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Batavia Downs

January 23, 2020 - 9:39pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Batavia Downs, VTL Impact Aid, batavia, news, notify.

Another proposal by Gov. Andrew Cuomo to shift local revenue to the state coffers has come to light: Cuomo is proposing eliminating the local share of video terminal lottery money from facilities such as Batavia Downs. 

That would mean a $440,000 loss in revenue for the City of Batavia, $200,000 for Genesee County and $160,000 for the Town of Batavia.

Local officials are not pleased.

County Manager Jay Gsell has a laundry list of complaints about new mandated expenses in funding. This is just an extra burden for the county to shoulder.

Gsell said what he called a "bait and switch" on Aid to Municipalities funding where county sales tax proceeds will replace direct state aid, cuts in community college aid, and no reimbursement for early voting expenses.

"NYS counties will be gathering in Albany next Monday through Wednesday to gain more insight and develop resolution and position papers for the upcoming 2020 NYS legislative session," Gsell said. "The sentiment so far coming from the executive branch is disheartening and discouraging and fraught with peril from my perspective only three weeks into the new Genesee County budget year."

City Manager Marty Moore said the news of the VLT cuts comes at a bad time -- just as the city is wrapping up its own budget process.

"The loss of the VLT money is tough considering we balance the general fund to the penny," Moore said.  "Our feeling is obvious -- please put it back."

He called on state officials to enter into some dialogue and communication with local governments and listen to the impact the cuts will have locally.  

Since Batavia Downs doesn't pay any local property tax, the VLT money helps offset the expense of hosting the facility in the county, the town, and the city.  The facility needs support for crowd control at major events, police protection, fire protection, health and safety support, along with the roads that get people to and from the gaming casino.

"I do think it's important that our operations are supported by the money that comes along with it to help pay for some of the expense," Moore said.

In a budget statement, the governor's office justifies the cuts by the suggestion that local municipalities receive more in "VTL Impact Aid" (the formal name of the program) than it costs to host the facility.

This category of State aid was created to support assumed local service needs associated with hosting VLT facilities, but the revenue benefits of hosting a facility outweigh any associated costs. Further, not all municipalities that currently host VLT facilities receive aid through this program and the State does not provide additional "impact-type" aid for other types of facilities which may have similar local public service impacts as VLT facilities, including community colleges, SUNY campuses, and State office buildings. Accordingly, the Executive Budget eliminates VLT Aid outside of Yonkers, which is the only municipality receiving this aid to direct the funds to educational purposes.

It's been a point of pride for Western OTB officials for years that the facility supports the counties that oversee the facility with VTL money. 

Henry Wojtaszek, Western OTB CEO, said he will be closely monitoring the proposal.

"We work well with local governments and understand that these VLT aid monies substantially help them," Wojtaszek said. "We hope that local elected representatives will listen to the concerns of our host municipalities and work towards the best possible outcome."

Both State Senator Michael Ranzenhofer said they will work to protect the local share of VTL funds.

"This cut in aid is unacceptable," Ranzenhofer said. "At a time when the governor is proposing more unfunded mandates on our local governments, these reductions will have devastating impacts on our local taxpayers.  The governor is attempting to fill the budget deficit, that he created by overspending, through cutting crucial funding to Genesee County communities."

Hawley said, "The Governor needs to look toward actually cutting spending (that’s what real families and businesses do). We have a self-inflicted $6.2 Billion deficit (we spent that more than we took in). Why in the world would he look to take money that is shared with our local communities (which helps keep our local taxes lower than they would be without this money)? He’ll be hurting our local communities."

Keep the Local News flowing. Support The Batavian.

January 16, 2020 - 10:14pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Batavia Downs, music, arts, entertainment, news.

henrycouncertbdannounce2020.jpg

Press release:

Batavia Downs Gaming & Hotel has announced the lineup for their fourth annual Rockin’ the Downs concert series, which takes place outside on the racetrack, with eight Friday dates, starting in June and running into August.

Kicking off the series on Friday, June 19th is Vince Neil, the legendary voice of Mötley Crüe. An accomplished businessman and heartfelt philanthropist, his unmistakable voice leads some of the greatest rock songs of a generation including “Wild Side,” “Shout at the Devil,” “Home Sweet Home,” “Girls, Girls, Girls,” “Dr. Feelgood,” “Kickstart My Heart,” “Same Ol’ Situation,” and many others.

Next up, on Friday, June 26th, is former Journey frontman, Steve Augeri, who returns after playing one of the most enjoyable concerts from last year’s series. The lead vocalist for the rock group from 1998-2006, Augeri headlined an eight-year tenure that included three albums and will perform hits such as "Don’t Stop Believin’, " "Separate Ways," "Wheel in the Sky," "Faithfully," and "Anyway You Want It."

