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HARRISBURG, PA - The New Vocations Racehorse Adoption Program, designed to transition racehorses from their careers on the track into a productive "adoptive" program suitable for both the equine and her/his new "family," has been selected for the United States Harness Writers Association's President's Award, as announced by the president of USHWA, harness racing's leading media organization, Tim Bojarski. Over 6000 retired Standardbred and Thoroughbred racehorses have been placed by New Vocations since its founding in 1992. Many have gone on to be pleasure horses, and some have been re-educated to participate in other equine disciplines such as horse show competition. One New Vocations "graduate" even served as a "stand-in" when the recent movie about Seabiscuit, the champion racehorse, was made! New Vocations has two farms in Ohio, Laurelville and Marysville; one in Hummelstown, Pennsylvania; and one in Lexington, Kentucky. The Executive Director of the New Vocations program is Dot Morgan, who won the 2012 Unsung Hero Award from USHWA, and its current Standardbred Program Director is Dot's daughter, Winnie Morgan Nemeth, a member of USHWA. Bojarski notes, "New Vocations is a highly-motivated group of 'horse people' who aggressively re-home and re-train retired Standardbred and Thoroughbred Racehorses. Their plan is simple: determine the horse's demeanor, find the horse's best traits, and then teach the horse a skill that suits her or him best and will ensure that the animal will be productive forever in its new home. "New Vocations is in the process of building the former Mereworth Farm in Lexington KY, consolidating the group's efforts and making the new facility the largest rehabilitation, retraining, re-homing and retirement facility in the nation. The group's Standardbred Division led by Winnie Morgan Nemeth does extraordinary work for our retired warriors of the track, and does that work with the horse's best interests uppermost in mind." New Vocations will be honored at the "Night Of Champions," the Dan Patch Awards Banquet Presented by Hoosier Park, which will take place on Sunday, February 26 at the Planet Hollywood hotel/casino in Las Vegas. Information about the banquet and the entire weekend, which will also contain the annual meetings of USHWA, can be found on the communicators' website, www.ushwa.org - including links for making hotel reservations at special rates at Planet Hollywood; banquet tickets; and congratulatory or acknowledgment ads in the keepsake Souvenir Banquet Journal, annually one of the best chronicles of a year in North American harness racing. From the United States Harness Writers' Association

HARRISBURG PA -- The United States Harness Writers Association (USHWA), harness racing's largest and leading membership organization for industry communicators, is very pleased to announce that Empire City Casino at Yonkers Raceway and the Standardbred Owners Association of New York (SOA/NY) are partnering with USHWA in sponsoring the Cocktail Party and Open Bar at its annual Dan Patch Awards Banquet Presented by Hoosier Park, which will be held on Sunday, February 26, 2017 at the Planet Hollywood casino in Las Vegas. The sponsorship features a lavish cocktail party from 6:00 pm to 7:00 pm., and then an open bar during the Dan Patch awards dinner until 10:00 pm. In addition, every guest attending the dinner will receive a special edition Yonkers-SOA/NY-USHWA commemorative wine glass. Yonkers Raceway "dates back" as a host of harness racing to 1899 and its origins as the Empire City Trotting Club; in 1950, William Cane recast the facility as a pari-mutuel harness racing track, and the Rooney family has operated the oval since 1972. For over three decades, Yonkers combined with Roosevelt as the undisputed "power center" of quality harness racing performance, uniquely hosting a leg of the Triple Crown at both gaits - the Cane Pace and the Yonkers Trot. Today the quality of racing at Yonkers is evidenced by the fact that they feature, by some margin, the most lucrative purse schedule in North American harness racing. The Standardbred Owners Association of New York, founded in 1954, tirelessly works for the horsemen racing at the New York City oval: meeting with management on purse negotiations, marketing, and backstretch and other matters (including the recent successful addition of simulcasting into the lucrative French market); providing insurance, health benefits, and scholarships to its members; and liaising with local and state politicians to ensure that the scope of harness racing's contribution to its community, in economic and other terms, is understood and appreciated. Tim Bojarski, president of the Harness Writers Association, noted that "USHWA is honored to have both Empire City Casino at Yonkers Raceway and the Standardbred Owners Association of New York partner with us for the 2017 Dan Patch banquet presentation. They are institutions in our industry, one of harness racing's leading tracks through the pari-mutuel era and a horsemen's group tireless in their advocacy for the best of their membership. The fact that the two groups can combine in this sponsorship shows the 'win-win' attitude of both groups, so necessary in this competitive entertainment market, and we of USHWA are proud they have chosen to support us as we honor the best in our sport early next year." The Dan Patch Awards Banquet Presented by Hoosier Park will be held during the same weekend when USHWA holds its annual business meetings. Further information about the Banquet and the weekend, including links for dinner tickets, Souvenir Journal advertising, and room reservations at special USHWA rates for Planet Hollywood, is available on the group's website, www.ushwa.org. From the United States Harness Writers Association

