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Veteran harness racing horseman Todd Warren joined another rank of elite reinsmen to reach the 4,000 mark in career driving victories on Thursday, September 18th at Maywood Park when the Beecher, IL resident guided the three-year-old pacing filly Stage Star to a decisive 5 ¼ length victory in Maywood Park's 10th race. The milestone victory was part of a big five win night for the 49-year-old veteran of the Illinois circuit.   Born in Mattoon, IL on New Year's Day, 1965 Warren was introduced to the sport at an early age by his father and embarked on his driving career on the county fair circuit in 1981.   Like a fine wine, Warren has been getting better with age, notching more than 200 driving victories in five of the past seven years in the bike. The career winner of $17.7 in purse earnings while in the bike has also been doing "double duty" as a trainer, posting an amazing U.T.R.S. of more than .300 in all but one year dating back to 2000 with 875 career training victories.   "It makes for some very long days like today (Sept.18)," said Warren. "I started training horses before 8 a.m. this morning, caught a quick break and some lunch before shipping to Maywood with my horses. Now after getting these horses put away and back home it will be at least 1 a.m. so it makes for a pretty quick turnaround. But I'm not complaining. If I don't have that kind of workload I get a little bored really."   When asked if he knew that he was getting close to reaching another milestone the superstious Warren was quick to "tune-out" to his impending mark.   "I had heard from a trainer or two that I was getting close to the mark," he said. "But after winning the first two on Thursday night and not hearing anything else it just sort of left my mind. The next thing I know I won with Stage Star and here comes everybody down to the winner's circle and the sign comes out. It was really a great feeling I have to say."   Tom Kelley

The 5-year-old Sportsmaster mare Shez A Swift lately has been a very popular horse with both the betting public and the horsemen. The mare has been the favorite in her last five starts at Maywood Park and she’s won her last four outings and was claimed in each of those victories   Tonight Shez A Swift debuts in the third race for her newest owner Missel Garcia of Crete, IL after his trainer Harold Guerra claimed the mare a week ago. She was also claimed in her previous three winning starts.   The 9-5 programmed favorite has nailed down 11 wins this year, all at Maywood. Shez A Swift is looking for her 20th career victory in her 64th career start, with most coming at Maywood.   Shez a Swift was a $29,000 purchase as a yearling at the 2011 Walker Sale by the Joel Smith Stable and made two unsuccessful starts at Balmoral as a 2-year-old. Joel raced the filly as a 3-year-old 36 times with 22 of those at Maywood Park where she chalked up 6 of her 7 victories in 2013.   Smith started the mare 9 times this year at Maywood where she won twice before she was taken over by trainer Matt McKenzie. After dropping her first five decisions for her new barn, Shez A Swift started winning on a regular basis, taking 6 of 8 starts for the stable before she was claimed on August 21 for $4,000 by trainer Perry Smith.   One week later the mare won for Smith however he lost her in a $4,000 claimer to trainer Ronnie Roberts. Naturally she also won for Ronnie but she was re-claimed by McKenzie in that Sept. 5 triumph. Last week Shez A Swift got her nose in front to make it four in a row, all with Todd Warren driving, when Herrera decided to claim her.   The mare has got to be wondering which way she’s headed after tonight’s third race. My guess is in another different direction once again.    Favorites Fall: The first 2 of 10 American National stakes to be contested this season at Balmoral were raced last night and the public choices both went down to defeat.   The $57,200 filly division of a pair of 2-year-old trots saw Homer Hochstetler’s Persuasive Look ($10.20) rally past with Casey Leonard to post a 1:58 victory, a half-length ahead of Jazzie Mermaid.   The front-stepping 3-5 favorite Fox Valley Yoko weakened in the late going and ended up third, beaten two lengths.   The $73,000 American National for freshman colts and geldings saw the winner’s share of the purse leave town when Iron ($13.00), given a perfect pocket trip by Dominico Cerere, got his head in front at the end of another 1:58 mile, this one for trainer Frank Antonacci and his east coast owners.   SS Poseidon, who led from the half-mile pole until deep stretch, dead-heated for second with the 8-5 favorite KY Lucky. Both finished a head behind the Cantan Hall colt Iron who was making only his second career start. by Mike Paradise, for IHHA

Completing the "favorite train" that rolled through Balmoral Park on Super Night Bo & Pat De Long's Earndawg sent the chalk players home with a smile as he rolled to a 3½ length victory in a career best of 1:52.4 for Todd Warren. Working out a perfect trip after getting away fifth as King Of The Swamp (Pat Curtin) and Lucpark (Dave Magee) traded blows through opening splits of 27.1 & 55.2 Warren managed to pick up live cover from a second over position as the field moved towards the three-quarter-mile mark. "It wasn't exactly the trip I thought I was going to get with him or the trip Roger (Welch) planned so I called an audible and it worked out pretty well," joked Warren. "He always seems to have a big plan going into a race but things never seem to work out that way." Passing the three-quarter-mile mark in 1:24.3 the gelded son of Sportsmaster--Pacific Sister K tipped three deep and quickly found his best stride, sailing right by his rivals in route to his fourth win in 10 lifetime starts. Longshot Dupage's Z Tam (Casey Leonard) shook loose late to rally for the place money while another Welch trainee Rockin Cassinova (Dale Hiteman) finished third. With the win Earndawg, who returned $3.60, $3.00 & $2.60 now boasts a record of 4-2-2 in 10 starts with earnings of $115,478. Tom Kelley

