Day At The Track

Closing Balmoral stakes feature to Ryleigh's Lilly

08:12 AM 02 Jan 2015 NZDT
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Ryleigh's Lilly, harness racing Harness Racing
Ryleigh's Lilly and driver Casey Leonard
David Baum Photo
Casey Leonard (left) and Nelson Willis (right) are presented their leading driver and trainer awards by race secretary "Doc" Narotsky
David Baum Photo

State-bred filly and mare pacers headlined the final night of the 2014 racing season at Balmoral Park as a field of seven distaffers squared off in the $15,000 Fox Valley Memory Stake. In what has been a very competitive division all season long John Barnard's Ryleigh's Lilly came up with a big effort to close out her four-year-old season as she powered to the top after the quarter and never looked back in route to a 1 ½ -length victory in 1:53.4 for Balmoral's leading driver Casey Leonard.

Confidently handled by Chicago's leading reinseman, the daughter of Western Hero--Fox Valley Chosen came away fourth in the field of seven as Party Hangover (Ridge Warren) and State Street Liz (Robert Smolin) battled through an opening quarter in 28.2.

Quickly hitting top gear as the field settled on the backstretch the Bill Crone trained miss charged from fourth to first in a flash, leading the field through middle splits of 57.2 & 1:25.2.

With plenty in reserve for the stretch drive, Ryleigh's Lilly sealed the deal with a 28.2 final quarter while keeping her rivals at bay for her eighth victory of the season. State Street Liz held on for second while Just By Design (Dave Magee) turned a ground saving trip into a third place finish.

With the win Ryleigh's Lilly closed out the 2014 season with a record of 8-4-6 in 35 starts while adding another $59,000 to a career bankroll which now stands at $82,538. Heavily backed at the windows the 4-5 betting favorite returned $3.80, $3.00 & $2.10.

Balmoral also honored Leonard as the 2014 driving champion while longtime veteran Nelson Willis took home the 2014 training title at the Crete oval.

Leonard, a third generation horseman who did not start driving regularly until 2009 ended the 2014 season with 204 victories at Balmoral Park easily outdistancing second place finisher Todd Warren by more than 60 victories. Leonard put up a U.D.R.S. of .330 at Balmoral while horses driven by him earned more than $1.38 million in purses.

Willis, who also captured the training title here in 2012, finished up the 2014 season with 71 victories, 23 win ahead of runner-up Erin Elliott. With more than 500 starts at the meet, Willis put up a U.T.R.S. of .266 while his horses earned more than $563,000 in purses.

Live racing resumes on Saturday, Jan 3rd. Post time is 7:10 p.m. (central). Balmoral will also race on Sunday, Jan. 4th before heading to a short break. Live racing will then return on Saturday, Jan 31st.

by Tom Kelley, for Balmoral Park

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