11/29/2016 2:49PM

Batavia: Stalbaum right at home in Western New York

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Larry Stalbaum has been a regular competitor at Yonkers Raceway and Pocono Downs for many years now. But much like Jim Morrill Jr. before him, the small-town feel of western New York has drawn Stalbaum from the major circuits and he couldn’t be happier about the move.

Stalbaum made his first start of the year at Batavia Downs on Saturday (Nov. 5) and has since been one of the hottest drivers at the track. In only 10 nights of racing his own stable of 16 along with catch drives, Stalbaum has had 79 starts with 20 wins, 12 seconds and 10 thirds. That amounts to a 22% win and 54% in the money percentage, a .329 UDR and $100,570 in purse earnings in very short order.  

Stalbaum was born in Valparaiso, Indiana and started racing ponies at age 7. He went to work with standardbreds after graduating from high school and has been doing it ever since. Through his early years he worked for many horsemen, but credits Frank O’Mara for teaching him all he knows about harness racing.

“I started grooming in Louisville at Latonia and eventually made my first career driving start at Brandywine Raceway in 1986” said Stalbaum. “Since them I have raced just about everywhere, even tracks that most people have never heard of.”

Racing everywhere has taken Stalbaum 29 years and the numbers that he has accrued in that time are pretty impressive to see; 5,378 wins and over $37 million in purses.

Stalbaum lives in Matamoris, PA, which is just across the Delaware River from Port Jervis, NY. He races off his 152-acre farm there and makes the 560 mile, 9-hour round trip to Batavia every race night.

His whole operation is family based. Stalbaum’s wife, Kimberly Asher, is the trainer and his four children Riley, Kiley, Hawk and Sky jog, train and groom the stock.

“My four children are all involved in racing and our business. They all do the horses, they all like the horses and they all want to drive eventually” said Stalbaum. “My oldest daughter Riley just passed her test and got her qualifying license and will start driving very soon. And my other kids will follow along one by one as they get old enough. I don’t have any help in my stable right now other than my wife and kids. They do it all.”

With having much success at bigger tracks that were closer to his home, Stalbaum still made the decision to race at Batavia Downs.

“I’m getting a little older and I wanted to slow down a bit. That’s part of the reason I was racing at Monticello recently; it was close to home” said Stalbaum. “But the money isn’t quite as good there as it is here. What I really wanted to do is just get away from the hustle and bustle of the bigger tracks.”

“I’m tired of shipping three to this track and four to that track and being on the road every night. I would much rather just ship the whole stable over three days and get them all raced and spend more time at home” Stalbaum concluded.

After having raced at Batavia for almost a month now, Stalbaum has become quite comfortable in his new environment. The local racing community has embraced him and he is happy to be competing there.

“I like western New York. It’s got a lot of farm country like where I was raised and many of the people who race there come from families that have been racing locally for generations, and I like that” said Stalbaum. “I tell people all the time about it and when you tell them about being in New York, they think New York City. Because if you’re not from upstate New York, you don’t know any better.”

After the Batavia meet ends, the plan is to move the stock to Buffalo Raceway and stable at the track.

“When I go to Buffalo, Kim and the kids aren’t coming and that’s going to be hard for me because I’ve never been away from them. But because of the winter, I can’t ship like I do right now but also can’t move the family up here at this point. But that’s what we have to do and we’ll see how it goes” said Stalbaum.

“If everything goes right, we are planning on moving up here permanently. We’ll sell the farm in PA and buy some land in western New York and settle down here and race this circuit”.

With four children aspiring to make harness racing their livelihood, Stalbaum appreciates the atmosphere in western New York for both raising a family and racing for a living.

“The future of this sport is young people and all my kids are interested in it now. I let them choose what they want to do with their lives and they all want to race and that makes me happy. I can’t make them a doctor or a lawyer, but I can teach them how to be a solid trainer and driver. I just hope the sport is still here for them” Stalbaum said.