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Plainville, Ma---State-bred Muscles Jared was a champion at two and runner-up at three in Massachusetts Sire Stake action. But it appears that the best may be yet to come as he is now two-for-two as an aged performer, notching his second harness racing victory in a $10,000 conditioned event at Plainridge Park on Thursday afternoon (April 19). Starting from post one, Muscles Jared (Truman Gale) took a quick lead before yielding to Cincinnati Miss (Greg Merton) at the quarter in :27.2. After that one seated, Gale quickly pulled his gelding, went right back to the front and became a passenger for the rest of the mile. The sharp-stepping Muscles Jared dictated back to back quarters of :28.4 and :28.3 while extending a lead that eventually became insurmountable. When Gale popped the plugs at three-quarters, Muscles Jared responded in kind and opened up a seven-length advantage rounding the final bend. With the race all but locked-up, Gale sat chilly down the lane and Muscles Jared hit the wire a wrapped-up winner in 1:55.2 over a wet track rated "good", which was a new seasonal mark. Muscles Jared now boasts $359,346 in lifetime earnings for owner Al Ross of South Dartmouth, Massachusetts and has a perfect race record for his new trainer Robert Gale. Shawn Gray and Drew Campbell each drove two winners on the card. Racing resumes at Plainridge Park on Monday (April 23) with an 11-race card that kicks off at 4 p.m. By Tim Bojarski, for the Standardbred Owners of Massachusetts

Plainville, MA---Elliesjet N came to Plainridge Park fresh off a seasonal best 1:52.1 victory at the Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono and the public took notice of that outing. Going off the 1-5 harness racing favorite, Elliesjet N did not disappoint her backers as she captured the $15,000 Fillies and Mares Open Handicap on Tuesday afternoon (April 17).   Stylish Beachwhere (Ron Cushing) smoked off the gate and took the girls through a :26.4 opening panel. During that span, Elliesjet N (Greg Merton) languished a parked third for an eighth before finding her gear and overtaking just past that first station.   From there she proceeded to call all the shots.   Merton slowed the half to :55.3 and the three quarters to 1:24.3 and enjoyed a comfortable lead around the final bend. Coming down the lane Stylish Beachwhere, Ask Queenie (Shawn Gray) and Happy Heart (Chris Long) all made strongs bid to collar the leader but Elliesjet N was not to be caught and was a wrapped-up, two-length winner in 1:53.2.   Owned by the Foulk Stables Inc. and trained by Lance Hudson, Elliesjet N ($2.60) posted her fifth 2018 victory in only nine starts and has bankrolled $30,100 for her efforts.   Greg Merton scored a driving triple on the card to lead all reinsmen for the day.   Racing resumes on Thursday at Plainridge Park with the first race post time of 4 p.m.   By Tim Bojarski, for the Standardbred Owners of Massachusetts

Plainville, MA---Even the deluge of rain couldn't dampen the excitement of opening day at Plainridge Park on Monday afternoon (April 16) as Artful Way found his way to the winner's circle after taking the $15,000 Open pace over a very sloppy harness racing track.   Artful Way (Shawn Gray) left sharply for the lead while Lindy Beach (Greg Merton) slid in behind him second and sat there for almost the whole mile. Gray cut quarters of :28.1, :57.4 and 1:25.4 with a leisurely two-length lead all the while.   But as the race progressed into the stretch, Merton pulled Lindy Beach and started closing the gap on the leader. Although Gray was now getting after Artful Way in a spirited manner, his lead continued to diminish. But Artful Way got to the wire before Lindy Beach got to him and won in 1:52.4, last quarter in :27 flat.   It was the fourth win of the year for Artful Way ($2.20) and owner the Kellogg Racing Stables LLC. The winner is trained by Jackie Greene.   In the $12,000 undercard pace, Rooster Rabbit (Mike Eaton) turned a pocket journey behind J J S Jet (Drew Campbell) into a one and one-half length victory in 1:55.1.   Rooster Rabbit ($6.00) who is coming off a career year, captured his second win of 2018 for owners Charles Franklin and Adam Friedland and trainer Craig Mosher.   Last year's leading driver at Plainridge put himself into an early lead already this year. Greg Merton won three races on the card and headed all drivers for the day.   Jackie Greene was the best among conditioners, scoring a natural hat trick in races eight, nine and ten.   Racing resumes at Plainridge Park on Tuesday (April 17) with post time set for 4 p.m.   By Tim Bojarski, for the Standardbred Owners of Massachusetts

