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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.

September 13, 2014 - 12:49pm
posted by Billie Owens in Batavia Downs, sports, harness racing.

BZ Glide with driver Mike Caprio.

By Tim Bojarski for Batavia Downs

For the second straight week and three out of his last four, BZ Glide came from well off the lead via a furious stretch drive to capture the $9,500 top trotting feature at Batavia Downs on Friday (Sept. 12).

Heavy post-time favorite Lutetium (Kevin Cummings) sprang off the gate, circled around co-leaver Sack Full Of Gold (Drew Monti) and made his way to the lead immediately after the third race started. He pulled the field along to a :59.4 half before coming under attack from Justgottogetthere (Jim McNeight) who was motoring up the outside.

While the top two were slugging it out past the five-eighths, BZ Glide (Mike Caprio) was seven lengths off, sitting seventh on the rail before Caprio got his steer in gear. By the time the trotters hit the top of the lane, BZ Glide was on Justgottogetthere’s back and in full flight tipping three-deep. As Lutetium was fading back to the pack, BZ Glide was circling the stagnant Justgottogetthere to take the lead, the race and the winner’s share of the purse. The 5-year-old Yankee Glide gelding tripped the timer in 1:58 and paid $12.20 for the win.

BZ Glide is owned by his driver, Mike Caprio, and is trained by Alana Caprio. It was the sixth win in 17 starts and his effort increased his annual income to $47,355.

Reinsmen Kevin Cummings and Shawn McDonough both scored driving hat tricks and Dave McNeight III posted a double.

Racing resumes at Batavia Downs today (Sept.13) with post time set for 6:35.

September 11, 2014 - 6:26am
posted by Billie Owens in Batavia Downs, sports, harness racing.

It's A Miracle out front with driver Drew Monti.

By Tim Bojarski for Batavia Downs

In what has become a fairly regular event, a ship-in mare circled the locals in the top distaff race at Batavia Downs on Wednesday (Sept. 10) night. It’s A Miracle ($3.40) with Drew Monti aboard, proved to be the best mare on the grounds this week despite having to take the overland route in a pelting rain.

As the starter released the girls for the seventh race feature, last week’s winner She’s A Maniac (Jim McNeight) flew to the front and led the field in post-position order behind her to the quarter in :28.1. Halfway through the turn, Monti pulled It’s A Miracle and flushed Dontch Remember (Shawn McDonough) for live cover as they motored to the half in :57.4.

The field got small as they were three in and three out at the three-quarters in 1:26.2 when Monti yanked the right line and tipped the 4-year-old Always A Virgin mare three-high. Around the last turn it was She’s A Maniac at the pylons with Dontch Remember outside of her and It’s A Miracle outside of her. When they straightened out, Kevin Cummings swung notorious closer Bazooka Terror four-deep around the pack and chased It’s A Miracle all the way down the stretch. But their effort was to no avail as Monti basically line-drove his mare to the wire, victorious in 1:55.3.

Bazooka Terror was second and Dontch Remember was third.

This was the fifth win in 28 starts for It’s A Miracle, boosting her annual earnings to $94,450 for owners Blindswitch Racing Stable, Santo Farina, David Sebolsky and Stanley Yaskowitz. It’s A miracle is trained by Jose Godinez.

The Monti/Godinez team also captured the co-featured mares Open II with Cooking The Books ($7.10) in a similar off-the-pace fashion, winning by two lengths in 1:55.

Downs driving domineer Kevin Cummings scored another grand slam on Wednesday night, giving him 68 wins for the meet and 242 for the year. Cummings is the 10th leading UDR driver in North America with a .355 mark.

Racing resumes at Batavia Downs on Friday (Sept. 12) with post time set for 6:35.

September 7, 2014 - 11:13am
posted by Billie Owens in Batavia Downs, sports, harness racing.

By Tim Bojarski for Batavia Downs

Betting Exchange and Berkley were on the outside looking in at the $1.8 million Night of Champions at Yonkers coming into last night’s final leg of the New York Sire Stakes 2-year-old pacing colt and gelding division. But winning heals all and that’s exactly what they both did to advance to the final next Saturday.

In the first $54,500 contest, Betting Exchange (Bettor’s Delight-Cheeky Hanover) scored his second win in a row to move from ninth to sixth overall in the standings and lock up a spot in the $225,000 final.

Betting Exchange came off the wings for driver Jim Morrill Jr. and went right to the front to cut the mile. After briefly settling in fourth, Americanprimetime and Mark MacDonald pulled and came up to challenge the leader. That move found the colt getting parked through fractions of :27.3, :56 and 1:25.2 before packing it in around the last turn. From that point on Betting Exchange ran away and hid, winning the race by three lengths in 1:55.1. The winner paid $5.70.

Betting Exchange with driver Jim Morrill Jr.

Play The Field (Kevin Cummings) was second and K Ryan Bluechip (Joe Pavia Jr.) was third.

