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Carmelo J. Sabatino, a retired senior executive with Delaware North Co. and former general manager of Batavia Downs, died Sunday (Jan. 10) in Buffalo Veterans Affairs Medical Center. He was 95. Born in Buffalo, he was a graduate of Kenmore High School and the University of Buffalo, where he earned a bachelor's degree in business administration. Mr. Sabatino served in the Army during World War II and was stationed in the South Pacific. Upon returning home, he married the former Josephine Marino in 1946. That same year, he joined the Delaware North Co., which he helped to build under the direction of L.M. Jacobs. Following his retirement from the company in 1976, Mr. Sabatino joined the management staff at Batavia Downs, where he continued to work until 1999. Sabatino held a number of positions during his tenure at Batavia Downs including general manager in the early 1980's, and then a variety of executive capacities after that. Near the end of his career there, he was in charge of mostly special projects. He traveled extensively during his term with both Delaware North and Batavia Downs and met several celebrities. Even after his last retirement, Mr. Sabatino continued to help manage a private family business. Todd Haight, GM/Director of Live Racing at Batavia Downs said "Mr. Sabatino was always a well-dressed and reserved man, yet certainly was capable of getting the job done. He was at Batavia Downs for two of the tracks biggest races, 1980 Niatross and 1988 Breeders Crown Armbro Flori and helped to insure those marquee nights went off without a hitch. He was all business, all the time and garnered the respect of everyone who worked with and for him". Sabatino is survived by a daughter, Carolyn Sabatino Liarakos; two sons, Thomas C. and David G. and three grandchildren. Mr. Sabatino was predeceased by his wife, who died in February 2007. By Tim Bojarski, Batavia Downs Media Relations  

Throughout the month of December, 19 nominees in two categories vied against each other for the Railbird Recognition Awards, the harness racing fan-voted accolade sponsored by the United States Harness Writers Association and the United States Trotting Association. Ten individuals squared off for "Horseperson of the Year" and 9 events battled for "Racing Moment of the Year and when the pools closed on New Year's Eve, the fans of harness racing chose Joe Bellino and Wiggle It Jiggleit's Little Brown Jug win as the categorical winners. Joe Bellino has been very successful in harness racing, but he remembers where he came from and respects everyone who works in the industry. Having campaigned such notable horses as Psiluvyuheartbreaker, Rock N Roll Heaven and Pet Rock, he knows what it's like to win the big race. But he also remembers that there are many people involved at all levels of this sport and goes out of his way to help them when he can. Bellino's benevolence is one of the worst kept secrets in the business. Although he reaches out to those in need and tries to help at every turn, he never looks for any thanks or praise for his actions. But the many people that he has helped both in and out of harness racing will be the first ones to let you know what an unselfish individual he is. Clearly people in the grandstand and on the backstretch know of his good deeds and that is why he garnered 77% of the total vote for Horseperson of the Year. This is the largest margin of victory for either category in the 8-year history of the Railbird Recognition voting. Anyone who saw the final heat of the 2015 Little Brown Jug will more than likely tell you that it was "THE" greatest horse race they ever witnessed. After taking a bad step in the first turn, Wiggle It Jiggleit was parked-out for almost three quarters of the mile before getting passed at the head of the lane by Lost For Words. But Wiggle It Jiggleit swelled up and fought back down the stretch to win one of the most epic battles two pacers ever undertook in the history of the sport. The race was an indelible memory that everyone who attended live in Delaware, Ohio and watched remotely around the world has and those fans relived it while voting to make Wiggle It Jiggleit's Little Brown Jug win the Racing Moment of the Year for 2015. Joe Bellino and Team Teague will be presented their Railbird Recognition trophies during the Dan Patch Awards Banquet, held this year at the Hyatt Pier 66 in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida on Sunday (Mar. 6), 2016. Information on tickets and accommodations for that event can be found at www.ushwa.org . Below are the top three voting results for each Railbird Recognition category: Horseperson of the Year Joe Bellino for his behind the scenes benevolence 77% Breanna Carsey for donating winnings from MJB Got Faith 6.5% Montrell Teague for his handling of Wiggle It Jiggleit in 2015 5.9% Racing Moment of the Year Wiggle It Jiggleit defeats Lost For Words in second Jug heat 55% Freaky Feet Pete wins Breeders Crown 15% International Trot returns to Yonkers after 20 years 5.7% By Tim Bojarski for USHWA "I've often said there's nothing better for the inside of a man than the outside of a horse." -Winston Churchill

