With more than $250,000 in purse money up for grabs for this year's two and three-year-old crops these battles kick off the richest and busiest time of the season for these state-breds.
Freshman pacing fillies started the non-stop action with a field of 10 ladies squaring off in the $43,500 Loyal Opposition Stake.
This raced provided the most dramatic finish of the night as Leland Mathias and Paymaq Racing's Mr. Leland's Filly rallied from ninth at the top of the stretch to win by a length in a career best of 1:53.2.
Patiently handled by leading driverthe daughter of --Incredible Kate sat near the back of the pack throughout the mile while heavily favored Lex ( ) mixed it up with several different rivals through splits of 28.4, 56.1 & 1:24.2.
Bobbing and weaving his way through traffic Leonard maneuvered thetrained miss into a clear path with an eighth of a mile to go and the filly absolutely exploded, charging home in 26.3 to secure her first lifetime win in start number three. Angel Demon ( ) came flying through the passing lane to finish second while Lex held on for third.
The winner returned $45.20, $15.00 & $5.80 while helping to key a $577 exacta and $909 ten-cent Superfecta payout.
Next up were sophomore trotting fillies as a field of eight diagonally gaited ladies met in the $42,000 Fox Valley Evita Stake.
This race also provided a milestone moment as Dr Patrick Graham, Flacco Family Farms andStables Say No Mo gave his 1,000th training victory by trotting to a two-length upset for driver . The final time was a lifetime best of 1:55.4.
Perfectly positioned at the pylons in third as favored Bailey' Wish () cruised through splits of 28.4, 57.0 & 1:25.4 De Long angled the daughter of --Not So Kosher to the outside for the stretch drive and the filly responded beautifully, wearing down the pace setter in the final 100 yards to post her third win in 12 starts this season. Bailey' Wish held on for second while Graceful Spirit ( ) was third.
Sent off at a nice price of 7-1 Say No Mo returned $17.20, $3.40 & $2.40 while running her career numbers to 7-2-3 in 26 starts with earnings of $59,492.
It was back to the pace for the next tussle as a field of 10 sophomore fillies battled in the $48,500 Ann Vonian Stake.
Once again it was the duo of driverand trainer who came out on top as Quaid Racing's My Little Bit used the passing lane to perfection in route to a 1 Â½ length victory in a lifetime best of 1:52.2.
Leaving alertly from post five Leonard positioned his filly perfectly on the back of the hard leaving Cuzimalegend (Travis Seekman) as that filly put up splits of 27.3, 57.1 & 1:24.2.
Fit and fresh for the stretch drive the daughter of--Parade Of Love zipped right by the pace setter with a little less than a sixteenth of a mile to go as she scored for the fifth time in nine starts this season. M A Duty ( ) rallied to finish second while Molly Go Lightly ( ) turned a ground saving journey into the show dough.
Proving once again that when the big money is on the line she comes up big My Little Bit returned $4.00 $2.60 & $2.20 while improving her record to 10-3-2 in 21 career starts with earnings of $183,147.
A compact field of six sophomore trotting colts were up next as they battled in the $41,000Stake.
Continuing along with an impressive second season Curt & Craig Grummel's Fox Valley Veto powered past rivals in the lane to win by a widening three-lengths in a career best of 1:55.3.was in the bike for his second championship score of the night.
Content to save ground while co-favorite Tour Hall () and Bobby B Breeze ( ) took turns strolling through splits of 30.0, 59.0 & 1:27.4, Fox Valley Veto was raging with trot as De Long pulled from third as the field straightened for the money. Charging right by his main nemesis the gelded son of Pizzazzed--Yankee Victory Om was on "idle" as he crossed under the wire with his third win in seven starts this year. Cardinal Wind ( ) rallied to be second while Bobby B Breeze held on for third. Tour Hall made a late break in the race and wound up last in the field.
After posting just one win in 2013, Fox Valley Veto now boasts a record of 4-6-0 in 17 lifetime starts with earnings of $114,694. The even-money co-favorite returned $4.00, $3.00 & $3.20.
Next up were freshmen pacing colts as a full field of 10 were sent postward in the $48,000 Mini Me Stake.
This test turned into a showcase for conditioneras the veteran conditioner sent out the top two finishers in the race with William C & William P De Long's King Of The Swamp proving best by a length and a half in 1:55.0 for driver .
Hustled right to the front the gelded son of--She's Redhot carved out splits of 29.1, 58.2 & 1:27.0. Showing the grit and determination he exhibited in last week's elimination win, the $85,000 yearling purchase dug in through the lane, keeping his pocket sitting entrymate at bay through a spirited stretch drive. Earndawg (Pat Curtin) was a hard trying second while Lucpark ( ) benefitted from a disqualification to move up to the show spot. Thisishowweroll ( ) had finished third but was disqualified for causing interference while on a break in the first turn.
With the win King Of The Swamp, who returned $7.40, $8.60 & $3.80, now sports three wins, a second and a third in five career starts with earnings of $32,858.
The last of the six championship tilts on Saturday featured three-year-old pacing colts as a field 10 was sent postward in the $48,000Stake.
Once again an Ervin Miller trainee found his way to the winner's circle as Megan Rogers Racing Stable's Unlocked lived up to his half-money favoritism with a resounding 5 Â½ length romp in 1:50 for driver.
Working his way to the front after a quarter in 28.0 the speedy son of--Miss Major Power effortlessly cruised through middle splits of 56.0 & 1:23.4. With plenty still in reserve the good looking colt sprinted away from his rivals, pacing home in 26.3 while under very minimal urging from his Hall Of Fame pilot. Longshot Fox Valley Cupid ( ) who led at the opening call held on nicely to finish second while another outsider, Fox Valley Van ( ) was third.
With the win Unlocked, who has spent a large portion of his second season chasing some of the top sophomores in the country, now sports a record of eight wins and six seconds in 22 career starts with earnings of $142,672. Bet as though defeat was out of the question Unlocked returned $3.00, $2.40 & $2.10.
The Southland Festival of Racing action continues on Sunday with a pair of big money events for two-year-old trotters. Post time is 7:10 p.m. for the Sunday card. For entries and more information please visit www.balmoralpark.com.
by Tom Kelley, for Balmoral Park