The 74th season of live harness racing at Batavia Downs kicks off on Wednesday and opening night features some of the best horses on the grounds, including the Open filly and mare pacers and the Open class trotters. Post time for the first race is 5 p.m.
The Downs will conduct a 43-day meet, with racing on Wednesday and Friday this week, before switching to a Wednesday/Saturday schedule for the remainder of the meet that runs through Dec. 12. Post time for Wednesday is 5 p.m. and Saturday is 6 p.m. Post time for Friday (July 31) is 5 p.m.
Two special Sunday matinee cards are scheduled for Aug. 2 and Aug. 9 when the New York Sire Stakes come to town. Those cards will feature all-stake races that will see the 2- and 3-year old trotting fillies compete on Aug. 2 and the 2- and 3-year-old pacing colts and geldings go to the gate on Aug. 9. Post time for both of these dates is 1:15 p.m.
The New York Sire Stakes will be the only stake races at the Downs this year as the track's signature race, the $50,000 Robert J. Kane Pace, will not be contested in 2020.
“We look forward to another exciting race meet,” said Henry Wojtaszek, president and chief executive officer of Western Regional Off-Track Betting, the owner of Batavia Downs. "During these difficult times, we’ve made a series of adjustments that we hope will lead to a successful season."
Fans will not be allowed to attend the races at this point due to ongoing concerns and New York State regulations surrounding the coronavirus. However, listed owners of horses in to go will be allowed on the track apron starting opening night as per New York State Gaming Commission regulations.
Listed owners must make a reservation to attend in advance and be put on a list that will allow them to enter. Reservations must be made 24-hours before race time by calling Mary Bucceri at (585) 344-6144 or by e-mailing your request to [email protected]. Listed owners who register will receive an email confirmation. Security will only let in those who are on the list.
There will be no food or beverage service available, however, owners may bring food, water or soft drinks in until the gaming floor opens.
Upon arriving at the Downs, a temperature check and health status questionnaire must be completed by each listed owner in the lobby. Once that process is complete, the owner must then proceed through the Park Place Event Center hallway to the apron. No one is allowed to walk through the gaming floor to the apron. Also, only hotel guests will have access to the second floor.
Anyone coming to the track as a visiting owner on the apron or as a trainer, driver or groom in the barn area or paddock must wear a mask at all times and practice social distancing. This will be strictly enforced.
Listed owners only will be allowed in the winner’s circle for pictures if their horse wins while wearing a mask and practicing social distancing.
Also please be aware that any horsemen or owners coming from states that are on the New York State Coronavirus Quarantine List are not allowed to Batavia Downs attend at anytime.
Wagering will be available at all WROTB branch or EZ Bet locations, WROTB Dial-a-Bet System for account holders and online at bataviabets.com. The Downs signal is also simulcast to a vast number of brick and mortar and ADW betting sites and may also be wagered on through them. Replays of the Downs races can be viewed the following day at bataviadownsgaming.com, where all Downs racing information can also be found.
On the track, all the local horsemen will be back including 2019 driving champion Billy Davis Jr., Jim Morrill Jr., Dave McNeight III, Drew Monti, Shawn McDonough and Ray Fisher Jr. On the training side, last year’s conditioning champ Jim Clouser Jr. brings his stable back along with Maria Rice, Gerry Sarama, Mike Ohol and Ryan Swift.
“This is definitely going to be a different year for us,” said Todd Haight, director/general lmanager of Live Racing at Batavia Downs. “Without fans allowed in the stands, we won’t have any promotions this year like our traditional dollar hot dog and draft days, Family Fun days including the wiener dog races, nightly giveaways and our Labor Day driver’s bike race that goes back to 1978.
"Right now we are happy that the horsemen can continue to work and hope that with constantly improving Covid test numbers in the state, we may welcome back our guests at some point before the meet ends.”