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COLUMBUS, MN. - Quality Sport pulled a mild upset in the $9600 Open Pace at Running Aces on Tuesday night, besting Thebestofjoel (Tim Maier) and Headsup Yankee (Nick Roland) in 1:54.4 over a rain-soaked harness racing strip. Driver Steve Wiseman elected to sit fourth in the seven-horse field through the first half, then secured the second-over position behind Bunkerhill Bill (Gerry Longo) until the top of the stretch where he swung widest of all to the one-length victory. It was the 16th lifetime triumph for the seven-year-old Sportsmaster gelding, owned by Ronald and Tammy Wells. The feature race win was one of three on the program for Wiseman, which pushed him back into a slim lead in the Running Aces' dash derby, 56-55, over Roland. There are 14 programs remaining in the 2015 summer meet which runs through September 12. Gregg Keidel  

Thee countdown to the Southland Festival of Racing, one of the biggest weekends of the harness racing season for Illinois conceived and foaled pacers and trotters, began in earnest on Saturday, July 18th with a bevy of elimination action highlighting a big 12-race program. Freshmen pacing colts kicked off the non-stop action with a trio of Mini Me Stake elimination's attracting a total of 21 youngsters. The top three finishers in each elimination along with one fourth place finisher will be back next week for the $48,000 (est,) final. In the opening split the Gary Rath trained Wondrous Sport grabbed command right from the word go and made every call a winning one as he reported home with a 1 ½ length victory in 1:54.4 for driver Casey Leonard. The gelded son of Sportsmaster--Wondrous Grace strolled through splits of 29.3, 58.3 & 1:27.2 before sealing the deal with a 27.2 final quarter to notch his third win in four career starts for the partnership of Stephen Mc MacKin, Marilyn Kelly and Lorna Roush. Shootin To Kill (Mike Oosting) rallied late to finish as the runner-up while Fox Valley Chino (Kyle Wilfong) was a solid third. Dakota Road was fourth. In the middle split Nicole Potts' Royale Rose continued his impressive start as he scored in front stepping fashion, recording a three-quarter-length victory in 1:55.2 for driver Brian Carpenter.   Sent to the top after an opening quarter in 30.2 the gelded son of Ashlee's Big Guy--Caribe Royale cruised through middle splits of 59.1 & 1:28.0 before putting on the finishing touches with a 27.2 to notch his third win in four lifetime starts. BS Tyrrific (Kyle Wilfong) was a game second while Silver Sage (Mike Oosting) grabbed the dough. JB's Hero was fourth. With the win the Lyle Scurlock trainee who was sent off as the 3-5 favorite in the race now boasts $9,536 in career earnings.   The final division of the Mini Me Stake eliminations gave the "chalk" players a clean sweep as Kay Willis's Dan D Dune recorded a three-quarter-length victory in 1:55.2 for driver Mike Oosting.   Reserved near the back of the pack while Red Red Redneck (Larry Finn Jr) carved out splits of 28.3, 58.3 & 1:27.3 Oosting moved the Nelson Willis trained son of Duneside Perch--Witch Hanover three deep around rivals as the field reached the top of the stretch. Gobbling up ground on the outside of horses, Dan D Dune rolled right on by his rivals in the lane to post his second win in four lifetime starts. Sagebrush Sid (Todd Warren) staged a nice late rally to finish second while Goinduneside (Casey Leonard) was third after encountering some traffic issues in the stretch. A total of 18 two-year-old pacing fillies were dropped in the box for the Loyal Opposition Stake necessitating a pair of $8,000 eliminations with the top five in each division moving on to the $44,000 (est.) final.   In the first division Quaid Racing's Char N Marg turned in a very impressive performance, overcoming a taxing two-move journey in route to a hard fought neck verdict in a career best of 1:54.3.   Confidently handled by Casey Leonard, the Nelson Willis trained daughter of Sportsmaster--Zip Up Your Pans ducked into the two-hole off the gate, swept into command on the backside then was back out and rolling after the pace setting Fox Valley Gypsy (Clifton Bell) as the field turned for the money.   Shrugging off the difficult journey Char N Marg still had enough left to overtake the pace setter with an eighth of a mile to go holding firm to the wire as a hard charging LK's Nancy Lee (Tim Curtin) came flying through the passing lane to be the bridesmaid. Likeafireballshot (Jared Finn) was a solid third while Fox Valley Gypsy and Lexirose also secured spots in next week's final. The win was the second in four starts for Char N Marg In the final division of the Loyal Opposition Stake Rocco Ruffolo's Narcissistic made her local debut a winning one for trainer Erv Miller blowing past her rivals in the lane as she drew off to a 3 ¼ length victory in 1:54.4 with Mike Oosting at the controls.   