It was the second win in five starts for Betting Exchange and boosted his earnings to $66,125 for owners Howard Taylor, Susan Kajfasz and Tom Fanning, who also trains the horse.

After the race Morrill said “I didn’t really want to get into a speed duel but he felt real good tonight so I let him roll. After he fought off Americanprimetime he paced very strong to the wire.”

In the second $54,500 split, Berkley (Art Major-Monterey) caught his competitors and the betting public asleep as he upset both with a strong stretch-drive victory at 17-1. The win boosted him from tenth to seventh in the standings and also qualified him for the lucrative NYSS final.

Mark MacDonald sent Bet You out like a rocket and paced strongly on the lead to an uncontested :58.1 half when Southwind Masimo and Mike LaChance came first-over to challenge. That encounter was short lived when the pack straightened out up the backside and Bet You shifted gears to hold the group at bay. To this point, Joe Pavia Jr. had Berkley sitting comfortably in the pocket behind the leader, just waiting to take his best shot at the head of the lane. Bet You opened up a two length lead coming for home but the fresh-legged Berkley rolled off the pylons and right by the leader with a furious brush to pull the upset in 1:55.3. The winner returned $36.

Berkley with driver Joe Pavia Jr.

Bet You hung on to be second and Southwind Masimo was third.

This was the first win in nine starts this year for Berkley and raised his bank to $58,620 for owners Randy Bendis, Reed Broadway and Thomas Pollack. Berkley is trained by Ed Hart.

Pavia had a glowing review saying “I was really impressed how good Ed (trainer Hart) had him tonight. He was much improved and raced super. He got a real good trip and we took advantage of it.”

There were also three divisions of the Excelsior A series on the card, each going for $12,600.

The first division was won by Heaven Rocks (Rock N Roll Heaven-Cheerful Outlook) who was driven by Brent Holland in 1:56.1 and returned $4.70. He is owned by Paymag Racing, Greg Gillis, Mystical Marker Farms LLC and Louis Willinger and trained by Erv Miller.

The second leg was won by Soto (Rock n Roll Heaven-Incredible Beauty) who was driven by Mark MacDonald in 1:55.2 to pay $4.90. He is owned by Christina Takter, John Fielding, R A W Equine, Inc., and Jim Fielding and is trained by Jimmy Takter.

The final split was won by Mystical Pacer (Bettor’s Delight-Take My Pulse) who was driven by Brent Holland in 1:56.4 and paid $6.10. He is owned by Mystical Marker Farms, Paymag Racing and Ron Michelon and is trained by Erv Miller.

Driver Jim Morrill Jr. scored a driving grand slam while Mark MacDonald and Brent Holland both registered doubles on the night.

Racing resumes at Batavia Downs on Tuesday evening with a 6:35 post time.

September 6, 2014 - 1:01pm
posted by Billie Owens in Batavia Downs, sports, harness racing.

BZ Glide pulls ahead to victory with driver Mike Caprio.

By Tim Bojarski for Batavia Downs

Sometimes victory is hard fought and other times it comes without effort. This week, BZ Glide cruised from second last to the winners circle in the $9,000 Open trot at Batavia Downs with nary a nudge from driver Mike Caprio.

At the start of the race, Armed Dangerously (Shawn McDonough) made a break almost immediately as the rest of the field pulled away in post-position order. Dartmouth Hall (Kevin Cummings) then led the troops through a pedestrian :29.1 quarter and 1:00.1 half, where Caprio pulled BZ Glide just before that station.

The 5-year-old son of Yankee Glide slowly and methodically gained ground on the leader without much urgency displayed from his driver. As the bunch hit the three-quarter pole in 1:29, BZ Glide had pulled even with Dartmouth Hall and then forged ahead from that point forward. Caprio hand-drove the gelding from there winning by a widening two-length margin in 1:58.2. The 1-2 favorite paid $3 to win.

Sack Full of Gold (Jim McNeight) who had followed the winner second over was second and Serious George (Jack Flanigen) snuck up the rail to be third.

This was the fifth win in 16 starts for BZ Glide and raised his yearly earnings to $42,605 for his owner Mike Caprio and trainer Alana Caprio.

Reinsmen Ron Beback Jr., Jack Flanigen, Shawn McDonough, Jim McNeight and Drew Monti all scored driving doubles on the card.

Racing resumes at Batavia Downs on Saturday night (Sept. 5) and features the $109,000 New York Sire Stakes for 2-year-old pacing colts and geldings. Post time is 6:35.

September 5, 2014 - 3:12pm
posted by Billie Owens in Batavia Downs, sports, harness racing.

By Tim Bojarski for Batavia Downs

The last chance to see the best bred standardbreds in the Empire State race at Batavia Downs this year occurs on Saturday night (Sept. 6) when the New York Sire Stakes makes its last stop at the Genesee County oval for 2014. The 2-year-old pacing colts and geldings are featured as the stars of tomorrow and will compete for $109,000 in purses.

The first $54,500 NYSS division goes as the fifth race and features seven pacers going postward.

