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The countdown to the biggest night of the year for Illinois conceived and foaled pacers and trotters began in earnest on Saturday night at Balmoral Park as a bevy of elimination action brought out some of the Prairie State's best. Freshmen pacing fillies started the Saturday night action with a total of 15 youngsters entered in a pair of $15,000 Filly Orange & Blue elim's. The top five will be back on Super Night to battle for a $163,000 (est) jackpot. In the opening split Jesse De Long & Hamm Family Trust's Sportsmuffler made her local debut a winning one as she rolled to an easy 4 ½ length victory in a career best of 1:54.3. Perfectly placed In The Pocket by driver John De Long, the daughter of Sportsmaster--Whatifthere'smore exploded past the pace setting Cowgirl Chic in the lane as she rolled to her sixth win in nine lifetime starts. Cowgirl Chic held on well to finish second while Girls Hunt Too (Dale Hiteman) was third and Star Gram (Brian Carpenter) was fourth. Angel Demon (Ryan Anderson), the 1-2 favorite in the field of eight, stopped badly after a first over bid on the far turn but still managed to gain a spot in the final with her fifth place finish. In the second division Leland Mathias and Paymaq Racing's Mr Leland's Filly continued her dominance of this division as she cruised to a 2 ¼ length victory in 1:56.1 for driver Casey Leonard. Sent from third to first after a tepid opening quarter the Erv Miller trained daughter of Sportsmaster--Incredible Katie appeared to have plenty in reserve through the lane as she toyed with her rivals while posting her fifth win in seven lifetime starts. BS Tyrichess (Brian Carpenter) turned a pocket sitting trip into a second place check while Lex (Kyle Wilfong) was forced to settle for the show dough after a bold first over bid at the top of the stretch. Luvniecestopieces (Ryan Anderson) was fourth while Fox Valley Redhead (Dale Hiteman) finished fifth. A field of 10 was sent postward in the $15,000 Pete Langley Memorial for three-year-old pacing colts with the top nine finishers joining Fox Valley Cupid, who opted for a bye, in next week's $147,000 (est) final. Living up to his overwhelming 1-9 favoritism Megan Rogers Racing Stables Unlocked completely dismantled this field as he reported home with an effortless 6 ¼ length victory in 1:50.3 for driver Dave Magee and trainer Erv Miller. The issue was never in doubt in this one as the good looking son of Duneside Perch--Miss Major Power worked his way to the front after the opening quarter and proceeded to widen his margin at each call while posting his fourth straight victory over these rivals. Fox Valley Deuce (Casey Leonard) followed the winners every move after relinquishing the lead on the backstretch but was no match for the heavy favorite while garnering the second place check. Svaya Knows (Travis Seekman) rallied late to finish third. Also gaining spots in the final were Fox Valley Van, Uncle Ugly, Overloaded, Cotton Eyed Joe, BlueRiver and Sleazeburgernfries. The older pacers renewed acquaintances as a total of 16 veterans were dropped into the box for a pair of $15,000 Tony Maurello Stake elimination's. Once again the top five finishers will be back for what should be a very entertaining $112,000 (est) final next week. In the first division the Bob Phillips owned and trained Al's Hammered came flying down the lane to win by 1 ¼ lengths in a seasons best of 1:49.1 with Bobby Smolin at the controls. Content to bide their time near the back of the pack through some quick early splits, Smolin put the five-year-old son of Droppin'thehammer--Alberts Magic into contention at the top of the lane. Uncorking the big late kick he's come to be known for Al's Hammered proceeded to wear down FortSilky (Casey Leonard) in the final sixteenth of a mile for his 13th win in 19 starts this season. FortSilky was forced to settle for the runner-up role on this night while Big Daddy Woo Woo (Ridge Warren) was third. Ice Scraper (Todd Warren), who carved out the fast fractions held on for fourth while Ricky Bobbie (Pat Curtin) was fifth. In the nightcap Bert Hochsprung and the Erv Miller Stables classy veteran Iam Bonasera picked a nice time to grab his first win of the season as he rolled to an easy 1 ½ length victory in 1:51.3 with Travis Seekman at the controls. Perfectly positioned In The Pocket while Big Brad (Robert Smolin) carved out pedestrian splits of 27.4, 57.0 & 1:25.1, Seekman maneuvered the seven-year-old Cole Muffler--Shesoluvabull gelding to the outside with an eighth of a mile to go and the lifetime winner of more than $670,000 did the rest, storming home in 26.1 to get the win. Big Brad settled for second while another Miller trainee, A Cool Card (Dave Magee) was third. Crankin' It Up (Kyle Wilfong) was fourth while Doubletrouble (Todd Warren) was fifth. Next up were the two-year-old pacing colts as a total of 19 hopeful's met in a pair of $15,000 battles. The top five in each race will return for what is expected to be next week's biggest purse of the night at $187,000 (est). The first split provided a thrilling finish as the Roger Welch trained entry of Earndawg and Rockin Cassinova finished one-two with Earndawg getting the 1 ½ length score in a career best of 1:54.0 for the partnership of Bo & Pat De Long and E.J. Miller Jr. Sitting near the back of the back of the pack after starting from post position eight, driver Todd Warren did a magnificent job of guiding the altered son of Sportsmaster--Pacific Sister K through the lane charging from eighth to first in the final quarter-mile for his third win in nine lifetime starts. Rockin Cassinova (Dale Hiteman) parlayed a nice ground saving journey into the place check while Dakota Roadster (Robert Smolin) rallied for third. Also gaining spots in the final was the pace setting Dupage's Z Tam (Casey Leonard) and Thisishowweroll (John De Long). The second elimination was also a barnburner and when the smoke cleared it was Rocco Ruffolo's Lucpark who prevailed by the slimmest of noses in 1:55.1 for driver Dave Magee. Given a Hall of Fame steer by Super Night's leading driver, Lucpark left quickly from post nine and settled in nicely at the pylons until the top of the stretch. That's when Magee went to work with the Erv Miller trained son of Sportsmaster--Treasure The Best, deftly maneuvering off the cones then squeezing through a tight hole with an eighth of a mile to go before wearing down the pace setting King Of The Swamp (Todd Warren) in the last stride for his fourth win in eight lifetime starts. C Note (John De Long) shook loose late to finish third. The last two spots in the final went to Mighty Hot Shot (Brian Carpenter) and Fox Valley Elijah (Dale Hiteman). A total of 23 distaffers were dropped into the box for a trio of $15,000 Lorna Propes Stake elimination's with the top three and one fourth place finisher (drawn by lot) advancing to next week's $120,000 (est) championship. In the first division Jesse De Long's Let's Go Higher, the defending champion in this event, returned to town for trainer Heidi Rohr and promptly served notice that she's going to be tough to dethrone as she posted a 4 ¼ length wire to wire victory in 1:52.1. Confidently handled by driver John De Long, the six-year-old daughter of Cole Muffler--Ten Speed shot right to the top and promptly rattled off splits of 28.3, 57.1, & 124.4 before sealing the deal with a brisk 27.2 final panel for her 22nd win in the past two seasons. No Respect (Kyle Wilfong) followed the winner every step of the way but was forced to settle for the bridesmaid role while Tamarac Sassy (Casey Leonard) was third. Fox Valley Touche finished fourth. In the middle split Wilson Racing Stable, Norm Neff and Mark Eichberger's Dune In Red parlayed a perfect trip into a 2 ½ length victory in a snappy 1:51.2 for driver Dave Magee. Sent hard from post five, the chestnut daughter of Duneside Perch--She Has The Look elected to let a hard charging Party Hangover (Todd Warren) go just after the quarter. That put the Tim Wilson Jr trained miss in a perfect spot the rest of the way. Magee then maneuvered the four-year-old out of the pocket and she responded beautifully as she zipped right by the odds on favorite for her fourth win of the season. Party Hangover held on for second while State Street Liz (Robert Smolin) was third. Zumba finished fourth. In the final elimination of the night fittingly went to another Dave Magee driven mare as he guided Joshua Carter's Just By Design to a one-length victory in 1:52.3. As was the case for nearly all of the night Magee had the roan six-year-old perfectly positioned In The Pocket while Fox Valley Absolut carved out splits of 28.2, 57.2 & 1:25.0. Fit and fresh as she waited for the passing lane, the Mike Brink trained miss cruised right by the pace setter for her third win of the season. Fox Valley Absolut held on for second while Toshie Special (Dean Magee) finished third. Auniqueaquistion finished fourth. The elimination action continues on Sunday, Sept. 7th with a $15,000 Su Mac Lad elimination. That tussle will go as race six on the 10-race card which begins at 7:10 p.m. (central). No eliminations were needed for the Lady Ann Reed for three-year-old trotting fillies or the Grandma Ann for three-year-old pacing fillies. The latter did have a "prep" on Saturday night which was taken by Sawgrass Farms Molly Go Lightly and driver Matt Krueger in 1:55. By Tom Kelley, for Balmoral Park    

