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Batavia Downs

June 15, 2021 - 11:43am
posted by Press Release in sports, harness racing, Batavia Downs.

By Tim Bojarski, for Batavia Downs

Horsemen wishing to race at Batavia Downs for the upcoming 2021 summer/fall meet should note that stall applications are now available on the track’s website (www.bataviadownsgaming.com). 

Simply click Live Racing>Horsemen>Stall Application, Agreement & Reservations link to download. Stall applications are also available at the Western New York Harness Horsemen’s Association office located on-site at Buffalo Raceway. 

Batavia Downs will conduct a 59-day meet in 2021, up from 42 days during the pandemic last year and the complete racing schedule can be found at the track's website under Live Racing>Live Racing Schedule. Purse levels were raised at the end of the 2020 season and this year, they are expected to exceed those values. 

“We are looking forward to getting back to normal and welcoming our fans back to the track,” said Todd Haight, director/general manager of Live Racing. “As the vaccination rate in New York has hit the 70-percent mark, we anticipate that most COVID restrictions will be lifted by our opening day and everyone here is excited to see a full in-house crowd enjoying live harness racing at our track once again.”

Racing Secretary Joe Zambito has stated that stall applications must be received by the track no later than Tuesday (July 6). For more information please contact the race office at (585) 344-6161 starting Thursday (July 8). 

The backstretch will open for tack on Thursday (July 15) at 8 a.m. and for horses on Saturday (July 17) at 8 a.m.

The first condition sheet of the year will be out the week of July 12. The opening night card will feature the New York Sire Stakes 2-year-old trotting fillies who will vie for $90,000 (est.) in purses. 

Batavia Downs offers a text messaging service for notices about draws, entries and changes to the racing schedule. Horsemen are strongly encouraged to text the word “HORSEMAN” to 51660. You will then need to reply “YES” and you will be opted in for race office text message updates. 

The 74th season of live harness racing at America’s oldest lighted harness kicks off on Wednesday (July 21) and runs through Saturday (Dec. 11).

June 12, 2021 - 9:14am
posted by Howard B. Owens in almost queen, Batavia Downs, music, arts, entertainment, news.

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The Rockin' The Downs concert series opened Friday evening with a performance by the Queen tribute band, Almost Queen.

Photos by Philip Casper.

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May 21, 2021 - 11:07am
posted by Press Release in sports, Batavia Downs.

By Tim Bojarski, for Batavia Downs

The 2021 Batavia Downs meet is only two months away and the excitement of getting back to normal racing at the oldest lighted harness track in America can be felt throughout the facility.

“Having a new meet start just on its own is reason enough for optimism. But with COVID numbers dropping to new lows in New York and yearlong restrictions now being lifted, everyone at Batavia Downs Gaming and Hotel is very much looking forward to the third week of July,” said Todd Haight, GM/director of Live Racing at Batavia Downs.

“There is so much going on at the track these days it’s hard to keep up and being able to welcome all our loyal customers back to the track leaves us with a very high level of anticipation for the season to begin.”

The 2021 Batavia Downs meet kicks off on Wednesday (July 21) at 6 p.m. and runs for 59 dates, ending on Saturday (Dec. 11).

In July and August racing will take place on Wednesdays at 5 p.m. (except opening night), Saturdays at 6 p.m. and Sundays at 1:15 p.m. Then in September, October and November the schedule shifts to Wednesday, Friday (except Nov. 19 & 26), Saturday with all post times at 5 p.m. December cuts back to just Wednesday and Saturday and both will go to post at 5 p.m.

There are two special matinee cards on Monday (Sept. 6) at 1:15 p.m., which is Labor Day, and Saturday (Nov. 6) at 3:15 p.m., which is Breeders Cup Day.

The stake schedule is enhanced from last year as the New York Sire Stakes will visit the Downs three times during the summer, bringing four of the eight divisions with them. On Wednesday (July 21), which is opening night, the NYSS 2-year-old trotting fillies will be in town. One week later on Wednesday (July 28) the Downs will host an all-stake double-header as 3-year-old pacers of both genders will be on hand. And then on Sunday (Aug. 4) the 2-year-old male trotters will close out the NYSS schedule.

The Excelsior A and B divisions will also be on hand for all the NYSS dates.

