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State-bred pacers took center stage on Saturday night at Balmoral Park as trainer Robert Phillips and driver Robert Smolin teamed up for a pair of impressive victories with two of the stables stars as Al's Hammered romped to a 5¾ length victory in the $15,000 Rambling Willie Stake while Cotton Eyed Joe rolled to a 2¾ length win in the $10,000 Betzotic Stake.   With a compact field of five of the state's top older pacers facing the gate for the Rambling Willie Stake, Al's Hammered found himself much closer than usual to the early action as Ice Scraper (Todd Warren) rattled off splits of 27.0, 56.0 & 1:23.4.   Smolin then maneuvered the son of Droppin'thehammer off the pylons as the field turned for the money. As he's done so often, the bay five-year-old absolutely exploded through the stretch, charging home in a wicked 25.4 to secure the victory in 1:50.1 for his owner-trainer Phillips. Fort Silky (Casey Leonard) parlayed a perfect pocket sitting journey into a second place check while Fancy Creek Elusiv (Dave Magee) finished third.   With the win Al's Hammered who has overcome serious injury to return to stardom now boasts a career record of 25-8-11 in 64 starts with earnings of more than $340,000   Sophomore pacing colts were also in action on the chilly Saturday night card and when the smoke cleared from the $10,000 Betzotic Stake the Phillips-Smolin pairing were back in victory lane as Cotton Eyed Joe turned a two-hole trip into an easy win over seven other state-breds, stopping the clock in 1:54.1.   Perfectly positioned on the back of odds-on favorite Fox Valley Deuce (Casey Leonard) as he clicked off splits of 27.3, 57.1 & 1:26.4, Smolin patiently waited for the passing lane as the field headed for the wire. After securing room with a sixteenth of a mile to go, the gelded son of Big Green Machine--Secret Dial flew home in 27.0 to nab his second win in four starts this season. Fox Valley Deuce held for second while Dune Dude (Dean Magee) turned in a late rally to finish third, four lengths behind the winner.   A four-time career winner, last season's Orange & Blue champion now boasts career earnings of more than $121,000 for owner-trainer Bob Phillips.   by Tom Kelley, for Balmoral Park     COTTON EYED JOE AND DRIVER Robert Smolin CHARGED THROUGH THE PASSING LANE TO SECURE VICTORY IN SATURDAY'S $10,000 BETZOTIC STAKE.     AL'S HAMMERED UNCORKED A WICKED 25.4 TO BLOW BY HIS RIVALS IN SATURDAY'S $15,000 RAMBLING WILLIE STAKE.       -----Original Message----- From: David Baum <baum.photography@gmail.com> To: Tom Kelley <tkelleyatbal@aol.com>; Mike Paradise <michaelfparadise@hotmail.com> Sent: Sat, Apr 26, 2014 9:31 pm        

Saving the biggest fireworks of the night for the last race of the night the Robert Phillips owned and trained Cotton Eyed Joe pulled off a 16-1 shocker in the nightcap winning the $200,000 Orange & Blue by a neck in a career best of 1:54.3. Well handled by driver Robert Smolin the son of Big Green Machine—Secret Dial appeared to getting hopelessly shuffled out of contention as the lead changed hands several times through some brisk splits. With Fox Valley Cupid (Ryan Anderson), Overloaded (Kyle Wilfong) and 1-5 favorite PQ Three (Mike Oosting) all taking turns on the lead through splits of 27.4, 56.4 & 1:25.1 Cotton Eyed Joe was all the way back to eighth while trying to move up three wide as the field turned for home. With the heavy favorite and several others near the front end starting to collapse from the fast fractions Smolin continued to pick off one rival after another while racing down the grand stand side. A game Fox Valley Cupid, who was 37-1 was starting to come on again in the passing lane but the hard charging Cotton Eyed Joe managed to blow by them all with a 28.0 final quarter to post his second lifetime win in start number 13. Fox Valley Cupid turned in a super effort to finish second while Traffic Cop (Todd Warren), who barreled up first over to challenge the pace setting PQ Three on the far turn was third, just a 1 ¾ lengths behind the winner. “Things set up pretty well for somebody to come from out of in this race,” said Smolin who posted his first two Super Night wins on last year’s card. “He likes to run out in the stretch when he hits his top gear so you have to stay after him pretty good. Tonight he went straight enough long enough to go by them.” Sporting a modest record of 1-1-2 in12 starts coming into Saturday’s Orange & Blue Cotton Eyed Joe now boasts a bankroll of $108,054. While the mutuels of  $35.20, $12.40 & $40.00 indicate that Cotton Eyed Joe’s win was quite a surprise his driver did not seem that shocked by his effort. “I actually thought coming into this we had a decent chance to get a big piece of it,” laughed Smolin. “We had been babying him for most of his starts and he raced very well in his elimination last week despite getting jammed up by a breaking horse. This is even more special for me because my first pari-mutuel win came while driving his dam Secret  Dial.” “Where did ya come from? Where did ya go? Where did ya come from Cotton Eyed Joe? That’s what a lot of people were wondering as the big crowd exited after another exciting Super Night at Balmoral Park! With all the longshots coming through in the $25,000 guaranteed Hi Five wager nobody correctly selected the top five finishers in the race. That means a whopping $24,159 will be carried over into Sunday’s 10 Cent Hi-Five so there will be a guaranteed pool of $50,000 on Sunday night at Balmoral. Post time for the Sunday opener is  David Baum

