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The 2014 Illinois champions will be announced at the USTA District 5 Awards Banquet in Springfield on Saturday, January 15 and since I’m also in the business of making predations I thought I‘d pass along who I think they will crown as the 2014.trotting division winners. I’ll post my picks for the ICF pacing divisions on Saturday along with my choice for 2014 Illinois Harness Horse of the Year. Two-Year-Old Filly Trotter Persuasive Look and Fox Valley Yoko Even though it’s unlikely the USTA District 5 members will have a dead-heat in their balloting for this division, both Persuasive Look and Fox Valley Yoko are very deserving and I simply couldn’t split them. Therefore, I have co-winners in this division. Persuasive Look posted a record of 4 wins, 4 seconds and 4 thirds in 13 starts, while taking the $40,500 Fox Valley Flan and the $57,200 American National, earning $96,186 for Illinois owners and breeders Homer Hochstetler of Crete and Robert Buddig of Hinsdale and trotting a first season mark of 1:58 flat at Balmoral. Casey Leonard drove the Powerful Emotion home bred youngster. Meanwhile, Fox Valley Yoko, a daughter of Pizzazzed out of the successful broodmare Yankee Victory OM, went 5-for-12 in her freshman campaign, captured both the Springfield and Du Quoin State Fair championships and Balmoral’s $40,050 Violet for trainer Curt Grummel and his owner Dr. Patrick Graham of Pittsfield, Illinois. “Yoko” only made $494 less than Persuasive Look and took a mark of 1:58.2 at Balmoral with regular driver John De Long. Two-Year-Old Colt Trotter Fox Valley Qatar While the freshman filly trotting division was too close to call, the colt category certainly wasn’t. Fox Valley Qatar was nearly perfect, This son of Pizzazzed, out of the dam Armbro Bahrian, was sensational for owner and trainer Herman Wheeler who turned the one-time $7,000 yearling purchase into an $84,215 money-maker and a multi-stakes champion. Fox Valley Qatar won his first eight career starts before a second place finish in the $97,000 Lincoln Land Final, his last race of 2014. Along the way he took the $48,000 Plesac Final, the $30,000 Springfield State Fair title and a $17,000 division of the Du Quoin’s Darn Safe. Todd Warren was at the lines of Fox Valley Qatar throughout his first season Three-Year-Old Filly Trotter Bailey’s Wish When the division’s major stakes came around you often found Bailey’s Wish in the winner’s circle along with her trainer Dirk Simpson and Illinois owners Jim Bafia (Minooka) and Gene White (Chicago). In her second season the 2013 Illinois Two-Year-Old Filly Trotter of the Year boasted first place finishes in the $47,000 Violet Final and Super Night’s $100,000 Lady Ann Reed Championship at Balmoral, along with Springfield’s $30,000 Final. The daughter of Southland Breezed also annexed such smaller ICF stakes as Balmoral’s Fox Valley Diva and a Betzotic and Maywood’s Speed N The Tunnel. Three-Year-Old Colt Trotter Fox Valley Veto Curt and Crag Grummel’s star trotter followed a freshman season with only 1 win with 9 triumphs with an outstanding second season that including triumphs in 4 major ICF championships and 3 others against the top open company trotters at Balmoral. The full brother to Fox Valley Yoko started out 2014 second best behind Tour Hall in the Cardinal, a Hanover and a Betzotic before he turned on the jets and powered his way through many of the division major stakes.. Fox Valley Veto won the $41,000 Kadabra, the $25,000 Mike’s A Mystery against older ICF trotters, and the $52,000 Springfield State Fair title in consecutive mid-summer starts. Later in the year he also posted back-to-back-to back victories in “Winner’s Over,” open events, all with driver John De Long. “Veto” finished 2014 with purse earnings of $148,093. Aged Trotters Trot Fudge Sundae and Mack’s Gold Band It was a “down” year for older ICF trotters with few opportunities here in Illinois. The Dirk Simpson Stable’s Trot Fudge Sundae, owned by Simpson, Bafia and White topped the aged mare division with 6 wins and 6 seconds as a 4-year-old. The American Native mare won a pair of Opens at Running Acres in Minnesota, took a new lifetime mark of 1:54 flat the The Red Mile in Lexington and finished her season with a trio of winner circle stops in Open Handicaps at Pompano Park. Mack’s Gold Band, also trained by Simpson, topped the ICF colt and gelding division for older trotters, taking both of the State Fair Aged Trotting stakes for Flacco Family Farms before the trotter was sold to east coast connections. The 4-year-old son of Bands Gold Chip ended last season with 7 wins in 19 starts, a mark of 1:53.3 at Springfield and a $32,528 season bankroll. by Mike Paradise, for IHHA

