Photo of Batavia Downs state-of-the-art control room courtesy of Batavia Downs.
By Tim Bojarski for Batavia Downs
As the doors swing open for the start of the 72nd season of live harness racing at Batavia Downs on Monday (July 23), patrons, horsemen and horsewomen will see a multitude of changes made by the track to improve the racing product and enhance the wagering value.
The 2018 racing session features 70 dates, including seven matinees that all start at 1:15 p.m. Monday and Wednesday evening post times are 5 p.m. with Friday and Saturday night races beginning at 6 o'clock. There are four twilight Saturday programs during the season on Sept. 8, Oct. 6, Nov.17 and Dec 15 with a 4:45 p.m. post.
Those racing at the Downs this year will be greeted by $600,000 worth of paddock improvements including a new barn that will house two additional races. It was constructed adjacent to the existing four-race paddock and across from the 16-stall wash barn and finished off with fresh blacktop. The new layout of the complex will allow for six races to be in the paddock at one time and provide uncluttered ease of bathing for horses that are done racing.
Fans viewing the races on the monitors in the stands or via simulcast will enjoy an enhanced video product thanks to a brand new audio/visual studio that will broadcast everything in full digital video. The state-of-the-art control room will make the Batavia Downs signal and programming the best the track has ever offered and make the races easier and more enjoyable to watch.
Another change that will be noticeable from both sides of the fence is the passing lane has been removed from the home stretch of the track. Batavia Downs has had a passing lane since 1989 and during that time the track has seen the bias toward inside posts go up dramatically. So in an attempt to create more early movement making outside posts more bettable and decrease the amount of winning favorites, this change was implemented.
“This year we’ve made some changes that we feel will help the horsemen and bettors alike,” said Todd Haight, director/general manager of Live Racing at Batavia Downs. “The new paddock will make the transition from race to race much easier for our participants and removing the passing lane should add some value for our gamblers. We look forward to getting underway and expect and exciting season of racing."
The schedule looks to provide some of the best competition the track has seen and the New York Sire Stakes (NYSS) will be the centerpiece of it. Eight divisions of state-breds will visit the Downs and there will be $800,000 (est.) up for grabs for the participating horses.
Then on Friday Sept. 21, all eight NYSS final consolation races will be held at the Downs with an additional $320,000 to be doled out.
That same night the Downs two signature races will be held. The $15,000 Brian Schroeder Memorial trot and $15,000 Duke Dranichek Memorial pace will feature some of the best Open talent around, including the richest pacer of all time.
Trainer Ron Burke has marked his calendar and said the $7.5 million-dollar man/100-win wonder, Foiled Again is scheduled to compete in the Dranichek pace. Foiled Again has won three $50,000 Kane Memorials in Batavia along with two Saturday night Opens. He likes the track and he’s coming back for a farewell appearance before his mandatory retirement at the end of the year.
"September 9th is the 30th anniversary of Batavia Downs hosting the Breeders Crown and the card we have on tap for September 21 this year rivals that historic night for purses and competition," Haight said, "and to have Foiled Again here on top of it makes it a real draw for Western New York.”
The very next night (Saturday Sept.22) the very popular racing under saddle or "RUS" will return for the third year with horses and riders from New York RUS. They will attempt to break the track record that was set in 2016 when they made their first appearance at the track.
The driving colony will be filled with familiar faces but with last year’s dash title winner Larry Stalbaum not returning, a new champion will be crowned in December.
Drew Monti, who is Western New York’s leading dash driver this year, will be in the mix along with Shawn Gray, Kevin Cummings, Ray Fisher Jr., Jim Morrill Jr., Billy Davis Jr. and John Cummings Jr. to name a few.
On the conditioning side, last year’s leading trainer Kim Asher will be back but with a reduced stable. That will open the door for the red hot James Clouser Jr. and three-time best Batavia conditioner JD Perrin to vie for top honors.
Also competing at the Downs this meet will be 18-year-old Riley Asher-Stalbaum who began her training career earlier this year. She has made an instant impact among area trainers with a sparkling Universal Training Rating (UTR) of .428.
Once again the fans will enjoy a plethora of promotions this year and as always, there will be something for everyone on tap.
As has been the norm for many years, racing programs will be free on opening night and the first Saturday of the meet to welcome back our racing fans and each program contains a valuable free play coupon redeemable on the gaming floor.
Sunday July 29 and every Sunday in August is Dollar Days at the Downs. Fans can enjoy dollar drafts, sodas and hot dogs on the apron.
On Saturday Aug. 4, 10 lucky fans will win a stay at the beautiful new Batavia Downs Hotel which is connected to the race track and gaming floor.
One lucky fan will win a $3,000 diamond pendant on Saturday Aug. 11 during a jewelry night giveaway sponsored by TAG Jewelers.
On Saturday Aug.25, 10 lucky patrons will win $100 gift certificates to the Spa at Artemis in Downtown Batavia.
Family Fun Days and the Wiener Dog Races will return on Sunday Aug. 26. The day includes free activities of all kinds for the kids. Then after the live racing is finished, the wiener dogs will hit the track for the main event. Genesee Feeds of Batavia is the official sponsor of this event.
The traditional Driver’s Bike Race will return for the 40th year on Labor Day (Sept. 3). Eight of the Down’s favorite drivers will be pedaling bicycles from the top of the turn to the wire. Eight fans who select the winning driver will win the bikes used in the race. Labor Day also features the annual chicken barbecue.
For information on racing or promotions log onto www.bataviadownsgaming.com .
Bottom photo, courtesy of Batavia Downs: New paddocks are part of the improvements made at Batavia Downs this year.