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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

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  

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