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Thursday, December 18, 2014 at 2:53 pm

Railbird voting switches from person to moment on Saturday (Dec. 20)

post by Billie Owens in harness racing, sports

By Tim Bojarski for the USHWA

The Railbird Recognition voting for Horseperson of the Year will conclude Friday (Dec. 19) at midnight. The polls will then be reloaded and switched to take your input on the Racing Moment of the Year.

The Railbird Awards were created for the fans to have a way to express their opinions about who they think are the best the sport has to offer and are the only fan driven award in the industry. The voting is run by the United States Harness Writers Association in conjunction with the United States Trotting Association and the actual voting is conducted on the USTA Web site.

Voting for Horseperson of the Year ran from Monday (Dec. 8) and ends on Friday (Dec. 19) at midnight, while the balloting for the best Racing Moment of the Year will begin on Saturday (Dec. 20) and conclude on Wednesday (Dec. 31) at midnight.

A list of nominees for each award has been compiled by members of USHWA, based on what they believe were the most impactful people and moments in the sport during 2014. Those have been placed on the ballots where the fans can then make their selections from. Fans can only vote once per category.

The winners will be announced on Thursday (Jan. 8) and will be presented with their awards during the Dan Patch Awards Banquet in Orlando, Fla., on Sunday (Feb. 22).

Friday, November 21, 2014 at 3:19 pm

Batavia Downs cancels live races tonight and tomorrow night

post by Billie Owens in Batavia Downs, harness racing, sports

Press release:

As a direct result of the relentless snowstorm that has crippled most of Western New York, Batavia Downs has announced that it will forgo live racing for the remainder of the week. The programs that were originally scheduled for tonight (Nov. 21) and Saturday (Nov. 22) have been cancelled.

The decision was made jointly on Thursday by Batavia Downs management and the Western New York Harness Horsemen’s Association (WNYHHA) and both parties agreed it was the only thing to do.

Bruce Tubin, president of the WNYHHA said “In view of the devastating storm that has kept our horses from their daily exercise routine, our trainers from leaving their homes, and our blacksmiths and veterinarians from attending to our horses, I have mutually agreed with Batavia Downs management to cancel our Friday and Saturday race cards. There was physically no way for us to properly prepare our horses to race this weekend.”

Todd Haight, director/GM of live racing at Batavia Downs added “It would have been impossible for the equine athletes to compete at the highest level when most haven't been able to leave the barn for days. The decision to cancel this early takes the pressure off all parties involved.

"Our main goal now is get the barn area cleared of snow and the racetrack in the best possible condition for next Wednesday. We regret having to cancel but it was the right thing to do to make sure we didn’t experience any injuries on or off the track.”

Further concerns cited were about horsemen who ship in from areas that have been devastated by the snow and the changing conditions forecast over the next two days taking the weather from cold and snowy to a rapid meltdown and flooding by the weekend.

In light of these cancellations, pending approval from the New York State Gaming Commission, there will be two double-headers carded on the last two Saturdays of the meet. Nov. 29 and Dec. 6 will now offer two complete cards of racing at 12:15 and 6:35. Live racing at the Downs is scheduled to resume on Wednesday, Nov. 26. That leaves eight cards of live racing over six days.

Please note the new draw schedule. The Friday and Saturday afternoon cards will be drawn on Tuesday. The Saturday night cards will be drawn on Wednesday. And the final two Wednesday’s will be drawn on Friday, as always. The box will close at 9 a.m. If you have any questions please contact Race Secretary Joe Zambito at 585-344-6161.

Haight also noted that starting Wednesday, Nov. 26, the purses will increase by 20 percent in an effort to help the horsemen through the cancellations and as they come to the five week winter break at the end of this meet.

Sunday, November 16, 2014 at 4:41 pm

Western Alumni brushes late to score in the Batavia Downs feature

post by Billie Owens in Batavia Downs, harness racing, sports

By Tim Bojarski for Batavia Downs

Western Alumni ($11.40) took full advantage of a perfect pocket trip to score in the featured $9,000 Open pace at Batavia Downs on Saturday night (Nov. 15).

