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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

After a nasty thunderstorm caused a 35 minute delay to start the Sunday, May 11th card at Balmoral Park the action was hot and heavy the rest of the evening as a pair of state-bred events shared top billing on the program. The stakes action kicked off with trotters as a field seven three-year-old fillies met in a $10,000 Betzotic Stake. Despite being away since last October, Donald Huddleston's Macie Rae looked fit and fresh as she came splashing through the passing lane to post a 1 ¼ length victory in a career best of 1:59.1 for driver Ryan Anderson.   Hustled away from the outside starting spot by Anderson, the daughter of Powerful Emotion--Fox Valley Poetry settled perfectly into third through the early going as High Balance (Casey Leonard) led the field through splits of 31.1, 101.2 & 1:30.0.   With High Balance and last year's division Bailey's Wish (Lewayne Miller) battling tooth and nail through the lane, Anderson patiently maneuvered the Mike Rogers trained miss into the passing lane where she quickly gobbled up the embattled leaders to post her ninth win in 20 lifetime starts. Bailey's Wish was forced to settle for the runner-up role while High Balance hung on for third.   With the win Macie Rae, who returned $8.40, $5.20 & $3.40 boasts career numbers of 9-3-3 in 20 trips postward with earnings of $27,867.   A $10,000 elimination for the first "major" stake of the 2014 season was contested on Sunday as well but with the field of 10 Illinois conceived and foaled three-year-old pacing fillies knocked down to seven because of scratches this wound up being a "prep" for next week's $44,700 Violet Stake.   Nonetheless trainer Nelson Willis had to be happy as a pair of fillies trained by the veteran conditioner wound up in the top two spots with the Sawgrass Farms & Kay Willis owned Cuzimalegend overtaking last season's division leader Thesleazyprincess to score by a half-length in 1:57.2 for driver Dale Hiteman.   Using the inside starting spots to perfection driver Todd Warren put Thesleazyprincess right on the lead from the word go. With Hiteman and Cuzimalegend sitting in the garden spot, Thesleazyprincess paced through splits of 30.3, 1:00.3 & 1:29.2. Fit and fresh after the two-hole journey a determined Cuzimalegend gradually wore down her stablemate with a sharp 27.3 to post her first lifetime victory. Thesleazyprincess was forced to settle for the bridesmaid role while favored My Little Bit (Casey Leonard) finished third.   The home-bred daughter of Lexington Legend--Cuzurinittowinit, who was scheduled to be coupled in the wagering with the scratched Molly Go Lightly (sick) returned $7.80, $4.00 & $2.10 while pushing her bankroll up to $10,093.   Live racing continues at Balmoral Park on Wednesday, May 14th win a nine-card card getting underway at 7:10 pm (central). The Wednesday Pick 4 will have a $10,000 guaranteed pool and will entail races six through nine. Past performances for the Pick 4 races, courtesy of Trackmaster can be found at www.ustrotting.com. by Tom Kelley, for Balmoral Park

With the 2013 racing season in the books a couple of very familiar faces on the Chicago circuit toted home top honors in the training and driving ranks as veterans Perry Smith and Mike Oosting each completed “daily doubles” by sweeping the training and driving titles respectively at Maywood and Balmoral Park. The 62-year-old Smith who is a Crete, Illinois resident began his career back in the mid-1970’s as a driver-trainer before becoming a full-time trainer in 1989. Since then Smith trained- horses have racked up 1296 victories and more than $8.3 million in purse money. Currently, Smith has 35 head in training at Sawgrass Farms. “I did a lot of racing at both tracks this year,” said Perry. “The key to being successful is knowing where your horses fit and getting them in those spots. If you’re realistic about them and put them in the right spots you can be successful and make money with them.” In the Maywood standings Smith recorded 69 victories from 347 starts for a 19.9% win ratio. David Mc Caffrey finished second with 56 winners from 426 starters while Angie Affrunti was third with 50 wins in 221 starts. The Balmoral title came down to the final weekend but when the smoke cleared it was Smith edging out another veteran, Nelson Willis by a 71-69 margin. Smith sent out 422 starters at the Crete oval for a 16.8% win ratio. Mike Brink finished third with 52 trips to the winner’s circle. On the driving side of the docket, Mike Oosting continued to dominate the ranks defeating Casey Leonard by a margin of 219-201 at Maywood Park and 270-197 at Balmoral Park for his “daily double”.  John De Long finished third in the Maywood standings while Dave Magee was third at Balmoral. The Balmoral title was the eighth in the last nine years for the Beecher, Illinois resident who now sports 5,651 career wins and more than $35.5 million in purse earnings. It also marked the eighth straight year the 52-year-old Oosting has finished with a U.D.R. of higher than .300.   For complete stats and information on both tracks including the big Meadowlands Handicapping contest taking place at Maywood Park and the Illinois O.T.B.’s which starts on Friday, Jan. 3rd visit www.maywoodpark.com and www.balmoralpark.com. by Tom Kelley for Balmoral and Maywood Park

