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Tuesday, July 23, 2013 at 7:42 am

Photos: 67th season of racing opens at Batavia Downs

post by Howard Owens in batavia, Batavia Downs, harness racing, sports

The 67th year of racing at Batavia Downs Race Track and Casino kicked off Batavia Downs on Monday evening and in a season when some of the dominant drivers of recent years are out for one reason or another, the competition for top driver in 2013 is wide open.

Especially after an opening night that saw eight different drivers trot into the winners circle.

Track announcer Joe Zambito.

To purchase prints of these photos, click here.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013 at 7:28 am

Eight different drivers notch wins on first night at Batavia Downs

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

Press release:

If the opening night of action is any indication about the 2013 driver's race at Batavia Downs, things probably will be up in the air until the final night.

The 72-day meet at Batavia Downs, now in its 67th season, started Monday evening and after the nine-race card was completed, eight different drivers found their way to the winner's circle.

But someone managed to take the lead after the first night and that was 18-year-old provisional driver Drew Monti who managed to post a pair of victories. He scored with Carscot Review ($5.90) in the second race and Special News ($2.60) in the seventh to take the spotlight.

Batavia Downs Live Racing General Manager Todd Haight said of the first night, "We had a great crowd tonight. We distributed a large amount of free programs and our handle was about what we expected.  Overall, considering all we've had to deal with to get the property ready for racing I'm extremely pleased." Racing fans wishing to view replays of the races can do so at bataviadownscasino.com. Simply click on 'Live Racing' tab then on date and race number.    

Racing action returns on Wednesday night with a 6:30 p.m. start. The feature will go off in the seventh race as the fillies and mares do battle in the Open for $8,500. The 2-1 morning line favorite is Keep It Fair who captured the Fillies and Mares Open last week at Buffalo Raceway by going wire-to-wire in 1:55.3 for driver Aaron Byron. Greg Merton, however, will be take the reins this time around and score Keep It Fair from the two post.

Wednesday night also marks the return of 'Batavia Downs Live' on Time-Warner Cable in Rochester and surrounding areas on digital channel 98. Track announcer Joe Zambito and Ashley Holliday will co-host the 12-race card from start to finish.

Friday, July 19, 2013 at 10:33 am

The 67th season of racing opens at Batavia Downs on Monday

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

Press release:

Excitement. Anticipation. Optimism. Those three words are probably the best to describe the upcoming 2013 harness racing season at Batavia Downs, beginning on Monday (July 22) with a 6:30 p.m. post.

The 72-day harness schedule will be highlighted once again by popular promotions, a new addition in the betting format and some new faces in the trainer and driver colony.

And that's just on the racing side.              

The much anticipated opening of the new video lottery terminal area in the old Paddock Room is expected Aug. 30 and it will bring an added electric atmosphere to the half-mile oval throughout the summer and fall months.

"It might be a little tough at first but the end product will look great," said Todd Haight, general manager of Live Racing, when speaking about the renovations going on at Batavia Downs Gaming and Race Track. "We've lost some space on the racing side. But we are really excited about it all and what the end result will be. With the new gaming floor, new concession stand, sports bar and restaurant, we are very optimistic for the future."

At the start of the season, fans wanting to get to the apron of the track will enter the gate by the paddock (left-hand side of the facility) while those wanting to go to the video lottery terminal area, the clubhouse or enclosed grandstand will still enter where they normally would at the main entrance. Haight noted that one can reach the rail on the apron by walking down the stairs in the grandstands.

Haight is extremely pleased that "Batavia Downs Live" will return to Time-Warner Cable, digital channel 98, which serves Rochester and surrounding counties.

"This could be huge for us. We did not have a consistent schedule in the past but now we do. We will be on cable TV Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday nights through at least the end of October."

Besides using Western Regional Off-Track Betting’s Dial-A-Bet system, racing fans will be able to watch and wager on the races via Batavia Bets, WROTB’s online wagering platform.

"Batavia Bets offers an easy rewards program for wagers made on us," Haight said. "The online site is user friendly and you don't have to wait for an operator to take your call. We thought it made sense to bring back the TV show now that we offer online wagering.”

Ashley Holliday will serve as a co-host along with track announcer Joe Zambito.

"Ashley is very knowledgeable and has basically done it all in the horse business,” Haight said. "She will give her insight and perspective on the races. She'll also explain to fans about different pieces of equipment. I think our fans will find it very interesting.”

While there are several ways to wager without going to the track, Haight says getting people out to the Downs is imperative.

