History of Finger Lakes
Hall of Fame
History of Finger Lakes
Finger Lakes Gaming & Racetrack is Western New York’s home for live Thoroughbred racing! Located amidst the abundant wineries and spectacular vistas of the beautiful Finger Lakes region of New York, Finger Lakes Gaming & Racetrack is a favorite destination for local residents and the thousands of tourists who visit the area annually.
With more than 100 race days each season, Finger Lakes Gaming & Racetrack has hosted over 62,000 horse races and entertained over 19 million fans since its opening in 1962. Come experience the excitement for yourself!
It all began on May 23, 1962, as Pure Village took the inaugural race at Finger Lakes with a winning time of 1:17 3/5 for six furlongs. In the five decades since, “the thumb” has hosted some of the sport’s greatest jockeys and Thoroughbreds, including Hall of Fame riders Angel Cordero, Pat Day, Julie Krone, and Bill Shoemaker. Other notable events at the track include:
Fresh off a Triple Crown sweep on Affirmed in 1978, Steve Cauthen attracted a crowd of 11,030 and set an on-track wagering record of $765,580.
In 1996, the legendary horse Fio Rito was buried in the Finger Lakes infield, becoming the first horse to be buried on the Finger Lakes grounds. The locally based New York State Horse of the Year (1980) stepped into the national spotlight by winning the Whitney Handicap at Saratoga and dominated at Finger Lakes throughout his career, winning 19 of his 27 starts.
In 2006, the New York Breeders Futurity featured the largest purse in the history of the track at just over $250,000.
On July 4, 2007, Funny Cide became the first-ever Kentucky Derby winner to race at Finger Lakes in the $100,000 Wadsworth Memorial Handicap. A crowd of more than 12,000 watched the champ charge from behind and pull away down the stretch in the final race of his career.
In 2002, Finger lakes introduced an Equine Swim Facility – one of the only aquatic facilities on track grounds in the country. The property also added video gaming machines in February 2004, transforming itself into a multifaceted entertainment destination. Our annual season of stakes is headlined by the New York Derby in July – the second leg of the Big Apple Triple for New York-bred 3-year-olds. The New York Breeders’ Futurity in early Autumn is also a highlight.
Our 450-acre property currently houses over 1,200 race horses in 21 barns. Along with the world-class equine swimming facility, Finger Lakes maintains a one-mile main racing track, a half-mile training track, and more than 1,100 video gaming machines and has welcomed more than 1.7 million visitors.
NTRA Safety & Integrity Alliance
Finger Lakes Gaming & Racetrack received full accreditation from the National Thoroughbred Racing Association (NTRA) by the association’s Safety and Integrity Alliance in 2011.
Avid racing fans will love our betting carrels, available for rent on a daily basis. Each betting carrel has its own TV monitor and EZ bet station to help make it convenient for guests to wager and watch live races.
President and General Manager: Chris Riegle
Location: Farmington, NY
Nearest City: Rochester, NY (20 miles NW)
Area population: 1.1 million
Track Information: 1-mile oval; sandy loam; 6 furlong and 1 1/4-mile chutes; length of stretch: 960 feet
Stable Accommodations: 1,214
Seating: Grandstand: 4,000; Clubhouse: 2,000
Racing Hours: Spectators not permitted due to New York State restrictions.
Gaming Hours: 8 am to 4 am daily
Video Gaming Machines: More than 1,100
Must be 18 to enter gaming floor, play any video gaming machine, or wager on horse racing.
Finger Lakes Hall of Fame
1987 Ch. f. by Eskimo – La Belle Paula
11 Wins in 13 Starts, from age 3 to 7
Career Earnings: $231,184
Finger Lakes Record for 6f in 1:09:1 (1991)
Finger Lakes Horse of the Year (1990, 1991)
New York State Outstanding Sprinter (1991)
Owned and trained by Ed Perdue throughout her career, Arctic Queen won all six stakes races in which she competed at Finger Lakes during 1990 and 1991. After a second-place finish in her career debut in 1989, Arctic Queen won her remaining eight Finger Lakes starts and added victories at Saratoga and Aqueduct for good measure. Among her Finger Lakes stakes victories were dominant performances against males in the 1990 Ontario Stakes and the 1991 Prophet Wise Stakes. Arctic Queen equaled the Finger Lakes track record for six-furlongs while being eased at the wire in winning the 1991 Cupejoy’s Joy Stake by a resounding 11 lengths. Also in 1991, Arctic Queen became the first thoroughbred since Fio Rito to win consecutive Finger Lakes Horse of the Year honors.
