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Long Train Runnin wins fifth in Batavia series final

By Tim Bojarski
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Photo of Long Train Runnin courtesy of Wendy J. Lowery.

Batavia Downs hosted the $93,000 finals of the Western New York Trackmaster Series on Monday (Feb.19) and in the featured TM79 match-up for $20,000, Long Train Runnin ran his win streak to five to claim the winner’s share of the purse.

Proven Desire (John Cummings Jr.) led the field at the quarter, but then watched as stablemate Long Train Runnin (Billy Davis Jr.) breezed by in the second turn to take control of the mile. Once on top, Long Train Runnin backed off the half to a mere :59 before stepping to three-quarters in a slick :28.1. Dogfight (Jim Morrill Jr.) tried to mount a challenge during that third panel but it failed before they hit three-quarters. As they spiralled out of the last turn and headed into the stretch, Proven Desire vacated the pocket and dug in hard, trying to catch the leader. But despite a valiant effort, he came up a neck short as Long Train Runnin finished strong to win again in a season's best tying 1:55.3.

It was the fifth win in only six starts this year for Long Train Runnin and it pushed his 2024 bankroll to $30,250 for owners Paige Usiak and William Emmons. Jim Clouser Jr. trains the winner.

There were two consolations for the TM79 class. The $10,000 leg was won by Silverhill Blaze (1:56.1, $3.90) who was driven by Jim Morrill Jr. for trainer Andy Torre who co-owns with Kristen Torre and the $9,000 leg was won by Henrico (1:56.3, $31.00) who was driven by Billy Daivs Jr. for owner/trainer Courtney Wright.

The $17,000 TM75 final was won by Stonebridge Hypnos (Jim Morrill Jr.) who held pylon position as she sparred with Major Authority (Dan Yetman) through quarters of :27.3 and :56.4 while Thatmomentinlife (Billy Davis Jr.) tracked from the pocket. As the race approached three-quarters, Major Authority faded while Stonebridge Hypnos and Thatmoentinlife pulled away from the field around the final bend. As the pair paced to the wire, Thatmomentinlife pulled and did advance on the leader, but Stonebridge Hypnos was just too good and held on to a one-half length margin of victory in 1:56.2.

It was the third win in a row and fourth of the year for Stonebridge Hypnos ($3.00) who has now earned $23,300 this year for owner Mike Torcello and trainer Sam Smith.

The consolation for the $8,500 TM75 group was won by Harry Hoo N (1:56.3, $11.60) who was driven by Billy Davis Jr. for owner Harry Wortzman. Shawn McDonough trained the winner.

Then in the $14,000 TM71 final, Missplacedrock (Kyle Swift) followed Howmacs Hank (Billy Davis Jr.) to the half in :58.2 when Artistic Spirit (Drew Monti) joined the fray. Artistic Spirit pushed Howmacs Hank to three-quarters and they paced that piece in :28.4. The top two continued to match strides around the last turn while Swift drifted three-wide with Missplacedrock and started to drive him as they headed into the lane. Missplacedrock caught the pair in mid-stretch and eventually slid by to win by one-half length in 1:57.

It was the fourth win of the year for Missplacedrock ($6.10) who increased her 2024 bank to $19,340 for owner Rose Campbell. Greg Johnson was the winning trainer.

There were also two consolations for the TM71 group.

The $7,500 split was won by Beddanburg (1:56.3, $5.40) who was driven by Drew Monti for owner/trainer Chris Petrelli and the $6,500 division was won by Bettor Country (1:58.2, $2.60) who was driven by Billy Davis Jr. for owner Ben Ortiz and trainer Shawn McDonough.

Drivers Billy Davis Jr. and Jim Morrill Jr. both had Grand Slams during the day while trainers Shawn McDonough, Chris Petrelli and Rock Vinci all had two wins apiece.

Live racing resumes at Batavia Downs on Thursday (Feb. 22) at 3 p.m. and the card will feature the $43,000 finals of the Western New York Trackmaster Series for trotters. Also, there will be a $3,267 carryover in the Jackpot Super Hi-5 pentafecta in the 13th race.

There are only two days of live racing left in the 2024 winter meet at Batavia Downs. The final day of action is Monday (Feb. 26).

Free full past performance programs for every live card of racing at Batavia can always be downloaded at the Downs’ website (bataviadownsgaming.com) under the “Live Racing” tab and all the racing action can be viewed as it happens for free at the Batavia Downs Live Facebook page.

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Photo of Missplacedrock courtesy of Wendy J. Lowery.
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Photo of Stonebridge Hypnos courtesy of Wendy J. Lowery.

$93,000 WNYTM Series final Monday at Batavia Downs

By Tim Bojarski
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Photo of Dogfight courtesy of Wendy J. Lowery.

The Western New York Trackmaster Series finals and consolation races for pacers will be held at Batavia Downs on Monday afternoon (Feb. 19) and $93,000 in total purses will be in play for the participating horses.

The series is broken into three groups: TM 79, TM75 and TM71 and seeding for the finals and consolations were determined by money-earnings from the four preliminary legs.

The TM79 final goes for $20,000 and two undefeated starters will be facing off.

Long Train Runnin (Billy Davis Jr.) comes in on a four race winning streak, all of which came in the TM preliminaries. Proven Desire (John Cummings Jr.) has strung three victories together in this series despite a scratch three weeks ago due to injury. Both horses are from the Jim Clouser Jr. Barn and will go as an entry.

Another high performing duo starting in the final as a Sam Smith stable entry is Dogfight (Jim Morrill Jr.) and Mcdelicacy (Kevin Cummings). Dogfight has two wins and a second in three TM starts while Mcdelicacy has finished second four consecutive times, three of which were to Long Train Runnin. This should be a very competitive event.

There are also two TM79 consolations, one for $10,500 and one for $9,500.

In the $10,500 split, Silverhill Blaze (Jim Morrill Jr.) has been chasing Long Train Runnin and Proven Desire over the last three weeks, finishing second twice and third another time. But he won’t be facing either of them on Monday and looks to make his own mark. In the $9,500 group there is a formidable stable entry of Doyoukissfirstdate (Dave McNeight III) and Star Messenger (Kevin Cummings) from Davis Russo and Marc Shuttleworth’s Clayton’s Bettor N (Jim Morrill Jr.) who put in a huge mile last week before just getting beat at the line.

The $17,000 TM75 final features two more entries.

Sam Smith is starting Authentic Hanover (Drew Monti) and Stonebridge Hypnos (Jim Morrill Jr.), who registered three wins and a second in his four series outings. Shawn McDonough will be starting Thatmomentinlife (Billy Davis Jr.) and Weekend Atnannies (Kevin Cummings), who also has three wins in four series starts while finishing third in the fourth.

The $8,500 consolation for that class features a very wide open betting race as seven of the eight starters have not won a race this year. And the only horse that has notched one victory -- which came in this series -- is Jerry Nugent Jr.’s Dry Ridge Ace (Keith Kash Jr.) who is listed at 25-1 morning line.

Lastly, the TM71 $14,000 final has another dynamic duo from the Sam Smith stable who will line up as an entry as well.

