Akron, NY--With 2013 coming to a close and racing getting ready to take an early winter break in western New York, year-end awards are something that many people look forward to. With that in mind, the members of the Upstate New York Chapter of the United States Harness Writers Association have cast their votes for the top gait performers for the Batavia Downs meet as well as their pick for the top horse overall. UNY-USHWA has named Naked News as the western New York horse of the year. Naked News (1:54.1 $266,433 Passailed-Santiago Sissi) is a tough veteran race horse that made every one of his starts this year at either Buffalo Raceway or Batavia Downs. In those 39 outings, he had 10 wins, 7 seconds and 7 thirds for total earnings of $72,598. This 10-year-old working man started the year in high claimers and made his way to the top condition class on the grounds where he captured four Open wins between the two tracks. He took his lifetime mark of 1:54.1 this year at Buffalo on August 10 and had career high totals for starts, wins and earnings as well. His lifetime bank now totals $266,433. Naked News seemed to get better with age as his last three years were his best. And he was the only horse this year to maintain a continuous level of success at both tracks from his first win at Buffalo on February 9 through his last win at Batavia in an Open II on October 26. Naked News is owned by Joseph Caligiuri's Summer Wind Stable of Hamburg, NY and is trained by Bob Gruber. The Batavia Downs trotter of the year is Mystical Escapade (1:56.3 $149,702 Valley Victor-Armbro Orbita) Mystical Escapade had only six starts at Batavia Downs after racing at Saratoga and Yonkers earlier in the year. The 4-year-old mare shipped in after a month layoff and quickly made folks take notice. Her first start was in the Brian Schroeder Invitational on October 5 where she finished third. But her performance after that became historic. The following week Mystical Escapade drew post 7 and was the sole mare in the Open trot with a full field of horses and geldings. With two breakers in front of her off the gate, she got away 14 lengths behind the field. But pulling past the half, the daughter of Valley Victor put a circle around the group and pulled away to a two length win in 1:56.3. The time was a lifetime mark for her and a new track record for aged trotting mares for Batavia Downs. In 6 starts, Mystical Escapade had 3 wins, 1 second and 1 third, all in the top trotting class on the grounds and all as the only mare racing against the boys. Those starts also helped propel her annual earnings to over $89,000. Mystical Escapade is owned by Stephen Andzel, Mark Briandi and Stephen Grant of Empowered Racing and is trained by Carl Smith. The Batavia Downs pacer of the year is Fireyourguns (150.2 $124,561 American Ideal-Villa Hanover) Fireyourguns did not have a ton of starts at Batavia, but made the ones he did, count. He won four Open paces and was 2-lengths away from winning two more. In his 9 starts at the Downs, the speedy 4-year-old had 4 wins, 2 seconds and 1 third, all in the top pacing class. He took a half-mile seasonal mark of 1:53.4 and pocketed $27,675 in purse money from the meet. On October 5 he competed in the Kane Memorial Pace, facing off against $6-million winner Foiled Again and the national 3-year-old pacing colt of the year for 2012, Heston Blue Chip, and finished third in a 1:52 mile. Fireyourguns is owned by Terence McClory and Robert and Jennifer Lowe, and is trained by Terence McClory. All the connections of these horses will be presented their awards during the UNY-USHWA "Night of Distinction" this Saturday (Dec. 7) in the winner's circle at Batavia Downs. The driver and trainer awards will be announced tomorrow. Tim Bojarski for UNY Chapter USHWA
Akron, NY-- Each year the members of the Upstate New York Chapter of the United States Harness Writers Association look to honor someone who adds to the racing experience by being a constant resource for those who participate and who is willing to pitch in when help for any event is needed. Paul White has been doing just that locally for the last twelve years and for that he has been named the 2013 Good Guy Award recipient. White is the track photographer at both Batavia Downs and Buffalo Raceway and is a big part of the racing community. As the area's pictorial historian, he documents the nightly events that occur at these tracks for all who participate. Through all kinds of weather, he is at his post at the finish line to capture each victory as they occur and the celebration of the winning connections afterward. And if you want a special shot, just ask and he'll take care of that too. Besides chronicling the races, White makes himself available to photograph the various parties and groups that are hosted in the clubhouse to make