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East Rutherford, NJ - Robert McMasters, 44, of Milford, Ohio captured the $16,600 grand prize in the 2014 World Harness Handicapping Championship on Saturday, April 19 at Meadowlands Racing & Entertainment. McMasters finished the tournament with a $2,968 bankroll to top the field of 83 players from across North America who competed for $41,500 in prize money. McMasters was an $800 tournament buy-in with two of his friends from Ohio. The WHHC contest format required contestants to bet 10 races: seven Meadowlands races of their choice, plus one mandatory race each from Pompano, Buffalo and Meadowlands racetracks. Bets had to meet a $30 minimum, $100 maximum per race. Contestants could only bet one horse per race and wagers could either be win, place or a combination of the two. McMasters cashed on seven of his ten bets and took an early lead with a $2,403 score coming in the Meadowlands' Race 2 with $40 to Win & $50 to Place on #1 (Rockin Wizard). His final two plays of the night helped McMasters grab the grand prize with $60 to Win and $40 to place on #1 Verdad in the 12th from the Meadowlands putting him $68 out of first place. His final wager of $30 to win on #4 Ok Fame in the Meadowlands' 13th catapulted McMasters into the top spot by just $65. He finished with a final bankroll of $2,968, taking home the $16,600 prize. In addition to the Meadowlands, the following partner outlets sent players to compete in the 2014 WHHC: USTA, Buffalo Raceway, Isle Casino Racing Pompano Park, The Meadowlands Racetrack & Casino, Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs, Western OTB/Batavia Downs,, and Standardbred Canada. Top Ten Finishers: First Last Bankroll Prize $ Robert McMasters $2,968.00 $16,600.00 Gary Machiz $2,903.00 $8,300.00 Mike Rip $1,986.00 $6,225.00 Jeffrey Arnold $1,920.00 $4,150.00 Andy Berg $1,705.50 $2,075.00 Marino Scianlepore $1,560.00 $830.00 Ed Cevetello $916.00 $830.00 Walter Andrasi $768.00 $830.00 Vince Sitoski $663.00 $830.00 Gregg Christopher $632.50 $830.00  by Rachel Ryan, for the Meadowlands

HAMBURG, N.Y.--- Fireyourguns made his seasonal debut in the $10,500 Open Pace at Buffalo Raceway Saturday night (April 12) and he looked in mid-season form as he scored an impressive neck victory over a late-closing Salazar in a sparkling time of 1:54.1 over the fast track.   The last time Fireyourguns was seen was back on October 19 when he registered a length victory in the Batavia Downs Open Pace. The 2013 'Pacer of the Year' at Batavia Downs didn't look like he was resting and relaxing for nearly six months in posting the surprising $21.40 victory.   The heavily-favored Running Book (Ronnie Wrenn Jr.) was the commander of fractions with times of 27.3, 56.0 and 1:25.0 but like last week drifted out badly in the lane. Fireyourguns took advantage and needed very little encouragement from driver Mike Caprio who kept the winner going in a straight line to the score the win. Salazar (Ron Beback Jr.) was hard-charging late and just missed by a neck while Running Book took the show position.   Fireyourguns (American Ideal-Villa Hanover) is a 5-year-old gelding owned by Terence McClory along with Jennifer and Robert Lowe. It was the 18th lifetime win in 50 appearances and moved Fireyourguns' lifetime earnings to $129,811.   Racing will return on Wednesday night at Buffalo Raceway with a 13-race card scheduled to begin at 5 p.m.   For more information including upcoming promotions, replays, results and news, go to   by Brian J. Mazurek, for Buffalo Raceway

By Michael Carter, for Buffalo Raceway Hamburg, NY-- When Drew Monti started driving at Buffalo Raceway in April, 2013 he was following in the footsteps of 3 generations of his family in the business. Drew picked up the niche from his father Darrin Monti and his grandfather Carl Monti who both are still in the game training and owning. Monti was born in October 1994 in Western New York and was also raised here. He currently attends Canisius College where he is studying Management and had been studying veterinary science. Monti received his provisional license in 2012 where he started racing in the NY fair circuit and qualified horses. His first pari-mutuel win came in September 2013 at Batavia Downs aboard Right Back At You trained by his father Darrin Monti. Monti (Drew) says of his dad "He has been in the sport all of his life and drove for 25 years before me." Monti continued "I really look up to him and my grandfather, and we still review races to this day after my drives." Currently Monti sits at 96 career victories and is very quickly approaching 100 wins as he already has 19 victories in 153 starts this season. Since beginning his career in pari-mutual races he has raced all over New York and he credits a lot of his success to not driving emotionally, being clear minded and also being aware of what is going on around him as his strategy. He said "I love the long stretch at Buffalo, but also enjoy racing at Batavia." Monti continued by saying "Batavia is a lot harder if you do not have a lot of power." Based on his driving so far here at Buffalo he loves the rail almost as much as Calvin Borel does is thoroughbred racing. When being asked about his favorite horse so far that he has driven, he said that he had a couple, but the one who sticks out in his mind was Spender Hanover (7, G, Cam's Card Shark-Special Beauty-Rustler Hanover). Recently, Spender Hanover gave driver Tim Tetrick his 8,000th career victory at The New Meadowlands Racetrack. Monti said he knew this horse was different and loved driving him while he was in Western New York as Monti drove for owner Howard Ouriel and trainer Don Rothfuss. When asked about his future in driving about possibly going to the Grand Circuit or even the sire stakes, Monti was very open to the idea, but is taking his time. Racing at the Hamburg Oval continues throughout the month of March on Wednesday and Thursday with a first post of 5:00pm, Friday and Saturday 6:40 pm. Racing in April will take place Wednesday at 5:00 pm, Friday and Saturday at 6:40 pm. Located on The Fairgrounds in Hamburg, NY, Buffalo Raceway hosts harness racing January through July. Simulcast wagering is available Wednesday through Monday from the top harness and thoroughbred tracks year round.   By Michael Carter, for Buffalo Raceway  

