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Middletown, NY --- Despite the many hardships faced by everyone in the harness racing industry this year due to Covid 19, Goshen Standardbred Horse Sales has announced that after much concern and study about the virus, their annual yearling sale will go on as planned at noon on Monday (Sept. 14). And with the recent cancellation of the Morrisville sale, the Goshen Yearling Sale will be the only show in town this year and has extended their listing deadline to Monday (July 6) to afford those who may have been consigned to Morrisville, the opportunity to sell their horses at Goshen instead. "We will move forward with our plans for the 2020 sale so we can provide our loyal customers and consignors with the only face to face buying opportunity of New York bred yearlings in the state this year," said Mark Ford. "Our sale will be very much the same, but also totally different as we will do all we can to adhere to all safety requirements while providing everyone with a healthy and stress-free environment." This promises to be a deep and quality sale, anchored by a tremendous consignment from Cameo Hills Farm along with more great offerings from Winbak Farm and Blue Chip Farm. And joining the list of sellers this year is the Vieux Carre Farm and the Silver Tradition Stable. The sales team is already feverishly working to ensure the latest and best amenities are available for this year's sale in an effort to surpass their record breaking 2019 event. This includes full online catalogs available at OnGait.com and upgraded phone bidding the day of the sale. Paper catalogs will also be mailed the first week of August to those who make a request through the GYS website. Catalogs will also be available at most major race tracks and training facilities in the northeast. The sales facility is located at 90 Slaughter Road, Middletown, NY, which is within an hour drive of many major race tracks and training centers in New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania, making it a very convenient location. It's also only three miles away from the Harness Racing Museum and the Goshen Historic Track, making it convenient to visit those historic places during your weekend. Everything you need to know about the 2020 Goshen Yearling Sale is available on their website at www.goshenyearlingsale.com where consignment forms, a catalog request portal and hotel information for local lodging all can be found. For any other inquiries please contact Mark Ford directly at 973-568-3253 (cell) or by email at fordstable@frontiernet.net .   By Tim Bojarski, for the Goshen Yearling Sale

Plainville, MA --- When the Massachusetts Gaming Commission gave their support to a tentative date for live harness racing to begin at Plainridge Park, it was contingent on Phase-3 of the governor's reopening plan beginning on schedule.That has not happened and the track's starting date has changed. On Friday (June 19) Governor Baker announced that he was extending Phase-2 by one week so he could get a look at two weeks of indoor dining data before making a decision on starting Phase-3. As a result, if Phase-3 does begin after that one week extension, qualifiers at Plainridge would be held on Monday (July 6) and Thursday (July 9) and then the opening day of live racing for the 2020 season would take place on Monday (July 13). Any further delay of implementing Phase-3 will also result in another delay in the racing dates listed. The condition sheets for qualifiers are now on the United States Trotting Association's website (www.ustrotting.com) with a double draw to be held for those qualifiers. You must declare by 9:00 a.m. Thursday morning (July 2) for the draw for Monday (July 6) and Thursday (July 9). Horse men and women are also reminded to renew their Massachusetts racing licenses in advance of the start of live racing. With limited access to the judges office due to social distancing, it is suggested you print an application from the MGC website (https://massgaming.com/licensing/horse-racing-licenses/), fill it out and return it with a check. MGC personnel will be working prior to the track's opening to process all applications received in order to avoid any kind of last minute rush.   By Tim Bojarski, for Plainridge Park