Fresh off the two biggest wins in his career, Jerry Graham’s Photo Surprise continued his late season surge towards divisional honors among the Illinois conceived and foaled two-year-old colt trotting set as he cruised to an easy 3 ¾ length victory in Wednesday’s $42,200 Cardinal Stake at Balmoral Park. Confidently handled by driver Mike Oosting the gelded son of Powerful Emotion—Gloria Wyoming was unhurried early from his inside post content to trot along in third as Nino Marino (Dean Magee) and Tour Hall (Dirk Simpson) battled through an opening quarter in 30.0. Heading up the backstretch Oosting moved the Nelson Willis trainee to the outside where hemade a steady advance to the front finally taking command just as the field moved by the half-mile in 59.0. Heading around the far turn Photo Surprise continued to show the way past the three-quarter-mile mark in 1:28.4. Leaving the field in his wake as he splashed through the lane, this year’s Lincoln Land & Hanover Stake winner was on cruise control the rest of the way widening his margin all the way through the wire while posting his fourth win in nine starts. Fox Valley Veto (John Roberts) rallied from far back to be a sharp second while Nino Marino held onfor third. The even-money favorite returned $4.00, $3.00 & $2.60 while upping his career bankroll to $96,825. by Tom Kelley for Balmoral Park  

A pair of state-bred stake events for two-year-olds shared top billing on Saturday, Oct. 19th at Balmoral Park as a field of eight freshmen pacing fillies squared off the $12,000 Beecher Stake while seven of their male counterparts met in the $12,000 Crete Stake. Continuing her late season run at divisional honors Sawgrass Farms Molly Go Lightly parlayed a perfect two-hole trip into her fifth straight victory as she prevailed by a well-measured length in 1:54.2.   Perfectly positioned in the pocket behind Fox Valley Amanda (Dale Hiteman) by driver Mike Oosting, the homebred daughter of Lexington Legend—Waggle saved ground the entire way as the pace setter put up splits of 29.1, 57.4 & 1:27.0.   Sitting behind their cover until the eighth-pole, Oosting then maneuvered the Nelson Willis trainee to the outside eventually wearing down the leader with a 27.1 final quarter to post her sixth win in 13 career starts. Fox Valley Amanda was forced to settle for the bridesmaid role while Thesleazyprincess (Casey Leonard) was third, five lengths behind the winner.   With the win the 1-5 favorite in the betting who returned $2.40 $2.10 & $2.10 now boasts a record of 6-1-3 with $56,895 in career earnings despite missing the division’s richest event of the year, the Filly Orange & Blue on Super Night.             Fresh off an impressive win in a $12,000 Betzotic Stake last week, Jack and Peggy Hood, Mystical Marker Farms and Dirk Simpson Stables Traffic Cop curbed six rivals for the second straight week as the Dirk Simpson trainee cruised to a 2 ½ length score in 1:52.2.       Taking advantage of perfect two-hole trip that driver Todd Warren worked out for the son of Sportsmaster-Dixiegirl the bay gelding was fit and fresh after sitting on the back of heavily favored Unlocked (Mike Oosting) as that colt clicked off splits of 28.0, 57.0 & 1:25.0.   Quickly swallowing up the pace setter in the stretch, Traffic Cop sped home in 27.0 to notch his fourth win in 15 tries. Unlocked was forced to settle for the runner-up role for the second straight week while I Bizel The Shizel (John De Long) finished a distant third, 9 ¾ lengths behind the victor.   The win moved Traffic Cop’s career earnings up to $77,635 on the strength of a 4-4-2 record in 15 starts. The 2-1 second choice returned $6.00 & $2.80. There was no show wagering on the race. by Tom Kelley for Balmoral Park  

