Buffalo Raceway races only three times a week this time of year, but there still are a lot of profit-making opportunities for those who pay attention. In case you've been out of touch the last six weeks, here are some highlights of the season so far:
King Kong: Nobody has been able to beat El Paso Hanover, the 7-year-old gelding trained by Tim Dunlap for owner David R. Krol.
El Paso Hanover has earned $15,500 while going unbeaten in five starts. His last four victories have come in the $6,500 Open Handicap pace Saturday nights. With Jamie Dunlap at the controls, El Paso Hanover has the fastest mile of the season (1:57 3/5 on March 5) and also won what many consider the most exciting race of the meet.
That came March 12 when the grandson of Hall of Famer Bret Hanover scored a 5 1/4 -length victory over Cambest Prince, a 9-year-old Cleveland invader sent off as the 2-5 favorite.
Cambest Prince (driven by Northfield Park's Greg Grismore) was softened up by an early speed duel with Lesdale Kid N (John Cummings Jr.), who parked him out through sizzling fractions of 29, 58 and 1:28 2/5 . El Paso Hanover paced his final quarter in 29 3/5 seconds, crossed the line in 1:58 and paid $9.40, the second-highest payoff of his 11 wins at Hamburg over the last two years.
The Krol-Dunlap team, based at Krol's farm and training track in Alden, has won 13 races with five horses. The stable has won twice each with Canary Road, Fiery Sahbra and Master Of The Game and twice with Yankee Sunburst.
Stakes winners: Two other Cleveland invaders got the big money in the March Madness pacing series.
Ima Prince Too, a 3-year-old full brother to Cambest Prince (both are trained by Jeffery Cox), won the meet's richest race so far when he scored a 1 1/4 -length victory (in 1:59 3/5 ) over Another First in the $9,000 March Madness final for males last Saturday. On the previous night, Dig In Allie, a 4-year-old mare driven by Dunlap for trainer Jodi Schillaci, easily won the $8,500 Madness final for females in 2:01 3/5 .
Horses from the Madness series usually go on to do well when they drop in class into ordinary races. There's Lend Me An Ear, who paid $5.40 March 23 when he won his first start while dropping into nonwinners company after finishing third in the first leg of male Madness.
Another First, runner-up for trainer Jim Graham and driver Richie Mays, is another 3-year-old which should appreciate the class relief after making his first three career starts against Madness company.
Keep an eye on Madness veterans Apache Beauty, Broadway Cardshark (already a four-time winner for trainer Donald Crockett), Canarsie Character, Early Winter, Everlasting Kiss, Four Starzzzz Coop, Kandy's Last, King Arthur K, LDees Charmer, Making Richess, Prymetyme Work Out, Stan O Josesphine and Ws Wa'd U Say.
Graham's crackling: Graham has won only three times this season, all with Operating Light, a 5-year-old mare who is one of the best female pacers on the grounds.
But Graham has sent out other impressive animals. Keep an eye on Handyman Hanover (a 3-year-old maiden who cost $10,000 as a yearling), Life Estate (a 7-year-old mare who closed with a rush and just missed March 18) and Dons Decision (a two-time runner-up in his first three starts this year).
Top trotters: Champagne Victory has been king so far this year. Going into Friday's $6,500 Open Handicap trot, the 8-year-old gelding had won four of five starts and $13,370 for owners Travis Betters and Megan Wilson. All came with trainer/driver John Cummings Jr. at the reins.
Despite his success, Champagne Victory, whose best win came in 2:02 4/5 , is not the fastest trotter at Hamburg. Trainer Paul Messina's Panther Hall (2:02 3/5 ) and Carl Monti's Satellite Dish (2:02) have won in quicker times. Satellite Dish's victory March 25 matched his own career-best time, set at Northfield about two months earlier.
Head scratchers: Six winners have paid more than $50 for a $2 win wager. Three of them -- Deal Of Deals ($88), Passover Ivan ($64.50) and Mr Little ($50) -- had something in common. Each posted the second-highest lifetime earnings in the race.
Claim game: Eight horses have been claimed by new owners already. The most successful claimee has been AC's Flashy Guy, a 6-year-old pacer taken for $3,500 on March 13 by a client of trainer Steve Green.
Six days after the claim from trainer Jim McNeight, AC's Flashy Guy climbed up to $5,000 company and won easily in 1:58 3/5 and paid $10.60. A week later, he tried $7,500 company but finished last after getting hung out in a 57 4/5 first half.
Another recently claimed horse to watch is Jacks Dream Girl, a trotting mare taken for $3,000 March 18 by trainer Anthony Cummings. The 9-year-old drew the No. 8 post in her next start, for a $3,600 price tag. Reined by leading driver Kevin Cummings, she closed quickly to finish second by a half-length.
Starlets Last Stan, an 8-year-old Canadian pacer who posted a 2:00 win at Flamboro Downs a month earlier, finished last as a 9-10 favorite last Saturday but was claimed for $5,000 by a client of John Cummings Jr.