Despite less than ideal conditions fans were treated to a big Saturday night card featuring some of the Prairie State’s top trotters and pacers.
With six Illinois conceived and foaled stake match-ups and a Free For All on the program the action was non-stop for the Memorial Day weekend crowd.
The ladies kicked off the action in race three with a field of 10 sophomore trotting fillies slugging it out for $45,300 in the Violet Stake Final.
Despite a steady rain that turned the race track into a sea of mud, Rose Between 2 Thorn’s J C Josie had no trouble getting over the sloppy surface, posting a game half-length victory in 1:58.1.
Confidently handled by driver-trainer Homer Hochstetler, this daughter offloated away from post position seven. Biding her time on the outside of horses J C Josie finally made her way to the front just after an opening quarter in 30.0.
Trotting along comfortably on the “engine” this beautiful chestnut proceeded to rattle off middle splits of 58.1 & 1:28.0 while repelling a first over challenge from the highly regarded Victor’s Phantom.
“Not for one minute did I think of letting that filly clear us,” said Hochstetler. “When you feel you’ve got the best you drive them like their the best.”
Holding firm in the lane J C Josie then put away late bids from Mogo On The Gogogo (Dave Magee) and Scarlet Valley (Brent Holland) to win for the first time in her eight race career.
“I had to get after her a few times in the late going but I was never really worried about those other two horses,” explained Hochstetler.
Sent off as the third choice in the wagering J C Josie returned $10.60, $3.80 & $2.80.
Pacing fillies were up next as a full field of ten three-year-olds met in the $48,000 Violet Stake Final.
As expected this one turned into a stroll in the park as HBH Standardbreds Sportsfancy once again showed her dominance in this division with an easy two-length triumph in 1:53.2 on the sloppy track.
As has been their M.O. during a three-race winning streak driver Ryan Anderson quarter moved the 2-5 betting favorite from fifth to first after watching Faith Leigh (Brent Holland) pace through an opening quarter in 28.1.
“She’s the best of this group right now so there’s no reason to take a chance at getting into trouble somewhere along the way,” explained Anderson.
On cruise control after taking command Sportsfancy glided through fractions of 56.0 & 1:25.0.
“She was going along all on her own,” said Balmoral’s leading reinsman. “We were able to get a breather on the far turn and that’s where I knew it was over for the rest of the field.”
Receiving only mild urging coming from her pilot Sportsfancy easily began to put distance between herself and the pocket sitting Faith Leigh. With the remainder of the field a distant memory the Homer Hochstetler trained miss was well within herself as she rolled to her 11th career win in 20 starts. Faith Leigh held on for second while Perdito (Todd Warren) was third almost seven lengths behind the winner.
Sportsfancy returned just $2.80, $2.10 & $2.10 to her legion of backers. The victory also pushed the Homer Hochstetler trained miss over the $167,000 mark in career earnings.
Next on the docket were three-year-old trotting colts. Once again a full field of 10 faced the starting gate to slug it out for a $50,500 jackpot.
This test provided a bit of an upset as Mystical Maker Farms, Thomas Pollard & Dirk Simpson’s Mystical Banker came flying through the stretch to win by a head in a career best of 1:57.2.
Reserved in the early going by a patient Brandon Simpson the lightly raced Mystical Banker was eighth, seventh, then sixth as Sweet Willie (Dean Magee) sped through splits of 28.4, 58.1 & 1:27.0.
“I wasn’t really worried about being back where we were,” said Simpson. “I knew I was following a nice horse in Before He Cheats and I was confident that he would drag us up and put us in the position we needed to be in.”
With the pace setter begin to tire in the lane Mystical Banker took dead aim on the leaders while moving swiftly on the far outside. Picking off horses with his long fluid stride the son offinally managed to get a head in front of his stablemate Before He Cheats (Jason Dillander) right at the finish line. Spunky Vic (Ryan Anderson) shook loose late to finish third.
Despite having just six career starts on his resume’ Mystical Banker looks like a seasoned veteran on the track.
