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Illinois conceived and foaled stakes action was in full swing on Sunday, May 17th, at Balmoral Park as a pair of state-bred events for harness racing three-year-old trotters and pacers shared top billing on the 10-race program.   Leading the way were ICF pacing fillies as a full field of 10 second season ladies met in the $17,800 Violet Stake. As she did in last week's prep for this tussle, Kay Willis's Lex overpowered her rivals in this event, storming up first over to grab command on the far turn and then drawing clear late to win by 2¾ -lengths in a career best of 1:52.3.   Confidently handled by driver Kyle Wilfong, the daughter of Lexington Legend--I Bet U left alertly from post five tucking in third as a hard charging Fox Valley Aubrey (Robert Smolin) sped to the top from post 10, leading the field through splits of 27.2 & 56.4.   After cruising along relatively unchallenged through the opening half, things heated up on the last bend as Lex came rolling up first over to challenge while the field charged by the three-quarter-mile mark in 1:25.0.   Quickly overtaking the pace-setter, the Nelson Willis trainee zipped away to a two-length length advantage. The issue was still in doubt though through the final sixteenth of a mile before last season's Filly Orange & Blue runner-up imposed her will on her challengers, drawing clear late to win for the third time in five starts this season. Sportsmuffler (John De Long), who was used hard in the early going from post seven turned in a big effort to finish as the bridesmaid while Fox Valley Aubrey held on for third. A multiple stakes winner during her freshman campaign the homebred bay returned $3.00, $2.20 & $2.10 while upping her record to 7-4-2 in 14 starts with earnings of $83,100. Sophomore trotting colts were also on the docket Sunday night as a field of nine lined up behind the gate for an $8,000 Betzotic Stake.   Once again the Herman Wheeler owned and trained Fox Valley Qatar showed that he's the one to beat among his peers, rolling to a deceptively easy "neck" decision in a career best of 1:56.0 with Todd Warren at the controls.   Using the inside starting spot to his advantage the gelded son of Pizzazzed--Armbro Bahrain grabbed control of the proceedings after eyeballing RT Habenero (Kyle Wilfong) and Tricky Nick (Mike Oosting) battle through an opening panel in 28.4.   After allowing a hard charging Captain Greedy (J.D Finn) to grab a short lived lead, Warren had Fox Valley Qatar back out and rolling to the top as the field moved through middle splits of 57.0 & 1:26.4.   Through the stretch, last year's divisional champion appeared to be well in hand despite a shortening margin, casually shrugging off a late challenge from the pocket sitting Captain Greedy to record his 10th win in 12 career starts. Captain Greedy was forced to settle for the runner-up role on this night while Allpowernoemotion (Ronnie Gillespie) turned in a nice effort to rally for the show dough.   With the win Fox Valley Qatar boasts a record of 10-1-0 in 11 lifetime starts with earnings of $92,215. Bet as though defeat was out of the question, the bargain priced $7,000 yearling returned $2.60, $2.10 & $2.10 to his legion of backers.   Tom Kelley

However, it appears those days are behind us. Many of the Illinois bred sophomore pacers and trotters are now ready to race and those who aren’t, look to be only a week or two away. All three of this weekend’s state-bred stake races are a “go,” including the $14,000 Rambling Willie for older ICF pacers. Three weeks ago the Song Cycle, the first 3-year-old and up ICF stake, didn’t fill. Nevertheless, Saturday’s ninth race Rambling Willie saw six pacers pass the entry box, including the current big three of the ICF heavyweight division—Iam Bonasera, Fort Silky and Ice Scraper. The 9-5 morning line favorite Iam Bonasersa made a break near the top of the lane last week, costing him any chance to pick-up his third “Winner’s Over,” in a row. The 8-year-old Nelson Willis trainee did regain his stride quickly and rattled off a 26.1 last panel finishing third behind Best Man Hanover and Fort Silky. “It was just a speed break and nothing to be that concerned about”, said Iam Bonasera’s regular driver Travis Seekman. “Every once in a while he out-paces himself before he gets completely straighten out coming out of that last turn. “I kind of rushed him trying to keep up with the field because I didn’t want to have them get to too far ahead. He can come off a break quick, like he did, and always make up some ground.” Iam Bonasera drew the two-slot Saturday with the speedball Ice Scraper, programmed at 2-1, Brian Carpenter) landing the five and Fort Silky (3-1, Casey Leonard) getting the four. Ice Scraper hasn’t started at Balmoral since April 7 when he was third in a “Winner’s Over.” In fact 6 of his 9 season outings have been in Ohio at Miami Valley Raceway where he’s posted 2 of his 3 season wins. Fort Silky’s stable-mate Whirtlwindiplomacy has the pole position in the Rambling Willie with driver Dean Magee. Bob Phillips Big Brad (6-1, Bobby Smolin) leaves from the three, while Dave Brook’s Rickie Bobbie (8-1, Mike Oosting) has the outside six-slot. Last season’s 2-year-old ICF colt division champion Earndawg makes his sophomore debut in Saturday’s fourth race $8,000 Betzotic stake. He’ll open as the 2-1 public’s choice with regular driver Todd Warren. I’ll have more on this 3-year-old colt stake in Saturday’s column. Sunday’s $8,000 Koochie for 3-year-old ICF trotting fillies lured a field of eight and was carded as race two. Mike Paradise