Batavia Downs also offers online wagering with bataviabets.com. Opening an account with bataviabets.com allows patrons to wager on all Batavia Downs races as well as every other harness and thoroughbred track racing each day. Plus they can also enjoy some of the top rewards nationwide for joining.

New customers who sign up will receive a $25 bonus after betting their first $100 through the service. Then customers who bet $2,000 or more (based on monthly play) will receive an 8-percent bonus added back to their account. And customers who wager between $500 and $1,999 (based on monthly play) will receive a 5-percent added bonus. Anyone 18 and over can easily open an account online and then bet from their phone, anytime and anywhere.

Batavia Downs Gaming has also brought back the “Rockin' the Downs” concert series and this year it’s bigger and better than ever. There will be a total of 12 Friday night concerts that will be held during June (starting June 11), July and August and include national acts like Vince Neal, Don Felder, Queensrÿche and Molly Hatchet. A complete list of bands, ticket details, dates and times can be found at www.bataviadownsgaming.com.

May 11, 2021 - 12:24pm

Press release:

Officials from Batavia Downs today announced they will be partnering with the Genesee and Orleans County Health Departments to host a COVID-19 Vaccination Clinic Friday, May 14th from 3-7 p.m. on-site at the Park Place Events Center.

The clinic will accept walk-ins and will be offering the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which requires a single dose to be administered ("One and done."). The FREE vaccination clinic will be open to the public, and no appointment will be necessary.

As an incentive to help promote participation, Batavia Downs will give all persons who get vaccinated at the clinic $20 in free food and drink. Those who get vaccinated will receive a voucher that will be redeemable anytime at Player’s Club for one week.

Each person who receives a vaccine at the clinic will also receive two entries into a drawing for a pair of Front Row tickets to all 12 Rockin’ The Downs Summer Concerts in the Premium Section. The Season Pass worth of tickets are valued at more than $1,500.

“In order to put the threat of COVID-19 behind us, we need to get as many people vaccinated as possible,” said Henry Wojtaszek, president and CEO of Batavia Downs. “For more than a year, we’ve tried to take a creative approach to dealing with COVID. Our Health and Safety Plan has been implemented since our reopening in September.

"We’ve employed innovative strategies to protect our employees and customers. We are proud to be taking the lead when it comes to the ‘new normal’ in our industry. We hope to see long lines on Friday and are excited to help get more shots in more arms. Getting vaccinated will help us & our region get back to normal, allow for local businesses to welcome back more customers and get our economy moving again.”

“We are grateful to Batavia Downs for not only providing a space for this vaccination clinic to take place, but also for helping incentivize those who are looking to get vaccinated,” said David E. Bell, emergency preparedness coordinator for GO Health Departments.

State Senator Ed Rath said, "I commend Batavia Downs and Western OTB for putting together this vaccine clinic for the public. Working to assure that our residents can easily access these crucial vaccines, right in their own backyard is critical. I appreciate the work they are doing to assure that everyone who wants a vaccine is able to receive one.”

May 8, 2021 - 11:33am
posted by Press Release in sports, kentucky derby, Run for the Roses, Batavia Downs, WROTB.

By Tim Bojarski, for Western OTB/Batavia Downs​:

While it wasn’t quite as big as winning the lottery, there were smiles galore at the Western Regional Off-Track Betting (WROTB) branch locations and Batavia Downs Gaming and Hotel after last Saturday’s (May 1) Run for the Roses.

As has been the case so often since 1974 when the public benefit corporation began accepting Derby wagers, WROTB patrons crushed it at the windows, winning over $1.4 million dollars. Based on total handle from all WROTB simulcast locations including Batavia Bets.com (the corporation’s online wagering platform), that number reflects the amount of money paid out to bettors was 9 percent higher than the national average. 

Three customers ended up being OTB’s biggest winners when they each cashed for $18,912 after all three wagered $48 on a $2 Superfecta box ticket on the winning combination of 7-8-9-14. Two other patrons wagered just one dollar and hit the Superfecta in exact order of 8-7-9-14 and won $9,456. 

WROTB President and CEO Henry Wojtaszek said “It was a thrilling horse race and I’m happy so many of our customers were winners. We thank everyone who bet through a WROTB outlet for their patronage on racing’s biggest day.”

Todd Haight, director/GM of Live Racing at Batavia Downs added “I think we did a good job getting the word out that Medina Spirit was a major player in this year’s race. We also gave several reasons to wager against heavy Derby favorite Essential Quality and it appears several of our customers took that advice.”

