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It was a busy night of stakes action on Friday night at Balmoral Park as the Crete oval played host to a quartet of Illinois conceived and foaled events featuring both harness racing trotters and pacers.   Trotters kicked off the action in race two with a field of seven diagonally gaited 2yo colts and geldings squaring off in the first of two $8,060 Xpressbet Stakes.   When the smoke cleared from this tussle it was Derek and Amy Jacobus's Speedy Rendezvous emerging victorious with a 1½ length wire to wire victory in 1:59.3 for driver Ridge Warren.   Hustled right to the front from post five the Nick Prather trained son of Photo Color--Fox Valley Tryst rattled off splits of 30.0, 1:00.1 & 1:29.4 while uncontested on the front end. With plenty left in reserve the good looking chestnut was on cruise control through the lane as he reported home with his second win in four lifetime starts. Longshot Homershobbyhorse (Mike Oosting) rallied late to be the runner-up while heavily favored Pastor Clint (Casey Leonard) was forced to settle for the show dough.   Next on the docket were freshmen pacing fillies as a field of seven lined up behind the gate to battle for a purse of $8,140 in another Xpressbet Stake.   This race also produced a wire to wire winner as the Hosea Williams owned and trained Lexington Lady sped right to the front and made every call a winning one, holding on to win by a neck in 1:53.4.   Zipped away from post five by regular pilot Brian Carpenter the daughter of Lexington Legend--Stephie Kay sped through splits of 28.0, 56.0 & 1:24.1 while maintaining an open lengths advantage. After "bottoming out" the field of youngsters the speedball was all out through the final sixteenth of a mile as she gamely held off the big late move of Char N Marg (Casey Leonard), who was hung up in traffic while stuck along the pylons on the final turn. Whiskersonkittens (Robert Smolin) enjoyed a pocket sitting trip while grabbing the third place check.   The win was the ninth in 13 starts this season for Lexington Lady who also has four second place finishes to her credit and now boasts earnings of more than $66,000.   Sophomore pacing fillies continued Friday's stakes parade with a field of six state-breds battling it out in the $7,980 Giggles The Clown Stake.   Continuing with her late season charge Peter Karras's Fox Valley Charm cruised to a deceivingly easy one-length victory in a brisk 1:52.0 with driver Mike Oosting at the controls.   After settling in third through an opening quarter in 27.4, Oosting whisked the Mike Brink trained miss to the front as the field moved by the half-mile station in 56.0. The issue was never in doubt from that point on as the daughter of Yankee Skyscaper--Fox Valley Cherub rolled past the three-quarter-mile mark in 1:24.0 before sealing the deal with a 28.0 final quarter. Lex (Kyle Wilfong) was forced to settle for the bridesmaid role once again while Fox Valley Brooke (Ridge Warren) used a ground saving journey to finish third.   With the win Fox Valley Charm sports career numbers of 12-5-3 in 28 starts with earnings of more than $64,000 for her proud connections.   Last but not least on the card a full field of 10 two-year-old pacing colts were sent to battle in the $8,300 Crete Stake.   The "chalk" players went down in flames in this event as a pocket sitting JB's Hero used the passing lane to perfection as he went charging by the heavily favored Royale Rose to win by 1½ lengths in 1:53.4.   Perfectly handled by driver Robert Smolin the John Barnard owned son of Hawaiian Cowboy--Paint The Picture sat right on the back of the division leader as he put up splits of 27.3, 56.3 & 1:25.1. Patiently awaiting room in the passing lane, Smolin maneuvered the Bill Crone trained colt to the inside with a sixteenth of a mile to go where he quickly swallowed up the pace setter to notch his second win in 17 starts this year. Royale Rose was forced to settle for the runner-up role on this night while Bayside Tequilla (Mike Oosting) was third.   Live racing continues on Saturday, Oct. 31st at Balmoral Park. Once again all the action gets underway at 7:10pm on Saturday night and as always the $1 Pick 4 (races 9-12) features a $20,000 guaranteed pool. The 10-cent Hi Five (race 10) also features a guaranteed pool of $15,000. The live racing action will be headlined by ICF sophomore pacing colts as a field of seven are scheduled to go postward in an $8,060 Xpressbet Stake.   Tom Kelley

Harness racing freshman trotting colts stepped into the spotlight on Friday night as a full field of 10 diagonally gaited youngsters squared off in the $21,300 Cardinal Stake for state-breds. When the smoke cleared from this heated battle it was Thomas Pollard and Dirk Simpson Stable's Pastor Clint who emerged victorious as he came flying down the center of the track to record a 2¼ length victory in 2:0.1 over a track rated as "good" after being dulled by rain earlier in the night.   Given a patient steer by leading driver Casey Leonard the gelded son of Powerful Emotion--SS Stardust was kept well off the early pace of 29.3, 59.4 & 1:29.1 which was being set by a headstrong Speedy Rendezvous (Ridge Warren).   Tipping five and six wide from the center of the pack as the field straightened into a brisk headwind the Dirk Simpson trainee began gobbling up one rival after another as he charged home with his fifth win in 15 lifetime starts. Longshot PJ Boy (Mike Rogers), who found a good early spot despite leaving from post 10, turned a nice ground saving trip into a second place check while JD Cheese (Todd Warren) staged a nice rally to get the show dough.   Dispatched as the third choice in the wagering despite a similar come from behind win in his elimination the previous week Pastor Clint returned $9.00, $5.60, $3.60 while upping his record to 5-1-4 in 15 starts with earnings of $31,451.   Tom Kelley  