There is still time to send in nominations for the 2015 Caretaker of the Year Award. The award, sponsored by Hard Rock Rocksino Northfield Park in conjunction with the United States Harness Writers Association (USHWA), recognizes the unsung heroes of the sport -- the harness racing caretakers who maintain the health and welfare of the horses on a daily basis. Initially titled Groom of the Year Award when first presented in 1982, the honor was instituted as a result of a speech given by Delvin Miller at the annual Harness Tracks of America meeting when Miller received HTA's Stanley F. Bergstein Messenger Award. Previously sponsored annually by HTA and Hanover Shoe Farms, the tradition now continues. The HRRNP Caretaker of the Year will receive a cash prize of $500, a trophy, and transportation costs to the USHWA Dan Patch Awards Banquet in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, on Sunday evening, March 6, where he or she will be recognized for the achievement. The winner also will enjoy a two-night stay at the host hotel for the USHWA activities, as well as two complimentary dinner tickets. "We are proud to join with Hard Rock Rocksino Northfield Park in resuming this prestigious honor," said USHWA President Chris Tully. "We encourage owners, trainers and other stakeholders to support it by nominating the many worthy individuals who work in our great sport." Any caretaker working for any stable in North America is eligible. All that is needed to nominate is a letter or email from an individual or group detailing the skills and special qualities of the caretaker. The winner will be chosen by a seven-person selection committee comprised of USHWA members, all of whom are former caretakers: Tim Bojarski (chair), Tom Charters, Moira Fanning, Dean Hoffman, Rob Pennington, Kim Rinker and Shawn Wiles. All nomination letters and emails must be received and/or postmarked by Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2016, and sent to chair Bojarski at: Tim Bojarski 7523 Maple Road Akron, NY 14001 a159star@gmail.com      

Akron, NY---Thursday (Dec. 31) is the deadline for fans to cast their ballots in the 2015 Railbird Recognition fan vote for Horseperson of the Year. The vote that gives the fans of harness racing the opportunity to voice their opinion is sponsored by the United States Harness Writers Association, in conjunction with the United States Trotting Association. Voting is available by clicking on the "Railbird Voting" banner on the USTA homepage (www.ustrotting.com). The nominees for each award were compiled by members of USHWA for being the most impactful to the sport in 2015. Fans can make their selections by clicking one choice from those listed and then submitting their vote. Votes for the Horse Person of the Year will be taken until Thursday (Dec. 31) at midnight. Fans may only vote once per IP address. The ten nominees for horseperson of 2015 are: Joe Bellino for his behind the scenes benevolence for people in the industry Grant Boudreau for organizing an annual military memorial race that is simulcast to overseas troops Brian Brown for having a career best year on the Grand Circuit Ron Burke for going over the $20 million mark three straight years Breanna Carsey for donating winnings from MJB Got Faith to those in need Joe Faraldo for helping to bring back the International Trot Joanne Looney-King for her outstanding year with Wakizashi Hanover Dr. Ian Moore for his outstanding year with State Treasurer Jimmy Takter for his unprecedented performance in the Breeders Crown Montrell Teague for his handling of Wiggle It Jiggleit in 2015 All the winners of the Railbird Fan Voting (both racing moment and horseperson) will be announced on Thursday (Jan. 7) and they will be presented their awards during the Dan Patch Banquet, held this year at the Hyatt Pier 66 in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida on Sunday (Mar. 6), 2016. Information on tickets and accommodations for that event can be found at www.ushwa.org . Tim Bojarski