Batavia, NY --- Add Batavia Downs to the list of sites conducting qualifiers for the $60,000 World Harness Handicapping Championship to be held April 19th at The Meadowlands Racetrack. The Batavia Downs qualifier will be held on Friday night (April 4). Entry fee to compete in the qualifier is just $10 and the entry fee includes $10 returned back in gaming free play for the first entry.  Two entries per person are permitted. The contest will be capped at 150 entries. The winner of the Downs qualifier receives entry into World Harness Handicapping Championship, valued at $800, hotel accommodations for two nights and $500 in expense money. The winner’s total prize package is valued at $1550. The top ten finishers receive prize money as follows: second place-$250; third place-$150; fourth place-$100; and fifth place-$50. Players finishing sixth through tenth all receive $25 in gaming free play. The contest consists of races 1 - 10 at Buffalo Raceway and races 1 - 8 at the Meadowlands.  Players are required to make a total of nine mythical wagers on the 18 designated contest races in which a minimum of five contest wagers must be made on Buffalo Raceway. The remaining four contest wagers can be placed on either Buffalo Raceway or the Meadowlands. Each contest wager will consist of a mythical $2 win-place wager. No best bet selection is required.  Only one mythical wager is allowed per designated contest race. Both advance payments and walk ups the night of the contest are accepted, but to insure a seat in the qualifier it is strongly recommended to mail in a check to: Western OTB/Batavia Downs, 8315 Park Road, Batavia, NY 14020. Attn Todd H. "We look forward to conductings can be found at Pending New York State Gaming Commission approval, opening night at America’s oldest lighted harness track is slated for July 23. by Mary Bucceri, for Batavia Downs  

HAMBURG, N.Y. --- Charles Stewart and his stable were looking for a place to settle down for the winter months with Hoosier Park closed during that time. His choice? Buffalo Raceway. It's a selection that has proved to be the right and a profitable one thus far. "I looked around and I thought the horses I had would fit very well into the conditions at Buffalo Raceway," Stewart said. "Hoosier Park is a 7/8-mile track but I have some horses with experience on a half-mile track like Buffalo so I figured it would be a good place to go. The purses are equal too, if not better, than at home (in Indiana). Remember driver Shawn Gray when he arrived from Maine a few years back? It took several weeks before harness racing fans locally began to sit up and take notice of Gray, North America's leading UDRS driver in 2011. A relative unknown in Western New York at first but winning races will make make you dig into his past credentials. The same could said about the 27-year-old Stewart. He's got a trainer's title under his belt already in Indiana and posted 365 career wins and $2.57 million in earnings through Sunday. An unknown in Western New York but now one to look for. As far as winning a trainer's title, "I don't really look at the awards but it's nice to have on the resume." He arrived in Western New York at Batavia Downs in mid-November and showed the move was the right one. At Batavia Downs, he started 31 horses with nine wins, five second place finishes and four shows for a 29 percent win average, a UTRS of .323 and $31,232 in earnings. When the racing switched to Buffalo Raceway, Stewart is a win behind current leader JD Perrin by one victory. Stewart, a trainer since 2006, had sent out 35 horses this far with 13 winners, seven second place finishers and three who took the show spot. That's a gaudy .511 UDRS and a 37 percent win average and $56,189 in earnings. Stewart has been helped by having Peter Wrenn come in and drive many of his horses."He's been driving probably 90 percent of my horses for the last four or five years. Pete told me just about everyone of my horses would fit in well here." Wrenn is benefiting from Stewart's success as he sits in second place in the driver's standings with 19 victories, 11 behind runaway leader Billy Dobson who has 30. But Wrenn isn't staying around all season like Stewart is. "He has a small stable he'll go back to in Indiana and I'll probably use Drew Monti and Shawn McDonough when Pete does leave. Drew and Shawn drove for me at Batavia." Stewart added, "I love the Buffalo Raceway paddock. It's head and shoulders above most others. The heated paddock is huge and it's really user-friendly. You need probably just two people to paddock probably five horses. It's a big plus." Right now, Stewart has 21 stabled at Buffalo Raceway and is always on the lookout for more. "I did get a horse from a local owner and would be willing to take on more." In the near future, he'll be losing five out of the barn with two going back to Indiana and three going to the Delaware Sales. About his stable, Stewart said, "I am set up for claimers. I seem to make more money with get the money while you can." The frigid weather has made things a bit more difficult for Stewart but one the's handled as things came along. "You just don't keep them on the track as long and you try to keep them as healthy as possible. I went into the barn and there was three-to-four inches of ice in the water buckets so that takes some extra time to change that. And I've been warned to keep the horses' shoes sharpened keep them really corked." He added of his training routine, "I just blow them out and let them gallop. I think it's easier on their joints and you are using less equipment. I usually do one trip two or three days before a race." Will we ever see Stewart in the sulky during a race? Probably now. "I may only drive if a need to fix a problem with a horse, but otherwise, no." He then added with a laugh, "I am in this to make money and if I was driving I probably wouldn't make much...I'm not very good at it." As for the rest of the year, Stewart plans to stay at Buffalo until the end of the meet, journey back to Indiana, then come back for the 2015 meet at Buffalo. "That's the plan right now," he said. And Stewart goes by the motto many in the horse racing industry go by..."People don't like you when you are doing well and you are well liked when you aren't going well." It's not in a mean-spirited way though. It's almost like a superstitious routine. "I love that so I keep hoping people don't like me because that means I am doing well," he added jokingly. But thus far, Stewart and driver Wrenn have brought in some good horses that have made many people take notice of them and of Buffalo Raceway itself. by Brian J. Mazurek, for Buffalo Raceway  

