In 1962, a young man named Jim Moran ventured from his home in Springfield, Massachusetts to central New York at the suggestion of his uncle Bud Hebert. Hebert, the Vernon Downs racecaller, would see his nephew assume the Clerk of Course position for that first season there. Moran then took on the role of assistant race secretary the subsequent season, and in 1964 would become the full-time announcer. Fifty years and 73,000 races later, Jim Moran will call his last race this Friday (April 11), as Vernon Downs opens for the 2014 season. In a half-century atop the Vernon Downs grandstand, Moran has seen some of the greatest horses, trainers, and drivers in the history of American harness racing through his binoculars. "We got to see Bret Hanover, who was probably my all-time favorite horse," Moran reminisced. "I didn't get to call Bret Hanover as a two-year-old, but the following year (1965) I did get to call his race. We drew 14,000 people, which was the biggest racing crowd ever at Vernon. He won the race, continued his winning ways, and came back as a four-year-old. He also had a world record time trial at Vernon." Fourteen years later, another young pacer graced the Vernon backstretch, and eventually proved himself as one of the few worthy of being mentioned in the same breath as Bret Hanover. His name was Niatross. Moran continued about seeing Niatross develop as a two-year-old: "Then Niatross came along, and Clint Galbraith developed him on the Vernon backstretch. I crossed the paddock one night, saw Clint after Niatross had won a couple baby races, and said 'That's kind of a nice colt you've got there,' and he said 'Jim, he's gonna be something special.' Sure enough, he became Horse of the Year two times." Moran has seen many developments in harness racing through his time documenting the sport, namely in terms of safety and speed. "By taking out the hub rail and putting the plastic wheel discs on the racebikes, the sport became a lot safer, and in turn, faster through improvement of the breed and equipment," Moran explained. "In the first season at Vernon Downs there were only four 2:00 miles. Last year, 1,100 of the races were 2:00 miles, including two of the fastest miles ever here." In addition to calling a "Who's Who" of harness racing athletes, both human and equine, Moran has been feted for his efforts as a harness racing publicist and historian on numerous occasions. He received the North America Harness Publicists Association's Golden Pen Award in 1990, was elected to the Greater Syracuse Sports Hall of Fame in 2003, and was inducted into the Communicators' Corner of the Harness Racing Hall of Fame in 2009. While Moran looks forward to more time with his wife of 49 years Suzanne, their three children, and three grandchildren, he has every plan on capping his career at Vernon on a very high note. "There are things I'm going to miss about the sport, I'm sure, and as far as calling the last race goes, I hope I can still do the job like I used to. I've told people in recent years that I may not be as good as I once was, but I can be good once as I ever was, and hopefully I'll be as good once on Opening Night." by James Witherite, for Vernon Downs
Yesterday historic Pompano Park celebrated its 50th birthday. The harness racing dream of Frederick Van Lennep became reality in 1964, when it developed, opened, flourished and following his death in 1987, was managed by the late John A. Cashman, Jr. for the Van Lennep estate. They had many other assets including Lexington's famous Castleton Farm, Wolverine Raceway, the Red Mile in Lexington and multiple tracks in Italy, until sold in 1994 to Casino America, Inc. (now Isle of Capri Casinos, Inc.). The selling amount was subject to upward adjustment in the event a constitutional amendment was passed permitting casino gambling. The buyers agreed to continue standardbred racing at the facility. The sale followed failed negotiations to sell to the then owners of Hollywood Greyhound Track and Hazel Park near Detroit. The real story, however, takes place many years before, when in 1926, another racetrack was located on the site. It proved to have an interesting history with government intervention, not unlike today's equine industry. In that in 1926, the $1.25 million construction of the original Pompano Park, with grandstands that could seat 7,000 fans, was completed. The mile track, made of clay and sand, was 100 feet wide and many years later served as the hub of the famous training center at Atlantic Blvd and Powerline Road. The grand opening was celebrated on Christmas Day 1926 and huge crowds of spectators reportedly poured into Pompano on chartered buses from around Florida. The track might have been an immense success but there was a barrier (in Florida, at that time, pari-mutuel betting was illegal). It said, racing was to start Christmas Day until Governor John Martin branded Pompano Park "a center of law breakers" and threatened to send the military to plow up the track and "plant it in cowpeas" unless racing ceased, and it did. The original Pompano Park was then used for automobile races, Polo and boxing matches, without lasting success. In 1928, two years after the track opened, a hurricane ravaged South Florida with 2,000 fatalities and many injuries. Pompano Park became a savior as it was used as a Red Cross station to aid more than 1,000 hurricane victims. Subsequently, the track became dormant until 1953, when Fred Van Lennep, then a prominent Kentucky horseman and former advertising executive, spotted the old track from an airplane. Van Lennep saw great potential for a future racetrack. He purchased the land and immediately began plans to construct a new facility. After lobbying for many years, Van Lennep was able to get pari-mutuel legislation on the ballot and in 1962 it was overwhelmingly voted into law. Van Lennep fulfilled his dream, and his promise, and built what was the well-designed state leader of horse racing tracks. The new Pompano Park opened on February 4, 1964 to a crowd of nearly 6,600 people. The track featured a "state of the art" grandstand, clubhouse and restaurant facility and for the many owners (who also had access to an