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Batavia, NY --- Long time Western Regional Off-Track Betting (WROTBC) employee Aaron Galanti was named the new harness racing Track Superintendent at Batavia Downs on Thursday after Fran Mruczek announced his retirement on Monday (June 22). Galanti has worked under Mruczek for a number of years. Galanti joined WROTBC, the owner of Batavia Downs, in 2008 and has worked with the track crew since 2009. "I'm extremely excited for the opportunity to become the track super," said Galanti. "Equine safety will continue to be our number one priority at Batavia Downs and I look forward to working with all the horsemen and horsewomen in regards to such." "We can't thank Fran enough for his many years of dedicated service to our corporation. It was not unusual to see Fran out on the track at 10 p.m. watering on dark days or here at 3 a.m. plowing snow. The racetrack was certainly his baby." said Todd Haight, Director/General Manager of Live Racing. "And we're all very happy for Aaron; he's a great guy who has earned this opportunity. He has learned from the best and is ready for his new role; I'm confident he'll do an outstanding job." Live harness racing returns to Batavia Downs on Saturday (July 25) with post time scheduled for 5 p.m.   By Tim Bojarski, for Batavia Downs  

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

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    

BATAVIA — With the virtual shutdown of the entire State of New York, everything has taken a major hit; from schools and athletics to businesses and every day lives, things won’t be the same again for quite some time, if ever. That, obviously, also has applied to one of the oldest and most cherished sports in the world — the sport of horse racing. More specifically, harness racing. While every track in New York has been shut down, including the thoroughbred venues, there have been a small number of tracks that have remained open throughout the country, though none of those include harness tracks, like the oldest lighted harness track in the country at Batavia Downs. “All New York state racetracks are currently shut down until further notice and are anxiously awaiting word when they can reopen,” said Todd Haight, the Director/General Manager of Live Racing at Batavia Downs.”Before the New York State racetracks ceased racing operations, they were racing with no patrons in attendance. That could be a way of getting these racetracks open sooner rather than later.” Yet as of March 16, tracks across the state have been temporarily closed to the COVID-19 pandemic, including Buffalo Raceway, which was midway through its current season. However, though there will not be any live racing any time soon, the state mandates have not shuttered all aspects of the sport down completely. “The racetracks that were open before the shut down remain open for training purposes,” Haight said. “Equines must be allowed to get out of their stalls for exercise and receive their proper care. The only real change there is training hours have been reduced. Racetracks that were scheduled to open in April and early May have all delayed their openings; in fact, Vernon Downs and Tioga Downs have delayed opening up their barn areas until further notice.” With the majority of racing shut down, three “major” thoroughbred tracks have remained open, which includes Oaklawn Park, Tampa Bay Downs and Gulfstream Park. Oaklawn Park is in Arizona, while the remaining two are in Florida, with Gulfstream having hosted the 2020 Florida Derby just over a week ago, with Tiz the Law winning easily in front of zero spectators. Is that something that is capable of being maintained? “Of the three it appears in the short term they will be allowed to complete their season,” Haight said. “That said, Oaklawn Park is scheduled to close for the season on May 2 and Tampa Bay Downs May 3. Of the major tracks that would leave just Gulfstream Park — located in South Florida — racing although officials at Santa Anita in California are feverishly trying to that track reopened.” With the lack of any major sport taking place during the spread of coronavirus, increased majoring on horse racing has followed suit. Though Haight isn’t 100 percent sure that has to do with there being no baseball, basketball, hockey, etc... “I’m not sure I can attribute the increased handle numbers to the lack of sporting events. Rather I think the lack of competition from many or any racetracks running at the same time,’ he said. “I can tell you at Batavia Downs Racetrack our biggest total handle of the week is Wednesday night, which I’m sure surprises many people. Yes, on Saturday night we by far draw our biggest crowds but due to so many other tracks racing we don’t see the big off-track wagering numbers that we see on Wednesdays. In fact, it can be as high as 50 percent greater than the other race nights and this is all due to the lack of competition.” However, there may still be a correlation nonetheless between the lack of gambling options and the increased interest in horse racing betting. “Yes racetracks have reported increases in handle due to the lack of competition. Gulfstream Park saw an all-sources handle for the Florida Derby card, March 28, a record $53,555,529, eclipsing the previous mark of $49,909,070 handled in 2018,” Haight said. “And remember this number was attained with not one person wagering in the grandstands as the races were closed to the public. That’s truly remarkable.” There have also been other tracks across the country that have reported huge increases, including Fonner Park in Nebraska and Will Rogers Downs in Oklahoma, with the former still up and running without spectators. Will Rogers Downs saw a 657.5% increase in the March 2020 handle over March 2019 with betting up nearly $13.7 million from the same period last year, according to Haight, while Fonner Park, saw a 272.7% increase in March handle, up more than $8.4 million. Specifically with Batavia Downs, they have also seen an up-tick in wagering in the recent weeks, for whatever the reason may be. In 2014 the Downs introduced Batavia Bets, an online wagering platform that has continued to be highly success, while Haight says it took in nearly $200,000 in wagers last week alone. Haight has also seen a small increase in the number of signups for Batavia Bets since the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis, with horse racing being virtually the only sport still running that people can gamble on. Moreover, cable networks such as Fox Sports 1 and NBC Sports have continued to show live racing on television, including the Florida Derby in late March. “And keep in mind that’s with many of our customers most popular racetracks current closed,” Haight said in the increased wagering at Batavia Downs. “When you take Aqueduct, Meadowlands and Buffalo Raceway off the board it is going to have an effect on wagering numbers. We’re very pleased with the success of Batavia Bets.” For Haight and the rest of the world of racing — and life in general — everything at the moment is simply a waiting game. And the effects of the last month are something that the world will likely never fully get over. “COVID-19 has changed the landscape of horse racing - that’s for sure. We are living in unprecedented times and the safety of our patrons, employees, and horsemen remain a top priority,” Haight said. It remains to be seen how long it will take to get back to normal and what the new normal will indeed be. “The effects of this pandemic have been felt worldwide and in all sports,” he added. “We’ll continue to monitor the situation and provide updates on our website, social media and via press releases in regards to our live racing product which is scheduled to begin on July 22. We’ll be working very closely with the New York State Gaming Commission and the Western New York Harness Horseman Association on this process.” Here’s to hoping at least part, if not all, of the upcoming Downs season will go on as usual. By Nate Rider Reprinted with permission of The Daily News Online

