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Lexington Lady, a winner of seven of 10 starts this season, looks to be the one to beat in the $155,000 Orange & Blue Filly Championship at Balmoral Park on Saturday.   Trained and owned by Hosea Williams, the daughter of Lexington Legend-Sephie Kay-Sportsmaster was bred by Jerry Graham and was foaled May 18, 2013 in Salem, IL.   A bargain price at just $2,500 at the 2014 Illini Classic Yearling Sale, Lexington Lady is a half-sister to: Captain Obvious p,4,1:55 ($46,914); Stephie Clay p,6,1:56.1 ($36,260); Tornado Henry p,4,1:53.4 ($19,074); and Runinthrudabridle p,4,2:01.1f ($11,686)--all by Henry Clay.   "I always liked her sire, Lexington Legend, and had always followed his career," Hosea explained. "She was the only one by him in the sale and I studied the bloodline and I knew the mare too and I decided to look at the filly."   When Hosea went to take a look at the filly, he wasn't initially impressed.   "I really didn't like her," he offered. "She was sway-backed. But she had a nice barrel on her and her legs were straight and she stood well. I went and looked at a few other fillies, but in the end, I came back to her. I thought she might grow into herself and grow out of being sway-backed, and she just about has."   Being a bit sway-backed sure hasn't affected Lexington Lady's performance on the racetrack.   She began her career by finishing second in a Balmoral 2-year-old test, clocked in 1:56.3 on June 6 and two weeks later broke her maiden in a Balmoral overnighter in 1:55.4.   "John DeLong drove her those first two starts and told me when he won with her, 'Hosea, you can throw these hobbles away.' I thought well, maybe, I do have something here," Hosea remembered.   Five days later she won in wire -to-wire fashion (which would become her mantra) in 1:57.4 by four lengths at Maywood Park, with Brian Carpenter driving for the first time.   "When we first broke her to the cart and she hit the track, she did nothing but pace," Hosea explained. "I kind of thought then she might be a pretty nice filly."   On June 9 Lexington Lady posted a 1:55.4 clocking at Maywood and ten days later won by six lengths with a front-stepping 1:54.1.   On Aug. 2 she prevailed by 3¼ lengths in another wire-to-wire performance at Balmoral, than was a close second at Balmoral on Aug. 8 in 1:53.4.   Hosea then decided to ship his prize filly to Springfield for Illinois State Fair action.   "The morning of her Springfield race I put her grain in her bucket and she walked away from her feed, which wasn't like her.   But I took her temperature and she was fine," said Hosea. "Then, I got a call from Brian (driver Carpenter) who told me he was sick and wasn't going to be able to be there to drive her.   So after a while, I find a driver, but then he doesn't show up to drive and the horses are going out of the paddock, and I have to score her down.   I borrow a race bike and I'm out there warming her up with my knees up to my chin, because the bike was set for a shorter driver, and I'm thinking, 'there's no way I can drive this filly with this bike.'   I go around Springfield and on the backside I see Casey Leonard leaning on the fence and realized that he didn't have a horse in my race, so I get him to drive her at the last minute and he did a fine job with her."   Lexington Lady finished second in 1:54.2 , beaten just a neck, for Leonard.   "Casey told me afterward he thought she was just a little sick, so I gave her some time off before her next start," Hosea related. "But that whole Springfield experience was a bit nerve-wracking, to say the least."   Lexington Lady returned to Balmoral, where she posted a 1:53 score by 2½ lengths on Aug. 29, reunited with Carpenter, before winning her Orange & Blue elimination a week ago in an impressive 1:53.4.   Hosea said he doesn't believe in training fillies too much and that Lexington Lady had an easy week since her last race. "I grew up around Bruce Nickells and he didn't believe in training fillies really hard and I kind of follow his line of thinking," Hosea said.   "We've got the ten-hole, which isn't where I'd like to be, but I'm happy just to have a horse in this race."   Tom Kelley

A pair of American Nationals for 2yo trotters and another Super Night elimination closed the books on a busy holiday weekend of harness racing stake action at Balmoral Park. In the opening American National a field of seven diagonally gaited fillies lined up behind the gate to battle for a purse of $46,750. Overlooked in the wagering after having some "breaking" issues to start her career, Diamond Creek Racing and Robert & Lynda Stewart's Catch All was as sure footed as could be while stepping her way to a three-quarter length victory in a snappy 1:56.4 for driver Trace Tetrick. Ducked off the gate as Bold Dresser (Oyvind Hegdal) led the field through opening splits of 28.3 & 58.4 Catch All was positioned perfectly in third as she moved to the outside with the field heading around the final bend.   "I wanted to let her get settled in for a bit before I asked her for anything," said Tetrick. "When I raced her at the Indiana State Fair she felt great to me and she showed me that day that she could grind away on the outside if you needed her to."   Grind away she did on this night, drawing to within a head of the pace setter as the two fillies reached the three-quarter-mile mark in 1:27.1. In the lane the Bob Stewart trained daughter of Muscles Yankee--Clever Catch wore down the leader and proceeded to draw clear for her first career win in start number four. I Luv Blackhawkred (Lewayne Miller) turned a pocket sitting trip into a second place check while Bold Dresser held on for the show dough. After the impressive win, which was just three ticks off the track record of 1:56.1, Tetrick was quick to praise the $17,000 Lexington Select purchase. "I thought a lot of her after that second place finish in Indy," said Hoosier Park's leading reinsman. "Everything is still pretty new to her with this being only her fourth career start but I though she really stepped up tonight and showed that she's going to be a very serious race horse." The fourth choice in the wagering Catch All returned $21.40, $7.60 & $2.80 to her backers. Another 9-1 choice captured the $60,400 American National for 2yo trotting colts as Mystical Marker Farms, Bobby Brower, Ben Graber and Victory Hill Farms Barryscourt rallied in the final strides to nip 1-9 favorite Waitlifter K by a neck in 1:56.1. Perfectly handled by driver Lewayne Miller, the gelded son of Northern Kid--Katie Hall left alertly from post six and was able to find a seat in third as Waitlifter K (Trace Tetrick) carved out uncontested splits of 28.3, 57.3 & 1:26.2. With the heavy favorite opening up a three-length advantage at the top of the lane things looked bleak for the Bobby Brower trainee but Miller never stopped urging his charge as he gradually cut into the margin while racing on the outside of horses. With a sixteenth of a mile to go Barryscourt edged alongside the leader and gamely managed to poke a neck in front in the final strides to post his third win in four career starts. Waitlifter K was forced to settle for the runner-up role on this night while JD Cheese (Dale Hiteman) was third, 4¾ lengths behind the top pair. With the win the Kentucky Sire Stakes champion, who returned $20.20, $2.60 & $2.20 now boasts a gaudy bankroll of $125,400 in just four career starts. The final Super Night elimination of the busy weekend also put trotters in the spotlight as a field of 10 sophomore fillies battled in a $12,500 Lady Ann Reed Stake elimination. The top 9 finishers will return next Saturday for the $80,000 (est.) final where they will be joined by Persuasive Look. This battle produced one of the most impressive performances of the weekend as Dr. Patrick Graham's Fox Valley Yoko rallied from far back to win by a half-length in 1:58.2 for driver Kyle Wilfong. Hampered in the draw with post nine, the daughter of Pizzazzed--Hallie Rose saved ground for most of the mile while sitting near the back of the pack. After finally securing racing room in the lane, the Curt Grummel trained miss uncorked a huge rally going from eighth to first in the final quarter mile to notch her third win in 10 starts this year. Shez So Sassy finished in the bridesmaid role while Lc'snmotion (Mike Oosting) rallied to be third. Also gaining spots in the final were Bi Polar Rose, Fox Valley Harrah, Patient ID, Maple Grove Karen, None of That Stuff and Divinely Floozy. Tom Kelley  