1975 Gr. C. by Dreaming Native – Seagret
28 Wins in 50 Starts, from ages 2 to 6
Career Earnings: $584,142
1981 – New Track Record at Finger Lakes – 6f in 1:09 4/5
1981 – New Track Record at Finger Lakes – 1 mile, 70 yards in 1:40 1/5
Finger Lakes Horse of the Year
1979, 1980, 1981
New York State Horse of the Year
Bred and owned by Ray LeCesse and trained by Michael S. Ferraro, Fio Rito became the first New York-bred to win a Grade I stakes race when jockey Les Hulet guided him to a determined front-running victory in the 1981 Whitney Handicap at Saratoga. The Whitney was one of 16 stakes or handicap victories during his racing career. Earlier in 1981, Fio Rito established Finger Lakes track records for six furlongs and one mile & 70 yards in consecutive starts, six days apart. In 27 starts at Finger Lakes, Fio Rito won 19 races. A winner at distances from 5 ½ furlongs to 1 ¼ miles, Fio Rito won the Wadsworth Memorial Handicap in 1980 while carrying an astonishing 138 pounds. In 1996, after passing at the age of 21, Fio Rito became the first horse to be buried in the Finger Lakes infield.
Lord of The Mountain
1986 B.c. by Regal Embrace – La Duchesse
20 Wins in 55 Starts, from age 3 to 9
Career Earnings: $309,068
Finger Lakes Record of 1:09 1/5 for 6f in 1994
Finger Lakes Horse of the Year
Lordofthemountain thrilled racing fans with his blazing speed and “”catch me if you can”” style for seven years. He won the Wine Country Handicap in 1990, 1991 and 1993, and the George W. Barker Stakes in 1991 and 1994. His brightest moment may have been in defeat during the 1992 Grade III Finger Lakes Breeders’ Cup, when he set a blistering pace against some of the nation’s best sprinters, and held on gamely to be beaten by just over two lengths. He was retired after winning a handicap sprint at Finger Lakes on September 17, 1995. Lordofthemountain won 17 of 39 starts for Onteora Farm at Finger Lakes, including five stakes races. He won 17 of 36 starts from 1990 through 1993, including victories at Saratoga and Belmont Park. From July 1992 through May 1994, Lordofthemountain won five straight times at Finger Lakes against allowance, handicap and stakes competition.
1970 Dk. b.c. by Sage and Sand – Four Crown
51 Wins in 124 Starts from ages 2 to 16
Career Earnings: $116,196
1983 – New Track Record at Finger Lakes – 1 mile 3/16 in 1:59:4
Racing the majority of his 15 year racing career against modest claiming competition, Sagely became one of the few thoroughbreds in racing history to post 50 career victories. At the tender age of 14, Sagely earned his 50th victory with an eight-length romp in the first race at Finger Lakes on November 10, 1984. He won 17 of 22 starts for trainer Bill Strange, who brought Sagely to Finger Lakes in 1975. From 1982 through his retirement in 1986, Sagely won 39 races at Finger Lakes – 26 times after turning 11 years old in 1981. From 1981 through 1984, he won at least six races each year. Sagely won all four starts in 1975, and was seven-for-seven in 1977. During a three-year stretch from 1975 through 1977, he finished no worse than second, while winning 12 of 14 starts. Sagely’s longevity was matched by his courage and desire to compete.
1984 B.c. by Good Rob – National Risk
13 Wins in 24 Starts, from age 3 to 7
Career Earnings: $188,885
Lightly raced as a 3-year-old, Frattare established himself in his 4-year-old year, winning all four of his 1988 starts by a combined total of 40 lengths. Bred and owned by Sheila Englehart, and trained by Chris Englehart, Frattare dominated the 1989 Finger Lakes sprint races with victories in the George W. Barker Stake, Wine Country Handicap and the $100,000 added Finger Lakes Budweiser Cup Handicap, in which he defeated Regal Intention and Mr. Nickerson. Never beaten at 5 ½ furlongs or less, the speedy son of local stallion Good Rob went on to win two more stakes races in 1990; the At the Threshold Stake and the Williamson handicap, frequently locking horns with fellow Hall of Famer, Lordofthemountain. Frattare favored his hometown track, posting all of his career wins at Finger Lakes.
