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For a while last summer the ICF mare Shez A Swift wasn’t sure which way she was headed after a race. In a span of eight starts the daughter of Sportsmaster was claimed no less than six times and she was successful no matter whose barn she raced out of. In early October she was claimed back by Maywood Park based trainer Matt Mac Kenzie a third time where she not only has found what looks like a permanent home, but the mare has risen from the $4,000 claiming ranks into a high-end conditioned paces on the half-miler. Friday night she takes on a solid field of fillies and mares in the $8,400 headliner for non-winners of $8,000 in their last five starts. While Shez A Swift’s lifetime best time of 1:56 (at Maywood) is anywhere from 2 to 5 seconds slower than the marks of the other mares in the field, her 14 wins in 2014 are more than twice than any of her 11th race opponents. In the category than means the most to any horse owner, Shez A Swift has really shined. In 38 starts last year she missed only two checks and despite spending three-quarters of the season in low-end claimers she put over $41,000 on her card. Shez A Swift made two starts as a 2-year-old spent her entire 3-year-old campaign for the Joel Smith Stable. She raced for Joel until she was taken by Mac Kenzie in a non-winners of 6 races/$8,000 claiming event in mid-May, winning 6 times in 13 starts for Matt. Trainer Perry Smith claimed her for $4,000 in late August and won with her but loss her that night to conditioner Ronnie Roberts the next week. She left a winner in her lone start for Roberts when she was claimed back by Mac Kenzie, again for $4,000 and again won but was taken by Harold Herrera. Naturally she won for Herrera the next week only to see Roberts re-claim her. Shez A Swift lasted only more two starts for Roberts. Mac Kenzie took the ICF mare back when she was dropped into a $4,000 claimer in early October and has had her Swift ever since. With the rugged company she’s facing tonight Shez A Swift (Todd Warren) will open as a 10-1 longshot from the 4-slot in a 9-horse field. Blazing Fury (3-1, Sam Widger) and Auniqueaquisition (9-2, Kyle Wilfong) and MJ’s Last Dance (7-2, Casey Leonard), the starters from posts 1, 2, 3 are the program choices. Post 5 through 9 will be manned by Mystical MJ (15-1, Brian Carpenter), Gentle Janet (12-1, Mike Oosting), Financial Effort (6-1, Ridge Warren), Fox Valley Touche (15-1) and Rev Me Up (8-1, John De Long). Sunday Treat: The $11,000 “Winner’s Over” trot, a Saturday staple for many weeks, was moved to Sunday and will head-up the last Chicagoland circuit live racing program until Thursday, January 28 at Maywood Park. The fifth race Sunday feature consists of (in post-position order) Time Outa Jail (Casey Leonard), Salutation Hanover (TBA), Ants Iner Pants (Ryan Anderson), Clever Upstart (Dave Magee), Fox Valley Veto (John De Long), Master Of Excuses (Mike Oosting) and Justice Jet (Ryan Welch. by Mike Paradise, for IHHA

The $15,000 Fox Valley Memory stake for ICF fillies and mares makes a belated return on the last night of the year at Balmoral Park Wednesday with seven pacers looking to pad their bankrolls before they turn one year older the next day. All seven raced on the weekend either 3 or 4 nights ago. Wednesday’s early fifth race favoritism is divided between State Street Liz (programmed 5-2, Bobby Smolin, Just By Design (3-1, Dave Magee) and Ryleigh’s Lilly (4-1, Casey Leonard), all December winners in top-level conditioned paces on the big track in Crete, Illinois.   Grandma Ann Super night champ Party Hangover (Todd Warren) is at 5-1. Both Fox Valley Amanda (John De Long) and Feel Like Dancing (Kyle Wilfong) open at 6-1, with Kimberly R (Mike Oosting) the only double digit odds (12-1) mare in the program. The last time these same Illinois bred mares met was in the $13.250 splits of the Sue Fee stake back on November 22. Ryleigh’s Lilly posted an almost two length victory in 1:53 over State Street Liz in one division while Dallas Jones, who came up sick last Saturday and was scratched, took the other division on a rain-soaked track. A winner in the “Winner’s Over” two weeks ago, Ryleigh’s Filly was a disappointing seventh in last week’s event with Casey. “She’s wasn’t herself last week,” said Leonard. “The mare prefers a hard, fast track and we haven’t had that kind of racing surface at Balmoral for a while. She does fit against Wednesday’s field if she comes up with one of her better efforts.” Starting from the two post against mares like State Street Liz, Just By Design and Party Hangover who all do their best racing up-close, could put Casey in a tough spot of either being first-over with Ryleigh’s Lilly or staying inside and maybe risk getting shuffled to the back of the pack. “We’ve just have to see how the race unfolds,” said Casey. Ryleigh’s Lilly is seeking her eighth win of 2014 in her final start of the year for trainer Bill Crone and owner John Bernard of Orland Park, Illinois. Both Chris Choros’ State Street Liz (pp 7) and Ken Rucker’s Party Hangover (pp 4) have chalked up nine season wins. The soon to be four-year-old Fox Valley Amanda (pp 5) boasts the highest season bankroll among the eight ICF fillies with $116,196 in earnings for the Joel Smith Stable with a big hunk of that amount ($44,500) coming from her victory in the $89,000 Maywood Filly Pace in mid-June. by Mike Paradise, for IHHA

