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The now 10-year-old ICF mare Tamarac Sassy is in the homestretch of her harness racing career and it’s only fitting she begins her final season at Maywood Park, a track where she has flourished. Tamarac Sassy makes her 2015 debut Friday night in the eighth race, a low-level conditioned pace where the Terry Leonard trainee will open as the 3-1 programmed second choice with regular pilot Casey Leonard at her lines for owner Neva Jane Keeler of Paw Paw, Illinois. The daughter of Us And Them was bred by Neva’s late husband Jerald Grevengoed and raced for Grevengoed until his untimely death in 2012. Tamarac Sassy was sent to the Leonard family in December of that year where she got better with age, earning $105,732 in 2013. Among her 13 wins that year was the $47,868 Aged Violet stake at Maywood Park with Casey. Tamarac Sassy’s has racked up 42 lifetime victories and made over $320,000 as she heads into her 10-year-old campaign. All but five of the mare’s triumphs have come on the circuit’s half-miler. Becoming a mother could be right around the corner for the mare. “This year will probably be it for Tamarac Sassy,” said Casey “She’s 10 now. I don’t know if she’ll make it through the whole year but we’ll just see how it goes. “We talked to Neva and told her that we would be interested in breeding her and she seemed to like that idea” Tamarac Sassy earned $31,426 last year but only about $1,500 of that amount came in the last three months of the year. “The mare didn’t regain her form after Super Night last year,” added Casey. “But we were happy with her (1:58.3) qualifier a week ago. We’ll just see how it plays out as the year goes on.” Friday’s eighth race 5-2 morning line favorite Sister’s Keeper (p.p., Mike Oosting) who takes a class drop in search of her initial season win for the Merv Chupp Stable. Tamarac Sassy’s stable-mate MJ’s Last Dance will also make her initial season start Friday in race 11. The 7-year-old has been off since mid-December. She finished second in last week’s Maywood qualifier when she was timed in 1:56.4. “MJ’s Last Dance is another mare who prefers Maywood,” said Casey. “She usually does well there in the low and middle conditioned races but when we have to take her to Balmoral to fit a condition, it’s a different story, After a typical good first start there she usually tails off. The mare doesn’t like their long stretch.” MJ’S Dance is listed as the 7-2 second favorite in the co-featured 11th race for fillies and mares without earnings of $8,000 in their last five starts. Gary Fatland’s Muy Caliente (Travis Seekman) is the 2-1 programmed choice. Muy Caliente comes off s pair of strong finished where she was third best at higher levels at Balmoral. The 6-year-old mare proved best in last two starts at Maywood Park at Friday’s same level. They’ll be challenged by ER Monica (programmed 8-1, Dean Magee), Misspanderpsajones (12-1, Ridge Warren), Financial Effort (12-1, Kyle Wilfong), Gentle Janet (15-1, Todd Warren), Molly Go Lightly (9-2, Mike Oosting), and Melodie Hotspur (6-1, John De Long). By Mike Paradise

With the start of Spring only a week away let’s take a look who has fared well on the local harness racing circuit the first couple of months of the 2015 Winter. The leading stable as we go into Thursday’s action may be a bit of a surprise. It’s Brett Wilfong (pictured) who is off to a hot season start, The Donovan, Illinois horseman has had 21 of his horses finish first as we head into the middle of March Brett’s 13 winners at Maywood Park ties him for the top spot with Perry Smith, who took last year’s training title at the half-mile track. Wilfong’s 8 victors at Balmoral Park has Brett tied for third best at the Crete, IL big track with Jim Ellison. Balmoral’s defending trainer champion Nelson Willis is on top there with 14 winners, followed by Bob Phillips with 9. Perry Smith rounds out the current Balmoral Top Five with 6. At Maywood Wilfong and Smith are followed by trainers Angie Affrunti and Gary Fatland, both with 7. Dave McCaffrey, Terry Leonard and Albert Kopiec each have 6. Wide Open Features: Friday’s co-features at Maywood Park are a pair of medium level conditioned paces, one for colts and geldings and the other for fillies and mares. Both have no-clear cut favorite. The Maywood morning line has two Tom Simmons trainees as the early choices The pair will race uncoupled because of different ownership. Long Term (Date Hiteman), a winner last week stepping up in class, opens at 2-1 while his stable-mate Real Hero (Casey Leonard), a nose short last time,  is at 5-2 first flash odds. Expect Desperado Alibi (Brian Carpenter), coming off a game win last week and with the pole position Friday, to also get plenty of play at the betting windows. The same goes for Don’t Worry B Happy (Mike Oosting) who is listed at generous 10-1 odds in the program. The Willis trainee proved best at Friday’s class two weeks ago. Also going postward in the non-winners of $8,000 in their last 8 starts are Some Heart Throb (8-1, Kyle Wilfong) and Total Sin (12-1, Lavern Hostetler). The 10th race for distaffers is another where 3 or 4 horses could be vying for most of the public’s choice. Last week’s front-stepping winner Incredible Filly (Tim Curtin) is listed at 3-1, Melodie Hotspur, a bridesmaid in her last four outings, is next at 7-2. Financial Effort (Casey Leonard) follows at 9-2 with Molly Go Lightly (Mike Oosting) at 6-1. The latter got bottled up behind a wall of horses and finished full of pace but much too far back to reward her backers. Steph’s Place (Todd Warren) who steps up after popping for her new barn a week ago is at 8-1. The 6-year-old ICF mare was claimed for $4,000 by Smith in her last February start after capturing 5 of her first 6 outings for the Terry Leonard Stable. She’ll start off at liberal 8-1 odds. Completing that field are ER Monica (15-1, Dean Magee), Misspanderosajones (12-1, Ridge Warren), Sealark Hanover (15-1, Sam Widger) and Gimmeazzzmooch (10-1, Dale Hiteman). By Mike Paradise