Americanprimetime (American Ideal-Prime Example A) is currently ranked second in points for the Night of Champions finals for his sex and gait and boasts a 1:52.4 lifetime mark at Tioga Downs this year. This Rick Dane Jr. trained colt likes to be on the front end and will get his chance here scoring from post three. He has made two breaks in his six starts but when he is on his game he’s hard to beat. Brent Holland will sit behind Americanprimetime for the first time in this race.

Betting Exchange (Bettor’s Delight-Cheeky Hanover) beat Americanprimetime last week at Vernon Downs en route to taking his lifetime mark of 1:51.1. He has been lightly raced due to an injury in July and has only four starts this year. But he’s made the most of the opportunities he has had and appears to be improving with every start. Betting Exchange needs points to move up in the standing in order to make the final and this will be his last chance to do it. Top NYSS reinsman Jim Morrill Jr. is aboard for trainer Tom Fanning.

Azorean Art (Art Major-Dancin Barefoot) is trained by Hall of Famer Jimmy Takter and looks to be coming into this race sharp as a tack. Also coming off a lifetime mark of 1:52.3 at Vernon last week, Azorean Art overcame road trouble the entire race and still found a way to win. Driver Mark MacDonald drove him for the first time in that victory and is back in the sulky here. Azorean Art is currently fifth in the standings but could move up substantially with a win.

The second $54,500 NYSS division goes as race nine and has the top horse in the series competing in it.

Southwind Masimo (Bettor’s Delight-Max’s Leading Lady) is a perfect four-for-four this year and all in NYSS action. He has won both on the front and from behind, and on both small and large tracks. The Pat LaChance trained colt took his lifetime mark of 1:54 at Tioga Downs, but he actually paced faster last quarters in his two starts at Yonkers. However Southwind Masimo is coming into this race off a scratch at Vernon last week when he reported sick, so the colt has not raced in 18 days. Whether or not this will affect his performance remains to be seen, but having Hall of Fame driver Mike LaChance on board will certainly help his cause.

Cartoon Daddy (Art Major-Ask Alice) has four wins in seven starts this year and oddly enough, all four wins were on half-mile tracks. He has a sparkling lifetime mark of 1:53.4 at Yonkers Raceway which is considerably faster than any other horse in this race has paced over a half-mile track. He is currently third in points and could vault to number one with a victory. Cartoon Daddy hails from the powerful Ron Burke stable and will be driven by Jim Morrill Jr.

Bet You (Bettor’s Delight-Armbro Amoretto) has two wins and three seconds in six starts this year and the only time he finished off the board was due to an interference break. Also a Takter trainee, Bet You has displayed racing versatility on the track and seems to be brave on the front end. His mark is 1:55.1 at Yonkers but he paced considerably faster in a just-beaten mile at Tioga Downs in 1:52.4. Bet You is right behind Cartoon Daddy in the points standing and could also take the top spot with a win. Mark MacDonald gets his second straight ride behind him in here.

There are also three divisions of the Excelsior series to be contested in races one, two and seven going for a total of $37,800. Post time for the first race is 6:35.

One other highlight for the night is the return of popular and second leading driver Shawn McDonough who was injured in a spill at Batavia Downs during a race on Labor Day. Only three days removed from the incident, McDonough will be back in the sulky on Friday night and is slated to drive the full card on Saturday.

McDonough said "I'm doing pretty good. My ankle is still sore but not too bad, and I have been taking it easy the last few days. But now I'm ready to come back."

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

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

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

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

September 4, 2014 - 12:02pm
posted by Billie Owens in Batavia Downs, sports, harness racing.

She's A Maniac with driver Jim McNeight.

By Tim Bojarski for Batavia Downs

After three-straight starts from post two in the $9,250 mares Open pace at Batavia Downs without a win, the fourth time was the charm for She’s A Maniac on Wednesday (Sept. 3) as the 7-year-old bay went wire-to-wire for driver Jim McNeight.

She’s A Maniac circled Real Joy (Drew Monti) out of the gate and took a comfortable one and one-half length lead to the quarter in :27.4. With the rest of the field in post position order behind her, the outer flow started toward her at the half in :57.1.

McNeight stepped up the pace to escape the pursuers with a :28.1 third panel as closer and mares Open winner for the last two weeks, Bazooka Terror, was being wound up by Kevin Cummings to take her best shot of the night. But fast and furious came up a bit short this week as the race-long leader completed the circuit in front with a 1:54.4 clocking. She's A Maniac returned $15.60 to her supporters.

Bazooka Terror was second and favored Little Santamonica (Truman Gale) was third.

This was the ninth win in 28 starts for She’s A Maniac bringing her seasonal earnings up to $72,965 for owner North Creek Racing LLC and trainer Jerry Nugent Jr.

Leading dash driver Kevin Cummings scored another grand slam on Wednesday night, finishing first with Lucky Style ($5.40), Peaceful Prince ($5.40), Fiftyonefifty ($4.40) and Helena’s Hope ($9.10).