Akron, NY---With the polls for Racing Moment of the Year now closed, attention is turned to part two of the 2015 Railbird Recognition fan vote which is for Horseperson of the Year. The vote that gives the fans of racing the opportunity to voice their opinion is now in its seventh year and is sponsored by the United States Harness Writers Association, in conjunction with the United States Trotting Association. Voting is available by clicking on the "Railbird Voting" banner on the USTA homepage (www.ustrotting.com). The nominees for each award were compiled by members of USHWA for being the most impactful to the sport in 2015. Fans can make their selections by clicking one choice from those listed and then submitting their vote. Voting for the Horse Person of the Year will be conducted from Wednesday (Dec. 16) until Thursday (Dec. 31) at midnight. Fans may only vote once per IP address. The ten nominees for horseperson of 2015 are: Joe Bellino for his behind the scenes benevolence for people in the industry Grant Boudreau for organizing an annual military memorial race that is simulcast to overseas troops Brian Brown for having a career best year on the Grand Circuit Ron Burke for going over the $20 million mark three straight years Breanna Carsey for donating winnings from MJB Got Faith to those in need Joe Faraldo for helping to bring back the International Trot Joanne Looney-King for her outstanding year with Wakizashi Hanover Dr. Ian Moore for his outstanding year with State Treasurer Jimmy Takter for his unprecedented performance in the Breeders Crown Montrell Teague for his handling of WIggle It Jiggleit in 2015 All the winners of the Railbird Fan Voting will be announced on Thursday (Jan. 7) and they will be presented their awards during the Dan Patch Banquet, held this year at the Hyatt Pier 66 in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida on Sunday (Mar. 6), 2016. Information on tickets and accommodations for that event can be found at www.ushwa.org . Tim Bojarski

The 69th live racing season at Batavia Downs wrapped up last Saturday (Dec. 12) much the same way it kicked off back in July; with a packed house of harness racing fans watching the best racing in Upstate New York. The stellar calendar of stake races provided those in attendance a great opportunity to see some of the best horses in New York State and a fair number of Grand Circuit players as well. The New York Sire Stakes (NYSS) produced three record performances. The first was on Sunday (Aug. 30) when 3-year-old pacing colt Betting Exchange (Bettor's Delight-Cheeky Hanover) tied the track record of 1:51.2 for sex and gait in winning his division of the $120,400 NYSS event. This was the fastest pacing mile of the meet. Then on Wednesday (Sept. 16), Dime A Dance (Roll With Joe-Hat Dance Hanover) took advantage of a lightning-fast track and 80 degree temperatures to set a new world's record of 1:52.4 for 2-year-old pacing fillies in winning her division of the $109,000 NYSS race. It (obviously) was also a new track record for Batavia Downs, smashing the old standard of 1:54.2. The 13th renewal of Batavia Downs signature event, the $50,000 Robert J. Kane Memorial Pace, took place on Saturday (Oct. 3) and one of the winningest horses in North America added his name to the roster of champions of that race. 17 time winner in 2015, Atta Boy Dan (Western Terror-Dropitlikeitshot), paced his last quarter in :27.4 and pulled away to an easy win in 1:52.1. The all-time pacing track record of 1:51.1 was not broken in that race, however track trotting history was made instead in the $12,500 Brian Schroeder Memorial the same night. Top local trotting star Lutetium destroyed the field, at one point opening up a gap of as much as 15 lengths, before scooting home to a six-length victory in 1:55.2. The winning time broke the existing track record of 1:56 for aged trotting geldings set in 2014. This race was also the fastest trotting mile of the meet. Kevin Cummings easily defended his driving title at the Downs by winning 134 times during the meet, far ahead of the rest of his competition. Those rounding oIut the top five included Dave McNeight III with 89 wins, Shawn McDonough with 82 wins, Jack Flanigen with 81 wins and Drew Monti with 73 wins. JD Perrin also defended his training title by sending 57 horses to the Purple Haze Winner's Circle. The competition behind him was decidedly closer and included James Clouser Jr. with 45 wins, Dave McNeight Jr. with 41 wins, Maria Rice with 34 wins and Kirk Desmond with 32 wins. Cobble Beach (Artiscape-Mirmattculous 1:51.2 $176,867) was named pacer of the meet with six Open wins, $42,270 in earnings and a seasonal mark of 1:52.4. Lutetium (Credit Winner-Luby 1:52.4 $356,617) was the trotter of the meet with six Open wins, $37,750 in earnings and a new track record of 1:55.2. Memumsnotnice (Jereme's Jet-Bunny Town 1:51.4 $308,343) was named distaff performer of the meet with four Mares Open wins, $32,942 in earnings and a personal season's mark of 1:55. The top three winningest post positions for the meet were post 1 with 230 wins, post 2 with 131 wins and post four with 129 wins. In 2015, the on-track handle took a dip of 5.4%, or $1263 a night. But the export handle was up a substantial 21.2%, or $13,220 per night. Combined, the total handle was up a healthy 9.6 %, or $10,250 per night. Batavia Downs paid out $5,438,400 in purses this year, up $208,400 over 2014. There was no shortage of promotions for Batavia Downs customers this year as something special was going on during 31 nights of the season. Giveaways, contests and food specials dotted the schedule but the year featured four major happenings. In August the Downs hosted the annual wiener dog races, to the delight of thousands who gathered at the rail to see them. September included the Drew Monti bobblehead night, the annual Labor Day driver's bike race and a special fund raiser for the family of Brad Hanners. Then on Sunday (Nov. 15), Batavia Downs hosted the USTA District 8 membership meeting, Director election and New York Sire Stakes (NYSS) year-end awards banquet, sponsored by the New York State Horse Breeding Development Fund. "We couldn't be happier with the way things went this year" said Todd Haight, GM/Director of Live Racing at Batavia Downs. "We had outstanding weather the whole year; not one flake of snow. That facilitated many opportunities for our live crowd to come out and that they did." "The product on the track was as good as it's ever been and the export numbers confirm that. A lot of people were betting the action at Batavia Downs at all the simulcast facilities that took our signal. The meet ended very strong." Haight concluded. To watch video highlights of the 2015 racing season, click on this link. (https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B54kiFXcdsHxM0kxcmQ1dVNxbGM/view?pli=1 ) Live racing will resume at Batavia Downs in July of 2016; dates pending approval of the New York State Gaming Commision. By Tim Bojarski, Batavia Downs Media Relations  