Road Map (Jim Morrill Jr.) who has won three out of four series starts while being narrowly beaten in the fourth and Howmacs Hank (Billy Davis Jr.) who comes in on a two race win streak. But there will be strong opposition from Greg Johnson’s Misplaced Rock (Kyle Swift) and Chris Petrelli’s Artistic Spirit (Drew Monti), who are both two-time winners in the series and are currently at the top of their game.

The TM71 consolations have Shawn McDonough stable entries favored in both events. In the $7,500 leg, Surfers Paradise (Jim Morrill Jr.) and Traffic Citation (Billy Davis Jr.) lead the way while Bettor Country (Billy Davis Jr.) and  Sapphire Love Chip (Jim Morrill Jr.) got the oddsmaker’s nod in the $6,500 split.

There are also a pair of carryovers associated with Monday’s card to make the wagering even more interesting.

The 50-cent Pick-5 that starts in race one and runs through race five has a $891 carryover while the 20-cent Jackpot Super Hi-5 in race 13 features a $2,669 carryover.

Post time for the first race on Monday is 3 p.m.

The WNY Trackmaster trotting finals will be held on Thursday (Feb. 22).

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Photo of Long Train Runnin courtesy of Wendy J. Lowery.
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Photo of Proven Desire courtesy of Wendy J. Lowery.

It was a triple feature at Batavia Downs Thursday

By Tim Bojarski
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Photo of Imprincessgemma A courtesy of Wendy J. Lowery.

After a lengthy respite, winter returned to western New York as persistent snow and wind kept things challenging for the Thursday afternoon (Feb. 15) card at Batavia Downs. The program featured the three top weekly classes and two big efforts from the meet’s leading drivers.  

The $14,000 Open Handicap pace for fillies and mares was up first and Imprincessgemma A (Brett Beckwith) got her first victory of the year.

Leaving from post five, Imprincessgemma A cut fractions of :28.1, :58.3 and 1:28 while Ball Diamond (Keith Kash Jr.) followed close in the pocket. Ball Diamond pulled to advance at the top of the last turn and almost drew even as they entered the stretch. But Imprincessgemma A held sway and paced away to a 1-¼ length victory under a line drive in 1:57.3.

It was the 43rd career win for Imprincessgemma A ($3.90) and it pushed the 10-year-old’s lifetime earnings to $601,489. Imprincessgemma A is owned by Elite Harness Racing and is trained by Shawn McDonough.

Imprincessgemma A was also one of four driving wins on the card for Brett Beckwith who also won with Stars And Stones (2:00.3, $6.90), Angelo J Fra (1:58.1, $9.20) and Silver Buckeye (2:02, $8.00). Beckwith currently sits second in the driver standings.

Then in the $15,000 Open I Handicap for male pacers, Umberto (Dave McNeight III) got his second win in a row on the strength of an impressive effort.

Umberto also left from mid-pack, post five, and crossed over to the lead in the first turn. After setting up shop on the point, Umberto paced unchallenged through swift quarters of :27.3, :57.2, and 1:25.1. In the last turn, McNeight laid back for the ride home and Umberto strode to the line by 2-¼ lengths and won in 1:54.

Umberto ($7.40) is owned by El Dorado Stables and is trained by Dave McNeight Jr.

Finally in the $15,000 Open I Handicap trot, E Street (Jim Morrill Jr.) drew a rare inside post and tripped-out to an upset feature win.

Big Box Hanover (Larry Stalbaum) took the lead before the quarter as E Street sat behind him in the cozy pocket. After hitting the quarter in :29, positions remained unchanged to the half and up the backstretch. It was there that Special Prosecutor (Drew Monti) made a first-over push and joined the fray at three-quarters in 1:30 flat. Big Box Hanover responded to the challenge and pulled away by a length as they hit the straight. But at the same time, E Street dipped into the passing lane and within the length of three pylons, had the lead and bolted home by a length in 1:59.3.

E Street ($16,60) is owned by Elite Harness Racing and trained by Rachelle Mungillo.

E Street capped off a driving grand slam for Morrill as well after he had already won with P C Foreign Affair (2:02, $10.40), Just A Wrangler (1:55.4, $6.50) and Mayweather Hanover (1:59.1, $5.30).

Trainers Taylor Fritz and Andy Torre both had conditioning doubles on Thursday.

Live racing resumes at Batavia Downs on Monday (Feb. 15) at 3 p.m. and the card will feature the $100,000 finals of the Western New York Trackmaster Series for pacers. Also, there will be a $2,669 carryover in the Jackpot Super Hi-5 pentafecta in the 13th race.

Free full past performance programs for every live card of racing at Batavia can always be downloaded at the Downs’ website (bataviadownsgaming.com) under the “Live Racing” tab and all the racing action can be viewed as it happens for free at the Batavia Downs Live Facebook page.

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Photo of Umberto courtesy of Wendy J. Lowery.
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Photo of E Street courtesy of Wendy J. Lowery.

Long Train Runnin, Proven Desire win big at Batavia Downs

By Tim Bojarski
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Photo of Long Train Runnin courtesy of Wendy J. Lowery.

The fourth and final leg of the Western New York Trasckmaster Series for pacers was held at Batavia Downs on Monday afternoon (Feb. 12) and after the dust had settled, both Long Train Runnin and Proven Desire will enter the Trackmaster 79 division finals unbeaten.  

In his $9,000 division, Long Train Runnin (Dave McNeight III) led the field off the gate but yielded the top to Dogfight (Kevin Cummings) at the 27.4 quarter. However that change was short-lived as McNeight sent the Train back down the tracks immediately to regain the lead. Now firmly back in control, Long Train Runnin backed off the half to 58 and met no opposition in doing so. With the group still in single file, the leader marched to three-quarters in 1:26.4 with only a mild bid from Huntsville Place (Kyle Swift) at that station. Long Train Runnin rounded the last bend and paced into the lane with a 1-½ length lead while the pocket-sitting Dogfight tried to make up ground. But Long Train Runnin made it to the station first and on time in 1:55.3.

It was the fourth straight win for Long Train Runnin ($3.40) who is owned by Paige Usiak and William Emmons. Jim Clouser Jr. trains the winner.

Clouser and Emmons are also the connections of Proven Desire, who won his $9,000 division and extended his winning streak to three.

John Cummings Jr. flew to the front with Proven Desire and opened up a two-length advantage in 28.2. While P L Notorious (Kevin Cummings) tracked from second, Proven Desire took his gapped advantage to the half in 58 and three-quarters in 1:27. As they entered the last turn, Cummings threw the lines at the leader and Proven Desire took off. He opened up 1-½ lengths at the top of the stretch and extended that lead to two as he cruised to the line in 1:55.4.

Proven Desire returned $3.20.

Clouser and Emmons also won with Lanas Desire (1:56.1, $2.50) in another $9,000 division giving that connection a hat trick for the second week in a row as they advanced all three of their horses to the final.

The 10-year-old pacer Sir Pugsley hit a career milestone in the 12th race after going gate to wire in 1:56.2. It was the 40th career win for the son of American Ideal and Q and A who has now bankrolled $453,798 as a result of his success. Taylor Fritz both owns and trains Sir Pugsley.

Driver Dave McNeight III scored a natural hat trick in races seven, eight and nine and his win total was matched by Kevin Cummings, who was also victorious in three races on Monday. Trainer Sam Smith matched Jim Clouser Jr.’s three win total as well, to finish as co-conditioning leader for the afternoon.

