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KITTIWAKE SCORES VICTORY IN REMARKABLY FAST TIME IN BATAVIA DOWNS FINALE

Kittiwake, a 6-year-old pacing mare who has recently shown a fondness for cool nights, sizzled to her third win in the past four starts as she took the $5,300 handicap feature in Saturday's final card of the year at Batavia Downs.

Her time for the mile, raced in 47-degree temperature with a brisk wind, was a remarkable 1:57 2/5 . It tied for the 10th fastest clocking of an extremely fast year.

Sent off the 9-10 favorite by the crowd of 1,937, Kittiwake was kept back by driver Sam Schillaci as Seaway Navigator and then Dovers Dynamite led the six-horse field through fractions of 28 3/5 , 59 3/5 and 1:28 4/5 .

The daughter of Storm Damage then unleashed a powerful stretch drive, picking up 2 1/2 lengths in a last quarter timed in 28 3/5 as she ran down Dovers Dynamite by a head. She paid $3.80 and capped a $30.40 exacta.

In the past six weeks Kittiwake won at Yonkers in 1:57 (in 45 degrees) and at Batavia in 1:59 2/5 (at 42). The $2,650 purse money raised her lifetime earnings to $504,706.

Kittiwake's performance capped the fastest meet in Batavia Downs history. With excellent summer weather and the new Eurotrack configuration, a record 130 miles -- 121 paces and eight trots -- were contested in two minutes or less, up from the previous record of 75 set in 1989.

"I think the track renovation and removal of the hub rail was probably one of the best things we've ever done," said president Barbara P. Samberg.

"We had some wonderful miles here and even at the Breeders' Crown (in Pompano Park, Fla.) many people, horsemen who are in an out of here . . . all remarked on the track surface. They like it," she said.

The fastest race of the year was the 1:55 3/5 mile paced by Colored Storm, with Tom Harmer in the sulky, on Aug. 25. Trotting honors went to three horses -- Kit Lobell, Peach Pit and Shawland Magic -- who set the all-time track record of 1:58 2/5 .

Preliminary numbers showed attendance for the summer meet had slipped about 5 percent from last year, while handle fell about 3 percent.

For the full year, average handle was $146,622, up slightly from last year. Average attendance was 1,522, down about 1 percent from last year.

"I felt August and September were very good. . . . For three meets in a row we've been up, but it's down so slightly that I don't see the overall year as being down," Mrs. Samberg said. "October wasn't so great. I guess I have to think the world situation and the situation in Iraq had something to do with that."

Schillaci, with 80 wins, took the meet's driver's dash-winning title. Rodney Laframboise was second with 62.

Tom Agosti, the top percentage driver with a .361 Universal Rating, canceled his two scheduled drives because of a dislocated shoulder suffered in a spill on Thursday.

Agosti said his doctor told him he might be ready to return to driving in a week to 10 days.

Second place in the percentage ranking went to Daniel Yetman with a .347 average. Fred Haslip was third at .319.

Brenda Ohol, a 23-year-old trainer whose Gasport-based stable includes the highly successful Omnibus, Toey's Fritz and Heartland Overload, ran away with the training honors with 27 wins and a .350-plus batting average.

Starting Wednesday, Batavia plans to host simulcast wagering on the afternoon thoroughbreds from Aqueduct (12:30 p.m. first post, Wednesday through Monday) and the evening harness races from Buffalo Raceway (7:30 p.m., Wednesday through Saturday.) There will be free parking, free admission and payoffs will be made at on-track prices.

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