set the all-time track record of 1:51.1 with his victory in 2011.

This year’s edition will be held on Saturday, Oct. 18, and the condition sheet has already been released so that any interested horsemen can enter their horses as early as today.

Besides the $50,000 Kane Memorial Pace, there are many other premium racing opportunities that night, including the $12,500 Brian Schroeder Open trot, $10,000 horses and geldings Open pace, $10,000 filly and mares Open pace and $7,500 mares Open trot. The box for all races for that night closes at 9 a.m. on Wednesday, Oct.15.

Entries can be made and inquiries can be placed by calling Race Secretary Joe Zambito at 585-344-6161.

October 5, 2014 - 2:12pm
posted by Billie Owens in Batavia Downs, sports, harness racing.

Fireyourguns and What The Shiek tie for win, just ahead of Western Alumni.

By Tim Bojarski for Batavia Downs

The Saturday night (Oct. 4) Open pace at Batavia Downs provided one of the most exciting finishes racing fans have seen at the oldest lighted harness track in North America this year. The top three horses finished a neck apart and when the photo was examined, What The Sheik and Fireyourguns tripped the light at the exact same time.

When the race got under way, Western Alumni (Jim McNeight) took an early lead as What The Sheik (Jim Morrill Jr.) and Fireyourguns (Mike Caprio) got away fourth and sixth, respectively. The order stayed unchanged to the half when Fireyourguns pulled from the rear and flushed What The Sheik for live cover. That outer flow made minimal progress pacing toward the three-quarters as Western Alumni was sitting on a two-length lead. At the top of the lane it appeared as if the leader was home free, but when Fireyourguns tipped three-wide he prompted What The Sheik to pace on and the pair hit the wire in tandem just a head in front of Western Alumni, who hung on for third. The mile was timed in 1:56.1.

It was the sixth win of the year for What The Sheik ($2.90) who is trained by Gerry Sarama for owner Mike Torcello and the 12th win of the year for Fireyourguns ($2.50) who is trained by Terence McClory who owns the horse with Jennifer and Robert Lowe.

A pair of drivers accounted for seven of the 12 winners during the night. Jim McNeight recorded a grand slam with Maradona ($9.50), Hopskipanajump ($8.70), The Maniac ($4.20) and Flight Crew ($19.40) and Jim Morrill Jr. had a three-bagger with Unicorn Hanover ($20.00), What The Sheik ($2.90) and Muncie ($4.30). It was a natural hat trick that occurred in races six, seven and eight for driver Morrill, trainer Gerry Sarama and owner Mike Torcello.

Racing resumes at Batavia Downs on Wednesday night (Oct. 8) at 6:35 and kicks off the Downs new racing schedule of Wednesday, Friday and Saturday nights, all with a 6:35 post time.

October 4, 2014 - 3:25pm
posted by Billie Owens in Batavia Downs, sports, harness racing.

Justgottogetthere with driver Jim NcNeight

By Tim Bojarski for Batavia Downs

The winds of change blew through Western New York Friday night (Oct. 3) and the rain fell along with the temperature. But the inclement conditions did not dampen the performance of Justgottogetthere as he won the $9,250 Open trotting feature at Batavia Downs.

The short field of six got even shorter after Live Jazz (John Cummings Jr.) made a break leaving in the first turn. That left Justgottogetthere (Jim McNeight) a clear path to the front. But co-favorite Armed Dangerously (Jim Morrill Jr.) who left right behind the leader was trotting side-by-side with him, giving Serious George (Kevin Cummings) a perfect garden spot trip. After hitting the half in :58 flat, the parking ticket took its toll and Armed Dangerously started to falter. That left Justgottogetthere a gapped leader waiting for a bid from the pocket-sitting Serious George. That challenge came down the lane but it was too little, too late. Justgottogetthere got there by a diminishing one-length lead to win in 1:58.3. Serious George was second and a late closing Keystone Bernard was third.

It was the second win in 10 starts for Justgottogetthere ($4.80) and boosted his 2014 earnings to $20,815 for owners Antonietta Landi and North Creek Racing LLC. The lightly raced 5-year-old son of Valley Victor is trained by Jerry Nugent Jr.

Jim Morrill Jr. was on hand Friday to put on another driving clinic. He rendezvoused with owners five times in the Purple Haze winners circle as he scored with Medicine Ed ($7.30), Release The Terror ($6.10), Missmaximus ($7.00), The Bronx Bumper ($7.50) and Story Book ($5.30). Morrill is currently second in North America among all drivers for percentage, sporting a gaudy .401 UDR. And on the strength of the night's performance, he drew even closer to the top-spot.

Racing resumes at Batavia Downs on tonight (Oct. 4) at 6:35. The Pick-6 carry-over pool has grown to $2,296 and will be up for grabs starting with race seven.

October 3, 2014 - 12:09pm
posted by Billie Owens in Batavia Downs, sports, harness racing.