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

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

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

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

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

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

The public was heavily backing Thunderbolt Jaxon after he won the top class the last three weeks, but Shady City ($9.40) had other ideas as he fired late to a photo win in the $9,500 Open pacing harness racing feature at Batavia Downs on Saturday night (Dec. 10). Three horses bolted from the gate and argued for the front before Thunderbolt Jaxon (Ray Fisher Jr.) took control as they passed the quarter pole. Things settled down until the half when Brees Creek (Drew Monti) pulled first over bringing an outer flow that had the race in two rows; three in and three out. Heading towards three-quarters, Thunderbolt Jaxon had gapped Brees Creek and he went back to the pylons. This left China Dream (Shawn Gray) and Shady City (Larry Stalbaum) outside on the chase around the last turn. China Dream and Thunderbolt Jaxon then went stride for stride to the top of the lane and it looked like it was one of theirs for the taking. But three-lengths behind them, Stalbaum cranked up Shady City who then paced furiously down the lane. He gobbled up ground all the way to the wire and headed China Dream for the win in 1:55. Thunderbolt Jaxon hung on for third. It was Shady City's second win at Batavia Downs and fifth overall for the year and it increased his earnings to $63,582. Larry Stalbaum owns the 6-year-old son of Metropolitan who is trained by Kimberly Asher. The Stalbaum-Asher combination also took the co-featured $8,600 Open II-III pace when Itsonlyrocknroll A went wire to wire in 1:54.1 to score his third win in his last four starts and ninth win of the year. Stalbaum also owns Itsonlyrocknroll A who now has earned $49,454 in 2016. Several horse people had multiple win performances on Saturday night. Drew Monti and Larry Stalbaum both had the driving hat trick while Shawn Gray scored a double. Trainer Kim Asher sent three winners to post and JD Perrin sent two. With two nights of racing left in the 2016 meet, Drew Monti is the dash driving leader with 114 wins and trainer JD Perrin leads in his category with 44 wins. Racing resumes at Batavia Downs on Friday (Dec. 16) with post time for the first race at 6:15 p.m.   By Tim Bojarski, for Batavia Downs  

Batavia, NY---As squalls streamed off of Lake Ontario, it was like harness racing in a snow globe at Batavia Downs on Friday night (Dec. 9). But despite the inclement weather, Wanna Rock N Roll delivered like the mailman and won the featured $9,500 mares Open pace as a result. Wanna Rock N Roll (Drew Monti) took a quick early lead before releasing that spot to the charging Aritzia Hanover (Ben McNeil) at the quarter. The field remained in single-file style to the half when Susie's Delight (Ray Fisher Jr.) pulled first-over with Who Says That (Shawn Gray) on her tail. Racing up the backstretch, McNeil popped the plugs on Aritzia Hanover and accelerated the pace, causing the outer flow to stall as they passed three-quarters in 1:26.4. That uncovered the pocket-sitting Wanna Rock N Roll who was primed to strike at the top of the lane, and that's just what she did. Monti tugged the right line and began methodical urging and the mare responded in kind, pacing right by Aritzia Hanover in 1:55.4 while Monti tucked the whip. It was the second straight top distaff class victory for Wanna Rock N Roll ($5.20) and her ninth win overall in 2016 and it inflated her earnings for the year to $66,720. Rose Campbell owns the 5-year-old daughter of Rocknroll Hanover who is trained by Steve Kiblin. In the co-featured $8,500 Open trot, Kahoku ($9.00) overcame the dreaded eight-hole to gain an easy coast to coast victory in 1:58.2 with Ron Beback Jr. in the bike. Kahoku now has 13 wins this year and $82,415 in earnings for owner Colleen Girdlestone and trainer Mark Laidlaw. Drew Monti had hot hands on the cold Friday night, winning three races on the card. After that, doubles were the norm. Shawn Gray and Ray Fisher Jr. both had two driving wins while Steve Kiblin and Jeff Amann each watched two of their students get pictures taken. Racing resumes at Batavia Downs on Saturday (Dec. 10) with post time for the first race set at 6:15 p.m. By Tim Bojarski, for Batavia Downs