In hand early as Fox Valley Tiramisu (Robert Smolin) and Sara's Terror (Brian Carpenter) battled through splits of 27.4, 58.0 & 1:26.3 the daughter of Sportsmaster--Treasure The Best moved up second over into fourth as the field reached the head of the stretch. Exploding home in 27.4 the full sister to Lucpark zipped right by the leaders to grab her first victory in start number three. Fox Valley Addison (Todd Warren) finished second while Sara's Terror held on for third. Burry Me Inthesand was fourth while Fox Valley Bailey grabbed the last spot in next week's final. Sophomore pacing fillies were next on the docket as a field of 10 were sent postward in an $8,000 Ann Vonian Stake elimination. The top nine finishers will be joined by Lex in the $45,000 (est.) final next week. Shaking off the effects of a tough first over trip and a long grind from post eight the Dirk Simpson trained Fox Valley Charm pulled off the minor upset in here as she posted a neck decision in a career best of 1:53.1 for driver Tim Curtin.   Grinding up on the outside for the final five-eighths of a mile the daughter of Yankee Skyscaper--Fox Valley Cherub finally overtook the pace setting Fox Valley Aubrey (Robert Smolin) after that filly had stormed through splits of 28.3, 57.2 & 1:25.0.   After a prolonged stretch duel Fox Valley Charm managed to poke a head in front then held sway for her sixth win in 15 lifetime starts for owner Peter Karras. Fox Valley Aubrey was a game second while Southern Girl (Casey Leonard) was third. Also gaining spots in the final with their fourth through ninth place finishes were BS Tyrichess, Sportsmuffler, Angel Demon, Duneside Perttie, Foxy Ellie and Cowgirl Chic. Rounding out the elimination action were three-year-old pacing colts as a field of 10 slugged it out in an $8,000 Incredible Finale Stake elimination. Again, the top nine finishers will join Earndawg in the $44,500 (est.) final next week. This test produced another victory for the trifecta of owner Rocco Ruffolo, trainer Erv Miller and driver Mike Oosting as Lucpark, whose full sister had won earlier on the card, paced away to a 3¼ length victory in a lifetime best of 1:51.4. Confidently handled by Oosting, the bay gelding stormed up first over to engage pace setting Engine One O One (Brian Carpenter) off splits of 28.0, 54.4 & 1:23.1 then sped away from that one in the lane to post his third win in nine starts this season. Dinky Dune (Pat Curtin) rallied up well to finish second while Engine One O One held on for third. Also gaining spots in the final were Dakota Roadster, Frosty Dune, Dixie's Boy, Fox Valley Elijah, Casey At Bat and DuPage's Z Tam. The elimination action continues on Sunday, July 19th, with a field of 10 trotters battling in the $8,000 Fox Valley Flan Stake for two-year-old trotting fillies. The top eight finishers will be back to join Vengeful and Awfully Emotional in the $45,000 (est.) final next week. Once again the action gets underway at 7:10pm on Sunday night and as always the $1 Pick 4 (races 7-10) features a $25,000 guaranteed pool. The 10-cent Hi Five also features a guaranteed pool now with a $15,000 guarantee on the line in the "ultimate get out bet" (race 10). Tom Killey

The 2015 Hanover Stakes continued at the harness racing meeting at Balmoral on Saturday, July 11th, with a total of 15 sophomore pacing colts squaring off in a pair of $21,775 divisions as the Grand Circuit action returned to the Crete oval. Pacing fillies were also in action with a field of eight slugging it out for a purse of $26,000 in another Hanover tussle. In the filly event Kristopher Heim, Connie Hochstetler and James Michels Southern Girl overcame a tough first over journey as she rallied in the closing yards to post a half-length victory in a career best of 1:52.4 for Casey Leonard.   Positioned in mid-pack as Ashok Ace (Mike Oosting) and then Lex (Kyle Wilfong) led the field through splits of 27.4, 56.1 &1:24.3 Leonard pulled first over from fourth as the field moved around the far turn.   Grinding her way to the lead, the Homer Hochstetler trained daughter of Sportsmaster-Biloxi finally overtook a game Lex who had been battling Ashok Ace tooth and nail, drawing clear in the final strides to notch her fifth win in 14 career starts in this her first season of racing. Ashok Ace was a  hard fought second while Sportsmuffler (Todd Warren) rallied to be third.   The third choice in the wagering managed to return a healthy $23.80, $6.20 & $7.00 while upping her career earnings to $32,517.   After yet another thunderstorm soaked the racing surface the first division for the pacing colts was contested. The wet surface did not seem to bother Strollin Stable, King McNamara, William Robinson and Country Club Acres Rise Up Now as the star of the Pennsylvania Sire Stake circuit splashed to a one-length victory in 1:54.1 for driver Don Harmon.   Leaving alertly from post seven, Harmon landed in the four-hole as Frosty Dune (Kyle Wilfong) and Major Ed (Todd Warren) battled through opening splits of 28.3 & 57.1.   Powering up first over on the far turn the altered son of Somebeachsomewhere--Northwestern managed to poke a head in front of Major Ed as the pacers moved by the three-quarter-mile mark in 1:26.0.   Through the stretch, the Brian Brown trainee began to put daylight between himself and his rivals eventually reporting home with his seventh win in nine starts this year. Longshot Utah Beach (Ryan Anderson) turned in a nice late rally to get the place check while Lucpark (Mike Oosting) was a solid third after missing three weeks.   