The countdown to Super Night XXVII began in earnest on Saturday, September 5th at the harness racing meeting at Balmoral Park as a bevy of stake elimination's for Illinois biggest night of racing were contested. The action kicked off with a pair of $12,500 Filly Orange & Blue elimination's for two-year-old pacing fillies . With 16 entered for this stake, the top five finishers in each elimination will return for next week's $155,000 est. final. In the first division the Hosea Williams owned and trained Lexington Lady continued her mastery of this division, gamely fighting back in the closing yards to win by a head in 1:53.4 for driver Brian Carpenter.   Placed on top as the field moved to the half-mile mark the daughter of Lexington Legend--Stephie Kay drifted out a bit through a thrilling stretch drive and appeared headed with 100 yards to go by chief rival Char N Marg (Casey Leonard) before digging in late to hold on for her seventh win in 10 career starts. Char N Marg was forced to settle for the runner-up role on this night while Narcissistic (Brent Holland) rallied to be third. Fox Valley Bailey and Fox Valley Addison also gained spots in the final. In the second elimination Dandy Farms and John Carver's Dandy's Diva took the shortest route around the track to victory as she came rolling through the passing lane to win by three-quarters of a length in 1:55.4.   Perfectly handled by driver Mike Oosting, the Jim Ellison trained daughter of Sportsmaster--C Suzabelle sat inside throughout the mile as Likeafireballshot (Jared Finn) led the way through pedestrian splits. With plenty in reserve for the stretch battle Oosting secured racing room with a sixteenth of a mile to go and Dandy's Diva reeled in the embattled leaders to notch her second win in career start number five. Fox Valley Gypsy (Clifton Bell) overcame the outside starting spot to wind up second while Sara's Terror (Matt Krueger). Likeafireballshot and Lexirose earned the last two spots in the final with fourth and fifth place finishes respectively. Next up were older pacing colts as a field of 10 battled in a $12,500 Tony Maurello Memorial elimination. The top seven finishers will be joined by Ice Scraper, Fort Silky and Fiveknuckleshuffle in the $95,000 (est.) final. This battle produced another thrilling finish as Hugh Lacey's Cole Heat came storming up the passing lane to stick a head in front in the final strides while stopping the clock in a career best of 1:49.4.   Content to save ground while the heavily favored Unlocked (Brent Holland) led the field through some brisk splits, Cole Heat was shuffled all the way back to fifth as the field turned for home. But veteran reinsman Dale Hiteman never panicked, eventually finding a seam in the passing lane and the Ray Hanna trained seven-year-old responded marvelously as he stormed home in 26.2 to prevail in the blanket finish. Iam Bonasera (Ridge Warren) was a game second while Unlocked held on for third. A Cool Card was a close up fourth while the remainder of the spots in the final went to Uncle Bud (5th), Big Brad (6th) and Gibbs (7th). Sophomore pacing fillies were next on the docket as a field of 10 lined up behind the gate for the $12,500 Grandma Ann elimination. Once again the top seven finishers will move on to next week's $116,000 (est.) final where they will join Lex, Fox Valley Aubrey and Southern Girl. Chalk players were rewarded here as the Peter Karras owned Fox Valley Charm, the 1-5 favorite in the wagering cruised to an easy 1 ¾ length victory in 1:53.0 for driver Mike Oosting.   Confidently handled from post three the Dirk Simpson trainer daughter of Yankee Skyscaper--Fox Valley Cherub had things her own way on the "engine" after pulling off an early give and go with Sportsmuffler (Todd Warren). In control of things the rest of the way Fox Valley Charm opened up an insurmountable lead at the top of the stretch and was on cruise control the rest of the way as she recorded her sixth win in 12 starts this season. Fox Valley Brooke (Ridge Warren) shook loose late after getting shuffled back on the far turn to finish second while Luvniecestopieces (Casey Leonard) finished third. Also gaining spots in the final were Mr Leland's Filly, I Y Q Too, BS Tyrichess and Lockport Legend. As usual the Orange & Blue for 2yo pacing colts attracted the most entrants as a total of 29 youngsters were sent out in a trio of $12,500 elimination's. The top three in each elimination and one fourth place finisher (drawn by lot) will be back for Super Night's richest event with a purse of $186,000 (est.).   In the first division BS Tyriffic, one of the division leaders up to this point, had no trouble overcoming post eight as he scooted home with a 1 ½ length victory in 1:55.4 for driver Kyle Wilfong.   Making a steady advance on the outside of horses despite being parked for most of the mile, the Robert Sanders trained son of Richess Hanover--Fox Valley Tyra mowed down the leaders in the stretch to notch his fifth win in seven career starts. The pride of owners Robert, Jeremy and Louis Buttice and Frank Santilli also has a pair of seconds in his brief career. Goinduneside (Brent Holland) rallied nicely to pick up the place money while Silver Sage (Dale Hiteman) fought through a tough first over journey to get the show dough. Shootin To Kill was fourth. In the second division Frank Chick's Grizzer Bear staged a determined rally in the lane to get up in the final strides, winning by a neck in 1:54.3 with Brent Holland at the controls.   After saving ground through the early portion of this battle the Erv Miller trained son of Sportsmaster--Czarina Katrina appeared to be hopelessly shuffled to seventh at the top of the stretch. After running into another road block in mid-stretch, Holland made an aggressive move to the inside. The lightly raced youngster then gunned through along the pylons like a seasoned veteran to notch his first lifetime victory in start number four. Red Red Redneck (Ridge Warren) was a hard luck second while JB's Hero (Robert Smolin) was third. He Gone Jack went a long mile while finishing fourth. In the final division of the Orange & Blue eliminations Nicole Potts Royale Rose returned from a stint on the "sick" shelf to post a very impressive four-length victory in 1:52.3 for Matt Krueger. Despite facing constant pressure while posting wicked splits of 28.2, 55.1 & 1:23.2 the gelded son of Ashlee's Big Guy--Caribe Royale turned aside every challenge then left his rivals in his wake as he rolled to his sixth win in eight lifetime starts for trainer Lyle Scurlock. Dan D Dune (Mike Oosting) shook loose in time to rally for second while Wondrous Sport (Casey Leonard) was third. Longshot Big Monty finished fourth. A total of 19 distaffers were entered for the $95,000 (est.) Lorna Propes Stake for 3yo and up necessitating a pair of $12,500 eliminations with the top five advancing to next week's final.   In the first split it was John Barnard's Ryleigh's Lilly who lived up to her heavily favored status as she shook off a five week layoff to win by 1 ¼ lengths in 1:53.1 for Casey Leonard. After making a long first over sweep to the lead as the field moved down the backstretch the Bill Crone trained miss then held off several challenges as she stood tall to the wire for her seventh win in 19 starts this season. Togetherforever (Mike Oosting) turned in a solid effort to finish second while Incredible Filly (Mike Rogers) used a ground saving trip to get the show dough. Also gaining spots in the final were Just By Design and Moon Bay Dancer. In the nightcap the Merle P'Pool leased Rev Me Up overcame a tough trip to post a hard fought three-quarter-length victory in 1:53.1 for driver Brian Carpenter.   Despite being five-wide in the first turn and then having to rough it first over for the final five-eighths of a mile the eight-year-old daughter of Park Place still had enough to wear down the pace setting State Street Liz for her ninth win in 32 starts this season for trainer Mark P'Pool. Party Hangover (Mike Oosting) rallied late to finish second while Kimberly R (Dale Hiteman) was third. Also gaining spots in the final were State Street Liz and Thesleazyprincess. In a "prep" for the $112,000 (est.) Langley Memorial on Super Night, the red-hot Engine One O One continued his winning ways as he teamed up with Mike Oosting to record a sharp 1½ length victory in a career best of 1:52.4. Favored Earndawg (Todd Warren) held on well to finish second after carving out all the splits while Mighty Hot Shot (Ridge Warren) was third. Live racing continues on Sunday, Sept. 6th with a pair of American National Stakes for 2yo trotting colts and fillies sharing top billing while elimination's for the Lady Ann Reed and a Su Mac Lad Stake Prep will also be contested.   All the action gets underway at 7:10pm on Sunday night with the $1 Pick 4 (races 7-10) now featuring a $30,000 guaranteed pool.   The 10-cent Hi Five (race 10) will feature a guaranteed pool of $20,000 on Sunday's while the highly successful trifecta guarantee on race nine will give fans the chance to play into a $25,000 guaranteed pool.   Tom Kelley

