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The Champion On Ice Trotting Series has always proven to be popular with horsemen and it’s no different this time around. A sizable 28 horses passed the entry box for Wednesday’s opening round at Balmoral Park, necessitating three harness racing divisions. Local based horses will be challenged by trotters, mostly youngsters, who have come in from out-east tracks in Pennsylvania and New York, to Midwest facilities in Indiana, Michigan and Minnesota, as well as County Fair tracks. Springfield based trainer Mike Brink has a threat in each of the three splits with Dave Magee driving all three. There’s Nidaros  a $50,000 yearling buy as a yearling in the opener, Jailhouse Rockn a Hoosier Park invader who got her maiden win in 2:00.2 less than two weeks ago in the second, and Justice And Fifth, a son of Justice Hall who was a 1:58.4 victor in Indiana on July 25, Eligible to Champion On Ice Series are trotting colts and geldings with a victory as of July23. Fillies are mares are allowed one won by the same date. A second series round will be contested next Wednesday, the 14th, with the $9,000 (est.) Final slated for Wednesday, August 21. Dirk Simpson, another Springfield based conditioner, has a pair of Champion On Ice hopefuls with I’m A Pop Star (Todd Warren) in race one and Chantilly Hall (he’ll drive) in race three. Both three-year-old fillies didn’t come cheap at yearling sales. I’m A Pop Star sold for $40,000 when her name was Muscany Valley, while Chantilly Hall was a $32,000 purchase. The second division morning line 5-2 favorite is the ICF filly Fox Valley Roxy (Dean Magee) fresh off a 2:00.1 victory. I expect Homer Hochstetler Stable’s Emoticon, who has been campaigning in upstate New York at Vernon Down to go off much lower than his listed program odds of 12-1. The son of Conway Hall was unraced at two after being bought for $37,000 at the 2011 Lexington Select Sale and lands the one-slot for his return to Balmoral.. Third division programmed second choice at 9-2 is We’ve Got It All (Mike Oosting) sold at the same Kentucky sale for $97,000 to the trio Paymaq Racing (Long Grove, IL), Peggy Hood (Valparaiso, IN) and Canadian Greg Gillis. Unraced as a 2-year-old, this year the Yankee Glide filly was winless in her first seven starts out east, campaigning mostly at Pocono Downs. Note that she’s raced with trotting hobbles in her last two starts when she was timed in 1:56.3 and 1:57.3 with fifth place finishes. Springfield Opens: A double-draw for the Springfield State Fair cards of Friday, August 8 and Saturday, August 9 took place this Tuesday morning at Maywood Park.  Most of Friday’s opening program will be filled with Illinois State Fair Colt Stakes elimination races. The 2 and 3-year-old ICF championships for both pacers and trotters will be conducted next Thursday, August 15, the final day of racing at Springfield. County Fair Report LOGAN COUNTY FAIR at LINCOLN     Saturday Afternoon August 3 Results FIRST: Downstate Classic Two-Year-Old Filly Pace, 1st Div, Purse $5,738: Horse (Driver)                                                           Time (Track Fast) Fox Valley Shiver (Freddie Patton Jr.)                             2:00 Trainer: Freddie Patton Jr. Owners: Peter Karras, Thomas Spathies and William Tortoriello. SECOND: Downstate Classic Two-Year-Old Filly Pace, 2nd Div, Purse $5,738: Kiss This Perch (J D Finn)                                                 2:02.1 Trainer: J D Finn.  Owner: Sharon Finn. THIRD: Downstate Classic Two-Year-Old Colt Pace, 1st Div, Purse $6,302: Marty Rocker (Ronnie Gillespie)                                       2:00 Trainer: Ronnie Gillespie. Owners: Ron Phillips, John Carver and Jesse Ferge. FOURTH: Downstate Classic Two-Year-Old Colt Pace, 2nd Div, Purse $6,302: Manny”s Z Tam (Rick Schrock)                                         2:02 Trainer: Dave Mc Caffrey. Owners: Z Tam Stables, Michael Polansky, Joseph McCaffrey and David McCaffrey. FIFTH: Downstate Classic Two-Year-Old Filly Trot, 1st Div, Purse $5,630: S V Spirit (Todd Warren)                                                     2:07.2 Trainer: Roger Welch, Owners: William De Long and Wm. Patrick De Long. SIXTH: Downstate Classic Two-Year-Old Filly Trot, 2nd Div, Purse $5,630: Say No Mo (Dirk Simpson)                                                 2:06 Trainer: Dirk Simpson. Owners: Dr. Patrick Graham, Flacco Family Farms