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Batavia, NY---Ake Svanstedt put on a training and driving clinic in the $108,600 New York Sire Stakes (NYSS) for harness racing 2-year-old trotting fillies at Batavia Downs on Wednesday night (July 26) winning all four divisions he competed in, going wire to wire with each and even equaling a track record with one. In the first $21,800 division, Fury Road (Muscle Mass-Bar Ballad) opened up a sixth-length lead at the quarter and never looked back. After setting almost equal fractions through the first three-quarters, she trotted home in :29.3 to score a seven-length, 2:00.1 victory. It was the first lifetime win for Fury Road ($2.80) after two second place finishes for owner Knuttson Trotting Inc. Next Svanstedt sent Natalie Hanover (Chapter Seven-Nanticoke Hanover) off the gate to lead the entire mile unchallenged to eventually win by three-lengths in 1:59.4, which shattered her previous lifetime mark of 2:04. That was the second lifetime tally in three tries for Natalie Hanover ($3.60) who is owned by the Svanstedt-Nasstrom Stable, the Van Camp Trotting Corp., Anders Olsson and Lars Berg. Lucky Ava (Lucky Chucky-Ava Marion) was the next stable star Svanstedt sent down the road, going in :29.1, :58.4 and 1:29 before trotting home to win in 1:59.3, which was another lifetime mark for the winner. Lucky Ava ($2.40) is now a perfect three-for-three lifetime for owners Ake Svanstedt, Little E LLC and the Van Camp Trotting Corp. Svanstedt's grand slam came when Plunge Blue Chip (Muscle Mass) followed the script and chased the car off the wings. She opened up a three length lead setting quarters of :29.3, 1:00 and 1:29.4 before turning for home with a widening gap, stopping the clock in 1:59, which tied her lifetime best as well as the 7-year-old track record at Batavia Downs. Plunge Blue Chip ($2.10) is also undefeated lifetime with three consecutive wins so far this year for owners Ake Svanstedt and Blue Chip Bloodstock Inc. In the only division Svanstedt did not start a filly, Missus Mia Wallace (Credit Winner-Upscale) overcame a break at the start to take the lead by the quarter and tour the facility unencumbered to win by two lengths in 2:02.2. It was the first lifetime win for Missus Mia Wallace ($12.80) that is owned by Connie Hochstetler, Robert Buddig and Allen Schwartz. Jim Morrill Jr. drove for trainer Homer Hochstetler. There were also three $15,000 divisions of the Excelsior A series on the card. Barn Bliss (Credit Winner-Jupiter) won the first division in 2:04 to set a new lifetime mark. Barn Bliss ($5.90) is owned by Steve Pratt, Nancy Pratt, the Purple Haze Stable and the Out In The Country Stable. Jim Morrill Jr. drove for trainer Howard Okusko. In the second division, Miss Muscle (Muscle Mass-Pacific Edge) won by a mere head in 2:01.3 to win her first lifetime start for owners David Smith, John Stark Jr., James Gianuzzi and Daniel Gianuzzi. Miss Muscle ($13.80) was trained and driven by John Stark Jr. The final leg was won by Pittstop Emerald (R C Royalty-Nowerland Kristen) by a three-length margin in 2:00.2 which was a new lifetime mark in her second lifetime victory. Pittstop Emerald ($6.60) is owned and trained by Robert Gale and was driven by Chris Lems. Racing resumes at Batavia Downs on Friday night (July 28) with post time for the first race set at 6 p.m. By Tim Bojarski, for Batavia Downs