Batavia, NY---The 2016 live harness racing meet may be coming to a close at Batavia Downs next week, but there are still plenty of promotions left on the slate before the final race goes off. A free $500 Pick-6 contest will be held on Saturday (Dec. 10), Friday (Dec. 16) and Saturday (Dec. 17). Players must pick all six winners to win on December 10 or December 16. If that is not done, the December 17 prize increases to $1,000 and is a mandatory payout. So if no one picks all six winners, those who select the most will get paid, as the pool will be divided equally. The Pick-6 starts on race four and runs through race nine. Players can pick up their entries at Player's Club beginning at 5:00 p.m. each night. Entries can then be deposited until start of 4th race. Because of the earlier 5 p.m. post time on Saturday (Dec. 17), the sign up for the Pick-6 will commence at 3:30 p.m. There is a limit of one entry per person. Friday (Dec. 16) is also Customer Appreciation Day at Batavia Downs. After the fourth race, live racing fans can celebrate with free sandwiches from Subway of Batavia, free cake from BJ's Wholesale of Batavia and coffee courtesy of Batavia Downs. All are while supplies last. It's Batavia Downs way of saying "Thank You" to all our loyal customers. Then on Saturday (Dec. 17), there will be a free "all-age" Holiday concert by country music recording artist Ricky Lee in the Paddock Room from 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. He will perform many seasonal favorites along with some of his original hits. The clubhouse is completely sold out for Saturday (Dec. 17) so this Saturday (Dec. 10) will be the last night to dine on the Downs famous prime rib, crab leg and shrimp buffet. Finally, simulcast wagering returns to Batavia Downs 7 days a week starting on Sunday (Dec. 18) in the simulcast center. There are only four cards of racing left in the 2016 season: Friday (Dec. 9), Saturday (Dec. 10), Friday (Dec. 16) and Saturday (Dec. 17). Post time is 6:15 p.m. each night except for Saturday (Dec. 17), when post time will be 5:00 p.m.   By Tim Bojarski, for Batavia Downs

In what could only be described as the claim of the year in western New York, Thunderbolt Jaxon who was taken for $12,500 on October 1, has now won his third straight $9,500 Open harness racing feature at Batavia Downs on Saturday night (Dec.3). Thunderbolt Jaxon (Ray Fisher Jr.) left sharply and eventually took the lead after being parked out by Inthenameofjames (Drew Monti) to the quarter. When the field settled in, they stayed single file to the half when Shady City (Larry Stalbaum) pulled and started an outer flow with Knocking Around (Dave McNeight III) on his heels. Feeling the heat, Fisher let his charge out a notch up the backside and put some space between him and the attackers as they sped by three-quarters in 1:26.1. At the head of the stretch, Inthenameofjames popped out of the two-hole and took a quick shot at the leader. But that challenge was swiftly turned away as Fisher rocked and knocked in perfect timing and Thunderbolt Jaxon sped away to an easy two-length victory in 1:55.1. It was the sixth win in nine starts since being claimed, and 10th win of the year for Thunderbolt Jaxon ($10.80). He has now accrued $53,846 in annual earnings, the bulk of which has benefited his current owner Mike Torcello. The 4-year-old gelded son of Mach Three is trained by Gerry Sarama. In the co-featured $8,600 Open II pace, P H Hellcat (Shawn Gray) led from the quarter pole until about 200 feet from the wire; that's when the pocket-sitting Brees Creek (Drew Monti) paced on by him to win by a neck in 1:56. Brees Creek ($8.70) is owned by the Resilient Racing Stable and trained by Rose Russo. Several horse people had multiple win performances on Saturday night, led by Drew Monti who had a driving triple. Shawn Gray had a driving double while Sean McDonough was victorious with two horses he both drove and trained. And trainers Rose Russo and JD Perrin each sent two students to the Purple Haze Winner's Circle for pictures. Racing resumes at Batavia Downs on Wednesday night (Dec. 7) with post time at 6:15 p.m.   By Tim Bojarski, for Batavia Downs  

