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STICKNEY, IL - Thursday night at Hawthorne featured the final in the Dygert Trotting Series. The series was for harness racing colts, horses, and geldings that were non-winners of three pari-mutuel races or $15,000 lifetime as of December 1, 2015. The first two legs of the series were dominated by Topville Avatar as he won both legs by daylight. The final would be no different. From the outside, Riet's Kid left early and rushed to the front. Second choice Maple Grove Joe had settled in fourth while the 1-5 favorite, Topville Avatar sat sixth early on. Coming off the turn, Maple Grove Joe tipped three wide to rally up to the lead while Topville Avatar and driver Dale Hiteman quickly moved behind that one. In the final sixteenth, Topville Avatar took command and went on to win in a lifetime best 1:57.2. Maple Grove Joe finished second, All About Cowboys was third. Topville Avatar is owned by Paula Smith and James Runyan and trained by Joel Smith. Jim Miller  

Looking to bring his sophomore season to a close the same way that he started his second season James & Teri Blackman's Dixie's Boy came flying through the open stretch to post an impressive neck decision over six other ICF harness racing sophomore's in Saturday's $8,060 Xpressbet Stake at Balmoral Park. The final time was 1:54.2 over the sloppy going.   Reserved through the early stages of the race by driver Casey Leonard as Earndawg (Ridge Warren) zipped through splits of 28.4, 57.3 & 1:25.3 Leonard moved the gelded son of Duneside Perch--Dingy's Model into the outer flow as the field neared the top of the stretch.   Fit, fresh and loaded with pace, Leonard then maneuvered the Joel Smith trainee towards the inside where he spotted a seam along the pylons as the field hit the open stretch. With clear sailing in front of them Dixie's Boy quickly swallowed up the pace-setter with 100 yards to go and began to draw clear in the shadow of the wire to notch his second straight win here and his seventh win in 29 starts this year. Earndawg was forced to settle for the runner-up role on this night while Lucpark (Mike Oosting) rallied late to get the show dough.   After a quick start to his sophomore season then a bit of a "summer lull" Dixie's Boy now boasts career numbers of eight wins, five seconds and eight thirds in 36 starts with earnings of more than $55,000.   Sent off as a close second choice in the wagering Dixie's Boy returned $6.80, $4.00 & $3.20.   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

Sophomore pacing colts kicked off Saturday's harness racing stake action at Balmoral Park with a field of seven lined up behind the gate for the $8,000 Betzotic Stake. This battle wound up being nothing more than a stroll in the park for James & Teri Blackmon's Dixie's Boy as he posted a decisive 3 ¾ length front stepping score in 1:54.4 over the "good" surface.   Getting away fourth as Dakota Roadster (Robert Smolin) led the field through an opening quarter in a pedestrian 30.0 driver Casey Leonard moved Dixie's Boy to the front as the field settled onto the backstretch.   Gliding along comfortably on the lead through middle splits of 59.2 & 1:27.2 the gelded son of Duneside Perch--Dingy's Model had plenty in reserve for the stretch drive, cruising home untouched in 26.4 to secure his fourth career win in start number 17. Last year's divisional leader Earndawg (Todd Warren) finished up well to edge Dakota Roadster in a tight photo for the place money.   The Joel Smith trained bay returned $8.40, $3.80 & $3.00 while upping his career bankroll to $19,814.   Older pacers were next on the docket as a field of six veterans renewed acquaintances in the $14,000 Rambling Willie Stake.   As he's done so many times over the years James Behrendt's Ice Scraper managed to get loose on the lead and there was no catching the speedball on this night as he reported home with a three-quarters of a length victory in a snappy 1:50.0 on the wet chilly evening.   Gunned to the front by Brian Carpenter the six-year-old son of Yankee Skyscaper rattled off splits of 26.3, 55.2 & 1:22.1 while going along unchallenged on the "engine".   After widening his advantage at the top of the stretch the Mike Brown trainee gamely dug in through the lane, sealing the deal with a 27.4 final panel to post his fourth victory of the season. Big Brad (Robert Smolin) rallied nicely to finish second while the pocket sitting FortSilky (Casey Leonard) was forced to settle for the show dough.   The win was the 26th of this gelding's illustrious career and with Saturday's payday Ice Scraper now boasts career earnings of almost $310,000. The third choice in the wagering in his return to the local scene Ice Scraper returned $7.80, $3.60 & $2.60 to his backers.   A number of last season's top freshmen pacing fillies were also in action on Saturday night's third race.   Renewing the rivalry they established last season Kay Willis's Lex wound up getting the best of last season's champ Mr Leland's Filly, posting a 4 ½ length wire to wire victory in 1:53.0 over a track listed as good. The win was the fifth in 11 career starts for the Nelson Willis trained miss. Mr Leyland's Filly was a late charging second while Galley Wench was third in this prep.   Live racing continues on Sunday, April 26th, at BalmoralPark with a 10-race card getting underway at 7:10 p.m. (central). Sunday's $1 Pick 4 features a guaranteed pool of $25,000. The state-bred stakes action will also continue on Sunday with a field of seven sophomore trotting fillies slugging it out in the $8,000 Koochie Stake which goes as race two.   Tom Kelley      