The WNY Trackmaster Series pacing finals will be held next Monday afternoon (Feb. 19) at 3 p.m. The TM79 division will have a $20,000 final and two consolations worth $10,500 and $9,000. The TM75 division will have a $17,000 final and two consolations worth $8,500 and $7,500. And the TM71 group features a $14,000 final and two consolations worth $7,500 and $6,500. The top eight money earners in each group make the final and the second consolation must realize seven entries to be a go.

Live racing resumes at Batavia Downs on Thursday (Feb. 15) at 3 p.m. and that card will feature the fourth and final round of the Western New York Trackmaster Series for trotters. Also there will be a $2,273 carryover in the Jackpot Super Hi-5 pentafecta in the 13th race.

Free full past performance programs for every live card of racing at Batavia can always be downloaded at the Downs’ website (bataviadownsgaming.com) under the “Live Racing” tab and all the racing action can be viewed as it happens for free at the Batavia Downs Live Facebook page.

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Photo of Proven Desire courtesy of Wendy J. Lowery.


 

Convincing winners take co-features at Batavia Downs

By Tim Bojarski
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Photo of City Of Hope courtesy of Wendy J. Lowery.

The weekly $15,000 top-class events for both gaits were carded on Thursday afternoon (Feb. 8) at Batavia Downs and the winner of both races claimed their first victory of the year in impressive fashion.

The Open Handicap trot was won by City Of Hope (Kevin Cummngs) who turned a three-wide move into a 1-¼ length victory.

City Of Hope got away fifth as J-s Swanman (Dave McNeight III) took the lead and forced fellow leaver Big Box Hanover (Larry Stalbaum) into the two-hole on the strength of a 28.3 quarter. Positions remained unchanged to the half where Ricky B Sharp (Mike Baumeister) and City Of Hope initiated an outer flow that would eventually initiate two lead changes. First, Ricky B Sharp cleared J-s Swanman before three-quarters and crossed over as City Of Hope dropped into the pocket. These two stayed in line around the last turn and to the top of the stretch where Cummings tipped City Of Hope and trotted right by Ricky B Sharp under a line drive to win in 1:57.2.

A 14-time winner in 2023 who earned $149,382, City Of Hope ($8.10) got his first win of the new year for owners Philip Hale and David Dewhurst, who also trains the winner.

Then in the Open Handicap pace, Umberto (Dave McNeight III) capitalized from a perfect trip to win in a romp.

Umberto eased into the garden spot as Avion Seelster (John Cummings Jr.) flew to the front. After getting to the half in :57.1 with no challenges, Ideal Artillery (Drew Monti) and Alta Engen A (Kevin Cummings) tried to push the issue heading into the second circuit. However Cummings Jr. hit the gas with Avion Seelster and a :28 flat third quarter squelched those attempts from the rear, leaving only the pocket-sitting Umberto with a legitimate shot. McNeight pulled Umberto in the final turn and rocked him to the lead around the fading leader. Then Umberto opened up a three length margin in deep stretch and was a wrapped-up winner in 1:53.4.

It was the first win of the year for Umberto ($15.80), but also the first win for his new connections, El Dorado Stables, who claimed him two weeks ago for trainer Dave McNeight Jr.

Drivers Mike Baumeister, John Cummings Jr., Kevin Cummings, Dave McNeight III, Jim McNeight Jr. and Jim Morrill Jr. all had two wins apiece while 13 different trainers each won one race on Thursday.

Live racing resumes at Batavia Downs on Monday (Feb. 12) at 3 p.m. and the card will feature the fourth round of the Western New York Trackmaster Series for pacers. There will also be a $1,852 carryover in the Jackpot Super Hi-5 pentafecta in the 14th race.

Free full past performance programs for every live card of racing at Batavia can always be downloaded at the Downs’ website (bataviadownsgaming.com) under the “Live Racing” tab and all the racing action can be viewed as it happens for free at the Batavia Downs Live Facebook page.

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Photo of Umberto courtesy of Wendy J. Lowery.

Long Train Runnin, Kevin Cummings shine at Batavia Downs

By Tim Bojarski
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Photo of Long Train Runnin courtesy of Wendy J. Lowery.

The third leg of the Western New York Trackmaster series for pacers was featured at Batavia Downs on Monday afternoon (Feb. 5) and going in, there were three horses still undefeated in that competition. However by the end of the day, only one stayed perfect and that was Long Train Runnin, who won his third straight $9,000 Trackmaster 79 division.

Former Western New York regular and Batavia Downs 2019 driving leader, Billy Davis Jr., made a visit to his old haunts to drive Long Train Runnin and got away fourth as Oreo Dream Xtreme (Jim Morrill Jr.) led to the half in 1:00.1. As the group rolled past that station, Davis pulled Long Train Runnin first-up in the breeze and advanced to the lead at three-quarters in 1:28.3. From there, Long Train Runnin opened up a 2-¾ length lead in the turn before bolting home under Davis wraps in 1:57.3.

Long Train Runnin ($3.30) is owned by Paige Usiak and William Emmons and is trained by Jim Clouser Jr.

Clouser and Emmons also teamed up to win with Proven Desire (1:57.1, $7.80) and Lanas Desire (1:56, $5.50), giving that connection a hat trick on Monday.

There was a two-for-one special in the day’s fifth race when Weekend Atnannies and Dry Ridge Ace finished in a dead heat.

Weekend Atnannies (Billy Davis Jr.) got away second behind Dancethebigdance N (John Cummings Jr.) who set a hot pace of :57.4 to the half. Anurka (Kevin Cummings) moved first-over from fifth and was followed by Dry Ridge Ace (Kyle Cummings) as they moved up the backstretch. Anurka took the lead with Dry Ridge Ace pacing right with him, while Weekend Atnannies was getting the shuffle in the last turn. At the top of the stretch, Anurka and Dry Ridge Ace were joined by Weekend Atnannies, who finally found racing room and was full of pace. The three drew closer to each other as they approached the wire that they eventually hit simultaneously. When the photo came back, Dry Ridge Ace and Weekend Atnannies could not be separated and finished in a dead heat while Anurka was only a neck behind.

Weekend Atnannies ($3.20) is owned by Benjamin Ortiz and trained by Joe Skowyra while Dry Ridge Ace ($15.80) is owned by Rock 01 Stable and is trained by Jerry Nugent Jr.

Despite the dead heat, the pick five combination of 3/7/7/3/1,4 still returned a healthy $1,019 for a 50-cent wager.  

The other big winner on Monday was driver Kevin Cummings, who piloted five winners to lead all other reinsmen. Cummings scored with Treasurethosechips (1:58.3, $31.60), All About Lynx (1:57.4, $5.90), Gallery Opening (1:59.3, $9.30), Howmacs Hank (1:58, $4.50) and Dogfight (1:56.2, $5.80). With those victories, Cummings jumped into third place in the dash win competition for the meet with 16 wins and now sits behind Jim Morrill Jr. (22) and Brett Beckwith (17).