Racing resumes Friday at Batavia Downs with a 6:35 post.

September 3, 2014 - 11:23am
posted by Billie Owens in Batavia Downs, sports, bike race.

Drew Monti edges out the competition at annual driver's bike race at Batavia Downs.

By Tim Bojarski for Batavia Downs

What has been the tradition on Labor Day at Batavia Downs since 1979, a renewal of the annual driver’s bike race took place on Monday (Sept. 1) with a full field of eight local reinsmen lining up to compete.

Among the contestants were two-time winner Denny Bucceri and last year’s winner Mickey Holliday. But it was newcomer Drew Monti who got the job done at the wire.

The starting car picked up the field at the top of the far turn and let them go at the head of the stretch for the one-eighth mile dash. As the pack got away from the gate, the bunched group began to break apart and Holliday found himself in a familiar spot; in front. But Monti was gaining momentum from sixth on the far outside. As they approached the wire, Holliday had a two-length open lead but Monti was flying down the track. Just before the finish, Holliday appeared to lose his rhythm and slowed just enough for the now motoring Monti to fly by him to win the race by a head.

After the race, the bikes were given away via random drawing to eight lucky fans from all who correctly selected Monti to win before the event.

Also on Monday afternoon, driver Kevin Cummings had a hot hand, winning five races on the card. He piloted Cheshire Cat ($4.60), Tsunami Dream ($6.20), Union Man Hanover ($2.70), Mr. Casual ($6.70) and The Manipulator ($14.40) to the winners circle. Dave McNeight III was right behind him with a driving triple steering Jon Win ($4.40), Kisses N Kicks ($3.30) and Tip N Go ($3.90) to victory.

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

Press release:

By Tim Bojarski for Batavia Downs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Any further updates will be released as they become available.

September 1, 2014 - 10:27am
posted by Billie Owens in Batavia Downs, sports, harness racing.

Upset victor Ken Doll J breaks ahead with driver Aaron Byron.

By Tim Bojarski for Batavia Downs

It was bombs-away at Batavia Downs Sunday (Aug. 31) when the heavily favored Major Dancer came up just short at the wire as 40-1 Ken Doll J pulled the surprise in a $39,900 division of the New York Sire Stakes for 3-year-old pacing fillies.

Off the gate Sweetnsinful (Jimmy Whittemore) took an uncontested lead around the turn and up the backside before the 1-2 Major Dancer (Jonathan Drury) rushed and took over the top as they hit the quarter in :27.1. After a pedestrian second split of :30.1, Table Talk (Jim Morrill Jr.) started the outer flow and Ken Doll J (Aaron Byron) followed in swift fashion.

Feeling the heat, Drury stepped on the gas and tried to pull away to the three-quarters with a :28 flat third panel. But the strategy was ineffective as the chasing pair continued to make up ground through the turn and into the stretch. From that point on it was a real horse race with a tiring Major Dancer coming back to Table Talk, who was outside of her and Ken Doll J, who was three-wide. When they hit the wire, Ken Doll J just got up in the final stride to win in 1:54 and light up the board. The winner paid $83.00.

Table Talk was second and Major Dancer hung on to be third.

This was the second win of the year for Ken Doll J (Bettor’s Delight-Normajeankillean) and also a seasonal mark. The victory brought her earnings up to $74,882 for owner Ken Jacobs. Ken Doll J is trained by Linda Toscano.

After the race, Byron said “Everything just worked out. I got a great trip and I didn't really have to do much to half. The filly was real good down the lane.”

Just Add Vodka pulls away to victory with driver Jim Morrill Jr.

In the first $39,900 division, Just Add Vodka (Jim Morrill Jr.) was the beneficiary of a patient steer and came away with a three-quarter length victory as a result.

Up Front Elizabeth (Mark MacDonald) flew off the wings and led the field through a quick and gapped :27 quarter in post-position order. The story remained the same to the half in :56.3 when Carlota Blue Chip (Jack Flanigen) pulled and tried to apply some heat. She was only able to get up to third on the outside before stalling with two other horses behind her at the three-quarters in 1:25.

When the outer flow faded around the last turn it allowed the rail-riding Barefoot Beauty (Jimmy Whittemore) to come off the pylons and that in turn left a spot for Just Add Vodka (Jim Morrill Jr.) to shoot up inside. At the head of the stretch, the bearing-out Up Front Elizabeth was in the middle with Barefoot Beauty to her right and Just Add Vodka to her left. The three battled to the wire with Just Add Vodka getting the advantage at the end to win by three-quarters of a length in 1:54.2.

Barefoot Beauty was second and Up Front Elizabeth was third.

It was the third win of the year for the Julie Miller trained filly that also happened to be a new lifetime mark. The victory boosted the seasonal earnings of Just Add Vodka (Art Major-Regal Wish) to $94,233 for owners Blue Chip Bloodstock, Inc., Steven Demeter, Herbert Burns III and Nahuel Agosti.

