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Friday night’s $30,000 Egyptian stake, the second leg of the Maywood Park Pacing Series, isn’t a “Handicap” race but it may appear that way to some after seeing the draw for the ninth race feature. Fort Silky, all season long this year’s No. 1 state-bred aged pacer, landed Maywood’s dreaded 8-hole that produces the winning horse less than 7 per cent of the time. I asked driver Casey Leonard about Fort Silky’s draw. “We drew the 9-hole in the first leg when we got beat. It’s become a graveyard post at Maywood,” said Casey. ”Now we get the 8-hole with its low percentage of winners but I guess I rather be on the gate with it than start in the second tier.” Casey is well aware of a number of horses in The Egyptian who can sprint out in a hurry and he’s at the lines of one of them. “In Friday’s race I’ve got Uncle Smoothie and NJ’s Big Deal inside of us and they both can get away from the gate real well. I guess I have to leave at least a little bit or I can leave hard with him and hope to get up-close position. “I don’t want anything stupid to happen, especially with Super Night just a couple of weeks away. I guess we’ll just see what happens behind the gate and go from there,” said Casey who will turn 36 on September 11. While the 9-5 morning line favorite Fort Silky has always excelled at Maywood Park he hasn’t had many opportunities to compete there this season. This is only the 7-year-old gelding’s third start of 2013 on the half-miler. Fort Silky did take a $28,534 division of the Cardinal stake at Maywood the last day of May but he needed a 27 flat first quarter to make the front in the Cook County, the Series first leg, and was overtaken in the late going by the pocket horse Fox Valley Yukon who wasn’t entered for The Egyptian. Fort Silky has finished first or second in 15 consecutive starts, going all the way back to mid-March, for his Paw Paw, Illinois owners John Prentice and Neva Jane Ikler. The horse has already surpassed his previous best earning year (2011) by almost $50,000, a tribute to the Leonard family’s management of the ICF pacer. A $25,000 bonus goes to the owners who’s horse earns the most points in the three series legs, with 50 awarded for first, 25 for second, 12 for third, 8 for fourth and 5 for fifth. After his second place finish in the Cook County plus the absence of Fox Valley Yukon, a win tonight puts Fort Silky in the driver’s seat to become the fourth straight Leonard trainer pacer to capture the Maywood Series. The recently retired Well To Do Guru did it in 2010, 2011 and 2012. In fact the former Illinois kingpin swept all three legs the last two years. When Casey looks in before the starting gate gets ready to spring open he’ll find Fox Valley Mahalo (15-1, Kyle Husted), Whirlwindiplomacy (8-1, Todd Warren) Sports Fanatic (10-1, Dean Magee), Uncle Smoothie (9-2, John De Long), Raging Cam (10-1, Mike Oosting), NJ’s Big Deal (5-2, Mike Cox) and JHS (20-1, John Roberts). By Mike Paradise The Illinois Harness Horsemen's Association