The harness racing industry is filled with its up and downs, especially with its horses. Such was the case with the Joel Smith Stable’s Kennan’s Max, a world record holder in 2002 as a 2-year-old and the runner-away winner of his ICF freshman trotting male division. However, three starts into his 3-year-old campaign the homebred son of Vaporize out of the broodmare Lake Hills Suzanne was basically done racing for Smith, his Indiana owners Phil Wiley and Ken Spurlock, who bred the champion Illinois trotter with Erich Boehm of West Palm Beach, Florida. Kennan’s Max had an outstanding 2-year-old season, sweeping Springfield where he set a world record for a 2-year-old trotting geldings with a 1:55.3 clock in the $60,000 Final and it came in just his third career start. “I remember that day very vividly,” said Joel. Kennan’s Max finished five-plus length ahead of Customize, who would become his chief ICF freshman rival. Kennan’s Max also captured Balmoral’s $130,000 Lincoln Land Final with his regular driver Jason Dillander, again by more than 5 lengths over Customize in mid-September. A week later “Max” breezed in the $25,000 Darn Safe at Du Quoin. In the $54,000 Cardinal Championship at Maywood Park Customize gave Kennan’s Max all he could handle. A nose decision went to ‘Max’ and Dillander over Customize and Dave Magee. A triumph in Balmoral’s $35,500 Sarah Myers stake followed for Kennan’s Max who was third in the $150,000 American National behind the winner Cantab Hall, the Illinois bred trotter’s final race of the 2002 freshman season. “Kennan’s Max owners staked the horse to just about everything as a 3-year-old except the Hambletionian,” continued Joel. The trotter’s schedule that year could have had Kennan’s Max going in such prestigious open company stakes as the Stanley Dancer, World Trotting Derby, Bluegrass and Breeders Crown. Nevertheless Kennan’s Max sophomore season ended not very long after it began. “The horse dropped a back suspensory in his third start back as a 3-year-old and was pretty much finished after that”, said Joel. “We brought him back as a 4-year-old and tried to race him a couple of times but that didn’t work out.” Kennan’s Max made an even $180,000 in 16 career starts with all but $1,650 coming as a 2-year-old. “Max is still running out here in the field at my farm,” said Joel. “And he has company. My old pacer Master Mark Grace is running along with him.” Now there’s another name that stirs up some great looking back memories, especially for Cubs fans. By Mike Paradise

Veteran trainer Joel Smith is watching his late-season plans for his star ICF 3-year-old filly pacer Fox Valley Amanda fall apart and there isn’t anything the Illinois Harness Hall of Famer can do about it. After picking up a fifth place check on Windy City Pace Night in the Cinderella, Smith had his sights set for Fox Valley Amanda in the Giggles The Clown stake two weeks later at Maywood , followed by another $10,000 stake for state-bred 3-year-old pacing fillies this Friday. Smith struck out on the Giggles The Clown. It was canceled by the Race Office because of “insufficient entries.” It’s likely he’ll also swing and a miss on next Friday’s schedule Betzotic, also for state-bred sophomore fillies. “I plan is to enter Fox Valley Amanda in next week’s filly stake at Maywood but these stakes haven’t been filling. The tracks have dropped a couple of stake races lately. I don’t know what happen to all the 3-year-old ICF fillies. I know a few are in the Harrisburg sale.” I reminded Joel that it’s not just the 3-year-old filly stakes that have been dumped by Maywood. The $25,000 Associates for older horses and last week a $10,000 Betzotic for second season trotters also was abandoned instead of carded as non-wagering races. “Yea I know because I entered by 3-year-old trotter Cardinal Wind in last week’s stake that also didn’t fill and hasn’t been re-scheduled,” Joel replied. Fox Valley Amanda is the 9-2 third choice in Friday’s 11th race, Maywood’s highest level conditioned pace for non-winners of $9,500 in their last 5 starts or non-winners of 7 races lifetime. “I have to race Amanda somewhere and the cheapest was Friday at Maywood. She’s in against older and more seasoned mares but I didn’t really have a choice. Either she got another week off or she races Friday against older mares.” I asked Joel what’s the future plans for Fox Valley Amanda, the winner of this year’s $89,000 Maywood Filly Pace. “I going to continue to race Fox Valley Amanda here in Illinois for a little while longer but I’ll then probably put her in the Meadowlands Sale,” he answered. “That’s where I’ll have to go with her because there isn’t any place to race here in Illinois. “I recently sold one of my other horses because people at Yonkers are calling and looking for good young horses to race there and Amanda gets around a half real well. She might bring a decent sale price.” Scheduled to be put on the market at the Harrisburg Sale are ICF 3-year-old filly pacers My Little Bit and Party Hangover Two. Among Illinois bred colt and gelding pacers auctioned off are A Cool Card, Uncle Ugly, Mystical Walter, Rockin Rumble and Photo Surprise. by Mike Paradise, for IHHA

The 5-year-old Sportsmaster mare Shez A Swift lately has been a very popular horse with both the betting public and the horsemen. The mare has been the favorite in her last five starts at Maywood Park and she’s won her last four outings and was claimed in each of those victories   Tonight Shez A Swift debuts in the third race for her newest owner Missel Garcia of Crete, IL after his trainer Harold Guerra claimed the mare a week ago. She was also claimed in her previous three winning starts.   The 9-5 programmed favorite has nailed down 11 wins this year, all at Maywood. Shez A Swift is looking for her 20th career victory in her 64th career start, with most coming at Maywood.   Shez a Swift was a $29,000 purchase as a yearling at the 2011 Walker Sale by the Joel Smith Stable and made two unsuccessful starts at Balmoral as a 2-year-old. Joel raced the filly as a 3-year-old 36 times with 22 of those at Maywood Park where she chalked up 6 of her 7 victories in 2013.   Smith started the mare 9 times this year at Maywood where she won twice before she was taken over by trainer Matt McKenzie. After dropping her first five decisions for her new barn, Shez A Swift started winning on a regular basis, taking 6 of 8 starts for the stable before she was claimed on August 21 for $4,000 by trainer Perry Smith.   One week later the mare won for Smith however he lost her in a $4,000 claimer to trainer Ronnie Roberts. Naturally she also won for Ronnie but she was re-claimed by McKenzie in that Sept. 5 triumph. Last week Shez A Swift got her nose in front to make it four in a row, all with Todd Warren driving, when Herrera decided to claim her.   The mare has got to be wondering which way she’s headed after tonight’s third race. My guess is in another different direction once again.    Favorites Fall: The first 2 of 10 American National stakes to be contested this season at Balmoral were raced last night and the public choices both went down to defeat.   The $57,200 filly division of a pair of 2-year-old trots saw Homer Hochstetler’s Persuasive Look ($10.20) rally past with Casey Leonard to post a 1:58 victory, a half-length ahead of Jazzie Mermaid.   The front-stepping 3-5 favorite Fox Valley Yoko weakened in the late going and ended up third, beaten two lengths.   The $73,000 American National for freshman colts and geldings saw the winner’s share of the purse leave town when Iron ($13.00), given a perfect pocket trip by Dominico Cerere, got his head in front at the end of another 1:58 mile, this one for trainer Frank Antonacci and his east coast owners.   SS Poseidon, who led from the half-mile pole until deep stretch, dead-heated for second with the 8-5 favorite KY Lucky. Both finished a head behind the Cantan Hall colt Iron who was making only his second career start. by Mike Paradise, for IHHA