Plainville, MA---Coming off a season that saw a significant increase in purses and handle, 11 track records reset and the most competitive racing New England has witnessed in many years, Plainridge Park will open its 2018 live harness racing season on Monday (April 16) when the first race goes to post at 4 p.m. The 19th season at The Ridge will include 110 racing dates that run through Thursday (Nov. 29). Post time is 4 p.m. every racing day through Monday (Sept. 3) when the start moves back to 2 p.m. The post time adjusts once again on Thursday (Nov. 1) to 1 p.m. where it will remain for the rest of the meet. Race days will be Monday, Tuesday and Thursday until May 1 when the track goes to four days a week, adding Friday until the end of July. The schedule then reverts back to three days (Monday, Tuesday and Thursday) in August and remains that way until the end of the meet. The track will be dark on Friday (July 27) and Thursday (November 22). Plainridge Park also offers full card simulcasting seven days a week: Monday-Thursday, 10:30 a.m. to 11 p.m., Friday and Saturday, 11:45 a.m. to 12 a.m. and Sunday 10:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. "We are committed to producing an excellent racing product and look forward to a successful and exciting season" said Steve O'Toole, Director of Racing at Plainridge Park. In an effort to provide the best wagering options possible, O'Toole has brought back the popular Wicked Hi-5 pentafecta wager for another year and will be announcing some guaranteed wagering pools when the meet gets underway. The track is also introducing 18 new claiming and late-closer series that will be run throughout the season. The claiming series will include all price levels from both gaits and in some cases, divided by gender. Late closers include divisions for 2-year-olds, 3 and 4-year-olds and aged horses of both gaits and genders. There are no nominating or starting fees for these races and finals will see purses as high as $25,000. All those events will be overseen by Plainridge Park Race Secretary Paul Verrette. "In some ways we have gone back to the future by putting the summer long claiming series back on the condition sheet. They used to be a staple here and we are going to see if there is still interest in them." said Verrette. "We tried to compliment them with some series for younger and overnight horses as well. The hope is that there is a special event available for most horses and that it will keep the racing fresh throughout the long season." Last year's leading driver and trainer will be back to defend their titles and are scheduled to be on hand opening day. Greg Merton posted 230 driving victories in 2017 and they earned his connections $1.509 million in purses. Both of those totals were new track records. Monique Cohen was the meet's leading trainer a year ago with 71 wins and that was also a new track record for condition in victories for the session. The Massachusetts Sire Stakes (MASS) are also on the agenda when all the summer action winds down. The estimated $1.3 million in purses up for grabs by state-reared Standardbreds will take place four consecutive weeks during the month of October. This ever improving program produced eight stake records during the competition last year and those standards will be under attack once again. The dates for the 2018 MASS are Monday (Oct. 1) 2-year-old First Leg $25,000 added, Tuesday (Oct. 2) 3-year-old First Leg $25,000 added, Monday (Oct. 8) 2-year-old Second Leg $25,000 added, Tuesday (Oct. 9) 3-year-old Second Leg $25,000 added, Monday (Oct. 22) 2-year-old Third Leg $25,000 added, Tuesday (Oct. 23) 3-year-old Third Leg $25,000 added, Tuesday (Oct. 30) 2 and 3-year-old Finals, $85,000 estimated each leg. 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). By Tim Bojarski, for the Standardbred Owners of Massachusetts    

Batavia, NY---James E. Boyd, age 83, of Batavia, New York died peacefully Thursday April 5, 2018 at the Northgate Health Care Facility in North Tonawanda. Widely known as "Gentleman Jim", Boyd took over the Batavia Downs track announcing duties from the legendary Max Robinson in 1984 and continued to call races there until it closed in 1996. He was also the announcer at Buffalo Raceway and called races at Finger Lakes racetrack. Mr. Boyd called the richest race ever held at Batavia Downs, the $268,756 Breeders Crown aged-mare trot in 1988 won by Armbro Flori and also Getting Personal's 1:53.3 track record in 1993. "Jim was known for a very steady voice and very accurate calls," Todd Haight, Director/GM of Racing at Batavia Downs said. "Even though it's been over 20 years since his retirement, our old-timers still ask about him." Besides calling the races, Jim was also a salesman in the Buffalo area for many years, Boyd was born in Batavia, the son of the late Harry S. and Marjorie (Price) Boyd and was also preceded in death by his wife Josephine (Nevin) Boyd and siblings, Raymond, Robert, Ronald "Don" and Harry "Jack" Boyd. He was a graduate of Batavia High School and Alfred State College and served honorably in the US Army during the Korean conflict. Upon returning home he became a member of the Glenn S. Loomis Post #332 of the American Legion in Batavia and rose to the position of Post Commander. Boyd is survived by his beloved daughter, Deborah (William) Evans of Nevada, dear friends, Paula (Frederick) Leigh of Batavia along with many nieces and nephews. The family will be present from 10 - 11am Thursday April 12, 2018 at the Michael S. Tomaszewski Funeral & Cremation Chapel LLC located at 4120 West Main Street Road, Batavia, New York 14020 where his Funeral Services will be celebrated by Jim's nephew, Rev. David Boyd at 11 a.m. He will be laid to rest alongside his beloved wife in Grand View Cemetery with military honors. In lieu of flowers, memorials in his memory are suggested to Volunteers for Animals of Genesee County.   By Tim Bojarski for Batavia Downs  