The combination of Super Night eliminations and a fabulous guaranteed wagering menu brings the spotlight to Illinois racing as Balmoral Park, for the first time in history, will offer four guaranteed pools on one night. With the addition of a Pick Five carryover of $5,399, Balmoral Park and USTA Strategic Wagering program will offer an instant guaranteed pool of $20,000.   The one mile oval will offer players guaranteed pools totaling $100,000 on Saturday night. The four guaranteed pools are a $20,000 Pick Five pool on races 4 thru 8, a $25,000 Pick Four pool on races 9 thru 12, a $30,000 Trifecta pool on race 11 and a $25,000 High Five pool on the race 12 finale.   Free deluxe twelve line program pages are now available courtesy of Track Master at www.ustrotting.com   The Guaranteed pools averaged over $110,000 a night at Balmoral Park in August without a single carryover. The three guaranteed pool model at Northfield, Maywood and Balmoral has proven there is an audience for these wagers every night.   That was a big step. Our guaranteed High Five pools are bigger than every thoroughbred track in the country except Del Mar, which handled more than $12,000,000 a day in 2014. That was a big step. The guaranteed pools are at the height of their popularity.   The Pick Four averaged only $8,827 in 2009. With the lowering of takeout to 15% in 2010, the Balmoral Pick Four has grown more than four times that amount to a nightly average of $35,894 in August 2015.   Therefore we feel it is the right time for Balmoral Park to step up by raising the Pick Four and High Five guarantees on Saturday and Sunday by $20,000 a week as we head towards the biggest night in Illinois racing. Promoting the wagers that offer pool liquidity will most definitely get the players attention. The way I see it, Strategic Wagering has thrown Illinois the football and it is time to see how far Balmoral can run with it. First post at Balmoral Park on Saturday is 7:10 p.m. (central) There will be more eliminations on Sunday, Sept. 6th as well as the American Nationals for two year old colt and filly trotters. The Sunday night card will also offer $75,000 in guaranteed pools and all the action gets underway at 7:10 p.m. (central).   Michael Antoniades... Balmoral Park Racing Analyst  

The top state-bred pacers in the Prairie State had the chance to strut their stuff on Saturday, August 22nd at Balmoral Park as a pair stake events shared top billing on a very strong Saturday night harness racing program   First on the docket were the state's top older pacers as a very evenly matched field of eight squared off in the $29,600 Big Tom Stake.   When the smoke cleared after a heated stretch drive it was Megan Rogers Racing Stable Inc.'s Unlocked who once again returned to the local scene in a big way, as he prevailed by a hard fought half-length in 1:49.4 for driver Lewayne Miller.   Given a perfect steer by Miller the four-year-old son of Duneside Perch used his inside post to save ground in third while the speedy Ice Scraper (Brian Carpenter) ripped through splits of 26.0, 54.0 & 1:21.1.   Engaging the pace setter with a first over bid as the field hit the top of the stretch these two prolific pacers battled tooth and nail through the lane before Unlocked finally forged to the front in the closing strides to notch his fourth win of the season. Ice Scraper was hard fought second while 66-1 outsider Cole Heat (Dale Hiteman) rallied to be third.   The win was the 16th in 45 career starts for the Erv Miller trainee who returned $4.40, $2.60 & $2.80 while upping his career bankroll to $310,692.   An overflow field of 11 distaffers, 3yo old and up, closed out the night's stake action as they lined up behind the gate for the $30,200 Parklane Powerful Stake.   Using an aggressive steer and a little "racing luck" to their advantage driver Robert Smolin hustled Jesse Ferge and Ron Phillips Fox Valley Aubry to the front and the speedy three-year-old made every call a winning one, hanging on gamely to score by a head in 1:53.2.   Sprinting away from post seven in the big field the daughter of Yankee Skyscaper--Assailed made the top without too much trouble leading the ladies through opening splits of 27.4 & 57.1.   That's when disaster struck for most of the field as a first over Joyful Game made a nasty break, taking herself out of the race and severely impeding seven of the trailing horses in this battle.   With things all her own way on the front end Fox Valley Aubry cruised by the three-quarter-mile mark with a two-length lead in 1:24.3.   Through the lane the Bob Phillips trained miss continued to show the way while bracing for the challenge of the pocket sitting Just By Design (Dale Hiteman). With the lead starting to evaporate in the final sixteenth of a mile, Fox Valley Aubry dug in gamely keeping Just By Design at bay just long enough to record her third victory of the year. Just By Design was forced to settle for the bridesmaid role on this night while Financial Effort (Casey Leonard) turned a ground saving trip into the show dough.   The third choice in the wagering Fox Valley Aubry returned $10.80, $6.20 & $4.20 while running her lifetime record to 14-5-5 in 32 starts with earnings of $67,714.   Live racing continues on Sunday, August 23rd at Balmoral Park. Once again all the action gets underway at 7:10pm on Sunday night and as always the $1 Pick 4 (races 7-10) features a $25,000 guaranteed pool. The 10-cent Hi Five (race 10) also features a guaranteed pool of $15,000 while the highly successful trifecta guarantee on race nine will give fans the chance to play into a $25,000 guaranteed pool. Tom Kelley

August 12, 2015 (Washington, PA) - Leading online horse racing wagering provider, Xpressbet, and Chicago's Balmoral Park are excited to announce they have entered into an affiliate partnership. Together, they will work to promote online wagering to Illinois residents, as well as to bring awareness to Balmoral and its sister track, Maywood Park, with Xpressbet's customers and racing fans.   One of the largest online horse wagering sites in the United States and a member of the Stronach Group, Xpressbet offers more than a decade of expertise in promoting horse racing and online wagering. Currently operating in 39 states, Xpressbet prides itself on providing a quick and seamless wagering experience and practical handicapping information to its customers.   Two of the most popular and heavily-wagered harness tracks in the nation, Balmoral and Maywood host nearly 200 live racing cards each year, with Thursday and Friday night racing at Maywood and Saturday and Sunday night action at Balmoral. In addition, Balmoral and Maywood own and operate nine Off-Track Betting facilities in the Chicago-area, which offer daily Simulcast Wagering.   "We realize Advance Deposit Wagering is still unfamiliar to many horseplayers, and we feel this partnership will help bettors that are curious about online wagering get started with Xpressbet," said Xpressbet President, Ron Luniewski. "With the help of Balmoral's passionate, experienced and knowledgeable team, we're looking forward to promoting both live and online wagering to racing fans in Chicago."   Xpressbet and Balmoral each believe that creating smarter, more informed horseplayers is the key to generating interest and handle in horse racing. Consequently, Xpressbet and Balmoral's expert teams of handicappers will collaborate to produce helpful handicapping resources for horseplayers, including Wager Guides for top Harness and Thoroughbred events, as well as Tip Sheets, Free Picks, Handicapping Articles and Videos. Added Luniewski, "Along with Balmoral, Xpressbet is committed to growing the industry by both enhancing the experience for existing fans and attracting new audiences to the sport. This requires a seamless and integrated on-track and online experience. Providing additional free handicapping information to horseplayers is one way to achieve this, but it is also achieved through offering enhanced services, such as allowing customers to deposit and withdraw cash from their online accounts at customer service locations in Balmoral, Maywood and all nine of their OTB's. This level of convenience, common in other industries, will help horse racing build a stronger and more loyal customer base." Balmoral Park General Manager, Jim Hannon, remarked, "Partnerships like these are ultimately of great benefit to the industry. By affiliating with Xpressbet, we are able to pool our financial, human and intellectual resources to target racing fans and horseplayers in a more strategic and consistent fashion. This will generate more handle and interest in all facets of horse racing, both Thoroughbred and Harness, which is to everyone's benefit. We're excited to begin working with Xpressbet and look forward to growing racing's fan base." Horseplayers interested in signing up for an Xpressbet account can receive a $125 Welcome Bonus. Simply visit www.xpressbet.com and enter promo code BAM125 at Sign Up. About Xpressbet   Xpressbet provides legal and secure online wagering services to horseplayers in the United States. It is the industry's most comprehensive and user-friendly wagering site, allowing customers to wager on more than 300 of the world's best racetracks from their computer, phone or mobile device. Xpressbet operates XB SELECT, the industry's premier destination for high-volume wagering, and XB Net, which connects bet shops and wagering sites from around the world to North American racing. Xpressbet is a Stronach Group company, which also owns and operates Santa Anita Park, Gulfstream Park & Casino, Golden Gate Fields, Portland Meadows, Laurel Park and Pimlico Race Course, home of the world-famous Preakness Stakes. The company owns and operates the Palm Meadows Training Center in Florida, the award-winning Adena Springs operation, AmTote, a global leader in wagering technology, and Monarch Content Management, horse racing's leading simulcast purchase and sales agent. Tom Kelley        