After a one-week hiatus for the Fourth of July holiday, the concert series returns on Friday, July 10th with Southern rock legend Molly Hatchet. Originating in Jacksonville, Fla., in 1978, the band has gone on to release 14 studio albums. They’ll be performing hits such as "Flirtin’ with Disaster," "Dreams I’ll Never See" and "Whiskey Man," among others.

Rocking the stage on Friday, July 17th is the heavy-metal rock group Skid Row. After forming in New Jersey in 1986, the band has performed all over the world with hard guitars and a unique songwriting style. They’ll be performing their hits "In a Darkened Room," "We Are the Damned," "Youth Gone Wild" and "18 and Life" and many more.

Jonny Lang performs on Friday, July 24th. Hailing from Fargo, N.D., the blues, gospel, and rock singer has had five albums chart in the Billboard 200. The Grammy Award-winning artist will perform hits such as "Still Rainin’," "Bring Me Back Home," "Breakin’ Me" and "Lie to Me."

Friday, July 31st will see Don Felder, formerly of The Eagles, perform at the Downs. As a renowned former lead guitarist of The Eagles, one of the most popular and influential rock groups of our time, Felder has helped write and perform many iconic classics. His 2008 memoir was a New York Times bestseller. Felder will perform solo and Eagles’ hits during his set including "Heavy Metal (Takin’ a Ride)," "Hotel California," "Life in the Fast Lane," "The Long Run" and "Tequila Sunrise."

America’s top Pink Floyd tribute show, The Machine, hits the stage on Friday, Aug. 7th. Over the course of 30 years they have extended the legacy of Pink Floyd while creating another legacy all their own. Along the way, The Machine has touched the hearts and souls of many with their stellar musicianship, dramatic lighting, and video performances. Two other tribute rock acts celebrating the music of The Who and Queen will also grace the stage that evening for what will be a memorable musical journey back in time.

Closing out the series on Friday, Aug. 14th is American alternative rock band, Puddle of Mudd. The post-grunge band from Kansas City, Mo., has sold more than seven million albums. One of the most well-attended concerts of 2018’s summer concert series, Puddle of Mudd concertgoers will be sure to hear hits such as "She Hates Me," "Blurry" and "Control."

Tickets for all eight concerts will be available at www.BataviaConcerts.com beginning at 10 a.m. tomorrow, Jan. 17th.

Individual presale tickets to each concert will remain at $10 for General Admission, while VIP tickets will again be $25. Concertgoers will be able to purchase tickets in the Premium Section directly in front of the stage. Premium tickets are $50 and will be very limited for each concert.

General Admission tickets are $15 if purchased on the day of the concert.

Tickets can also be purchased at Batavia Downs Gaming & Hotel at the Lucky Treasures Gift Shop located in the lobby.

As of noon today (Jan. 16th) special VIP packages --for the Don Felder Concert only -- will be available on BataviaConcerts.com

Concertgoers will once again have the option of purchasing a “Season Pass,”, which includes admission to all eight concerts at a discounted rate. The season pass for 2020 is $60 for General Admission and $150 for VIP.

New this year will be a chair rental option for lawn seats. While patrons are allowed to bring their own chairs, there will be 500 chairs available for rental for $5 each. A portion of proceeds for chair rental will benefit Make a Wish Western New York. Staff from Make a Wish will also be selling drink koozies.

“It’s incredible to think we are in our fourth year of the concert series,” said Henry Wojtaszek, CEO/president of Batavia Downs Gaming. “We’re excited to continue to bring musical icons to Batavia Downs and provide great entertainment at an affordable price.

"We’re looking forward to partnering again with Western New York Make A Wish to help raise funds to help them transform lives. We hope to see the community come together again this summer.”

Hotel room/ticket packages will be available for each concert. The purchase of a hotel room on the night of a concert using the code includes two VIP tickets to the show while supplies last.

Each concert ticket is also redeemable once at Player’s Club in the three days following the concert for $10 Free Play to be used on one of Batavia Downs Gaming’s 800+ gaming machines.

Concerts are held rain or shine. Additional information may be found at www.BataviaDownsGaming.com.

Photo: Henry Wojtaszek at today's press conference. Photo by Howard Owens.

December 30, 2019 - 11:40am
posted by Howard B. Owens in advertisement, batavia's best businesses, video, Batavia Downs.

Today we're pleased to release Episode 4 of our series of Batavia's Best Businesses, featuring Batavia Downs.

In this episode, Nici Johnson and Macy Paradise decide it's time for a staycation at Batavia Downs.

Batavia's Best Businesses is a joint promotional production for Genesee County businesses by The Batavian and WBTA. To find out how to promote your business in this web video series, contact Lorne or Jim at WBTA.

December 29, 2019 - 3:00pm


Ring in 2020 with Batavia Downs Gaming!