Despite getting off to a nice start in her sophomore season Paula Smith, Lucas Smith, James Runyan and Kathleen O’Neill’s Fox Valley Amanda was a bit overlooked at the betting windows in Friday’s $89,000 Filly Maywood Pace for ICF three-year-olds. The home-bred harness racing filly wound up making her “doubters” pay though as she parlayed a perfect pocket sitting trip into a half-length victory in a career best of 1:55.1 with Dale Hiteman at the controls.   Taking advantage of post position two, Hiteman positioned the daughter of Yankee Skyscaper—Thongundrcolrsoops right on the back of My Little Bit (Casey Leonard) as that filly led the field through splits of 27.3, 56.4 & 1:25.1. After being softened up by a first over bid from Molly Go Lightly (Ryan Anderson), a game but leg weary My Little Bit could not hold off the open stretch move of Fox Valley Amanda as she powered home in 29.3 to post her fourth win in nine starts this season. My Little Bit held to be the bridesmaid while Molly Go Lightly finished third, three-lengths behind the top filly. Dispatched as the 5-1 third choice in the wagering the Joel Smith trained Fox Valley Amanda returned $12.80, $3.60 & $2.20 while running her career record to 5-7-3 with earnings of nearly $139,000. State-bred pacing colts were in action as well on Friday night as a field of eight squared off in a Maywood Pace elimination. The top seven finishers will be back next Friday (June 20) to join Unlocked in one of tracks signature events. Despite a tough trip Megan Rogers Stables Beach Boy Brody posted an impressive 2 ¼ length victory for driver Dave Magee in 1:53.1. He will be joined in the final by Uncle Ugly, PQ Three, R Duneshine, Fox Valley Cupid, Fox Valley Van and Traffic Cop. The 20 cent Pick 6 wager went unclaimed for a third straight card so thanks to a carryover of $4,283 there will be a Guaranteed Pool of $15,000 for Thursday, June 19th. Tom Kelley

With a total of 14 filly and mare pacers dropped into the box Friday's Violet Stake for Illinois conceived and foaled distaffers, three-year-olds and up, was split into a pair of $21,390 divisions. Both splits provided eye-catching payouts as Fox Valley Touche, a 25-1 outsider came flying through the lane to score by a neck in 1:53.2 for driver Dale Hiteman to open the action. Just four races later The Bruzilian Blur employed similar tactics as James Kennedy steered the mare to a 1 ½ length come from behind score in 1:54.2 at odds of 12-1. Always a threat in this division Fox Valley Touche was reserved through the early stages of her division as Poco Granny (Todd Warren) zipped through splits of 27.1 57.0 & 1:24.4.   That's when Hiteman began his bid with the Joel Smith trained six-year-old, circling up three deep from sixth as the ladies moved around the final turn. Swinging to the outside as the field straightened for the money the daughter of Sportsmaster uncorked a big 27.4 to overtake the pace setter in the final strides. Poco Granny held on for second while the heavily favored No Respect (John De Long) faded to third after a tough first over journey.   A career winner of more than $497,000 for the partnership of James Runyan and Paula Smith Fox Valley Touche returned $52.20, $10.80 & $3.80 while winning for the 27th time in her illustrious career.   In the nightcap Julius Millman's The Bruzilian Blur overcame a tough first over journey after getting away fifth, eventually grinding her way into contention at the top of the stretch to engage Dune In Red (Todd Warren) after that mare had put up splits of 27.0, 56.0 & 1:25.3.   Shrugging off the difficult journey the Kathy Millman trained daughter of Ft. Apache Hanover zipped right by Dune In Red and then kept the pocket sitting Feel Like Dancing (Kyle Wilfong) at bay through the lane for her third win in 13 tries this season. Feel Like Dancing was forced to settle for the bridesmaid role while Dune In Red was third.   With the win The Bruzilian Blur now boasts eight wins, nine seconds and five thirds in 51 lifetime starts with earnings of more than $70,000. Overlooked at the windows The Bruzilian Blur returned $27.80, $7.00 & $3.40.   With no elimination's needed for next Friday's (June 13) $100,000 Filly Maywood Pace some of the state-bred sophomores expected to compete in that affair used "conditioned" events on Friday's card as tune-ups for next week's big showdown.   Among those in action who looked very good in their tighteners were Sawgrass Farms Molly Go Lightly who cruised to an easy win in 1:56.2, Ervin Miller Stables & Omer Miller's M A Refling, who overcame a spot in the second tier to win by four lengths in 1:56.4 and the Joel Smith trained Fox Valley Amanda who also overcame a second tier starting spot to rally for a sharp win in 1:57.1. by Tom Kelley, for Maywood Park  