The $43,000 Governor’s Cup, the feature stake event of the Du Quoin State Fair, was expected to be a hard-fought battle between PQ Three and Unlocked, the one-two finishers at Springfield, and Sunday’s race came up as good as forecasted. The two top Illinois conceived and foaled colts put on a torrid duel down the stretch and just as he did at Springfield, the Erv Miller trained P Q Three prevailed for the meet’s leading driver Mike Oosting who changed tactics with the son of Yankee Skyscraper. Instead of coming out of a hole, as he did in his all of his other career victories, Oosting sent PQ Three to the front while Unlocked took the pocket behind him, reversing their Springfield roles. “With the wind to the horse’s backs on the backside and into their faces in the homestretch we didn’t want to come from too far out of it,” said the 46-year-old Miller in the winner’s circle. “We wanted to be up-close so I wasn’t surprised to see the horse on the lead. “PQ Three has really come around for us. “Turning for home he was digging in. Mike has done a very good job of driving him.” PQ Three’s head triumph was his fifth to go along with four seconds in nine career starts for owners Obermeier & Quaid Stables of Evergreen Park, IL. The youngster’s season earnings are now only $601 shy of $100,000. A heady drive by John Roberts enabled the 14-1 longshot Fox Valley Veto to pull off stunning upset in the $33,000 Darn Safe stake for 2-year-old trotting colts and geldings. Sensing the slow pace Roberts took Fox Valley Veto to the front soon after a :29.4 first quarter and was able to give the gelded son of Pizzazzed a :31.2 second quarter breather. When the heavy 1-5 favorite Tour Hall came at him through a :28.4 third quarter the Curt Grummel trainee still had enough left to put away the Springfield champion and post a one length victory in 1:58.1. It was the maiden win for Fox Valley Veto and it came in his fifth career start for his Carrolton, IL proprietors Curt and Craig Grummel. Mystical Walter had no trouble adding the $21,500 Dudley Hanover stake to his 3-year-old colt pacing accomplishments for Casey Leonard and the Miller Stable. The son of Yankee Skyscraper earlier won a Hanover and the Incredible Finale at Balmoral and the recent Springfield State Fair crown for the winning trio of Paymaq Racing (Long Grove, IL), D & M Racing (Chicago) and Mystical Marker Farms (Dwyer, IN). The pocket horse Fancy Creek Elusiv was second best in the 1:52.3 mile, beaten one length. Earlier in the afternoon A Cool Card sped to a 1:50.2 victory in the $10,000 stake for aged ICF pacing colts and geldings, the fastest mile of the meet. Marcus Miller steered the Cole Muffler gelding to his third win in a row for his father, trainer Erv. The $10,000 Aged stake for pacing mares went to Just By Design (Dave Magee) in 1:52.4 for Williamsville, IL owner Josh Carter. It was Mike Brink’s fourth training win at the three-day meet. Kiwi Party came on nicely to take the $9,000 County Fair Challenge Championship for freshman pacing fillies in 1:56.2 to earn a start in Balmoral Park’s Orange & Blue Filly eliminations three weeks away. John De Long drove the Party At Artsplace filly to her fourth straight victory and shares ownership of Kiwi Party with his father and trainer Jesse, and Austin De Long, all of Wisconsin. I Bizel The Chizel gave John De Long his second consecutive County Fair Challenge champion when he out-closed his entry-mate Overloaded in the 2-year-old colt and gelding division with a 1:54.2 mile. Tom Simmons trains the son of Yankee Skyscraper for the Illinois team of Laura Hendricks (Silvis) and Benita Simmons (Springfield.) Sadie’s Art (Tom D. Tetrick) came thundering down the stretch and swept past the even-money favorite Checkout By Body to take the 3-year-old colt County Fair Championship in a career best time of 1:53.1 for breeders and owners Mary Alice and Tom D. Tetrick of Geff, IL. Oosting took the driving title at the Du Quoin meet with ten winners while Erv Miller successfully defended his trainer’s crown. By Mike Paradise The Illinois Harness Horsemen's Association