Driver Jim McNeight left hard from post seven with Western Alumni and took the lead from rail-rider American Bull (Kevin Cummings) by the eighth pole. But as soon as they crossed over to the pylons, American Bull completed the give-and-go by regaining the lead at the quarter in :28.4. After a more than pedestrian :59.3 half, the outer flow came fast led by Burton Blue Chip (Lee Dahn) first up, but not as fast as American Bull who upped the tempo with a :28.1 third panel. At that point the leader looked solid. But at the head of the stretch when the passing lane opened up, Western Alumni ducked inside and responded to McNeight’s highly animated urging to gain a head victory over a game American Bull in 1:56.3. Just Frank (Rock C Vinci) bested the rest for third.

It was the eighth win of the year for the 6-year-old Western Hanover gelding and the purse raised his 2014 earnings to $67,739 for owners North Creek Racing LLC. Western Alumni is trained by Jerry Nugent Jr.

The Downs leading driver, Kevin Cummings, followed up his five-win Friday night with a four-win effort on Saturday. He tallied with Tymal Torch ($29) and Union Man Hanover ($7) (to complete the $242.50 early double) as well as Flashy Trick ($4.80) and Fast Fool ($8.40). Drew Monti, Jim McNeight and Jack Flanigen all registered driving doubles.

Live racing reconvenes on Wednesday night (Nov. 19) with a 6:35 post time.

Thursday, November 6, 2014 at 3:30 pm

Driver Jake Baumeister injured in Batavia Downs spill

post by Billie Owens in Batavia Downs, harness racing, sports

By Tom Bojarski for Batavia Downs

Jacob "Jake" Baumeister, a 24-year-old provisional reinsman, was released from the United Memorial Medical Center in Batavia late Wednesday night (Nov. 5) after being involved in a racing accident at Batavia Downs.

Baumeister, driving 99-1 shot Vital Speed, appeared to hit the wheel of early leader (53-1) Call Her Quick with Jack Flanigen at the controls, as the field of winners of one but not more than three pacers were heading to the three-quarters.

Call Her Quick got rough gaited and went off stride. Baumeister and Vital Speed were directly behind and couldn’t avoid the breaker and went down. Baumeister was catapulted from the race bike.

Also involved in the accident was Justrollwithit and driver Truman Gale. They appeared to hook the wheel of the sulky of Vital Speed. Gale, a Vernon Downs regular, was also catapulted from the sulky.

Jacob Baumeister, the son of longtime Western New York trainer/driver Mike Baumeister and grandson of Ronald, who also raced at Batavia and Buffalo Raceway, suffered a concussion and facial lacerations. Gale walked off under his own power.

Vital Speed suffered minor abrasions and walked back to the paddock while Justrollwithit, who ran loose after unseating Gale, was apprehended by paddock personnel with no apparent injuries.

“We were definitely lucky that involved parties will be okay,” said Todd Haight, director/GM of live racing. “That was a very nasty spill. Jake is the nicest young man you’re ever going to meet and we all wish him a speedy recovery.”

Thursday, November 6, 2014 at 7:17 am

Bazooka Terror tallies her 10th triumph at Batavia Downs; Three horses involved in 8th race accident

post by Billie Owens in Batavia Downs, harness racing, sports

Bazooka Terror with driver Kevin Cummings

By Tim Bojarski for Batavia Downs

Bazooka Terror is known for her explosive come-from-behind finishes and there is nothing that makes her driver Kevin Cummings happier than to see a speed duel in front of him early. That's exactly what happened in the $9,500 Open mares pacing feature at Batavia Downs on Wednesday night (Nov. 5) and it provided the classy 5-year-old the perfect recipe for success en route to scoring her tenth victory of the year.