Illinois horsemen braved the inclement weather Monday night to attend a General Horsemen’s meeting concerning the “atom bomb” that was dropped on our industry by the recent $78 million verdict against Balmoral and Maywood Parks and one of their chief executive officers. Although all questions were addressed, because of the unique circumstances, many definitive answers were simply unavailable at this time. IHHA President Dave McCaffrey did a superb job of explaining to horsemen the entire plight of the Illinois harness racing situation after a recent jury took only three hours, after a five day trial, to rule in favor of the four river boats and their lawsuit against Balmoral, Maywood and John Johnston. Nevertheless, McCaffrey went on to tell all, at this time, no one knows what kind of a future is in store for Illinois harness racing. And for that matter, if we’ll even be racing after this weekend.   “You can expect Balmoral/Maywood and John Johnston to file for bankruptcy this Wednesday and first day motions will begin the following Friday or Monday.” “From that point on, the only thing certain regarding Illinois harness racing is that nothing is certain.” “I am confident that we will be racing this weekend. After that, I’m about 70 per cent certain that we’ll race the first four days of January, but that’s a decision the Illinois Racing Board will make,” continued Dave. “We have a contract that we will honor with the two racetracks through June 30. However, the bankruptcy judge may or may not cancel that contract. Right now we just don’t know what the judge will or won’t do.” Lawyers from the IHHA, the two races tracks, the four casinos awarded the $78 million judgment and perhaps other interested parties, will begin filing motions in Bankruptcy Court on the first day of the proceedings. Then sometime between 5 and 15 days thereafter the judge will rule on those motions.   At this time the entire future of Illinois harness racing is “up in the air.”   A few significant points that McCaffrey tried to explain to the group was that total monies earned for 2015 horsemen’s purses (derived from all mutual handles such as the racetracks, OTB’s, ADW’s, etc.) is expected to total between $11 and $12 million. However, recapture will devour almost $5 million or about 45% of that. It’s possible that future recapture money could also end up in the pockets of the winning riverboats as assets. It’s estimated that about 70 per cent of the 510 horses on the grounds at Balmoral and  Maywood and the 300 more at local training centers and farms wouldn’t be able to compete at tracks outside the Chicago circuit. The closing of the two racetrack’s backstretches could make as many as 300 of those horses homeless and most headed for “death row.” McCaffrey took a stream of questions from the attentive crowd and was able to clear up several queries. Such as: Is the money in their Horseman’s Bookkeeping Services accounts safe from the bankruptcy proceedings?  “The HGCA is a separate holding company from the racetracks and purse monies are held safely and securely there in segregated accounts.” What about stake payments made to Balmoral or Maywood for 2015 races? “They could end up with the four winning riverboats as part of the $78 million in awarded assets if the bankruptcy judge decides to go in that direction.” Dave alerted horsemen to hold off on those stake payments for right now. Why can’t we race at Hawthorne? "Quite simply, right now Maywood and Balmoral were awarded harness dates for 2015. Legally they are their dates. Unless the Illinois Racing Board changes that, it is not an option. If the IRB revokes or suspends the license of Maywood and Balmoral, we will look at all of our options.” My gut tells me in some shape or another there will be harness racing in Illinois in 2015. It may look very different and it may have some interruptions but we will race.  I’m sure that many horses and their owners hope my gut is right. by Mike Paradise, for IHHA

HINSDALE, IL - The Illinois Harness Horseman's Association (IHHA) will celebrate the lifelong achievements of the Prairie State's finest horsemen at their 2014 Hall of Fame Banquet on Monday, Oct. 13, at the Doubletree Hotel in Alsip, ILL. This reception allows everyone involved in the Illinois harness racing industry to come together to extol the accomplishments of those who have proven their commitment to excellence. Randall Finn has been selected to enter the Harness Hall of Fame this year with more than 3,500 career driving wins and stands as the all-time winningest driver at the Illinois County Fairs. Joining him will be the six-time leading trainer at Maywood Park with 1,767 lifetime wins, David McCaffrey. The underappreciated stars of the sport are the horses. Entering the Hall of Fame this year is "My Boy David," the fastest Illinois-bred of all time with a mark of 1:47.4 and earnings of $1.3 million, and "Thisbigdogwilfight," a 56-time winner over a nine-year career with earnings just under $1 million. Also being honored with special recognition are: Persons of the Year - Mary Lea Jeffers and Adele Jeffers Everett Caretaker of the Year - Sis Arnold Caretaker of the Year - Enrique "Osli" Herrera Lifetime of Dedication - Dick Siegel Lifetime of Dedication - Jim Kennedy The IHHA looks forward to validating these successes on Monday, Oct. 13, at the annual Hall of Fame Dinner at the Doubletree Hotel, 5000 W. 127th (Cicero & 294), Alsip, ILL. (708-371-7300). Tickets are $35 per person. Festivities begin with an open bar from 6-7pm, followed by dinner and awards. Door prizes will be given out throughout the evening. Reservations are required by Oct. 3. For ticket information, please contact Noel at the IHHA office at 630-323-0808 or Brenda Watson at 217-416-3973 or Betsy, the bookkeeper at Balmoral, at 708-672-1414. by Gary Mack, for IHHA    

After a flurry of activity and a hearty debate among the IHHA Board of Directors, WE HAVE AN AGREEMENT ON A CONTRACT!  The length of the contract begins Friday, March 14 and continues through June 30, 2015.  In this 16 month contract, the purse cut will be 10% now and stay at that level through January 4 of 2015.  Then, there will be a 24 day dark period (from Jan. 4 through Jan. 28).  On January 29, 2015 the purses will be cut an additional 15%.  The purse overpayment will increase to the amount equivalent to 35% of recapture (or $2.5 million).  Those purse structures almost certainly will get us to June 30, 2015.  Additionally, Wednesday racing will be eliminated in 2015.  Nobody knows more than I how painful purse cuts are but this deal at least gives us 10 months of a relatively small cut and another six months that are at least spelled out for everyone to see in advance.  The fact of the matter is, in our opinion, this is the best we can do with the dreadful hand we are dealt.  Recapture eats up almost 40% of what we generate and that percentage only grows when our handle declines.  This process has been very frustrating and extremely agonizing.  It took crazy twists and turns and at times looked as though no contract would ever be signed.  In the end, we have 16 months of racing ahead of us and three legislative sessions to possibly be "saved." Everyone knows the story and everyone should understand that the clock on the life of Illinois harness racing is ticking.  In addition, I want to earnestly thank the racetracks, not for their unremitting stubbornness, but for the way they conducted themselves publicly with respect to literature and pronouncements they put forth.  Both sides tried very hard to keep the "warfare decibel level" to a minimum and that kept the process shorter than it otherwise would have taken.  Also, let's not forget that the tracks, to their credit, are extending us an interest free line of credit of $2.5 million.  Finally, a huge thank you to all of the people who texted, called, emailed, etc. and all of the staff and directors of the IHHA.  We used all of those communications as a measuring stick of support and we've been overwhelmed by that unwavering backing. Have a great 16 months of racing! From Dave McCaffrey, President of IHHA

