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Freshmen pacers stepped into the spotlight on Saturday, August 2nd at BalmoralPark as a pair of Hanover Stakes for two-year-olds shared top billing on the big 13-race card.   The boys kicked off the action as a field of nine were sent postward for a $34,900 jackpot. Despite a win in his last start and the fact he was part of a three-horse entry Kay Willis's Gold Star Image escaped at odds of 7-1 and the rapidly improving youngster made his doubters pay as he rolled to a 2 ¼ length victory in a career best of 1:53.2 for driver Dale Hiteman.   Leaving quickly from post 10, the gelded son of Rockin Image--Village Mimic settled into a nice spot in fourth as Lucpark (Dave Magee) and Indian Outlaw (Travis Seekman) battled through an opening quarter in 27.2.   With several horses getting underway from the back of the pack, Hiteman quickly maneuvered the Nelson Willis trainee to the outside, charging to the front as the field reached the half in 56.4.   In control of things around the bend Gold Star Image proceeded to lead the field through three-quarters in 1:25.2.   After turning aside a first over bid from Earndawg (Pat Curtin) the $4,000 bargain yearling buy dug in gamely holding last week's Mini Me Stake winner King of the Swamp (Todd Warren) and the ground saving Lucpark at bay through the lane. A late charging Indian Outlaw shook loose in time to rally for the place money while King Of The Swamp salvaged the show dough.   Gold Star Image returned a healthy $17.80, $6.40 & $4.60 while running his record to 2-0-1 in 4 starts with earnings of $19,930.   A compact field of five fillies was sent postward in their Hanover test and once again Leyland Mathias and Paymaq Racing's Mr Leland's Filly continued to turn heads with her big closing kick as she rallied for a 1 ½ length triumph in 1:54.3 with Casey Leonard in tow.   Content to save ground while chief rival Lex (Kyle Wilfong) strolled through splits of 29.1 & 58.3 Leonard finally moved the daughter of Sportsmaster--Incredible Katie to the outside as the field reached the three-quarter-mile mark in 1:27.3.   With the pace setter begin to drift a bit in the lane, Leonard dove back to the inside with the Ervin Miller trained miss and she responded beautifully, gobbling up the leader and quickly drawing clear for her second straight stakes score. Lex held on for second while another Miller trainee, Angel Demon (Ryan Anderson) was third.   Heavily backed at the betting windows after her win in the Loyal Opposition Stake last week Mr Leyland's Filly returned $3.40, $2.20 & $2.10 while upping her record to 2-0-0 in four starts with earnings of $35,770.   The Hanover Stakes action continues on Sunday with a pair of events for two-year-old trotters. State-bred trotters will also be in action in the $25,000 Mikes A Mystery Stake. Post time is 7:10 p.m. for the Sunday card. Both Balmoral & Maywood will then be dark for live racing until Friday, August 15th (Maywood) and Saturday, August 16th (Balmoral) as the action heads to Springfield for the State Fair Stakes. Tom Kelley

A busy night of state-bred stake action is in the books as Illinois conceived and foaled pacers and trotters starred in six stake finals as part of the Crete plant's Southland Festival of Racing. With more than $250,000 in purse money up for grabs for this year's two and three-year-old crops these battles kick off the richest and busiest time of the season for these state-breds. Freshman pacing fillies started the non-stop action with a field of 10 ladies squaring off in the $43,500 Loyal Opposition Stake. This raced provided the most dramatic finish of the night as Leland Mathias and Paymaq Racing's Mr. Leland's Filly rallied from ninth at the top of the stretch to win by a length in a career best of 1:53.2. Patiently handled by leading driver Casey Leonard the daughter of Sportsmaster--Incredible Kate sat near the back of the pack throughout the mile while heavily favored Lex (Kyle Wilfong) mixed it up with several different rivals through splits of 28.4, 56.1 & 1:24.2. Bobbing and weaving