What a difference a week makes.  Last Saturday’s Direct Balance stake for ICF 3-year-old pacing fillies wasn’t raced when only four distaffers were entered. The Balmoral Park Race Office smartly wrote the stake back for tonight and was rewarded when twice as many horses were dropped into the harness racing entry box. If you want to watch eight-horse field of state-bred sophomores’ slug it out you’ll have to stick around close to the midnight hour because the $8,000 stake was placed as the 12th and final race of the program. The first step to Super Night’s Grandma Ann stake should be worth the wait. Making her second season debut is Kay Willis’ Lex, last year’s Filly Orange and Blue bridesmaid who made nearly $65,000 in her freshman season. Lex finished worse than third only once in 9 tries, winning 4 of those races. This will be the homebred first start since last Super Night. The daughter of Lexington Legend out of the Willis’ Artsplace broodmare I Bet U, had an impressive 1:58.2 winning qualifier on Wednesday morning, drawing off by seven lengths with Brian Carpenter had driving her to the wire. Brian liked what he saw from the Nelson Willis Stable’s filly. “Lex qualified super,” said Carpenter. “She was on idle in her qualifier. The filly is like a Cadillac to drive. “I never drove her in her 2-year-old season. Kyle Wilfong drove her and the filly had a very good year. This was the first time I was ever sat behind her. “At first Nelson wanted to leave out of there with her but when we had a bunch of trotters leaving inside of her who might go out and scatter the field he told me to go easy taking her out. It turned out that nobody left and we ended up on top pretty easily. She was just pacing through the bridle at the finish. She looks like she’s just a push-button filly.” Among the 3-1 morning line favorite seven rivals in the Direct Balance is the fast-improving Southern Girl (Casey Leonard), trained by Bob Rittof, the 7-2 programmed choice, and the Roger Welch Stable’s Galley Wench, a 1:56 flat victor in her initial career start on March 22 at Balmoral. Southern Girl was taken back in her March 22 debut and was tenth and last, some 10 lengths behind at the three-quarters, but when she was asked for pace she delivered a wicked :26.1 last quarter in her fifth place finish. The Sportsmaster filly then served up back-to-back first-over triumphs, the last a 1:56.1 clocking. Galley Wench, a $30,000 yearling purchase by Bo and Pat De Long, went to Hoosier after her strong winning local bow. The filly finished a solid third in her first leg of a Series but was saddled with the 10-hole in the Final, raced on a sloppy track, and was a non-factor. The 4-1 early third choice, Galley Wench, will also take on her Welch-trained stable-mate Sporty Project (6-1, Pat Curtin). She’s also owned by Bo De Long but will race uncoupled on the wagering. Gracie On My Mind (8-1, Bobby Smolin), Duneside Perttie (6-1, Mike Oosting) and The Doe (5-1, John De Long) leave from posts 1, 2 and 3, in that order while Simply Burbon (15-1, Richard Finn)with the outside 8-slot complete the Saturday finale field. Mike Paradise

Illinois kingpins Iam Bonasera and Fort Silky will square off again Saturday night at Balmoral Park but it won’t be the $14,000 Song Cycle ICF stake as expected. For the second consecutive Saturday that initial stake for older state-bred male harness racing pacers didn’t fill. Instead the two stalwarts of the older Illinois pace division will tangle in the track’s $9,400 Winner’s Over, an event won by one or the other the 3 three times it’s been raced. The Leonard Stable’s Fort Silky held off the wo-time Super Night champion Iam Bonasera in the first two contests in March before the Nelson Willis trainee turned the tables in the March 21 feature with a come-from-behind 1:50.4 clocking. Iam Bonasera started off his 6-year-old campaign with four unsuccessful starts at The Meadowlands where he didn’t earn a dollar for his owners Erv Miller and Bert Hochsprung who sent him to his home state where he’s nailed down 26 of his 34 lifetime victories. Since joining the Nelson Willis Stable Iam Bonasera hasn’t missed a check, posted 4 wins, and is back to the top of his game. “Nelson (trainer Willis) has really done a good job of getting the horse back in top form,” said his driver Travis Seekman. “Right now he’s as good as he was when I drove him last fall when he was here (Seekman then guided the horse to his Maurello elimination victory but didn’t get the call on him for the Super Night Final). “Iam Bonasera likes Balmoral. I didn’t know why he didn’t do well out east. Maybe they just go too fast. Or maybe he doesn’t like the racing surfaces as much as he likes this one. “Right now all I really have to do is be patient with him. Wait unto they straighten out and race for home and then let him go. Usually if I can keep him 3 or 4 lengths off the leader, he’ll do just fine. He can close better than most horses at Balmoral.” Despite the recent supremacy of Balmoral’s “Winner’s Over” event, neither Iam Bonasera (9-5) nor Fort Silky (5-2, Casey Leonard) will open as the morning line favorite. That honor goes to Cam B Zipper who has been dominating for trainer Jim Ellison and driver John De Long since the 7-year-old gelding came in from Ohio at the beginning of March. He’ll be at 7-5 first flash odds. Cam B Zipper rattled of Balmoral wins in 1:51.3, 1:51.2 and 1:50.4 and likely could have gone faster in all three races for owners Dandy Farms of Glenview, Illinois; Pennsylvania Howard Taylor and trainer Ellison. The first three slots in Saturday’s seventh race will be manned by Flying Rocket (12-1, Ridge Warren), Preemptive Bid (12-1, Mike Oosting) and Best Man Hanover (6-1, Todd Warren). Sharing the Saturday spotlight will be $8,000 Direct Balance stake for ICF 3-year-old pacing fillies, the 12th and last race on the card, along with the sixth race $9,400 “Winner’s Over” for pacing fillies and mares. Not Worth the Wait: Maywood’s shift to a later 7:30 pm first post became a 7:41 pm first post last night. By 8:30 the third race just got over. All the maneuvering of post times in the end saw a not-so-hot Thursday night handle of less than $420,000. By Mike Paradise