owners' club), trainers, drivers and caretakers, three racetracks, two being one mile and half mile training tracks and a five-eighths mile main race track. Once completed, there were stalls for 2,000 horses, living quarters for more than 500 caretakers, a swimming pool for horses, a nine-hole golf course and driving range. The main facility featured one of the largest dining rooms in South Florida with seating for more than 800 people. Van Lennep's wife, the renowned horsewoman, Francis Dodge Van Lennep, loved pink flamingos and much of the track was painted in that color. Named the "Winter Capital of Harness Racing", Pompano Park grew in popularity among people in the sport, plus leading celebrities enjoyed their nights at the races. Notables Ed Sullivan, Minnie Pearl, Jackie Gleason, Mickey Rooney, Frank Sinatra, Walter Matthau, Sammy Davis Jr., Rodney Dangerfield, and many others came to Pompano Park regularly along with leading sports figures Whitey Ford, Mickey Mantle, George Steinbrenner, Arnold Palmer, Charlie Keller and Lee Elder. They were regulars during the season and Ford, Steinbrenner, Palmer and Keller became horse, farm and track owners. Years later, celebs still came out for a night at the races including Pulitzer prize-winning author and columnist Dave Barry, baseball's Dennis Martinez, Dolphins quarterback Jay Fiedler, UK and NBA basketball's Sam Bowie, also a prominent standardbred horse owner and breeder. During the 1980 and 90's Pompano Park bloomed at its 331 acre site (including the 180 acre training center that was sold years later for industrial development), hosting the prestigious Breeders Crown numerous times as the world's top Standardbreds, owners, trainers and drivers trained and raced during the winter for some of the sports' richest purses. Records fell annually with the sports' greatest reinsman, the "Gold Dust Twins" Stanley Dancer and Billy Haughton, calling Pompano Park their winter home. The tracks biggest night was on December 27, 1980 when the great pacer Niatross arrived at Pompano Park There were 18,451 fans on-site to see the remarkable pacer, barred from the betting, team with trainer and Hall of Famer Clint Galbraith to a 1.54.3f win by open lengths. Reportedly another 5,000 fans had to be turned away, as cars were parked on the median divider of Powerline Road and across the street in Palm Aire after all racetrack parking areas had been filled to capacity. Every mutuel pool record was rewritten by the fifth race that evening. Pompano continued to play a leading role in the Standardbred sport during the early Breeders' Crown years with its Van Lennep Trotting Series that attracted many of the best US aged performers and some Europeans. John Cashman was a great supporter of international racing and the Van Lennep was his and Pompano Park's trotting showcase during that era. One such event I remember best occurred in 1987. Re-live it below with Dave Joseph's memorable stories. European Flavor Adds Spice to Van Lennep Invitational By DAVE JOSEPH, Racing Writer, October 4, 1987 Pompano Harness Track`s $150,000 Frederick Van Lennep Invitational Trotting Series has lured five of the six European trotters that were extended invitations to compete in the two-race series. The Van Lennep, run over a mile track Oct. 24 and a 1 1/4-mile track Oct. 30, will have Germany`s Reado, Norway`s Scott Iran, Finland`s Black Laukko, France`s Quito du Couronne and Big Spender, who has campaigned throughout Europe. The only trotter who declined the invitation was Sweden`s Emile, second twice this year to two-time Breeders Crown winner Grades Singing. Van Lennep Trot Lures Three of the Best By DAVE JOSEPH, Racing Writer, October 18, 1987 POMPANO BEACH -- For the past four months they have crossed paths. First New Jersey, then New York, finally Illinois. In pursuit of being named Aged Trotter of the Year, Sugarcane Hanover, Tabor Lobell and Express Ride have battled on three tracks. But after the three meet tonight in a $10,000 invitational trot at Pompano Park, the trio will have only two more chances to lay claim to seasonal honors. World record holder Express Ride, two-time Breeders Crown winner Sugarcane Hanover, and Invitational Challenge Cup winner Tabor Lobell will use tonight`s invitational as a prep for Pompano`s upcoming $150,000 Frederick Van Lennep Invitational Trot. Express Ride Sets Pompano Mile Record By DAVE JOSEPH, Racing Writer, October 19, 1987 POMPANO BEACH -- It was supposed to be a leisurely prep race; a chance for some of the trotters racing in the upcoming Frederick Van Lennep Invitational to get a feel for Pompano Harness Track. Ah, but it was so much more. World record holder Express Ride, driven by Berndt Lindstedt, trotted the fastest mile in Pompano`s 24-year history Sunday night, clocking 1:56 2/5 in the sixth race, a $10,000 invitational trot. It broke Grade`s Singing`s record set in last year`s Van Lennep by 3/5 of a second. Hey, Big Spender Spent A Little Time with Malaise By DAVE JOSEPH, Racing Writer, October 24, 1987 POMPANO BEACH -- The travel plans, Berth Johansson thought, were firm. Big Spender, his 6-year-old horse, would trot in West Germany Oct. 11, then be shipped to Paris the next night and prepare for his trip to Pompano Park and the Frederick Van Lennep Trotting Series. How much easier could that be, Johansson thought. "We would race Sunday," the Swedish trainer-driver said. "Then he would sleep, wait 24 hours, and then go to Paris Monday night." Simple, right? But four hours after trotting two heats in West Germany, Big Spender was loaded on a train and spent the next 20 hours riding to Paris. Express Ride Gets Leg Up In Van Lennep By DAVE JOSEPH, Racing Writer, October 25, 1987 POMPANO BEACH -- The opposition put it this way: "He`s a monster," trainer Jim Gluhm said. "What else can you say?" Gluhm, trainer of Tabor Lobell, was speaking for all of the estimated 6,000 here who witnessed the performance of Express Ride. The 4-year-old world-record holder won his fifth consecutive race Saturday night when he led throughout the $50,000 Frederick Van Lennep International Challenge over a mile distance at Pompano Park in 1:56 4/5. Reado, an 80-1 long shot from West Germany, finished second by 1/2 lengths. Tabor Lobell`s Finale To Be In Van Lennep By DAVE JOSEPH, Racing Writer, October 29, 1987 POMPANO BEACH -- There was really nothing distinctive about that morning, trainer Jim Gluhm said. It was just like any other May morning at Pocono Downs in Wilkes-Barre, Pa. "It was cool," Gluhm said. "And there wasn`t much sunshine." That morning, in fact, probably would have slipped from Gluhm`s mind if it wasn`t for one of his workers running out to the track and saying, bluntly, `What the hell are you doing?