his way through traffic Leonard maneuvered the Erv Miller trained miss into a clear path with an eighth of a mile to go and the filly absolutely exploded, charging home in 26.3 to secure her first lifetime win in start number three. Angel Demon (Ryan Anderson) came flying through the passing lane to finish second while Lex held on for third. The winner returned $45.20, $15.00 & $5.80 while helping to key a $577 exacta and $909 ten-cent Superfecta payout. Next up were sophomore trotting fillies as a field of eight diagonally gaited ladies met in the $42,000 Fox Valley Evita Stake. This race also provided a milestone moment as Dr Patrick Graham, Flacco Family Farms and Dirk Simpson Stables Say No Mo gave Dirk Simpson his 1,000th training victory by trotting to a two-length upset for driver John De Long. The final time was a lifetime best of 1:55.4. Perfectly positioned at the pylons in third as favored Bailey' Wish (Dave Magee) cruised through splits of 28.4, 57.0 & 1:25.4 De Long angled the daughter of Band's Gold Chip--Not So Kosher to the outside for the stretch drive and the filly responded beautifully, wearing down the pace setter in the final 100 yards to post her third win in 12 starts this season. Bailey' Wish held on for second while Graceful Spirit (Robert Smolin) was third. Sent off at a nice price of 7-1 Say No Mo returned $17.20, $3.40 & $2.40 while running her career numbers to 7-2-3 in 26 starts with earnings of $59,492. It was back to the pace for the next tussle as a field of 10 sophomore fillies battled in the $48,500 Ann Vonian Stake. Once again it was the duo of driver Casey Leonard and trainer Erv Miller who came out on top as Quaid Racing's My Little Bit used the passing lane to perfection in route to a 1 ½ length victory in a lifetime best of 1:52.2. Leaving alertly from post five Leonard positioned his filly perfectly on the back of the hard leaving Cuzimalegend (Travis Seekman) as that filly put up splits of 27.3, 57.1 & 1:24.2. Fit and fresh for the stretch drive the daughter of Sportsmaster--Parade Of Love zipped right by the pace setter with a little less than a sixteenth of a mile to go as she scored for the fifth time in nine starts this season. M A Duty (Ryan Anderson) rallied to finish second while Molly Go Lightly (Kyle Wilfong) turned a ground saving journey into the show dough. Proving once again that when the big money is on the line she comes up big My Little Bit returned $4.00 $2.60 & $2.20 while improving her record to 10-3-2 in 21 career starts with earnings of $183,147. A compact field of six sophomore trotting colts were up next as they battled in the $41,000 Kadabra Stake. Continuing along with an impressive second season Curt & Craig Grummel's Fox Valley Veto powered past rivals in the lane to win by a widening three-lengths in a career best of 1:55.3. John De Long was in the bike for his second championship score of the night. Content to save ground while co-favorite Tour Hall (Dave Magee) and Bobby B Breeze (Todd Warren) took turns strolling through splits of 30.0, 59.0 & 1:27.4, Fox Valley Veto was raging with trot as De Long pulled from third as the field straightened for the money. Charging right by his main nemesis the gelded son of Pizzazzed--Yankee Victory Om was on "idle" as he crossed under the wire with his third win in seven starts this year. Cardinal Wind (Dale Hiteman) rallied to be second while Bobby B Breeze held on for third. Tour Hall made a late break in the race and wound up last in the field. After posting just one win in 2013, Fox Valley Veto now boasts a record of 4-6-0 in 17 lifetime starts with earnings of $114,694. The even-money co-favorite returned $4.00, $3.00 & $3.20. Next up were freshmen pacing colts as a full field of 10 were sent postward in the $48,000 Mini Me Stake. This test turned into a showcase for conditioner Roger Welch as the veteran conditioner sent out the top two finishers in the race with William C & William P De Long's King Of The Swamp proving best by a length and a half in 1:55.0 for driver Todd Warren. Hustled right to the front the gelded son of