How competitive has tonight’s weekly “Winner’s Over’ for filly and mare pacers event been at Balmoral Park? Extremely would be the right answer. Over the past two months all six distaff “Winner’s Over” have been won by a different horse. And all of those winners plus two other recent high-level conditioned victors—Dallas Jones (8-1, John De Long) and Wings (8-1, Tim Curtin)—will knock-heads in the Saturday’s seventh race co-feature. The morning line favorite, not surprisingly, is the Roger Welch Stable’s multi-Indiana stakes champion Always About Katey (5-2, Todd Warren), the Dec. 6 “Winner’s Over” victor, the lone time in her six starts the 4-year-old mare wasn’t sent off as the public’s choice. She's closing in on career earnings of $800,000. Last week’s conqueror Ryleigh’s Lilly (pp 2, Casey Leonard) is the 7-2 second choice. She’s a seven-time season winner for trainer Bill Crone and owner John Bernard and four of those victories came with Casey at her lines. Alex Adams’ DP Angel p.p. 1, Mike Oosting), who took the Nov. 9 distaff headliner, is the 4-1 third program choice. Then comes Ken Rucker’s Party Hangover (pp 8, Ridge Warren), the Nov. 29 winner and 2014 Lorna Propes Super Night champion. Joining Dallas Jones and Wings at opening odds of 8-1 are the Mike Brink Stable’s Just By Design (pp 3, Dave Magee), the “Winner’s Over” titleholder two weeks ago and Bernie and Deb Paul’s very consistent mare Seeyouatthefinish (pp 6, Bobby Smolin). The latter picked up season win No. 8 at tonight’s level on Nov. 22. The third race co-feature “Winner’s Over” trot has gone in opposition direction than the filly and mare events. Its last five $11,000 Opens have been won by either Fox Valley Veto or Justice Jet, with the score 3-2 in the former’s favorite. However after dropping three straight decision to Fox Valley Veto, Justice Jet picked-up a head decision last week with a 1:55.2 clocking over his rival. The 3-year-old who was Indiana champion as a freshman for the Welch Stable, captured the Nov. 22 “Winner’s Over,” earlier. Curt Grummel’s Fox Valley Veto, (John De Long) opens at 5-2 from the outside eight-slot, while Justice Jet is at first flash odds of 3-1 to his left with the seven-post. Looking to put an end to the to the recent Fox Valley Veto-Justice Jet dominance are Surclasser (6-1, Bobby Smolin), Master of Excuses (9-2, Mike Oosting), Repeat Your ABC’s (12-1, Kyle Wilfong), Clever Upstart (8-1, Dave Magee), Time Outa Jail (6-1, Casey Leonard) and Big Boy Lloyd (8-1, Todd Warren). by Mike Paradise, for IHHA

Illinois horsemen braved the inclement weather Monday night to attend a General Horsemen’s meeting concerning the “atom bomb” that was dropped on our industry by the recent $78 million verdict against Balmoral and Maywood Parks and one of their chief executive officers. Although all questions were addressed, because of the unique circumstances, many definitive answers were simply unavailable at this time. IHHA President Dave McCaffrey did a superb job of explaining to horsemen the entire plight of the Illinois harness racing situation after a recent jury took only three hours, after a five day trial, to rule in favor of the four river boats and their lawsuit against Balmoral, Maywood and John Johnston. Nevertheless, McCaffrey went on to tell all, at this time, no one knows what kind of a future is in store for Illinois harness racing. And for that matter, if we’ll even be racing after this weekend.   “You can expect Balmoral/Maywood and John Johnston to file for bankruptcy this Wednesday and first day motions will begin the following Friday or Monday.” “From that point on, the only thing certain regarding Illinois harness racing is that nothing is certain.” “I am confident that we will be racing this weekend. After that, I’m about 70 per cent certain that we’ll race the first four days of January, but that’s a decision the Illinois Racing Board will make,” continued Dave. “We have a contract that we will honor with the two racetracks through June 30. However, the bankruptcy judge may or may not cancel that contract. Right now we just don’t know what the judge will or won’t do.” Lawyers from the IHHA, the two races tracks, the four casinos awarded the $78 million judgment and perhaps other interested parties, will begin filing motions in Bankruptcy Court on the first day of the proceedings. Then sometime between 5 and 15 days thereafter the judge will rule on those motions.   At this time the entire future of Illinois harness racing is “up in the air.”   A few significant points that McCaffrey tried to explain to the group was that total monies earned for 2015 horsemen’s purses (derived from all mutual handles such as the racetracks, OTB’s, ADW’s, etc.) is expected to total between $11 and $12 million. However, recapture will devour almost $5 million or about 45% of that. It’s possible that future recapture money could also end up in the pockets of the winning riverboats as assets. It’s estimated that about 70 per cent of the 510 horses on the grounds at Balmoral and  Maywood and the 300 more at local training centers and farms wouldn’t be able to compete at tracks outside the Chicago circuit. The closing of the two racetrack’s backstretches could make as many as 300 of those horses homeless and most headed for “death row.” McCaffrey took a stream of questions from the attentive crowd and was able to clear up several queries. Such as: Is the money in their Horseman’s Bookkeeping Services accounts safe from the bankruptcy proceedings?  “The HGCA is a separate holding company from the racetracks and purse monies are held safely and securely there in segregated accounts.” What about stake payments made to Balmoral or Maywood for 2015 races? “They could end up with the four winning riverboats as part of the $78 million in awarded assets if the bankruptcy judge decides to go in that direction.” Dave alerted horsemen to hold off on those stake payments for right now. Why can’t we race at Hawthorne? "Quite simply, right now Maywood and Balmoral were awarded harness dates for 2015. Legally they are their dates. Unless the Illinois Racing Board changes that, it is not an option. If the IRB revokes or suspends the license of Maywood and Balmoral, we will look at all of our options.” My gut tells me in some shape or another there will be harness racing in Illinois in 2015. It may look very different and it may have some interruptions but we will race.  I’m sure that many horses and their owners hope my gut is right. by Mike Paradise, for IHHA