Harness Racing at the Du Quoin State Fair begins Friday evening with a trio of $9,000 County Fair Championships heading up the 10-race program at gets under way at 7 o’clock. The 2-year-old colt and gelding trot championship, the last race on the card, brings out Come And Tell Pap (Isaac Love) and Big Bill Breeze (Mike Oosting), who have each won five times on the County Fair Circle and have traded wins against each other. Come And Tell Pap got the best of Big Bill Breeze on July 19 at Petersburg by almost three lengths and then 10 days later Big Bill Breeze returned the favor by drawing off in a Illinois Stallion stake at Charleston, leaving Come And Tell Pap nine lengths behind. Big Bill Breeze, a Nick Prather trainee, was the runner-up in Springfield to eventual champion Tour Hall in an elimination race but missed the final due to sickness. John D Finn’s Finnster, who owns a win against both Come And Tell Pap and Big Bill Breeze, has shown ability when he stays flat. The field is completed with Bully Bust Boy, Battleshoe Crown, Swiss Mocha and Bands Jeeves. The first County Fair Championship to be decided Friday night is the third race for 3-year-old ICF filly trotters. The J D Finn Stable’s High Stepper, a seven-time season winner, is the likely favorite. The daughter of High Falls won her season debut at Hoosier Park with a 2:01.4 mile in the slop and then campaigned at Balmoral before going on the County Fair Circuit. High Stepper will face Foxy Polar, Elegant Rosie, Accokeek Aphrodite, Bands Dee Dee and Sherry’s Band, a six-time season winner for Freddie Patton Jr. Patton will guide the morning line favorite Bands Giant Star in the seventh race 2-year-old filly trot championship. She’ll race as an entry with Bands Fancy. Both fillies are owned and bred by Flacco Family Farms of Alexis, Illinois. Bands Giant Star has won 4 of her first 7 career starts but did draw the 8-slot in the 9-horse field. Macie Rae, who went off stride in the Springfield State Fair Final after third place finish in her elimination, has made five stops in a winner’s circle in her first season of racing for trainer Mike Rogers who will drive the daughter of Powerful Emotion. Landing the rail makes Macie Rae a solid threat if she can mind her racing manners. Looking to pull off an upset are Sweet Bella Breeze, Shady Maple Feisty, Psychicfinn, Dancingthebreeze and Pistol Annie. Mike Oosting, Todd Warren, John Roberts and Kyle Wilfong all are competing Friday night at Du Quoin and are off their drives at Maywood Park where the feature race is a $10,000 high-level conditioned pace. The 11th race is headed up by Firstclassallthway (programmed 2-1, John De Long), Raging Cam (7-2, Dale Hiteman) and Kansas Wildcat (5-1, Brian Carpenter). It also is the first leg of the track’s 50 cent Pick 4 with a guaranteed $10,000 pool and a less than usual takeout of 15 per cent. By Mike Paradise The Illinois Harness Horsemen's Association