The polls for the first of the two part Railbird Recognition vote, "Racing Moment of the Year", will close on Tuesday (Dec. 15) at midnight. So if you haven't let your choice be heard yet, this is your last call. Nine memorable events from this past racing season have been listed and fans can make their selections by clicking on the banner on the USTA homepage. Those selections are: Always B Miki wins Breeders Crown after a year off Bee A Magician first mare to win Cutler Final Freaky Feet Pete wins Breeders Crown JL Cruze wins in 1:49.4 at the Meadowlands International Trot returns to Yonkers after 20 years Dave Miller drives five winners on Breeders Crown night Pinkman wins over Mission Brief in the Hambletonian Jimmy Takters trains six winners on Breeders Crown night Wiggle It Jiggleit defeats Lost for Words in second Jug heat Although the final voting numbers won't be revealed until January, the vote is currently close and could go in several directions. If you haven't taken the opportunity to make your selections yet, click this link (http://www.ustrotting.com/poll.cfm ) and do it now. Voting for horse person of the year starts on Wednesday (Dec. 16) and runs through Thursday (Dec. 31) at midnight. All the winners of the Railbird Fan Voting will be announced on Thursday (Jan. 7) and they will be presented their awards during the Dan Patch Banquet, held this year at the Hyatt Pier 66 in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida on Sunday (Mar. 6), 2016. Information on tickets and accommodations for that event can be found at www.ushwa.org . Tim Bojarski

Batavia, NY---On the final night of harness racing for 2015, Yonkers invader Major Trick (Drew Monti) took an early overland route to victory in the $10,000 Open pacing feature at Batavia Downs on Saturday (Dec. 12). Post time favorite Lucky Nadotremblay (Shawn McDonough) shot right to the lead with the rest of the field following in post-position order to the quarter in :28.4. But complicity to the pacesetter ended past three-eighths when Major Trick pulled and started an outer flow that included Cobble Beach (Dave McNeight III) and Jokerman (Jim McNeight). The race continued in two rows from there on, with Major Trick and Lucky Nadotremblay duking it out to the half in :58.4 and three-quarters in 1:26.4. Around the far turn, Major Trick was gaining momentum and down the lane he was gaining ground, eventually pulling ahead to win by a half-length in 1:55.3. It was the eighth win of the year for Major Trick ($8.10) and it raised his purse earnings to $68,387 for 2015. The 4-year-old son of Art Major is owned by Anthony Nicometo, John Mariano and Stuart Oppenheimer and is trained by David Russo. In the co-featured $8,400 Open II pace, Mr. Perseverance (Ron Beback Jr.) put on quite a show while taking his fourth straight win. The 7-year-old Real Artist gelding won by five open lengths in 1:54 and returned $5.30 for owner William Emmons. James Clouser Jr. trains Mr. Perseverance. Drew Monti led all drivers Saturday night scoring three wins while Jack Flanigen, Dave McNeight III and Ray Fisher Jr. all doubled up. Trainer Gerry Sarama also sent two winners to post. With the meet coming to a close, the management of Batavia Downs would like to wish everybody a very Happy Holiday season and is looking forward to the return of live harness racing to the oldest lighted harness track in America in July of 2016. By Tim Bojarski, Batavia Downs Media Relations  