Batavia, NY --- Horsemen wishing to race at Batavia Downs for the upcoming 2020 annual harness racing summer/fall meet should note that stall applications are now available on the track's website. https://www.bataviadownsgaming.com/ Simply click Live Racing>Horsemen>Stall Application, Agreement & Reservations link to download. Stall applications are also available at the Western New York Harness Horsemen's Association office located on-site at Buffalo Raceway. The complete 2020 racing schedule can also be found at Live Racing>Live Racing Schedule. Batavia Downs will conduct a 43-day meet this year with daily purses down roughly 20 percent from last year due to the gaming floor closure since Mid-March. "We have worked closely with the Western New York Harness Horsemen's Association to do what was best for them with regard to our purses this season, as well as for future meets given the current conditions due to the Covid-19 pandemic," said Todd Haight, Director/General Manager of Live Racing. Racing Secretary Joe Zambito has stated that stall applications must be received by the track no later than Friday (July 3). During this meet, Open I events (on both gaits and including filly and mare pacers) will compete for $10,000 while the Open II will race for $9,000 and the Open III will go for $8,000. The backstretch will open for both tack and horses on Saturday (July 18) at 8 a.m. Batavia Downs offers a text messaging service for notices about draws, entries and changes to the racing schedule. Horsemen are strongly encouraged to text the word "HORSEMAN" to 51660. You will then need to reply "YES" and you will be opted in for race office text message updates. The 74th season of live harness racing at America's oldest lighted harness kicks off on Saturday (July 25) and runs through Saturday (Dec. 12).   By Tim Bojarski, for Batavia Downs

  Plainville, MA --- During a special meeting of the Racing Division of the Massachusetts Gaming Commission held on Tuesday (June 16), the commisioners of that board unanimously voted to allow live harness racing to begin at Plainridge Park on Monday (July 6) in accordance with the governor's phased reopening program, assuming Phase-3 begins as scheduled.   The meet which was originally slated to start in mid-April was put on hold as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.   There will be two days of qualifiers held prior to the resumption of live racing that will take place on Monday (June 29) and Thursday (July 2). Horses who have not raced within the last 45 days will be required to qualify before entering the box at Plainridge Park.   Full details on entry dates and post times will be listed on the condition sheet which will be made available next week.   A complete set of safety protocols collectively drawn up by the governor's office, the MGC, Penn Gaming, Plainridge Park and the HHANE that include items such as social distancing, wearing a mask and spacing in the paddock will also be made available to all participating horse men and women prior to the qualifiers and must be strictly adhered to.   More information pertaining to the meet will be made available as opening day draws near.   By Tim Bojarski, for Plainridge Park

Batavia, NY --- Bernie E. Hanley, age 84, of Batavia, New York died peacefully on Thursday (May 7) at the home of his daughter while under the care of Hospice and his loving family. Mr. Hanley was born on Feb. 9, 1936, in Fulton, N.Y., a son of the late Laurence and Mary (Welch) Hanley. After graduating from Batavia High School, he went on to honorably serve his country in the U.S. Army during the Korean War. Upon returning stateside, Mr. Hanley got involved in harness racing in the 1960's and bought his first horse to compete at Batavia Downs, a pacer named Chief Maynard (2:00.3, $138,342). He was one of the best top-class pacers in western New York at the time and found the winner's circle many times. He also raced Mac's Miss Mary (1:55.3, $150,794), Irish Dancer A (1:59, $117,693), Overnight Guy (2:01.3, $64,985) and several others during his career. Although Mr. Hanley was well known on the local harness racing circuit as an owner/trainer for many years, most would remember him (and his wife Mary Ann) as the owner of Hanley's Restaurant, which was conveniently located directly across the street from Batavia Downs. Hanley's was the "horseman's hangout" after the races for decades where wins were celebrated, races were relived and many longtime friendships were formed. Upon retirement, the Hanley's moved South to Florida and enjoyed the sun for close to thirty years. While there, was Mr. Hanley was a member of the Deland Amvets Post 13 and the Deland Elks Lodge 1463. He was also a member of the Glenn S. Loomis American Legion Post 332 in Batavia. Mr. Hanley had many friends both in and out of harness racing and will be remembered by all as a hard-working man who loved his family deeply. Mr. Hanley is survived by his loving wife of 61 years, Mary Ann (Musshafen) Hanley of Batavia; children, Patrick (Carol) Hanley of Alabama, Elsie (Greg) Lee of Batavia and Dr. Greg (Angela) Hanley of Tennessee; brother, Larry (Mary) Hanley of Akron; 10 cherished grandchildren, 12 great-grandchildren along with many nieces and nephews. Due to the ongoing COVID-19 epidemic, Mr. Hanley's Mass of Christian Burial will take place at a later date. Memorial contributions in his memory can be made to Home Care & Hospice, 26 Liberty Street, Batavia, NY 14020 or at http://www.homecare-hospice.org. You can share your words of comfort with Mr. Hanley's family at www.tomaszewskifh.com.   By Tim Bojarski, for Batavia Downs  