By Tim Bojarski for Batavia Downs

Batavia Downs has announced its new fall schedule which will be effective starting next week. Live racing will be conducted three nights a week on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday nights through Dec. 6 with a 6:35 post time. The one exception to that will be on Columbus Day, Oct. 13, when the final matinee of the year will be held at 1:15 p.m.

Batavia Downs is also offering some great wagering opportunities this weekend when growing carry-over pools are once again available on Friday. The pick-5 pool is at $532 and the pick-6 carry-over is $1,972. The pick-5 is a .50 minimum bet and runs from race five through race nine. The pick-6 is a minimum $2 wager and runs from race seven to race 12.

Then on Saturday night, harness racing bingo will make its return by popular demand. America’s oldest lighted harness track will feature this promotion and put $750 in gaming free-plays and betting vouchers up for grabs for those attending that night who play.

The first 25 people that get regular bingo win $10 gaming free-plays. The first three people to get letter “X” win $100 wagering vouchers and first person to get full-board bingo wins a $200 wagering voucher. The entire amount of the vouchers must be wagered on Batavia Downs races.

Bingo is free to play and racing fans can pick up their bingo card starting at 5 p.m. at Players Club located on the gaming floor.

In addition, Sahlen’s hot dogs, sodas and draft beer will be available for just $1 beginning at 5:30 p.m.

For a complete list of events and promotions please visit <http://www.bataviadownsgaming.com>

October 1, 2014 - 11:46pm
posted by Billie Owens in Batavia Downs, sports, harness racing.

Infrontigo Hanover with driver Jim McNeight.

By Tim Bojarski for Batavia Downs

Timing is everything and driver Jim McNeight had his down to a science Wednesday night (Oct. 1) in winning the $8,500 mares Open pace feature at Batavia Downs with Infrontigo Hanover.

Going directly to the wood off the gate, McNeight settled Infrontigo Hanover in fourth while Taylor Rei (Aaron Byron) and Fiftyonefifty (Mike Whelan) played give-and-go to the quarter. When the dust settled at that post in :28.2, McNeight saw his chance and Infrontigo Hanover was quickly pulled at the three-eighths and took the lead before they hit the half.

From then on the only thing left to figure out was how fast and by how many? Infrontigo Hanover opened up a six-length lead going to the three-quarters in 1:25, then turned the corner and paced home uncontested to a wrapped-up three and one-half length victory in a new lifetime mark of 1:54.2. The winner paid $9.10.

Bazooka Terror (Kevin Cummings) closed sharply for second and Dontch Remember (Ronnie Wrenn Jr.) finished third.

It was the fourth win in 28 starts for Infrontigo Hanover and raised her seasonal earnings to $34,844 for owners Summer Wind Stable of New York, Inc., and Bob Gruber. The 6-year-old Western Hanover mare is trained by Bob Gruber.

Second leading North American dash winning driver Ronnie Wrenn Jr. was at the Downs Wednesday and pulled closer to leader Aaron Merriman as he came away with five winners on the card. He scored with Kill A Rockingbird ($28.60), Blissful Escape ($3.90), Delightful Syd ($5.80), Stonetag ($4.40) and Helena’s Hope ($3.30). Jim McNeight had the hat trick and Kevin Cummings doubled up.

Racing resumes at Batavia Downs on Friday night (Oct. 3) with post time at 6:35.

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 - 1:35pm
posted by Billie Owens in Batavia Downs, sports, harness racing.

Burton Blue Chip and driver Lee Dahn.

By Tim Bojarski for Batavia Downs

Lightly regarded Burton Blue Chip and driver Lee Dahn took full advantage of the rail to position themselves for a perfect trip en route to victory in the Saturday night (Sept. 20) Open pace feature at Batavia Downs.

Burton Blue Chip ($16.20) took the field to a peppy :27.3 first quarter before Fireyourguns (Mike Caprio) gained the lead at that station after being parked-out from the start. With the 8 on top, the rest of the field then marched in post-position order until the clubhouse turn when an outer flow developed with Rock N Roll Legend (Kevin Cummings) and Big Unit (Mike Whelan).

When the group passed the three-quarters in 1:25.4, it started to get crowded up front. Fireyourguns was still on the lead with Rock N Roll Legend outside and Big Unit tipped three-deep. But Burton Blue Chip was lying in wait behind the leader since the quarter. At the head of the stretch the rail opened up and rewarded the patient Burton Blue Chip with a straight line to the wire and a one-length triumph in 1:55.2. What The Sheik (Dave McNeight III) closed from last to be second and Cactus Jack (Shawn McDonough) was third.

It was the sixth win in 28 starts for the 5-year-old American Ideal gelding and boosted his 2014 earnings to $39,710. The 1:55.2 clocking tied his lifetime mark set earlier this year. Burton Blue Chip is owned by Lee and Larry Dahn and is trained by Lee Dahn.