Most of the circuit’s top drivers are doing double-duty Saturday. They’ll compete in the afternoon in southern Illinois at the Du Quoin State Fair and then at night at Balmoral Park, wrapping up their day up some 12 hours after the first downstate post. “This year a lot of us plan to drive back to Balmoral instead of renting a plane like we did in the past,” said John De Long who will handle the favorites in 2 of the 5 major ICF trotting championships at Du Quoin. “Dave (Magee) drove back last year while we took a plane and Dave was at Balmoral around the second race and this year there are only 10 races at Du Quoin Saturday. The last one goes before 3 o’clock so we should be o.k.” De Long’s best chances Saturday afternoon are with the Curt Grummel Stable’s sister-brother Springfield champion tandem of Fox Valley Yoko in the Time Dancer, and Fox Valley Veto in the Pronto Don, and Say No Mo in the Windy Skeeter who earlier won the $42,000 Fox Valley Evita. “Yoko” may not have been 100 per cent when she was second in the Fox Valley Flan and Hanover,” said De Long. “They told me she had been a little sick. But last week at Springfield she bounced back and had a :26.4 last quarter for me and did it well in hand. “Veto has been awesome. The horse does everything absolutely perfect. “Say No Mo just didn’t fire at Springfield. She just wasn’t very good in her race. I had tipped her out near the half but she didn’t have any trot so I ducked her back in. They were going to scope her and do blood work if needed. Hopefully she’ll be good for the Du Quoin stake.” When De Long arrives from his 290 mile trip from Du Quoin to Balmoral he’ll have live drives on the Saturday night card including the Nick Giberson Stable’s Fashion Delight (5-1) in the fifth race Invitational Handicap. Owned by Illinoisan Mark Winship (Canton), the 6-year-old Fashion Delight is the winner of over $856,000 in his career. He’ll take-on some tough cookies like Al’s Hammered (programmed 8-5), last week’s Big Tom champion Fort Silky (5-2, Casey Leonard), Best Man Hanover (9-2, Todd Warren), Iam Bonasera (6-1, Kyle Wilfong) and Furious Frank (12-1, Ridge Warren). “Fashion Delight is just a nice older race horse,” continued De Long. “He likes to leave and he comes off a strong (1:49.4) mile last week. The 25-year-old Wisconsin native has the 5-2 favorites in a pair of high level conditioned paces that follow, Firstclassallthway in the seventh and Our Dragon King in the ninth. Both have the pole position. “I’ve driven Our Dragon King in the past, said De Long. “He’s a nice horse. He’s a American National and Hanover champion. The horse did get tortured last week so maybe that’s why I’m driving him this time around.” Our Dragon King cut bruising fractions of :26.4, :53.1 and 1:20.4 before going into retreat and finishing a far back sixth behind De Long and Fashion Delight. Du Quoin’s three-day harness met concludes Sunday (12 noon first post) with a number of championships to be decided including the $40,000 Governor’s Cup for ICF 3-year-old pacing colts and geldings. by Mike Paradise, for IHHA