As it has done on four other occasions the $118,000 Lorna Propes Championship for filly and mare pacers 3yo & up produced yet another repeat harness racing champion as the Jesse De Long owned Let's Go Higher held on to win by a length in 1:52.0 with John De Long at the controls. Last year's winner of this event left hard from post five but was quickly covered up as Dune In Red (Dave Magee) and Party Hangover (Todd Warren) battled through a tough opening quarter of 27.1. Moving first over as the field raced by the half-mile mark in 55.0 the Heidi Rohr trained six-year-old swallowed up Party Hangover as the field reached the three-quarter-mile mark in 1:23.3. "I wasn't surprised that we had to do as much work as we did because they're not going to be able to beat her if they just leave her alone on the front end," said a confident De Long. Through the stretch the daughter of Cole Muffler--Ten Speed held sway as Dune In Red came charging at her along the inside while No Respect (Marcus Miller) was closing on the outside. Unfortunately time ran out for that pair as Let's Go Higher dug in gamely to post her 23rd victory in the past two seasons. Dune In Red was forced to settle for the bridesmaid role while No Respect was third. After the victory a beaming De Long was more than happy to sing the praises of his charge. "Halfway down the lane I was nervous," he said. "But she fought off the outside horse then nearing the wire she caught the inside horse out of the corner of her eye and she just dug in again. I really believe this is the toughest mare I've ever driven and her will to win is just second to none." The 1-2 choice after a strong elimination win the previous week Let's Go Higher continued the parade of favorites paying $3.00, $2.20 & $2.10 while moving her career bankroll to a gaudy $460,435. Tom Kelley

Continuing his "dream season" while overcoming what could have been a harness racing career ending injury the Robert Phillips owned and trainer Al's Hammered posted his second career Super Night title taking the $112,000 Tony Maurello Championship by two-lengths in 1:49.2. That time equaled the stakes record for this 3yo & up event. .   With his owner-trainer choosing post position five for this event the trip worked out perfectly for the big late rusher as he sat mid-pack while Fort Silky (Casey Leonard) and Iam Bonasera (Marcus Miller) battled through blistering fractions of 26.3, 54.4 & 1:21.4.   Moving first over on the final turn driver Robert Smolin put Al's Hammered into contention alongside the pace setting Iam Bonasera as the field turned for the money.   "When I saw those fractions up front I really thought I was going to be home free," said Smolin. "He's got no problem going first over so I really was where I wanted to be."   As he's done so often this season, the five-year-old son of Droppin'thehammer seemed to find another gear as he eyed the finish line, putting away the leader and then drawing clear in the final 100 yards for his 14th win of the year. Iam Bonasera held on gamely to finish second while FortSilky was third.   The 2012 Langley Memorial champion boosted his career bankroll to $476,497 with his second Super Night championship while returning $3.40, $2.40 & $2.10 to his legion of backers.   Al's Hammered and Bobby Smolin equaled the stakes record of 1:49.2 while capturing the $112,000 Tony Maurello Championship on Super Night.   Tom Kelley  

Turning in one of the most memorable Super Night performances of all time Megan Rogers Racing Stable's Unlocked completely destroyed nine rivals as he cruised to a resounding 11 ½ length victory in the $145,000 Pete Langley Memorial for 3yo pacing colts. The final time was 1:50.2.   After floating away from post six with the son of Duneside Perch--Miss Major Power while the opening quarter went up in 27.0 driver Dave Magee sent the speedy colt on his way from fifth.   Charging to the top as the field reached the half-mile mark in 54.0, the Erv Miller trainee was in full flight as he began to open up lengths on the field while reaching the three-quarter-mile mark in a brisk 1:21.4.   "He's just a monster right now," remarked Magee. "He's unbelievably fast and once you get him in gear he just keeps going and going."   Through the lane, Unlocked continued to increase his lead while getting only mild urging from Super Night's leading driver. Shut down in the shadow of the wire Unlocked made it look effortless as he scored for the sixth time in 14 starts this season. Last year's Orange & Blue champion, Cotton Eyed Joe rallied late to get the place check while Fox Valley Deuce (Casey Leonard) was a distant third.   After the laugher Magee was quick to credit Miller for ironing out some of the problems Unlocked has battled throughout his career.   "Erv has really got this colt at the top of his game right now," said Magee. "He's got him where you can drive him any way you want and he's just as comfortable sitting in a hole as he is out and rolling. He's really something."   Bet as though defeat was out of the question Unlocked paid just $2.10, $2.10 & $2.10 while upping his bankroll to $251,697.   Tom Kelley