The Illinois State Fair meeting at Springfield came to an end with a bang Thursday afternoon when PQ Three became the fastest Illinois bred 2-year-old pacer in history with a 1:50 flat track record performance for driver Mike Oosting. The Erv Miller trained gelding put an end to Unlocked’s unbeaten streak at six when he went past the front-stepping 4-5 pacesetting favorite in the lane in the meet’s finale, the freshman colt and gelding pace showdown and the last of 8 Illinois State Fair Colt Stakes Championships contested. The first of finals came in the 3-year-filly trot division where owner-driver Todd Warren gave his Sara The Spy ($12.20) a perfect two-hole journey and the filly overtook the favored Little Ms Chrissy in the final stride for a head victory. The time of 1:54 flat was a career best for Sara The Spy who will head next to the Du Quoin State Fair that starts a week from today. King Mufasa ($2.10) was all out to capture the 3-year-old colt trotting final, his seventh straight for the driver-trainer combination of Mike Oosting and Mike Brink, just holding off his fast charging entry-mate Skyline Road. King Mufasa, who this year is 9-for-9 in his division, trotted a lifetime best time of 1:53.4 and went over $130,000 in season earnings for owners Bill Wright and Mystical Marker Farms. Fox Valley Lotus ($8.40) made her third career start the charm, taking the freshman filly trot final despite a first-over journey. John Roberts guided the Curt Grummel trainee to her maiden triumph in 1:57.3 over Bailey’s Wish for Pittsfield, Illinois owner Dr. Patrick Graham. My Little Bit ($7.40) led from start to finish when she annexed the 2-year-old filly pace crown with Marcus Miller, pacing a 1:53.4 mile for trainer Erv Miller and her winning Evergreen Park, Illinois owners Obermeier & Quaid Stables. When Fox Valley Veto went off stride in mid-stretch on the lead it made the task easier for eventual winner Tour Hall ($9.40) who flashed past and drew away to the freshman championship for trotting colts and geldings. “Mike (trainer Brink) made some changes on him since last week and he was much better today,” said driver Dave Magee in the winner’s circle. “When he was keeping up at the quarter mile pole I knew we had a good chance. That had been an issue him in his earlier races. He was full of trot when we turned for home and I couldn’t wait to pull him.” Owned by his Springfield based trainer and Loren Tournear of Liberty, Illinois, Tour Hall knocked almost three full seconds off his first winning mile with a 1:57.3 clocking. Brink, who is recovering from major shoulder surgery from an earlier accident at a County Fair track, had a training triple on the day. He won earlier with King Mufasa and with his 2-year-old filly pacer April May Dune. The 3-year-old filly pace final saw the 10-1 longshot Dallas Jones ($23.40) get her nose in front of the pacesetting Mystical Danica at the end of a quick 1:51.2 mile. Capably driven by Casey Leonard for trainer Joel Smith, the filly erased over three seconds from her lifetime mark with season win No. 7 for Hoosier Paula Smith and Illinoisans James Runyan and Frank Pike. Leonard was back in the winner’s circle a third time with a heady drive behind the favorite Mystical Walter ($3.80) in the championship for sophomore pacing colts and geldings. With the field “walking” to a the first half, timed in :59.3, Casey took Mystical Walter out of fourth on the backside and to the lead before the last turn. The Miller trainee came home in 26.1 at the end of his 1:53.4 mile for Illinois owners Paymaq Racing of Long Grove and Mystical Marker Farms of Dwyer, Indiana. Oosting won the Springfield meet’s driver title and Miller successfully defended his trainer’s crown. Mike Paradise The Illinois Harness Horsemen's Association

With Marcus Miller back in his home state this week to handle some of his dad’s horses in stakes races the Illinois State Fair in Springfield the 24-year-old will also visit Balmoral Park Wednesday night to do some catch-driving. Miller has a drive in every event on the 10-race card that includes the well-bred 3-year-old filly trotter We’ve Got It All in the third race, the second of three divisions of the Champion On Ice Trotting Series. We’ve Got It All was scheduled to race in last week’s opening round but ended up a judge’s scratched for “not reported.” A daughter of Yankee Glide out of the Mr. Vic mare Wishingforadream, the filly went unraced as a 2-year-old and in seven starts this season she hasn’t been better than third and that occurred just once. “We’ve Got It All has raced better since dad (trainer Erv) put trotting hobbles on her a few starts ago,” said Marcus. I asked Marcus why the $95,000 yearling buy was shipped to all the way to Illinois to compete in the Champion On Ice Series. “To braven her up,” Marcus replied. “Out east these NW of 1 and 2 trots go in ‘55’ or ’56.’ We thought she would do well against the (softer) competition at Balmoral. A couple of wins could do a lot for her confidence.” We’ve Got It All is owned by Paymaq Racing of Long Grove, Illinois, Peggy Hood of Valparaiso, Indiana and Canadian Greg Gillis. She’ll leave from the pole position and will open as the 7-2 morning line second choice. Among her opponents is the 3-1 favorite Tempus Fugit (Kyle Husted) and Liz’s Black Beauty (5-1, Dave Magee), first round series winner in 1:59 flat and 1:59.2, respectively. J M Showcat, the other opening leg winner, is Wednesday’s 3-1 first race favorite and Marcus will take over his lines for Mike Oosting, who is taking Wednesday off along with Todd Warren and John Roberts. Wednesday’s third series division, the fifth race, has Fox Valley Roxy (Dean Magee) and Jailhouse Rockn (Dave Magee) as the 3-1 and 4-1 first flash favorites, in that order. By Mike Paradise The Illinois Harness Horsemen's Association