and Dirk Simpson Stable. SEVENTH: Downstate Classic Two-Year-Old Colt Trot, 1st Div, Purse $5,374: Finnster (J D Finn)                                                              2:06 Trainer: J D Finn. Owner: J D Finn and Allison Finn. EIGHTH: Downstate Classic Two-Year-Old Colt Trot, 1st Div, Purse $5,374: Gray N Cloudy (Dirk Simpson) Trainer: Dirk Simpson. Owners: Sam Daddono, Dr. Patrick Graham, Dirk Simpson and Simpson Racing Stables. EFFINGHAM COUNTY FAIR AT ALTAMONT    Sunday Afternoon, August 4 FIRST: Big 10 Three-Year-Old Filly Trot, Purse $3,173: Horse (Driver)                                               Time (Track Fast) High Stepper (JD Finn)                                          2:05.3 Trainer: J D Finn. Owners: Mary Jeffers and Adele Everett. SECOND: Big 10 Three-Year-Old Colt Trot, Purse $3,341: Powerful Valor (Jared Finn)                                  2:05.1 Trainer: J D Finn. Owner: Hinshaw Homestead Farms. THIRD: Big 10 Two-Year-Old Filly Pace, Purse $3,574: M A Duty (Ronnie Gillespie)                                  2:05.1 Trainer: Ronnie Gillespie. Owners: Ron Phillips, John Carver and Jesse Ferge. FOURTH: Big 10 Two-Year-Old Colt Pace, Purse $3,597: Tower Power (Freddie Patton Jr.)                         2:04.4 Trainer: Freddie Patton Jr. Owner: Marvin Kendrick. FIFTH: ICF Four-Year-Olds & Up Male Pace, Purse $3,500: T J’s April Angel (Ronnie Gillespie)                     2:02.2 Trainer: Roshun Trigg. Owner: Roshun Trigg. SIXTH: ICF Four-Year-Olds & Up Mare Pace, Purse $3,500: Fox Valley Barbosa (Jared Finn)                          2:03.2 Trainer: Ray Hanna. Owners: Ray Hanna and Jim Edgar. SEVENTH: Free For All Trot, 1st Div, Purse $1,250: LW Jaynie Flyer (Cassidy Melloy)                                    2:03.4 Trainer: Cassidy Melloy. Owner: Cassidy Melloy. EIGHTH: Free For All Trot, 2nd Div, Purse $1,250: He’s Lucky (Kyle Husted)                                       2:03.4 Trainer: Pamela Coleman. Owners: Horseman’s Financial Agency and Premier Racing Stables.  EFFINGHAM COUNTY FAIR AT ALTAMONT    Monday Afternoon, August 5 FIRST: Big 10 Two-Year-Old Trot, Purse $6,104: Horse (Driver)                                               Time (Track Fast) Bessiebearcat (Eric Collier)                                   2:12 Trainer: Delbert Burkett. Owners: Delbert Burkett and Eric Collier. SECOND: Big 10 Three-Year-Old Filly Pace, Purse $3,329: Queen Beatrice (Darla Martin)                              2:02 Trainer: David Lohman. Owners: Fred and David Lohman. THIRD: Big 10 Three-Year-Old Colt Pace, Purse $3,574: Party Cove (Tom Simmons)                                   2:01.3 Trainer: Tom Simmons. Owners: Beat Seales and Dennis Beccue. FOURTH: Filly and Mare Open Pace, 1st Div, Purse $1,000: Wild Berry Muffler (J D Finn)                                 2:04.2 Trainer: J D Finn. Owner: Catherine and Ritzel. FIFTH: Filly and Mare Open Pace, 2nd Div, Purse $1,000: Prosper (Kyle Husted)                                             2:01 Trainer: Pamela Coleman. Owner: Fair Meadow Farm. WILLIAMSON COUNTY FAIR AT MARION   Monday Afternoon, August 5 FIRST: ECS Two-Year-Old Pace, Purse $6,204: Horse (Driver)                                               Time (Track Fast) Syd’s Lollipop (Freddie Patton Jr.)                        2:05 Trainer: Freddie Patton Jr. Owner: Perry Tillman Jr. SECOND: ECS Two-Year-Old Filly Trot, Purse $3,202: Bands Giant Star (Freddie Patton Jr.)                  2:12.1 Trainer: Freddie Patton Jr. Owner: Flacco Family Farms. THIRD: ECS Two-Year-Old Colt Trot, Purse $3,212: Battleshoe King (Buddy Simpson)                                   2:12 Trainer: Buddy Simpson. Owners: Buddy and Clay Simpson. FOURTH: Non-Winners of $1,500 Lifetime, 1st Div, Purse $600: Wings (Merle Finn)                                                  2:08.4 Trainer: Merle Finn Jr. Owner: Merle Finn Jr. FIFTH: Non-Winners of $1,500 Lifetime, 2nd Div, Purse $600: Dusty Dunes (H. Joe Haught)                               2:09 Trainer: H. Joe Haught. Owner: H. Joe Haught. SIXTH: Free For All Trot, Purse $800: Elmar (E. Leroy Moore)                                           2:08.4 Trainer: E. Leroy Moore. Owner: E. Leroy Moore. SEVENTH: Non-Winners of $3,500 Lifetime Pace, Purse $800: Lion Of Judah (H. Joe Haught)                             2:08.1 Trainer: H. Joe Haught. Owner: Thomas Throgmorton. By Mike Paradise The Illinois Harness Horsemen's Association

