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If their elimination heat was an indication of things to come, then Saturday's showdown between Al's Hammered and Forty Silky in the $112,000 Tony Maurello Stake at Balmoral Park should be a real heater. Last week the two Illinois-bred brutes battled it out in a torrid frenzy that saw the Bob Phillips-trained Al's Hammered prevail by 1½ lengths in 1:49.1 over the John Prentice-harnessed Fort Silky. Purchased by Phillips for a mere $2,000 at the 2010 Illini Sale, Al's Hammered has $426,627 in career earnings with a mark of 1:48.4 taken at age 3, en route to winning the $178,000 Langley Memorial on Super Night 2012 by 9½ lengths. He was also a solid third in the $241,000 Orange & Blue on Super Night 2011 as a freshman. Now 5, the gelded son of Droppin'Thehammer had an abbreviated schedule in 2013, after sustaining an injury in a Feb.2 race. Al's Hammered damaged his superficial digital flexor tendon (SDFT) and annular ligament of his left front leg. This injury is catastrophic to a racehorse, with recovery taking up to 18 months, and the tendons rarely return to their original functional elasticity. "The tendon was devastated; it looked like a shotgun hit it," remarked Dr. Greg Skelton, Bob's veterinarian. "Al's Hammered was a step away from a total breakdown." "We ultra-sounded it, and Greg suggested we cut the annular ligament," Bob, 69, explained. "Al's leg was the same size as his knee all the way to the ankle." "We thought it was best to cut the annular ligament, which alleviates pressure on the tendon sheath," Greg stressed. "If you don't cut that, the horse might get sore because mechanically the tendon can't move through to the ankle. Cutting removes restriction to the leg, allowing for more ease of movement." Greg also suggested injecting the leg with a series of PRP (platelet-rich plasma) treatments. "Time was my first thought for recovery, and I thought using PRP would heal it better," Greg acknowledged. To prepare for a PRP treatment, a veterinarian takes blood plasma, an anti-coagulant, and a bit of white surface from red blood cells known as the 'buffy coat,' (which has DNA and healing proteins, white cells and platelets)--all from the injured horse. Via ultrasound, the vet injects a dose of PRP into the back of the leg, between the ligament and SDFT, inside and outside of the sheath. "I did this twice a month for six months," Greg confirmed. "By concentrating the plasma, the horse's own system heals the leg. I told Bob not to hold his breath; that this was a pretty big injury." "This treatment was amazing," Bob said. "After three months the leg was nearly back to normal. Nobody could believe how much it had sucked down." Nearly ten months later, Al's Hammered scored a winning 1:54.2 qualifier at Balmoral. On Nov. 16 he posted a 1:55.3 victory; followed by a 1:51.2 win on Nov. 23; a Dec. 7 win in a seasonal best 1:50.3; and a Dec. 14 triumph in 1:51.3. In just six starts he earned $31,395, pushing his 2013 earnings to $40,915. "I give a lot of credit to Bob," Greg offered. "There are not many trainers who would walk a horse themselves and take the time with him Bob has. Amazingly, this horse had no other injections--just the PRP treatments. The horse was a model patient and Bob was patient in the recovery process." This year, Al's Hammered has added another $117,400 to his bankroll, with 13 wins in 19 tries. "By far, he's the best horse I've ever had," Bob said. "I think he's better now than before the injury. You can train horses all your life and never get one like him." The indomitable Fort Silky, who has $668,100 in career earnings, with 47 wins, 44 seconds and 28 thirds from 197 lifetime starts for owners John Prentice and Neva Jane Ikeler, will try to stop Al's Hammered from garnering another Super Night triumph. The 8-year-old son of Ft Apache Hanover won the $25,000 Egyptian Stake on Aug. 29 at Maywood, stopping the timer in 1:50.4, just two-fifths of a second off the half-miler's track record, prior to his Maurello elim last week. A starter in the Maurello for the past three years, he'll be looking for his first Super Night Crown tonight. by Kimberly Rinker, for Balmoral Park  