August 7, 2015….Michael Antoniades   Chicago harness racing analyst. Maywood Park will kick off a three day weekend of harness racing in Chicago with three guaranteed pools on Friday including a 12th race high five carryover of $12,104. This will create an instant guaranteed pool of $35,000 on the Friday high five. The Maywood Friday card will also offer a $10,000 guaranteed pick 4 pool on races nine thru twelve and the new $25,000 guaranteed trifecta pool on race eleven. The three guaranteed pools on Friday total $70,000. Balmoral Park will also offer $70,000 on three guaranteed pools this Saturday and Sunday. Free deluxe twelve line program pages for all guaranteed pools are available courtesy of Track Master at www.ustrotting.com. The August Strategic Wagering calendar through Sunday is shown below.   August USTA Stategic Wagering Schedule   DATE TRACK BET TYPE RACES GUAR POOL ACTUAL POOL 08/01/15 Meadowlands Pick-4 7-10 $50,000 $74,532 08/01/15 Balmoral Park Trifecta 11 $30,000 $53,534 08/01/15 Balmoral Park Hi Five 12 $20,000 $39,214 08/01/15 The Meadows Pick-4 9-12 $20,000 $0 08/01/15 Balmoral Park Pick-4 9-12 $20,000 $34,854 08/01/15 The Meadows Pick-4 13-17 $10,000 $0 08/01/15 The Meadows Pick-4 4-7 $7,500 $0 08/01/15 The Meadows Pick-3 12-14 $7,500 $0 08/02/15 Balmoral Park Pick-4 7-10 $25,000 $37,148 08/02/15 Balmoral Park Trifecta 9 $25,000 $54,879 08/02/15 Balmoral Park Hi Five 10 $20,000 $31,698 08/02/15 Harrah's Philadelphia Pick-4 7-10 $5,000 $4,548 08/02/15 The Red Mile Pick-4 7-10 $5,000 $0 08/03/15 The Meadows Pick-4 4-7 $5,000 $0 08/03/15 Northfield Park Trifecta 8 $20,000 $35,164 08/03/15 Northfield Park Hi Five 13 $10,000 $19,466 08/03/15 Northfield Park Pick-4 8-11 $10,000 $24,202 08/04/15 The Meadows Pick-4 4-7 $5,000 $0 08/04/15 Northfield Park Trifecta 8 $20,000 $31,433 08/04/15 Northfield Park Hi Five 13 $10,000 $18,742 08/04/15 Northfield Park Pick-4 8-11 $10,000 $12,559 08/05/15 The Meadows Pick-4 4-7 $5,000 $0 08/05/15 Northfield Park Trifecta 8 $20,000 $27,826 08/05/15 Northfield Park Hi Five 13 $10,000 cancel 08/05/15 Northfield Park Pick-4 8-11 $10,000 $14,251 08/06/15 Maywood Park Trifecta 9 $20,000 $30,794 08/06/15 Maywood Park Hi Five 10 $15,000 $16,139 08/06/15 Maywood Park Pick-4 7-10 $10,000 $12,302 08/07/15 Meadowlands Pick-4 7-10 $50,000 $0 08/07/15 Maywood Park Trifecta 11 $20,000 $0 08/07/15 Maywood Park Hi Five 12 $35,000 $0 08/07/15 Maywood Park Pick-4 9-12 $10,000 $0 08/08/15 Balmoral Park Trifecta 11 $30,000 $0 08/08/15 Balmoral Park Hi Five 12 $20,000 $0 08/08/15 Balmoral Park Pick-4 9-12 $20,000 $0 08/08/15 Meadowlands Pick-4 9-12 $100,000 $0 08/09/15 Balmoral Park Pick-4 7-10 $25,000 $0 08/09/15 Balmoral Park Trifecta 9 $25,000 $0 08/09/15 Balmoral Park Hi Five 10 $20,000 $0 08/09/15 Harrah's Philadelphia Pick-4 7-10 $5,000 $0    Michael Antoniades       

The latest model of Strategic Wagering got off to a roaring start last weekend at the harness racing meeting at Balmoral Park. The idea that began four years ago with guaranteed pools of $400,000 a month in 2011 have been increased fivefold in 2015. Strategic Wagering will now offer at least one guaranteed trifecta pool, Pick Four pool and High Five pool every night for 31 straight days. The addition of the trifecta pools in August will see Strategic Wagering offer guaranteed pools in excess of $2,000,000 this month. The success of the three guaranteed pools last weekend is very encouraging and it appears that Strategic Wagering is on the right path. Bigger pools will most certainly bring bigger players. The weekend averages of the guaranteed pools at Balmoral Park were $54,206 on the trifecta, $36,001 on the pick four and $35,456 on the ten cent high five. Players will like the fast paced action of four races and three guaranteed pools in a little more than an hour. The debut of the three nightly guaranteed pools model at Balmoral Park saw total handle for the two days clock in at $2,171,438 for an average of $98,701 per race with a nightly average of $1,085,719. The final four races featuring the three guaranteed pools did extraordinary business. Handle on the last four races Saturday was $490,700. The Sunday final four sequence did over a half million dollars clocking in at $514,972. The handle for those eight races totaled $1,005,672, or $125,709 per race. The Sunday Pick five paid $11,717.30 for fifty cents. The guaranteed trifecta pools seemingly have the same effect as the guaranteed High Five pools that began in July. The low ten or twenty cent Guaranteed High Five has proven to be extremely popular. The low minimum allows the small player to be a part of the game. Last Friday the Maywood Park High Five pool totaled $26,671, second in the country behind the Del Mar High Five pool of $55,888. Saturday Del Mar had the top High Five pool in the country at $44,301 with Balmoral a close second with $39,214. Pretty admirable figures considering Del Mar averaged $12,087,844 per day during their 2014 summer meet. The pilot program kicked off with three tracks, Balmoral Park, Northfield Park and Maywood Park. During the month of August, Balmoral will offer $70,000 in nightly guarantees comprised of a guaranteed Pick Four pool, a High Five pool and a Trifecta pool every Saturday and Sunday. Northfield Park will offer three guaranteed pools every Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. Maywood Park will follow with three guaranteed pools each Thursday and Friday. In my opinion, the industry must try to create larger pools. There are so many potential players that would bet $1000 to win, a $200 exacta or a $50 trifecta if the pools would accommodate those wagers. The people who put in thousand dollar tickets on multi race wagers are out there. Creating larger pools will bring these valuable players and eventually increase participation. The lesson we are learning in thoroughbred racing and harness racing is that actually offering less pools per race may be beneficial to business.  Free deluxe twelve line program pages for all Strategic Wagering guaranteed pools are available courtesy of Track Master at www.ustrotting.com. The entire August calendar is also available on the USTA website. Michael Antonaides