Despeardo Alibi, the grey gelding who paced up a storm at Maywood Park in the last few months of 2014 before heading to New York, is back home. The now 5-year-old pacer looks well placed for his local season debut in Friday’s tenth race, a mid-level conditioned pace for non-winners of $4,000 in their last five starts. Desperado Alibi rattled off victories in his last 4 starts of 2014 at Maywood and 7 of his last 8 on the half-miler with Brian Carpenter at his lines. The son of Gunthatwonthewest is owned by Brian’s wife Lydia and trained by Merl P’Pool. Desperado Alibi made only three starts at Younkers during his six weeks in New York, earning $2,000. “We just couldn’t get the horses started there,” said Brian. “The east coast kept getting clobbered with snow and it seemed most times when he was scheduled to race the Yonkers card had to be canceled because of bad weather, so we brought him back home.” Desperado Alibi arrived in Illinois last week. “I‘ve trained him since he got back and he’s trained well, said the 55-year-old Indiana native. “He looks like he’s in a good spot Friday and should do okay.” What’s ahead for Desperado Alibi? “We’ll just play it by ear for now,” replied Brian. One of Desperado Alibi’s foes in Friday’s 10th race is the Merv Chupp Stable’s Master Of Desire, who landed the one-slot in his first start in seven months. The 8-year-old Real Desire gelding breezed with a 1:53 clocking last June for Chupp in his only career start at Maywood Park. Master Of Desire won 4 of 5 starts from the middle of last May to mid-June for Chupp, including a 1:50.4 mile in a non-winners of $15,000 last 5 event where he beat the likes of Holdingallthecards and Major Monet. That win earned him a couple of unsuccessful starts in Balmoral’s Invites. Master Of Desire tailed in July and health issues kept him on the sideline ever since. Friday night he’ll open as the 7-2 third choice behind Desperado Alibi (5-2) and Fox Valley Norman (3-1, Todd Warren) They’ll be opposed by CS Eye (programmed 6-1, Kyle Wilfong), Cotton Eyed Joe (12-1, Bobby Smolin), Gypsy Leather (10-1, Dale Hiteman), Donald Himself (15-1, Casey Leonard) and Powerful Pilot (8-1, Mike Oosting). Horse Shortage: No less than 16 of the horses competing on tonight’s (Thursday) Maywood card are back in to go Sunday night at Balmoral. A total of 63 horses are scheduled to race Sunday so that means 25% of them will do so on three day’s rest.  By Mike Paradise

HINSDALE, Ill. - Juniors and seniors from the Chicago High School for Agricultural Sciences took the reins this month at Maywood Park in Chicago's near west suburbs when they job-shadowed local harness racing trainers for a day. All students participating in the shadow days are seniors and juniors who gain hands on experience by working directly with trainers and horses. High School Junior Paulina Arellano studies animal science and hopes to one day work in the horse racing industry. Paulina said that during her trip she and the other students "learned a lot about what exactly happens to the horses, trainers, and workers off the horse track." In 2010 The Chicago High School for Agricultural Sciences embarked on a Standardbred breeding program spearheaded by local horse owner Denny Pietranduono. The school's first yearling was sold in 2013 for $6,200 at public auction. The Illinois Harness Horsemen's Association is a vocal supporter of the breeding program at the High School and was eager to help students learn more about horse racing. "It was a great opportunity to spend time with young people who are excited to learn about the horses and the sport," said IHHA President Dave McCaffrey. "Even though Standardbred trainers are part of the agricultural community in Chicago, we don't always think about them that way. These students were a reminder that even in a big city, agriculture and agribusiness employs people and supports the economy." Arellano said that her favorite part of the trip to Maywood Park was when students were allowed to jog a horse around the track. "To me, it was like heaven," she said. "Because I love race horses and working with them." McCaffrey said that the IHHA is excited to participate more with students in the animal science program at the Chicago High School for Agricultural Sciences. "It's great to see the passion in the students' faces," he said. "I think it helps remind us of why we got into the business in the first place." Andrew Mack

The veteran harness racing pacer Don’t Worry B Happy looks to get revitalized Friday night with a drop to a mid-level conditioned when he revisits Maywood Park. The 7-year-old Nelson Willis trainee faces an above average field in the eighth race for non-winners of $4,000 last five but if you go by past history Don’t Worry B Happy looms large for his driver Brian Carpenter. Maywood Park is what I like to call a “get-well” track for Don’t Worry B Happy. Every time the son of The Panderosa can’t find a winner’s circle for Barrington Hills, Illinois owner Shirley Le Vin, his trainer ships the horse to Maywood Park where Don’t Worry B Happy usually “gets well.” Don’t Worry N Happy didn’t make his Maywood Park debut until 2013 as a 5-year-old. The horse had won an $18,000 Hoosier Park Open that April and then went into a long slump, dropping 11 straight races in either Indiana or at Balmoral Park. However in October of that year he ended the losing streak in his initial Maywood start. The horse would make 3 more starts in 2013 at Maywood and hit the board each time. After a winter break of 3 and 1 1/2 months off Don’t Worry B Happy started off his 2014 season at Maywood and was a winner, this time with Sam Widger at his lines. The horse then dropped his next 9 decisions but “got well” in a late July starts with driver Todd Warren, when the pacer returned to—you guessed it—Maywood Park. Don’t Worry B Happy then raced at Balmoral in August, September and into October, this time take a licking 8 races in a row. However, the horse as expected “got-well” in a mid-October race at Maywood. The gelding then went back to his home base at Balmoral and dropped 5 uninterrupted decisions before taking the hour-plus long van ride from Balmoral to Maywood where, to no one’s surprise, won two December starts after a second place finish in late November. With three successive losses at Balmoral to start the 2015 season, the horse is back on the circuit’s half-miler where he hopes to “get well” against a nice field comprised of Total Sin (programmed 6-1), Silver Devil (7-2), Cotton Eyed Joe (10-1), So Be It (8-1), Fox Valley Norman (3-1) and Montero Blue Chip (12-1). Silver Devil (John De Long) is making his 2015 debut for trainer Nick Giberson. Last year the son of Duneside Perch captured the $34,380 Aged Cardinal and was second to Fort Silky in the Cook County stake, the opening leg of the Maywood Pacing Series. As a freshman Silver Devil won a Betzotic stake at Maywood and followed that up with victories in the Circuit City and Grey Ghost at Hoosier Park. Cotton Eyed Joe (Bobby Smolin) took the Orange and Blue Colt Championship as a freshman on Super Night 2013 and opened his 2014 season with back-to-back wins in small Maywood Park ICF stakes. The Bob Philips trainee was second-best to Unlocked in last year’s Super Night Langley Final. By Mike Paradise