Batavia, NY---Ake Svanstedt has not raced often at Batavia Downs, but he will be well represented there in the New York Sire Stakes (NYSS) on Wednesday (July 26) as his four starters are all morning line favorites as five divisions (races two through six) of harness racing 2-year-old trotting fillies vie for a total of $108,600 in purses on opening night.   In what looks to be the fastest of the divisions (sixth race), Svanstedt’s 8-5 early favorite Plunge Blue Chip (Muscle Mass-Dunk The Donato) is undefeated in two starts this year, winning by open lengths in each outing. After going gate to wire at Buffalo Raceway in 2:00 and setting a new track record for age, sex and gait, she came right back with a mirror effort at Yonkers Raceway in a lifetime best 1:59 by nine lengths. Svanstedt will do the driving from post one. Her main rival will be Lima Novelty (Chapter Seven-No Pictures Please) who has also gone two for two this year and also both on the front end. In her last start at Yonkers she set a lifetime standard of 1:59.2 in handy fashion and comes in looking to extend her streak. Trained by Linda Toscano, the 2-1 Lima Novelty will leave from post two and will be driven once again by Jason Bartlett. In the first division Svanstedt will drive Fury Road (Muscle Mass-Bar Ballad) from post two and is listed as the 2-1 favorite. Fury Road chased Supergirl Riley (Muscle Mass-Crown Laurel) at Yonkers last week in a near track record time of 1:57.3. Finishing second by only two lengths, Fury Road comes into this race tight and confident and should be tough to beat. Despite drawing post seven, Electro Pump (Muscles Yankee-Cardio Pump) will be the one to try and is the only filly in this race that has a win this year. In her only lifetime start, Electro Pump eked out a nose decision at Yonkers in 2:00.4 and may have to step that up a bit to get the job done here. Mark Macdonald picks up the lines for trainer Casie Coleman and is listed at 4-1. The second division features Nifty Norman’s Lucky Rainbow (Credit Winner-Lady Rainbow) who is listed as the 2-1 track handicapper’s selection. Lucky Winner was an easy four-length victor in her last start at Yonkers and is the lone filly to hit the win column in this race. With post one and her front-running style, driver Jeff Gregory should make his 2017 homecoming a winning one. Missus Mia Wallace (Credit Winner-Upscale) put in a stellar effort at the Meadowlands in the Kindergarten series over a sloppy track, finishing fourth in a mile that went 1:56.3. She will be making her first start on a half-mile track and much depends on how she handles that. Trainer Homer Hochstetler has Jim Morrill Jr. up and they are listed at 3-1 from post five. Svanstedt has the 2-1 choice in the third division with Natalie Hanover (Chapter Seven-Nanticoke Hanover) from post two. After winning her first lifetime start at Buffalo, she couldn’t catch a strong Lima Novelty at Yonkers last week, but put up a great effort in defeat. With the inside post and not much early speed in the race, Natalie Hanover should pretty much get her way in here. Oooteeny (Credit Winner-Lindys Head Nurse) trotted a perfect mile at Buffalo winning gate to wire in 2:03.4 with a 1:01.1 back half. Last week she held her own chasing a runaway winner and was race timed three seconds faster than her first start. If she continues to improve, driver Mark Macdonald could give the favorite some stiff competition. Jim Campbell trains Oooteeny who will leave from post seven at 3-1.  And in the fourth division, Lucky Ava (Lucky Chucky-Ava Marion) rounds out Svanstedt’s quartet and is once again favored at 2-1 from post five. She has two wins in two starts this year and is in against a field that is collectively winless. She can leave and that may be the best strategy here in what could be a catch-me-if-you-can outing for her.   White Cheetah (Muscle Mass-Wheely Quick) had to deal with post seven and a lot of road trouble at Yonkers last week but still put in a solid effort, finishing second to Plunge Blue Chip. She moves inside to post three and gets Mark Macdonald again who got along well with her. That all makes this Paul Kelley trained filly a solid competitor in this race at 4-1. There are also four divisions of the Excelsior A series that go for $15,000 each in races seven to ten and the card opens with a $6,800 Excelsior B event in race one. Post time for the 13-race card is 6 p.m. By Tim Bojarski, for Batavia Downs