It also appeared that those who came to bet in person heeded the advice about masks and social distancing as all locations reported business going off without a hitch. 

“We appreciate everyone following COVID protocols and working with our staff to make the Derby as successful as it was,” Director of WROTB Branch Operations Sean Schiano said. 

Schiano added that preparations are well underway at Western Regional Off-Track Betting for the second jewel of thoroughbred racing’s Triple Crown, the 146th Preakness Stakes, to be run next Saturday (May 15) at historic Pimlico Racecourse in Baltimore, Md.

April 23, 2021 - 4:34pm

Officials at Batavia Downs Gaming today announced that as a public service to the residents of the Genesee Valley, Rapha Family Medicine of Buffalo will be conducting a drive-thru COVID-19 Rapid Testing Site in the Batavia Downs Main parking lot. Cost is $65 per test.

Drive-thru testing will be available Mondays – Saturdays from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m. beginning on Monday, May 3rd.

All monies for the test will go to Rapha Family Medicine. Batavia Downs does not receive a portion of the testing fee, nor does it get a fee from Rapha for the right to set up in the parking lot.

The Rapha Team uses a COVID-19 Rapid Antigen test, which is quick and minimally invasive. Results are returned within minutes of taking the test.

“We are pleased to have the professionals from Rapha Family Medicine on site," said Henry Wojtaszek, president and CEO of Batavia Downs. “Those residing here in the Genesee Valley who are in need of a rapid test will have a convenient, efficient and professional option right in their backyard.”

For more information on testing, interested persons can call (716) 462 4612 or visit raphafamilymedicine.com/testing.

“We are looking forward to seeing and serving the people of the Genesee Valley," said Rapha Family Medicine spokesperson, Greg MacKinnon. “We currently conduct three other rapid testing sites in Buffalo and Niagara Falls and have tested over 5,000 persons in the last few months. We’re grateful to Batavia Downs for providing a place in the community for people to get tested.”

Beginning at 10 a.m. on Batavia Downs’ concert days, Rapha Family Medicine will be onsite for any ticket holders who are not yet vaccinated to receive a test for entry to the concert. The price on Concert Fridays for ticket holders will be $34.95.

April 7, 2021 - 11:10am
posted by Press Release in business, Batavia Downs, job fair.

Press release:

Officials at Batavia Downs Gaming today (April 7) announced that they will be conducting an in-person job fair inside the Park Place Room this afternoon from 2-6 p.m.

Batavia Downs is looking for servers, dining hosts, cooks, bussers, bartenders, dishwashers, Player’s Club and gaming hosts, event staff, live racing staff, environmental services staff and security staff. Representatives from each department will be on hand to talk to interested applicants.

No experience is necessary for some positions. Applicants must be 18 years of age or older. Batavia Downs has full- and part-time positions available with benefits.

Human Resources staff will be on hand to answer any questions. If you are unable to attend, resumes can be sent to [email protected].

March 18, 2021 - 3:58pm

Press release:

Batavia Downs Gaming & Hotel is pleased to announce the following changes to the upcoming Rockin’ the Downs Summer Concert Series.  

The Grass Roots replaces The Sweet, the band originally scheduled for July 30th. The Grass Roots originated in the mid-'60s and charted with such hits as; "Midnight Confessions," "Let’s Live for Today," "Sooner or Later" and "Temptation Eyes." The band's current lineup is Mark Dawson, Dusty Hanvey, Larry Nelson and Joe Dougherty, who have been playing together since 2012 and have delighted audiences across the country.

Friday, Aug. 20th sees American Alternative Rock band, Puddle of Mudd, return to the Downs. Rocking the stage here in 2018, the post-grunge band was one of the highlights of the entire summer. Hailing from Kansas City, Mo., the band has sold more than 7 million albums. Concertgoers will be sure to hear hits such as "She Hates Me," "Blurry" and "Control."

Tickets for all nine concerts will be available at www.BataviaConcerts.com once guidance is received from New York State on the holding of outdoor events. Tickets will also be available for purchase at Batavia Downs Gaming & Hotel at the Lucky Treasures Gift Shop located in the lobby.

