By Tim Bojarski, for Batavia Downs
The 67-night session of harness racing at Batavia Downs for 2018 wrapped up on Saturday (Dec. 15) with both highs and lows being noted.
Whereas many competitive races were witnessed over the oldest lighted harness track in America, fewer races overall affected the Downs handle for the meet. The main reason for fewer races was a lack of available horses to race.
In 2018 only 672 races were filled compared to 806 in 2017 and due to 134 less races (a 16-percent reduction) the handle also finished down 11.2 percent.
“The reduction of races was due to the decreased amount of horses in the area," said Todd Haight, director/manager of Live Racing at Batavia Downs. "And we had a number of short fields trying to fill out race cards besides. Both of these factors played havoc with our numbers.”
“However I also feel the numbers are a bit skewed since we were coming off a record season last year. That said, we are excited about the 2019 meet.”
There were three cards cancelled during the meet: two for lack of entries and one for weather-related issues.
Although fewer races were held, the ones that went on provided excellent competition on the track and wagering opportunities for Downs' customers.
Eight visits by the New York Sires Stakes (NYSS) during the summer months and a visit by the great Foiled Again were highlights of the meet and drew large crowds trackside.
On the track Drew Monti took the driving title, garnering 122 wins for the meet and earning $724,847 in purses. This was Monti’s second driving title in the last three years at Batavia.
Kevin Cummings finished second with 102 wins and Billy Davis Jr. was third with 99.
JD Perrin grabbed his fourth training trophy as a result of sending out 61 winners who earned $333,348. Perrin finished ahead of James Clouser Jr. who had 43 wins and Shawn McDonough who registered 29.
Five track records were broken over the six-month run.
Standards for 2-year-old pacing colt (Melodies Major, 1:54.1), 3-year-old trotting gelding and all-aged trotting (Winning Shadow, 1:53.4), aged trotting mare (Chelsea’s Chance, 1:56.1) and trotting under saddle (No Recess, 2:02.1) were all rewritten at the Genesee County oval.
And possibly the biggest news of the meet was the announcement that Batavia Downs was named the host track for the NYSS Night of Champions that will be held on Saturday, Sept. 14. That night also marks the return of the Downs' signature race, the $50,000 Kane Memorial Pace, making it the richest night of harness racing ever offered in Western New York.
The 65-card meet will kick off on Wednesday (July 24) pending state approval of the dates.