In what turned into a replay of last year's Filly Orange & Blue on harness racing "Super Night" at Balmoral Park, Engel Stable of Illinois' Thesleazyprincess became a two-time Super Night victress, this time capturing the $142,000 Grandma Ann for three-year-old pacing fillies by a nose over My Little Bit in 1:53.1 Hustled off the wings of the gate by Marcus Miller, the homebred daughter of Sagebrush--Da Sleazy One landed In The Pocket spot right behind My Little Bit as she led the field through splits of 27.3, 56.1 & 1:24.2.   "I wanted to get out of there quickly and get around the two fillies inside of me," explained Miller. When we wound up right on the back of my dad's (Erv Miller) other horse (My Little Bit) I knew we were going to be in pretty good shape."   Continuing to sit right on the leaders helmet until the passing lane, Miller ducked the bay filly inside where she gradually wore down the pace setter, finally getting up in the last stride after a thrilling duel. As was the case last year, My Little Bit (Casey Leonard) was forced to settle for the bridesmaid role while Party Hangover Two (John De Long) rallied late to get the show dough.   After the race Marcus seemed a bit stunned by it all.   "It's always great to come home and always great to be a part of Super Night," he exclaimed. "At the top of the lane I thought my filly was going to be an easy winner but My Little Bit showed how tough she is tonight as well. I didn't know if I got there or not until the numbers came up. Last year "Sleazy beat me when I was driving My Little Bit so I guess I got a little revenge tonight."   A recent addition to the barn of Erv Miller Thesleazyprincess who returned $8.60, $4.00 & $4.00 now boasts $243,831 in earnings on the strength of a 4-4-7 record in 30 career starts.   Thesleazyprincess (inside) nosed out My Little Bit to win the $142,000 Grandma Ann for driver Marcus Miller. Tom Kelley

Fresh off five straight victories over her divisional harness racing foes, Paymaq Racing and Leland Mathias's Mr Leland's Filly made it six in a row as she came charging down the lane to win the $162,000 Filly Orange & Blue in 1:53.2 for driver Casey Leonard.   Content to sit in the middle of the pack as several fillies battled through quick splits of 27.1, 55.2 & 1:24.0 Leonard had his filly out and rolling in the middle of the final bend.   "When the draw came out I tried to picture every scenario that might shake out and this one was definitely the best," said a very happy Leonard. "I was ecstatic that they were going as fast as they were and I was getting to follow the horse I thought we had to beat."   Confidently starting to reel in the other elimination winner from last week, Sportsmuffler (John De Long), who had powered into the lead with a big first over move at the top of the lane Mr Leland's Filly quickly found her best stride.   Powering home in 28.3, the Ervin Miller trained miss zipped right by the leg weary leader giving Miller his Super Night leading 23rd championship. Lex (Kyle Wilfong) came on late to edge Sportsmuffler for the place honors in a tight photo.   With the win Mr Leland's Filly appears to have a lock on divisional honors with her record of 6-0-0 in eight starts. The daughter of Sportsmaster--Incredible Katie returned $2.60, $2.40 & $2.10 while upping her bankroll to $158,360.   Mr Leland's Filly notched her sixth straight victory as she overpowered her rivals to win the $162,000 Filly Orange & Blue for Casey Leonard.   Tom Kelley

Most horsemen tend to be cautious about their horses’ chances when Super Night rolls around and don’t want to appear to be too optimistic. After all anything can happen in a horse race and it often does on Illinois most anticipated racing evening of the year. “I have to admit my hopes are up a little bit more for Super Night than they were the week before the eliminations,” said owner and trainer Jesse De Long who has had a Super Night champion in his barn the last two years.” And well they should be. De Long’s mare Let’s Go Higher, the 2013 Lorna Propes champion, breezed in 1:52.1 in her Propes elimination for trainer Heidi Rohr. His 2-year-old filly Sportsmuffler (1:54.3) was much the best in her Orange and Blue Filly elimination, and Jesse and John De Long’s 3-year-old Party Hangover Two finished a strong fourth in  the Grandma Ann stake prep. “Jimmy Richard and Heidi Rohr had Let’s Go Higher out east. I don’t think she came in a sharp this time around as she did last year but they told me ‘don’t worry, she’ll be fine.’ I was a little worried but they were right, she did race really well. “It’ll be kind of strange racing against Party Hangover Saturday. I still cheer for the mare but I don’t want to cheer for her too much when she’s racing my mare. It should be interesting race. “Party Hangover is a very good mare and so is the mare (Dune In Red) that beat her last week. It’s a tough field and it should be a very good horse race. “I have Party Hangover’s little sister (Party Hangover Two) also racing Saturday in the Grandma Ann. Like (my son) John always says about her: ‘We always seem to finish fourth, about a length and a half out of first, and we seem to always draw outside the horse and have to come from way back. Maybe things will be different Saturday.” I told Jesse he can probably count on much quicker fractions in the Grandma Ann Final and its $142,000 purse than he saw in the $10,000 prep when Molly Go Lightly (Matt Krueger) cruised to a  :57.2 half-mile time and got away with a:29.third quarter enroute to her 1:55 flat victory. “I hope you right,” replied Jesse. That would help our filly a ton. She’s close now to being near the top of her game like she was earlier in the summer when she paced in 1:52.3) in a Hanover. “I thought our 3-year-old pacing filly (Sportsmuffler) raced super last weekend in her division of the filly Orange and Blue. “I’m really excited about her now. She had two things that were wrong with her at Du Quoin and they are perfect now. She should be good for the final.” First Super Night post on Saturday will be at 6:30 pm Chicago time. by Mike Paradise, for IHHA