Sportsmaster--She's Redhot carved out splits of 29.1, 58.2 & 1:27.0. Showing the grit and determination he exhibited in last week's elimination win, the $85,000 yearling purchase dug in through the lane, keeping his pocket sitting entrymate at bay through a spirited stretch drive. Earndawg (Pat Curtin) was a hard trying second while Lucpark (Dave Magee) benefitted from a disqualification to move up to the show spot. Thisishowweroll (John De Long) had finished third but was disqualified for causing interference while on a break in the first turn. With the win King Of The Swamp, who returned $7.40, $8.60 & $3.80, now sports three wins, a second and a third in five career starts with earnings of $32,858. The last of the six championship tilts on Saturday featured three-year-old pacing colts as a field 10 was sent postward in the $48,000 Incredible Finale Stake. Once again an Ervin Miller trainee found his way to the winner's circle as Megan Rogers Racing Stable's Unlocked lived up to his half-money favoritism with a resounding 5 ½ length romp in 1:50 for driver Dave Magee. Working his way to the front after a quarter in 28.0 the speedy son of Duneside Perch--Miss Major Power effortlessly cruised through middle splits of 56.0 & 1:23.4. With plenty still in reserve the good looking colt sprinted away from his rivals, pacing home in 26.3 while under very minimal urging from his Hall Of Fame pilot. Longshot Fox Valley Cupid (Dale Hiteman) who led at the opening call held on nicely to finish second while another outsider, Fox Valley Van (Brian Carpenter) was third. With the win Unlocked, who has spent a large portion of his second season chasing some of the top sophomores in the country, now sports a record of eight wins and six seconds in 22 career starts with earnings of $142,672. Bet as though defeat was out of the question Unlocked returned $3.00, $2.40 & $2.10. The Southland Festival of Racing action continues on Sunday with a pair of big money events for two-year-old trotters. Post time is 7:10 p.m. for the Sunday card. For entries and more information please visit www.balmoralpark.com. by Tom Kelley, for Balmoral Park

State-bred pacers were in the spotlight on a busy Saturday night of harness racing action at Balmoral Park as the Crete plant played host to a pair of ICF Stake eliminations in preparation for next weekends big Southland Festival of Racing.   Freshman pacing fillies kicked off the elimination action as a field of 10 were sent to battle in a $10,000 Loyal Opposition Stake elimination. The top nine finishers will join Lyrics Fall in next week's $43,500 final.   Fresh off back to back victories Kay Willis's good looking filly Lex made it three in a row as she cruised to an easy four-length win in a career best of 1:55.0 with Kyle Wilfong in tow.   Despite having to make three big moves throughout this tussle the bay daughter of Lexington Legend--I Bet U still managed to pace a back half in a brisk 56.0 to secure her third win in four lifetime starts for veteran conditioner Nelson Willis. Duneside Pertie (John De Long) shook loose to rally for the place money while 80-1 longshot Fox Valley Kit (Pat Curtin) took home the show dough. Also gaining spots in the final were Girls Hunt Too, Angel Demon, Mr Leland's Filly, Duneside Splash, Forsaken Glory and BS Tyrichess.   A total of 13 two-year-old pacing colts were dropped into the box for the Mini Me Stake necessitating a pair of $10,000 elimination tussles. The top five in each division will return next Saturday night to battle for a $48,000 jackpot.   In the first elimination Rocco Ruffolo's Lucpark showed a great deal of grit and determination as he overcame a tough trip in route to a 1 ¾ length victory in a lifetime best of 1:54.4 with Dave Magee at the controls.   Grinding it out on for the final five-eighths of a mile while trying to reel in the pace setting Earndawg (Todd Warren) as he put up splits of 29.2, 57.1 & 1:26.4 the gelded son of Sportsmaster--Treasure The Best found his best stride in the late going, sealing the deal with a 27.4 final quarter to notch his second win in three career starts for trainer Erv Miller. Casey At Bat (John De Long) finished second while Earndawg held on for third. Also moving on to the final will be Get Your Camo On and Fox Valley Elijah.   