BATAVIA — “I officially lost my first race,” Vicki Klimczak said to her friends as she tore up her ticket Wednesday afternoon after one of the live harness races at Batavia Downs.

It was the first day of live racing for 2021 and Klimczak was sitting outside with several friends as the horses ran by them. She said she and her friends were usually at Batavia Downs every Saturday to eat dinner and watch the races. They managed to work the opening night of live racing into their schedules Wednesday.

“I was born here. I moved away, but I came back,” the Batavia resident said. She said she’d been coming to opening day for about six years, but had been coming to Batavia Downs long before that.

“My dad used to bring me out here when I was this little,” she said, motioning with her hand. “I’m trying to convince my children to come out. They’re adults,” she said. She said her daughter was looking into it.

“I bet my exactas (exacta bets). I don’t do win-place-show,” she said. “I like my exactas.”

Karen Palmiero and her husband, Rick, of Rochester, were part of the group at the opening races. Last year, they would watch from up in the clubhouse while they were eating.

“We had to because of the pandemic. We started going up there in August,” she said of the clubhouse. “Every week, we would reserve a table, the 12 of us.”

Karen Palmiero said seven of them were there Wednesday to watch the races.

“We’ve been coming for, it’s got to be over 10 years,” she said. “Outside, we’d have snacks sometimes. It was a little get-together — have fun, see everybody. This is kind of nice that we’re outside this year.”

Rick Palmiero, a Batavia native, said he has been coming here since he was a kid.

“For the last few years, we liked to come,” he said of the opening race day. “It’s just, ever since the virus, we’ve been at home, locked down. We want to get fresh air and see horses. Before the pandemic, we were here every Saturday night.”

Rick said Karen enjoys the racing.

“I just enjoy being out here, that’s all,” he said.

Tina Lewandowski of Gates said she at the first night of live racing simply to see all her friends and play the horses.

Johnson Newspapers 7.1