State-bred pacing fillies will get the 2015 stake season underway at Balmoral Park on Saturday, April 11th as a field of eight sophomoreâs will line up behind the gate for the $8,000 Direct Balance Stake which goes as race 12 on the harness racing card.   Kay Willis's homebred Lex, a multiple stakes winner during her freshman season, has been accorded the morning line favoritism in this event as she makes her sophomore debut after a resounding seven-length triumph in her qualifier here at Balmoral on April 1st. The daughter of Lexington Legend closed out a very successful two-year-old campaign in which she posted a record of 4-2-2 in nine starts with nearly $65,000 in earnings, with a second place finish in the year's richest event for the ladies the $162,000 Filly Orange & Blue on Super Night. Brian Carpenter is scheduled to handle the driving duties for the Nelson Willis trainee as she starts from post position five.   The Rob Ritoff trained Southern Girl has turned home heads with back to back wins coming into this event and the lightly raced daughter of Sportsmaster figures to garner plenty of attention at the betting windows. A $34,000 purchase at the 2013 Land Of Lincoln sale, the good looking brown filly debuted with a fifth place finish here on March 22nd before posting a pair of impressive come from behind scores for the ownership group of Kristopher Heim, Connie Hochstetler and James Michels. Casey Leonard gets the call on Saturday as Southern Girl leaves from post position six.   Another to keep an eye on is Galley Wench who hails from the red-hot barn of conditioner Roger Welch. This filly also fetched a big price at the 2013 Land Of Lincoln Sale bringing a $30,000 bid from William C and William P Delong who have enjoyed plenty of success here in the Prairie State in the last few seasons. This daughter of Sportsmaster debuted with a last to first victory on March 22nd before shipping to Hoosier Park where she posted a third place finish in the opening leg of the Rosie Harness Series. A sloppy track and the dreaded 10-hole combined to do her in in the final of that event as she wound up a disappointing seventh. Todd Warren will be in the sulky behind Galley Wench as the pair starts from post position four.   Rounding out the field from the pylons out are Gracie On My Mind, Duneside Perttie, The Doe, Sporty Project and Simply Burbon. Tom Kelley

The ICF veteran pacer Iam Bonasera unleashed one of his familiar strong stretch drives and powered his way to a convincing harness racing victory in Saturday night’s “Winner’s Over” feature for pacers at Balmoral Park. Driven patiently by Travis Seekman, the betting favorite was taken back at the start of fourth race and was a fifth, almost 7 lengths behind, in the early going while Fort Silky needed a quick 26.4 first quarter to wrestle command away from Best Man Hanover. Fort Silky got his second quarter rest from driver Casey Leonard and the field went unchanged to the 55.1 half. Seekman bided his time with Iam Bonasera ($4.20), still almost 6 lengths behind, and waited for Firstclassallthway to pull to avoid racing first up. The field motored through a 28 third quarter with Firstclasallthway pressing Fort Silky, Best Man Hanover saving ground in the pocket, with Iam Bonasera shifting into high gear after being swung out for the dash to the wire. The two-time Super Night champion gobbled up ground and went from fifth to first in the lane, pulling way to a one and one-half length victory in 1:50.4. The Nelson Willis trainee paced the last half mile in a rapid 54.2 for his fourth win as an 8-year-old and the 34th of his career. Fort Silky was second best last night, snapping his two-race winning streak, while Firstclassallthway took third, another neck behind. Iam Bonasera is co-owned by the Erv Miller Stable of Wind Cap, Pennsylvania and Bert Hochsprung of Elburn, Illinois and is closing in on $740,000 in lifetime earnings. Fox Valley Veto, nicely handled by John De Long, got up in the last stride to gain a head decision over the 3-5 public’s choice Justice Jet in the $9,400 “Winner’s Over” trot co-feature two races later De Long hustled Fox Valley Veto away from the 6-post and was behind the early leader Master Of Excuses who gave up command to Celebrity Hercules soon after the 28.3 first quarter. Justice Jet got away slowly and was sixth, 10 lengths behind, and only ahead of Trotting On Over who made a break at the start. Mike Oosting took Celebrity Hercules to a 57.2 half with Justice Jet on the move and Fox Valley Veto still snuggled in third on the inside. Celebrity Hercules remained on top after a 29.1 third quarter however Justice Jet was coming on strong. De Long then got Fox Valley Veto out and right behind Justice Jet mid-way down the lane. It appeared Justice Jet was going to win for the 6th time in 7 season starts but a late surge by “Veto” gave the 4-year-old ICF trotter the narrow victory. Celebrity Hercules was third, beaten only one length. Fox Valley Veto came into the race with four consecutive second place finishes in Balmoral’s trot feature nevertheless he wasn’t going to be denied last night for Carrollton, Illinois owners Curt Grummel and Craig Grummel. The 5-1 third choice in the wagering paid a generous $13.40 to his supporters. Casey Leonard followed a win Friday night at Maywood with another four-bagger last night at Balmoral.. . Eleventh race winner Rockin Cougar ($10.00) was a Mike Paradise Price Shot. Mike Paradise

