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Batavia, NY - As the 68th season of live harness racing gets underway at Batavia Downs this Wednesday evening (July 23), fans will be welcomed back with an aggressive schedule of racing and promotions that will run through December 6. Racing will be conducted on a Wednesday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday schedule from opening night through Labor Day, when the racing schedule changes to a Tuesday Wednesday, Friday, Saturday format. Post time is 6:35 except for Sundays, which will convene at 1:15. There are also two special matinee cards slated for Labor Day (Sept. 1) and Columbus Day (Oct. 13) that will also have a 1:15 post. Todd Haight, Batavia Downs Director/Manager of live racing said "We're extremely happy to begin the new meet with increased purses as this year we'll payout an additional $200,000. Although our main lobby entrance is still under construction, many other areas of our remodel are complete. Customers will find the new Paddock Room betting area a great place to spend the night as it features new flat screen TV's." A plentitude of wagers that carry low minimum investments are available this year. There are four $1 Daily Double wagers; early (races1-2), mid (races 4-5), late (races 8-9) and late-late (races 11-12). A $1 exacta and 50-cent trifecta is offered in every race as well as a 10-cent superfecta in all races except races one and seven. Lastly there is a 50-cent pick-4 in race 3, a 50-cent pick-5 in race 5, a $2 pick-6 in race 7 and a $.50 pick-3 in race 10. Every Wednesday beginning July 30, Batavia Downs racing will be broadcast live on Time-Warner cable channel 98 in Rochester. Tuesdays will be added after Labor Day. Race analyst Ashley Holliday will return as host and be seen in seven western and central New York counties throughout the meet. This year's racing schedule will be highlighted by eight divisions of the lucrative New York Sire Stake (NYSS) series that will bring with it some of the finest standardbreds in North America. Both the NYSS and Excelsior series will be contested on July 27, August 1-13-17-20-27-31 and September 6. Then on October 18, the tracks' signature event, the12th annual (est. $50,000) Robert J. Kane Memorial Pace will attract some of the best Open class pacers from the U.S. and Canada to vie for the top prize. This race has featured top horses like Foiled Again over the years and was responsible for lowering the all-time track record in 2011 when Aracache Hanover blistered the course in 1:51.1. Last year's leading driver Shawn McDonough and top trainer John Mungillo will both be back to defend their titles. But there will be stiff competition from their local peers and some new stables taking up residency on the grounds. Race secretary Joe Zambito commented "We have a few new trainers shipping in including Leonard Segall from Florida and Dave Wackford from Iowa. We will also have several stables shipping in to race from other tracks and have already received entries from them." "This year we added a new fillies and mares Open trot to the condition sheet and it has been well received by the horsemen. That race, along with the regular Open trot, will be written on Sunday for the duration of those afternoon dates" Zambito also noted. Fans will be treated to a seemingly endless list of events and giveaways throughout the meet. A total of 23 special promotions are slated for the 72 date meet, starting with opening night when free racing programs and magnet racing schedules will be distributed. July 27 is Thurman Thomas bobble-head night. The former Buffalo Bill great and NFL Hall of Famer is the official spokesman for Batavia Downs Gaming. Thomas will be at Batavia Downs in person on July 30 as a guest bartender for the Breast Cancer Coalition of Rochester benefit night at the races. He will be in the clubhouse and that presents a great opportunity to get your bobble-head signed by the man himself. In conjunction with the United States Trotting Association, the "Back to the Track" 2014 tour makes a stop at the Genesee County oval on August 2 and brings with it a list of activities. Harness racing bingo will provide 5 full card bingo winners that will receive a $100 betting voucher each. Other giveaways will include Back to the Track T-shirts and assorted driver bobble-heads. August 24 is the most popular all-age race day of the year. The wiener dog races will highlight Family Fun Day at the Downs. Ten heats of eight wiener dogs each will go postward to compete for cash prizes and bragging rights. Family events will start during the live harness races and include free pony rides, face painting, and a clown and caricature artist. With the New York Sire Stake in town on August 31, there will be a free NYSS baseball cap giveaway. Fans will receive a ticket throughout the course of the day that can be redeemed as long as supplies last. And Labor Day features the annual driver's bike race. Local reinsmen show they are comfortable in more than one kind of "bike" as they tour the Downs oval on ten-speeds. After the winner is crowned, the eight bikes will be given away to fans in random drawings. For more information on all the events at Batavia Downs this year, logon to www.bataviadownsgaming.com . There you can get full race schedules, entries, results and you can watch all the race replays immediately after every race has been declared official. By Tim Bojarski, for Batavia Downs