Come this Sunday night, February 25, the United States Harness Writers Association will host its annual Dan Patch Awards Night and part of the festivities will be the largest silent auction in the history of the event. Thanks especially, to all the donors who came forth with some super items. "Members from all corners of the harness racing community have really supported our silent auction with donations this year," said Tim Bojarski, president of the USHWA. "and as a result, we have a plethora of quality items for everyone to bid on. With a large live crowd expected and with the opportunity for anyone to bid in advance from home, this auction could prove to be one of the most profitable ever. "And all the proceeds will help fund worthy initiatives within the industry, spearheaded by the Harness Horse Youth Foundation and USHWA," Bojarski concluded. There are 26 unique items in the silent auction, great vacation and racing packages, superb artwork, special collectables, gift certificates, media services and even private handicapping lessons. Something for everyone. The items in the auction are listed below with the donor(s) for each item. For complete information, item descriptions, available photos and bidding instructions, please visit www.ushwa.org or call Steven Wolf at 954-654-3757 or Ellen Taylor at 317-908-0029.  Rosen Shingle Creek Package (Rosen Shingle Creek) 2018 Preakness Package (Maryland Jockey Club) Phillies/Mets Package (Nick Saponara) Batavia Downs Package (Batavia Downs) Red Mile Package (Red Mile Sponsorship Team) Always B Miki Print (Michelle Hogan) NY Yankees tickets vs Houston Astros plus food and beverages (Bob Boni/Northwood Bloodstock) Autographed baseball from C C Sabathia (Bob Boni/Northwood Bloodstock) Autographed baseball from NY Yankees Aaron Judge (Bob Boni/Northwood Bloodstock) Stained Glass Panel (Barbara Dresser & Callie Davies-Gooch) Cigar Label Collection (Barry Lefkowitz and Harness Racing Museum) Adios Print (Tom Charters) Macau Print (Leon Zimmerman) Cam Fella Print (The Farm Ventures, Off and Pacing, Ryan Clements, Lanon Mulhall) Wine Goblets (Suzanne D'Ambrose) Bow River Necklace (Bow River Jewelry) Ohio Sires Stakes Gift Basket (Ohio Sires Stakes) Hoosier Park Gift Basket (Hoosier Park) Canadian Horse Racing Gift Basket (Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame, Retromedia Publishing & Melissa Keith) Tim Hortons Gift Basket (Melissa Keith) Hambletonian/Breeders Crown Gift Bag (Hambletonian Society/Breeders Crown) Campbell Collection (Gordon Waterstone, Moira Fanning) Meadowlands TV Night (New Meadowlands) PR Services (Mark McKelvie & Melissa Keith) Handicapping Session (Garnet Barnsdale) Off & Pacing Package (The Farm Ventures & Off and Pacing Team) Fennell's Gift Certificate (R E Fennell's Company) Red Mile Gift Shop Gift Certificate (Jeremy Wilson) Big Dee Gift Certificate (Big Dees Tack & Vet Supply) Submitted by National USHWA  

Batavia, NY---Francis R. Bond, 86, a longtime harness racing owner, driver and trainer at Batavia Downs and Buffalo Raceway, died peacefully Tuesday morning, December 26, 2017 at United Memorial Medical Center in Batavia, NY. "Franny" Bond was born in Buffalo, NY on July 27, 1931. He became a Marine after leaving school and began boxing while in the service in the Armed Forces Title Fights. He fought in the lightweight class and eventually worked into the featherweight division. The then 126-pound "fighting Marine" was described as "a game and lively scrapper who could take a hit and come back with a better one." Corporal Bond became one of the Marine's top boxers, winning a featherweight title in 1953 while often times fighting men from the professional ranks between service bouts and sometimes competing in higher weight classes. Bond continued to fight professionally in the Golden Gloves after he left the service under the name Bobby Bond and was trained by Angelo Dundee who also conditioned the likes of Muhammad Ali, George Foremen, Sugar Ray Leonard and Carmen Basilio. He competed in 15 professional fights all over the eastern seaboard including New York City at Madison Square Garden. Bond first got involved in harness racing in 1966 and eventually got his trainer and driver's licenses. He ran a small stable for the next 39 years, seeing most of his driving success in the 1970's (where he scored 135 of his 189 careers victories) and most of his training accomplishments (total of 108) between 1990 and 2000. Bond also occasionally catch-drove horses when the opportunity arose. Bond's last winning effort came on May 16, 1996 behind H F Harriet at Buffalo Raceway. Bond was an entrepreneur and made a buck anyway he could. He owned a soft drink distributorship, ran the track kitchen at Batavia Downs and sold hay, straw and feed for many years while, and after, he was competing himself. He was known by everyone on the backstretch and was an affable individual his entire life. No memorial information has been relayed. By Tim Bojarski, for Batavia Downs  