About three weeks ago former two-time Super Night champ Iam Bonasera returned to Illinois under the care of veteran harness racing trainer Nelson Willis with almost nothing thing on his card after his first four season starts out east. The 2012 Illinois Harness Horse of the Year earned over $700,000 in his career before stumbling out of the starting gate as a 6-year-old. However that has all turned around since he’s been back in Illinois. Saturday night he’ll carry a three-race winning streak with almost $10,000 in purse earnings raked-in for owners John Carver and Erv Miller in his trio of starts at Balmoral Park. “Iam Bonasera has been in much easier here so far than he was out east,” explained Willis. “He can dominate these lower classes. Saturday he’s taken on better horses. He does like a big track. It’ll be interesting to see how the horse does against them. If he’s right he’ll come on with authority, that’s for sure.” Iam Bonasera opens as the 5-2 second choice when he steps up in Balmoral’s “Winner’s Over” feature against five tough foes, headed up by the 2-1 morning line favorite Ice Scraper (Brian Carpenter). Sawgrass Farms Best Man Hanover (3-1, Todd Warren) has the pole position while last week’s 10-1 surprise winner Firstclassallthway (4-1, John De Long) has the five-slot. If I Lose) 8-1, Bobby Smolin) and Feel N Funk E (8-1, Tim Curtin) are the other ninth race challengers. I asked Nelson if he made any changes to Iam Bonasera since he joined his stable. “Not at all,” he replied. “The horse has the same equipment on that he had when he came here. I don’t know if I changed his training tactics. The week before he made his first start for me I trained him on a Saturday in 2:02 and came back with him the following Tuesday in ’58’ “In between his races with me I’ve been training him in about 2:12, the last half in ‘04’ and the last quarter in 30 seconds, “The horse had a little blood issue. One of them has been straighten out and the other is well on its way to being taken care off. He’s just a big old pleasure horse to be around. I had to race against him in the past so it’s nice to have him on my side now.” Travis Seekman, who drove Iam Bonasera to his Maurello Super Night elimination victory last year, is 3-for-3 with the son of Cole Muffler for Willis. “Travis has been doing a real great job with the horse. He drives a very smart race out there. Travis drives a horse good and he doesn’t bring him back with the horse’s tongue hanging out. I like the young man.” In the co-featured second race :Winner’s Over” for distaffers, six mares will try to start the high-flying Wings from extending her winning streak to four in a row and 7 out of the last 8 for her trainer and owner Merle Finn Jr. Last week Wings dominated, winning by three lengths and pacing a 26 flat last quarter with her regular pilot Tim Curtin. Wings has the outside 7-slot while the first 6 posts will be manned by Window Wiper (programmed 10-1, Casey Leonard), Our Miss Lilly 10-1, Mike Oosting), State Street Liz (5-1, Bobby Smolin), Feel Like Dancing (8-1, Kyle Wilfong), Muy Caliente (10-1, Travis Seekman) and Just By Design (4-1, Ryan Anderson). Price Shot Nailed: Friday night’s eleventh race winner Island Jet was a Mike Paradise Price Shot winner at $13.60. The $40.20 Exacta of 3-6 was also correctly picked. By Mike Paradise

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

State-bred filly and mare pacers headlined the final night of the 2014 racing season at Balmoral Park as a field of seven distaffers squared off in the $15,000 Fox Valley Memory Stake. In what has been a very competitive division all season long John Barnard's Ryleigh's Lilly came up with a big effort to close out her four-year-old season as she powered to the top after the quarter and never looked back in route to a 1 ½ -length victory in 1:53.4 for Balmoral's leading driver Casey Leonard. Confidently handled by Chicago's leading reinseman, the daughter of Western Hero--Fox Valley Chosen came away fourth in the field of seven as Party Hangover (Ridge Warren) and State Street Liz (Robert Smolin) battled through an opening quarter in 28.2. Quickly hitting top gear as the field settled on the backstretch the Bill Crone trained miss charged from fourth to first in a flash, leading the field through middle splits of 57.2 & 1:25.2. With plenty in reserve for the stretch drive, Ryleigh's Lilly sealed the deal with a 28.2 final quarter while keeping her rivals at bay for her eighth victory of the season. State Street Liz held on for second while Just By Design (Dave Magee) turned a ground saving trip into a third place finish. With the win Ryleigh's Lilly closed out the 2014 season with a record of 8-4-6 in 35 starts while adding another $59,000 to a career bankroll which now stands at $82,538. Heavily backed at the windows the 4-5 betting favorite returned $3.80, $3.00 & $2.10. Balmoral also honored Leonard as the 2014 driving champion while longtime veteran Nelson Willis took home the 2014 training title at the Crete oval. Leonard, a third generation horseman who did not start driving regularly until 2009 ended the 2014 season with 204 victories at Balmoral Park easily outdistancing second place finisher Todd Warren by more than 60 victories. Leonard put up a U.D.R.S. of .330 at Balmoral while horses driven by him earned more than $1.38 million in purses. Willis, who also captured the training title here in 2012, finished up the 2014 season with 71 victories, 23 win ahead of runner-up Erin Elliott. With more than 500 starts at the meet, Willis put up a U.T.R.S. of .266 while his horses earned more than $563,000 in purses. Live racing resumes on Saturday, Jan 3rd. Post time is 7:10 p.m. (central). Balmoral will also race on Sunday, Jan. 4th before heading to a short break. Live racing will then return on Saturday, Jan 31st. by Tom Kelley, for Balmoral Park

