Day At The Track
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Most horsemen tend to be cautious about their horses’ chances when Super Night rolls around and don’t want to appear to be too optimistic. After all anything can happen in a horse race and it often does on Illinois most anticipated racing evening of the year. “I have to admit my hopes are up a little bit more for Super Night than they were the week before the eliminations,” said owner and trainer Jesse De Long who has had a Super Night champion in his barn the last two years.” And well they should be. De Long’s mare Let’s Go Higher, the 2013 Lorna Propes champion, breezed in 1:52.1 in her Propes elimination for trainer Heidi Rohr. His 2-year-old filly Sportsmuffler (1:54.3) was much the best in her Orange and Blue Filly elimination, and Jesse and John De Long’s 3-year-old Party Hangover Two finished a strong fourth in  the Grandma Ann stake prep. “Jimmy Richard and Heidi Rohr had Let’s Go Higher out east. I don’t think she came in a sharp this time around as she did last year but they told me ‘don’t worry, she’ll be fine.’ I was a little worried but they were right, she did race really well. “It’ll be kind of strange racing against Party Hangover Saturday. I still cheer for the mare but I don’t want to cheer for her too much when she’s racing my mare. It should be interesting race. “Party Hangover is a very good mare and so is the mare (Dune In Red) that beat her last week. It’s a tough field and it should be a very good horse race. “I have Party Hangover’s little sister (Party Hangover Two) also racing Saturday in the Grandma Ann. Like (my son) John always says about her: ‘We always seem to finish fourth, about a length and a half out of first, and we seem to always draw outside the horse and have to come from way back. Maybe things will be different Saturday.” I told Jesse he can probably count on much quicker fractions in the Grandma Ann Final and its $142,000 purse than he saw in the $10,000 prep when Molly Go Lightly (Matt Krueger) cruised to a  :57.2 half-mile time and got away with a:29.third quarter enroute to her 1:55 flat victory. “I hope you right,” replied Jesse. That would help our filly a ton. She’s close now to being near the top of her game like she was earlier in the summer when she paced in 1:52.3) in a Hanover. “I thought our 3-year-old pacing filly (Sportsmuffler) raced super last weekend in her division of the filly Orange and Blue. “I’m really excited about her now. She had two things that were wrong with her at Du Quoin and they are perfect now. She should be good for the final.” First Super Night post on Saturday will be at 6:30 pm Chicago time. by Mike Paradise, for IHHA

With Super Night right around the corner it got me thinking about the last time the biggest night in Illinois racing was contested at Sportsman’s Park when it was still a five-eighths oval. The year was 1991 and just weeks after that gala evening the racetrack straightaways were torn up so it could be extended to a seventh-eights oval to accommodate the thoroughbreds the following spring. Some 23 years ago there were only six major Super Night stakes. The 3-year-old trots (Lady Ann Reed and Su Mac Lad) hadn’t been added yet to the annual Illinois bred championships. The older ICF mare pace was the Ann Vonian, later renamed the Lorna Propes, and the Tony Maurello for colts and geldings was the Dan Patch. A packed Grandstand and Clubhouse was at the Cicero, IL facility for the 12-race card and saw the 1990 Illinois Horse of the Year Plum Peach win her second consecutive Super Night title by taking the third race $210,000 Grandma Ann Final with Walter Paisley in 1:56.1 for trainer Mark Fransen. Two races later Panic Attack rolled to her eighth straight triumph in the $342,000 Filly Orange and Blue with Dave Magee in 1:56.3 for trainer Tex Moats. The Masquerade filly would go on to be named the 1991 Illinois Harness Horse of the Year for owners Don Stevens and Norman Levine.   The seventh race $60,000 Dan Patch went to the favorite Dirty Deeds in 1:54 with Dale Hiteman in the bike behind the 7-year-old Robert Black trainee owned by DTN Stable, Roger and Dawn Sampson Stable, Irwin Kay and Stan Williams. The $225,000 Pete Langley Memorial Final was next and the surprise winner was the speedy, but erratic road gelding Rana Diablo, trained and driver by George Kramer for Chicago owner Frank Calabrese, The front-stepping pacer reported home in 1:55.4. The $396,000 Orange and Blue Colt Final was the tenth (and not the final) race on the Super Night card and it was Wicked Brew proving best in 1:56.2 for driver Homer Hochstetler. Mickey Rodriguez trained the 2-year-old son of Gold for owner Ralph Sergio of Riverside, I, beating the likes of Woolly Bully, Broadway Circuit and Kavitsky. Before the 12th race finale, the Grandma Ann Consolation, the sixth and final Super Night championship was decided when the 7-year-old mare Jerrah Belle, with less than $100,000 in career earnings, took the $60,000 Ann Vonian with Lemoyne Svendsen driving for trainer Todd Crone. The Solar Storm mare was owned by Bobbie Harper, who was the proprietor of an automobile dealership in the far southern Illinois town of Tunnel Hill, about 35 miles north of Paducah, Kentucky. Before the Ann Vonian Harper told the Sportsman’s Park publicity department: “I named the filly after my granddaughter Jerrah. It’s a six-hour driver to Chicago from Tunnel Hill, but we’ll all be at Sportsman’s for Super Night. I have to be return home early Sunday morning because I’m frying fish for the annual church picnic.” I bet that was one memorable “Fish Fry” for the town of Tunnel Hill which had a population of 685 at the turn of this century. by Mike Paradise, for IHHA