Batavia, NY --- Former Vice-President of Operations at Batavia Downs, James P. Samberg, passed away on Wednesday (Apr. 29) at the age of 85. Mr. Samberg was born in 1935 in Detroit, MI where he attended Precious Blood Catholic School and Catholic Central High School. He went on to graduate from St. Michael's College at the University of Toronto with a degree in Theology and Writing. He taught English and history for a year at his alma mater, Catholic Central HS and then at Aquinas Institute. In 1983 Mr. Samberg transitioned careers and came to Batavia Downs as their Director of Publicity. His leadership in the organization eventually moved him to overseeing the entire plant as vice-president of operations, a position he held until the tracks initial closure in 1997. In 1998 Mr. Samberg reached out to Western Regional Off Track Betting (WROTB) with a proposal to sell the track to them and was eventually able to consummate a deal that year. The track re-opened under its new ownership in 2002. It was the efforts of Mr. Samberg to move Batavia Downs forward that gave the shuttered track a new life under the guidance of the WROTB and that interaction eventually turned out to be financially beneficial to the residents of 15 western New York counties (that include the cities of Buffalo and Rochester) by returning over $220 million in revenues generated by the now modern and thriving racing and gaming venue to the taxpayers of those municipalities over the last 18-years. Mr. Samberg was a wonderful husband, father, grandfather, great-grandfather and friend who loved life and everyone he knew. He was well respected by all the horsemen who raced at Batavia Downs during his tenure and will be missed by everyone who knew him. Mr. Samberg was predeceased by his parents, Louis and Martha Samberg; loving wife, Barbara P. Samberg; son, Michael P. McDonald. He is survived by his children, Martha Smith, Mark (Jacqueline) McDonald, Margo McDonald and Meghan McDonald (Scott Boone); 11 grandchildren; 13 great-grandchildren; brother, Carl L. Samberg; sister, Suzanne (Ronald) Marmol; sister-in-law, Donna Warner; several nieces and nephews; and special friend of the family, Bonnie Jones. A Memorial Mass at St. Ann's Home will be scheduled at a later date due to the current situation. Interment at Holy Sepulchre was held privately. Memorials may be made to the American Kidney Foundation or to the Sisters of Mercy. To share a memory of James please visit www.giltnerfuneralhomes.com.   By Tim Bojarski, for Batavia Downs  

Batavia, NY --- Todd Haight, who is the Director and General Manager of Live Harness Racing at Batavia Downs, was named the interim Chairman of United States Trotting Association District 8 region on Friday (Apr. 17). Haight will replace long time District 8 chairman Michael Kane, who resigned earlier this year. Haight was elected by his peers to his first term as a director during voting held back in January of this year and was assigned to the Communications/Marketing, Pari-Mutuel and Regulatory committees. He was again voted by his peers to the chairman position last week. District 8 covers all of New York State as far south as Orange County. The roster of current directors include Kim Crawford, Mark Ford, John Matarazzo, Ray Schnittker, Mike Torcello and Scott Warren. "I want to thank Mike Kane for the outstanding job he did during his tenure as chair. Having worked with Mike for many years, I feel the transition to his position should be seamless. I'm honored to take over and look forward to working with USTA President Russell Williams, Chairman Joe Faraldo, Vice-chair Mark Loewe and all the USTA directors," said Haight. "Despite the unprecedented times we are all currently working through, I feel that harness racing will return to the sports scene very soon and regain its popularity once again. And in my new role I plan on doing whatever I can to be a part of that resurgence in New York and across North America." Kelly Young is the Executive Director at Agriculture and New York State Horse Breeding Development Fund and oversees the operations of the New York Sire Stakes. She works closely with the chairman of District 8 during the stakes year as well as running the awards banquet in the fall. Young has worked with Haight for many years and looks forward to further concerted state racing promotional efforts with him in his new role. "I have been pleased to work with Todd for nearly two decades at Batavia Downs and am excited to welcome him to, and work with him in this new role leading Upstate New York. I would also like to thank outgoing chairman Mike Kane for his collaboration and leadership over the years," said Young. Haight started his career with Western Regional OTB in 1998 when they became the new owners of Batavia Downs. He then served in various positions at the track before taking over as the director and general manager of racing in May of 2011. - Tim Bojarski 716-572-1801 COB - United States Harness Writers Association Hoof Beats Magazine Columnist Standardbred Owners of Massachusetts Publicist Plainridge Park Publicist Batavia Downs Publicist and Track Handicapper     "Show class, have pride and display character. If you do, winning takes care of itself" -Paul "Bear" Bryant    