Illinois conceived and foaled two-year-olds shared top billing on Friday's Maywood Park card as a pair of elimination tussles for freshmen pacers were contested. Fillies kicked off the action with a field of eight gathering behind the gate for a $10,000 Violet Stake elimination. The top five finishers will get the chance to join Sportsmuffler, Angel Demon and Duneside Perttie in next Friday's $43,600 final. With the defection of division leaders Mr Leland's Filly and Lex, the final should be a wide-open event but the betting public was right on for the elimination as 7-5 favorite Luvniecestopieces posted a two-length wire to wire victory in 1:57.1 for driver Todd Warren. Sent right to the front from post six by Warren the daughter of Yankee Skyscaper--Fox Valley Dujour cruised through splits of 27.4, 58.2 & 1:27.3 while never being challenged. With plenty in reserve and an outer flow that was going nowhere, the Hart Walker trained miss rolled home in 29.3 to notch her third win in 10 starts this season. Fox Valley Charm (Kyle Wilfong) shook loose late to wind up as the bridesmaid while Fox Valley Kit (Brian Carpenter) was third. Also gaining spots in the final were Girls Hunt Too and Lyrics Fall. The public's choice returned $4.80, $3.60 & $2.60 while moving her record to 3-4-1 in 10 starts with earnings of $19,551 for the partnership of Hart & Robert Walker, Robyn Klingler and Homer Henke. The Cardinal elimination also brought out a field of eight youngsters and produced another front stepping winner as Engel Stable of Illinois The Big Sleazy reported home with a half-length win in 1:56.4 with Dave Magee at the controls. After working hard to gain control of the proceedings the gelded son of Sagebrush--Decent Lawyer stepped through splits of 28.3, 58.3 & 1:27.4 for his Hall of Fame reinseman. The Nelson Willis trainee appeared to be well within himself through the lane turning back a brief bid from the pocket sitting Mighty Hot Shot (Todd Warren) as he notched his second win in seven lifetime starts. Mighty Hot Shot was forced to settle for the runner-up role on this night while C Note (Travis Seekman) took the "overland" route to a deceptively strong third place finish. With the top four in this event moving on the last spot in next week's $43,350 final went to Thisishowweroll. They will be joined by Dupage's Z Tam, Earndawg, King Of The Swamp and Lucpark. Bet to even-money favoritism The Big Sleazy returned $4.00, $2.40 & $2.10 while pushing his lifetime slate to 2-2-1 in 7 starts with earnings of $23,070. by Tom Kelley, for Maywood Park  

Illinois conceived and foaled three-year-olds shared top billing on the Sunday night card at Balmoral Park as a pair of Super Night Stake Consolation's headlined the 10-race harness racing card.   Trotters kicked off the action with a field of seven diagonally gaited sophomores squaring off in the $20,000 Su Mac Lad Consolation. This test turned into a stroll in the park for Ron Marino and David Hermann's Nino Marino as he stormed right to the front and never looked back in a three-length victory. The final time was 1:56.1.   Confidently handled by driver Dean Magee, the gelded son of Pizzazzed--Charger's Affair gunned to the top from post six and proceeded to put up splits of 28.2, 57.2 & 1:26.1 while opening up a 5 ½ length advantage at the top of the stretch.   On cruise control the rest of the way the Randy Tuftie trainee was threatened as he reported home with his second win in 16 starts this season. Saint Simeon (Rick Schrock) rallied late to finish second while Photo Surprise (Todd Warren) was third.   The $21,900 Grandma Ann Stake Consolation for three-year-old pacing fillies also produced a wire to wire winner as Sawgrass Farms Molly Go Lightly bested six rivals by a half-length in 1:54.0 for driver Dave Magee.   Using an inside draw to perfection Magee put the daughter of Lexington Legend--Waggle right on the front where she proceeded to step through splits of 28.0, 57.4 & 1:26.1.   After opening up a three-length advantage by the mid-stretch call the Nelson Willis trainee then held on gamely as a late rushing Fox Valley Shiver (Todd Warren) came charging late to get the place money. Kiwi Party (John De Long) finished third.   The win was the third in 15 starts this season for Molly Go Lightly who now boasts career earnings of just over $98,000. Tom Kelley