The 2015 Hanover Stake season drew to a close on Sunday, August 2nd with a pair of trotting events for two-year-olds sharing top billing on the 10-race harness racing program at Balmoral Park.  The "girls" kicked off the action in race three with a compact field of eight diagonally gaited fillies battling for a purse of $22,400.   Looking to avenge her first career loss after a break took her out of contention early in the mile in last weekend's Southland Festival of Racing Providence West Inc.'s Vengeful returned to her winning ways as she posted a front stepping two-length victory in 1:58.4 for driver Casey Leonard.   Eased to the front as Rocknprincessabbie (Todd Warren) led the field through an opening quarter in 29.3 Leonard guided Vengeful over to the pylons as the field settled for their journey down the backstretch.   Once in control of the proceedings the daughter of Powerful Emotion--Over The Top cruised through middle splits of 59.3 & 1:29.4. After turning aside a first over bid from Singing Hallelujah (Mark O'Mara) as the field turned for home, the Kenny Collier trained miss appeared to be on cruise control the rest of the way as she trotted home in 29.0 to notch her third win in four career starts. Rocknprincessabie settled for the bridesmaid role while Bombshell Betty (John De Long), who was parked the entire mile rallied for the show dough.   The 7-5 favorite of the betting public Vengeful returned $4.80, $3.00 & $3.00 while upping her career bankroll to $16,200.   Another Collier trainee pulled off the "shocker" of the night in the $26,300 Hanover for two-year-old trotting colts as Fear, a 41-1 outsider took advantage of some miscues by his rivals to post a 4¼ length wire to wire victory in 1:59.2 with Dale Hiteman at the controls.   Storming right to the front from post five Fear quickly opened up a five-length advantage as he led the field through an opening quarter in 29.2.   Hiteman finally managed to coral the headstrong son of Powerful Emotion--What A Volo through middle splits of 1:00 & 1:29.4. With the field tightening up as they neared the top of the stretch a first over Mr Strata (Mike Oosting) came calling to challenge Fear. That's when disaster struck for the 1-9 favorite Wrightwood (Casey Leonard) as the undefeated colt when on a gallop while moving up on the outside of horses.   Gamely turning aside the bid of Mr Strata, the Kenny Collier trained Fear seemed to find another gear through the final sixteenth of a mile drawing away to an impressive win in his second career start. Mr Strata was forced to settle for the runner-up role while Pastor Clint (Tim Curtin) was a distant third, 10 lengths behind the winner.   Dismissed at the windows after a fifth place finish in his debut Fear lit up the board at $85.00, $8.80 & $24.60 while taking home $13,150 for Providence West Inc. Tom Kelley

Grand Circuit racing action returned to Balmoral Park on Saturday, August 1st as a pair of Hanover Stakes for two-year-old pacers shared top billing on the 12-race card. A total of 13 colts and geldings were dropped into the box necessitating a split into two $21,325 divisions for the boys while nine pacing fillies were sent postward for a purse of $32,900. In the first division for the colts Nicole Potts Royale Rose gave the "chalk players" a thrill as he rallied in the final strides to win by a neck in a career best of 1:54.3 for driver Brian Carpenter. After leading the field through an opening quarter in 29.3 Carpenter elected to let a hard charging Blue Fox (Casey Leonard) take control of the proceedings as the field of six cruised through middle splits of 58.1 & 1:27.1.   Through the stretch a game Blue Fox put away a prolonged first over bid from Shootin To Kill (Pat Curtin) and appeared to have the jump on a boxed in Royale Rose. Somehow, Carpenter managed to wrestle the gelded son of Ashlee's Big Guy to the far outside with a sixteenth of a mile to go and the Lyle Scurlock responded beautifully, gobbling up the pace setter in the closing yards for his fourth win in six career starts. Blue Fox held on well to finish second while Shootin To Kill wound up third.   With the win the Lyle Scurlock trainee, who returned $2.80, $2.40 & $2.10 upped his career slate to 4-1-0 in 6 starts with earnings of $20,199.   BS Tyrrific struck another blow for the state-breds in the second division of the Hanover as the overwhelming favorite strolled to a one-length victory in a lifetime best of 1:54.1 for driver Kyle Wilfong.   Taking advantage of the inside post in the field of seven Wilfong sent the gelded son of Richess Hanover--Fox Valley Tyra right to the front where he cruised through soft splits of 29.0, 58.1 & 1:26.3.   With plenty still in reserve, the Robert Sanders trainee was on cruise control through the lane as he sealed the deal with a 27.3 final quarter to notch his third win in five career starts. Dan D Dune (Mike Oosting) who made a first over bid approaching the top of the lane held on well to finish second while Fox Valley Aramon (Todd Warren) used a ground saving journey to get the show dough.   Bet as though defeat was out of the question BS Tyrrific returned $2.40, $2.10 & $2.10 while running his slate to 3-2-0 in five lifetime starts with earnings of $30,235 for the partnership of Robert, Jeremy & Louis Buttice and Frank Santilli.   The public handicappers were right on again in the filly division as Ervin Miller Stables and Bert Hochsprung's Shady Stella easily disposed of eight rivals with a 4¼ length victory in 1:54.1 for Kyle Wilfong.   Zipped right to the front from post six by Wilfong, the daughter of Shadyshark Hanover--She's Stella put up splits of 29.1, 58.0 & 1:25.4.   Still fit and fresh as she turned for the money, the Ervin Miller trainee sped home in 28.2 while under minimal urging from her pilot. Char N Marg (Casey Leonard) rallied from far back to be the bridesmaid while longshot Rocknroll Hoochcoo (Pat Curtin) finished third in her career debut.   The Indiana bred Shady Stella returned $3.80, $2.80 & $3.00 while posting her first win in lifetime start number three. The filly also has a second place finish to her credit and now boasts $27,450 in earnings for her proud connections.   A field of seven diagonally gaited state-breds squared off to close out Saturday’s stake action as they battled for a purse of $21,400.   The parade of favorites continued here as Ronald Knupp’s Master Of Excuses overpowered six rivals in a 2 ¾ length victory. The final time was 1:54.4.   Confidently handled by driver Todd Warren the five-year-old son of Powerful Emotion moved first over on the final turn after watching Ants Iner Pants (Robert Smolin) and Tricky Nick (Ridge Warren) battle through opening splits of 28.4 & 56.3.   Taking command as the field hit the three-quarter-mile mark in 1:25.1 the Kimberly Roth trainee quickly opened up an insurmountable advantage over his rivals then glided home the rest of the way for his fourth win in 24 starts this year. Sophomore sensation Captain Greedy (J D Finn) rallied late to finish second while the other sophomore in the field, Fox Valley Qatar (Mike Oosting) came on late to finish third.   Starting from the inside spot, Master Of Excuses returned $3.40, $2.60 & $2.60 while pushing his career earnings up to $112,247.   The 2015 Hanover season draws to a close on Sunday, August 2nd with a pair of events for two-year-old trotters. A field of eight fillies will slug it out in race three as they battle for a purse of $22,400 while their male counterparts meet in race five for a purse of $26,300. Once again the action gets underway at 7:10pm on Sunday night and as always the $1 Pick 4 (races 7-10) features a $25,000 guaranteed pool. The 10-cent Hi Five (race 10) also features a guaranteed pool of $15,000 while the new trifecta guarantee on race nine will give fans the chance to play into a $25,000 guaranteed pool.   Tom Kelley  