A busy stakes-filled night of action was contested on Sunday, October 13th as the Crete plant welcomed Grand Circuit action back to town. On tap was a pair of $27,950 splits for two-year-old filly trotters while their male counterparts slugged it out later in the night for a $46,700 jackpot. In the first Hanover split for the freshman trotting fillies Bobby Brower and Mystical Marker Farms Petticoat Affair had no trouble living up to her favored status as she cruised to a 4 ¾ -length triumph in 1:57.1 with Brad Hanners at the controls. Sweeping from fifth to first on the backside after watching Dancing Dynamite (Dean Magee) cruise through an opening quarter in 28.2, the daughter of Valley Victor—Katie Hall was in complete control of the proceedings as she rolled through middle splits of 58.0 & 1:27.3. With plenty still in reserve the Bobby Brower trained miss trotted home in 29.3 while continuing to put daylight between herself and her five rivals to notch her fifth win in eight starts this year. Dancing Dynamite held on for second while Fox Valley Lotus (John Roberts), who made a break leaving the gate, rallied to finish third. Sent off as the 4-5 favorite Petticoat Affair returned $3.60, $2.40 & $2.40 while upping her career bankroll to $185,124. In the second division the Brower-trained, Hanners-driven connection clicked again as Victory Hill Farms and Bobby Brower’s Pray With Me demolished six rivals by seven-lengths in 1:58.4. After saving ground in third while Dress For Success (Dale Hiteman) carved out leisurely splits of 30.0 & 1:00.1, Hanners set the daughter of Broadway Hall—Hail Mary Hanover on a mission for the lead heading into the final bend.  Effortlessly sweeping past her foes on the turn, the Brower trained miss was in front by a length and starting to leave her rivals in her wake as she stepped by the three-quarter-mile mark in 1:29.4.  Leaving no doubt as to who was the best in this group Pray With Me trotted home in 29.0 to post her third win in eight lifetime starts. Simply Class (Joe Putnam) finished second while Pinking Of You (Casey Leonard) was third. Bet as though defeat was out of the question Pray With Me returned $2.40, $2.20 & $2.10 while upping her bankroll to $64,026. A field of nine two-year-old trotting colts was sent postward for the $46,700 Hanover and when all was said and done it was last week’s Lincoln Land Stake winner Photo Surprised who emerged victorious as he trotted to a one- length victory in a career best of 1:57.4 for driver Mike Oosting. Gamely “toughing it out” first over as Nino Marino (Dean Magee) put up splits of 28.2 & 58.1 the Nelson Willis trainee swept past his rivals on the far turn and began to draw away from the field as he rolled by the three-quarter-mile mark in 1:28.1. Continuing in full stride as he headed for the wire the state-bred son of Powerful Emotion—Gloria Wyoming was straight and strong as he continued his late season surge with his third win in eight career starts. Big Bad Bob (Dale Hiteman) rallied late to finish second while Explosive Cash (Casey Leonard) was third. Fresh off that win in the biggest event of the year for diagonally gaited Prairie State freshmen the Jerry Graham owned gelding returned just $3.80, $2.40 & $2.10 while running his career bankroll up to $76,725. State-bred pacing fillies were also in action on the busy Sunday night card as a field of eight youngsters squared off in a $12,000 Betzotic Stake. In a re-match of the Violet Stake at Maywood Park last week, Sawgrass Farms Molly Go Lightly once again proved best as she reported home with a three-quarter-length triumph in 1:54.1 with Mike Oosting at the controls. Content to bide her time in the middle of the pack as Mae Flynn (Ryan Anderson) put up splits of 28.3, 57.2 & 1:26.1 Oosting maneuvered his charge into a live outer flow as the field moved around the final turn. Tipping three and then four wide from her third over position, the Nelson Willis trained miss then uncorked a blistering 27.0 final quarter to blow right by her rivals for her fifth win in 12 lifetime starts. Fox Valley Amanda (Dale Hiteman) came up with a solid effort to finish second while Fox Valley Shiver (Todd Warren) was third. With the win the daughter of Lexington Legend—Waggle sports a record of 5-1-3 in 12 career starts with earnings of $50,895.  David Baum