The circuit’s leading driver Casey Leonard got the trip he was looking for and the veteran ICF pacer Fort Silky delivered when called on in Saturday night’s $15,000 Invitational Handicap Pace at Balmoral Park. The result was a generous $19.00 mutuel for the supporters of Fort Silky, the second highest price horse among the five betting interests in the fifth race Invite. As expected the 8-5 second betting choice Ice Scraper shot out of the assigned outside post, the 6 with the pre-post time scratch of Time To Roll (pp 1) and not surprisingly Casey urged the soon-to-be 9-year-old Fort Silky away from the inside, settling-in right behind the speedball.   The two Illinois bred pacers in the field of five raced one-two through from the first turn until the three-quarters as Ice Scraper (Brian Carpenter) cut fractions of :27.1, :54.3 and 1:22 flat with Fort Silky in the pocket with the first-over Mosee Hanover, coupled with Artache Hanover as the 4-5 post-time favorites, in good shape for the stretch drive.   Ice Scraper’s three week layoff started to take its toll in mid-stretch and Leonard ducked Fort Silky to the inside and started to pass the pacesetter. Meanwhile Oosting took Mosee Hanover to the outside of Ice Scraper and was also overtaking him.  Nevertheless Fort Silky’s ground-saving trip paid off as he fought off the charging Mosee Hanover and went on to post a three-quarters of a length victory at the end of the 1:50.1 mile It was the third win in four December starts for the Terry Leonard trainee owned by John Prentice and Neva Jane Keeler, both of Paw Paw, Illinois.   Firstclassallthway came on for third while Ice Scraper held on for fourth, beaten two lengths, in the Saturday headliner.   Fort Silky picked up the $9,300 winner’s share of the purse andt his owners secured another $1,800 bonus awarded to any ICF pacer that finishes first, second or third in an open race at Balmoral or Maywood Parks. The Ft Apache Hanover gelding now boasts career earnings of $705,567. A pair of $11,000 “Winner’s Over” events were the secondary Saturday features. In the seventh race filly and mare event Casey Leonard made another visit to the winner’s circle, this time with John Bernard’s late-charging 4-year-olf ICF mare Ryleigh’s Lilly. Sent off at 4-1 odds, Leonard ducked the Bill Crone trained mare in sixth in the seven horse field through the first half with Party Hangover taking the field to a :27.3 first panel and a :56.3 half. Casey followed up Dallas Jones in the last turn, tipped Ryleigh’s Lilly ($10.20) out at the top of the lane and the mare came up the middle of the track and [pwered past with a 1:52.2 clocking, her seventh victory of the season. The pocket horse Just By Design was second best, beaten 1 and 1/2 lengths, while the 3-5 favorite Always About Katey who raced third on the inside much of the way, shook loose for the show spot. One race later in the top-level trot, Justice Jet ($8.20) snapped Fox Valley Veto’s three race winning streak by getting past the 3-5 favorite in deep stretch and picking up a head decision in 1:55.2. After providing live-cover to Fox Valley Veto the last two weeks when Justice Jet finished in the runner-up role, this time driver Ryan Welch was able to get a second-over journey behind his rival while the 9-1 longshot Big Boy Lloyd led the field for the first three-quarters, reached in 1:27. The win was Justice Jet’s sixth of the year for trainer Roger Welch who shares ownership of the 3-year-old Indiana bred trotting gelding with Wisconsinite Bo De Long, Illinoisan Pat De Long and Michigander Gordon Wright. by Mike Paradise, for IHHA

On Saturday night the circuit’s Invitational returns to Maywood Park for the first time in three weeks while the 2008 Springfield Review stake trot champion competes in Illinois for the first time in six years. Big Boy Lloyd, now just days away from his being a 10-year-old, will go postward in Saturday’s $11,000 “Winner’s Over” Trot for owner Ken Rucker, who is back in town with the season closing of Pocono and Chester in Pennsylvania. Big Boy Lloyd took the Springfield Review under the care of Rucker in 2008 and a few years later was bought by Ken. The Dream Vacation gelding has earned over $600,000 in his career racing out of the Rucker stable and that’s despite missing two full years of racing. “He suffered a leg injury in the summer of 2012,” said his Balmoral Park trainer Catrina Rucker. “We qualified him a year later and while he qualified he good, we didn’t like the way he came out of it and my husband felt that he needed more time off. The horse had been so good for us Ken wanted to give him all time he needed to come back 100 per cent. “The horse didn’t start racing again until the July this past summer, so he was off two full years. He did well in Pennsylvania, making over $47,000 in a half-season of racing and now he’s back home in Illinois with some of our other horses Ken brought back.” Big Boy Lloyd’s best year in purse earnings was in 2009 as a 4-year-old when he banked over $208,000 and was a frequent Open winner on the Pennsylvania circuit. As a 5-year-old he picked-up checks at the Meadowlands in the Su Mac Lad Series and Final against the likes of Lucky Jim (1:50.1, $1.9 million), Arch Madness (1:50.2, $4.2 million) and Enough Talk (1:49.3, $1.8 million), the 1-2-3 finalists finishers. Todd Warren gets the catch-drive behind Big Boy Lloyd in Saturday’s eighth race trot when he opens as the 6-1 fourth choice in the morning line behind the streaking Fox Valley Veto (3-1, John De Long), winner of the last trio of  “Winner’s Over” trot; Justice Jet (7-2, Ryan Anderson) and Master of Excuses (9-1, Mike Oosting). Ants Iner Pants (12-1), Time Outa Jail (10-1), Repeat Your ABC’s (15-1), Salutation Hanover (12-1) and Surclasser (12-1) complete the competitive field. James Behrendt’s Ice Scrapper (p.p. 7, Brian Carpenter), who has finished first or second in his last six starts, is the 5-2 programmed choice in the $15,000 fifth race Invite where he’ll try to avenge a defeat to Artache Hanover, who is 2-for-2 on the local scene since being shipped to town by trainer Jim Eaton. Artache Hanover (pp 6, Sam Widger) will be coupled with Mosse Terror (Mike Oosting). Both seasoned pacers are owned by Robert Silberberg of Farmington Hills, Michigan and are the 7-2 early third choices. Best Man Hanover (pp 4, Todd Warren) is the 3-1 second choice. The first three slots will be manned by Time To Roll (5-1, Dave Magee), Firstclassallthway (8-1, John Delong) and Fort Silky (8-2 Casey Leonard) with posts 1, 2, 3, respectively. The third headliner of the evening is the $11,000 “Winner’s Over” for filly and mare pacers with last week’s beaten favorite Always’s About Katey (pp 1, Todd Warren) the 2-1 first-flash favorite. Early Xmas Gift: The longshot $25.00 winner The Bruzilian Blur (Bobby Smolin) was my top 11th race selection last night at Maywood Park. by Mike Paradise, for IHHA