Elimination races for Wednesday night were not necessary for both American National 2-year-old paces. The initial American National championships of the season will be raced at Balmoral Park next week, September 17. The $57,000 American National for freshman colts and geldings will have a field of nine headed up by Shoot The Thrill and Poseidon, a pair of locally owned horses with stakes triumphs on the east coast. The Dirk Simpson trained Shoot The Thrill won a $21,000 division of rhe Arden at The Meadows and a $33,026 PASS stake at Philadelphia for Illinois owners Jim Bafia (Minooka) and Gene Smith (Chicago). The Erv Miller trainee Poseidon, owned and bred by Paymac Racing of Long Grove, IL and Shim Racing of Deerfield, comes off a 1:57.1 victory in the $41,004 Reynolds at Tioga Downs in New York. Also going postward will be Air Force Blue, Hanover champion Cruisin Valor, Iron, recent Balmoral winner Jake Quaider, Ky Lucky, Orchids And Ale and Stickem Buck. The American National for filly pacers carries an estimated $60,000 pot and will be comprised of Fox Valley Yoko, winner at both Springfield and Du Quoin, Fox Valley Harrah, Jazzie Mermaid, Lima Pizzaz, Nanars, Powerfulebrowning and Fox Valley Flan champ Persuasive Look. On The Bubble: A drawing in the Balmoral Park Race Office Wednesday afternoon will determine which the fourth place finishers (Fox Valley Touche, Zumba or Auniqueaquisrion) in Saturday’s three Lorna Propes elimination divisions will move on to that $120,000 Final. Third elimination division longshots Just By Design (8-1), Fox Valley Absolut (9-1) and Toshie Spefcial (50-1) were one-two-three while the race’s three betting favorites Ryleigh’s Filly, Dallas Jones and Whistle Pig ended up non-factors in 6th, 7th and 8th, and will race in a $25,000 Consolation. Pre-stake favorites, Let’s Go Higher, Dune In Red, Party Hangover and State Street Liz all moved on to championship. Sure Thing ? Unlocked (Dave Magee) is looking more and more like a “lock” in the Langley Final. The Duneside Perch colt has breezed against other 3-year-old ICF pacers in the Incredible Finale (1:50.2), Springfield (1:49/1), Du Quoin (1:51.3) and last Saturday’s Langley elim (1:50.3) with an average winning margin of almost six lengths Early Start: A reminder that first post for Super Night Saturday will have an earlier-than-normal time of 6:30 pm (Chicago Time).. As usual the $187,000 Orange and Blue Colt Final is the14th and last race on the card and usually goes off around midnight when about three-quarters of the festive crowd are long-gone. Worth the Wait: If your able to stay to the end you should see a heck of a horse with race Governor’s Cup champion Lucpark talking on the powerful Roger Welch Stable’s three-horse entry of Mini Me victor King Of The Swamp, Earndawg and Rockin Cassinova, along with Springfield champ Thisishowweroll, DuPage’s Z Tam, Dakota Roadster, C Note, Mighty Hot Shot and Fox Valley Ellijah.  Missing the final and likely competing in the $25,000 O&B Colt Consolation are The Big Sleazy, Pathologist, Lotta Riches. Parity and Engine One O One from Saturday’s first elimination and Uncle Si, Casey At Bat, Joel’s Z Tam, Get Your Camo On and Better Done Dune from the second. by Mike Paradise, for IHHA