` "I was starting to train Tabor Lobell to go a 1 1/4 miles and 1 1/2 miles when the horse`s groom came running out asking me that question," Gluhm said. Tabor could handle the distance as on August 30, 1987 he upset many of the best in the sport to win the 1-1/2 mile $100,000 Challenge Cup at Roosevelt. Tabor Lobell Wins Challenge Cup: Tabor Lobell, a 25-1 shot driven by Buddy Gilmour, held off Callit of Sweden last night to capture the $100,000 Challenge Cup, a mile-and-a-half invitational trot at Roosevelt Raceway. The 4-year-old son of Speedy Crown-The-Pro raced third over most of the event, but caught Callit, winner of the International Trot last week, at the head of the stretch. The two went neck and neck to the finish, and Tabor Lobell won by a head, covering the course in 3:03 3/5. Whip It Wood, driven by John Patterson Jr., took third. Tabor Lobell's victory, only his second in 12 races, was worth $50,000 and pushed his career earnings to $199,095. Tabor Lobell was third in the International Trot behind Sweden's Callit and Potin d'Amour from France. (NY Times archives) Record Falls in Van Lennep Sugarcane Hanover Upsets Express Ride By DAVE JOSEPH, Racing Writer, October 31, 1987 POMPANO BEACH -- There was silence on the other end of the line for several seconds before trainer Jim Simpson could express his feeling. "I`m ecstatic," said Simpson. He paused. "I got a tear in my eye." Simpson`s tear came courtesy of Sugarcane Hanover, who came out of hiding at Pompano Harness Track Friday night in world record fashion. After finishing second and ninth to Express Ride in his last two races across Pompano, John Simpson`s Sugarcane Hanover returned to form here when he trotted past 4-5 favorite Express Ride in the final yards to win the $100,000 Frederick Van Lennep International Championship by three-quarters of a length. Sugarcane Hanover with Gunnar Eggen up winning 1988 March of Dimes at Garden State over Ourasi, Mack Lobell and Napoletano by Thomas H. Hicks for Harnesslink.com
Today marks the 50th anniversary of the opening night of harness racing at Pompano Park, named the "Winter Capital of Harness Racing" by its founder, innovator and leader Frederick Van Lennep and his original management team. Built on a large 300 acre plus parcel that today is occupied by Wal-Mart and a host of commercial enterprises (on what was the mile track and training center), and across Racetrack Rd. by the Isle Casino Racing Pompano Park, the structure and its storied past, are best recalled by remembering Van Lennep, who passed away in June 1987. The Sun-Sentinel's remarks about Van Lennep are shown below: "He was 100 percent class," said Hall of Fame driver Stanley Dancer. "It wasn`t just that he had a nice word for everybody. He always had time for you. And he was a generous man. There was nothing he wouldn`t do to help anyone." Dancer, though, remembered a time he helped Van Lennep after putting his friend though a little bit of worry. "I had a horse in 1975 named Bonefish that I wanted to sell for a stallion," said Dancer, who served with Van Lennep on the board of directors of the United States Trotting Association. "Mr. Van Lennep told me he wanted to buy it. I told him it would cost him $1 million. He said fine and the deal was completed that fast." "I came back and drove that horse for him later that year in the Hambletonian. It was a four-heat race, and we finished ninth in the first heat. In the second heat, we finished third. We finally won the last two heats to win the race, but not after we got everybody worried." Van Lennep, who headed Castleton Inc., one of the leading standardbred breeding operations in the country, was best known as an innovator in the harness industry. What many people did not realize was that Van Lennep, who was born in Philadelphia on July 6, 1911, was an innovator in other areas as well. "Few people knew that my father had a very impressive physics background," said Hector Van Lennep, a retired general manager at Pompano. "After he graduated from Princeton (1933), he invented a motor that became the basis for the Sperry gyroscope. He was a firm believer in solid fuel propellants long before there was a fuel shortage, and he developed a process to freeze-dry coffee and citrus juice for soldiers fighting in Korea. He was always an innovator." Van Lennep did not become involved in the horse industry until he married his first wife Celeste McNeal. "My mother was quite an equestrian; in fact, she was the first woman to get a thoroughbred trainer`s license," Hector Van Lennep said. "My father was more or less dragged into the business, but he quickly loved it. He became a `gentleman driver` for a lot of amateur races, and he became more in love with the industry." Van Lennep opened Pompano Park in 1964, and doggedly kept the track open though it lost money in its first few seasons. His efforts did not go unnoticed, as he was voted to the Hall of Fame of the Trotter in Goshen, N.Y., in 1975. "His death is a deep, deep loss to the racing industry," said William E. Simon, former U.S. Secretary of the Treasury, who was a partner of Van Lennep`s in Pompano Park and in the ownership of several horses. "I first met him in 1977, and I have never known a finer man. He brought so much class and integrity to the industry. There is no way to gauge how much he`ll be missed." One of Van Lennep`s major concerns was the Maxwell H. Gluck Equine Research Center at the University of Kentucky. Last September, the university established a $1 million endowed professorship in Van Lennep`s name in hopes of luring top scientists to the center. Simon donated $250,000 toward the endowment. "My father had