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Post Time: NY Racing Fan Advisory Council Named

By Gene Kershner

Earlier this month, New York State Racing and Wagering Board Chairman John D. Sabini, who was the subject of a News interview in August, announced members of the Racing Fan Advisory Council, which will provide input and advice to the Board on horse racing and wagering matters in New York State. 

The council consists of individuals steeped in thoroughbred and harness racing, as well as off-track betting enterprises. The council will examine the “total racing experience” and report its findings to the Board. The council, formalized by the Racing and Wagering Board in June, is composed of long-term horse racing fans, selected on their involvement, interest, knowledge and devotion to the sport.

The members include:

-    Chair: Patrick M. Connors, Professor of Law, Albany Law School

-    Michael F. Amo, Chair and Co-Founder, ThoroFan

-    Allan Carter, Historian, The National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame

-    M. Kelly Young, Associate Director of National Affairs, New York Farm Bureau

The racing fan advisory council’s mission is to grow of the fan base related to the sport of horse racing by:

-     Recommending procedures to ensure that the opinion of the fan is a central part of the regulation of horse racing and advising the Board on issues related to horse racing and wagering.

-    Advising the Board on appropriate actions to encourage fan attendance and wagering at the state's thoroughbred and harness racetracks and the state's off-track betting corporations.

-    Visiting Board-controlled racetracks and facilities during race times, workouts, and during hours when members of the media are permitted to be present at the facilities.

-    Advising the Board on the creation and development of an "I LOVE NY Racing" promotion.

-    Giving an annual, nonmonetary award to both a thoroughbred and standardbred breeding farm in NYS that has worked to promote horse racing in New York.

-    Recommending changes to the rules of the Board and to the laws affecting horse racing.

-    Preparing an annual report to the Board regarding the operation of the state's thoroughbred and harness racetracksand the state's off-track betting corporations.

 A fifth member of the council will be named at a later date and each member will serve a five-year unpaid term.

The council, likely the first of its kind in the country, was pushed through by Chairman Sabini and recognizes the racing fan as a key stakeholder in the future of the sport.

In speaking with Michael Amo earlier in the week, he encourages horse racing fans in Western New York to have a voice through this council. “Any issues or questions that a fan wants to bring to light, provides him/her with a vehicle to communicate their concerns,” said Amo, who co-founded ThoroFan, a 501(c)3 organization headquartered in Saratoga Springs. “We will be soliciting fan concerns and horseplayer issues at the ThoroFan website.”

While it is unknown how much influence a group like this will have at the end of the day, the recognition of the fan and having the ear of the Racing Board certainly bodes well for those who support the industry with their pocketbooks.

Track Notes

This week’s race of the week is the Grade 2 Pennsylvania Derby, to be run for $1 million at Parx Racing in Philadelphia on Saturday afternoon with nine 3-year-old colts going 1 1/8-miles. The race features Belmont champion Ruler On Ice (5-2), Travers runner-up Rattlesnake Bridge (4-1) and one time Derby hopeful To Honor and Serve (3-1).

-    For only the second time in history, the Pennsylvania Derby will feature a Triple Crown winner. Ruler On Ice will get a new rider, with top flight jock Garrett Gomez taking over for Jose Valdivia, Jr. Prince of Wales champion Pender Harbor (12-1) will venture outside of Canada for the first time to take on a solid group of colts looking to cash a big slots-fueled check.

-    The Kentucky Cup series is being revived this weekend after a one-year hiatus. With the help of new sponsor, WinStar Farm, the series of five races, three of which are graded will be run this weekend at Turfway Park.

-    Equibase will hold a free online handicapping challenge this weekend featuring the Kentucky Cup races from Turfway and several from Belmont Park.

-    Mike Repole is pointing Uncle Mo at the Breeders’ Cup Classic, along with stable-mate and Travers champion Stay Thirsty. Most racing pundits figured Mo would be headed to the Dirt Mile, as he has never competed at the Classic 1 1/4-mile distance. Uncle Mo is scheduled to go in the Kelso Mile on Super Saturday at Belmont next weekend, while Stay Thirsty will compete in the Jockey Club Gold Cup, a key prep race for the Classic. Stay tuned.

Gene Kershner is a Buffalo-based turf writer and handicapper who blogs at and tweets @EquiSpace.

This Day in Buffalo Sports History: Enough, already

    September 23, 2000 -- Optimism about the University at Buffalo football program wasn't exactly at a fever pitch on this day. The Bulls had one of the nation's longest losing streaks at 18 games going into the Mid-American Conference opener with Bowling Green.

   Late in the fourth quarter, it looked as UB's chances were as bleak as the weather. A steady rain drenched the 8,081 in UB Stadium, and their favorites were losing, 17-13.

   Then Marquis Dwarte took a pitch from quarterback Joe Freedy. Dwarte took off on a 27-yard touchdown run with 1:27 left to play.

   "Coach called "47 toss' to the wide side of the field," Dwarte said to Tim Graham of The News. "We got a good kick-out block, and once I got underneath the block, I just turned it on and headed to the end zone."