A very familiar group of older state-bred pacers renewed acquaintances on Friday, August 29th at Maywood Park as a classy field of five local stars knocked heads in the $25,000 Egyptian Stake which was Leg 2 of the Maywood Park Pacing Series. Much like a fine wine, John Prentice and Neva Jane Ikeler's Fort Silky just continues to get better with age as he rolled to an impressive two-length wire to wire victory in a blistering 1:50.4, which was just 2/5th's of a second off the track record on the half-mile oval. Confidently handled by driver Casey Leonard the eight-year-old son of Ft Apache Hanover was sent right to the front from his outside starting spot. In total control of the proceedings, the Terry Leonard trained gelding reeled off splits of 28.1, 56.1 & 1:23.2 while in hand to Maywood's leading reinsman. After turning aside a first over bid from the always dangerous Al's Hammered (Robert Smolin), Fort Silky paced home in a wicked 27.2 to notch his 21st win in the past two seasons. Al's Hammered was forced to settle for the runner-up role on this night while Mystical Walter (John De Long) finished third, 6 ¾ lengths behind the winner. Sent off as the second choice in the wagering Fort Silky returned $5.60, $2.20 & $2.10 while running his career record to an impressive 47-43-28 in 196 lifetime starts with earnings of $664,350 for his proud connections. Fort Silky has now captured the first two legs of this series as he looks to repeat his 2013 win the series. by Tom Kelley, for Maywood Park  

Friday’s $25,000 Egyptian stake, the second leg of the Maywood Park Pacing Series for ICF colts and geldings ages three and up, came up a little short in number but tall in talent. Most of the top older ICF pacers will square off in the fourth race feature and all know their way around the Maywood Park oval with defending series champion Fort Silky having by far the most success on the half-miler in the six-horse field. The 8-year-old son of Ft. Apache Hanover is looking for his 15th lifetime win at Maywood and he’ll have his work cut out to get it for Paw Paw, Illinois owners John Prentice and Neva Jane Keeler. The current star of the Terry Leonard Stable landed the outside six post with the likes of Fox Valley Norman, Mystical Walter, Al’s Hammered, Fancy Creek Elusiv and Silver Devil inside of him with posts 1 through 5, in that order. Fort Silky (Casey Leonard) and Silver Devil (John De Long) are expected to provide the early speed from the outside while the longshot Fox Valley Norman with the one-slot has shown in the past he can also leave in a hurry. The Perry Smith trainee won the Go Sox at Maywood last season as a 3-year-old in front-end fashion. Silver Devil took this year’s Aged Cardinal Championship at Maywood back in June while his Nick Giberson trained stable-mate Fancy Creek Elusiv came away with the 2013 Maywood Pace Championship. They’ll race up-coupled Friday with different ownership. Sitting on top of the ICF Aged Division is Bob Phillips’ Al’s Hammered who has been close to unstoppable in his 5-year-old season. The 12-time season winner has captured the circuit’s Invite a half-dozen times already, while also coming away with triumphs in Balmoral’s Broadway Preview and Betzotic, the aged ICF title at  Springfield, and the Taser Gun on Mt. Sterling’s half-mile fair track. The Egyptian will be Al’s Hammered first start at Maywood since 2012 when he won the Cole Muffler stake near the end of his 3-year-old season. However, the winner of over $12,000 lifetime, did drop his four other 3-year-old Maywood trips postward, the only year he has raced there. Mystical Walter comes off a resounding 1:52 victory in the ICF Aged Pace Stake at the Du Quoin State Fair. Last season’s Illinois 3-Year-Old Male Pacer of the Year was victorious in the 2013 Langley on Super Night, captured both State Fair titles, and took the Incredible Finale Final and a Hanover at Balmoral. A son of Yankee Skyscraper, Mystical Walter dropped a head decision to Fancy Creek Elusiv in last year’s Maywood Pace Final and still racked up over $195,000 in purse earners for owners Paymaq Racing, D & M Trading and Mystical Marker Farms. With regular driver Casey Leonard at the lines of his family stable’s venerable Fort Silky, Dave Magee will make a rare appearance at Maywood Park Friday to drive the Erv Miller trained 4-year-old. The National Hall of Famer did drive Mystical Walter once early in the horse’s 3-year-old campaign. by Mike Paradise, for IHHA

