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One of the recent additions to the Cal Expo drivers room is Sean Smithpeters, a 31-year-old native of Illinois who drove two winners last weekend for his mother, owner/trainer Gretchen Smith. "I first got involved with harness racing at the same time my mom did", Sean explained. "She took over a boarding facility at the Champaign County fair grounds back home in Illinois when I was in high school. "At the time, we only had riding horses, but on the grounds was a half mile limestone track and several Standardbreds were training there. We decided to try our hand and I began driving on the fair circuit the few horses we had. In 2008 we had enough horses that I was able to get the qualifying drives to obtain my "P" license. I actually made my first starts here in 2009 while out on vacation." As can happen, Smithpeters explained that soon after events in his life conspired to keep him from perusing this driving ambition, but now things have come full circle and he is back in California and the sulky. "Recently my family and I decided it was time for a change of scenery and made the move out here from Illinois," Smithpeters said. " A few weeks back, after a couple weeks here jogging and qualifying a few, I made my first starts since 2009. "Everyone here has been very helpful and kind while I'm trying to shake off the rust and hit my stride driving," Smithpeters said. "Hopefully everything keeps moving forward well and I'll be driving here for quite some time." And so far for Gretchen, shes happy to be joining forces on the racetrack once again with her son. "Its exciting for me to see him back in the bike and watch him develop his skills," Gretchen Smith said. "Being able to see him everyday again is great. I'm very happy he and his family have come to California." Sire Stakes, Open Trot, Open Pace on tap A $10,000 California Sire Stakes for pacing males headed by Rikybrnthegaragdwn and King Of The Crop; an Open Trot featuring Hellogottagobuhbye and Sharpshootennorris and an Open Pace share the spotlight at Cal Expo Saturday night. A 12-race card is on tap with first post set for 6:15 p.m. The Sire Stakes will go as the second event, with the Open Pace the third race and the Open Trot the fourth on the evening. Rikybrnthegaragdwn is a 3-year-old son of Livin It Up out of the Sportsmaster mare Sports Bra who has accounted for three of the stakes events decided for the division with King Of The Crop capturing the other three. He is owned by Maryann Plano and is now conditioned by Tim Brown with Rich Wojcio handling the lines. In the most recent big-money clash two weeks ago, Rikybrnthegaragdwn took advantage of a mid-race break by his arch-rival over a sloppy track and made every pole a winning one. With former driver/trainer Luke Plano at the controls, he waltzed home by five and a half lengths that evening. His 1:55 standard was established in a February 22 conditioned affair. King Of The Crop is son of Little Steven who is owned, trained and driven by James Kennedy. He comes into this assignment having posed for pictures following five of his 10 trips to the post. He has been alternating stakes scores with his main rival, picking up his most recent trophy on March 15 and then losing his chance in that last get-together two weeks ago with the break over the off going. He established his lifetime mark of 1:55 1/5 with his February 1 score. Completing the field are Laissez Moi Passer, who leaves from the rail with Williams Hernandez; Holme Base with Steve Desomer at the controls; and Tony Cheesecake, who will have the services of Chip Lackey. By Mark Ratzky, for Cal Expo Harness        

After opening his second season with two very impressive scores over "older open" company, Paula Smith and James Runyan's Fox Valley Deuce took his first crack at state-bred stakes company on Saturday night at Balmoral Park in the $10,000 Taurus Bomber Stake. The gelded son of Sportsmaster--Dodger Girl had no problem keeping his perfect slate intact as he cruised to an easy 4 ½ length score over five rivals in 1:56.1 for driver Casey Leonard. Hustled away from the outside post in the field of six, the Joel Smith trainee was parked through an opening quarter of 29.4. After grabbing command as the field straightened up onto the backstretch for Leonard, the issue was never really in doubt again as the good looking sophomore put up leisurely middle splits of 1:00.2 & 1:29.4.   Fit and fresh as he headed for the money Fox Valley Deuce finished off the mile in grand fashion, rattling off an eye opening 26.2 final split to make it three in a row in 2014. Orange & Blue winner Cotton Eyed Joe (Robert Smolin), who was making his sophomore debut, finished a fast closing second while Dune Dude (Dean Magee) turned in a solid try to rally for third.   With the win Fox Valley Deuce now boasts fives wins and a third in 18 lifetime starts with earnings of $28,147.   A trio of Newcomer Series finals were contested on Saturday night as well. The $7,800 Filly & Mare final was taken by Brett Wilfong's Chariots Afire (Jimmy Daniel) as she cruised to her second win in three starts this year. The home-bred daughter of Skydancer Hanover stopped the clock in 1:55.0. The $8,000 colt & gelding final was captured Nelson & Kay Willis's Shark Vision (Kyle Wilfong) as the royally-bred son of Cam's Cam Shark made it three in a row in 2014 while tripping the timer in 1:55.1.   On the trotting side of the docket, the Lester Banks owned, Steve Bauder trained Mary Queen (Dale Hiteman) was able to mind her manners again as she uncorked a big closing burst to knock off eight other diagonally gaited specialists in the $7,750 final of that series.The final time was a career best of 1:59.2.   There will be no live racing this Wednesday April 2, 2014 due to lack of entries.    By Tom Kelley, for Balmoral Park