The Coupe De' Villes will be providing the live music at "The Roaring '20s Party" from 6:30 p.m. to midnight. Band begins at 8:30pm.

Price is $125 per person and includes an open bar, buffet dinner, free play and more! Get more details here. Limited hotel rooms available.

Call 585-343-3750, ext. 6439, to make reservations.

December 19, 2019 - 12:30pm
posted by Billie Owens in Batavia Downs, sports, harness racing.

By Tim Bojarski, for Batavia Downs

Although the final day of racing was canceled on Saturday (Dec. 14) due to bad weather conditions, the clubhouse that night was still sold out and the 400 or so patrons enjoyed Christmas music instead of race calls. But that was the norm at Batavia Downs in 2019; happy customers having fun at the races. 

Indicators for every aspect of the racing product pointed toward positive territory and in several areas showed record breaking performances. 

Betting-wise the on track handle was up 12.2 percent, driven by a 5-percent increase in attendance, the export signal was up 24 percent and Western Regional Off Track Betting (WROTB) revenue was up 5.3 percent. All tolled, wagering from all sources was up a combined 19.9 percent and provided the highest total handle at the track and the top three highest single night handles since WROTB reopened the Downs in 2002. 

The total handle was also $1.4 million higher than last year and all of this was accomplished with three fewer race days on the schedule. 

“Our customers came out in force, both live and at simulcast to support us all year and we couldn’t be more grateful to them,” said Todd Haight, director/general manager of Live Racing at Batavia Downs. “We gave them some of the best racing in the state this year and they validated it by betting us the whole season.”

There were several reasons for the increases and they were all primarily driven by the eight legs of the New York Sire Stakes (NYSS) culminating in the $1.8 million Night of Champions (NOC) finals in September. Along with the highest overnight purses ever offered at the track, Batavia Downs dolled out more than $8.1 million in total purses this year and that drew top horses and horsemen from across North America all year, providing great betting opportunities for the customers. 

The Downs also took full advantage of the Strategic Wagering Pool sponsored by the United States Trotting Association (USTA) and offered enhanced funds for exotic wagers that also provided free program pages for half the card on those nights. Aside from the NYSS NOC which was the highest handle in the tracks history under WROTB ownership, the track saw its highest total nightly handles on cards where the Strategic Wagering Pools were offered. 

“We had 14 Strategic Wagering opportunities during the course of the season and every one paid off," Haight said. "Many thanks to USTA Director Chris Schick and Social Media Director Michael Carter for their assistance with these wagers."

Two other factors for the increase include the simulcast department doing a great job marketing the live signal from Batavia and picking up many new customers this year which drove the export numbers and the track’s group sales department who brought in 31 percent more parties and events to the clubhouse than ever before and enhanced the live handle. 

“A lot of the people we see during live racing were introduced to the sport by attending our live concert series over the summer," Haight said. "They actually walk across the track and ask questions about horse racing and then come back when the meet starts to see it. It’s really been a good selling point for us and we’ve made many new customers as a result.”  

On the track, Billy Davis Jr. won his first driving title at Batavia Downs in 2019 by averaging two wins a night for the entire meet. His 131 wins, 102 seconds and 83 thirds out of 629 starts earned him a Universal Driver Rating (UDR) of .342 for the meet and $861,336 in purses.

Jim Morrill Jr. was second with 79 wins, 56 seconds and 37 thirds with $921,527 in earnings and Dave McNeight III was third with 78 wins, 61 seconds and 70 thirds with $543,064 in purses.

On the training side, Jim Clouser Jr. also won his first Batavia Downs training title after scoring 51 wins, 29 seconds and 39 thirds out of 219 starts for a UTR of .366 and $361,413 in earnings. His stable members finished in the money 54 percent of the time. 

Finishing second in the trainer race was Maria Rice who scored 43 wins, 31 seconds and 21 thirds out of 190 starts and earned $358,234 in purses with the legendary Gerry Sarama finishing third while making 246 starts with 32 wins, 40 seconds and 32 thirds with $256,619 in earnings. 

Live racing returns to the oldest lighted harness racing track in America on July 22, pending approval from the New York State Gaming Commission.

December 14, 2019 - 5:56pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Batavia Downs, batavia, sports, harness racing.

Press release:

The Saturday night (Dec. 14) live card of racing at Batavia Downs has been cancelled due to heavy snow and inclement weather. This ends the 2019 racing season in Western New York as this was the last day of the meet. 

Live harness racing will return to the oldest lighted harness track in America in July.

Western Regional Off Track Betting would like to thank all the horsemen, horsewomen, fans and staff for the record season Batavia Downs had this year and wishes everyone a very Happy Holiday Season.

December 14, 2019 - 3:59pm
posted by Billie Owens in sports, Batavia Downs, harness racing.

Above, Fox Valley Veto pulls ahead with driver Billy Davis Jr.