In the second elimination William C & William P. De Long's King Of The Swamp made every call a winning one as he held on to record a three-quarter-length verdict in a lifetime best of 1:55.0.   After cruising through splits of 28.4, 58.3 & 1:27.2 the gelded son of Sportsmaster--She's Redhot, who was an $85,000 yearling purchase dug in gamely keeping Thisishowweoll (John De Long--2nd) and Dakota Roadster (Robert Smolin--3rd) at bay for his second win in four career starts. Also gaining spots in next week's final were Fox Valley Cadet and Gett'er Done Dune.   Sophomore pacing fillies were also in action on Saturday night as a field of 10 state-bred three-year-olds battled in a $7,000 "prep" for next week's Ann Vonian Stake.   This hotly contested division provided another thrilling finish as Quaid Racing LLC's My Little Bit and driver Casey Leonard wound up prevailing by a hard fought head in a career best of 1:52.3. Fox Valley Amanda (Dale Hiteman) was second while Molly Go Lightly (Matt Krueger) was third in the tight three-horse photo. The top three finishers were all sent off as odds of 2-1.   The Ervin Miller trained daughter of Sportsmaster--Parade Of Love now boasts nine wins, three seconds and two thirds in 20 lifetime starts with earnings of nearly $160,000.   For more information on the big Southland Festival of Racing please visit www.balmoralpark.com.      

A pair of Hanover Stakes for three-year-olds shared top billing on the Saturday program at Balmoral Park. A total of 14 sophomore pacing fillies were dropped into the box necessitating a split into a pair of $22,750 divisions while a total of eight pacing colts were sent postward for a purse of $37,600. The fillies kicked things off with Burke Racing Stables, Weaver Bruscemi, Frank Baldachino & Lawrence Karr's U R It BB's posting a 2 ¼ length victory in a career best of 1:51.4 for driver Casey Leonard. Given a perfect steer by Balmoral's leading driver the daughter of Always A Virgin--U Neek B B sat second while a headstrong Kayla Grace (Brad Kramer) showed the way through an opening quarter in 28.1. After grabbing command midway down the backside, Leonard elected to let a hard charging Hello My Dream (Dave Magee) go as the field rolled by the half-mile mark in 55.2. Sitting patiently In The Pocket as Hello My Dream and a first over Kayla Grace battled head and head around the far turn, Leonard had U R It BB perfectly positioned as the ladies hit the three-quarter-mile mark in 1:23.3. Maneuvering into the passing lane with a sixteenth of a mile to go the Ronnie Burke trained miss quickly moved into full flight finishing off the mile with a 28.0 final quarter to notch her first win in eight starts this season. One Jazzy Lady (Travis Seekman) rallied late to finish second while Kayla Grace held on for third. Sent off as the second choice in the wagering U R It BB returned $7.60, $4.20 & $3.20 while running her career slate to 5-6-3 in 19 starts with earnings of $207,923. In the second division Brent Hopper, James Davis & Kyle Gray's Platinum Spirit also used the passing lane to perfection as she came roaring through inside of her rivals to win by three-quarters of a length in a lifetime best of 1:52.0 for Kyle Wilfong. The diminutive daughter of Tell All---Platinum Hanover protected early position getting away third as Cuzimalegend (Travis Seekman) led the field through an opening quarter in 27.2. After a backside brush to the lead Wilfong and Platinum Spirit faced immediate pressure from Always Dee One (Ryan Anderson) as the field moved past the half-mile station in 55.1. After watching that rival clear on the final bend Platinum Spirit settled into the pocket nicely as Fox Valley Amanda (Dale Hiteman) came calling to challenge Always Dee One as the field hit the three-quarter-mile mark in 1:23.4. Hidden behind her bigger rivals, Platinum Spirit emerged at full speed as the passing lane opened up, zipping