Morrill praised both the horse and trainer saying “I can't believe how much better she was today. Julie did a great job getting her ready.”

Spreester with driver Jason Bartlett

In the second $39,200 split, Spreester (Jason Bartlett) made quick work of a short field and two breaking horses to register a five-length romp in the fastest of the three divisions.

As the field went into the first turn, Delightful Dragon (Mark MacDonald) made an uncharacteristic break and watched as the rest of the field pulled away. Sky Artist (Kevin Cummings) was on the point but Medusa (Aaron Byron) was pushing the issue outside at the quarter in :26.4. But Medusa appeared to get foul-gaited and Byron took her back to the wood fourth. Then Blush Hanover (Jim Morrill Jr.) pulled from second to challenge but also made a break before the half in :56.1.

So with two of the three favorite guilty of miscues, Spreester, who had been sitting second through it all, pulled past the five-eighths, circled and cleared the leader before they hit the three-quarter pole in 1:25.3. When she got back to the pylons, Bartlett popped the plugs and became a passenger as Spreester shifted gears and simply paced away from everybody. She hit the wire a five-length wrapped-up winner in 1:53.3. The winner paid $5.60 to her supporters.

Delightful Dragon recovered from the early break to be second and Sky Artist hung on for third.

This was the sixth win in 14 starts for Spreester (American Ideal-Rodeo Spree) and the Paul Zabielski trained filly topped off her bank at $134,680. Spreester is owned by Kimberly Zabielski.

Bartlett commented “I really didn't want to sit in the two-hole but they kept blowing up around me. She just exploded down the lane.”

The results of today’s NYSS contests were important in the point’s standings leading into the Night of Champions finals. Spreester took over the top spot, Just Add Vodka moved from fifth to third and Ken Doll J vaulted herself from 12th to seventh.

There was also an Excelsior leg contested and was won by Expose who was driven by Jim Morrill Jr. in 1:56.3. The winner paid $6.80. Expose is trained by Linda Toscano and is owned by Linwood Higgins, Stake Your Claim Stable, Brittany Farms and Val D’Or Farms.

Driver Jim Morrill Jr. registered a four-win afternoon and Mark MacDonald scored a double.

Racing resumes at Batavia Downs today (Sept. 1) with a special Labor Day matinee card slated to start at 1:15.

August 31, 2014 - 1:39pm
posted by Billie Owens in Batavia Downs, sports, harness racing.

Best Ears and driver Jack Flanigen

By Tim Bojarski for Batavia Downs

With an eighth of a mile to go, two lengths separated the seven horses that competed in Saturday night’s (Aug. 30) $9,500 Open pace at Batavia Downs and the final result came down to the wire. But when they crossed the line, Best Ears used his head as the margin of victory in the night’s feature race.

When the man said go in the seventh race, Big Unit (Kevin Cummings) bolted from post two and took an immediate lead off the gate. Best Ears (Jack Flanigen) left from the four hole and was parked, but methodically worked his way towards the leader through a :27.3 first quarter. After not being able to take control at the point, Flanigen tucked Best Ears in second behind the hard-rolling leader before the pack hit the half in 55.3.

Then Ready To Work (Jim McNeight) came barreling from behind to take his shot at the top. He led a dull outer flow to the three-quarters in 1:25 before actually drawing near the leader. As they started to bunch around the far turn, Burton Blue Chip (Lee Dahn) swung three-deep around Ready To Work and Best Ears was sitting cool in the pocket behind Big Unit. But Big Unit fell victim to his own fast pace at the head of the lane and started to fade. When they headed down the stretch, Ready To Work took over the lead before Best Ears found the passing lane and shot through in time to win by a head in 1:55. The post time favorite returned $3.40.

Ready To Work was second and Burton Blue Chip was third.

It was the sixth win in 29 starts for Best Ears who now has a total of $42,017 earned for 2014. The 5-year-old Shark Gesture gelding is trained by Frank Mastrodonato for owners Joe Amico and Joe Amico Jr.

Editor's Note: Racing is under way now, Aug. 31; it started at 1:15. The card features three divisions of the New York Sire Stakes for 3-year-old pacing fillies.

August 30, 2014 - 12:22pm
posted by Billie Owens in Batavia Downs, sports, harness racing.

By Tim Bojarski for Batavia Downs

On Sunday afternoon (Aug. 31) the New York Sire Stakes 3-year-old pacing fillies come to town to compete for their cut of $119,000 in purses.

The group is highlighted by Major Dancer (Art Major-Two Steppin’ Sally), who is currently the fourth highest money earning 3-year-old pacing filly in North America with $201,644 in the bank. She is a seven-time winner in 12 attempts and has only finished out of the money once this year. She won the $46,248 Town Pro stake at Mohawk Raceway earlier this year in her lifetime best time of 1:51.2 as well as an elimination of the Empire Breeders Classic at Tioga Downs in 1:51.4. She finished second in the $244,875 final to Precocious Beauty in a 1:51.1 mile.