As the race unfolded, Mondatta (Dave McNeight III) and Itstimeformetofly (Drew Monti) refused to play nice on the front end. Mondatta would not let Itstimeformetofly go and Itstimeformetofly would not take a seat behind Mondatta. As a result, the two battled through fractions of :26.4 and :55.4 before Itstimeformetofly finally took the front and crossed over to the pylons. Heading up the backside it became apparent that the early pace was taking its toll and Cummings didn't waste any time pulling the trigger. He tipped the big mare three-deep from sixth and circled the entire field past the three-quarter pole. From there Bazooka Terror just paced away to score a decisive six-length victory in 1:55. Mondatta came back on to be second and Itstimeformetofly hung in for third.

Besides pushing Bazooka Terror's win total to double digits, the victory also boosted her annual earnings to $79,269 for owner Leonard Segall. Bazooka Terror is trained by James Clouser Jr.

The eighth race was marred by an unfortunate accident when the leader Call Her Quick (Jack Flanigen) made a break that caused Vital Speed (Jake Baumeister) and Justrollwithit (Truman Gale) to pile into her as she altered her speed. This sent both trailing drivers to the track. Fortunately when it happened, the two were at the back of the pack and there were no other horses behind them. Driver Truman Gale was alright and got right up. Jake Baumeister was assisted up and taken to the hospital for treatment of a possible head injury. The downed horse got up, the loose horse was caught and both suffered only minor abrasions.

Driver Drew Monti scored a driving triple with Donegal Jim ($2.80), Feets of Magic ($3.90) and Rashabec ($10.80) while the meet's leading driver Kevin Cummings steered home two winners.

Racing resumes at Batavia Downs on Friday (Nov. 7) with a 6:35 post time.

Thursday, October 30, 2014 at 7:45 pm

Kevin Cummings scores another quintuple at Batavia Downs

post by Billie Owens in Batavia Downs, harness racing, sports

By Tim Bojarski for Batavia Downs

For the fourth time this meet, Batavia Downs leading driver Kevin Cummings won five races on one card Wednesday night (Oct. 29) to extend his insurmountable lead there in the dash category.

His pentamerous outing included visits to the Purple Haze winners circle with Western Heart ($2.90), Serendipitous ($4.80), Outoftexas ($4.70), Aberarder Smitty ($11.40) and Tymal torch ($6.10).

For the current Batavia Downs meet, Cummings has 122 wins, almost double his nearest competitor, along with a gaudy UDR of .386. For the year he has 298 wins and is currently 12th in North America for UDR with a .360. His current win total, UDR and just under $1.4 million in earnings are all career bests.

Monday, October 27, 2014 at 2:04 pm

Fireyourguns an easy winner in Batavia Downs feature

post by Billie Owens in Batavia Downs, harness racing, sports

Fireyourguns with driver Mike Caprio

By Tim Bojarski for Batavia Downs

With three horses scratched in an already short field, Fireyourguns had it pretty much his own way while winning the $9,500 Open pace at Batavia Downs on Saturday night (Oct. 25).

Starting from post four in the four-horse field, Fireyourguns (Mike Caprio) immediately went to the front and held the lead through fractions of :27.1, :56.4, 1:25.4 before holding off a late challenge from Unicorn Hanover (Dave McNeight III) to win in 1:54.2 by half a length. The winner paid $3.40.

It was the 14th win of 2014 for the 5-year-old son of American Ideal and it boosted his annual earnings to $95,560 for owners Robert and Jennifer Lowe and Terrence McClory, who also trains the horse.

Leading Downs driver Kevin Cummings had a driving double along with John Cummings Jr., Drew Monti and Jim McNeight.

The next card of live racing at Batavia Downs will be held on Wednesday night (Oct. 29) with post time set at 6:35.

Sunday, October 19, 2014 at 1:27 pm

Bolt The Duer locks up Kane victory at Batavia Downs

post by Billie Owens in Batavia Downs, harness racing, sports

Bolt The Duer with driver John Cummings Jr.