Today, the Illinois Harness Horsemen's Association (IHHA) tried to get a temporary contract to begin racing immediately at Balmoral and Maywood Park. Unfortunately, again we could not agree to terms. We will continue as often as possible to work towards a sensible solution. Discussions between all parties (IHHA, May/Blmp, and Illinois Racing Board) took place with no agreement.  The length of the contract continues to be a major sticking point.  On a separate note, I want to comment on mediation; I hope to clear up some possible misconceptions.  First and foremost, mediation has been mandated by the IRB.  This was a result of negotiations that endlessly unfold like the movie "Groundhog Day."  Almost daily, potential deals progress and then inevitably blow up.  After witnessing these events for the umpteenth time over the weekend, the IRB mandated mediation.  The IHHA happily welcomes the IRB mandate of mediation.  Perhaps, with professional help, a deal can actually make it to the finish line and a deal can be made.  The IHHA proposal to race through the mediation process has been met with a thud.  With $5.5 million in our purse account, there is absolutely no reason in the world that we shouldn't be racing for 2013 purses, IF NOT MORE, during the process. In the meantime, we'll keep trying to make a deal that ensures horse people of racing for their money, preferably in 2014.  From Dave McCaffrey, for IHHA

Hinsdale, IL - For the second week in a row, live harness racing in Illinois has been cancelled because of a contract dispute between the owners of Maywood and Balmoral Park Racetracks and the Illinois Harness Horsemen's Association (IHHA). The central conflict surrounds the question of what rights do the horsemen have in directing their own bank account known in racing as the purse account. "At the core of this dispute is who decides how to spend money that is clearly earmarked for purses, which essentially are paychecks for the people who make horseracing possible." said IHHA President Dave McCaffrey. "Those people are grooms, trainers, drivers, veterinarians, blacksmiths, farmers and breeders. Our purse account currently has over $5 million and we want to start racing for that money." The current impasse exists because the racetracks have proposed an immediate, substantial cut to purses so that purse money can be dribbled out over the next couple of years. The IHHA has countered saying that horsemen would rather race for similar money as in 2013 at least until the end of the next legislative session. "It's very difficult for horsemen to make a living at the current purse levels," said IHHA board member Mike Knicley. "A decrease in purses now will only make it more difficult to stay employed in this industry." The IHHA believes that the very people who provide the horses to race, have a better understanding of the impact that purse levels have on the day to day operations. They say that the racetracks miss the point on the effect that an immediate purse cut will have on the quality of life for horsemen. "It's like cutting someone's hourly rate from $12 to $9," said McCaffrey. "People have to be able to make a living right now. Our money is being held hostage and those purses are paychecks for our families. The bottom line is that the $5 million is our money; we're not asking for increases, just to use our money to add some stability." McCaffrey emphasized that other factors may play a role later in 2014. "Things can change very quickly in Springfield," he said. "We don't know what the legislature will do in the next year, but we do know that hardworking people in racing need to have control of their own money. The question is, do we allow the racetracks to chop purses now so they can race for a couple of more years by having their "labor force," the ones who put on the show, working for miserable wages, or do we race for 2013 purses now and try and maintain a decent existence?" While the future for Illinois horse racing is uncertain, a gambling bill is gaining steam again in the Illinois Legislature. Illinois Governor Pat Quinn has said in the past that once a pension bill is passed, he will be able to turn his attention to gambling expansion. Pension reform legislation was signed by the Governor in December 2013. Illinois horseman can only hope that the much needed relief that a signed gaming bill will bring does not come too late.   submitted by the IHHA

Hinsdale, IL --- After six hours of negotiations (mediated by the Illinois Racing Board), no agreement was reached between Maywood/Balmoral and the IHHA.   The IHHA is trying to lessen the harmful effects of recapture as they relate to purses. We, along with the Illinois Racing Board, will keep trying to come to a compromise through the weekend. Submitted by IHHA

Horsemen left out of legislative session - Tens of thousands of jobs in limbo SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – Over 20,000 Illinois horsemen are unsure about the security of their jobs today after the General Assembly adjourned without acting to extend online horse betting also known as Advance Deposit Wagering (ADW), a key funding source for the Illinois Racing Board. Without that extra funding, the Racing Board will have to dramatically curtail the racing season. “It’s beyond frustrating,” said Illinois Harness Horsmen’s Association President Dave McCaffrey. “Thousands of horsemen are unable to plan for their future. Working men and women, breeders, blacksmiths, trainers – no one in the industry knows if we will begin racing February first, February fifteenth or in July.” The Racing Board needed to come up with almost $800,000 to help plug a hole in their budget. The shortfall is left over from a failure to extend ADW in the 2013 Spring Legislative session. Interests in the horse racing industry, including racetracks, horsemen’s associations and ADW companies were charged by legislators with coming up with a plan that all of the racing industry parties agreed on. The plan that the industry put forward would have solved the problem by imposing a .9 percent surcharge on winning online wagers. The revenue from that surcharge would have funded the Racing Board for two years, while also extending ADW. The proposed surcharge on ADW would still be less than the surcharge imposed on bets placed at the racetrack or an off track betting parlor. “Nearly everyone in the Illinois racing industry supported this plan,” said McCaffrey. “We need Help somehow, from somewhere to settle this issue quickly.” The next scheduled day for legislators to reconvene for session is January 29th 2013, the day before racing typically begins. “Everyone in the horse industry is left in limbo,” said McCaffrey. “How can anyone plan to run a business when they don’t even know if the industry is going to be around? These are people’s lives that are at stake here.” There is some speculation that the General Assembly will come back to Springfield for a special session to pass pension reform in December, however, there is no guarantee that an ADW bill will be called or passed. “Horsemen need to race to make a living and we are doing everything we possibly can to make that happen,” said McCaffrey. “Horsemen are not multimillionaires. We’re talking about blue collar working men and women supporting families.” Andrew Mack  