The co-favorite in the wagering, Rise Up Now returned $4.00, $2.80 & $2.10 while upping his bankroll to $124,812 with his huge sophomore campaign.   In the nightcap Harmon struck again this time guiding Gary Clark's Skim The Top to a thrilling nose decision in 1:53.0 over the sloppy track. Grinding it out in the middle of the pack while Feelnlikearockstar (Mike Oosting) put up fractions of 28.4, 57.4 & 1:25.1 Harmon finally tipped the homebred son of Geartogear--Schmoley off cover with an eighth of a mile to go. Gradually cutting into the two-length advantage of Feelnlikearockstar, the Krista Harmon trained colt managed to edge his nose in front in the last stride to nip the pace setter in a very tight photo. Feelnlikearockstar was forced to settle for the tough luck second place finish while Earndawg (Todd Warren) wound up with the show dough. Dispatched at odds of 9-2 Skim The Top returned $10.60, $5.20 & $3.60 while moving his career numbers to 3-4-2 in 17 starts with earnings of $63,914. State bred's are back in action on Sunday, July 12th with a field of six eight three-year-old trotting colts batting in the $8,000 Brandenburg Stake which goes as race four on the 10-race program. Their female counterparts will also take to the track in race six as a field of eight will renew acquaintances in the $8,000 Fox Valley Diva Stake. Once again the wagering action gets underway at 7:10pm on Sunday night and as always the $1 Pick 4 (races 7-10) features a $25,000 guaranteed pool. The 10-cent Hi Five also features a guaranteed pool now with a $15,000 guarantee on the line in the "ultimate get out bet" (race 10). 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        

Freshmen pacing fillies were front and center on Thursday, July 9th at Maywood Park as a total of 12 state-bred harness racing youngsters squared off in a pair of $6,000 divisions of the My Metallica Stake. In the first division, the Nelson Willis trained Aunt Ethel took full advantage of the inside starting spot as she grabbed command right from the word go and made every call a winning one with a three-length victory in 1:57.3.   Confidently handled by driver Mike Oosting, the homebred daughter of Sportsmaster--Miller Creek Ethel shot to the top where she put up splits of 29.0, 57.4 & 1:28.0. When called upon on the final turn by Maywood's leading reinsman the bay filly responded with a nice 29.3 final panel while drawing away from her rivals. Burry Me Inthesand (Gary Rath) turned a nice inside trip into a second place check while Thetis (Ridge Warren) rallied to finish third, 5¼ lengths behind the winner.   The win was the first in two lifetime starts for Aunt Ethel who is owned by Rick, Erwin and Vernon Barbre.   In the second division the Hosea Williams owned and trained Lexington Lady continued to impress as she cruised to an easy 4¼ length front stepping score in 1:55.4 for driver Brian Carpenter.   Flashing her high octane gate speed the daughter of Lexington Legend--Stephie Kay zipped right to lead effortlessly posting fractions of 28.0, 58.0 & 1:27.1 while rolling along unchallenged on the "engine".   With plenty still in reserve Lexington Lady left her rivals in her wake on the final bend pacing home in a snappy 28.3 for her third straight ICF stake score. Fox Valley Addison (Todd Warren) finished in the runner-up spot while longshot Our Miss Cami (Mike Oosting) nabbed the show dough.   The 1-5 favorite who was a $2,500 bargain buy as a yearling now boasts three wins and a second in four lifetime starts with earnings of $9,000.   Live racing continues on Friday, July 10th at Maywood Park with two divisions of the Fox Valley Barzgar Stake for ICF two-year-old pacing colts sharing top billing on the card. Those battles will go as races four and six on the 12-race program which also features a $10,000 guaranteed pool in the Pick 4 (races 9-12) and a new $15,000 guaranteed pool on the 10 cent Hi-Five wager (race 12). Post time for the first race is 7:30 p.m. (central).   Tom Kelley

After opening their harness racing careers on the mile oval at Balmoral, this season's two-year-old pacing crop had their first tests on the tight turns of a half-mile oval as Maywood Park played host to a pair of Illinois conceived and foaled stake events on Friday night. With a total of 12 freshmen pacing colts dropped in the box, the Enzo The Baker Stake was split into a pair of $4,000 divisions. The girls were also in action on the sloppy track Friday night as a field of seven was sent postward in the $5,000 Juxtaposition Stake.   In the opening division of the Enzo The Baker, the Kay Willis owned Dan D Dune rolled to an impressive 6¼ length victory in 1:59.0 for driver Mike Oosting.   Content to save ground in third while Sagebrush Sid (Pat Curtin) led the field through splits of 30.2 & 1:00 Oosting pounced on the pace-setter as the pair raced head and head by the three-quarter-mile mark in 1:29.4.   