BATAVIA, NY --- Considering the magnitude of the highlights from the 2013 racing season, what exactly does Batavia Downs Gaming do for an encore in 2014?
Meet the challenge, says Todd Haight, Batavia Downs’ General Manager of Live Racing.
But for now, in the wake of closing night 2013, they’ll savor the triumphs of the recently concluded live season at America’s oldest lighted harness track:
** The world’s richest pacer, Foiled Again, paid a visit on Oct. 5 and won the 11th annual Robert J. Kane Memorial Pace. Two weeks later, Foiled Again won the Breeders’ Crown Open Pace at Pocono Downs. This year’s Kane night handle was the largest since 2005.
** Export handle took another big jump.
** A state-of-the-art gaming floor opened in October.
** Five new track records were established while two others were tied.
** Shawn McDonough became the first provisional driver ever to win a track driving championship, and he did it in style, outdistancing Ray Fisher Jr. 103-88.
The final total mutuel handle on Batavia races increased again, climbing by over $660,000, or 9% over last year. Export handle, coming off a 50 percent increase in 2012, was up another 19 percent this season, though the on-track handle dipped 15 percent.
"We knew it was going to be a tough year on-track with construction of the new gaming floor taking place as our live season was starting,” Haight said. “In fact, we had two days in early October that we raced with no on-track wagering at all. The on-track numbers improved significantly once the gaming floor moved downstairs on October 4.”
“So we’re extremely pleased that we continue to grow our export business and I'm confident we can turn around our on-track numbers next season.”
Haight noted that the ITW (Inter-Track Wagering facility) will be moving back to the racetrack before the live season gets underway, so the Downs will once again be able to conduct some of their most popular promotions that they weren't able to do this year.
There were many highlights away from the betting windows, too:
The Western New York harness racing community showed it is truly caring as $12,885 was raised for the “Stay Strong Anthony Coletta” fund in early December. Coletta was seriously injured in a racing mishap in mid-November at Harrah's Philadelphia, so Batavia Downs drivers, owners, trainers, staff and fans donated to help out the 31-year-old driver in his recovery.
Of the new records, two were set by pacers. Xenia Hanover posted a 1:53 time to set the aged mares record and Barefoot Beauty went 1:54.4 to set the 2-year-old filly pacing mark, while 2-year-old colt sensation He's Watching went 1:54.2 to tie the record.
Fireyourguns was named the Pacer of the Year.
Mystical Escapade, the Batavia Downs' Trotter of the Year, set the aged mare mark with a 1:56.3, while Lutetium set the aged gelding mark with a 1:56.3. JS Trotting Bob, a 2-year-old colt, got his name into the record book with a 1:58.2 clocking and Bouncing Bax tied the 3-year-old filly trotting time with a 1:57.2.
While McDonough won the driver’s title, Ron Beback Jr. was victorious 84 times and won the comeback award.
John Mungillo, the Western New York Trainer of the Year, won his first Downs training title. He totaled 66 victories, nine more than J.D. Perrin. Carl Smith finished third with 37 wins.
Extreme Balance, with driver Jack Flanigen, pulled one of the biggest upsets in Batavia history when he scored at odds 168-1. The Jim Graham trainee returned $338 to win. Post-time favorites won at a 40 percent clip.
The 2014 racing season is tentatively scheduled to being on Wednesday, July 23, pending approval of the New York Gaming Commission.
by Brian J. Mazurek, for Batavia Downs