Batavia, NY---Wanna Rock N Roll had an impressive first part of 2016, harness racing at Yonkers Raceway and Vernon Downs. But after making four starts at Batavia in the distaff Open, the mare was turned out in August. Now in only her second start back from the layoff, Wanna Rock N Roll was victorious in the $9,500 mares Open pacing feature at Batavia Downs on Friday night (Dec. 2). Even-money favorite My Tallia Ideal (Dave McNeight III) left and became the early race commander, taking the abbreviated field of five through their paces in post-position order in :28.3 and :59.3. When the group passed the five-eighths pole, Looney Dune (Ben McNeil) and Susie's Delight (Ray Fisher Jr.) both came off the rail and went nowhere, but the move allowed Kruella (Shawn McDonough) to shoot up the pylons from last to third behind the pocket sitting Wanna Rock N Roll (Drew Monti). As the girls came off the last turn, Wanna Rock N Roll tipped out and started pacing by the tiring My Tallia Ideal while Kruella ducked to the passing lane and did the same. But Wanna Rock N Roll had the jump and cruised to an easy length victory in 1:57. This was the eighth win of the year for Wanna Rock N Roll ($14.80) and the purse increased her earnings to $61,970. Rose Campbell owns the daughter of Rocknroll Hanover that is trained by Steve Kiblin. In the co-featured $9,000 Open trot, Noble Legend (Shawn Gray) followed Kahoku (Ron Beback Jr.) for 7/8th's of a mile before pulling pocket and out-brushing the leader to the wire by a nose to win in 1:58.3. The ninth win of the year raised Noble Legends bank to $68,138 for owners Vogel & Wags Nags Stable and Jack Rice. Maria Rice trains the winner. Drew Monti scored a driving triple on the card and that pushed him to 102 wins for the meet. Shawn Gray and Larry Stalbaum both had driving doubles while Steve Kiblin also had a training double. Racing resumes at Batavia Downs on Saturday night (Dec. 3) with post time at 6:15 p.m.   By Tim Bojarski, for Batavia Downs  

Batavia, NY --- Larry Stalbaum has been a regular competitor at Yonkers Raceway and Pocono Downs for many years now. But much like Jim Morrill Jr. before him, the small-town feel of western New York has drawn Stalbaum from the major harness racing circuits and he couldn't be happier about the move to Batavia Downs. Stalbaum made his first start of the year at Batavia Downs on Saturday (Nov. 5) and has since been one of the hottest drivers at the track. In only 10 nights of racing his own stable of 16 along with catch drives, Stalbaum has had 79 starts with 20 wins, 12 seconds and 10 thirds. That amounts to a 22% win and 54% in the money percentage, a .329 UDR and $100,570 in purse earnings in very short order. Stalbaum was born in Valparaiso, Indiana and started racing ponies at age seven. He went to work with standardbreds after graduating from high school and has been doing it ever since. Through his early years he worked for many horsemen, but credits Frank O'Mara for teaching him all he knows about harness racing. "I started grooming in Louisville at Latonia and eventually made my first career driving start at Brandywine Raceway in 1986" said Stalbaum. "Since them I have raced just about everywhere, even tracks that most people have never heard of." Racing everywhere has taken Stalbaum 29 years and the numbers that he has accrued in that time are pretty impressive to see; 5,378 wins and over $37 million in purses. Stalbaum lives in Matamoris, PA, which is just across the Delaware River from Port Jervis, NY. He races off his 152-acre farm there and makes the 560 mile, 9-hour round trip to Batavia every race night. His whole operation is family based. Stalbaum's wife, Kimberly Asher, is the trainer and his four children Riley, Kiley, Hawk and Sky jog, train and groom the stock. "My four children are all involved in racing and our business. They all do the horses, they all like the horses and they all want to drive eventually" said Stalbaum. "My oldest daughter Riley just passed her test and got her qualifying license and will start driving very soon. And my other kids will follow along one by one as they get old enough. I don't have any help in my stable right now other than my wife and kids. They do it all." With having much success at bigger tracks that were closer to his home, Stalbaum still made the decision to race at Batavia Downs. "I'm getting a little older and I wanted to slow down a bit. That's part of the reason I was racing at Monticello recently; it was close to home" said Stalbaum. "But the money isn't quite as good there as it is here. What I really wanted to do is just get away from the hustle and bustle of the bigger tracks." "I'm tired of shipping three to this track and four to that track and being on the road every night. I would much rather just ship the whole stable over three days and get them all raced and spend more time at home" Stalbaum concluded. After having raced at Batavia for almost a month now, Stalbaum has become quite comfortable in his new environment. The local racing community has embraced him and he is happy to be competing there. "I like western New York. It's got a lot of farm country like where I was raised and many of the people who race there come from families that have been racing locally for generations, and I like that" said Stalbaum. "I tell people all the time about it and when you tell them about being in New York, they think New York City. Because if you're not from upstate New York, you don't know any better." After the Batavia meet ends, the plan is to move the stock to Buffalo Raceway and stable at the track. "When I go to Buffalo, Kim and the kids aren't coming and that's going to be hard for me because I've never been away from them. But because of the winter, I can't ship like I do right now but also can't move the family up here at this point. But that's what we have to do and we'll see how it goes" said Stalbaum. "If everything goes right, we are planning on moving up here permanently. We'll sell the farm in PA and buy some land in western New York and settle down here and race this circuit". With four children aspiring to make harness racing their livelihood, Stalbaum appreciates the atmosphere in western New York for both raising a family and racing for a living. "The future of this sport is young people and all my kids are interested in it now. I let them choose what they want to do with their lives and they all want to race and that makes me happy. I can't make them a doctor or a lawyer, but I can teach them how to be a solid trainer and driver. I just hope the sport is still here for them" Stalbaum said. By Tim Bojarski, for Batavia Downs