There was a plethora of plump payoffs during Monday’s card, led by Beddanburg (Drew Monti) who turned a three-wide move from seventh at three-quarters into a three-quarter length win in 1:58.2. Beddanburg was sent off at 43-1 and returned $89.50 for the win. Also producing large returns was Denmark Seelster (1:57.3, $55.50), the aforementioned Treasurethosechips (1:58.3, $31.60), Fade To Gold (1:59.2, $25.20) and A Game Changer (1:56.2, $16.80).

Trainer Sam Smith matched Clouser’s three training wins to finish the day as the conditioning co-leader.

Live racing resumes at Batavia Downs on Thursday (Feb. 8) at 3 p.m. and the card will feature the third round of the Western New York Trackmaster series for trotters. Also, there will be a $949 carryover in the Jackpot Super Hi-5 pentafecta in the 13th race.

Free full past performance programs for every live card of racing at Batavia can always be downloaded at the Downs’ website (bataviadownsgaming.com) under the “Live Racing” tab and all the racing action can be viewed as it happens for free at the Batavia Downs Live Facebook page.

Primo Uomo and Credit List upset in Batavia features

By Tim Bojarski
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Photo of Primo Uomo courtesy of Wendy J. Lowery.

Steady rain and an off-track threw a curveball at bettors at Batavia Downs on Thursday (Feb. 1) as many favorites failed to fire allowing some bountiful payoffs to prevail. That included both featured races, where photos were needed to decide the winners.

In the $15,000 Open I Handicap pace, despite having post seven, Primo Uomo (Jim McNeight Jr.) went gate to wire to win after an exciting stretch drive.

Primo Uomo was sent to the front and paced unchallenged through quarters of :27.2, :57 and 1:25.4. Halfway through the last turn, the tripped-out The Bird Dance N (Brett Beckwith) pulled to advance and that left Ideal Artillery (Drew Monti) a path to dip into the passing lane. As the horses headed for home, Primo Uomo paced down the center of the lane, flanked by Ideal Artillery and The Bird Dance N, and held both off all the way to the wire to win by a head in 1:55.2.

Overlooked at 7-1, Primo Uomo returned $17.60 for owners Chris Lawton and Dale Lawton. David Dewhurst trains the winner.

Then in the $15,000 Open I Handicap trot, Credit List (Kyle Cummings) was similarly released at 9-1 and paid a premium for those who backed him.

Credit List got away third and watched as E Street (Jim Morrill Jr.) and Big Box Hanover (Larry Stalbaum) engaged in a slugfest. After leaving side by side, E Street took the lead, but Big Box Hanover settled in the breeze and matched strides through fractions of :28.1, :58 and 1:28.3. As the pair passed that last station, Big Box Hanover folded as Special Prosecutor (Kevin Cummings) and I Got The Looks (Dan Yetman) tipped three-wide around him. In the final bend and under siege again by Special Prosecutor, E Street continued his valiant grind and took his lead into the stretch. When they straightened out, Credit List found room in the passing lane while I Got The Looks was flying on the outside. All three had a shot coming to the wire, but Credit List took the shortest route and won by a mere nose in 1:59.4.

Credit List ($21.80) is owned by Linda Dellheim and trained by Kevin Reynolds Jr.

Brett Beckwith, Jim Morrill Jr., and Kyle Cummings all had three driving wins while Shawn McDonough and David Russo both scored two training victories.

Live racing resumes at Batavia Downs on Monday (Feb. 5) at 3 p.m. and the card will feature the third round of the Western New York Trackmaster Series for pacers. Also, there will be a $526 carryover in the Jackpot Super Hi-5 pentafecta in the 15th race.

Free full past performance programs for every live card of racing at Batavia can always be downloaded at the Downs’ website (bataviadownsgaming.com) under the “Live Racing” tab and all the racing action can be viewed as it happens for free at the Batavia Downs Live Facebook page.

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Photo of Credit List courtesy of Wendy J. Lowery.

Batavia hits new handle heights as longshots rule Monday

By Tim Bojarski
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Photo of Dogfight courtesy of Wendy J. Lowery.

For the fourth time in only six days of live racing in 2024, Batavia Downs set a new one-day, all-source record handle while under the ownership of Western Regional Off-Track Betting on Monday (Jan. 29). Bettors pushed $515,078 through the windows to top the short-lived old record of $509,180 which was set only one week ago.

The handle reflects that Batavia’s loyal wagering patrons turned out in force again to bet the second round of the Western New York Trackmaster Series that had evenly matched fields and yielded outcomes many didn’t anticipate, with price horses giving chalk bettors agita while sending speculators home with a jovial disposition.

The top class, $9,000 Trackmaster 79 division produced two large payouts after come-from-behind efforts were put in by both.  

First, Dogfight (Kevin Cummings) got away sixth at 25-1 and remained there to the half that was cut by Remember The Beach (Jim Morrill Jr.). At that station, Cummings pulled Dogfight third-over with cover and then swung three-deep into the last turn. At the top of the stretch, Lana’s Desire (Dave McNeight III) took the lead from Remember The Beach, but Dogfight quickly supplanted Lana’s Desire in deep stretch to win by 1-¼ lengths in 1:57.1.

It was the first win of the year for Dogfight ($52.00) who is owned by Mike Torcello and trained by Sam Smith.

Then later, I’ll Take The Bet (Drew Monti) also got away sixth as Sleeping Single (Jim McNeight Jr.) and Carrythetorchman (Dave McNeight III) traded blows and leads from the half to the top of the stretch. It was there that Monti steered I’ll Take The Bet into the passing lane, found clear road and bolted to the line to win by a neck in 1:57.4.

Similarly, it was the first win of the year as well for I’ll Take The Bet ($38.80) and owner Justina Ohol. Mike Ohol conditions the winner.

Other upsets on the card included Rockn’ With T (1:59.1, $49.90), Always A Fiji (2:00.1, $31.40), Odds On Cheddar (1:58.1, $25.00) and Jimmy CR (1:59.1, $18.40).

Nine of the night’s participating horsemen scored doubles during the proceedings. Drivers Brett Beckwith, Drew Monti, Jim Morrill Jr., Kevin Cummings, and Kyle Cummings joined trainers Sam Smith, Jim Rothfuss, Shawn McDonough and Chris Petrelli in claiming two wins each on Monday.

Live racing resumes at Batavia Downs on Thursday (Feb. 1) at 3 p.m. and will feature the second round of the Western New York Trackmaster Series for trotters along with a $15,000 Open I for both gaits.

Free full past performance programs for every live card of racing at Batavia can always be downloaded at the Downs’ website (bataviadownsgaming.com) under the “Live Racing” tab and all the racing action can be viewed as it happens for free at the Batavia Downs Live Facebook page.

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Photo of I’ll Take The Bet courtesy of Wendy J. Lowery.

Brett Beckwith bags five wins at Batavia Thursday

By Tim Bojarski
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Photo of Way Too Sweet courtesy of Wendy J. Lowery.
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Photo of Brett Beckwith courtesy of Wendy J. Lowery.

Brett Beckwith, who ended the 2023 season as the seventh winningest driver in North America, is rolling again in 2024 and strutted his stuff at Batavia Downs on Thursday afternoon (Jan. 25) by winning five races on the card. “Brett The Jet” won with Why Tomorrow Ray (1:56.1, $2.80), Rosey Time (1:56.3, $4.40), One Night Fury (2:02.1, $9.40), Rock A Honey (1:58, $25.80) and Silver Buckeye (2:04, $6.40). Beckwith also scored three seconds and two-thirds during the card, giving him a .524 UDR for the session.

