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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

It was 44 years ago that Hawthorne Race Course conducted a Standardbred meeting for the first time when in 1970 Suburban Downs opened its doors for a little more than a one-month meeting from April 14 through May 22. Hawthorne became the sixth Chicago area race track in 1970 to conduct a Standardbred meeting. At that time Illinois law prohibited pari-mutuel harness racing in Cook County after the first week in December through late February. It was quite a different harness racing schedule back then in our state: Half-mile track racing was conducted an old Aurora Downs and at Balmoral Park the first eight weeks of the year. Sportsman’s Park, a five-eighths oval, took over from Feb. 23 through April 13, and then Suburban Downs at Hawthorne got its first chance.   The circuit went back to Sportsman’s from May 23 through July 20. Old Washington Park and its mile track took over and raced through October 10. Maywood Park grabbed the baton and ended the Cook County racing season December 7. Then it was back to Aurora Downs and Balmoral Park. The first harness meeting at Hawthorne was a huge success. The nightly handle averaged over seven figures at $1,009,777, with the best night on May 16 when $1,302,503 went through the track’s mutuel machines. Remember back then there wasn’t any type of off-track wagering facilities anywhere in the country. The 1970 nightly attendance at Hawthorne averaged a robust 11,686. Hawthorne’s first leading driver was Hall of Famer Bob Farrington, who also won the dash titles that year at Sportsman’s and Washington. Other notable drivers who competed during Hawthorne’s inaugural meeting included Jim Dennis, Joe Marsh, Jr, Don and Daryl Busse, Bruce Nickells, Delbert Insko, Walter Paisley, Aubrey Petty, Dwayne Pletcher, Gene Riegle, Jack Williams and Connel and Jesse Willis. While now days we have light-weight composite racing bikes, 40 years ago they were heavy wooden sulkies. The fastest mile at Hawthorne was 1:59.2 by the pacer Robert E Adios. The quickest by a trotter was 2:00.4 by Dayan, who went on to be named the nation’s Four-Year-Old Trotter of the Year. Back in 1970 the USTA listed Hawthorne’s speed rating rated at 2:03.4; the same has its neighbor Sportsman’s. Washington was rated the fastest Chicagoland track at 2:03.1, The half-mile tracks came in at 2:05 for Maywood, 2:06 for Balmoral and 2:07 for Aurora Downs. While Hawthorne enjoyed a highly successful inaugural harness racing meet, 1970 wasn’t exactly a year that could be called part of the “Good Old Days” for Chicago sports fans. Elsewhere at that time on the local sports scene the Cubs followed their infamous 1969 season flop with a second place finish, five games behind the N.L. pennant winning Cincinnati Reds despite a middle of the line-up that included Billy Williams, Ron Santo and Ernie Banks, who hit home run No. 500 that year. The White Sox hit rock bottom in 1970 with their worse record ever: 56 wins and 106 losses and with three different managers—Don Gutteridge, Jerry Adair and Chuck Tanner—at the helm The Bulls in their fourth ever season ended up 39-43 even with such stars as Bob Love and Jerry Sloan. As for our Bears, they had an anemic 1-13 record in 1969 playing at Wrigley Field and it got worse because in early 1970 they lost the coin flip for the No. 1 pick of the entire draft to the Pittsburgh Steelers who took some quarterback from Louisiana Tech named Terry Bradshaw. The Bears then turned around and traded the No. 2 selection of the draft to the Green Bay Packers for three veteran players, none of which lasted more than two years with the club. Only the Blackhawks prevented Chicago sports fans from a complete abysmal year by running away with the NHL’s Western Division with 107 points with such goal-scorers as Bobby Hull (44), Dennis Hull (40) and Stan Mikita (28), defensemen like Pat Stapleton, Bill White and Keith Magnuson, and Tony Esposito in Goal. The Hawks took the Montreal Canadians to seven games in the Stanley Cup Final before losing in heart breaking fashion when the blew a 2-0 in lead half-way through the final game and came up on the short-end of a 3-2 score. by Mike Paradise, for IHHA