Harness racing Freshman pacing fillies took center stage on Saturday night at Balmoral Park as the Hosea Williams owned and trainer Lexington Lady prevailed by a length in 1:55.2 over seven rivals in the $8,140 Beecher Stake for state-breds.   Hustled right to the front from post position two by driver Brian Carpenter the speedy daughter of Lexington Legend--Stephie Kay was allowed to stroll through easy splits of 28.4, 59.2 & 1:27.1 while under no pressure from her rivals.   With plenty in reserve despite being off for five weeks prior to this start, this year's Filly Orange & Blue runner-up sprinted home in 28.1 keeping the hard charging Whiskersonkittens (Robert Smolin) and the pocket sitting Char N Marg (Casey Leonard) at bay as she recorded her eighth win in 12 career starts. Whiskersonkittens continued her late season improvement as she wound up in the bridesmaid role while Char N Marg was forced to settle for the show dough.   Sent off as a close second choice in the wagering at odds of 7-5 Lexington Legend returned $4.80, $4.00 & $2.20 while running her career earnings up to $62,795.   Lexington Lady and driver Brian Carpenter led from start to finish in Saturday's $8,140 Beecher Stake for 2yo pacing fillies.   Tom Kelley    

Freshman trotting fillies grabbed the main stage on Friday's Balmoral Park harness racing card as a full field of 10 diagonally gaited youngsters squared off in the $19,700 Violet Stake.   Fresh off wins in the Lady Lincoln Land and a Violet elimination Lynn Wilfong's More Than Likely overcame the dreaded outside starting spot to record a neck decision in 1:59.0 for driver Kyle Wilfong.   Reserved through the early going as Surviver Di (Kyle Husted) carved out splits of 29.3, 1:00.3 & 1:29.4 Wilfong calmly maneuvered his way through the outer flow as he made his way to the top of the stretch.   With even-money favorite Vengeful making a nasty break just as she moved into the lead at the top of the lane the outcome remained wide open as a fresh More Than Likely began to chew up ground on the far outside of horses. Charging down the center of the track, the Roger Welch trained daughter of Designer Lindy--Midori Hanover trotted into the lead with less than a sixteenth of a mile to go then held firm as a fast closing Praise Singer (Robert Smolin) took one final run at the winner only to come up a few steps short. Surviver Di held on for the show dough.   Sent off as the second choice in the wagering More Than Likely returned $7.20, $4.80 & $3.40 while running her record to 4-1-1in 11 starts with career earnings of $55,491.   A total of 15 two-year-old trotting colts were dropped in the box for next week's $21,300 Cardinal Stake Final necessitating a pair of $8,000 elimination tussles on Friday night. The top five finishers in each division will be back for next week's finale.   In the first division Thomas Pollard and Dirk Simpson Stables Pastor Clint held off a furious late rally from 50-1 outsider Fox Valley Diamo, prevailing by a hard fought neck in 1:59.3 for driver Casey Leonard.   The Mike Brink trained son of Powerful Emotion--SS Stardust shook off a tough first over trip in route to his fourth win in 14 career starts. The bay gelding also has a second and four thirds to his credit with career earnings of $20,801 after Friday's victory. Fox Valley Diamo (Pat Curtin) was a game second while pace setter Fear (Robert Smolin) held on for third. Also gaining spots in the final were Mr Strata and Fox Valley Sir.   In the second division another Brink trainee toted home top honors with Casey Leonard at the controls as Powerful Father pulled off the 8-1 upset winning by a neck in 2:00.1 after a thrilling stretch battle.   The bay son of Powerful Emotion--Fox Valley Poetry ranged up second over as the field hit the top of the stretch then gradually wore down the pace setting JD Cheese (Todd Warren) to post his first career victory for the partnership of Patricia McCaughey, Loren Tournear and Mystical Marker Farms LLC. Favored Speedy Rendezvous (Ridge Warren) was a hard fought second while PJ Boy (Mike Rogers), who lacked racing room throughout the stretch drive was forced to settle for a third place check. JD Cheese and Homershobbyhorse grabbed the last two spots in the final.   Driver Mike Oosting was honored on Friday night as well as the veteran reinsman joined an elite group with his 6,000th driving victory. The milestone win came on Saturday, Oct. 10th as the Beecher, IL resident guided Gibbs to a 1¾ length victory in the 10th race of the night. The 53-year-old Oosting, who captured the 2015 driving title at Maywood Park and also boasts an unprecedented six straight driving titles here at Balmoral Park, has driven the winners of more than $37.1 million during his career and has also sent out 539 winners during his days of training standardbreds. He has notched more than 250 driving victories in 13 of the past 14 seasons. Live racing continues on Saturday, Oct. 17th at Balmoral Park. Once again all the action gets underway at 7:10pm on Saturday night and as always the $1 Pick 4 (races 9-12) features a $25,000 guaranteed pool. The 10-cent Hi Five (race 10) also features a guaranteed pool of $25,000. The live racing action will be headlined by ICF two-year-old pacing fillies as a field of eight are scheduled to go postward in the $8,140 Beecher Stake. Tom Kelley

Balmoral Park will offer another lucrative guaranteed Pick 5 pool of $35,000 on Friday, October 16. Because the 50 cent minimum wager was not hit last Saturday night, a nice carryover of $7,867 will be added to the Friday harness racing pool.   The popular low cost Pick 5 wager is offered on races four through eight.   Handicappers across North America can get a head start on their competition with free 12 line program pages for the guaranteed pools courtesy of the USTA Strategic Wagering Initiative and Track Master on the handicapping section at www.ustrotting.com.   Post time at Balmoral is 7:10 pm (central).   Tom Kelley