Batavia, NY---The 71st season of live harness racing at America's oldest lighted track opens on Wednesday (July 26) and runs through Saturday (Dec. 16). This year's schedule features 71 race dates including seven matinee cards. The live schedule this year has new post times. Racing will be presented on Sunday afternoons at 1:15 p.m., opening Wednesday at 6:00 p.m. (then switches to 5 p.m. on Wednesdays for the remainder of the meet) and Friday and Saturday evenings at 6:00 p.m. to begin the season. Monday will replace Sunday in September and go at 5:00 p.m. The finest Standardbreds in the Empire State will be on hand as the New York Sire Stakes will be making eight stops at the Downs this year, each worth an estimated $100,000 for the contestants. Mark your calendars for Wednesday (July 26), Sunday (July 30), Sunday (Aug. 6), Sunday (Aug. 27), Friday (Sept. 1), Wednesday (Sept. 6), Friday (Sept. 8) and Wednesday (Sept. 13) to see some of the best racing all year. Once again the local action will be highlighted by the very popular claiming series that the track introduced last year. Mid-level claimers who accumulate points throughout the year will vie for championship final purses of between $15,000 and $20,000 for each respective division in November. Many familiar faces will be returning to drive this year including last year's dash title winner Drew Monti, runner-up Jim Morrill Jr., Ray Fisher Jr. and Larry Stalbaum. Monti accumulated 117 wins at the Downs last year before moving to the Meadowlands to drive when this meet concluded. Morrill was right behind him in second with 112 tallies and Fisher was third with 98. Stalbaum never showed up at the Downs until Saturday (Nov. 5) but made the most of his cameo appearance by winning 32 races in only 18 nights. This year all four are sporting equally impressive numbers and the competition on the track looks to be fierce from start to finish. To date, Stalbaum has won 206 races, earned $1.08 million and has a UDR of .372, Monti has won 155 races, earned $964,900 and has a UDR of .304, Morrill has won 132 races, earned $1.01 million and has a UDR of .333 and Fisher has won 109 races, earned $705,458 and has a UDR of .319. "The start of a new meet is always busy and exciting and I am really looking forward to getting the horses back on the track" said Todd Haight, Director/GM of Live Racing. "We have some great stake action on tap, a good overnight program in place and a very tough driver colony that competes very hard every race. This is definitely a meet that will offer value for our bettors." For the fans, another lengthy slate of 20 promotions dots the live schedule and offers something for everyone that comes to Batavia Downs all year long. Starting at 4:30 p.m. on opening night, fans will receive a free racing programs and magnetic racing schedules while supplies last. Programs will be available at the program stands and the magnets can be obtained by swiping your Player's Club card at member services. Sunday (July 30) is Old Fashion Day when hot dogs and soft drinks are only 50 cents and draft beer is $1. Items are available from noon to 4 p.m. on the track apron and at the Homestretch Grill. Batavia Downs is the only harness track that still offers concession items at this price during the Old Fashion Day promotion. Every Sunday in August is Dollar Sunday. Draft beer, hot dogs and soft drinks will all be $1 from noon until the final race of the afternoon. On Saturday (Aug. 12) there is a great promotion to highlight the newest addition to the track, The Hotel at Batavia Downs. Starting after the fifth race and for four consecutive races after that, 12 names will be randomly drawn to win a free night's stay at the beautiful new facility. Any Player's Club member who swipes their card before 7 p.m. will be automatically entered to win. Patron's do not have to be present to win and can only win once. There will be a gold rush at the Downs on Saturday (Aug. 19) when five sealed boxes will be given away to randomly drawn contestants. Four will contain a one ounce silver bar but one will contain a one ounce pure gold bar valued at $1,500. The promotion is sponsored by TAG Jewelers of Cheektowaga, New York (www.tagjewelers.com ). Any Player's Club member who swipes their card before 7 p.m. will be automatically entered to win. Sunday (Aug. 27) is the very popular Family Fun Day and Wiener Dog races. There is a full slate of free fun for kids of all ages including pony rides sponsored by Castilone Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram (www.castilonechryslerdodgejeep.net ), Pringles the Clown, Jason the Juggler, Mr. Scribbles and booths set up on the apron including face painting, sand art and snow cones. Then following the live harness racing action, the Wiener dogs hit the track for the "Dachshund Dash" sponsored by Genesee Feeds of Batavia. Up to 10 heats with eight dogs per heat will line up before the championship field is decided. There, the top three dogs will earn their owners Clubhouse buffets and gaming Free Play packages valued up to $200. And all dogs entered will be rewarded with a "doggy bag" full of gifts. Labor Day (Sept. 4) brings back the annual driver's bike race and chicken bar-b-que. A tradition since 1975 the driver's bike race pits eight of the Down's top reinsmen against each other on a different kind of bike; a 10-speed. The contest is held after the seventh live harness race and the bikes are randomly given away after the race to eight lucky patrons who correctly put their name in the box of the winning driver. Entry slips will be distributed between noon and 2:30 p.m. and must be deposited before the seventh race. Winners must be present to win. The bike race is sponsored by Crazy Cheap Cars of Oakfield, New York (www.crazycheapcars.com ) and the chicken bar-b-que is sponsored by the Center Street Smoke House of Batavia (www.centerstreetsmokehouse.com ). "With the new hotel added to the property last year, many groups have been here for different functions. We have aggressively promoted live racing to them and are looking forward to many new fans attending starting this Wednesday night" said Haight. "Our concert series has brought in tens of thousands of people this summer, many of which were new to the track. We hope our promotions keep them coming back to watch the races all season long." For more information and updates as they happen, log onto the track's website at www.bataviadownsgaming.com and click on "Live Racing". Follow us on Facebook as well (www.facebook.com/bataviadownsracetrack )! By Tim Bojarski, for Batavia Downs

Batavia, NY---The condition sheet for the first week of the 2017 live harness racing season at Batavia Downs is now available. The meet kicks off on Wednesday (July 26) with post time set for 6 p.m. Declarations deadline for all draws is 9 a.m. each draw day. You can download the sheet by clicking here  or access it on the USTA horseman's page or on the Batavia Downs website. Please note the following draw schedule for the first week of racing at Batavia Downs. Wednesday (July 26) will be drawn on Friday (July 21), Friday (July 28) will be drawn on Tuesday (July 25), Saturday (July 29) will be drawn on Wednesday (July 26) and Sunday (July 30) will be drawn on Thursday (July 27). And as previously noted, the box closes at 9 a.m. There are New York Sire Stakes and Excelsior races on Wednesday (July 26) and Sunday (July 30) so overnight races are limited on those days. The first qualifiers will be held on Saturday (July 29) at 4:30 p.m. with schoolers at 4:15 p.m. The draw for those is on Friday (July 28) and that box closes at 10 a.m. A complete draw schedule for the meet can be accessed by clicking here. The 71st season of live harness racing at America's oldest lighted harness track runs through Saturday (Dec. 16) and features 71 race dates including seven matinee cards. Live racing will be presented on Sunday afternoons at 1:15 p.m., Wednesday at 6 p.m. (switching to 5:00 p.m. in August) and Friday and Saturday evenings at 6:00 p.m. to begin the season. Monday will replace Sunday in September and will go at 5:00 p.m. For questions, concerns or to call in entries please contact Race Secretary Joe Zambito at 585-343-3750 Ext 6304 or Assistant Race Secretary Shane Hoehn at 585-343-3650 Ext 6302. By Tim Bojarski, for Batavia Downs

