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Plainville, MA--- Miami Valley Raceway shipper Hickory Icon was placed in the capable hands of harness racing driver Eddie Davis Jr. for the $15,000 Open handicap pace at Plainridge Park on Monday afternoon (April 24) and the two left little doubt who was the best this day. Davis left hard from post seven with Hickory Icon and took the lead just past the eighth pole. From there they he led unchallenged to the quarter in :26.2 and the half in :55.1. At that point, My Mind Is Madeup (Bruce Aldrich Jr.) pulled first over from fourth and tried to force the issue. The challenger got his nose near Davis's helmet just before the three-quarter pole, but his advance stopped at that point. Davis raised the lines and let Hickory Icon know it was time to shift gears and the gelding responded in kind. Hickory Icon opened up two, then three, and down the lane he simply paced away with Davis sitting chilly to win in 1:50.4. The winning time equaled the 7-year-old son of Real Desire's lifetime mark. It was the fifth win in 14 starts for Hickory Icon ($7.80) and pushed his earnings for the year to $43,410 for owner Jessica Smith. Randal Smith trains the winner. The value bettors went home smiling as it was mega-payout Monday at Plainridge Park. With only three favorites winning on the 11-race card, the tote board was blown-up several times during the day. In the fourth, Ideal Race (Kevin Switzer Jr.) paid $38.20 while Mercenary (Ron Cushing) paid $98.40 in the sixth, triggering a $38,221.20 2-9-7 trifecta payout. Trelane (Ron Cushing) returned $19.20 in the eighth, Mcardle Royale N (Chris Long) returned $21.40 in the ninth and Someplace Special (Michael Stevenson) lit it up large once again in the tenth paying $69.00. Seven horsemen registered two winners on Monday's card. Ron Cushing, Michael Stevenson, Bruce Aldrich Jr. and Greg Merton all scored driving doubles. Trainers Joe Nelson, Robert Nelson and Kyle Spagnola each sent a couple stable members for pictures. Racing resumes at Plainridge Park on Tuesday afternoon (April 25) with the first post set for 4 p.m. There is a $5,342.95 carryover for the Wicked Hi-5 wager in the sixth race. By Tim Bojarski for the Standardbred Owners of Massachusetts

Plainville, MA --- Fresh off a victory in her seasonal debut last week, Black Broadway came off cover to capture the $14,000 Open trotting feature at Plainridge Park on Thursday afternoon (April 20) and made harness racing history in the process. When the gate released the seven classy trotters, Waiting On A Woman (Greg Merton) shot right to the front and authored a brisk :26.4 opening panel. With all participants seated only briefly, the outer flow was on the move with Tag Up And Go (Bruce Aldrich Jr.) coming first, bringing Black Broadway (Ron Cushing) along for the ride to the half in :56.4. Positions remained status quo until the trotters moved through the last turn. Tag Up And Go cleared Waiting On A Woman and Black Broadway swung three-high around him before the two separated themselves from the field. Down the lane it was Tag Up And Go on the inside holding onto a diminishing lead as Black Broadway was outside gobbling up ground. Under steady urging from Ron Cushing and seemingly aware of where the line was, Black Broadway got up just in time in the shadow of the wire to win by a nose in 1:54.4. The time of 1:54.4 was a new track record for both 4-year-old and aged trotting mares. It was the second win in as many starts for Black Broadway ($5.60) this year and it raised her 2017 bank to $12,000. Black Broadway is owned by Robert McHugh and Mike Eaton. Eaton also trains the mare. Six horsemen and one horsewoman registered multiple wins during Thursday's card. Kevin Switzer Jr., Jim Hardy, Bruce Aldrich Jr., Jimmy Whittemore and Greg Merton all scored driving doubles. On the training side, Jim Hardy also captured two victories along with Dennis Whittemore and Charlene Cushing. After the first two weeks of racing at Plainridge Park, Bruce Aldrich Jr. leads all drivers with 14 wins, sitting ahead of Greg Merton with 11 and Ron Cushing and Jim Hardy with six apiece. Monique Cohen leads all conditioners with five wins followed by Heidi Gibbs, Dan Gill and Jim Hardy with four each. Live racing resumes at Plainridge Park on Monday (April 24) with post time at 4 p.m.   By Tim Bojarski for the Standardbred Owners of Massachusetts