State bred pacers and trotters were front and center on Saturday, July 27th as Balmoral Park presented its Southland Festival of Racing. A total of five championship tilts were contested with more than $290,000 in purse money up for grabs as the Prairie States top two and three-year-old pacers slugged it out in one of 2013’s biggest nights. Trotters kicked off the racing action with a field of seven diagonally gaited three-year-old colts and geldings battling in the $51,000 Kadabra Stake. Just as he’s done throughout his entire second season H. Bill Wright and Mystical Marker Farms King Mufasa proved to be way too much for this group as he trotted to a 1 ¼ length triumph in 1:55.2 for driver Mike Oosting. Unhurried early the gelded son of Powerful Emotion—Foxy N Diamonds settled in sixth as Semper Fit (Dave Magee) led the field through opening splits of 28.1 & 58.0. Oosting then put the Mike Brink trainee into gear as the field headed down the backstretch and the division leader responded beautifully, charging right by the pace setter on the final turn while taking the field by the three-quarter-mile mark in 1:26.2. “We were going into a pretty decent wind there so I just allowed him to trot on as much as he wanted to,” said Oosting. “I didn’t even realize we were going a 28.2 third quarter. That’s how smooth he is.” Under a hand drive through the lane, King Mufasa turned aside a challenge from entrymate Powerful Poe (Todd Warren) as he reported home with his seventh win in eight starts this year. Powerful Poe was forced to settle for the runner-up role for the sixth time this year while Skyline Road (Casey Leonard) was third. “I was a little concerned when Powerful Poe came up alongside us but then he just took off again,” said a happy Oosting. “He knows what he’s got to do and he just keeps going out there and doing it. Not only is that a credit to him but to Mike (Brink) as well. He’s kept him quiet and sound all year long and he’s just as sharp now as he was early in the year.” With the win King Mufasa now has seven wins and one second in eight starts this year with earnings of $95,410. With no place or show wagering King Mufasa returned $2.10. Next up were two-year-old pacing fillies as a field of 10 youngsters squared off in the $65,000 Loyal Opposition Stake. After a furious stretch drive Engel Stable of Illinois ’ Thesleazyprincess gave Oosting his second stakes triumph of the night as she recorded a 3 ¼ length victory in 1:54.3. After rushing to the front after an opening quarter in 27.3 Oosting allowed a hard charging Fox Valley Amanda (Dale Hiteman) to grab command as the field reached the half-mile mark in 56.2. That pocket sitting journey nearly turned into a nightmare for the Nelson Willis trained miss as Fox Valley Amanda began to tire after passing the three-quarter mile mark in 1:25.1. “Those two up front (Fox Valley Amanda & Western Dame) were starting to tire and I wasn’t sure if I was going to get carried to the open stretch,” said a relieved Oosting. “That’s when I decided to back my filly off a little and we were able to get out of that spot.” Patiently sliding off the pylons with an eighth of a mile to go Oosting maneuvered the daughter of Sagebrush—Da Sleazy One three wide around her rivals and the long striding filly quickly swept past the tiring leaders for her second win in three career starts. My Little Bit (Casey Leonard) shook loose late and rallied to be the bridesmaid while favored Western Dame (John De Long) finished third. “That was a giant effort from a two-year-old filly,” Oosting commented in the winner’s circle. “I really wound up starting and stopping her three different times during that race but she still had an answer for them when she needed it most. That was huge.” The second choice in the wagering returned $5.00, $3.40, & $2.10 while upping her bankroll to $37,450. Oosting did not wait long to strike for a third time taking the $63,500 Mini Me Stake for two-year-old pacing colts in the next event of the night guiding Obermeier & Quaid Stables good looking youngster, PQ Three to a half-length triumph in a career best of 1:54.2. Floating away from post position nine Oosting had the son of Yankee Skyscaper—Sweltering underway as R Duneshine (John Roberts) and Traffic Cop (Todd Warren) battled through opening splits of 27.3 & 56.2. Picking up cover from Badger Quinn (Kyle Wilfong) as the field moved into the turn Oosting did not wait long to attack from his second over position, moving three wide as the field reached the three-quarter-mile mark in 1:25.3. “I knew Todd’s horse (Traffic Cop) was going to be tough to beat so I did not want to let them get away from us,” explained Oosting. “I would have loved to have sat in there longer but I