Horsemen wishing to race at Batavia Downs for the upcoming summer/fall harness racing meet have until Friday July 7 to get their stall applications in to either the Western New York Harness Horsemen's Association (WNYHHA) office located at Buffalo Raceway or Batavia Downs. Stall applications are available for download on the track's website (www.bataviadownsgaming.com). Simply click Live Racing>Horsemen>Stall Application and Agreement. The complete 2017 racing schedule can be found at Live Racing>Live Racing Schedule. Stall applications are also available at the Western New York Harness Horsemen's Association (WNYHHA) website (www.wnyhha.net) The backstretch opens for tack on Tuesday (July 18) and horses may begin arriving in the barn area on Thursday (July 20). The 71st season of live harness racing at America's oldest lighted harness track features 71 race dates including seven matinee cards. The meet opens on Wednesday (July 26) and runs through Saturday (Dec. 16). Live racing will be presented on Sunday afternoons at 1:15 p.m., Wednesday evenings at 5:00 p.m. and Friday and Saturday evenings at 6 p.m. to begin the season. Monday will replace Sunday in September and go at 5 p.m. Once again, the 2017 meet will be highlighted by the very popular claiming series that the track introduced last year. Mid-level claimers accumulate points throughout the year and then vie for championship final purses of between $15,000 and $20,000 in November for each respective division. All stable inquiries should be directed to Todd Haight, director/GM of Live Racing at 585-343-3750, ext. 6322. Tim Bojarski for Batavia Downs  

Batavia, NY---Horsemen wishing to race at Batavia Downs for the upcoming summer/fall meet please note that stall applications are now available for download on the track's website (www.bataviadownsgaming.com). Simply click Live Racing Horsemen Stall Application and Agreement. The complete 2017 racing schedule can be found at Live Racing Live Racing Schedule. Stall applications are also available at the Western New York Harness Horsemen's Association (WNYHHA) website (www.wnyhha.net) or at the WNYHHA office located at Buffalo Raceway. Race Secretary Joe Zambito has advised that all stall applications must be received by the track no later than Friday (July 7). The backstretch opens for tack on Tuesday (July 18) and horses may begin arriving in the barn area on Thursday (July 20). The 71st season of live harness racing at America's oldest lighted harness track features 71 race dates including seven matinee cards. The meet opens on Wednesday (July 26) and runs through Saturday (Dec. 16). Live racing will be presented on Sunday afternoons at 1:15 p.m., Wednesday evenings at 5:00 p.m. and Friday and Saturday evenings at 6:00 p.m. to begin the season. Monday will replace Sunday in September and go at 5:00 p.m. Once again, the 2017 meet will be highlighted by the very popular claiming series that the track introduced last year. Mid-level claimers accumulate points throughout the year and then vie for championship final purses of between $15,000 and $20,000 in November for each respective division. All stable inquiries should be directed to Todd Haight, Director/GM of Live Racing at 585-343-3750 ext. 6322. By Tim Bojarski, for Batavia Downs  

Batavia, NY---Batavia Downs is pleased to announce that Shane Hoehn will be joining their staff as Assistant Race Secretary and Program Director for the upcoming live harness racing meet that begins on July 26. Hoehn was born and raised in Vernon, NY and started working at Vernon Downs right out of high school. During his 20-year tenure there, he started out selling programs and eventually became their full-time Race Secretary, a post he held for seven years. In 2010, Hoehn left his duties at Vernon to pursue his own business venture. However in 2012, he went back to his racing roots and took the Assistant Race Secretary position at Saratoga Raceway, where he worked until 2014. "I am looking forward to coming to Batavia Downs and get back into racing full time. I have never been to western New York and am very excited to move there and get started. I have known (Batavia Downs Race Secretary) Joe Zambito for quite a while and am looking forward to working with him" said Hoehn. As much as Hoehn is anxious to starting his new position, track management is equally pleased with the new addition to their team. "In an era that requires personnel in our industry to wear many hats on a daily basis, Shane Hoehn brings 22 years of experience in race track administration with him to Batavia Downs and will be a valuable asset to the racing community here" said Todd Haight, Director and General Manager of Live Racing at the Genesee County oval. We look forward to getting him settled in and underway in with his duties." Batavia Downs opens its 2017 live racing season on Wednesday (July 26) and will host 71 cards of harness racing action through Saturday (Dec. 16). By Tim Bojarski for Batavia Downs  

BATAVIA — Another round of capital improvements at harness racing's Batavia Downs will start where many visits to facility do — the vast parking lot across Park Road. Western OTB officials said they maintain ambitions for a grand porte-cochère entrance extending out from the Downs, over Park Road and into the parking lot. But no state approval is needed for the repaving work approved Thursday by the gaming corporation’s board of directors, making it the first priority. “We’re still going to move ahead with the lot, not knowing when the (other project’s approval) will be done, hopefully sometime this year,” said Western OTB Vice President Scott Kiedrowski “It’s paramount for a lot of our customers ... it’s reached its age, it’s time for a major capital improvement.” “We are definitely in most need of a parking lot — it’s bad,” said Western OTB Executive Vice President Mike Nolan later. “For safety and for everything.” Keeler Construction of Albion was awarded the parking lot project contract, which will amount to no more than $508,128, according to the resolution. Work is set to begin in May, with crews digging out problem spots and doing drainage repairs, before sealing a new layer over the entire lot in stages. Shuttles would run daily to aid customers forced to park farther from the gaming facility. Genesee County Director Dick Siebert said his colleague, Orleans County Director Ed Morgan, has volunteered to serve as the board’s liaison during the project. Morgan, who was not present Thursday, is the Town of Murray highway superintendent. “Ed certainly knows how to build roads,” Siebert joked. The project would end with striping the lot to roughly the same number of spots — Nolan said there’s around 1,040 now — but without the outline of a planned bus loop that would be added if the state gaming authority approves a project adding the covered entrance-way, an expanded fine dining restaurant, and a new cigar bar. Nolan said Thursday that the schedule to construct the shell of a new six-race paddock on the far end of the Downs’ harness racing track is behind the parking lot but scheduled to finish ahead of the 2017 racing season. “The plans have been submitted,” Nolan said. “There’s no bid date, but our plan is to put it out to bid, receive them back and proceed (to board approval) in May. We’ll start construction in June and July.” Live Racing General Manager Todd Haight said Thursday that the harness racing season will start July 26, with new regular post times of 5 p.m. on Wednesdays, 6 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays and 1:15 p.m. for late season Sunday matinees. There are 71 dates on the 2017 racing calendar. Construction of the paddock by the 2018 racing season was part of an agreement with the Western New York Harness Horsemen’s Association, which has been down to a four-race paddock since construction began on the Hotel at Batavia Downs in 2015. By JIM KRENCIK Reprinted with permission of The Daily News