"We showed huge growth on our export handle last season, but we must continue to do our best to get people to come out to the racetrack. Like in previous seasons we've got a lot of good promotions that hopefully will do just that.”

Some of this year’s promotions include several dollar days (or nights), two free handicapping contests, the wiener dogs races that began in 2005 and remain more popular than ever, the driver's bike races that began in the early 1980s and the season ending Pick-6 contest.

A kickoff booklet will be distributed on Saturday night (July 27), which features free wagers for Pick-4s, daily doubles and racing programs. All live racing programs will contain a $5 free play coupon for the video games.

Haight stated that the driver's bike race, normally held on Labor Day, will be held on Columbus Day instead.

"With the New York Sires Stakes here on Labor Day we decided to move the bike race to Columbus Day.”

The very popular all-you-can-eat shrimp, prime rib and crab leg buffet will return every Friday and Saturday night in the clubhouse. New this year, Player's Extra members are entitled to receive $3 off their buffet.

Another added feature this season in the clubhouse is mutuel clerks that will be taking bets tableside.

“Customers won't have to leave their table to make a wager," Haight said. "This isn’t really new, but it’s new to us. Many customers had a hard time going up and down the stairs to make a wager. I’m confident our clubhouse patrons will really enjoy this feature.”

The annual college scholarship race is slated for Saturday (Sept. 14). Five more high school seniors will compete for their share of $7,500 in college scholarship money.

The 11th annual $50,000 Robert J. Kane Memorial Pace is scheduled for Saturday (Oct. 5). This race usually attracts some top, hard-hitting pacers from all over the country. Previous winners include Foiled Again, the richest pacer in harness racing history.

Exciting New York Sires Stakes action begins on Aug. 16. The Caledonia Fair races have been rescheduled to be held at the Downs on Aug. 1. Also this season, the Downs will host the New York County Fair finals on Aug. 28.

New trainer/drivers in town include Jacques Beaudoin, Gaston Lareau, Mario Dessureault and former Downs regular Fred Cohen, the last three making the move up from Pompano Park in Florida.

Speaking of drivers, the track will also print in the nightly program the driver's choice in a race.

"When a driver is initially listed to drive several horses in a race, he gets to choose who he wants to drive," Haight said. "We will now print their choices in the bottom of each program page. It could be a great handicapping tool."

As far as the wagering format goes, Batavia Downs has added a second Pick-3 to its menu along with a new Pick-5 ($2 minimum). The Pick-5 replaces the Pick-6. To win the Pick-5, the customer must select all five winners in the Pick-5 sequence or the entire pool carries over.

Batavia Downs will also be part of the USTA Strategic Wagering Program, beginning Aug. 7, when the Pick-4 pool will be guaranteed at $3,000.

Racing will be held Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday nights in July with a 6:30 p.m. post time. Then in August, racing switches to a Sunday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday format with posts remaining at 6:30 p.m., with the exception of Sundays, which get under way at 1:15 p.m. The season ends on Saturday (Dec. 7).

Thursday, July 11, 2013 at 12:53 pm

Changes ahead at Batavia Downs as contruction project proceeds and new racing season approaches

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

Press release:

Racing fans will notice some changes when the 2013 live racing season gets under way at America’s oldest lighted harness track, Batavia Downs. The 67th season July 22, with a new post time of 6:30 p.m.

The historic track is in the midst of a $27 million construction project to move and expand the gaming floor to the ground level. The projected opening is Aug. 30.

Racing fans wishing to enjoy the races on the track apron or in the paddock room must enter through the north gate, located where a new cross walk has been installed. Racing fans wishing to dine in the clubhouse or view the races from the enclosed grandstand can continue to enter through the main entrance.

“We’re excited about nearing the completion of phase one of the expansion project,” said William White, vice president of Administration. “We have been working closely with Todd (Haight, GM of Live Racing) to put this facility back together in time for racing.

"I’m confident both our racing and gaming customers will enjoy the benefits from having both venues on the same level.”

Among the improvements on the racing side are a new paved track apron, redesigned paddock room mutuel betting windows and walk about tellers in the clubhouse.

Monday, June 17, 2013 at 2:21 pm

'Batavia Downs Live' TV broadcast returns July 24

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

Press release:

"Batavia Downs Live,” the popular three-and-a-half hour television broadcast of the harness races from Batavia Downs, returns on July 24, the second racing night of the 2013 season, at the historic track located in Genesee County.

A total of 20 race cards will be televised in the Time-Warner Rochester region on digital cable Channel 98. The coverage area includes Genesee, Orleans, Wyoming, Monroe, Livingston, Wayne, Ontario, and Seneca counties.