The 2015 Southland Festival of Harness Racing came to a close on Sunday night at Balmoral Park with a trio of state-bred events for diagonally gaited two and three-year-olds sharing top billing on the 10-race program.   The "boys" kicked off the action in race two with a compact field of six state-bred colts and geldings battling in the $36,500 Plesac Stake.   After back to back scores to kick off his career, Quaid Racing LLC's Wrightwood was bet as though defeat was out of the question and the 1-9 favorite never really gave his legion of backers an anxious moment as he trotted off to an effortless one-length decision in 1:59.3 for driver Casey Leonard.   Confidently handled by Balmoral's leading reinsman, the son of Powerful Emotion--Racy Roz settled in comfortably at the back of the pack as Mr Strata (Mike Oosting) led the short field through pedestrian opening splits of 30.4 & 1:01.2.   Hustling up on the outside of horses as the field moved around the final bend Wrightwood swept into command just before the field passed the three-quarter-mile mark in 1:30.4. Finding another gear as the field straightened for the money, the Nelson Willis trainee trotted home in 28.4 to make it three in a row to open what looks like a promising career. Mr Strata held on for second while JD Cheese (John De Long) shook loose late to rally for the show dough. With the win Wrightwood, who returned $2.20, $2.10 & $2.10 now sports a perfect three for three slate with $24,250 in earnings for his proud connections.   Freshman trotting fillies were next on the docket as a full field of 10 youngsters squared off in the $40,000 Fox Valley Flan Stake.   After several of the top contenders made breaks early in the mile, the Joel Smith trained Shez A Devil Woman took advantage of some slow fractions as she reported home with a half-length victory in front stepping fashion while stopping the clock in 2:00.4.   Whisked to the front from post position four by driver Dale Hiteman, the daughter of Powerful Emotion--Wealthy Women stepped through splits of 29.4, 101.2 & 1:32.0 while going along unchallenged on the front end.   With plenty still in reserve, Shez A Devil Woman kept the first over Rocknprincessabbie (Todd Warren) at bay through the stretch while also staving off a bid in the passing lane from Awfully Emotional (Mike Oosting) who wound up settling for a third place check.   After three straight second place finishes to open her career, Shez A Devil Woman returned $11.60, $4.00 & $3.40 while upping her career earnings to $24,500 for owners Anthony Munoz, Christopher Mroz and Marion Ratliff. Sophomore trotting fillies closed out the weekend's action with a field of seven lining up behind the gate to battle in the $39,000 Fox Valley Evita Stake. Proving once again that she's the one to beat in this very competitive division Homer Hochstetler & Robert Buddig's Persuasive Look eked out yet another victory, holding on gamely to win by a hard fought head in 1:56.4 for Casey Leonard.   Sent right to the top by Leonard, the home-bred daughter of Powerful Emotion--Black N Bluegenes carved out splits of 29.3, 58.3 & 1:28.0 while cruising on the front end. Poised for a thrilling stretch drive, which this division has provided several times this season, the Homer Hochstetler trained miss appeared to be collared by the pocket sitting Bi Polar Rose (Travis Seekman) with less than a sixteenth of a mile to go. Gamely fighting back in the final strides the good looking bay poked a head in front at the finish line to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. Bi Polar Rose was forced to settle for the bridesmaid role on this night while Fox Valley Yoko (Kyle Wilfong) was a close up third in this heated battle. Dispatched as the 4-5 favorite by the betting public, Persuasive Look returned $3.60, $2.40 & $2.10 while running her career record to 8-6-5 in 24 starts with earnings of $136,492. David Baum

A mix of the state's top harness racing youngsters shared Saturday night's spotlight at Balmoral Park as the Crete oval presented five big money finals as part of the Southland Festival of Racing. Freshmen pacing fillies kicked off the fast paced action in race four as a field of 10 gathered behind the gate for the $50,000 Loyal Opposition Stake.   It was "bombs away" in this battle as Finn Racing and Tami Michi's Likeafireballshot parlayed a perfect pocket sitting trip into a half-length victory at odds of 12-1 for driver-trainer Jared Finn in 1:54.1.   Perfectly positioned after leading the field through an opening quarter in 28.3 Finn elected to let a hard charging Narcissistic (Mike Oosting) grab control of things as the fillies moved through middle splits of 58.0 & 1:26.0.   Patiently waiting for racing room in the lane the daughter of Sportsmaster--Major Philly moved to the outside with a sixteenth of a mile to go where she proceeded to wear down the favorite, rallying in the closing strides for her first win in lifetime start number three. Another longshot, 42-1 outsider Fox Valley Gypsy (Clifton Bell) unleashed a huge late rally to finish as the bridesmaid while LK's Nancy Lee (Tim Curtin) was a game third.   The winner returned $26.40, $13.40 & $6.40 while helping to key a $3,800 trifecta payout.   Next up were freshmen pacing colts as a field of 10 lined up behind the gate for the $52,000 Mini Me Stake.   Fresh off three straight stake scores Stephen Mc MacKin, Marilyn Kelly and Lorna Rousch's Wondrous Sport made it four in a row over the competition as he recorded a neck decision in a career best of 1:52.2 with Casey Leonard at the controls.   Sweeping to the front after watching BS Tyrrific (Kyle Wilfong) lead the field through an opening quarter in 28.0 Leonard continued to let the Gary Rath trainee roll through swift middle splits of 55.4 & 1:24.3.   Gamely digging in through the stretch the altered son of Sportsmaster--Wondrous Grace paced home in 28.1 while holding off the pocket sitting BS Tyrffic in a thrilling stretch duel. Dan D Dune (Mike Oosting) held on for third after making a strong first over bid as the field neared the top of the lane.   Sent off as the 2-1 favorite by the betting public Wondrous Sport returned $6.20, $4.80 & $3.00 while running his record to 4-0-0 in 5 starts with earnings of $35,000.   A field of eight sophomore trotting colts met in the third event of the night the $38,000 Kadabra Stake.   This battle provided another big price as William Wright and Geis Enterprises Bulldog Benji, a 20-1 outsider with just one career win to his credit, picked the right night to come up with a lifetime best, trotting to a convincing 5¾ length triumph in 1:55.0 for driver Mike Oosting.   Placed in mid-pack as a "fired-up" Tricky Nick led the field through splits of 28.3, 57.0 & 1:25.3 Oosting moved the Mike Brink trained son of Powerful Emotion--Ms Brittania to the outside as the field approached the head of the stretch.   With plenty of open space available after early miscues took Southern Appeal, Fox Valley Qatar and Southern Special out of the race Bulldog Benji seemed to find another gear as he quickly left the rest of the field in his wake while cruising to his second win in 11 starts this season. Captain Greedy (J D Finn), who had been riding a five race winning streak was forced to settle for the runner-up role on this night while Tricky Nick held on for third.   Bulldog Benji returned $42.80, $7.40 & $4.20 while upping his career bankroll to $29,720.   Next up were sophomore pacing fillies as field of 10 renewed acquaintances in the $45,000 Ann Vonian Stake.   Once again Kay Willis's home-bred filly Lex came up big when the cash was on the line as she rolled to a 2½ length victory in 1:52.1 for driver Kyle Wilfong.   Storming into the lead on the backstretch after watching Fox Valley Charm (Tim Curtin) and Fox Valley Aubrey (Robert Smolin) slug it out through an opening quarter in 28.0 Wilfong put Lex on the "engine" where she proceeded to put up middle splits of 57.0 & 1:24.3 while going along comfortably on the front.   Sprinting away from her rivals in the lane the Nelson Willis trained daughter of Lexington Legend--I Bet U effortlessly opened up a three-length advantage by the mid-stretch call as she rolled to her sixth win in 11 starts this year. Sportsmuffler (Todd Warren) shook loose late to rally for the place check while Southern Girl (Casey Leonard) was forced to settle for the show dough.   The 3-2 favorite of the betting public Lex returned $5.00, $3.60 & $3.20 while running her career numbers to 10-4-4 in 26 starts with earnings of $131,703.   Sophomore pacing colts closed out the Saturday stake action as a field of 10 three-year-olds knocked heads in the $45,000 Incredible Finale Stake.   After getting a week off and a bye into the final Bo & Pat De Long and Elmer Miller's Earndawg returned fit and fresh as he roared to a three-quarter-length victory in a lifetime best of 1:51.0 for driver Todd Warren.   Benefitting from a perfect steer by Warren, the Roger Welch trained son of Sportsmaster--Pacific Sister K enjoyed a pocket trip while longshot Engine One O One (Brian Carpenter) put up fractions of 27.1, 55.4 & 1:23.0.   After pulling the pocket as the field neared the top of the lane, Earndawg proceeded to blow right by the pace setter sealing the deal with a 28.0 final quarter to earn his fourth win in 10 starts this season. Fox Valley Elijah (Robert Smolin), a 26-1 outsider rallied sharply to get the place spot while Lucpark (Mike Oosting) finished third.   The second choice in the wagering at 2-1 Earndawg returned $6.60, $4.00 & $2.80 while running his career record to 12-7-4 in 27 starts with earnings of $277,188.   The Southland Festival action continues on Sunday, July 26th, with a trio of finals sharing the spotlight on the 10-race card. Freshmen trotting colts start the action in race two as a field of six will slug it out in the $36,500 Plesac Stake. Their female counterparts will hit the track in race four as a field of 10 meet in the $40,000 Fox Valley Flan Stake. Closing out the action will be sophomore trotting fillies as a field seven go postward in the $39,000 Fox Valley Evita Stake.   Once again the action gets underway at 7:10pm on Sunday night and as always the $1 Pick 4 (races 7-10) features a $25,000 guaranteed pool. The 10-cent Hi Five (race 10) also features a guaranteed pool with a minimum of $15,000 on the line in the "ultimate get out wager!   Tom Kelley  