wanted to be in top gear when we straightened up for home.” Setting sail for the wire the Erv Miller trainee paced home in 28.3 to secure his third win in five lifetime starts. Traffic Cop was a hard fought second while Badger Quinn held on for third. After the win Oosting was quick to praise Miller for the conditioning job on PQ Three. “Erv has done a nice job with this one,” said Oosting. “He was a nice horse the first time I ever sat behind him but he’s even better now. They’ve taken pretty much all of the equipment off of him and he’s very simply rigged now. He’s just an absolute pleasure to drive.” The 2-1 second choice returned $6.00, $2.80 & $2.20 while moving his record to 3-2-0 in five starts with earnings of $41,874.  Balmoral’s leading reinsman continued his “one-man-show” in the fourth event of the evening, this time guiding John arver’s Auniqueaquistion to a one-length victory in 1:53.1 to take the $60,000 Ann Vonian Stake for three-year-old filly pacers. Confidently handled by her red-hot pilot the daughter of Cole Muffler—Shessoluvabull made a bold move to the front after watching Feel Like Dancing (Kyle Wilfong) lead the field through an opening quarter in 28.0. Rolling through middle splits of 56.1 & 1:24.0 the Donna Lee Ozment trained miss was forced to brace for a first over challenge from her chief rival, Aliyah Maria (Todd Warren) as the field turned for the money. After gamely putting away that challenge Auniqueaquistion held firm the rest of the way for her seventh win in 10 starts this year. Feel Like Dancing came on again to finish a nice second while Dallas Jones (Casey Leonard) was third. “My horse was starting to get a little complacent on me so I had to get after her a little harder than I usually do,” said Oosting. “She really started to dig in at that point and I felt pretty confident we could hold off whoever was going to take a shot at us. That’s the big difference with her this year. She really gets after it in the last 200 yards or so and Donna’s done a great job with her after she had the heart issue a few weeks ago.” Now sporting a record of 10-5-0 in 18 career starts, Auniqueaquistion returned $4.00, $2.60 & $2.60 while upping her career bankroll to $240,985. The final stake of the night provided a bit of an upset as John & Mary Krasnican’s Big Brad, a 5-1 shot came flying through the stretch for driver Robert Smolin to win the $59,000 Incredible Finale Stake for three-year-old colt pacers in 1:51.2. Reserved through opening splits of 28.0 & 55.3 while Fancy Creek Elusiv (Dave Magee), Sage Ruck (Mike Oosting) and Mystical Walter (Casey Leonard) all took turns on the lead, Smolin finally worked Big Brad into the outer flow as the field reached the halfway point. “Ever since he tried to pull himself up while on the lead a few starts back I’ve been ducking with him,” Smolin explained. “I was hoping  that we were going to catch some decent cover tonight and I was pretty happy with the way he felt on the last turn.” Storming up three wide as Mystical Walter led the way past the three-quarter-mile mark in 1:23.2 the son of Henry Clay—One Sure Thing set sail for the wire. Flying home in 27.1 the Bob Phillips trainee picked off one rival after another while bobbing and weaving his way to his sixth win 14 starts this year. Sage Ruck came on again late to finish second while Crankin’ It Up (Kyle Wilfong) rallied to be third. After the win Smolin seemed a bit relieved that the journey resulted in a victory. “At the top of the stretch I was just hoping to be second or third,” he said. “My horse was running out at that point, then he started diving in on me. He didn’t know which line he wanted to be on. Once he finally decided to go straight he was as fast as he’s ever been!”  Big Brad returned $13.80, $6.80 & $5.40 while running his record to 9-4-7 in 23 career starts with earnings of $166,540. Stakes action continues on Sunday night with the $45,000 Fox Valley Evita Stake for three-year-old trotting fillies headlining the card. Post time on Sunday is 7:10 p.m. (central). Tom Kelley ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Big Brad and driver Bobby Smolin came flying through the lane to win the $59,000 Incredible Finale Stake in 1:51.2. King Mufasa continued his dominance of the three-year-old colt trotting set with an easy score in the $51,000 Kadabra Stake. Thesleazyprincess knocked off nine other two-year-old pacing fillies to win the $65,000 Loyal Opposition in 1:54.3. PQ Three won for the third time in five career starts as he rolled to victory in the $63,500 Mini Me Stake for two-year-old pacing colts. Auniqueaquistion gave Mike Oosting his fourth stakes win of the year as she knocked off nine rivals in the $60,000 Ann Vonian Stake.  