Illinois conceived and foaled trotters and pacers were back in the spotlight on Saturday night at Balmoral Park as the Crete plant played host to four stakes or consolations for Super Night participants as part of the big 13-race harness racing program.   Freshmen pacing fillies kicked off the action with a field of nine going postward in the $13,900 Thrifty Way Stake.   Avenging a pair of recent tough trips that led to sub-par efforts Quaid Racing's Angel Demon came steamrolling down the center of the track to record a 3 ½ length victory in a career best of 1:54.2 for driver John De Long.   Saving ground the entire way, the daughter of Sportsmaster--Miss Swift appeared to be hopelessly shuffled out of contention before De Long managed to shake loose from the pylons.   Storming down the center of the track Angel Demon blew right by a leg weary Girls Hunt Too to pick up her first career victory. Longshot Desi Dune (Todd Warren) turned in a nice effort to finish second while Girls Hunt Too was third.   Now in the barn of conditioner Erin Elliott, Angel Demon returned $5.00, $3.60 & $3.40 while pushing her bankroll to $48,113.   Trotters were next to hit the track as a field of seven diagonally gaited three-year-old fillies battled in the $20,000 Lady Ann Reed Consolation.   Making amends for her costly break in the rich Super Night final of this event, Donald Huddleston's Macie Rae was on her best behavior as she made every call a winning one, reporting home by 4 ¾ lengths in 1:57.1.   With trainer Mike Rogers climbing into the bike for this battle the daughter of Powerful Emotion--Fox Valley Poetry stormed right to the front, putting up splits of 29.1, 58.1 & 1:27.0.   After opening up a big lead at the top of the stretch, Rogers let his filly drift a bit through the stretch and she responded beautifully to that careful handling as she widened her margin while notching her 11th victory in 15 starts this season. Bands Alexis (Todd Warren) tried to follow the winner's every move but was forced to settle for a runner-up role while Fox Valley Skylar (Dale Hiteman) finished third.   Heavily backed off her sparkling record Macie Rae returned just $2.80, $2.80 & $2.20 while upping her career earnings to $89,520 with career win number 19.   Freshmen pacing colts jumped into the fray with a field of nine youngsters battling in the $13,900 Yates Eagle Stake.   Taking advantage of a perfect two-hole trip, Fox Valley Elijah came rolling through the passing lane to win by 1 ½ lengths in a career best of 1:54.2.   Perfectly positioned by driver Todd Warren, the gelded son of Sportsmaster--Eternal Gift had all the best of it while C Note (Travis Seekman) carved out splits of 29.0, 58.3 & 1:27.0.   Fit and fresh off that journey the Nelson Willis trainee gradually wore down the pace setter, drawing clear in the shadow of the wire for his second lifetime win for the partnership of Kay Willis, Engel Stable Of Illinois and Haugen Stables. C Note held on gamely to finish second while Casey At Bat (Dean Magee) found room late to rally for the show dough.   Part of a Willis owned entry Fox Valley Elijah returned $9.60, $4.20 & $4.00 while moving his bankroll to $15,890.   Last but not least were sophomore pacing colts as a field of nine three-year-olds squared off in the $22,400 Pete Langley Memorial Consolation. This race provided the biggest shocker of the night as 19-1 longshot Fox Valley Cupid parlayed a perfect trip into a thrilling nose decision in a career best of 1:52.3.   Hustled off the wings of the gate by Robert Smolin the gelded son of Yankee Skyscaper--Fox Valley Cherub landed in the garden spot right on the back of favored Uncle Ugly as that one put up hot splits of 26.3, 55.1 & 1:23.2.   Moving into the passing lane the Mike Schulfer trainee gradually wore down the favorite and then held on for dear life as Overloaded (Kyle Wilfong) came flying late to just miss. The other half of that Tom Simmons trained entry; Fox Valley Van (Dale Hiteman) was a fast closing third.   The win was just the second in a 34-race career for Fox Valley Cupid who has still managed to earn a "cool" $115,830 for owner James Strazlka, Mike Schulfer, James Skvarla and Nancy Magnus. Those lucky enough to back the bay sophomore were rewarded with mutuels of $40.80, $12.80 & $5.80.   Saturday's 50 cent Pick 5 wager was not hit so there will be a carryover of $6,168 added to Sunday's pool. Thus, there will now be a GUARANTEED POOL OF $50,000 for Sunday's Pick 5 wager. The Pick 5 is contested on races 2-6 on Sunday's.   Past performances courtesy of Trackmaster for the 50 Cent Pick 5 and the $1 Pick with its $25,000 guaranteed pool can be found at ustrotting.com   Tom Kelley  

