The number 13 is known for being unlucky, but for Captive Audience, it turned out to be just the opposite.
After 12 straight starts in 2013 without finding his way to the winner's circle, the 13th try was successful for Captive Audience as he took the $61,619 division of the New York Sire Stakes for three-year-old pacing colts in 1:52.4 at Batavia Downs on Saturday night.
In the $62,819 second division, former Western New York regular driver Ray Schnittker showed he still knows his way around the Batavia Downs half-mile oval and rallied Swift As A Shadow to a surprising $22.20 victory in 1:54.
The cool but clear evening kept the Batavia Downs track record for three-year-old pacing colts safe as the mark of 1:52.1 set in 2010 by Joey The Czar remains intact.
Starting from the rail in the opening division, driver Denis St. Pierre sent Captive Audience (Art Major-Captiva Island) right to the top and set strong fractions of :26.2, :54.4 and 1:23.2. Doctor Butch (Jim Morrill Jr.), who was sitting second, pulled out around the final turn and looked like a winner. But Captive Audience ($2.90) wasn't giving up as St. Pierre kept him on task in deep stretch and held off a stubborn Doctor Butch by three-quarters of a length in 1:54.2. Thirty Two Red (Schnittker) skimmed the pylons for third.
With his initial score of 2013, Captive Audience lifted his seasonal bankroll over $147,000 for owners Debbie Element of Laval, Que. and Mac Nichol of Burlington, Ont. Colin Johnson trains the winner, who now has more than $323,000 in career earnings.
The second division was expected to be a battle between Olde Time Hockey and Bet The Moon, but someone forgot to tell Swift As A Shadow.
Bet The Moon (Morrill Jr.) set the tempo with times of :27.4, :57.1 and 1:25.1 as longshot Swift As A Shadow followed and saved ground from the pocket. At the top of the stretch, Olde Time Hockey, who was first over, threw in the towel leaving just Bet The Moon and Swift As A Shadow to battle it out. Ray Schnittker took Swift As A Shadow down into the passing lane and cruised past Bet The Moon to score by a length. Framed Art (Brett Miller) finished in third.
The win was the third of the season in 11 starts for Swift As A Shadow (Bettors Delight-Flibbertigibbet). Owned by Winbak Farms and trained by Linda Toscano, the victory moved his season winnings close to $128,000 and nearly $237,000 lifetime.
In the $12,700 divisions of the Excelsior Series for three-year-old colt pacers, Morrill Jr. had three winners. He started the hat-trick with Hes A Lock ($2.20) 1:56.2, then went gate-to-wire with Just Bettor ($2.20) in 1:57, and completed the three-bagger with Royce Blue Chip ($2.40) in 1:56.1. Morrill Jr. also scored a hat-track in overnight events.
St. Pierre registered a driving double as he guided Ideal Wizard ($4.10) to a win in 1:56.2 to round out the Excelsior action.
In the $8,500 Open Pace, Cactus Jack (Shawn McDonough) shocked the field of seven, turning in a seasonal best time of 1:52.1 and returned $53.50 to his faithful followers.
Nate Cornell of Batavia High School won the 'Dash For Cash' race at Batavia Downs and the $3,000 first-place scholarship cheque.
Sponsored by the Harness Horse Breeders of New York, the Western New York Harness Horsemen Association, Buffalo Raceway and Batavia Downs, five high school seniors are paired up with professional drivers and battle for $7,500 scholarship money. It was the fourth year of a competition. The high school seniors have been working with the horsemen since August 1 in preparation for race day, learning all aspects of racing and the care of the horses.
Cornell and driver Ron Beback went wire-to-wire with 'Nate Lobell' to take the victory while Kelsey Bezon of Elba and driver Ray Fisher Jr. finished second aboard Lady Lancer and won $2,000. Brian Burkholder of Oakfield-Alabama and driver Jim Graham finished in third and earned $1,200. Dylan Cory of Batavia of Notre Dame and driver Mike Baumeister finished in fourth, good for $800 while Dylan Scharlau of Alexander and Shawn McDonough finished in fifth and received $500 for college.
(With files from Batavia Downs)