It was a big night for trainer Curt Grummel as the downstate based conditioner toted home top honors in a trio of trotting stakes at the harness racing meeting on Sunday night at BalmoralPark with the lightly raced but rapidly improving Dr. Venkman taking the biggest prize of them all in the $77,400 Lincoln Land Stake for ICF two-year-old trotting colts.   Taking advantage of an inside starting spot driver Pat Curtin positioned the gelded son of Pizzazzed--Broadway Show in the garden spot as Fear (Robert Smolin) led the field of youngsters through splits of 29.0, 58.3 & 1:28.4.   "Going into the race that's exactly how we hoped things would work out," said a very excited Curtin. "I knew some horses behind us were working out pretty decent trips as well but I knew if Fear could carry us into the stretch until there was room we were going to be in good shape. Once he saw that daylight he was gone!"   Fit and fresh as the field turned for the money a patient Curtin waited for room in the passing lane with that State Fair Stake winner. After securing his spot along the inside Dr. Venkman looked like a seasoned veteran as he scooted right by the pace setter and was on cruise control the rest of the way as he reported home with a 1 ½ length decision in a career best of 1:58.2. Mr. Strata (Mike Oosting) shook loose late and rallied in time to be the runner-up while Fear held on for third. Dr. Venkman, the co-favorite in the wagering returned $6.60, $4.00 0& $3.60 while upping his record 2-0-1 in four starts with earnings of $44,000 for the partnership of Curt and Craig Grummel, Clayton B Arnett and Chili Day Stables.   Sophomore trotting fillies were also in action on Sunday night as a compact field of six gathered for the $7,500 Xpress Bet Stake.   As expected Dr. Patrick Graham's Fox Valley Yoko had no trouble disposing of this group as she trotted away late to score by a 1 ½ lengths in 1:58.0 for driver Kyle Wilfong.   Confidently handled by her pilot the daughter of Pizzazzed--Yankee Victory was reserved early on as None Of That Stuff (Casey Leonard) rolled through splits of 30.1, 1:00.1 & 1:29.4. Grinding her way to towards the front while moving first over the Curt Grummel trained miss eventually wore down the pace setter and drew off in the final 50 yards to record her sixth win in 14 starts this season. Bands Muse (John De Long) shook loose late to rally for the bridesmaid spot while None Of That Stuff held on for third. Dispatched as the 1-5 favorite Fox Valley Yoko returned $2.40, $2.10 & $2.10 while running her career record to 9-7-5 in 26 career starts with earnings of $149,821 for her happy connections.   In the Lady Lincoln Land Consolation another Grummel trainee toted home top honors as Dr. Patrick Graham's Powerful Princess trotted to an impressive win in 1:59.0 with John De Long at the controls. The was the first in three lifetime outings for the daughter of Powerful Emotion--Maple Grove Glide who led the field into the stretch in last week's rich final before making a break a costly break. Tom Kelley

Clinard Properties Time To Roll lived up to name on Saturday night at the harness racing meeting at Balmoral Park as the six-year-old son of Rocknroll Hanover etched his name in the Balmoral Park record books for an aged pacing horse with a 1:48.4 clocking in the $9,400 "Winners Over" pace. Confidently handled by driver Mike Oosting the Tom Simmons trainee sat just off a torrid pace being set by speedball Ice Scraper. Hitting full stride as the field turned for the money on a cold blustery night the career winner of $800,147 exploded home in 26.4 to notch his 32nd career victory. The previous mark of 1:49.1 had been shared by Big Tom, Sagebrush, He Wants It All and Western Trademark and dated all the way back to 2000 with the Big Tom mark.   Tom Kelley            

On Friday night the finish line will come down, the horses stalled and harness racing at Maywood Park will cease. At the end of the year, so will harness racing at Balmoral Park. A decision by the Illinois Racing Board ends the scheduled meets at the financially troubled tracks, both of which are in bankruptcy. The closures are all about money, jobs and casino gambling --- add to that concern that some healthy horses could be led to slaughter as the parks close. Standarbred horses have been racing at Maywood Park, located on 1st Avenue in Melrose Park, since 1946, providing jobs for trainers, grooms, farriers and backstretch workers. “I support my family this way. I love this business,” said trainer Joe Cassano. “When this place closes there are a lot of people that will be out of work.” “This is how I’ve made my living my whole life,” said trainer Hosea Williams. “Sent three kids through school.” Maywood Park had originally been scheduled to end its racing season at the end of the year. The new closing date, says long-time trainer Angie Coleman, is a hardship for families who live on the backstretch. “They are going to lose their home,” she said. “These kids are not going to have school. They are going to be displaced.” Illinois Racing Board Commissioner Kathy Byrne also worries about what will happen to those most in need. “It’s a crisis of decency,” she said in an interview. “These people need to be treated decently.” For years the Johnston family has run both Maywood and Balmoral Parks. And the purses at Maywood, Duke Johnston said, have grown paltry. “Right now we earn about $20,000 a night in purses and are paying $45,000. I can’t keep doing that,” Johnston said. “We’re burning through a cash flow loss of about, you know, a substantial amount.” For years the horse racing industry has pushed to allow slots and other casino-type gambling at Illinois racetracks, turning them into so-called racinos. The industry points to other states where casino gambling is allowed at horse tracks and where racing, they say, is flourishing. Twice controversial gaming bills passed the legislature but were vetoed by then governor Pat Quinn amid security questions and concerns about too much gambling. A new casino bill remains in Springfield budget limbo. “We’re trying to compete against casinos, five video poker machines in every bar, it’s dooming us,” Johnston said. Year-round harness racing has been divided in the past between Maywood and Balmoral. Now it will shift to Hawthorne Race Course in Cicero in 2016, but for a much-shortened season lasting for just over 5 months a year. What to do with the horses that have been racing year round in two facilities is a real concern among trainers like Angie Coleman who say “it’s very much a reality,” that some horses will eventually go to slaughter. “Yes, yes there will be horse slaughter involved,” said worried trainer Hosea Williams. Both Duke Johnson and executives at the Illinois Racing Board strongly disagree that any horses will go to slaughter. But what is crystal clear is that the final race at Maywood goes off Friday night. By Carol Marin and Don Moseley Reprinted with permission of NBCUniversal Media

