The countdown to Illinois' biggest night of racing, Super Night 23 on Saturday, Sept. 17th, began in earnest on Saturday as elimination action for the Orange & Blue, Filly Orange & Blue, Tony Maurello Stake, Grandma Ann & Pete Langley Memorial highlighted the 13-race harness racing program.
Eliminations for the Lady Ann Reed and Lorna Propes Stakes will take place on Sunday night. The Su Mac Lad Stake will not require eliminations.
Kicking off Saturday’s action were two-year-old pacing fillies as a total of 16 youngsters met in a pair of $15,000 showdowns. The top five finishers will be back on Super Night for the $176,000 (est.) final.
In the opening division Ciara Stables & John Carver’s No Respect will definitely be getting plenty of attention in next week’s final after romping to an impressive four length triumph in a career best of 1:55.1 for driver Eric Carlson.
Leaving alertly from post position eight the daughter of-Justalittlerespect found a perfect spot in fourth through the early going. After saving ground through easy splits of 28.3 & 58.3 Carlson moved the Tom Harmer trained miss to the outside where she quickly gobbled up the pace setting Fox Valley Vista (Dale Hiteman) as the field moved to the three-quarter-mile mark in 1:28.0.
The issue was never in doubt from that point on as No Respect effortlessly kept her rivals at bay with a 27.1 final quarter to post her third win in five starts. Fox Valley Vista was second while Fox Valley Swift (Brandon Simpson) was third. Also gaining spots in the final were June P and Fox Valley Matinee.
The win caught the eye of her new pilot who is quickly making his mark on the Chicago circuit.
“She really raced much more maturely than I thought she would with only four starts under her belt,” said Carlson after the victory. “She sprinted out of there, relaxed while saving ground and then just blew right around them on the turn. That’s something you don’t see very often from a two-year-old pacing filly that doesn’t have that much experience.”
The second elimination produced an upset as 10-1 shot Kendyl took advantage of a perfect two-hole trip as she cruised by 1-2 favorite Sleazy Does It in the lane to score by 1 ¼ lengths in a lifetime best of 1:55.0.
Perfectly handled by driver Kyle Wilfong the daughter of-Snappy Casual used an inside starting spot to perfection as Wilfong placed her right on the back of Sleazy Does It (Casey Leonard) as that filly rolled through splits of 28.2, 58.4 & 1:28.2.
Popping out of the pocket with just over an eighth of a mile to go the Homer Hochstetler trainee gamely wore down the heavy favorite with a wicked 26.2 final quarter to post her second win in five lifetime starts for owner Connie Hochstetler. Sleazy Does It held on for second while Moment Of Magic (Brandon Simpson) was third. MJ’s Bid was fourth while Hostess Lisa grabbed the final spot with a fifth place finish.
Handled in her four previous starts by Wilfong the up and coming reinsman knew his filly was sitting on a big effort.
“We really haven’t been racing that hard and she’s shown an enormous amount of ability,” said Wilfong. “I knew tonight was going to be her night to show exactly what she could do and I certainly think she did that with that big last quarter. If we draw well she’ll be tough to beat in the final next week.”
Next up were the two-year-old pacing colts as a total of 24 freshmen squared off in a trio of $15,000 battles for the Orange & Blue Stake. The top three finishers in each division along with one fourth place finisher (drawn by lot) will be back to contest the $236,000 (est.) final, which is the richest race on Super Night.
In the opening split Ervin Miller Stables, Leland Mathias and Omer Miller’s Crime Of Passion continued on his mission to take down divisional honors as he blew by his rivals in the late going to win by 1 ¼ lengths in an effortless 1:53.0.
Getting away sixth after drawing the outside post driver Marcus Miller patiently waited for cover while Vavoomster (Todd Warren) cruised through pedestrian splits of 28.0 & 57.1.
Moving to the outside on the final turn the roan son of-Broadway Passion picked up cover and was a menacing fourth as the field hit the three-quarter-mile mark in 1:26.1.
Tipped to the far outside by Miller this year’s Governor’s Cup and State Fair Stakes winner zipped by his rivals with a 26.2 final quarter despite being under wraps. Al’s Hammered (Robert Smolin) rallied to be second while Get A Job (Casey Leonard) finished third. MT Nester was fourth.
With the win the Ervin Miller trainee now boasts a record of five wins and three thirds in eight starts this year.
“That was exactly the type of trip I was hoping to get with him tonight,” said Balmoral’s leading driver. “I wanted to “braven” him up some with this effort and he seems to be at his best when he’s got horses to shoot for which is exactly what we had tonight.”
The result of the second division will help set up another anticipated showdown between the top colts in the division as Jerry Silva’s, Mark Winship, Delores Phillips and Amy Giberson’s recent acquisition Peachys Pistol cruised to a 2 ¾ length verdict in a lifetime best of 1:52.3.
After getting away in mid-pack as NJ’s Big Deal (John Roberts) and Ice Scraper (Robert Smolin) battled through opening splits of 27.1. & 56.0.
