Batavia, NY --- Sportsman wasn't involved in the feature race on Saturday night (Aug. 31) at Batavia Downs but the 8-year-old gelding sure did steal the show by pacing the mile in an incredible 1:51.3, the second fastest mile in Batavia Downs' 67-season history.
The track record for older pacers is 1:51.1, set in 2011 by Aracache Hanover.
Racing for $7,400 in a non-winners of $5,000 in their last five starts with $20,000 claimers also eligible, Sportsman, who was in for the tag, started from the outside in the field of seven. Driver John Cummings, Jr. immediately shot to the top with Sportsman ($18.20) and they just scorched the field with splits of :27.2, :55.4 and 1:23.2 in posting the electrifying lifetime mark of 1:51.3 over the fast track. He beat Wiser's Deluxe (Ray Fisher, Jr.) by 10-3/4 lengths while Lahaye (Jim McNeight) finished third.
After that performance, Sportsman probably won't see the claiming ranks for a while.
When asked if Sportsman could have gone faster, Cummings said in the winner's circle, "I think if I would have been pressured."
Owned and trained by Megan Wilson, Sportsman now has seven victories in 23 starts this season, earning $29,357.
While Sportsman stole the show, the featured $8,500 Open Pace ended in a dead heat as Zipnthruthehall (Lee Dahn) and What The Sheik (Ray Fisher, Jr.) hit the wire together in 1:54.1. Western Alumni (Jack Rice) finished third.
Zipnthruthehall took the lead from the beginning and set the fractions of :27.3, :57.2 and 1:26.2. At the top of the stretch, What The Sheik was 3-3/4 lengths back but went to the passing lane and was able to get on even terms with Zipnthruthehall at the finish line. Both returned $2.40 to their backers.
It was the third straight victory for Zipnthruthehall while What The Sheik has now scored wins in three of his last four starts.
Cummings finished the evening's activities with four victories while Batavia Downs' leading driver Greg Merton and Ray Fisher, Jr. had doubles.
A special Labor Day card is scheduled for Monday afternoon at 1:15 p.m. The highlight of the 13-race card are two $50,000 divisions of the New York Sire Stakes for 2-year-old colt trotters. Besides attracting some up and coming freshman trotting stars, it also brings in some top-notch drivers including Jim Morrill, Jr., Cat Manzi and former Western New York regulars Jeff Gregory and John Stark, Jr. There will also be four $12,600 legs of the Excelsior Series for the 2-year-old trotting colts and the weekly $8,500 Open Trot.
There will also be great food specials all day long with a 'Buy 1, Get 1 Free' chicken BBQ buffet for $9.95 (with coupon) in the clubhouse from 12 noon to 3 p.m. There will also be $1 Sahlen hot dogs, sodas and draft beer offered in the Paddock Room beginning at 12 noon.
For more information on the Labor Day activities or to view race replays, upcoming promotions or read the latest news, go to bataviadownscasino.com/live-racing.