   UB held on from there, and notched its first victory over a Division I opponent since a 1970 win against Holy Cross.

   "This has been a long process," UB coach Craig Cirbus said. "We've won one game, but that means a lot to those people who have been through the losing seasons.

   "I think it was our time."

--- Budd Bailey

Running notebook: Dead solid perfect

There were few complaints about the weather on Saturday when it came to running. Temperatures were just about perfect for racing, and the times reflected that. Just as a personal example, in the race at Lebro's in GetzvilleI ran my fastest time in almost two years ... and finished next to last in my age group. However, I did get the same attractive vest as the winner.

There is plenty of racing coming up this weekend as well, and it looks like temperatures will cooperate. The list is courtesy of

* Nike Hospice Dash, Half Marathon, Artpark in Lewiston, 9 a.m. Saturday, 998-5777. Sounds like year one is going to be a success for this race. There is also a 5K race at Porter-on-the-Lake Park in Youngstown that starts at 10.

*  Flight 3407 Memorial Race, 5K, Town Place Park in Clarence, 9:30 a.m. Saturday, 636-0209.

* Genesee ARC Friends and Family 5K, 4603 Barrville Road in Elba, 10 a.m. Saturday, (585) 343-1123.

* Tails on Trails Canine 5K, Birdsong Park in Orchard Park 10 a.m. Saturday, 662-6450 x2. Oh, and dogs run for free.

* Jill Mattice Memorial 5K, Cleveland Hill High School in Cheektowaga, 11 a.m. Saturday, 207-7608.

* Bemus Point 15K, Long Point State Park, 9 a.m. Sunday, 488-0788.

* Linda Yalem Safety Run, 5K, Alumni Arena at UB's Amherst Campus, 9:30 a.m. Sunday, 645-2055. This is a News' Runner of the Year race, and always has a large field.

--- Budd Bailey

Bandits notebook: Draft surprise

Wonder if many saw this coming -- two players from Canisius going in the first round of the National Lacrosse League draft on Wednesday.

Adam Jones went third to Colorado. The Mammoth also grabbed Dan Coates with the eighth pick. Randy Mearns, the coach at Canisius and the Bandits' radio commentator, must be doing something right. Jones was an All-American for the Golden Griffins, while Coates was an excellent defender.

If you are into upstate bragging rights, Canisius had two players taken in the first round, while Syracuse only had one.

But a member of the Orange went with the first pick in the second round, and the Buffalo Bandits grabbed him. Jeremy Thompson won two high school state championships at LaFayette, and he's been a part of Junior A in Canada with Six Nations.

With their second pick, also in the second round, the Bandits took Jeff Cornwall of Conquitlam, British Columbia. He is said to be a tough, physical defender.

Other Buffalo picks, which include Thompson's brother, Jerome:

Third Round: 24. Buffalo - Connor Daly - Burlington, ON; 25. Buffalo - Jerome Thompson - Onondaga C.C.  Fourth Round: 33. Buffalo - Billy Bitter - University of North Carolina. Fifth Round: 41. Buffalo - Dwight Bero - Dartmouth University. Sixth round: 51. Buffalo - Lloyd Chrysler - Tuscarora University.

By the way, the Bandits gave up a fifth-rounder next year for Calgary's sixth-round choice in order to take Chrysler.

There was some speculation that the Bandits would try to move up in the draft in order to take Johnny Powless of Six Nations, Ontario. Powless is considered to be a major talent, but supposedly wasn't likely to play in the West. Rochester ended up making that very move, giving up Shawn Evans and a first-round choice next year for Powless.

--- Budd Bailey

This Day in Buffalo Sports History: Taking on the best

   September 22, 1946 -- The Buffalo Bisons of the All-American Football Conference had already lost their first two games. Now was the time for a bigger test. Much bigger.

   The Cleveland Browns were coming to town.

   With World War II over, young men came streaming back to America, anxious to resume their athletic careers. The National Football League was still around, but there were plenty of players to go around. Paul Brown had put together an impressive coaching resume in high school, at Ohio State and with service teams. He was ready to get to work in the AAFC from Day One.

   The Browns won their first two games, and then marched in Civic Stadium to take on the winless Bills. It didn't take long for Cleveland to dominate play. Otto Graham threw two touchdown passes, and Gaylon Smith ran for another score. It was 21-0, Cleveland, before the end of the first quarter.

   The Browns took it easy the rest of the way. Chet Adams returned a fumble 25 yards in the fourth quarter to complete the scoring.

   By the way, Cleveland had a player on its roster that day who would become a huge figure in Buffalo's football history. Lou Saban would be back in due time.

--- Budd Bailey

This Day in Buffalo Sports History: Down but not out

   September 21, 1997 -- When it comes to comebacks, everyone thinks of the Bills' historic win against the Houston Oilers in a 1993 playoff game at Rich Stadium. That facility hosted a rally almost as dramatic just a few years later.

   The Bills trailed the Indianapolis Colts, 26-0, with six minutes left in the second quarter. Buffalo's hopes for a victory that fall afternoon against a team that was 0-3 appeared less than bleak.