Illinois conceived and foaled trotters closed out a big weekend of racing action at Balmoral Park on Sunday, August 4th as a field of eight three-year-old colts battled in the $25,000 Mikes A Mystery Stake. As has been the case throughout the entire 2013 season, H. “Bill” Wright & Mystical Marker Farms King Mufasa toted home top honors as he posted a hard fought head decision in 1:55.1 for driver Mike Oosting. Leaving from post eight the gelded son of Powerful Emotion—Foxy N Diamonds was unhurried early on allowing Maplegrove Shaelyn (Jamaica Patton) to dictate terms through splits of 28.4, 58.3 & 1:27.2. Getting underway as the field moved towards the half-mile mark Oosting tried to flush cover as he proceeded his march towards the front but with his rivals electing to sit in King Mufasa pulled alongside of the pace setter as the diagonally gaited sophomores hit the top of the stretch. Zipping right by Maplegrove Shaelyn Oosting and King Mufasa then dug in gamely to hold off a late surge from the ground saving Powerful Poe through the final sixteenth of a mile for his eighth win in nine starts this year. Powerful Poe settled for the runner-up role for the eighth time in 11 starts this season while Monticello Lane (Robert Taylor) benefitted from a disqualification to move into the show spot. The Mike Brink trained King Mufasa now boasts 10 wins and 2 seconds in 17 career starts with earnings of $117,452. Grand Circuit action highlighted the Saturday, August 3rd program as a pair of Hanover Stakes for two-year-old attracted 27 colt and filly pacers. An overflow field of 12 colts were sent postward for a $46,100 jackpot and when the smoke cleared it was Lawrence Gary’s good looking Quik Pulse Mindale—Hast yDewer colt Blooming Genius who emerged on top with a wire to wire score in1:54.1 for driver Dave Magee. Despite making only his third career start, the Todd La Fountaine trainee looked like a seasoned pro as he took full advantage of the inside starting spot while leading the field through splits of 28.0, 57.1 & 1:25.1. With plenty in reserve Blooming Genius sealed the deal with a 29.1 final marker towin for the second time in three starts. PQ Three (Mike Oosting) rallied nicel yto finish a fast closing second despite being outside every step of the mile while another Erv Miller trainee, Badger Quinn (Lewayne Miller) finished third. Fresh off his back to back wins after finishing second in his career debut Blooming Genius now boasts $26,475 in career earnings. With a total of 15 fillies dropped into the entry box the filly tussle was split into a pair of $29,600 divisions. In the opening battle Engel Stable of Illinois’ Marzy Bearzy came up with a career best as she rallied from mid-pack to score by a half-length in 1:54.3 with Casey Leonard at the controls. After saving ground through splits of 28.0 56.3 & 1:25.2 Leonard moved the Nelson Willies trained daughter of Rocknroll Hanover—Sleazebiscuit to the outside as the field headed around the final bend. Hitting her top gear with an eighth of a mile to go Marzy Bearzy cruised right by the leaders with a 28.2 final quarter to notch her second win in four starts. Rock Groupie (Brian Carpenter)battled through a tough first over trip to finish in the bridesmaid role while Boxed Chocolates (Dave Magee) was third. In the second division the Jesse De Long owned and trained Delco Voracious pulled off the upset as the Running Aces invader found room late and rallied sharply for a 2 ¾ length triumph in a career of 1:53.1 with John De Long handling the lines. The home-bred daughter of Voracious Hanover—Gypsys Good Girl used her inside starting spot to perfection, saving ground throughout the mile as Western Dame(Casey Leonard) put up splits of 28.2, 57.2 & 1:26.0. After finding racing room in the lane Delco Voracious unleashed a wicked 27.0 final quarter to roll right by for her fourth win in five career starts. Western Dame held on for second while Thesleazyprincess (Mike Oosting), the even-money favorite was forced to settle for the show dough after a tough first over journey. Sent off at 19-1 despite opening her career with three straight wins in Minnesota Delco Voracious returned $40.20 while pushing her career bankroll over the $24,000 mark. by Tom Kelley  