After a two-week hiatus live racing returned to BalmoralPark with a pair of state-bred stakes for older pacers sharing top billing on the 13-race program. The ladies kicked off the action with a pair of $21,400 divisions of the Parklane Powerful Stake. In the first division Kenneth Rucker's Party Hangover continued her dominance of this division as she cruised to a 3 ¼ length victory in a career best of 1:51.1 for driver Todd Warren. After leaving alertly from the outside starting spot, Warren sent the five-year-old daughter of Party At Artsplace on her way from fourth after an opening quarter of 27.0. Quickly moving to the front, the Catrina Rucker trained miss proceeded to lead the field through middle splits of 54.1 & 1:22.2. Through the lane the only thing in doubt was who would pick up the minor spoils as Party Hangover effortlessly reported home with her sixth straight victory. Just By Design (Dave Magee) rallied from last to finish second while Fox Valley Touche (Dale Hiteman) was third. With the win Party Hangover boasts a record of 7-3-2 in 21 starts this season. The overwhelming favorite returned just $3.20, $2.60 & $2.10 while upping her career earnings to $292,511. The second division provided an upset as Mark Winship's No Respect took advantage of a miscue in the lane by favorite Dallas Jones in route to a 2 ¾ length victory in a lifetime best of 1:51.4 for driver John De Long. Settling near the back as the action up front was hot and heavy De Long was happy to watch Incredible Filly (Ronnie Gillespie), The Bruzilian Blur (Todd Warren) and then Dallas Jones (Kyle Wilfong) all trade blows through red-hot splits of 27.3, 54.1 & 1:23.1. In the lane, State Fair Stake winner Dallas Jones made a very uncharacteristic break jamming up several rivals while leaving a fit and fresh No Respect with clear sailing to the wire. The Nick Giberson trained daughter of Sportsmaster then proceeded to uncork a 28.0 final quarter to notch her seventh victory of the season. Dune In Red (Dave Magee) who inherited the lead after the miscue by the favorite held on for second while Kimberly R (Dale Hiteman) finished third. Sent off at 9-1 the brown five-year-old returned $22.80, $4.00 & $3.20 while pushing her career earnings up to $314,428. A full field of 10 pacers went postward in the $35,200 Big Tom Stake and when the smoke cleared in this wild and wooly affair it was John Prentice and Neva Jane Ikeler's FortSilky who emerged with an impressive 6 ¾ length victory in 1:49.3 for driver Casey Leonard. With even money favorite Al's Hammered saddled with a starting spot in the second tier Leonard left quickly with Fort Silky sitting right on the back of the hard leaving Ice Scraper (Ross Leonard) through splits of 27.2 & 55.0. Deftly averting disaster when the pace setter made a break approaching the top of the stretch, Fort Silky was in full in stride as he sailed by the three-quarter-mile mark in 1:22.3. Leaving his rivals in his wake the eight-year-old Ft. ApacheHanover gelding sealed the deal in grand fashion, pacing home in 27.0 to post his 20th win over the past two seasons. Iam Bonasera (Kyle Wilfong) turned a nice ground saving trip into a second place check while Al's Hammered was forced to settle for third on this night. The Terry Leonard trainee returned $9.20, $5.60 & $3.20 while upping his career bankroll to an eye popping $650,650. by Tom Kelley, for Balmoral Park

The 2014 Maywood Park Pacing Series kicked off on Friday, July 4th with the first of the three leg series, the $30,000 Cook County Stake attracting a field of seven ICF pacers. After taking this series last year, John Prentice and Neva Jane Ikeler's Fort Silky showed that taking "champs" belt will be no easy task as he cruised to a two-length victory in a snappy 1:51.2 for driver Casey Leonard. Taking advantage of the defection of morning line favorite Al's Hammered who was scratched sick, Leonard charged away from post position four with the eight-year-old son of Ft Apache Hanover easily made the top as the field rolled through an opening quarter in 27.2. Keeping a first over Fancy Creek Elusiv (Ryan Anderson) at bay Fort Silky continued to pace along steadily on top through middle splits of 56.0 & 1:23.2. With plenty in reserve the Terry Leonard trainee found another gear heading around the final turn, quickly widening his advantage as he cruised home with his second win in 11 starts this season. Silver Devil (John De Long) rallied late to finish second while Fancy Creek Elusiv held on for third. A 17-time winner in 2013 Fort Silky continues to put up big numbers now boasting $628,850 in earnings for his proud connections. Bet to the near exclusion of his rivals Fort Silky returned $3.00, $2.10 & $2.10. The Maywood Pacing Series awards a $25,000 bonus to the higher point earner of its three-race series. The bonus has gone to a Terry Leonard trainee the past four seasons with Fort Silky taking last year's championship after the great Well To Do Guru had taken home top honors in 2010, 2011 & 2012. Fort Silky took the first step towards defending his Maywood Park Pacing Series with an easy win in Friday's $30,000 Cook County Stake. by Tom Kelley, for Maywood Park