By Tim Bojarski for Batavia Downs

It was the biggest night of the year at Batavia Downs Saturday (Oct. 18) as the track presented the 12th edition of the $50,000 Robert J. Kane Memorial Invitational pace. One of the largest live crowds was on hand to see the action and after the most anticipated race of the season hit the wire, world champion Bolt The Duer bested a stellar field of top Open pacers to take the trophy.

When the car pulled away, the Ron Burke stablemates Aracache Hanover (Kevin Cummings) and Easy Again (Aaron Merriman) found themselves sitting one-two at a :26.3 quarter with Bolt The Duer (John Cummings Jr.) tracking a close third. The positions remained unchanged to the half when Apprentice Hanover (Anthony MacDonald) pulled first over and led Aslan (Ronnie Wrenn Jr.) and Wazzup Wazzup (Drew Monti) in the outer flow.

Apprentice Hanover cleared and took the lead at the three-quarters in 1:24.1 when Aslan and Wazzup Wazzup fanned three-wide to take their shots around the turn. But Bolt The Duer, who had been riding the pylons waiting for his chance, got it at the top of the stretch when the passing lane opened up and Cummings Jr. shot him through the gap and outpaced a game Aslan to the wire to win in 1:53.4. Aslan finished second and Wazzup Wazzup finished third.

It was the fourth win in 18 starts this year for Bolt The Duer ($11) and pushed his career earnings to over $1.82 million for owners All Star Racing, Inc. The 5-year-old son of Ponder is trained by Peter Foley.

After the race driver John Cummings Jr. said “I was hoping to be on the lead or have the two-hole but I got away third. But we were following the two best horses in the race and we were lucky to slide out up the backside and get back to the rail at the head of the lane and then he did the rest. There is no question this is the best horse I’ve ever driven and I would like to thank Pete (Foley) for giving me the drive.”

You can watch the replay of the race by clicking here. Insert this link http://youtu.be/i2GjbuZY3hk

BZ Glide with driver Mike Caprio

The co-feature of the night was the $12,500 Brian Schroeder Memorial trot that was won by local star BZ Glide. After the heavy favorite Money On My Mind (Aaron Merriman) made a break, Sailer Eddie (Jack Flanigen) took the lead and dictated the race until BZ Glide (Mike Caprio) pulled at the half and started his trek on the outside. He overtook the lead at the three-quarters and trotted away to an easy three-length victory in 1:58.2.

It was the eighth win in 20 starts for BZ Glide ($5.90) and inflated his bankroll to $60,667 for the trainer/driver team of Alana and Mike Caprio, who owns the horse.

It was an emotional winners circle after the race as Caprio, who was a friend of the late Schroeder, commented “It was an honor for me to win this race because Brian (Schroeder) was a good friend of mine. He helped me straighten out some horses years ago and was always willing to help anyone out.”

In the overnight feature $10,000 horse and gelding Open pace, Caprio doubled his pleasure by winning with Fireyourguns in 1:55. After getting away fifth, Fireyourguns waited until the top of the far turn to pull and swing wide before unleashing his patented pacing flurry down the lane. After making up about five lengths while streaking down the center of the track, Fireyourguns beat Best Ears (Jack Flanigen) who was on the rail, by a nose. There were four horses across the track at the wire and a mere neck separated first through fourth place.

It was the 13th victory of the year for Fireyourguns raising his earning total to $90,335 for owners Jennifer and Robert Lowe and Terrence McClory, who also trains him.

Aaron Merriman, who is currently the leading dash winning driver in North America, made a rare western New York appearance and put on a driving clinic for the fans. He registered a grand slam winning with Set Me Up ($4.40), Whata Donato ($3.10), Cheyenne Cam ($19.40) and Mondatta ($13).

And not to be outdone by the National season’s leader, local driving favorite Drew Monti also scored a four-bagger with Rock To Glory ($5.90), Deuces And Jacks ($16.20), Machman ($5.50) and Bandicoot (6.50).

Racing resumes at Batavia Downs on Wednesday (Oct. 22) with post time set for 6:35.