Picking up right where he left off after posting seven wins, including four stake victories, on Saturday night’scard driver Mike Oosting continued to dominate the Southland Festival of Racing action guiding Derek Jacobus and Kevin Kline’s Divination to a three-quarter length score in Sunday’s $45,000 Fox Valley Evita Stake for Illinois conceived and foaled three-year-old trotting fillies. Confidently handled by Balmoral’s leading reinsman the daughter of Southwind Breeze—Hocus Pocus was an unhurried fifth through the early stages as the Robert Taylor owned & trained entry of Little Ms Chrissy and Just For Fun (Casey Leonard) led the field through opening splits of 28.4 & 57.3. Flushing out cover from a first overTrot Fudge Sundae (Dave Magee) as the field moved around the far turn Oosting had Divination in a perfect second over striking position as Little Ms Chrissy showed the way by the three-quarter-mile mark in 1:26.4. “I knew it was time to go before those fillies up front got away from us,” said Oosting. “I needed to make the leaders go on because I didn’t know if my filly could out trot them from where we were. Getting cover was just an added bonus for us.” Through the stretch a hard charging Divination took dead aim on a leg weary Little Ms Chrissy. Cruising down the center of the racetrack the five-time winner in 2013 swallowed up the pacesetter with a sixteenth of a mile to go and quickly drew clear for the victory. Little Ms Chrissy held on for second while Just For Fun was third. “This filly is really starting to find her best stride right now,” said the red-hot Oosting. “She has always been right there with this group but she’s had a tough time getting by them. Nick( Prather) has done a great job getting her to come around at just the right time and it could be a very nice summer for her.” With the win Divination now boasts a career record of 6-8-2 in 25 starts with earnings of $61,930. The third choice in the compact field of five betting interests returned a healthy win mutel of $10.00.There was no place or show wagering. The 50 cent Pick 5 wager was not hit on Sunday night so a carry over of $10,288 will be added to Wednesday’s Pick 5. In conjunction with the U.S.T.A. Strategic Wagering Council Balmoral Park has announced that there will be a $40,000 Guaranteed Pool for Wednesday’s Pick 5. The Pick 5 entails races 2-6 each night and post time for Wednesday’s second race is expected to be 7:25 p.m. (central). Free past performances for the Pick 5 and the $20,000 guaranteed Pick 4 on Wednesday can be found by visiting www.trackmaster.com  or www.ustrotting.com . by Tom Kelley  

