By Tim Bojarski, for Batavia Downs
Even though live racing at Batavia Downs doesn’t begin for another three months, track officials have announced that when the summer/fall meet begins on Wednesday (July 24) it will be the most lucrative session of Standardbred competition ever offered in Western New York.
With the equine competition once again highlighted by eight legs of the lucrative New York Sire Stakes (NYSS), this year Batavia Downs will also be host to the $1.8 million NYSS Night of Champions finals and $50,000 Kane Memorial Pace that will both be held on Saturday (Sept. 14).
And where the stake action garners most of the attention, the overnight races make up the bulk of the meet. And that is where good news for horsemen choosing to race at Batavia Downs this year comes in.
Track officials have announced that purses will be raised 10 percent across the board on opening night and remain that way for the duration of the meet.
With the increases in place, the Open I events on both gaits (with a minimum of six starters) will compete for $12,500, Open II for $11,000 and Open III for $10,000. Claiming races will be positively affected as well and at all levels. For example, a $25,000 claimer will go for a $10,500 purse, a $10,000 claimer will go for $8,500 and a $5,000 claimer will go for $5,700.
As a result, Batavia Downs will pay out over $8 million in prize money during the 65-night meeting.
“This is big news, make no mistake about it. Racing in Western New York has never been better and this will be the year to compete at Batavia” said Todd Haight, director/general manager of Racing at Batavia Downs. “We are already making preparations to get the meet underway and are looking forward to having the best horses in the state competing here all year.”
Haight explained the bigger purses are a result of fewer races last year and a robust gaming floor feeding the purse account.
“We simply weren’t able to card as many races as we had hoped in 2018 and as a result, all the money sitting in the purse account was not paid out," Haight said. "Plus the Batavia Downs Gaming floor has been registering record numbers all winter and is coming off the best month we have ever had. That translates to a very healthy purse account that we will be distributing to everyone participating at the meet this year."
This is the second purse increase at Batavia Downs since October of 2018 when they were also raised by 10 percent.
There are several things to note for horsemen who plan to race at Batavia this year.
Management has hired track consultant Kim Crawford to oversee a complete resurfacing of the Batavia oval, including freshly banking the turns. This will ensure a fast and safe racing surface that will provide more competitive races and much sounder horses.
As a result of polling local horsemen, the track will once again offer a traditional condition sheet and will not utilize the ABC System. Trainers will enter their horses by earnings or for a claiming price, and will be classified as such.
The track has also announced there will be another claiming series this year with several legs for both gaits and a final for the top finishers. More details about this will be available closer to the meet.
Batavia Downs will also switch to the USTA Electronic Draw System to determine post position this year.
“The 2019 championship meet at Batavia Downs is a great opportunity for overnight horsemen to join the racing colony here and take advantage of everything we have to offer," Haight concluded. "Stall applications will be available on the Batavia Downs website on Saturday (June 1) and we would love to see new stables ship in for the meet.”
For more information about racing at Batavia Downs in 2019, log onto www.bataviadownsgaming.com and access the live racing link.