Desperado Alibi may be a male pacer but he certainly rates as one of the Cinderella stories this year at Maywood Park, going from a one-time conditioned-claimer to a purse check away from the top-level conditioned paces at the half-miler. Desperado Alibi is the winner of 6 of his 7 last starts at Maywood, including his last three in the mid-level conditioned pacers with driver Brian Carpenter whose wife Lydia owns the striking grey 4-year-old gelding. Friday night the son of Gunthatwonthewest is saddled with Maywood’s dreaded 8-hole and its 5.5 winning percentage in the fourth race but, pardon the pub, Brian won’t use the outside post has an alibi if the horse doesn’t hit the board. “Even with the 8–hole I expect him to perform well. He’s been really sharp for us,” Desperado Alibi had modest success for in his first two seasons, winning 2 of 9 starts, but making only about $8,000 for his owner and trainer Merle Myers, Brian’s father-in-law. Since Merle’s daughter Lydia took over the ownership, Desperado Alibi has won 8 of 11 races for the Lowell, Indiana couple and their trainer Merl P’Pool, banking over $21,000. With lifetime earnings of $29,328 Desperado Alibi is eligible for tonight’s’ race, non-winners of 4 races or $30,000 lifetime) by less than $700. “The horse set a track record on Merle’s farm so we all knew he had some ability,” continued Brian. “However I have to admit, he’s exceeded our expectations “As a 3-year-old he won at Hoosier in 54 but then tailed off last year in his last coupled of starts. This year they weren’t having much luck with him either (the horse didn’t get a purse check in his last six starts in Indiana). “When he became my wife’s horse the first thing we did was put him on Lasix. He won first time out of the box for us (non-winners of 3 to be claimed for $8,000) despite being parked the whole mile. We didn’t have him rigged up quite right at that time. Now that we have, he’s really been good. “He won those last couple of races pretty much in hand for me. I think he’ll be able to step up at a higher condition (race) and do okay for us. He’s been winning in 54 and has been pretty much on idle.” “He’s become a pretty nice horse for us.” I would agree. Desperado Alibi opens as the 4-1 choice in the morning line.im race four behind Some Heart Throb (5-2, Kyle Wilfong) and Boogie Nights (3-1, Casey Leonard), with posts 2 and 1, respectively. The competitive field of fillies and mares also lured Jerrico (8-1, Mike Oosting), Cantholdmackback (10-1, Sam Widger), Goose on the Rocks (12-1, Ridge Warren), Total Sin (15-1, Lavern Hostetler) and Tiza Mojo (6-1, Todd Warren). by Mike Paradise, for IHHA

The Mike Brink Stable’s Just By Design, sent off at 28-1, the longest priced horse in Saturday night’s third race co-headliner at Balmoral Park, lit up the tote board at a $59.40 winning mutuel in the $11,000 “Winner’s Over” filly and mare harness racing pace. Skillfully driven by National Hall of Famer Dave Magee, the 5-year-old daughter of Sportsmaster used a ground saving inside up-close trip and then proceeded to win the last quarter of a mile dash to the wire, posting a neck victory over 12-1 longshot Ryleigh’s Lilly in 1:52.4. Party Hangover was a close-up third in the tightly bunched field. Magee hustled Just By Design away from the five-slot and had the front before the first turn. The 61-year-old Green Bay native then took the two-hole behind Party Hangover who got to the first quarter pole in 27 flat. The 3-5 favorite Always About Katey took over command by the :55.2 half-mile marker as Just By Design moved back a slot to third. The winner got off the inside near the 3/4 mile pole, found a clear path in the lane and motored home for her fifth win of the year for Williamsville, Illinois owner Joshua David Carter.   “I was thrilled with her trip,” said Magee. “My mare was a facing a tough field. It turned out Always About Katey (fourth, beaten 1 length) didn’t race up to par tonight although by mare came up with a big finish.   “Under the right circumstances just about any of those mares could have won the race.” Dave was spot-on with that statement. The entire seven-horse field ended up being separated at the finish by only two lengths. The winning 5-2 third race Exacta paid a tidy $690.40 while a 5-2-7 Trifecta ticket for $2 was worth $4,090.60. Curl and Craig Grummel’s Fox Valley Veto ($5.00) rattled off his third consecutive “Winner’s Over” trot division victory with John De Long, wearing down the 7-5 co-favorite Justice Jet a second straight Saturday, this time in 1:55 flat. Master Of Excuses was the early leader in the sixth race co-feature but Ryan Welch put Justice Jet out and rolling on the backside, using a powerful three-deep move to clear and wrestle command while leaving the 8-5 choice Fox Valley Veto some seven lengths behind going into the turn. However “Veto” had plenty left in the tank. The son of Pizzazzed surged three wide through the last turn and gobbled up ground. He then was ducked to the inside in the lane by De Long where he swept past for a 1 and 1/2 length decision over Justice Jet. Was De Long worried when Justice Jet made his big move and opened up a substantial lead? “Not at all,” he replied. “My horse was really strong. “This was one of his best races of the year. To be that wide in the last turn and to still race that strong all the way down to the wire was an awesome effort for the trotter. I thought his win last week was impressive but this one was even more so.” The triumph was Fox Valley Veto’s ninth in his 3-year-old season and his fourth against the top older company trotters on the Balmoral Park grounds. Quick first half fractions, first by Fort Silky (:27.1) and then by Kanarsis (:54.2) set things up for the late rushers in the $10,500 top-level conditioned pace with Best Man Hanover ($9.00), driven by Todd Warren, delivering a neck victory over the 16-1 longshot Mosee Terror (John De Long) at the end of a 1:50.3. Fort Silky held on for third in the eleventh race event. by Mike Paradise, for IHHA