The $45,000 Fox Valley Evita stake for ICF 3-year-old trotting fillies is all by its lonesome on Sunday night’s card. While the other five championships for 2 and 3-year-old state-bred pacers and trotters got a lot of hoopa on last night’s Southland Festival of Racing somehow this stake final for filly trotters was designated on a Sunday program where probably less than half of last night’s card will be in attendance. I’m not sure why. Yes there are only five betting interests but there were only six in last night’s Kadabra Championship and that had a three-horse entry, without Place or Show betting, that went off at odds of 1-9 with King Mufasa and the gang finishing 1-2-3. If a feature was needed for Sunday, why couldn’t the Invite have be moved from Saturday. If that’s too good of a betting race how about the high-level conditioned event for fillies and mares that followed. Saturday could have had both trot Finals as the Daily Double. Let the fans double their money on the wager going into the third race and let the owners and trainers of ICF 3-year-old trotting fillies enjoy the same festive evening as the owners and horsemen of the other state-bred stakes for young horses. Sunday’s “Evita” has the Robert Taylor trained entry (and he’s also a co-owner) of Just For Fun (p.p. 1, Casey Leonard) and Little Ms Chrissy (p.p. 6, Taylor) as the 3-2 first flash favorites. Last year’s freshman champion Trot Fudge Sundae (p.p. 2, Dave Magee) is next at 3-1. Nick Prather’s Divination (p.p. 5, Mike Oosting) follows at 7-2 and longshots Kelsey’s Star (6-1, Dean Magee) American Empress (8-1, Matt Krueger). Conspicuous by her absence is Todd Warren’s Sara The Spy, winner of a Betzotic ICF stake earlier and the runner-up in the Violet and the July 3 Sorce Ann stakes. Before being sold to Warren Sara The Spy wasn’t nominated to the Fox Valley Evita. There is no Showing wagering on the second race sophomore stake which begins the track’s 50 cent Pick 5 wager with a guaranteed pool of $15,000. Double O Sizzles: Mike Oosting came back from his brief one week vacation red-hot with his own version of Saturday Night Fever by driving seven winners last night including 4 of the 5 ICF stake finals on Balmoral’s Southland Festival of Racing Night. Mike brought home King Mufasa in the Kadabra, Thesleazyprincess in the Loyal Opposition, PQ Three in the Mini Me, and Auniqueaquisition in the Ann Vonian. The Michigan native was second with the 16-1 longshot Sage Rush behind Big Brad and driver Bobby Smolin in the Incredible Finale. Oosting also won the Mini Me Consolation with One Sure Apache and later on the night posted victories with Park Lane Hotshot and Fox Valley Malone in races 11 and 13. Mike Paradise The Illinois Harness Horsemen's Association