a lot of favorite horses," said Hector Van Lennep. ":He loved Speedy Scot because he won the Triple Crown. He watched that horse grow and win the Triple Crown and it was very special to him." "But there was another horse named Worthy Boy. Every time he saw my father, he would talk to him. It never failed. As soon as he saw father, this loud whinny would come out. He just had a special affinity toward my father. A lot of people did, too." Pompano Park, under the leadership of Van Lennep and later John Cashman, Jr., was at the forefront of harness racing's best competition. It hosted the Breeders' Crown, in whole or part, from 1984-1993, producing some of the series' best performances by its best equine stars. Pacing events that I recall vividly are Bay's Fella that won the 1990 Open Pace for Paul Macdonell in a huge upset, Call For Rain in 1987 for trainer/driver Clint Galbraith in the Three Year-Old Colt pace, Miss Easy in the 1991 Three Year-Old Filly pace and Bruce Nickells' four-timer in the Two Year-Old Filly pace with Central Park West, Miss Easy, Hazleton Kay and Immortality. Legendary Artsplace took the 1990 Two Year-Old Colt pace for the late great trainer Gene Riegle. On the trotting side, the Breeders' Crown got its Florida start in 1984 when Baltic Speed took the Three Year-Old Colt trot for Jan Nordin, starting off a European impact on the trotting divisions. Other three year-old winners at Pompano included legendary Chuck Sylvester trainees Mack Lobell and Pine Chip and not so legendary Esquire Spur, Embassy Lobell (trained by Jerry Riordan), Giant Victory (trained by Per Eriksson) and Baltic Striker. Mack Lobell also won the Two Year-Old Breeders' Crown at Pompano in 1986 and was followed by Valley Victory in 1988 and then Royal Troubador (trained and driven by Ocala's Carl Allen), Crysta's Best (trainer/driver Dick Richarson, Jr.), Eriksson's King Conch and Giant Chill and trainer Raz MacKenzie's Wesgate Crown in 1993. Two Year-Old filly winners at Pompano included the Tom Haughton trainer Peace Corps, Eriksson's Delphi's Lobell, Soren Nordin's Jean Bi, Chuck Sylvester trained Armbro Keepsake and Winky's Goal and Gleam, owned by Mal Burroughs who won the Hambletonian Oaks driving this filly. Peace Corp returned to Pompano to capture the Breeders' Crown at age three for trainer Tom Haughton and as an aged mare in 1990 for then trainer/driver Stig H. Johansson in 1:54.2f., a time mark that was not lowered until 2004 and that on a mile track. Other memorable Three Year-Old Filly Breeders' Crown winners at Pompano included Sylvester's Armbro Devona, Armbro Fling, Me Maggie (Jan Johnson trained, Berndt Lindstedt driven), Twelve Speed, Imperfection (1992 winner trained by Ron Gurfein) and Expressway Hanover. And in the Aged Open category, who can forget the 1990 score in 1:55f by No Sex Please, the son of Brisco Hanover bred by Earl Lennox, trained by Ron Waples, Jr. and reined by Ron Waples (he won the same event two years later at Mohawk). Pompano Park enjoyed a fine run at the top of standardbred racings' leaderboard and remains in-action today with its attractive 126 race-day fall-winter-spring meet, simulcasting and as host to the Florida Breeders' Stakes program. Many Grand Circuit two year-olds are developed annually on the five-eighths mile raceway and South Florida also attracts a host of well-bred hopefuls at the Sunshine Meadows and South Florida Trotting Center facilities with trainers including those who won the early Breeders' Crown events at Pompano. by Thomas H. Hicks for Harnesslink.com
Investigators from the Humane Society of Greater Rochester have been keeping a close watch on Rodney Farms in Wheatland. The Humane Society has received numerous calls over a few years from citizens concerned about the welfare of the horses there. “We have a stable owner who has been well respected in the community for years come under troubled times,” said Reno DiDomenico, director of the department of law enforcement at the Humane Society. “The Humane Society’s position has always been to help and educate, not always just enforce. We’ve been trying to work with Mrs. Galbraith and Rodney Farms for a number of years,” DiDomenico said. But conditions reached a turning point in the past several days and DiDomenico felt compelled to act. Investigators executed search warrants on Thursday and seized five of Barbara Galbraith’s horses that she had moved away from Rodney Farms after Aug. 28, when she was charged with three counts of failure to provide sustenance, a misdemeanor. “When we arrived at her property on Aug. 28, we found water troughs that were completely dry, and they didn’t have access to other water,” said Adrienne McHargue, director of communications and outreach at Lollypop Farm, the Humane Society of Greater Rochester. Each count carries a maximum sentence of one year in jail and a $1,000 fine. Galbraith is scheduled to appear in Wheatland Town Court on Sept. 16. Galbraith, 64, of442 Scottsville-West Henrietta Road, could not be reached for comment. Nobody answered the door at her home Friday. After a February Democrat and Chronicle report detailed the situation at the farm, investigators started to monitor the situation more closely. Horses were not in immediate danger when investigators arrived in August, McHargue said. Galbraith was issued an appearance ticket and the horses were fed and given water. Galbraith still has about 25 more horses. Shortly after that, Lollypop officials got tips telling them Galbraith was moving the horses off the property to several locations. Concerned citizens, McHargue said, told investigators where the horses had been taken. Five of Galbraith’s horses, all underweight, were brought to Lollypop on Thursday. The investigation is continuing, said DiDomenico. DiDomenico said investigators have checked on the horses, often by looking in from the edge of the road, dozens of times over the past few years. The seized animals include three stallions and two mares. One stallion is about 25 years old. The other horses are all about 2 or 3 years old. Galbraith permanently signed the oldest horse over to the Humane Society, DiDomenico said. The condition of the horses are ranked on a