Saratoga Takes Center Stage With Return of the Gerrity

Batavia Downs set to open Wednesday

by John Furgele, Harness Racing 228

The Joe Gerrity Memorial for older pacers is back on the harness racing schedule. The $150,000 event returns to Saratoga Casino Hotel with a solid field of eight entered. This will be the 12th annual running; the last being in 2019.

The eight horses have combined for 35 wins and $1,610,496 in 2021 earnings, and is led by This Is The Plan who comes in with 4-7-0 in 12 starts and over $535,000 in earnings–$257,000 of that came when he wired the field to win the $514,000 MGM Borgata at Yonkers Raceway in April. In the race, Mac N Cheese and Rockapelo were second and third and these two will challenge “The Plan,” on Saturday evening.

It won’t be easy for the Ron Burke trainee coming from the seven post, but with Hall of Famer driver Yannick Gingras in the bike, it can be done.  

Leonidas is 7-0-0 in 11 starts and if you like watching horses close, keep an eye on him. He’ll start from post one and nobody should be surprised if the Australian bred tries to wire the field. While he likes to sit back and close, he has shown in 2021 that he can win from the front as well.

Rockapelo, the Yonkers veteran comes in with 5-2-1 in 15 starts, his $222,500 in earnings ranks second to the aforementioned This Is The Plan. George Brennan will make the trip north from Yonkers to drive the colt for trainer Nik Drennan.

No horse in the field has raced more in 2021 than Western Joe. He’ll make his 18th start and will look for his sixth win to go along with four seconds and two thirds. And, he’ll have the best driver, Dexter Dunn, in the bike for trainer Christopher Choate.

The $150,000 Joe Gerrity Memorial Pace

1-Leonidas

2-Mac N Cheese

3-Backstreet Shadow

4-Rockapelo

5-Western Joe

6-Poseidon Seelster

7-This Is The Plan

8-Nicholas Beach

It’s a great night of racing at SCH. In addition to the Gerrity, the New York Sire and Excelsior Stakes will be in town featuring 2-year old colt/gelding pacers. There are five Sire Stakes races for $28,000 purses and five Excelsior races ranging from $6,700 to $15,000 in purses. There is also a $20,000 Open Pace that drew a full field of eight.

Down The I-90

With the season over at Buffalo Raceway, most of those horses will now head east to Batavia Downs for the remainder of 2021. The Downs opens its 59-day racing season Wednesday and will feature five divisions of the Excelsior Stakes and two divisions of the New York Sire Stakes for 2-year old filly trotters. There are 12 races on the card and two of the races are opens for filly and mare pacers.

The Downs will race Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sunday afternoons through August and then will switch to Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays in September and October. The season will end on Dec. 11.

Despite the Covid-19 pandemic, the track set handle records in 2019 and this year officials are excited to have fans back watching races live. And to help the cause, the track will offer free full-card past performances for all 59 days of the season. All you have to do is visit Bataviabets.com to view and/or download.

“We couldn’t be more excited to be able to welcome all our longtime fans and friends back to Batavia Downs and see them watching trackside with absolutely no restrictions,” said Henry Wojtaszek, President/CEO of Western Regional Off Track Betting and Batavia Downs Gaming. “Last year was challenging for everyone, but that is in the past and we are laser-focused on the future. And the future is certainly bright for our customers and horsemen at Batavia Downs.”

This is the 74th season of racing at America’s oldest lighted harness track. The half-mile oval has hosted some of the best including WNY legend Niatross.

The fastest ever to race at Batavia Downs is pacer Aracache Hanover who toured the half-mile oval in 1:51.1 back in 2011. The fastest trotter is Winning Shadow, who stopped the clock in 1:53.4 in 2018. 

Wednesday post time is 6 pm. 

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