Thursday’s card had a triple feature on the track as a $15,000 Open Handicap for fillies and mares, trotters, and male pacers were all held over a sloppy track amid heavy fog as a January thaw was in full effect.

The distaff pace was won by Way Too Sweet (Jim Morrill Jr.) who sat second behind A Black Diamond (Kevin Cummings) until the top of the final turn. There, Morrill tipped the mare three-deep around Mcnatural L (Dave Mcneight III) and thundered down the center of lane to win by a length in 1:58.4.

Way Too Sweet ($3.50), who was a six-time winner last year, got her first victory of 2024 for owners George Tackley and Wendy Storrier. The mare is trained by Andy Gardner.

The top trot went to Special Prosecutor (Kevin Cummings) who led the field to the quarter in :28.4 before watching Esa (Jim Morrill Jr.) brush from third to take control in turn two. Special Prosecutor then sat chilly in the garden spot through the second circuit until the top of the stretch, where he tipped and ran down the leader to win by three-quarters of a length in 1:58.1.

It was the first win in three 2024 tries for Special Prosecutor ($10.80) who is owned by Philip Hale and David Dewhurst, who also trains the gelding.

Then in the Open pace, Sounds Good (Billy Dobson) was sent off at 40-1 and got away seventh, as Better Take It (Kevin Cummings) and Rock N Roll Runa A (Larry Stalbaum) traded leads to the half. At that station, Twin B Tuffenuff (Brett Beckwith) pulled first-over to engage the leader, and Sounds Good followed right behind with his cover. Rock N Roll Runa A held a clear lead heading into the final bend, but the field bunched at the top of the lane with Sounds Good widest of all. Dobson rocked and knocked Sounds Good all the way to the wire and was the best by a neck in a four-horse photo, stopping the clock in 1:56.1.

Sounds Good ($82.00) is owned by Michael Sergi and Sam Sergi and was the second training win for Andy Gardner.

Live racing resumes at Batavia Downs on Monday (Jan. 29) at 3 p.m. and will feature the second round of the Western New York Trackmaster Series for pacers.

Free full past performance programs for every live card of racing at Batavia can always be downloaded at the Downs’ website (bataviadownsgaming.com) under the “Live Racing” tab and all the racing action can be viewed as it happens for free at the Batavia Downs Live Facebook page.

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Photo of Special Prosecutor courtesy of Wendy J. Lowery.
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Photo of Sounds Good courtesy of Wendy J. Lowery.

Batavia Downs record handle surges past one-half million on Monday

By Tim Bojarski
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Photo of Stonebridge Hypnos courtesy of Wendy J. Lowery.

The track was fast for the Monday afternoon (Jan. 22) card at Batavia Downs, and so was the pace at which money flowed through the windows from all outlets as the track handled $509,180, setting a new all-time one-day betting record on live racing at the track and marked the first time ever that the Downs handled in excess of one-half million dollars while under the ownership of Western Regional Off Track Betting.

This is the third time this meet – that has only raced four days so far – that the track has set a new standard for handle. The high water mark on Monday came in the fifth race where $69,298 was bet on that single event.

Don Hoover, Director of Live Racing at Batavia Downs, said “This is definitely historic for the track, something that has never been done before. And it speaks volumes for the competitive racing our horses and their connections put on the track every race day. Our customers recognize that and want to bet on it and we are grateful to be in this situation. It’s a total team effort to make these races a success and everyone associated with the track shares in this achievement.”

Monday also marked the beginning of the Western New York Trackmaster Series for pacers, an event that was responsible for setting betting marks during the 2023 winter meet. These races were once again very exciting on Monday but saw two drivers win nine of the 15 carded events.

Jim Morrill Jr. won five races during the afternoon, four of which were from his regular connections, trainer Sam Smith and owner Mike Torcello. Morrill scored with Road Map (1:57, $2.50), Mister J R (1:57.3, $2.60), Stonebridge Hypnos (1:59, $2.40) and Authentic Hanover (1:59.1, $9.00). His fifth win was behind Mississippi Rabbit (1:58, $3.20) who is owned by William Mac Millan and trained by Joe Skowyra.

Brett Beckwith was right behind Morrill in the win column as he registered a grand slam of his own. He won with Surfers Paradise (1:58.2, $8.60), Weekend Atnannies (1:58.1, $3.90) and Thatmomentinlife (1:57.3, $7.80) who were all trained by Mark McDonough, and also with Long Train Runnin (1:57, $2.70) who was trained by Jim Clouser Jr.

When Live racing resumes at Batavia Downs on Thursday (Jan. 25) at 3 p.m. there will be a $532 carryover in the Jackpot Super Hi-5 in the 15th race. Thursday will also host the first round of the Western New York Trackmaster Series for trotters.

Free full past performance programs for every live card of racing at Batavia can always be downloaded at the Downs’ website (bataviadownsgaming.com) under the “Live Racing” tab and all the racing action can be viewed as it happens for free at the Batavia Downs Live Facebook page.

Batavia Downs cancels live racing for Thursday

By Tim Bojarski

The nearly week-long winter storm that has gripped western New York and necessitated the cancellation of live racing at Batavia Downs on Monday (Jan. 15), has once again forced track officials to cancel live racing at The Downs for Thursday (Jan. 18) due to the ongoing effects of the extreme weather conditions. Simulcast at the track will remain open.

Live racing will resume as scheduled at Batavia on Monday (Jan. 22) at 3 p.m. 

Batavia Downs cancels live racing for Monday

By Tim Bojarski

As a result of the crippling winter storm western New York has experienced over the past 48 hours and the expected continuation of snowfall and dangerous road conditions through tonight, Batavia Downs has canceled live racing for Monday (Jan. 15) out of an abundance of caution for the safety of the horses, horsemen and woman and fans.

Live racing will resume as scheduled on Thursday (Jan. 18) at 3 p.m.

 

Comeonover Hanover, Lanjo Lee winners at Batavia

By Tim Bojarski
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Photo of Comeonover Hanover courtesy of Wendy J. Lowery.

A sloppy track combined with heavy snow that started to fall after the third race provided some messy going at Batavia Downs on Thursday afternoon (Jan.11), but it didn’t take away from competitive racing and several very close finishes.

The features were a pair of $15,000 Open I Handicap races that were written for each gait.

First in the $15,000 Open I Handicap trot, despite coming up only a neck short in his first start in the top class at Batavia last week, Comeonover Hanover was dismissed by the betting public at 9-1 and made them pay after making a late rush to victory.

Blogmaster (Jim Morrill Jr.) led to the half in a soft :59.2 when Big Box Hanover (Larry Stalbaum) moved first-over and pushed the issue to three-quarters. At that station, Comeonover Hanover (Billy Dobson) was still sixth, but out and moving third-over. After coming out of the turn, Big Box Hanover took the lead from Blogmaster and Special Prosecutor (John Cummings Jr.) had moved into third. But it was Comeonover Hanover who was barrelling down the center of the track and took the lead at the wire to win in 2:00.4.

Comeonover Hanover ($20.60) is owned by Perry Elkins and trained by Andy Gardiner.