With one major Super Night championship on her résumé the year-old ICF mare Party Hangover is looking to add another next Saturday on Illinois’ most anticipated evening of racing at Balmoral Park. Party Hangover, the 2012 Grandma Ann champion for trainer Jesse De Long, had won her first six first pari-mutuel starts after owner-trainer Ken Rucker sent Party Hangover back to Illinois under the care of his wife Catrina and driver Todd Warren before her second place finish last night in her Propes elimination. Dune In Red (1:51.2), given a pocket trip by Dave Magee, overtook Party Hangover in the lane to win the second elimination while defending Propes champion Let’s Go Higher breezed in 1:52 flat in the first split. I asked Catrina to fill me in about Party Hangover. “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 this year making almost $28,000. But she’s been ever better since she’s been back in Illinois.” In her seven starts ion the Chicago circuit this year Party Hangover has raked in almost $40,000 for the Rucker family. What has made the mare so good in her home state? “In Pennsylvania there was no consistency with drivers,” replied Catrina. “You would get a different driver every week. A couple of times our mare got locked-in with a ton of pace but nowhere to go. You look at those lines it would appear she wasn’t racing well but she was racing great. “Here in Illinois it’s a different type of racing on a different type of track. Party Hangover is a mare that you can race any way you want, on the front or out of a hole. “Todd (Warren) has been great with the mare and he likes her a lot, too. He told us she’s done everything he’s asked her. “We scratched her out her Springfield race when the day of race got moved because of the rain they had down there. We wanted her fit and ready for the Parklane Powerful and she was, coming up with her second new lifetime mark (1:51.2). “We put her in a qualifier last Wednesday to keep her sharp because there wasn’t a race for her last Saturday and we didn’t want to go three weeks in between starts. “Party Hangover is kind of like the barn star right now and she likes being pampered. “A baby can jog her but once you turn her she’s all business on a racetrack. If you train her with another horse she won’t let that horse get past her. She’s just a monster on the track.” As a 3-year-old Party Hangover was an eight-time winner for the De Long stable and put over $161,000 on her card with the bulk of that money coming with consecutive wins in the Springfield and Du Quoin State Fair championships, and triumphs in both her Grandma Ann elimination and its final. Nailing Down Another: Al’s Hammered (Bobby Smolin) uncorked a season fastest 1:49.1 mile last night in his Maurello elimination victory, avenging his recent loss to Fort Silky in the Egyptian stake at Maywood. The win was No. 13 of the season for Al’s Hammered, owned and trained by Bob Phillips, and likely sewed up his role as the morning line favorite for Saturday’s $120,000 Championship. by Mike Paradise, for IHHA

Ask any Illinois Standardbred trainer which night of racing do they feel the most pressure and most would say Super Night elimination Saturday at Balmoral Park. As one Illinois trainer once told me: “You can’t race for the big money on Super Night unless you do well in your elimination.” Tonight is that pressure-packed evening for trainers and their owners with eliminations slated for all the Super Night paces except the Grandma Ann. With ten ICF 3-year-old fillies passing the entry box a $10,000 “Prep” with go as race five with all 10 fillies staying sharp for that $142,000 Championship. Most years it takes a third place finish or higher in an Orange and Blue elimination to assure a starting berth in those 2-year-old finals. In fact, there have been times when four O & B elimination divisions were raced and only the one-two finishers in each were guaranteed a start in the final. This year with just15 fillies entered for their division and 20 colts and geldings for the O & B male division, only a fifth place finish or higher is needed in those eliminations to become a Super Night finalist. The Orange and Blue Filly final’s purse is estimated at $163,000 while the Orange and Blue Colt championship has a projected $187,000 pot. The toughest stake to make the final is the Lorna Propes for ICF fillies and mares, ages three and up. There were sufficient entries for three $15,000 elimination divisions. Only the first three finishers in each, and one fourth place finisher drawn by lot, make that $120,000 Final. The Tony Maurello for horses and geldings ages three and up will have two elimination groups with the first five finishers in each moving on. All of the division’s big guns like Al’s Hammered, Fort Silky, Mystical Walter, Iam Bonasera and last year’s Maurello champion A Cool Card are racing Saturday evening. The Pete Langley Memorial has just one-single elimination with only a ninth place finish in the 10-horse field needed to advance to its $147,000 championship. Interestingly the owners or trainers of the top three season money winners in the division—Unlocked, Uncle Ugly and Fox Valley Deuce—all declined the bye and will compete in Saturday’s third race. Fox Valley Cupid, who did take the bye, is staying racing-ready against older horses in Saturday’s 12th race. We’ll see most of the top ICF 3-year-old trotters in action Sunday. The Su Mac Lad has a single elimination with the first nine finishers joining Fox Valley Veto in its $98,000 Final. Fox Valley Veto took his bye and will race against older trotters Sunday in the fourth race $10,500 conditioned trot. Ten fillies passed the entry box for Super Night’s Lady Ann Reed but a prep race won’t be contested. Instead, Bailey’s Wish, Macie Rae and Graceland Spirit will take the week off while the other entrants—Bands Alexis, Fox Valley Lotus, Green Acres, High Balance, Lora Lee Breeze, Rollette and Say No Mo—will stay sharp by competing in various conditioned trots on the card. Price Shot of the Year: On a Thursday night at Maywood Park where one heavy favorite after another won their respective races Mike’s Price Shots came up with an eighty-two dollar winner when Serious Style, driven by Kyle Wilfong, got his neck in front at the end of the fourth race.Sent off at 40-1 odds, Serious Style paid a surprising $82.60 for a $2 wager, keying the $252.60 Exacta, the $654.60 Trifecta and the $1,422.20 Supefecta 10 cent wager. by Mike Paradise, for IHHA

