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It was a big night for trainer Curt Grummel as the downstate based conditioner toted home top honors in a trio of trotting stakes at the harness racing meeting on Sunday night at BalmoralPark with the lightly raced but rapidly improving Dr. Venkman taking the biggest prize of them all in the $77,400 Lincoln Land Stake for ICF two-year-old trotting colts.   Taking advantage of an inside starting spot driver Pat Curtin positioned the gelded son of Pizzazzed--Broadway Show in the garden spot as Fear (Robert Smolin) led the field of youngsters through splits of 29.0, 58.3 & 1:28.4.   "Going into the race that's exactly how we hoped things would work out," said a very excited Curtin. "I knew some horses behind us were working out pretty decent trips as well but I knew if Fear could carry us into the stretch until there was room we were going to be in good shape. Once he saw that daylight he was gone!"   Fit and fresh as the field turned for the money a patient Curtin waited for room in the passing lane with that State Fair Stake winner. After securing his spot along the inside Dr. Venkman looked like a seasoned veteran as he scooted right by the pace setter and was on cruise control the rest of the way as he reported home with a 1 ½ length decision in a career best of 1:58.2. Mr. Strata (Mike Oosting) shook loose late and rallied in time to be the runner-up while Fear held on for third. Dr. Venkman, the co-favorite in the wagering returned $6.60, $4.00 0& $3.60 while upping his record 2-0-1 in four starts with earnings of $44,000 for the partnership of Curt and Craig Grummel, Clayton B Arnett and Chili Day Stables.   Sophomore trotting fillies were also in action on Sunday night as a compact field of six gathered for the $7,500 Xpress Bet Stake.   As expected Dr. Patrick Graham's Fox Valley Yoko had no trouble disposing of this group as she trotted away late to score by a 1 ½ lengths in 1:58.0 for driver Kyle Wilfong.   Confidently handled by her pilot the daughter of Pizzazzed--Yankee Victory was reserved early on as None Of That Stuff (Casey Leonard) rolled through splits of 30.1, 1:00.1 & 1:29.4. Grinding her way to towards the front while moving first over the Curt Grummel trained miss eventually wore down the pace setter and drew off in the final 50 yards to record her sixth win in 14 starts this season. Bands Muse (John De Long) shook loose late to rally for the bridesmaid spot while None Of That Stuff held on for third. Dispatched as the 1-5 favorite Fox Valley Yoko returned $2.40, $2.10 & $2.10 while running her career record to 9-7-5 in 26 career starts with earnings of $149,821 for her happy connections.   In the Lady Lincoln Land Consolation another Grummel trainee toted home top honors as Dr. Patrick Graham's Powerful Princess trotted to an impressive win in 1:59.0 with John De Long at the controls. The was the first in three lifetime outings for the daughter of Powerful Emotion--Maple Grove Glide who led the field into the stretch in last week's rich final before making a break a costly break. Tom Kelley

With a total of 13 freshmen pacing colts entered for Friday's Fox Valley Barzgar Stake at Maywood Park, harness racing secretary Doc Narotsky was forced to split the youngsters into a pair of $6,000 divisions. Both splits featured heavy favorites and the "chalk" players never had to break a sweat as 1--9 favorite DB captured the opener in 1:55.4 while 6-5 choice Wondrous Sport rolled to victory in 1:56.3 in the nightcap. Confidently handled as a 1-9 favorite should be, driver Pat Curtin sent DB right to the front from post two and the issue was never in doubt as the Herman Wheeler trained son of Yankee Skyscaper--Hopintosh led a single file field through splits of 28.1, 58.1 & 1:27.2. With plenty still in reserve DB sealed the deal with a 28.1 final quarter as he reported home with a 3¼ length verdict in 1:55.4. Fox Valley Aramon (Todd Warren) followed the winner's every move but was second best on this night while Eddie Eddie Eddie (Clifton Bell) was a non-threatening third. With the win DB has two victories and a third in three lifetime starts with earnings of $$5,401 for the partnership of Leroy Hunt and Milton Greer. The nightcap followed nearly the same script as Casey Leonard gunned Wondrous Spirit to the front where he proceeded to "steal" pedestrian like splits of 29.2, 59.1 & 1:28.0 then held firm through the stretch to record a 2¼ length win in a career best of 1:56.3. Dan D Dune (Mike Oosting) did a nice job of overcoming the outside post in the field of seven to finish in the runner-up role while My Man Red (Tim Curtin) was a distant third. The victory was the second in three starts for the Gary Rath trained son of Sportsmaster--Wondrous Grace who has banked $6,000 for owners Stephen Mc MacKin, Marily Kelly and Lorna Rousch. Tom Kelley        