The Cardinal Final looked to be a wide open race and it turned out to be just that as Z Tam Stables, Mike Polansky and Joe & Dave Mc Caffrey’s Ringo’s Z Tam came flying down the stretch to win by a half-length in 1:56.0 at odds of 8-1.   Content to sit at the back of the pack in the field of eight as Traffic Cop (Todd Warren) carved out splits of 27.1, 57.1 & 1:26.2 driver Casey Leonard had the son of Yankee Skyscaper—Rons Girl underway in a live outer flow as the field headed into the final bend.   Circling rivals while following the cover of I Bizel The Shizel (John De Long), Ringo’s Z Tam blew by the field as the speed collapsed, charging home in 28.3 to notch his third win in eight lifetime starts. I Bizel The Shizel finished a hard knocking second while One Sure Apache (Mike Oosting) was third after being first over for the final five-eighths of a mile.   Overlooked at windows despite being coupled in the wagering with Manny’s Z Tam, Ringo’s Z Tam returned a healthy $18.00, $5.80 & $2.80 while upping his bankroll to $39,654.   In the Violet Stake favored Molly Go Lightly shook off constant pressure and held firm through the lane to win by a half-length in a quick 1:54.4 for Jim Jesk’s Sawgrass Farms.   Taking advantage of the inside starting spot driver Mike Oosting whisked the daughter of Lexington Legend—Waggle right to the front but was confronted with immediate pressure from a hard leaving My Little Bit (Casey Leonard).   With the two fillies battling tooth and nail through opening splits of 28.0 & 56.1 Molly Go Lightly finally put away the challenge from her main nemesis as the field headed for the three-quarter-mile mark.   Drawing away from the rest of the field as she stormed by that mark in 1:25.3, the Nelson Willis trainee then held firm to the wire as a ground saving Fox Valley Amanda (Dale Hiteman) came charging through the passing lane. Party Hangover Two (John De Long) was a distant third, five lengths behind the winner.   The victory was the fourth in 11 starts for Molly Go Lightly who now boasts $44,895 in career earnings. The 4-5 choice of the betting public returned $3.80, $2.80 & $2.40.    by Tom Kelley for Maywood Park  

The slogan “You’ve Come a Long Way,” wasn’t written with the Illinois-bred filly My Little Bit in mind but as the old proverb says: “If the shoe fits, wear it.” And the (horse) shoe does fit the Erv Miller star freshman according to her driver Casey Leonard. “This filly has come a long way from her last start at Maywood Park when I drove her,” said Casey after steering My Little Bit to a comfortable one-length win in last week’s first Violet elimination. “My Little Bit had the 8-hole the first night at Maywood and when she came out of that turn for the first time and saw the grandstand, she wasn’t sure what was going on. She has a much better idea now of what’s she’s doing.” Her June 27 race in Maywood’s Juxtaposition stake was My Little Bit’s very first start. She ended up sixth, beaten almost 15 lengths by the winner April May Dune, and was timed in 2:00.4. Last Friday she won in 1:55.2 and pretty much coasted the second half of the mile. It was season win No. 5 for the Sportsmaster filly who captured both State Fair titles with Marcus Miller and was second with the 22-year-old in the $200,000 Orange & Blue Filly Final on Super Night behind Thesleazyprincess, one of her main threats in Friday’s Violet Championship. My Little Bit was also second in late July in the $65,000 Loyal Opposition stake with Casey at her lines. “I’m really happy to be back driving this filly” said the 35-year-old Leonard. “She can get out of there really well and she won her elimination pretty easily. The race didn’t go as I expected so when one of the longshots (Fox Valley Rockn) made a quarter move at us I couldn’t let her (the 38-1 longshot) go so I let my filly out a notch.” My Little Bit needed a :28.1 first quarter to get command and a :28.3 second quarter to keep it. After that :56.4 first half, the issue wasn’t in doubt. You can count on fastest fractions throughout in tonight’s $48,000 Championship. The 2-1 morning line favorite My Little Bit can use her speed from the inside three-slot to likely race on or close to the front again which is where we also probably see last week’s second elimination victor Molly Go Lightly, the 3-1 programmed second choice. “The filly is sharp right now,” said driver Mike Oosting after Molly Go Lighty’s four-length victory in 1:55.4. “She’s a handy filly. “You can race her pretty much anyway you want.” The Nelson Willis trainee could very well get another favorable trip with the pole position and that's probably why we’ll see Oosting at her lines instead of Willis’ another filly in the race Thesleazyprincess (6-1). The Orange and Blue Filly champion landed Maywood’s dreaded eight-hole for new driver John Roberts, making her chances of a fourth season win an arduous task. She’ll race on Lasix for the first time Friday. The third program choice is Jesse and John De Long’s Party Hangover Two (p.p. 5), second behind My Little Bit a week ago Hoping to pull off a surprise victory in the ninth race Violet Final are Fox Valley Flora (15-1, Brain Carpenter), Fox Valley Amanda (12-1, Dale Hiteman), Green Valey (20-1, Bobby Smolin) and Fox Valley Shiver (8-1, Todd Warren). Pricey Pick: The 14-1 longshot Fox Valley Lena (John Roberts) was a $30 top winner for us last night at Maywood Park. By Mike Paradise The Illinois Harness Horsemen's Association