The current concert schedule is as follows:

June 25 -- Steve Augeri, former lead vocalist for Journey
July 2 -- Molly Hatchet
July 9 -- Don Felder, formerly of The Eagles
July 16 -- Tommy James & The Shondells
July 23 -- Skid Row
July 30 -- The Grass Roots
Aug. 6 -- The Machine (Pink Floyd Tribute)
Aug. 13 -- Queensryche
Aug. 20 -- Puddle of Mudd

March 17, 2021 - 3:07pm
posted by Press Release in Batavia Downs, batavia, Batavia PD, news, K-9 Batu.

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Press release:

On March 17th, a ceremony was held in the lobby at Batavia Downs Gaming as they donated $1,463.14 to the Batavia Police Department’s K-9 Unit.  The money was left at Batavia Downs and was turned into the police. When the money went unclaimed, Batavia Downs decided to donate that money to the Police Department’s K-9 Unit.

The money will be used to help fund the program, headed up by Officer Quider and K-9 Batu.

“We’re happy to help contribute to the K-9 Unit,” said Henry Wojtaszek, president and CEO of Batavia Downs. “It’s important for our local police department to have the resources they need to keep our community safe.”

“Public support and donations play a key role in the continuance of this worthwhile program," said Batavia Police Chief Shawn Heubusch. “These funds will be used to offset the cost of food, veterinary services, training, equipment and other K-9-related expenses.”

Photos by Howard Owens.

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March 9, 2021 - 6:41pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Batavia Downs, arts, music, news, video.
Video Sponsor

Press release:

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

Kicking off the series on Friday, June 25th is former Journey frontman Steve Augeri. Steve returns after playing one of the most enjoyable concerts from 2019’s series. The lead vocalist for the rock group from 1998-2006, Steve 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."

Next up, on Friday, July 2nd, Batavia Downs welcomes Southern Rock legends 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.

Friday, July 9th 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, Don has helped write and perform many iconic classics. His 2008 memoir was a New York Times bestseller. Don 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."

Performing on Friday, July 16th is Tommy James and the Shondells. Hailing from Niles, Mich., Tommy rose to stardom after his song "Hanky Panky" went to #1 in Pittsburgh. Other hits in his catalog include "I Think We’re Alone Now," "Mony Mony," "Crimson and Clover," "Sweet Cherry Wine" and "Crystal Blue Persuasion."

Rocking the stage on Friday, July 23rd is Heavy Metal Rockers 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," "18 And Life," and many more.

Legendary Rock Band The Sweet performs on Friday, July 30th. Hailing from London, the band has sold more than 35 million albums worldwide since forming in 1968. Original member Andy Scott handles lead vocals on such hits as "Little Willy," "Ballroom Blitz," "Fox On The Run" and "Love Is Like Oxygen."

America’s top Pink Floyd Show, The Machine hits the stage on Friday, Aug. 6th. Over 30 years they have extended the legacy of Pink Floyd while creating another legacy all their own. Over the years, The Machine has touched the hearts and souls of many with its stellar musicianship, dramatic lighting, and video performances.

Closing out the series on Friday, Aug. 13th is rock band Queensrÿche. With more than 30 million albums sold worldwide, Queensrÿche continues to tour the globe to sold-out audiences. The band has earned multiple Grammy Award nominations and won the MTV “viewer’s choice” award for the #1 chart-topping hit "Silent Lucidity." Even with 11 gold and platinum plaques and several Top 10 hard rock anthems under their belt, Queensrÿche consistently delivers high-octane live shows combining the hungry fire of a new band with the tempered experience of master showmen. 

Tickets for all eight concerts will be available at www.BataviaConcerts.com beginning sometime in late March or April. Tickets will also be available for purchase at Batavia Downs Gaming & Hotel at the Lucky Treasures Gift Shop located in the lobby. 

“Preliminarily we’ll be looking to have a “POD” setup, which has been utilized in many other locations. It allows patrons to be with those in their circle and socially distanced from other concertgoers," said Henry Wojtaszek, president and CEO of Batavia Downs Gaming & Hotel.

“If restrictions are lifted, then we will adapt as necessary with our concert setup. Tickets will go on sale once we have more guidance from the state about how we can safely conduct these events.”

Debuting this year will be a chair rental option. There will be 500 chairs available for rental for $5 each. All net proceeds for chair rental will benefit Make-A-Wish Western New York. Volunteers from Make-A-Wish will also be distributing foam drink holders in return for a donation.