By Tim Bojarski, for Batavia Downs

Two top class races highlighted the second last race card at Batavia Downs on Friday night (Dec. 13) and both winners rewarded their backers with premium mutuels. 

In the $12,500 Open I Handicap trot, Fox Valley Veto was overlooked at 11-1 and pulled the upset with a strong closing effort. 

Saratoga invader Golden Kronos (John Cummings Jr.) flew to the lead and rattled off fractions of :29 and :59.2. At the half Wheels A Turning (Shawn McDonough) pulled first up and Fox Valley Veto (Billy Davis Jr.) followed his cover. Positions remained the same until the top of the stretch when Davis tipped Fox Valley Veto clear and matched strides with Golden Kronos all the way to the wire where he got a slight advantage and won by a head in 1:58.4. 

It was the third win in a row and 12th of the year for Fox Valley Veto ($24.80) who has now earned $72,317 for owners Vogel and Wags Nags Stable and Jack Rice. Maria Rice trains the winner.

(Photo: Blue Bell Bonnie and driver Dave McNeight III.)

Then in the $12,500 Open I Handicap pace for fillies and mares, Blue Bell Bonnie turned some heads as she breezed the fastest mile of the night. 

Driver Dave McNeight III burst through the gate with Blue Bell Bonnie, went right to the front and never looked back for a second. Posting furious fractions of :27.4, :56.4 and 1:25.2, Blue Bell Bonnie rounded the final bend and took a two length lead into deep stretch where he won in a shocker time of 1:54.3. 

It was the 10th win of the year for Blue Bell Bonnie ($10.60) and it pushed her total for 2019 to $75,258. Burke Racing and Weaver Bruscemi own and James Clouser Jr. trains. 

The Downs 2019 driving champion Billy Davis Jr. was the top dog again on Friday after winning four more races on the card. Besides the already mentioned Fox Valley Veto, Davis also won with Expensive Toy (1:58.4, $3), Traverse Seelster (1:59.3, $13.60) and Are You In (2:00.4, $8.70).

Drew Monti also scored a driving hat trick and Shawn McDonough doubled up both as a driver and a trainer. 

Live racing resumes for the final time in 2019 tonight (Dec. 14) with post time at 6 o'clock.

December 13, 2019 - 3:25pm

By Tim Bojarski, for UNY USHWA

The Upstate New York Chapter of the United States Harness Writers Association (UNY USHWA) has named the top driver and trainer of the 2019 meet at Batavia Downs and will present each with a trophy between races in the Purple Haze Winner’s Circle at Batavia Downs on Saturday night (Dec. 14). 

The driver of the meet was Billy Davis Jr. (top photo)

Davis started driving on a regular basis at Batavia Downs in 2016 and finished a strong third last year with 99 wins. This meet Davis started fast, maintained his momentum throughout, demolished the competition and in the end captured his first Batavia Downs driving title. 

Davis currently has a total of 127 wins, 48 more than the second place Jim Morrill Jr. who pulled the pin for the year on the first day of November. Those wins along with 101 seconds and 82 thirds out of 621 starts have earned him a Universal Driver Rating (UDR) of .341 for the meet and $839,581 in purses. The earnings total is a new track record for a single meet exceeding the standard of $802,528 set be Jim Morrill Jr. 13 years ago in 2006. 

For 2019 in its entirety, the 33-year-old Davis has won 270 races, pocketed $1,846,243 in loot and his UDR of .320 was the best of his career. 

The trainer of the meet was James Clouser Jr. (above photo)

Clouser has been conditioning horses at Batavia since 2014 and has twice finished second in the standings in 2015 and 2018. This year Clouser took command early and stayed on top the entire meet to capture his first Batavia Downs training title. 

With a strong stable of horses anchored by owners Burke Racing/Weaver Bruscemi and William Emmons, Clouser posted 50 wins, 29 seconds and 37 thirds out of 214 starts for a UTR of .367 and $352,910 in earnings. That income total is the second highest ever recorded at the Downs behind Kim Asher’s $505,624 in 2017. 

For the calendar year overall, the also 33-year-old Clouser has won 270 races and $775,359 in purses. He is also nearing his 500th career training win (currently at 482) and the $3 million earnings plateau. 

Batavia Downs and UNY USHWA congratulate both men and all their connections.

(Photos courtesy of Paul White.)

December 13, 2019 - 3:07pm
posted by Billie Owens in sports, harness racing, Batavia Downs.

By Tim Bojarski, for Batavia Downs

Tonight (Dec. 13) there is a carryover of $1,164 in the Pick-5 at Batavia Downs and a guaranteed pool of $3,500 for the Pick-5 wager.