The 2014 stake schedules for both Balmoral and Maywood Park have been released by racing secretary Doc Narotsky. The action kicks off at Balmoral on March 29th with the Taurus Bomber Stake for Illinois conceived and foaled three-year-old pacing colts. Maywood’s stake season gets underway on Friday, April 11th with sophomore pacing colts slugging it out in the Sportsmaster Stake. The first “major” state-bred stake of the season will be contested on Sunday, May 18th with three-year-old pacing fillies squaring off in the $45,000 Violet Stake at Balmoral. There will also be Violet and Cardinal Stakes for Illinois conceived and foaled pacers and trotters on Sunday, May 25th, Wednesday, May 28th, and Saturday, May 31st at Balmoral Park. Maywood’s first big event of the season will be the $100,000 Filly Maywood Pace for ICF three-year-old fillies on Friday, June 13th.  The $100,000 Maywood Pace for ICF sophomore pacing colts will be held the following Friday, June 20th. . The first Hanover Stakes of the season at Balmoral Park will feature a pair of events for three-year-old trotters on Saturday, June 7th.    The Southland Festival of Racing will provide a weekend filled with state-bred action at Balmoral on Saturday, July 26th and Sunday, July 27th with pacers and trotters squaring off in $50,000 battles like the Mini Me Stake, Loyal Opposition Stake, Incredible Finale Stake, Ann Vonian Stake, Kadabra Stake, Fox Valley Evita Stake, Fox Valley Flan Stake and Plesac Stake. A pair of $50,000 Hanover’s for two-year-old colt and filly pacers are scheduled for Saturday, August 2nd at the Crete oval while a pair of $60,000 events for freshmen trotters will be contested on Sunday, August 3rd. Balmoral will also play host to Illinois’ biggest night of racing, Super Night, on Saturday, Sept. 13th.  As always, the state’s top pacers and trotters will be on display as they battle for more than $1 million in purse money. The prestigious American National’s kick off on Wednesday, Sept. 17th with a pair of $90,000 trotting stakes for two-year-olds. October will be a busy month for the youngsters as the $100,000 Lady Lincoln Stake for two-year-old trotting fillies takes place on Wednesday, Oct. 1st while their male counterparts battle in the $100,000 Lincoln Land Stake on Sunday, Oct. 5th Balmoral Park. Maywood will also host the $60,000 Cardinal and Violet Stakes for two-year-old colt and filly pacers on Friday, Oct. 3rd. If the last few years were any indication of things to come then racing fans throughout the country will want to circle Saturday, Oct. 11th and Friday, Oct. 17th, on their calendars as some of North America’s best pacers and trotters are expected to visit the Chicagoland area as Grand Circuit action comes to town. Balmoral Park will play host to the $250,000 three-year-old colt pace, $225,00 American National three-year-old colt trot, $200,000 American National Aged Pace, $180,000 aged trot, $175,000 American National three-year-old filly pace, $150,000 three-year-old filly trot, $125,000 two-year-old colt pace and $125,000 two-year-old filly pace approximately one month earlier than in recent years.    Maywood’s biggest card of the season is just six days later on Friday, Oct. 17th with the $225,000 Windy City Pace for three-year-old pacing colts, the $130,000 Abe Lincoln Stake for two-year-old pacing colts, the $110,00 Galt Trot for three-year-old trotting colts and the $100,000 Cinderella Stake for three-year-old pacing fillies sharing the spotlight. The $30,000 Associates-McKeever Stake for ICF pacers is also scheduled for that same night. Below is a complete list of both tracks entire stake schedules. All purse values are estimated. Date       Day Track A-S-G ICF Name Est Purse 3/29/2014 Sat Bal 3cp ICF Taurus Bomber 10,000 4/5/2014 Sat Bal 3+p ICF Song Cycle 17,000 4/5/2014 Sat Bal 3fp ICF Direct Balance 10,000 4/11/2014 Fri May 3cp ICF Sportsmaster 10,000 4/13/2014 Sun Bal 3ft ICF Trotting Tilly 10,000 4/16/2014 Wed Bal 3ct ICF Speedy Rodney 10,000 4/18/2014 Fri May 3fp ICF Desperate Lady 10,000 4/26/2014 Sat Bal 3+p ICF Rambling Willie 17,000 4/26/2014 Sat Bal 3cp ICF Betzotic 10,000 4/27/2014 Sun Bal 3ft ICF Koochie 10,000 4/30/2014 Wed Bal 3ct ICF Iggy Magoo 10,000 5/2/2014 Fri May 3cp ICF Taser Gun 10,000 5/3/2014 Sat Bal 3fp ICF Betzotic 10,000 5/11/2014 Sun Bal 3fp ICF Violet Eliminations 10,000 5/11/2014 Sun Bal 3ft ICF Betzotic 10,000 5/14/2014 Wed Bal 3ct ICF Betzotic 10,000 5/16/2014 Fri May 3cp ICF Gosox 10,000 5/18/2014 Sun Bal 3fp ICF Violet 45,000 5/18/2014 Sun Bal 3ft ICF Violet Eliminations 10,000 5/21/2014 Wed Bal 3ct ICF Cardinal Eliminations 10,000 5/24/2014 Sat Bal 3cp ICF Cardinal Eliminations 10,000 5/25/2014 Sun Bal 3ft ICF Violet 40,000 5/28/2014 Wed Bal 3ct ICF Cardinal 40,000 5/31/2014 Sat Bal 3cp ICF Cardinal 45,000 6/1/2014 Sun Bal 2cp ICF Jimmy Sunshine 5,000 6/4/2014 Wed Bal 2fp ICF Egyptian Grande 5,000 6/5/2014 Thur May 3fp ICF Filly Maywood Pace Elim 10,000 6/7/2014 Sat Bal 3ct Hanover 35,000 6/7/2014 Sat Bal 3ft Hanover 35,000 6/8/2014 Sun Bal 2cp ICF Bingo Johnnie 5,000 6/11/2014 Wed Bal 2fp ICF Misty Misty Misty 5,000 6/13/2014 Fri May 3cp ICF Maywood Pace Elim 10,000 6/13/2014 Fri May 3fp ICF Filly Maywood Pace 100,000 6/14/2014 Sat Bal 3+p ICF Broadway Preview 30,000 6/14/2014 Sat Bal 3ct ICF Southern Rocketop 10,000 6/15/2014 Sun Bal 2cp ICF Wicked Brew 10,000 6/15/2014 Sun Bal 2ct ICF Million Dollar Bye 5,000 6/18/2014 Wed Bal 2fp ICF Incredible Tillie 10,000 6/18/2014 Wed Bal 2ft ICF Star Slinger 5,000 6/20/2014 Fri May 3cp ICF Maywood Pace 100,000 6/21/2014 Sat Bal f&m p ICF Sue Fee 20,000 6/22/2014 Sun Bal 3ft ICF Betzotic 10,000 6/25/2014 Wed Bal 3ct ICF Betzotic 10,000 6/26/2014 Thur May 2fp ICF Juxtaposition 10,000 6/27/2014 Fri May 2cp ICF Enzo The Baker 10,000 6/28/2014 Sat Bal 3cp ICF Betzotic 10,000 6/29/2014 Sun Bal 3fp ICF Mystical Victress 10,000 7/2/2014 Wed Bal 3ft ICF Sorce Ann 10,000 7/4/2014 Fri May 3+p ICF Cook County 30,000 7/5/2014 Sat Bal 3cp ICF Hot Head 10,000 7/5/2014 Sat Bal 3fp ICF Ohyouprettything 10,000 7/6/2014 Sun Bal 2ft ICF Vaporize 10,000 7/9/2014 Wed Bal 2ct ICF Psychic Spirit 10,000 7/9/2014 Wed Bal 3ft ICF Fox Valley Diva 10,000 7/10/2014 Thur May 2fp ICF My Metallica 10,000 7/11/2014 Fri May 2cp ICF Fox Valley Barzgar 10,000 7/12/2014 Sat Bal 3cp Hanover 45,000 7/12/2014 Sat Bal 3fp Hanover 40,000 7/13/2014 Sun Bal 3ct ICF Brandenburg 10,000 7/19/2014 Sat Bal 2cp ICF Mini Me Elim 10,000 7/19/2014 Sat Bal 2fp ICF Loyal Opposition Elim 10,000 7/19/2014 Sat Bal 3cp ICF Incredible Finale Elim 10,000 7/19/2014 Sat/Sun Bal 3ct ICF Kadabra Elim 10,000 7/19/2014 Sat/Sun Bal 3fp ICF Ann Vonian Elim 10,000 7/19/2014 Sat/Sun Bal 3ft ICF Fox Valley Evita Elim 10,000 7/20/2014 Sun Bal 2ct ICF Plesac Eliminations 10,000 7/20/2014 Sun Bal 2ft ICF Fox Valley Flan Elim 10,000 7/26/2014 Sat Bal 2cp ICF Mini Me 50,000 7/26/2014 Sat Bal 2fp ICF Loyal Opposition 50,000 7/26/2014 Sat Bal 3cp ICF Incredible Finale 50,000 7/26/2014 Sat Bal 3ct ICF Kadabra 50,000 7/26/2014 Sat Bal 3fp ICF Ann Vonian 50,000 7/27/2014 Sun Bal 3ft ICF Fox Valley Evita 50,000 7/27/2014 Sun Bal 2ct ICF Plesac 50,000 7/27/2014 Sun Bal 2ft ICF Fox Valley Flan 50,000 8/2/2014 Sat Bal 2cp Hanover 50,000 8/2/2014 Sat Bal 2fp Hanover 50,000 8/3/2014 Sun Bal 2ct Hanover 60,000 8/3/2014 Sun Bal 2ft Hanover 60,000 8/3/2014 Sun Bal 3+T ICF Mikes A Mystery 25,000 8/16/2014 Sat Bal 3+P ICF Big Tom 40,000 8/16/2014 Sat Bal f&m p ICF Parklane Powerful 40,000 8/29/2014 Fri May 3+p ICF Egyptian 30,000 9/6/2014 Sat Bal 2cp ICF Orange & Blue Elim 15,000 9/6/2014 Sat Bal 2fp ICF Filly O&B Eliminations 15,000 9/6/2014 Sat/Sn Bal 3+p ICF Tony Maurello Elim 15,000 9/6/2014 Sat Bal 3cp ICF Pete Langley Mem Elim 15,000 9/6/2014 Sat Bal 3fp ICF Grandma Ann Elim 15,000 9/6/2014 Sat/Sn Bal f&m p ICF Lorna Propes Elim 15,000 9/7/2014 Sun Bal 3ct ICF Su Mac Lad Elim 15,000 9/7/2014 Sun Bal 3ft ICF Lady Ann Reed Elim 15,000 9/10/2014 Wed Bal 2ct American National Elim 15,000 9/10/2014 Wed Bal 2ft American National Elim 15,000 9/13/2014 Sat Bal 2cp ICF Orange & Blue Cons 25,000 9/13/2014 Sat Bal 2cp ICF Orange & Blue 250,000 9/13/2014 Sat Bal 2fp ICF Filly O&B Cons 25,000 9/13/2014 Sat Bal 2fp ICF Filly O&B 225,000 9/13/2014 Sat Bal 3+p ICF Tony Maurello Cons 25,000 9/13/2014 Sat Bal 3+p ICF Tony Maurello 115,000 9/13/2014 Sat Bal 3cp ICF Pete Langley Mem Cons 25,000 9/13/2014 Sat Bal 3cp ICF Pete Langley Mem 170,000 9/13/2014 Sat Bal 3ct ICF Su Mac Lad 100,000 9/13/2014 Sat Bal 3fp ICF Grandma Ann Cons 25,000 9/13/2014 Sat Bal 3fp ICF Grandma Ann 170,000 9/13/2014 Sat Bal 3ft ICF Lady Ann Reed 100,000 9/13/2014 Sat Bal f&m p ICF Lorna Propes Cons 25,000 9/13/2014 Sat Bal f&m p ICF Lorna Propes 115,000 9/14/2014 Sun Bal 3ct ICF Su Mac Lad Cons 25,000Date Day Track A-S-G ICF Name Est Purse 9/14/2014 Sun Bal 3ft ICF Lady Ann Reed Cons 25,000 9/17/2014 Wed Bal 2ct American National 90,000 9/17/2014 Wed Bal 2ft American National 90,000 9/20/2014 Sat Bal 2cp ICF Yates Eagle 15,000 9/20/2014 Sat Bal 2fp ICF Thrifty Way 15,000 9/24/2014 Wed Bal 2ft ICF Lady Lincoln Land Elim 15,000 9/26/2014 Fri May 2cp ICF Cardinal Elim 10,000 9/26/2014 Fri May 2fp ICF Violet Elim 10,000 9/27/2014 Sat Bal 3cp ICF Bye Bye Byrd 15,000 9/28/2014 Sun Bal 2ct ICF Lincoln Land Elim 15,000 9/28/2014 Sun Bal 3fp ICF Direct Dottie 15,000 10/1/2014 Wed Bal 2ft ICF Lady Lincoln Land Cons 25,000 10/1/2014 Wed Bal 2ft ICF Lady Lincoln Land 100,000 10/1/2014 Sun Bal 3ft ICF Betzotic 10,000 10/3/2014 Fri May 2cp ICF Cardinal 50,000 10/3/2014 Fri May 2fp ICF Violet 60,000 10/5/2014 Sun Bal 2ct ICF Lincoln Land 100,000 10/5/2014 Sun Bal 2ct ICF Lincoln Land Cons 25,000 10/11/2014 Sat Bal 2cp American National 125,000 10/11/2014 Sat Bal 2fp American National 125,000 10/11/2014 Sat Bal 3cp American National 250,000 10/11/2014 Sat Bal 3ct American National 225,000 10/11/2014 Sat Bal 3fp American National 175,000 10/11/2014 Sat Bal 3ft American National 150,000 10/11/2014 Sat Bal ap American National 200,000 10/11/2014 Sat Bal at American National 180,000 10/17/2014 Fri May 2cp Abe Lincoln 130,000 10/17/2014 Fri May 3+p ICF Associates-McKeever 30,000 10/17/2014 Fri May 3cp Windy City Pace 225,000 10/17/2014 Fri May 3ct Galt 110,000 10/17/2014 Fri May 3fp Cinderella 100,000 10/18/2014 Sat Bal 2fp ICF Beecher 10,000 10/19/2014 Sun Bal 2ft ICF Violet Elim 10,000 10/22/2014 Wed Bal 2ct ICF Cardinal Elim 10,000 10/26/2014 Sun Bal 2ft ICF Violet 40,000 10/26/2014 Sun Bal 3ct ICF Betzotic 10,000 10/29/2014 Wed Bal 2ct ICF Cardinal 40,000 10/30/2014 Thur May 3ft ICF Speed N The Tunnel 10,000 10/31/2014 Fri May 3cp ICF Betzotic 10,000 10/31/2014 Fri May 3fp ICF Giggles The Clown 10,000 11/1/2014 Sat Bal 2cp ICF Crete 10,000 11/2/2014 Sun Bal 2fp ICF Betzotic 10,000 11/2/2014 Sun Bal 2ft ICF Monee 10,000 11/5/2014 Wed Bal 2ct ICF Betzotic 10,000 11/6/2014 Thur May 3ct ICF Lifes A Holiday 10,000 11/14/2014 Thur May 3fp ICF Betzotic 10,000 11/15/2014 Sat Bal 2cp ICF Betzotic 10,000 11/21/2014 Fri May 3cp ICF Cole Muffler 10,000 11/22/2014 Sat Bal f&m p ICF Fox Valley Memory 15,000 by Tom Kelley, for Balmoral & Maywood Park