scale ranging from one through nine. Five is an ideal score. A lower score signifies an underweight horse. A higher score is an overweight horse. The oldest horse seized was scored one. The others were scored two. Those who took in the horses for Galbraith won’t be charged — moving the horses wasn’t against the law. But any in need of care will be taken to Lollypop, McHargue said. Rodney Farms has a proud history: Two-time Horse of the Year Niatross trained there under Galbraith’s husband, harness racing Hall of Fame reinsman and trainer Clint Galbriath. Niatross’ success elevated Clint and the farm to the top of the racing game, and helped the farm expand to more than 120 racing horses, Barbara said. The racing horses and brood mares nearly filled the 208-stall main barn and 20-stall receiving barn. Each 12-by-12 stall was equipped with automatic waterers and individual infrared heaters. But the farm has struggled for years, and Clint Galbraith’s serious head injury a few years ago made the already shaky two-person operation untenable. The cost and workload of running a working horse farm and breeding operation has been overwhelming, Barbara Galbraith said earlier this year. Massive holes in the roof of the once beautiful main barn let in the snow and wind. Most of the 200 stalls have broken doors and bent bars; only about 30 are usable. by Bennett J. Loudon (reprinted with permission by (www.democratandchroniclel.com)
BATAVIA, N.Y. --- Hour Lavec did most of the dirty work but it was Ziegfeld who cleaned up in the end and captured the $8,500 Open Trot at Batavia Downs Friday night (Sept. 6) in 1:58.0 over the fast track. Ziegfeld ($5.40) and driver Ray Fisher Jr. sat the garden spot throughout much of the race and watched Hour Lavec (John Cummings Jr.) post fractions of 29.2, 1:00.2 and 1:29.0. But in mid-stretch, the anxious Ziegfeld tipped and easily zipped past the pace-setting Hour Lavec and posted a 1-1/2 length victory. Haste (Jim McNeight) finished third. It was the ninth win in 25 starts in 2013 for Ziegfeld (Broadway Hall-Spicy Victoria) who is owned by Mike Torcello and trained by Gerry Sarama. It pushed the 5-year-old gelding's earnings to $58,990 this season and $166,672 lifetime. A tremendous card of racing is scheduled for Saturday night starting at 6:30 p.m. as unbeaten He's Watching comes to town for the New York Sire Stakes for 2-year-old pacing colts. He's Watching will be in the seventh race and is the 2-5 morning line favorite scoring from the three post with Jim Morrill Jr. in the sulky. The Batavia Downs' track record for 2-year-old colt pacers is 1:54.2 set by Doctor Butch in 2012 is definitely in danger. It's just one of three $34,537 divisions of the New York Sire Stakes. There will also be three $12,600 Excelsior Series events for the freshmen pacing colts along with the weekly $8,500 Open Pace. Besides great racing, it's Hall of Fame Night where former Western New York driver/trainer Gaston Guindon will be inducted in the Upstate New York Hall of Fame, Batavia division. There's also an Old-Timers race to cap off the night's activities with Guindon, Fred Haslip, Gerry Sarama, Clint Galbraith and Dick Welch battling it out on the track once again in a non-betting affair. For more information including the latest news, race replays, statistics and upcoming promotions, go to http://bataviadownsgaming.com/live-racing. by Brian J. Mazurek, for Batavia Downs
BATAVIA, N.Y. --- Can He's Watching set his third track record in four weeks? That question will be answered Saturday night at Batavia Downs when harness racing's next superstar, He's Watching, highlights the three $34,537 divisions of the New York Sire Stakes for 2-year-old colt pacers in what should be one of the biggest nights of the year in Western New York. And along with the great Sire Stakes action, there will be three divisions of the $12,600 Excelsior Stakes for the 2-year-old colts and the $8,500 Open Pace. It will also Hall of Fame Night where former Western New York driver/trainer Gaston Guindon will be inducted in the Upstate New York Hall of Fame, Batavia division. There's also an Old-Timers race to cap off the night's activities with Guindon, Fred Haslip, Gerry Sarama, Clint Galbraith and Dick Welch battling it out on the track once again in a non-betting affair. But first, all eyes will be on He's Watching (American Ideal-Babberhood). He is a perfect five-for-five in his young career with a world record, two track marks and $122,640 in the bank thus far. He set the world record for two-year-old pacing colts on a 5/8-mile track and the Tioga Downs mark when he posted a 1:50.0 in a 6-1/4-length win on August 9 in Sire Stake competition. Less than two week later, it wasn't a record but He's Watching covered the Yonkers Raceway half-mile oval in 1:54.2 in romping to an easy 5-1/2-length victory. Then last Saturday night he got back in stride with another record with a 1:50.0 clocking on the 7/8-mile Vernon Downs track in scoring a 2-1/4 length victory also in Sire Stakes competition. Probably his most impressive victory, however, was his first career start at Saratoga Raceway on June 28. He's Watching broke stride at the start and spotted the field 14-1/4 lengths but rallied to win by 3/4 lengths in 1:55. He also broke at the start at Buffalo Raceway in his second start on July 10th but came back to win. He's been on his best behavior ever since and his record proves it. Co-owner and trainer David Menary said of He's Watching, "He's a guy with a big engine. He wants to go from second gear to fifth gear too fast. He's got to learn to not show off so much." The front-running He's Watching is the prohibitive 2-5 favorite in the seventh race with Jim Morrill Jr. scheduled to be aboard. The 2-year-old colt mark at Batavia Downs is 1:54.2 set in 2012 by Doctor Butch and is definitely in jeopardy. Menary added, "It's scary how fast this horse is." He was bought for $3,000 by Menary and Michael Guerriero in the 2012 Harrisburg Yearling Sale, a great purchase to say the least. While He's Watching will go in the seventh race, there's a possibility of the track record being broken before then as Forty Five Red (If I Can Dream-Sakura Hanover) leads the field of six in the first race, the opening division of the $34,594 Sire Stakes. Scoring from the three post, Forty Five Red has four wins in seven lifetime starts. He won the $111,250 Sheppard Final at Yonkers in 1:55.4 on July 20th and went gate-to-wire last weekend at Vernon Downs in 1:51.1. The Ron Burke-trained Forty Five Red already has earned $150,286 this season. Jim Morrill Jr. will get the driving assignment. The big night of racing with 13 races slated on Saturday gets underway at 6:30 p.m. For more information including race replays, statistics, schedule and promotions, go to http://bataviadownsgaming.com/live-racing. by Brian J. Mazurek