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 --- 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

Batavia, NY --- Joseph "Joe" Beszczynski Jr. of Darien Center, New York passed away at the age of 89 on November 29, 2019 after a long illness. Mr. Beszczynski was born in Buffalo, New York to the late Joseph and Anna (Krawczyk) Beszczynski, Sr. Although he worked construction, he eventually got involved in harness racing and ended up training and driving horses for over 30 years. He competed at Batavia Downs and Vernon Downs for most of the year but would travel to Aurora Downs in the winter on the advice of his good friend Bob Altizer. Mr. Beszczynski was first licensed to drive in 1962 and campaigned a stable of horses until 1993. During that time he amassed 154 wins and earned $316,747 in purses. His best year came in 1983 when he won 17 races. He raced horses of both gaits but one of this top horses was a trotter named St. Joesph, who was a 12-time winner during his career and was bred and owned by his wife Helen. When Mr. Beszczynski retired from racing he worked at Skyline Campground which was near his home and also spent his time enjoying stock car racing. Mr. Beszczynski is survived by his loving wife of 67 years, Helen (Rustowicz); his children, Joe (Kate) Beszczynski III and Linda (David) Shoe; grandson, Joe (Janet) Beszczynski IV; and great grandchildren, James, Abigail, and Destiny; siblings, Adele (the late Dan) Tybor, Gene (Edwina) Beszczynski, Dan (the late Cecilia) Beszczynski; many nieces, nephews, and cousins. He was preceded in death by his grandson, Timothy and his brothers, Ray and Cy Beszczynski. By Tim Bojarski, for Batavia Downs

Batavia, NY --- James Carll Caradori has been in the harness racing business since 1968 and during his 51-years of participation has been very successful as an owner. However beyond that, he has always been an ambassador for the sport and his decades of dedication are the reason the Upstate New York Chapter of the United States Harness Writers Association (USHWA) are honoring him with the 2019 Good Guy award during the Night of Distinction at Batavia Downs on Saturday night (Dec. 14). Caradori raced horses in the 1970's and 80's under the stable name Jamison Acres and had a slew of local champions that included the great Free Chase, Delmer Wynwood, Prince Rapide N, Gi Gi Lamour, Pamela Wynwood and Count Adios A. Fast forward to the modern era and Caradori has more recently campaigned horses like Rockstar Temper, Inthenameofjames and the 2017 Batavia Downs Pacer of the Meet, Focus Power. He is currently racing a stable of four at the Downs and is as active a participant as in any point of his career. But to Caradori it's more than just racing horses. He has always made it a practice of getting people involved in the sport by bringing friends and groups the the track, hosting family functions in the clubhouse, inviting people to come out for win pictures with his horses (even if he just met them) and is always ready to help with fund raisers and activities that are held at the track. Caradori is not only a good guy, he is a true friend of the sport. James Caradori will receive his award in the Purple Haze Winner's Circle at Batavia Downs between races on Saturday (Dec. 14). Post time for the first race is 6 p.m. By Tim Bojarski, for UNY USHWA

Batavia, NY --- Maryann Sarama-Luce was a pioneer in harness racing in western New York as one of only a handful of female drivers who raced full time at Batavia Downs. And despite beating the odds more than just in a race, she not only met the challenges she faced in her role, she exceeded them and excelled in the sport for decades. As a result of her place in the history of harness racing, the Upstate New York Chapter of the United States Harness Writers Association (USHWA) will posthumously present her with their Lifetime Achievement Award on Saturday (Dec. 14) at Batavia Downs during the Night of Distinction awards ceremony. Maryann Sarama-Luce passed away in July of 2011 at 73 years of age after a long battle with leukemia. She was introduced to the business when she met Danny Sarama in the late 1960's and from that point on, the two formed the successful Mardan Stable. Their most memorable performer was the pacer You Devil You, who won 10 races in a row in 1976 while rising from a lowly claimer to an Open class pacer. In the early 1980s after separating from Danny, she continued on her own as both a trainer and a driver and had her best year in the bike in 1983 when she won 21 races. She ended her driving career in 1990 with 109 wins and $201,435 in earnings, but 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 and their efforts produced $334,835 in earnings. Some of the best horses she 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 Maryann'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 Maryann never got to see it in person. He was born the night she went into the hospital for her final stay." Maryann Sarama-Luce will join previous Lifetime Achievement award recipients Gaston Guindon, Fred Haslip, Ken Ball and Gerry Sarama in this honor. The family of Maryann Sarama-Luce will be presented the award in the Purple Haze Winner's Circle at Batavia Downs between races on Saturday evening (Dec. 14). Post time for the first race is 6 p.m. By Tim Bojarski, for Batavia Downs

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