Hinsdale, IL --- The Mike Brink Stable’s King Mufasa, who dominated last season’s 3-year-old ICF colt and gelding trotting division, was named the 2013 Illinois Horse of the Year at last Saturday’s USTA District 5 awards banquet in Springfield. The son of Powerful Emotion, out of the Muscles Yankee mare Foxy N Diamonds, joined Brink after a modest 2-year-old campaign where he won two of eight starts and banked under $10,000 for owners H H Wright and Mystical Marker Farms. King Mufasa was absolutely sensational under the care of Brink, winning every major Illinois bred stake -- including the $50,800 Cardinal, the $51,000 Kadabra, both State Fair crowns at Springfield and Du Quoin and the $124,000 Su Mac Lad on Super Night -- along with open added money triumphs in Balmoral Park’s $37,000 Hanover and the $31,000 Circle City at Hoosier Park. At one time King Mufasa rattled off 12 consecutive victories when he earned $238,590 racing out of Brink’s barn. And to the surprise of many, the ICF star wasn’t sold out east after his huge season and will be back to campaign in Illinois and Indiana in 2014. “His owners like him so well that they didn’t want to put him in a sale. They’re letting me race him in the Midwest for another year,” said Brink, who turned 61 earlier this month. The veteran Springfield based conditioner concluded his most successful year in 2013 with career highs in winners (68) and money earned ($717,414) from his barn. King Mufasa was also voted the Illinois 3-year-old champion male trotter. Other sophomore division winners honored at the banquet were Mystical Walter (1:50, $195,259) as the male pacer for owners Paymaq Racing, D & M Trading of Illinois and Mystical Marker Farms; Auniqueaquistion (1:52.2, $249,235), owned by John Carver and Dandy Farms Inc., as the pacing filly; and Trot Fudge Sundae as the top trotting filly for the Illinois trio of James Bafia, Gene White and Sam Daddono. The 2013 ICF freshmen divisional champions were PQ Three (1:50, $111,899), owned by Obermeier & Quaid Stables as the male pacer; Thesleazyprincess (1:54, $159,615), owned and bred by the Marty Engel Stable of Illinois as the filly pacer; Jerry’s Graham’s Photo Surprise (1:57, $96,825) as the male trotter; and Bailey’s Wish (1:59, $112,710), co-owned by Illinoisans James Bafia and Gene White, as the top filly trotter. John Prentice and Neva Jane Ikeler’s Fort Silky (1:49.3, $269,075) took ICF older horse pacer honors. Jesse De Long’s Let’s Go Higher (1:50.3, $198,236) was the older mare pacing winner. Randall Bendis’ Zumba Mouse (1:54, $103,474) was best among the older trotting mares and Run And Tell Pap (1:53.2, $126,510) took the top spot for older trotting horses for owners Burke Racing LLC and Weaver Bruscemi LLC. The state’s 2013 champion pacing stallion was Yankee Skyscaper while Powerful Emotion was named the trotting stallion division titleholder. Shesoluvabull was voted the champion pacing broodmare for a second consecutive year while Just Having Fin took that honor in the trotting broodmare division. District 5 Director and Chairman Sam Lilly was the Master of Ceremonies at the well-attended banquet and dinner where USTA Executive Vice-President Mike Tanner was a special guest. by Mike Paradise, for IHHA

Fort Silky and driver Casey Leonard went wire-to-wire to capture the $30,000 Lester McKeever Stake in 1:53.3 on Nov. 15 at Maywood Park. The 7-year-old son of Ft. Apache Hanover is trained byTerry Leonard for owners John Prentice and Neve Jan Ikeler of Illinois. After sweeping through fractions of :28.1, :57.2 and 1:25.4, Fort Silky held off second-place finisher Uncle Smoothie (Matt Krueger)by three-quarters of a length. Mystical Walter (Lewayne Miller) finished third. Fort Silky added the $15,000 winner’s share to his seasonal bankroll of $237,795. “This race worked out exactly the way we wanted it to,”Leonard said. “My horse left well as I had him pretty reved up and I was a little surprised nobody left. Going into the last turn my horse felt really good. He doesn’t finish as well here as he does at Balmoral, but he was good enough to get the job done. I love horses that just get it, like he does. Sometimes the fastest horse doesn’t always win the race—sometimes it’s just the horse that keeps on trying.” Fort Silky scored his fourth consecutive victory andpushed his career earnings to $551,935. by Kimberly A. Rinker for Maywood Park  