right by the embattled leaders to post her sixth win in 14 starts this year. Always Dee One finished a hard fought second while Cuzimalegend (Travis Seekman) was third. Unraced as a two-year-old Platinum Spirit now sports five wins, one second and three thirds in 14 starts with earnings of $33,385. The Ben Davis trained miss returned $18.80, $11.80 & $5.20 to her backers. In the colt match-up Erv Miller Stables and Bert Hochsprung's Dinner At The Met scored in impressive fashion as he came charging through the lane for John De Long to win by three-lengths in a lifetime best of 1:50.2. Reserved in the early going as Blooming Genius (Travis Seekman), Pumped Up Kicks (Todd Warren) and PQ Three (Ryan Anderson) all took turns leading the way through hotly contested splits of 26.4, 54.0 & 1:22.3, De Long finally made his move first over as the field neared the top of the stretch. Taking dead aim on the leaders the gelded son of Metropolitan--Grabbersome flew home in 27.4 to post his fifth win in 18 tries this season. PQ Three fought on gamely to hold on for second while Pumped Up Kicks was third. With the win Dinner At The Met who was unraced as a two-year-old now boasts a record of 5-2-3 in 18 starts with earnings of $70,875. Well supported at the betting windows the Ervin Miller trainee returned $5.00, $2.80 & $2.40. by Tom Kelley, for Balmoral Park  

Coming off an impressive late rushing victory in her second lifetime start at Balmoral Park, Kay Willis's good looking freshman pacing filly Lex showed that a half-mile oval also suits her style as she blew right by her rivals in the lane to record a sharp two-length victory in Thursday's $10,000 My Metallica Stake at Maywood Park. The final time was 1:57.3. Well positioned in third as the heavily favored Lyrics Fall, who came into the race sporting a perfect two for two record carved out splits of 29.2, 1:00 & 1:29.1 driver Kyle Wilfong moved the daughter of Lexington Legend--I Bet U first over as the field moved into the final turn. Chewing up ground quickly on the outside of her rivals, the Nelson Willis trained miss overtook the pace setter as the field straightened for the money and then began to draw clear of the field while under only mild urging from her confident pilot. Lyrics Fall was forced to settle for the bridesmaid role on this night while BS Tyrichess (Brian Carpenter) shook loose late to rally for the show dough. Sent off as the second choice in the betting Lex returned $7.20, $3.00 & 3.60 while moving her bankroll up to $8,040 for her owner-breeder. Live racing continues on Friday, July 11th at Maywood Park with the 1st Annual Windy City Wiener Nationals providing some great entertainment for both young and old between the first six races on the card. There will also be food and drink specials offered along with some great giveaways as part of the U.S.T.A.'s Back To The Track promotion. Post time for the first race is 7:10 p.m. (central). by Tom Kelley, for Maywood Park

It was only fitting that a stake named for a rugged Erv Miller trained filly was taken by another Miller trainee on Sunday night at Balmoral Park as Quaid Racing's My Little Bit hung on gamely to record a head decision in the $10,000 Mystical Victress Stake for ICF three-year-old pacing fillies. The final time was 1:53.2. Confidently handled by driver Casey Leonard, the daughter of Sportsmaster--Parade Of Love was sent to the front but quickly relinquished the top spot to a hard leaving Cuzimalegend (Dean Magee) as the field moved by the opening split in 26.4. Showing the confidence he had in his filly, Leonard quickly moved the Miller trained miss back to the top where she put up middle splits of 56.0 & 1:24.1. After repelling the challenge of a first over Molly Go Lightly (Brian Carpenter) as the field turned for home, My Little Bit drew off to a 2-length advantage in the lane. All out as the distaffers made their way to the wire My Little Bit dug in gamely to fight off the bid of M A Duty (Kyle Wilfong) who had been saving ground throughout the mile to post her second win of the season. M A Duty was a hard fought