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

After a busy weekend of elimination’sthe fields have been set for one of the biggest nights of racing at Balmoral Park and now the count down begins to next Saturday’s (July 27th) Chicago Southland Festival of Racing. After a trio of stakes were filled on Saturday, July 20th the last two elimination tussles were contested on Sunday night with a total of 16 Illinois conceived and foaled three-year-old pacing fillies squaring off in a pair of $10,000 Ann Vonian Stake elim’s. The top five finishers in each division will be back next Saturday to slug it out for a purse of $60,000. In the first elimination Roy Drevsand Brett & Candice Wilfong’s Feel Like Dancing came charging through the passing lane to win by a length in a career best of 1:52.3 for driver Kyle Wilfong. After leading the field through anopening quarter in 28.3 Wilfong elected to allow a hard charging Dallas Jones(Casey Leonard) take command. That filly proceeded to rattle off middle splitsof 56.2 & 1:25.1 while the Brett Wilfong trained miss enjoyed a perfect pocket sitting ride. After finding room in the passing lane, the daughter of Skydancer Hanover—Fox Valley Funny exploded past the pace setter finishing offthe mile with a 27.1 final panel to post her seventh win in 14 starts thisyear. Dallas Jones held on to be second while the heavily favored Aliyah Maria(Todd Warren) finished third. Incredible Filly (Mike Cox) and My Marissa Clair(Phil Knox) also earned spots in the final. The second elimination was notwithout its anxious moments for “chalk” players but when the smoke cleared it was John Carver’s Auniqueaquistion who came out on top with a hard fought half-length victory in 1:52.2 for driver Dave Magee. Placed well off the pace while DuneIn Red (John De Long) and R Ciao Baby (Casey Leonard) sped through splits of28.2, 55.3 & 1:24.1, Magee had Auniqueaquistion in the outer flow as the fillies turned for the money. Picking off one rival after another, the Donna Lee Ozment trained daughter of Cole Muffler—Shesoluvabull went from fifth to first with a 27.3 final quarter to notch her sixth win in nine starts this year. Dune In Red turned in a solid effort to finish second while State Street Liz (Robert Smolin) shook loose late to be a fast closing third. The last two spots in the final went to R Ciao Baby and Mystical Danica (Lewayne Miller). Saturday’s action started with a total of 19 state-bred two-year-old pacing fillies battling in a pair of $10,000 Loyal Opposition elimination’s. The top five in each split will return next week to meet for a purse of $65,000. In the opening division Bruce & Mary Alexander’s Western Dame made it two in a row as she cruised to an impressive two-length victory in a career best of 1:54.2 for driver John DeLong. Charging from fifth to first after an opening quarter of 28.2, the daughter of Sagebrush—Dixie Dame left no doubt as to who was the best in this event as she continued on through middle splits of 57.0 & 1:26.0. Rolling home in 28.2, the $14,000 yearling purchase was never seriously threatened through the stretch as she scored for the second time in three starts. Thesleazyprincess (Mike Oosting) rallied late to be the bridesmaid while Anything I Want (Todd Warren) was a game third. My Little Bit (Robert Smolin) finished fourth and Fox Valley Rockn (Kyle Wilfong) was fifth. The second division of the Loyal Opposition elimination’s also provided a sharp winner as Sawgrass Farms Molly Go Lightly posted her maiden breaking win, reporting home with a 2 ¾ length verdict in 1:55.1 with Mike Oosting in tow. The homebred daughter of Lexington Legend—Waggle was confidently handled in the race ranging up first over through opening splits of 29.3 & 58.4. After sweeping into the lead as the field moved around the final turn, the Nelson Willis trainee led the fillies by the three-quarter-mile mark in 1:26.4. The issue was never in doubt from that point on as Molly Go Lightly was a cruise control through a 28.2 final quarter to post her first win in four starts. Green Valey (Robert Smolin) came on late to finish second while April May Dune (Dave Magee) was third. Also gaining spots in the final were Fox Valley Amanda(Dale Hiteman) and Ms Solongbyebye (Jamaica Patton). Next on the docket were three-year-old pacing colts as a total of 15 state-bred sophomores battled in apair of $10,000 Incredible Finale Stake elimination’s. Once again the top five will be back for the “festival” where they will battle for a purse of $59,000. In the first elimination Paymaq Racing, D&M Trading & Mystical Marker Farms Mystical Walter continued to turn heads in this division as he posted his Third Straight victory, reporting home with a deceptively easy 2 ¼ length score in 1:51.1 for driver Casey Leonard. Fresh off his win in last week’s Hanover Stake, the gelded son of Yankee Skyscaper—Yankee Blue put his powerful brush to good use rushing from fifth to first after an opening quarter in 28.0. The Erv Miller trainee never looked back the rest of the way, effortlessly posting middle splits of 56.2 & 1:24.1 before sealing the deal with a wicked 27.0 final quarter for his seventh win in 15 career starts. Monopoly Man (John De Long) followed the winner’s every move after giving way on the backside to finish second while Fancy Creek Elusiv (Dave Magee) was third. Also grabbing spots in the final were Sage Ruck (Mike Oosting) and Fox Valley Action (Todd Warren). In the second division John & Mary Krasnican’s Big Brad came storming through the stretch to win by a neck in a lifetime best of 1:51.0 for Robert Smolin. Moving up second over as pace setter Silver Devil put up splits of 28.0, 56.3 & 1:23.4 Smolin moved the Robert Phillips trainee off cover as the field turned for the money. Flying home in 26.4, the bay son of Henry Clay—One Sure Thing swept by his rivals and then was game to the wire as held off a final surge by Crankin’ It Up (Kyle Wilfong) for his fifth win in 13 starts this season. Crankin’ It Up was second while Kostas Wine (Dave Magee) rallied to finish third. Fox Valley Norman (John De Long) salvaged a fourth place finish after a tough first over bid while the last spotin the final went to Darth Quaider (Mike Oosting). Rounding out the Saturday action were Mini Me Stake elimination’s for ICF two-year-old pacing colts. With a total of 17 youngsters dropped into the entry box a pair of $10,000 splits were contested with the top five moving on to next week’s $63,500 final. In the first division Obermeier & Quaid Stables good looking youngster PQ Three lived up to his favored status winning by a well measured neck in 1:54.3 with Mike Oosting at the controls. Ranging up first over as Traffic Cop(Todd Warren) and R Duneshine (Dave Magee) battled through splits of 28.2, 58.27 1:26.4, Oosting had the son of Yankee Skyscaper—Sweltering just off the pace setters flank as the field turned for the money. Quickly swallowing up R Duneshine in the lane, the Erv Miller trainee then held firm to the wire for his second win in four starts. Traffic Cop re-rallied to finish a game second while Fox Valley Cupid (Robert Smolin) turned a ground saving trip into a third place check. Fox Valley Deuce (Dale Hiteman) was fourth while R Duneshine wound up fifth. The last elimination on the Saturday card provided the tightest finish as the Robert Phillips owned and trained Cotton Eyed Joe found racing room in the final sixteenth of a mile then rallied sharply for a head decision in 1:56.4 with Robert Smolin at the controls. After saving ground while Wimpy Doodle (Dean Magee) and Dunside Art (Mike Oosting) took turns leading the field through splits of 29.3, 1:00.3 & 1:29.2 Smolin appeared to be hopelessly locked in at the pylons. Smolin’s patience paid big dividends though as a seam opened up late in the stretch, allowing the son of Big Green Machine—Secret Dial to come roaring home with his first win in five career starts. Badger Quinn (Todd Warren), who made a power sweep to the front from the outside post wound up finishing a tough luck second while Fox Valley Van (John De Long) was third. The last two spots in the final went to Dunside Art (4th) and Wimpy Doodle (5th). Big Brad and Robert Smolin captured an Incredible Finale Stake elimination for 3yo pacing colts in 1:51.0 on Saturday night at Balmoral Park. PQ Three was a well measured winner for driver Mike Oosting in the first of two Mini Me Stake eliminations on Saturday. Cotton Eyed Joe found room late while rallying for a big win in the second Mini Me Stake elimination on Saturday. Western Dame cruised to an easy win for driver John De Long in the first of two Loyal Opposition Stake elimination's on Saturday night. Molly Go Lightly and driver Mike Oosting teamed up for an easy win in 1:55.1 in the second Loyal Opposition Stake elimination on Saturday.  Mystical Walter continued an impressive recent run as he posted his Third Straight victory in the first of two Incredible Finale Stake elim's for 3yo colt pacers.  