The pool is part of the United States Trotting Association’s (USTA) Strategic Wagering Program and as such, free program pages are available courtesy of Trackmaster on the USTA’s website or by direct download by clicking here

The Pick-5 wager begins in race one and runs through race five. It is a 50-cent base wager and if all five winners aren’t selected, the carryover amount will move to the Saturday (Dec. 14) program.

Post time for the first race tonight is 6 o'clock.

December 13, 2019 - 3:01pm
posted by Billie Owens in sports, harness racing, Batavia Downs, horses of the meet.

Photo: Pacer of the Meet -- Back Is Black.

By Tim Bojarski, for UNY USHWA

With the final weekend of racing at hand, the Upstate New York Chapter of the United States Harness Writers Association (UNY USHWA) has announced the horses of the meet for 2019.

Pacer of the Meet -- Back Is Black (Western Terror-Magic Moments) 1:52.1 ($242,850)

Black Is Back started his year with a tag and ended up a top-class pacer. After being claimed for $20,000 at Saratoga Raceway back in May, Black Is Back found his way into the barn of trainer Mihajlo Zdjelar Jr. through a private purchase by his current owners Curtis Edholm and Mihajlo Zdjelar Sr. He made his first start at Batavia Downs in July, soon won the $12,500 Open I pace and then never looked back.

For the season at Batavia, Black Is Back made 13 starts with five wins, two seconds and three thirds, all in Open I company and did not miss a single check the entire meet earning him $44,565 in the process. He finished in the money 77% of the time and his best win time at the Downs was 1:53.1.

For the entire year Black Is Back has made 26 starts with 10 wins, four seconds and four thirds for $79,765 in purses with a mark of 1:52.2.

Trotter of the Meet -- Lougazi (Lou’s Legacy-Winning Blade) 1:56.1 ($198,483) (Photo above.)

Lougazi made an encore performance this year as he was the 2018 Batavia Downs Trotter of the Meet. During the 2019 season in Genesee County, Lougazi made 16 starts with five wins, four seconds and three thirds and much like his side-wheeling counterpart Black Is Back, Lougazi made all his starts in Open I company as well. 

Lougazi had a very high 75 percent in the money average too and his $50,500 in purses was the highest amount earned by any overnight Standardbred competing at the meet this year. His career best year also included a new lifetime mark of 1:56.1 taken at Batavia in September.

Overall in 2019 Lougazi has made 34 starts with nine wins, 10 seconds and five thirds with $94,000 in earnings. Mary Warriner owns Lougazi who is trained by Ryan Swift.

Mare of the Meet -- HP Sissy (Up The Credit-Monica Blue Chip) 1:52.1 ($367,629) (Photo above.)

HP Sissy was purchased privately in January by John and Sally Finnocchario and became the star of the Finnocchario’s Dream Stable. She went on to win 13 races out of 37 starts and made $116,493 racing at tracks across New York State.

In July HP Sissy made her first of 13 starts at Batavia Downs and ended up winning four Open I paces for fillies and mares, besides finishing second three times and third four more and made $41,375 in purses along the way. She wound up in the money 85% of the time which was the highest percentage of hitting the board of any horse racing at the meet. Her fastest win time at the Downs was also her seasonal mark; 1:53.3. Mike Ohol is the trainer of HP Sissy.

All the connections of Black Is Back, Lougazi and HP Sissy will receive their awards in the Purple Haze Winner’s Circle at Batavia Downs between races on Saturday (Dec. 14) during the UNY USHWA Night of Distinction. Post time for the first race is 6 p.m.

December 11, 2019 - 12:20pm
posted by Billie Owens in sports, harness racing, Batavia Downs, UNY USHWA.

By Tim Bojarski, for UNY USHWA

In an era where mainstream media habitually overlooks harness racing in their day to day publications, two news outlets in New York State routinely include harness racing news in their sports pages and continue to promote the sport despite their counterparts' failure to do so.

And the coverage given to the action at the track by the Batavia Daily News and The Batavian is why the Upstate New York Chapter of the United States Harness Writers Association (USHWA) will be presenting them with the 2019 President’s Award.

The Batavia Daily News is a print newspaper that was founded in 1878 and has been in operation ever since.Their circulation goes well beyond the confines of the City of Batavia and Genesee County, into several surrounding counties and also includes Buffalo and Rochester.

Additionally the paper has a strong online presence (thedailynewsonline.com) to go along with its daily print publication and both cover Batavia and Genesee County in depth.

The Batavian (thebatavian.com) is an online-only news outlet that was launched in 2008. It is the first local, online-only news source for the City of Batavia and Genesee County and has become one of Genesee County's most popular internet news sites and it provides local residents with news and information based mainly around Genesee County.

This outlet has a reputation of showing up at every major event in the city and posting timely firsthand reports and videos.