Middletown, NY---The 2020 Goshen Yearling Sale will be held on Sunday (Sept. 13) at the Mark Ford Training Center in Middletown, NY. This is a real sweet spot for the harness racing sale this year as it's slotted between the Yonkers International Trot and New York Sire Stakes finals at Yonkers Raceway which will be contested on Saturday (Sept. 12) and the New York Sire Stake consolations which will go at Monticello Raceway on Monday (Sept. 14). With the sale being conveniently located between those two events, owners and trainers competing will have the opportunity to easily schedule and attend this sale. Since 2015, the Goshen Yearling Sale has brought quality New York bred stock to the ring from the industry's top breeders including Hanover Shoe Farms, Cameo Hills Farm, Winbak Farm and Blue Chip Farm. Horses like Hickfromfrenchlick (So Surreal-My Girl's A Star 1:48.4, $638,677), Aflame Hanover (Russell Hanover-Applique Hanover 1:49.1 $336,796), Groovy Joe (Roll With Joe-Chotat Milk 1:52 $230,845) and Cigars And Port (So Surreal-Sweet On Art 1:54 $192,351) are all alumni of this sale along with a host of other high speed, quality stake winners. The Goshen Yearling Sale has grown each year in both size and popularity and has become a favorite venue for both the buyer and consignor. And 2019 was its best year yet as attendance and sale records were set across the board. "We're coming off a banner year and are planning on outdoing ourselves once again in 2020," said Mark Ford, on behalf of the Goshen Yearling Sale. "We have plans to enhance our already user-friendly amenities both on-site and online to make it even easier for our clients to just concentrate on the yearlings they want and buy them. We can't wait for September." One important deadline to keep in mind concerning this year's event is Monday (June 1), as that is the final day for all consignments to be made for the sale. The sales facility is located at 90 Slaughter Road, Middletown, NY, which is within a ninety-minute drive of many major race tracks and training centers in New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania, making it a very convenient location. It's also only eight miles away from the Harness Racing Museum and the Goshen Historic Track, making it easy to visit those historic places during your weekend. Everything you need to know about the 2020 Goshen Yearling Sale is available on their website at www.goshenyearlingsale.com where consignment forms, a catalog request portal and hotel information for local lodging all can be found. For any other inquiries please contact Mark Ford directly at 973-568-3253 (cell) or by email at fordstable@frontiernet.net . By Tim Bojarski, for Goshen Standardbred Horse Sales