It’s not often that the “star” of your team retires and the squad doesn’t miss a beat. But that’s the case for “Team Leonard” as Fort Silky looks to post his 16th win of the season and lock up a $20,000 bonus when he takes on seven other state-bred pacers in Friday’s (Nov. 15) $30,000 Lester McKeever Stake at Maywood Park. .   Fresh off three straight victories against “open” company in the Invitational ranks at Balmoral Park the seven-year-old son of Ft. Apache Hanover enters the McKeever Stake in peak form for trainer Terry Leonard.   “I think he’s as good as he’s been at any point in the year,” said driver Casey Leonard who has been the gelding’s regular pilot all year long. “He’s had a couple of weeks off in a few different spots this year and that has really helped to keep him fresh all season long.”   Sent to the Leonard barn to start the season by owners John Prentice and Neva Jane Ikeler Fort Silky, who had banked nearly $300,000 going into 2013 season, immediately began to flourish under the care of the Leonard operation.   “We knew he was a very good horse from competing against him for the past few years while we had Well To Do Guru racing,” explained Leonard. “From day one he took to our program and he’s only become more and more comfortable with it. He’s a heck of a good eater, he learned to swim and now he’s actually very fond of that and he’s been a good trainer when it comes time to hit the track. He’s as relaxed as can be and he’s just fit in perfectly with us.”   Fort Silky enters Friday’s battle sporting an impressive record of 15-11-2 in 31 starts this season with earnings of $239,795. Despite the gaudy totals driver Casey Leonard believes the career winner of $536,939 could have even more money on his card this season if not for some tough racing luck in several starts. “He’s was stuck in the second tier in the Cook County Stake (Leg 1 of this series) and wound up finishing second,” said Leonard who is having the best year of his career with 344 victories through Nov. 13th. “Then in the Egyptian (Leg 2) he wound up on the outside in the 8-hole and I had to blast him out of there. We also had a pretty tough trip while under constant pressure on Super Night and still managed to finish second. Still the numbers he’s put up are pretty impressive.” After taking this series the past three years with their great home-bred Well To Do Guru who was retired earlier this season, the Leonard’s will have a chance pull off the four-peat with Fort Silky who will leave from post position four in Friday’s battle.   “I certainly didn’t foresee being in this position after we retired “Guru” earlier this year,” said Leonard. “He was the star of our stable for so long that it’s almost surreal to have this chance again. The year that Fort Silky has put together has been incredible. He’s been a pleasure to drive and to train and to be able to do this for such respected people like Neva and John makes it that much better.”   The $20,000 owner’s bonus goes to the horse who accumulates the most points in the three-race series.  Here are the current standings heading into Friday’s McKeever Stake.   Maywood Park's Illinois Bred Championship Series Point Totals   Fort Silky 50 Uncle Smoothie 50 Fox Valley Yukon 50 NJ's Big Deal 20 Sports Fanatic 20 Whirlwind Diplomacy 10   Tom Kelley