those race goers experience more memorable and their special occasions even better. White also comes in early or stays late when the need is there, to cover any functions or charitable events to help anyway he can. From a media standpoint, White always makes his work available for press releases or magazine articles and does it in a timely manner. This is vital in the continuing promotion of the sport both in print and on the web. He has added to the quality of racing in western New York and for that reason he is receiving this award. Paul White will be presented his award during the UNY-USHWA "Night of Distinction" this Saturday night (12-7) in the winner's circle at Batavia Downs. Other year end award winners including horses and drivers of the year will be announced later this week. by Tim Bojarski for Upstate NY Chapter of USHWA
Akron, NY--The Upstate New York Chapter of the United States Harness Writers Association has announced that Drew Monti will receive its Rising Star Award for 2013 as the most promising up and coming driver in western New York and Ron Beback Jr. will be recognized as the Comeback Driver of the Year. Since being granted his Provisional license this past April, Monti's career has not only been on the rise, it's been meteoric. The affable 19 year-old scored his first pari-mutuel victory within days of getting the night time nod from the judges and has not looked back since. Taking full advantage of the driving opportunities afforded him midway through the Buffalo Raceway meet, Monti has produced numbers that (according to USTA statistics) have made him the leading first-year Provisional driver in the country. To date his 660 starts have produced 73 wins, 83 seconds and 92 thirds while depositing $367,294 in the coffers of the owners he drives for. At the current Batavia Downs meet, "Drivin' Drew" is seventh among all reinsmen for starts and wins and has become a very in-demand catch driver locally. 52 of his 73 wins have been recorded at the Downs. Ron Beback Jr. was both trainer and driver of the year locally in 2008 and followed that up with career years in both 2009 and 2010. But as thing go in this business, the last two years were not as kind. With an influx of new drivers on the scene, Beback's catch drives were diminished and his numbers dropped substantially. However this past year saw some of those drivers move to other tracks and several more sidelined by injury. So local connections looked back to the crafty veteran for help and he did not disappoint. Once again finding his groove, Beback posted gaudy numbers that put him back in the race for top driver at the current Batavia Downs meet. Year to date his 982 starts have yielded 153 wins, 146 seconds and 138 thirds for $721,997 in purses. Those numbers represent the second highest win and purse earning totals of his career. Beback has also conditioned 61 winners this year that bankrolled over a quarter million dollars in earnings. That output was also his best since 2010. Drew Monti and Ron Beback Jr. will be presented their awards during the UNY-USHWA "Night of Distinction" this Saturday night (12-7) in the winner's circle at Batavia Downs. Other year end award winners including horses and drivers of the year will be announced later this week. by Tim Bojarski, President UNY USHWA
Just when you thought the quality of stallions in the Empire State couldn’t get better, four speedy sires have taken up residency here for the upcoming breeding season. Panther Hanover, Glidemaster, Betterthancheddar and Rockincam have put the competition on notice and are looking to make a name for themselves in this very competitive market. Panther Hanover (Rocknroll Hanover-Panned Out 1:47.2 $367,877) became one of the fastest 3-year-old colts ever when he registered a 1:47.2 victory in the $275,000 Anthony Abbatiello New Jersey Classic. He battled a game Hurrikane Kingcole down the stretch in the hard fought win to record the fifth fastest mile ever recorded by a pacer of any age and the fastest time by a 3YO in 2012. He followed that up by taking the $257,571 Simcoe Stake, defeating the heavily favored A Rocknroll Dance and Michael’s Power. Panther Hanover then closed out the year by finishing second by a head in the Breeders Crown elimination before placing fifth in the final in a race that saw him parked out to the half in 53.4 before taking the lead. For the year he scored six wins in ten starts with two seconds and bankrolled $347,990 for his efforts. Panther Hanover will stand at Win Place and Show Farm in Champlain, New York for a fee of $3,000. (http://winplaceandshowfarm.com or call (518) 297-3506) In conjunction with Panther Hanover’s first season at stud, his owner Jim Carr is giving away a complimentary breeding to the promising young stallion through a promotion to be held at the Harrisburg