Hinsdale, IL – The Illinois Harness Horseman’s Association (IHHA) today warned that potentially catastrophic changes to the state’s horseracing industry are on the horizon after September’s Illinois Racing Board (IRB) race dates meeting. Those changes include the shuttering of Maywood Park in the western suburbs and an extensive reduction in racing dates at Balmoral Racetrack in the southern suburbs. In a worst case scenario outlined by the IRB, live harness racing dates would be reduced from the 225 live race days in 2013 to a meager 13 live dates in 2014. “Thousands of horsemen would lose their jobs and have their lives turned upside down under this scenario,” said IHHA President Dave McCaffrey. The Racing Board passed four race date options during their last board meeting with a best case scenario keeping the race dates similar to 2013. The doomsday scenario would occur if the IRB does not receive $725,000 in supplemental funding from the state and an extension of Advance Deposit Wagering (ADW) byJanuary 31 2014. “Harness racing in Illinois and all of the agribusiness associated with it would virtually cease to exist,” said McCaffrey. “Horsemen cannot make a living on 13 race dates per year. And neither can veterinarians, blacksmiths, breeders, grooms, hay farmers or truck and trailer salesmen.” Under the first and best case scenario, the IRB will receive $725,000 in “supplemental funding” and ADW will be renewed by January 31. The supplemental funding is required, says the IRB, to make up for a funding shortfall experienced earlier in 2013 when the General Assembly failed to extend ADW which allows online horse wagering. The IRB receives a substantial amount of revenue from ADW taxes. The General Assembly eventually passed an ADW extension in May of this year but it is set to expire again at the beginning of 2014. Scenario one would basically keep harness racing the same as it currently is. Maywood Park would host live races two nights per week from February 5 to December 31 and Balmoral would host races three nights per week from February 4 to December 31.   In scenario two, ADW would be renewed by January 31 but no supplemental funding would be provided for the IRB. This second option would allow Maywood to race two nights per week from February 19 to December 31.  Balmoral would race two nights per week from February 15 to December 31.   Under scenario three, the IRB would receive the $750,000 supplemental funding but no ADW extension would be passed.   The third option would close Maywood to live racing.  Balmoral would race only two nights per week on Friday and Saturday starting on February 15 and ending on December 1.    The fourth scenario is by far the worst and would happen if the IRB receives no supplemental funding and ADW is not renewed.   Scenario four would virtually end harness racing in Illinois allowing zero Maywood races and a meager 13 race nights at Balmoral in July, August, and September.   “We plan to work with the IRB and the legislature to find adequate funding to retain the tens of thousands of agriculture jobs that the horse racing industry provides to Illinois,” said McCaffrey. “We know that the Governor and General Assembly understand the tremendous value that horse racing provides to Illinois’ economy as a major agribusiness driver. Without a solution, there will be a lot of new people filing for unemployment.” The IHHA is also hopeful that the General Assembly will find the will to finally pass legislation allowing slots at racetracks during the fall veto session. To the tremendous detriment of Illinois racing, other states have allowed slot machines at racetracks drawing bettors, horsemen and horses away from Illinois to greener pastures. “We are definitely at a crossroads,” said McCaffrey. “The General Assembly has the power to save horseracing and the thousands of jobs and millions of dollars that it injects into Illinois’ economy, or they can let another major industry move to other states where it is allowed be successful.” Perhaps the only bright spot of the Racing Board hearing was the order handed down for racetracks to keep their backstretches open and operational under scenarios one and two.  Of course that victory would be eliminated if an ADW bill is not passed.   Illinois’ Veto Session begins October 22. Andrew Mack  