Saturdays finale of the Jim Grundy Trotting Series is named for the driver/trainer who was a California mainstay for four decades. He passed away in 2009 at the age of 74. Jim Grundy made 2,617 trips to the charmed enclosure as a driver, with more than $10.3 million in earnings and was inducted into the California Hall of Fame in 2007. Originally a hockey player in his native Canada, a knee injury forced Grundy to hang up his skates and stick in 1958. Going into the family business of harness racing, he found his second niche in life as a driver/trainer. Grundy apprenticed under famed horsemen Eddie Cobb, Clint Hodgins and Frank Popfinger before going out on his own in the early 1960s. He was the leading driver at Monticello for three straight years beginning in 1971 before heading west with his wife Deborah, a former schoolteacher and bookkeeper for the stable. It was here that Grundy blossomed into one of the states top harness horsemen. Teaming with owners like Chris Bardis, Lloyd Arnold and Ron Zumbrun, he won countless stakes races with the likes of Googie, Hugabear, Steam and Easel. He was especially noted as an outstanding trainer of young trotters. Steve Desomer, Gene Vallandingham and Rick Kuebler competed against Grundy for many years and have high praise for his skills. Jim was not only our friend, but partners with us on many memorable horses, Desomer said. He was an exceptional horseman and that resulted in a long and successful career. Vallandingham related, I knew Jim from the time he came to California. He was a nice guy and a great horseman and I always enjoyed his company. Kuebler also did battle with Jim on many occasions at Cal Expo, Hollywood Park and Los Alamitos. Id have to say he was the most accomplished trainer of young trotters weve ever had in the state. Even after his retirement, horsemen would seek him out to get advice in shoeing and balancing a trotter. It was all about his expertise and passion and he is missed. Jim Grundy Series final, Open Pace, Sire Stakes set A $10,000 California Sire Stakes headed by Rikybrnthegaragdwn and King Of The Crop; the $12,300 finale of the Jim Grundy Trotting Series and an Open Pace featuring One And Only are the highlights on Saturday evenings 14-race card at Cal Expo. Rickybrnthegaragdwn and King Of The Crop have divided up the first four stakes races at the meeting for the 3-year-old pacing colts. Rikybrnthegaragdwn races for Maryann Plano with Luke Plano driving and training, while King Of The Crop carries the banner of his breeder Frank Nevarez and is trained and driven by James Kennedy. A son of Living It Up out of the Sportsmaster mare Sports Bra, Rikybrnthegaragdwn captured the first stakes race of the season for this group on January 18, then was second and third in the next two big-money events while King Of The Crop was posing for pictures. In the most recent stakes two weeks ago, he made every pole a winning one, holding safe by nose over King Of The Crop in a 1:55 2/5 clocking, two ticks off the mark he established in his previous decision in a conditioned affair. The latter is by Little Steven accounted for back-to-back stakes on February 1 and 15 in game fashion, including a 1:55 1/5 tally. Sent off the 4-5 choice in that last added-money clash, he sat the pocket behind his arch-rival and just missed while coming a :26 3/5 final quarter. In the Open Pace, One And Only is a 6-year-old son of Bettors Delight who carries the banner of Richard Morita and David Yamada, takes his lessons from Lino Pacheco and will once again have Luke Plano giving directions. He comes into this assignment having posed for pictures following five of his seven starts on the year and is closing in on the $100,000 mark in career earnings with a 1:52 2/5 standard. The field for the Jim Grundy finale will line up this way from the rail out: Axle, with David Siegel at the controls; Donna Letsgo, Luke Plano; Try This with Williams Hernandez; High Dollar for Tim Maier; Giles L S Hanover, Mooney Svendsen; and Silverlode, to be guided by Steve Desomer. By Mark Ratzky, for Cal Expo Harness  