With Super Night 2014 less than three weeks away (Saturday, Sept. 13) a number of division leaders have established themselves as clear-cut heavy favorites after sweeping their respective championships at both Illinois State Fairs. However the Randy Tuftie Stable’s Nino Marino surprise victory in the $22,000 Darn Safe showed that division leader and multiple stake champion Fox Valley Veto is indeed vulnerable in the Su Mac Lad Final for ICF 3-year-old trotting colts and geldings. Fox Valley Veto entered the Darn Safe with five consecutive victories, taking both the $41,000 Kadabra at the end of last month and the $25,000 Springfield crown on August 14. In between “Veto” beat older state-bred trotters in Balmoral’s Mike’s A Mystery. The talented Curt Grummel trainee was bet down to 10 cents on the dollar and had command turning in the lane in the Darn Safe but was overtaken by the 9-1 longshot Nino Marino who was winless in 12 season starts going into the Du Quoin final. The son of Piazzazzed, out of the dam Never Ms Still, ended up one length the best, trotting a career fastest 1:56.1 mile, more than three full seconds better than the gelding’s best previous clocking of 1:59.3, taken as a 2-year-old for owners Ron Marino (Fort Myers, FL) and David Herrmann (Ottawa, IL). The Erv Miller trainees Unlocked (Dave Magee) and Mr. Leland’s Filly continued their dominations in their respective divisions and will be heavy favorites in the Langley and Orange and Blue Filly championships on Super Night. Lucpark’s (Dave Magee) victory in the Governor’s Cup came at the expense of Springfield champion Thisishowewroll. Mini Me champ King Of The Swamp sat-out Du Quoin while the Governor’s Cup post-time favorite, Engine One O One went off stride in the first turn. With not much time left until the Orange and Blue Colt showdown, it’s anybody’s guess which freshman will wind-up in the winner’s circle draped with this 2-year-old stake blanket. Macie Rae bounced back from her defeat to filly Bailey’s Wish at Springfield and romped in Du Quoin’s Windy Skeeter, winning by almost 10 lengths 1:55.1 for owner Donald Huddleston. The Mike Rogers trained filly had won her previous nine times this season on the front-end but at Du Quoin it was Bailey’s Wish cutting the fractions before Macie Mae blew past, setting up another big battle in the Lady Ann Reed. With five consecutive triumphs in ICF competition that included Balmoral’s Ann Vonian and the Springfield championship, My Little Bit was a disappointing third in Du Quoin’s Time Dancer, beaten eight lengths by the 9-1 longshot Thesleazyprincess (Dave Magee). Thesleazyprincess was the division’s champion as a 2-year-old with almost $160,000 banked but the Matry Engel Stable’s homebred started off her 3-year-old campaign with 11 consecutive losses and less than $10,000 earned before joining the Erv Miller Stable a couple of weeks ago. Thesleazyprincess was raced inside at Springfield and despite a fourth place finish, she motored home in :26.1 and was beaten only 1 and 1/ 2 lengths. At Du Quoin her 1:52.2 mile put the Sagebrush filly a half-length ahead of Maywood Filly Pace champion Fox Valley Amanda and insuring an enticing Grandma Ann Final on Super Night 2014. The Du Quoin meet’s driving title was won by Dave Magee with six winners to John De Long’s four. Erv Miller successfully defended his trainer’s crown. by Mike Paradise, for IHHA

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