Major Dancer will be driven by Jonathan Drury for trainer Casie Coleman. She is listed as the 8-5 morning line favorite in the third $39,900 NYSS division carded as the eighth race that also features A La Notte Hanover driven by Matt Kakaley and Table Talk with Jim Morrill Jr. at the lines.

A La Notte Hanover (Art Major-All Night Long) starts for the powerful Ron Burke stable and is a two-time winner in 2014. She won her last outing at Yonkers in NYSS action with an impressive 1:55 wire-to-wire victory that brought her bankroll up to $87,733 for the year. She also competed in the Empire Breeders Classic and finished close despite having a lot of traffic to deal with in both of those races.

Table Talk (Bettor’s Delight-Place At The Table) took an early seasons mark of 1:51.4 at Mohawk and has competed in the $420,900 Fan Hanover Stake and $212,150 Mistletoe Shallee where she paced back-to-back 1:49 miles for driver Tim Tetrick. She has been plagued with some bad posts and a breaking issue of late but looks to be in a good spot here for trainer Brad Dalious.

In the first $39,900 division carded as the fourth race, Ron Burke and Julie Miller have the one-two punch going to post. Burke sends out Jaded Dream and Miller counters with Just Add Vodka.

Jaded Dream (If I Can Dream-Jaded Gal) put forth a handy effort at Yonkers in her last, winning a NYSS leg there in 1:54.4. It <> was a welcome sight after a series of poor post draws and the resulting tough trips. She has three wins in 13 starts and $62,586 in the bank. Matt Kakaley is back in the bike behind her for the first time since June 18.

Just Add Vodka (Art Major-Regal Wish) only has two wins this year but has been consistently in the money; 13 out of 16 starts and that made her $74,283 for the year. Her mark of 1:55.3 was at Monticello but she has paced considerably faster than that in defeat on several occasions. Jim Morrill Jr. who has driven her several times over the summer gets the assignment.

The second $39,200 division which goes as the seventh race has three very tough competitors going post-ward and looks to be the most closely contested event. It features the first, second and fourth leading points leaders for this sex and gait in the NYSS this year.

Blush Hanover (Art Major-Brissonte Hanover) currently tops the leader board and comes into this race sporting five 2014 wins for trainer Linda Toscano. She finished a strong third in the Empire Breeders Classic final after a very rough parked-out trip. She has a 1:52 mark at the Meadowlands and has only failed to hit the board once out of 14 starts this year. Her $168,831 in earnings is tops in this field and she looks to add to that total in here with Jim Morrill Jr. at the helm.

Spreester (American Ideal-Rodeo Spree) is second in points despite also having recorded five victories. This filly can race on the front or from behind and that versatility makes her a formidable foe. Her $115,080 in earnings is also second highest in the field and driver Jason Bartlett who has driven this filly twice before with winning outcomes, opted to driver her today for trainer Paul Zabielski after having been down to steer two horses in this same race.

Medusa (Bettor’s Delight-Mythical) ranks fourth in points among the group but is not that far behind the leaders. She has seven wins in 14 starts and $102,723 stashed away. The Paul Kelley trainee has a lifetime mark of 1:51.2 at Vernon Downs and also had two good efforts in the Empire Breeders Classic races. Tioga Downs regular Aaron Byron gets the drive tonight from Tim Tetrick who had been at the lines for her last three starts.

Post time for Sunday's races is 1:15.

Batavia Downs also has a special Labor Day matinee 12-race card on tap for Monday (Sept. 1) with a 1:15 post.

August 28, 2014 - 4:59pm
posted by Billie Owens in Batavia Downs, sports, harness racing.

Sassa Hanover driven by Jim Morrill Jr.

By Tim Bojarski for Batavia Downs

There was a lot of action on Wednesday night (Aug. 27) at Batavia Downs and as the New York Sire Stakes headlined the racing, both man and beast were in top form.

The Ron Burke trained Sassa Hanover (Rock N Roll Heaven-Sayo Hanover) rewrote the record books when she toured the facility in a blistering 1:54.2, erasing the old mark of 1:54.4 for a 2-year-old pacing filly set by Barefoot Beauty just last year. This was the fourth track record set at Batavia Downs in 2014.

Jim Morrill Jr. left the gate with Sassa Hanover from post five in the $35,867 division and dropped in third behind the early leader Devil Child (Jimmy Whittemore) and the pocket sitting Yes You Can (Mike Whelan). But when they headed up the backside for the first time, Morrill quickly came out and overtook the leader by the quarter in :28.1 and at that point, the race was over.

Sassa Hanover got to the half in :57.1 and the three-quarters in 1:26.2 and from there her only adversary was the clock. Morrill popped the plugs past the last station and the slick-gaited filly paced her hips off down the lane in a :28 flat last quarter and the record breaking final time of 1:54.2. Sassa Hanover paid $2.10 for the win.

Devil Child (American Ideal-Kattimon) was second and Yes You Can (If I Can Dream-Cantbuymehappiness) was third.