"Both of these outlets have provided outstanding coverage to harness racing at Batavia Downs over the years but in 2019, gave unprecedented weeklong coverage to the $1.8 million New York Sire Stakes Night of Champions that were held at Batavia Downs and produced record numbers for the track as well as noticeably increased revenue for the city itself that weekend by visiting participants," said Tim Bojarski, president of UNY USHWA.

"They both do an outstanding job for the community in general and the sport in particular. The coverage provided to harness racing by these fine news sources sets a standard that outlets in other cities should well take note of."

The Batavia Daily News and The Batavian will be presented their awards in the Purple Haze Winner’s Circle at Batavia Downs on Saturday night (Dec. 14). Post time for the first race is 6 p.m.

The Batavian -- Video: The Night of Champions at Batavia Downs

December 10, 2019 - 2:27pm
posted by Billie Owens in sports, harness racing, Batavia Downs.

By Tim Bojarski, for UNY USHWA

James Carll Caradori has been in the harness racing business since 1968 and during his 51-years of participation has been very successful as an owner. 

However beyond that, he has always been an ambassador for the sport and his decades of dedication are the reason the Upstate New York Chapter of the United States Harness Writers Association (USHWA) are honoring him with the 2019 Good Guy award during the Night of Distinction at Batavia Downs on Saturday night (Dec. 14).

Caradori raced horses in the 1970’s and 80’s under the stable name Jamison Acres and had a slew of local champions that included the great Free Chase, Delmer Wynwood, Prince Rapide N, Gi Gi Lamour, Pamela Wynwood and Count Adios A.

Fast forward to the modern era and Caradori has more recently campaigned horses like Rockstar Temper, Inthenameofjames and the 2017 Batavia Downs Pacer of the Meet, Focus Power. He is currently racing a stable of four at the Downs and is as active a participant as in any point of his career.

But to Caradori it’s more than just racing horses. He has always made it a practice of getting people involved in the sport by bringing friends and groups the the track, hosting family functions in the clubhouse, inviting people to come out for win pictures with his horses (even if he just met them) and is always ready to help with fund raisers and activities that are held at the track. 

Caradori is not only a good guy, he is a true friend of the sport.

James Caradori will receive his award in the Purple Haze Winner’s Circle at Batavia Downs between races on Saturday (Dec. 14). Post time for the first race is 6 p.m.

December 10, 2019 - 2:22pm
posted by Billie Owens in sports, harness racing, Batavia Downs.

By Tim Bojarski, for Batavia Downs

Joseph "Joe" Beszczynski Jr., of Darien Center, passed away at the age of 89 on Nov. 29 after a long illness.

Beszczynski was born in Buffalo to the late Joseph and Anna (Krawczyk) Beszczynski Sr.

Although he worked construction, he eventually got involved in harness racing and ended up training and driving horses for more than 30 years. He competed at Batavia Downs and Vernon Downs for most of the year but would travel to Aurora Downs in the winter on the advice of his good friend Bob Altizer.

Beszczynski was first licensed to drive in 1962 and campaigned a stable of horses until 1993. During that time he amassed 154 wins and earned $316,747 in purses. His best year came in 1983 when he won 17 races. He raced horses of both gaits but one of this top horses was a trotter named St. Joesph, who was a 12-time winner during his career and was bred and owned by his wife, Helen.

When Beszczynski retired from racing he worked at Skyline Campground, which was near his home and also spent his time enjoying stock car racing.

Beszczynski is survived by his loving wife of 67 years, Helen (Rustowicz); his children, Joe (Kate) Beszczynski III and Linda (David) Shoe; grandson, Joe (Janet) Beszczynski IV; and great-grandchildren, James, Abigail, and Destiny; siblings, Adele (the late Dan) Tybor, Gene (Edwina) Beszczynski, Dan (the late Cecilia) Beszczynski; many nieces, nephews and cousins.

He was preceded in death by his grandson, Timothy, and his brothers, Ray and Cy Beszczynski.

December 10, 2019 - 2:05pm
posted by Billie Owens in sports, harness racing, Batavia Downs.

By Tim Bojarski, for Batavia Downs

Maryann Sarama-Luce was a pioneer in harness racing in Western New York as one of only a handful of female drivers who raced full time at Batavia Downs. And despite beating the odds more than just in a race, she not only met the challenges she faced in her role, she exceeded them and excelled in the sport for decades.

As a result of her place in the history of harness racing, the Upstate New York Chapter of the United States Harness Writers Association (USHWA) will posthumously present her with their Lifetime Achievement Award on Saturday (Dec. 14) at Batavia Downs during the Night of Distinction awards ceremony.

Sarama-Luce passed away in July of 2011 at 73 years of age after a long battle with leukemia. She was introduced to the business when she met Danny Sarama in the late 1960s and from that point on, the two formed the successful Mardan Stable.

