Diagonally gaited two-year-olds were in the spotlight on Thursday night (September 22) at Balmoral Park as 14 state-bred trotters battled in a pair of $12,500 Lincoln Land Stake Elimination’s.
The top five finishers in each division earned spots in next week’s six-figure finale.
In the opening split, Phillip Rietveld’s Litigator took advantage of the late scratch of division leader Fox Valley Cayenne (sick) as he wore down the pace setting Battleshoe Bridge to win by a half-length in 2:02.4.
Patiently handled by Hall of Famer Dave Magee and placed at the back of the pack despite pedestrian fractions of 32.2, 1:03.2, & 1:34.2, Magee never seemed to panic as his charge turned for home almost seven lengths behind Battleshoe Bridge and driver Tony Morgan.
As that colt began to shorten stride after taking all the air on a very windy evening, Magee began a steady assault on the outside of horses, picking off rivals one by one as they moved through the lane.
Despite having a two-length margin to make up in the final sixteenth of a mile, Litigator still managed to get the job done as he flew by his rivals with a 27.0 final split to post his second win in nine career starts. Battleshoe Bridge was a hard fought second while Sonny Knew (Mike Oosting) overcame a rough gaited journey throughout most of the mile to finish third. Also earnings spots in the final were Run Zack Run and Dancing OfftoPlay.
In the nightcap Sally Watt’s lightly raced but highly regarded gelding Fox Valley Hotrod made every call a winning one as he reported home with a half-length victory in 2:00.0.
Perfectly rated by driver Andy Miller, this son ofstormed away from the outside starting spot in the field of eight and grabbed command as the field straightened up for the drive down the backstretch.
After rattling off very even splits of 30.3, 101.0 & 131.1, the Ervin Miller trainee was under only mild urging from his pilot as he cruised under the wire with his second win in just four career outings. Adam Gram (Tony Morgan) stalked the winner’s every move but was forced to settle for the runner-up role in this battle while Valley Liberator (Tim Tetrick) overcame a break in the first turn to salvage the show dough. Asolare and Winding Up also earned starting spots in next week’s finale.
The Miller brothers teamed up once again in the featured event of the night as the great Illinois bred trotting mare Fox Valley Flan came flying down the lane to win the $15,500Open Handicap in a snappy 1:55.1.
After sitting at the back of the pack in the compact field of six the four-year-old daughter ofunleashed a wicked 26.4 final split to wear down the pace-setting Million Dollar Bye in route to a three-quarters of a length victory.
The win was the sixth in 17 starts this season for the pride of Tanah Merah Farms who now boasts career earnings of $494,203 in her illustrious career.