While the local harness racing focus is on Super Night, as well it should be, with those all-so-important stake eliminations on tap this weekend, this is also the month Balmoral Park begins to host the American Nationals, its most prestigious events of the year.
Elimination races, if necessary, for the 2-year-old American National trots are a week from Wednesday (Sept. 10) and with that in mind trainer Gerald Hansen sends out his Hanover champion Cruisin Valor in this Wednesday’s fourth race.
The Race Office handicapped the freshman trotting race by season earnings and Crusin Valor was assigned the outside 10-hole.
After a poor showing in his pari-mutuel at Balmoral in early July, the Yankee Valor gelding, romped in an outing on the Urbana Fair Track on July 22 and then was much the best in the $29,800 Hanover on the big track in Crete, IL, drawing off by five lengths in 2:00.1 while well in hand to driver Brian Carpenter.
Cruisin Valor followed that stakes victory with a pair of valiant efforts at both State Fairs, dropping photos to Captain Greedy, first at Springfield in 1:59 and then in a division of Du Quoin’s Darn Safe in 1:59.3.
I caught up with Carpenter over the Labor Day weekend and asked the 54-year-old veteran driver for the low-down on Cruisin Valor, owned by Illinoisans Shelley Steele (Monee), Payton Ode (Joliet) and the Sam Lilly Racing Stable (Downers Grove).
“I helped Gerry break and train Cruisin Valor,” said Brian. “He also had another 2-year-old trotter who is a three-quarter brother to Southern Rocketop, a very good trotter who I used to drive.
“When the time came to qualify both trotters I was given Southern Special and Casey (Leonard) drove Cruisin Valor. However, the horse went out and lost his mind in that qualifier and tore up a race bike.
“The horse went on the (steward’s list) and Gerry called me and asked me the re-qualify the horse, which I did. While he didn’t have any trouble out there he was a handful. For whatever reason the horse didn’t have the same temperament when he came back to me that he had earlier.
“But we worked with him and while you still have to be careful with him scoring him down, in a race he has minded his manners and has been a gentleman. He’s a pretty quick colt.
“He raced well at both on the dirt tracks at Springfield and Du Quoin but I think he’s best at Balmoral.
“We’re still making some tweets with him to hopefully give him that little extra at crunch time so maybe a photo will go his way next time.”
Cruisin Valor has made almost $30,000 in his freshman season and still ahead for him is the $90,000 (est.) American National 2-Year-Old Colt Trot on Wednesday, Sept. 17 and the $100,000 Lincoln Land ICF stake on Sunday, October 3.
by Mike Paradise, for IHHA