Then later in the $15,000 Open I Handicap pace, Lanjo Lee took no prisoners and could not be caught as he easily put away the competition in the stretch.

Lanjo Lee (Kyle Cummings) took the lead and cut quarters of :28.2 and :58.2 before Alta Engen A (Jim Morrill Jr.) pulled first-over from third. As they paced up the backside on the second circuit, Alta Engen A tried hard but could not get alongside Lanjo Lee and by three-quarters, his challenge had ended. This left Lanjo Lee two lengths ahead of the pocket-sitting Dontholdanythinbak (Keith Kash Jr.) and looking very much like a winner. When they straightened for home, Lanjo Lee bolted for the line under a line drive and won by 1-¾ lengths in 1:55.2..

Lanjo Lee ($8.40) is owned by Gordon Swift and trained by Jeff Sorenson.

In the day’s 14th race, driver Brett Beckwith made a three-wide move in the last turn with All About Lynx and caught the front-running Examiner Hanover (Larry Stalbaum) at the wire to win in 1:59 and blow up the tote board at 53-1. All About Lynx returned $109 for the win and sparked a 7-4-5-2 superfecta that returned the handsome sum of $3,253.80 for a 20-cent wager.

Drew Monti and Billy Dobson both scored driving hat tricks on Thursday while the day's top trainer Chris Petrelli sent two from his stable to the winner’s enclosure for pictures.

Live racing resumes at Batavia Downs on Monday (Jan. 15) at 3 p.m.

Free full past performance programs for every live card of racing at Batavia can always be downloaded at the Downs’ website (bataviadownsgaming.com) under the “Live Racing” tab and all the racing action can be viewed as it happens for free at the Batavia Downs Live Facebook page.

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Photo of Lanjo Lee courtesy of Wendy J. Lowery.

Punters bet $421,221 as Batavia Downs sets new record handle

By Tim Bojarski
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Photo of Magical Maya A courtesy of Wendy J. Lowery.

Batavia Downs opened their 2024 winter meet last Thursday (Jan. 4) and celebrated with a new all-source handle record of $390,922. Now only four days later on Monday (Jan.8), the second session of racing for this early season has again recorded a new high after $421,221 was wagered on the afternoon card. The increase is the latest jump in this upward handle trend at The Downs that began last winter and has continued ever since.  

“It’s good to see the interest our product has continued to draw over this long period of time. We have picked up new customers this past year and clearly they have been supporting us through the windows. We are currently on a great trajectory and we certainly hope it continues,” said Don Hoover, Director of Live Racing at Batavia Downs.

Bettable races and quality horses have been key and Monday’s feature race was just one example. The $15,000 Open I Handicap pace for fillies and mares was won by Australian expat Magical Maya A, who notched her second North American victory in only her fourth attempt after she cruised gate to wire at The Downs.

Driver Larry Stalbaum left and meandered his way to the front with Magical Maya A, taking that position as Imprincessgemma A (Brett Beckwith) released her approaching the quarter. Once in command, Magical Maya A stopped the clock in :28.2, :58 and 1:26.3 with only Imprincessgemma A staying close. After rounding the turn, Imprincessgemma A dipped inside of Magical Maya A and made up some ground as they paced towards the wire. But Magical Maya A was game and hung onto the lead by over a length in 1:56.1.

It was the 10th lifetime win for the 6-year-old Magical Maya A ($7.60) who is owned and trained by her driver, Stalbaum.

After winning the eighth race on Monday, the 12-year-old Santana Beach (Jim Morrill Jr.) hit a career milestone by notching his 50th lifetime win. Trained by Andrew Torre, who co-owns with Kristen Torre, Santana Beach has now earned $333,569 from his efforts in 297 career starts.  

John Cummings Jr. was the driving leader on Monday as he registered four winners during the afternoon. “Junior” won with BJ Lorado (2:00.1, $3.40), Shadow One (1:57.2, $3.50), So amazing (1:57.2, $3.40) and Jumpinthejailhouse (2:01, $7.00). Trainer Brianne Sinclair sent Cummings first two winners to post before adding her third win of the day with Windemere Ryan (1:57.4, $7.60) who was driven by Drew Monti. Sinclair ended up batting 1,000 as she only had three horses entered on Monday.

Live racing resumes at Batavia Downs on Monday (Jan. 8) at 3 p.m. and there will be a $1,422 carryover in the Pick 5 wager that starts in race one.

Free full past performance programs for every live card of racing at Batavia can always be downloaded at the Downs’ website (bataviadownsgaming.com) under the “Live Racing” tab and all the racing action can be viewed as it happens for free at the Batavia Downs Live Facebook page.

Batavia crushes betting mark; Morrill wins six on opener

By Tim Bojarski
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Photo of Twin B Tuffenuff courtesy of Wendy J. Lowery.

The 2024 winter meet kicked off at Batavia Downs on Thursday (Jan. 4) and the wagering success the track realized last year picked up right where it left off as a new single card handle record was set during opening day. Betting from all sources totalled $390,922 and that easily topped the old record of $348,205 set last February.

“We had great weather for the opener and featured a very competitive group of horses on the track, making the card very bettable and that was a recipe for success. The track was in great shape, as was our facility to host our live crowd. It was a total team effort and I thank everyone for their support,” said Don Hoover, Director of Live Racing at Batavia Downs.

The track was definitely fast and was that evident in the co-featured $15,000 Open I Handicap pace where Twin B Tuffenuff ($7.70) flexed his muscle on the point to turn in the fastest mile of the incipient meet.

Jim Morrill Jr. sent Twin B Tuffenuff to the front and he was quickly joined by Lanjo Lee (Kyle Cummings), who would then be parked out for the rest of the mile. The two paced side by side through quarters of :28.1, :55.3 and 1:24.2 when Lanjo Lee finally tired, leaving Twin B Tuffenuff to open up around the last turn. Twin B Tuffenuff pulled away by three lengths in the stretch before Morrill wrapped him up and crossed the line in 1:54.2.

Twin B Tuffenuff is owned by Patrick Morris and trained by John Hallett.

Hallett and Morrill also won the fastest trot of the day with Esa ($2.30), who schooled a full field of mid-level conditioners by pulling away to a 11-¼ length victory in 1:55.4.

Morrill ended up taking a six pack home after he won four more races with Friday Night Blues (1:55.3, $4.60), Dark Matter (1:57, $4.20), Blogmaster (1:57, $7.80) and Timeto Communicate (1:56.2, $6.10).

The co-featured $15,000 Open I trot was won by Big Box Hanover (Larry Stalbaum) who led from the gate to three-quarters where Comeonover Hanover (Billy Dobson) had pulled from fifth and was even with the leader heading into the final bend. The two then trotted tumultuously around that last turn and then all the way to the line where Big Box Hanover gained a neck advantage and won in 1:56.3.

Big Box Hanover ($2.60) is owned by his driver Stalbaum, who also trains the trotter.

Live racing resumes at Batavia Downs on Monday (Jan. 8) at 3 p.m.

Free full past performance programs for every live card of racing at Batavia can always be downloaded at the Downs’ website (bataviadownsgaming.com) under the “Live Racing” tab and all the racing action can be viewed as it happens for free at the Batavia Downs Live Facebook page.