Quickly opening up an insurmountable edge around the final turn the gelded son of Duneside Perch--Witch Hanover continued to widen his margin through the lane in route to his first career win. Eddie Eddie Eddie (Clifton Bell) who was forced wide by a breaking horse on the final bend still managed to rally in time for the place money while Dakota Road (Robert Smolin), salvaged the show dough despite a miscue in that last turn.   Hammered at the betting windows the Nelson Willis trained Dan D Dune, who was a $9,500 Classic Yearling purchase, returned $3.20, $2.10 & $2.10. The second division produced a wire to wire performance as Stephen Mc MacKin, Marilyn Kelly and Lorna Roush's Wondrous Sport used the inside starting spot to perfection leading every step of the way as he reported home with a 1½ length victory in 1:59.0. Given a confident steer by driver Casey Leonard the gelded son of Sportsmaster--Wondrous Grace shot right to the front from the pole position, putting up splits of 29.3, 1:00.3 & 1:30.2 while relatively unchallenged on the front end. With plenty still in reserve, the Gary Rath trainee kept his rivals at bay through the lane with a 28.3 final quarter to notch his maiden breaking victory. Sagebrush Sam (Kyle Husted) enjoyed a perfect two-hole trip but was no match for the winner while Fox Valley Aramon (Todd Warren) saved ground throughout the mile to finish third. The second choice in the wagering Wondrous Sport returned $5.20, $4.00 & $3.20 while opening his account.   The Juxtaposition Stake figured to be a showdown between Lexington Lady and Fox Valleytiramisu who had traded first and second place finishes in their first two meetings and it proved to be just that with Lexington Lady getting the better of her main rival on this night as she cruised to a four-length victory in 1:57.2 for driver Brian Carpenter. Gunned right to the top from post five the Hosea Williams owned and trained miss rattled off splits of 27.3, 57.0 & 1:27.3 while Fox Valleytiramisu sat right on her back. These two were some 10 to 12 lengths in front of the rest of the fillies for most of the mile and things were no different in the late going as the daughter of Lexington Legend--Stephie Kay drew off in the lane for her second straight stakes win. Fox Valleytiramisu (Robert Smolin) was a clear cut second while Burry Me Inthesand (Gary Rath) was a distant third, 11½ lengths behind the winner. Looking like quite the bargain buy for her proud owner-trainer the $2,500 Illini Classic Yearling purchase returned $2.60, $2.10 & $2.10 while running her record to 2-1-0 in 3 lifetime starts with earnings of $6,000.   Tom Kelley

A Sunday night program at Balmoral Park full of Illinois conceived and foaled stakes action which mainly put the spotlight on this year's crop of harness racing two-year-olds kicked off with a non-wagering event as a field of five diagonally gaited fillies met in the Star Slinger Stake.   Powering to the front after an opening quarter in 30.3 Providence West Inc.'s Vengeful never looked back as she put up middle splits of 59.1 & 1:29.4 while cruising to a 1¼ length victory in 1:59.3 for Brian Carpenter. Shez A Devil Woman (Dale Hiteman) followed the winner's every move after relinquishing the lead at the quarter to wind up second while Praise Singer (Casey Leonard) finished third.   The winner, who is a daughter of Powerful Emotion--Over The Top was a $5,000 Illini Classic yearling purchase is conditioned by Kenny Collier.   Their male counterparts kicked off the wagering program with a field of seven trotting colts squaring off in the $4,000 Million Dollar Bye Stake.   Instead of looking like a first time starter Quaid Racing's Wrightwood acted like a seasoned veteran as he completely overwhelmed this group, rolling to an 11¼ length triumph in 1:58.4.   Confidently handled by driver Casey Leonard, the son of Powerful Emotion--Racy Roz was content to trot along in third while watching Iron Band (Jamaica Patton) and Prince Simba (Mike Brink) battle through tough early splits of 29.1 & 57.3.   Still third but on the move behind JD Cheese (Travis Seekman) who grabbed command as the field hit the three-quarter-mile mark in 1:29.1, the Nelson Willis trained colt easily reeled in that one, blowing right by with an eighth of a mile to go then quickly drawing away while leaving his rivals in his wake. JD Cheese was forced to settle for the runner-up role while Todger (Todd Warren) finished third.   After prepping for his debut with a pair of sharp second place finishes in his qualifiers Wrightwood was well backed at the windows returning $4.20, $3.20 & $2.40.   With a total of 14 freshmen pacing fillies entered for the Incredible Tillie Stake the young ladies were split into a pair of $5,000 divisions.   In the first division the Hosea Williams owned and trained Lexington Lady used the passing lane to perfection rallying up the inside in the final strides to put a nose in front of Sara's Terror as they tripped the timer in a snappy 1:55.4.   Perfectly positioned by driver John De Long, the daughter of Lexington Legend--Stephie Kay left alertly and wound up landing in the garden spot as Sara's Terror (Brian Carpenter) led the field through splits of 29.2, 59.1 & 1:28.4.   