Andrew Torre of Amherst, N.Y., a long time harness racing horseman in Western New York, passed away on February 5, 2017 at the age of 82.   Mr. Torre competed at Buffalo Raceway and Batavia Downs over the years as a owner, trainer and driver, and was a member of the Western New York Harness Horseman's Association.   Born on May 24, 1934, Mr. Torre was the husband of the late Betty Jane Torre, father of Andrew (Kristen) Torre, Michael (Roslyn) Torre and Carolyn (Todd) Reynolds. He was also the grandfather of Bryna, Nicole, Isabelle and Camille and the brother of James (Diane) Torre and Catherine Torre. He is also survived by many relatives and friends.   Visitation will be on Tuesday (Feb. 7) from 4 p.m. until 8 p.m. at the Lombardo Funeral Home (Northtowns Chapel) on 885 Niagara Falls Boulevard near Eggert/Sheridan Drive.   A Mass of Christian Burial for Mr. Torre will be celebrated at St.Christopher's Church at 2600 Niagara Falls Boulevard in Tonawanda on Wednesday (Feb. 8) at 9:30 a.m. Please assemble at the church. Entombment will be at the Holy Sepulchre Cemetery.   Online condolences can me made at www.lombardofuneralhome.com   by Brian J. Mazurek, for Buffalo Raceway  

Batavia, NY---On Saturday (Dec. 17), the curtain came down on the 70th anniversary season of harness racing at Batavia Downs. America's oldest lighted harness track's meet that began on Monday (July 25), ran two days longer than originally scheduled after racing was extended for an extra weekend. As usual, the stake season was highlighted by eight divisions of the New York Sire Stake series which featured the best state bred horses and Grand Circuit horsemen. The series featured visits from the likes of John Campbell and Andy Miller and produced two new track records. On Saturday (Sept. 3) Pointomygranson (Marcus Miller) toured the facility in 1:53.2 and set a new standard for 2-year-old pacing geldings and on Wednesday (Sept. 14) Zack's Zoomer (Marcus Miller) trotted a mile in 1:58.1 and established a new track record for 2-year-old trotting colts. Racing under saddle (RUS) made its debut at the Downs on Wednesday (Sept. 7) and that produced a new track record as well. Admirable Hanover who was ridden by Vanessa Karlewicz won the $4,000 event in 2:03.4. On Saturday (Oct. 9), Batavia Downs signature stake, the $50,000 Robert J. Kane Memorial trot saw the $7 million man, Foiled Again (Kevin Cummings) come from well off the pace to win by a length in 1:52.2 on the strength of an exciting stretch drive at 9-1. That win marked the 90th trip to the winner's circle for the richest standardbred in the history of the sport. For the first time ever, Batavia Downs offered a new claiming series that ran throughout the whole meet. Claimers of both gaits accrued points month to month in order to make finals worth between $15,000 and $20,000. On Saturday (Nov. 13) trotters Love U Forever and Chrome Finish, and pacers Outoftexas, War Front, Vals Jett, Big Unit and Can U Be Fun won the finals in their respective divisions. In September, Batavia Downs hosted a new owner's seminar in conjunction with the United States Trotting Association and the Harness Horse Breeders of New York State. 26 people took part in the workshop that took them from the classroom to the paddock and provided them with everything they needed to learn in order to make informed decisions about Standardbred ownership. On the track, one of the best driving colonies in some time put on quite a show. Perennial local favorite Jim Morrill Jr. put in another stellar effort that was highlighted by a seven-win night, two six-win nights and four five-win nights. But it was 22-year-old Drew Monti who eventually won the dash driving title with 116 wins for the meet. Monti also registered a seven-win night and two five-win efforts as well. It was the first ever driving title won by Monti. Jim Morrill Jr. did set a new single meet earnings record at the Downs after he banked $849,024 in purses from July to December. JD Perrin "three-peated" his training crown, finishing first again this year with 47 wins. Perrin's meet started off strong before many of his horses fell ill. But after a trying middle stretch, the stable got back on track over the last month and Perrin was able to defend his title again. The winningest post position was post one with 231 wins followed by post two (151), post four (138) and post three (126). Post one also made the board 63% of the time. Also, the favorites won the race 46% of the time during the course of the meet. "We had a very exciting year at Batavia Downs this year. The product on the track was very competitive and having drivers like Jim Morrill Jr., Drew Monti, Shawn Gray and newcomer Larry Stalbaum joining the fray, the competition was fierce every night" said Todd Haight, GM/Director of Live Racing. "Despite our handle being down 5% for the meet, we paid out a record $5.9 million in purse money and we look forward to doing that again next year." Pending approval from the New York State Gaming Commission, the 2017 live racing meet at Batavia Downs will start on Wednesday (July 26). The management and horsemen of Batavia Downs would like to wish everyone in the industry a very Happy Holiday season and the best of luck in the upcoming new year.   By Tim Bojarski, for Batavia Downs  