A trio of trotting events, headlined by a pair of Hanover Stakes for two-year-old trotters, shared top billing on the Sunday, August 3rd card at Balmoral Park as the Crete plant headed towards a two-week break in the live action for the Illinois State Fair in Springfield. The ladies kicked off the Sunday night stake action with a compact field of six diagonally gaited youngsters battling for a $29,500 jackpot to start the Hanover action. A familiar face to the Chicago racing scene took home top honors in this event as Walter and Paige Paisley's Sloane Elise picked up her first lifetime victory with a very impressive 1 ¼ length victory in 1:56.4. Dave Magee handled the driving duties for trainer Nelson Willis. Kept well off hot early splits of 28.4, 57.0 & 1:27.1 that were being set by a headstrong PT Kaye (Marshall Makin), Magee finally started to zero in on the pace setter as the field reached the top of the stretch. With the leader coming to a halt, heavily favored Fox Valley Yoko (John De Long) quickly grabbed command in the lane but the lead was short lived as Sloane Elise found her best stride. Taking dead aim on the 1-5 favorite, this daughter of ABC Garland--Touch Of Victory scooted right by the "chalk", sealing the deal with a 29.1 final quarter to post her maiden breaking victory. Fox Valley Yoko was forced to settle for the bridesmaid role while Lima Pizzas (Travis Seekman) was third. With the win the Indiana bred Sloane Elise now sports a record of 1-1-0 in 4 career starts with earnings of $26,486. The second choice in the wagering returned $9.20, $2.60 & $2.10. Another field of six was sent postward in the $28,900 two-year-old colt trot and once again it was the second choice in the wagering who wound up toting home the top prize as Lilly Racing Stables & Shelley Steele's Cruisin Valor rolled to an easy five-length victory in 2:00.1 for driver Brian Carpenter. Sent right to the front from post position five the gelded son of Yankee Valor--Heather Nan led the field through an opening quarter in 30.2. With Carpenter hitting the breaks on the backstretch heavily favored Southrncomfortzone (John De Long) grabbed the lead before going off stride as the field reached the half-mile mark in 1:01.3. That miscue left Cruisin Valor all alone on the front end as he rolled by the three-quarter-mile mark in 1:31.1. Leaving the rest of the field in his wake, the Gerald Hansen trainee left no doubt as to who was best on this night as he reported home with his second win in three career starts. Powerful Above All (Casey Leonard) turned a ground saving trip into a second place check while Air Force Blue (Mike Cox) was third. With the win Cruisin Valor now boasts $17,919 for his connections. The bay gelding returned $6.60, $3.60 & $3.20 to his backers. State-bred trotters were also in action on Sunday night as a field of eight, three-year-olds and up, squared off in the $25,000 Mikes A Mystery Stake. Fresh off his big win in the Kadabra Stake last week, Curt and Craig Grummel's Fox Valley Veto had no trouble handling older rivals as he posted a 4 ½ length victory in a career best of 1:55.1 for driver John De Long. Saving ground in mid-pack as Powerful Poe (Dave Magee) and Ants Iner Pants (Dean Magee) traded blows on the front end through opening splits of 29.1 & 58.1 De Long moved the Curt Grummel trained sophomore to the outside as the field raced around the final bend. Taking dead aim on Ants Iner Pants as that mare rolled by the three-quarter-mile mark in 1:27.1 Fox Valley Veto began to unleash what has become a very potent closing burst. Sailing home in a brisk 27.2 the altered son of Pizzazzed--Yankee Victory zipped right by his rivals to notch his fourth win of the season. Ants Iner Pants held on for second while Powerful Poe held on for third. With Sunday's victory Fox Valley Veto now sports a career record of 5-6-0 in 18 starts with earnings of $127,194. Heavily backed at the betting windows after his Southland Festival of Racing victory Fox Veto returned $3.40, $2.40 & $2.10. Both Balmoral & Maywood will be dark for live racing until Friday, August 15th (Maywood) and Saturday, August 16th(Balmoral) as the action heads to Springfield for the State Fair Stakes. by Tom Kelley, for Balmoral Park

Freshmen pacers stepped into the spotlight on Saturday, August 2nd at BalmoralPark as a pair of Hanover Stakes for two-year-olds shared top billing on the big 13-race card.   The boys kicked off the action as a field of nine were sent postward for a $34,900 jackpot. Despite a win in his last start and the fact he was part of a three-horse entry Kay Willis's Gold Star Image escaped at odds of 7-1 and the rapidly improving youngster made his doubters pay as he rolled to a 2 ¼ length victory in a career best of 1:53.2 for driver Dale Hiteman.   Leaving quickly from post 10, the gelded son of Rockin Image--Village Mimic settled into a nice spot in fourth as Lucpark (Dave Magee) and Indian Outlaw (Travis Seekman) battled through an opening quarter in 27.2.   With several horses getting underway from the back of the pack, Hiteman quickly maneuvered the Nelson Willis trainee to the outside, charging to the front as the field reached the half in 56.4.   In control of things around the bend Gold Star Image proceeded to lead the field through three-quarters in 1:25.2.   After turning aside a first over bid from Earndawg (Pat Curtin) the $4,000 bargain yearling buy dug in gamely holding last week's Mini Me Stake winner King of the Swamp (Todd Warren) and the ground saving Lucpark at bay through the lane. A late charging Indian Outlaw shook loose in time to rally for the place money while King Of The Swamp salvaged the show dough.   Gold Star Image returned a healthy $17.80, $6.40 & $4.60 while running his record to 2-0-1 in 4 starts with earnings of $19,930.   A compact field of five fillies was sent postward in their Hanover test and once again Leyland Mathias and Paymaq Racing's Mr Leland's Filly continued to turn heads with her big closing kick as she rallied for a 1 ½ length triumph in 1:54.3 with Casey Leonard in tow.   Content to save ground while chief rival Lex (Kyle Wilfong) strolled through splits of 29.1 & 58.3 Leonard finally moved the daughter of Sportsmaster--Incredible Katie to the outside as the field reached the three-quarter-mile mark in 1:27.3.   With the pace setter begin to drift a bit in the lane, Leonard dove back to the inside with the Ervin Miller trained miss and she responded beautifully, gobbling up the leader and quickly drawing clear for her second straight stakes score. Lex held on for second while another Miller trainee, Angel Demon (Ryan Anderson) was third.   Heavily backed at the betting windows after her win in the Loyal Opposition Stake last week Mr Leyland's Filly returned $3.40, $2.20 & $2.10 while upping her record to 2-0-0 in four starts with earnings of $35,770.   The Hanover Stakes action continues on Sunday with a pair of events for two-year-old trotters. State-bred trotters will also be in action in the $25,000 Mikes A Mystery Stake. Post time is 7:10 p.m. for the Sunday card. Both Balmoral & Maywood will then be dark for live racing until Friday, August 15th (Maywood) and Saturday, August 16th (Balmoral) as the action heads to Springfield for the State Fair Stakes. Tom Kelley