Batavia, NY---The 2017 Batavia Downs summer-fall harness racing meet that ended on Saturday (Dec. 16) left track management feeling good after setting records for total betting and purse money paid out during the year. The track's export signal drew an increased handle of 15.9% over 2016 and total betting was up 8.1% (over $600,000) with 17 less races than last year. That produced $8.2 million dollars wagered on the live harness racing product which was the most ever handled at Batavia Downs during a meet since Western Regional OTB purchased and reopened the track in 2002. The Downs also set a record handle in their Pick-5 wager when the pool reached $25,312 as a result of being part of the USTA Strategic Wagering Program on Wednesday (Nov. 22). Total purses paid out including New York Sire Stakes were $6,072,800, the first time ever the track distributed in excess of $6 million in purse money. The 2017 meet was also the first time Batavia Downs adopted a new 5 p.m. post time on Wednesdays and that seemed to contribute to the better numbers witnessed from the off-track outlets as handle was up 25% from the export signal mid-week. It was also a big reason the track eclipsed the $8 million mark in total handle. A quality product on the track drove those numbers along with a closely contested driver's race that saw three reinsmen with a shot at the title all year. When the dust had cleared, Larry Stalbaum won his first ever Batavia Downs driving title with 134 wins. Second was Ray Fisher Jr. with 124 and just one back in third was Drew Monti with 123. On the conditioner side, Kim Asher also won her first Batavia Downs training title in a romp with 94 wins, 52 ahead of JD Perrin who was second with 42. Maria Rice was third with 40 victories. Post one won 201 out of the 808 races run followed by post four with 135 and post three with 123. Favorites won 45% of the time during the course of the meet. "When the lights went down for the last time this year and we looked at the numbers, we were very happy with the results we saw" said Todd Haight, Director/General Manager of Live Racing at Batavia Downs. "We had great action on the track with competitive, bettable races and the money wagered through the windows shows our customers felt the same way." Upon approval of the New York State Gaming Commission, live racing will resume at Batavia Downs on Monday, July 23, 2018.   By Tim Bojarski, for Batavia Downs  

Plainville, Ma---The Standardbred Owners of Massachusetts (SOM) held their annual membership meeting and harness racing awards dinner on Sunday (Dec. 17) at Restaurant 45 in Medway, Massachusetts. The schedule of evening events included their annual meeting and election of Directors and that saw Nancy Longobardi and Paul Vacca re-elected to the board for another term. Shortly after, dinner ensued and the rest of the evening was focused on the presentation of trophies to the Massachusetts-bred champions of 2017 Here is a roster of the Commonwealth's best 2 and 3-year-old Standardbreds from this year:   2-year-old male trotting champion: Hashtagmadeyalook (Chapter Seven-Royalty Free) 4-2-2-0 $77,550 1:56.3 Breeder: Ray Campbell Jr. Owner: Ray Campbell Jr. Trainer: George Ducharme Driver: Chris Lems   2-year-old filly trotting champion: Bag O Chips (Sierra Kosmos-Heather Spur) 8-4-1-1 $93,100 1:57.3 Breeder: Lindwood Farm Owner: Ray Campbell Jr. Trainer: George Ducharme Driver: Chris Lems   2-year-old male pacing champion: I'm A Clown (I'm Gorgeous-Lordy Miss Scarlet) 8-4-2-0 $74,490 1:56.3 Breeder: KDK Standardbreds and Nelson Malin III Owner: Nelson Malin III Trainer: Kevin Switzer Driver: Shawn Gray   2-year-old filly pacing champion: Delco Dusty (Jereme's Jet-Gypsy's Good Girl) 14-3-4-2 $82,803 1:53 Breeder: Jesse J. Delong Owner: Jesse J. Delong Trainer: Heidi Rohr Driver: Greg Merton   3-year-old male trotting champion: Big Man Ev (Chapter Seven-Possessed By Lindy) 13-9-3-1 $142,300 1:53.3 Breeder: Lindy Racing Stable Owner: Andy Miller Stable Inc., Lindy Racing Stable, Harvey A. Eisman Trainer: Julie Miller Driver: Steve Smith   3-year-old filly trotting champion: Onangelwings (Archangel-Anotherpennyplease) 5-4-0-0 $90,160 1:58.4 Breeder: Al Ross, Paul Fontaine, George Ducharme Owner: George Ducharme Stable LLC, Al Ross, Paul Fontaine Trainer: George Ducharme Driver: Chris Lems   3-year-old male pacing champion: Lindy The Kid (Artistic Fella-Lindy's Bandita) 9-5-0-0 $94,175 1:54 Breeder: Lindy Farms of Connecticut Owner: Lindy Farms of Connecticut Trainer: Frank Antonacci Driver: Greg Merton   3-year-old filly pacing champion: Tanzanite Love (I'm Gorgeous-Love Rocks) 23-3-5-5 $79,234 1:55.3 Breeder: KDK Standardbreds Owner: Denmar Stable of Florida Trainer: Robert Marston Driver: Michael Stevenson   By Tim Bojarski, for the Standardbred Owners of Massachusetts