Their most memorable performer was the pacer You Devil You, who won 10 races in a row in 1976 while rising from a lowly claimer to an Open class pacer. In the early 1980s after separating from Danny, she continued on her own as both a trainer and a driver and had her best year in the bike in 1983 when she won 21 races. 

She ended her driving career in 1990 with 109 wins and $201,435 in earnings, but at that point she started training full time and continued to do so until her passing. As a conditioner she sent 107 horses to the winner’s circle and their efforts produced $334,835 in earnings. Some of the best horses she trained included Gold Bandit N, Top Dog Alex, Top Dog Nicholas, Easy L Bar and Guy Lee Debbie. 

After her passing, her son Carl and husband Richard have carried on with her stable.

“Harness racing was her number one priority and passion,” her daughter Lynette McGiveron said. “Her horses were the driving force behind her battle to recover. Even in her final days she worried more about her horses than herself.”

McGiveron continued “A passion of Maryann's was to have her mares bred and to raise the foals to race. She named them after her kids and grandchildren and had planned on doing so until every child and grandchild was named.

"The last foal to be born on her farm was 'Top Dog Morgan' named after her grandson. Unfortunately Mary Ann never got to see it in person. He was born the night she went into the hospital for her final stay.”

Sarama-Luce will join previous Lifetime Achievement award recipients Gaston Guindon, Fred Haslip, Ken Ball and Gerry Sarama in this honor. 

Sarama-Luce's family will be presented the award in the Purple Haze Winner’s Circle at Batavia Downs between races on Saturday evening (Dec. 14). Post time for the first race is 6 p.m.

December 8, 2019 - 12:56pm
posted by Billie Owens in sports, Batavia Downs, harness racing.

By Tim Bojarski, for Batavia Downs

After racing at Northfield Park the last two weeks, Down On My Luck returned to Batavia Downs and his winning ways as he captured the $12,500 Open I Handicap pace on Saturday night (Dec. 7). 

Cultural Paradise (Billy Davis Jr.) took the lead from the pegs with the field following him in post position order. After going to the half is a very pedestrian :59.1,  driver Drew Monti tapped the gas and pulled the pocket, rocketing alongside and then past Cultural Paradise to take the lead at the three-quarters in 1:27.1. From there Down On My Luck strode out to a two length lead at the head of the stretch and won easily from there by 1-¾ lengths under the light in 1:55.1. 

It was the seventh win in only 10 starts at Batavia Downs and the 11th win of the year for Down On My Luck ($6.30) who is owned by Robert Woodburn and trained by Patrick Shepherd.

(Photo of Brunello N and driver Drew Monti in a dead heat with Lucky McTrucky and driver Dave McNeight III.)

The $11,000 Open II pace was an interesting affair after Brunello N (Drew Monti) and Lucky McTrucky (Dave McNeight III) battled for most of the second half of the mile and then paced side by side down to the wire where they stopped the clock simultaneously in 1:57.2, resulting in a dead heat. 

Brunello N ($2.30) got his third win of the year for owner Carl Monti and trainer Darrin Monti and Lucky McTrucky ($3) got his seventh win of 2019 for owner Tessa Roland and trainer JD Perrin.  

Monti ended up having a big night, scoring a Grand Slam Saturday. Besides the aforementioned Down On My Luck and Brunello N, Monti also won with Way To Go Fabio (2:00, $2.80) and Santana Beach (1:56.4, $21.40). 

Other horsemen having multiple successes during the evening included Denny Bucceri, who scored the driving hat trick along with Jim McNeight Jr. and Renaldo Morales III, who each had two driving wins. Trainers Jim McNeight and Steve Andzel also both sent out two stable members to victory. 

With no winner in the Pick-5 wager on Saturday, there is a $1,164 carryover and a $3,500 guaranteed pool for the Pick-5 wager on Friday (Dec. 13) when racing resumes at Batavia Downs.

The pool is part of the United States Trotting Association’s (USTA) Strategic Wagering Program and as such, there will be free program pages available on the USTA’s website on Wednesday morning (Dec. 11). Post time for Friday (Dec. 13) is at 6 p.m.

December 7, 2019 - 11:56am
posted by Billie Owens in sports, harness racing, Batavia Downs.

Photo of Fox Valley Veto out front with driver Billy Davis Jr.

By Tim Bojarski, for Batavia Downs

With no more Wednesday racing this year at Batavia Downs, the top distaff pace joined the weekly featured trot on Friday night (Dec. 6) with one race providing an upset and the other satisfying the chalk bettors.

In the $12,500 Open I Handicap trot, Fox Valley Veto (Billy Davis Jr.) settled in fourth off the gate and watched as Chuckabuck (Drew Monti) made a break and Alert Hanover (Jim McNeight Jr.) overtook Empire Earl N (Mike Caprio) for the lead at the quarter pole. After all that action sorted itself out, Davis pulled Veto off the pegs at the three-eighths pole and motored to the top by the half in 1:00.2.