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  

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

A pair ofstate-bred stakes, each split into two divisions, along with two carry over pools and two big guaranteed pools highlighted a busy Saturday night of harness racing action at Balmoral Park. With a total of 15 distaffers dropped into the box for the Parklane Powerful Stake a pair of $30,000 splits kicked off the “Elvis Night” action. In the first division Mystical Marker Farms and Peggy Hood’s outstanding mare, Mystical Victress cruised to her 44th career victory as she rolled under the wire with a one-length decision in 1:51.2 for driver Mike Oosting. Confidently handled by Oosting the six-year-old daughter of Sportsmaster came away fourth as Rev Me Up rolled through opening splits of 27.4 & 55.1. Tipping to the outside on the final turn, the Erv Miller trained miss quickly pulled alongside the pace setter as the field reached the three-quarter-mile mark in 1:23.2. With the money on the line Mystical Victress set sail for the wire easily gobbling up the leader with a 27.3 final quarter to post her sixth win of the season. Fox Valley Matinee(Brian Carpenter) turned a ground saving trip into the place check while Whistle Pig (Casey Leonard) was third. Bet as though defeat was clearly out of the question Mystical Victress returned $2.20, $2.10 & $2.10 while upping her career bankroll to $758,973. In the second division Joshua Carter’s Just By Design used a big backside brush to power into command and never looked back as she reported home with a 2 ¾ length victory in 1:52.2 for driver Dave Magee. Reserved early on as Tamarac Sassy (Casey Leonard) led the field through an opening quarter in 27.3 Magee pulled from sixth as Leonard tried to put on the brakes with the field moving towards the half-mile mark. Rushing up to challenge the pacesetter as the field hit the half in 57.1, Just By Design easily cleared to the front on the turn as was in complete command as she passed the three-quarter mile mark in 1:25.0. Fit and fresh down the stretch, the Mike Brink trained five-year-old sealed the deal with a 27.2 final split to post her second win of the season. Pardon (John De Long) turned in a solid effort to be the bridesmaid while Tamarac Sassy held on for third. The daughter of Sportsmaster returned $6.80, $3.60 & $2.80 while pushing her 2013 record to 2-3-2 in 13 starts. With the win Just By Design now boasts $212,702 in career earnings. A total of 13 older pacing horses were entered for the Big Tom Stake with each division each carrying a jackpot of $30,000. Once again trainer Erv Miller and driver Mike Oosting teamed up to get another prohibitive favorite home as Mystical Marker Farms, Paymac Racing, Shim Racing and Kenneth Duffy’s A Cool Card continued his impressive comeback with a1 ¾ length triumph in 1:51.1. Hustled from fourth to first after watching Park Lane Deputy (Todd Warren) lead the field through an opening quarter in 27.3 A Cool Card was comfortably in front through middle splits of55.4 & 1:23.4. Shrugging off a mild challenge from Whirlwind Diplomacy (Casey Leonard) in the lane, the five-year-old son of Cole Muffler paced home in 27.2 to secure his fourth win in eight starts this season. Park Lane Deputy came on again to finish second while Whirlwind Diplomacy wound up third. After missing part of 2011 and all of 2012 with a cracked knee the bay gelding is showing signs of regaining the form that turned heads here during his three-year-old season. With Saturday’s win A Cool Card boasts career numbers 11-1-2 in 16 starts with earnings of $126,900. He returned $2.20, $2.10 & $2.10 to his legion of backers. In the nightcap John Prentice and Neva Jane Grevengoed’s Fort Silky continued to enjoy his finest season to date as the seven-year-old gelding scored by a hard fought neck in 1:51.1 with Casey Leonard at the controls. Hustled away from post position six the gelded son of Ft. Apache Hanover led the field through an opening quarter in 27.0. Facing immediate pressure from a head strong NJ’s Big Deal (Mike Cox) Leonard briefly released that rival before moving back to the front where he led the field through middle splits of 56.2& 1:24.0. Despite making two moves during the mile the Terry Leonard trainee gamely held off a late bit up the inside from the pocket sitting NJ’s Big Deal with a 27.1 final quarter to post his 37th career victory. Uncle Smoothie (Mike Oosting) finished third. Another heavy favorite of the betting public Fort Silky returned $3.00,$2.20 & $2.10 while upping his career bankroll to $458,834 on the strength of a 2013 record of 11-8-1 in 23 starts. ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- A Cool Card continued an amazing comeback as he rolled to victory in the first of two divisions of the $30,000 Big Tom Stake. Just By Design and driver Dave Magee teamed up to win the second of two divisions of the $30,000 Parklane Powerful Stake. Fort Silky notched his 11th win of the year by knocking off six rivals in 1:51.1 in the second of two divisions of the Big Tom Stake. Mystical Victress posted her 44th career victory as Mike Oosting steered to the six-year-old to a 1:51.2 clocking in the first of two divisions of the Parklane Powerful Stake. Tom Kelley

Friday's Cardinal Stake at Maywood Park turned into the Terry & Casey Leonard show as the father-son harness racing duo teamed up to take a pair of $28,534 divisions of the Cardinal Stake for older state-bred pacers.

With the Illinois harness racing conceived and foaled stakes season in full swing Balmoral Park played host to a pair of state-bred stakes events on Saturday, June 18th and Sunday, June 19th. The top older pacers in the state assembled on Saturday night as a classy field of nine were sent postward in the $30,000 Broadway Preview Stake.

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