Sale. To be eligible, those attending the sale are asked to go to the New York Sire Stake promotions table and fill out an entry blank. The drawing will be held on Thursday night, November 7 at 5 PM. 2006 trotting Triple Crown champion Glidemaster (Yankee Glide-Cressida Hanover 1:51.1 $1,968,023) has relocated to the Empire State and looks to continue his production of exceptional race horses to compete at the top level here. Glidemaster was a world champion 2-year-old, equaling Mack Lobell’s mark of 1:55.3 in only his second lifetime start. At 3 he won the $1.5 million Hambletonian, $117,903 Simcoe Stake, $526,000 Kentucky Futurity and the $728,930 Yonkers Trot. When he retired after that campaign, he was the highest single-season money winning trotter and fastest 3-year-old trotter of all time. This resulted in him being named the 2006 3-year-old trotting colt of the year and overall horse of the year by the United States Harness Writers Association and being awarded the 2006 HTA Nova Award as 3-year-old trotting colt of the year. Since entering the breeding ranks he has sired winners of $6.25 million as well as 10 performers in 1:55 including the millionaire mare Maven (1:51.4 $1,379,969) who is a two-time Breeders Crown champion and set multiple world records this year. Other top campaigners include Blue Porsche (1:54 $637,646), For You Almost Free (1:53 $309,139) and Punxsutawney (1:53.2 $295,453). Glidemaster will stand at Winbak Farm in Walden, New York for a fee of $4,000. (http://www.winbakfarm.com or call (845) 778-5421) Betterthancheddar (Bettor’s Delight-Lady Ashlee Ann 1:48 $1,635,364) has the kind of versatility that any breeder can appreciate. He was quick off the gate and quick out of a hole and his world records on both a half and five-eighth’s mile tracks should prove to be a recipe for success for him in New York State where he will begin his stallion career. At 3, Betterthancheddar got extra sharp late in the year and creamed the competition in four major stakes. He won the $342,875 Cane Pace, both the elimination and final of the $500,000 Breeders Crown, the $225,000 American National and the $175,000 Windy City, which helped him bank $777,283 for the year. At 4 he won the final of the $500,000 Ben Franklin in a world record time of 1:48, the $174,735 Des Smith and the $216,500 Bobby Quillen in another world record time of 1:49.2. He had nine wins and two seconds in eleven starts with $799,936 in earnings and his efforts garnered him the 2012 O’Brien Award for aged pacing horses. Betterthancheddar will also stand at Winbak Farm in Walden, New York for a fee of $4,500. (http://www.winbakfarm.com or call (845) 778-5421) Finally, career Open pacer Rockincam (Cambest-Migraine $795,237) brings a hard-hitting style to town for his first year in service. This working man’s horse made a living the hard way; he earned it in overnights from day one facing the toughest top-class pacers in the country for most of his career. His lifetime mark of 1:48.1 came at age 5 in the Graduate Pace elimination when he beat Golden Receiver and Foiled Again. He also won the $200,000 Dan Patch in 1:51.1 and the Winbak Pace in 1:50 flat. In 62 lifetime starts, he won 25 and banked a hefty $795,237. In those 62 starts, he paced 20 sub-1:50 miles, both in victory and defeat. He closed out his career in 2013 with three consecutive 1:48 and change miles. His speed and ability to compete over any size track is an attribute that should well serve his offspring. Rockincam will stand at Majestic View Farms (845-255-2357) in Gardiner, New York for a fee of $2,500. Bred in New York to take on the world is not just a slogan, it’s a business model. The New York Sire Stakes is the nation’s oldest harness racing breeding program of its kind and continues to lead the industry by annually producing some of the finest standardbreds to circle a race track. by Tim Bojarksi for Harness Horse Breeders of New York State
LATHAM, NY---The Harness Horse Breeders of New York State are proud to announce that Wanda Polisseni has been selected as the 2013 recipient of the Bruce Hamilton Memorial Medal. For the seventh consecutive year, this award recognizes an individual who has shown outstanding integrity in the sport and also has taken the time to give back to both harness racing and their community in the State of New York. Wanda Polisseni has certainly exemplified these traits since becoming involved in the industry. Polisseni was born and raised in Yates County and her love of harness racing started early as her family boarded Standardbred horses on their farm in the town of Potter, New York. However she would not buy her first one until after her husband, Gene, passed away in 2001. That is when she decided to do something she had always wanted and purchased her first six Standarbreds. Living in