Continuing his eye opening start to the 2014 season, Paula Smith & James Runyan's Fox Valley Deuce continued to impress knocking off five other Illinois conceived and foaled sophomore pacing colts by a length in Friday's $10,000 Gosox Stake at Maywood Park. The final time was a career best 1:54.2 for the Joel Smith trainee. Gunned right to the front by regular pilot Casey Leonard, the altered son of Sportsmaster--Dodger Girl breezed through splits of 28.3, 57.3 & 1:25.4 while holding a first over Fox Valley Cupid (Ryan Anderson) at bay for the final five-eighths of a mile.   After turning aside that longshot's bid, Fox Valley Deuce began to draw clear of his rivals in the lane, sealing the deal with a 28.3 final quarter to score for the fifth time in seven starts this year. Cotton Eyed Joe (Robert Smolin), the only horse to defeat Fox Valley Deuce this season, shook loose late after a ground saving trip to finish second while Sleazeburgernfries (Kyle Wilfong) finished third.   The 8-5 favorite returned $5.20, $3.00 & $2.10 and now boasts seven wins, two seconds and a third in 22 lifetime starts with earnings of $43,147.   Driver Casey Leonard and Fox Valley Deuce were on top at every call in Friday's $10,000 Gosox Stake at Maywood Park. by Tom Kelley, for Maywood Park

After being relegated to the runner-up role in his last two starts Paula Smith & James Runyan's Fox Valley Deuce gained a measure of revenge on his three-year-old pacing colt rivals on Friday, May 2nd at Maywood Park as driver Casey Leonard guided him to a 1 ¼ length victory in the $10,000 Taser Gun Stake. The final time was 1:55.2 over a fast track. After getting away fourth in the field of six Leonard was content to let the son of Sportsmaster--Dodger Girl bide his time as Dunside Art (Kyle Wilfong) and Cotton Eyed Joe (Robert Smolin) battled through an opening quarter in a brisk 27.3.   Getting underway as the state-breds hit the half in 58.0 Fox Valley Deuce stormed to the top just as the field reached the three-quarter-mark in 1:27.0.   Drawing clear in the final turn, the Joel Smith trainee sealed the deal with a 28.2 final quarter to post his fourth win in six starts this season. Dunside Art held on to the second spot while 3-5 favorite Cotton Eyed Joe was forced to settle for the show dough.   With the win Fox Valley Deuce now boasts six wins, two seconds and a third in 21 lifetime starts with earnings of $38,147. The second choice in the wagering returned $6.40, $3.80 & $2.20.   Driver Casey Leonard guided Fox Valley Deuce to an 1 1/4 length victory in Friday's $10,000 Taser Gun Stake at Maywood Park.   by Tom Kelley, for Balmoral Park

After opening his second season with two very impressive scores over "older open" company, Paula Smith and James Runyan's Fox Valley Deuce took his first crack at state-bred stakes company on Saturday night at Balmoral Park in the $10,000 Taurus Bomber Stake. The gelded son of Sportsmaster--Dodger Girl had no problem keeping his perfect slate intact as he cruised to an easy 4 ½ length score over five rivals in 1:56.1 for driver Casey Leonard. Hustled away from the outside post in the field of six, the Joel Smith trainee was parked through an opening quarter of 29.4. After grabbing command as the field straightened up onto the backstretch for Leonard, the issue was never really in doubt again as the good looking sophomore put up leisurely middle splits of 1:00.2 & 1:29.4.   Fit and fresh as he headed for the money Fox Valley Deuce finished off the mile in grand fashion, rattling off an eye opening 26.2 final split to make it three in a row in 2014. Orange & Blue winner Cotton Eyed Joe (Robert Smolin), who was making his sophomore debut, finished a fast closing second while Dune Dude (Dean Magee) turned in a solid try to rally for third.   With the win Fox Valley Deuce now boasts fives wins and a third in 18 lifetime starts with earnings of $28,147.   A trio of Newcomer Series finals were contested on Saturday night as well. The $7,800 Filly & Mare final was taken by Brett Wilfong's Chariots Afire (Jimmy Daniel) as she cruised to her second win in three starts this year. The home-bred daughter of Skydancer Hanover stopped the clock in 1:55.0. The $8,000 colt & gelding final was captured Nelson & Kay Willis's Shark Vision (Kyle Wilfong) as the royally-bred son of Cam's Cam Shark made it three in a row in 2014 while tripping the timer in 1:55.1.   On the trotting side of the docket, the Lester Banks owned, Steve Bauder trained Mary Queen (Dale Hiteman) was able to mind her manners again as she uncorked a big closing burst to knock off eight other diagonally gaited specialists in the $7,750 final of that series.The final time was a career best of 1:59.2.   There will be no live racing this Wednesday April 2, 2014 due to lack of entries.    By Tom Kelley, for Balmoral Park