Batavia, NY --- Longtime Western New York horseman Fred Griffin, 77, died Dec. 26, 2013 in Batavia. "Griff," as he was known by many horsemen and racing fans, drove predominately in the 1970s and 1980s in Western New York, at Batavia Downs and Buffalo Raceway. During the 1990s he raced mostly on the New York County Fair circuit. He was trainer/driver for the powerful Ja-N-Em stable. He also drove several for owners James Nappo and Joanne Angarano. During his career he won 541 races and his drives earned $908,067. Submitted by Batavia Downs Media Relations  

We are visiting today with the recently crowned leading dash-winning driver in North America Ronnie Wrenn Jr. This past year Ronnie tallied 714 winning drives, which ranked him as the the winningest driver in North America. His UDRS driving rating was an outstanding 0.361. He was the leading driver at both the Northville and Northfield meets. Wrenn, who turned 27 in August has been driving regularly only for four years. Ronnie has been in the sulky for most of Anvil Raider N 23 victories on the year, the most in harness racing in 2013. Wrenn was a finalist for the Dan Patch Human and Horse Awards for 2013 as the Rising Star. We caught up with him as he was driving to be with his girlfriend to bring in the new year together. One-On-One is done exclusively for by Brian McEvoy HLINK: Congratulations on a great year of racing and winning the 2013 North American dash title. What are you up to? When is the surgery scheduled on your wrist? RW:  I just finished my last day of racing for the year. I finished up with 5 winners on the night. It has been a lot of work for the year. I have definitely raced a lot of races. It has been hard. Winning the title has not set in yet. When I have the time off I will realize what I have accomplished. To be included in the same class of the top 5 drivers is pretty sweet. I am having surgery on January 6th at Ohio State U. Once the surgery is done. I should have about 4 weeks of rehab. I should be back racing in late January or early February. It is just about the time the purse increase should start at Northfield. It's my right wrist and it is an old sports injury that I have put off for years and now have to deal with. HLINK: You have raced at an incredible amount of tracks this year, Northfield Park, Northville Downs, Raceway Park, Scioto Downs, Batavia Downs, Buffalo Raceway, Colonial Downs, Monticello Raceway, Delaware Ohio Fair, Hazel Park, The Meadows, and several other fair tracks. You must have put a lot of miles on your car? RW: I have 148,000 miles on a 2011. Of that I have put 70,000 miles on the vehicle this year. HLINK: You only started driving about four years ago. Tell us about how you started driving and the influence of your uncle Peter. RW: The first year I just messed around driving a couple of horses The last two years is when I picked up catch drives. My two uncles have had a great influence on me. Peter has helped me from a driving aspect. My uncle Gary, a blacksmith, also has helped me greatly. I have talked a lot on the phone with both my uncles for advice. I was going to school in Michigan. I was studying criminal law. I started picking up a lot of drives. It was getting busy, so I chose this path. HLINK: I heard you were a pretty good ball player. How good were you? RW: I played football and baseball in high school. I played some baseball in college. I played center field. I loved the sport. I gave it up to go into the horses. I wasn't going to the major leagues, but I could have played further in college. HLINK: You grew up in Michigan. You started your driving career at the Michigan tracks, and at Windsor in Canada. It must be depressing to watch the decline of harness racing in your home state? RW: When I first started racing all I wanted to do was race at the premier tracks of Michigan. I was hoping to remain racing there. I was for about a year. It looks now like it is near the end of it. Ten live days of racing at Northville and Hazel doesn't add up to a lot of days. If you are a horseman you can't make a living racing there. It was really sad that Michigan didn't approve casinos at the racetracks as just happened in Ohio. I think it is about to come to the end. HLINK: You recently drove Anvil Raider N to his 22nd victory on the year. This is the most racing wins in harness racing for 2013. It might also have been his swan song. U.S. Trotting Association rules require the 14-year-old to retire on December 31st. RW: It was one of the first horses I started to catch drive. I probably drove him the most the last two years. I drove him a lot this year. For him to set the record for most wins this year is pretty neat. It is unfortunate he has to retire as he is still racing like he is a 6-year-old. He has had a lot of miles on his body. It is just like athletes. You can perform better at twenty then in your forties. It is probably a good rule. He is one the few horses I have ever been around that has raced so well in his 14th year of racing. He was racing at a level where he could still hold his speed. He was sharper this year then he has been in the last 5 years. HLINK: You were recently invited for a drive-off at Monticello Raceway against Bruce Aldrich Jr. on December 12th. Tell us about that experience? RW: I loved the idea of what John Manzi came up with in the drive-off. I think a lot of other tracks should try this. I must have got over 200 texts that day My Facebook page and phone were lit up. The first 8 races we went back and forth. The next couple of races didn't work out for me. I had a couple of horses break stride. It is never fun losing but it was a very cool experience. I would definitely do it again. HLINK: When you come back to racing next year after the surgery is Northfield going to be your home base for racing? RW: When I return I will start driving back at Northfield. I love that place and they treat me good. It fits my driving style. On a half mile track you have to be more aggressive. Northfield is a real run and gun track. You don't really go slow quarters as you do at other tracks. I might go down to Lebanon to drive at Miami Valley a little bit when they open in February. I am just going to see how things go. I am considering driving at the Meadows again pulling doubleheaders. It just depends what the purse structure is at Northfield. It would be nice to one day be driving at the premier tracks back east. I want to keep getting better and one day drive on the big stage. I am still learning a lot and new to the business. HLINK: Do you have any insight into when the purses will go up at Northfield?. What about Miami Valley not having any tellers for people to bet with? RW: I probably don't want to say too much as I am not 100%. I guess February is when the purses will be going up a little bit. They have to generate some revenue from the casino. Miami Valley opens in February and I would think they would kick up their purses at the same time. That would prevent the horseman from going on down to Miami Valley. The teller situation I don't think has been worked out yet. I don't think they have a contract with any of the tracks. I hope whoever is working for us gets that worked out. I hope we can race for a lot of money for a long time in Ohio. HLINK: You had an unfortunate situation when you went to race this summer at the Delaware County Fair in Ohio. You were fined for leaning back too far in the bike when driving. You were not happy about the drivers being fined for this. You packed up and left on the first day of racing. RW: When all the drivers showed up the first day they had a whole new set of rules they were trying to enforce. I am really not sure who came up with the rules. I was really looking forward to driving during Jug week. I had a disagreement with the judge. I really didn't think I was leaning back. He thought I was. It is just like in major league baseball where every pitcher and batting has his own form. We are all not robots. We are all individuals which use our skills in different ways. I never have been too far back to control my horse. Maybe when someone just starts driving they should say something. HLINK: Where do you see yourself in five years? Do you see yourself eventually making the move to the Meadowlands and the other big tracks in the northeast? RW: If a trainer called me up and said to come out here and drive my horses. I would come out in a heartbeat. I want to keep getting better. I was locked in this year,driving smarter. I want to be patient and get my horses in the right position at the right time. If I am driving in Ohio that would be fine. Wherever the premier tracks are in the next five years is where I want to be. HLINK: I see on Facebook you are a huge Dallas Cowboy fan? Are you disappointed they did not make the playoffs again this year? RW: I am really disappointed they didn't make the playoffs. I was reading where in the last 20 years they are something like 2 and 18 in week 17. You don't make the playoffs struggling the last game of the season when it means something. I am a diehard fan. When I was younger they were awesome. They were America's team. The last few years they have been a struggling team. I am a Cowboy fan for life. They are like the Yankees of football. By Brian McEvoy for  