Fairport, Polisseni is only minutes from Finger Lakes Racetrack and also enjoys Thoroughbred racing. So she decided to invest in some of those too. Before long, the Purple Haze Stable (the business name chosen for her daughter Kimberly’s favorite color) was home to over 100 horses; about a 50/50 split between both breeds. Polisseni has always been a big supporter of the New York Sire Stakes program and has been heavily invested in New York bred stock since getting into the business. Her successes there have been many and horses like Dajarmbro and Blacktuxwhitesocks have also made names for themselves on the Grand Circuit as well. But there is one thing she enjoys more than watching her horse’s race; and that is helping others. The Polisseni Foundation was formed in the memories of Wanda’s daughter (Kimberly, who died in an auto accident) and husband (Gene) and has the mission statement “Improving the quality of life in upstate New York”. Since its inception in 1983, it has donated millions of dollars to worthy causes in an attempt to make the lives of those in Rochester, New York and the surrounding suburbs better. And they have certainly accomplished what they set out to do. A short list of contributions include building the Polisseni Center for minimally invasive surgery and Endoscopy unit at the Rochester General Hospital, the new ice hockey rink at the Rochester Institute of Technology, the new track and field complex at St. John Fisher College, a state-of-the-art diagnostic imaging center at the F.F. Thompson Hospital in Canandaigua, and they have also made major contributions to the Special Olympics of Monroe County, Advent House, Golisano Children’s Hospital, Marine Corp scholarship fund, Upstate Guide Dogs, Equicenter (horseback therapy for the physically impaired), National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and the Hunter’s Hope Foundation. Wanda Polisseni personally takes part in and contributes to any and all track sponsored fundraisers that occur during the racing year. Polisseni was also a driving force in the formation of a horse rescue foundation called the Finger Lakes Thoroughbred Adoption Program (FLTAP). Her contribution there built “The Purple Haze Center”, which is a 10,000 square foot facility housing 12 x 12 foot stalls with stall doors that have a fold down design that allows the horses to interact with barn visitors. Outside there is a 70 x 72 foot riding arena as well as four 60 x 60 foot paddocks for turnout and two 60 foot round pens that allow the horses time on grass. Over 400 horses have been placed in new homes through the efforts of the FLTAP. Character, accomplishment and benevolence are the qualities the Bruce Hamilton Memorial Medal seeks to honor every year. And there is no one who displays those more than Wanda Polisseni. The Bruce Hamilton Memorial Medal will be presented to Polisseni at the New York Sire Stakes/USTA District 8 awards dinner on Sunday, Oct. 27, at 5:30 p.m. at Tioga Downs. For reservations or more information, contact the Harness Horse Breeders at 518-785-5858 or email@example.com. by Tim Bojarski for Harness Horse Breeders of NY State
On Saturday (9-7) four of the most prominent drivers from the golden era of racing in western New York donned their silks one more time and competed against each other for the first time since 1978 in the inaugural Batavia Downs Legends Pace. Gaston Guindon, Fred Haslip, Gerry Sarama and Dick Welch are immortal names when discussing the racing scene in that part of the state as this famous-foursome earned the respect of their fans by scoring a combined 9,218 wins during their careers. As time passed, they stepped aside from active driving and the new generation of fans could only be told about races between "The Gasser”, “Steady Freddy”, “The Man with the Hands” and “The Dazzler”. But on a rainy night in Batavia, the past came to life as the gate swung open and the veteran reinsmen guided their horses (who were “stage-named” after some of their most prolific performers) around the track they know so well to once again treat the fans to a thrilling stretch drive and photo finish. Sarama still trains a public stable full time at Batavia with one of the more successful outfits on the grounds and Haslip maintains a stable of his own as well. However like Guindon and Welch, neither has driven full time in a while so the local racing enthusiasts had the opportunity to see some of the best ever back in action. The current driver colony at the Downs enjoyed spending time with them in the paddock and reminisced about watching them back in the day, and the fans engulfed the winners circle to cheer them at the wire and applauded when they came back for a presentation. When it was all said and done, Fred Haslip with “Diamond Sparkler” beat Gaston Guindon and “Lake Shore Dolly” by a nose for the win. Dick Welch steering “Pine Hill Time” was third and Gerry Sarama was fourth with “Cambiance”. You can watch the whole race by clicking here. The video is provided courtesy of Batavia Downs Gaming. by Tim Bojarski USHWA National Vice-President