Latham, NY---As the Manhattan skyline provides the backdrop for the start of the 2014 edition of the Meadowlands Pace, the Empire state will also supply the favorites for the marquee event. JK Endofanera and He's Watching are both products of the standardbred breeding program in New York. 2-1 favorite JK Endofanera (1:48.2, $938,517) was bred and is owned by Alan Katz's 3 Brothers Stable. He is a son of Art Major (1:48.4, $2,727,224) out of the Presidential Ball mare, Presidential Lady (1:54, $291,651). JK Endofanera started his two-year-old career late after developing slowly early in the year. He didn't make his first lifetime start until September, getting his first victory at Lexington. Following his third race the colt was placed in the Ron Burke Stable for the remainder of the year and continued to progress from there. After a win in an overnight and a second in the $49,300 Madison County stake, JK Endofanera closed out his campaign with identical 1:51.4 victories in the $157,000 Elevation Stake at Hoosier Park and the $534,500 Governors Cup at the New Meadowlands. Last year's late bloomer came out swinging this year capturing three consecutive stake victories. Then after finishing third in his elimination, JK Endofanera took the final of the $920,000 North America Cup at Mohawk Raceway and earned a new lifetime record of 1:48.4 after being parked out for the bulk of the mile. Last week in the Meadowlands Pace elimination he quickly eclipsed that mark in a gutty performance, fending off deep stretch charges by Always B Miki and Lyonssomewhere to notch a 1:48.2 victory and position himself as the morning line favorite for the pacing classic. In his career, JK Endofanera is 9 of 13 lifetime with three seconds and one third. 5-2 second choice He's Watching (1:48.1 $461,957) was bred by Brittany Farms, Bob Burgess and Karin Olsson-Burgess and is owned by his trainer, David Menary, along with Brad Gray, Michael Guerriero and the Muscara Racing Trust. He is a son of American Ideal (1:47.4 $786,055) out of the Real Desire mare, Baberhood (1:55 $7,905). He's Watching was a $3,000 yearling purchase that turned out to be more than anyone could have imagined. Because of his low purchase price, the colt was not staked to anything except the New York Sire Stakes last year, but it was in New York that he made his mark on the sport. He's Watching was a perfect eight for eight during his freshman campaign and his blistering speed led him to be named the Dan Patch two-year-old champion for 2013. He set two world records and six track records during his domination across the state and gained much national attention without ever hitting the Grand Circuit. His freshman seasonal mark of 1.50 was achieved twice; once at Tioga Downs that made him the fastest two-year-old ever on a five-eighth's mile track and once at Vernon Downs, which was a new track record at the 7/8-mile track there. He's Watching then closed the year with an exclamation point when he scorched Yonkers Raceway's half-mile track in a world record tying time of 1:52.2. He's Watching's 2014 debut was less than stellar. Sent off as the 1-9 favorite in the $40,000 Art Rooney elimination at Yonkers, the colt finished a distant sixth in the six horse field. But after suffering his first defeat ever, the wagons were circled and he coasted to a lifetime best 1:49.3 victory in the $69,000 Somebeachsomewhere at Mohawk Raceway in wire to wire fashion. He's Watching had gallant efforts in the North America Cup elimination and final at Mohawk where he got caught in late stretch both times, and was in top form last week as a gapped winner in the Meadowlands Pace elimination in a new lifetime mark of 1:48.1. Tim Tetrick followed live cover from the half before tipping He's Watching three deep around Sometimes Said in mid-stretch to clear for the victory. He's Watching is 10 of 13 lifetime with one second and one third. JK Endofanera and He's Watching will leave from post two and three respectively and both come into the race at the top of their game. They are excellent examples of the quality standardbreds being produced each year in New York State to compete with the best in the world. By Tim Bojarski, for the Harness Horse Breeders of NY State     