Almost half of Saturday’s 13-race card at Balmoral are ICF stake elimination races to decide the finalists for next weekend’s Southland Festival of Racing program. A fifth place finish or higher is needed on Saturday to advance to gain the ICF finals of the $65,000 Loyal Opposition for 2-year-old ICF fillies, the $65,500 Mini Me for freshman pacing colts and geldings and the $59,000 Incredible Finale for second season male pacers. The fifth race first division of the Incredible Finale came up strong with Cardinal champion Fancy Creek Elusive (programmed 3-1, Dave Magee), Hanover winner Mystical Walter (2-1, Casey Leonard) and last year’s freshman division titleholder Fox Valley Action (9-2, Todd Warren) all squaring off. They’ll be challenged by Monopoly Man (6-1, John De Long), Sage Ruck (6-1, Mike Oosting), Colechester (12-1, Dave Magee) and Bazooka (10-1, Kyle Wilfong. Only two of the seven starters will be eliminated. The second Incredible Finale split is headed up by the Cardinal runner-up Crankin’ It Up (5-2, Kyle Wilfong) and four-time season winner Big Brad (9-2, Bobby Smolin), second best to Latest Desire in last week’s Hanover open stake. Also looking for a berth in the final are Darth Quaider (9-2, Mike Oosting), Fox Valley Norman (6-1, John De Long), Silver Devil (6-1, Jamaica Patton), Mr Three Quarters (12-1, Casey Leonard, Kostas Wine (10-1, Dave Magee) and Sweet Water Jack (20-1, Brian Carpenter). As expected, eliminations were not necessary for either of the ICF 3-year-old trotting stakes. In fact only six horses—American Empress, Divination, Just For Fun, Kelsey’s Star, Little Ms Chrissy and Trot Fudge Sundae—will compete in the $45,000 Fox Valley Evita Final for fillies. The reigning colt division leader King Mufasa has eight challengers in the $51,500 Kadabra Championship: Fox Valley Camo, Fox Valley Dubai, Fox Valley Legend, Powerful Mel, Powerful Poe, Semper Fit, Showstopin Monkey and Skyline Road. Saturday I’ll highlight the ICF two-year-old stake eliminations for the Loyal Opposition for the gals and the Mini Me for the guys. By Mike Paradise The Illinois Harness Horsemen's Association