Illinois conceived and foaled harness racing action grabbed the Sunday headlines at Balmoral Park with a pair of state-bred events for diagonally gaited three-year-olds sharing top billing on the 10-race program.   The "boys" kicked off the action in race four as a field of eight colts and geldings met in the $8,000 Brandenburg Stake. Once again this figured to be a battle between the top two colts in the division, Captain Greedy and Fox Valley Qatar and the race lived up to the "pre-fight" hype with Captain Greedy and J D Finn getting up in the final 100 yards to win by three-quarters of a length while knocking off last season's divisional champ Fox Valley Qatar for the third straight time. The final time of 1:56 was a career best.   After taking the field through an opening quarter in 28.3 Finn elected to let a hard charging Fox Valley Qatar (Todd Warren) take command on the backstretch and that colt proceeded to lead the field through middle splits of 57.0 & 1:26.4.   Through the lane Finn angled the son of Yankee Valor--Tropical Trixie to the outside of horses eventually wearing down the favored Fox Valley Qatar with a sixteenth of a mile to go for his fifth win in eight starts this season. Fox Valley Qatar was forced to settle for the runner-up role yet again while Southern Special (Brian Carpenter) finished third, 4¼ lengths behind the victor.   Sent off as the second choice in the wagering the John D Finn trainee returned $5.60, $2.80 & $2.10 while running his career record to 14-5-3 in 25 starts with earnings of $94,796 for owners Charles Doehring and John D Finn.   The "girls" were next on the docket as a field of eight three-year-old fillies lined up behind the gate for the $8,000 Fox Valley Diva Stake. Continuing a nice mid-season run Homer Hochstetler and Robert Buddig's Persuasive Look overtook the early leaders in mid-stretch and drew off late to record a 2¼ length victory in 1:56.2.   Well handled by regular pilot Casey Leonard the daughter of Powerful Emotion--Black N Bluegenes left hard from post four then settled into the garden spot while Bi Polar Rose (Travis Seekman) and Tal Wi Wi (John De Long) traded blows up front through splits of 29.1, 57.2 & 1:26.1.   Moving to the outside as the field neared the top of the lane the Homer Hochstetler trained miss blew right by a tiring Tal Wi Wi to grab her third win in nine starts this year. Lc'snmotion (Mike Oosting) unleashed a nice late move to rally for the bridesmaid spot while Fox Valley Yoko (John De Long) was third.   With the win Persuasive Look now sports career number of 7-6-5 in 22 trips postward with earnings of $116,992. The 2-1 favorite in the wagering returned $6.20, $3.40 & $2.20 to her backers.   Tom Kelley

The 2015 Hanover Stakes continued at the harness racing meeting at Balmoral on Saturday, July 11th, with a total of 15 sophomore pacing colts squaring off in a pair of $21,775 divisions as the Grand Circuit action returned to the Crete oval. Pacing fillies were also in action with a field of eight slugging it out for a purse of $26,000 in another Hanover tussle. In the filly event Kristopher Heim, Connie Hochstetler and James Michels Southern Girl overcame a tough first over journey as she rallied in the closing yards to post a half-length victory in a career best of 1:52.4 for Casey Leonard.   Positioned in mid-pack as Ashok Ace (Mike Oosting) and then Lex (Kyle Wilfong) led the field through splits of 27.4, 56.1 &1:24.3 Leonard pulled first over from fourth as the field moved around the far turn.   Grinding her way to the lead, the Homer Hochstetler trained daughter of Sportsmaster-Biloxi finally overtook a game Lex who had been battling Ashok Ace tooth and nail, drawing clear in the final strides to notch her fifth win in 14 career starts in this her first season of racing. Ashok Ace was a  hard fought second while Sportsmuffler (Todd Warren) rallied to be third.   The third choice in the wagering managed to return a healthy $23.80, $6.20 & $7.00 while upping her career earnings to $32,517.   After yet another thunderstorm soaked the racing surface the first division for the pacing colts was contested. The wet surface did not seem to bother Strollin Stable, King McNamara, William Robinson and Country Club Acres Rise Up Now as the star of the Pennsylvania Sire Stake circuit splashed to a one-length victory in 1:54.1 for driver Don Harmon.   Leaving alertly from post seven, Harmon landed in the four-hole as Frosty Dune (Kyle Wilfong) and Major Ed (Todd Warren) battled through opening splits of 28.3 & 57.1.   Powering up first over on the far turn the altered son of Somebeachsomewhere--Northwestern managed to poke a head in front of Major Ed as the pacers moved by the three-quarter-mile mark in 1:26.0.   Through the stretch, the Brian Brown trainee began to put daylight between himself and his rivals eventually reporting home with his seventh win in nine starts this year. Longshot Utah Beach (Ryan Anderson) turned in a nice late rally to get the place check while Lucpark (Mike Oosting) was a solid third after missing three weeks.   The co-favorite in the wagering, Rise Up Now returned $4.00, $2.80 & $2.10 while upping his bankroll to $124,812 with his huge sophomore campaign.   In the nightcap Harmon struck again this time guiding Gary Clark's Skim The Top to a thrilling nose decision in 1:53.0 over the sloppy track. Grinding it out in the middle of the pack while Feelnlikearockstar (Mike Oosting) put up fractions of 28.4, 57.4 & 1:25.1 Harmon finally tipped the homebred son of Geartogear--Schmoley off cover with an eighth of a mile to go. Gradually cutting into the two-length advantage of Feelnlikearockstar, the Krista Harmon trained colt managed to edge his nose in front in the last stride to nip the pace setter in a very tight photo. Feelnlikearockstar was forced to settle for the tough luck second place finish while Earndawg (Todd Warren) wound up with the show dough. Dispatched at odds of 9-2 Skim The Top returned $10.60, $5.20 & $3.60 while moving his career numbers to 3-4-2 in 17 starts with earnings of $63,914. State bred's are back in action on Sunday, July 12th with a field of six eight three-year-old trotting colts batting in the $8,000 Brandenburg Stake which goes as race four on the 10-race program. Their female counterparts will also take to the track in race six as a field of eight will renew acquaintances in the $8,000 Fox Valley Diva Stake. Once again the wagering action gets underway at 7:10pm on Sunday night and as always the $1 Pick 4 (races 7-10) features a $25,000 guaranteed pool. The 10-cent Hi Five also features a guaranteed pool now with a $15,000 guarantee on the line in the "ultimate get out bet" (race 10). Tom Kelley 