“We are eager to welcome music lovers back to the facility,” said Ryan Hasenauer, director of Marketing for Batavia Downs Gaming & Hotel. “We’re looking forward to bringing musical icons back to Batavia Downs for all to enjoy.

"After not having shows last summer, we’re excited to finally launch our partnership with Make-A-Wish Western New York to help raise funds to help them transform lives.”

Other concerts will also be announced outside of the Fridays mentioned above. Ticket prices will vary based on concert and capacity. 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.

January 22, 2021 - 2:02pm

Press release:

At Western Regional Off Track Betting Corp.'s January Board of Director's meeting, Richard Bianchi was unanimously reelected as chairman for 2021.

Bianchi represents Monroe County on the Board of Directors.

Ed Morgan, the Orleans County representative on the board, was also reelected as vice chairman for 2021.

“Richard and I came in together 18 years ago, “said Tom Wamp, Livingston County’s director on the WROTB Board. “We didn’t always agree, but when we did not, he would ask me to sit down and we would work it out.  It’s great to see how far this facility has come under his leadership.”

President and CEO from Batavia Downs Gaming Henry Wojtaszek was happy to see Bianchi’s reelection.

“We’ve had tremendous growth over the past few years, prior the pandemic," Wojtaszek said. "Richard put his trust in the officers and staff and he has provided great guidance as we continue to grow.”

Richard Siebert, Genesee County’s director on the Board, nominated Ed Morgan for vice chairman.

“Ed’s knowledge has been instrumental in helping out at Batavia Downs," Siebert said. “He has always made himself available to the staff.”

Bianchi was pleased to see Morgan nominated.

“Ed has been an asset to this corporation for many years and we’ve worked well together during that time," Bianchi said.

The term for the chairman and vice chairman positions expires in January 2022.

January 1, 2021 - 6:13pm
posted by Press Release in sports, Batavia Downs, Buffalo Bills Playoff Game, football.

President and CEO of Batavia Downs Gaming, Henry Wojtaszek, announced Thursday that they will give tickets to the upcoming Buffalo Bills' Football Playoff Game to frontline workers and first responders in the community.

“We are grateful to the Pegulas and to Governor Cuomo for allowing fans into the stadium for the playoff game," Wojtaszek said. “We wanted to make sure those who have been at the forefront of this pandemic and those keeping us safe during these extraordinary times were considered for this opportunity.

"These folks have made tremendous sacrifices for the greater good of the communities they serve. This offering is just a small part of what we can do to thank them.”

To be considered, Batavia Downs is asking that community members nominate a frontline healthcare worker or first responder by emailing a one paragraph synopsis on why that person should be considered for a ticket. The subject line should read: Ticket Nominee.

Email must also include:

  • The nominee’s name;
  • Job title;
  • Place of employment;
  • The nominee’s phone number and email address.

Nominations can be sent to [email protected] and will only be accepted until 11:59 tonight -- one minute prior to midnight Friday, Jan. 1st.

Nominations will be reviewed and a limited number of nominees will be contacted on Saturday or Sunday if chosen.

“We’re very excited to give these tickets away,” said Ryan Hasenauer, director of Marketing for Batavia Downs. “Once we pick the recipients, we will be contacting each to let them know what they’ll need to do in accordance with the protocols set forth by New York State and the Buffalo Football Team.

Information on this and other ways tickets can be received can also be found on a post on their Facebook page.

December 15, 2020 - 12:24pm
posted by Billie Owens in sports, harness racing, Batavia Downs.

By Tim Bojarski, for Batavia Downs

Despite the many challenges faced in every aspect of the business from day one right through the final race due to the global coronavirus pandemic, Batavia Downs was able to race safely throughout the duration of its dates and just completed one of its most successful meets with regards to nightly handle. 

“The 2020 season was a rousing success because all parties involved in the racing product worked together to insure the health and safety of everyone on the grounds at all times,” said Todd Haight, director/general manager of Live racing at Batavia Downs. “With the help and cooperation of the New York State Gaming Commission and the Western New York Harness Horsemen’s Association headed by Bruce Tubin, we were able to formulate a safety plan that got us through the entire meet without incident.

"That in turn allowed us to engage our customers with quality racing all year and put up record breaking betting numbers despite the absence of a live crowd. That is an accomplishment that all of our racing participants should be proud of.”