Wednesday’s first race at Balmoral Park for ICF 2-year-old trotters of both sexes is a prep event for the upcoming Fox Valley Flan and Plesac freshmen stakes. The $10,000 eliminations of each of those freshman stakes will be contested a week from Wednesday, July 24, with the $50,000 (estimated) Finals the following Wednesday (July 31). Recent state-bred stakes winners Vienna (Vaporize with Kyle Wilfong) and S V Spirit (Betzotic with Todd Warren) will open as the 3-1 and 7-2 early favorites, respectively. Coming up this weekend are eliminations for six more ICF stakes. The Loyal Opposition and Mini Me for 2-year-old filly and colt pacers, respectively, the Ann Vonian and Incredible Finale for 3-year-old pacers, and the Kadabra for sophomore male trotters, will go, if necessary on Saturday. Eliminations for the Fox Valley Evita for ICF filly second season trotters, if needed, will be raced Sunday. Estimated purses, according to the Balmoral Conditioned Sheet, for the finals are: Mini Me $60,000, Loyal Opposition $60,000, Incredible Finale $57,000, Ann Vonian $58,000, Kadabra $50,000 and $46,000 for the Fox Valley Evita.  . . . Casey Leonard continues to close-in on the 1,000 plateau for driving victories. The Harvard, Illinois native is at 982 going into Wednesday’s card.   . . . Mike Oosting followed his six winner night last Thursday at Maywood with four more on Friday evening and another four Saturday at Balmoral.. The veteran Michigan native has 277 dash winners this season after last weekend putting him in the Top 10 nationally.  . . . . Lady Laker’s victory with Oostingn Saturday’s $35,000 trot was in 1:54 flat, equaling the track record for a 3-year-old trotting filly first set by Armbro Temple in 2000 and then tied 10 years later by Springtime Volo. . . . King Mufasa’s 1:54.1 winning mile in Sunday’s Brandenburg was only 3/5’s of a second of the Balmoral track record fort a 3-year-old trotting gelding. Both Before he Cheats (2007) and Southern Rocketop (2009) won in 1:53.3. . . . Oosting is winning at over a 19 per cent clip this season at Balmoral where he’s over 40 dash winners ahead of runner-up Casey Leonard. It’s a lot closer at Maywood. While Mike has an even higher winning percentage of 22.8 Casey is only 12 winners behind, winning over 18 per cent of the time.  . . . Our County Fair Circuit is in full swing. Racing shifts today (Tuesday) and Wednesday to the DeWitt County Fair at Farmer City and Thursday and Friday at the Menard County Fair at Petersburg. By Mike Paradise The Illinois Harness Horsemen's Association

Saturday's Hanover Night at Balmoral Park doesn't get all the hoopla of Super Night, American National Night or even the track's upcoming Southland Festival of Harness Racing. Nevertheless, it's always been one of my favorite racing evenings on the Crete big track.

A trio of ICF stakes for 3-year-old pacers head-up Saturday's Balmoral Park harness racing card.

With the sounds of summer serenading harness racing fans on the apron as Balmoral Park enjoyed its yearly 'Beach Party', the 2013 Hanover Stake season kicked off on Saturday night with a $37,100 event for three-year-old trotting colts.

Thursday evening's $12,000 Juxtaposition, the first ICF 2-year-old stake of the season at Maywood Park, brought out nine freshman fillies with recent stakes winner Linda On My Mind the 9-5 first flash favorite.

The eight challengers to Mystical Victress in tonight's $20,000 Sue Fee stake face a daunting task when they try to upset the Queen of Illinois racing in the seventh race feature. The now six-year-old mare from the Erv Miller Stable is gunning for her 12th consecutive harness racing victory in a race against strictly other ICF fillies or mares.

Proving once again that she will be the filly to beat among this season's three-year-old state-bred filly pacing set, John Carver's Auniqueaquistion rolled to a very impressive three-length victory over seven harness racing rivals in Friday's $122,000 Filly Maywood Pace.

The talented sophomore filly Auniqueaquistion has her sights set on shedding her role as the bridesmaid in the major harness racing stake races when she takes on seven ICF rivals in the $122,000 Maywood Filly Pace Friday night.

State-bred trotters were in action before the rains and high winds pelted Balmoral Park on Wednesday night as a field of five diagonally gaited three-year-olds squared off in the $12,000 Southern Rocketop Stake, which was contested as a non-wagering event prior to the scheduled start of the regular card which wound up getting wiped out by severe storms.

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