Due to the extreme cold that has gripped the Midwest this week’s qualifying days at both Balmoral & Maywood Park have been changed. The live racing dates will not be affected.    Balmoral Park will now host qualifiers on Sunday, Feb. 22nd at approximately 5:45 p.m. (central) instead of the usual qualifying date of Wednesday, Feb. 18th. Entries for Sunday’s qualifiers will remain open until 6:00 p.m. (central) on Saturday, Feb. 21st.   Maywood Park will host its qualifiers on Friday, Feb. 20th instead of the usual date of Thursday, Feb. 19th.    Entries will close as they normally do though which is on Wednesday, Feb. 18th at 9:30 a.m. (central).  Friday’s qualifiers will be contested prior to the start of the live racing card at approximately 6:30 p.m. (central).   The regular qualifying days of Wednesday (Balmoral) and Thursday (Maywood) will go back into effect the following week.  

One of the major threats in Friday night’s third race conditioned pace feature at Maywood Park is the Don Laufenberg home-bred Financial Effort. The 6-year-old ICF mare joined the Terry Leonard Stable last November. The daughter of Yankee Skyscaper, out of Laufenberg’s broodmare Finance The Farm, has picked things up a notch ever since she was put on Lasix in her final start of last season, a winning 1:54.3 mile at Maywood Park. “We’ve had horses for Don Laufenberg off and on ever since I was a little kid,” sad her driver Casey Leonard. “I drove Financial Effort a little bit for Lloyd (trainer Daulton) and with him back in Kentucky Don sent the mare over for us to race through the winter. “The horse has some class to her. She had some lameness issues a couple of years ago and didn’t make a lot of starts (14) as a 4-year-old. I believe it was her knee.” As a 3-year-old Financial Effort captured the Ohyouprettything Stake at Balmoral Park (see picture) and later was second in her Grandma Ann elimination and the Thrifty Way stake and third in a Hanover under the care of trainer Lloyd Daulton. Her mother Finance The Farm was the 2003 Springfield and Du Quoin 3-year-old filly champion and also took her Grandma Ann elimination. “At times Financial Effort struggled a bit in the last sixteenth and maybe that’s because she might bled a little,” continued Casey. “We put her on Lasix in late December and that has seemed to help her. She has picked things up and really raced well last week.” Financial Effort dropped a nose decision to Muy Caliente a week ago in the Maywood Park feature  despite racing first up outside of the winner most of the last half-mile. Financial Effort drew the outside six-slot in tonight’s third race conditioned pace for non-winners of $8,500 in their last five races and will open as the 5-2 second choice in the program after the 8-5 favorite Feel Like Dancing (Kyle Wilfong). They’ll be challenged by Melodie Hotspur (5-1, John De Long), ER Monica (8-1, Bobby Smolin), Gentle Janet (4-1, Mike Oosting) and Triple Lane Melody (20-1, Brian Carpenter). By Mike Paradise The Illinois Harness Horsemen's Association