This Saturday night (9-07) Batavia Downs will present a night of nostalgia when it celebrates the 25th anniversary of their hosting the 1988 Breeders Crown aged mare trot along with reuniting five of the most popular drivers ever circle their surface, to once again compete against each other in the first Legends of Batavia Downs race. The 1988 Breeders Crown was the richest purse ever offered at the Genesee County oval as well as the only leg of that prestigious series to be held there. The record purse of $268,756 saw top drivers Bill O’Donnell, Doug Brown and Ben Webster compete and a packed house was anxious to witness the sport’s top stars. Scenic Regal was coming off a second place finish to Mack Lobell at Yonkers and was the post time favorite. But the Armstrong Brothers entry of Armbro Fling and Armbro Flori were a formidable team to beat. In front of a roaring crowd, Larry Walker got Armbro Flori home by a head over the fast closing Scenic Regal in a time of 1:59.3. A pedestrian clocking by today’s standards, it was only 2/5th’s of a second off the all-time track trotting record when it happened. To commemorate the silver anniversary, there will be $25 betting vouchers given away starting after the fourth race, for five consecutive races. All the fans on hand will be eligible to win. Also that night will be the first ever Legends of Batavia Downs Pace. It will be 1970 all over again when the driving titans of a bygone era are brought back to the track to relive one of the most exciting times the track ever had. Hall of famer Clint Galbriath will be back in the bike to tangle with fellow western New York stars Gerry Sarama, Gaston Guindon, Dick Welch and Fred Haslip in a one mile race for the ages. Clint Galbraith has 3,062 wins and $19 million in earnings. He scored his first dash title at Batavia Downs in 1963 and will be forever synonymous with the legendary Niatross who won 37 of 39 starts and was named the horse of the year in 1979 and 1980. Another great Galbraith student was Call For Rain who won the Breeders Crown twice.The list of accomplishments attained by Galbraith is as impressive as any horseman ever to go behind a starting gate. Gerry Sarama has 2,630 wins and $11.5 million in earnings. He started driving at an early age and quickly found himself at the top of the driver colony at Batavia. Although he made a move to Roosevelt Raceway for a while to compete with the best in the nation, he eventually found his way back home and was always a highly sought after catch driver. Some of his most memorable horses were Jambo Bea, Free Chase, and his personal favorite, Cambiance. Sarama was known as “the man with the hands”. Gaston Guindon has 3,080 wins and $6.9 million in earnings. He moved to Batavia Downs in 1969 and it wasn’t long after that his career took off. The horses he drove were a who’s who for years and included names like the venerable Mr. Coal, Keystone Spectrum, Harbor Smoke, E C Oakie, Willow Hill Boy, Mucalee Bunt, Hot Shot Hamde, Skipper Frank and River Mouse. He is affectionately known by the locals as “The Gasser”. Dick Welch has 923 wins and $1.7 million in purses. He started driving at Batavia Downs in the late 1960’s and was the trainer for the powerful Marks Stable of Buffalo. Two of the most memorable pacers ever to race locally came from his barn; Pine Hill Time and Pine Hill Fred. Both were perennial Open class performers and shuttled between home and New York to race the best the east coast had to offer. His last pari-mutual start was in 1978 when he shifted gears to become a racing official. Welch was known for his trademark toothpick as you seldom saw him without one. Fred Haslip has 2,585 wins and has earned $5.9 million in purses. The lifelong resident of Basom, NY started driving at fairs in 1959 and scored his first pari mutual win in 1960. The list of horses that Haslip has teamed over the years is long and includes names like Diamond Sparkler, Happy Sparkler, Keystone Astro, Kay El, Jack the Baron, Coaltown Smoke, Flawless Sparkler and Princess Dee Dee. But Haslip is probably most noted for developing the former double gaited world record holder, Excalibur. Todd Haight is the General Manager of live racing at Batavia Downs. He remembers watching this group compete against each other in their prime and looks forward to “getting the band back together” to relive the good old days. Haight said “We are proud and excited to have these gentlemen come back and thrill our fans one more time. They were responsible for so many great races and memories that many of us still recall when we stand by the fence and reminisce. This is the first Legend’s race we’ve held and we look forward to doing it every year moving forward.” There will be a meet and greet with an autograph session on the apron from 5:30 to 6:25 and there will be a special picture insert in the program perfect for signing. The race itself will be held after the seventh event of the night. The whips used in the race by the five drivers will be autographed and given away to the fans in a random drawing. After the race, Gaston Guindon will be honored by the track and his colors will be hung in their track Hall of Fame where he will join other Batavia Downs immortals Jeff Gregory, John Schroeder, Ben Webster, Patsy Rapone and Bob Altizer. Post time is 6:30 for this action packed night of racing. by Tim Bojarski