The first pair of American National stakes of the season, both for two-year-old trotters, highlight Wednesday’s Balmoral Park card. The sixth race $69,000 American National colt and geldings has a clear-cut favorite while the fifth race $63,000 added money stake doesn’t. The Ron Burke Stable’s Southwind Spirit should be a heavy favorite by post time after opening up at 2-1. The $105,000 yearling purchase has won 3 of his last 4 races and finished third in the other, the prestigious $250,000 Peter Haughton Final at The Meadowlands. Southwind Spirit comes off a career best 1:54.1 mile in a division of the Kindergarten at Lexington and with Mike Oosting at his lines and the two-slot the Muscle Hill colt looks hard to beat. Chuck Sylvester’s Toss Cartwright (programmed 4-1, Trace Tetrick), a three-time season winner including the $37,339 Wilfong stake at the Indianapolis State Fair last month should get plenty of play and so should Dwayne Minor’s Hillustrious (5-1) who dropped at neck decision in his Kindergarten event a week ago at The Red Mile. Among the local hopes are Plesac stake champion Bobby B Breeze (8-1, Todd Warren) from the Roger Welch Stable and Joel Smith’s (10-1, Dale Hiteman) Big Bad Bob, third best in the Springfield Final. In the filly division, Bobby Browner’s Pray For Me (7-2, Dave Magee) was a double stakes winner in Pennsylvania and took third in the $108,050 Kentuckana stake at Hoosier Park. Herroyalhighness (5-1, Trace Tetrick), the fourth place finisher in that same stake, was a $60,000 purchase by trainer Bob Stewart. Muscle Hill (4-1, Dave Magee) is 2-for-2 since joining the Mike Brink Stable and is 2-for-2 at Balmoral for her Norwegian owner Kjeli Magne Anderson who only paid $15,000 for her at last year’s Lexington Selected Sale. Fox Valley Lotus (6-1, John Roberts) had a strong 1:57.3 winning mile in her Springfield championship and it came in only her third career start, her first was a third-place finish in the July 31 Fox Valley Flan. “We got a late start with the filly because she was having breathing problems,” said her trainer Curt Grummel. “I tried a number of things to help her and when I tried what they call ‘The Cornell Collar’ (a throat support device developed at Cornell University), knock on wood, it’s worked.” Grummel’s familiarity with Fox Valley Lotus’s dam Love You More was the primary reason he purchased the filly for Pittsfield owner Dr. Patrick Graham. “We bought ‘Lotus’ for $20,000 as a yearling at last year’s Walker Sale,” said 41-year-old Carrollton native. “What attracted me the most to her was the filly’s family. I raced two of her sisters, Fox Valley Luxury and Fox Valley Lexus. “So far ‘Luxury’ has been the best of the three sisters. She won the Springfield Final, the Land Lincoln Land and another big stake at Balmoral (the Fox Valley Flan) in her first season but never made a start as a three-year-old.  Her career was cut short in 2010 when she developed a couple of bone chips in an ankle. “I stopped racing ‘Lexus’ earlier this year. She had a breathing problem, just like her younger sister ‘Lotus’ but ‘Lexus’ wasn’t able to overcome it and go fast enough to race on the Chicago circuit.” By Mike Paradise The Illinois Harness Horsemen's Association

Elimination races were not necessary Wednesday night for the first American National stakes of the year when 10 two-year-old trotters were entered in each of the colt and filly divisions. Instead seven of next week American National finalists will prep in Wednesday night races with five of them going in the fourth race, a 2-year-old trotting events with “American National Entered Preferred.” The three fillies prepping are the Mike Brink Stable’s Muscle Babe (programmed 3-1, Dave Magee) and the Trenton Watson Stable entry of Pinking Of You (5-2, Casey Leonard) and Dancing Dynamite (5-2, Dean Magee), both winners of a Pennsylvania Sire Stake last month at The Meadows. Among their fourth race competitors are a pair of geldings who are American National bound, the Joel Smith trainee Big Bad Bob (6-1, Dale Hiteman), and the Roger Welch trained Bobby B Breeze (4-1, Todd Warren), winner of Balmoral’s $50,000 Plesac on July 31. Fox Valley Lotus (John Roberts), another starter in next Wednesday’s $63,000 (est.) American National filly stake is the 3-1 favorite in the first race trot. She captured the Springfield State Fair 2-Year-Old Filly Trot crown and was the runner-up in the Shawnee at Du Quoin. The Trenton Watson Stable’s Explosive Cash (Mike Oosting), who will vie in the $67,000 (est.) colt division of the added money stake, is the 3-1 program choice in Wednesday’s second race. While winless in his first six career starts Explosive Cash was second in a division of Philadelphia’s Historic, in a Pennsylvania Sire Stake at Pocono, and third in another at The Meadows. Probably the biggest name to be coming in is Southwind Spirit in the American National colt division. A son of Muscle Hill, this colt has been third or better in all six career starts against some well-regarded youngsters. A $105,000 yearling buy at the 2012 Lexington Select Sale, Southwind Spirit won his Peter Haughton elimination in 1:57.2 before finishing third in the $280,500 Final at The Meadowlands. He also won a New Jersey Sire Stake and was second in another. Trained by Ron Burke, who shares ownership of the colt, Southwick Spirit already has over $101,000 on his first season card. Here are the horses that entered next week’s American Nationals (listed in each alphabetically): Colt and Gelding Division: Big Bad Bob, Bobby B Breeze, Explosive Cash, Fox Valley Veto, Hillustrious, Hot Type, Maple Grove Joe, Nino Marino, Southwind Spirit and Toss Cartwright. Filly Division: Bailey’s Wish, Dancing Dynamite, Deweyscheatingirl, Don’t Miss A Tweet, Fox Valley Hosana, Fox Valley Lotus, Herroyalhighness, Muscle Babe, Pinking Of You and Pray With Me. By Mike Paradise The Illinois Harness Horsemen's Association