Batavia, NY---After not having much success after jumping up from the claiming ranks, the 8-1 Bellagio Hanover and harness racing driver Jim McNeight had a reversal of fortunes in winning the $10,000 Open trotting feature at Batavia Downs on Friday night (Dec. 11). Leaving from post one, Bellagio Hanover briefly yielded the front to Leave Your Mark (Truman Gale) but retook the lead before hitting the quarter in a comfortable :29.2. But shortly after that station, Write That Down (Shawn McDonough) pulled first-up and drew next to the leader; a position he would maintain for nearly a half mile. The pair dueled past the half in :59 and three-quarters in 1:28 flat before Bellagio Hanover finally put away the challenge of Write That Down around the last turn. From there he trotted clear of the field and won handily by a long length in 1:58.2. It was the seventh win of the year for the lightly regarded Bellagio Hanover ($19.00), six of which were for owners Jack and Maria Rice who claimed the horse at Tioga Downs on July 11 for $5,000. Maria Rice trains the winner. In the co-feature $7,700 Open II trot, Red Clay (Shawn McDonough) notched his eighth win of the Batavia Downs meet, making him the winningest trotter of the 2015 session. Red Clay was sitting fourth when he pulled past the stands for the first time, took the lead and trotted his back half in :58.4 to win by six open lengths in 1:59.4. Red Clay ($3.10) is owned by Patricia and Carmen Cappotelli and is trained by Carmen Cappotelli. Shawn McDonough had a driving triple on the card while Jim McNeight and Jack Flanigen both chimed in with doubles. Trainer Maria Rice conditioned two winners as well. The meet comes to a close at Batavia Downs on Saturday night (Dec. 12) with a 12-race card on tap. There is a $396 carry over pool for the Pick-5 wager and it carries a mandatory payout. Post time for the first race is 6:15 p.m. By Tim Bojarski, Batavia Downs Media Relations    

Batavia, NY -- The curtain comes down on another racing season at Batavia Downs this Saturday night (Dec. 12), but the remaining two harness racing cards for 2015 truly offer something for everyone. Friday night (Dec. 11) features a free $500 Pick-6 contest. Patrons can register to play at the Players Club beginning at 5 p.m. and straight through until the contest begins with race four. All six winners must be selected to win this free contest. The $2 Pick-6 wager (which is separate from the free contest) starts with a carryover pool of $248 and the entire pool will be paid out Friday. The mandatory Pick-6 payout begins with race seven. Also on Friday is Customer Appreciation Night. There will be $1 racing programs beginning at 4:45 p.m. at the program stand. Subway sampler subs along with cake and coffee will be served to the fans in the enclosed Grandstand after the fourth race and while supplies last. Patrons dining in the Clubhouse will receive $10 back in gaming free-play when purchasing the buffet. A reservation is recommended as a sellout is expected. Saturday evening is closing night and once again features the free to play $500 Pick-6 contest. This final contest will be paid out to the player(s) that pick the most winners, if no one selects all six winners. And it's also the Upstate New York Chapter of the United States Harness Writers Association's annual "Night of Distinction" where awards will be distributed to both human and equine performance leaders throughout the evening in the Purple Haze Winner's Circle. Post time is 6:15 p.m. "It's been an outstanding year and we're capping it off with one more action-packed weekend of promotions and giveaways" said Todd Haight, Director/General Manager of Live Racing. "With the unseasonably warm weather and excellent racing conditions, I'm confident we will see healthy crowds on both nights." "I would also like to thank all the horsemen, fans, Downs employees and off-track locations for their support this entire racing season." By Tim Bojarski, Batavia Downs Media Relations  