second while Party Hangover Two (John De Long) rallied from far back after being shuffled out of contention early to finish third. With the victory My Little Bit now boasts a record of 7-3-2 in 17 career starts with earnings of $149,260 for her proud connections. Coming off her second place finish in the Filly Maywood Pace, My Little Bit was heavily backed at the betting windows returning just $3.80, $2.80 & $2.80. Live racing continues at Balmoral Park on Wednesday, July 2nd, win a nine-card card getting underway at 7:10 pm (central). The Wednesday Pick 4 will have a $10,000 guaranteed pool and will entail races six through nine. Past performances for the Pick 4 races, courtesy of Trackmaster and the U.S.T.A. can be found at www.ustrotting.com. by Tom Kelley, for Balmoral Park

What a difference a week makes! After struggling with the turns and the footing on the half-mile oval in the Maywood Pace last week Megan Rogers Racing Stables Unlocked looked like his old self again on Saturday night at Balmoral Park as he completely dismantled eight other ICF three-year-old colt pacers while taking the $10,000 Betzotic Stake by 12½ lengths in a career best of 1:50 over a track listed as "good". Eased away in fourth while a hard leaving Cotton Eyed Joe (Robert Smolin) led the field through an opening quarter in 28.1 driver Dave Magee did not wait long before sending Unlocked to the top as the field straightened up for their journey down the backstretch. Moving like a freight train the son of Duneside Perch--Miss Major Power effortlessly rattled off an eye catching 53.1 middle half while putting up splits of 55.2 & 1:22.0. With a six-length advantage turning for home Unlocked proceeded to widen his lead while finishing off his romp with a 27.4 final quarter despite being under a snug hold from Magee. Sleazeburgernfries (Kyle Wilfong) shook loose late to head up the beaten brigade while Cotton Eyed Joe was third. Despite the disappointing effort last week the Erv Miller trainee was pounded at the betting windows again returning just $2.40, $2.20 & $2.10 running his career record to 7-6-0 in 18 starts with earnings of $118,672. by Tom Kelley, for Balmoral Park    

Looking more like a seasoned veteran than a two-year-old making just his second lifetime start Frank Baldachino & Earl J. Smith's Gett'er Done Dune looped the field on the backstretch and then cruised to an easy 1¾ length victory over five other state-bred freshmen pacing colts in Friday's $10,000 Enzo The Baker Stake at Maywood Park. The final time was 1:58.4. Content to sit near the back of the pack as Just Do It Jesse (John De Long) strolled through leisurely splits of 30.0 & 1:00.3 driver Casey Leonard put Gett'er Dune Dune into motion as the field moved by the halfway mark. Not waiting for his cover to lead him into contention Leonard quickly swung three and then four wide on the backstretch, sweeping from fifth to first with a move not see very often on the half-mile oval as the field reached the three-quarter-mile mark in 1:30.2. Quickly opening up a 2½ length lead on his rivals around the final turn the gelded son of Duneside Perch--Zsa Zsa Bilmac was under wraps through the lane as he reported home with his first career victory. Dakota Roadster (Robert Smolin) finished second while Quinnocchio (Kyle Wilfong), who tried to follow the winner's big move rallied to finish third. An $1,800 yearling purchase Gett'er Dune Dune returned $3.40, $3.00 & $2.10 while upping his bankroll to $7,500 under the guidance of conditioner Kathy Millman. Casey Leonard had Gett'er Done Dune on cruise control as they hit the wire with an easy win in Friday's $10,000 Enzo The Baker Stake at Maywood Park. by Tom Kelley, for Maywood Park

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