This Saturday night (9-07) Batavia Downs will present a night of nostalgia when it celebrates the 25th anniversary of their hosting the 1988 Breeders Crown aged mare trot along with reuniting five of the most popular drivers ever circle their surface, to once again compete against each other in the first Legends of Batavia Downs race. The 1988 Breeders Crown was the richest purse ever offered at the Genesee County oval as well as the only leg of that prestigious series to be held there. The record purse of $268,756 saw top drivers Bill O’Donnell, Doug Brown and Ben Webster compete and a packed house was anxious to witness the sport’s top stars. Scenic Regal was coming off a second place finish to Mack Lobell at Yonkers and was the post time favorite. But the Armstrong Brothers entry of Armbro Fling and Armbro Flori were a formidable team to beat. In front of a roaring crowd, Larry Walker got Armbro Flori home by a head over the fast closing Scenic Regal in a time of 1:59.3. A pedestrian clocking by today’s standards, it was only 2/5th’s of a second off the all-time track trotting record when it happened. To commemorate the silver anniversary, there will be $25 betting vouchers given away starting after the fourth race, for five consecutive races. All the fans on hand will be eligible to win. Also that night will be the first ever Legends of Batavia Downs Pace. It will be 1970 all over again when the driving titans of a bygone era are brought back to the track to relive one of the most exciting times the track ever had. Hall of famer Clint Galbriath will be back in the bike to tangle with fellow western New York stars Gerry Sarama, Gaston Guindon, Dick Welch and Fred Haslip in a one mile race for the ages. Clint Galbraith has 3,062 wins and $19 million in earnings. He scored his first dash title at Batavia Downs in 1963 and will be forever synonymous with the legendary Niatross who won 37 of 39 starts and was named the horse of the year in 1979 and 1980. Another great Galbraith student was Call For Rain who won the Breeders Crown twice.The list of accomplishments attained by Galbraith is as impressive as any horseman ever to go behind a starting gate. Gerry Sarama has 2,630 wins and $11.5 million in earnings. He started driving at an early age and quickly found himself at the top of the driver colony at Batavia. Although he made a move to Roosevelt Raceway for a while to compete with the best in the nation, he eventually found his way back home and was always a highly sought after catch driver. Some of his most memorable horses were Jambo Bea, Free Chase, and his personal favorite, Cambiance. Sarama was known as “the man with the hands”. Gaston Guindon has 3,080 wins and $6.9 million in earnings. He moved to Batavia Downs in 1969 and it wasn’t long after that his career took off. The horses he drove were a who’s who for years and included names like the venerable Mr. Coal, Keystone Spectrum, Harbor Smoke, E C Oakie, Willow Hill Boy, Mucalee Bunt, Hot Shot Hamde, Skipper Frank and River Mouse. He is affectionately known by the locals as “The Gasser”. Dick Welch has 923 wins and $1.7 million in purses. He started driving at Batavia Downs in the late 1960’s and was the trainer for the powerful Marks Stable of Buffalo. Two of the most memorable pacers ever to race locally came from his barn; Pine Hill Time and Pine Hill Fred. Both were perennial Open class performers and shuttled between home and New York to race the best the east coast had to offer. His last pari-mutual start was in 1978 when he shifted gears to become a racing official. Welch was known for his trademark toothpick as you seldom saw him without one. Fred Haslip has 2,585 wins and has earned $5.9 million in purses. The lifelong resident of Basom, NY started driving at fairs in 1959 and scored his first pari mutual win in 1960. The list of horses that Haslip has teamed over the years is long and includes names like Diamond Sparkler, Happy Sparkler, Keystone Astro, Kay El, Jack the Baron, Coaltown Smoke, Flawless Sparkler and Princess Dee Dee. But Haslip is probably most noted for developing the former double gaited world record holder, Excalibur. Todd Haight is the General Manager of live racing at Batavia Downs. He remembers watching this group compete against each other in their prime and looks forward to “getting the band back together” to relive the good old days. Haight said “We are proud and excited to have these gentlemen come back and thrill our fans one more time. They were responsible for so many great races and memories that many of us still