Picking up cover with driver Brandon Simpson in tow Peachys Pistol moved up second over on the far turn and began to tip three wide as Ice Scraper hit the three-quarter-mile mark in 1:24.4.
Fit and fresh the gelded son of-Peachy Revrac flew right by his rivals in the lane despite being under a snug hold by Simpson for his seventh win in 10 lifetime starts. Ice Scraper held on for second while Mystical Brothers (Marcus Miller) was third. NJ’s Big Deal finished fourth.
“This horse was just unreal tonight,” said winning driver Brandon Simpson. “I never asked him for anything tonight and I was pretty much pulling him up at the wire and he was still just plowing ahead.”
The final split gave trainer Erv Miller and driver Brandon Simpson another participant in the final as John Carver and Mary Jane Anderson’s Zall Good made every call a winning one in a lifetime best of 1:52.4.
Speeding away from post position six the son of-Fox Valley Estella easily made the lead where he settled in through splits of 28.2, 56.2 & 1:24.3.
“It didn’t look like there was much speed in the race and I wanted to make sure this colt made the final so I definitely wanted to keep him out of trouble which is why I sent him out of there tonight,” explained Simpson. “He wound up going a little faster than I really wanted him to but believe me there was still plenty left when he hit the wire.”
Holding his rivals at bay through the lane the half-brother to last year’s Orange & Blue winner Dutch Richman was in complete command as he rolled under the wire with his fourth win in five lifetime starts. King Midas’ Touch (Travis Seekman) finished second while Urawomanizer (John De Long) finished third. Western Cole was fourth.
Eliminations for the $115,000 Tony Maurello Stake were next on the docket as a total of 17 classy veterans mixed it up in a pair of $15,000 battles. The top five in each division will be back for what should be a slugfest next Saturday.
Continuing along with his best season to date James Gorman’s Well To Do Guru grabbed command from the word go in the first division and proceeded to make every call a winning one in 1:51.0.
Confidently handled by regular pilot Casey Leonard the seven-year-old gelding zipped away from post position two and was in control of the proceedings before the field reached the first turn. Rolling along leisurely through splits of 27.3, 57.1 & 1:24.4 the Terry Leonard trainee, who had won four of his last six starts, had plenty in reserve to hold off the bid of the pocket sitting Power Of A Moment (Marcus Miller) for his eighth win of the year. Power Of A Moment was forced to settle for second while Southern Sport (Mike Oosting) turned in a solid effort to finish third. Lets Getit Started was fourth while Drive Em Cowboy was fifth.
The ease of the victory actually seemed to surprise Leonard.
“I wanted to get out of there good because I knew there were some nice horses outside of us,” said Leonard. “Then I looked over and they all tucked in behind us. I really would have preferred to have been covered up but everyone just kept sitting in and by the time they came after us my horse just took off and we were gone.”
The second division provided a thrilling finish but when the smoke cleared it was Milton Racing Stable, A. Waxman & JL Benson Stables Doubletrouble who made his return to the local scene a winning one as he scored by three-quarters of a length in a blistering 1:50.0.
Getting away fourth in the early going driver Brian Carpenter was content to watch as Glass Pack (Robert Smolin) and Omaha Survivor (Eric Carlson) slugged it out through heavy splits of 27.3 & 54.4.
Moving to the outside on the far turn the Donna Lee Ozment trainee was in a third over position for Carpenter as the battle continued up front through three-quarters in 1:22.1.
After maneuvering his way around traffic Carpenter finally got Doubletrouble into high gear with an eighth of a mile to go. Gaining quickly on the leg weary leaders the five-year-old son ofcharged by his rivals while on the far outside to earn his fifth win in 29 starts this season. Big Daddy Woo Woo (Ridge Warren) finished second while Omaha Survivor (Eric Carlson) was third. Glass Pack held on for fourth while the last spot in the final was earned by Thisbigdogwillfight.
Reunited with Doubletrouble, who Carpenter is quite familiar with from the gelding’s earlier years on the Chicago circuit, brought back some good memories for the veteran reinsman.
“He’s still the same old war horse he’s always been,” said Carpenter. “He’s as game as they come and you just need to put him out in the center track, give him some urging and turn him loose and he does the rest. No surprises from him tonight!”
Sophomore pacing fillies were next to hit the track as a total of 18 ladies looked for starting spots in the $153,000 (est.) Grandma Ann Stake. The top five finishers in each of the two $15,000 elimination battles will be back for the final on Super Night.
In the opening split the red-hot Mystical MJ notched her fifth straight victory as she prevailed by a neck in a thrilling three-horse photo. The final time was 1:53.3.
Forced to move first over after watching Pardon (Brandon Simpson) take control after a slow opening quarter in 29.0 driver Marcus Miller had Mystical MJ rolling up in high gear as the two passed the half-mile mark in 57.3.
Taking command as the field headed into the final turn Miller had Mystical MJ in front as the field hit the three-quarter-mile mark in 1:25.2.