State-bred trotting fillies grabbed center stage on Sunday night at the harness racing meeting at Balmoral Park as a field of 10 diagonally gaited youngsters met in a $12,500 Lady Lincoln Land Stake elimination.    The top seven finishers will return for next week's $80,000 (est.) final, which is the richest event of the season for these Prairie State youngsters.   They will be joined by Shez A Devil Woman, Surviver Di and Awfully Emotional.   Taking advantage of a perfect pocket sitting trip after leaving from post position two Providence West's Vengeful returned to her winning ways as she trotted to a hard earned three-quarter-length victory in 1:59.2. Perfectly positioned in the garden spot as Powerful Princess (John De Long) carved out splits of 30.3, 1:01.2 & 1:30.4, Casey Leonard moved to the outside with the Kenny Collier trained daughter of Powerful Emotion--Over The Top with an eighth of a mile to go. Gradually wearing down the stubborn first time starter this year's Hanover Stake winner finally moved past the pace setter with 50 yards to go and began to draw clear in the shadow of the wire for her fourth win in eight lifetime starts. Powerful Princess turned in a very respectable effort in her career debut to be the bridesmaid while More Than Likely (Kyle Wilfong) finished third. Also gaining spots in the final were Fox Valley Honey, Praise Singer, Lilbitoftrixie and Swift Cougar. Heavily backed at the betting windows Vengeful returned $4.60, $3.00 & $3.00 while running her career earnings over the $25,000 mark.   Sophomore trotting fillies were also in action on Sunday night as a field of six ICF trotters battled in a $13,550 Lady Ann Reed Stake consolation.   Lynn & Barbara Wilfong's None Of That Stuff proved to be far too much for this field to handle as she powered up first over on the far turn then left her rivals in her wake while cruising to a 3½ length victory in a career best of 1:57.0 for driver Kyle Wilfong. She'z So Sassy (Todd Warren), the 6-5 favorite of the betting public finished a hard fought second while Divinely Floozy (Tim Curtin) was third. The Amanda Cope trained daughter of Designer Lindy--No Joshin returned $9.20, $3.80 & $2.60 while pushing her career bankroll over the $14,000 mark in this her first season of racing.   Tom Kelley

Illinois conceived and foaled pacers grabbed the spotlight on Saturday night at Balmoral Park as the Crete oval played host to four stake races which were fashioned for pacers who competed on the harness racing Super Night.   Freshman pacing fillies kicked off the night's action as a field of six youngsters battled for $11,700 in the Thrifty Way Stake.   After a tough first over trip got the best of her on Super Night the Robert Phillips owned and trainer Fox Valley Gypsy avenged that loss with an impressive 3¼ length come from behind victory in 1:56.1 for driver Clifton Bell. Sassy Ellie (Robert Smolin) rallied to be second while Infatuated Love (Mike Oosting) finished third.   The winner, who is daughter of Yankee Skyscaper--Genna Blair was bet as though defeat was out of the question returning just $2.80, $2.40 & $2.10.   A total of 13 freshman pacing colts were dropped into the box for the Yates Eagle Stake necessitating a split into a pair of $8,000 divisions.   In the opening split Jerry Graham's Bayside Tequilla was given a confident steer by driver Mike Oosting and the son of Duneside Perch--Fox Valley Tulip responded with a sharp first over half-length victory in a career best of 1:55.0. Fox Valley Chino (Kyle Wilfong) finished as the runner-up while Bowedfortyova (Pat Curtin) who posted a consolation victory on Super Night, was forced to settle for third.   The Tom Simmons trained gelding returned $8.00, $3.60 & $2.20 while posting his second lifetime victory.   In the second division Ervin Miller Stable and Robert McCormick's Goinduneside, the even-money choice of the betting public rewarded his legion of backers with a thrilling nose decision in a lifetime best of 1:54.1 for Casey Leonard. Moving up second over on the final bend the son of Duneside Perch--Artisocracy powered home in 27.3 to notch his second win in 11 starts. Red Red Redneck (Ridge Warren), who carved out all the splits held on gamely to finish second while Silver Sage (Mike Oosting) was third.   The Ervin Miller trainee returned $4.20, $2.40 & $2.10 while moving his career bankroll over the $20,000 mark.   A field of seven sophomore pacing fillies faced the starting gate for the $15,970 Grandma Ann Consolation as the fast paced action continued.   After being hampered by an outside draw in last week's Super Night final the Alex Adam trained BS Tyrichess took advantage of a mid-pack post on Saturday night as she cruised to an easy 2½ length front stepping score in 1:54.1 with Brian Carpenter in the bike. Lockport Legend (Todd Warren) wound up in the bridesmaid role while Duneside Perttie (Mike Oosting) was third.   Hammered at the windows the daughter of Richess Hanover--Fox Valley Tyra returned just $2.60, $2.20 & $2.10 while upping her career bankroll to $50,048 for the partnership of Alex Adam, Frank Santilli, M. Klimas and Green Acres.   The final event of the night featured three-year-old pacing colts as a field of 10 squared off in the $16,680 Langley Memorial Consolation.   This test produced another winner who was victimized by a poor post on Super Night as the Nelson Willis trained Fox Valley Elijah took advantage of a much better starting spot as he zipped by his rivals in the lane to record a head decision in a career best of 1:52.2. Longshot Casey At Bat (Kyle Wilfong) came flying late to finish second while Dixie's Boy (Matt Krueger) was third.   The win was the third in 13 starts for the altered son of Sportsmaster--Eternal Gift who returned $6.40, $4.40 & $2.60 while pushing his career bankroll over the $45,000 plateau.   Tom Kelley