Chip Lackey gave the Gene Vallandingham-trained Giant Sculpture a perfect drive in last weeks Open Handicap Pace, working out a two-hole trip with the son of Village Jolt and posting a four-length decision in a lifetime-best 1:52 clocking. "I dont have many winners circle pictures on my wall, but this is one Ill be proud to put up there," said the veteran Lackey. "Winning an Open Pace and having the picture taken with Gene and Lou Pena was very special." Vallandingham and Lackey go back to 1973, when Gene first came to California. I went to work for Gene when he first got out here, and then I went back with him to Maywood Park the next year and he was the leading trainer. The victory with Giant Sculpture was the second in five starts with Lackey in the sulky. The first time I drove him back in January he was 11-1 and put in a real game, first-over effort and got there by a nose. He had also put in some solid races coming into last week, giving me a good finish every time. According to Chip, post position played a big role in his strategy last week. We had been drawing outside Docs Zippy every week and I didnt want to battle with him early, but this time we were inside and I sent my horse and was able to work out a pocket trip. They may have been going :55 to the half that night, but I knew I had a ton of horse. I made sure to ease out a little early so we didnt get trapped in, and he gave me a super kick. It was very gratifying to go out there and win a race like this for such great people. Sire Stakes, Open Pace, Jim Grundy Series on tap A $10,000 California Sire Stakes for 3-year-olds that finds King Of The Crop and Rikybrnthegaragdown renewing their rivalry; the opening leg of the Jim Grundy Trotting Series featuring Donna Letsgo and an Open Pace are the main attractions at Cal Expo Saturday night. King Of The Crop had to settle for second in the first stakes clash for the sophomore pacing colts on January 18, but has posed for pictures following the last two big-money events. The Little Steven homebred carries the banner of Frank Nevarez with James Kennedy doing the driving and training. The bay performer left little doubt in the February 1 clash, drawing off by five and a half-lengths that evening in a snappy 1:55 1/5 mile. Backed down to 1-5 for the most recent gathering of this group two weeks ago, he had to work much harder as he opened up on the lead at the head of the lane and held by a head over Rikybrnthegaragdown. The latter is by Living It Up out of the Sportsmaster mare Sports Bra and races for Maryann Plano with son Luke reining and training. He made every pole a winning in the first Sire Stakes of the season on January 18, was a distant third in the next one and then fell just short of catching his arch-rival in that last added-money affair two weeks ago. He returned last week to post a convincing score in a conditioned event. Last weeks Open Pace saw Giant Sculpture pulling off the upset. He is a 6-year-old son of Village Jolt who carries the banner of A Piece Of The Action LLC, is conditioned by Gene Vallandingham and will once again be handled by Chip Lackey. He was able to work out a perfect trip in the most recent clash at the head of the class, sitting the pocket and then exploding in the stretch for a four-length score in a lifetime-best 1:52 performance. One And Only had to settle for the exacta completion that evening while leaving from the outside post as the 1-2 favorite for owners Richard Morita and David Yamada, conditioner Lino Pacheco and pilot Luke Plano. He rattled off five straight victories at this top rung between December 21 and January 21, including a score from the demanding No. 10 post. By Mark Ratzky, for Cal Expo Harness    

