Batavia Downs to unveil new live racing experience when season opens Wednesday
The 2022 harness racing season will get underway at Batavia Downs at 6 p.m. on Wednesday (July 20) and when fans enter the property, they will notice the staff and facilities have undergone some major changes. Those started at the top and touched every aspect of the racing program in order to provide a positive and enjoyable experience for everyone this year.
Don Hoover has joined the Downs team and will serve in two positions. He is the Director of Live Racing and also the track’s new Race Secretary. Hoover is a western New York native who has extensive harness racing experience both as a horseman and on the administrative side. He has been on site at Batavia since early spring getting acquainted with his new positions and preparing for opening night.
“I am very excited about the upcoming 56 day live race meet here at Batavia Downs Gaming and Hotel. Henry (Wojtaszek, President and CEO of Batavia Downs Gaming) and Scott (Kiedrowski, Vice-President of Operations at Batavia Downs Gaming) have provided me with a great team to work with and I feel that we have all the pieces in place for an outstanding year. Obviously the highlight of the meet will be August 26 when we host two divisions of the New York Sire Stakes going for a total of $206,000 and the Robert J. Kane Memorial Pace with an enhanced purse of $75,000. I can’t wait to welcome the fans in for the opening night card,” said Hoover.
Patty Bruno, who has years of experience in the race office at Batavia, will continue to work alongside Hoover as the Assistant Race Secretary and Program Director. Bruno’s resume also includes race secretary overseeing the New York Sire Stake county fair program.
Mary Bucceri has been named Administrative Assistant and Group Sales Manager. Although Bucceri has been a Batavia team member since 2005, this new position has her geared towards bringing in new patrons, and providing them with a great time while exposing them to both harness racing and the outstanding facilities Batavia Downs has to offer.
The track itself has been completely re-graded and resurfaced with the best material available, all done under the supervision of track guru Kim Crawford. Crawford had the Genesee County oval lightning fast last year and it was widely hailed by visiting horsemen as one of the best surfaces to race over in New York state.
Missy Rothfuss, who is one of the most respected outriders in the sport, will be joining Batavia Downs after 26 years at The Meadows. She will lead the post parade nightly and provide any necessary assistance to horsemen on the track during race nights to insure the safety and well-being of all the participants.
The last two changes on the racing side include the addition of Wayne Teaven as the voice of the Downs and Wendy J Lowery who is the new track photographer. They will bring a fresh sound and look to their respective positions that will add to the overall race day experience.
This year’s schedule starts with a Sunday, Wednesday, Saturday rotation that will run through the end of August. There is one special card on Friday (Aug. 26) featuring two divisions of the New York Sire Stakes and Batavia Down’s signature stake, the $75,000 Robert J. Kane Memorial Pace. Post time for the six Sundays is 1:15 p.m. and all Wednesdays, Saturdays and the Friday are at 6 p.m.
The schedule changes in September to Wednesday, Friday and Saturday with two exceptions. There is a special Labor Day matinee on Monday (Sept. 5) at 1:15 p.m. and no racing on Friday (Sept. 9). Again all post times (except Labor Day) are at 6 p.m. In October only the first Friday of the month will be raced and then it will be Wednesday and Saturday until the meet ends on December 17. All post times will be at 6 p.m. except Saturday (Nov. 5) which has a special 3:15 p.m. start due to the Breeders Cup.
All eight divisions of the New York Sire Stakes will be contested at the Downs this year and those eligible horses will compete for an estimated $784,000 in purses. Plus the NYSS Excel “A” and “B” series will also be held on those nights, driving that purse value even higher. The stakes will be in town on Wednesday July 20, July 27, August 3, August 10, August 17, Friday August 26 (when two divisions will go along with the $75,000 Kane Memorial) and Wednesday August 31.
Batavia Downs will continue to provide free downloadable full past performance racing programs on their website at bataviadownsgaming.com under the live racing tab (on the left). The Batavia Downs YouTube channel will also furnish free live streaming of all the races.
There are several promotions to note on opening night. There is a mandatory payout of an $1,188 carryover on the Jackpot Pick-6 in race 5. Free print programs will be available at the track on Wednesday as well. Free OTB programs for Batavia live will also be available for the first three days of the meet (July 20, 23, 24).
Also on opening night will be a free $500 “Lotta Cash” giveaway. Beginning in race two and running through race 11, one lucky winner will be drawn at random after each race from entries submitted and the winner will receive a $50 betting voucher. You must be 18 years of age to enter and present to win.
And you can enter to win a “Stay and Play” package Wednesday that includes a one night stay at the Batavia Downs Gaming Hotel. Simply swipe your Player’s Club card between 4:30 p.m. and 7 p.m. to be eligible for the free random drawing. Again, you must be present to win.
Other promotions scheduled during the year include $2 Sunday’s which will offer $2 hot dogs, draft beer and soda on Sunday August 7, 21 and 28 from noon to 4 p.m. Monday (Sept. 5) is the annual Labor Day driver’s bike race sponsored by Mama Squirrels Nest. Eight bikes will be given away and $2 hot dogs, draft beer and soda will be available from noon to 4 p.m. And Sunday (Oct. 16) will be the highly anticipated Wiener Dog races.
The newly remodeled Clubhouse and Rail Bar will be open at 5 p.m. on Wednesday, Friday (when racing) and Saturday, offering a limited bar food menu along with a full buffet that is now located on the lower level for easier access. Wednesday is a home-style Buffet while Friday and Saturday features prime rib and shrimp.
In the grandstand, the Homestretch Grill is newly remodeled and is offering fresh made-to-order subs, deli sandwiches, hot dogs, burgers and coming soon, brick oven pizza. They are open until 8 p.m. nightly.
The wagering menu is tasty as well. On a 10-race program, besides win, place and show there will be three daily doubles, 10 exactas, 10 trifectas, nine superfectas, two Pick-3’s, two Pick-4’s, one Pick-5 and one Jackpot Super High Five, all with low minimum wagers.
All of last year’s top drivers will be returning including Jim Morrill Jr., Kevin Cummings, Kyle Cummings, Drew Monti and Dave McNeight III. Top local trainers will be headed by last year’s leaders Jennifer Giuliani, Maria Rice, Jim McNeight and Shawn McDonough. And they will be joined by some new stables moving in.
Jennifer Sansone will be shipping 16 horses from Kentucky and Pocono to stable at Batavia Downs, all to be driven by Fern Paquet Jr. Western New York native Jim Rothfuss will be returning home from The Meadows with a barn of 20 horses, many of which are locally owned. And other trainers who will be shipping in include Joe Skowyra, Kevin Reynolds Jr., Dale Gilmour and David Daigneault.
There was a 30 percent increase in stalls allotted this year to handle the large influx of requests from horsemen who wanted to race at Batavia Downs and with that increased horse population, very competitive racing should be seen during the meet.
For more information and updates all year, follow Batavia Downs Racetrack on Facebook or log onto the website at bataviadownsgaming.com.
Photo: File photo from 2013 by Howard Owens