Batavia, NY --- The Genesee County Agricultural Society has held an annual fair in Batavia, New York since 1839. And from 1890 through 1946 they called the current site of Batavia Downs their home. The track was known as Exposition Park and every year harness racing was one of the most anticipated events on their schedule. But in 1947 when Batavia Downs founder Pat Provenzano bought the property he had originally leased from the society to expand his growing pari-mutuel empire, the fair relocated to another site and fair racing in Genesee County ceased. Until now. On Thursday, July 10, Batavia Downs will become the newest stop on the New York Sire Stake (NYSS) fair circuit when the Genesee County leg of that series convenes for the first time. Since the inception of the NYSS in 1961, there has never been a fair date contested in Genesee County until now and the addition became a reality because of a natural disaster that occurred last year. Todd Haight, Batavia Downs Director/General Manager of live racing said "Last year we held the Caledonia Fair races at Batavia Downs when their track in Livingston County was washed out by heavy rain. And it was a Great Success. We had a large crowd here and the racing was great. So we thought, why not host fair racing here every year?" Haight contacted the NYSS and the Genesee County Agricultural Society and the groups came together with a plan. The result of that collaboration was the fair races will return the track they left for the first time in seven decades. "We're happy to be partnering with the Genesee County Fair folks on hosting the races and all the activities that go along with them. I see no reason why the fair races couldn't become an annual event here at Batavia Downs" Haight concluded. Nick O'Geen, Genesee County Agricultural Society Board Member said "This is a unique opportunity for the Genesee County Fair to partner with Batavia Downs to bring harness racing to back the fair." Post time for the first race is 1:15. The race secretary for the Genesee County fair races is Donna Kerr and entries can be made by calling 716-338-5387. The entry box closes July 7 at 10 am. In addition to the races, there will be events for the whole family on the track apron including carnival games, a bounce house, a juggler and a balloon artist. Also available will be a $3 lunch special for kids 12 and younger as well as $1 Ice cream cones, snow cones and cotton candy. Fair events run from 11 until 4. Batavia Downs will also be offering discounted advance sale tickets for other fair events and with the purchase of any ticket, will provide a $10 free-play voucher redeemable on their gaming floor. By Tim Bojarski, for Batavia Downs

Batavia, NY---Batavia Downs has named Ralph Horton as their new track superintendent today, replacing Fran Mruczek who retired from that position at the end of the 2013 meeting. Horton has been a regular at the Downs since the late 1960's when he started out as an owner-driver. In 1986 he left the sulky to work full time for Genesee Monroe Racing as a member of the track crew.When Western OTB purchased the racetrack in 1998, Horton was retained and has had track maintenance responsibilities ever since.Horton will take over the top spot immediately. After learning of the promotion Horton said "I'm excited about the new position and I want to thank everyone involved for the opportunity." Batavia's half-mile oval has long been known as one of the finest in the country. Its wide banked turns continually produce fast miles while keeping horses sound in the process. "Horsemen rave about our racing surface and I'm confident Ralph's many years of experience working at Batavia Downs will bode well for us as he moves into his new position" commented Todd Haight, Director /General Manager of Live Racing. The 2014 racing season at America's oldest lighted harness track gets underway on July23 with a new post time of 6:35 p.m. By Tim Bojarski, for Batavia Downs        

Batavia, NY -- Batavia Downs is pleased to announce that national harness writer Tim Bojarski has joined their staff as a media correspondent of racing information. Bojarski is a 36 year veteran of harness racing and has actively participated in all aspects of the sport during that time. He currently writes a monthly column and periodic feature articles for the award winning Hoof Beats magazine, is a content contributor for the United States Trotting Association website and serves as the national vice-president of the United States Harness Writers Association. He has also reported as a live blogger covering every major stake including the Hambletonian, Little Brown Jug and Breeders Crown. Todd Haight, General Manager of live racing at Batavia Downs said "I received numerous e-mails about the job opening from some amazing talents in this business for which I am greatly appreciative. But in the end my choice was relatively easy." "Tim's knowledge of harness racing, Batavia Downs and his tremendous writing skills made him the right person for the position. Batavia Downs has worked closely with Tim in the past and we look forward to taking that relationship to the next level this season."   Tim Bojarski will start his position immediately, preparing for the upcoming racing season which begins on July 23. Batavia Downs Media Relations           Date: Wed, 25 Jun 2014 13:15:45 -0400 Subject: Press release From: a159star@gmail.com To: askthehandicapper@hotmail.com   Obviously, make any changes you like. Thanks -- Tim Bojarski Hoof Beats Magazine Columnist National Vice-President United States Harness Writers Assn President-Upstate NY Chapter www.ushwa.org, www.upstatenyushwa.com 716-572-1801   "There is never enough time to do or say all the things that we would wish. The thing is try to do as much as you can in the time that you have."    