Shady City stuck to script with a strong come from behind effort to win the $9,500 Open pacing harness racing feature at Batavia Downs on Saturday night (Dec. 17). Foreign Officer (Shawn Gray) shot out for the lead quickly and gained that position without any opposition. Once there, he led the group in single file to the half in :57.2. When the race advanced past five-eighths, Shady City (Larry Stalbaum) pulled first up and brought Warrawee Qually (Kevin Cummings) with him as they proceeded to advance toward the leader. Those positions remained unchanged around the far turn, but at the head of the stretch, Shady City put on another of his furious closing brushes. He went by the fading Foreign Officer, as well as Western Expression (Mike Whelan) who had tripped-out and snuck up the rail, to win by a head in 1:54.4. It was the sixth win of the year for Shady City ($4.10) who has now earned $68,332 for 2016. The 6-year-old gelded son of Metropolitan is owned by his driver, Larry Stalbaum and is trained by Kim Asher. In the $9,000 co-featured Open II pace, Rock The Dream (Ray Fisher Jr.) came from last at the half to go three-wide at three-quarters and win a narrow decision over Private Equity (Todd Cummings) in 1:55.1. It was the fourth win in five starts for Rock The Dream ($7.90) who is owned by Tessa Roland and trained by the Downs leading trainer, JD Perrin. Ray Fisher Jr. had a driving grand slam while Larry Stalbaum got the hat trick and Shawn Gray doubled up. Trainer Kim Asher also had three wins on the night followed by JD Perrin with two. As the 2016 meet came to a close, the leading driver and trainer were welcomed in front of the grandstand and presented with their winning hardware. Drew Monti was the leading dash driver with 116 wins and trainer JD Perrin was the top conditioner for the third straight year at the Batavia summer/fall meet with 47 wins.   By Tim Bojarski, for Batavia Downs

Wanna Rock N Roll continued her late season dominance of the best local harness racing mares as she fended off challenges the entire race to take the $9,000 Mares Open pacing feature at Batavia Downs on Friday night (Dec. 16). Wanna Rock N Roll (Drew Monti) left like a freight train and took a lead she would never relinquish. But her journey was not without pressure. Scarlet N Silk (Ray Fisher Jr.) also left from post eight and acted like a prompter in a time trial for three-quarters of a mile. After recording stiff fractions of :28.1, :57.2 and 1:27.1 on a frigid night, Wanna Rock N Roll put away Scarlet N Silk, but then face an onslaught of horses swinging four-wide around the parking ticket recipient. The Filly Princess (Kevin Cummings), Aritiza Hanover (Ben McNeil) and Tymal Luckynpink (Shawn Gray) were bearing down on the leader around the last turn and inching closer with every stride. But Monti started urging and his mare, who responded in kind, and Wanna Rock N Roll paced away to a length victory in 1:56.3. It was the third straight victory in the top distaff class at Batavia Downs for Wanna Rock N Roll ($2.70) and tenth overall for the year. She has now earned $71,220 in 2016 for owner Rose Campbell. The 5-year-old daughter of Rocknroll Hanover is trained by Steve Kiblen. Shawn Gray registered a driving triple on Friday while Drew Monti, Shawn McDonough and Ray Fisher Jr. each had a double. The final card of racing for the 2016 season is Saturday (Dec. 17) at a special post time of 5 p.m.     Tim Bojarski

The Upstate New York Chapter of the United States Harness Writers Association has named their divisional winning horses of the meet for Batavia Downs, whose live harness racing season comes to a close on Saturday (Dec. 17). The connections of these horses will be honored and presented trophies in the Purple Haze winner's circle on Friday night (Dec. 16). Male Pacer of the Meet Thunderbolt Jaxon 18-8-2-4 $41,100 1:53.3 Owner: Michael L. Torcello Trainer: Gerry Sarama Driver: Jim Morrill Jr. and Ray Fisher Jr.   Male Trotter of the Meet Kahoku 15-4-4-1 $34,005 1:56.3 Owner: Colleen Girdlestone Trainer: Mark Laidlaw Driver: Ron Beback Jr. and Kevin Cummings   Female Pacer of the Meet My Tallia Ideal 16-5-3-4 $38,061 1:53.4 Owner: Peter Kibler, Kenneth Owczarczak and Courtney McNeight Trainer: Dave McNeight Jr. Driver: Dave McNeight III   Female Trotter of the Meet Love U Forever 17-6-5-2 $37,680 1:58.3 Owner: Michael L. Torcello and Samuel Smith Trainer: David Weston and Gerry Sarama Driver: Jim Morrill Jr. and Dave McNeight III   Claimer of the Meet Charmschooldropout 17-8-3-1 $27,394 1:56.4 Owner: Priscilla Mooney and Edward Belica Trainer: Priscilla Mooney Driver: Jim Morrill Jr., Kevin Cummings and Ray Fisher Jr.   By Tim Bojarski, for USHWA