While nothing is a certainly in Illinois horse racing—or Illinois politics for that matter—going into last week’s Cardinal eliminations it looked to me that Unlocked was pretty much of a “lock” to win this Friday’s $44,000 Championship. With multi-stakes champion PQ Three absent for Maywood’s premier ICF 2-year-old colt and gelding stake, his chief rival Unlocked was a heavy morning line favorite in his Cardinal elimination. However, Unlocked never got the opportunity to compete and reward his potential backers The talented ICF freshman was a judge’s scratch for being late to the detention barn. While the hard-luck mishap on the way to Maywood Park was a costly misfortune for the horse’s owner and trainer it did turn the Cardinal Final into a wide-open brouhaha. “With Unlocked out of this stake it’s been opened up for a lot of other horses who haven’t made a lot of money yet and my horse is one of them,” said driver John De Long after guiding I Bizel The Shizel to a 1:55.3 one-length victory in the first Cardinal elimination last Friday over the favorite Traffic Cop. I Bizel The Shizel had less than $10,000 on his card going into September for trainer Tom Simmons. The Yankee Skyscraper gelding has made almost $20,000 more since and could add another with a victory in Friday’s of the $49,000 Cardinal. Not surprisingly the elimination triumph came on the front-end. “I drove against I Bizel The Shizel in a couple of fair races during the summer,” continued the 24-year-old Wisconsin native. “The horse made a break one afternoon at Aledo so I was conscious of that going into his elimination. I was a little cautious with him in the first turn, but he handled the track o.k. “I started driving the horse at Du Quoin and I’ve left with him in every start since but I wanted to be careful with him tonight and make sure he made the final. He’s aggressive behind the car and I didn’t want to roll out with him too hard. However after the first turn he just rolled on. “My horse was waiting on other horses on the backstretch and when Mike’s (Oosting) horse (Dunside Art) came up on us he started to take off. When Mike’s horse stopped my horse wanted to stop with him, but I got after him a little and he took off again.” I Bizel The Shizel drew well with the three-slot in Friday’s eighth race co-feature. His entry-mate Overloaded (Kyle Wilfong) drew even better with the rail. They’ll open as the 5-2 programmed favorites. The Nelson Willis trained One Sure Apache, who was also an easy front-stepping winner in his elimination is in a great spot with the two with Mike Oosting. He’s the 4-1 morning line second choice. Traffic Cop, with $63,235 on his card which is tops in the field, has the six-slot for Todd Warren. Despite being 15-1 in the program he’s another major contender in the stake. The Dave Mc Caffrey trained entry of Manny’s Z Tam (p.p. 4, John Roberts) and Ringo’s Z Tam (p.p. 7, Casey Leonard) opens at 8-1. Fox Valley Deuce (p.p. 5, Dale Hiteman) is at 10-1 while Fox Valley Cupid (Ryan Anderson), saddled with the 8-hole is 5-1. By Mike Paradise The Illinois Harness Horsemen's Association