One of this season’s surprises at Balmoral Park has been the 3-year-old trotter Fox Valley Veto. Despite less than three dozen lifetime starts the ICF gelding has more than held his own in the top level trots against older and more seasoned open company horses. The son of Pizzazzed out of the Valley Victory broodmare Yankee Victory goes after his third consecutive victory in Saturday’s $11,000 “Winner’s Over” trot in race six with regular driver John De Long. “He’s super sharp right now,” said De Long. “I think he’s better now than he has been all year.” “The horse is really good now,” added trainer Curt Grummel. “I don’t know if it’s the colder weather or what but he is at the top of his game. He’s sounder now than he has been all year. He’s unbelievably sound “I’ll keep racing him at Balmoral through the end of the year and then decide if I want to take him out east to see what he can do there.” Fox Valley Veto put on an electrifying stretch move last week, trotting a 27 flat last quarter to overtake the even-money favorite Justice Jet in the late going to post a career fastest 1:54.3 mile for Curt who shares ownership of the gelding with his father Craig of Carrollton, Illinois,. The win was Fox Valley Veto’s eighth of the season and a trio of them have come against top-level open company trotters. Fox Valley Veto (pp 6) is the 3-1 second program choice in tonight’s sixth race co-headliner behind Justice Jet (pp 5, Ryan Welch) at 2-1. They’ll take on Salutation Hanover (12-1, Pat Curtin), Surclasser (8-1, Bobby Smolin), Repeat Your ABC’s (10-1, Kyle Wilfong), Master Of Excuses (5-1, Todd Warren) and Celebrity Hercules (7-2, Casey Leonard). De Long also has “live” drives in Saturday’s other headliners. He’s back behind Dallas Jones in, the third race $11,000 “Winner’s Over” for fillies and mares and Mosee Terror in the $10.500 eleventh race conditioned pace loaded with past Invitational pacers. Dallas Jones comes off  a two-length win in 1:53.1 with De Long in a non-winners of $8,000 conditioned pace. John was very pleased with his first drive behind the 4-year-old Illinois bred mare. “I told Joel (trainer Smith) I wanted to race her with a trip and that’s what she got. When I asked her in the lane, she was gone. She really raced well. “Dallas Jones is probably one of the biggest mares I have ever driven. She’s enormous and she covers a lot of ground. She came home in 27.1 last week with pretty much minimal urging and she can be right there Saturday with the right trip” Dallas Jones opens at 5-1 behind the 8-5 favorite Always About Katey (Todd Warren), DP Angel (Mike Ooosting) at 7-2, and Party Hangover (Ridge Warren) at 4-1. Ryleigh’s Lilly (6-1, Casey Leonard), Four Hour Nap (15-1, Ross Leonard) and Just By Design (10-1) Dave Magee complete the third race field. Mosee Terror is saddled with the outside 10-hole in the 11th race conditioned pace with the early favoritism going to Time To Roll (7-2, Dave Magee), Kanarsis (4-1, Ridge Warren), Fort Silky (9-2, Casey Leonard) and Best Man Hanover (5-1, Todd Warren), all recent starters in Balmoral Invites. De Long was in the bike behind Mosee Hanover for the first time. The 6-year-old Jim Eaton trainee had been campaigning all year at Pocono Downs. “I was very impressed with Mosee Terror,” said John. “He had been off a few weeks. Last Saturday he had nowhere to go. He was boxed-in and I never even got the earplugs out. “With a second or third over trip I think he can collar most of the horses around here. He’s that kind of a horse.” The solid field of pacers is rounded out with Major Monet (8-1, Dean Magee), Old Man River (10-1, Ross Leonard), Lennox Blue Chip (10-1, Brian Carpenter), Lieutenant Steve (15-1, Ryan Anderson) and Island Jet (10-1, Island Jet). by Mike Paradise, for IHHA