With a cavalry charge coming Mystical MJ was all out to hold off a game Pardon and Toshie Special, both of whom were gaining on the inside of horses. Showing the grit and determination that has earned her over $147,000 the Erv Miller trained daughter of-Pacific Sister K dug in gamely as she prevailed for the seventh time in 17 starts this season. Pardon was a big second while Toshie’s Special (Robert Smolin) was third. Onebrewfortheroad was fourth while Let’s Go Higher finished fifth.
“Tonight was the first time in a while she’s really had to do some work on the end of the mile,” said a relieved Miller. “She was up to the challenge though and once those other horses got right alongside of her I felt her swell up and give me a little bit more. I just hope she’s got at least one more week of that in her for Super Night.”
In the second division the lightly raced but highly talented Fox Valley Praline came roaring through the lane to record a 1 ½ length verdict in a career best of 1:52.0 for the newlywed John Roberts.
Smartly handled by Roberts the bay daughter of-Carmel Blue Chip charged away from post position seven and was in command at the quarter in 27.4. Electing to let a hard charging Fox Valley Maeve (Ridge Warren) go as the field reached the half-mile mark in 56.3 Roberts then had the Kris Reynolds trained miss in a perfect spot.
“I was very happy we wound up getting covered up after a tough opening quarter,” said Roberts. “When this filly is racing off a helmet she just feels and acts like she can go with anybody and that was exactly how she felt to me tonight.”
Content to ride along in the pocket as Little Maeve showed the way by the three-quarter-mile mark in 1:24.2 Roberts was just waiting to pounce on a tiring leader.
Moving his charge to the outside for the stretch drive a freshened up Fox Valley Praline uncorked a 27.2 final quarter as she sped home with her fifth win in six starts this season for owners Jim Reynolds, Terry Rathgeber and Orange Crush Racing. Nina Coleada (Marcus Miller) finished second while Fox Valley Touche (Dale Hiteman) rallied for third. Also gaining spots in the final were Little Maeve and Elisa’s Model.
The final eliminations of the night featured three-year-old pacing colts as a total of 19 sophomores vied for starting berths in the $182,000 Pete Langley Memorial. Once again the top five finishers in each of the $15,000 elimination’s will be back to battle on Super Night 23.
It was “bombs away” in the first division as 30-1 outsider Sporty Gypsy turned a ground saving trip into the biggest upset of the night for driver Dale Hiteman winning by three-quarters of a length in a career best of 1:52.2.
Saving ground from their inside spot Hiteman had Sporty Gypsy positioned near the front while heavy favorite Boi (Marcus Miller) and Flowmaster (Brandon Simpson) battled through splits of 27.4, 57.0 & 1:23.4.
In the stretch disaster struck for Flowmaster as he made a very uncharacteristic break while on the lead leaving an opening for Sporty Gypsy to drill through. Reeling in Boi with each stride the Tom Simmons trained son of-Expresso Gypsy finally managed to get by the chalk in the final strides to post his sixth win in 14 starts this year for the partnership of Benita Simmons, Clinard Racing and D.R. Clinard. Boi was a tough luck second while Dry Creek Striker (John De Long) finished third. Big Gus and Playin For Keeps also gained spots in the final.
After the upset a surprised Hiteman gave his take on how things shook out.
“Really I just went into the race hoping to work out some kind of a decent trip since we had drawn inside,” he said. “Things were working out pretty well for us in that regard and he felt great the entire mile. Probably better than he has all year. Then when that horse made a break it just opened up more space for us and we wound up pulling off the upset. You just never know with these things.”
In the nightcap last year’s Orange & Blue winner Dutch Richman returned to his winning ways as he posted a half-length triumph in 1:52.0 to give driver Marcus Miller and trainer Erv Miller a four-bagger on the evening.
The son of-Fox Valley Estella did not have the easiest of trips after being left first over while Rockin Rumble (John Roberts) and He’s So Hot (Todd Warren) took turns leading the field through splits of 27.2, 55.2 & 1:24.2.
With dead aim on He’s So Hot as that pacer led the field into the stretch Dutch Richman slowly but surely began a measured march to the front. Gaining ground with each stride the good looking gelding finally overtook his arch nemesis with less than a sixteenth of a mile to go in route to his seventh win in 14 starts this year. Rockin Rumble came through along the inside to get second while He’s So Hot held on for third. Gotta Let It Go (Mike Oosting) was fourth while Fox Valley Mercury locked up the final spot with a fifth place finish.
The win helped push Dutch Richman’s career earnings over the $220,000 plateau while instilling confidence in his driver once again.
“I really didn’t want to wind up first over for that long but Todd cleared pretty easy with his horse and we were stuck out there,” explained Miller. “This horse when he’s right can instill confidence in a driver and he was right tonight. You saw the “old” Dutch out there tonight when he wore that other horse down in the lane and hopefully he’ll be just as good for the final next week.”