HAMBURG, NY --- It may be early January in Western New York but things will be heating up at Buffalo Raceway on Wednesday, January 8th as the 99-day 2014 harness racing season opens up at the half-mile oval, located at the Erie County Fairgrounds in Hamburg. Buffalo Raceway has reaped the benefits of early-season racing in recent years and Chief Operating Officer Jim Mango said the track needs to take advantage of it once again. "We've had such good success the past few seasons with racing in January, February and March," Mango said. "We are one of the few tracks who are still willing to race gives us great exposure and brings in some good drivers and horses." Mango pointed out that Buffalo Raceway's export signal attracted $10.3 million in handle in 2011 and $15.3 million in 2013. "That's a 50 percent growth since 2011," Mango said. "Part of the success goes to the relationship we have with our guest sites, and getting us national outlets like Twin Spires and TVG." Mango went on to say, "The winter racing is well received by the horsemen and it gives drivers from the East some opportunities. We have had a pretty good driver's colony here the first few months the past few seasons and I don't see any reason that won't happen again this year. There should be some fierce competition." Buffalo Raceway will race on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday nights in January. Post time is 5 p.m. on Wednesdays and 6:40 p.m. on Friday and Saturday evenings. In February and March, Thursdays will be added with 5 p.m start time. "We've had reasonable success on Thursdays but we are starting it in February this year and hope to take advantage of a lull in racing across the country," Mango said. "The 5 p.m. post time...there's not much competition and we are trying to take advantage of it, and there seems to be plenty of horses to race." Mango went on to say, "Mickey Mantle will never hit another home run again and we know we'll never attract the crowds like we did back in the 1960s. It's just the reality. Horse racing is all simulcast-based now and we have to realize it." While Mango admits wagering on-line continues to grow, Buffalo Raceway will do some promotions to bring fans in. "We got sports giveaways this pucks, baseballs, basketballs, footballs with our logo on it. We are trying to add a little fun for those coming out." The track continues to improve its backstretch and something that Mango is very extremely proud of. "There's not anyone that isn't impressed with our barns or state-of-the-art paddock. I will argue with anyone that we have the best backstretch in the country, thoroughbred or harness racing." "We've honored our commitment to New York State as a race track and gaming facility," Mango said. "A lot of tracks across the country have ignored the stable area. We thought it a necessary improvement. I hear from horsemen daily who say they can't wait to get back to Buffalo because of the back side." Buffalo Raceway has filled the more than 400 stalls on the grounds for 2014 and as Mango put it, "We could have easily filled over 600. That's why we race as much in the winter as we have a lot of people who want to compete." Besides the impressive barns and paddock, the track has improved its track lighting this season which will only help the simulcast signal. With new graphics and cameras installed last season, Buffalo Raceway is ready to compete with the best in the country in distributing the best signal possible. Mango added that the track is better than ever with more material put down and turns are properly banked. "It is a daunting task to keep the track in racing shape during the winter months in Western New York. I think that our track crew does a pretty good job." The fans will also notice a change in the race calls. Michael Carter takes over the announcer's booth as previous caller Gabe Prewitt is now at Pompano Park in Florida. Ray Fisher Jr. will return to defending his 2013 driving title at Buffalo Raceway. He was named "Driver of the Year" in Western New York after his second place finish in the standings at the recently completed Batavia Downs meet. Drivers coming in for the first few months aren't known yet, but it is expected that drivers from Saratoga and Vernon will once again compete. Mango said nothing is definite but has heard Shawn Gray may also "pop in on weekends" to race. Also back will be perennial leading drivers Dave McNeight III, Kevin Cummings, Jack Flanigen, Ron Beback Jr. and Jim McNeight. Expect the trainer's battle to a good one as well with J.D. Perrin the reigning champion at Buffalo Raceway. John Mungillo took the title at Batavia Downs and should arrive with a powerful stable once again. Jim Graham and David McNeight Jr. are also top conditioners expected to arrive with strong stables. On the wagering side, the highlight once again will be the $5,000 Guaranteed Pick-4 every Wednesday starting in the fifth race. The guaranteed pool is part of the United States Trotting Association's Strategic Wagering Program. It is also co-sponsored by Buffalo Raceway and the Western New York Harness Horsemen's Association. Mango said in closing, "I think the past few years our racing product and competition has improved. People have seen what we've had to offer and it's helped us." Buffalo Raceway is located on The Fairgrounds in Hamburg, New York. Admission and parking are always free to the Raceway, for all ages. Reservations for live racing nights can be made by calling 716-649-1280 ext 300. Seasonal harness racing takes place January through July Wednesday at 5:00 pm, Friday and Saturday at 6:40 pm. Simulcast wagering from across North America is available year round Wednesday through Sunday. For more information visit or call (716) 649-1280. by Brian J. Mazurek, for Buffalo Raceway        