Patiently awaiting room at the pylons as Sara's Terror and Fox Valleytiramisu (Robert Smolin) battled through the lane, De Long maneuvered his charge into the passing lane where she rallied gamely for the hard fought victory. Sara's Terror was a tough luck second while Fox Valley Addison (Todd Warren) rallied to be third. Coming off a second place finish in her career debut last week Lexington Lady, who was a $2,500 yearling purchase returned $6.00, $3.60 & $2.40 to her backers.   In the second division trainer Nelson Willis, Quaid Racing and driver Casey Leonard struck for their second stakes win of the night as Char N Marg came charging between horses to rally for a one-length victory in 1:56.3.   Using an advantageous draw Leonard positioned the daughter of Sportsmaster-Zip Up Your Pans in the coveted two-hole while Fox Valley Bailey (Dale Hiteman) leisurely cruised through fractions of 30.3, 59.3 & 1:29.1.   Saving ground the entire way Leonard began to search for room with Char N Marg as a first over Fox Valley Gypsy (Clifton Bell) and Fox Valley Bailey continued to slug it out through the lane. With less than a sixteenth of a mile to go, Char N Marg found the room she needed and the good looking filly wasted no time splitting rivals to pick up her first lifetime victory in start number two. Fox Valley Gypsy turned in a very solid effort to finish second while Fox Valley Bailey wound up third.   After flashing a big closing kick in her fourth place finish last week Char N Marg attracted plenty of attention at the betting windows on Sunday night returning just $2.80, $2.20 & $2.10.   Sophomore trotting fillies closed out the stake action on Sunday night with a field of seven meeting in the first Xpressbet Stake of the season.   This battle could not have closed out the action in a more exciting fashion as last year's top two money earners in the division, Fox Valley Yoko and Persuasive Look ended on even terms, finishing in a dead-heat for the win while stopping the clock in 1:55.4.   In a race filled with action right from the start Fox Valley Yoko (John De Long) was able to save ground throughout the opening half-mile as Fox Valley Harrah (Todd Warren) trotted through splits of 29.1 & 58.2. The Curt Grummel trained miss then managed to slip to the outside heading around the final bend, picking up the live cover of a second over Persuasive Look (Casey Leonard) who had been grinding away on the outside of horses since the five-eighths pole.   Sitting third and fifth respectively Persuasive Look and Fox Valley Yoko both took dead aim on Bi Polar Rose (Travis Seekman), who had overtaken Fox Valley Harrah as the field sped by the three-quarter-mile mark in 1:26.2.   With the trotters fanning out across the track Persuasive Look and Fox Valley Yoko zipped right by the leaders, drawing clear of the rest of their rivals by 3¼ lengths while finishing in the dead-heat for the win. Tal Wi Wi (Kyle Wilfong), who saved ground throughout the mile finished third.   The win was the fourth in 16 career starts for Fox Valley Yoko (Pizzazzed) who pushed her career bankroll up to $102,240 for owner Patrick Graham. Persuasive Look (Powewrful Emotion) now sports career numbers of 6-5-5 in 20 lifetime starts with earnings of $108,571 for co-owner trainer Homer Hochstetler and partner Robert Buddig. Tom Kelley

Sophomore pacing colts were front and center on Friday night at Maywood Park but in reality it was harness racing trainer Roger Welch who stole the show as his trainees finished 1-2-3 in the track's signature event with division leader Earndawg capturing top honors in the $36,000 Maywood Pace as he reported home with a three-quarter-length victory in 1:54.2 for driver Todd Warren.   Confidently handled as a 1-5 favorite should be, the son of Sportsmaster--Pacific Sister K settled early before sweeping past the other Welch trainee's Rockin Cassinova (Ridge Warren) and Gifted By Nature (Pat Curtin) as the field moved by an opening quarter in 28.3.   In control of things the rest of the way, the bay gelding strolled through middle splits of 57.2 & 1:26.0 while fending off a first over bid from Lucpark (Mike Oosting).   "I went into the race not necessarily wanting to be on the front end but once things started to slow on the backstretch the first time I figured I better head for the top," said Warren. "I wasn't looking to slow things down once I got there because I know what my horse can go so I wanted to keep the splits honest enough to keep those trailers at bay." After repelling the challenge of last weeks' elimination winner, Earndawg began to draw clear around the final bend opening up a two-length advantage as the field turned for the money. With nothing but open space between themselves and the wire the pride of owners Bo & Pat De Long and Ernest Miller set sail for home, sealing the deal with a 28.2 final quarter to notch his third win in six starts this season. Rockin Cassinova shook loose at the head of the stretch to rally for the place honors while Gifted By Nature turned a perfect trip into the show dough.   After yet another big victory with last year's Orange & Blue and Abe Lincoln Stakes winner Warren was singing the praises of the gelding in the winner's circle.   "I definitely think he's still the best in this division and I don't believe we've even come close to seeing his best yet," said the jubilant reinsman. "He hasn't had that much work this year and there's been some times that he hasn't really had the back to back starts that can get him as sharp as he can be. Let's just say I think there's much more to come from this guy when the "screws" get tightened up on him. He's so versatile and talented that he's going to be hard to stop."   With the win Earndawg now boasts a record of 11-5-3 in 23 starts with earnings of $248,325. The overwhelming favorite in the wagering returned $2.40, $2.20 & $2.10.   Tom Kelley  

