Buffalo Raceway's new management is crowing over the successful start of the winter harness racing season.
Figures comparing the first 10 days of this season (through last Thursday) to the same period last year show average attendance up 25 percent (to 1,396 per night from 1,114) and average on-track handle up 21 percent (to $156,536 from $128,869).
The average OTB handle also has increased (about 7 percent, to $221,065 from $204,709) and Batavia Downs simulcasts, which didn't exist last year, are averaging $12,366 per night.
Turning to the statistics from the track through last Saturday's 12th night of racing:
Rodney Laframboise is the Raceway's winningest driver with 12 victories, followed by Don Rothfuss, Ed McNeight Jr., and Tom Swift, with 11 each . . . Trainers Mike Grieco Jr., Al Mariacher, Michael L. Torcello and Debra Slack (conditioner for Swift's stable) are tied with six wins each. . . . The 2:00 3/5 opening-night mile paced by Freddie's Skipper (driven by Rothfuss, trained by Mariacher) is the winter meet's fastest. Next come Youknowwhatimean (2:01 1/5 , Joseph Nassimos/James Marshall), Tyler Lobell (2:01 2/5 , Larry Green/Cindy Green), Decor Lady (2:01 2/5 , Fred Haslip/Lisa Lederhouse) and Sea Star Rudder (2:01 3/5 , Laframboise/Jerry Saraceni).
Speaking of Raceway streaks, Daylon Cobra's win skein ended at six when the Mike L. Torcello-trained pacer couldn't handle the mud, a No. 7 post and a jump in class Saturday. . . . Steve Flanigen's trotter, Mystics Clone, won six straight before getting beat by a half-length by Dovers Doolittle in the mud Friday. . . . Ross Perry's Gala Khan has won four straight at the $3,000 claiming level. . . . T.J. Mulcahy's Alba Kent tries to snap an 0-for-26 lifetime record Wednesday. . . . Horses leaving post position No. 1 have won 39 of 138 races (28 percent). A $2 bet on every No. 1 horse would have produced a profit of $74. Only two winners have come from the No. 8 post in 101 starts.
More good thoroughbred racing is headed for national television. And you (almost) don't need cable to see it.
The "American Racing Championship Series," comprised of 10 major handicaps for older horses, will be presented on ABC (Ch. 7) next year from February to September (one race, the Oaklawn Handicap, will be on ESPN).
The races all have purses of at least $500,000 and there is $1.5 million in bonuses for the four horses with the best records based on a 10-7-5-3-1 point system.
Organized by the Matchmaker Breeders' Exchange of Barry Weisbord (co-owner of champion sprinter Safely Kept), the tentative schedule calls for the following races to be included:
Donn Handicap, Gulfstream Park, Feb. 9; Santa Anita Handicap, Santa Anita, March 9; Oaklawn Handicap, Oaklawn Park, April 4; Pimlico Special, Pimlico, May 11; Nassau County Handicap, Belmont Park, June 8; Hollywood Gold Cup, Hollywood Park, June 29; Race to be named, Arlington Park, July 20; Pacific Classic, Del Mar, Aug. 10; Iselin Handicap, Monmouth Park, Aug. 10 and the Woodward Stakes, Belmont Park, Sept. 15.
Entering the final month of 1990, Canada's top two stables -- the Willmot family's Kinghaven Farms and Ernie Samuel's Sam-Son Farm -- are riding high in the ranking of North America's best thoroughbred outfits.
According to Daily Racing Form statistics through Nov. 30, Kinghaven and Sam-Son rank first and fifth, respectively, as the leading money-winning owners in North America.
Kinghaven horses -- led by Fort Erie's Prince of Wales Stakes winners Izvestia ($2,486,667) and With Approval ($1,043,840) -- have won $5,034,316.
Sam-Son has won $3,067,287.
Kinghaven also is first in stakes purses won ($4,287,714). Sam-Son is sixth with $2,056,853. Kinghaven's 21 stakes victories rank second, a notch ahead of Sam-Son's 16. Sam-Son is 10th with 73 total victories (in 339 starts). Kinghaven is 13th with 66 of 261. Kinghaven trainer Roger Attfield ranks fourth in money won and Sam-Son's Jim Day is eighth.
Kinghaven's With Approval, injured in training for the Japan Cup, has retired to Florida with a $25,000 stud fee. He finished his racing career with lifetime earnings of $2,863,540 and is the richest-ever Canadian-bred -- at least until Izvestia (lifetime bankroll of $2,498,667) runs again.
According to The Blood-Horse magazine, the richest thoroughbreds still in training are Unbridled (lifetime earnings of $3,892,695), Bayakoa ($2,785,164), Izvestia, Yankee Affair ($2,261,168) and Prized ($2,157,305).
They are among only 48 horses ever to have earned $2 million or more.
Runaway Groom, winner of the Prince of Wales in 1982, has turned into one of the top Florida sires of 1990. According to The Blood-Horse, Runaway Groom's sons and daughters had won 123 races and $2,027,512 in purses through Dec. 2.
The Daily Racing Form's compilation of attendance figures shows thoroughbred racing edged major league baseball as the nation's No. 1 spectator sport in 1989.
According to the Form, official attendance at thoroughbred tracks and inter-track wagering outlets where turnstile counts were available totaled a record 56,194,565 in 1989 compared to baseball's 55,173,096.
The Form said thoroughbred attendance was up 1,353,856, or about 2.5 percent, from 1988. Attendance at harness racing totaled 18,550,871 -- down 766,689 (about 4 percent) from 1988.