Special to the OBSERVER
BATAVIA - A bigger signature race, a new first race post time and Sunday afternoon racing in August are just some of the changes in store when racing returns for the 66th season on Monday at Batavia Downs Casino. The pacers and trotters will meet at America's oldest lighted harness track for 72 exciting race dates.
The Robert J. Kane Memorial Invitational Pace, the track's signature event, will now offer a $50,000 purse. This year's Kane Memorial is slated for October 6. Last year, Aracache Hanover with Trevor Henry in the bike, lowered the Downs' all-age record when he paced to victory in 1:51.1. Aracache Hanover is locally owned by William Switala and James Martin.
Racing fans will need to arrive 15 minutes earlier with first race post for all evening racing programs now slated for 6:25 p.m. Racing gates open at 5 p.m. with the exception of August 11 and September 15, when racing gates open for Old Fashioned night at 4:30 p.m.
A total of six matinees will be offered, including all four Sundays in August. The other two afternoon race cards are Labor Day and Columbus Day. Post time for all matinees remains at 1:15 p.m. with racing gates opening at 12 p.m.
Racing will be conducted on a Monday-Wednesday-Friday-Saturday night basis for the first two weeks of the annual Summer-Fall meet with Sundays replacing Mondays in August. Twelve races will be carded nightly except on Saturdays when the Genesee County racetrack will host 13-race programs.
A complete racing calendar is available for download at www.batavia-downs.com.
Changes were made to the wagering menu, with the major change being the minimum on trifecta wagering has been lowered to 50 cents. However a one dollar wager is required. One dollar daily double wagering is also being offered.
Superfecta wagering is now offered on all races with the exception of races one and seven. The Pick-4 has been moved to the third race and the late-late double moves to the last two races nightly. The popular Pick-6, which paid $10,000 to one lucky ticket holder last season, begins on race seven.
North America's leading dash winning harness racing driver in 2011, Dan Noble, will make his Batavia Downs debut on opening night. Noble led all drivers last year with 773 wins. He currently sits fourth this year with 320 wins.
Shawn Gray, currently the leading driver at Buffalo Raceway, will also be racing at Batavia Downs for the first time. The Maine native shipped to Buffalo in January and has notched 185 wins so far this season there.
Jim Morrill, Jr., who recently won the $445,594 Yonkers Trot with Archangel, makes a special appearance on Monday night. Morrill established records for most wins and earnings in a single season at the Downs in 2006.
Again this season all racing programs will contain $2 free play coupons that can be redeemed at Player's Club. The cost to purchase a program remains at $2, however on opening night and on July 28, the first New York Sire Stakes event of the season, racing programs will be free.
Player's Club members dining in the track's historic clubhouse will receive $5 in Casino free play with the purchase of a buffet. On Sunday afternoon, the cost of the lunch buffet minus the free play coupon is just $3.95.
The entire racing season will be broadcast via live streaming video at www.batavia-downs.com. Race replays are available at the same web address.
The 2012 season features a variety of promotions, including two old fashioned nights, the biggest free handicapping contest ever and the annual family fun day at the races featuring the hilarious wiener dog races.
Batavia Downs in owned and operated by Western Regional Off-Track Betting, a public benefit corporation. Municipalities that own Batavia Downs Casino include the 15 counties of Western New York as well as the Cities of Buffalo and Rochester. The track is also home to Batavia Downs Casino, featuring 640 video slot machines. Batavia Downs Casino is located less than one mile from Thruway Exit 48 and is open daily from 8 a.m. to 4 a.m.