Last week we saw the "ladies" meet in one of Maywood Park's signature events, the Filly Maywood Pace, Friday night their male counterparts will step into the harness racing spotlight as a field of eight Illinois conceived and foaled three-year-old pacing colts will slug it out in the $36,000 Maywood Pace which goes as race eight on the 12-race program. Earndawg has been the "top dog" in this division in each of his first two seasons of racing and the Roger Welch trainee has been installed as the 9-5 favorite on Friday as he guns for his 11th win 23 career starts. The gelded son of Sportsmaster received a bye into this battle and elected to use a "conditioned" event at Balmoral as his tune-up for tonight's showdown. Unfortunately he encountered some traffic issues that night and never had a chance to be a factor. In his previous start against this type of company, last year's Orange & Blue Stake winner looked like a winner in the Cardinal Stake at Balmoral as he unleashed a huge rally but wound up getting nipped at the wire by Dinky Dune who had slipped through along the pylons late in the mile. Todd Warren will handle the driving duties behind Earndawg who will be looking to add to a career record of 10-5-3 $230,325 when he leaves from post two. Lucpark captured last week's elimination in wire to wire fashion and the Ervin Miller trainee figures to garner plenty of attention once again despite drawing post position seven for Friday's encounter. The gelded son of Sportsmaster looked much the best in last week's action cruising through easy early splits before storming home with a 2½ length verdict in 1:55.1. A model of consistency this year, Lucpark comes into this race with a record of 2-2-1 in six starts for owner Rocco Ruffolo. A six-time career winner who sports nearly $90,000 in earnings, Lucpark, the 3-1 second choice on the morning line, will have leading driver Mike Oosting in the bike when they leave from post seven on Friday. If you are searching for a possible upset in Friday's main event don't overlook the chances of Dixie's Boy who will have to overcome post position eight on Friday night. The Joel Smith trained son of Duneside Perch also received a bye into tonight's final and will come into this event as a "fresh" horse after being away since May 30th.   The long striding bay turned in a huge effort here at Maywood Park in the Gosox Stake back on May 15th, finishing second behind Lucpark after spotting the field some 12 lengths after a miscue behind the starting gate. A three-time winner this season for James & Terri Blackman Dixie's Boy will be handled by Casey Leonard.   Rounding out the field are Gifted By Nature, Rockin Cassinova, Dupage's Z Tam, Gett'er Done Dune and Frosty Dune.   Tom Kelley

Illinois conceived and foaled stakes action continued on Sunday, June 14th, at Balmoral Park as a full field of 10 two-year-old pacing fillies made their career debuts in the $4,000 Misty Misty Misty Stake. After a heated battle it was Ron Phillips and John Carver's highly regarded youngster, Foxvalleytiramisu who wound up with a neck in front at the wire, prevailing in a snappy 1:56.3 after a thrilling stretch drive.   Confidently handled by driver Robert Smolin, the daughter of Sportsmaster--Theladyappealstome shot right to the top from post position six carving out very evenly rated splits of 29.0, 59.1 & 1:27.4 for the recent member of the 1,000 win club.   As a host of foes began to close in on her through the stretch, the full sister to such Illinois bred stars as Fox Valley Topaz, Fox Valley Appeal and Fox Valley Escort dug in gamely, turning aside bids from the favored pocket sitting Fox Valley Addison (Todd Warren) and late rushing longshots Lexington Lady (John De Long) and Char N Marg (Casey Leonard). With the fillies spread four across the track the Robert Phillips trainee managed to keep her neck in front while down at the pylons making her career debut a winning one for her proud connections. Lexington Lady, a $2,500 yearling purchase overcame post position nine to finish a fast closing second while Fox Valley Addison held on for third. Char N Marg also turned some heads as she flew home in 27.1 to wind up just a half-length back at 28-1.   Sent off as the second choice in the wagering after posting a win and a second in her preps leading up to Sunday's debut Foxvalleytiramisu returned $7.20, $4.00 & $2.60 while opening her bankroll.   Tom Kelley