1965 B.G. by Gallant Man – Molecomb Peak
30 Wins in 80 Starts, from age 4 to 11
Career Earnings: $59,322
Finger Lakes Record of 1:52 3/5 for 1 mile 1/8
Mountain Man, or “”Big Muzzie”” as he was affectionately known, was a perennial favorite at Finger Lakes in the 1970’s, tallying between 1 and 10 victories every year from the ages of 4 to 10. Battling soundness and health problems throughout his career, he continually amazed and inspired the racing public with his exciting come-from-behind style. Under the vigilant training of P.J. Muhlrooney, and the skilled handling of jockey Warren Vedilago, Mountain Man scored his most successful year as a 5 year-old, posting wins in 16 starts, culminating in the 1970 Rochester Handicap victory, in which he gamely defeated Irish Dude and Terrible Tiger while setting a new track record at Finger Lakes for 1 1/8 miles in 1:52 3/5. With a career spanning 8 years and a winning percentage of 38%, Mountain Man was heralded as “”Horse of the Decade””, an honor that befits a legend.
Strike The Anvil
Strike the Anvil
1972 B.c. by Bolinas Boy – I’m Lisa
28 Wins in 44 Starts , from age 2 to 6
Career Earnings: $141,501
Thistledown Record of 1:39 for 1 mile in 1976
Strike The Anvil burst on the scene in 1974, winning all five of his 2 year-old starts, and beginning a 12-race winning streak in which he defeated older horses at a variety of distances. So invincible did Strike The Anvil seem, that horsemen feared running against him, and he often shipped from track to track in search of competition. Strike The Anvils’ stake wins included the 1975 Last Chance Handicap (HP), the 1976 Midwest Handicap (TDN), the 1976 Coventry Handicap (TDN) and the 1976 Springtime Handicap, in which he set a new track record at Thistledown for a mile in 1:39. Owned and trained by Gale Osborne, Strike The Anvil returned to stud in 1978 with an incredible record of 63% wins and 84% finishes on the board.
1986 b.c. by Air Forbes Won – Bye Bye Mercedes (Roman Line)
12 Wins in 52 Starts, from age 2 to 5
Career Earnings: $1,087,435
Champion 2 Year-Old Colt in Canada
As a $5,700 yearling purchase, Mercedes Won quickly proved to be a wise investment for owner Christopher Spencer by winning 5 of 9 starts and earning $348,200 in his 2 year-old campaign. Named 2 year-old Canadian Champion after victories in the Grade II Swynford Stakes and the $150,000, 1 1/16 mile, Grade III Grey Stakes, Mercedes Won also triumphed in the Grade II Sanford and the Grade I Hopeful Stakes at Saratoga. At 3, he won the $500,000 1 1/8 mile Grade I Florida Derby by 5 lengths over Western Playboy, ran second to Dixieland Brass in the Grade II Fountain of Youth, and earned third spot in the Grade II Jim Beam and Grade III Tampa Bay Derby. Trained by Arnold Fink, Mercedes Won stole the 1989 $100,000 1 1/16 mile Crittendon Stakes at Finger Lakes by 8 lengths over a sloppy track, defeating Packett’s Landing and Doc’s Leader. The last major victory for Mercedes Won came as a 4 year-old when he ended a 13-month winless streak with a wire-to-wire score in the $112,000 Rochester Cup. After three more wins at the age of 5 and a lifetime record of 23% wins from starts, Mercedes Won retired in 1991 to stand at stud.
Born : January 8, 1949 in Cedar City, Utah
3,816 Wins in 25,286 starts
Career Earnings: $17,846,945
Finger Lakes Leading Rider: 1977, 1979, 1980, 1984, 1985
After an early start at the bush tracks in Utah, Les Hulet’s official career began in 1970. He broke his maiden November 11, 1970 at Turf Paradise on Momma Belle and went on to become the winningest rider in Finger Lakes history. Arriving in 1972, Hulet became leading rider at Finger Lakes in 1977 with 158 wins for the year. He won the title again in 1979 with 160 wins, and in 1980 with 149 wins. In between riding titles, he teamed up with fellow Hall-of-Famer, Fio Rito, capturing the Grade I Whitney Handicap at Saratoga in 1981. In 1984, Hulet again led the standings with 187 wins. And in 1985 earned his 5th “”Leading Rider”” title with a career best 198 wins. He was the regular rider for Finger Lakes Hall-of-Famer Lordofthemountain, and guided Sagely, another Hall-of-Famer, to the 50th win of his career. More than just a talented rider, Hulet’s wit, tact and diplomacy made him a natural choice as head of the local Jockey’s Guild and a favorite of Finger Lakes horsemen and fans. On August 20, 1999 Les Hulet reached the amazing milestone of 3,800 victories aboard Instinctive pro, and his career total of 3,816 wins ranks him 38th all-time among jockeys.