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  

In harness racing, provisional drivers aren't supposed to get first call to drive the best horses on the grounds. Provisional drivers don't repeatedly drive horses to track records and absolutely under no circumstance do they ever win more often than their peers. But all of that changed Saturday at Batavia Downs where 23-year-old provisional driver Shawn McDonough concluded the meet at the Western New York track by becoming the first "P" driver in harness racing history to win a track's dash title. And in the end, it wasn't even close. McDonough took the lead atop the driver standings over the summer and entered the final week of the meet holding a 93 to 84 win advantage over the next closest driver, Ray Fisher. In the final three days of the meet, McDonough won three races Wednesday, another three on Friday, and for just good measure scored a grand slam on the meet's final night putting him over the 100 win mark. A strong Buffalo meet in the first half of the year that saw McDonough win 71 times from 591 starts gave the young driver a wave of momentum heading into the new meet at Batavia. There, a number of factors played a role in McDonough's record breaking success. McDonough said, "John Cummings left here and that opened spots up. A couple drivers got hurt (Ray Fisher and Jack Flanigen nearing the end of at Buffalo), and that opened up opportunities. I did well for a number of the trainers and they kept with me." McDonough credits the Empowered Racing Stable and Resilient Racing Stable as a large part of his success at Batavia. I was working for Empowered Racing Stable with Carl Smith and they put me on the right foot with some power to drive. My own owners, the Resilient Stable, they gave me a great opportunity to train horses and I've done well. In regards to Empowered, "You know, they have great horses and spend a lot of money on horses and bring them to these tracks. I broke the track trotting record this year with their mare Mystical Escapade," said McDonough. In addition to the smashing record setting performance by Mystical Escapade who would go onto be named Trotter of the Year at Batavia, McDonough also broke a track record with the pacing mare Xenia Hanover by virtue of a blowout eight length win in 1:53. Other horses of note from McDonough are Cactus Jack and Resilient Stable's millionaire trotter, Self Professed. McDonough said that his best of claim of the year was Debs Girloffortune. "I claimed her for $4,000 and she made almost $16,000 just at Batavia for me. I think she missed one check in about twenty starts." Even with the breakout success at Buffalo, it was hard for McDonough to envision just how much of that would carry over into the Batavia season. "Heading into the meet someone had asked me how many wins I'd get, and I thought maybe 75 or so. I can't explain it but for some reason every year I have better luck at Batavia than I do at Buffalo. Being a provisional driver I didn't know what the opportunities would be like, but a lot of my buddies are good trainers and they all helped to put me on the map pretty good." McDonough continued, "I never thought realistically I would hit the 100 mark; it was just a great year. I'm thankful for my owners, all my family and friends. I've got a good helper too with my girlfriend Ashley Holiday who helps out a lot. We've got a really great team here and everything clicked." In becoming the first provisional driver to ever win a track dash title, it does beg the question: Why is McDonough still a provisional driver in the first place? By the very definition of what a provisional license essentially is, it's almost inexplicable that McDonough remains under that classification. Ultimately, it is only the state appointed judges presiding at Buffalo/Batavia that can grant McDonough to a full "A" driver status. But despite the subjective nature at which that determination is made, McDonough has laughably outpaced what the standard minimum requirements are, pursuant to the United States Trotting Association 2014 Bylaws. There are a number of different ways that minimum requirements can be met, but generally speaking what's required while holding a 'P' license is one year driving experience, plus 25 satisfactory pari-mutuel starts and a win requirement of 5 wins. McDonough has held a 'P' license now for 4 years and in just this single year alone, he has won 174 times with earnings in excess of $900,000. Searching for an answer, McDonough said "I asked at the beginning of the Batavia meet why I can't yet have an 'A' license and didn't really get an answer, so I told myself that I'm going to have to go out there and try to win a title to show the judges. I'm not sure how it makes them look having a 'P' driver go out there and win a title, but you can't argue with them." He