The Upstate New York Chapter of the United States Harness Writers Association has announced that Bruce Tubin, Director of the Western New York Harness Horsemen's Association, will receive the Service to Industry Award for his lifelong dedication to the sport of harness racing. Tubin earned a Bachelor of Science degree in business administration and a Juris Doctor degree from the State University of New York at Buffalo. He discontinued a growing law practice in 1976 to actively pursue his first love, that of owning, training and driving Standardbreds. Tubin has been involved in the sport as an owner since 1972 and as a trainer-driver from 1976-1992. Tubin became President and Administrative Director of the Western New York Harness Horsemen's Association in 1992. One of his first orders of business was to represent all of the New York State harness horsemen as a member of the board of directors of an industry-wide lobbying group that was ultimately successful bringing video lottery terminals to New York State racetracks. The result of that action was an immediate turnaround of the standardbred racing and breeding industry that is still thriving to this day. In western New York, Tubin negotiated the first designated purse account in harness racing. He inherited a floundering pension plan and made it solvent for its participants. Now it is one of the largest pension plans of its kind in the sport. He oversees a health insurance program that pays 60% of the cost for member drivers and trainers and covers grooms for free. He understands all aspects of the industry and when addressing issues of importance to his constituents, works well with track management to reach a mutually beneficial resolution. Tubin also represents the horsemen as a USTA Director for District 8 in Upstate New York. Tubin and his wife, Beth, have a daughter, Andrea, a son, Brian, and four grandchildren. Bruce Tubin will receive his award in the Purple Haze Winner's Circle at Batavia Downs on Saturday (Dec. 12) during UNY-USHWA's Night of Distinction. By Tim Bojarski, President, UNY-USHWA

Batavia, NY---This was the fourth straight week that Mach This Way (Ron Beback Jr.) and Memumsnotnice (Ray Fisher Jr.) locked horns with "Mach" having a 2-1 advantage over "Mum" to date. After a hard fought harness racing battle, Mach This Way reigned victorious again in the $9,500 distaff pacing feature at Batavia Downs on Wednesday night (Dec. 9). Memumsnotnice left sharply and paced on the front uncontested to the half in :57.2. Mach This Way had pulled at three-eighths and drew alongside the leading mare as they hit the clubhouse turn. From that point on it was basically a match race. Mach This Way and Memumsnotnice paced in tandem past three-quarters in 1:25.3, around the far turn and half-way down the lane. It was then the Mach This Way got a slight advantage and pulled away to a length victory in 1:55.2. The Filly Princess (Truman Gale) closed strong to be second and Memumsnotnice faded to third, in a dead-heat with Kisses N Kicks (Dave McNeight III). It was the eighth win of the season for the daughter of Mach Three ($4.20) and pushed her earnings to $59,880 for owner William Emmons. Batavia Downs Rising Star Award winner James Clouser Jr. trains Mach This Way. In the $7,700 Mares Open II co-feature, Heavenly Place (Dave McNeight III) went gate-to-wire in 1:57.1 to notch her 13th win of 2015. She had won in this class two weeks ago and found herself back at home after stepping down from Open I competition last week. Heavenly Place is owned by Courtney McNeight and is trained by Dave McNeight Jr. Horsemen scoring multiple wins included drivers Kevin Cummings with three and Shawn Mcdonough, Ron Beback Jr. and Ray Fisher Jr. each with two. Trainers James Clouser Jr. and Chris Naedele each sent two winners to post. Only two days of live racing remain at Batavia Downs for the 2015 season and Friday (Dec. 11) is the first of the pair, with post time set at 6:15. By Tim Bojarski, Batavia Downs Media Relations  