Taking advantage of mid-race speed duel, driver John De Long slid 24-1 longshot Silver Devil to the outside of horses on the backstretch the final time then rallied sharply in the lane to post a half-length upset in Friday's $34,380 Cardinal Stake for older state-bred pacers at Maywood Park. The final time was 1:53.3. Using post position two to perfection De Long positioned the handsome roan son of Duneside Perch along the pylons while Elkhorn Damien (Todd Warren) and Crankin' It Up (Kyle Wilfong) battled through a 27.3 opening quarter.   After letting the field settle into position through that opening split driver Casey Leonard sent 4-5 favorite Fort Silky on his way from fifth as the field headed into the stretch the first time prompting some strong urging from Warren with Elkhorn Damien. With these two quickly engaged in a speed duel the dominant Fort Silky made a very uncharacteristic break as the field moved to the half-mile mark in 56.1.   Quickly righting the ship with Fort Silky, the top two continued to battle tooth and nail as the field raced by the three-quarter-mile mark in 1:24.3. By this point De Long had slipped to the outside with Silver Devil and had the four-year-old gelding powering up three wide around the top pair as the field moved into the final turn.   Sweeping around the tiring leaders as the field turned for home, the Nick Giberson trainee paced home in 28.3 for his first win of the season, holding off a big late move from another longshot, Fancy Creek Elusiv (Ryan Anderson) who made a huge four-wide surge around the last bend. Elkhorn Damien held on for third.   After an impressive 11-win campaign in his first season of action in 2013, Silver Devil who returned $50.80, $20.40 & $7.40 now boasts career earnings of nearly $105,000 for the ownership group of Amy Giberson, Stephanie Winship, Carl Lacy and Monty Thompson.   The two longshots helped produce a $435.00 return on a $2 exacta wager and a whopping $1771.00 trifecta payout. The 20-cent Pick 6 wager also went unclaimed for the second straight night so there will be a carryover of $2,242.15 in the pool when live racing resumes next Thursday night at Maywood Park. Post time will be 7:10 p.m.   John De Long guided the good looking Silver Devil to an upset score in Friday's $34,380 Cardinal Stake at Maywood Park. by Tom Kelley, for Maywood Park

The first trotting stake of the 2014 season at Balmoral Park was contested on Sunday, April 13th as a compact field of five Illinois conceived and foaled three-year-old fillies battled in the $10,000 Trotting Tilly Stake. Using the inside post to her full advantage, the Robert Phillips owned and trained Vienna saved ground for most of the mile then split horses late to post a 1¼ length victory in 2:04.3 over a sloppy track. Perfectly handled by driver Kyle Wilfong, the daughter of Banderas Hall--Talcott Lori stayed inside as All Psyched Up (Robert Smolin) and Green Acres (Jon Anderson) took turns leading the field through splits of 32.3, 1:03 & 1:33.3.   Slipping to the outside behind a hard charging S V Spirit (John De Long) as the field turned for the money, Wilfong patiently waited for a seam to open between S V Spirit and Green Acres. With his filly responding perfectly, Wilfong then drilled Vienna between the two to rally for her first win of the year. S V Spirit was second while Green Acres held on for third.   The win was the third in 18 career starts for Vienna who despite being the leading career money earner in the field and having the inside post returned a healthy $19.80, $4.80 & $3.00 while upping her bankroll to $42,852.   Kyle Wilfong guided Vienna to her fourth career win in Sunday's $10,000 Trotting Tilly Stake at Balmoral Park. by Tom Kelley, for Balmoral Park

State-bred pacing fillies took center stage on Saturday, April 5th at Balmoral Park as a field of seven three-year-olds squared off in the $10,000 Direct Balance Stake. After an adventuresome mile it was the Perry Smith owned and trained Susan Sarandune who wound up prevailing by three-lengths in a career best of 1:57.0. Hustled to the front by driver Kyle Wilfong, the daughter of Duneside Perch--Magical Kit led the field through an opening quarter in 29.2.   Heading down the backside, a hard charging Fox Valley Amanda (Dale Hiteman) swept from third to first leading the field past the halfway point in 58.1.   