On Monday (Jan. 23), Batavia Downs began a four-week Pop-Up Racing Series for Western New York-based Trackmaster pacers and trotters with preliminary leg classes going for between $6,000 and $9,000 each (depending on class). Monday saw 10 series races go postward and these events provided some very competitive racing.
The best pacing effort of the day was turned in by Sportskeeper (Jim Morrill Jr.) who went gate to wire in the $9,000 Trackmaster 78 class.
Morrill left from post five with Sportskeeper and grabbed the lead before the :27.4 quarter. Then once he settled on the point, the pair dominated the field. Operating with a gapped advantage, Sportskeeper went :56.2 to the half and 1:25.1 to three-quarters with only Pet Sur-rock (Kyle Cummings) staying remotely close. When he turned for home, Sportskeeper was clear, under a line drive from Morrill and willingly paced away to a 2-1/2 length decision in 1:55.2.
It was the second straight win for Sportskeeper ($3.70) at Batavia and the purse pushed his lifetime earnings over the $600,000 mark, as he now boasts $603,847 in bank. The classy 11-year-old gelded son of Sportswriter-Keeper Flying is owned by Mike Torcello and trained by Sammy Smith.
The top trot came in the $9,000 Trackmaster 77 leg where Sanchez Rocks (Kyle Cummings) made a move past the half pay off with an impressive victory.
Pilgrim Caviar (Shawn Gray) led early and tripped the timer in a quick :28.4 before heading into turn two. But at the same time, Good Boy (Ray Fisher Jr.) brushed and crushed to the front and completed the first circuit in :59.4. It was at that point that Sanchez Rocks vacated the pylons from fourth and started trotting up a storm. Sanchez Rocks drew even with Good Boy on the backside, cleared at three-quarters and then extended his lead with every stride from there. By the top of the stretch, he was long gone and trotted home under no urging at all to win by 2-3/4 lengths in 2:00.2.
Sanchez Rocks ($5.80) is owned by Marie Houghtaling and trained by Ron Houghtaling.
The finals for the Pop-Up series races will be held on Monday (Feb. 20) and offer purses ranging from $12,000 to $18,000. Consolation races will also be offered and will go for $7,000 to $10,000 each. Spots in both will be secured by the top money earners in each Trackmaster category.
Jim Morrill Jr. and Keith Kash Jr. both had driving hat tricks on Monday, while trainers Joe Skowyra and Andy Torre scored two wins apiece.
Morrill is now only four wins away from 8,000 career victories, a number he should hit within the next week at Batavia.
There will be two carryovers and a guaranteed pool when live racing resumes at Batavia Downs on Thursday (Jan. 26) at 3 p.m. First, there is a $4,741 carryover in the Pick-5 (which starts in race one), and Batavia Downs has announced that pool will have a $10,000 guarantee through the United States Trotting Association’s Strategic Wagering Program. Complete program pages for those five races will be available on the USTA’s website under the “Handicapping” tab. Then later in the card there is a growing carryover of $1,322 in the Jackpot Super Hi-5 pentafecta, which will be available in the 11th race.
Free full card past performance forms for the entire card of live 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 at the Batavia Downs Live Facebook page.