“Dad (Dirk Simpson) really liked him last year but he got a little sore so he gave him plenty of time off,” explained Brandon. “He’s gotten better with every start this year and I’m just happy that this ownership group has stuck with me and given me a chance to drive a nice trotter like this.”
Overlooked at the windows Mystical Banker rewarded those who did back him with mutuels of $19.00, $5.60 & $4.20.
The biggest surprise came in the $50,400 Cardinal Final for three-year-old pacing colts as 30-1 outsider Booze Cruzin came charging through the stretch to win by a length in 1:54.2.
Despite leaving from post position 10 driver Ryan Anderson did a magnificent job of finding a spot in mid-pack. With the pole sitting Brother Vinny (Mike Oosting) and One(Sam Widger) battling tooth and nail through splits 27.4, 55.1 & 1:24.3 the race shaped up perfectly for a late rusher.
Maneuvering deftly through a pack of tired horses Anderson finally found the room he needed with the Joe Seekman trained gelding. Getting clear in the center of the track with just an eighth of a mile to go this son of Art’s Conquest stormed home through the slop in 28.4 to pick up his second career victory. Saratoga John (Dave Magee) was a hard luck second after getting pushed back in the lane while Oneturned in a Herculean effort to hang on for third.
Despite the widening margin of victory winning driver Ryan Anderson never breathed a sigh of relief until it was over. “They were backing up on the front end in the stretch and I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to get out of their in time,” said the winning pilot. “Once this horse got clear he just took off and beat them all to the finish line.”
Hailing from Broekhuis Stables of Holland, Michigan Booze Cruzin lit up the board with mutuels of $62.20, $16.20 & $10.40.
The $25,000 Loyal Opposition provided quite a thrill as James Rowney’s Lou Annie proved once again she can still dance with the best of them recording a half-length victory in 1:54.2.
Despite leaving from post position nine driver Dave Magee pointed his filly right for the front and the eight-year-old was in front by 1 ½ lengths as she paced through opening fractions of 28.2 & 56.4.
Magee then showed the prowess that has netted him Hall of Fame stature as he electing to avoid a speed duel on the final turn by allowing a hard charging Spectacular Cam (Ryan Anderson) to grab control. Sitting comfortably in the pocket Lou Annie was still fresh as Spectacular Cam braced for a first over challenge from Fox Valley Fussy (Mike Oosting) as the field hit the three-quarter-mile mark in 1:24.2.
With the three mares just heads apart and only an eighth of a mile to go Magee then directed Lou Annie into the passing lane. Showing the determination and speed that has netted her over $550,000 in earnings Lou Annie charged past her rivals to post her fourth win of the year. Fox Valley Fussy wound up second while Arizona Helen (Jason Dillander) rallied for the show dough.
The tough as nails eight-year-old returned a hefty price of $30.60, $12.00 & $6.80 to those lucky enough to back her at the windows.
The $40,000Stake figured to be a showdown between Thisbigdogwillfight and My Boy David and it proved to be just that as the former rallied in the final strides to win by a half-length in a snappy 1:51.1.
Given a heady steer by Dave Magee Thisbigdogwilfight enjoyed a perfect two-hole trip the entire mile. Content to let My Boy David (Ryan Anderson) carve out fractions of 26.3, 55.0 & 1:23.3 Magee had his charge ready to pounce on his rival once the passing lane arrived.
As they have in their last two FFA encounters the two great Illinois breds hooked up in a thrilling drive to the wire and once again it was the pride of Michael McNeely and Redbud Stable’s Thisbigdogwilfight prevailing. Brown Bottle Flu (Todd Warren) turned in a solid first over effort to finish third.
Heavily backed at the windows the Jim Eaton trainee returned $3.00, $2.20 & $2.10 while winning for the seventh time in 10 starts this season.
The weekly $21,500 Free For All produced another upset on the sloppy track as Robert Silberberg’s Manhardt upset six rivals at odds of 12-1 for driver Brent Holland. The final time for the top class of pacers was a very respectable 1:51.2.