Through the years it seems when local drivers approach milestones more times than not they go into a slump before they attain their goal. That was certainly the case for John Roberts before he brought home seven winning horses on last Friday's and Saturday's programs to go over the 1,000 plateau in harness racing career victories.

Harness racing driver John Roberts reached the 1,000 win plateau on Saturday night, pulling off a stunning upset with 35-1 outsider B Keeper in race three to reach the coveted mark. The 32-year-old native of Grant Park, Illinois has been on a roll the past two years posting over 200 victories in both 2011 & 2012 and is on pace to accomplish that feat again in 2013.

Many of us who are fans of harness racing spend a lot of time looking at the replays of recent races to help our handicapping.

Many of us who are fans of harness racing spend a lot of time looking at the replays of recent races to help our handicapping. We often have our face in front of a computer watching not only the horses in a particular race but also noticing any tendencies of the competing drivers.

Two-time Du Quoin State Fair champion Mystical MJ makes her first start in Illinois in over a year when she competes Friday night (February 1st) at Maywood Park for the Tom Simmons Stable. The now 5-yerar-old daughter of Sportsmaster was bought by long-time Simmons owner (David) Clinard Properties Inc. of Mt. Sterling, IL for $33,000 at the Meadowlands Sale a few weeks ago.

Illinois conceived and foaled pacers and trotters were back in action on Saturday, Sept. 22nd and Sunday, Sept. 23rd as Balmoral Park played host to a trio of stakes events for two and three-year-olds.

The action on and off the track was fast and furious on Saturday, July 28th, as a big crowd flocked to Balmoral Park for the Chicago Southland Festival of Racing. Along with a taco eating contest, salsa tasting contest, live music and plenty of other giveaways and food & drink specials there was also plenty of harness racing action on the track as some of Illinois best pacers and trotters battled for more than $300,000 in purse money in five stake finals.

The Illinois conceived and foaled stakes harness racing action continued on Sunday night (April 1) at Balmoral Park as a field of eight three-year-old pacing fillies met for the $12,000 Direct Balance Stake. Fresh off a wire to wire victory in her 2012 debut at Maywood Park last week, Kenneth Hughes good looking filly Rich N Fancy lived up to her 2-5 status of the betting public as she cruised to a deceptively easy 2-3/4 length victory in 1:55.4 with driver-trainer John Roberts at the controls.

A trio of harness racing drivers were sent to Gottleib Memorial Hospital after a nasty wreck in the 10th race on Fridaynight (Feb. 24) at Maywood Park. A wreck in the final turn sent four horses and drivers tumbling to the ground after Stylish Soiree N and John Roberts set off a chain reaction accident while storming to the lead while three wide after the three-quarter-mile mark.

Coming off impressive back to back scores in the first two legs of the harness racing Incredible Finale Series Kenneth Hughes Rich N Fancy was bet like defeat was out of the question in Thursday's $9,700 series final at Maywood Park.

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