Plainville, MA---After experiencing broken equipment in his first start of the year last week in a Free-For-All harness racing event at Scarborough Downs, A Sweet Ride bounced back with a gutsy gate-to-wire effort in the $10,000 conditioned pacing feature at Plainridge Park on Monday afternoon (April 17). A Sweet Ride (Jimmy Whittemore Jr.) left hard to take the front and got there with no problem. While Whittemore laid-out flat in the bike grabbing leather, the leader tripped the timers in :27.2 and :55.2, dictating from a loose two-length advantage. Sinners Prayer (D.T. Sumner) who had been getting the trip in second to this point, pulled pocket up the backside to challenge the leader. But when he did, Shinobu Hanover (Greg Merton) snuck up the rail and into the void and was now on A Sweet Ride's back. Coming off the turn, A Sweet Ride held Sinners Prayer at bay on the outside and had Shinobu Hanover locked in tight behind him and it remained like that all the way down the stretch. With only a few hundred feet to the wire, Shinobu Hanover found daylight at the pylons and flew alongside the leader. But A Sweet Ride had enough left in the tank to tough out the victory in 1:52.4. It was the first win of the year for A Sweet Ride ($10.20), the 45th of his career and it pushed his lifetime earnings to $469,032. The 8-year-old gelded son of Dontgetinmyway is owned by Philip Scott McKenzie and is trained by Jamie Gerard. There were major payouts coming and going on the card today at The Ridge. In the first race, Feel My Pain (Jim Hardy) was overlooked by the betting public but won by six-lengths in 1:55.1 and paid $23.20. The win also triggered a healthy 4-7-3 trifecta payout of $2,198.00. And in the last race, Wheelaway (Steve Nason) came flying late on the outside to win by a nose in 1:54 at 40-1 and paid $82.80. The 2-4-5 trifecta combination sent the fans who had it home happy with a $1,169.80 payout. Steve Nason, Jimmy Whittemore and Ron Cushing all had driving doubles on the afternoon and trainer Jamie Gerard scored two victories for his stable as well. Live racing resumes at Plainridge Park on Tuesday (April 18) with post time at 4 p.m. By Tim Bojarski for the Standardbred Owners of Massachusetts

Plainville, MA---A pair of $10,000 condition trots headlined Thursday's (April 13) card of harness racing at Plainridge Park and solid efforts were turned in by both Waiting On A Woman and Black Broadway in those events. After facing many 10-horse fields in mid-level condition races at the Meadowlands all winter, Waiting On a Woman found an abbreviated field in a similar class much to his liking and proved it by winning his division convincingly. Waiting On A Woman (Greg Merton) scooted out to a quick early lead that he promptly conceded to Just Make Believe (Eddie Davis Jr.). But as soon as that one seated, Merton waited for no one to sling-shot back to the front. From that point on the race was never in question. Merton grabbed leather while cruising up the backside and that breather teased Old Oak (Steve Nason) to rush up on the outside. That challenge was short lived past three-quarters when Merton gave Waiting On A Woman his head and he simply trotted away. The pair opened up three lengths and won easily in 1:56. The time was a new seasonal mark for the winner. It was the second win in 10 starts this year for Waiting On A Woman ($3.80) and 59th career victory overall. The 9-year-old gelded son of Northern Bailey is owned by Michael Polansky and is trained by Kyle Spagnola. In the other $10,000 split, it didn't take Black Broadway long to show her back-class as she went coast to coast in easy fashion to win her debut outing of 2017. In what looked to be a training mile, driver Bruce Aldrich Jr. eased Black Broadway off the gate and allowed inside trotters to settle before motoring up to take the lead. From there with the whip on his shoulder and a snug hold of the lines, Aldrich cut even middle fractions of :29.2 and :29.3 to hold the field at bay to the top of the lane. Then without urging, Black Broadway motored easily to the wire under wraps to win in 1:57 flat. A Hambletonian Oaks starter in 2016, Black Broadway ($3.20) is now one for one this year after posting her sixth lifetime win for owners Robert McHugh and Mike Eaton. Eaton also trains the winner. The young meet's leading driver Bruce Aldrich Jr. scored another hat-trick on Thursday while trainers Mike Eaton and Heidi Gibbs both harnessed two winners. Live racing resumes at Plainridge Park on Monday (April 17) with the first post for the 11-race card is set for 4 p.m. By Tim Bojarski for the Standardbred Owners of Massachusetts

