Harness drivers Rodney Laframboise, Ed McNeight Jr., Don Rothfuss, and Tom Swift have jumped off to hot starts in the Buffalo Raceway winter meet.
After the first four nights of racing, Laframboise leads the pack with five winners. Two of them -- Abajian ($4.20) and Sea Star Rudder ($3.60) -- were trained by Jerry Saraceni. The others came from the barns of Mike Grieco Jr., Mike L. Torcello and Bob Johnson.
McNeight, Rothfuss and Swift have four winners each. Three of Swift's winners were for trainer Debra Slack, who is tied with Torcello, Al Mariacher and Dennis Cummings atop the trainers standing.
Fastest mile of the 46 races so far was Freddie's Skipper's 2:00 3/5 victory on opening night last Wednesday for the Rothfuss/Mariacher team. Next was Youknowwhatimean's 2:01 1/5 in Saturday's feature for driver Joseph Nassimos and trainer James Marshall.
Meanwhile, management at Buffalo Raceway has rescinded its $2 general parking fee and gone back to the rates in effect last summer.
Starting Wednesday, the Hamburg oval will charge 75 cents for general parking, plus $1 extra for preferred parking closer to the grandstand.
"We tried something that didn't work," said Darrell Wood, director of public relations/marketing.
The Raceway's new owners plan to keep the track's richest race, the Hopeful Stake for 2-year-olds, on the calendar.
The track's new stationery carries the logo "A Star is Born. Home of the $200,000 Hopeful Stake."
Beach Towel, the beaten favorite in the 1989 Hopeful and a prime candidate for 1990 Harness Horse of the Year, has been retired to stud in New Jersey with earnings of $2,570,357 and a record of 29 wins in 36 starts.
Dorunrun Bluegrass, whose 1:54 3/5 mile in the Graduate Pace at Buffalo Raceway on April 28 was the fastest mile ever paced in Western New York, finished the year with a record of 17 wins, six seconds and two thirds in 31 starts. He earned $851,755 and finished seventh to Beach Towel in the national media poll.
Canadian Triple Crown winner Izvestia was nearly a unanimous winner of Sovereign Awards as Canada's best 3-year-old colt, grass horse, and Horse of the Year in 1990. Only in the grass-horse category, where Izvestia drew 232 of a possible 236 points, did Izvestia not garner every available No. 1 vote of racing officials and media.
Izvestia, who won $101,004 in Fort Erie's $168,340 Prince of Wales Stakes on July 29, this year banked $2,486,667 while winning eight of 11 races. He was perfect in six starts in Canada. His earnings were second highest in North America to Unbridled.
Kinghaven Farms, Izvestia's owner and breeder, Roger Attfield, his trainer, and Lubicon, Kinghaven's 3-year-old filly, also were voted champions in their respective categories. Izvestia's dam, Shy Spirit, was picked as top broodmare. Jockey Don Seymour, Kinghaven's regular rider in Canada, was named top jockey.
Sam-Son Farm's Dance Smartly, second in Fort Erie's Ontario Debutante Stakes on Aug. 13, was named champion 2-year-old filly. She finished third in the $1 million Breeders' Cup Juvenile at Belmont Park and earned $206,635 with three wins in five starts.
Sam-Son's Rainbows for Life, who won five of six and $368,565, was unanimous choice for best 2-year-old colt.
Angus McArthur's Twist The Snow, a 4-year-old gelding who won $247,625 in 10 Woodbine starts, was named best sprinter and champion older horse. Diva's Debut, owned by Huntington Stud Farm and trained by Debi England, was champion older mare with earnings of $175,737 in nine starts.
Mickey Walls, the 16-year-old sensation who rode at Vancouver, Woodbine and Greenwood, took honors as top apprentice rider.
Outside of Izvestia, the other five winners of 1990 stakes races at Fort Erie fared poorly in the Sovereign Awards balloting.
Regal Pennant, who beat Dance Smartly in the slop in the $112,920 Ontario Debutante Stakes on Aug. 13, tied for seventh in the 2-year-old filly balloting. Take It, winner of the $85,600 Juvenile Stakes on Sept. 17, finished tied for 14th in the voting for top 2-year-old male.
Shy Proposal, who beat Lubicon in the $118,905 Ontario Colleen Handicap on Sept. 10, tied for eighth among the 3-year-old fillies while Shirley Dear, heroine of the $39,100 Fort Erie Breeders Cup on May 28, got no votes in the same category. Thunder Regent, winner of the $59,000 International Turf Cup on July 4, tied for seventh among the 3-year-old colts.
Jockey Pat Day rode his 5,000th lifetime winner at Churchill Downs on Thanksgiving Day. The win gained him membership in an exclusive club which has only 11 other members: Bill Shoemaker, Laffit Pincay, Jr., Angel Cordero Jr., Johnny Longden, Jorge Velasquez, Larry Snyder, Sandy Hawley, Dave Gall, Carl Gambardella, Chris McCarron, and Earlie Fires.