LOCAL HARNESS racing fans who consider the sport as something more than just a roulette wheel can look back on 1990 as a very good year. Many of North America's top trotters and pacers -- including several possible divisional champions -- made stops at Buffalo Raceway and Batavia Downs.
The Happy Handicapper became especially aware of the quality of the past year's visiting horse flesh last week, when he went over the records of the best sulky pullers on the continent while preparing his U.S. Harness Writers Association ballot for post-season awards. Here's how he voted and how some of the top local racers finished the year.
2-year-old male: Artsplace won 11 of 15 and a division-topping $1,180,271. In the Breeders Crown at Pompano Park, his world record 1:51 1/5 mile was the fastest for a freshman colt pacer on any sized track.
Local Ties: Cambest, who was placed second to He's Discreet in the $190,000 Hopeful at Buffalo Raceway on July 1, finished the year with 12 wins in 18 starts and earned $360,522, fifth-highest in the division. WRH, moved up to third in the Hopeful, won a $32,186 division of the Standardbred Stakes at Delaware, Ohio. His 1:54 1/5 time in that race tied for 1990's fastest win by a 2-year-old pacer on a half-mile track.
Intrepetor, who finished second in the Hopeful but was moved down because of interference caused by a stablemate, went on to win a $12,500 division of the Hanover-Hempt at Vernon in 1:57 4/5 ; a $55,000 division of the American-National at Sportsmans' Park (1:56 3/5 ) and the $57,960 final of The Bluegrass at the Red Mile in 1:53 3/5 . He also won a 2:00 mile at Batavia Downs in June. Three Wizzards, sixth in the Hopeful, went on to win nine of 20 races, earn $323,780 and set a lifetime mark of 1:54.
2-year-old female: Miss Easy's record (17: 15-1-1), earnings ($1,128,956), mark (1:51 2/5 ) and Breeders Crown victory (1:54) are head and withers above anything else.
3-year-old male: The only time the H.H. saw Beach Towel last year, he broke stride in the $1 million North American Cup at Toronto. Out of his sight, the year's champion pacer and probable Horse of the Year won 18 races, including the Meadowlands Pace, Little Brown Jug, and Breeders Crown, and banked $2,091,860 while setting a mark of 1:50.
Local Ties: Center Strip, a 1:59 1/5 winner at Buffalo Raceway on May 26, finished with a 14-of-24 in-the-money record, earnings of $327,800 (10th in the division) and a mark of 1:54 3/5 . Sea The USA, who won Raceway miles in May in 1:57 and 1:56 4/5 , went on to win a $145,965 elimination of The Cane Pace at Yonkers.
3-year-old filly: Town Pro, the Breeders Crown champ, won 14 of 17 and a division-leading $634,690.
Local Ties: Instant Rebate, who looked awful when she broke stride as a 1-5 favorite at Buffalo on May 26, finished the year with 13 wins in 28 starts and a bankroll of $401,865, third-highest in the division. Delinquent Account, who set a Batavia Downs track record of 1:56 1/5 for 3-year-old pacing fillies on Aug. 11, won only two other races, but earned $269,389 for 16 tries. Her big win was in the $96,590 Bluegrass at The Red Mile in Lexington, Ky. She was second to Town Pro in the $304,933 Breeders Crown at Pompano. Jonvik Castle, a 1:57 3/5 winner at Batavia on Aug. 11, later won a $109,613 division of the Simcoe Stakes at Mohawk in 1:56 3/5 .
Older male: Bay's Fella, the local hero owned by the Par-Birdie Stable of area golfers, won the Breeders Crown and a total of $233,509 in 25 starts. He got an admittedly sentimental vote from the H.H. that probably won't be echoed by many other balloters.
Local ties: Probable division winner Dorunrun Bluegrass authored the fastest mile in Western New York history when he won Buffalo Raceway's Graduate Pace in 1:54 3/5 on April 28. He was the division's top money winner with $851,755 in 31 starts. He also paced the season's fastest miles for a 4-year-old stallion on a mile track (1:51 3/5 ) and half-mile track (1:53 1/5 ).
Older female: Caesar's Jackpot won the Breeders Crown, earned a division-leading $353,550, and beat Cheery Hello and L Dee's Trish, the next-best candidates, several times.
Local Ties: L Dee's Trish, who set Buffalo Raceway's track record of 1:58 2/5 for 2-year-old fillies in 1988, won nine of 24 starts and earned $237,767. On Nov. 23, she beat Kittiwake, one of the fastest pacers at Batavia Downs this year, in the Clare Series final at Yonkers. Kittiwake won at Batavia in 1:57 2/5 and 1:59 2/5 .
2-year-old male: Crysta's Best won the Breeders Crown to cap a 19:10-0-1 season, which included a season-leading 1:58 2/5 mile at Scioto Downs. There were four others who earned more money in this very weak division. The leading earner was Charlie Ten Hitch, who won $366,499 for owner Mark May, an offensive tackle with the Washington Redskins. He compiled a 7-for-8 record, including a victory in the $609,250 Peter Haughton Memorial, the division's richest race.
Local ties: Gift Box, who won a New York Sire Stakes trot at Batavia on Aug. 2 with Stanley Dancer in the bike, finished the year with 12 wins in 17 starts with earnings of $221,601.
2-year-old female: Jean Bi won the Breeders' Crown in 2:00 3/5 to cap a 14:9-3-0, $366,153 season. Santa Royal won $427,154, but was second to Jean Bi in the Crown.
3-year-old male: Harmonious won the Hambletonian and the World Trotting Derby and led the division with $1,033,942 in earnings. He gets the H.H. vote for Trotter of the Year.
3-year-old female: Working Gal led the division with $322,462 in earnings. Her wins included a 1:59 2/5 mile at Batavia on Aug. 20, a track record for a sophomore filly.
Other local ties: Delphi's Lobell, second to Working Gal in her record-setter at Batavia, finished with earnings of $251,139 while winning just three of 18 starts. Camelia Lobell, winner at Batavia in 2:00, was the division's fourth-highest earner with $265,823 from eight victories in 22 starts.
Older male: You have to love No Sex Please. He won $561,169, more than twice as much as anybody else in the division with 18 wins in 28 starts, including the Breeders Crown and the Maple Leaf Trot.
Local ties: Shawland Magic, winner of six of 38 and $108,469, set a season's record for age, sex, gait and track size for older geldings when he won the $50,000 Provenzano Memorial Trot in 1:58 2/5 at Batavia on Sept. 1.
Older female: How do you choose between Kit Lobell and Peach Pit? They both set track records at Batavia on Aug. 24 with separate wins in 1:58 2/5 in Provenzano eliminations. Kit Lobell got the nod because she won more money in fewer starts ($174,33 0/1 4) than Peach Pit ($115,67 7/2 1).