Akron, NY---Scores of harness racing horsemen and women have come and gone over the years at Batavia Downs, but the ever changing look of the local driving colony has had a single, steady constant in its midst that still sends horses postward after 49 years in the business. His name is Ken Ball. Ball got started in harness racing in 1966 as a second trainer for Eldon Harner. But it wasn't long before he departed to start his own stable. The first and probably best owners he ever had were Morris and Betty Miller. They bred and raced a string of horses that bore the "Whiz" name. These horses were stalwarts of his stable for thirty years. During his time in the business, his most successful horse was Missile T (1:57.2 $313,644). The Master of Style colt was one of the best 2 and 3-year-old male trotters in New York State in 2006 and 2007. The largest purse Ball ever won was the $100,000 Elitist Cup at the Syracuse Mile with Brass Target Sam ($1:56.2 $74,793) in 1990. And the fastest race he ever drove was a 1:56.2 mile with his good Open trotter, Derby Tex Whiz (1:56.2 $125,941), also at the Syracuse Mile. But the hits didn't stop there. Ball was also responsible for the careers of Major T Collins (1:59.2 $221,804), PJ Whiz (2:00.2 $161,696), Super Whiz (1:59.4 $142,879), Crescent T Collins (2:02.2 $94,178), Gantry T (1:57.2 $69,923), Tempest Lobell (2:03.2 $63,411), BJ Grattan (2:02.4 $60,035), Chip Rebel (2:02.3 $58,474) and of course, the local legend Mr. Tizwhiz (1:59.3 $48,633). For his career, Ken Ball drove 1,143 winners that accounted for $3.1 million in purses. On the training side, Ball started 2,337 horses posting 263 wins, 311 seconds and 324 thirds (40% in the money) and earned another $1.1 million for those starts. Ball is still actively training today, but limits his driving to county fairs and an occasional qualifying race. He defers the pari-mutuel lines to his son, Keith, who is continuing the family tradition. Keith Ball is also a Monroe County Sheriff. Ken Ball still lives in Batavia with his longtime companion Patricia Arnold. But he's more likely to be found shipping his horses to the track or a fair than at his house. But that's the only way one could ever put together such an impressive body of work. Ken Ball will receive his award in the Purple Haze Winner's Circle at Batavia Downs on Saturday (Dec. 12) during UNY-USHWA's Night of Distinction. By Tim Bojarski, President, UNY-USHWA

The Upstate New York Chapter of the United States Harness Writers Association has named their choices for the best performing horses at the 2015 Batavia Downs harness racing meet. Pacer of the Meet: Cobble Beach (Artiscape-Mirmattculous 1:51.2 $176,867) Cobble Beach faced the best Open pacers at the Downs week in and week out and never seemed to fail to give his best effort. In 17 starts at Batavia, Cobble Beach won six, finished second four times and third three more. His efforts earned him $42,270 and a seasonal mark of 1:52.4. Cobble Beach is owned by Leonard Segall and trained by James Clouser Jr. Trotter of the Meet: Lutetium (Credit Winner-Luby 1:52.4 $356,617) This year at Batavia, Lutetium has the most wins of any trotter competing in Open company. In nine starts he won six and finished second the other three. And in those three seconds he was only beaten a length, a neck and a nose. In those nine starts he amassed $37,750 in purses and set a new track record of 1:55.2 for aged trotting geldings at Batavia Downs. Lutetium is owned by Colleen Girdlestone and trained by Mark Laidlaw Mare of the Meet: Memumsnotnice (Jereme's Jet-Bunny Town 1:51.4 $308,343) After not winning a race since February 4, Memumsnotnice hit her stride at Batavia Downs, winning four Open's, finishing second four times and third five more. She earned $32,942 and took a seasonal mark of 1:55, which was also the fastest Memumsnotnice ever paced over a half mile track. Memumsnotnice is owned by Thatsideofthefence LLC and John Mungillo, who also trains her. The Heart of the Standardbred award is given to a horse that displays the will to overcome all odds in pursuit of becoming a race horse. This year, that award goes to Red Clay (American Mike-Ersa Kash 1:57.4 $21,964) Red Clay was turned out, green and unraced at two when Pat and Carmen Cappotelli acquired him. Far behind the curve, he was only raced three times at fairs at age three. Then after showing much promise in qualifiers after a very late start at age four, Red Clay experienced more issues that limited that season to only three starts as well. 2015 saw the continuation of Red Clay's penchant for breaking but it was matched by Carmen Cappotelli's patience with trotters and that patience was rewarded with an eye-opening qualifying win at Batavia on August 26. And from there, Red Clay beat the odds. Red Clay won his next seven out of nine starts and finished second two more times besides that. The seven victories made him the winningest trotter of the meet as well. He was so good in his class he was sent off as the favorite seven times during that nine-race stretch. He took a lifetime mark of 1:57.4 on September 26, a time that at one point seemed unattainable by many, but not by Red Clay. The connections of all four horses will receive their awards in the Purple Haze Winner's Circle at Batavia Downs on Saturday (Dec. 12) during UNY-USHWA's Night of Distinction.   By Tim Bojarski, President, UNY-USHWA