Super Night XXVII at Balmoral Park is in the books as Saturday’s eight championship events showcased the Prairie States top harness racing pacers and trotters. Despite heavy rains early in the day and fall temperatures in the air the track was lightning fast as the fans enjoyed the fast paced action on and off the track with a variety bands and party packages keeping the festivities flowing.     The championship action kicked off in race three with a full field of 10 sophomore trotting fillies squaring off in the $79,000 Lady Ann Reed Stake.   Despite the fact that four of the starters wound up making early breaks it still turned into a thrilling finish as Bi Polar Rose held off the late bid of Fox Valley Yoko to prevail by a head in 1:57.1, giving Matt Krueger his first Super Night championship. Patient ID (Robert Smolin) was third.   “When I saw all those horses inside of me making breaks I really had no choice but to leave out of there and try to get to the front,” said a very happy Krueger. “I was able to settle in for a quick bit early but she felt really good so I let her go on she did her own thing on the front end.”   After opening up a two-length lead at the top of the stretch the daughter of Polar Winner—I Still Owe appeared to be tiring in the late stages as Fox Valley Yoko (Kyle Wilfong) was suddenly finding her best stride after a second over journey.   “I stepped on the gas with her coming out of the turn because I wanted to put some distance between my filly and Kyle’s filly,” explained Kreuger. “I heard her coming strong as we got down by the wire but my horse just dug in and came up huge to hold her off.”   The winner is trained by Ronnie Roberts who also picked up his first Super Night championship. Overlooked a bit in the wagering Bi Polar Rose returned $13.80, $5.20 & $4.20 while pushing her record to 4-3-0 in 14 starts this year with career earnings of $132,282.   Sophomore trotting colts were next on the docket as a field of eight diagonally gaited three-year-olds battled in the $74,000 Su Mac Lad Stake.   This one took a while to decide but after a long look at the photo it was Charles Doehring and John D Finn’s Captain Greedy who prevailed by the slimmest of margins, edging out 40-1 longshot Vick Valor in 1:57.3 for J D Finn.   Sent to the front from post six by his driver-trainer Captain Greedy carved out splits of 29.0, 58.3 & 1:27.3.   “He was a little bit sick last week so I kind of took it easy on him in that prep,” said Finn. “Tonight I had every intention of getting him to the top and going as far as we could go.”   Battling his chief rival Fox Valley Qatar (Pat Curtin), who pulled from the pocket as the field neared the top of the stretch, the gelded son of Yankee Valor—Tropical Trixie appeared to be beaten several times. Showing the grit and determination that had netted him 15 career victories coming into this race, Captain Greedy continued to battle back, putting away that rival with 50 yards to go and then doggedly keeping a nostril in front of a hard charging Vick Valor (Jeffrey Kirk) who was closing in the center of the track. Fox Valley Qatar was forced to settle for the show dough.   The never die say die attitude that Captain Greedy exhibited did not surprise Finn who recently notched his 1,000th career victory.   “He will never stop trying for you,” said his proud pilot. “If you keep driving on him he will give you everything he’s got. He’s overcome a lot of things already and he just keeps getting better and better.”   The 3-2 favorite returned $5.00, $3.40 & $2.80 while running his career slate to a very impressive 15-5-4 in 31 starts with earnings of $151,806.   The first pacing championship of the night was next as a field of nine two-year-old fillies lined up behind the gate for the $155,000 Filly Orange & Blue Stake.   After some early excitement which saw the fillies battling three across the track through the entire first turn Quaid Racing LLC’s Char N Marg wound up parlaying a pocket sitting trip into a four-length victory in 1:52.4 with Casey Leonard at the controls.   After all the early action Lexington Lady (Brian Carpenter) finally grabbed control of things on the backstretch leading the field through splits of 28.0, 55.2 & 1:24.0.   With the leader starting to drift out while getting a leg weary in the lane. Leonard guided the Nelson Willis trained daughter of Sportsmaster—Zip Up You Pans up the inside where she exploded past the pace-setter to notch her fifth win in 10 lifetime starts. Lexington Lady held on for second while Dandy’s Diva (Mike Oosting) rallied to be third.   The bay filly who was a close second choice in the wagering returned $5.00, $2.40 & $2.20 while upping her career earnings to $96,211 which did not surprise Willis who now boasts nine Super Night titles.   “I told the owners when this horse was training down over the winter that she was going to be a nice filly,” said Willis. “Of course it’s always great when you turn out to be right about one but she’s always been ahead of the grade so to speak and she definitely shows up every week for you.”   Older mare pacers were next on the program as a field of 10 stepped on to the track for the $95,000 Lorna Propes Championship.   As she’s done so often this season John Barnard’s Ryleigh’s Lilly overpowered her rivals in the late going as she went sailing past her rivals in the stretch to win by two-lengths in 1:52.4 for driver Casey Leonard.   Confidently handled by her red-hot pilot the five-year-old daughter of Western Hero was positioned in mid-pack while the lead changed hands several times through opening splits of 28.0, 55.4 & 1:24.2.   “It looked like there was going to plenty of speed to keep things honest up front and it certainly worked out that way tonight,” Leonard explained. “I didn’t want to go three-wide quite as early as I did but I wasn’t about to let those front horses get away from us.”   Zooming by her rivals in the lane, Ryleigh’s Lilly was on cruise control through the final sixteenth of a mile as she reported home with her 19th career victory. Just By Design (Dale Hiteman) shook loose late to rally for the place money while Rev Me Up (Brian Carpenter) was third.   The overwhelming 2-5 favorite returned $2.80, $2.40 & $2.10 while hiking her career bankroll up to $173,968.   A stretch of four straight championship tilts to close out the night kicked off with a field of 10 older pacers slugging it out in the $92,000 Tony Maurello Stake.   This race produced the fastest mile of the night as the rock-solid speedball Ice Scraper made every call a winning one in route to 1 ½ length decision in a stakes record time of 1:49.1.   Driven like he was the best by Brian Carpenter the six-year-old son of Yankee Skyscaper ripped through splits of 26.3, 53.2 & 1:20.4 while going along unchallenged on the front end.   “He loves the front and that was the plan going into this,” said Carpenter. “Mike (Brown) said that if Unlocked came at us hard to go ahead and cut him loose but my horse felt so good there was no way I wanted to do that tonight.”   Sprinting away from his rivals in the lane, the Mike Brown trainee was never seriously threatened the rest of the way as he strolled under the wire with his 30th lifetime victory. Cole Heat (Dale Hiteman) shook loose late to rally for second while Fiveknuckleshuffle (Robert Smolin) was third.   The third choice in the wagering despite a pair of sub-1:50 wins over his last three starts Ice Scraper returned $9.60, $5.20 & $4.60 while upping his career bankroll to $380,854 for owner James Behrendt.   Sophomore pacing fillies followed as a field of nine ladies met in in the $116,000 Grandma Ann Stake.   Parlaying a superb steer and a perfect trip into the biggest win of her career D Kay Bartlow’s Fox Valley Brooke came charging through the passing lane for a two-length victory in a career best of 1:52.3 for driver Ridge Warren.   Perfectly positioned along the pylons as Lex (Kyle Wilfong) and Fox Valley Aubrey battled for control of the proceedings Warren had the daughter of Yankee Skyscaper—B R Golden Girl fit and fresh as the field turned for the money.   “She showed me last week that she was a really nice filly,” said Warren. “I kind of got her boxed in and bottled up last week but she paced good and strong all the way to the wire. I knew if I could find some room for her tonight she was going to be a big threat.”   Unleashing a wicked closing burst after moving into the passing lane the Nick Prather trained miss easily reeled in the pace setters and then drew clear for her eighth win in 14 career starts. Lex was forced to settle for the bridesmaid role on this night while Fox Valley Aubrey was a hard fought third. Heavy favorite Fox Valley Charm made an early break and wound up finishing last.   Fox Valley Brooke obviously caught the eye of the astute handicappers with her effort last week as she returned $11.20, $4.40 & $3.40 off an 8-1 morning line. With the win the filly now has earnings of $56,684.   Up next was the $112,000 Pete Langley Memorial which attracted a field of 10 sophomore pacing colts.   Fresh off a win in the Dudley Hanover Stake down in DuQuoin Dinky Dune continued his “dream season” as he rolled to a one-length victory in a career best of 1:51.4 giving driver Pat Curtin and trainer Dane May their first Super Night championships.   Working out a second over trip while Earndawg (Todd Warren) carved out splits of 28.0, 56.1 & 1:24.0 Curtin had the son of Duneside Perch—Dream Hand in perfect striking position as the field turned for home.   “All night I had my mind set on wanting to get into the two-hole with this horse,” said a very excited Curtin. “Then right before we went out there Dane said to me Pat please just give him a trip and try to be second over with him and that’s what happened. Dane was definitely right on with that one!”   Gradually reeling in a tiring Earndawg Dinky Dune was well in hand to Curtin as he charged home in 27.2 to record his sixth win 14 starts this season. Earndawg turned in a game effort from the 10-hole to finish second while longshot Mighty Hot Shot (Ridge Warren) was third.   The winner returned $7.80, $4.40 & $3.20 while upping his career earnings to $84,852.   The richest event of the night was saved for last as a field of nine closed out the night in the $187,000 Orange & Blue Stake.     Taking advantage of some brisk early fractions, Kay Willis’s Dan D Dune came flying through the stretch to win by a half-length in a career best of 1:53.3 for driver Mike Oosting.   Pacing along third over while Royale Rose (Matt Krueger) faced constant pressure through splits of 26.4, 56.2 & 1:25.1 Oosting moved the Nelson Willis trained son of Duneside Perch—Witch Hanover three deep as the field hit the head of the stretch.   “I was a little concerned with how far back we were but I knew those horses up front were getting roughed up pretty good,” said Oosting. “This horse has always finished up a mile well though and I knew if they faltered at all up there we were going to get there in time.”   Picking up one rival after another the Governor’s Cup winner zoomed right on a by with a well measured move from Oosting for his fifth win of his career. Wondrous Sport (Casey Leonard) was a tough luck second while BS Tyrrific (Kyle Wilfong) was third.   The ultra-consistent gelding returned $17.20, $6.80 & $3.80 while running his record to 5-5-1 in 12 starts with earnings of $119,431.     A crowd of just over 6,000 turned out and wagered more than $1.4 million on the 13-race card.   Tom Kelley