The I.H.H.A. honored the top driver, trainer, owner and breeder of our County Fair circuit last Sunday, closing day of harness racing at the Du Quoin State Fair. The leading driver trophy was presented to Ronnie Gillespie who brought home 48 winners on the fair circuit, two more than his fellow Mississippian Freddie Patton Jr. last year’s champion. Patton did successfully defend his county fair circuit leading trainer title by conditioning 42 winners, far and away the best. John D Finn was second with 27. The leading owner and leading breeder awards both went to Flacco Family Farms of Alexis, Illinois. Dr. Richard Flacco and his wife Arlene accepted the awards in Du Quoin’s “Victory Lane.” The Flacco Family were the owners 23 victorious horses on this summer’s fair circuit and bred the winners of 39 races. Mary Jeffers and Fox Valley Standardbreds each had 32. Big Numbers for Casey:  With four months of racing still left for 2013 Casey Leonard has already surpassed his best year for winning drives by 33 and his best season for money won by over $200,000. Going into Wednesday’s Balmoral program Casey has 268 dash winners in 2013. His previous highest was 238 in 2011 and that was with 250 more drives than his current 1616 for this season. Horses Casey has driven have earned $1,825,302 this far this year. The 35-year-old’s previous best was $1,620,445 last year when he had 444 more opportunities than he has had thus far in 2013. Herculean Effort Not Needed:   Celebrity Hercules was written out of this week’s Wednesday feature when instead of another “Winner’s Over” event the headliner for trotters is for non-winners of $10,500 in earnings in their last five starts. Homer Hochstetler’s Evil Urges (p.p. 3, Dave Magee) was installed as the 3-1 first flash favorite in the ninth race feature after he was second best to Celebrity Hercules by ¾’s of a length. Brad Moffit’s New Zion (p.p. 6, Ridge Warren), a six-time season winner, is next at 4-1, with the Erv Miller Stable’s Nonverbal Hanover (p.p. 8, Casey Leonard) at 5-1. While the latter was beaten by more than 7 lengths last week, the Yankee Guide gelding did trot a :27.4 last quarter when he rallied from ninth to third in the lane. Mischievous Jesse (8-1), Classy Chassy (10-1), Big Sky Revenue (10-1), KK’s Bandit (8-1), New Zion (4-1), Ants Iner Pants (8-1), Squonk (12-1), and Itz Alive (15-1) complete the trotting feature. By Mike Paradise The Illinois Harness Horsemen's Association