Batavia, NY --- Harvey E. "Gene" Griffin of East Pembroke, NY passed away Friday (January 24, 2020) at Unity Hospital in Rochester, NY, surrounded by his loving family after a lengthy illness. He was 75-years-old. Mr. Griffin was born December 23, 1944 in Caledonia, NY, a son of the late Mollie (Charles) Minor and Fredrick (Goldie) Griffin Sr. Mr. Griffin was a member of the Western New York Harness Horseman Association and raced mainly at Batavia Downs and Buffalo Raceway during his career. As a versatile and talented horseman in the sport, his first driving win came in 1979 while his last training victory came in 1993. Mr. Griffin is survived by his beloved wife of 49 years, Paula Griffin. Gene leaves to mourn his children, Keith (DeOnn) Griffin of N. Carolina, Kenneth (Carolyn) Griffin of Batavia and Tammy Griffin of East Pembroke. Mr. Griffin is also survived by 11 siblings, a host of grandchildren, great-grandchildren, nieces and nephews. Mr. Griffin was preceded in death by his daughter, Denise Parker; sister, Mary Griffin and brothers, Fredrick, Benjamin, Gordon and James Griffin and Arthur Minor. Family and friends are cordially invited to share thoughts, condolences and fond memories on Saturday (Feb. 1) from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. at the J. Leonard McAndrew Funeral Home, 2 Bogue Ave., Batavia, NY. Expressions of sympathy may be shared with the family at: www.mcandrewfuneralhomes.net. By Tim Bojarski, for Batavia Downs

Batavia, NY --- Ralph M. Torcello, 89, of Batavia, N.Y., passed away peacefully on Jan. 8, 2020 at the United Memorial Medical Center in Batavia after a brief illness. Born on Sept. 29, 1930 and raised in Batavia, Mr. Torcello was the son of Michael C. Torcello, Sr. and Mary Torcello (Feniello). He grew up on the family farm on Creek Road in Batavia and lived there until his death. Mr. Torcello graduated from Batavia High School in the late 1940s and was the first in his family to attend college, graduating from Buffalo State College with his B.A. in education. He served in the U.S. Army following his graduation and after his duty was completed, taught Industrial Arts to high school students in the Letchworth Central School District until his retirement. Mr. Torcello's passion was harness racing. During college he worked part-time as a security guard at Batavia Downs and that began a lifetime of involvement in the sport that would last almost seventy years. He was an owner, trainer and driver and raced almost entirely in Western New York. Mr. Torcello trained and often drove his small stable of horses after getting his license in 1962. During that time he raced campaigners like Gypsy Flash, Gold Piece, Outlaw Collins and Bait The Trap. His last driving win came in 1993 in a lifetime best effort with a trotting mare named Spell Rosie followed by his last training win in 1999 with one of his better horses, What About Bob. His love of the sport spread to many in his family who later owned, trained and drove horses themselves. Mr. Torcello was preceded in death by nine brothers and sisters, Anna Strollo (Michael), Marie Perry (Samuel), Frances, Lawrence (Madeline), Rose, Angeline, Genevieve, Michael Jr. (Patricia) and Marcella, as well as by his nephew, Anthony M. Strollo. He is survived by his nieces and nephews, Ann Marie Caste (Paul) of New Jersey, Michael C. Torcello (Lynn) of Delaware and Lawrence Torcello (Katie) of East Bethany, Mary Jo Dumuhosky and Ross Perry, both of Batavia, Michael L. Torcello (Deborah) of Hamburg, Ralph P. Torcello (Diane) of Pavilion and Marirose Ethington (Larry) of East Bethany. He is also survived by numerous grand-nieces and nephews, as well as his longtime friend, Hiland Clark. Mr. Torcello was a member of Ascension Catholic Church in Batavia and a former member of the New York State Teachers' Association and the United States Trotting Association. There will be a mass in celebration of Mr. Torcello's life at the Ascension Parish, 19 Sumner St. in Batavia on Saturday, Jan. 18, 2020 at 11 a.m. Memorials may be made to United Memorial Hospital Foundation. By Tim Bojarski, for Batavia Downs