With all the preliminary action in the books it’s now “go-time” for everyone involved in Illinois’ biggest night of standardbred racing as Super Night 2013 is just six nights away at Balmoral Park. After a hectic weekend which saw 12 elimination tussles on Saturday the action slowed down just a bit on Sunday night with six more elimination’s contested for a trio of Super Night events. Kicking off the action were three-year-old trotting colts as a total of 17 diagonally gaited sophomores battled in a pair of $15,000 Su Mac Lad Stake elimination’s.The top five finishers in each division will be back on Saturday, Sept. 14th for the $121,000 final. In the first elimination “Bill” Wright and Mystical Marker Farms King Mufasa continued his domination of this division as he rolled to a one-length victory in 1:56.3 with Mike Oosting at the controls. Sent to the front by Oosting after an opening quarter in 29.1 the gelded son of Powerful Emotion—Foxy N Diamonds was in complete control the rest of the way as he rattled off middle splits of 58.1 & 1:28.1. With the “soft” middle half under his belt, the Mike Brink trainee had plenty in reserve for the stretch drive, trotting home in an effortless 28.2 for his 11th win in 12 starts this season. Semper Fit (Dave Magee) finished a nice second despite leaving from the outside post while Fox Valley Camo (Jamaica Patton) was third.Happy Balance finished fourth and Riet’s Kid was fifth. The division leader has now banked over $156,000 this year for his proud connections and he figures to be an overwhelming favorite on Super Night. In the second elimination Mystical Marker Farms and Jack & Peggy Hood’sPowerful Poe shed the runner-role he had assumed seven times already this season knocking off eight rivals by two-lengths in 1:56.2 with Todd Warren handling the driving duties. Despite leaving from an outside post the gelded son of Powerful Emotion—Fox Valley Poetry landed in a good early spot as Powerful Valor (Jared Finn) and Skyline Road (Marcus Miller) battled through splits of 30.0 58.4 & 1:28.1. After securing racing room in the lane Warren asked the Dirk Simpson trainee for his best and the gelding responded beautifully as he trotted home in a brisk 27.3 to post his third win in 14 starts this year. Fox Valley Legend (Dale Hiteman ) rallied well to be second for red-hot trainer Joel Smith while Fox Valley Dubai (Dave Magee) finished third. Skyline Road and Powerful Valor finished fourth and fifth respectively to earn the last two spots into the Su Mac Lad final. Next up were three-year-old trotting fillies as a field of 10 looked for nine spots in next week’s $106,000 Lady Ann Reed Stake. They will be joined in the finale by Divination who received a bye into the Super Night  tussle. Flashing the form that netted her divisional honors in her two-year-old season, James Bafia, Eugene White and Samuel Daddono’s Trot Fudge Sundae reported home with a half-length victory in a career best of 1:56.0 with “Mr. Super Night”, Dave Magee in the bike. Givena confident steer by Magee the Dirk Simpson trained daughter of American Native—What A Joy shot right to the front from post six putting up splits of 29.1, 59.3& 1:28.1 while under a snug hold from her Hall of Fame pilot. Fit and fresh as she straightened for the money, the long striding bay put up a 27.4 final quarter to secure her 14th career victory in her 26th lifetime start. Little Ms Chrissy (Robert Taylor) finished a game second while Sara The Spy (Todd Warren) was third. Also securing spots in the final were Just For Fun, Fox Valley Yavonne, Powerful Goddess, American Empress, Kelsey’s Star and High Stepper. A total of 25 filly and mare pacers, three-year-olds and up, were entered for the $123,000 Lorna Propes Stake necessitating a trio of $15,000 elimination tussles. The top three in each division along with one fourth place finisher,(drawn by lot) will be back for the big cash next Saturday night. In the first elimination James Strzalka, Nancy Magnus, Norma Schulfer and James Skvarla’s Fox Valley Absolut exhibited the form that has netted her more than $361,000 in career earnings as she shook off a tough first over trip to score by 2 ¾ lengths in 1:52.4 for driver Robert Smolin. Taking advantage of a nice inside draw the seven-year-old daughter of Sportsmaster was able to save ground through opening splits of 27.2 & 56.2 before moving to the outside as the field headed around the final bend. Grinding her way towards the top the Mike Schulfer trainee was right on the pace setting Tamarac Sassy’s flank as the field reached the three-quarter-mile mark in 1:25.2. Seemingly finding another gear as the distaffers moved through the lane Fox Valley Absolut swallowed up the pace setter with a 27.1 final quarter as she began to widen her margin while scoring for the fifth time in 25 starts this year. Kimberley R (Dale Hiteman) shook loose late to be the bridesmaid while Tamarac Sassy (Casey Leonard) held on for third. Willow Gram finished fourth. In the middle split the Terry Leonard owned and trained Whistle Pig looked like a princess as she pulled off an 18-1 stunner, scoring by a neck in a career best of 1:52.0 with Casey Leonard handling the driving chores. Placed near the back of the pack despite leaving from post position three the six-year-old daughter of Park Place moved into the outer flow on the far turn as Rev Me Up (John Roberts) sped through splits of 27.2, 55.4 & 1:24.0. Moving up with live cover Leonard tipped his mare four deep turning for home and she responded beautifully, speeding home in 27.1 to put up a career best. Fox Valley Touche (Dale Hiteman) closed well to finish second while Mystical Victress (Mike Oosting), the 1-9 favorite in the race finished third. Kate The Great was fourth. In the final elimination east coast invader Let’s Go Higher made it known that she will be a force to be reckoned with next week as the Heidi Rohr trained  five-year-old posted an eye catching eight-length romp in 1:50.4 with John DeLong at the controls. Perfectly positioned in third as Party Hangover charged through splits of 26.3 & 54.2 De Long moved the daughter of Park Place to the outside as the field moved mid-way around the final turn. Leaving the others in her wake Let’s Go Higher sped by the three-quarter-mile station in 1:22.3 as she set sail for the wire. Finishing off the mile in grand fashion Let’s Go Higher sped home in 28.1 to post her eighth win of the year for owner Jesse De Long. Just By Design (Dave Magee) finished second while Tune In (John Roberts) finished fourth but was moved up to third via a disqualification of Fox Valley Hermia who was cited for interfering with several horses near the top of the stretch. Cole Blue finished fifth but was moved up to fourth because of the DQ. Sunday’s 50 cent Pick 5 wager was not hit so there will be a carryover of $10,416 into Wednesday night’s pool. There will now be a $30,000 guaranteed pool on Wednesday’s Pick 5. The Pick 5 entails races 2-6 each night. Handicappers across North America can get a headstart on their competition with free 12 line program pages for the guaranteed pool courtesy of the USTA Strategic Wagering Initiative and Track Master on the handicapping section at www.ustrotting.com. Tom Kelley ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- KING MUFASA POSTED HIS 11TH WIN IN 12 STARTS THIS SEASON AS Mike Oosting STEERED THE DIVISION LEADER TO AN EASY WIN IN THE FIRST OF TWO SU MAC LAD STAKE ELIMINATIONS ON SUNDAY NIGHT. TROT FUDGE SUNDAE AND HALL OF FAMER Dave Magee TEAMED UP TO WIN THE LADY ANN REED STAKE ELIMINATION IN 1:56.0 ON SUNDAY NIGHT. LET'S GO HIGHER ROMPED TO AN EIGHT-LENGTH DECISION WITH JOHN DE LONG AT THE CONTROLS IN THE LAST OF THREE LORNA PROPES STAKE ELIMINATION'S ON SUNDAY NIGHT. THE 5YO DAUGHTER OF Park Place STOPPED THE CLOCK IN A BLISTERING 1:50.4. -----Original Message----- From: David Baum To: Tom Kelley ; Mike Paradise Sent: Sun, Sep 8, 2013 9:09 pm  