The 2015 stake schedules for both Balmoral and Maywood Park have been released by harness racing secretary Doc Narotsky. The action kicks off at Balmoral on March 28th with the Taurus Bomber Stake for Illinois conceived and foaled three-year-old pacing colts. Maywood's stake season gets underway on Friday, April 10th with sophomore pacing colts slugging it out in the Sportsmaster Stake. The first "major" state-bred stake of the season will be contested on Sunday, May 17th with three-year-old pacing fillies squaring off in the $45,000 Violet Stake at Balmoral. There will also be Violet and Cardinal Stakes for Illinois conceived and foaled sophomore pacers and trotters on Sunday, May 24 and Saturday, May 30th at Balmoral Park. Maywood's first big event of the season will be the $70,000 Filly Maywood Pace for ICF three-year-old fillies on Friday, June 12th. The $70,000 Maywood Pace for ICF sophomore pacing colts will be held the following Friday, June 19th. The first Hanover Stakes of the season at Balmoral Park will feature a pair of events for three-year-old trotters on Saturday, July 4th. Another pair of Hanover Stakes for sophomore pacers will be contested the following week on Saturday, July 11th. The Southland Festival of Racing will provide a weekend filled with state-bred action at Balmoral on Saturday, July 25th and Sunday, July 26th with pacers and trotters squaring off in $40,000 battles like the Mini Me Stake, Loyal Opposition Stake, Incredible Finale Stake, Ann Vonian Stake, Kadabra Stake, Fox Valley Evita Stake, Fox Valley Flan Stake and Plesac Stake. A pair of $30,000 Hanover's for two-year-old colt and filly pacers are scheduled for Saturday, August 1st at the Crete oval while another pair of $30,000 events for freshmen trotters will be contested on Sunday, August 2nd. The prestigious American National's kick off on Sunday, Sept. 6th, with a pair of $90,000 trotting stakes for two-year-olds. Balmoral will also play host to one of Illinois' biggest nights of racing & festivities as another edition of Super Night will be held on Saturday, Sept. 12th. As always, the state's top pacers and trotters will be on display as they square off in a bevy of six-figure events with more than $1 million in purse money on the line. Late September and early October will be a busy month for the youngsters as the $80,000 Lady Lincoln Stake for two-year-old trotting fillies takes place on Sunday, Sept. 27th, while their male counterparts battle in the $80,000 Lincoln Land Stake on Sunday, Oct. 4th at Balmoral Park. Maywood will also host the $50,000 Cardinal and Violet Stakes for two-year-old colt and filly pacers on Friday, Oct. 2nd. Racing fans will need to circle Saturday, November 7th & Friday, Nov. 13th on their calendars as some of North America's best pacers and trotters are once again expected to visit the Chicagoland area as the Grand Circuit comes to town. Balmoral Park will play host to the $250,000 three-year-old colt pace, $225,00 American National three-year-old colt trot, $190,000 American National Aged Pace, $180,000 aged trot, $175,000 American National three-year-old filly pace, $150,000 three-year-old filly trot, $80,000 two-year-old colt pace and the $80,000 two-year-old filly pace in what should be another huge night of racing excitement. Maywood's biggest card of the season is just six days later on Friday, Nov. 13 with the $180,000 Windy City Pace for three-year-old pacing colts, the $100,000 Abe Lincoln Stake for two-year-old pacing colts, the $100,00 Galt Trot for three-year-old trotting colts and the $75,000 Cinderella Stake for three-year-old pacing fillies sharing the spotlight. The $20,000 Associates-McKeever Stake for ICF pacers is also scheduled for that same night. *All stakes scheduled after July 1st can be moved by plus or minus two days due to any changes in the Chicagoland area harness racing schedule. Below is a complete list of both tracks stake schedules. All purse values are estimated. Date Day Track A-S-G ICF Name Est Purse 3/28/2015 Sat Bal 3cp ICF Taurus Bomber 8,000 4/4/2015 Sat Bal 3+p ICF Song Cycle 14,000 4/4/2015 Sat Bal 3fp ICF Direct Balance 8,000 4/10/2015 Fri May 3cp ICF Sportsmaster 8,000 4/12/2015 Sun Bal 3ft ICF Trotting Tilly 8,000 4/12/2015 Sun Bal 3ct ICF Speedy Rodney 8,000 4/17/2015 Fri May 3fp ICF Desperate Lady 8,000 4/25/2015 Sat Bal 3+p ICF Rambling Willie 14,000 4/25/2015 Sat Bal 3cp ICF Betzotic 8,000 4/26/2015 Sun Bal 3ft ICF Koochie 8,000 5/1/2015 Fri May 3cp ICF Taser Gun 8,000 5/2/2015 Sat Bal 3ct ICF Iggy Magoo 8,000 5/3/2015 Sun Bal 3fp ICF Betzotic 8,000 5/10/2015 Sun Bal 3fp ICF Violet Eliminations 7,500 5/10/2015 Sun Bal 3ft ICF Betzotic 8,000 5/15/2015 Fri May 3cp ICF Gosox 8,000 5/16/2015 Sat Bal 3ct ICF Betzotic 8,000 5/17/2015 Sun Bal 3fp ICF Violet 45,000 5/17/2015 Sun Bal 3ft ICF Violet Eliminations 7,500 5/23/2015 Sat Bal 3ct ICF Cardinal Eliminations 7,500 5/23/2015 Sat Bal 3cp ICF Cardinal Eliminations 7,500 5/24/2015 Sun Bal 3ft ICF Violet 40,000 5/30/2015 Sat Bal 3ct ICF Cardinal 40,000 5/30/2015 Sat Bal 3cp ICF Cardinal 45,000 6/5/2015 Fri May 3fp ICF Filly Maywood Pace Elim 8,000 6/6/2015 Sat Bal 2cp ICF Jimmy Sunshine 4,000 6/7/2015 Sun Bal 2fp ICF Egyptian Grande 4,000 6/12/2015 Fri May 3cp ICF Maywood Pace Elim 8,000 6/12/2015 Fri May 3fp ICF Filly Maywood Pace 70,000 6/13/2015 Sat Bal 2cp ICF Bingo Johnnie 4,000 6/13/2015 Sat Bal 3+p ICF Broadway Preview 14,000 6/13/2015 Sat Bal 3ct ICF Southern Rocketop 8,000 6/14/2015 Sun Bal 2fp ICF Misty Misty Misty 4,000 6/20/2015 Sun Bal 2cp ICF Wicked Brew 6,000 6/14/2015 Sun Bal 2ct ICF Million Dollar Bye 4,000 6/19/2015 Fri May 3cp ICF Maywood Pace 70,000 6/20/2015 Sat Bal f&m p ICF Sue Fee 14,000 6/21/2015 Sun Bal 2fp ICF Incredible Tillie 6,000 6/21/2015 Sun Bal 2ft ICF Star Slinger 4,000 6/21/2015 Sun Bal 3ft ICF Betzotic 8,000 6/25/2015 Thur May 2fp ICF Juxtaposition 5,000 6/26/2015 Fri May 2cp ICF Enzo The Baker 5,000 6/27/2015 Sat Bal 3cp ICF Betzotic 8,000 6/28/2015 Sun Bal 3ct ICF Betzotic 8,000 6/28/2015 Sun Bal 3fp ICF Mystical Victress 8,000 *------------------------------------------------------------------------------ 7/3/2015 Fri May 3+p ICF Cook County 20,000 7/4/2015 Sat Bal 3ct Hanover 35,000 7/4/2015 Sat Bal 3ft Hanover 35,000 7/4/2015 Sat Bal 3ft ICF Sorce Ann 7,000 7/4/2015 Sat Bal 3cp ICF Hot Head 7,000 7/4/2015 Sat Bal 3fp ICF Ohyouprettything 7,000 7/5/2015 Sun Bal 2ft ICF Vaporize 5,000 7/5/2015 Sun Bal 2ct ICF Psychic Spirit 5,000 7/9/2015 Thur May 2fp ICF My Metallica 5,000 7/10/2015 Fri May 2cp ICF Fox Valley Barzgar 5,000 7/11/2015 Sat Bal 3cp Hanover 30,000 7/11/2015 Sat Bal 3fp Hanover 30,000 7/12/2015 Sun Bal 3ft ICF Fox Valley Diva 7,000 7/12/2015 Sun Bal 3ct ICF Brandenburg 7,000 7/18/2015 Sat Bal 2cp ICF Mini Me Elim 7,000 7/18/2015 Sat Bal 2fp ICF Loyal Opposition Elim 7,000 7/18/2015 Sat Bal 3cp ICF Incredible Finale Elim 7,000 7/18/2015 Sat/Sun Bal 3ct ICF Kadabra Elim 7,000 7/18/2015 Sat/Sun Bal 3fp ICF Ann Vonian Elim 7,000 7/18/2015 Sat/Sun Bal 3ft ICF Fox Valley Evita Elim 7,000 7/19/2015 Sun Bal 2ct ICF Plesac Eliminations 7,000 7/19/2015 Sun Bal 2ft ICF Fox Valley Flan Elim 7,000 7/25/2015 Sat Bal 2cp ICF Mini Me 40,000 7/25/2015 Sat Bal 2fp ICF Loyal Opposition 40,000 7/25/2015 Sat Bal 3cp ICF Incredible Finale 40,000 7/25/2015 Sat Bal 3ct ICF Kadabra 40,000 7/25/2015 Sat Bal 3fp ICF Ann Vonian 40,000 7/26/2015 Sun Bal 3ft ICF Fox Valley Evita 40,000 7/26/2015 Sun Bal 2ct ICF Plesac 35,000 7/26/2015 Sun Bal 2ft ICF Fox Valley Flan 35,000 8/1/2015 Sat Bal 2cp Hanover 30,000 8/1/2015 Sat Bal 2fp Hanover 30,000 8/1/2015 Sat Bal 3+T ICF Mikes A Mystery 18,000 8/2/2015 Sun Bal 2ct Hanover 30,000 8/2/2015 Sun Bal 2ft Hanover 30,000 8/15/2015 Sat Bal 3+P ICF Big Tom 25,000 8/15/2015 Sat Bal f&m p ICF Parklane Powerful 25,000 8/28/2015 Fri May 3+p ICF Egyptian 20,000 9/5/2015 Sat Bal 2cp ICF Orange & Blue Elim 12,000 9/5/2015 Sat Bal 2fp ICF Filly O&B Eliminations 12,000 9/5/2015 Sat/Sn Bal 3+p ICF Tony Maurello Elim 12,000 9/5/2015 Sat Bal 3cp ICF Pete Langley Mem Elim 12,000 9/5/2015 Sat Bal 3fp ICF Grandma Ann Elim 12,000 9/5/2015 Sat/Sn Bal f&m p ICF Lorna Propes Elim 12,000 9/6/2015 Sun Bal 2ct American National 90,000 9/6/2015 Sun Bal 2ft American National 90,000 9/6/2015 Sun Bal 3ct ICF Su Mac Lad Elim 12,000 9/6/2015 Sun Bal 3ft ICF Lady Ann Reed Elim 12,000 9/12/2015 Sat Bal 2cp ICF Orange & Blue Cons 20,000 9/12/2015 Sat Bal 2cp ICF Orange & Blue 200,000 9/12/2015 Sat Bal 2fp ICF Filly O&B Cons 20,000 9/12/2015 Sat Bal 2fp ICF Filly O&B 200,000 9/12/2015 Sat Bal 3+p ICF Tony Maurello Cons 20,000 9/12/2015 Sat Bal 3+p ICF Tony Maurello 110,000 9/12/2015 Sat Bal 3cp ICF Pete Langley Mem Cons 20,000 9/12/2015 Sat Bal 3cp ICF Pete Langley Mem 160,000 9/12/2015 Sat Bal 3ct ICF Su Mac Lad 100,000 9/12/2015 Sat Bal 3fp ICF Grandma Ann Cons 20,000 9/12/2015 Sat Bal 3fp ICF Grandma Ann 160,000 9/12/2015 Sat Bal 3ft ICF Lady Ann Reed 100,000 9/12/2015 Sat Bal f&m p ICF Lorna Propes Cons 20,000 9/12/2015 Sat Bal f&m p ICF Lorna Propes 110,000 9/13/2015 Sun Bal 3ct ICF Su Mac Lad Cons 20,000 9/13/2015 Sun Bal 3ft ICF Lady Ann Reed Cons 20,000 9/19/2015 Sat Bal 2cp ICF Yates Eagle 10,000 9/19/2015 Sat Bal 2fp ICF Thrifty Way 10,000 9/20/2015 Sun Bal 2ft ICF Lady Lincoln Land Elim 12,000 9/25/2015 Fri May 2cp ICF Cardinal Elim 8,000 9/25/2015 Fri May 2fp ICF Violet Elim 8,000 9/26/2015 Sat Bal 3cp ICF Bye Bye Byrd 10,000 9/27/2015 Sun Bal 2ct ICF Lincoln Land Elim 12,000 9/27/2015 Sun Bal 3fp ICF Direct Dottie 10,000 9/27/2015 Sun Bal 2ft ICF Lady Lincoln Land Cons 18,000 9/27/2015 Sun Bal 2ft ICF Lady Lincoln Land 80,000 10/2/2015 Fri May 2cp ICF Cardinal 50,000 10/2/2015 Fri May 2fp ICF Violet 60,000 10/4/2015 Sun Bal 3ft ICF Betzotic 7,000 10/4/2015 Sun Bal 2ct ICF Lincoln Land 80,000 10/4/2015 Sun Bal 2ct ICF Lincoln Land Cons 18,000 10/11/2015 Sun Bal 2ft ICF Violet Elim 8,000 10/17/2015 Sat Bal 2fp ICF Beecher 7,000 10/18/2015 Sun Bal 2ct ICF Cardinal Elim 8,000 10/18/2015 Sun Bal 2ft ICF Violet 40,000 10/23/2015 Fri May 3ct ICF Lifes A Holiday 7,000 10/24/2015 Sat Bal 3ct ICF Betzotic 7,000 10/25/2015 Sun Bal 2ct ICF Cardinal 40,000 10/29/2015 Thur May 3ft ICF Speed N The Tunnel 7,000 10/30/2015 Fri May 3cp ICF Betzotic 7,000 10/30/2015 Fri May 3fp ICF Giggles The Clown 7,000 10/31/2015 Sat Bal 2cp ICF Crete 7,000 11/1/2015 Sun Bal 2fp ICF Betzotic 7,000 11/1/2015 Sun Bal 2ft ICF Monee 7,000 11/1/2015 Sun Bal 2ct ICF Betzotic 7,000 11/7/2015 Sat Bal 2cp American National 80,000 11/7/2015 Sat Bal 2fp American National 80,000 11/7/2015 Sat Bal 3cp American National 250,000 11/7/2015 Sat Bal 3ct American National 225,000 11/7/2015 Sat Bal 3fp American National 175,000 11/7/2015 Sat Bal 3ft American National 150,000 11/7/2015 Sat Bal ap American National 190,000 11/7/2015 Sat Bal at American National 180,000 11/13/2015 Fri May 2cp Abe Lincoln 100,000 11/13/2015 Fri May 3+p ICF Associates‐McKeever 20,000 11/13/2015 Fri May 3cp Windy City Pace 180,000 11/13/2015 Fri May 3ct Galt 100,000 11/13/2015 Fri May 3fp Cinderella 75,000 11/20/2015 Fri May 3fp ICF Betzotic 7,000 11/20/2015 Fri May 3cp ICF Cole Muffler 7,000 11/21/2015 Sat Bal 2cp ICF Betzotic 7,000 11/21/2015 Sat Bal f&m p ICF Fox Valley Memory 10,000 Tom Kelley  