recall when we stand by the fence and reminisce. This is the first Legend’s race we’ve held and we look forward to doing it every year moving forward.” There will be a meet and greet with an autograph session on the apron from 5:30 to 6:25 and there will be a special picture insert in the program perfect for signing. The race itself will be held after the seventh event of the night. The whips used in the race by the five drivers will be autographed and given away to the fans in a random drawing. After the race, Gaston Guindon will be honored by the track and his colors will be hung in their track Hall of Fame where he will join other Batavia Downs immortals Jeff Gregory, John Schroeder, Ben Webster, Patsy Rapone and Bob Altizer. Post time is 6:30 for this action packed night of racing. by Tim Bojarski
The members of the Upstate New York Chapter of the United States Harness Writers Association are proud to announce that Kayla Prentice is the recipient of the 2013 Dewey Degree Scholarship. Prentice graduated from the Vernon-Verona-Sherrill High School with high honors this year and stood out among her peers for several reasons. She carried a 4.0 GPA for four consecutive years, was a scholar athlete in two sports and received the school’s President’s Award for excellence as well. During her time there, she was described as “a joiner” and was very active in school and community service activities as a member of the National Honor Society, the Red Cross Club, LEAD USA and Relay for Life. She was also a member of the cross country and track teams where she served as Captain for both. Besides her school activities she also worked several part time jobs for small businesses and families in her community as well as helping her family with their stable both in the morning and on race nights. In her application, Prentice pointed out that “Not many kids can say they grew up with parents in the harness horse industry, and even fewer can say that they had the experience of nursing a harness horse with a broken leg back to health. Perhaps this is where my love for helping others developed” And it was that experience that prompted her to pursue a career in physical therapy. Prentice will be attending Syracuse University this fall majoring in health and exercise science as well as pre-med. Kayla Prentice is the daughter of Jessica and Howard Okusko, Jr. who are both longtime trainers (and driver) at Vernon Downs and will receive her $1,500 check in the winner’s circle that her parents so often visit, on Sunday August 25th, the same night that will feature the $700,000 Zweig Memorial trot and the first round of the $50,000 Drivers’ Championship. The Dewey Degree Scholarship is funded through generous donations from Ray Schnittker and Jeff Gural and is administered by the Upstate New York Chapter of the United States Harness Writers Association. It was named after Schnittker’s great Hambletonian winning trotter Deweycheatumnhowe. by Tim Bojarski
On Saturday night (6-28) Buffalo Raceway hosted the families of two local harness racing legends as they were inducted into the Upstate New York USHWA Harness Racing Hall of Fame.
The Upstate New York Chapter of the United States Harness Writers Association is proud to announce that harness racing trainer/driver Delbert Manges and breeder Pat Menchi have been chosen to go into their Hall of Fame.
Favored Sebastian K (7m Korean-Gabriella K-Probe) easily won Elitloppet 2013 second elimination in 1.11.2kr for trainer/driver Ake Svanstedt, defeating Nahar (8m Love You-Mahonny Broline-Joie de Vie) trained and driven by Robert Bergh with Brad de Veluwe (5m Andover Hall-Amazing Ride-Muscles Yankee) third for Tuomas Korvenoja.
The opportunity for any eligible college student looking to apply for the 2013 Dewey Degree Scholarship is fading fast as there are less than two weeks remaining for them to get their paperwork turned in.
The Upstate New York Chapter of the United States Harness Writers Association is looking for eligible high school seniors or returning college students from families of licensed owners, trainers, or drivers who participate full or part time in harness racing.
Each year during the Dan Patch Awards banquet, the United States Harness Writers Association (USHWA) hosts a raffle to help raise funds to support the harness racing Clyde Hirt Journalism Workshop for college students.
The fans are the lifeblood of the harness racing industry, and it's the fans who vote for their all-stars in the Railbird Recognition Awards. This is a two-part honor that recognizes the most relevant racing moment as well as the most outstanding Horse Person of the Year.
The fan voted Railbird Recognition balloting is winding down for 2012 and your opportunity to select the harness racing 'Horseperson of the Year' will end on Monday, December 31st at midnight.