Batavia, NY---The western New York "wonder from down under" Chumlee A, proved once again that he is the best pacer currently on the grounds as he led a fast :57 back half under heavy duress on a cold night to win the final $10,000 Open Handicap pacing feature of the harness racing meet at Batavia Downs on closing night (Dec. 16). It took Chumlee A (Larry Stalbaum) over a quarter of a mile to get the lead as Don'tcallmefrancis (Billy Davis Jr.) played hardball on the front-end. But eventually the Aussie got there after a quick :28 second split before he put on the brakes to the half to get a short breather. Not content with the slowing pace, Focus Power (Drew Monti) pulled at the half and started one heck of a fight. Drawing alongside Chumlee A, Focus Power pushed the issue as the two matched strides in a :28.1 third panel. Also pacing together around the far turn, Chumlee A's lead was getting shorter but he continued to look strong on the point. Halfway down the lane the overland route had gotten to Focus Power but Don'tcallmefrancis, who had gotten the perfect two-hole trip the entire mile, popped into the passing lane and made a late bid. However Chumlee A had enough in the tank and hung on by a head in 1:54.2. It was the second straight Open victory and fourth straight win at Batavia Downs and in northern hemisphere for Chumlee A ($3.60) who has been racing in the U.S. for just over a month. The 6-year-old gelded son of Somebeachsomewhere is owned by Mark Jakubik and Kim Asher, who also does the training. It was a big night for trainer Kim Asher and driver Larry Stalbaum. Besides winning the feature with Chumlee A they also teamed up to win three other races during the night including the seventeenth win of 2017 for Saint William A and the twenty-first victory of the year for Quicksilvercandy A, who now moves back into a tie with Safe From Terror as the winningest Standardbred in North America. Then after the tenth race, Asher and Stalbaum were honored in the winner's circle as the top dash winning trainer and driver of the meet at Batavia Downs. The staff and management of Batavia Downs would like to wish everyone a very happy Holiday season and a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year. Racing resumes at the oldest lighted harness track in America in July of 2018.     Tim Bojarski    