Batavia, NY --- Bruno Coccia died Saturday (Dec. 14) at age 70. Mr. Coccia was the owner of Genesee Printers Inc. and Microera Printers Inc. He was also a co-owner of the Rochester Flash Men's Soccer Team and the C.C.O. Harness Racing Stables. Mr. Coccia owned several horses in western New York from the late 70's to the mid 80's and raced successfully at that time. Among the horses in his stable was the popular pacer Jeffrey Drummond who was a true win machine. During his career, Jeffrey Drummond won 79 races with 33 seconds and 28 thirds and had multiple double-digit win seasons. Mr. Coccia was predeceased by his father and mother, Raffaele and Anna Coccia. He is survived by his fiancée, Sheri Woulard; sons, Raphael (Tasha) Coccia, Agostino (Suzanne) Coccia, Michael Coccia; their mother, Christine Coccia; stepdaughter, Nicole Mazzocchi; 7 grandchildren; brother, Agostino (Lucille) Coccia; sister, Tina Musso; and many nieces, nephews and friends. by Tim Bojarski, for Batavia Downs

Batavia, NY --- Although the final day of harness racing was canceled on Saturday (Dec. 14) due to bad weather conditions, the clubhouse that night was still sold out and the 400 or so patrons enjoyed Christmas music instead of race calls. But that was the norm at Batavia Downs in 2019; happy customers having fun at the races. Indicators for every aspect of the racing product pointed toward positive territory and in several areas showed record breaking performances. Betting-wise the on track handle was up 12.2%, driven by a 5% increase in attendance, the export signal was up 24% and Western Regional Off Track Betting (WROTB) revenue was up 5.3%. All tolled, wagering from all sources was up a combined 19.9% and provided the highest total handle at the track and the top three highest single night handles since WROTB reopened the Downs in 2002. The total handle was also $1.4 million higher than last year and all of this was accomplished with three fewer race days on the schedule. "Our customers came out in force, both live and at simulcast to support us all year and we couldn't be more grateful to them," said Todd Haight, Director/General Manager of Live Racing at Batavia Downs. "We gave them some of the best racing in the state this year and they validated it by betting us the whole season." There were several reasons for the increases and they were all primarily driven by the eight legs of the New York Sire Stakes (NYSS) culminating in the $1.8 million Night of Champions (NOC) finals in September. Along with the highest overnight purses ever offered at the track, Batavia Downs dolled out over $8.1 million in total purses this year and that drew top horses and horsemen from across North America all year, providing great betting opportunities for the customers. The Downs also took full advantage of the Strategic Wagering Pool sponsored by the United States Trotting Association (USTA) and offered enhanced funds for exotic wagers that also provided free program pages for half the card on those nights. Aside from the NYSS NOC which was the highest handle in the tracks history under WROTB ownership, the track saw its highest total nightly handles on cards where the Strategic Wagering Pools were offered. "We had 14 Strategic Wagering opportunities during the course of the season and every one paid off. Many thanks to USTA Director Chris Schick and Social Media Director Michael Carter for their assistance with these wagers," said Haight. Two other factors for the increase include the simulcast department doing a great job marketing the live signal from Batavia and picking up many new customers this year which drove the export numbers and the track's group sales department who brought in 31% more parties and events to the clubhouse than ever before and enhanced the live handle. "A lot of the people we see during live racing were introduced to the sport by attending our live concert series over the summer. They actually walk across the track and ask questions about horse racing and then come back when the meet starts to see it," said Haight. "It's really been a good selling point for us and we've made many new customers as a result." On the track, Billy Davis Jr. won his first driving title at Batavia Downs in 2019 by averaging two wins a night for the entire meet. His 131 wins, 102 seconds and 83 thirds out of 629 starts earned him a Universal Driver Rating (UDR) of .342 for the meet and $861,336 in purses. Jim Morrill Jr. was second with 79 wins, 56 seconds and 37 thirds with $921,527 in earnings and Dave McNeight III was third with 78 wins, 61 seconds and 70 thirds with $543,064 in purses. On the training side, Jim Clouser Jr. also won his first Batavia Downs training title after scoring 51 wins, 29 seconds and 39 thirds out of 219 starts for a UTR of .366 and $361,413 in earnings. His stable members finished in the money 54% of the time. Finishing second in the trainer race was Maria Rice who scored 43 wins, 31 seconds and 21 thirds out of 190 starts and earned $358,234 in purses with the legendary Gerry Sarama finishing third while making 246 starts with 32 wins, 40 seconds and 32 thirds with $256,619 in earnings. Live racing returns to the oldest lighted harness racing track in America on July 22, 2020 pending approval from the New York State Gaming Commission. By Tim Bojarski, for Batavia Downs