Driver Kevin Cummings registered another grand slam Saturday with Precise Accusation ($6.50), Freaky Flyer ($6.20), Most Happy Rider ($6.80) and Golden Star Spike ($5). Drivers Ron Beback Jr. and Mike Whelan also scored driving doubles.

Racing resumes at Batavia Downs on Tuesday night at 6:35.

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 20, 2014 - 12:57pm
posted by Billie Owens in Batavia Downs, sports, harness racing.

By Tim Bojarski for Batavia Downs

After watching the proceedings from last for a half, noted closer BZ Glide swooped the field for the third time in the last four weeks to take the featured $9,500 Open trot at Batavia Downs on Friday night (Sept. 19).

Even money post-time favorite Lutetium (Kevin Cummings) did what he does best and blasted to the front in :28 flat. But just as soon as he settled, Armed Dangerously (Jim Morrill Jr.) had pulled from fifth and was floating up the outside. As they passed the half in :57.1, Morrill’s charge sputtered but the cavalry was right behind. Sack Full Of Gold (Michael Whelan) was rolling up the rim and Justgottogetthere (Jim McNeight) and BZ Glide (Mike Caprio) had tipped three-high and were barreling.

Around the entire last turn, Lutetium, Justgottogetthere and BZ Glide were three deep from the rail out. But when they hit the head of the lane, BZ Glide became a man among boys and put away the competition under a hand-drive from Caprio. BZ Glide won by a length in 1:56.4 which was a seasonal mark for the Yankee Glide gelding and also matched his lifetime mark set last year. The winner returned $10.40.

Justgottogetthere hung on for second and Serious George (Jack Flanigen) was third. It was the seventh win in 18 starts for BZ Glide and the victory topped off his 2014 bank at $52,105 for owner Mike Caprio. BZ Glide is trained by Alana Caprio.

Driver Kevin Cummings scored another driving triple on the night while Jim Morrill Jr. and Ray Fisher Jr. both tallied doubles.

Racing resumes at Batavia Downs on Saturday (Sept. 20) with a 6:35 post.

September 18, 2014 - 1:39pm
posted by Billie Owens in Batavia Downs, sports, harness racing.

Mc Taylor and driver Ray Fisher Jr.

By Tim Bojarski for Batavia Downs

Hopefully they looked at her face before the race because that’s all they saw was tail once she set sail.

Distaff pacing invader Mc Taylor (Ray Fisher Jr.) made quick and easy work of the local gals as she convincingly led from gate to wire in the mares Open pace at Batavia Downs on Wednesday night (Sept. 17).

As soon as the gate drove away, Ray Fisher Jr. made a beeline for the front and opened up a gapped three-length lead at the quarter. He then set a blistering pace that took the mare to the three-quarters pole in 1:24 flat, on the lead by 10 lengths. At that point the rest of the field became mere spectators relegated to arguing for minor spoils. Mc Taylor cruised home to a shutdown seven-length victory in 1:53.2, which was only two-fifths of a second off the track record for aged pacing mares set by Xenia Hanover (1:53) in 2013. Sent off as the third betting choice, the 7-year-old Camluck mare returned $11.40 for the win.

Dontch Remember (Shawn McDonough) finished second and Dirty Girty (Jim McNeight) was third.
This was the fifth win in 26 starts for Mc Taylor who is owned by Robert Main and trained by Jason Robinson. The winner’s share of the purse boosted here lifetime earnings to an impressive $328,050.

Drivers Ray Fisher Jr. and Ron Beback Jr. both scored driving triples on the card and Jack Flanigen chimed in with a double.

Racing resumes at Batavia Downs on Friday (Sept. 19) with post time set for 6:35.

September 14, 2014 - 1:33pm
posted by Billie Owens in Batavia Downs, sports, harness racing.

Best Ears (#3) with driver Jack Flanigen.

By Tim Bojarski for Batavia Downs

After a perfect trip in a short field, Best Ears scored his second Open pace victory in the last three weeks, capturing the featured race in 1:54.4.

Favored Western Alumni (Jim McNeight) took early command and led an unfettered life through a causal :57 half. With no other takers, driver Jack Flanigen pulled Best Ears and came first over to pressure the leader and that’s when it got interesting. McNeight stepped up the pace with a :28.3 third panel to try and put some distance between his horse and the approaching conqueror but they couldn't stem the tide. Best Ears roared alongside and the two paced as a pair to the top of the lane. Halfway down the stretch, Best Ears got the advantage and took the lead and held off a late charging What The Sheik (Dave McNeight III) in the process. What The Sheik finished second and Western Alumni hung on for third.

It was the seventh win in 31 starts for Best Ears and increased his 2014 earnings to $49,017 for owners Joseph Amico Jr. and Joseph Amico. The winner returned $5.90.

Driver Shawn McDonough scored a driving triple on the night with Kevin Cummings and Jack Flanigen both bagging doubles.

Racing resumes on Tuesday at Batavia Downs with post time set for 6:35.

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