continued, "They're actually the ones that told me towards the end of the meet that I was going to be the first 'P' driver to win a dash title and break history, I didn't even know that." McDonough added, "I had an opportunity to go to the Meadowlands and drive for Empowered Racing. They asked me to go with them but I wasn't able to (because of the 'P' status). All I can do is be patient and keep it going. Just this year I've had close to 180 wins; I'm not dangerous and haven't caused any accidents - nothing." The next time we'll see McDonough in action is when Buffalo starts their new season on January 8. Until then, he's giving his horses time off for a little break. As for plans later down the road McDonough says "I'm just being patient. If I have a good year again maybe we'll look at trying Pocono. If I get a couple of my guys to go and get owners like Empowered and Resilient to move their stock we'll see what happens." In the meanwhile, McDonough will enter 2014 seeking his second consecutive track title in Western New York. Unheard of for a 'provisional' driver. by, Brett Sturman for The Racing Beard

BATAVIA, NY --- America's oldest lighted harness track, Batavia Downs Gaming, concluded its 67th season of live harness racing on Saturday night (Dec.7) with a 13-race program, billed as the Night of Distinction. Awards were presented in several categories by the President of Upstate NY Chapter of the United States Harness Writers Association, Tim Bojarski. Also trackside was delegate Sam Pendolino. Closing night featured a must pay out Pick-6 contest that over 300 racing fans participated in. Steven Bennett of Rochester and Daniel Coughlin of nearby Oakfield, picked the most winners and took home $500 each. For the second consecutive week, Dont Say Goodby ($16.60) used a strong drive in the lane to rally from far back and capture the featured $8,500 Open Pace in 1:54.4 over the fast track. OK Braveheart (Ken Holliday) sent the fractions of 27.1, 56.2 and 1:25.3 but called it a night just past the three-quarter marker. But it was a wake-up call for Dont Say Goodby there as driver Drew Monti sent him four-wide around the final turn and was by far the strongest in the race to the wire. He finished a length in front of Unicorn Hanover (Jim McNeight) while JS Tango (Ray Fisher Jr.) finished in third. "He's a really good horse," Rising Star Award recipient Drew Monti said. You just have to point him, he was loaded (with pace) at the wire. Trained by Charles Stewart and owned by Derek Menchhofer, Dont Say Goodby has now won seven times and has earned $67,827 this season and $165,487 lifetime. The meets dash leading reinsman, Shawn McDonough, ended the Western New York racing season with a driving four-bagger. John Mungillo was the Downs top conditioner. Live racing is tentatively scheduled to resume at Batavia Downs on Wednesday, July 23, 2014, pending New York Gaming Commission approval. Effective Sunday, December 8, simulcasting wagering is offered on a daily basis. by Brian J. Mazurek, for Batavia Downs

BATAVIA, N.Y. --- Lutetium made it three victories in four starts in the $8,500 Open Trot at harness racing's Batavia Downs as he scored a convincing two-length victory over Fiorentina in 1:57.4 over the fast track on Friday night (Dec. 6).   It was a typical win for Lutetium as driver Jack Flanigen sent the 6-year-old gelding right to the lead and told the remainder of the field "catch me if you can." He set the sizzling fractions of 28.1, 57.3, 1:26.4 on the cool evening and it proved to be more than enough. No one mounted a serious threat in stopping the front-running Lutetium ($4.10) from winning for the 11th time in 38 starts this year. Fiorentina (Ken Holliday) was second best while RA's Shakenbake (Ron Beback Jr.) took the show spot.   Lutetium (Credit Winner-Luby) is owned by Colleen Girdlestone and trained by Mark Laidlaw. The victory pushed his 2013 earnings to $58,134 and $185,806 lifetime.   The Batavia Downs' season comes to a close on Saturday night with a 13-race card scheduled to get underway at 6:30 p.m. The feature is the $8,500 Open Pace where Goodnite Goodluck opens as the 5-2 morning line favorite. Ron Beback Jr. will drive Goodnite Goodluck and will score him from the five post.   The Pick-6 contest was not won meaning that the $1,000 pool will be paid out to whomever picks the most winners on Saturday night. Sign up to play begins at 5:00 p.m. at Players Club. The entire pick-5 pool must also be paid out.   The night will also feature the 'Night Of Distinction' where horses, trainers and drivers will be honored by the Upstate New York Harness Writers Association for their achievements at Batavia Downs and in Western New York during the 2013 campaign.   For more information on North America's oldest lighted harness track, click here. . By Brian J. Mazurek, for Batavia Downs    