There was one winning ticket in last Saturday nights Pick 5, returning $9.968 for what proved to be an excellent 50-cent investment. The Pick 5 is one of three wagers offered here nightly with a reduced 16 percent takeout rate. The others are the 20-cent Pick 4 with a $20,000-guaranteed pool on Friday and a $25,000 guaranteed pool on Saturday; and the Hi-Five on the finale. Had last Saturdays winning ticket been paid out under the regular takeout rate, it would have returned just over $9,000, a difference of some $920 to the winner. "We have had these low takeout bets in place since we took over the meeting in the fall of 2012," said General Manager Chris Schick. "We are very pleased with the response to these wagers." Last Saturdays Pick 5 sequence got off to a pretty formful start as 2-1 second choice Orlandos Express got the job done for James Kennedy, followed by co-favorite Diva Las Vegas clicking at $6.60 with Tim Maier and 2-1 second choice Alpine Hawk posing for pictures with Rich Wojcio. It got a bit tougher when Hi Ho Disguise prevailed at $11.20 in the penultimate leg with Dave Siegel at the controls, then kicked into overdrive after Majestic Lass upset the second leg of the Marvin Shapiro Series at 22-1 with Mooney Svendsen giving directions. There is another chance to pick up a nice piece of change for a minor investment here Friday night with the reduced takeouts of the 50-cent Pick 5; the 20-cent Pick 4 with a $20,000-guaranteed pool; and the 10-cent Hi-Five on the final contest. Kirschenbaum, Staley Series Finales headline program The $7,200 finale of the Alan Kirschenbaum Series headed by Nutmegs Davey and Larry Horse; the $6,600 Richard Staley Series finale featuring Melboy and Big Guy To Win; an Open Trot and and Open Distaff Pace are on tapFriday night program at Cal Expo. Nutmegs Davey has captured the opening two legs of the Kirschenbaum in convincing style and looms the favorite in Fridays finale for owner Osman Carrera, trainer Dario Solares and pilot Luke Plano. The 5-year-old son of Jennas Beach Boy went coast-to-coast in his division of the first leg with Dave Siegel in the sulky while competing over a sloppy track, then held safe by a neck in last weeks penultimate leg over Larry Horse as the even-money favorite with Plano at the controls. Larry Horse is a popular 12-year-old who goes about his business for Jessie Pacheco and Kristin Swab with Lino Pacheco the conditioner and Gerry Longo handling the lines. The son of Sportsmaster comes into this assignment with $230,000 in his account and a 1:52 2/5 mark. With Plano in the bike in his division of the first leg, Larry Horse proved a punctual 6-5 choice in the slop, then was handicapped by the No. 9 post last weekend with Longo at the helm and fell just short of catching Larry Horse that evening. Melboy and Big Guy To Win accounted for their respective divisions of the first leg of the Staley Series, then finished one-two in last weeks clash. Melboy is an 8-year-old son of Western Hanover who is owned by Lili Tremblay, trained by Nathalie Tremblay and driven by Tim Maier; while Big Guy To Win is a 9-year-old from the George Reider barn who carries the Kimberley Hines banner and has Mooney Svendsen giving directions. The Open Trot finds El Azteca looking for another win at the head of the class for owner/trainer/breeder Marco Rios and driver Luke Plano while leaving from the assigned No.10 post position. Haggin Oaks heads the Open Distaff Pace with trainer James Kennedy in the sulky. By Mark Ratzky, for Cal Expo Harness  