Despite a five week layoff and a sick scratch last week Dane May's Dinky Dune proved that he's a force to be reckoned with among this year's Illinois conceived and foaled harness racing three-year-old pacing colts as he rolled to a 2¾ length victory in 1:53.1 over five other state-bred sophomore pacing colts in Saturday's $8,000 Xpressbet Stake at Balmoral Park. Given a perfect steer by driver Pat Curtin the gelded son of Duneside Perch--Dream Hand settled into the garden spot as Dixie's Boy (Casey Leonard) led the compact field through pedestrian splits of 29.0, 58.0 & 1:26.4.   With the action heating up in the lane Curtin maneuvered the Dane May trainee to the outside of horses where he quickly gobbled up the pace setter with a sixteenth to go. Effortlessly opening up an insurmountable advantage Dinky Dune easily kept heavily favored Earndawg (Todd Warren) at bay while rolling to his fourth win in seven starts this season. Earndawg, the 2-5 favorite in the race was forced to settle for a runner-up role on this night while longshot Casey At Bat (Mike Oosting) grabbed the show dough.   The second choice in the wagering Dinky Dune returned $7.00, $2.80, $2.40 while running his career record to 4-1-1 in 10 starts with earnings of $22,852.   The state-bred stake action continues on Sunday, June 28th with a pair of battles sharing top billing. Sophomore trotting colts kick off the festivities in race one as Fox Valley Qatar and Captain Greedy renew their rivalry in the $8,000 Xpressbet Stake. Later in the evening, sophomore pacing fillies will square off in the $8,000 Mystical Victress Stake which has attracted a full field of 10 led by division stalwarts Lex and Sportsmuffler. The wagering action gets underway at 7:10pm on Sunday night and as always the $1 Pick 4 features a $25,000 guaranteed pool. The Pick 4 is on races seven through 10 on Sunday night. Tom Kelley

On a night in which temperatures plummeted into the low 40's and were accompanied by strong winds and soaking rains that made it seem more like mid-October than the end of May, a pair of Cardinal Stakes put Illinois conceived and foaled trotters and pacers in the harness racing spotlight at Balmoral Park on Saturday, May 30th.   Trotters were first on the docket as a field of eight diagonally gaited sophomore colts lined up behind the gate to battle for a purse of $16,200.   Once again the Herman Wheeler owned and trained Fox Valley Qatar proved that he's just too much for this division as he came powering through the slop to post a two-length victory in 1:57.4 under some confident handling by driver Todd Warren.   Ducking off the gate after showing high speed in his first two starts of the year the gelded son of Pizzazzed -Armbro Bahrain was content to trot along in sixth as longshot Allpowernoemotion (Ronnie Gillespie) led the field through splits of 30.0 & 1:00.1.   "There was no way I was leaving with him for a third straight week," explained Warren. "He was really "hot" last week and it's a long year so I didn't want him to get roughed up again."   Continuing to sit in mid-pack, Warren finally moved last year's division champ to the outside, picking up cover while third over as a hard charging Tricky Nick (Mike Oosting) quickly opened up a two-length advantage as he rolled by the three-quarter-mile mark in 1:29.2.   With a 20mph tailwind in the homestretch Fox Valley Qatar quickly found his best stride and began gobbling up ground on the far outside of horses. Zipping right by the leader with a sixteenth of a mile to go Fox ValleyQatar left his rivals in his wake as he reported home in 27.3 to post his third win in as many starts this season. Captain Greedy (J.D. Finn) rallied to finish second while Tricky Nick held on for third.   Bet as though defeat was out of the question the 2-5 favorite returned $2.80, $2.20 & $2.10 while running his career numbers to 11-1-0 in 12 starts with earnings of $100,315.   In the winner's circle Warren was quick to sing the praises of his trotting star.   "He's just a pleasure to drive and he's perfectly fine sitting in a hole like he did tonight," said Warren. "He's very easy on himself and he's come back great after that awesome two-year-old season. I would expect him to have a lot of success with this group."   Sophomore pacing colts were featured in the second Cardinal Stake of the night as a field of 10 three-year-olds braved the elements for a purse of $18,400.   In a thrilling hotly contested affair the Dane May owned and trained Dinky Dune shook loose very late in the mile then came flying on the outside of horses to win by a head in a career best of 1:53.1 despite the sloppy surface.   Leaving alertly from post eight driver Pat Curtin had control of the early proceedings, battling Lucpark (Mike Oosting) through an opening quarter of 27.4.   "Going into the night Dane and I were kind of undecided on whether to wrangle him off the gate or to charge out of there and try to be up close," said a very happy Curtin. "With the weather and track conditions turning out the way they did we figured we better have him right up there in contention every step of the way."   Sitting in the pocket while Lucpark continued through middle splits of 56.3 & 1:25.1 the gelded son of Duneside Perch--Dream Hand was raging with pace as the bunching field began to move through the lane.   With Lucpark, Dixie's Boy (Casey Leonard) and Earndawg (Todd Warren) battling three across the track a patient Curtin was still searching for room with the fit and fresh Dinky Dune.   "I thought about trying to split those three because there was an opening for just a minute but I figured they would close that up on me in a hurry," explained Curtin. "So I just decided I was going to have wait a little longer until I could slide to the outside of all them because this horse can really rattle once he gets in gear."   Finally securing room on the outside of horses Dinky Dune unleashed a wicked kick, putting up a 27.4 final quarter to nip the favored Earndawg in the final strides. Last season's champ was forced to settle for the runner-up role on this night while Dixie's Boy finished third.   Coming off an impressive elimination win the previous week Dinky Dune took plenty of action at the windows returning $6.40, $3.60, $2.80 while running his career record to 3-1-1 in nine career starts with earnings of $18,852. Tom Kelley  