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Photo of Big Box Hanover courtesy of Wendy J. Lowery.

Batavia Downs kicks off 2024 overcoat meet on Thursday

By Tim Bojarski
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Photo of Jim Morrill Jr. courtesy of Wendy J. Lowery.

Although the summer/fall meet at Batavia Downs concluded less than four weeks ago, the new year brings a new season of harness racing at the oldest lighted harness track in North America as The Downs kicks off their 2024 winter race meet on Thursday (Jan. 4) at 3 p.m.

This is the second straight year Batavia Downs has offered live winter racing action and if last year was any indication, the track could be in for some big betting numbers once again.

“On opening day last year, we had a great live crowd on hand and all sources pushed $257,510 through the windows which at that time, was the best one-night handle at the track since 2019. Then on two successive Mondays (January 30 and February 6) we really knocked it out of the park by handling $340,602 and $348,205,” said Don Hoover, Director of Live Racing at the track.

“I hope we can pick up where we left off and the weather continues to cooperate. If that happens, I look forward to another strong meet.”

Hoover went on to point out that the track crew and their equipment are ready to take on any weather conditions to keep the track safe and fast and hopes to get through the next two months without any interruptions from Mother Nature.  

The opening day card features 14 races and the draw box yielded a large number of entries from Saratoga Raceway trainers as that track is currently dark until February.

One of those trainers is Larry “The Bomber” Stalbaum, who won five races on opening day of the winter meet last year. On Thursday, Stalbaum has entered eight horses from his own stable and is driving a total of nine during the day, so he will have the opportunity to duplicate that effort.

Other horsemen and women making the 90-West trek from The Spa include drivers Shawn Gray and Billy Dobson along with trainers Alicia Gray, Amanda Kelley, Lisa Zabielski, Jaymes Mcassey, Bret Derue, John Hallett, Andy Gardner, and Dale Lawton.

All the top Batavia regulars will also be returning on opening day to try and enforce their home-field advantage and keep the bulk of the $153,000 in purses that are up for grabs in western New York.

Last year’s top drivers Jim Morrill Jr., Kevin Cummings, Dave McNeight III, Kyle Cummings, and Jim McNeight Jr. will all be in action Thursday while leading trainers Sam Smith, Shawn McDonough, Jenn Giuliani, Tammy Cummings, and Jim Rothfuss all have horses entered.

Batavia Downs will race every Monday and Thursday through February 26 and post time will be at 3 p.m. daily for all race cards.

Batavia Downs realized a 75% handle increase in 2023

By Tim Bojarski
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Photo courtesy of Wendy J. Lowery.

With the books now finalized after the last live card of racing took place on Saturday (Dec. 9), Batavia Downs saw a major growth in handle that started last January during their first winter meet in 20 years and ended the year showing a 75% increase in wagering over the track’s previous record high.

The total all-source handle for the entire 67 days of live racing conducted at the Downs in 2023 was $15,414,846, which easily eclipsed the old record high of $8,779,409 established in 2019 over that 63-day meet, and set a new all-time high wagering mark during Western Regional Off Track Betting’s 21-year tenure as owner of the track.

Breaking down the numbers further, the average daily all-source handle of $230,072 bested the old mark of $146,987 set in 2021 (for a full-year schedule) by 57%. The average daily handle in 2020 was $170,268, but it was during a Covid-shortened meet that ran only 42 days.

Another number that saw an uptick at the Downs in 2023 was the total on-track live handle of $935,790, which rose 2.5% from the $912,822 wagered last year.

“The momentum in the handle started during our winter meet when we set several daily records and picked right back up when we returned in July. I am very happy that the wagering support from our customers, both remote and live, carried over to our regular meet,” said Don Hoover, Director of Live Racing at Batavia Downs.

The momentum Hoover eluded to started on Monday (Jan. 30) after bettors came out in force to pump $340,602 (from all sources) through the windows to set a new all-time single card mark at Batavia Downs. That total was the largest handle recorded since WROTB reopened the Downs in 2002, and surpassed the old mark of $339,000 which occurred during the 2019 New York Sire Stakes Night of Champions finals.

Then only a week later on Monday (Feb. 6), that record was broken again after $348,205 was wagered on the very competitive third leg card of the Western New York Pop-Up Series.

The healthy daily average handle for the short 14-day 2023 winter meet was $238,895, and compared to $227,742 for the 53 day summer/fall meet, remained almost identical all year despite increased competition by the greater number of tracks that raced live later in the year.

Batavia Downs will once again host a winter meet in 2024 and it begins on Thursday (Jan. 4) with 16 dates that run through Monday (Feb. 26). Post time for every race day will be 3 p.m.

Cummings wins eight, Smith takes six in Batavia closer

By Tim Bojarski
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Photo of Stranger Things courtesy of Wendy J. Lowery.

Dominance by a pair of horsemen was center stage on Saturday’s (Dec. 9) closing night card at Batavia Downs as driver Kevin Cummings and trainer Sam Smith put forth a pair of relentless efforts that yielded some very lofty numbers.

Coming into the final night of the meet, Smith was tied with fellow trainer Shawn McDonough for the dash title of the summer and fall stanza and it didn’t take long to see that Smith was ready to serve notice. Smith sent five consecutive stablemembers to the winner’s enclosure to start the night and later added one more to grab a six-pack and claim the training title and the hardware.

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Photo of Sam Smith
courtesy of Wendy J. Lowery.

Smith trainees won races one through five and included Pepin Coolie (1:57.1, $8.70), Ys Lotus (1:54.1, $3.10), Poets N Pirates (1:58.3, $5.00), Just Don’t Wait (1:56.3, $13.20) and Blogmaster (1:56, $3.50). He then later won with Johnny Boy, who captured the co-featured $15,000 Open I Handicap trot to get to six.

Johnny Boy left from post five and led every step of the race. After setting fractions of :28, :58.1 and 1:27 with no one close enough to challenge him, Johnny Boy turned for home and bolted to a 2-½  length win in 1:56.

It was the 10th win of the year for Johnny Boy ($4.50) who is owned by Mike Torcello, and who also owns Smith’s other five winners.

Smith also had one second from his nine starters to post a stellar .728 UTR for his work on Saturday.

Kevin Cummings drove three of Smith’s winners but also added five others to finish the night with a total of eight wins, which is just one shy of the track record of nine set by Jim Morrill Jr. only three weeks ago.

Besides the aforementioned Pepin Coolie, Poets N Pirates and Johnny Boy, Cummings also won with Remember The Beach (1:55.4, $35.20), Special Prosecutor (1:58, $6.80), McBardle (1:55.2, $2.60), Life Master (1:55, $3.90) and Stranger Things, who won the co-featured $15,000 Open I pace on the night he was named Pacer of the Meet for the second consecutive year.

Stranger Things got away fifth as Virgil N (Drew Monti) led to the half in :56.2. As they passed that station, Alta Engine A (Jim Morrill Jr.) pulled first-over and Stranger Things followed in stride. Virgil N succumbed to the pace at three-quarters allowing Alta Engine A to take the lead heading into the last turn. Stranger Things continued to pace alongside the leader and began to accelerate when they hit the stretch. Stranger Things gained ground with every stride and passed Alta Engine N by a length at the line in 1:53.