Illinois’ two-year-old crop of pacers were in action on Friday, Sept. 27th at Maywood Park as freshmen fillies battled in two Violet Stake eliminations while their male counterparts slugged it out in a pair of Cardinal Stake eliminations.     With a total of 12 fillies dropped into the box for the Violet eight spots were available for the $48,000 final.   In the first division Obermeier & Quaid Stables My Little Bit made every call a winning one as she cruised to a one-length victory in 1:55.2 for driver Casey Leonard.   Storming right to the front from post three the Erv Miller trained miss carved out splits of 28.1, 56.4 & 1:26.0 while holding her rivals at bay for her fifth win in 10 career starts. Party Hangover Two (John De Long) parlayed a perfect pocket sitting trip into a second place finish while Filly Orange & Blue winner Thesleazyprincess (Mike Oosting) finished third after being forced to make a three-wide sweep as the field headed to the half-mile mark. Green Valey was a distant fourth.   The favorite prevailed in the second division as well as Sawgrass Farms Molly Go Lightly exploded out of the pocket on the final turn and then rolled to a convincing four-length victory in 1:55.4 for leading driver Mike Oosting.   After sitting right on the back of Fox Valley Shiver (Todd Warren) as that filly showed the way through fractions of 28.2, 58.2 & 1:27.3 Oosting deftly maneuvered the Nelson Willis trainee off the pylons. Quickly swallowing up the pace setter, the daughter of Lexington Legend—Waggle charged home in 28.0 to post her fourth win 10 starts. Fox Valley Amanda (Dale Hiteman) rallied from far back to be the bridesmaid while Fox Valley Shiver held on for third. Fox Valley Flora finished fourth.   A total of 13 colts were entered for the Cardinal with the top four in each of the two $10,000 eliminations moving on to compete in next week’s $48,000 final.   In the first elimination Laura Hendricks and Benita Simmons I Bizel The Shizel led from pillar to post as he reported home with a hard fought one-length victory in 1:55.3 with John De Long in tow.   Parked through an opening quarter in 28.1 the Tom Simmons trained son of Yankee Skyscaper—Whata Bizy Body then proceeded to put up middle splits of 57.3 & 1:26.1.  After turning aside a challenge from a hard charging Dunside Art (Mike Oosting) I Bizel The Shizel drew away from his rivals in the lane to score for the fourth time in 11 career starts. Traffic Cop (Todd Warren) came on late to be second while Fox Valley Cupid (Ryan Anderson) rallied from last to get the show dough. Manny’s Z Tam was fourth.   In the nightcap Jerry Graham’s One Sure Apache took advantage of his inside starting spot rolling to a three-quarter-length victory in wire to wire fashion.   Hustled away from the gate by Mike Oosting the Nelson Willis trained son of Ft Apache Hanover—One Sure Thing strolled through leisurely splits of 29.2, 59.2 & 1:28.3 while relatively unchallenged for most of the mile. With plenty in reserve the good looking gelding kept a late charging Ringo’s Z Tam (Casey Leonard) at bay to win for the fourth time in 12 starts. Overloaded (Kyle Wilfong) finished third while Fox Valley Deuce was fourth.   Unlocked, the 7-5 morning line favorite was a judge’s scratch from the race.   Kellie Lachata