The 2015 Hanover Stake season is officially underway as Balmoral Park played host to a pair of trotting stakes for three-year-olds as part of an action packed harness racing July 4th program.   The action kicked off with a non-wagering event as a field of five colts lined up behind the gate to battle for a purse of $20,600.   The battle between Illinois bred stars Captain Greedy and Fox Valley Qatar resumed in this event and for the third straight meeting between these two it was Charles Dowering and John D Finn's Captain Greedy who came out on top as he reported home with a one-length victory in 1:56.2.   Confidently handled by driver-trainer J D Finn the son of Yankee Valor--Tropical Trixie was sent right to the top where he proceeded to stroll through splits of 28.2, 58.3 & 1:28.4.   Sprinting home in 27.3, Captain Greedy shook off the challenge of a pocket sitting Fox Valley Qatar (Todd Warren) to record his fourth win in seven starts this season. Fox Valley Qatar was forced to settle for the runner-up role again while Bulldog Benji (Mike Brink) was third. The victory pushed Captain Greedy's career bankroll up to $90,796.   Sophomore trotting fillies also took to the track for Hanover action as a compact a field of five battled for a purse of $23,900.   After being content to sit near the back in the compact field, Ronald Phillips My Mini Snickers exploded through the stretch to win by a widening 3½ lengths in 1:56.3 for "provisional" driver Clifton Bell.   Content to bide their time near the back as Fox Valley Harrah (Todd Warren) put up pedestrian splits of 29.4, 59.1 & 128.1 Bell moved his filly to the outside as the field neared the top of the lane.   Trotting up a storm as she moved down the center of the track, the Bob Phillips trained daughter of Muscle Mass--Milky Way rolled home in 27.4 to notch her second win in 10 starts this season. In what is believed to be a "first" in harness racing history, Fox Valley Yoko (Kyle Wilfong) and Persuasive Look (Casey Leonard), who finished in a dead-heat for the win in an ICF stake here last week, wound up on even terms once again as they dead-heated for the place spot.   With the victory My Mini Snickers now boasts seven wins in 21 career starts with earnings of $45,319.   A pair of state-bred events were also contested on Saturday night as part of the big 12-race betting card.   In the first of these battles, the $8,000 Hot Head Stake for sophomore pacing colts, James & Terri Blackmon's Dixie's Boy picked a nice time to come up with a career best as he blew by his rivals in the lane to post a one-length victory in 1:52.0 for driver Casey Leonard.   Using a perfect second over trip the gelded son of Duneside Perch--Dingy's Model circled rivals after watching Dinky Dune (Pat Curtin) put up some brisk splits, speeding home in 26.4 while holding division leader Earndawg (Todd Warren) at bay. Longshot Casey At Bat (Mike Oosting) wound up with the show dough.   The Joel Smith trainee now sports a career record of 5-5-5 in 24 lifetime starts with earnings of $31,522 after Saturday's victory.   In the nightcap Kay Willis's Lex had no problem overcoming the dreaded 10-hole as she posted a 1¾ length triumph over nine rivals in the $8,000 Ohyouprettything Stake for ICF three-year-old pacing fillies.   Hustled right to the front by Kyle Wilfong, the Nelson Willis trained daughter of Lexington Legend--I Bet U put up splits of 28.4, 58.2 & 1:26.4 while relatively unchallenged on the front end.   With plenty left in the tank the division leader in 2015 sealed the deal with a 26.4 final panel to notch her fifth win in nine starts this year. Fox Valley Charm (Tim Curtin) rallied late to be the bridesmaid while Sportsmuffler (John De Long) shook loose to finish third.   With Saturday's victory Lex now boasts a career record of 9-4-4 in 18 starts with earnings of $107,123.   The ICF stake action continues on Sunday, July 5th with a field of six freshmen trotting fillies getting the action underway in a non-wagering test as they battle in the $6,000 Vaporize Stake which will go at 6:45 p.m. (central). The second division of that stake has also drawn a field of six and will go as race three on the regular 10-race card. An overflow field of 11 2yo trotting colts will battle in race four which is the $8,000 Psychic Spirit Stake and a field of seven sophomore trotting fillies will close out the stake action in race six as they battle in the $8,000 Source Ann Stake. Once again the wagering action gets underway at 7:10pm on Sunday night and as always the $1 Pick 4 features a $25,000 guaranteed pool. The Pick 4 is on races seven through 10 on Sunday night.   Tom Kelley

The state-bred stake action continued in high gear on Sunday, June 28th at Balmoral Park as a pair of harness racing ICF events for trotters and pacers shared top billing on the 10-race harness racing program.   Trotters kicked off the night's action with a field of seven diagonally gaited colts lining up for the $8,000 Xpressbet Stake. This figured to be another showdown in the budding rivalry between Captain Greedy and last year's divisional champ Fox Valley Qatar. The race lived up to its billing as the fans were treated to a "doozy" of a stretch drive with the top two colts in the division slugging it out to the wire with Captain Greedy prevailing by a nose over "Qatar" in a snappy 1:56.4 over a track listed as fast despite some late afternoon rain showers. (Imagine that!)   Hustled away from post three by his co-owner, trainer and driver J. D. Finn, Captain Greedy was able to get away with some relatively pedestrian splits of 29.3, 58.3, & 1:29.1 while Fox Valley Qatar (Todd Warren) was content to ride along in the pocket.   With the top two set for a sprint to the wire, Fox Valley Qatar appeared to put a head in front with a sixteenth of a mile to go but a game Captain Greedy determinedly fought back, inching a nose in front as the two evenly matched trotters hit the wire in a thrilling finish. When the official numbers were posted it was Captain Greedy who came out on top with Fox Valley Qatar forced to settle for the runner-up role on this night. Tricky Nick (Mike Oosting) finished third, four lengths behind the top pair.   With the win, the Yankee Valour gelding now sports a career record of 12-5-3 in 23 career starts with earnings of $80,496. The second choice in the wagering returned a healthy $6.00, $2.20 & $2.10.   Sophomore pacing fillies closed out the weekend's stake action as a field of 10 three-year-old state-breds met in the $8,000 Mystical Victress Stake. After a heated battle it was the Peter Karras owned longshot Fox Valley Charm who emerged with the surprise victory as she came charging through the passing lane to record a half-length victory in a career best of 1:53 for driver Dale Hiteman.   Using an inside draw to perfection Hiteman placed the Dirk Simpson trained miss in the pocket spot as Sportsmuffler (John De Long) and a parked out Angel Demon (Todd Warren) slugged it out through opening splits of 27.4 & 56.4.   After putting away the challenge of Angel Demon, Sportsmuffler faced immediate pressure from a three-wide Fox Valley Aubrey (Robert Smolin), who came powering up to challenge as the field reached the three-quarter-mile mark in 1:25.   Through the stretch, the tough trip wound up getting the best of Sportsmuffler who began to tire. Meanwhile, a fit and fresh Fox Valley Charm began looking for racing room along the inside of horses while heavily favored Lex (Kyle Wilfong), began to find her best stride out in the center of the track. Southern Girl (Travis Seekman) was also starting to unwind on the far outside gobbling up ground in huge strides.   Unfortunately for the two late rushing fillies, Fox Valley Charm managed to get the jump on her rivals holding on gamely to post her first win in start number three this season. Southern Girl uncorked a 27.0 final quarter to finish as the bridesmaid while Lex was forced to settle for the show dough.   After opening her second season with a pair of Hoosier Park efforts the Yankee Skyscraper filly returned to local scene and rewarded her backers with mutuels of $41.40, $14.00 & $5.00 while improving her career record to 5-3-1 in 13 starts with earnings of $29,457.   There were no winners in the 50 cent Pick 5 wager on Sunday night so there will be a healthy carryover of $9,913 added to the Saturday, July 4th card. Therefore Balmoral Park will have a guaranteed Pick 5 pool of $30,000 on July 4th, which should provide plenty of fireworks over the Independence Day weekend. Tom Kelley

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