Mike Oosting and Kyle Wilfong each plan to return to action on Maywood Park’s Friday card. Both circuit drivers have been sidelined since they went down in a nasty looking spill last Saturday night at Balmoral Park. Oosting had Special Joe in strong contention in the ninth race when the 9-year-old pacer started to run about a sixteenth of a mile away from the finish line, stumbled, and went down on the track. Mike ended up being tossed out of his sulky. “I thought my shoulder blade was broke,” said Oosting. “It kept cramping-up and then it just popped. I had to put in back in the joint three times while on the racetrack because if kept popping out. “That’s what basically is holding me up from back driving. My ankle also got big on me and I couldn’t walk for a couple of days. My wrist and my hand also swelled-up. I was going to go in Wednesday night but my body was telling me to take some more time off.   “You can see watching the reply my horse took a bad step and starting stumbling before he went down. I would have been all right if I hadn’t got hit from behind. My horse was sliding so I think I would have been able to stay in the bike if I wasn’t run into from behind. “I think I’ll be okay enough to drive Friday night.” Wilfong was right behind when the stumbling Special Joe started to go down and his  horse ran into Oosting, sending the 25-year-old driver Donovan, Illinois native out of his bike and hard onto the track. Kyle’s leg got tangled-up with the lines of his horse Extravagant Art, who dragged him a long way before he was rescued. “When Mike’s horse went down right in front of me I had nowhere to go and I was knocked out once I hit the ground,” said Wilfong. You mean you don’t remember being dragged down the stretch by your horse. “Not at all,” replied Kyle. “I was unconscious. “I remember the wheel on my bike hitting Mike’s bike that’s as much as I remember, “I was lucky I wasn’t hurt a lot more seriously. “My left knee still hurts. The rest of my body feels okay. I’m shooting to be back for Friday’s card at Maywood. I’ll just have to see how I feel come Friday and then I’ll just go from there.” These type of spills reminder us just how dangerous it can be competing on a racetrack. Thankfully neither driver in this case was seriously injured. Domination: Thursday’s Maywood card was dominated by drivers Casey Leonard and Ryan Anderson. Between them they drove the winners of 9 of the 11 races. Casey bagged five while Ryan netted four. by Mike Paradise, for IHHA

The summer of 1990 will be remembered as the year the Sportsman’s Park record brook was rewritten. Beach Towel (Ray Remmen) became the fastest harness horse in Chicago circuit history when he captured the $347,000 American National 3-Year-Old Colt Pace in 1:52.4. That clocking was one of six track records set on the five-eighths mile track in Cicero, Illinois. When you consider that the 2-year-old filly pacer record was broken three times by the eventual Illinois Horse of the Year Plum Peachy (Walter Paisley) and the aged trotting mare mark was fell twice, there were nine track records broken that summer. Ron Marsh set a single season record for driving wins at Sportsman’s with 170. He also became the first driver to bring home six winners on a single Sportsman’s Park program and he did it twice. Ronnie did it the first time on July 19 and he came back to do it again on September 245. Dave Magee finished second in the driver standings with Walter Paisley third. The training title went to Bob Farrington. In addition in Beach Towel and Plum Peachy’s track records, new marks were set by Keystone Raider (1:53.2) in the aged pacing division; Mantese (1:55.1) in the 2-year-old colt pace division, Kit Lobell (1:58.4) for aged trotting mares, and Jean Bi (2:00.4) for freshman filly trotters. The largest crowd of the meeting, 15,499 attended Super Night 1990 on Saturday, September 15 and wagered (on-track) $2,333,038 on a nine-race card that saw a total purse distribution of $1,268,850. Among the Super Night champions that night were Plum Peachy in the $305,843 Filly Orange & Blue Final and the GoSox (Lavern Hostetler), in the $219,230 Pete Langley Memorial Pace Championship, both future Illinois Harness Hall of Fame inductees. Later that Super Night Buck And Wing (Walter Paisley), the older brother of Plum Peach, won the $40,000 Dan Patch Final. It was the first and only time sister and brother pacers both captured Super Night crowns on the same program. The Free For All pace division that summer was dominated by the New Zealand bred gelding Prince Sharvid N, while the kingpin of the Open trot division was Red Rhone who won one Free For All Trot, a six-horse field, handicapped by the Race Office with the eight-hole. Keystone Raider topped off his splendid meet, with a neck victory over Dorunrun Bluegrass in the $148,000 American National Aged Pace. Dorunrun Bluegrass (Herve Filion) came back to score an easy 1:54 win in the $146,000 U.S. Pacing Championship Final. by Mike Paradise, for IHHA

The Jim Eaton Stable’s Artache Hanover had to work a lot harder last night than he did a week ago but the result was the same, a victory in the Balmoral Park headliner with Sam Widger at his lines. “Your right,” said Widger. “My horse had to work harder. In last week’s Invite the fractions were quick and we got a second over trip. This time there was no Ice Scraper to keep the pace honest. I knew it was going to be a crap-shoot out there.” Dave Magee got an easy lead from the one-slot with Time To Roll and Ross Leonard took Major Monet out from the outside slot and into the pocket while the rest of the field dropped in line in the early going. Widger had Artache Hanover in sixth when Time To Roll went past the first quarter pole in an unhurried :28.4. “I knew Davey would get what he wanted on the front-end with his horse and if I just sat back there with mine we would need to pace a quarter in 26 to overtake him. But my horse was so good last week I thought I would take a shot and race him first up.” Artache Hanover was on the move when Time To Roll got to the half in a leisurely :57.1, a  28.2 second quarter. Nevertheless, Artache Hanover just kept coming and was almost even with Time To Roll at the three-quarters, reached in 1:25.1. “My horse got up to the front all on his own and in the last quarter I called on him and he dug in and delivered again,” added Widger. The victory was Artache Hanover’s fourth straight at Balmoral over a two-year span for owner Robert Silberberg of Farmington Hills, Michigan and the 5-year-old gelding’s sixth triumph for this season. Time To Roll held on for second, beaten three-quarters of a length, while Best Man Hanover got his nose in front of Major Monet for the third place money in the $10,500 top-level conditioned pace for non-winners of $15,000 in their last five starts. A little more than two lengths separated the first six finishers in the fourth race co-feature. The last half was in :54.3 with Artache Hanover pacing his final half in :53.2. Unlike last week when Artache Hanover was overlooked at the betting windows and went off at 13-1, this week he had an entry-mate, Mosee Terror (5th, beaten 1 and ½ lengths) and they were the 3-5 betting favorites. Three races later in the $11,000 “Winner’s Over” Trot Fox Valley Veto ($12.20) wore down the even-money favorite Justice Jet in deep stretch and posted a 1/2 length victory with a career fastest time of 1:54.4 for regular driver John De Long. The 13-1 longshot Time Outa Jail took the field to a :57.4 half with Celebrity Hercules in the two-hole when Justice Jet, driven by Ryan Welch, came from sixth to first when he powered past at the three-quarter pole and appeared to be home free. However the 3-year ICF trotter Fox Valley Veto and De Dong had other ideas as the Curt Grummel trainee surged past in the late going for his eighth season win, adding the $5,500 winner’s share of the purse to his 2014 bankroll that now stands over $135,000. The 4-5 favorite Always About Katey ($3.60) grinded out a first over victory with Todd Warren in the $11,000 “Winner’s Over” pace for fillies and mares, holding off a fast-closing DP Angel who came up a head short. The 1:52.3 win was the Roger Welch trainee’s eighth of the year for owners Bo De Long (Clinton, WI), Pat De Long (South Beloit, IL) and namesake Katey McClymont (Janesville, WI). by Mike Paradise, for IHHA