The oportunity for eligible college students looking to apply for the 2014 Dewey Degree Scholarship is fading fast as there are less than three days remaining to get their paperwork turned in. The Upstate New York Chapter of the United States Harness Writers Association is looking for eligible high school seniors or returning college students from families of licensed owners, trainers, or drivers who participate full or part time in harness racing. Through the generosity of Ray Schnittker and Jeff Gural, UNY-USHWA is offering the scholarship named for Schnittker's Hambletonian winning trotter, Deweycheatumnhowe. The sixth annual "Dewey Degree Scholarship" is an annual fellowship given to an eligible student who meets the criteria and is chosen by the Chapter Officers and an impartial third party judge. It is a $1,500.00 one time, non renewable assistance award. The applicant must be entering college for the first time this fall or already in a college, university, or trade school and be enrolled as a full time student (12 credit hours minimum). Applicants' parent(s), grandparent(s), and/or legal guardian(s) must be a licensed horseman or horsewoman during the year prior to application. (In this case, 2012) Only one relative need be licensed to be eligible. The applicant must be at least a high school senior at time of application. Anyone living in the U.S. or Canada is eligible. Applicants are required to submit an essay discussing your background in harness racing, your work experience in harness racing, what you think could be done to better harness racing in the future, and how you see yourself as part of it. The essay should be around 600 words in length. You will also need to submit proof of your relatives licensing and a minimum of two letters of reference - one from a horseperson and one from a teacher or advisor in your current school. All documents must be postmarked by UNY-USHWA no later than May 31, 2014. The recipient of the 2014 Dewey Degree will be announced shortly thereafter and the scholarship will be presented in the winners circle at Tioga Downs this summer. We request the winner be present for that presentation. To download an application or to view previous winners of the scholarship, log onto www.upstatenyushwa.com. By Tim Bojarski, for Upstate NY Chapter of USHWA

The Upstate New York Chapter of the United States Harness Writers Association is looking for eligible high school seniors or returning college students from families of licensed owners, trainers, or drivers who participate full or part time in harness racing. They can now submit an application that could bring them $1,500.00 closer to completing their college education. Through the generosity of Ray Schnittker and Jeff Gural, UNY-USHWA is offering the scholarship named for Schnittker's world class trotter, Deweycheatumnhowe. The sixth annual "Dewey Degree Scholarship" will be given to an eligible student who meets the criteria and is chosen by the chapter officers and an impartial third party judge. It is a $1,500.00 one time, non renewable assistance award. The applicant must be entering college for the first time this fall or already in a college, university, or trade school and be enrolled as a full time student (12 credit hours minimum). Applicants' parent(s), grandparent(s), and/or legal guardian(s) must be a licensed horseman or horsewoman during the year prior to application. (In this case, 2013) Only one relative need be licensed to be eligible. The applicant must be at least a high school senior at time of application. Anyone living in the U.S. or Canada is eligible. You are required to submit an essay discussing your background in harness racing, your work experience in harness racing, what you think could be done to better harness racing in the future, and how you see yourself as part of it. The essay should be around 600 words in length. You will also need to submit proof of your relatives licensing and a minimum of two letters of reference - one from a horse person and one from a teacher or advisor in your current school. All documents must be received by UNY-USHWA no later than May 31, 2014. The recipient of the 2014 Dewey Degree will be announced shortly thereafter and the scholarship will be presented in the winners circle at Tioga Downs this summer. We request the winner be present for that presentation. You can click here to download a copy of the application. By Tim Bojarski, for Upstate NY Chapter USHWA  

The entire Dan Patch Awards Banquet, which was held at Dover Downs on Sunday, February 23, is now available for viewing "on demand" at the home of the United States Harness Writers Association (USHWA), www.ushwa.org . Thanks to the USTA and Roberts Communications, the entire production has been archived and made available to everyone through a link at the top of the USHWA homepage. If you were an honoree or presenter, this is a great opportunity to see exactly what the live and simulcast crowd saw as you were on stage. And if you weren't able to attend in person or watch the live broadcast that night, you can now enjoy the show in its entirety. Once again, USHWA would like to thank the USTA and Roberts Communications for making this available on our site. by Tim Bojarski, for USHWA  