Plainville, NY---Two $8,500 conditioned paces highlighted the harness racing card at Plainridge Park on Tuesday afternoon (April 11) and the public heavily supported both winners. Luke's Cowboy, who most recently competed in the Sagamore Hill series at Yonkers Raceway, brought a heightened sense of awareness to Plainridge and threw the best race of his life. Tucking fourth off the gate, Luke's Cowboy (Bruce Aldrich Jr.) watched as Rockin Delight (Eddie Davis Jr.) and Suellen (Greg Merton) took turns with the lead while cutting the half in :55.4. At that station, Aldrich pulled his charge and started motoring up the outside as the group moved towards three-quarters. In a slow and methodic march, Luke's Cowboy eventually drew even with the front-running Suellen around the last turn and then with two-taps from his driver, drew clear for the lead. At that point the gelding swelled up and pulled away from the field with Aldrich now a mere passenger, winning the race in 1:53.4. The time was a new lifetime mark. It was the second win in nine starts this year for Luke's Cowboy ($3.20) and it raised his annual earnings to $19,900. The 4-year-old gelded son of Brandon's Cowboy is owned by Lester Gelardi Jr. of Mahopac, NY and Anthony Passafaro of Mamaroneck, NY. Luke's Cowboy is trained by Monique Cohen. In the co-featured fourth race, Biggie shipped in from the Meadowlands off a solid third place finish and simply destroyed the field to claim his first win of the year. Starting from post seven, Biggie (Greg Merton) left for position and dropped in fourth while Gingertreefinnegan (Jim Hardy) and Checkisinthemail (Eddie Davis Jr.) argued for the front. Merton got Biggie underway just before the half and found himself on top and in control by two lengths before they hit three-quarters. As the rest of the field struggled to keep up, Merton raised the lines just a bit and Biggie switched into glide; opening up an 11 length lead before he hit the wire. Merton had him wrapped up in hand and won in 1:55.1, off a back half in :56.4. Biggie ($2.60) is owned by Michael Huff of Carmel, ME and is trained by Scott Rollins. Four drivers won all eight races on Tuesday. Jim Hardy, Steve Nason, Greg Merton and Bruce Aldrich Jr. all had driving doubles. On the conditioning side, Monique Cohen and Scott Rollins both saw two stable members be victorious. Racing resumes at Plainridge Park on Thursday afternoon (April 13) with post time set for 4 p.m.     Tim Bojarski

Plainville, MA---There are two things that Jackson's Image does well; leave and win. And the seven-time 2016 harness racing victor held to form, doing both while capturing the $10,000 feature for conditioned pacers on opening day at Plainridge Park on Monday afternoon (April 10). A packed apron of racing fans watched as Jim Hardy flew off the gate with Jackson's Image and outdueled Destination Moon N (Eddie Davis Jr.) for the lead, clearing by the quarter in :27 flat. Hardy then grabbed leather to the half and eventually forced an outer flow led by Rooster Rabbit (Bruce Aldrich Jr.), who towed 3-5 post time favorite Quick Shot (Greg Merton) behind him. As the six-pack passed three-quarters in 1:26.4, they were three in and three out with the persistent Rooster Rabbit applying direct pressure to the leader. With Aldrich rocking and knocking down the lane, Rooster Rabbit continued to make up ground, but Jackson's Image was game under Hardy's urging and denied the late charge to win by a neck in 1:55.3. It was the first start and win of the year for Jackson's Image ($8.80) and his 21st victory in 60 lifetime starts. The 5-year-old gelded son of Rockin Image is owned by Michael Feinberg of Lynn, MA and is trained by Jim Hardy. In the $8,500 co-featured pace, Cherokee Hiflyzane ($16.80) upset Yonkers invader Tyler (Greg Merton) by launching a furious stretch drive and making up three lengths to win in 1:53.4. The winner is owned by Roger Farrar II and Barrie Farrar, both of Wrentham, MA. Barrie Farrar is the trainer. Bruce Aldrich Jr. scored the driving hat-trick on Monday while Ron Cushing and Greg Merton each doubled up. Trainer Danny Gill also sent two of his students to the winner's enclosure for pictures. Racing resumes at Plainridge Park on Tuesday (April 11) with post time for the first race set at 4 p.m.   By Tim Bojarski for the Standardbred Owners of Massachusetts  