Racing resumes at the Springfield State Fair Monday afternoon and coming in from the east coast is the hometown driver Marcus Miller who left for Pennsylvania earlier this year. The 24-year-old Miller will be guiding D R Van Witzenburg’s filly Ideal Helen away from post one in the $26,500 fifth race Review Stake for the Erv Miller Stable. “I’m excited to be coming back to Illinois,” said Marcus when I called him over this past weekend. “I’ll stay with the family until the meeting his over Thursday afternoon and then head back to Pennsylvania. “I’m driving on Balmoral’s Wednesday card as well. Dad (Erv Miller) has some trotters going in their series that I’m familiar with just as I am with Ideal Helen. I drove her number of times at the Meadowlands. She’s got speed. She just had some bad racing luck in her last couple of starts there. Marcus grew up Sherman, Illinois not far away from the state capitol fairgrounds. “I’ve been coming to the Springfield meeting as far back as I can remember,” said Miller. “I was hoping to make it back again for this year and it worked out that I could.” I asked Marcus if he was being pushed in a stroller around the fairgrounds when he first came to the State Fair meeting at Springfield meet. “I probably started coming to the meet even before that,” he replied laughing. “I was probably being carried around the grounds by my mother when I was still a baby.” With only five starters in the Review stake for 2-year-old pacing fillies there will be no Show wagering. Ideal Angel opens as the 3-1 second choice behind the Nelson Willis trained Marzy Bearzy, winner of her last two starts at Balmoral, the latest in 1:54.1 for the Marty (Engel) Stable of Buffalo Grove, Illinois. The $20,000 Little Pat (seventh race) also has five betting interests—Keith’s Studio Art (2-1), Theindecentlawyer (4-1), Gator Boy (8-1), Call Me Muddy (10-1) and the Watson family owned entry of Independent Dude and Whatwillhebe at 3-1. Only Win and Exacta wagering will be offered on the stake for open company freshman pacing colts and geldings. Mike’s Springfield Selections Monday Afternoon, August 12 1—I’m A Pop Star, Domitian Hall, The Swan Song 2—Romantic Legacy, Cranberry Muffler, Queen Beatrice 3—Vacation’s Pride, Chantilly Hall, Dancing Dynamite 4—Morgan’s Majestic, Missy’s Misfit, Lucious Lady 5—Marzy Bearzy, Ideal Helen, Hello My Dream 6—Fox Valley Camo, Show Stoppin Monkey, Powerful Valor 7—Keiths Studio Art, Theindecentlawyer, Whatwillbe 8—High Stepper, Elegant Rosie, Dreaming Of Lori 9—Lostintheshuffle, H-Andharleythejet, Loberal Best Bet: Morgan’s Majestic (4th race) Mike Paradise The Illinois Harness Horsemen's Association