Saturday, October 18, 2014 at 12:40 pm

Kane Memorial tonight at Batavia Downs features Aracache Hanover, Easy Again

post by Billie Owens in Batavia Downs, harness racing, sports

By Tim Bojarski for Batavia Downs

The 12th annual $50,000 Robert J. Kane Memorial Invitational pace will be held tonight (Oct. 18) and the star-studded group of Open class performers competing is led by Ron Burke stablemates $1.7 million winner Aracahe Hanover and Easy Again.

The race is named in honor of the former chairman of the Western Regional Off Track Betting Corporation (WROTB) and his vision for a defunct racetrack. In 1998 Robert Kane saw the opportunity for WROTB to keep harness racing alive in Western New York and convinced the group to purchase the shuttered Batavia Downs. He then worked diligently for four years to obtain a racing license from the State of New York in order to reopen the track in 2002.

With the improvement of the live racing product and the multiple expansions of the gaming floor in the years since the acquisition, what once was an empty building is now the preeminent attraction in all of Genesee County and that is due to the vision of Robert J. Kane.

The race has played host to many great horses over the years including the six-million-dollar man, Foiled Again, who won it twice. But it was also won by one of this year’s entrants and he set the all-time track record for pacers there when he did it.

Aracache Hanover (Dragon Again-Armbro Cachet 1:48.1 = $1,726,616) was a multiple stakes winner at two and three, including the $525,000 Confederation Cup. As an aged horse, he has been one of the most consistent free-for-all pacers in North America. He comes into this race off two consecutive wins at Yonkers Raceway and looks to be the one to beat. Although he is owned locally in Clarence Center by Bill Switala and James Martin, he has only ever raced at Batavia Downs once before. That was in when he won the 2011 Kane Memorial and set the all-time track record of 1:51.1. Aracache Hanover is 3-1 morning line and will be driven by leading Downs driver, Kevin Cummings.

Easy Again (Dragon Again-Kuklapanandollie 1:50.1 = $712,381) came into the Burke stable 10 months ago and immediately turned into a win machine. Since that time he has 11 victories in 26 starts and posted a lifetime mark of 1:50.1 at Scioto Downs while banking $264,360 in purse money. He currently has four wins out of his last seven starts, although he finished eighth last week. That was because he got parked the entire mile at Yonkers in Open handicap company. North American leading dash-winning driver Aaron Merriman makes the trip to the oldest lighted harness track in America to team Easy Again who was made the morning line favorite at 5-2.

Also in the race is $1.8 million winner Bolt The Duer (Ponder-Wonderbolt 1:47.4 = $1,801,995) Bolt The Duer won the $500,000 Adios and the $415,000 Messenger Stake at three and has faced the toughest older pacers each week ever since. This year he has battled Sweet Lou, Foiled Again and Captaintreacherous just to name a few. Last week at Pocono Downs he drew the rail after six consecutive outside posts, only to get locked in behind a stalled horse while the eventual winner was pacing away. He brings ability and back class to the table here and will be heard from for sure. John Cummings Jr. and his aggressive driving style will be in the bike for trainer Peter Foley.

Scoring from the outside is Aslan (Mach Three-Skyview 1:49.2 = $207,377). He does not have the lofty stakes resume or million dollar earnings of some in this field because he was lightly raced at two and three. But he does have a lot of speed and it would appear that he comes into this race in his best condition ever based on his performance at Pocono Downs on Sept. 20. He just got beat a neck in 1:47.3 and that clocking is two seconds faster than his lifetime mark taken in 2013. Plus this horse is handy; he can leave or he can come from behind. Ronnie Wrenn Jr. who is currently second in North America in dash-winning drives is at the lines for trainer Tony O’Sullivan.