Batavia, NY --- The Saturday night (Dec. 14) live card of harness racing at Batavia Downs has been cancelled due to heavy snow and inclement weather. This ends the 2019 racing season in Western New York as this was the last day of the meet.   Live harness racing will return to the oldest lighted harness track in America in July of 2020.   Western Regional Off Track Betting would like to thank all the horsemen, horsewomen, fans and staff for the record season Batavia Downs had this year and wishes everyone a very Happy Holiday Season.   By Tim Bojarski, for Batavia Downs

Batavia, NY --- Two top class races highlighted the second to last harness racing card at Batavia Downs on Friday night (Dec. 13) and both winners rewarded their backers with premium mutuels. In the $12,500 Open I Handicap trot, Fox Valley Veto was overlooked at 11-1 and pulled the upset with a strong closing effort. Saratoga invader Golden Kronos (John Cummings Jr.) flew to the lead and rattled off fractions of :29 and :59.2. At the half Wheels A Turning (Shawn McDonough) pulled first up and Fox Valley Veto (Billy Davis Jr.) followed his cover. Positions remained the same until the top of the stretch when Davis tipped Fox Valley Veto clear and matched strides with Golden Kronos all the way to the wire where he got a slight advantage and won by a head in 1:58.4. It was the third win in a row and 12th of the year for Fox Valley Veto ($24.80) who has now earned $72,317 for owners Vogel and Wags Nags Stable and Jack Rice. Maria Rice trains the winner. Then in the $12,500 Open I Handicap pace for fillies and mares, Blue Bell Bonnie turned some heads as she breezed the fastest mile of the night. Driver Dave McNeight III burst through the gate with Blue Bell Bonnie, went right to the front and never looked back for a second. Posting furious fractions of :27.4, :56.4 and 1:25.2, Blue Bell Bonnie rounded the final bend and took a two length lead into deep stretch where he won in a shocker time of 1:54.3. It was the 10th win of the year for Blue Bell Bonnie ($10.60) and it pushed her total for 2019 to $75,258. Burke Racing and Weaver Bruscemi own and James Clouser Jr. trains. The Downs 2019 driving champion Billy Davis Jr. was the top dog again on Friday after winning four more races on the card. Besides the already mentioned Fox Valley Veto, Davis also won with Expensive Toy (1:58.4, $3.00), Traverse Seelster (1:59.3, $13.60) and Are You In (2:00.4, $8.70). Drew Monti also scored a driving hat trick and Shawn McDonough doubled up both as a driver and a trainer. Live racing resumes for the final time in 2019 on Saturday night (Dec. 14) with post time at 6 p.m. By Tim Bojarski, for Batavia Downs  