Akron, NY--The Upstate New York Chapter of the United States Harness Writers Association has announced the award winners for top performing horsemen for 2013 as well as the Batavia Downs meet. Ray Fisher Jr. has been named the western New York driver of the year. 2013 was an enigma for Ray Fisher because a mid-year accident that could have just as easily killed him ultimately drove him to produce one of the best years of his career. On July 12 at the Buffalo Raceway meet he was the leading reinsman at; Fisher went down in a horrific accident involving half the field and suffered a fractured pelvis and two broken vertebrae. Despite the dire diagnosis, Fisher was seen at his barn the following morning and returned to driving only 20 days later. Without missing a beat, the 45 year-old Geauga, Ohio native righted the ship and went back on a driving tear that hasn't slowed up since. For the year, Fisher has scored 233 wins, 190 seconds and 182 thirds from 1,349 starts. His $1,198,955 in purses is a career best and his .296 UDR was his second best ever. Those numbers push his career totals to 3,537 wins and $14,183,533 in earnings. Fisher was the leading dash driver at the completed Buffalo meet and is currently second at Batavia with only two nights of racing left. The western New York trainer of the year is John Mungillo. To say that John Mungillo had a career year would be an understatement. His 775 starts, 154 wins and $675,746 in earnings were all lifetime bests for him by a good margin. And his .309 UTR was not far off his previous best effort. Those numbers bring his career stats to 731 wins and $2,820,586 in the bank. Mungillo will also be recognized as the trainer of the meet for the current Batavia Downs session. His 65 wins, 38 seconds and 37 thirds earned his owners $252,134 and solidified his spot as the top conditioner at the Genesee County oval. The Batavia Downs driver of the meet is Shawn McDonough. 23 year-old Shawn McDonough has accomplished quite a bit in 2013. Finding himself a commodity among trainers this year, he parlayed that in-demand status into some pretty impressive numbers. He found the winners circle at the Downs 94 times and has a legitimate shot to break the century mark by Saturday night. And checks amounting to $452,740 have been distributed to his respective owners as a result of his performances. For the year McDonough has 173 wins, 176 seconds and 193 thirds from 1,252 starts and has pocketed $896,204 in spoils. Those are all career-best totals by far. Shawn McDonough is a fourth-year provisional driver and is a rarity to be a "P" and a dash winning champion for a meet. Ray Fisher Jr., John Mungillo and Shawn McDonough will be presented their awards during the UNY-USHWA "Night of Distinction" this Saturday night (Dec. 7) in the winner's circle at Batavia Downs. Here is a complete list of award winners that will be honored: WNY Driver of the Year- Ray Fisher Jr. WNY Trainer of the Year- John Mungillo Batavia Downs Driver of the Meet- Shawn McDonough Batavia Downs Trainer of the Meet-John Mungillo WNY Comeback Driver of the Year-Ron Beback Jr. WNY Rising Star-Drew Monti Good Guy Award- Paul White WNY Horse of the Year- Naked News Batavia Downs Trotter of the Meet-Mystical Escapade Batavia Downs Pacer of the Meet- Fireyourguns   Tim Bojarski Hoof Beats Magazine Columnist United States Harness Writers Assn. National VP-USHWA President-Upstate NY Chapter  