The broadcast beings at 6:30 p.m. and will conclude at 10 p.m.

Ashley Holliday, who currently serves as the Downs parade marshal, will now double as TV host and racing analyst on all Time Warner broadcasts, while continuing her duties as parade marshal on other race nights. She’ll co-host the broadcast with longtime track announcer Joe Zambito.

“Bringing Ashley aboard will add another dimension to our broadcast,” said Todd Haight, general manager of live racing. “Throughout the years she's gained a tremendous knowledge of harness racing and will do a great job of conveying that to our viewers.

"It only made sense to bring back the TV broadcast now that OTB offers online wagering at Bataviabets.com. I expect some real growth once the season begins.”

Western Regional Off-Track Betting, the owner of Batavia Downs, also provides telephone betting through its Dial-A-Bet service. Patrons may phone 1.800.724.4000 to establish an account or for more information on how to open a Batavia Bets account.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013 at 3:00 pm

World Harness Handicapping Championship qualifier is March 22 at Batavia Downs

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

Western Regional Off-Track Betting and Batavia Downs Casino are pleased to announce they will be hosting a World Harness Handicapping Championship qualifier at the historic harness track on Friday night, March 22.

Entry fee is $10 and two entries are permitted. The initial entry fee includes $5 returned in Casino slot play. The contest is limited to 150 entries.

The qualifier will consist of races 1 – 10 at Buffalo Raceway and races 1 – 8 at the Meadowlands Racetrack.

Contestants are required to make a total of nine mythical win-place wagers on the 18 designated contest races of which at least five contest wagers must be made on Buffalo Raceway. The remaining four wagers can be made on either Buffalo Raceway or the Meadowlands. Only one mythical wager is allowed per designated contest race.

Each contest wager will consist of a mythical $10 win-place wager. No best bet selection is required.

The “Win” mutuel will be capped at $40. The “Place” mutuel will be capped at $20 Therefore, the most a contestant can win in any given contest race is $300.

The Grand prize is a trip to compete in the $100,000 World Harness Handicapping Championship to be held on April 13 at the Meadowlands Racetrack. The winner will also receive hotel accommodations for two nights and $500 in expense money. The package is valued at $1,750. The top 10 finishers receive prize money.

Advance payments are being accepted by mailing a check or mail order to Batavia Downs Casino, 8315 Park Road, Batavia NY 14020, Attn: Todd H.

Walk-ups the night of the contest can also enter with the amount of open seats available determined by the number of advance entries.

Friday, December 7, 2012 at 4:02 pm

Tonight is Customer Appreciation Night at the Downs, season closes Saturday

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

Tonight is Customer Appreciation Night at Batavia Downs. After the fourth race in the enclosed grandstand, Subway subs and cake and coffee will be served while supplies last. Racing programs will be $1; coffee in the paddock room will be just 50 cents beginning at 5 p.m.

The free Pick-6 contest continues. Another $500 will be up for grabs for anyone that can pick all six winners on contest races four-nine. Sign up to play begins at 5 p.m. at Players Club and all Pick-6 forms must be returned to Players Club by the start of the fourth race. In the event there is more than one winner, the prize money is divided equally.

Then on Saturday night, the 2012 season comes to a close. Members of the Upstate New York Chapter of the United States Harness Writers Association will be trackside as part of the fifth annual “Night of Distinction” awards presentation.

Also on Saturday there will be a mandatory pay-out in the free Pick-6 contest. Either $500 or $1,000 will be paid out. If the Pick-6 contest is not won on Friday (Dec. 7), then the pool increases to $1,000 on Saturday night. If won on Friday, then the Saturday contest pool will be $500. Since it's closing night all monies must be paid out to whoever picks the most winners. In the event of a tie, all prize money will be divided equally. Contest races are four-nine. Sign up to play begins at 5 p.m. at Players Club and all Pick-6 forms must be returned to Players Club by the start of the fourth race. No purchase is necessary, must be a Batavia Players Club member to participate.

The Pick-6 contest is sponsored by the Western New York Harness Horsemen’s Association.

Simulcast wagering returns back to a seven day a week schedule beginning Dec. 9 at both the Downs and ITW simulcast center located across the street.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012 at 4:51 pm

Equine vet Peter Kanter to be honored Dec. 8 at Batavia Downs

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

Press release:

Each year, the members of the Upstate New York Chapter of the United States Harness Writers Association look to recognize a member of the racing community who has selflessly given of their time and effort for the betterment of the sport and its horses.

