Day At The Track
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Akron, NY --- She was born to harness racing and hit the ground running this, her first year of training. And hard work and perseverance has paid instant dividends for Riley Asher-Stalbaum and that is why she was named the 2018 Rising Star at Batavia Downs by the Upstate New York Chapter of the United States Harness Writers Association (USHWA). Asher-Stalbaum was brought up in the business, the daughter of accomplished trainer Kim Asher and longtime driver Larry Stalbaum. And having them first as parents and then as tutors have helped her to become very successful in life as a young lady and also in harness racing in her first venture as a full-time conditioner. This year, Asher-Stalbaum has raced a small but powerful stable that featured win-machines Quicksilvercandy A, Kaitlyn Rae and Empire Earl N who combined have a total of 38 victories and $231,488 in purses earned in 2018. At Batavia Downs her numbers showed 124 starts with 17 wins, 15 seconds and 17 thirds and $133,409 in earnings. All those statistics are very impressive for a first year trainer only 11 days removed from her 19th birthday. Asher-Stalbaum aspires to make a living doing what she loves and follow in the footsteps of her parents. And if the results of her first year are any indication, the business better take notice of the girl in the red and white silks in the coming years. Riley Asher-Stalbaum will receive her trophy in the Purple Haze Winner's Circle during the Night of Distinction at Batavia Downs on Friday night (Dec. 14). by Tim Bojarski, for UNY USHWA Chapter    

Akron, NY --- The Upstate New York Chapter of the United States Harness Writers Association (USHWA) has announced that Steve Pratt will receive their Lifetime Achievement Award during the Night of Distinction at Batavia Downs on Friday (Dec. 14). Pratt first got his grooms license in 1970 and from there has been involved in harness racing ever since. He has been training and racing horses in western New York since the late seventies when the star of his barn was an Open trotter named Willow Hill Boy who under the reinsmanship of the legendary Gaston Guindon, won 42 races in only five years against the best horses on the grounds at the time. Pratt moved on from racing overnights to concentrate on breaking and developing young horses. He became a presence on the New York county fair circuit but made the move to the New York Sire Stakes (NYSS) in the mid-nineties. There he found early success with horses like Sal The Barber (1:58.2, $114,887) and Choyote's Miss (1:59.1, $121,785). But he really got on a successful roll in the NYSS starting in 2012. For the last seven years Pratt has been a trotting force in the state-bred series with a string of "Barn" named horses that have competed in the NYSS, the Excel series and also at the county fairs. The parade of his champions is led most prominently by Barn Doll (1:52.1, $874,083), Barn Bella (1:51.3, $742,350), Barn Girl (1:52.3, $734,668), Barn Babe (1:54.2, $350,463) and Barn Winner (1:56, $165,273). During those seven years Pratt-trained horses have earned over $2 million in only 227 starts, winning 97 races which gave him a phenomenal 42% win percentage. Pratt's Universal Trainer Rating (UTR) for that same period is a stellar .558 and all this was accomplished racing primarily in stake competition. Steve Pratt will receive his trophy in the Purple Haze Winner's Circle between races during the live card. By Tim Bojarski, president, Upstate New York USHWA

Batavia, NY---Robert J. Kane was the chairman of the board of Western Regional Off Track Betting (WROTB) for 26 years, but he was also a huge fan of harness racing. When a longtime local racetrack went out of business in Batavia, it looked like an economic blow to many horsemen as well as the community it resided in. But Kane didn't see a failed busoness, he saw an opportunity for a rebirth. After Batavia Downs became insolvent in the late 1990's, New York State pulled their racing license from its former owners and the one time giant of the sport was relegated to an abandoned relic of the past. In 1998, Kane saw the opportunity for WROTB to keep harness racing alive in Western New York and convinced his group to purchase the shuttered track. But reopening it was going to take a lot more than just writing the check. WROTB is a public benefit corporation and the state had never granted a pari-mutual license to such an owner before. In order to have legislation changed to facilitate getting this done, Kane worked diligently for four years to obtain a racing license from New York State in order to reopen the track in 2002. When video gaming machines were legalized and came online at race tracks throughout New York State, purse accounts swelled and more racing opportunities were presented through additional race dates and Batavia Downs was a big part of that renaissance. And since that time, a sport that was once on shaky ground in this area has now been solidly anchored at this track. Had Kane not pushed to rebuild the track and position it for the future, Batavia Downs would now more than likely be a parking lot for the shopping corridor that borders it to the north. In a sad twist of fate, Robert J. Kane died two weeks before the first live race was scheduled to be held at the newly opened track in 2002, so he never got to see the fruits of his labor. But in the years since, the improvement of the live racing product and the multiple expansions of the gaming floor turned what was once was an empty building into the preeminent attraction in all of Genesee County. That has secured harness racing in this area for the foreseeable future and that is due to the vision of Robert J. Kane. This award will be presented posthumously in the winner's circle at Batavia Downs during Upstate New York USHWA's night of Distinction on Saturday, December 6. By Tim Bojarski, for Upstate New York USHWA

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