The $15,000 Fox Valley Memory stake for ICF fillies and mares, originally slated for last night, has been rescheduled by the Balmoral Park Race Office. The new date is Wednesday, December 31. The Fox Valley Memory got pushed back when the June 21 Sue Fee stake was washed out by a strong storm and was moved to last night's November 22.  It turned out to be a good spot for the stake because 15 horses were entered and it was split into a pair of $13,250 divisions. The December 31 date for the rescheduled Fox Valley Memory does make a lot of sense. That late date will keep the older Illinois bred mares whose owners want a shot at a nice $15,000 pot racing for the next month instead of turning them out for the winter. So, I don’t see any problem with the Fox Valley Memory filling at the end of the year.. The Race Office also wrote back the $10,000 Cole Muffler for this upcoming Friday after only a pair of 3-year-old ICF colts entered last week. The stake has a $100 starting fee but with a five-horse field would see the fifth place finisher get a $500 check so maybe there will be few more additional entries for it, enabling the Race Office to put it on the Friday Maywood card. Fee Splits Decided: In the first division of the Sue Fee for ICF fillies and mares, driver Tim Curtin gave the 9-2 longshot Dallas Jones ($11.20) a second over trip and the 4-year-old mare came thundering down the lane to capture the first $13,250 division in 1:54.1 on a rain-soaked sloppy track. Curtin ducked the Joel Smith trainee into sixth in the early going that saw Just By Design take the eight-horse field to a 27.2 first quarter. Auniqueaquisition took over command near the half mile pole, reached in 56 flat, with the first-over Molly Go Lightly providing live cover for Dallas Jones who ended up two-plus lengths ahead of runner-up Just By Design. The win was sixth of the season for Dallas Jones and her owners Paula Smith of Valparaiso, Indiana and Illinoisans James Runyan (Lake Villa) and Frank Pike of Burbank. Patiently handled by Mike Oosting, the 8-5 co-favorite Ryleigh’s Lilly ($5.20) exploded in the lane and went on to an easy victory on the second Sue Fee split. Party Hangover sprinted out in a hurry and had the lead in the first turn and hit the first quarter pole in 27.4. Driver Todd Warren then put on the breaks and Casey Leonard took Financial Effort from the back of the pack and up to challenge the leader at the 56.2 half-mile marker. Oosting tipped Ryleigh’s Filly three deep in the last turn and the 4-year-old mare exploded at the three-quarter mile pole (1:24) leaving no doubt about the outcome of the race for trainer Bill Crone and his owner John Bernard of Orland Park, Illinois. State Street Liz was second best at the end of the 1:53 mile, beaten almost two lengths. by Mike Paradise, for IHHA

Saturday’s re-scheduled Sue Fee stake at Balmoral Park came up with enough harness racing entries to split the ICF filly and mare event into a pair of $13,250 divisions, something I projected to likely occur a few days ago. What I didn’t expect was for the one-time Super Night champion Party Hangover to come in from Pennsylvania for the race. The 5-year-old mare, owned by former Illinois trainer Ken Rucker, sent Party Hangover back to Illinois under the care of his wife Catrina for the Sue Fee. The Party At Artsplace mare has been made the 5-2 morning line favorite in the ninth face, the first division of Sue Fee and is being reunited with Todd Warren who guided the mare to six consecutive Chicago circuit victories earlier this year, including the $21,400 Parklane Powerful back in mid-June. Party Hangover left Illinois after a disappointing sixth place finish in the Propes Final on Super Night when she was parked-out to a 27.1 first quarter shooting out from the 10-hole. “Her blood word was all mussed up for that race,” said Catrina. “It still wasn’t right when she raced later at Saratoga but it looks like she’s good again. She wouldn’t let anybody pass her last week in Pennsylvania." Party Hangover dropped her first five decisions when she left Illinois, a pair of Open Handicaps at Saratoga in upstate New York, and a trio of conditioned paces in Pennsylvania, before winning her last start (1:55.1) at Philadelphia in front-stepping fashion. “We sent her back out east after Super Night because there weren’t any races here in Chicago for her. They weren’t writing the “Winner’s Over.” Now that they are we plan on keeping the mare in Illinois through the end of the year,” added the one-time Maywood Park Trainer of the Year. As a 3-year-old, Party Hangover came away with the Grandma Ann 3-year-old filly title on Super Night when she raced out of the Jesse De Long stable. She was acquired by