Mr Green paced home for his fifth straight win Wednesday (September 4) in Northfield Park’s fourth race.  The four year-old is owned and trained by John Cantrell of Mansfield, Ohio.  Driver Kurt Sugg has been in the sulky for all of the quintuplet of consecutive victories.    Mr Green began from the second tier.  Sugg brushed him to the lead in the third quarter and secured a 3-length margin victory over Visage Hanover (Ryan Stahl).  The mile clocking was 1:56.3.           Wednesday’s triumph increased Mr Green’s (Big Green Machine-Windys Lounge-Native Leader) lifetime win tally to six and his career earnings to $7,685.  He was the race favorite and paid $3.40 to win. by Ayers Ratliff

After a busy weekend of elimination’sthe fields have been set for one of the biggest nights of racing at Balmoral Park and now the count down begins to next Saturday’s (July 27th) Chicago Southland Festival of Racing. After a trio of stakes were filled on Saturday, July 20th the last two elimination tussles were contested on Sunday night with a total of 16 Illinois conceived and foaled three-year-old pacing fillies squaring off in a pair of $10,000 Ann Vonian Stake elim’s. The top five finishers in each division will be back next Saturday to slug it out for a purse of $60,000. In the first elimination Roy Drevsand Brett & Candice Wilfong’s Feel Like Dancing came charging through the passing lane to win by a length in a career best of 1:52.3 for driver Kyle Wilfong. After leading the field through anopening quarter in 28.3 Wilfong elected to allow a hard charging Dallas Jones(Casey Leonard) take command. That filly proceeded to rattle off middle splitsof 56.2 & 1:25.1 while the Brett Wilfong trained miss enjoyed a perfect pocket sitting ride. After finding room in the passing lane, the daughter of Skydancer Hanover—Fox Valley Funny exploded past the pace setter finishing offthe mile with a 27.1 final panel to post her seventh win in 14 starts thisyear. Dallas Jones held on to be second while the heavily favored Aliyah Maria(Todd Warren) finished third. Incredible Filly (Mike Cox) and My Marissa Clair(Phil Knox) also earned spots in the final. The second elimination was notwithout its anxious moments for “chalk” players but when the smoke cleared it was John Carver’s Auniqueaquistion who came out on top with a hard fought half-length victory in 1:52.2 for driver Dave Magee. Placed well off the pace while DuneIn Red (John De Long) and R Ciao Baby (Casey Leonard) sped through splits of28.2, 55.3 & 1:24.1, Magee had Auniqueaquistion in the outer flow as the fillies turned for the money. Picking off one rival after another, the Donna Lee Ozment trained daughter of Cole Muffler—Shesoluvabull went from fifth to first with a 27.3 final quarter to notch her sixth win in nine starts this year. Dune In Red turned in a solid effort to finish second while State Street Liz (Robert Smolin) shook loose late to be a fast closing third. The last two spots in the final went to R Ciao Baby and Mystical Danica (Lewayne Miller). Saturday’s action started with a total of 19 state-bred two-year-old pacing fillies battling in a pair of $10,000 Loyal Opposition elimination’s. The top five in each split will return next week to meet for a purse of $65,000. In the opening division Bruce & Mary Alexander’s Western Dame made it two in a row as she cruised to an impressive two-length victory in a career best of 1:54.2 for driver John DeLong. Charging from fifth to first after an opening quarter of 28.2, the daughter of Sagebrush—Dixie Dame left no doubt as to who was the best in this event as she continued on through middle splits of 57.0 & 1:26.0. Rolling home in 28.2, the $14,000 yearling purchase was never seriously threatened through the stretch as she scored for the second time in three starts. Thesleazyprincess (Mike Oosting) rallied late to be the bridesmaid while Anything I Want (Todd Warren) was a game third. My Little Bit (Robert Smolin) finished fourth and Fox Valley Rockn (Kyle Wilfong) was fifth. The second division of the Loyal Opposition elimination’s also provided a sharp winner as Sawgrass Farms Molly Go Lightly posted her maiden breaking win, reporting home with a 2 ¾ length verdict in 1:55.1 with Mike Oosting in tow. The homebred daughter of Lexington Legend—Waggle was confidently handled in the race ranging up first over through opening splits of 29.3 & 58.4. After sweeping into the lead as the field moved around the final turn, the Nelson Willis trainee led the fillies by the three-quarter-mile mark in 1:26.4. The issue was never in doubt from that point on as Molly Go Lightly was a cruise control through a 28.2 final quarter to post her first win in four starts. Green Valey (Robert Smolin) came on late to finish second while April May Dune (Dave Magee) was third. Also gaining spots in the final were Fox Valley Amanda(Dale Hiteman) and Ms Solongbyebye (Jamaica Patton). Next on the docket were three-year-old pacing colts as a total of 15 state-bred sophomores battled in apair of $10,000 Incredible Finale Stake elimination’s. Once again the top five will be back for the “festival” where they will battle for a purse of $59,000. In the first