The year 1993 saw the eventual Harness Horse of the Year Staying Together become the fastest harness horse in the history of the Chicago circuit when that July he rattled off three consecutive winning miles of 1:50.2 at Sportsman’s Park, the second season the track was transformed to a seven-eighth oval. Stating Together’s first record mile came on July 10 in a Sportsman’s Free For All with driver Bill O’Donnell, a prep for the following Saturday’s $271,000 American National Aged Pace. The Bob McIntosh trainee would draw off by more than four lengths in that July 17 stake in the same record time. The next Saturday (July 24), Dave Magee would take over the lines in the U.S. Pacing Championship and once again Staying Together prevailed in 1:50.2, pacing his last quarter in :26.3 at the old Cicero, IL track. Earlier in 1993 Staying Together zipped to a 1:48.1 clocking at The Meadowlands, at that time the fastest mile ever paced on a one mile track. Staying Together would capture 21 of 26 starts against the very best pacers in North American, earn over $1.1 million and go on to be named the first gelding in 999 years to be named Harness Horse of the Year. Among the other American National champions crowned that summer at Sportsman’s Park were Village Jiffy (Bill O’Donnell), in the $272,000 3-year-old pace pacing event; Pine Chip (Chris Boring) in the $220,000 3-year-old colt trot showdown and Earl (Chris Christoforou Jr) in the sophomore colt trot. The 1993 Super Night championships went to Arrogant Rich (Neil Coleman) in the Orange and Blue freshman colt final, Broadway Commodity (Dave Magee) in the O&B Filly Final, Broadway Circle (Daryl Busse) in the Langley 3-year-old colt event, Ideal Angel Ron Marsh) in the Grandma Ann 3-year-old filly final, Ruffin Dancer (Dave Magee) in the Dan Patch (now the Tony Maurello) for older ICF colts and geldings and Semalu (Lavern Hostetler) in the aged filly and mare Ann Vonian (now the Lorna Propes). In the major ICF trot championships that summer Fox Valley Anabell (Dave Magee) secured the Su Mac Lad 3-year-old male final while Never Take Me (Neil Coleman) proved best in the Lady Ann Reed for second season trotting fillies. The Lincoln Land for freshman trotting colts went to Mulie’s Reporter (Dwight Banks) while the Lady Lincoln Land for 2-year-old trotting fillies was won by Gambado (Gary Leonard). by Mike Paradise, for IHHA

Eastern invader Artache Hanover, proficiently driven by Sam Widger, pulled off a surprise in last night $15,000 Invitational Pace at Balmoral Park by reeling-in the 3-5 heavy favorite Ice Scraper and popping at odds of 13-1. Widger was content to drop the Jim Eaton trainee into fourth in the early going as Best Man Hanover won the early battle to get the pocket trip behind the speedball Ice Scraper, winner of 3 of his 5 starts, all sub 1:50 miles. “I wasn’t sure until the start if I was going to duck my horse or not,” said Widger. “I knew Ice Scraper would be shooting out of there and when I saw the four (Best Man Hanover) was leaving and the one (Tink And Tiger) was on the gate, I decided to take my horse back. “I knew my horse can fly home. I won with him in the past here at Balmoral that way. As it turned out I was able to follow up Casey (Leonard) and his horse (In Over My Head). It worked out good for us. When I called on my horse at the head of the lane he did his job.” Ice Scraper followed his :27 first quarter with another 27 panel with a 20-plus mile per horse wind at his back. After the half-mile pole In Over My Head came out to challenge the pacesetter. Meanwhile Widger had Artache Hanover ($28.20) in perfect second over position when they got to the 3/4 pole in 1:22 flat. Despite a strong headwind in the lane, Artache Hanover still home 28 flat for a half-length decision over Ice Scraper. In Over My Head was third at the end of the 1:51 flat mile. Artache Hanover had spent the year campaigning in Pennsylvanian for his Farmington Hills, Michigan owner Robert Silberberg where he went 3-for-24.   (Artache Hanover ($28.40) was a Mike Paradise Saturday top selection). In the first race $11,000 “Winner’s Over” Trot, the 3-year-old ICF gelding Fox Valley Veto came up the open stretch with driver John De Long to prove best in 1:56.1 over a “good” racing surface. De Long gave the third choice in the betting early position with the three-hole and maintained that spot when Master of Excuses (Casey Leonard) trotted first half fractions of :28.4 and :58 flat. Fox Valley Veto was shuffled back to fifth turning for home but De Long patiently kept the Curt Grummel inside and waited for the passing lane. Once there, Fox Valley Veto flew up the inside for season win No. 7 in 21 starts. The win boosted his season earnings over $130,000 for Carrollton, Illinois owners Curt and Craig Grummel. Repeat Your ABC’s (Sam Widger) closed strong for second, beaten three-prats of a length, while Master Of Excuses held on for the show spot. Party Hangover ($7.20) was given a pocket trip and took advantage of it taking the $11,000 “Winner’s Over” for fillies and mares and giving driver Todd Warren one of his three winners on the card. The Catrina Rucker trainee stalked the pace-setting State Street Liz most of the mile before zipping past in the lane and drawing away by almost two lengths in 1:54.2. The 30-1 longshot Blazing Fury (John De Long) completed the (1-2) $146 ninth race Exacta. by Mike Paradise, for IHHA