The Champion On Ice Trotting Series has always proven to be popular with horsemen and it’s no different this time around. A sizable 28 horses passed the entry box for Wednesday’s opening round at Balmoral Park, necessitating three harness racing divisions. Local based horses will be challenged by trotters, mostly youngsters, who have come in from out-east tracks in Pennsylvania and New York, to Midwest facilities in Indiana, Michigan and Minnesota, as well as County Fair tracks. Springfield based trainer Mike Brink has a threat in each of the three splits with Dave Magee driving all three. There’s Nidaros  a $50,000 yearling buy as a yearling in the opener, Jailhouse Rockn a Hoosier Park invader who got her maiden win in 2:00.2 less than two weeks ago in the second, and Justice And Fifth, a son of Justice Hall who was a 1:58.4 victor in Indiana on July 25, Eligible to Champion On Ice Series are trotting colts and geldings with a victory as of July23. Fillies are mares are allowed one won by the same date. A second series round will be contested next Wednesday, the 14th, with the $9,000 (est.) Final slated for Wednesday, August 21. Dirk Simpson, another Springfield based conditioner, has a pair of Champion On Ice hopefuls with I’m A Pop Star (Todd Warren) in race one and Chantilly Hall (he’ll drive) in race three. Both three-year-old fillies didn’t come cheap at yearling sales. I’m A Pop Star sold for $40,000 when her name was Muscany Valley, while Chantilly Hall was a $32,000 purchase. The second division morning line 5-2 favorite is the ICF filly Fox Valley Roxy (Dean Magee) fresh off a 2:00.1 victory. I expect Homer Hochstetler Stable’s Emoticon, who has been campaigning in upstate New York at Vernon Down to go off much lower than his listed program odds of 12-1. The son of Conway Hall was unraced at two after being bought for $37,000 at the 2011 Lexington Select Sale and lands the one-slot for his return to Balmoral.. Third division programmed second choice at 9-2 is We’ve Got It All (Mike Oosting) sold at the same Kentucky sale for $97,000 to the trio Paymaq Racing (Long Grove, IL), Peggy Hood (Valparaiso, IN) and Canadian Greg Gillis. Unraced as a 2-year-old, this year the Yankee Glide filly was winless in her first seven starts out east, campaigning mostly at Pocono Downs. Note that she’s raced with trotting hobbles in her last two starts when she was timed in 1:56.3 and 1:57.3 with fifth place finishes. Springfield Opens: A double-draw for the Springfield State Fair cards of Friday, August 8 and Saturday, August 9 took place this Tuesday morning at Maywood Park.  Most of Friday’s opening program will be filled with Illinois State Fair Colt Stakes elimination races. The 2 and 3-year-old ICF championships for both pacers and trotters will be conducted next Thursday, August 15, the final day of racing at Springfield. County Fair Report LOGAN COUNTY FAIR at LINCOLN     Saturday Afternoon August 3 Results FIRST: Downstate Classic Two-Year-Old Filly Pace, 1st Div, Purse $5,738: Horse (Driver)                                                           Time (Track Fast) Fox Valley Shiver (Freddie Patton Jr.)                             2:00 Trainer: Freddie Patton Jr. Owners: Peter Karras, Thomas Spathies and William Tortoriello. SECOND: Downstate Classic Two-Year-Old Filly Pace, 2nd Div, Purse $5,738: Kiss This Perch (J D Finn)                                                 2:02.1 Trainer: J D Finn.  Owner: Sharon Finn. THIRD: Downstate Classic Two-Year-Old Colt Pace, 1st Div, Purse $6,302: Marty Rocker (Ronnie Gillespie)                                       2:00 Trainer: Ronnie Gillespie. Owners: Ron Phillips, John Carver and Jesse Ferge. FOURTH: Downstate Classic Two-Year-Old Colt Pace, 2nd Div, Purse $6,302: Manny”s Z Tam (Rick Schrock)                                         2:02 Trainer: Dave Mc Caffrey. Owners: Z Tam Stables, Michael Polansky, Joseph McCaffrey and David McCaffrey. FIFTH: Downstate Classic Two-Year-Old Filly Trot, 1st Div, Purse $5,630: S V Spirit (Todd Warren)                                                     2:07.2 Trainer: Roger Welch, Owners: William De Long and Wm. Patrick De Long. SIXTH: Downstate Classic Two-Year-Old Filly Trot, 2nd Div, Purse $5,630: Say No Mo (Dirk Simpson)                                                 2:06 Trainer: Dirk Simpson. Owners: Dr. Patrick Graham, Flacco Family Farms and Dirk Simpson Stable. SEVENTH: Downstate Classic Two-Year-Old Colt Trot, 1st Div, Purse $5,374: Finnster (J D Finn)                                                              2:06 Trainer: J D Finn. Owner: J D Finn and Allison Finn. EIGHTH: Downstate Classic Two-Year-Old Colt Trot, 1st Div, Purse $5,374: Gray N Cloudy (Dirk Simpson) Trainer: Dirk Simpson. Owners: Sam Daddono, Dr. Patrick Graham, Dirk Simpson and Simpson Racing Stables. EFFINGHAM COUNTY FAIR AT ALTAMONT    Sunday Afternoon, August 4 FIRST: Big 10 Three-Year-Old Filly Trot, Purse $3,173: Horse (Driver)                                               Time (Track Fast) High Stepper (JD Finn)                                          2:05.3 Trainer: J D Finn. Owners: Mary Jeffers and Adele Everett. SECOND: Big 10 Three-Year-Old Colt Trot, Purse $3,341: Powerful Valor (Jared Finn)                                  2:05.1 Trainer: J D Finn. Owner: Hinshaw Homestead Farms. THIRD: Big 10 Two-Year-Old Filly Pace, Purse $3,574: M A Duty (Ronnie Gillespie)                                  2:05.1 Trainer: Ronnie Gillespie. Owners: Ron Phillips, John Carver and Jesse Ferge. FOURTH: Big 10 Two-Year-Old Colt Pace, Purse $3,597: Tower Power (Freddie Patton Jr.)                         2:04.4 Trainer: Freddie Patton Jr. Owner: Marvin Kendrick. FIFTH: ICF Four-Year-Olds & Up Male Pace, Purse $3,500: T J’s April Angel (Ronnie Gillespie)                     2:02.2 Trainer: Roshun Trigg. Owner: Roshun Trigg. SIXTH: ICF Four-Year-Olds & Up Mare Pace, Purse $3,500: Fox Valley Barbosa (Jared Finn)                          2:03.2 Trainer: Ray Hanna. Owners: Ray Hanna and Jim Edgar. SEVENTH: Free For All Trot, 1st Div, Purse $1,250: LW Jaynie Flyer (Cassidy Melloy)                                    2:03.4 Trainer: Cassidy Melloy. Owner: Cassidy Melloy. EIGHTH: Free For All Trot, 2nd Div, Purse $1,250: He’s Lucky (Kyle Husted)                                       2:03.4 Trainer: Pamela Coleman. Owners: Horseman’s Financial Agency and Premier Racing Stables.  EFFINGHAM COUNTY FAIR AT ALTAMONT    Monday Afternoon, August 5 FIRST: Big 10 Two-Year-Old Trot, Purse $6,104: Horse (Driver)                                               Time (Track Fast) Bessiebearcat (Eric Collier)                                   2:12 Trainer: Delbert Burkett. Owners: Delbert Burkett and Eric Collier. SECOND: Big 10 Three-Year-Old Filly Pace, Purse $3,329: Queen Beatrice (Darla Martin)                              2:02 Trainer: David Lohman. Owners: Fred and David Lohman. THIRD: Big 10 Three-Year-Old Colt Pace, Purse $3,574: Party Cove (Tom Simmons)                                   2:01.3 Trainer: Tom Simmons. Owners: Beat Seales and Dennis Beccue. FOURTH: Filly and Mare Open Pace, 1st Div, Purse $1,000: Wild Berry Muffler (J D Finn)                                 2:04.2 Trainer: J D Finn. Owner: Catherine and Ritzel. FIFTH: Filly and Mare Open Pace, 2nd Div, Purse $1,000: Prosper (Kyle Husted)                                             2:01 Trainer: Pamela Coleman. Owner: Fair Meadow Farm. WILLIAMSON COUNTY FAIR AT MARION   Monday Afternoon, August 5 FIRST: ECS Two-Year-Old Pace, Purse $6,204: Horse (Driver)                                               Time (Track Fast) Syd’s Lollipop (Freddie Patton Jr.)                        2:05 Trainer: Freddie Patton Jr. Owner: Perry Tillman Jr. SECOND: ECS Two-Year-Old Filly Trot, Purse $3,202: Bands Giant Star (Freddie Patton Jr.)                  2:12.1 Trainer: Freddie Patton Jr. Owner: Flacco Family Farms. THIRD: ECS Two-Year-Old Colt Trot, Purse $3,212: Battleshoe King (Buddy Simpson)                                   2:12 Trainer: Buddy Simpson. Owners: Buddy and Clay Simpson. FOURTH: Non-Winners of $1,500 Lifetime, 1st Div, Purse $600: Wings (Merle Finn)                                                  2:08.4 Trainer: Merle Finn Jr. Owner: Merle Finn Jr. FIFTH: Non-Winners of $1,500 Lifetime, 2nd Div, Purse $600: Dusty Dunes (H. Joe Haught)                               2:09 Trainer: H. Joe Haught. Owner: H. Joe Haught. SIXTH: Free For All Trot, Purse $800: Elmar (E. Leroy Moore)                                           2:08.4 Trainer: E. Leroy Moore. Owner: E. Leroy Moore. SEVENTH: Non-Winners of $3,500 Lifetime Pace, Purse $800: Lion Of Judah (H. Joe Haught)                             2:08.1 Trainer: H. Joe Haught. Owner: Thomas Throgmorton. By Mike Paradise The Illinois Harness Horsemen's Association

