By Tim Bojarski, UNY-USHWA president
(Photos courtesy of Wendy Lowery)
Akron, NY — With the 2022 meet coming to a close, the Upstate New York Chapter of the United States Harness Writers Association and Batavia Downs will honor the top performing driver and trainer in the winner’s circle on closing day, Saturday, December 17. However this year is a little different because accolades will be going to two drivers for their achievements where the training title has yet to be decided.
After a ferocious meet long “two-horse race” between Kevin Cummings and Jim Morrill Jr. that saw the third-place driver end up over 75 wins behind both, the dash driving title and trophy goes to Kevin Cummings, who at the end of Wednesday night’s card had 149 wins to Morrill’s 136.
To date, Cummings’ numbers for the meet show 526 starts with 146 wins, 104 seconds and 72 thirds with earnings of $1,024,864 and a UDR. of .439. Cummings has won the dash title at Batavia four times before and finished second to Morrill last year.
Cummings’ body of work for all of 2022 saw him start 943 times with 217 wins, 175 seconds and 129 thirds with $1,670,595 in earnings and a UDR of .379. Those overall numbers reflect his second highest one-year earnings total, his most wins since 2015 and his highest UDR since 2003.
Morrill’s numbers are just as gaudy. At Batavia he had 455 starts with 136 wins, 100 seconds and 62 thirds with $1,115,951 in purses and a UDR of .466. Morrill has won this title the last two years and four times overall.
All together this year Morrill had 916 starts with 246 wins, 199 seconds and 126 thirds with $2,412,882 in earnings and a UDR of .435. That UDR rating has him sitting in second place among all drivers in North America for percentage performance.
Another defining accomplishment that Cummings and Morrill had in common this year is that they both went over the $1 million mark in earnings at Batavia Downs and that’s the first time that any driver has surpassed that milestone since the track opened in 1940. As a result, a special plaque presentation commemorating that historic event will be made to both.
The training title is still up for grabs between Jennifer Giuliani and Shawn McDonough and will go down to the final night of action. After Wednesday’s card McDonough has 52 wins and Giuliani has 50. And both have a busy day on Saturday with Giuliani entering seven horses and McDonough starting five, so the winner will be determined at some point during that card.
So far McDonough’s Batavia tally shows 271 starts with 52 wins, 39 seconds and 40 thirds that banked $383,444 and provided him a UTR of .321. His 2022 overall totals for 2022 showed 108 wins and $819,482 earned, both of which were career highs for McDonough by a wide margin. McDonough won the driving title at Batavia in 2013 but has never won a training title, although he did finish second at Batavia in 2020.
To this point in the meet Giuliani has 247 starts with 50 wins, 49 seconds and 30 thirds with earnings of $416,298 and a UTR of .353. For the year she has 86 wins and $701,122 in purses, both of which are career highs for the fourth year conditioner. Giuliani won her first training title at Batavia last year.
Please note that post time for Saturday was moved to 3 p.m. to avoid conflict with the flexed Buffalo Bills versus Miami Dolphins game later that night.
There may be an early Christmas present for some lucky player at Batavia Saturday. A Jackpot Super Hi-5 pentafecta carryover that has been growing for weeks has reached $10,733.58 and with the meet ending, a mandatory payout will happen Saturday. So Batavia Downs has guaranteed the pool at $15,000 through the United States Trotting Association Strategic Wagering Program for that pentafecta wager in race 13.
Free program pages will be available on the USTA website for that race and free full past performance race programs for the entire card can be downloaded by visiting the track’s website at bataviadownsgaming.com