Friday, September 11, 2015.... Chicago Illinois - The 27th edition of Super Night will take place Saturday, September 12th at Balmoral Park. The one mile oval will host eight championship races on the thirteen race harness racing program with a special first post of 6:30 central.   The biggest night in Illinois racing will be a Super Night for horseplayers as well. Balmoral Park will offer four guaranteed pools totaling $135,000 on Saturday, giving players carryovers, a low takeout Pick Four and some of the biggest pools of the year to shoot at. Free program pages are now available courtesy of Track Master at www.ustrotting.com.   The first guaranteed pool of the night starts on race 5 with a Pick Five carryover of $7,032. The Saturday Pick Five will have a guaranteed pool of $35,000. The opening leg of the Pick Five is the $155,000 Orange and Blue Championship for two year old pacing fillies. With a final pool of $35,000, this bet would have zero takeout. The minimum bet is fifty cents.   The Pick Four starts on race 10. The Super Night Pick Four features four championship races on Saturday with purses of $507,000 and another guaranteed pool of $35,000. The opening leg of this multi race wager is the $92,000 Tony Maurello Championship for aged pacers featuring a spectacular field where six of the pacers possess a mark of under 1:50. The Pick Four has a one dollar minimum and is offered with a low takeout of 15 per cent.   Race twelve brings out ten three year olds competing in the $112,000 Pete Langley Championship. This race offers trifecta wagering with a guaranteed pool of $40,000. Last week, this trifecta pool clocked in at a season high $63,365. The Balmoral Park trifecta has a low minimum of fifty cents.   The final leg of the Pick Four also features the final guaranteed pool and the richest purse of the night. Race 13 on the card, the $187,000 Orange & Blue Championship for two-year-old pacers has a guaranteed pool of $25,000 for the 10-cent Hi-Five wager giving fans the "ultimate get out bet." This wager, which is wildly popular thanks to that low minimum of ten cents also brings out a very evenly matched field of ten youngsters and could produce a big payout for some lucky fans.   Balmoral Park has made every attempt to make sure the wagering menu for Super Night XXVII is something special. Let me personally thank horseplayers, owners and their connections for their continued support of Illinois racing.   By Michael Antoniades Balmoral Park Racing Analyst  