the Rucker’s in 2013. “We bought Party Hangover privately near the end of last year and sent her out East to race,” said Catrina. “She did very well there but she was ever better when she came back to Illinois, winning a lot of races with Todd. “We trained her Thursday for Saturdays’ stake and she trained like a monster. She likes being back home and she likes having her boyfriend Sage Ruck in the stall next to her. You can see he’s happy to have his girlfriend back, too.” Party Hangover will leave from post three tonight with State Street Liz (3-1, Bobby Smolin) and Fox Valley Amanda (6-1, Dale Hiteman) on her inside and Tamarac Sassy (8-1, Casey Leonard), Ryleigh’s Lilly (4-1, Mike Oosting), Schmatie (10-1, John De Long) and Financial Effort (10-1, Ross Leonard) on her right. The fifth race first Sue Fee division looks to be wide-open according to the program odds with Just Be Design (3-1, Dave Magee), Dallas Jones (7-2, Tim Curtin) and Auniqueaquisition (4-1, Dale Hiteman) the first flash favorites. Then it’s Whistle Pig (Ross Leonard) at 5-1, Molly Go Lightly (Mike Oosting) at 8-1, Rev Me Up (Brian Carpenter) and Kimberley R (Bobby Smolin) both at 10-1, and the 15-1 longshot Toshie Special (Jacob Fox). by Mike Paradise, for IHHA

The veteran pacer Lennox Blue Chip is less than two months away from turning 11 but is still going strong and is closing in on $400,000 in career earnings for Connecticut owner James Behrandt. The Mike Brown trainee looks well placed Friday night in Maywood Park’scgo-featured ninth race. a conditioned pace for non-winners of $9,500 in the last five starts. Lennox Blue Chip went unplaced in last Saturday’s Invite at Balmoral won by his stable-mate Ice Scraper. Lennox Blue Chip sped to a lifetime best 1:50.3 victory this past summer at the age of 10. I asked his trainer what makes the horse so good despite his age. “He has a big heart,” replied Brown. “The horse has the biggest heart in my batn. I wish I had a barn full of Lennox Blue Chip’s. He loves to race.” Mike then went on and explained that the horse doesn’t need a good trip to get the job done. “He loves being first over,” continued the 48-year-old Balmoral Park based trainer. “Don’t rush him. Just bring him up and put along the inside horse. He likes to look another horse in the eye and then he'll grind it out and put him away. He’s a racehorse.” Lennox Blue Chip is also a pacer who can get the job done on any size oval, a huge plus for a trainer on the Chicago circuit. Last year Lennox Blue Chip quite frankly was too good to race at Maywood Park. He raced once on the half-miler and won in comfortable fashion on what I like to call his “fallback track.” I’ll have more about that later in this story. Instead Lennox Blue Chip was a mainstay in the Balmoral Invite ranks, starting in it in 20 of his 37 starts in 2015. The gelding came away a trio of Invite victories and missed a check in them only twice while to banking almost $84,000 for his owner. Lennox Blue Chip joined Brown’s stable in late 2011, making only a couple of local starts after competed mostly in 2010 and 2011. Since then he’s been a busy and very productive pacer under Brown’s care, earning over $180,000 and winning 18 races, mostly against upper echelon horses. In 2012 he went postward a total of 37 times. Of those 20 were at either Balmoral or Hoosier. However he went winless that year on those two tracks. In fact the best he could manage was a trio of third place finishes. At Maywood Park it was a complete different story for Lennox Blue Chip. On his “fallback” track the pacer had incredible numbers. In 17 starts he won 10 times, with 4 seconds and 1 third, missing only one check on the half-miler. The horse made $66,982 that year and all but $6,810 of that amount came at Maywood Park. No wonder he’s the 9-5 morning line favorite in the ninth race when he leaves from post 5 with regular driver Ridge Warren in the 7-horse field. He’ll be challenged by Goose On The Rocks, Montero Blue Chip, Fox Valley Norman, C’est La Vie, Kansas Wildcat and Crankin’ It Up. Picking Pick Six Cold: My seven top selection consecutive winners last night at Maywood started in race two and ended with race eight, covering the Pick Six races and its $341 payoff. Four of those seven winners were not the betting favorites. by Mike Paradise, for IHHA