State-bred pacers were in the spotlight on a busy Saturday night of harness racing action at Balmoral Park as the Crete plant played host to a pair of ICF Stake eliminations in preparation for next weekends big Southland Festival of Racing.   Freshman pacing fillies kicked off the elimination action as a field of 10 were sent to battle in a $10,000 Loyal Opposition Stake elimination. The top nine finishers will join Lyrics Fall in next week's $43,500 final.   Fresh off back to back victories Kay Willis's good looking filly Lex made it three in a row as she cruised to an easy four-length win in a career best of 1:55.0 with Kyle Wilfong in tow.   Despite having to make three big moves throughout this tussle the bay daughter of Lexington Legend--I Bet U still managed to pace a back half in a brisk 56.0 to secure her third win in four lifetime starts for veteran conditioner Nelson Willis. Duneside Pertie (John De Long) shook loose to rally for the place money while 80-1 longshot Fox Valley Kit (Pat Curtin) took home the show dough. Also gaining spots in the final were Girls Hunt Too, Angel Demon, Mr Leland's Filly, Duneside Splash, Forsaken Glory and BS Tyrichess.   A total of 13 two-year-old pacing colts were dropped into the box for the Mini Me Stake necessitating a pair of $10,000 elimination tussles. The top five in each division will return next Saturday night to battle for a $48,000 jackpot.   In the first elimination Rocco Ruffolo's Lucpark showed a great deal of grit and determination as he overcame a tough trip in route to a 1 ¾ length victory in a lifetime best of 1:54.4 with Dave Magee at the controls.   Grinding it out on for the final five-eighths of a mile while trying to reel in the pace setting Earndawg (Todd Warren) as he put up splits of 29.2, 57.1 & 1:26.4 the gelded son of Sportsmaster--Treasure The Best found his best stride in the late going, sealing the deal with a 27.4 final quarter to notch his second win in three career starts for trainer Erv Miller. Casey At Bat (John De Long) finished second while Earndawg held on for third. Also moving on to the final will be Get Your Camo On and Fox Valley Elijah.   In the second elimination William C & William P. De Long's King Of The Swamp made every call a winning one as he held on to record a three-quarter-length verdict in a lifetime best of 1:55.0.   After cruising through splits of 28.4, 58.3 & 1:27.2 the gelded son of Sportsmaster--She's Redhot, who was an $85,000 yearling purchase dug in gamely keeping Thisishowweoll (John De Long--2nd) and Dakota Roadster (Robert Smolin--3rd) at bay for his second win in four career starts. Also gaining spots in next week's final were Fox Valley Cadet and Gett'er Done Dune.   Sophomore pacing fillies were also in action on Saturday night as a field of 10 state-bred three-year-olds battled in a $7,000 "prep" for next week's Ann Vonian Stake.   This hotly contested division provided another thrilling finish as Quaid Racing LLC's My Little Bit and driver Casey Leonard wound up prevailing by a hard fought head in a career best of 1:52.3. Fox Valley Amanda (Dale Hiteman) was second while Molly Go Lightly (Matt Krueger) was third in the tight three-horse photo. The top three finishers were all sent off as odds of 2-1.   The Ervin Miller trained daughter of Sportsmaster--Parade Of Love now boasts nine wins, three seconds and two thirds in 20 lifetime starts with earnings of nearly $160,000.   For more information on the big Southland Festival of Racing please visit www.balmoralpark.com.      

Coming off an impressive late rushing victory in her second lifetime start at Balmoral Park, Kay Willis's good looking freshman pacing filly Lex showed that a half-mile oval also suits her style as she blew right by her rivals in the lane to record a sharp two-length victory in Thursday's $10,000 My Metallica Stake at Maywood Park. The final time was 1:57.3. Well positioned in third as the heavily favored Lyrics Fall, who came into the race sporting a perfect two for two record carved out splits of 29.2, 1:00 & 1:29.1 driver Kyle Wilfong moved the daughter of Lexington Legend--I Bet U first over as the field moved into the final turn. Chewing up ground quickly on the outside of her rivals, the Nelson Willis trained miss overtook the pace setter as the field straightened for the money and then began to draw clear of the field while under only mild urging from her confident pilot. Lyrics Fall was forced to settle for the bridesmaid role on this night while BS Tyrichess (Brian Carpenter) shook loose late to rally for the show dough. Sent off as the second choice in the betting Lex returned $7.20, $3.00 & 3.60 while moving her bankroll up to $8,040 for her owner-breeder. Live racing continues on Friday, July 11th at Maywood Park with the 1st Annual Windy City Wiener Nationals providing some great entertainment for both young and old between the first six races on the card. There will also be food and drink specials offered along with some great giveaways as part of the U.S.T.A.'s Back To The Track promotion. Post time for the first race is 7:10 p.m. (central). by Tom Kelley, for Maywood Park

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