1983 b.m. by Iron Constitution – Leap Year Miss
18 Wins in 37 starts
Career Earnings: $539,487
1986 New York State Champion 3-year-old filly
Under the care of trainer Bill Strange, Anniron burst upon the Finger Lakes racing scene on July 28, 1986 with an eight-length victory in her first career start. Including victories in her first six races at Finger Lakes, Anniron went on to win eight of ten starts, including five stakes, in a remarkable 3-year-old season that earned her New York State Champion 3-year-old filly honors. Although Anniron raced primarily at Aqueduct from midway through her 4-year-old season, she did return to make three of her 18 starts as a 5-year-old at Finger Lakes. In her final race at “”The Thumb””, she carried 126 pounds and jockey Les Hulet to victory in the 1988 Susan B. Anthony Handicap in 1:41 3/5. No filly or mare ever won under more weight or ran a faster time in 10 runnings of the race at the one-mile and 70-yard distance. Owned and bred by W. Alec Martusewicz, Anniron was a winner from distances of five and one-half furlongs to one-mile and one-eighth. Jockey Robert Cook was aboard Anniron for 12 of her first 13 career starts and won nine of them, including six stakes. Anniron won nine of 12 career starts at Finger Lakes and missed the board on only one occasion.
1986 b.m. by Proud Appeal – Puppy Love
12 wins in 28 starts from age 2 to 5
Career Earnings: $402,543
New York State Champion 2-year-old Filly in 1988
Proud Puppy wasted no time in making a name for herself at Finger Lakes in 1988, as she went a perfect four-for-four as a 2-year-old, and earned New York State Champion 2-year-old Filly honors. Following a convincing 13 length victory in her maiden race, Proud Puppy took the Lady Finger Stakes by 10 lengths, before capturing the New York Breeders’ Futurity over the boys. Her victory in the Futurity marks one of only eight victories by fillies in the 39-year history of the race to this date. Finishing out her amazing run as a 2-year-old, Proud Puppy took the Eastview Stakes at Aqueduct. Continuing her dominance in 1989 as a 3-year-old, Proud Puppy won seven of 11 starts, including four more stakes victories at Finger Lakes by a combined total of 35 ¾ lengths. Owned by Paul E. Labe, Sr., Proud Puppy won 10 of the 11 stakes she was entered in throughout her career. Six of those stakes victories were at Finger Lakes, with John Grabowski in the irons. The filly finished her career with eight trips to the winners’ circle in 10 starts at Finger Lakes. The Proud Puppy Handicap was established as an annual stakes at Finger Lakes in 1999 in her honor.
1986 b.g. by Bates Motel – Lightning Bug
11 wins in 47 starts from age 2 to 6
Career Earnings: $799,769
Finger Lakes Horse of the Year in 1989
After two uneventful starts to begin his career one year earlier, the Sam Morrell-owned Packett’s Landing made his 3-year-old campaign in 1989 one of the most accomplished ever at Finger Lakes. Packett’s Landing won five of 10 appearances at Finger Lakes as a 3-year-old, and missed the board on only one occasion (5-3-1). Following a win in his first start of the year, the colt displayed his potential with two additional victories, as well as second place finishes in three stakes. However, it was convincing wins of over four lengths in both the New York Derby and Rochester Cup with Kevin Whitley in the irons that cemented his place in Finger Lakes lore. The Reggie Vardon trainee then finished the year with five starts away from home, which included titles in the Alex M. Robb Stakes and Gen. Douglas MacArthur Handicap at Aqueduct, and brought his total earnings as a 3-year-old to $442,892. Packett’s Landing spent most of the remainder of his career on the NYRA circuit, and notched four more stakes victories, giving him eight for his career. In 32 career stakes appearances, the colt hit the board 17 times (8-8-1). Over 16 career starts at “”The Thumb””, he recorded five victories, six seconds and one third.
1986 b.g. by Cormorant – Come On Miss Jay by Noble Jay
19 Wins in 65 starts
Career Earnings: $541,723
A seven-time stake winner at Finger Lakes during the early 1990’s, when many of the best to ever run on this oval challenged him regularly, Sea Hunter was a consistently strong performer, finishing in the money in 48 of 65 career starts over seven years.
The Edward Purdue-owned and trained bay gelding notched three consecutive Genesee Valley Breeders’ Handicap victories between 1991 and 1993, and also captured two George W. Barker Stakes titles by defeating fellow Finger Lakes Hall of Fame members Frattare in 1991, and Lordofthemountain in 1992. In the 1990 Rochester Cup, at odds of 13-1, Sea Hunter finished a strong second to another Finger Lakes Hall of Famer, and 1989 Florida Derby winner, Mercedes Won. Bred by Middle Creek Farm, the New York-bred gelding hit the board in 15 of 21 career stake appearances at Finger Lakes.