A Pick 5 Carryover of $8,619 with a $25,000-guaranteed gross pool; a pair of $10,000 California Sire Stakes headed by Placer and De Valeria; and the second leg of the Alan Kirschenbaum and Richard Staley Pacing series are in the spotlight Friday evening at Cal Expo. The Pick 5 is a 50-cent wager that begins on the third race and in addition to the $25,000 guaranteed pool there is a reduced 16 percent takeout. That 16 percent take also applies to the 20-cent Pick 4 and the 10-cent Hi-Five on the finale. The second leg of the Alan Kirschenbaum Series matches first leg winners Larry Horse and Nutmegs Davey; and the second leg of the Richard Staley Series is headed by opening leg victor Big Guy To Win. Larry Horse is one of the most popular performers on the grounds and proved a punctual 6-5 favorite in his division of the first leg of the Kirschenbaum last weekend. The 12-year-old son of Sportsmaster races for Jesse Pacheco and Kristin Schwab, is conditioned by Lino Pacheco and will once again have Luke Plano guiding. Larry Horse was winning for the third time in his last four starts and pushed his earnings to $229,000 with a 1:52 4/5 mark. His last two tallies have been accomplished in similar fashion, tracking early for Plano and then attacking first-over to get the job done, with last weeks margin being a comfortable two and a quarter lengths. Nutmegs Daisy accounted for the other Kirschenbaum division last week for owner Osmin Carrera, trainer Dario Solares and pilot Dave Siegel. The son of Jennas Beach Boy made every pole a winning one at 5-1 in that affair, showing the way home by two and a quarter lengths over 4-5 favorite Yiannoulas Boy. Meanwhile, Kimberley Hines Big Guy To Win captured the opening leg of the Staley in a coast-to-coast performance with Mooney Svendsen in the sulky. George Reider trains the 9-year-old son of Towners Big Guy. In the Sire Stakes, Placer and De Valeria are both looking for repeat big-money tallies in their respective divisions. Big Guy To Win casts a large shadow Big Guy To Win left little doubt in last weeks opening leg of the Richard Staley Pacing series for owner Kimberley Hines, trainer George Reider and driver Mooney Svendsen, making every pole a winning one while never appearing to be in danger. They named this pacer right, his conditioner remarked. Hes probably the biggest horse on the grounds at over 17 hands, and hes not exactly the easiest horse to trainer because he has a mind of his own. You can see in the post parade that needs the outrider, and that really helps. He doesnt have what you would call the biggest motor, but he has a big set of lungs and a big heart and that kind of compensates for the small engine. The 9-year-old Ohio-bred son of Towners Big Guy has earned his $82,000 bank account the old-fashioned way, with his 1:55 lifetime standard being established two years ago. He was winning for the first time in six starts this season with his Staley snapshot that featured Reider and a beaming owner/assistant trainer Hines. Kimberley has owned him for five years now and hes the closest thing we have in the barn to a family horse. They always take rides down the American River, and if she could, Im sure Kim would build a room for him at her house. Big Guy To Win is back in action in the second leg of the Staley and hell do his work from the outside post in the field of seven. Hopefully we can keep him sharp through the series, Reider added. The race goes as the ninth on a 14-race card with first post set for 5:25 p.m. The second leg of the Alan Kirschenbaum is the seventh race; the Sire Stakes for trotters is set as the second event, while the Sire Stakes for the pacing fillies occupies the 10th-race slot on the evening. by Mark Ratzky, for Cal Expo Harness  

Pompano Beach, FL...January 4, 2013...Prairie Jaguar extended his streak of victories to five on Saturday night at Pompano Park with yet another awesome performance--this one timed in 1:50 in the $10,000 Open Handicap Pace.   The now six year-old Florida bred son of Spy Hard, again driven by Jason Dillander for Laurie Poulin and co-owner-trainer Mike Deters, had to use slightly different tactics this time around but, when all was said and done, his winning margin was just short of four lengths.   Northern Companion (Dave Ingraham), pacing his final 3/4s in 1:21.3, came from last in the octet to finish second while Lyons Johnny (Wally Hennessey) earned show honors, though 5 1/2 lengths away at the wire. Southern Sport and Military Stratcom picked up the final two awards.   Handicapped with the outside post in the field, Prairie Jaguar left alertly but was not able to out-sprint B N Bad, who had the innermost post, in a :26 opening panel and had to settle in second as B N Bad went full throttle to the half in :54.1. With 3/8ths remaining, "Jaguar" left the coziness of the pocket and rolled on by B N Bad and hit the three-quarter beam in 1:22.2 while stretching his lead to two lengths turning for home. That margin continued to improve down the lane, even with Northern Companion surging late.   For Prairie Jaguar, it kicked off the new year just as 2013 ended--on a winning note--and sent his lifetime bounty to $62,222, of which $20,000 of that has been achieved with his new found fame of the last month.   In a post race interview, driver Dillander said, " know, this horse has proven something to me every week. We know he has that raw speed...we know, as of last week, that he has the class to play ball with the big boys...but, this week, he proved something else--that he's not just a one dimensional speed ball that can only race on the front end. He was somewhat relaxed In The Pocket but remained 'interested' the entire way kind of waiting for me to tell him when to get down to business. I asked him midway on the backside and he immediately responded. Maybe the time was a second slower than last week, but I thought this was his best performance yet."   Prairie Jaguar, even money on the tote board, paid $4.20 to win.   The Open 2 Pace went to MIchael Guest's Gentleman Friend, driven by Wally Hennessey for trainer Terry Deters.   This seven year-old son of Western Hanover made a bold quarter move from fifth to the lead halfway through the mile to coast home a three length winner over Electric Lad (Dillander) in 1:51.4.   Just Fred rallied from last at the stretch call to finish third while No Gin finished fourth. Woodmere Ultimate picked up the nickel in the field of eight.   Favored Rick's Sign made a mid-mile move from sixth to third with 3/8ths to go but could not sustain his rally further and finished sixth.   Gentleman Friend won for the 17th time during his career and sent his lifetime bounty $60 past the $200,000 mark.   As second choice on the board, Gentleman Friend paid $10.20 to win.   Also, two divisions of the Murdock Hanover Late Closer were held with Artomatic Pilot and Fox Valley Griffin reporting home winners.   Artomatic Pilot, a 10 year-old son of Western Hanover, driven by Rick Plano for new owner and trainer Tom Artandi, was making his second start for his new connection and used a solid backside brush from third to the lead and then held off the late charging Paradise Station (Kevin Wallis) to win by three parts of a length in 1:52.4. Trevor Win For Us was third for Ricky Macomber, Jr. while Shamderock finished fourth. The last check in the field of six went to Last Call Hanover.   Artomatic Pilot won for the 38th time during his career and sent his lifetime bounty to just short of $300,000.   As the 2 to 1 favorite, Artomatic Pilot returned $6.60 to win.   Fox Valley Griffin, driven by Rick Plano, pulled off the minor upset in the other division of the Murdock Hanover, first collaring 3 to 10 favorite Premier at the top of the stretch and then holding off Odd Man Out (Macomber, Jr.) to win by a length in 1:54.3.   Cascata rallied from last turning for home to finish third while Premier faltered a bit in the lane to finish fourth. A Fool For Mark was fifth.   Owned by Carol Macomber along with Emilinda Manzi, Fox Valley Griffin, a six year-old son of Sportsmaster, paid $9.40, $4.20 and $18.80, the show price bonanza occurring as Premier finished off the board.   Odd Man Out, off at 9 to 1, paid $5.20 and $28.00 while Cascata, 23 to 1, paid $50.20 to show.   by John Berry for Isle Pompano Park            