Batavia, NY---It was girl's night out in a winter wonderland as snow squalls blew through Genesee County. The harness racing mare Lenny Mac beat the boys in the $10,000 Open trot and Sportsmuffler scored in the $10,000 distaff Open pacing feature at Batavia Downs on Friday night (Dec. 15). In the week's top trot, Lenny Mac came from off the pace to win handily, overcoming the field and the elements with the greatest of ease. Empire Earl N (Larry Stalbaum) went right to the front and led to the half in 1:00.2. Lenny Mac (Ron Beback Jr.) then pulled first up from fifth and motored quickly alongside Empire Earl N, and then right by him by the time they hit the backside. From there it was all Lenny Mac as she opened up four lengths at the three-quarters, six lengths at the top of the stretch and eight lengths when she hit the wire like a runaway train in 2:00.2, blowing up the tote board at 12-1. It was the ninth win of the year for Lenny Mac ($27.40) and it padded her bank account to the amount of $54,077 for owner William Emmons and trainer James Clouser Jr. In the fillies and mares Open pace, Sportsmuffler, who had recently gotten back to her winning ways after not finishing a race on Nov. 22, caught a strong front runner at the wire in a thriller. Miss Irish Rose A (Larry Stalbaum) left for a familiar front-end position and led the field in post-position order for almost a half mile before Squeeze This (Billy Davis Jr.) pulled and attacked at that station in :59.2. With Miss Irish Rose A still in command by two, the outer flow stalled and Sportsmuffler (Ray Fisher Jr.) tipped three-deep around and moved to within one length of the leader. The two maintained their positions around the far turn but when they hit the top of the lane, Sportsmuffler dug in and drove on to capture a half-length victory in 1:57.4 in a three-horse photo. It was the eleventh win in 42 starts this year for Sportsmuffler ($7.80) who now has $59,149 on her card for 2017. LAV Racing Stable Inc. owns the 5-year-old Sportsmaster mare that is trained by Mike Carrubba. Larry Stalbaum widened his dash win lead again scoring three victories on the night. That pushed him to 130 wins for the meet, now six ahead of Ray Fisher Jr. and 11 ahead of Drew Monti. Barring a monumental turn of events it would appear Stalbaum has his first Batavia Downs driving title just about wrapped up. Batavia Downs offers guaranteed pools, mandatory payouts Saturday Closing night of the 2017 racing season at Batavia Downs features a guaranteed $2,500 early Pick-5 pool and a $1,000 Pick-6 contest, both with mandatory payouts on Saturday (Dec. 16). The $2,500 guaranteed early Pick-5 pool begins in race one and runs through race five. The Pick-5 is a 50-cent base wager and as it’s the final one of the meet, there will be a mandatory payout. This means if no one picks all five winners, the person(s) selecting the most winners will be paid. (There is no late Pick-5 on Saturday)   Saturday's guaranteed pool is part of the USTA’s Strategic Wagering Program and as such, free program pages courtesy of Trackmaster are available on the USTA’s website. This link will take you directly to those program pages. https://www.trackmaster.com/freeContent/usta/freeContentFiles/hpl/btv1216x.pdf Then starting in race four, the free-to-enter $1,000 Pick-6 contest is offered and it too will have a mandatory payout. In order to win, contestants must pick the winners of races four through nine. Those wishing to play must pick up their entry blank at Player’s Club beginning at 4:30 p.m. and then deposit their completed selections no later than the start of the fourth race. There is only one entry per person. If no one correctly picks all six winners, the person(s) selecting the most winners will be paid. Post time for the first race on closing night is 6:00 pm. By Tim Bojarski, for Batavia Downs  

Batavia, NY---Longtime western New York horseman Jim McNeight reached a career milestone as he won his 1,000 race as a harness racing trainer. McNeight was at 999 before his pacer Open Water finished second on Wednesday (Dec. 6) and was placed first through a disqualification. But McNeight made it official on Friday (Dec. 15) when his trotter Millbrook Hanover driven by his son Jim McNeight Jr., won easily in the snow to notch his 1,000th career victory. McNeight got started in the business while in his teens and learned under the guidance of his father Ed McNeight Sr. He got his driver's license in 1981 and became a go-to catch driver in western New York within a few years. Focusing mainly on driving for the first part of his career, McNeight added training to his daily duties when he father retired in 1992 and since that time has been a mainstay at Batavia Downs and Buffalo Raceway ever since. In June of 2016, McNeight was involved in a bad accident at Buffalo Raceway and came away with a severe back injury that sidelined him for months. After time off and extensive rehab, he has been able to resume jogging and training but his doctors will not clear him to race due to the possibility of further damage in the event of another racing incident. So now McNeight focuses fully on the training end of his current stable of 10 and is a full time coach for his son who does all the driving now and is a rising star on the same circuit his father excelled on for so many years. Jim McNeight's 1,000th training win was the result of 6,450 starts that also saw him finish second 932 times and third another 919. All told his earnings have amounted to just under $3.5 million. "It's very special to reach a milestone like this but you can't do it without good, faithful owners and I have been blessed to have three of them" said McNeight. "Mike Ventura, Mike Calimeri and Dave Sanlorenzo have backed me for over 20 years and made those 1,000 wins possible." Mike Ventura owns Millbrook Hanover. For his driving career McNeight has 3,587 wins and over $13 million earned in purses.   By Tim Bojarski, for Batavia Downs  