This was the fifth win in six starts for Sassa Hanover and it boosted her bank account to $125,992 for owners Burke Racing Stable LLC, The Panhellenic Stable Corp, Weaver Bruscemi LLC and Lawrence Karr.

Mosquito Blue Chip driven by Jim Morrill Jr.

In the first $35,167 division, Mosquito Blue Chip (Bettor’s Delight-Sandfly Hanover) made it two in a row for trainer Paul Jessop and driver Jim Morrill Jr. but not without a tenuous ending.

My Little Delight (Mark MacDonald) left swiftly in the four horse field and spearheaded fractions of :27.4, :58.2 and 1:28.4. But the action picked up at the three-quarters when Pop The Tags (Brent Holland) came with a rush to challenge the front running filly around the turn and down the stretch. However when the rail opened up as the group straightened out, Mosquito Blue Chip buzzed through the gap and nipped the leader at the wire by a half-length in 1:56.3. The heavy 2-5 favorite returned $2.80 for the win.

My Little Delight (Bettor’s Delight-My Little Dragon) was second and Pop The Tags (Bettor’s Delight-Breathe) was third.

It was the second win in seven starts for Mosquito Blue Chip, pushing her annual income to $101,302 for owners Our Three Sons Stable LLC, Donato Falchicchio and Paul Jessop.

Bettor N Better driven by Jim Morrill Jr.

The final $35,867 division was as good as it could be for Bettor N Better (Bettor’s Delight-Vanite Semalu) as she won easily in her preferred front-running style. This was the second NYSS win on the night for trainer Ron Burke and the third for driver Jim Morrill Jr.

Off the wings, One Hot Majorette (Mike Saftic) flew right to the front from post six and crossed over by the eighth pole. Jim Morrill Jr. played give-and-go with Bettor N Better off the rail and retook the front as soon as they straightened out up the backside. But Heavenly Bride (Mark MacDonald) was immediately at her again and established the third lead change as they passed the quarter in :29.

Morrill, not content to sit in second, once again pulled Bettor N Better at the top of the stretch and retook the lead once more before they hit the half in :58. From there the race was Bettor N Better’s to be won. She took the group to the three-quarters in 1:27.4 before On Hot Majorette came back for one more challenge. That was quickly rebuffed and Bettor N Better paced away down the stretch to a length and a half victory in 1:56. The winner returned $2.10.

Heavenly Bride (Rock N Roll Heaven-Native Bride) was second and Heavens Legacy (Rock N Roll Heaven-Unique Legacy) was third.

That was the fourth win in six starts for Bettor N Better and pushed her earnings to $117,125 for owners Our Horse Sense Stable and Blue Chip Bloodstock, Inc.

Jim Morrill Jr. put on a driving clinic, scoring five wins and three seconds on the night. He was employing incremental positioning in many races where he made several moves within the mile to improve his horse’s location during the race and the strategy was paying off. Morrill is the leading NYSS driver this year and has been annually for some time. In 2014, horses he drove have won 41 NYSS races and earned in excess of $1.6 million in those contests.

After the races, Morrill spoke glowingly of all his charges.

“Sassa Hanover is a very, very nice filly. She didn't really get over the track that well tonight but we got the job done anyway. She will definitely be one to beat in the final at Yonkers. Mosquito Blue Chip drew well and then had the race set up perfect for her. When the rail opened up, she sprinted to wire and got across. And Bettor N Better is just a sweetheart, but she is very professional, too.  We were on cruise control the entire mile.”

There were also three divisions of the Excelsior A series on the card that offered a total of $36,000 in purses.

The first $12,600 division was won by Moremercy Blue Chip (Rock N Roll Heaven-Mercy Mercy Mercy) who is trained by Julie Miller and was driven by Chris Lems. The winner paid $4.70. Moremercy Blue Chip is owned by the Andy Miller Stable and the Pinske Stable.

The second $12,600 leg was won by Rock My world (Rock N Roll Heaven-Love The Game) who is trained by Ed hart and was driven by Jim Morrill Jr. She returned $4.20 for the win. Rock My world is owned by Jeffrey Snyder.

The third $12,700 split went to Hey Kobe (Bettor’s Delight-American West) who is trained by Jean Drolet and was driven by John Plutino. The victor returned $8.10. Hey Kobe is owned by Stephen Schneider, William Siegel and Marthe Drolet.

Racing resumes at Batavia Downs on Friday night (Aug. 29) with post time set at 6:35.

August 26, 2014 - 3:48pm
posted by Billie Owens in Batavia Downs, sports, harness racing.

By Tim Bojarski for Batavia Downs

In the sixth of eight New York Sire Stakes visits for 2014, three divisions of first-year female pacers go postward on Wednesday night (Aug. 25) in pursuit of $106,901 in purses. Races one, four and eight will feature the best distaff side-wheelers bred in the state.

The track record of 1:54.4 set by Barefoot Beauty in 2013 definitely has a target on it as many of the entrants are more than capable of a similar mile and will be taking a big shot.