Akron, NY---The ballots are rolling in and fans of harness racing across North America are letting their voices be heard in the 2015 Railbird Recognition vote. The first of the two part vote is Racing Moment of the Year. Nine memorable events from this past racing season have been listed and fans can make their selections by clicking on the banner on the USTA homepage. This voting will continue until 11:59 p.m. on Tuesday (Dec. 15). The nine selections are: Always B Miki wins Breeders Crown after a year off Bee A Magician first mare to win Cutler Final Freaky Feet Pete wins Breeders Crown JL Cruze wins in 1:49.4 at the Meadowlands International Trot returns to Yonkers after 20 years Dave Miller drives five winners on Breeders Crown night Pinkman wins over Mission Brief in the Hambletonian Jimmy Takters trains six winners on Breeders Crown night Wiggle It Jiggleit defeats Lost for Words in second Jug heat Although the final voting numbers won't be revealed until January, the vote is currently close and could go in several directions. If you haven't taken the opportunity to make your selections yet, click this link (http://www.ustrotting.com/poll.cfm ) and do it now. Voting for horse person of the year starts on Wednesday (Dec. 16) and runs through Thursday (Dec. 31) at midnight. All the winners of the Railbird Fan Voting will be announced on Thursday (Jan. 7) and they will be presented their awards during the Dan Patch Banquet, held this year at the Hyatt Pier 66 in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida on Sunday (Mar. 6), 2016. Information on tickets and accommodations for that event can be found at www.ushwa.org . By Tim Bojarski for USHWA

Akron, NY---The Batavia Downs meet isn't over, but the competition for the winningest harness racing driver and trainer certainly is. Kevin Cummings and JD Perrin are the leading dash driver and trainer for the 2015 season, repeating their dominance from last year and they will be honored by the Upstate New York Chapter of the United States Harness writers Association (UNY-USHWA). Cummings currently has 131 victories during the meet, which total 49 more than his nearest competitor. And his $683,838 in purses won is at least a quarter-million dollars more than anyone else. For the year, Cummings has already posted career numbers with 334 wins, $1.77 million in earnings and a UDR of .367. That UDR ranks him tenth in North America among all drivers. Cummings seasonal totals only pile onto his career statics that include 3,304 wins and $13.7 million in earnings. Perrin posted 56 wins for the meet and his horses earned $236,822 for his efforts. He is also firing at a lofty .376 UTR. As far as the entire year is concerned, Perrin has 125 wins, $633,747 in earnings and a UTR of .353. That UTR ranks him tenth as well among all trainers in North America to this point in 2015. Perrin's career numbers include 569 wins and $2.4 million in purses. UNY-USHWA has also named James Clouser Jr. their recipient of the 2015 Rising Star Award. Since relocating his base of operations to Upstate New York early last summer, James Clouser Jr. has been on a tear. After only making minimal starts as a conditioner from 2008 until 2013, Clouser made some noise in 2014 winning 42 races from 191 outings and banked $229,887 in earnings. But this year he's more than doubled all those numbers. With only days of live racing left this year, Clouser has won 86 races and earned $454,359 in prizes on the strength of 286 starts. He is also boasting a gaudy .439 UTR. The 86 wins make him the top dash winning trainer in North America for conditioners with fewer than 300 starts. For the current Batavia Downs meet, Clouser is the second leading trainer (behind JD Perrin) with 42 wins from 140 starts, $207,894 in earnings and a .431 UTR. Kevin Cummings, JD Perrin and James Clouser Jr. will receive their awards in the Purple Haze Winner's Circle at Batavia Downs on Saturday (Dec. 12) during UNY-USHWA's Night of Distinction. By Tim Bojarski, President, UNY USHWA

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