Illinois' top sophomore pacing fillies renewed acquaintances again on Friday night at Maywood Park as a field of eight second year distaffers went postward in one of the season's biggest harness racing events on the half-mile oval the $35,600 Filly Maywood Pace.   Taking advantage of a bye into the final of this event a fit and fresh Lex stormed right to the front and made it look easy as she cruised home with an effortless three-length victory in 1:54.2 for driver Kyle Wilfong over a track listed as fast despite day long rains and temperatures in low 50's.   Sent right to the front from post position four by Wilfong the daughter of Lexington Legend--I Bet U had things her own way as she strolled through opening splits of 28.0 & 56.4.   A first over bid came from Sportsmuffler (Casey Leonard) as the field moved onto the backstretch for the final time but Lex dug in gamely as she continued to lead the field by the three-quarter-mile mark in 1:25.0.   After turning aside the challenge of Sportsmuffler the Nelson Willis trained miss seemed to find another gear, quickly drawing away from the pocket sitting Fox Valley Kit (Pat Curtin) and a tired Sportsmuffler to secure her fourth win in seven starts this year. Fox Valley Kit, a 17-1 outsider turned that perfect two-hole trip into a nice second place check while another longshot Duneside Perttie (Brian Carpenter) shook loose late to finish third at odds of 32-1.   Lex, who also captured this season's Violet Stake at Balmoral Park is enjoying a very nice start to her second season boasting a record of 4-2-1 in 7 starts while adding another $37,363 to her bankroll. For her career the ultra-consistent homebred sports a record of 8-4-3 in 16 tries with earnings of $102,163 for proud owner Kay Willis.   Bet as though defeat was out of the question Lex returned $2.60, $2.40 & $2.10 to her legion of backers. The "boys" were also in action on Friday night as a field of eight sophomore pacing colts squared off in their Maywood Pace Stake elimination. The top six finishers will return next week where they will be joined by Earndawg and Dixie's Boy in the $36,000 final. Using the inside starting spot to perfection driver Mike Oosting put heavily favored Lucpark right on the "engine" and the gelded son of Sportsmaster--Treasure The Best was never seriously threatened as he strolled home with a 2½ length verdict in 1:55.1.   With the exception of a mild first over bid from Gifted By Nature (Todd Warren) as the field neared the three-quarter pole the Erv Miller trained Lucpark was relatively unchallenged while putting up splits of 29.0, 58.3 & 1:26.1.   Off the mild fractions Lucpark had plenty in reserve, sprinting away from his rivals in the lane for his second win in six starts this season. Rockin Cassanova (Ridge Warren) sat on the winner's back every step of the way to grab the second place check while Frosty Dune (Kyle Wilfong) shook loose late to finish third after a ground saving trip. Also gaining spots in the final were Gifted By Nature, Dupage's Z Tam and Gett'er Done Dune.   With the win Lucpark now boasts career numbers of 6-3-3 in 18 starts with earnings just shy of $90,000 for owner Rocco Ruffolo. The 3-5 favorite in the wagering returned $3.40, $2.20 & $2.10. Tom Kelley    

Sophomore pacing fillies stepped into the harness racing spotlight on Friday, June 5th at Maywood Park as a field of eight Cstate-breds squared off in an $8,000 Filly Maywood Stake elimination. The top seven finishers on Friday night will return next week where they will be joined by Lex in the $35,600 final.   After saving ground all the way to the top of the stretch, driver Travis Seekman tipped Southern Girl to the outside as the field straightened for the money and the Homer Hochstetler trained miss exploded like she had been shot out of a cannon, blowing right by her rivals to win by a length in 1:57.2.   Content to save ground throughout the mile as Galley Wench (Todd Warren) and heavily favored Sportsmuffler (Casey Leonard) battled through splits of 28.2, 58.3 & 1:27.1 Seekman appeared to be hopelessly locked in fifth as the field turned for home.   Craftily working their way to the center of the track the daughter of Sportsmaster--Biloxi quickly kicked it into high gear picking off one rival after another in the blink of an eye to score for the fourth time in 10 starts this season. Angel Demon (Mike Oosting) came on late to finish second while Galley Wench held on for third.   Also gaining spots in the final with fourth through seventh place finishes were Fox Valley Kit, Sportsmuffler, Duneside Perttie and I Y Q Too.   With the win Southern Girl now boasts a record of four wins and one third in 10 starts with earnings of $15,097 in this her first season of action for owners Connie Hochstetler, Kristofer Heim and James Michels. The third choice in the wagering returned $14.40, $7.40 & $5.00. 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  