Akron, NY--With 2013 coming to a close and racing getting ready to take an early winter break in western New York, year-end awards are something that many people look forward to. With that in mind, the members of the Upstate New York Chapter of the United States Harness Writers Association have cast their votes for the top gait performers for the Batavia Downs meet as well as their pick for the top horse overall. UNY-USHWA has named Naked News as the western New York horse of the year. Naked News (1:54.1 $266,433 Passailed-Santiago Sissi) is a tough veteran race horse that made every one of his starts this year at either Buffalo Raceway or Batavia Downs. In those 39 outings, he had 10 wins, 7 seconds and 7 thirds for total earnings of $72,598. This 10-year-old working man started the year in high claimers and made his way to the top condition class on the grounds where he captured four Open wins between the two tracks. He took his lifetime mark of 1:54.1 this year at Buffalo on August 10 and had career high totals for starts, wins and earnings as well. His lifetime bank now totals $266,433. Naked News seemed to get better with age as his last three years were his best. And he was the only horse this year to maintain a continuous level of success at both tracks from his first win at Buffalo on February 9 through his last win at Batavia in an Open II on October 26. Naked News is owned by Joseph Caligiuri's Summer Wind Stable of Hamburg, NY and is trained by Bob Gruber. The Batavia Downs trotter of the year is Mystical Escapade (1:56.3 $149,702 Valley Victor-Armbro Orbita) Mystical Escapade had only six starts at Batavia Downs after racing at Saratoga and Yonkers earlier in the year. The 4-year-old mare shipped in after a month layoff and quickly made folks take notice. Her first start was in the Brian Schroeder Invitational on October 5 where she finished third. But her performance after that became historic. The following week Mystical Escapade drew post 7 and was the sole mare in the Open trot with a full field of horses and geldings. With two breakers in front of her off the gate, she got away 14 lengths behind the field. But pulling past the half, the daughter of Valley Victor put a circle around the group and pulled away to a two length win in 1:56.3. The time was a lifetime mark for her and a new track record for aged trotting mares for Batavia Downs. In 6 starts, Mystical Escapade had 3 wins, 1 second and 1 third, all in the top trotting class on the grounds and all as the only mare racing against the boys. Those starts also helped propel her annual earnings to over $89,000. Mystical Escapade is owned by Stephen Andzel, Mark Briandi and Stephen Grant of Empowered Racing and is trained by Carl Smith. The Batavia Downs pacer of the year is Fireyourguns (150.2 $124,561 American Ideal-Villa Hanover) Fireyourguns did not have a ton of starts at Batavia, but made the ones he did, count. He won four Open paces and was 2-lengths away from winning two more. In his 9 starts at the Downs, the speedy 4-year-old had 4 wins, 2 seconds and 1 third, all in the top pacing class. He took a half-mile seasonal mark of 1:53.4 and pocketed $27,675 in purse money from the meet. On October 5 he competed in the Kane Memorial Pace, facing off against $6-million winner Foiled Again and the national 3-year-old pacing colt of the year for 2012, Heston Blue Chip, and finished third in a 1:52 mile. Fireyourguns is owned by Terence McClory and Robert and Jennifer Lowe, and is trained by Terence McClory. All the connections of these horses will be presented their awards during the UNY-USHWA "Night of Distinction" this Saturday (Dec. 7) in the winner's circle at Batavia Downs. The driver and trainer awards will be announced tomorrow. Tim Bojarski for UNY Chapter USHWA  

BATAVIA, N.Y. --- 'Blondes' do have more fun, at least they did at Batavia Downs Wednesday night (Dec. 4).   Regally Blonde ($34.80), the co-longest shot on the board, used a strong drive in the stretch and won the $8,500 Fillies and Mares Open in 1:57.1 over a fast track. She took the 'crown' by beating the front-running Red Star Fiona (Ray Fisher Jr.) by two lengths while Athleticlyinclined (Jack Flanigen) took third.   Sitting sixth on the inside at the half, Batavia Downs' leading driver Shawn McDonough managed to shake free with Regally Blonde at the three-quarter pole and fanned out three-wide down the stretch to overtake Red Star Fiona. She put up a 29-second last quarter to surge to the victory.   Trained by Jim Graham, the 4-year-old mare Regally Blonde (Stonebridge Regal-Highly Charged) has now won five times this season in 26 starts, improving her bankroll to $23,081 and $97,192 lifetime.   Wednesday night also saw a $5,000 donation from Todd and Lon Frocione and a $3,500 donation from Michael and Howard Ouriel to the 'Stay Strong Anthony Coletta' fund which pushed the total to $12,885 from the Batavia Downs' staff, employees, trainers, owners, drivers and fans.   The final weekend of action kicks off on Friday night with a 12-race program. The highlight of the card will be the $8,500 Open Trot where Lutetium will score from the four post as the 5-2 morning line favorite. Jack Flanigen is scheduled to drive.   For more information on the final weekend activities including promotions, race replays and the latest news, go to   by Brian J. Mazurek, for Batavia Downs    

Batavia, NY --- The 'Stay Strong Anthony Coletta' fund drive will conclude Wednesday night at Batavia Downs and the event will be capped off by two tremendous and generous donations. Coletta is a 31-year-old harness racing driver who was seriously injured in an on-track accident at Harrah's Philadelphia in mid-November and remains in a Philadelphia hospital in serious condition. Lon Frocione, a long-time horseman based in Vernon, N.Y., will be on hand Wednesday night along with his son Todd to make a $5,000 donation to the 'Stay Strong Anthony Coletta' fund and that will be followed by a $3,500 gift from Rochester-based owners Howard and Michael Ouriel with driver Drew Monti doing the honors. The presentations will be made to local fund organizer Jami Chatt who serves as Assistant Parade Marshall at Batavia Downs. Chatt spearheaded the drive which included wrist band sales, silent auction, purse donations from drivers, trainers and owners, along with cash given by fans attending the races and Batavia Downs staff. The grand total of the event is $12,835, which will all go to Anthony Coletta and his family as he recovers from his injuries. Bruce Tubin, President of the Western New York Harness Horsemen's Association, was extremely proud of the generosity shown by the incredible number of trainers, drivers, grooms and owners who donated a portion of their earnings to the Anthony Coletta Fund. "Horsemen will always come through to help others in time of need," said Tubin. The final Wednesday night of the 2013 season will begin at 6:30 p.m. with 12 races on tap. For more information, including closing week activities and promotions, go to   by Brian J. Mazurek, for Batavia Downs  

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