The $45,000 Fox Valley Evita stake for ICF 3-year-old trotting fillies is all by its lonesome on Sunday night’s card. While the other five championships for 2 and 3-year-old state-bred pacers and trotters got a lot of hoopa on last night’s Southland Festival of Racing somehow this stake final for filly trotters was designated on a Sunday program where probably less than half of last night’s card will be in attendance. I’m not sure why. Yes there are only five betting interests but there were only six in last night’s Kadabra Championship and that had a three-horse entry, without Place or Show betting, that went off at odds of 1-9 with King Mufasa and the gang finishing 1-2-3. If a feature was needed for Sunday, why couldn’t the Invite have be moved from Saturday. If that’s too good of a betting race how about the high-level conditioned event for fillies and mares that followed. Saturday could have had both trot Finals as the Daily Double. Let the fans double their money on the wager going into the third race and let the owners and trainers of ICF 3-year-old trotting fillies enjoy the same festive evening as the owners and horsemen of the other state-bred stakes for young horses. Sunday’s “Evita” has the Robert Taylor trained entry (and he’s also a co-owner) of Just For Fun (p.p. 1, Casey Leonard) and Little Ms Chrissy (p.p. 6, Taylor) as the 3-2 first flash favorites. Last year’s freshman champion Trot Fudge Sundae (p.p. 2, Dave Magee) is next at 3-1. Nick Prather’s Divination (p.p. 5, Mike Oosting) follows at 7-2 and longshots Kelsey’s Star (6-1, Dean Magee) American Empress (8-1, Matt Krueger). Conspicuous by her absence is Todd Warren’s Sara The Spy, winner of a Betzotic ICF stake earlier and the runner-up in the Violet and the July 3 Sorce Ann stakes. Before being sold to Warren Sara The Spy wasn’t nominated to the Fox Valley Evita. There is no Showing wagering on the second race sophomore stake which begins the track’s 50 cent Pick 5 wager with a guaranteed pool of $15,000. Double O Sizzles: Mike Oosting came back from his brief one week vacation red-hot with his own version of Saturday Night Fever by driving seven winners last night including 4 of the 5 ICF stake finals on Balmoral’s Southland Festival of Racing Night. Mike brought home King Mufasa in the Kadabra, Thesleazyprincess in the Loyal Opposition, PQ Three in the Mini Me, and Auniqueaquisition in the Ann Vonian. The Michigan native was second with the 16-1 longshot Sage Rush behind Big Brad and driver Bobby Smolin in the Incredible Finale. Oosting also won the Mini Me Consolation with One Sure Apache and later on the night posted victories with Park Lane Hotshot and Fox Valley Malone in races 11 and 13. Mike Paradise The Illinois Harness Horsemen's Association

Balmoral Park hosts its annual Southland Festival of Racing on Saturday evening with five ICF stake championships to be decided. The $51,500 Kadabra for 3-year-old trotting colts and geldings was moved to the second race to kick off the track’s Pick 5 which, at least on paper, looks more like a Pick 4 with the powerhouse entry of King Mufasa, Skyline Road and Powerful Poe. King Mufasa has been dominant, breezing to victories in his last four races that included a Hanover and a career fastest 1:54.1 mile two weeks ago and he wasn’t urged to go any faster. “I don’t know how fast he can go,” said King Mufasa’s trainer Mike Brink. “Mike (driver Oosting) told me he never pulled the earplugs in his last start when the horse went in 54. All I can say is that he’s a very nice trotter and that we haven’t found his bottom yet.” “King Mufasa is loaded with talent,” added Oosting. “Mike (Brink) has done a wonderful job with the horse. Last year he was uncontrollable. Now you can do anything you want with him.” Powerful Poe, the runner-up to King Mufasa in the Hanover, went to Michigan earlier this month and was second in hazel park’s $100,000 Connors championship. Regular driver Todd Warren made the trip to drive the Dirk Simpson trainee with over $210,000 on his card in one and a half seasons of racing. While the morning line on the Kadabra has King Mufasa and friends is at 6-5, anything over 2-5 odds would be a gift for the entry supporters. Saturday’s $60,000 Ann Vonian Final Auniqueaquisition (programmed 5-2) and Aliyah Maria (3-1) square off for the fifth time this year with the each filly beating the other twice. Aliyah Maria beat her when the Roger Welch trainee took the Violet title back in May. Auniqueaquisition handled open company fillies in a Hanover, a stake Aliyah Maria wasn’t eligible to. “Donna (trainer Lee Ozment) has just done a heck of a job with Aquiqueaquisiton,” said her driver Oosting “Last year the filly didn’t always want to finish but this year that’s not a problem. “She and Todd Warren’s horse (Aliyah Maria) look like the best in their division. They’ve beaten each other and they figure to battle that way all through the rest of the year.” The other Southland Festival of Racing ICF showdowns are the $65,000 Loyal Opposition for freshman pacing fillies, the $63,500 Mini Me for 2-year-old male pacers and the $59,000 Incredible Finale for second season pacing colts and geldings. By Mike Paradise The Illinois Harness Horsemen's Association