Pompano Beach, FL...December 29, 2013...Jaguars, known for their speed and strength, are usually found in the southwestern part of the United States, down through Mexico and into central and South America. But one Jaguar invaded south Florida on Saturday--an equine version--and scorched the Pompano Park five-eighths oval to the tune of 1:49 in the $10,000 Open Pace.   Prairie Jaguar, the Florida bred five year-old altered of Spy Hard, handled by Jason Dillander, led from first stride to last, clocking remarkable panels of :27, :54 and 1:21.1 along the way to score by an unthreatened two lengths over Military Stratcom, piloted by Ed Hensley. B N Bad finished third for Rick Plano, six lengths away, while Northern Companion was next in the field of six. Rick's Sign picked up the nickel.   Off of a lifetime best 1:50 performance the week prior, Prairie Jaguar stepped up to the top rung on the ladder and, though coming into the action with the lowest lifetime bankroll in his million dollar plus field--$52,222--took no prisoners with a performance that came within one-fifth of a second of the all age track record.   Owned by Laurie Poulin along with trainer Mike Deters, it was the fourth straight triumph for Prairie Jaguar, having stepped up from the lowest conditioned spot just 3 1/2 weeks ago.   In a post race interview, driver Dillander said, "...there's no doubt that this one had speed but speed and class are two different things. I've seen many-a-horse show speed in a particular class and, when they move them up in class, they fold like a tent. Tonight, this horse showed me he has speed AND class! He beat a very good group of horses, a few of them on winning streaks of their own coming in. I was very impressed. And to think he accomplished this off of slower early fractions than his 1:50 mile last week (:26 and :53), well, that was something. He was pacing like a "jaguar" to the wire."   The victory sent his 2013 bounty to $21,658--$15,000 in December alone.   He paid $6.60 to win as the second choice on the board.   The Open 2 Pace went to Southern Sport, who toured the five-eighths oval in wire-to-wire fashion for owner-trainer Luca Derrico.   The classy six year-old Sportsmaster gelding carved out fractions of :27.1, :56.1 and 1:24.1 before sealing the issue for driver Joe Pavia, Jr. on the strength of a :27.3 closer. Souther Sport, off as the 6 to 5 choice, paid $4.40 and sent his lifetime earnings to $334,599--$80,050 in 2013.   Two divisions of the Murdock Hanover Late Closer, honoring the first sub-2:00 performer in Pompano Park's history back in 1966, were also held with Just Fred and Itchy Pickle's victorious.   Just Fred, owned, trained and handled by Ed Hensley, just did get up in the final strides to nail the 1 to 5 tote board favorite, Premier, driven by Bruce Ranger, by a neck in 1:52.2. Trevor Win For Us was third in the field of six while A Fool For Mark and Cascata also earned checks.   The winner was second choice in the betting and returned $7.60 to his faithful.   Jake Huff's Itchy Pickle's stormed up from last at mid-stretch to eke out a victory in a five horse photo for Jimmy Whittemore in 1:54.1 for his 31st lifetime victory.   Itchy Pickle's was third choice in the win pool and paid $12.60.   by John Berry for the Isle Pompano Park                  

Orlandos Express has been under the care of James Kennedy for less than two months, but this could be the start of something big as the 3-year-old continues his march toward next weeks Bob Gordon Series final. The Frank Nevarez-homebred son of Wicked Island only made it to the post one time last year and didnt get to the races again this season until November 15, but hes doing his best to make up for lost time. Hes won two conditioned events, finished second to divisional powerhouse A Stitch In Time in a Sire Stakes and then captured his section of last weeks opening leg of the Gordon. Sent off at a juicy 9-1 in the latter affair, he sat a stalking trip for Kennedy until the stretch, then unleashed a :27 3/5 final quarter to prevail by a half-length over favored Party Cove. Hes a nice one who doesnt do a thing wrong, Kennedy related. When I first got him, I learned quite a bit right away by going some trips and you could tell that he had a lot of potential. Orlandos Express came from well back to win his first two outings for Kennedy, then was far from disgraced finishing a distant second behind the very talented A Stitch In Time in his initial stakes foray. Last weeks Gordon opener fit snugly into the schedule and he responded by getting the job done while lowering his mark to 1:56 4/5 that evening. There arent any more stakes for him until January, so this series is perfect, his mentor noted. Hes definitely getting better and better with each start, and hes shown that he really likes to finish his races. Hell have more experience when he goes up against A Stitch In Time again. Kennedy is having a tremendous meet, with extremely high batting averages as both a driver and a trainer. Its been a joy to have the opportunity to drive and train such nice horses, he added. Bob Gordon Series, Invitational Pace head card The second leg of the Bob Gordon Pacing series, featuring last weeks opening leg winners After Alimony and Orlandos Express; and an Invitational Pace headline Saturday nights 14-race program at Cal Expo. After Alimony will be one of six Gene Vallandingham trainees in this weekends penultimate leg of the Bob Gordon. A 3-year-old daughter of Lis Mara out of the Sportsmaster mare Fox Valley Lucerne, she carries the A Piece Of the Action LLC banner. After Alimony sat a pocket trip to handle conditioned foes two weeks ago at 5-1 odds, then was sent off at 4-1 in last weeks division of the opening leg of the Gordon and proceeded to make every pole a winning one with Vallandingham in the sulky. Vallandingham will once again handle After Alimony in the second division and Party Cove in the first section. Orlandos Express is a lightly-raced 3-year-old homebred son of Wicked Island who races for Frank Nevarez and is reined and trained by James Kennedy. He won his first two starts in November, finished second to the outstanding A Stitch In Time in a December 6 Sire Stakes and then did the track-and-attack to perfection to take his Gordon division while lowering his mark to 1:56 4/5 in the process. Looking at the Invitational Pace, Stueben Jumpinjack is going in sharp form at the moment for trainer Gretchen Smith, who co-owns the 5-year-old son of Pacific Fella with Maureen Pittaro. He will appreciate getting away from Pancetta, who has headed East after two dominating Invite victories here. Stueben Jumpinjack, who will be handled by Tyler Smith, captured four of his five starts between November 2 and November 30, with those scores coming in optional claiming events. He has made his last two appearances at this top level, registering a second and a third behind the aforementioned Pancetta. Completing the field are Its Getting Hairy with Tim Maier; One And Only, Luke Plano; Phantom Dan for James Kennedy; Somethinginthewind with Gene Vallandingham; Emery Vern and Mobil Big John, who both hail from the George Anthrop barn and leave from the inside posts. By Mark Ratzky for Cal Expo Harness        