Plainville, MA---The 18th season of live harness racing at Plainridge Park kicks off on Monday (April 10) with a 10-race card that offers a total of $57,400 in purses. Post time for the first race is scheduled for 4 p.m. New England's best horses and horsemen are ready to hit the track for another season of fast times at "The Ridge" with many enhancements made to the program. The new meet will welcome back some familiar faces on the track. 2016 leading dash driver Greg Merton will defend his crown against the likes of Jim Hardy, Eddie Davis Jr, Chris Long, Steve Nason and Jimmy Whittemore. Saratoga Raceway regular Bruce Adlrich Jr. will also join the fray opening week. Last year, Merton set a track record for wins with 231 and became the first driver ever at Plainridge to exceed $1 million in purses won, banking over $1.3 million for the meet. The top three trainers from 2016 were only three wins apart at the end of the meet and they will all be back to battle again this year. Heidi Rohr (who took top honors) will look to fend off Jim Hardy and Frank Antonacci, who finished right on her heels. And after 16 qualifying races last week, many of the other local trainers have their stock ready to roll as well. Among the highlights of the 2017 meet are expanded race dates, the largest single purse ever offered for a Standardbred race in the state and an enriched Massachusetts Sire Stake program that will showcase the best state-bred juveniles in the fall. This year, Plainridge Park will host 125 days of racing that will run through Friday (Nov. 24). There will be racing three days a week in April on a Monday, Tuesday, Thursday rotation. Then in May, Plainridge adds Friday and goes to four-days a week for the remainder of the season. Post time for the first race each day is 4 p.m. through Friday (Sept. 1). Then for the month of September and October, it rolls back to 2:30 p.m. And in November, it moves back once again to 1 p.m. There will be no racing on Monday (July 3), Tuesday (July 4), Monday (Sept. 4) and Thursday (Nov. 23). Plainridge Park will feature a new bet this year called the "Wicked Hi 5" which will be offered in the sixth race each day. It's a pentafecta wager where you need to correctly select the horses that finish first through fifth in the race. The Wicked Hi-5 is a 20-cent wager and features a carryover pool if it's not won. Plainridge Park has also initiated a new signature stake that will host the best Open class trotters in North America. The $250,000 "Spirit of Massachusetts Trot" will be contested on Friday (July 28) and become the biggest Standardbred purse ever offered in the state. The race was a result of the expanded gaming at Plainridge Park Casino which has solidified the racing program, and management's commitment to providing a fun and exciting "on-track" atmosphere for their fans. This race will also let the National racing scene know that Massachusetts harness racing is back on the map. The Spirit of Massachusetts should feature many of the same trotters that will compete a week later in the Cashman Memorial held at the Meadowlands during the Hambletonian Day card on Saturday (Aug. 5). The 2017 season will also present the largest amount of purse money ever offered for state-bred Standardbreds. This year, the Massachusetts Sire Stakes program is worth an estimated $1.3 million and will highlight the best 2 and 3-year-old trotters and pacers in the state. The program boasts a growing number of eligibles due to an influx of breeding interest in one of the fastest growing stake programs of its kind. Much like the overnight racing at Plainridge, the Sire Stake program's growth is a direct result of the slot revenue generated at the casino. There are five dates to note with regards to this year's Mass Sire Stakes competition. Preliminary races will be held on Monday (Sept. 25), Monday (Oct. 2), Monday (Oct. 23) and Monday (Oct. 30). And the finals for both gaits and genders will go on Monday (Nov. 6). For more information on all the live racing action at Plainridge Park throughout the year, log onto the Standardbred Owners of Massachusetts (www.sominc.net) or Plainridge Park Casino (www.plainridgeparkcasino.com).   Tim Bojarski

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  

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