One Maywood Park pacing record that hasn’t been bettered in the last 20 years belongs to She’s A Great Lady. Her mark of 1:51.2 back in June of 1995 with harness racing trainer / driver Joe Anderson in the bike was a world record at that time for a 3-year-old filly pacer on a half-mile track. Through the years that mile has been lowered a number of times at a number of places but not at Maywood Park. Interesting She’s A Great Lady paced her record mile in what may be the biggest romp by a racehorse in in an open stake on the local circuit’s half-miler. Certainly no other Cinderella, a stakes fixture at Maywood since 1985 has ever seen a filly dominate that race the way She’s A Great Lady did. Her winning margin was a whopping 16 lengths over runner-up Keystone Mia. The third place horse Blue Mesa finished 24 lengths behind the Joe Holloway trained winning filly owned by L & L Devisser of Holland, Michigan. However, one week later She’s A Great Lady and “Little Joe” didn’t get the job done when she was bet down to 3-5 odds in the $100,000 American National Filly Pace at Sportsman’s Park. She’s A Great Lady went off stride before the start on that June 24 night and by the first quarter mile pole was over 16 lengths behind. The filly still trailed by almost a dozen behind at the half before rallying for fourth, beaten four-plus lengths by Teen Talk and Tony Morgan, who paid $37.60. She’s A Great Lady would bounce back in a big way by winning 8 of her final 12 starts that year including the $496,000 Mistletoe Shalee at The Meadowlands and put $610,930 on her 3-year-old card. The daughter of Dexter Nukes racing career ended after only two starts in 1997 as a 5-year-old but with a gaudy career winning clip of 50 per cent, taking 26 of 52 lifetime starts and earning $973,383. She’s A Great Lady, currently owned by Diamond Creek Farm of Wellsville, PA has been a mama 11 times since her retirement from racing. Her first foal was Lady Macbeach, a son of Jenna’s Beach Boy who made over $800,000. By Mike Paradise The Illinois Harness Horsemen's Association