Whether or not you attended the 2014 Dan Patch Awards Banquet in person, here is your opportunity to experience all the excitement of the night's activities first-hand. If you log onto the United States Harness Writers Association's (USHWA) website (www.ushwa.org ) you will find full listings of all the award winners, fully captioned presentation pictures from that night for every category (both human and equine), a downloadable version of the entire 160 page color Journal that includes pictures, bios and well wishes from industry insiders, and a bank of over 150 professionally taken, high resolution pictures of all the night's events (including the Red Carpet) that you can downloaded and printed. So if you did attend, take a minute and find yourself among the pictures and remember what a great night it was. And if you didn't, you'll find out why almost 400 people did. Mark Hall of the USTA and Frances Blazer of Fotowon photographed the pictures that we are making available for download on our website. USHWA would like to thank them for providing their photographic talents and excellence for your enjoyment. by Tim Bojarski, 1st VP National USHWA  

At the recently completed national meetings of the United States Harness Writers Association (USHWA) Monticello Raceway's Shawn Wiles was elected vice president of the organization. President Steve Wolf ended his two year term at those meetings which then opened the position of second VP as other officers moved up the chairs. Wiles will now serve in his newly elected capacity for two years. Presently the general manager of the Monticello Raceway, Wiles has been a longtime member of the Monticello -Goshen Chapter USHWA and currently is the chapter's vice president. "I am excited to work with the present youthful USHWA Board," Wiles said. They are an extremely capable bunch of young men, who I can learn from." Wiles is referring to his newly elected president, Chris Tully and vice president, Tim Bojarski, both of whom moved up the chairs to their current two year positions. Wiles has long been a director of United States Trotting Association from District 8 where he now serves as the chairman of that district. His career in harness racing started in the backstretch of Monticello Raceway during the 1970s where he worked as a groom for Richard Sturgis, Robert Camper and Jim Grundy. He then went on in search of a Grand Circuit stable to work for and found success with the famed trotting specialists of Continental Farms under the guidance of Hakan Wallner, Hall of Famer Berndt Lindstedt, and Jan Johnson. Wiles was the first American second- trainer to work for the famed Scandinavian trotting experts from 1980-1986. During his tenure as a groom he rubbed many top performers, most notably the crack stakes filly Dominant, and then worked for Castleton Farms from 1986-1988. Wiles joined Monticello Raceway in 1996, working under John Manzi in publicity and Bill Sullivan in operations. Wiles was initially promoted to assistant GM of Monticello Casino and Raceway, and lately promoted to General Manager of the entire facility. He was recently lauded by the local scribes on his tough stance on racing integrity. Wiles is actively involved in many civic and community oriented endeavors. He is a past president, now trustee, of the Fallsburg Central School District Board of Education, past president of the Woodridge Housing Association, and a longtime AYSO soccer coach as well as vice president of the Monticello-Goshen Harness Writers Association, The proud parents of Brody , 19, and Samantha, 16, Wiles and his wife, Lisa, Superintendent of the Ellenville School District, reside in Woodridge, N.Y. by John Manzi, for Monticello Raceway  