The definition of a war horse couldn't be more appropriate than for Fort Silky, who continues to impress harness racing fans week after week--despite being a healthy and hardy 9-year-old. What's the secret for his success?   Perhaps the key lies with his home life. The Leonard family--trainer Terry and driver Casey--have a long history of campaigning older horses. Fans will recall the tough Well To Do Guru, among others.   A winner of $781,376 in his career, the gelded son of Ft Apache Hanover has raced consistently since age three. He has been part of the Leonard team since late November 2012, and will be trying for career triumph 57 in Saturday's $92,000 Maurello Memorial for aged pacers at Balmoral Park.   Since joining team Leonard he's amassed slightly more than $500,000 for owners-breeders John Prentice and Neva Jane Ikeler--both of Paw Paw, IL.   "My father and uncle (Gary "Wiggles" Leonard) bought and paid for our farm by working with old sore claimers week after week--keeping them sound and racing," Casey, 38, explained. "They passed that program down to myself and my brother Ross and we continue with those today. It doesn't hurt that my dad shoes all of our horses himself, either. I think these kinds of horses respond well to our program, which includes a lot of fresh air, swimming and patience."   "Fort Silky has more guts than any other horse I've driven in the past," Casey continued. "He's the type that does the heavy lifting--he goes out week after week and grinds out the miles so other horses can sit in the pocket and benefit from his hard work."   "When I first got him, (Hall of Famer) Dave Magee came up to me and said, 'Fort Silky is one tough horse.' That's saying a lot--those words--coming from someone like Dave Magee, who has seen and driven all kinds of horses over the years."   This season Fort Silky has earned $56,709 from six wins, seven seconds and two thirds in 20 starts. Unfortunately, his last few races have been sub-par.   "I really wish this Super Night was either a month earlier or a month later from now," Casey admitted wistfully. "This horse just isn't himself. He's had a breathing issue and we just can't seem to get it under control right now. He's been on antibiotics and they're not helping him. I believe that it's part chronic allergies and part virus. If he steps up and wins Saturday, I can honestly say I'll be surprised."   Fort Silky was third in this same event in 2014, and second in the 2013 edition.   "The other side of the coin is that Fort Silky is another year older and another year less sound than he has been in the past," Casey assessed. "In addition, this year's race is made up of the toughest field of horses that I've seen in the last ten years. In the past, there were always one or two standouts that were going to be tough to beat, but this year, the whole field is outstanding. In fact, this field is made up of horses that could be an invitational field at any track in North America. That's how impressive it is."   Lifetime, Fort Silky has been behind the starting gate 226 times, with 56 wins, 51 seconds and 33 thirds. He recorded his career mark of 1:49.3 at Balmoral Park on Feb. 23, 2103 at age seven.   "He's gritty and he's tough," Casey said. "And he always gives 200 percent on the track. You can't ask for anything more from a horse so I would not count him out."   Tom Kelley

Earndawg--who captured the 2014 Orange & Blue in a freshman best 1:52.4 for trainer Roger Welch--will be trying for his second consecutive Super Night victory in the $112,000 Pete Langley Memorial at Balmoral Park. Though he has drawn the dreaded ten-hole, Welch is still confident of his colt's chances. Owned by William C (Bo) DeLong of Clinton, WI; William (Pat) DeLong of South Beloit, IL and Earnest Miller of Mount Horeb, WI, Earndawg was purchased for $35,000 at the 2013 Walker Sale. The son of Sportsmaster, out of the Western Hanover mare Pacific Sister K 4, 1:54M ($107,550), is a full brother to Mystical MJ p,3,1:51.1 ($298,918) and has half-siblings in: Doubleshotascotch (by Dragon Again) p,4,1:51.f ($739,491); Sunshine Sister (by Real Artist) p,3,1:54f ($147,217); and MJ's Sista (by Yankee Skyscraper) p,3,1:54.2 ($22,683). Despite earning $217,015 as a 2-year-old, Earndawg was no walk in the park to be around early in his career, Welch recalled.   "This colt initially was very spooky--he was scared to death of everything and it took a lot of work to get him to go around the track and pace a flat mile," Roger said.   Earndawg wore a blind bridle with an elaborately-designed fly screen to help keep him calm. Welch jogged and trained the nervous gelding behind another horse every time he went to the track in the beginning, to get him used to sounds and dirt being thrown up in his face.   Welch's efforts paid off, as the youngster won the $43,350 Cardinal at Maywood Park in 1:55.4 by 4½ lengths in wire-to-wire fashion and the $57,000 Abe Lincoln at Maywood in similar style. From 17 starts at two he amassed eight wins, four seconds and two thirds. The rambunctious youngster was then turned out for the winter at an Indiana farm. It was late April before he qualified and was ready to begin his sophomore contests.   "The colt matured a lot over the winter," Welch noted. "He came back and was better physically and sharper mentally as well. For a long time, we jogged and trained him in an open bridle and he seemed to be over his previous nonsense of shying from things."   Not so fast though. As Earndawg got closer to his qualifying date, he began "seeing" things on the track again.   "He kind of reverted back to his 2-year-old ways once he started getting close to qualifying, and as a result we had to put the mask back on him," Welch said. "I really thought he had it licked, but I think it's more of a game with him, then a case of him really being scared of things."   With or without his fly mask, Earndawg has continued to add money to his coffers despite a depleted Illinois purse account.   This season he has amassed $70,203 to date, with five wins, five seconds and a pair of thirds to his credit in 14 trips postward. He won the $36,000 Maywood Pace in 1:54.2 on June 19 and the $45,000 Incredible Finale at Balmoral in 1:51 on July 25. He captured his Illinois State Fair test on Aug. 15 in 1:52.3 and was a close second in his Langley elimination to Engine One O One last week. "The sad state is he's won every major 3-year-old test and still doesn't have a lot of money to show for it on his card," Welch lamented. "And now we have the ten-hole in the biggest race of the year. We'll see what happens. The trip is going to be crucial in here. We'll just hope for the best and hope that Earndawg continues to be as gritty as he has been all year long." Tom Kelley

