Most of the circuit’s top drivers are doing double-duty Saturday. They’ll compete in the afternoon in southern Illinois at the Du Quoin State Fair and then at night at Balmoral Park, wrapping up their day up some 12 hours after the first downstate post.
“This year a lot of us plan to drive back to Balmoral instead of renting a plane like we did in the past,” said John De Long who will handle the favorites in 2 of the 5 major ICF trotting championships at Du Quoin.
“Dave (Magee) drove back last year while we took a plane and Dave was at Balmoral around the second race and this year there are only 10 races at Du Quoin Saturday. The last one goes before 3 o’clock so we should be o.k.”
De Long’s best chances Saturday afternoon are with the Curt Grummel Stable’s sister-brother Springfield champion tandem of Fox Valley Yoko in the Time Dancer, and Fox Valley Veto in the Pronto Don, and Say No Mo in the Windy Skeeter who earlier won the $42,000 Fox Valley Evita.
“Yoko” may not have been 100 per cent when she was second in the Fox Valley Flan and Hanover,” said De Long. “They told me she had been a little sick. But last week at Springfield she bounced back and had a :26.4 last quarter for me and did it well in hand.
“Veto has been awesome. The horse does everything absolutely perfect.
“Say No Mo just didn’t fire at Springfield. She just wasn’t very good in her race. I had tipped her out near the half but she didn’t have any trot so I ducked her back in. They were going to scope her and do blood work if needed. Hopefully she’ll be good for the Du Quoin stake.”
When De Long arrives from his 290 mile trip from Du Quoin to Balmoral he’ll have live drives on the Saturday night card including the Nick Giberson Stable’s Fashion Delight (5-1) in the fifth race Invitational Handicap.
Owned by Illinoisan Mark Winship (Canton), the 6-year-old Fashion Delight is the winner of over $856,000 in his career. He’ll take-on some tough cookies like Al’s Hammered (programmed 8-5), last week’s Big Tom champion Fort Silky (5-2, Casey Leonard), Best Man Hanover (9-2, Todd Warren), Iam Bonasera (6-1, Kyle Wilfong) and Furious Frank (12-1, Ridge Warren).
“Fashion Delight is just a nice older race horse,” continued De Long. “He likes to leave and he comes off a strong (1:49.4) mile last week.
The 25-year-old Wisconsin native has the 5-2 favorites in a pair of high level conditioned paces that follow, Firstclassallthway in the seventh and Our Dragon King in the ninth. Both have the pole position.
“I’ve driven Our Dragon King in the past, said De Long. “He’s a nice horse. He’s a American National and Hanover champion. The horse did get tortured last week so maybe that’s why I’m driving him this time around.”
Our Dragon King cut bruising fractions of :26.4, :53.1 and 1:20.4 before going into retreat and finishing a far back sixth behind De Long and Fashion Delight.
Du Quoin’s three-day harness met concludes Sunday (12 noon first post) with a number of championships to be decided including the $40,000 Governor’s Cup for ICF 3-year-old pacing colts and geldings.
by Mike Paradise, for IHHA