This year, the organization will honor a man who has been doing it for more than three decades. Peter Kanter, D.V.M., Ph.D., has been practicing equine medicine in Western New York since 1973, after graduating from the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine. While servicing the needs of horsemen in the morning, he has also been the paddock vet at both Batavia Downs and Buffalo Raceway each night since 1979.

But this is only part of the story. Besides caring for his four legged patients, Dr. Kanter was also working to defeat a human disease that has touched everyone’s life at some point. From 1973 until 2008, Dr. Kanter served as a director in the Division of Drug and Treatment Development as well as being in charge of the Department of Comparative Surgery at the Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo. Among his many accomplishments there, he was responsible for bringing a plethora of treatment drugs to market and also helped develop the techniques of what is now commonly known as minimally invasive surgery.

At the track, his commitment to the sport and its participants has been unparalleled and his many clients are a testament to that. He has made an uncountable number of horses better through his work and he continues to be there to address their needs before or after the races. While at Roswell Park, his work was responsible for helping to ease the pain and suffering of thousands of people while aiding the fight to a cure.

It is for his life’s work to improve the lives of both man and beast that Dr. Peter Kanter was chosen the 2012 UNY USHWA Unsung Hero. Dr. Kanter will receive his award trackside at Batavia Downs on Saturday (Dec. 8) during the fifth annual “Night of Distinction” awards presentation, where all the best equine and human performances of the current Batavia meet, as well as the best in Western New York for the entire year, will be feted.

Saturday, December 1, 2012 at 1:52 pm

Duke of Wellington and Miss Two Punch takes Batavia features

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

It was the penultimate Friday night (Nov. 30) of the 2012 summer-fall meet at Batavia Downs Casino. Headlining the 12-race program, which take place on a cold and snowy night in Western New York, was a pair of $7,400 races, one trotters and one for pacers.

On the trotting side, Howard Ouriel’s Duke of Wellington, took over the lead past three-quarters and went on to a 2-1/4 length score in 1:59.4 to notch his fifth win of the season. Dan Noble, who has now won 16 races in the last three racing nights at the Downs, was at the controls for conditioner Don Rothfuss.

Duke of Wellington ($22.60), a 7-year-old altered son of Canadian sire Duke of York raised his lifetime bankroll to $119,037.

On race later the best distaff pacers in Western New York hit the racetrack and it was one of the most exciting finishes of the year.

Hasty Pulse with Dan Noble in the bike, took command at the top of the stretch after a first over trip and appeared to be well on her way, but it was Miss Too Punch who would not be denied and closed from last to take home the lion’s share of the purse money.

With Jamie Dunlap in the sulky for trainer Tracy Root, Miss Two Punch ($17) unleashed a wicked late burst to score a narrow neck victory in 1:57.4. The daughter of Allamerican Ingot made her fourth winners circle visit in 2012 and increased her lifetime earnings to $87,482.

In the final Pick-6 wager of the season, that featured a mandatory pay-out, four of six was a winning ticket and returned $83.

Racing resumes on Saturday night with a post time of 6:25. There are only three nights remaining in 66th season at Batavia Downs. Racing concludes on Dec. 8.

The free pick-6 contest kicks off on Saturday night; Players Club members that can pick the winners of races 4 through 9 will win or share in the $500 pool. This promotion is sponsored by the Western New York Harness Horseman’s Association.

Sunday, November 25, 2012 at 5:01 pm

Starbux Eden beats the boys in Batavia Downs feature

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

By Brian Mazurek, for Batavia Downs

It was Ladies' Night Friday (Nov. 23) in the featured $8,200 Open I-II Handicap Trot at Batavia Downs as the lone mare in the field of seven, Starbux Eden, beat the boys by 1-1/4 lengths in 2:00.4.

Owned, trained and driven to victory by John Cummings Jr., of Williamsville, the favored Starbux Eden ($4.40) sat the pocket behind the pacesetting Perfect Man (Dave McNeiught Jr.) through quarters of :29.0, 1:00.2 and 1:30.1.

But just before the top of the stretch, instead of dropping down to the passing lane, Cummings Jr. tipped the 6-year-old Striking Sahbra mare to the outside and trotted home smartly in :30.3 on the blustery evening, easily beating Keystone Bernard (Shawn Gray). Partici Pator (Jim McNeight) finished third.

It was the 10th win of the season for Starbux Eden in 35 starts and increased her 2012 earnings to $60,005.

Reinsman Dan Noble, currently second in the Downs' standings, was the driving star of the evening winning six times on the 12-race card.

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