elimination Paymaq Racing, D&M Trading & Mystical Marker Farms Mystical Walter continued to turn heads in this division as he posted his Third Straight victory, reporting home with a deceptively easy 2 ¼ length score in 1:51.1 for driver Casey Leonard. Fresh off his win in last week’s Hanover Stake, the gelded son of Yankee Skyscaper—Yankee Blue put his powerful brush to good use rushing from fifth to first after an opening quarter in 28.0. The Erv Miller trainee never looked back the rest of the way, effortlessly posting middle splits of 56.2 & 1:24.1 before sealing the deal with a wicked 27.0 final quarter for his seventh win in 15 career starts. Monopoly Man (John De Long) followed the winner’s every move after giving way on the backside to finish second while Fancy Creek Elusiv (Dave Magee) was third. Also grabbing spots in the final were Sage Ruck (Mike Oosting) and Fox Valley Action (Todd Warren). In the second division John & Mary Krasnican’s Big Brad came storming through the stretch to win by a neck in a lifetime best of 1:51.0 for Robert Smolin. Moving up second over as pace setter Silver Devil put up splits of 28.0, 56.3 & 1:23.4 Smolin moved the Robert Phillips trainee off cover as the field turned for the money. Flying home in 26.4, the bay son of Henry Clay—One Sure Thing swept by his rivals and then was game to the wire as held off a final surge by Crankin’ It Up (Kyle Wilfong) for his fifth win in 13 starts this season. Crankin’ It Up was second while Kostas Wine (Dave Magee) rallied to finish third. Fox Valley Norman (John De Long) salvaged a fourth place finish after a tough first over bid while the last spotin the final went to Darth Quaider (Mike Oosting). Rounding out the Saturday action were Mini Me Stake elimination’s for ICF two-year-old pacing colts. With a total of 17 youngsters dropped into the entry box a pair of $10,000 splits were contested with the top five moving on to next week’s $63,500 final. In the first division Obermeier & Quaid Stables good looking youngster PQ Three lived up to his favored status winning by a well measured neck in 1:54.3 with Mike Oosting at the controls. Ranging up first over as Traffic Cop(Todd Warren) and R Duneshine (Dave Magee) battled through splits of 28.2, 58.27 1:26.4, Oosting had the son of Yankee Skyscaper—Sweltering just off the pace setters flank as the field turned for the money. Quickly swallowing up R Duneshine in the lane, the Erv Miller trainee then held firm to the wire for his second win in four starts. Traffic Cop re-rallied to finish a game second while Fox Valley Cupid (Robert Smolin) turned a ground saving trip into a third place check. Fox Valley Deuce (Dale Hiteman) was fourth while R Duneshine wound up fifth. The last elimination on the Saturday card provided the tightest finish as the Robert Phillips owned and trained Cotton Eyed Joe found racing room in the final sixteenth of a mile then rallied sharply for a head decision in 1:56.4 with Robert Smolin at the controls. After saving ground while Wimpy Doodle (Dean Magee) and Dunside Art (Mike Oosting) took turns leading the field through splits of 29.3, 1:00.3 & 1:29.2 Smolin appeared to be hopelessly locked in at the pylons. Smolin’s patience paid big dividends though as a seam opened up late in the stretch, allowing the son of Big Green Machine—Secret Dial to come roaring home with his first win in five career starts. Badger Quinn (Todd Warren), who made a power sweep to the front from the outside post wound up finishing a tough luck second while Fox Valley Van (John De Long) was third. The last two spots in the final went to Dunside Art (4th) and Wimpy Doodle (5th). Big Brad and Robert Smolin captured an Incredible Finale Stake elimination for 3yo pacing colts in 1:51.0 on Saturday night at Balmoral Park. PQ Three was a well measured winner for driver Mike Oosting in the first of two Mini Me Stake eliminations on Saturday. Cotton Eyed Joe found room late while rallying for a big win in the second Mini Me Stake elimination on Saturday. Western Dame cruised to an easy win for driver John De Long in the first of two Loyal Opposition Stake elimination's on Saturday night. Molly Go Lightly and driver Mike Oosting teamed up for an easy win in 1:55.1 in the second Loyal Opposition Stake elimination on Saturday.  Mystical Walter continued an impressive recent run as he posted his Third Straight victory in the first of two Incredible Finale Stake elim's for 3yo colt pacers.  

The countdown to the first six-figure stake of the season for Illinois conceived and foaled harness racing pacers started on Thursday night as a total of 13 three-year-old fillies squared off in a pair of $10,000 Filly Maywood Pace eliminations.

Summer may not be officially be here until June 21 but for many Illinois horsemen the summer-time season arrives three weeks earlier with tonight's $6,000 Jimmy Sunshine, the first stake race of the season for 2-year-olds.

Illinois conceived and foaled three-year-olds were back in the spotlight on Friday, April 26th at Maywood Park as a pair of $12,000 stake battles shared top billing on the 14-race harness racing program.

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