Batavia, NY---With another dark and stormy night as the backdrop, Thunderbolt Jaxon didn't despair over the wet harness racing track; he reveled in it as he won his second straight $10,500 Open pacing feature at Batavia Downs on Saturday night (Nov. 26). It was basically a two-horse race from the word go. Thunderbolt Jaxon (Ray Fisher Jr.) left and parked Sam Hill (Kevin Cummings) to the quarter in :27.3 before letting him overtake. Once settled in, Sam Hill looked strong on the front and took the group to the half in :56.3. With Thunderbolt Jaxon safely tucked in second, Knocking Around (Dave McNeight III) came first over past the half and tried to mount a challenge. He did draw alongside the leading pair at three quarters but faded from contention by the top of the lane. There, Thunderbolt Jaxon shot into the passing lane and began eroding Sam Hill's lead with each stride, eventually sneaking by him at the wire by a short neck in 1:55.4. It was the ninth win of the year for Thunderbolt Jaxon ($15.00), five of which were accomplished for owner Mike Torcello who claimed the 4-year-old gelded son of Mach Three on October 1. Gerry Sarama trains the winner. In the co-featured $9,000 Open II pace, Southwind Torque ($7.80) made a four-wide move around the last turn to nose out the front running Bakken (Ray Fisher Jr.) at the wire in 1:57.3. It was a four-horse photo finish that saw six horses within one length of each other at the wire. Southwind Torque is owned by Vogel & Wags Nags Stable and Jack Rice and is trained by Maria Rice. Shawn Gray and Larry Stalbaum both had the hat trick on Saturday while Ray Fisher Jr. settled for a pair. On the training side, Kim Asher and Maria Rice both sent two horses for pictures. The early Pick-5, which was part of the USTA's Strategic Wagering program on Saturday paid $4,365 for the 1-1-3-5-8 combination. Racing resumes at Batavia Downs on Wednesday night (Nov. 30) at 6:15 p.m.   By Tim Bojarski, for Batavia Downs  

Batavia, NY --- For the second week in a row, Perfect Rendition stalked quick early fractions before gearing up in the payoff half to win the $10,000 Open trotting harness racing feature at Batavia Downs on Friday night (Nov. 25). When the gate released the short but classy field of six trotters, Noble Legend (Shawn Gray) went for the early lead, seating Jim Dandy (Jim McNeight Jr.) and Perfect Rendition (Larry Stalbaum) in the process. The leader then proceeded to cut quarters of :28.2 and :58 and did it unchallenged as the trailing drivers were content to sit in. The situation remained unchanged until just before three-quarters when Perfect Rendition pulled and started to advance. By the time they hit that panel in 1:27.3, Perfect Rendition was matching strides with Noble Legend and a battle ensued around the final turn. When the pair straightened out at the head of the lane, Perfect Rendition got a slight advantage under Stalbaum's urging and as a result, ended up the best of the bunch as he trotted to victory in 1:57.2 over the rain-soaked track. It was the fourth win of the year for Perfect Rendition ($19.40), half of which were registered at Batavia Downs the last two weeks. The 10-year-old son of Perfectly who is trained by Kimberly Asher has now bankrolled annual earnings to $29,763 for owner-driver Larry Stalbaum. In the co-featured $9,000 filly and mares Open pace, Kruella ($8.60) scored her third win in a row, coming from second-over in the outer flow to tip three-wide at the head of the lane and brush by to a slick 1:56.4 win for driver Shawn McDonough. Kruella is trained by Jineen Simone who co-owns the mare with Bonnie Kowalcyk. Ray Fisher Jr. had a grand slam Friday night, including a natural hat-trick in races four through six. He won with Wicked Elphaba ($6.50), Southern Palms ($11.20), Rock The Dream ($9.60) and Babes Chip ($2.60). Shawn Gray and Larry Stalbaum both registered driving triples on the evening while trainer Kim Asher sent two of her students to the winner's circle. Racing resumes on Saturday night (Nov. 26) with first race post time set at 6:15 p.m. By Tim Bojarski, for Batavia Downs  

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