Not too many Standardbreds are tough enough to make it through their 14th year and still be on the track winning races. Former Open trotter Armbro Casino is one and he will lead the post parade for the Open trot on Friday night (Dec. 16) at Batavia Downs and then circle back to the harness racing winner's circle where he will be officially retired. Whereas some horses make a lot of money in a short period of time winning stake races, it takes a special kind of horse to be competitive night after night, year after year and accumulate over a half-million dollars in the process. Armbro Casino has done just that. Armbro Casino is by Striking Sahbra out of the Pine Chip mare Chiptease. He was bred by the Armstrong Brothers of Brampton, Ontario and as a yearling, sold at Lexington as hip number 189 for $25,000. He didn't race as a 2-year-old and then his first four years at the races after that were at best, inauspicious. He didn't even make enough to cover costs. Between dealing with issues that racehorses do, his starts were limited and the quality of those were as well. But he always showed promise and glimpses of what he really was. Armbro Casino's first really good year was in 2009 when he competed in upper level condition races at major east coast tracks under the tutelage of Shaun Vallee. Over the next five years, Vallee and Armbro Casino would be household names at those venues as they would go on to accrue 26 wins, a mark of 1:55.4 and $439,845 in purses during that time. Even at the end of that run, the then 12-year-old gelding was far from done. On September 5, 2014, the venerable trotter set a new lifetime mark at Harrah's Philly when he went wire to wire in 1:53.3 by a gapped six-lengths while the rest of the field could only watch. During his career, Armbro Casino raced at 17 different tracks in 9 different states. He had 305 starts, 55 wins, 38 second, 41 thirds and made $600,188 in purses. That's an average of just under $2,000 per start, all in overnight races. For the last two years, Armbro Casino has raced under the ownership of USHWA president Tim Bojarski and Tony Gruppo. They have arranged for him to go to New Vocations in Laurelville, Ohio to be retrained for life after racing and eventually, re-homed with his new skills. New Vocations is one of the premier racehorse retraining facilities and has a program that their horses go through which is designed with the best interests of the horse in mind. The Laurelville location is run by Jennifer Daniels. "The first week he'll settle in and start acclimating to our barn routine and being turned out. By the end of the week he will likely be paired with one or two paddock mates. If he needs a bit of a rest we'll let him vacation for a while. But if he's ready to go back to work, we'll start with longeing and groundwork in the first part of week two" said Daniels. Week two is when their horses are evaluated for temperament, aptitude and soundness. After a couple days of in-hand work and longeing, they put a rider up with a third line. Usually after five or 10 minutes of learning leg and seat aids, they come off the line and are being ridden solo. From there it's just a matter of putting quiet saddle time in. "We want to give each horse the best possible chance to succeed in their new home-- we want them to be relaxed and happy in their job so we take things slow and instill solid basics. It will be an adopter's job to finish their training. Our job is to prep them for that and figure out who the horse is as an individual, the type of rider they will need and the lifestyle they're best suited for" said Daniels. Once they feel they've got a good handle on who the horse is, New Vocations then takes photos and video and posts their profile to their website (newvocations.org). Then carefully screened and approved adopters will reach out when they see a horse they're interested in. "We evaluate their application carefully and set up an interview time-- it's really important to make a good match. We are a service for the horse first and foremost; the successful adopter will be one that's the best fit for that individual horse. Typically every horse will get 20-40 inquiries and our job is to find the best match" Daniels summarized. Winnie Morgan Nemeth is the Standardbred Program Director at New Vocations. She was raised in the Standardbred business and is passionate about the breed and promoting them beyond the race track. "Having a retirement ceremony like this (for Armbro Casino) brings so much awareness to our great horses and lets our audience know how much the racing connections care about their them. I think it is a very fitting tribute for him as well. We are excited to have him come to New Vocations!" said Morgan Nemeth.   From Batavia Downs Media Relations  