In the first race, Mosquito Blue Chip (Bettor’s Delight-Sandfly Hanover) is coming off three sharp efforts, and most recently got her first lifetime win in 1:55 at Yonkers last week. She hasn’t missed a purse check all year and that has made her the top money winner in the race with $83,718. The Paul Jessop trained filly will be driven by Jim Morrill Jr.

The royally bred My Little Delight (Bettor’s Delight-My Little Dragon) scored a lifetime mark at Vernon Downs two starts back in 1:52.3 and came up just a head short to Mosquito Blue Chip last week. Mark MacDonald gets the nod from trainer Noel Daley for the third-straight week and MacDonald has been on fire in each of his Batavia visits this year. The outside post in the short field should have no effect on this talented 2-year-old.

Pop The Tags (Bettor’s Delight-Breathe) steps back up to NYSS action after winning three in a row in Excelsior action. She has one start in the top series this year but with disappointing results. But Pop The Tags is in a good spot here to utilize her front running speed for driver Brent Holland who was at the lines in her last three efforts for trainer Erv Miller.

The fourth race features the 2-5 heavy favorite Sassa Hanover (Rock N Roll Heaven-Mango Hanover) from the powerful Ron Burke Stable. After reeling off four consecutive wire to wire NYSS wins that includes her lifetime mark of 1:52.2 at Vernon, Sassa Hanover, who is currently second in the point’s standings, came up just a nose short to Mosquito Blue Chip in her last start at Yonkers. Her $108,085 in earnings and four victories for the year surpasses her competitor’s combined totals for each category and she looks to add to those numbers tonight. Jim Morrill Jr., who last sat behind her in a 1:56.3 win at Monticello Raceway on July 4, takes the lines from Yannick Gingras this week.

Devil Child (American Ideal-Kattimon) has yet to win a NYSS race but missed doing so twice this year by a combined total of only one and three-quarters lengths. After scoring an easy win at Vernon in an overnight last week, she may just be brave enough now to track Sassa Hanover from the rail and have the best shot of challenging her in the lane. Jimmy Whittemore is up for trainer Homer Hochstetler.

The third division in the eighth race has another Ron Burke pupil pegged as the 4-5 morning line choice. Bettor N Better (Bettor’s Delight-Vanite Semalu) has three wins and two seconds in five lifetime starts, all of which were NYSS events. Her lifetime mark is a 1:55 effort at Saratoga but she just got beat at Vernon in a 1:52.3 clocking over the big track. She seems to thrive on the front end and tonight from the rail with Jim Morrill Jr. aboard, she seems to be set up for success.

Our Hot Majorette (Art Major-She’s So Hot) raced off a two-week layoff last week at Yonkers and managed to show well. But to see what this filly is really capable of you must look at her effort on July 22, also at Yonkers. She followed the top New York 2-year-old filly Band Of Angels, and just missed winning. She finished second, beaten only half a length in 1:54.4, last quarter in :26.4. If she is able to regain that form in here, the favorite could be beaten. Mike Saftic makes a very rare Batavia Downs appearance on the call from trainer Eric Adams.

There are also three divisions of the Excelsior series on the card going for a total of $38,000. They are programmed as races seven, nine and 10.

Post time for Batavia Downs Wednesday night races is 6:35.

August 26, 2014 - 9:58am
posted by Billie Owens in Batavia Downs, sports, harness racing.

BZ Glide and driver Mike Caprio

By Tim Bojarski for Batavia Downs

After drawing outside in the top class the last two weeks, BZ Glide finally got some post relief and driver Mike Caprio took full advantage of it to capture the $9,500 Open trot at Batavia Downs.

When the man said go, Typical New Yorker (Ray Fisher Jr.) and Second hand News (Kevin Cummings) immediately fired out to challenge rail rider Absolutely Certain (Ron Beback Jr.) who quickly rebuffed their rush. Second Hand News took a seat third and Typical New Yorker was hung out to dry as the bunch rounded the quarter in :28.2 and the half in :59 flat.

At that point BZ Glide pulled from sixth and started up on the outside behind the tiring Typical New Yorker and was forced to tip three-deep at the five-eighths pole. Caprio and BZ Glide pulled alongside Absolutely Certain at the three-quarters in 1:28.2 and despite furious encouragement from Beback, went right by the pair in the turn. By the time they hit the top of the stretch, BZ Glide had cleared as was trotting home a winner in 1:57.2, which was a new seasonal mark for the gelded son of Yankee Glide. The winner paid $8.80.

This was the fourth win in fourteen starts in 2014 for BZ Glide and it pushed his earnings to $37,345 for the year. BZ Glide is owned by his driver, Mike Caprio and trained by Alana Caprio.

Racing resumes at Batavia Downs on Wednesday (Aug. 27) and will feature three divisions of the $106,901 New York Sire Stakes for 2-year-old pacing fillies. Post time for the first race is 6:35.

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

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

Press release from Batavia Downs:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Batavia Downs video:





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