Elimination races for both the Cardinal and Violet two-year-old ICF stakes will be contested Friday night at Maywood Park. With all six-horse fields, a freshman pacer only needs to beat out two horses in an elim to advance to next week’s finals. With division leader PQ Three and Orange and Blue Colt winner Cotton Eyed Joe absent, the Nick Prather trained Unlocked will likely be a heavy favorite for next Friday’s $55,000 (est.) Cardinal Championship. Unlocked will open as the 7-5 morning line choice in race nine, the second Cardinal elimination division. The Duneside Perch colt was not eligible for Super Night and hasn’t competed since he dropped a photo to PQ Three on August 25 in the Governor’s Cup at Du Quoin. However, Unlocked drew off in a Springfield qualifier on Tuesday by 21 lengths, pacing a :26.4 last quarter at the end of a 1:54.4 mile for trainer Nick Prather. The colt has also showed a fondness for Maywood’s half-mile oval.  Earlier in the summer he breezed to victories in the $12,000 Enzo The Baker and Fox Valley Barzgar stakes and then pulled away by 11 lengths in a Illinois Stallion Stake at the Charleston Fair in late July. Even though Unlocked has 6 season victories in 8 starts and a pair of seconds at both State Fair Championships, his $51,587 earnings are only third best among the 12 horses entered for the Cardinal. The Dirk Simpson trained Traffic Cop (9-5, Todd Warren), the fifth race first Cardinal elim favorite, has $60,735 on his card, and Fox Valley Cupid (2-1, Ryan Anderson) has made $53,355 for the Mike Schufler Stable and the Yankee Skyscraper gelding has done it despite going winless in his first 10 career starts. Fox Valley Cupid earned a hefty $44,000 with his game second place finish in the O&B Final, losing by only a neck to Cotton Eyed Joe for his quartet of Illinois owners. My Little Bit and Thesleazyprincess, the top two leaders in the ICF freshman filly division, renew their rivalry in the first race initial Violet elimination and both are making their half-mile debuts Thesleazyprincess (9-5, Mike Oosting) has annexed both the Orange and Blue Filly and Loyal Opposition crowns at Balmoral for trainer Nelson Willis, while the Erv Miller Stable’s My Little Bit (8-5, Casey Leonard) took both the Springfield and Du Quoin titles. The fourth race second Violet elim brings out Molly Go Lightly (9-5, Oosting) and Fox Valley Shiver (8-5, Todd Warren); two talented fillies who didn’t get a chance to show what they can do on Super Night. Molly Go Lightly won her Orange and Blue elimination but had to be scratched in the final because of sickness. The Willis trainee bounced back with an easy triumph in the Thrifty Way stake at Balmoral. Fox Valley Shiver, the runner-up to My Little Bit in the Springfield Final, wasn’t eligible to the Orange and Blue. She’s been off a month but she also qualified impressively Tuesday morning at Springfield when she was 19 lengths the best in 1:56 with her trainer Dirk Simpson in the bike. Both Fox Valley Shiver and Kiwi Party (4-1, John De Long) are making their Maywood Park debuts however they spent the summer on the County Fair Circuit and should get around the half-mile turns just fine. Oosting drove six winners and De Long had four winning drives on Maywood’s 12-race Thursday evening card. By Mike Paradise The Illinois Harness Horsemen's Association

Taking advantage of a perfect two-hole trip Engel Stable’s Thesleazyprincess pounced on the heavily favored My Little Bit in the lane zipping right by the pace setter in the final sixteenth of a mile to record a three-length victory in the $200,000 Filly Orange & Blue. The final time was 1:54.4 Using the inside starting spot to perfection driver Mike Oosting positioned the daughter of Sagebrush-Da SleazyOne In The Pocket as My Little Bit  led the field of eight ladies through splits of 28.1, 57.1 & 1:25.3. “I was more than happy to let Marcus go early on,” said Balmoral’s leading reinsman. “I figured those two horse of the De Long’s (Party Hangover Two & Kiwi Party) would be coming at some point in the mile so I figured I would let those three battle it out while Istayed covered up with my filly.” Executing that plan to perfection the Nelson Willis trainee was full of pace while the battle on the far turn began to take a toll on My Little Bit as the field moved through the stretch. Moving into the passing lane with a sixteenth of a mile to go Thesleazyprincess responded beautifully, blowing right by her rivals and drawing clear in the shadow of the wire for her third win in nine lifetime starts. Fox Valley Amanda (Dale Hiteman) rallied from far back to be the bridesmaid while My Little Bit held on for third. After the win Oosting was full of praise for the Engle homebred. “She was really good tonight and that’s a tribute to the job Nelson Willis has done with her,” said a beaming Oosting. “She relaxed perfectly when she needed to and then she kicked it into gear again once she secured the room she needed. She was really a professional out there tonight.” Sent off as the 7-2 second choice in the wagering Thesleazyprincess returned $9.60, $5.00 & $2.80. The winner’s share of $94,000 moves the fillies bankroll to $152,452 on the strength of a 3-3-3 record in nine lifetime starts. Mike Oosting picked up his second Super Night victory guiding Thesleazyprincess to a three-length victory championship in the Filly Orange & Blue. David Baum   

