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December 15, 2020 - 12:24pm

Batavia Downs handle skyrocketed during 2020 meet

posted by Billie Owens in sports, harness racing, Batavia Downs.

By Tim Bojarski, for Batavia Downs

Despite the many challenges faced in every aspect of the business from day one right through the final race due to the global coronavirus pandemic, Batavia Downs was able to race safely throughout the duration of its dates and just completed one of its most successful meets with regards to nightly handle. 

“The 2020 season was a rousing success because all parties involved in the racing product worked together to insure the health and safety of everyone on the grounds at all times,” said Todd Haight, director/general manager of Live racing at Batavia Downs. “With the help and cooperation of the New York State Gaming Commission and the Western New York Harness Horsemen’s Association headed by Bruce Tubin, we were able to formulate a safety plan that got us through the entire meet without incident.

"That in turn allowed us to engage our customers with quality racing all year and put up record breaking betting numbers despite the absence of a live crowd. That is an accomplishment that all of our racing participants should be proud of.”

Henry F. Wojtaszek, president and CEO of Batavia Downs added “I am very pleased with another flawless race season at the Downs as everyone pulled together to ensure the facility was safe for our horsemen and horse women, staff and customers. Safety during COVID was our number one goal while still offering a fun, family-oriented and exciting harness racing atmosphere.” 

Despite racing 21 less dates than 2019, bataviabets.com, the online betting arm of Western Regional Off Track Betting (WROTB), saw a huge 67-percent increase in total handle on Batavia Downs and the nightly handle average saw a spectacular 151-percent increase during the 42-night schedule.

The increase exhibited the strong following the track has via its export signal customers and their taking advantage of the generous monthly rewards of up to 8 percent on their wagers through the bataviabets.com wagering platform. 

Another contributing factor was the United States Trotting Association's Strategic Wagering Program that Batavia frequently utilized during the meet. It helped expose the product to a greater audience through free program pages and enhanced betting pools and the track saw major handle increases on nights where the Strategic Wagers were offered. 

The OTB handle which includes Batavia bets and our EZ-Bets rose by 52 percent, the track’s export handle grew by 35 percent and the total betting that included only very limited on-track betting in the clubhouse rose by 21 percent.

Scott P. Kiedrowski, vice-president of Operations said “We are thrilled with our numbers for the 2020 meet here at Batavia Downs. All of our staff did exceptional work under the most difficult circumstances.”

Haight added it was a record total betting number since WROTB reopened the track in 2002.

The dash winning driver of the meet was Jim Morrill Jr. who notched his third driving title at the Downs. In 408 starts Morrill won 102 races with 72 seconds and 53 thirds for a .391 UDR and winnings of $507,686 for the meet. Morrill also scored his 7,500th career victory at the Downs this past November.

Finishing second was Billy Davis Jr. who had 486 starts with 91 wins, 87 seconds and 54 thirds and $422,477 in purses, and Drew Monti who had 404 starts with 75 wins, 71 seconds and 62 thirds with $374,608 in earnings rounded out the top three.   

The dash winning trainer of the meet was Gerry Sarama who captured his first conditioning title at Batavia. Not only did he win 64 races, finish second 36 times and third 28 more for winnings of $286,068, Sarama also registered career training win 1,000 at Batavia this year. 

Shawn McDonough was second with 31 wins, 24 seconds and 39 thirds out of 214 starts with $138,544 in purses and Maria Rice was third with 30 wins, 30 seconds and 20 thirds from 174 starts and $184,833 in winnings. 

Upon approval from the New York State Gaming Commission, live racing will resume at Batavia Downs on Wednesday, July 21.

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