from Dec 1962 Hoof Beats
New England Star
Rising Like A Rocket
By Mary Louise McGregor
THE Horatio Alger story—the great American legend built on dreams of lonely farm boys and aspirations of homesick immigrants—is still being enacted in this mechanistic, electronic age.
Rags to riches. Bottom of the ladder to top rung. All are the American dream, all are possible in America's own sport, harness racing.
Take a long look at the remarkable up hill record of Paul William Battis. Now just 23, in his fourth year of driving harness horses, he is driving champion at Hinsdale Raceway for the second straight year. Last year, his third as a sulky pilot, Battis stood 29th on the national list.
This fall, at the super competitive' Suffolk Downs meeting where nine sectional driving champions of 1961 are slugging it out, young Battis is showing a neat .463 driving average.
Mostly known on the New England tracks Rockingham, Hinsdale, Foxboro, Suffolk, and the fair circuit Battis now wants, more than anything, to make his mark on the "prestige" circuit. His ambition very obviously and very fervently is to become a top horseman.
Medium tall, fair haired, Battis has the pleasantly wholesome, boyish good looks of the typical Alger hero.
Born on a farm in Amesbury, Mass., in 1938, Battis spent his boyhood and makes his present home in Danville, N. H. His early experiences with horses were the sort that any farm lad has. He drove the farm team, tried to ride anything with four legs, took some spills, and generally liked doing the barn chores with his father.
At 16, Battis went out on the racing circuit with a distinguished Danville citizen, Alfred "Bucky" Day, a perennial New England driving champion. Battis was a conscientious, apt pupil and he soon had full charge of a pair of horses, jogging them and training them a good deal of the time.
The horse bug bit hard and Battis turned his back to school and to the farm. He went to work for Ben Pitman, stayed with him for over two years, grooming and doing a little training. But the ambitious youngster was anxious to climb into the sulky.
When Raymond Watson offered him J. W. Pick to train and race, Battis jumped at the chance. The combination clicked and was the beginning of a quite fabulous career. In 1957 Battis drove just 10 times but gave J. W. Pick a new mark of 2:06h at the Cumberland, Me., fair.
His short novitiate ended when the New England winter roared in and Battis was back with Pitman, grooming horses, but watching and learning and dreaming, too, of the time when he would be wearing racing silks. He went out on the Maryland circuit in the spring with Pitman.
A call from Watson offering him J. W. Pick brought Battis back to home country at once. He raced the game J. W. Pick at Foxboro, picked up over $5000 in purses, then topped off his season by winning the invitational pace at Rochester, N. H.
This time J. W. Pick earned a new tab of 2:05h and set the local track record for a 61/2 furlong dash. When winter came that year, young Battis had the nucleus of his public stable.
In 1959 young Battis began to make a name for himself, was given catch mounts, and was well set in his career. In 1960, he drove 442 races, won 71, and ended the season as 29th man in the entire country. It was a spectacular beginning, but surely not the end for this ambitious youngster.
He made Hinsdale Raceway his own oyster. In the picturesque, jewellike little track, Battis carved out a reputation and earned the driving experience he needed.
Early this season Battis was off to a promising start with the best stable he had ever managed. He topped a fancy field of 3 year old pacing fillies in a Richelieu Park stake with Conewago. Starting from 8th position, the Adios Harry filly won in 2:04.3, topping among others the 1960 stake winner, Patricia Rhythm.
At Hinsdale he racked up 26 wins in quick order and was in high gear when called into military service. Basic training at Fort Dix, N. J., was the extent of his Army career, however, as a childhood back injury earned him an early discharge.
On his return to Foxboro, Battis picked up most of his horses, got some catch drives, and was soon in the winners' circle. Conewago continued to be a stand out 3 year old; Ebonette p, 3, 2:06.1 was a stout contender in the New England Breeders' Stakes; and Epic 2:05.3h and Buena So Rare 2:07.2h earned new marks. The small stable was picking up purse checks regularly and Battis was a name remembered by race goers.
Paul Battis is propelled by a single, overwhelming drivesimply to become a top notch horseman. He has no hobbies, no sports interests, no life beyond the race track and stable. His stable is neatly, tightly organized. He trains each horse personally, trying to vary work and speed according to the individual.
He has a deep rooted interest in conditioning horses and likes particularly to work with colts. In winter he does all the shoeing for the stable. At one time in his brief career, Battis was a helper for farrier Clint Daniels at Hinsdale. In his quest to know every aspect of harness racing, Battis learned by doing.
A quiet man best describes Battis. It is apt for Battis off the track as well as on. He drives with little flourish, tries to save ground, rarely uses the whip with force.
Fittingly, Battis goes to the race track in the grey and green colors of his uncle and early tutor, "Bucky" Day. Red diamonds were added by Battis for color registration.
end of quote
from 1974 USTA Handbook:
Paul made his first start in 1957, at the Rochester, N.H. fair. Later that fall he drove his first winner at Cumberland, Maine, a 2:06 3/5 trip behind the pacer, J.W. Pick. From that point he quickly reached national stature, landing several times among the top 25 drivers in the nation for seasonal efforts. He races primarily in New England.
During the 1971 season Paul joined, 11,000 Wins" club and his career winnings have exceeded $2-million. In 1973 he posted three 2:00 miles with Parson's Bret, the best a I:57.3 win at Brandywine. He was runnerup in both wins and UDRS during Rockingham's spring meet.