Two major accomplishments made the 1979 summer meeting at Sportsman’s Park one of the most unforgettable in Illinois racing history. One: The $2 million handle hurdle instead became a regular occurrence at the Cicero, Illinois facility to help make it the most successful harness meeting in the state’s history. Two: For the first and only time harness racing surpassed thoroughbred racing in head-to-head competition in both handle and attendance. Sportsman’s Park night-time harness racing produced a daily mutuel average of $1,627,639 (all on-track), a state record, $5,000 higher daily than the handle at the Arlington Park thoroughbred meeting which was conducted daily at the same time. Sportsman’s nightly attendance averaged 13,138, up almost 8 per cent over 1978 and 2,000 patrons more daily than the thoroughbred meeting at the northwest Illinois suburban facility. A $2 million mutuel handle on a single Illinois harness racing program had been reached only three times before the 1979 Sportsman’s meeting, once at the west side five-eight’s facility, and twice at its neighbor Hawthorne. When over $2 million was bet on the night of Sept, 23, the last night of the Sportsman’s meeting; it was the 14th time it was reached that summer. An Illinois harness record for a single night was established on July 6 when $2,127,646 was bet on-track. Along with a $2 million-lus handle the Friday night before, the weekend total of $1,216,546 was the most successful ever. For the third consecutive summer Walter Paisley captured the driving title while Jim Dennis was the meet’s leading trainer. Among the pacers that were fan favorites that year with the often huge Sportsman’s Park crowds were Rambling Willie, Tricky Dick N, Try Scotch, Tarport Express, Rusty’s Iron Jet and Prairie Badger. by Mike Paradise, for IHHA

The Joe Seekman Stable’s Let’s Drink On It, the winner of Balmoral Park’s Invitational two Saturdays ago, has a notable date Saturday night at The Meadowlands. He’ll compete in the $500,000 Breeders Crown Championship for 3-year-old pacing colts and geldings. Let’s Drink On It was a close-up third in his elimination last weekend in New Jersey, finishing only one length behind the 1:50 winner Always B Maki for Seekman, a former Michigan horseman who now resides in Beecher, Illinois. The 50-year-old conditioner has been racing his horses both on the Chicago circuit and in Indiana.  Let’s Drink On It was timed in 1:50.1, rallying from seventh and last at the half-mile pole with last two quarters of :27.1 and :26.3 for his four-owner partnership that includes Joe’s wife Tina. Let’s Drink On It was the runner-up in both Maywood’s Windy City Pace and Little Brown Jug Final in Delaware, Ohio. ICF Star Belongs: Speaking of The Meadowlands, Al’s Hammered, the No. 1 aged Illinois bred pacer, had a strong debut at the New Jersey track, dropping only a head decision in the $30,000 A1 Free For All Pace. The second place finish put another $7,500 on Al’s Hammered card, his first start since his former Balmoral based owner and trainer Bob Phillips sold the 5-year-old ICF pacer to long-time Illinois horseman Harry Von Knoblauch, formerly of Beecher and now a Pennsylvania resident. Tim Tetrick raced Al’s Hammered out of the four-hole through fractions of 27.4, 54 flat and 1:21 by the pacesetting State Treasure to ended up seven and last but less than 3 lengths behind the 19-1 winner Asian. Al’s Hammered, who now races out of the barn of trainer Peter Tritton, went off as the 7-2 second choice behind the 6-5 sixth place finisher Clear Vision. Left Out to Dry: Through the years I’ve frequently categorized the 8-post at Maywood Park has its “dreaded 8-hole” and for good reason. It always produces a low-percentage of winners and 2014 has been no different with only a 5.7 winning percentage rate on the half-miler. Who would have thought that its sister track Balmoral Park with its one-mile oval would produce an even lower percentage winning post? Nevertheless, the 10-slot at the Crete, Illinois big track has been a graveyard for bettors and trainers and owners with horses coming out of that outside post. It’s supplying winning horses this year at a meager 4.6 per cent frequency. Both tracks are generating a higher than customary percentage of winning favorites. Balmoral is at 43 per cent, a lofty figure for a mile track while Maywood has a high-than-normal winning favorite clip of almost 47 per cent for a half-miler. Numbers Will Grow: The Balmoral Park horse colony will be getting much needed boost with the racing season over at Hoosier Park in near-by Indiana. Some of their drivers, including Illinois native veteran Sam Widger, are also expected to now compete on the local circuit. by Mike Paradise, for IHHA