As the 2016 live racing season comes to a close at Batavia Downs, the Upstate New York Chapter of the United States Harness Writers Association annually recognizes the top horses and horsemen who put on the show for the harness racing fans during the meet. This year the Chapter will present the Lifetime Achievement Award to Richie Mays and the Award of Valor to Jim McNeight Jr. Richie Mays got his start in harness racing by working for his father, Frank Mays, who was a respected longtime horseman in western New York. They were stabled at the Butternut Farm which was a training facility they owned in Silver Creek, NY. At a young age, Mays, along with his brothers Frank Jr, Tom and Terry, were taking care of outstanding horses like Mighty Tar Heel, a local legend that his father trained. Richie perfected his skills from the ground up and was eventually driving by the 1970's. Getting good mounts from the family stable gave Mays notoriety and it didn't take long before he became a very popular catch driver. Through the 1970's and 80's, Mays was one of the top drivers on the Batavia-Buffalo circuit and the horses that he and his family campaigned dotted the top classes for many of those years. Magician, Lyron Hanover, May O Neighs, Avon Sweet Song, Suspense, Elmo Hanover, Sam Fella, R L Lobell, Family Fortune, Spooky Doyle, Mountain Pam, Karen's Joy, Diesel Duke, Two Twenty Two and Serious George are just a small sampling of names that Mays brought to the winner's circle in a career that spans over five decades and is still going strong. Mays has logged career numbers as both a driver and trainer. Driving he has 1,638 wins and $4.22 million in earnings. As a conditioner he shows another 273 wins and $1.2 million in purses. Successful and professional could be used when discussing Richie Mays. But liked and respected by all who know him is what everyone would tell you first. On June 1 of this year, longtime western New York driver Jim McNeight went down in a three-horse accident at Buffalo Raceway and seriously injured his back. Being immediately sideline from doing any training or driving, and with a qucik come back not a consideration, the day to day operation of the stable was seriously in jeopardy. Jimmy's son, 19-year-old Jim Jr., had been grooming horses for a little over a year before getting his "Q" license. He had only driven 20 qualifiers in 2015 and 14 more in 2016. He was given his "P" license and made his first pari-mutuel start on May 6 of this year. 17 professional drives into his career, his father went down and it was time for him to step up. And step up is exactly what he did. It's not easy to fill the shoes of a horseman who has 3,578 wins and $13 million earned driving and another 974 wins and $3.3 million training. But the young McNeight answered the bell and put up impressive numbers despite taking on his father's training and driving responsibilities of a 10-horse stable with little experience. McNeight Jr. had a lot to learn. He had never even driven a truck and trailer before. But with the help of Michelle Gramza and Bradley Jackson who would help him train, Bill Weigand who helped him jog, and Bruce Scheffler, Dale Donovan and Mike Kwoka who helped with barn work, the young McNeight eventually got a handle on the day to day operation and fell into a groove that helped his family keep the business running smoothly. Two days after McNeight Jr. took over the barn, he scored his first ever win behind their good trotter, Jim Dandy in 2:00 flat. For the remainder of the Buffalo meet he added 4 more wins, 8 seconds and 14 thirds out of 71 starts and earned $37,544 in purses. During the current Batavia Downs meet, McNeight Jr. has 12 wins, 10 seconds and 15 thirds with $94,224 in earnings. In the face of adversity and under a tremendous amount of pressure, Jim McNeight Jr. has put together a year he can be proud of. He registered 208 starts with 17 wins, 18 seconds and 29 thirds with $102,975 in purse money. He also gained a wealth of experience through sweat equity, all with helping his family in mind. Rich Mays and Jim McNeight Jr. will receive their awards in the Purple Haze Winners' Circle at Batavia Downs on Friday night (Dec. 16).   By Tim Bojarski, president of USHWA  

Batavia, NY---With only two nights of harness racing left in the 2016 season at Batavia Downs, the competition for top horsemen of the meet has been decided. Drew Monti is the dash winning driver of the meet and JD Perrin is the dash winning trainer of the meet. Drew Monti currently has 114 wins at Batavia Downs and is two ahead of Jim Morrill Jr., who began his winter break a short while ago. He also has 89 seconds and 79 thirds with $621,716 in earnings. For the year, Monti has won 217 races and earned a single year career best $1.2 million in purses. This is the first ever driving title won by Monti and at just 22 years of age, makes him one of the youngest drivers ever to accomplish this in western New York. Monti has been driving full time for the last four years while attending Canisius College to attain his degree in economics. Despite the long hours required for these endeavors, Monti excelled both in school and at the track. His four-year career totals to date show 688 wins, 644 seconds and 694 thirds on the strength of 4,885 starts and just under $3.7 million in purses. JD Perrin has now won the training crown for a third straight year at Batavia Downs. Perrin sent 44 horses to the winner's circle, six more than Maria Rice who did not enter any horses at Batavia this weekend. Perrin also had 44 seconds and 34 thirds. These efforts helped his students put $255,338 in the bank this meet. Overall in 2016, Perrin has won 151 races with 103 seconds and 83 thirds with $716,319 in purses. It's also interesting to note that his starts, wins and purses won were all career high numbers. Although Perrin doesn't drive much anymore since turning his attention to training full time upon arriving in western New York in 2012, he did manage to get eight starts in the bike this year with one win for his efforts. Perrin's career training numbers show 723 wins, 561 seconds and 460 third out of 3,377 starts and $3.1 million in earnings. Monti and Perrin will be honored in a winner's circle presentation at Batavia Downs on Saturday night (Dec. 17) during the races. Here are the current top five drivers and trainers of the 2016 Batavia Downs meet: Drivers Drew Monti 114 wins Jim Morrill Jr. 112 wins Ray Fisher Jr. 92 wins Kevin Cummings 75 wins Dave McNeight III 67 wins Trainers JD Perrin 44 Maria Rice 38 Gerry Sarama 34 Dave McNeight Jr. 30 Priscilla Mooney 24   Tim Bojarski

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