Want to make money at Buffalo Raceway?
It's easy. Just bet on Jack.
Jack Flanigen, the leading driver at the Hamburg harness track this season, has been the bettors' best friend.
Through last Wednesday's races, Flanigen has won 158 of 700 races (22.6 percent) and leads second-place Kevin Cummings in the driver standings by 36 winners.
He also tops the meet in purse money ($622,688) and driver rating "batting average" (.346), which ranks 10th in the nation among drivers with more than 500 starts.
But Flanigen's most amazing statistic, at least from the Happy Handicapper's point of view, is that Flanigen has been an "automatic" bet.
According to the "Trackmaster" statistics available at buffaloraceway.com, a $2 win bet on every one of Flanigen's starters since Jan. 15 has returned an 18 percent profit.
Although 64 of his winners were betting favorites, his season has been far from a parade of chalk. He's had 22 winners pay $20 or more.
Some nights, it seems Flanigen just can't lose. This season he's had 11 nights with four winners, five nights with five winners and one night (March 26) with six winners.
(On Friday, Flanigen won with three of his 12 starters. A $2 win bet on each returned $40.90 for a $24 investment.)
The always-modest Flanigen, 44, agrees that this has been his best season ever in a career that has totaled 3,360 victories.
But although he concedes "like any job, the more experience you get, the better you get," he is reluctant to take credit for his accomplishments.
"Basically, it boils down to the horses," he said. "I've been getting lucky and getting good horses. A lot of good trainers have been using me."
Flanigen won eight races with Boomer Berman, the amazing 14-year-old trotter trained by Lisa Lederhouse for owner Kathy Schoeffel of Evans City, Pa.
"He's really something," Flanigen said. "Lisa put me down to drive him one night. I'm lucky to keep driving him."
He's driven 10 other winners for Lederhouse, 22 winners for Bobbi Martin (including six with Helene's Escape) and 12 each for Bob Gruber (including six wins with Kelly) and D.J. Millner (including six wins with Odessa Angus).
His winners have ranged from claimers to stakes winners. This month, Flanigen drove two New York Sire Stakes 3-year-old filly winners. The Joe Robbins-trained pacer, It's Only Roni, won a $53,054 event and Peter Arrigenna's trotter, Tuesdays With Mom, took a $26,167 race.
Flanigen's career reached a low point in July 2008 when he suffered a concussion in a racing accident at Buffalo Raceway that put him out of action for the rest of the year.
"I could have come back in a few weeks, but I chose to take the rest of the year off," Flanigen said.
In 2009 he won a total of 157 races for the Buffalo Raceway and Batavia Downs meets combined. This year, he's already won one more race than that in less than six months.
Flanigen, who formerly held a job driving trucks and snowplows on the Thruway, said one reason for his success is that he's decided to give up that job to concentrate on racing.
"I was there on Jan. 15 [opening night] driving full time. I'm strictly driving horses now," he said.
> Fort Erie update
Krista Carignan, leading rider at Fort Erie Race Track, will miss the next four racing days. She was fined $1,500 and suspended for 10 calendar days after slapping jockey Anthony Stephen with her whip while galloping out after Sunday's sixth race.
Fort Erie is planning to switch to a 4 p.m. post time on the five Tuesdays in August.
Publicity director Darryl Wells Jr. said the move is part of an attempt to improve attendance and boost simulcast wagering on a normally slow day.