The count down to Illinois biggest night of racing action, Super Night 2013, began in earnest on Saturday, Sept. 7th at Balmoral Parkas 12 eliminations battles were contested by some of Illinois top pacers. Kicking things off were a trio of $15,000 Orange & Blue Stake elimination’s for two-year-old pacing colts. The top three finishers in each elimination as well as one fourth place finisher (drawn by lot) will advance to next Saturday’s $200,000 est. final. In the first division Obermeier & Quaid Stable’s PQ Three continued his recent winning streak as the Erv Miller trainee posted a 1 ¼ length decision in 1:54.1. Sent right to the front from his outside starting spot by driver Mike Oosting the son of Yankee Skyscaper—Sweltering cruised through splits of 28.2, 57.3 & 1:26.2 while easily keeping his rivals at bay throughout the mile. Overloaded (Kyle Wilfong) sat right on the winner’s back the entire way to earn the place money while Cotton Eyed Joe (Robert Smolin) rallied to be third. Dave’s Skyscaper was fourth. The win was the sixth in 10 starts this year for PQ Three who now boasts $114,399 in career earnings. In the second elimination Paula Smith & James Runyan’s Fox Valley Deuce prevailed in a thrilling three-horse photo, winning by a nose in a career best of 1:54.3 for Dale Hiteman. Perfectly positioned while saving ground in fourth as Fox Valley Cupid (Ryan Anderson)  carved out splits of 28.2, 58.1 & 1:26.4 the Joel Smith (2 wins) trainee pulled as the field neared the top of the stretch. Battling tooth and nail through the lane the son of Sportsmaster—Dodger Girl managed to get a nose in front in the final strides to earn his second win in 10 tries. Fox Valley Cupid held on for second while I Bizel The Shizel (John De Long) rallied up the passing lane to be third. Manny’s Z Tam was fourth. The final division was taken by Jack & Peggy Hood, Mystical Marker Farms and Dirk Simpson Stables Traffic Cop who reported home with a 3 ½ length score in a lifetime best of 1:54.2. Zipped right to the front as 4-5 favorite Badger Quinn went off stride right at the start, driver Todd Warren did a nice job of directing the proceedings as he rolled through splits of 28.1, 58.1 & 1:27.3. After turning away a first over challenge from Duneside Art in the lane the son of Sportsmaster-Dixiegirl proceeded to draw away from her rivals for her second win in 10 lifetime appearances. One Sure Apache (Mike Oosting) rallied to be second while Fox Valley Van (John De Long) finished third. Duneside Art was fourth. Next up were sophomore pacing fillies as a total of 18 ladies looked for 10 starting spots in next week’s $173,000 (est.) Grandma Ann Stake. In the first of two $15,000 elimination tussles John Carver’s Auniqueaquistion gave the chalk players a thrill as she shook loose from a precarious position in mid-stretch to win by a half-length in1:53.0. Positioned near the front by driver Mike Oosting as the lead changed hands several time through splits of 28.4, 57.4 & 1:26.1 the daughter of Cole Muffler—Shesoluvabull was desperately searching for racing room behind a tiring leader as the field turned for the money. Maneuvering outside then back inside again with the Donna Lee Ozment trained miss Oosting finally secured racing room with just less than a sixteenth of a mile to go. Responding beautifully, Auniqueaquistion bulled her way to the front and steadily began to draw clear for her 12th win in 21 career starts. Schmatie (John De Long) finished a game second while Aliyah Maria (Dave Magee) was third. Dune In Red & State Street Liz also gained spots in the final. In the second elimination Paula Smith, James Runyan and Frank Pike’s Dallas Jones continued an amazing second season transformation as she came flying home to win by 1 ¾ lengths in 1:53.1. Well-handled by a red-hot Casey Leonard the daughter of Sportsmaster—Cams Bett was reserved through the early stages as Feel Like Dancing (Kyle Wilfong) and Mystical Danica (Marcus Miller) battled through splits of 27.4, 56.4 & 1:24.4.Tipping four deep as the ladies turned for home the Joel Smith trained miss then picked off one rival after another on her way to her eighth win of the season. Mystical Danica held on for second while Thank You Doc (Mike Oosting) rallied sharply to finish third. Feel Like Dancing was fourth while Fox Valley Isabella was fifth. A total of 17 sophomore pacing colts were dropped into the box for a pair of $15,000 Pete Langley Memorial eliminations. Once again the top five will be back on Super Night to go for an estimated purse of $173,000. The first division provided a thrilling finish as Paymaq Racing, D&M Trading & Mystical Marker Farms Mystical Walter emerged with a hard fought three-quarters of a length victory in 1:51.0. Confidently handled by driver Casey Leonard the gelded son of Yankee Skyscaper—Yankee Blue ranged up first over to engage Crankin’ It Up (Kyle Wilfong) after watching that rival post splits of 27.3, 56.0 & 1:23.3. After battling head and head through the lane Mystical Walter finally began to pull clear in the final one-hundred yards, notching his 10th career win