Henry F. Wojtaszek, president and CEO of Batavia Downs added “I am very pleased with another flawless race season at the Downs as everyone pulled together to ensure the facility was safe for our horsemen and horse women, staff and customers. Safety during COVID was our number one goal while still offering a fun, family-oriented and exciting harness racing atmosphere.” 

Despite racing 21 less dates than 2019, bataviabets.com, the online betting arm of Western Regional Off Track Betting (WROTB), saw a huge 67-percent increase in total handle on Batavia Downs and the nightly handle average saw a spectacular 151-percent increase during the 42-night schedule.

The increase exhibited the strong following the track has via its export signal customers and their taking advantage of the generous monthly rewards of up to 8 percent on their wagers through the bataviabets.com wagering platform. 

Another contributing factor was the United States Trotting Association's Strategic Wagering Program that Batavia frequently utilized during the meet. It helped expose the product to a greater audience through free program pages and enhanced betting pools and the track saw major handle increases on nights where the Strategic Wagers were offered. 

The OTB handle which includes Batavia bets and our EZ-Bets rose by 52 percent, the track’s export handle grew by 35 percent and the total betting that included only very limited on-track betting in the clubhouse rose by 21 percent.

Scott P. Kiedrowski, vice-president of Operations said “We are thrilled with our numbers for the 2020 meet here at Batavia Downs. All of our staff did exceptional work under the most difficult circumstances.”

Haight added it was a record total betting number since WROTB reopened the track in 2002.

The dash winning driver of the meet was Jim Morrill Jr. who notched his third driving title at the Downs. In 408 starts Morrill won 102 races with 72 seconds and 53 thirds for a .391 UDR and winnings of $507,686 for the meet. Morrill also scored his 7,500th career victory at the Downs this past November.

Finishing second was Billy Davis Jr. who had 486 starts with 91 wins, 87 seconds and 54 thirds and $422,477 in purses, and Drew Monti who had 404 starts with 75 wins, 71 seconds and 62 thirds with $374,608 in earnings rounded out the top three.   

The dash winning trainer of the meet was Gerry Sarama who captured his first conditioning title at Batavia. Not only did he win 64 races, finish second 36 times and third 28 more for winnings of $286,068, Sarama also registered career training win 1,000 at Batavia this year. 

Shawn McDonough was second with 31 wins, 24 seconds and 39 thirds out of 214 starts with $138,544 in purses and Maria Rice was third with 30 wins, 30 seconds and 20 thirds from 174 starts and $184,833 in winnings. 

Upon approval from the New York State Gaming Commission, live racing will resume at Batavia Downs on Wednesday, July 21.

December 13, 2020 - 11:54am
posted by Billie Owens in sports, harness racing, Batavia Downs.

Photo: Stratosphere with driver Drew Monti.

By Tim Bojarski, for Batavia Downs

The curtain came down on the 2020 racing meet at Batavia Downs on Saturday (Dec. 12) but not before Stratosphere captured the final $9,600 Open pace featured race on a mild December night. 

Driver Drew Monti sent Stratosphere off the wings and took a lead he would not relinquish. With the field in single file fashion, Stratosphere went to the quarter in :28.1 and then backed the half down to :58.2. That prompted Santana Beach (Ron Beback Jr.) to pull first over to try and mount a challenge. 

When the race rounded the third turn Stratosphere raised the stakes, pacing the third quarter in :28.1 and opening up a two length lead at three-quarters. From there Stratosphere made his way around the final bend and paced away to a wrapped-up three-length romp in 1:55.1.

It was the seventh win of the year for Stratosphere ($7.60) who has now earned $54,241 for owner Drew Monti. Darrin Monti trains the winner. 

In the $7,800 undercard pace, Allstar Energy (Ron Beback Jr.) pulled from fifth at the half and made a brush-and-crush move at the five-eighths to take the lead from Beachy Dream (Jim Morrill Jr.) while pacing a very fast :27.2 third quarter. Once in front, Allstar Energy maintained his advantage to the wire where he won by a length in 1:56.

It was the eighth win of the year for Allstar Energy ($11.60) who is owned by Sandra Beback and James Kustra. Ron Beback also trains the winner. 