Illinois’ top older pacers were back in action on Friday, August 30th at Maywood Park as a field of eight classy veterans squared off in the $30,000 Egyptian Stake. When the smoke cleared it was Sawgrass Farms Uncle Smoothie who emerged victorious as the four-year-old gelding shot right by the pace setting NJ’s Big Deal on the backstretch in route to a 1 ½ length victory in a blistering 1:52.0 over a track that was rated as “good” after a nasty storm rolled through the area earlier in the night. Confidently handled by driver John DeLong the son of Sportsmaster pulled from the three-hole after watching NJ’s Big Deal (Mike Cox) and heavily favored Fort Silky (Casey Leonard) battle through splits of 26.3 & 56.1. In full stride heading down the backstretch for the final time the Nelson Willis trainee blew right by NJ’s Big Deal essentially getting the “jump” on division leader Fort Silky while that gelding was forced to wait for racing room as the field reached the three-quarter-mile mark in 1:24.0. The issue was never really in doubt from that point on as Uncle Smoothie continued strong to the wire for his third win in 16 starts this season. Fort Silky was forced to settle for the runner-up role while NJ’s Big Deal finished a distant third, 12-lengths behind the winner. Sent off as the 7-2 third choice in the wagering Uncle Smoothie returned $9.60, $3.80 & 2.40 while moving his career bankroll up to $242,251. Friday’s $1 Pick 4 wager was not hit so there will be a very healthy carryover of $12,271 into next Thursday’s (Sept.5) pool. The Pick 4 is held on races 9-12 on Thursday’s Maywood card. by Tom Kelley  

Racing resumes at the Springfield State Fair Monday afternoon and coming in from the east coast is the hometown driver Marcus Miller who left for Pennsylvania earlier this year. The 24-year-old Miller will be guiding D R Van Witzenburg’s filly Ideal Helen away from post one in the $26,500 fifth race Review Stake for the Erv Miller Stable. “I’m excited to be coming back to Illinois,” said Marcus when I called him over this past weekend. “I’ll stay with the family until the meeting his over Thursday afternoon and then head back to Pennsylvania. “I’m driving on Balmoral’s Wednesday card as well. Dad (Erv Miller) has some trotters going in their series that I’m familiar with just as I am with Ideal Helen. I drove her number of times at the Meadowlands. She’s got speed. She just had some bad racing luck in her last couple of starts there. Marcus grew up Sherman, Illinois not far away from the state capitol fairgrounds. “I’ve been coming to the Springfield meeting as far back as I can remember,” said Miller. “I was hoping to make it back again for this year and it worked out that I could.” I asked Marcus if he was being pushed in a stroller around the fairgrounds when he first came to the State Fair meeting at Springfield meet. “I probably started coming to the meet even before that,” he replied laughing. “I was probably being carried around the grounds by my mother when I was still a baby.” With only five starters in the Review stake for 2-year-old pacing fillies there will be no Show wagering. Ideal Angel opens as the 3-1 second choice behind the Nelson Willis trained Marzy Bearzy, winner of her last two starts at Balmoral, the latest in 1:54.1 for the Marty (Engel) Stable of Buffalo Grove, Illinois. The $20,000 Little Pat (seventh race) also has five betting interests—Keith’s Studio Art (2-1), Theindecentlawyer (4-1), Gator Boy (8-1), Call Me Muddy (10-1) and the Watson family owned entry of Independent Dude and Whatwillhebe at 3-1. Only Win and Exacta wagering will be offered on the stake for open company freshman pacing colts and geldings. Mike’s Springfield Selections Monday Afternoon, August 12 1—I’m A Pop Star, Domitian Hall, The Swan Song 2—Romantic Legacy, Cranberry Muffler, Queen Beatrice 3—Vacation’s Pride, Chantilly Hall, Dancing Dynamite 4—Morgan’s Majestic, Missy’s Misfit, Lucious Lady 5—Marzy Bearzy, Ideal Helen, Hello My Dream 6—Fox Valley Camo, Show Stoppin Monkey, Powerful Valor 7—Keiths Studio Art, Theindecentlawyer, Whatwillbe 8—High Stepper, Elegant Rosie, Dreaming Of Lori 9—Lostintheshuffle, H-Andharleythejet, Loberal Best Bet: Morgan’s Majestic (4th race) Mike Paradise The Illinois Harness Horsemen's Association

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

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