Longshot Just By Design ($19.40) was the upset victor of Saturday night’s “Winner’s Over” feature for fillies and mares, with as gutty harness racing performance with National Hall of Fame driver Dave Magee at her lines. Overlooked by many of the ninth race players, the 8-1 longshot was the quickest from the starting gate, shooting out from post six and into command before the first turn. The Mike Brink trainee gave up the lead at the first quarter, reached in :27.2 to State Street Liz (Bobby Smolin) and raced in the pocket until local newcomer Shine N Shimmer (Mike Oosting) powered her way out of third at took the lead at the half mile ;pole (55.4). Magee then came out of third with Just By Design and raced outside of the new leader through the last turn and most of the way down the lane before passing Shine N Shimmer. Ryleigh’s Lilly (Casey Leonard) finished a strong second, one length behind the roan daughter of Sportsmaster in the 1:53.1 mile. The 8-5 second choice Shine N Shimmer held on for third, one length ahead of the late arriving 7-5 favorite Wings, beaten a half-dozen lengths. Owned by Joshua David Carter of Williamsville, Illinois, the win was the 7-year-old Just By Design’s 25th of her career and her first this year. Jet Power: The circuit’s “Winner’s Over” trot has been shifted to Sunday evening for this week-end. It’ll go as race four and the start of the track’s $1 Pick 3 Wager. Not surprisingly Justice Jet, winner of the last two “Winner’s Over” and 3 out of the last 4 events, was installed as the 8-5 morning line favorite. Regular driver Ryan Welch will be back at the lines of the confident 4-year-old Indiana bred with over $345,000 in lifetime earnings. With the 5-slot  Justice Jet should have dead aim on the 6-horse field turning for home when he goes after his 15th career victory in 41 trips postward. Dandy Farm’s Celebrity Hercules (5-2, Casey Leonard) and Master Of Excuses (4-1, Mike Oosting), second and third, respectively, last week against Justice Jet, are his chief rivals again. Invite Ahead? Maywood Park Pacing Series champion Fort Silky qualified Thursday evening at Maywood Park with a 1:58.2 front-stepping clocking under the hold of his driver Casey Leonard. The now 9-year-old ICF gelding could be dropped into the entry box Wednesday morning with hopes that the circuit’s Invitational will have sufficient entries to be carded for the time since January 3. The Mike Brown Stable’s Ice Scraper spent the middle two weekends of January competing in the Miami Valley Raceway Open Handicaps in Ohio, winning January 24 (1:52.2) on the Lebanon five-eighths oval. Ice Scraper skipped last night’s Open Pace in Ohio and is a likely local Invite entry for this week. By Mike Paradise The Illinois Harness Horsemen's Association

