(Photo of Luck Be Withyou courtesy of Curtis Salonick)
By Tim Bojarski, for Batavia Downs
Seven horses with a combined lifetime earnings of over $11 million comprise the field for the 14th annual $50,000 Robert J. Kane Memorial Pace which will be contested at Batavia Downs on Saturday night (Oct. 8).
The Kane Memorial is dedicated to the former chairman of the board of Western Regional Off-Track Betting Corporation (which owns and operates Batavia Downs), Robert J. Kane. Kane worked on the board for 26 years and had the vision to see the value in purchasing the track in 1998, that had been shuttered for three years after having its license revoked. The facility has gone through a complete turnaround since then and WROTB has developed the property into the premier entertainment destination spot in Genesee County.
The 2016 edition of the Kane (which goes as race seven) is also a homecoming of sorts for trainer Chris Oakes who is originally from nearby Akron. He started his career at the Downs in the 1980s and conditions two horses in this year's Kane, with his stable star Luck Be Withyou installed as the 5-2 morning line choice.
Luck Be Withyou has faced Wiggle It Jiggleit and Always B Miki many times this year and has always been formidable competition for those two dominant aged pacers. Luck Be Withyou took a lifetime mark of 1:47.4 at Pocono Downs on July 2 and has also been race-timed under 1:50 on seven other occasions this year. His best effort on a half-mile track was a 1:51.1 win at Saratoga Raceway in July, but he was race-timed in 1:50.3 at Harrington Raceway just two weeks ago.
Leaving from post one, Luck Be Withyou will be driven by the Downs leading reinsman, Kevin Cummings.
Mel Mara is the second choice at 7-2 and is one speedy pacer. On June 4 at the Meadowlands, he beat a very talented Open class field and equalled the all-time race record for an older pacing stallion on a mile track when he stopped the clock in 1:47. In his 21 starts this year, Mel Mara was race timed under 1:50 15 times and his best effort over a half-mile track was a 1:50.1 win at Harrington Raceway three starts ago.
Jim Morrill Jr. takes the reins for trainer Dylan Davis and starts from post three.
Scott Rocks comes in sharp as a tack and knows this oval well. He just raced at Batavia Downs on Sept. 24 and jogged in 1:52. He was a wrapped up winner with a lot left in the tank and he did it after being off for three weeks. He took a lifetime mark of 1:48 at Pocono Downs on May 28, but he also won in a phenomenal 1:49 clocking at Northfield Park on Sept. 3.
Leaving from post two, John Cummings Jr. will once again team Scott Rocks, who is the other entrant for trainer Chris Oakes.
Southwind Amazon is fast on any surface. He took a lifetime mark of 1:49.2 at Pompano Park on March 13, but was also race timed in 1:49.2 at Northfield Park in a second place finish to Scott Rocks on Sept. 3. He has also won in 1:50.3 at Northfield and 1:50.4 at Saratoga Raceway. Southwind Amazon is having a career year with 11 wins and $109,599 earned and looks to add to those numbers in this event.
Shawn Mcdonough gets the nod from trainer Paul Holzman and will depart from post five.
The entire field is as follows:
1 Luck Be Withyou Kevin Cummings 5-2
2 Scott Rocks John Cummings Jr. 5-1
3 Mel Mara Jim Morrill Jr. 7-2
4 Polak A Shawn Gray 4-1
5 Southwind Amazon Shawn McDonough 9-2
6 Foiled Again Jack Flanigen 8-1
7 Rockin In Heaven Drew Monti 6-1
The current all-time pacing track record at Batavia Downs is 1:51.1 set by Aracache Hanover in 2011 when he won the Kane Memorial that year. In recent weeks, the track at Batavia Downs has been lightning fast and with favorable weather forecast, this field has the ability to demolish that standard.
There is also an outstanding undercard on Saturday night’s 11-race schedule and it includes the $15,000 Brian Schroeder Memorial Trot, to go as race five.
Local favorite BZ Glide (Mike Caprio) is the 5-2 pick to hit against Yonkers Raceway invaders Lady’s Dude (Kevin Cummings, 3-1) and Auspicious Hanover (John Cummings Jr., 4-1).
Post time for the first race is 6:15 p.m.