Batavia Downs opens for 68th season Wednesday

04:56 AM 22 Jul 2014 NZST
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Batavia, NY - As the 68th season of live harness racing gets underway at Batavia Downs this Wednesday evening (July 23), fans will be welcomed back with an aggressive schedule of racing and promotions that will run through December 6.

Racing will be conducted on a Wednesday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday schedule from opening night through Labor Day, when the racing schedule changes to a Tuesday Wednesday, Friday, Saturday format. Post time is 6:35 except for Sundays, which will convene at 1:15.

There are also two special matinee cards slated for Labor Day (Sept. 1) and Columbus Day (Oct. 13) that will also have a 1:15 post.

Todd Haight, Batavia Downs Director/Manager of live racing said "We're extremely happy to begin the new meet with increased purses as this year we'll payout an additional $200,000. Although our main lobby entrance is still under construction, many other areas of our remodel are complete. Customers will find the new Paddock Room betting area a great place to spend the night as it features new flat screen TV's."

A plentitude of wagers that carry low minimum investments are available this year. There are four $1 Daily Double wagers; early (races1-2), mid (races 4-5), late (races 8-9) and late-late (races 11-12). A $1 exacta and 50-cent trifecta is offered in every race as well as a 10-cent superfecta in all races except races one and seven. Lastly there is a 50-cent pick-4 in race 3, a 50-cent pick-5 in race 5, a $2 pick-6 in race 7 and a $.50 pick-3 in race 10.

Every Wednesday beginning July 30, Batavia Downs racing will be broadcast live on Time-Warner cable channel 98 in Rochester. Tuesdays will be added after Labor Day. Race analyst Ashley Holliday will return as host and be seen in seven western and central New York counties throughout the meet.

This year's racing schedule will be highlighted by eight divisions of the lucrative New York Sire Stake (NYSS) series that will bring with it some of the finest standardbreds in North America. Both the NYSS and Excelsior series will be contested on July 27, August 1-13-17-20-27-31 and September 6.

Then on October 18, the tracks' signature event, the12th annual (est. $50,000) Robert J. Kane Memorial Pace will attract some of the best Open class pacers from the U.S. and Canada to vie for the top prize. This race has featured top horses like Foiled Again over the years and was responsible for lowering the all-time track record in 2011 when Aracache Hanover blistered the course in 1:51.1.

Last year's leading driver Shawn McDonough and top trainer John Mungillo will both be back to defend their titles. But there will be stiff competition from their local peers and some new stables taking up residency on the grounds.

Race secretary Joe Zambito commented "We have a few new trainers shipping in including Leonard Segall from Florida and Dave Wackford from Iowa. We will also have several stables shipping in to race from other tracks and have already received entries from them."

"This year we added a new fillies and mares Open trot to the condition sheet and it has been well received by the horsemen. That race, along with the regular Open trot, will be written on Sunday for the duration of those afternoon dates" Zambito also noted.

Fans will be treated to a seemingly endless list of events and giveaways throughout the meet. A total of 23 special promotions are slated for the 72 date meet, starting with opening night when free racing programs and magnet racing schedules will be distributed.

July 27 is Thurman Thomas bobble-head night. The former Buffalo Bill great and NFL Hall of Famer is the official spokesman for Batavia Downs Gaming. Thomas will be at Batavia Downs in person on July 30 as a guest bartender for the Breast Cancer Coalition of Rochester benefit night at the races. He will be in the clubhouse and that presents a great opportunity to get your bobble-head signed by the man himself.

In conjunction with the United States Trotting Association, the "Back to the Track" 2014 tour makes a stop at the Genesee County oval on August 2 and brings with it a list of activities. Harness racing bingo will provide 5 full card bingo winners that will receive a $100 betting voucher each. Other giveaways will include Back to the Track T-shirts and assorted driver bobble-heads.

August 24 is the most popular all-age race day of the year. The wiener dog races will highlight Family Fun Day at the Downs. Ten heats of eight wiener dogs each will go postward to compete for cash prizes and bragging rights. Family events will start during the live harness races and include free pony rides, face painting, and a clown and caricature artist.

With the New York Sire Stake in town on August 31, there will be a free NYSS baseball cap giveaway. Fans will receive a ticket throughout the course of the day that can be redeemed as long as supplies last.

And Labor Day features the annual driver's bike race. Local reinsmen show they are comfortable in more than one kind of "bike" as they tour the Downs oval on ten-speeds. After the winner is crowned, the eight bikes will be given away to fans in random drawings.

For more information on all the events at Batavia Downs this year, logon to www.bataviadownsgaming.com . There you can get full race schedules, entries, results and you can watch all the race replays immediately after every race has been declared official.

By Tim Bojarski, for Batavia Downs
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