Off and Running at Buffalo Raceway

by John Furgele, Harness Racing 228

They finally got back at it as Buffalo Raceway opened its 2019 racing season.  Last year, the season opened January 11, but this year was pushed back to January 30. Mother Nature had other ideas as she threw in a blizzard and below zero temps; forcing the ’19 lidlifter to last evening.

The racing was surprisingly good with some quick winning times.  Most of the Buffalo racers had been off since the Batavia meet ended in mid-December and early in the season, one would expect some rust.  But sometimes we forget how durable the Standardbred is and they were ready and raring to go last evening.

The opener was a pace that saw Brady B Brave take the field out and lead at all three calls only to fade in the stretch in favor of Acefourtyfour who stopped the clock in 1:57.4.  Race 2 was the season’s first trot with Kickinitwithkohler prevailing in 2:00.4

The track has instituted a class system for races this year.  Most races will be labeled  Class AA, A, B, C or D and the feature was a AA affair with an $11,000 purse.  Australian import Khun Ratha A, who had run at both Monticello and Freehold this year, swept to victory from the dreaded 8 post in 1:56.3 with an impressive 28.2 final quarter with The Bomber, Larry Stalbaum in the bike.

Right now, the Class D races feature purses of $4,200; Class C, $6,100; Class B, $8,000; Class A, $9,500 and Class AA (opens), $11,000.  Last night’s 12-race card offered $82,300 in total purses and handled $217,786 from the horseplayers.

The upcoming Wednesday card features nine races.  In addition to the Class A-D races, there are two “Opportunity Knocks,” contests for non-winners of $12,500 in 2018-2019 who have made 15 starts during that time period.  Both are paces—one for fillies and mares—and will run for a purse of $6,000, proving that Buffalo Raceway is the “the track of opportunity.”   The good news is that the 9 races have 68 horses entered (the max would be 72) and for a track that suffered last winter with horse shortages, this is welcome news.

Buffalo Raceway will also be heavily involved with both New York Sire and Excelsior Stakes action. These series’ encourage state breeding and are broken down into eight classifications.  The Sire Stakes finals will be held on Saturday, September 14 at Batavia Downs with the consolations being contested one day later at Vernon Downs.  The Excelsior finals are set for Saturday, September 21 at Saratoga Casino Hotel.

Buffalo Raceway will host 3-year colt pacers on Wednesday, July 5.  Here is the Buffalo schedule

3-year old colt pacers:       Wednesday, June 5

3-year colt trotters:            Wednesday, June 12

3-year old filly pacers:       Wednesday, June 19

3-year old filly trotters:      Sunday, June 23

2-year old colt pacers:        Wednesday, July 10

2-year old colt trotters:       Wednesday, July 17

2-year old filly pacers:         Wednesday, July 3

2-year old filly trotters:       Wednesday, July 24

There will also be Excelsior races on those nights.  The difference between the two is simple—the Sire Stakes are for “better horses,” and cost more to enter, while the Excelsior horses are generally a cut below.

To enter a 2-year old into the New York Sire Stakes costs a total of $675; a 3-year old is $825.  The Excelsior is cheaper with 2 and 3-year olds costing $350.

Horses run all year at the seven New York harness tracks, picking up points along the way.  The top 8 will compete for the championships at the above mentioned dates.

Buffalo Raceway is off and running for 2019 and with Wednesday weather calling for a high of a balmy 38 degrees, it looks like Day 2 will come to fruition.

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