COLUMBUS, MN. - Drivers Lemoyne "Moonie" Svendsen and Ridge Warren both scored hat tricks on the Saturday night program at Running Aces. Svendsen won a $7250 race for Minnesota-sired three-year-old colts with Reds Place in 1:55.4.  The colt, owned by Ron Emerson and Mark Holtan and trained by Bob Lems, now has seven wins and two place finishes in nine seasonal starts.  The green and gold clad reinsmans other two triumphs were behind the trotter Flameon and the pacer A Stitch In Time, both owned and trained by Mark Anderson. Warren won a pair of races for trainer Joe Mapes when he scored behind Taffy Towne and Allusive Annie.  Between those two races he guided Love My Terror to an impressive maiden victory for trainer Scott Banitt. Gregg Keidel  

A pair of minor stakes events for Illinois conceived and foaled two-year-olds headlined another busy harness racing weekend at the Crete oval. On Saturday night, Sawgrass Farms Uncle Smoothie rallied from far back to take the $10,500 Crete Stake while Ciara Stables and John Carver's good looking filly No Respect cruised to an easy score in Sunday's $10,200 Beecher Stake.

Big Daddy Woo Woo had the harness racing driver with the right philosophy in the $120,000 Tony Maurello. Dismissed at 23/1, Big Daddy Woo Woo, from Nick Prather's barn, was driven by Ridge Warren. The key was finding early position. Ride Warren left with Big Daddy Woo Woo and was able to duck and be sixth passing a 27.4 opening quarter.

It was a gutsy decision but when Kyle Husted made the choice to shift to from his home town of Altamont to Chicago in January this year it was career move that could have easily back-fired. After-all the 19-year-old's mother Pam Coleman wanted her son to firstly get a degree to fall back on.

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