Almost half of Saturday’s 13-race card at Balmoral are ICF stake elimination races to decide the finalists for next weekend’s Southland Festival of Racing program. A fifth place finish or higher is needed on Saturday to advance to gain the ICF finals of the $65,000 Loyal Opposition for 2-year-old ICF fillies, the $65,500 Mini Me for freshman pacing colts and geldings and the $59,000 Incredible Finale for second season male pacers. The fifth race first division of the Incredible Finale came up strong with Cardinal champion Fancy Creek Elusive (programmed 3-1, Dave Magee), Hanover winner Mystical Walter (2-1, Casey Leonard) and last year’s freshman division titleholder Fox Valley Action (9-2, Todd Warren) all squaring off. They’ll be challenged by Monopoly Man (6-1, John De Long), Sage Ruck (6-1, Mike Oosting), Colechester (12-1, Dave Magee) and Bazooka (10-1, Kyle Wilfong. Only two of the seven starters will be eliminated. The second Incredible Finale split is headed up by the Cardinal runner-up Crankin’ It Up (5-2, Kyle Wilfong) and four-time season winner Big Brad (9-2, Bobby Smolin), second best to Latest Desire in last week’s Hanover open stake. Also looking for a berth in the final are Darth Quaider (9-2, Mike Oosting), Fox Valley Norman (6-1, John De Long), Silver Devil (6-1, Jamaica Patton), Mr Three Quarters (12-1, Casey Leonard, Kostas Wine (10-1, Dave Magee) and Sweet Water Jack (20-1, Brian Carpenter). As expected, eliminations were not necessary for either of the ICF 3-year-old trotting stakes. In fact only six horses—American Empress, Divination, Just For Fun, Kelsey’s Star, Little Ms Chrissy and Trot Fudge Sundae—will compete in the $45,000 Fox Valley Evita Final for fillies. The reigning colt division leader King Mufasa has eight challengers in the $51,500 Kadabra Championship: Fox Valley Camo, Fox Valley Dubai, Fox Valley Legend, Powerful Mel, Powerful Poe, Semper Fit, Showstopin Monkey and Skyline Road. Saturday I’ll highlight the ICF two-year-old stake eliminations for the Loyal Opposition for the gals and the Mini Me for the guys. By Mike Paradise The Illinois Harness Horsemen's Association

The year was 1971 when, shown in the photo below, driver-trainer Bruce Nickells was all smiles in the Maywood Park winner’s circle after guiding his star pacer Kentucky to a record-breaking mile of 1:58.4 in a second round division of the $120,000 Maywood Pacing Series. Joining Nickells in the winner’s that Friday night was (left) Arthur Galt Jr., president of Maywood Park and (right) executive vice-president Sid Anton. That same year Kentucky won an $20,800 elimination of the American National Maturity Pace at old Sportsman’s Park in 1:59.2 and then came back that same night to capture the $62,400 Final with Nickells in 2:00.3. Kentucky will always be remembered by veteran Chicago circuit racing fans as the horse who pushed Albatross to his world record 1:54.2 mile a year later on the old five-eighths mile track when he finished second behind the horse that paced “the fastest harness race of all-time” on July 2, 1972. Kentucky ended his racing career with $497,270 in purse earnings for his owners Quaker City Stable of Salem, Ohio. By Mike Paradise The Illinois Harness Horsemen's Association.

Wednesday’s first race at Balmoral Park for ICF 2-year-old trotters of both sexes is a prep event for the upcoming Fox Valley Flan and Plesac freshmen stakes. The $10,000 eliminations of each of those freshman stakes will be contested a week from Wednesday, July 24, with the $50,000 (estimated) Finals the following Wednesday (July 31). Recent state-bred stakes winners Vienna (Vaporize with Kyle Wilfong) and S V Spirit (Betzotic with Todd Warren) will open as the 3-1 and 7-2 early favorites, respectively. Coming up this weekend are eliminations for six more ICF stakes. The Loyal Opposition and Mini Me for 2-year-old filly and colt pacers, respectively, the Ann Vonian and Incredible Finale for 3-year-old pacers, and the Kadabra for sophomore male trotters, will go, if necessary on Saturday. Eliminations for the Fox Valley Evita for ICF filly second season trotters, if needed, will be raced Sunday. Estimated purses, according to the Balmoral Conditioned Sheet, for the finals are: Mini Me $60,000, Loyal Opposition $60,000, Incredible Finale $57,000, Ann Vonian $58,000, Kadabra $50,000 and $46,000 for the Fox Valley Evita.  . . . Casey Leonard continues to close-in on the 1,000 plateau for driving victories. The Harvard, Illinois native is at 982 going into Wednesday’s card.   . . . Mike Oosting followed his six winner night last Thursday at Maywood with four more on Friday evening and another four Saturday at Balmoral.. The veteran Michigan native has 277 dash winners this season after last weekend putting him in the Top 10 nationally.  . . . . Lady Laker’s victory with Oostingn Saturday’s $35,000 trot was in 1:54 flat, equaling the track record for a 3-year-old trotting filly first set by Armbro Temple in 2000 and then tied 10 years later by Springtime Volo. . . . King Mufasa’s 1:54.1 winning mile in Sunday’s Brandenburg was only 3/5’s of a second of the Balmoral track record fort a 3-year-old trotting gelding. Both Before he Cheats (2007) and Southern Rocketop (2009) won in 1:53.3. . . . Oosting is winning at over a 19 per cent clip this season at Balmoral where he’s over 40 dash winners ahead of runner-up Casey Leonard. It’s a lot closer at Maywood. While Mike has an even higher winning percentage of 22.8 Casey is only 12 winners behind, winning over 18 per cent of the time.  . . . Our County Fair Circuit is in full swing. Racing shifts today (Tuesday) and Wednesday to the DeWitt County Fair at Farmer City and Thursday and Friday at the Menard County Fair at Petersburg. By Mike Paradise The Illinois Harness Horsemen's Association

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