Batavia, NY---The Upstate New York Chapter of the United States Harness Writers Association (USHWA) will present harness racing performance awards to the top dash winning trainer and driver of the meet during the 10th annual "Night of Distinction" ceremony in the winner's circle at Batavia Downs on Saturday (Dec. 16) and whereas the top conditioner has been well identified, the driver's race will likely go down to the final races of the weekend. Kim Asher is currently the top percentage trainer in North America with a UTR of .427 and $1.1 million in earnings. She is also ranked eighth in North America for wins, currently with 208. So it's no surprise that Asher is also the trainer of the meet at Batavia Downs for 2017. Asher has started 351 horses during the session winning 88 races, finishing second 55 times and third another 55 times and saw her horses hit the board 56% of the time. Those efforts gave her a stellar UTR of .390 and $479,491 in purses. Her win total more than doubled her closest competitor. Competing for only the second year at Batavia, Asher's training career spans 19 years and during that time she has won multiple training titles including most recently, the 2017 Buffalo Raceway meet. This year Asher has sent out 208 winners and that mark was a personal best. Her stable boast horses with gaudy win totals like Quicksilvercandy A (20), Saint William A (16), Itsonlyrocknroll A (13) and Kaitlyn Rae (11). During her career Asher has 1,934 wins, 1,456 seconds and 1,222 thirds out of 9,196 starts for a lifetime UTR of .342 and earnings of over $15 million. The driving accolades for this meet are still up in the air. Larry Stalbaum is the current dash win leader with 127 wins while Ray Fisher Jr. is second with 122 and Drew Monti is third with 117. With only two cards of racing left and probably 20 starts apiece remaining for all three drivers, Stalbaum looks fairly solid with a five-race lead. If Stalbaum does win the title it would be his first at Batavia Downs. However the long-tenured horseman is no stranger to being the best set of hands on any circuit. Over his 32-year career he has won dash honors at Northville Downs, Hazel Park, Sports Creek Park, Jackson Harness Raceway, Monticello Raceway, Raceway Park, Cal Expo and most recently, Buffalo Raceway earlier this year. During his career, Stalbaum has driven 5,732 winners and earned just under $39 million in purses. Ray Fisher Jr. has won two driving titles at Buffalo Raceway and four at Northfield Park. But since arriving at the Genesee County oval in 2007 has never taken the top spot there although he did finish second and third three times each. So winning it this year would definitely be a notch in his belt. Since his career began in 1987, Fisher has won 4,200 races lifetime and just shy of $18 million in purses. Drew Monti is the defending dash driving winner at Batavia Downs, taking his first-ever driving title last year with 116 wins. He had a substantial lead this year earlier in the meet, but the competition stiffened and now he has a lot of work to do in order to repeat. Although the 23-year-old Monti has only been driving for five years, he is already closing in on his 1,000th win (currently with 979) and has made $5.5 million in purses during that time. The competition for the driving title will resume on Friday night (Dec. 15) and will be decided on Saturday (Dec. 16). Post time for both nights is 6 p.m.   By Tim Bojarski, for UNY USHWA  

Batavia, NY---The Upstate New York Chapter of the United States Harness Writers Association (USHWA) have announced their harness racing "horses of the meet" for 2017 at Batavia Downs. Pacer of the Meet: Focus Power While racing in the top Open class for 13 starts at Batavia, western New York newcomer Focus Power won three times and finished second another five while amassing $36,010 in purses. He was on fire in September when he won three out of four starts while setting two new lifetime marks during that period (September 2, 1:53 and September 23, 1:52.4). After being claimed at Yonkers just prior to the start of the Batavia meet, Focus Power made an immediate impact to the good fortunes of owner James Caradori and trainer Darrin Monti. Driver Drew Monti was aboard for every start. Overall Focus Power has nine wins in 2017 and earnings that total $97,395. Trotter of the Meet: BZ Glide BZ Glide was a fixture in the weekly Open trot once again this year and showed although he's getting older, he hasn't lost a step. In 15 starts against the local best, BZ Glide won three with six seconds and a third banking $34,405 in the process. He also set a seasonal mark of 1:56.3. As has been the case every year, the family affair of Alana Caprio training and Mike Caprio driving, the two also team up in ownership of the big trotting gelding. For the year, BZ Glide has a total of five wins and earnings of $52,405. Mare of the Meet: Voltina Competing the entire meet in the fillies and mares Open I or II, Voltina was as tough as they came winning three Open I's and one Open II along with six second place finishes and took home purses totaling $34,060. She took her seasonal mark of 1:55 at Batavia as well. Owned by CHS Racing LLC, the Tony Cummings-trained Voltina had a career year winning a total of eight races and earning $69,456 in purses. Kevin Cummings was aboard for the majority of her starts. Claimer of the Meet: Quicksilvercandy A Listed as the winning-est pacer in North America for a good portion of the year, Quicksilvercandy A had a field day racing at Batavia Downs. Moving up and down the class ladder, the mare ended up winning seven claiming races including the $20,000 Claiming Championship final for her division in November. Her four seconds and two thirds also helped bump up her bankroll to $40,165 for the meet. Owned and driven by Larry Stalbaum, Quicksilvercandy A recorded a career year of 20 wins and $108,994 in earnings under the training of Kim Asher. Most Improved Horse of the Meet: In Runaway Bay N In Runaway Bay N came to Batavia Downs off a less than stellar early part of the year. He made his first start at Batavia in August, winning in the bottom class; non-winners of $1,000 in 1:55.1. He strung together four wins while working his way up to the Open where he finished second two weeks in a row. The following week he faced Foiled Again and finished a respectable fourth to the richest Standardbred of all time. Since then he has won three Open paces. For the meet, he took a seasonal mark of 1:53.1 and earned $39,050. In Runaway Bay N is owned by Super Mile LLC and is trained by Angelo Nappo. Kevin Cummings was in the bike for the bulk of the work. The connections of these horses will be presented their trophies in the winner's circle at Batavia Downs on Saturday (Dec. 16) during the 10th annual "Night of Distinction" awards ceremony. Post time for the first race is 6 p.m.   By Tim Bojarski, for UNY USHWA  