Back in November of 2012 veteran harness racing trainer Gary Fatland took a $10,000 gamble on the then 3-year-old filly Muy Caliente at the Delaware Sale. It’s turned out to be successful venture for the Sandwich, Illinois horseman. The now 6-year-old mare guns for her second straight victory in Friday’s tenth race Maywood Park feature. Last week she breezed to a 1:55.4 wire-to-wire triumph with Travis Seekman at her lines. “It was the first time I sat behind Muy Caliente and she’s very easy to drive. I hate to use this cliché she’s a ‘push-button horse’ but the mare really is. She’ll do whatever you want out there. The mare wants to race and she wants to win.” Muy Caliente has put over $120,000 on her card since being acquired by Gary, his son Nate and their partner John Price of Grant Park, Illinois. The mare earned almost $8,000 in the month of January, picking up a purse check in all four of her starts in Open Handicaps at Miami Valley Raceway in Lebanon, Ohio prior to her local win. In her last Ohio start on Jan. 23 Muy Caliente was saddled with the second tier 10-hole and was next to last with a quarter of a mile to go and ended up fourth, beaten a little more than two lengths. Her triumph last Friday at Maywood was her 12th on the circuit’s half-miler since she joined the Fatland Stable. In 2014 Muy Caliente was third or better in 23 of her 36 trips postward. “She likes to race and she’s been very consistent for us,” said Gary. “I think the fact that I train her on a half at my farm helps her at Maywood. She’s done very well there for us.” Muy Caliente has the bloodlines to be a successful pacing mare. She was sired by Rocknroll Hanover and is out of the Bettor’s Delight broodmare Cannae Cindy. Unraced at two, Muy Caliente spent most of her 3-yeart-old season racing for trainer Ron Burke. The draw this week wasn’t as kind to Muy Caliente as it was a week earlier when she left from Maywood’s coveted one-slot. This Friday she’s in the second tier. She does start behind Melodie Hotspur, a mare with good gate speed and wins in 4 of her last 6 starts for trainer Jimmy Ellison. Muy Caliente will open as the 3-1 programmed choice with Melodie Hotspur (John De Long) and Blazing Fury (p.p. 2, Bobby Smolin) next at 9-2. From posts 3 through 8 you’ll find Triple Lane Melody (12-1, Pat Curtin), Morwyn Hanover (15-1, Brian Carpenter), Financial Effort (8-1, Casey Leonard), Feel Like Dancing (6-1, Kyle Wilfong), Gentle Janet (12-1, Todd Warren) and Incredible Filly (15-1, Tim Curtin). By Mike Paradise The Illinois Harness Horsemen's Association

The 2015 harness racing season kicks off in earnest on Thursday, Jan. 29th, at Maywood Park as the half-mile oval jumps back into its familiar Thursday-Friday live racing schedule.   Right from the start bettors will have a chance to play into what will hopefully become the "norm" at Maywood Park as the Pick 6 wager features a carryover of $2,329.00. There will also be a mandatory payoff in the Pick 6 wager on Friday, Jan. 30th as Maywood Park will debut its new 20 Cent Jackpot Pick 6 wager starting on Thursday, Feb. 5th.   The new 20 Cent Jackpot Pick 6, which became wildly popular at Gulfstream Park's thoroughbred meet, should help spur plenty of carryovers as it requires a bettor to hold the ONLY ticket with all six winners from the designated Pick 6 races.   When there is no single winner in the Jackpot Pick 6, 50% of the pool will be paid out to those with the most winners while the remaining 50% goes back into the carryover pool.   The 20 Cent Jackpot Pick 6 is scheduled to be contested on races one through six on Thursday's and races three through eight on Friday's at Maywood Park. Post time for the opener each night will be 7:10 p.m. (central). Balmoral Park will return to live racing on Saturday, Jan. Feb. 1st with a post time of 7:10 p.m (central) as well. There will be no live racing at the Crete oval on Sunday, Feb. 1st due to the Super Bowl. Balmoral is then scheduled to race Saturday's and Sunday's throughout the 2015 season. Tom Kelley    