in 20 starts for trainer Erv Miller. Crankin’ It Up was a sharp second while Alequash Hotspur (Dale Hiteman) finished third. Fox Valley Norman was fourth while Big Brad was fifth. In the second Langley elimination Stephanie Winship, Carl Lacy, Amy Giberson & Monty Thompson’s Silver Devil parlayed a perfect pocket sitting trip into a 1 ¾ length victory in 1:52.2. Riding along in the pocket while Monopoly Man (John De Long) strolled through splitsof 28.0, 57.3 & 1:25.1 driver Casey Leonard patiently waited for the passing lane to make his move with the Nick Giberson trainee. Swinging down to the inside with a sixteenth to go the roan son of Duneside Perch—Armbro Wahine came charging home in 26.4 to secure his seventh win in this his first season of action. Monopoly Man held on well to finish second while Ready (Brian Carpenter) used a pylon skimming journey to get the show dough. Fancy Creek Elusiv was fourth while Fox Valley Action was fifth. With a total of 21 three-year-olds and up entered for the Tony Maurello Stake a trio of $15,000 elimination’s were needed. Once again the top three along with a fourth place finisher (drawn by lot) will be back for next week’s $125,000 final. In the first elimination Stevanna Turner’s NJ’s Big Deal rallied in the final strides to win by a head in 1:50.1 for driver Mike Cox. After leading the way through an opening quarter in 28.1, Cox elected to let a hard charging Uncle Smoothie (John De Long) go, winding up in the three-hole as the field sped through middle splits of 55.3 & 1:23.0. The John Fletcher trainee was then moved to the outside at the top of the stretch where he gamely wore down Ice Scraper (Kyle Husted) and Uncle Smoothie (John De Long) for his11th win of the year. Whirlwindiplomacy was fourth The middle elimination provided no surprises as heavily favored Fort Silky cruised to an easy 1 ¾ length victory in 1:51.1 for owners John Prentice and Neva Jane Ikeler. Sent to the front by driver Casey Leonard after a quarter in 27.0 the seven-year-old gelding then went unchallenged through middle splits of 55.4 & 1:24.3.Setting sail for home the Terry Leonard trainee sealed the deal in fine fashion, rattling off a final quarter in 26.3 to notch his 12th win of the year. Cole Heat (John De Long) finished second while Fox Valley Yukon (Marcus Miller) was third. Uncle Bud finished fourth. Chalk players were dancing again in the final Maurello elimination as Paymaq Racing, Mystical Marker Farms, Ken Duffy & Shim Racing’s A Cool Card notched his fourth straight win rolling to a one-length decision in 1:50.4 with Marcus Miller in tow. Working out a perfect second over trip as King’s Legend (Todd Warren) put up splits of 27.3, 56.0 & 1:23.4 A Cool Card tipped three-wide off his cover as the field straightened for home. The Erv Miller trainee then stormed home in a wicked 26.2 to record his sixth win in 10 starts this year. Iam Bonasera (Kyle Wilfong) finished a hard knocking second while Gibbs (Dave Magee) rallied to be third. Sports Fanatic wound up fourth. Freshman pacing fillies closed out the elimination action with a total of 20 youngsters battling in a pair of $15,000 Filly Orange & Blue elimination’s. The top five in each will return on Super Night to slug it out for a $200,000 jackpot. In the first elimination Team Miller clicked once again as Marcus (2 wins) made a successful return to the local scene guiding Obermeier & Quaid Stable’s (2wins) My Little Bit to an easy one-length triumph in 1:54.1, giving his father Erv, his fourth training win of the night. Powering to the front after an opening quarter in 28.1, the daughter of Sportsmaster-Parade Of Love rattled off middle splits of 58.1 & 1:26.1. With plenty still in reserve the good looking filly paced home in 28.0 to win for the fourth time in eight life time starts. Party Hangover Two (John De Long) was second while Thesleazyprincess (Mike Oosting) was third. Fox Valley Amanda was fourth while Simplyirresistible was fifth. In the second division Sawgrass Farms Molly Go Lightly took advantage of a ground saving trip as she charged up the passing lane to win by a half-length in1:55.0. Perfectly handled by Mike Oosting (3 wins) the daughter of Lexington Legend-Waggle was forwardly placed while skimming the pylons through splits of 29.0, 58.3 & 1:27.3. With the fillies fanning out for the stretch drive, Oosting moved the Nelson Willis trainee up the inside where she rallied gamely for her second win in eight trips postward. Kiwi Party (John De Long) overcame post nine to be the bridesmaid while Mae Flynn (Dave Magee) was third. Tessa finished a hard fought fourth while M A Refling overcame a miscue at the start to finish fifth. The elimination action for Super Night continues on Sunday, Sept. 8th at Balmoral Park as a trio of Lorna Propes Stake elimination’s (three-year-old & up filly & mare pacers), a pair of Su Mac Lad Stake elimination’s (three-year-old trotting colts) and one Lady Ann Reed (3yo trotting filly) will all be contested. Post time on Sunday is 7:10 p.m. (central). Tom Kelley  

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