With some good sized crowds filling the apron for a festive Memorial Day weekend of fun-filled activities at Balmoral Park, a pair of harness racing Illinois conceived and foaled stake events for three-year-olds shared top billing on the racing oval.   Trotters grabbed the spotlight on Sunday, May 24th as a very evenly matched field of nine diagonally gaited fillies squared off in the $16,400 Violet Stake.   Continuing the fast start she's enjoyed in her second season Cynthia De Marlie and Jason Van Winkle's Bi Polar Rose shot right to the top and proceeded to make every call a winning one as she reported home with a four-length decision in a career best of 1:57.3 for Travis Seekman.   Gunned away from post six the daughter of Polar Winner--I Still Owe carved out splits of 29.4, 59.2 & 1:28.4 while rolling along relatively unchallenged on the front end.   With plenty still in reserve, the Ronnie Roberts trained miss trotted home in 28.4 while drawing away from stretch challenges by Persuasive Look (Casey Leonard) and Fox Valley Yoko (John De Long) who wound up second and third respectively.   Hammered at the betting windows, Bi Polar Rose returned $4.60, $3.00 & $2.40 while running her career record to 6-3-3 in 15 starts with earnings of $93,457.   On Saturday, May 23rd a total of 12 state-bred colts and geldings met in a pair of $7,500 Cardinal Stake eliminations. The top five finishers in each division will return next Saturday night to battle in the $18,400 final.   In the first division the Dane May owned and trained Dinky Dune continued his second season improvement as he came charging through the passing lane to record a two-length triumph in 1:53.4 for driver Pat Curtin.   Given a perfect steer, the gelded son of Duneside Perch--Dream Hand settled in third early on but as the pace slowed Curtin zipped the bay gelding to the front leading the field through an opening quarter in 30.0.   The action continued to heat up through middle splits of 58.0 & 1:26.4 as a hard charging Dixie's Boy ( Casey Leonard) showed the way with Dinky Dune right on his back in second.   Through the lane Dixie's Boy managed to fend off the first over challenge of 6-5 favorite Lucpark (Mike Oosting) but a fit and fresh Dinky Dune was full of pace and ready to roll as he moved down to the passing lane. Sealing the deal with a wicked 26.4 final quarter Dinky Dune cruised right on by the pace setter to notch his second career win in eight starts. Lucpark came on again late to edge Dixie's Boy for the place and show spots. Rockin Cassinova & Mighty Hot Shot also earned spots in next week's final.   In the second elimination last year's division leader Earndawg showed that he's ready to defend his crown as he posted a very comfortable 1 ½ length victory in 1:54.1 with Todd Warren at the controls.   After easing away from the gate in third while stablemate King Of The Swamp (Ridge Warren) led the field through opening splits of 28.4 & 58.2, the Roger Welch trained gelding grabbed command of the proceedings as the field moved around the final bend.   After taking the field by the three-quarter-mile mark in 1:26.4 the son of Sportsmaster--Pacific Sister K gamely held off his rivals with an impressive 27.2 final quarter to notch his 10th win in 20 career starts for the partnership of Bo & Pat De Long and Ernest Miller. Frosty Dune (Casey Leonard) saved ground throughout then rallied nicely to finish second while King Of The Swamp held on for third. Also gaining spots in the final were C Note and Comecatchme.   The 50 Cent Pick 5 wager was not hit on Sunday, May 24th so there will be a carryover of $11,081.42 added to next Saturday's (May 30th) Pick 5. Because of the carryover BalmoralPark will guarantee a $25,000 pool for next Saturday's Pick 5. Handicappers across North America can get a head start on their competition with free 10 line program pages for the guaranteed pool courtesy of the USTA Strategic Wagering Initiative and Track Master on the handicapping section at www.ustrotting.com beginning on Thursday, May 28th.   Tom Kelley  

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