Here is a look at the entire field:

1)              Wazzup Wazzup                   Drew Monti                        9-2-8      8-1

2)              Easy Again                            Aaron Merriman                8-1-4

3)              Bolt The Duer                       John Cummings Jr.           4-6-2      4-1

4)              Aracache Hanover                Kevin Cummings              1-1-2      3-1

5)              Apprentice Hanover              Anthony McDonald           1-6-3      7-2

6)              WhatTheSheik                    Dave McNeight III             3-1-3      12-1

7)              Aslan                                     Ronnie Wrenn Jr.              1-2-1      6-1

The Kane Memorial Pace is carded as the seventh race of the night. The program also includes the $12,500 Brian Schroeder Memorial Trot, a $10,000 horses and geldings Open pace and a $10,000 mares Open pace. Post time for the evening is 6:35.

Thursday, October 16, 2014 at 12:14 pm

Batavia Downs to remember two ladies of the sport

post by Billie Owens in Batavia Downs, harness racing, sports

By Tim Bojarski for Batavia Downs

On Friday, Oct. 17, Batavia Downs will look back and honor the careers of two longtime female trainers who plied their trade on the Western New York circuit for many years. Mary Ann Sarama-Luce and Brenda Ohol will have races named in their honor and presentations made with their families in the winner’s circle as the local horsemen pay their respects and remember their careers at Batavia Downs.

Mary Ann Sarama-Luce passed away in July of 2011 at 73 years of age after a long battle with leukemia. She ended her driving career in 1990 with 109 wins and $201,435 in earnings. At that point she started training full time and continued to do so until her passing. As a conditioner she sent 107 horses to the winner’s circle whose efforts earned $334,835. Some of the top horses Sarama-Luce trained included Gold Bandit N, Top Dog Alex, Top Dog Nicholas, Easy L Bar and Guy Lee Debbie.

After her passing, her son Carl and husband Richard have carried on with her stable.

“Harness racing was her number-one priority and passion” her daughter Lynette McGiveron said. “Her horses were the driving force behind her battle to recover. Even in her final days she worried more about her horses than herself.”

McGiveron continued “A passion of Mary Ann's was to have her mares bred and to raise the foals to race. She named them after her kids and grandchildren and had planned on doing so until every child and grandchild was named. The last foal to be born on her farm was "Top Dog Morgan" named after her grandson. Unfortunately Mary Ann never got to see it in person. He was born the night she went into the hospital for her final stay.”

Bruce Tubin, president of the Western New York Harness Horsemen's Association, described Mary Ann as “A fierce competitor both as a trainer and a driver.”

After the fifth race, named the Mary Ann Sarama-Luce Memorial Trot, we will remember a great mother, person, horseman and friend to so many in Western New York.

Brenda Ohol died in August of 2013 after a long battle with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig's disease.

She was born in Batavia and raised in Akron, New York, and was around horses her entire life. She was always in the barn with her father Ron Lederhouse who campaigned his own stable for many years and then as an adult, married Mike Ohol who was an established trainer/driver on the Western New York circuit.

During her 22-year training career she sent 691 winners to post and amassed earnings of $2.85 million. Her most prolific year came in 2009 when she had 1,018 starters with 79 winners, 91 seconds and 122 thirds along with $396,953 in monies won. Some of her best known horses included Little Man Cam, Adelia’s Prince, Honeybee Hershey, Fundy Breeze, Collier St. Bobby and Sunray Kash.

She left a legacy of women in racing behind as her daughter Courtney and granddaughter Brittney are now currently active full time trainers at Batavia. Ohol’s sister Lisa Lederhouse is an accomplished trainer as well.

Bruce Tubin, president of the western New York Harness Horsemen’s Association, said “Brenda was a hands-on, hardworking trainer who left us way too soon.”

Jim Mulcahy, treasurer of the Western New York Harness Horsemen’s Association said “Brenda always had a nice stable of horses that were always competitive. She was one of the top female conditioners on this circuit.”

After the seventh race, named the Brenda Ohol Memorial Pace, we will remember our other great mother, person, horseman and friend to everyone who raced on this circuit.

Post time for the first race is 6:35 p.m.

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