Drew Monti scored a driving Grand Slam to lead all drivers on Saturday. Besides winning with Stratosphere, Monti also scored with Big Pocket Teen (1:56.2, $15.80), Mateo (1:56.4, $4.30) and Love The Dragon (1:57.4, $3.30).

Darrin Monti and Gerry Sarama were the top trainers with two wins each on the card. 

The Pick-5 on Saturday had a guaranteed pool of $3,000 and that stoked a new money input of $5,499 into the wager. The combination of 4-4-1,4-5-2 returned a healthy $687 for a $1 bet. 

Live racing resumes at Batavia Downs on Wednesday (July 21) when the 2021 season begins. The management and staff of Batavia Downs would like to wish all their horsemen and customers a very Happy Holiday season and a healthy and prosperous New Year.

December 12, 2020 - 2:26pm
posted by Billie Owens in sports, Batavia Downs, harness racing.

By Tim Bojarski, for Batavia Downs

Batavia Downs is featuring a guaranteed pool of $3,000 for the Pick-5 wager today (Dec. 12) with a mandatory payout as this is the final card of the meet.

The pool is part of the United States Trotting Association’s Strategic Wagering Program and as such, free program pages are available courtesy of Trackmaster on the Batavia Downs and USTA websites or 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 closest combination(s) will be paid out today. 

Post time for the first race is 5 p.m.

December 11, 2020 - 1:11pm
posted by Billie Owens in sports, harness racing, Batavia Downs.

By Tim Bojarski, president, UNY-USHWA
 

As the 2020 Batavia Downs meet draws to a close on Saturday (Dec. 12), the Upstate New York Chapter of the United States Harness Writers Association has announced the top human and equine performers for this past season. 

These awards would normally be presented in the winner’s circle on the final night of racing during the annual UNY-USHWA Night of Distinction.

However due to state restrictions with regard to the ongoing global coronavirus pandemic, that will not be the case this year.

The award winners will be given gift certificates in the paddock in lieu of the usual trackside ceremony because no one is allowed on the apron. 

This will be the first time the Night of Distinction has not been held since its inception in 2008. 

The following were the best on the track from the 2020 Batavia Downs season. 

Driver of the Meet - Jim Morrill Jr.

A two-time dash title winner at Batavia Downs already, Jim Morrill Jr. (top inset photo) notched his third after winning 101 races, finishing 11 wins ahead of the second place Billy Davis Jr. who won this award last year. In 401 starts at Batavia Morrill also had 70 seconds and 51 thirds for a .391 UDR and winnings of $500,000 for the meet. Morrill, who scored his 7,500th career victory at the Downs this past November, currently sits 13th in North America for UDR among all drivers with 500 or more starts and his overall mark of .383 for the year is the highest he’s had since the 2016 season. 

For all of 2020 Morrill has 742 starts, 180 wins, 133 seconds and 92 thirds and $1,267,773 in earnings.

Trainer of the Meet -- Gerry Sarama

 

Not only did Gerry Sarama (inset photo left) register career training win 1,000 at Batavia this year, he also won 62 races, finishing 31 ahead of his nearest competitor to claim his first training title at the Downs. Sarama also had 34 seconds and 26 thirds during the meet with total earnings of $275,112.

Sarama has had one of his best overall years training in 2020 with 87 wins, 60 seconds and 55 thirds out of 426 starts while posting a UTR of .326 and earnings of $475,635. That UTR is the highest Sarama has had in 22 years as a conditioner. Sarama also trained two of the meet’s three equine award winners.

(Above, Black Is Back.)

Pacer of the Meet -- Black Is Back (Western Terror -- Magic Moments) 1:52.1, $288,875

Black Is Back made 16 starts at the Downs and won six Open I Handicap paces while finishing second and third twice each, banking purses of $33,645 in the process. He registered his season’s best time on August 29 when he toured the facility at Batavia in a sharp 1:53.4.  

This is the second consecutive year Black Is Back has been named Horse of the Meet at Batavia Downs. 

Black Is Back is owned by Curtis Edholm and Mihajlo Zdjelar Sr. and is trained by Mihajlo Zdjelar Jr.

(Above, II Mago.)

Trotter of the Meet -- Il Mago (Kadabra-Northern Style) 1:52.3, $899,763

Il Mago came to western New York through a private purchase back in July and won his first two races upon arrival. Since the Batavia meet began, he has been in the Open I Handicap trot every week and has dominated that class all meet. In 14 starts Il Mago has won seven, was second twice and third once more and earned $35,390 during that time. His best win time at the Downs was 1:56.4, a mark he hit twice during the meet. 