Our first glimpse of 2-year-olds took place at the Tuesday morning qualifiers at Balmoral Park and 8 of the 11 harness racing freshman that went postward were out of trainer Bob Phillips’ barn. The first four finishes in the first two qualifiers all were Phillips trainees. The 1:59.2 first freshman victor in the opening qualifier was My Man Red, a son of Sportsmaster who sold for $9,000 under the name of Fox Valley Lance to Blackfoot Farms of Chicago and Phillips. John De Long guided the ICF colt and also was behind the second race freshman filly winner Shakeitformegear (Geartogear) who paced a 1:58.2 mile with a 27.1 last quarter. Cutting the fractions in the second qualifier was the filly Fox Valley Tiramisu, a highly regarded daughter of Sportsmaster owned by Phillips and John Carver, a $50,000 yearling purchase. Fox Valley Tiramisu is out of the broodmare Theladysappealstome, making her a full sister to 2008 Breeders Crown 2-year-old champion Fox Valley Topaz. “Tiramisu” paced a 27.3 last quarter when she finished one length behind her Indiana bred stable-mate. The fastest of the six qualifiers conducted belonged to 3-year-old colt Mystical Jet, who drew off by six lengths in 1:57.2 for driver Casey Leonard and trainer Jill Arnold. Mike Paradise

Sophomore pacing colts kicked off the 2015 stakes action at the harness racing meeting at Maywood Park on Friday, May 15th as a compact field of six ICF three-year-olds met in the $8,000 Gosox Stake.   The youngsters showed some rust early on in their first foray over the half-mile oval but when the smoke cleared it was Rocco Ruffolo's Lucpark, the even-money choice in the wagering who emerged with a half-length triumph in 1:55.2 for driver Mike Oosting.   Leaving from the outside post in the field of six, Lucpark actually wound up in a decent spot as Oosting guided him over to the pylons in fourth as both Dixie's Boy (Casey Leonard) and Casey At Bat (Tim Curtin) committed early miscues. That left Rockin Cassinova (Todd Warren) to stroll through leisurely early splits of 29.1 & 59.1. The action began to heat up as the field moved onto the backstretch for the final time with Oosting rushing the Erv Miller trainee up to engage Rockin Cassinova. These two were head and head for the lead as they began to separate from the pocket sitting Dakota Roadster (Robert Smolin) while charging by the three-quarter-mile mark in 1:27.3. Around the final turn Lucpark managed to poke a head in front of the pace-setter eventually putting that one away as the field turned for home.   The gelded son of Sportsmaster--Treasure The Best was not out of danger yet though as Dixie's Boy, who spotted the field 11 lengths at the opening station because of his miscue behind the gate, came charging up four-wide to throw a scare into the "chalk players" but the wire came just in time for Lucpark as he held on for his first win in three starts this season. Dixie's Boy was an impressive second considering his journey while Dakota Roadster finished third. With the win, Lucpark who returned $4.20, $2.40 & $2.10 now boasts a career record of five wins, two seconds and three thirds in 16 trips to the gate with earnings of $82,480 for his proud owner. Tom Keeley

Sophomore pacing colts grabbed the spotlight on Saturday, May 9th at Balmoral Park as a full field of 10 harness racing  state-breds squared off in the $8,000 Taser Gun Stake.   Originally carded for last week's Maywood card, this battle turned out to be worth the wait for last year's divisional champion Earndawg, as the bay gelding scored by a hard fought half-length in a career best of 1:52.3.   Confidently handled by driver Todd Warren the altered son of Sportsmaster-Pacific Sister K was sent to the top after watching a fast leaving Dakota Roadster (Robert Smolin) speed by the opening panel in 29.2.   The lead was short lived for Earndawg as a hard charging Dixie's Boy (Casey Leonard) swept up to grab command on the backstretch, leading the field through a half-mile in 57.4.   The pace continued to quicken as the field moved around the far turn with Dixie's Boy showing the way. Earndawg was enjoying a pocket sitting journey at that point while longshot Casey At Bat (Tim Curtin) led the outer flow into contention as the field hit the three-quarter-mile mark in 1:25.2.   Through the lane Dixie's Boy continued to show the way but Earndawg was ready and raring to go as Warren secured racing room on the outside with an eighth of a mile to go.   Quickly blowing by the pace setter, the Roger Welch trainee instantly opened up a two-length advantage. Last year's Orange & Blue winner was not "out of the woods" yet though as he was all out at the wire to hold off a huge late move from 37-1 shot Dinky Dune (Pat Curtin) who came charging up the inside to finish second. Lucpark (Mike Oosting) also closed well to finish third, 3 ¼ lengths behind the winner.   Dispatched as the third choice in a very evenly bet match-up Earndawg returned $6.80, $3.60 & $2.10 while running his record to 9-4-2 in 19 career starts with earnings of $221,975 for the ownership group of William P & William C De Long and Ernest Miller.   Live racing continues on Sunday, May 10th, at BalmoralPark with a 10-race card getting underway at 7:10 p.m. (central). Sunday's $1 Pick 4 features a guaranteed pool of $25,000. The state-bred stakes action will also continue on Sunday with a field of nine sophomore trotting fillies slugging it out in the $8,000 Betzotic Stake which goes as race six. Sophomore pacing fillies will also be in action in the fifth race as a very competitive field of eight ladies will battle in a Violet Stake "prep".   Tom Kelley

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