It was another good night on the track for 2013 Johnston Cup leading trainer Gregg McNair when seven divisions of two-year old pacing fillies rolled into Hanover Raceway. The Guelph, Ontario resident formerly of Walkerton, scored two grassroots division victories with Momara and Can Art in races five and nine respectively. 2013 Battle of the Belles runner-up Momara wired the field as the overwhelming post-time favorite. The daughter of Lis Mara cruised to an easy victory in 1:57.3 with Stuart Sowerby in the race bike. Momara now has four wins in six lifetime starts for earnings nearing the $50,000 mark. Sowerby was steering once again when McNair sent out Can Art in race nine. The Artistic Fella filly was a gate-to-wire winner in 1:58.3, as she was able to fend off all challengers in the stretch. The win was her second in six races. McNair also had a second place finish from Regally Ready in race seven, while Sowerby scored an OSS hat trick by adding a win with Gram Rules for Blake McIntosh in race three. Hanover was lucky to have Hall of Famer Clint Galbraith formerly of Tara on hand, as he visited with Peter and Jean Thibideau before heading to Clinton to compete in their Legends Day of Racing program. Galbraith trained and drove arguably the best horse of the last century in Niatross who was just this past week, was enshrined in the Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame. Niatross was the first pacer to earn over 2 million dollars and was named the hosre of the year in 1979 and 1980. Niatross was named the Horse of the year in both Canada and the United States during 2 year old campaign where we won all 13 of his races and won 37 of his 39 career starts. Hanover Raceway returns with All-Trot Night on Saturday, August 24th. The eleventh edition of the track’s all trotting card will feature eliminations for the Balanced Image stakes for two-year olds, the 39th annual Walker Memorial, and a RUS Ontario exhibition race. Hanover Raceway is also participating in the Bring A Friend to the Races Challenge, as fans who bring someone new to the races, will both be entered in a draw for special behind the scenes prizing. Fans who come early will get a chance to meet the RUS riders and several regular drivers including Jay Harris and Stuart Sowerby in a meet and greet session under the grandstand at 6:30pm. Post time next Saturday for the 11th annual ALL TROT DAY is 7:30pm.
He has been an integral part of Clinton Raceway’s Legends Day since its inception back in 2001 and will be back again this year on Sunday, August 18. But Ron Waples still can’t get used to the thought of being considered a harness racing ‘living legend’. Those who have followed the incredible career of the double Hall Of Famer would say otherwise. Waples has driven just shy of 7,000 winners and has posted career purse winnings of more than $75 million in the process. Along the way, he has been blessed to sit behind some of the greatest horses ever to look through a bridle – horses like Ralph Hanover, Sugarcane Hanover, Peace Corps, No Sex Please, Dream Maker and Presidential Ball, just to name a few. He has won almost every major race in the sport along the way, including the Hambletonian, Little Brown Jug, North America Cup, Meadowlands Pace and nine Breeders Crown titles. “At the time, it’s all just another day at the office,” recalls Waples. “But now, when I reflect back on things, I realize just how fortunate I was to be associated with so many great horses and great people and to enjoy the success that I did.” Waples will be looking to capture his second Legends Day Trot this year after winning the 2003 edition with Carrland Buddy in a then track record of 1:58.2. This will be his seventh consecutive Legends Day appearance and he says it is an experience that never gets old. "I don’t really think of myself as a legend but it’s definitely very special to be asked to take part in something like this. I’m still a fan too and I’ve got to spend this day with some of the guys I’ve idolized myself like the late Buddy Gilmour for example. “It’s always a great day and I love the atmosphere,” he explains. “I am amazed at how many fans come out and they’ll stand in line for a couple of hours just to get autographs. The folks at Clinton go above and beyond on this day and they’ve raised a lot of money for local charities too over the years which makes it even more special.” In fact, the previous six Legends Day events have provided $132,000 that go directly to benefit local charities in the Clinton area. The Legends Day roster this year will include Waples along with Herve Filion, John Campbell, Bill O’Donnell, Ray Remmen, Keith Waples, Dave Wall, Clint Galbraith, Bud Fritz, Jim Doherty, Doug Brown and Steve Condren – a group with combined purse winnings of well over half a billion dollars. The $15,000 Legends Day Trot and Ontario Sires Stakes action for two-year-olds will be the highlight races for the afternoon. Fans will have an opportunity to meet this year’s legends and receive autographs starting at 2:30 p.m. There will also be live entertainment and pony rides in the park. The Pineridge Barbecue Chicken dinner is scheduled from 4 p.m. – 6 p.m. (tickets $15 each) and Legends T-shirts will be on sale for just $2. All proceeds, along with those from the silent auction that day, will go to the Clinton Public Hospital Foundation. For complete details visit www.clintonraceway.com . by Jessica Carnochan