Around the far turn Fox Valley Amanda continued to show the way while Buoncammino (Dave Magee) came calling first over as the field reached the three-quarter-mile mark in 1:27.2.   That's when disaster struck for Buoncammino as the lightly raced filly went off-stride for the second time in the mile leaving Fox Valley Amanda alone on the lead. That advantage was short lived though as the pocket sitting Susan Sarandune quickly began to cut into the leader's margin. With the effects of a 22-week layoff finally starting to get the best of her a tired Fox Valley Amanda surrendered at the sixteenth pole while a fit and fresh Susan Sarandune zipped right on by for her second win in four tries this season. Fox Valley Amanda held on for second while Bright Light (Todd Warren) finished third.   Overlooked at the windows despite a 7-2 morning line Susan Sarandune returned a healthy $16.40, $4.60 & $2.80 while pushing her career bankroll up to $27,721.   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 $21,750 Lady Lincoln Land Consolation is for ICF 2-year-old filly trotters who didn’t finish in the top four in last week’s $105,000 championship so it’s somewhat surprising to find a trio of past stakes winners in Wednesday’s starting field. Nonetheless that’s the case. Going postward in the third race feature is S V Spirit, a Springfield elimination winner and the Downstate Classic champion at Lincoln, Du Quoin’s Shawnee victor Fox Valley Hosana, along with Vienna who won the Fox Valley Flan Final at the end of July at Balmoral. “Hosana” was fifth best in the Lady Lincoln Lane Final for trainer Dirk Simpson, Bob Phillips’ Vienna broke and ended up seventh, and S V Spirit went off stride in contention and finished eighth for the Roger Welch Stable. The trio could get the bulk of the money bet in Wednesday’s Consolation event. S V Spirit, the 8-5 beaten favorite in the final, will open as the 5-2 choice with Todd Warren Wednesday. Fox Valley Hosana (Mike Oosting) is at 5-1, while Vienna (Kyle Wilfong) is at first flash odds of 6-1. They’ll be challenged by Say No Mo (Dale Hiteman), another Simpson trainee who will race un-coupled with Fox Valley Hosana and is the 4-1 second programmed choice, Green Acres (8-1, Jon Anderson), High Balance (12-1, Lavern Hostetler), Macie Rae (8-1, Mike Rogers) and Graceful Spirit (10-1, Casey Leonard). Macie Rae, a first-time Lasix user, was an eight-time winner with past summer fair circuit and took the Country Fair Challenge at Do Quoin by over 13 lengths in 2:00.4 with Rogers. Stakes Aplenty: There are a half-dozen more stakes raced to be contested this week starting with a pair of $12,000 Betzotic’s at Maywood. The ICF 3-year-old filly pacers vie on Thursday night while the state-bred sophomore colts tangle on Friday. Grandma Ann champion Auniqueaquistion makes her first start since Super night in the eighth race Thursday feature. Fox Valley Norman and Silver Devil, the 1-2 finishers in the recent Bye Bye Byrd at Balmoral are in Friday's ICF stake. There’s another $12,000 Betzotic Saturday at Balmoral and it’s for Illinois bred 2-year-old colts and geldings. The freshman filly version goes on Sunday evening where it’ll be joined by the last two Hanover stakes for this season. Both the 2-year-old colt and filly Hanover’s have estimated purses of $60,000. Recent Lady Lincoln Land champion Bailey’s Wish will head up the local contingent of freshman distaff trotters Muscle Network, a 1:53.2 winner last Friday, the fastest of a trio of $86,000 International Stallion stakes decided at The Red Mile, is eligible for Sunday’s Hanover colt trot and is a likely starter for trainer Tony O’Sullivan. Photo Surprise and Fox Valley Veto, the one-two-finishers in last Sunday’s $105,000 Lincoln Land Final, are both expected to also enter. Oosting Moves Up. With 10 winning drives over the weekend at Balmoral Mike Oosting is now at 447 for the season, moving him into sixth place in dash winners throughout the country and Canada. The Michigan native entered this week only one winner out of fifth. By Mike Paradise The Illinois Harness Horsemen's Association

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