Batavia, NY — Former Batavia Downs driving regular Larry Stalbaum has only been racing at the Downs as a part-time ship-in in recent years as his base of operations has moved away from western New York. But after spending more time in Genesee County this past year, Stalbaum was a force to be reckoned with on opening day (Jan. 9) of the first winter meet in over 20 years as he trained and drove five winners on the 13-race card that produced the highest betting handle since 2019.
“The Bomber” won with Malibu Kid (2:00.2, $2.70), Black Hawk Joe A (1:57, $2.20), Inquiring Mind (2:00.3, $20.00), La Puddie A (1:56.1, $14.20) and American Zest A (1:56.3, $3.30). He also had two thirds from his eight starts giving him a .764 UDR and UTR. Stalbaum was the leading dash driver at Batavia Downs in 2017 when he posted 134 wins that earned $743,422 for his connections.
Downs regular Jim Morrill Jr. also had a big day in the bike winning four races of his own that included a natural hat trick in races eight, nine and 10. The ninth was the co-featured $13,000 Open I trot that he scored with Credit List in a close finish.
Dewey Arnold (Kevin Cummings) went to the front and led the single file field to the half in a swift :56.4 while Morrill sat fifth with Credit List. It wasn’t until the five-eighths that an outer flow formed, led by Share The Wealth (Drew Monti) who was followed by Hobbs (Cory Kreiser). As the top two trotted past three-quarters in 1:26.2, Credit List was locked in fifth and was losing ground. Halfway through the turn, Share The Wealth made a break and at the top of the stretch, Big Box Hanover (Larry Stalbaum) came off the pegs for the drive. This provided Credit List a clear path to the wire that he took to a neck victory in 1:56.4.
It was the fourth win in the last five starts (going back to last year) for Credit List ($11.80), his owner Room4040 LLC Stables and trainer Kevin Reynolds Jr.
Morrill added three seconds and two thirds to his 13 drive tally to end the day with a .513 UDR.
The featured $13,000 Open I pace was won by Monticello Raceway shipper JM’s Delight, who was driven to an eye-popping victory by the Downs 2022 driver of the meet, Kevin Cummings.
Cummings put JM’s Delight right on the point and never looked back from there. After pacing fractions of :27.3 and :57 to the half, JM’s Delight had opened up a two length advantage at that station. But TJ’s Indy Pacer (Drew Monti) pulled first-over into turn three, drew alongside the leader up the backside and forced a slick :27.3 thrid panel. But under heavy urging from Cummings, JM’s Delight turned back that challenge and again opened up by 1-1/2 lengths on the field at the top of the stretch. Heading down the lane, JM’s Delight just kept on going and stretched out to a 2-3/4 length victory in 1:52.4.
JM’s Delight is owned by Greg Merton and trained by Shawn McDonough.
Cummings ended the day with a total of three winners.
The bettors seemed to like the opening day card and early 3 p.m. post as they pumped $257,510 through the windows. That total was over $20,000 higher than any race card of 2022 and the best overall handle at Batavia Downs since 2019 when punters wagered over $339,000 during the New York Sire Stakes Night of Champions. The $10,733 carryover and $17,500 guaranteed pool for the “must-pay” Jackpot Super Hi-5 wager in race 13 drew $41,724 in new money and pushed that race’s total handle to $67,058. The 4-1-5-3-2 combination returned $97.70 for the 20-cent wager.
Racing resumes at Batavia Downs on Thursday (Jan. 12) with post time at 3 p.m. Free full card past performance forms can be downloaded at the Batavia downs website and all the racing action can be viewed live at the Batavia Downs Live Facebook page.