   "Orchard Park High School kids could have beaten us in the first half," defensive end Phil Hansen said to Vic Carucci of The News. "I don't even have an answer for the way we looked in the first half. It was not a team that deserved or demanded respect."

   Somehow, some way, the Bills came all the way back. They beat the Colts, 37-35.

   Buffalo started the rally late in the first half with 10 quick points, including a touchdown pass from Todd Collins to Lonnie Johnson. In the second half, Antowain Smith ran for three touchdowns, while Collins threw another scoring pass to Quinn Early. Marvin Harrison caught a TD pass for the Colts with 14 seconds left, but the two-point conversion failed and the Bills had a victory.

   "When you're up, 26-0," said Colts' quarterback Paul Justin, "you have to put the damn thing away."

 --- Budd Bailey

This Day in Buffalo Sports History: They're off

   September 20, 1940 -- Someone had the idea of building a paramutual race track somewhere in
Western New York. But where should it go?

   That was the discussion in local racing circles in 1939. William "Lefty" Goldberg was one of the key players in the discussion, and he thought a place about halfway between Buffalo and Rochester would be a nifty spot for a track.

   A year later, that dream became realized. Batavia Downs was open for business on this day. The first race went off at 8:20 p.m. before a crowd of more than 2,000 improvers of the breed.

   According to the track history, Harold Wishman, William Zimmer, Arthur Martin and Frederick Strohm were stockholders in the Monroe-Genesee Breeders Association, a predecessor to the Genesee-Monroe Racing Association, which rents the Genesee County Fairgrounds for racing. They watched the crowd wager $10,411 on the first night of racing.

   By 1945, Batavia Downs was the second-busiest track in the nation, trailing only Roosevelt Raceway in the New York City area. A year later, the facility started to earn its first profit.

   The track has gone through all sorts of ups and downs over the years, including a fire and video lottery terminals. It's still in operation today.

--- Budd Bailey

This Day in Buffalo Sports History: Television men

     September 19, 1948 -- The television age, football division, arrived in Western New York on this date.

     Canisius College hosted St. Francis at Civic Stadium (later War Memorial Stadium) in the season opener. It's a little difficult to know just how many sets were tuned to WBEN-TV for that game, but some of them probably were turned off by halftime. The host Golden Griffins handed St. Francis a 61-0 beatdown.

     The station had signed on in 1947, and came on the air with regular programming in 1948. In fact, WBEN-TV used to broadcast live wrestling matches from Memorial Auditorium. WBEN's call letters stood for Buffalo Evening News, the owner of the station at the time.

     Getting back to football, wins were common for Canisius in 1948. The Griffins lost to Youngstown the week after the St. Francis win, but ran off six wins in a row before beating then-undefeated St. Bonaventure, 14-6.

     Canisius finished the season 7-1-1. That was good for some bowl bids, and Canisius went off to lose to John Carroll in the Great Lakes Bowl in Cleveland.

     Of the 40 players on the roster, six are members of the college's athletic Hall of Fame. Coach Jim Wilson is also honored in that manner.

--- Budd Bailey

This Day in Buffalo Sports History: Short subject

     September 18, 1905 -- Now here's a great and relatively unknown baseball story.

     Eddie Gaedel might be the most famous midget ever to appear in a professional baseball game. St. Louis Browns' owner Bill Veeck signed him to a contract in 1951, and sent him up to the plate for an at-bat. Gaedel drew a walk and left the game for a pinch-runner.

     He was not the first nor the most successful person of his size to play professional baseball. That distinction actually belongs to a Buffalo Bison.

     Jerry Sullivan was an actor in a play called "Simple Simon Simple," but starred in this particular performance. He turned up in Baltimore in a Buffalo uniform for an Eastern League game. With the Bisons losing, 10-2, in the top of the ninth inning, Sullivan strolled to the plate with manager George Stallings; the two had met at a hotel the night before. The Orioles manager, Hugh Jennings, didn't object, and neither did plate umpire Charlie Simmer. Sullivan stepped in against Baltimore pitcher Fred Burchell.

     On a 1-0 pitch, Sullivan took a swing at a lobbed offering ... and looped a single to left.  He eventually came around to score, finishing with a head-first slide.

     The Bisons lost the game, 10-6, but Sullivan has a 1.000 batting average for eternity.

--- Budd Bailey

Katz Wins in Debut

Just got an email from Jeff Katz informing me that his son, two-time Buffalo District champ Jake Katz, won his pro debut, an 18-hole event on the West Florida Golf Tour. Jake shot 66 and triumphed in a playoff to earn $1,000. He also shot 13-under over three rounds to tie for fourth at PGA Tour School pre-qualifying in Dade City. Dynamic debut!

-- Bob DiCesare

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About Sports, Ink

Budd Bailey

Budd Bailey

Budd Bailey has served in a variety of roles in Buffalo sports in the past 35 years, including reporter, talk-show host, baseball announcer, public relations staffer and author. He covers the Bandits and running for The News when not working as an editor.