It was the third straight win and 10th of the year for Stranger Things ($4.60) who is owned by Kathy Schoeffel, Virginia Schoeffel, and James Reuther and trained by Angelo Nappo.

Cummings also had two seconds among his 15 starts to realize a stout .622 UDR for the night.  

The management and staff of Batavia Downs would like to wish all their patrons a very happy holiday season and look forward to welcoming everybody back on Thursday (Jan. 4) when the 2024 winter meet kicks off its 16-date run through Monday (Feb. 26) pending New York State Gaming Commission date approval. Post time for every race day will be 3 p.m.

Top horsemen and horses to be feted at Batavia Down Saturday

By Tim Bojarski

The Upstate New York Chapter of the United States Harness Writers Association and Batavia Downs have announced the top driver, trainers, and horses from the summer and fall live racing meet who will be honored for their efforts during the Night of Distinction awards presentation that will be held on closing night at Batavia Downs on Saturday (Dec. 9). Post time for the first race is 6 p.m.

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Photo of Jim Morrill Jr.
courtesy of Wendy J. Lowery.

Jim Morrill Jr. will receive the Driver of the Year Award after he notched his fifth driving title at Batavia Downs. This meet, Morrill had 429 starts with 138 wins, 81 seconds, and 58 thirds that produced earnings of $1,217,071 and a UDR. of .472. Those earnings set a new all-time track record for purses collected in a single meet at Batavia, breaking the mark he set just last year ($1,115,951). Morrill is also only one of two drivers (Kevin Cummings) to ever earn in excess of $1 million at Batavia Downs in a single meet and now both have done it in consecutive years.

Overall in 2023, Morrill has started 1,020 times with 295 wins, 184 seconds and 148 thirds with $2,567,305 in earnings and a UDR of .438. That UDR rating has him sitting in first place among all drivers in North America for percentage performance.

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Photo of Sam Smith
courtesy of Wendy J. Lowery.

The Trainer of the Year has yet to be decided as Sam Smith and Shawn McDonough are currently tied after Wednesday’s card with Smith showing 43 wins and McDonough posting 43 wins as well.

To this point in the meet, Smith has 242 starts with 43 wins, 42 seconds, and 35 thirds with earnings of $401,222 and a UTR of .322. For the year he has 648 starts with 109 wins, 94 seconds, and 91 thirds with earnings of $988,750 and a UTR of .296. All these numbers are career highs for Smith.

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Photo of Shawn McDonough
courtesy of Wendy J. Lowery.

McDonough’s Batavia meet tally shows 276 starts with 43 wins, 42

 seconds and 29-thirds that banked $346,692 and provided him a UTR of .275. His totals for all of 2023 showed 598 starts with 96 wins, 83 seconds and 76 thirds, earnings of $764,240 and a UTR of .280.

The top trainer will be named Saturday night as Smith will start 10 horses and McDonough will start eight and it could come down to the 15th race on the card before it’s decided.

Driver Kyle Swift, who was named the track's Rising Star for 2023 earlier this week, will also be presented his award on Saturday.

The top equine athletes will also be lauded and here is the list of award recipients for this meet.

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Photo of Stranger Things courtesy of Wendy J. Lowery.

Pacer of the Meet - Stranger Things (Western Terror-Southwind Prairie)

Kathy Schoeffel, Virginia Schoeffel and James Ruether, owners - Angelo Nappo, trainer.

Stranger Things had 17 starts with 6 wins, 1 second and 3 thirds that earned him $52,000 in purses, which was the most won by any pacer competing at the Downs this meet. Stranger Things competed against some of the best pacers on the grounds all season and could be counted on to show up week in and week out. For the entire year, Stranger Things won nine races and $71,590 in purses. Stranger Things will be on hand to close out his meet on Saturday night in the featured 9th race.

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Photo of Lougazi courtesy of Wendy J. Lowery.

Trotter of the Meet - Lougazi (Lou’s Legacy-Winning Blade)

Mary Warriner, owner - Ryan Swift, trainer.

Lougazi is a multiple winner of this award and rightfully so, as this 9-year-old war horse has been battling the best at Batavia for six years. In 2023, Lougazi had 16 starts that yielded him four wins, four seconds and four thirds with $54,600 in purses that made him not only the richest trotter of the meet, but the richest horse of either gait overall as of this writing. Overall in 2023 Lougazi had eight wins and $91,295 in earnings.

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Photo of Louie The Lilac courtesy of Wendy J. Lowery.

Mare of the Meet - Louie The Lilac (Sweet Lou-Pineapple Hanover)

Michael L. Torcello, owner - Sam Smith, trainer.

Louie The Lilac started the meet in the non-winners classes and worked her way up to the Open I where she found success twice. She has faced some very tough competition from top flight ship-in mares in her 16 starts this year, yet came out on top seven times during the meet while earning $49,105 in purses. For the entire year, Louie The Lilac has won a total of nine races while putting $69,968 in the bank.

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Photo of A Black Diamond courtesy of Wendy J. Lowery.

Claimer of the Meet - A Black Diamond (Betterthancheddar-Tricky)

LAV Racing Stable, owner - Russell Bratt, trainer.

Although winning her first race at Batavia in a conditioned event, A Black Diamond made her living in the claiming ranks all year after that and totaled eight wins for the meet, making her the winningest horse of either gait or gender at Batavia Downs this year. And she ended the year stronger than ever, winning five out of her last six starts including four straight in that stretch, earning $48,620 this meet. For all of 2023 A Black Diamond won 13 races and $82,852 in purses.

These awards will be presented trackside in the winner's circle between the races throughout the night. 

Kyle Swift named Rising Star at Batavia Downs

By Tim Bojarski
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Photo of Kyle Swift courtesy of Wendy J. Lowery.

The Upstate New York Chapter of the United States Harness Writers Association and Batavia Downs has announced that driver Kyle Swift will receive the 2023 Rising Star Award during the Night of Distinction awards presentation that will be held at Batavia Downs on Saturday (Dec. 9).

After driving at fairs and in qualifiers for two years, the 18-year-old Kyle Swift earned his provisional license in June of this year and has really become a presence on the harness racing scene in western New York ever since. After scoring his first pari-mutuel win with Big Place only a month later, Swift emerged as one of the top drivers at the current Batavia meet.

In 219 starts, Swift has won 14 races, finished second 26 times, and third another 27 times, which were numbers good enough to put him on the top 10 list among all drivers racing at Batavia this meet. And his $151,294 in purses from those starts has him seated 13th for total bank.

Overall this year, Swift has 17 wins 30 seconds, and 31 thirds with $181,130 in earnings.  

Swift is a third-generation horseman on both sides of his family. His father Ray Fisher Jr. has been a leading reinsman at Batavia for years and is approaching 5,000 career driving wins while his mother Ryan Swift annually finishes among the best trainers competing in western New York.

Kyle Swift is an energetic and enthusiastic personality who is 100% committed to harness racing and who works very hard to improve his skills on a daily basis. His steadily rising numbers and increased multiple listings on the daily draw are a testament to that and prove why he was chosen to receive this award.

The Night of Distinction card Saturday (Nov. 9) has a 6 p.m. post and all the awards will be presented trackside in the winner’s circle between the races.

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