Batavia, NY --- The Upstate New York Chapter of the United States Harness Writers Association (UNY USHWA) has named the top harness racing driver and trainer of the 2019 meet at Batavia Downs and will present each with a trophy between races in the Purple Haze Winner's Circle at Batavia Downs on Saturday night (Dec. 14). The driver of the meet was Billy Davis Jr. Davis started driving on a regular basis at Batavia Downs in 2016 and finished a strong third last year with 99 wins. This meet Davis started fast, maintained his momentum throughout, demolished the competition and in the end captured his first Batavia Downs driving title. Davis currently has a total of 127 wins, 48 more than the second place Jim Morrill Jr. who pulled the pin for the year on the first day of November. Those wins along with 101 seconds and 82 thirds out of 621 starts have earned him a Universal Driver Rating (UDR) of .341 for the meet and $839,581 in purses. The earnings total is a new track record for a single meet exceeding the standard of $802,528 set be Jim Morrill Jr. 13 years ago in 2006. For 2019 in its entirety, the 33-year-old Davis has won 270 races, pocketed $1,846,243 in loot and his UDR of .320 was the best of his career. The trainer of the meet was James Clouser Jr. Clouser has been conditioning horses at Batavia since 2014 and has twice finished second in the standings in 2015 and 2018. This year Clouser took command early and stayed on top the entire meet to capture his first Batavia Downs training title. With a strong stable of horses anchored by owners Burke Racing/Weaver Bruscemi and William Emmons, Clouser posted 50 wins, 29 seconds and 37 thirds out of 214 starts for a UTR of .367 and $352,910 in earnings. That income total is the second highest ever recorded at the Downs behind Kim Asher's $505,624 in 2017. For the calendar year overall, the also 33-year-old Clouser has won 270 races and $775,359 in purses. He is also nearing his 500th career training win (currently at 482) and the $3 million earnings plateau. Batavia Downs and UNY USHWA congratulate both men and all their connections. By Tim Bojarski, for UNY USHWA

Batavia, NY --- With the final weekend of harness racing at hand, the Upstate New York Chapter of the United States Harness Writers Association (UNY USHWA) has announced the horses of the meet for 2019. Pacer of the Meet-Back Is Black (Western Terror-Magic Moments) 1:52.1 ($242,850) Black Is Back started his year with a tag and ended up a top-class pacer. After being claimed for $20,000 at Saratoga Raceway back in May, Black Is Back found his way into the barn of trainer Mihajlo Zdjelar Jr. through a private purchase by his current owners Curtis Edholm and Mihajlo Zdjelar Sr. He made his first start at Batavia Downs in July, soon won the $12,500 Open I pace and then never looked back. For the season at Batavia, Black Is Back made 13 starts with five wins, two seconds and three thirds, all in Open I company and did not miss a single check the entire meet earning him $44,565 in the process. He finished in the money 77% of the time and his best win time at the Downs was 1:53.1. For the entire year Black Is Back has made 26 starts with 10 wins, four seconds and four thirds for $79,765 in purses with a mark of 1:52.2. Trotter of the Meet-Lougazi (Lou's Legacy-Winning Blade) 1:56.1 ($198,483) Lougazi made an encore performance this year as he was the 2018 Batavia Downs Trotter of the Meet. During the 2019 season in Genesee County, Lougazi made 16 starts with five wins, four seconds and three thirds and much like his side-wheeling counterpart Black Is Back, Lougazi made all his starts in Open I company as well. Lougazi had a very high 75% in the money average too and his $50,500 in purses was the highest amount earned by any overnight Standardbred competing at the meet this year. His career best year also included a new lifetime mark of 1:56.1 taken at Batavia in September. Overall in 2019 Lougazi has made 34 starts with nine wins, 10 seconds and five thirds with $94,000 in earnings. Mary Warriner owns Lougazi who is trained by Ryan Swift. Mare of the Meet-HP Sissy (Up The Credit-Monica Blue Chip) 1:52.1 ($367,629) HP Sissy was purchased privately in January by John and Sally Finnocchario and became the star of the Finnocchario's Dream Stable. She went on to win 13 races out of 37 starts and made $116,493 racing at tracks across New York State. In July HP Sissy made her first of 13 starts at Batavia Downs and ended up winning four Open I paces for fillies and mares, besides finishing second three times and third four more and made $41,375 in purses along the way. She wound up in the money 85% of the time which was the highest percentage of hitting the board of any horse racing at the meet. Her fastest win time at the Downs was also her seasonal mark; 1:53.3. Mike Ohol is the trainer of HP Sissy. All the connections of Black Is Back, Lougazi and HP Sissy will receive their awards in the Purple Haze Winner's Circle at Batavia Downs between races on Saturday (Dec. 14) during the UNY USHWA Night of Distinction. Post time for the first race is 6 p.m. By Tim Bojarski, for UNY USHWA

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