Ask any Illinois Standardbred trainer which night of harness racing do they feel the most pressure and most would say Super Night elimination Saturday. As one Illinois trainer once told me: “You can’t race for the big money on Super Night unless you do well in your elimination.” Tomorrow is that pressure-packed evening for trainers and their owners with eliminations slated for all the Super Night paces except the Grandma Ann. With ten ICF 3-year-old fillies passing the entry box a $10,000 “Prep” with go as race five with all 10 fillies staying sharp for that $142,000 Championship. Most years it takes a third place finish or higher in an Orange and Blue elimination to assure a starting berth in those 2-year-old finals. In fact, there have been times when four O & B elimination divisions were raced and only the one-two finishers in each were guaranteed a start in the final. This year with just15 fillies entered for their division and 20 colts and geldings for the O & B male division, only a fifth place finish or higher is needed in those eliminations to become a Super Night finalist. The Orange and Blue Filly final’s purse is estimated at $163,000 while the Orange and Blue Colt championship has a projected $187,000 pot. The toughest stake to make the final is the Lorna Propes for ICF fillies and mares, ages three and up. There were sufficient entries for three $15,000 elimination divisions. Only the first three finishers in each, and one fourth place finisher drawn by lot, make that $120,000 Final. The Tony Maurello for horses and geldings ages three and up will have two elimination groups with the first five finishers in each moving on. All of the division’s big guns like Al’s Hammered, Fort Silky, Mystical Walter, Iam Bonasera and last year’s Maurello champion A Cool Card are racing Saturday evening. The Pete Langley Memorial has just one-single elimination with only a ninth place finish in the 10-horse field needed to advance to its $147,000 championship. Interestingly the owners or trainers of the top three season money winners in the division—Unlocked, Uncle Ugly and Fox Valley Deuce—all declined the bye and will compete in Saturday’s third race. Fox Valley Cupid, who did take the bye, is staying racing-ready against older horses in Saturday’s 12th race. We’ll see most of the top ICF 3-year-old trotters in action Sunday. The Su Mac Lad has a single elimination with the first nine finishers joining Fox Valley Veto in its $98,000 Final. Fox Valley Veto took his bye and will race against older trotters Sunday in the fourth race $10,500 conditioned trot. Ten fillies passed the entry box for Super Night’s Lady Ann Reed but a prep race won’t be contested. Instead, Bailey’s Wish, Macie Rae and Graceland Spirit will take the week off while the other entrants—Bands Alexis, Fox Valley Lotus, Green Acres, High Balance, Lora Lee Breeze, Rollette and Say No Mo—will stay sharp by competing in various conditioned trots on the card. Price Shot of the Year: On a Thursday night at Maywood Park where one heavy favorite after another won their respective races Mike’s Price Shots came up with an eighty-two dollar winnerwhen Serious Style, driven by Kyle Wilfong, got his neck in front at the end of the fourth race. Sent off at 40-1 odds, Serious Style paid a surprising $82.60 for a $2 wager, keying the $252.60 Exacta, the $654.60 Trifecta and the $1,422.20 Supefecta 10 cent wager. By Mike Paradise The Illinois Harness Horsemen's Association

While the local harness racing focus is on Super Night, as well it should be, with those all-so-important stake eliminations on tap this weekend, this is also the month Balmoral Park begins to host the American Nationals, its most prestigious events of the year. Elimination races, if necessary, for the 2-year-old American National trots are a week from Wednesday (Sept. 10) and with that in mind trainer Gerald Hansen sends out his Hanover champion Cruisin Valor in this Wednesday’s fourth race. The Race Office handicapped the freshman trotting race by season earnings and Crusin Valor was assigned the outside 10-hole. After a poor showing in his pari-mutuel at Balmoral in early July, the Yankee Valor gelding, romped in an outing on the Urbana Fair Track on July 22 and then was much the best in the $29,800 Hanover on the big track in Crete, IL, drawing off by five lengths in 2:00.1 while well in hand to driver Brian Carpenter. Cruisin Valor followed that stakes victory with a pair of valiant efforts at both State Fairs, dropping photos to Captain Greedy, first at Springfield in 1:59 and then in a division of Du Quoin’s Darn Safe in 1:59.3. I caught up with Carpenter over the Labor Day weekend and asked the 54-year-old veteran driver for the low-down on Cruisin Valor, owned by Illinoisans Shelley Steele (Monee), Payton Ode (Joliet) and the Sam Lilly Racing Stable (Downers Grove). “I helped Gerry break and train Cruisin Valor,” said Brian. “He also had another 2-year-old trotter who is a three-quarter brother to Southern Rocketop, a very good trotter who I used to drive. “When the time came to qualify both trotters I was given Southern Special and Casey (Leonard) drove Cruisin Valor. However, the horse went out and lost his mind in that qualifier and tore up a race bike. “The horse went on the (steward’s list) and Gerry called me and asked me the re-qualify the horse, which I did. While he didn’t have any trouble out there he was a handful. For whatever reason the horse didn’t have the same temperament when he came back to me that he had earlier. “But we worked with him and while you still have to be careful with him scoring him down, in a race he has minded his manners and has been a gentleman. He’s a pretty quick colt. “He raced well at both on the dirt tracks at Springfield and Du Quoin but I think he’s best at Balmoral. “We’re still making some tweets with him to hopefully give him that little extra at crunch time so maybe a photo will go his way next time.” Cruisin Valor has made almost $30,000 in his freshman season and still ahead for him is the $90,000 (est.) American National 2-Year-Old Colt Trot on Wednesday, Sept. 17 and the $100,000 Lincoln Land ICF stake on Sunday, October 3. by Mike Paradise, for IHHA