Batavia, NY---Anyone who has ever dealt with a quarter crack can appreciate what it takes to get their harness racing horse sound and racing again. Rusty Freeman is responsible for changing the way this debilitating condition is handled, reducing down time from weeks to days and turning the process into a state of the art form over the years. As a result of his tireless work to help the breed, the Upstate New York Chapter of the United States Harness Writers Association (USHWA) will present Freeman with the Innovator's Award for contributions to the sport of harness racing in the winner's circle at Batavia Downs on Saturday (Dec. 16) during the 10th annual "Night of Distinction" awards ceremony. Freeman was working as a factory machinist in western New York in the late 1970's when he was first introduced to harness racing. While visiting a friend who had trotters, he was shown why a particular horse was lame with a hoof crack and the whole thing quickly intrigued him. He developed a way to use a Dremel tool and cut out just the part of the hoof he felt was needed, and then put a tube under the patch. That way air could still get to the sore area to aid healing and it could also be flushed with antiseptic to keep it clean. He then researched and developed an acrylic compound he uses instead of fiberglass and combines that with Kevlar cloth to do the patches. The combination of the tube under the new patch material gives the area every opportunity to heal and grow out properly in a short amount of time. Freeman has been plying his trade at harness tracks in New Jersey, New York, Ohio and Pennsylvania for almost 40 years now and many times works hand in hand with vets. As a result, hundreds of horses have been made sound quicker, allowing them to get back in the box much sooner. Also a farrier, Freeman is an accredited member of the American Association of Professional Farriers (AAPF) and helps other professionals in the field understand and benefit from his technics. Post time for the first race on Saturday is 6 p.m. By Tim Bojarski, for UNY USHWA  

Batavia, NY---Jim Compton has been a respected western New York harness racing horseman for over 35 years. He trained, drove and bred many horses that are still remembered at his home tracks for their competitive nature and success. For his years of dedication to the sport, the Upstate New York Chapter of the United States Harness Writers Association (USHWA) will present him with the Lifetime Achievement Award in the winner’s circle at Batavia Downs on Saturday (Dec. 16) during the 10th annual “Night of Distinction” awards ceremony. Compton’s full time job was working for General Motors in Rochester, but his passion was for harness racing. So in 1978 he started moonlighting at the farm of local driving legend Fred Haslip to learn the ins and outs of the business. After a few years he got his trainers license and in 1983 he drove his first race. Compton and his wife Sandra always ran a small but successful stable, racing horses like Sly Hi, No Parking Zone, Splurging Rita, Gasper Again and Held For Ransom, who won multiple Opens at Batavia Down, Vernon Downs and Buffalo Raceway en route to amassing 51 lifetime wins. When Held For Ransom’s career was over, Compton bred him to one of his race mares named Suspicious Burns and the result of that breeding was a horse named Michael Scores. Michael Scores was a New York Sires Stake star and rock-solid overnight campaigner for 11 years. He won 86 races and earned $668,079 lifetime without ever seeing the Grand Circuit. He set track records at Tioga Downs (1:50.4) and at Batavia Downs (1:52.1) when he won the 2006 Kane Memorial Pace. And he will always be remembered for his “intentionally parked out” style of racing. Compton’s numbers were not gaudy, however they were efficient. On the training side he had 578 wins out of 2,892 starts with $1.9 million in purses and a UTR of .337. As a driver he won 522 races out of 2,725 starts and made $1.13 million in purses and a UDR of .330. And all the horses he either trained or drove were 50% in the money over his entire career. Post time for Saturday night’s card is 6 p.m.   Tim Bojarski

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