By Tim Bojarski, for Batavia Downs
Batavia Downs has a long history of lady drivers competing at the track going back to the 1950’s. Names like Edith Mouw, Mary Ann Sarama, Cindy Stark, Laurie Stark, Anne Wheeler, Jeanette Byer and Myrtle Patistas were regulars at the Downs for decades. But it has been a fairly male-dominated track when the gate has swung open in recent years.
That all changes on Wednesday (Sept. 25) when one of the top distaff sulky stars in North America ships into Batavia to take on the local driving colony.
Jennifer Lappe got into harness racing in 1993 when she bought a trotter off an Amish truck. That horse eventually won three races for her but defined what she has described herself as being in a 2018 interview -- “a salvager."
Lappe sees value and potential in horses many others may not and isn't afraid to take on the challenge of an older horse or a horse with issues and has capitalized on that over time.
Lappe’s career training numbers are excellent: 4,990 starts with 858 wins, 771 seconds and 690 thirds, which means she’s hit the board 46 percent of the time and has earnings of $5,678,220 to show for it.
She started her driving career in the Midwest on county fair circuits in Illinois and Iowa before moving on to pari-mutuel racing at Balmoral Park in Crete, Ill., after that. In 2007 Lappe made the move to New York and is now based out of Campbell Hall, which is not far from Goshen.
From 2008 until 2018 Lappe used primarily catch drivers to capitalize on the healthy purses in New York. But she returned to the bike full time last year and has really put up some impressive driving numbers in a very short amount of time.
Over the past two years Lappe’s driving has yielded 73 wins out of 653 starts with 111 seconds and 108 thirds. That’s 45 percent in the money with $429,693 in earnings.
Currently in 2019, Lappe has the best Universal Driver Rating (.267), second highest earnings ($194,562) and third highest amount of wins (34) among all female drivers in North America with 300 or more starts this year.
For the better part of this season Lappe has raced at Vernon Downs, but has also shipped horses to Monticello Raceway, The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono and now Batavia. Lappe also had a successful stint at The Meadowlands during the winter of 2018.
Lappe's regular starts in Central New York have given her an outstanding meet at Vernon where she currently sits fourth in the overall trainer standings with 27 wins; only nine behind the leading Marissa Chadbourne (36). She is also eighth among all drivers for wins.
Earlier this year Lappe made history at Vernon when she drove her top class Open pacer Bettor’s Edge to a 1:50 win in June, which was the fastest win time ever recorded by a female driver at that track. And that win time was only 2/5ths of a second off the world record of 1:49.3 set by Stacy Chiodo and Mighty Young Joe at the Meadowlands in 2014.
With her operation still spread over multiple tracks, Lappe will test the waters in Genesee County where she will ship four of her stablemates this week. Dreamlands Art (Artsplace-Dreamlands Delilah) 1:49.3 ($751,244), Beyonces Rockn (Rock N Roll Heaven-I’m Betting On you) 1:51 ($278,850), Lucky Man (Camluck-Under Her Spell) 1;49.1 ($1,268,345) and Electrofire (Electric Stena-Temples May Day) 1:50 ($608,812) will all be competing at Batavia Downs on Wednesday evening.
Post time for the first race is 5 p.m.
(Photo of Jennifer Lappe courtesy of Lisa Photo and Frances Blazer.)