He has been a part of many battles on the racetrack over his outstanding 30-plus year driving career but the biggest battle of all for Steve Condren has come away from the track. The Milton resident was diagnosed with Colon cancer in 2011 and that very well could have meant the end to his storied career. But, with the steely determination and steady focus he has become known for, Condren has battled his way back into the race bike and back to prominence on the national stage. The man in green and gold is also getting set to take part in his first ever Legends Day at Clinton Raceway on Sunday, August 18, and says he is all systems go and looking forward to the experience. “The doctor gave me a clean bill of health the last time I saw him and I’m feeling good,” he explains following a recent golf outing where he shot a round of 75. “I’ve worked hard to get back driving and I certainly realize how fortunate I am to be able to be back doing what I love. I’m going to fully enjoy the day and the whole experience.” Condren’s other passion is golf which gives him much of the exercise he requires to stay healthy along with a regular workout routine. After three months of excruciating chemotherapy treatments in the Fall of 2011, the veteran reinsman was forced to slowly and methodically get himself healthy and back into good enough condition to return to the race bike. That patience, and attention to detail, are attributes that have helped him in the race bike too and made him one of the most respected drivers this country has produced. “I’d like to think that one of my strengths is looking at the big picture with young horses and trying to show them how to race the right way,” he admits. “Being versatile has also helped me and having a pretty good sense of how to react to situations that arise in a race. When I look back now, I have to be satisfied with my career to this point and what I’ve accomplished.” As a young driver starting out his career, Condren looked up to several prominent Ontario Jockey Club stars including the late Bill Wellwood and Ron Feagan. He also greatly admired another future Hall Of Famer named Ron Waples – a former Legends Day Trot winner who will be taking part as well this year for the seventh consecutive time. Some of the best horses Condren has driven in his career were ones that he partially owned including Canadian champions Pure Ivory and Elegantimage – the namesake of one of WEG’s premier trotting stakes. His biggest career victory came in 1989 when he guided Goalie Jeff to a dramatic upset win in the North America Cup at Greenwood. Condren has amassed impressive career totals of more than 6,600 victories and purse winnings in excess of $110 million but enjoys the opportunity to get back to the smaller tracks and personally interact with the fans. “I drove in Clinton last Spring for the first time in a long time and it’s a great atmosphere,” he says. “I think that the folks there have a true appreciation of the sport and it’s going to be fun to be a part of. To be asked to join a group of guys like this is a real honour.” The Legends Day roster this year will include Waples along with Herve Filion, John Campbell, Bill O’Donnell, Ray Remmen, Keith Waples, Dave Wall, Clint Galbraith, Bud Fritz, Jim Doherty, Doug Brown and Steve Condren – a group with combined purse winnings of well over half a billion dollars. The $15,000 Legends Day Trot and Ontario Sires Stakes action for two-year-olds will be the highlight races of the afternoon. Fans will have an opportunity to meet this year’s legends and receive autographs starting at 2:30 p.m. There will also be live entertainment, pony rides and face painting for the kids. The Pineridge Barbecue Chicken dinner is scheduled from 4 p.m. – 6 p.m. (tickets $15 each) and Legends T-shirts will be on sale for just $2. All proceeds, along with those from the silent auction that day, will go to the Clinton Public Hospital Foundation. For complete details visit www.clintonraceway.com. Jessica Carnochan
CLINTON, Ontario . . . Clinton Raceway has added one of the most legendary Canadian drivers of all time, Herve Filion, to their Legends Day line up on Sunday, August 18. He will be driving for Dave Wall who injured his shoulder in a training accident last week. A member of the Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame for more than three decades, Filion will come out of retirement to join other Hall of Famers: Steve Condren, Ray Remmen, Doug Brown, Bill O’Donnell, Ron Waples, John Campbell, Dave Wall, Clint Galbraith, Keith Waples, Bud Fritz and Jim Doherty at Clinton. For many years Filion held the record for the most races won by any driver in North America, a total of 15,180. That number was surpassed last year by Dave Palone, who idolized Filion in his youth. Filion was the youngest driver to ever be inducted into both the Canadian Hall of Fame (1976) and its US counterpart (1975). As the great Billy Haughton once said: “There are a lot of good harness drivers, a few great ones … and then there is Filion.” A recipient of numerous awards on both sides of the border, including the prestigious Lou Marsh as Canada’s Professional Athlete of the Year in 1971, Filion hung up his silks last year with a total of 15,183 wins to his credit. He has graciously agreed to dust them off to compete in the always popular Legends Day Trot. by Jessica Carnochan
Barbara Galbraith thought she had a guardian angel when she opened a mysterious FedEx envelope left on the front porch of her small Scottsville farmhouse last month and found a check for $2,431. Perhaps, she thought, someone learned of how badly she and her once world-class harness racing breeding operation were struggling.
Just over a year ago at Saratoga Raceway Brandon Loomis trained and drove his first winner. Now some 13 months later the 27-year-old New York native is experiencing more highs in harness racing. On November 23 Oneida born and educated Loomis bolstered his small stable to five by purchasing Magical Mike gelding, Ticker Tape.
Harness racing announcers Frank Salive and Ken Warkentin will be joining Roger Huston in the race calling line up during Legends Day at Clinton Raceway on Sunday September 4, 2011. Salive will be returning from Florida and his duties at Popano Park to be a part of the celebration, he hasn't missed a Legends Day yet.
Hall of Fame harness racing trainer/driver Clint Galbraith is in an upstate New York rehabilitation facility after a serious head injury on May 16. Galbraith had returned home from racing four horses at Tioga Downs when he was knocked over and fell to the ground, striking his head. He was admitted to Strong Memorial Hospital in Rochester and placed in an induced coma for several days.
Kash N Credit and Corey Braden captured their third consecutive harness racing victory on Saturday night at Tioga Downs. Leading driver Corey Braden settled in third past the quarter in 28.3 and then moved Kash N Credit to the front and the duo easily cut through fractions of 57.3, 1:26.2, before opening up on pocket sitting Levity's Pride and strolling to victory in a new lifetime best of 1:56.