While the local harness racing focus is on Super Night, as well it should be, with those all-so-important stake eliminations on tap this weekend, this is also the month Balmoral Park begins to host the American Nationals, its most prestigious events of the year. Elimination races, if necessary, for the 2-year-old American National trots are a week from Wednesday (Sept. 10) and with that in mind trainer Gerald Hansen sends out his Hanover champion Cruisin Valor in this Wednesday’s fourth race. The Race Office handicapped the freshman trotting race by season earnings and Crusin Valor was assigned the outside 10-hole. After a poor showing in his pari-mutuel at Balmoral in early July, the Yankee Valor gelding, romped in an outing on the Urbana Fair Track on July 22 and then was much the best in the $29,800 Hanover on the big track in Crete, IL, drawing off by five lengths in 2:00.1 while well in hand to driver Brian Carpenter. Cruisin Valor followed that stakes victory with a pair of valiant efforts at both State Fairs, dropping photos to Captain Greedy, first at Springfield in 1:59 and then in a division of Du Quoin’s Darn Safe in 1:59.3. I caught up with Carpenter over the Labor Day weekend and asked the 54-year-old veteran driver for the low-down on Cruisin Valor, owned by Illinoisans Shelley Steele (Monee), Payton Ode (Joliet) and the Sam Lilly Racing Stable (Downers Grove). “I helped Gerry break and train Cruisin Valor,” said Brian. “He also had another 2-year-old trotter who is a three-quarter brother to Southern Rocketop, a very good trotter who I used to drive. “When the time came to qualify both trotters I was given Southern Special and Casey (Leonard) drove Cruisin Valor. However, the horse went out and lost his mind in that qualifier and tore up a race bike. “The horse went on the (steward’s list) and Gerry called me and asked me the re-qualify the horse, which I did. While he didn’t have any trouble out there he was a handful. For whatever reason the horse didn’t have the same temperament when he came back to me that he had earlier. “But we worked with him and while you still have to be careful with him scoring him down, in a race he has minded his manners and has been a gentleman. He’s a pretty quick colt. “He raced well at both on the dirt tracks at Springfield and Du Quoin but I think he’s best at Balmoral. “We’re still making some tweets with him to hopefully give him that little extra at crunch time so maybe a photo will go his way next time.” Cruisin Valor has made almost $30,000 in his freshman season and still ahead for him is the $90,000 (est.) American National 2-Year-Old Colt Trot on Wednesday, Sept. 17 and the $100,000 Lincoln Land ICF stake on Sunday, October 3.    County Fair Report CHRISTIAN AND TRI COUNTY FAIR AT PANA      Sunday Afternoon FIRST: $6,039 Big Ten 2-Year-Old Trot: Horse (Driver)                                     Time (Track Fast) Tricky Nick (Nick Prather)                             2:05.3 Trainer: Nick Prather. Owners: Megan Rogers Racing Stable; Amy and Derek Jacobus. SECOND: $900 2-Year-Old Trot: Ky Liz (Dillon Cox)                                        2:09.1 Trainer: Rushun Trigg. Owners: Michael Summers and Roshun Trigg. THIRD: $3,386 Big Ten 3-Year-Old Filly Trot: E L Trixie (Steven Renard)                             2:07 Trainer: Steven Renard. Owner: Steven Renard. FOURTH: $3,152 Big Ten 3-Year-Old Colt Trot: Battleshoe Crown (Buddy Simpson)  2:04.4 Trainer: Clay Simpson. Owners: Buddy and Clay Simpson. FIFTH: $900 3-Year-Old Pace: Go Run N Telithat (John Roberts)                  2:02 Trainer: Mike Titus. Owners: Mike Titus, Mitchell Titus and Dennis Wright. SIXTH: $1,832 Big Ten 3-Year-Old Filly Pace: Listen To The Beat (Freddie Patton Jr.)         2:01.4 Trainer: Gregory Tillman. Owner: Bridgette Williams. SEVENTH: $1,832 Big Ten 3-Year-Old Filly Pace: Duneside Chella (Nick Prather)                      2:02.2 Trainer: Nick Prather. Owners: Derek and Amy Jacobus. EIGHTH: $3,412 Big Ten 3-Year-Old Colt Pace: Back At Cha (Tom Walker)                            1:59.3 Trainer: Mark Walker. Owners: Karen and Larry Walker. CHRISTIAN AND TRI COUNTY FAIR AT PANA      Monday Afternoon FIRST: $1,000 Non-Winners of $2,000 L.T. Trot: Horse (Driver)                                     Time (Track Fast) Forest Raider (Dakota Birch)                         2:12 Trainer: Joan Brown. Owners: Joan and David Brown. SECOND: $1,500 Free For All Trot: LW Jaynie Flyer (Cassidy Melloy)                 2:03 Trainer: Cassidy Melloy. Owner: Cassidy Melloy. THIRD: $3,645 Big Ten 2-Year-Old Filly Pace: Fox Valley Aubry (Mike Rogers)                   2:01.1 Trainer: Freddie Patton Jr. Owner: Ron Phillips and Jesse Ferge. FOURTH: $3,524 Big Ten 2-Year-Old Filly Pace: Frosty Dune (Hart Walker)                             2:06 Trainer: Robert Walker. Owners: Robyn Klinger; Hart and Robert Walker. FIFTH: $1,125 Free For All Pace: Uneek Shuffle (Dakota Birch)                        2:03.1 Trainer: Dakota Birch. Owners: Dakota Birch and Eric Lamay. SIXTH: $1,125 Free For All Pace: Just Us (C. Alan Finn)                                    2:01.1 Trainer: C. Alan Finn. Owner: C. Alan Finn. By Mike Paradise The Illinois Harness Horsemen's Association

