HAMBURG, N.Y. --- "I think we had a good meet with some excellent racing," Buffalo Raceway's Chief Operating Officer Jim Mango said as he reflected back on the now completed 2014 season.
"I seen a lot of positives that have occurred here and I am encouraged about the 2015 season," Mango added.
The first eight weeks of the season, which started on January 8, were hampered by an unusually harsh winter locally and throughout the Northeast which forced postponements of seven cards. "Once the winter weather cleared and spring came, we did alright," Mango said.
Jon Cramer, Buffalo Raceway's Director of Operations said, "I think we've held our own compared to others. We've had another nice increase in our simulcast handle again. Our nightly pools were up 10 percent this year."
On the track, Kevin Cummings took his first driving title at Buffalo Raceway since 2008 with 171 victories, easily beating out Ron Beback Jr. who had 117.
Cummings finished with a UDR of .341 and earnings of $838,902. Cummings also won the crown in 2004, 2005 and 2008.
Beback Jr. finished with a UDR of .267 and $602,109 in purse earnings while Jack Flanigen rounded out the top three with 97 wins, a .277 UDR and $522,675 in winnings.
The all-time track record of 214 wins in a season set by Jim Morrill Jr. in 2006 will remain for another year.
A total of 59 different drivers made a trip to the winner's circle.
JD Perrin continues to be a model of consistency with his second straight training title. Perrin, who won in 2013 with 78 victories, put up 76 wins this year with a .372 UTR and $346,637 in purse earnings.
Ryan Swift took second place with 44 wins, having a UTR of .282 and bankrolled $208,673. John Mungillo completed the top three with 43 wins and $238,074 in purse earnings.
The track record for wins in a season by a trainer is still Sherri Holliday who conditioned 122 in 2011.
A total of 100 different trainers had at least two victories during the campaign.
The horses were definitely in high gear over the half-mile track at the Fairgrounds in Hamburg. There were a total of seven track records either broken or tied during the season.
Leading the record breakers were 3-year-old trotting colt Gural Hanover. He set his division mark and also took down the Buffalo Raceway all-aged trotting record when he covered the mile in 1:56.1 in the New York Sires Stakes on June 29th.
The 2-year-old colt trotting mark was re-established by Royal Deceptor who went 1:59.3 while 3-year-old filly trotter Glowngold got her name with the record book with a 1:59.0 time.
The all-aged filly and mare pacing record were set twice as Majic Laughter and Cased Solved each registered a 1:54.2 clocking. Sweetnsinful also produced a new standard in her division as the 3-year-old filly pacer won in a sizzling 1:54.1.
Ophiuchus N led the way in victories on the season with 12 during the meet and had the second most earnings with $47,026. Twilight Jack and Western each were victorious nine times on the pacing side.
The top trotters were Lutetium and Kely Jo Wiz as each put up eight wins.
But it was Lutetium who was nothing less than brilliant in winning the Open Trots. He was able to overcome the assigned outside posts time after time, going gate-to-wire to record the victories.
The top money earner among the local horses was Ugly Betty who took in $49,183 thanks to seven wins in 22 starts, Most of her income came in the Fillies and Mares Open Pace.
Buffalo Raceway's post time favorites scored a 43.62 rate.
Looking ahead to 2015, Mango said, "We'll be racing 92 days next season and we'll go three times week from January through May. We'll add the fourth racing day in June and July. The purse structure isn't set yet but I can tell you for sure it won't go down from the 2014 levels."
The main off-season upgrade will be the track itself. "Starting on October 20th, we will be having a major track renovation," Mango disclosed. "In cooperation with the Western New York Harness Horsemen's Association, we will be re-banking the turns, fix drainage issues, especially by the finish line, and putting down 5,000 tons of material. We are looking forward to that work being done. It's a major expense. Hopefully once this is done, it will take some of the pressure off that first turn."
Mango went on to say, "Tom Agosti will be back again in 2015 as Race Secretary. He did a great job in the month he was on the job and I look forward for him to be here the entire year and really put his mark on the race office."
The Niatross and Spring Break Claiming Series look to be back on the agenda for 2015. Mango stated, "The horsemen love it." Asked if the Claiming Series might expand to trotters, Mango quickly added, "That's up to Tommy and the racing office."
Cramer said of 2015 outlook, "We'll be sitting down and looking at promotions, what worked and didn't work. We will have the $5,000 Guaranteed Pick-4 coming back along with 'Back To The Track' and Father's Day events for sure."
Mango said in closing, "We are looking forward to 2015. We will be continuing to make some general improvements, nothing major besides the track. But we do continue to get a tremendous response from a lot of people, especially from the Sire Stakes people who've come in, how pleased they are with the backstretch and barn areas. They rave about it."
And if Mother Nature can cooperate just a little more in the early part of the next season, sunny days could be ahead for Buffalo Raceway as they embark on another year in 2015.
by Brian J. Mazurek, for Buffalo Raceway