All eyes will be upon the speedy Captain Greedy in the $74,000 Su Mac Lad Trot for harness racing 3-year-old colts and geldings at Balmoral Park.   A winner of $117,026 lifetime, Captain Greedy is a homebred son of Yankee Valor and is the first foal out of the Armbro Tropicana mare Tropical Trixie. He was foaled at Brownstown, IL on March 6, 2012 and is co-owned by trainer-driver JD Finn and partner Charles Doehring and was bred by Cary and Kimberly Doehring.   "He was just super from day one, and had a ton of natural ability," JD reported. "He rates right up there with some of the best I've trained and driven, including Koochie."   As a freshman, Captain Greedy was a terror on the Illinois County Fair tracks, winning two Big Ten Colt stakes; at Newton in 2:06 and at Altamont in 2:03.3 when he stormed to victory by an astonishing 36½ lengths with his trainer at the lines.   "It's difficult for me to say which of his races has impressed me the most," JD said. "He's given me so many good efforts and outstanding races that it's really tough for me to choose."   Captain Greedy's first pari-mutuel victory as a freshman came on July 9at Balmoral, when he trotted in 1:59.4. His other 2-year-old triumphs include a 2:05.1 victory in the Downstate Classic at Lincoln, before taking the $30,000 Illinois State Fair Stake at Springfield in 1:58~his best effort as a 2-year-old. He followed that up with a 1:59.3 mile in the $17,000 Darn Safe at DuQuoin. He wrapped up the season with a 9-2-3 record from 17 starts, with earnings of $60,953.   This season, the now 3-year-old Captain Greedy scored a trio of second-place finishes before scoring his first won on July 13 at Balmoral in 1:56.1. He also won the $7,706 Downstate Classic at Carrollton in 2:04.1; the $20,600 Hanover at Balmoral in 1:56.2 and the $6,800 Pronto Don at DuQuoin--when he was timed in a career best 1:55.4 for the one mile test.   "He's become even more of a Cadillac this year," JD offered.   Captain Greedy finished a strong second in his Su Mac Lad prep here one week ago to Tricky Nick, timed in 1:56.3. In just 13 starts this year he's amassed six wins, six seconds and a third in 13 trips postward with seasonal earnings of $56,433.   "I really can't say much about him except that he's one of the most naturally talented horses I've ever driven," JD concluded. "Trotting fast just is part of his make-up." Tom Kelley

Royale Rose, a winner of six of eight career starts, including a blistering 1:52.3 clocking in last week's elimination action has been installed as the 3-1 morning line favorite for Saturday's $187,000 Orange & Blue for harness racing 2-year-old pacing colts at Balmoral Park. The son of Ashlee's Big Guy-Caribe Royale-Sportsmaster has $30,449 in career earnings for owner Nicole Potts of Bourbonnais, IL, who plunked down just $3,800 at the 2014 Illini Classic Yearling Sale for the youngster.   Royale Rose was bred by Orville Rursch and foaled on April 8, 2013 at Taylor Ridge, IL, and is the fifth foal out of his dam. He is a half-brother to Majestic Royal (by Jody's Cam) p, 6, 1:52.4 ($103,114).   Despite the low purchase price for the youngster trainer Lyle Scurlock had high hopes for the colt right from the get-go.   "He had perfect confirmation and was just a great looking yearling," said Spurlock. "I remembered how tough his dam was and how she was able to grind out a pretty nice career bankroll despite racing in strictly overnight events. I figured if he had any of her heart in him for the price we were able to get him for it was definitely worth the risk for a first crop foal."   While training down for Scurlock the good looking bay did nothing but raise the hopes of all his connections.   "He was completely level headed and never gave us a problem at any point," explained Scurlock. "He never got pouty or anything like that no matter what came his way and he did everything and more that we asked of him. I wanted to avoid taking a chance at getting him "colt-sore" so I wasn't real tough on him but he always acted like he wanted to do more and that was very encouraging."   Royale Rose began his career by winning the $4,000 Bingo Johnnie Stake for ICF horses on June 13 at Balmoral Park in 1:57.2 by four lengths. He followed that up on June 20 with another victory in 1:56.1, leading every step of the way in a $5,000 ICF Stake at Balmoral.   On July 11 he finished a strong second to BS Tyrrific in 1:56.3 on the Crete oval, despite pacing his final panel in 26.3. He then returned to action on July 18th, capturing his $8,000 Mini Me elimination in 1:56.2 at Balmoral.   The only blemish on his otherwise near-spotless career came on July 25, in the Mini Me Final, when he stopped badly, finishing ninth.   "I changed a few things around after that start with his rigging and he immediately started to show signs of getting sharper once again," Scurlock explained. "Once he became accustomed to those changes he just continued chugging right along like an old pro which is why I like him so much."   Royale Rose rebounded with a big victory on Aug. 1, taking the $21,325 Hanover Stake at Balmoral in 1:54.3. He followed that up with a career best of 1:52.2 en route to winning the $8,000 Illinois State Fair Stake at Springfield on Aug. 14.   After being scratched sick on August 29 from an overnight test here at Balmoral Park the gelding once again shook off the effects of a three-week layoff while romping to a four-length victory in last week's elimination action.   "I just thought here we go again," said an astonished Scurlock. "He gets more adversity tossed at him but he handles it like an old pro and comes back with a huge effort last week to win his elimination. He just continues to shrug everything off, he never lets anything bother him and he's going into Saturday's race at 100%. We're set, he sure appears set and and we're all looking for another big effort from him!" By Tom Kelley  

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