One of the elite pacers for harness racing trainer Tom Harmer in the early years of this century, He Wants It All raced until the age of 11 for his owner Michael Polansky of Loudonville, NY, earning over $1 million while winning 50-plus races. As a 3-year-old in 2003 the son of The Big Dog out of the broodmare Traci Miss captured the $94,044 Junior Trendsetter Final and swept the Matt Scoot Series at The Meadowlands before being sold to Polansky and joining the Tom Harmer Stable. He Wants It All only raced 8 times as a 4-year-old because of health issues but bounced back with a vengeance in 2005 as a 5-year-old. The horse captured the first of two consecutive Pompano Park Isle Of Capri Finals with Tony Morgan at his lines in late February and went on to win 15 more races that year, including a half-dozen Free For All events at Balmoral, four more Maywood Park Free For All paces, and both the Carey elimination and its $101,000 Final at Hawthorne Race Course in August of 2005. After one of his Maywood Park Free For All triumphs driver Tony Morgan said this in a post-race interview: "This is a ‘real’ horse. Once he gets to the top he just drops the lines and totally relaxes. He's a beautifully-going horse with a huge gear and he's very fleet-footed. His connections (owner Michael Polansky) paid six figures for him when Tom (trainer Harmer) got Mr. Polansky's horses to train. “At one point he was thought to have been finished--racing wise. But Tom gave him a lot of time off and he got him sound again. This past winter he had a breathing problem which Tom solved and got cleared up and now this horse is just a monster." He Wants It All earned just short of $300,000 in 2005 and paced a track record mile for an aged gelding of 1:49.1 at Balmoral with Morgan. The following year he again won the Isle Of Capri Final at Pompano, this time with Dave Magee. His season mark of 1:49.3 came with Dave in a Balmoral Park FFA in late May, a few weeks before his second place finish in Hawthorne’s Carey Memorial Final. As a 6-year-old he campaigned against the likes Holborn Hanover, Lis Mara, Ponder, Stonebridge Regal and Maltese Artist when he added another $240,015 to his card. He Wants It All ended his career finishing third or better in 90 of 139 starts, winning 51 of them and making $1,016,187, To view Archived Notes and Quotes click here By Mike Paradise The Illinois Harness Horsemen's Association

As the leading trainer on the circuit in 2014, like many of his colleagues, Perry Smith has had to become more than just a conditioner of horses in his endeavor to make a living in Illinois. “I’ve had to claim my own horses to try and go on in this business,” said the 63-year-old veteran trainer who had more winning horses (117) in last year’s combined Balmoral and Maywood trainer standings. “Looking for horses to claim for myself is what need to do for now days to keep going. “With the price of everything now days the profit margin of just training a horse for somebody on the Chicago circuit just isn’t there. Let’s face it those days in Illinois for trainers are over. For me to go on the best I can and try to make a profit as a trainer I’ve gone to claiming more horses for myself or with another owner. “I’m just trying to get by the best way I can and right now that looks like the best way for a (Illinois) trainer. All I can do is hope that things in Illinois will finally get better for horsemen.” Many of the leading trainers in Illinois such as Nelson Willis, Dave Mc Caffrey, Bob Phillips, Roger Welch, Joel Smith, Mike Brink, and Merv Chupp to mention just a few have become owners of a good portion of the horses in their stable in their attempt to make a go of it in our state. “I’ve been in the business a long time.” continued Perry. “Training horses is what I do. I’m not a young man anymore who is looking to make a career change and there isn’t anything out there waiting for me.” The recent subzero weather that hit the Midwest didn’t play havoc with Perry or his stable. “That severe cold weather couldn’t have come at a better time for me. We had good weather right up to the time we stopped racing. I’m in Florida right now taking a little planned vacation so the bad weather that hit the Chicago area didn’t affect the plans with my horses.” Live racing on the circuit resumes Thursday, January 29 at Maywood where Perry was the leading trainer and on Saturday, January 31 at Balmoral where Nelson Willis took the conditioner’s crown for a second time. by Mike Paradise, for IHHA

With live racing set to resume in about two weeks Balmoral & Maywood Park have announced the initial qualifying dates and entry times for the Chicago area standardbred tracks. Balmoral Park will host qualifiers on Wednesday, January 21 and Wednesday, January 28 at 11:00 am (central). Entries for these qualifiers will close on the Tuesday before each date at 10:00 am. Maywood Park will host its qualifiers on Thursday January 22 at 11:00 am. Entries will close Wednesday, Jan. 21st at 10:00 am. When live racing resumes at Maywood Park on Thursday, Jan. 29th, qualifiers will be held prior to the live race cards every Thursday night. Horses must show a satisfactory racing line within 45 days in order to race at both tracks. The first draw will be Monday January 26 at Maywood for the Thursday, Jan. 29th card and the Friday, Jan. 30th program. Balmoral Park will draw on Wednesday January 28 for the Saturday, Jan. 31st card. As reminder, Balmoral Park will be dark for live racing on Super Bowl Sunday, February 1st. Tentative plans call for Maywood to conduct 10 race cards on Thursday's and 12 races on Friday's. Balmoral will go with 12 race programs on Saturday's and 10 races on Sunday nights. by Tom Kelley, for Balmoral-Maywood Park

One of the bright spots the past few years in Illinois harness racing has been the well-deserved success of Casey Leonard who has risen in prominence to become one of the top catch-drivers on the Chicago circuit. The 37-year-old Harvard, Illinois native captured both the driving titles at Balmoral (204) and Maywood Parks (171) in 2014 and for the second consecutive year posted more dash winners in our state than any other horseman. Casey drove 385 winners last year. He posted 407 in 2013 with 562 more drives. Leonard’ horses earned purse money of $2.8 million and $2.3 million the past two seasons. It was only seven years ago (2008) that Casey did almost no-catch driving on the circuit, basically just steering the Leonard family’s horses. He had 19 winners that year before deciding to give catch-driving a try for the 2009 season at the age of 32, Casey went on to post 49 winners that season. Leonard vaulted to 184 winners in 2010, and had 235 and 231 in 2011 and 2012, going over the $1 million plateau for the first time in his career in those past two seasons. Casey’s mercurial climb up the ladder of success has surprised even himself. “I would be the first one to tell you that 10 years ago I never thought I’d be where I am today as a driver on the circuit.” The old proverb about “When Opportunity Knocks” certainly fits the narrative to Casey’s success. “The biggest thing for a catch driver is to make the most of your opportunities,” continued Casey. “When you do, you get better and better horses to drive.  It doesn’t mean you have to drive more aggressively, it means you have to take advantage of the opportunity and drive that horse accordingly.” “The last couple of years have been great. I’ve had the chance to drive some very good horses.” And Casey definitely took advantage of those opportunities. The late Chicago Cubs manager of the late 1960’s Leo Durocher once said: “Nice Guys Finish last.” Leo had no idea back then a guy like Casey Leonard would come along and prove him wrong. by Mike Paradise, for IHHA

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