While this weekend’s harness racing rescheduled ICF stake Life’s A Holiday Trot came up again with insufficient entries and was scraped the circuit’s Race Office has brought back the $18,000 Sue Fee for older state-bred pacing mares. You might remember beck in the summer the Sue Fee stake was literally washed away along with the test of the Saturday, June 25th card when a severe storm rolled though Balmoral Park and torrential rains made the racetrack a river of water and unsafe to race. There are only two other stakes races in the season for ICF filly and mare pacers with a higher purse than the Sue Fee, the $118,000 Lorna Propes on Super Night and the $21,500 Parklane Powerful Ann Vonian in later July so rescheduling the Sue Fee for next Saturday is a big plus for the owners and trainers of ICF pacing mares. It’ll be interesting to see what mares that entered the supposedly shelved Sue Fee will re-enter for next Saturday. The field for the June 25 event had Prairie Granny, The Bruzilian Blur, Tamarac Sassy, Dune In Red, Auniqueaquisition, No Respect and Ryleigh’s Lilly. I expect Saturday’s $18,000 pot will see a full field of 10 for next Saturday, perhaps enough horses for the distaff stake to be split into two divisions. Earndawg Upset: Casey Leonard gave 6-1 longshot Mighty Hot Shot a two-hole trip behind the overwhelming 1-9 pacesetting favorite Earndawg and the Bill Crone trainee powered up the inside lane to produce a stunning upset in Saturday’s $10,000 Betzotic stake for ICF 2-year-old pacing colts and geldings. Earndawg came into the first race riding a three-race winning streak at included open company triumphs in Maywood’s Abe Lincoln and a division Hoosier’s Madison. The son of Sportsmaster also had won his last five starts against strictly other state-breds, including the Orange and Clue Colt Final on Super Night. Leonard hustled Mighty Hot Shot away from the four-slot and had the lead ahead of Earndawg (p.p. 1) going into the first turn. After an unhurried 29.3 first panel, Warren took Earndawg out of the pocket and to the top, hitting the half-mile marker in a dawdling 59.1. Warren was content to let the Roger Welch trainee coast through a leisurely 29 third panel but in the one-quarter mile “dash for the cash” the heavy favorite was out-sprinted by Mighty Hot Shot’s 26.4 last quarter giving him a half-length victory in 1:55.2 for Orland Park, Illinois owner John Bernard. Mighty Hot Shot came into the Betzotic with only 1 win in 13 freshman starts, a head victory against other maidens in mid-October. Katey Doesn’t Disappoint: A few races later Always About Katey, another 1-9 heavy favorite from the Welch stable driven by Todd Warren, put away stretch bids from first State Street Liz and later from Hello My Dream to post a 1:52.2 triumph in the $11,000 “Winner’s Over” for fillies and mares. It was season win No. 7 for the 4-year-old Indiana bred mare with over $780,000 on her card for Bo De Long, Pat De Long and Katey Mc Clymont. Another Herculean Effort: Casey Leonard took Celebrity Hercules out of the three-hole soon after the half-mile marker and the 9-5 second choice in the wagering went on to chalk up his eighth season victory in the $11,000 “Winner’s Over” Trot for trainer Eric Elliott and owners Dandy Farms of Glenview, Illinois. Fox Valley Veto came on to be second, beaten a half-length while the even-money favorite Justice Jet finished strong for third place money. The victory was No. 36 in the Celebrity Hercules career. The 8-year-old gelding now has almost $485,000 in lifetime earnings. Hot Mile on Cold Night: Snow flurries and a sub-freezing temperature (25 degrees) couldn’t cool off the speedball Ice Scraper from a 1:49.3 winning mile in the ninth race Invitational Pace for driver Brian Carpenter. Leaving from the outside eight-slot, Fort Silky and Kanaris made it hard on Ice Scraper to work his way to the front, getting there in a wicked 26.1 first panel. Kanaris sat in the pocket when the even-money favorite hit the half in a quick 53.3. Carpenter kept his foot on the gas pedal when Ice Scraper went past the 3/4 pole in 1:21.2. Brian kept after the Mike Brown trainee in the lane and the 5-year-old ICF pacer had something left in the tank, ending up 1 and 1/2 lengths ahead of the late-rushing Best Man Hanover for winning Connecticut owner James Behrendt. by Mike Paradise, for IHHA

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