Just as she’s done so often throughout her illustrious career Mystical Marker Farms Mystical Victress proved to be too much for her state-bred rivals as she confidently reported home with a two-length triumph over nine other ICF distaffers in Saturday’s $15,000 Fox Valley Memory Stake. The final time was an effortless 1:54.0.    Hustled away from post position eight by driver Lewayne Miller, the six-year-old daughter of Sportsmaster was parked through an opening quarter in 28.3.   Continuing her march to the top Mystical Victress grabbed command as the field moved into a stiff headwind on the backstretch. In complete control of the proceedings Mystical Victress proceeded to rattle off very comfortable middle splits of 57.4 & 1:27.0 while keeping a first over Dune In Red (Todd Warren) at bay.   Through the lane Mystical Victress put away the challenge of her main rival easily drawing clear through the final sixteenth of a mile to notch her 49th career victory. Fox Valley Absolut (Robert Smolin) rallied up the passing lane to finish second while Dune In Red held on for third.   The win was 11th of the year for Mystical Victress who is now in the barn of conditioner Jill Arnold. The 3-5 choice of the wagering public returned $3.40, $2.40 & $2.10 while upping her career bankroll to a whopping $846,713.     Mystical Victress and driver Lewayne Miller knocked off nine other state-bred filly and mare pacers in Saturday's $15,000 Fox Valley Memory Stake.   David Baum

NEW KENT, VA.  - Leading driver Chris Page directed Le-Sirenuse to his fifth straight victory at the Colonial Downs fall meet in wire to wire fashion Wednesday afternoon against five other pacers. Le-Sirenuse modestly controlled the $4,000-$5,000 claiming handicap pace from the start until mid-stretch when he pulled away from the field. He cut quarters in :26 4/5, :55 3/5 and 1:24 1/5 and won easily by five lengths over Outlaw Wild Thing in 1:51 4/5. The 4 year old Sportsmaster gelding made his first start in New Kent on September 26th and dominated by eight lengths in 1:52.0. He followed that up with a 3 ½ length win a week later in a lifetime best 1:50 4/5 and most recently, connected with a pair of outs after starting from post eight. The Todd Luther trainee has been in front at every quarter mark in the five wins except once in an October 12th race when he was surging three wide in second en route to the top spot seconds later. Le-Sirenuse is co-owned by Bruce and Patricia Soulsby of Powell, Ohio and Scott Wagner of Tonawanda, New York. Hillbilly Desire captured a tight victory over Chesapeake Bay and Our Flight in the $8,000 final leg of the Juniors Pacing Series Wednesday. Owner/trainer Amanda Jackson's 4 year old Real Desire mare won her third race of the meet in five starts, all coming with Frank Milby in the sulky. Fresh off a second leg "Juniors" triumph, Hillbilly Desire triggered panels of :27 2/5, :56 3/5 and 1:25.0 before engaging with fast closing Chesapeake Bay and Our Flight in deep stretch. Only a neck separated the trio at the finish in 1:52 2/5. Colonial Downs is the midst of its closing week. A ten race card will be contested Thursday at 1:00 PM followed by weekend programs Saturday and Sunday at 1:00 PM. Closing day is the $380,000 "Day of Champions". by Darrell Wood for Colonial Downs  

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  

Freshmen pacing colts received top billing on Saturday, October 12th at Balmoral Park as a field of eight state-breds gathered for the $12,000 Betzotic Stake. When the smoke cleared it was Jack and Peggy Hood, Mystical Marker Farms and Dirk Simpson Stables Traffic Cop who came away with the top honors as he rallied for a three-quarter-length victory in 1:52.1. Given a perfect steer by driver Todd Warren the gelded son of Sportsmaster—Dixiegirl came away third while heavily favored Unlocked (Mike Oosting) rattled off splits of 27.3, 56.3 & 1:24.3. Things looked bleak for the rest of the field as Unlocked sped away to a 3 ½ length lead at the mid-stretch call but Warren angled his charge to the outside where the Dirk Simpson trainee began to cut into the leader’s margin. With a six-week layoff finally beginning to take a toll on Unlocked, a hard charging Traffic Cop curbed the pace setter with 100 yards to go and eventually drew clear with a 27.0 final quarter to notch his third win 14 lifetime starts. Unlocked held on for second while I Bizel The Shizel (John De Long) finished third, 5 ½ lengths behind the winner. With the win Traffic Cop now sports a record of 3-4-2 in 14 starts with earnings of $71,635. David Baum

ANDERSON, Ind.-October 11, 2013-Mystical Victress made her Hoosier Park debut a winning one as she took top honors and produced a slight upset in the featured event, a $32,000 Invitational pace for fillies and mares, at Hoosier Park Racing & Casino on Friday, October 11. Shipping in from Balmoral Park, Mystical Victress, with Lewayne Miller at the lines, used a sharp front running effort to score her ninth win of the season with a final time of 1:51.4. As the gate closed, Sam Widger and American Girl made a quick jump on their rivals leaving alertly from post four and grabbed the early lead through the opening quarter in :26.3. Montenegro and Ricky Macomber Jr. found a spot along the rail in second while Mystical Victress was unable to find position along the rail and pressed on for the front. Betterluvnexttime and Tyler Smith were also caught on the outside and pressed on for a better position. Mystical Victress cleared to the front through the half mile time in :55.2 but was quickly challenged on the outside by Betterluvnexttime. The top pair continued to battle it out through the three-quarter clocking in 1:23.3 as the rest of the field closed in. Mystical Victress battled gamely to put away Betterluvnexttime and was able to hold off a late charge from Radar Contact and Dan Shetler late in the lane to score the victory. Radar Contact got up for the second place finish while Montenegro rounded out the trifecta. Mystical Victress pulled the slight upset and returned $13.20 to her backers at the windows. Trained by Erv Miller, Mystical Victress scored her ninth win from 27 seasonal outings as she pushed her seasonal bankroll over the $150,000 mark for her connections of Mystical Marker Farms and Peggy Hood. The six-year-old daughter of Sportsmaster is approaching the $1 million mark as she sports a career bankroll of $818,373. It was a four win night for driver Lewayne Miller on the 14-race card. He teamed up with trainer Erv Miller to find the winner's circle three other times on the evening and was also victorious with Walter Haynes' I'm Gracies Wigwam in Indiana Silver Sire Stakes action earlier on the card. Live racing continues at Hoosier Park Racing & Casino on Saturday, October 12 at its' regularly scheduled post time of 5:30 p.m. The 160 day, all harness racing meet with follow a Tuesday-Saturday schedule and be conducted through November 9. Emily Gaskin

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

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