DOVER DE - The United States Harness Writers Association (USHWA), harness racing's principal organization for media workers, held its annual meetings this past Saturday and Sunday at the Dover Downs complex, with the weekend culminating in the Dan Patch Awards Banquet held Sunday (Feb. 23) night, attended by almost 400 people and streamed worldwide for live viewing. During the Saturday meeting, the Directors of the Association voted for Bob Marks and Kathy Parker to be on the Communicators Hall of Fame voting ballot this summer. Marks has been a leading force in many harness dimensions over his 50 years in the sport, most recently as Marketing Director for Perretti Farms, while Parker, from a prominent harness family, worked her way through the ranks at the Horseman and Fair World weekly magazine until becoming editor in 1995 and later general manager of the Horseman Publishing Company, positions she maintains to this day. At the conclusion of the meetings, the membership voted in their slate of association Officials for 2014-15. Chris Tully, an MBA marketing specialist and writer whose digital literacy and social media acumen has helped bring USHWA to the cutting edge of communications technology, was elected President of the association, succeeding Steve Wolf of Harnesslink.com; Tully's "first official act" was to present Wolf, who now becomes the Chairman of the Board, with a gold Lifetime Membership pin. Tim Bojarski, writer/blogger for the USTA, moved up a chair to 1st Vice President, with the 2VP position going to Shawn Wiles, Monticello Raceway chief racing officer and a longtime USTA and USHWA director. Judy Davis-Wilson, who is based in Dover and worked tirelessly to ensure the success of the weekend, especially the banquet, was returned as Treasurer; Alan Prince, who attended his 48th consecutive USHWA meetings weekend, remains as Executive Treasurer. Also elected was Jerry Connors as USHWA secretary. Much of the discussion during the two days of meetings focused on the sport's Halls of Fame in Goshen NY, where plans for renovation and modernization are starting to advance rapidly, and where USHWA makes a significant contribution. In addition to the physical reconfiguration of the Halls of Fame area, the directors and membership discussed several by-law and rules change relating to the Halls, especially the re-establishment of a Seniors category for both. Debate was plentiful, lively, and well-reasoned on all sides, and some of these matters were tabled until a Committee, soon to be appointed, can focus on the merits - and the eventual wording -- of the varied proposed changes. The attendees heard reports from the many committees that keep USHWA functioning throughout the year, and were glad to hear from Davis-Wilson, voted the organization's member of the year, that the treasury was in a very good shape, pointing to future success in USHWA's upcoming progressive efforts. The Dan Patch Awards Dinner was as always the highlight of the gathering, with superstar sophomore trotting filly Bee A Magician "finishing her unbeaten season" by being elected Trotter of the Year and then Harness Horse of the Year; her contemporary, the pacing colt Captaintreacherous, took down overall honors for that gait after a brilliant campaign showing speed and courage in equal amounts. Also honored were the quartet to be inducted into the Halls of Fame Sunday, July 6 in Goshen: Harness Racing Hall of Famers David Miller and William Weaver, and Communicators Hall inductees Carol Cramer and John Pawlak. by Jerry Connors for USHWA

HAMBURG, N.Y. --- Studio City needed every step of the mile to run down the front running Lutetium in the $10,500 Open Trot at Buffalo Raceway Friday night (Feb. 7).   Lutetium (Kevin Cummings) set the fractions with marks of 29.1, 1:00 and 1:31 and tried desperately to make every step a winning one. He was close but no cigar.   Studio City and Buffalo Raceway's leading driver Billy Dobson had other ideas. Starting a first over trip down the backstretch the final time, Studio City ($7.10) began a slow but methodical grind in chasing down Lutetium. Then in the shadow of the wire, he managed to poke a head in front to capture the win in 2:01.2 over the good track.   Cedarridgetag (Peter Wrenn) took the show position.   It was the first victory in four starts for Studio City this season. He has now earned $9,135 in 2014 and $133,868 lifetime. The 5-year-old gelding is owned by Scott Woogen and Lisa Denison and is trained by Lisa Lederhouse.   Racing will resume on Saturday night with a 12-race card scheduled to start at 6:40 p.m.   For more information including race replays, results, upcoming promotions and the latest news, go to www.buffaloraceway.com   by Brian J. Mazurek, for Buffalo Raceway    

The fans have spoken and the votes are in; the winners of the 2013 USHWA-USTA Railbird Recognition awards have been selected. One was a winner by open lengths and the other eked out victory in a photo finish. Jeff Gural was voted horse person of the year for his enormous contribution to the sport by the fans of harness racing. Gural has been the driving force behind the resurgence of harness racing in New Jersey with the opening of the impressive $88 million dollar grandstand at the new Meadowlands Racetrack, and in the process helped to ensure the stability of the sport in North America. This year's balloting produced the highest amount of votes ever cast in this category (4,559) and Gural received 1,499 of them (33%). This is the second time Gural has won this award as he was presented this same honor in 2011. The racing moment of the year went to Bee A Magician's perfect 17 for 17 2013 campaign. In what turned out to be her closest race all season, Bee A Magician beat out Foiled Again topping the $6 million mark for his career by only two votes, 818 to 816. A total of 3,113 votes were cast in that category and the top two moments combined to take 53% of all the tallies. Jeff Gural and the connections of Bee A Magician will be honored on Sunday, February 23 at the USHWA Dan Patch Awards Banquet, the climatic event of the 2013 racing season, to be held at Dover Downs in Dover, Del. Further information about the banquet, hotel reservations and purchasing dinner tickets is available at www.ushwa.org. The Railbird Recognition Awards are a fan voted honor that is co-sponsored by the United States Harness Writers Association and the United States Trotting Association. Voting in this year's Railbird's displayed a total of 7,672 ballots cast online on the USTA homepage during the month of December, which was a 24% increase over last year and the second highest voting total in the history of the award. By Tim Bojarski for USHWA  

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

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  

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