Two new faces have emerged in Balmoral’s Invite ranks to try and stop the red-hot speedball Ice Scraper. The Mike Brown trainee has won 3 of his last 5 local starts and all 3 were sub 1:50 miles with Brian Carpenter at his lines. “Ice Scraper is just unbelievable right now,” said Brown in a recent phone conversation. Mike was right-on concerning his 5-year-old ICF recent performances.  Since Al’s Hammered was sold and is now competing at The Meadowlands, Ice Scraper has stepped up to the head of the aged Illinois bred pacing division with his triumphs coming in 1:48.3, 1:48.4 and 1:49.3 with an average winning margin of 4-plus lengths. What’s interesting is that Ice Scraper doesn’t go any training miles with Brown in between his starts. "Every morning after Ice Scraper has his breakfast we turn him out for a half-hour and he loves it. Old horses don’t need a lot of work. He’ll jog 2 or 3 miles a day and that’s it. The day before he races he just gets turned-out,” explained the 48-year-old Chicago native. “I try to do the same thing with Ice Scraper that I do with other horses in my barn. I turn him out for a half hour before I jog him. I very rarely train one of my horses. I don’t like it. I would rather have a short and sound horse than a tight and lame horse. “The kind of mile that they have to go out there in a race every week, you don’t need to train these horses in between starts.” Brown’s R & R theory with his seasoned horses certainly has paid off with Ice Scraper who has put almost $80,000 on this season’s card after banking $83,329 last year. The Yankee Skyscraper gelding has earned $258,329 dollars in his first four seasons of racing for his Connecticut owner James Behrendt. Ice Scrapper was assigned the outside six-slot by the Balmoral Park Race Office in Saturday’s $15,000 fourth race Invite and will open as the 2-1 betting favorite, His two newest challengers are the Jim Eaton Stable’s Artache Hanover (9-2, Sam Widger) and Island Jet (4-1, Mike Oosting), the most recent addition in Merv Chupp’s barn. While this is Island Jet’s initial outing on the Crete, IL big track, Artache Hanover isn’t a stranger to Balmoral. He made his final start of 2013 a winning one in their December 21 Invite, overtaking Ice Scraper by a neck with a 1:52.1 mile on a cold and sloppy racing surface. The driver that night was the same as this evening: Sam Widger. Artache Hanover’s only other start at Balmoral in 2013 came 11 months earlier in a January conditioned race in the slop. The 5-year-old son of Western Ideal also won that race for his Michigan owner Robert Silberberg. The other local aspirants in Saturday’s Invite are of Tink And Tiger (101, Dave Magee), In Over My Head (6-1, Casey Leonard) and Best Man Hanover (3-1, Todd Warren.) Another Nice Price: Mike’s Price Shots delivered again. Friday night it was Desperado Alibi (Brian Carpenter) in the tenth race at a $11.60 winning mutuel. by Mike Paradise, for IHHA

The local circuit’s driver colony got a big boost with the return of veteran Illinois native Sam Widger to its ranks starting with Friday’s Maywood Park program. Widger finished fourth in the driver standings with 179 victories at the recently concluded Hoosier Park meeting where he applies his trade in the spring, summer and fall. Sam comes back home for the winter months to compete at Maywood and Balmoral Parks. The likeable 51-year-old native of Canton, Illinois is closing in on 200 dash winners for this season, a plateau he has reached for the last 10 consecutive years. Horses that Sam has driven have also earned over $2 million for the 10 past seasons as well, starting in 2005. During that time span Sammy went over the $3 million plateau on four occasions. “It’s great to be back home,” said Widger. “Every day that I can go out there and do what I do is a blessing. I’m been very fortune to have my health and my family. I count my blessings every day,” added the always humble driver. Back on June 11 at Hoosier Park Widger recorded his 5,000 career winning drive was joined in the winner’s circle by family, friends and fellow drivers when he was honored by track management for his significant accomplishment. Sam, his wife Nancy, and their five children have a farm in Beecher, Illinois, about a 10 minute drive from Balmoral Park in nearby Crete. Widger, who was Maywood Park’s leading driver in 2008, will guide the 15-1 longshot Tweeds Fly N Star in Friday night’s conditioned pace feature for fillies and mares. The programmed co-favorites in the eighth race headliner are M J’s Last Dance (Casey Leonard) and Fox Valley Touch (Ryan Anderson). 3,000 in Sight: Tim Curtin is closing his way to the 3,000th plateau in career wins. The 56-year-old native of Ottawa, Illinois is 9 winners away from that notable mark after a driving double on Wednesday night’s Balmoral card. Curtin picked-up his first winning drive back in 1978. His best season for winners came in 1997 with 219 with most of them coming at Fairmount Park when the southern Illinois track conducted both a Standardbred and thoroughbred race meetings. Too Sparse: The $10,000 Cole Muffler stake for ICF 3-year-old pacing colts came up short again at the entry box for a second consecutive Friday and appears to be scraped for this year. It was not listed on the new condition sheet. Price Is Right: Mike’s Price Shots delivered the 8-1 longshot Russell L (Dean Magee) in Wednesday night’s 10th race. The top race selection paid $17.80. by Mike Paradise, for IHHA

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