Going into the Du Quoin State Fair it appeared that a couple of the upcoming Super Night championships pretty much looked like slam-dunks but in horse racing things can change in a hurry, and they did in the ICF 3-year-old colt and gelding trotting division. Fox Valley Veto had dominated the group, winning every major ICF stake including the Mike’s A Mystery against older ICF foes but the Curt Grummel trainee was passed at Du Quoin in the stretch by the 9-1 longshot Nino Marino, raising the hopes his trainer, and others in the division, for the upcoming Su Mac Lad Final on Super Night. “I have to admit I’m more optimistic about our chances for Super Night now than I was going into the State Fairs,’ said Randy Tuftie, the trainer of Nino Marino. “I knew we had a good trotter but I didn’t know if we could beat Fox Valley Veto but we did.”   In his freshman season Nino Marino won over $26,000 for his owners Ron Marino of Ft. Myers, Florida and Dave Herman of Ottawa, winning his Lincoln Land elimination but the gelding began his 3-year-old season winless in his first 12 starts. “He started off as a 2-year-old slowly going through some growing issues but he got good as the season went on.” continued Tuftie. ‘”Nino Marino is a big horse and he also started slowly this year. He raced better at Springfield when he was fourth and I thought he would be good for Du Quoin. “It turned out he was better than just good. Nino Marino can leave pretty well and he’ll settle into a hole and race well that way. At Du Quoin he got a good trip behind Fox Valley Veto and when Dean pulled him, Nino Marino looked that horse right in the eye and went pass him. “As I’ve told my owners, if we stick around you never know what’s going to happen. Going into Du Quoin Fox Valley Veto looked unbeatable but you never know what’s going to happen in a horse race.” The ICF 3-year-old colt division may be of the eight Super Night championships that may not be need eliminations next weekend. Elims weren’t necessary at Springfield and only seven trotters went postward in the Pronto Don Championship at Du Quoin. A $1,500 starting fee is needed to enter Wednesday morning for the Su Mac Lad and the Lady Ann Reed for 3-year-old ICF trotting fillies. The starting fess for the 2 and 3-year-old championships is $2,000. The Tony Maurello and Lorna Propes for older ICF pacers both have $1,250 starting fees. The circuit’s leading driver Casey Leonard brought home five winners last night. Trotter Bought: The ICF 3-year-old trotter Big Bill Breeze, successful in his last 10 straight races on the Illinois Fair Circuit, was sold last week by Amy and Derek Jacobus and trainer Nick Prather to Donald Edmond of Taunton, Massachusetts. Big Bill Breeze, winner of 17 of 25 lifetime starts, is eligible for the $100,000 Su Mac Lad on Super Night (September 13). Entries for Illinois most anticipated night of racing will be taken this Wednesday morning at Balmoral Park. by Mike Paradise, for IHHA

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