Jockey Kevin Whitley guided Sea Hunter to four of his stakes victories, while John Grabowski was in the irons for the other three.
Sea Hunter fittingly ended his career in November 1995 with a trip to the winner’s circle at Finger Lakes. In 39 career starts at Finger Lakes, Sea Hunter posted a mark of 13-12-5.
September 16, 1928
1,163 Wins in 5,134 Starts
29 Stakes Victories
Finger Lakes Leading Trainer: 1972 & 1990
Bill Strange arrived at Finger Lakes Race Track in 1971 from California. Strange had immediate success in 1972 as not only Finger Lakes leading trainer, but also the nation’s leading percentage trainer with 60 wins in 159 starts (38%). He also won the Finger Lakes training title in 1990 with 74 victories.
Finger Lakes Hall of Fame inductees that were in Strange’s stable include Anniron, Proud Puppy, and Sagely. Under Strange’s care, Anniron and Proud Puppy combined to win 14 stakes races. He also trained Flyingphere, who had 48 wins in 213 starts, and Silver Fir, who had 46 wins in 165 starts.
Strange retired after the 2003 season as one of the top percentage trainers in Finger Lakes history, with his horses finishing either first or second 54% of the time. He is one of the most respected and well-liked horsemen to call Finger Lakes home.
791 Career Victories
Six-time Finger Lakes Leading Jockey: 1964 – 1967, 1969-1970
Three-time winner of the New York Breeders’ Futurity (’63, ’67, ’69)
Named “Most Courageous Athlete” by Rochester Press-Radio Club – 1971
Jose Olivares, a native of Cuba, began his riding career at the age of 16. He arrived at Finger Lakes when the track opened in 1962 and through a strong work ethic and partnership with trainer H. Dean Montgomery, he quickly established himself as one of the top riders and built a legacy that others attempt to emulate to this day.
Six times in a span of seven years between 1964 and 1970 Olivares was leading rider at Finger Lakes, and was also a top rider at Thistledown, Waterford Park, Florida Downs and Tampa Bay Downs. Tragically, at the age of 29, Olivares’ career was cut short when he was paralyzed during a spill at Finger Lakes on September 17, 1970. At the time, he was the sixth leading rider in the nation with 114 victories.
In addition to his tremendous riding talents, Olivares exhibited tremendous personal qualities as shown by his commitment to his family, friends and fellow riders. As he climbed the ladder of success in his riding career he used his earnings to move his family from Cuba, one-by-one. Then, just two weeks before the spill that ended his career, he saved two other riders on the same racing day from possible major injuries or worse. First, after Dave Zambrana’s mount lost his bridle coming out of the starting gate, and with Zambrana hanging on to only the horse’s mane, Olivares escorted them around the racetrack to the finish line. Later that day, Joel McCullar’s horse bobbled badly coming out of the gate and Olivares, who was breaking right next to McCullar, lifted him back into his saddle.
Dan Conway Sr.
822 wins in 4,426 starts
22 Stake Victories
Finger Lakes Leading Trainer: 1966, 1967, and 1969
Dan Conway began his career at Finger Lakes in 1963; one year after its opening. Conway won the trainer title three times during the late 1960’s, and his victories in 1969 were the highest single-season total of that decade.
Before his training career began, Conway was a major figure with the National Horse Show Association of America. He judged events at Madison Square Garden for the organization on three different occasions and in 2001 was inducted into the NHS Hall of Fame.
Conway saddled 22 stakes winners during his career, including six victories in the New York Breeders Futurity and five in the New York Breeders Juvenile Fillies.
Conway retired after 20 years of training with 822 victories. Over 50% of the horses he saddled finished in the money and totaled over $2.2 million in purse earnings.
“The Voice of Finger Lakes”
Track Announcer 1962-2007
Ross Morton was the announcer at Finger Lakes during the track’s first 46 years of operation. He began his announcing career in 1962 when the facility opened and went on to call over 60,000 thoroughbred races. He also announced races at Gulfstream Park in Florida for 23 years during the winter months. His distinctive voice was heard during calls of memorable races that included legends such as Seattle Slew, John Henry, Spectacular Bid, Forego, and Holy Bull.
Morton made the call when 2003 Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner Funny Cide took the 2007 Wadsworth Memorial Handicap at Finger Lakes in the final start of his career.
In addition to race calling, Morton also produced and hosted “The Winner’s Circle”, a recap of Finger Lakes racing that was aired on local cable television for 25 years. Before he was “The Voice of Finger Lakes” he was known as “Mad Man” Morton while working as a radio disc jockey in Syracuse, New York.
Ross Morton passed away on Wednesday, February 20 near his winter home in Hollywood, Florida at the age of 74.