As the race progressed onto the second circuit, Wheels A Turning (Shawn McDonough) came calling on the outside and matched strides with Fox Valley Veto up the backside, around the far turn and into the stretch. The battle continued down the lane until Fox Valley Veto slammed the door at the light, winning by one-half length in 1:58.3 at 15-1 .

It was the 11th win of the year for Fox Valley Veto ($33.40) and owners Vogel and Wags Nags Stable and Jack Rice. Maria Rice trains the winner.

(Photo of Lady London with reinsman Ray Fisher Jr.)

Then in the $12,500 Open I Handicap pace of fillies and mares, Lady London (Ray Fisher Jr.) drifted fourth on the outside for the first eighth of a mile before she made a quick rush for the lead at the quarter in :28.2. From there the race was history.

Lady London opened up a 1-&frac12 length lead by the half in :58.3 and extended it to four at the three-quarters in 1:26.4. With no one even close as she sprinted around the last turn, Lady London jogged home wrapped up like a Christmas present to win by 6-½ lengths in 1:56.

It was the third win in the last four starts for Lady London ($5.40) and owner VHF Racing. Sabrina Shaw is the trainer.

Eight participating horse people had multiple win performances on Friday night. Drivers Billy Davis Jr. and Drew Monti led the way with three wins each on the card while Shawn McDonough and John Cummings Jr. both won two. And trainers Sabrina Shaw, Maria Rice, Jim Tronolone and Dave Russo all sent two stablemembers to the winner’s enclosure for photographs.

Racing resumes at Batavia Downs on Saturday (Dec. 7) with post time at 6 p.m.

December 5, 2019 - 2:08pm
posted by Billie Owens in sports, harness racing, Batavia Downs.

By Tim Bojarski, for Batavia Downs

On Friday (Dec. 6) there is a carryover of $868 in the Pick-5 at Batavia Downs and a guaranteed pool of $3,000 has been announced for the Pick-5 wager that day.

The pool is part of the United States Trotting Association’s (USTA) Strategic Wagering Program and as such, free program pages are available courtesy of Trackmaster on the USTA’s website or by direct download by clicking here

The Pick-5 wager begins in race one and runs through race five. It is a 50-cent base wager and if all five winners aren’t selected, the carryover amount will move to the Saturday (Dec. 7) program.

Post time for the first race Friday is 6 p.m.

December 1, 2019 - 1:08pm
posted by Billie Owens in sports, harness racing, Batavia Downs.

Sir Pugsley with driver Drew Monti in the lead.

By Tim Bojarski, for Batavia Downs

Sir Pugsley took full advantage of a rare inside post, a favorable trip and a failed favorite to light up the tote board in the $12,500 Open I Handicap pace at Batavia Downs on Saturday night (Nov. 30). 

Driver Drew Monti tucked Sir Pugsley in second behind last weeks winner Howmac Dancer (Renaldo Morales III) going to the quarter as the heavy favorite Crocketts Cullen N (Larry Stalbaum) failed to negotiated the first turn and made a break as a result. Stalbaum gathered his 1-9 shot back together and rushed up the rim to pull close to the leader and remained there for the rest of the mile. 

The top three horses continued to pace in that order -- Howmac Dancer on top, Sir Pugsley in the hole and Crocketts Cullen N on the outside -- to the half in :57 and three-quarters in 1:25.4. When they rounded the last turn and headed into the stretch, Crocketts Cullen N faded just enough to allow Monti to extract Sir Pugsley off the pegs and he came out with a full head of steam and mowed down Howmac Dancer in deep stretch to win by a length in 1:55.2.

It was the seventh win of the year and third of the meet at Batavia Downs for Sir Pugsley ($18.80) who has now earned $88,270 this year for owner Robert Woodburn. Patrick Shepherd trains the winner. 

In the co-featured $11,000 Open II Handicap, Rise Up Now (Shawn McDonough) tripped-out behind the front-running Brunello N (Drew Monti) for over 7/8ths of a mile before popping the deuce mid-stretch and brushing to the lead at the beam to win in 1:56.2. 

It was the fifth win of the year for Rise Up Now ($34.80) who is owned and trained by Steve Andzel. 

Driver Shawn McDonough continued his hot streak in the bike winning three more races on Saturday and he rewarded his backers with premium mutuels with all three. His longshots included Dark Horse ($44.60), the aforementioned Rise Up Now and Willey Bite ($26.40). In the last three nights McDonough has won seven races. 

Also on Saturday night drivers Ray Fisher Jr. and Renaldo Morales III each scored two wins. Trainers Ryan Swift, Joe Skowyra and Steve Andzel all had two wins apiece as well. 

Racing resumes at Batavia Downs on Friday (Dec. 6) with post time at 6 p.m.

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