The classy 11-year-old has 55 lifetime wins and is currently just $237 short of $900,000 lifetime and has a legitimate chance to cross the $1 million dollar threshold before he retires. 

Il Mago is owned by Mike Torcello and trained by Gerry Sarama.

(Above, Sir Richie N.)

Claimer of the Meet -- Sir Richie N 

Sir Richie N started the year racing at the Meadowlands and found his way to Western New York through a private sale in January. Although he had moderate success earlier in the year, it was nothing like he would see when he got to Batavia. Sir Richie N raced in claimers ranging from $4,000 to $10,000 during his 18 starts and he won 10 of those along with three seconds. 

His fastest win came on Oct. 3 when he paced the Genesee County oval in 1:55. His efforts earned him $30,630 in purses and a very strong following at the windows. 

Sir Richie N is owned by Mike Torcello and is trained by Gerry Sarama. 

Also, Batavia Downs has announced that the track will offer a guaranteed pool of $3,000 for the Pick-5 wager on Saturday (Dec. 12) with a mandatory payout as this is the final card of the meet.

The pool is part of the United States Trotting Association’s Strategic Wagering Program and as such, free program pages are available courtesy of Trackmaster on the Batavia Downs and USTA websites or 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 closest combination(s) will be paid out on Saturday. Post time for the first race is 5 p.m.

December 9, 2020 - 10:55pm
posted by Billie Owens in sports, harness racing, Batavia Downs.

Photo: CR Blazin Beauty with driver Ray Fisher Jr. in the lead.

By Tim Bojarski, for Batavia Downs

Despite wintry conditions and a sloppy track, driver Ray Fisher Jr. was on top of his game and delivered five horses to the winner’s circle at Batavia Downs on tonight (Dec. 9) including three straight winners in races two through four for the natural hat trick. 

Fisher’s top score was in the $10,200 Open I Handicap trot with CR Blazin Beauty, who bolted right to the front and called all the shots. With the two post time favorites making breaks before the quarter, CR Blazin Beauty went unchallenged through fractions of :28.2, :59 and 1:27.4 and then turned for home with a four-length lead. From there she trotted to the wire under wraps to win in 1:59.1. 

The victory pushed CR Blazin Beauty ($8.70) to $41,275 in earnings for the year for owner Marissa Russo. David Russo trains. 

Fisher also won with Lady Justice (2:02.4, $19.20) and Mr. Quaker (2:01.2, $6.90), both of whom are trained by his wife Ryan Swift, and Wonderful World (1:58.2, $5.00) and Awake My Soul (2:00.1, $2.50) who were both trained by Sabrina Shaw. 

(Above, Blue Bell Bonnie with driver Jim Morrill Jr. in the lead.)

Fisher wasn’t the only hot driver on the cold night as Jim Morrill Jr. also had a grand slam on Wednesday.

Morrill took the co-featured $10,200 Open I Handicap pace for fillies and mares with Blue Bell Bonnie who also went coast to coast. Blue Bell Bonnie tucked third off the gate but Morrill made an early power play pulling past the eighth to take the lead from Lady London (Ray Fisher Jr.) at the quarter. Once there, the pair led to the half in :58.1 and three-quarters in 1:27.1. Coming off the last turn Lady London pulled to take a shot at the leader but Blue Bell Bonnie would have none of that. She switched gears and paced away to an easy length win in 1:57.3. 

It was the sixth win of the year for Blue Bell Bonnie ($4.30) who is owned by Mike Torcello and trained by Gerry Sarama. 

Morrill filled out his card winning with Le Millienaire (2:02.3, $5.40), Southern Palms (2:00.3, $4.10) and Simonthediamond (2:03.2, $5.40). 

Live racing at Batavia Downs will resume one more time in 2020 as the meet comes to a close on Saturday (Dec. 9) and the Downs has announced there will be a guaranteed pool of $3,000 for the Pick-5 wager that night.

The pool is part of the United States Trotting Association’s Strategic Wagering Program and as such, free program pages will be available courtesy of Trackmaster on the Batavia Downs and USTA websites on Thursday (Dec. 10). 

Post time for the first race Saturday is 5 p.m.

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