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STICKNEY, IL - A fourteen race Sunday card at Hawthorne featured three divisions of leg three of the Incredible Finale Stakes. The Incredible Finale is for Illinois-bred harness racing two-year-old colt and gelding pacers. A storm prior to races left the track sloppy to open the card as race three was the first division of the Incredible Finale. Favored at off time was Gabe Henry. Moving to the early lead was Fox Valley Sparty through the quarter in :29. Sork moved early on the backside to take over for driver Kyle Husted through a half in :57.4. On the turn, Sork was challenged again by Fox Valley Sparty through three quarters in 1:27.4. In the stretch, Fox Valley Sparty and Dale Hiteman were challenged by Gabe Henry and Todd Warren as Gabe Henry went on to a length and a half score. Fox Valley Jeter closed late for second while Fox Valley Sparty finished third. Final time for the mile over the sloppy going was 1:57.1. Owned by Carol Graham and trained by Thomas Graham, the colt by Henry Clay returned $3.60, $2.40, and $2.20. Fox Valley Jeter paid $3.20 and $2.20 while Fox Valley Sparty paid $3.00 to show. The second division of leg three of the Incredible Finale had Sporty Redhot as a heavy post time favorite for driver Todd Warren. Sent for the lead was Sporty Redhot but Spirited Encounter beat him to the lead through the quarter in :29.1. On the backside, Spirited Encounter maintained his lead through the half in :58. On the turn, Sporty Redhot ranged up to challenge through three quarters in 1:27. In the stretch, Sporty Redhot gained the lead but had to hold off the move of multiple horses and held on to win by a length. Fox Valley Reggie finished second while Fox Valley Inferno was third. Final time for the mile was 1:56.4. Owned by Alan Beals and trained by Kim Roth, the gelding by Sportsmaster remained undefeated from three lifetime starts and returned $2.80, $2.40, and $2.10. Fox Valley Reggie paid $16.60 and $6.60 while Fox Valley Inferno returned $2.40 to show. Race seven was the third division of the Incredible Finale as the track was upgraded to good. Sullivan took the wagering action and was sent off as the favorite. Making the early lead was Uptown Sleaze while pressed by Fox Valley Nemitz through the quarter in :29.2. On the backstretch Fox Valley Nemitz was pushed by Sullivan through the half in :59.1. In the turn, Casey Leonard and Sullivan assumed command, covering three quarters in 1:27.4. In the lane, Sullivan was all out but Fox Valley Nemitz and Dale Hiteman came back to catch him nearing the wire. Uptown Sleaze held third. Final time for the mile was 1:57.3. Owned by Fox Valley Standardbreds and trained by Joel Smith, the gelding by Richess Hanover paid $9.60, $3.00, and $2.20. Sullivan returned $3.20 and $2.60 while Uptown Sleaze paid $2.40 to show. Jim Miller

STICKNEY, IL - On a beautiful Friday evening at Hawthorne, four divisions of leg one of the Incredible Tillie Stakes took place. The Incredible Tillie is for Illinois-bred harness racing two-year-old pacing fillies. The card kicked off with the first division as a field of nine lined up behind the starting car. Sent away as the favorite was Princess Sage (Sagebrush) off a debut victory and near miss in her second start. Leaving for the lead was Princess Sage as she cleared the lead in :29.2 for driver Freddie Patton, Jr. Following a half in :58.4, Princess Sage held firm on the front end. Into the lane after three quarters in 1:28.1, Princess Sage led but was challenged by Sheadealer. Late stretch, Princess Sage dug in gamely and prevailed by a quarter of a length. Sheadealer was second, Dandy's Dududidudu finished third. Final time for the mile was 1:56.4. Owned by Keli Jo Bell and Freddie Patton, Jr. and trained by Freddie Patton, Jr., Princess Sage returned $3.60, $2.60, and $2.40 as the 4-5 favorite. Sheadealer paid $8.80 and $4.00 while Dandy's Dududidudu returned $3.00 to show. Race three on Friday night was the second division in the Incredible Tillie as Lili Von Shtupp was a late scratch. Moving early in the second division was the 1-5 favorite Filly Forty and Jamaica Patton through the opening quarter in :29.4 and half in 1:00.4. Filly Forty led the field into the lane through three quarters in 1:30.3 and was all out. Mid-stretch, Kyle Husted and Razzleme Dazzleme (Sagebrush) tipped out for the drive and wore down Filly Forty on the wire. Razzleme Dazzleme prevailed by a length and a quarter over Filly Forty in 1:58.4. My Kind of Dance finished third. Owned by Derek and Amy Jacobus and trained by Nick Prather, Razzleme Dazzleme returned $11.60, $3.00, and $2.60. Filly Forty came back $2.10 and $2.10 while My Kind Of Dance paid $3.00 to show. Race five on Friday was the third division in the Incredible Tillie with a full field of ten to line up. Hope Hotspur was sent away as the heavy favorite at 1-2. Leaving for the lead was Do You Dare through the quarter in :30. Moving early to the lead was the favorite Hope Hotspur and Casey Leonard, leading the field through a half in 1:00.4. On the turn, Pinstripe Pants moved to challenge and take command, covering three quarters in 1:29.4. In the lane, Pinstripe Pants led, but Hope Hotspur came back to lead late before Dale Hiteman and Fox Valley Dandy (Sportsmaster) exploded onto the scene, winning at 27-1. Hope Hotspur was second, Fox Valley Maya finished third. Final time was 1:58.1. Owned by Hugh Lake and Susan Lacey and trained by Ray Hanna, Fox Valley Dandy returned $57.00, $11.60, and $4.20. Hope Hotspur returned $2.60 and $2.20. Fox Valley Maya came back $3.20 to show. The final division of the Incredible Tillie had a field of nine lined up as Jump Right Up (Ideal Towne) was sent away as the 1-5 choice. My Mona Me got away quickly and led through the quarter in :29.4. Moving to the lead early was Da Blue Jay as she led the field into the turn after a half in 1:00.0. On the far turn, Jump Right Up and Todd Warren made their move to challenge through three quarters in 1:29. Leading late, Jump Right Up won by two and a half lengths, stopping the clock in 1:58. My Mona Me was second while Rockin Ashley got up for third. Owned by Quaid Racing, LLC and Cynthia Kay Willis and trained by Nelson Willis, Jump Right Up returned $2.60, $2.10 and $2.10. My Mona Me paid $6.40 and $3.40 while Rockin Ashley paid $4.20 to show. Jim Miller

Vernon, N.Y. -- Connie Hochstetler's Southern Girl ($9.00) earned her fourth win in five starts in the harness racing featured $7,500 Mares Miracle Mile Pace on Thursday (June 23) evening at Vernon Downs.   Chris Lems wasted no time with the 4-year-old Sportsmaster mare, posting a :26.4 first quarter to clear Love You Bye (Jimmy Whittemore) and Looney Dune (Ben McNeil). Southern Girl controlled the pace through middle splits of :56.3 and 1:25, beginning to accelerate clear of her five rivals with a quarter mile remaining. She was kept to task as she sped up through a :27.2 closing frame, amassing enough clearance in upper stretch to hold clear of the late-rallying odds-on favorite All Charged Up (John MacDonald) by 1-3/4 lengths for a 1:52.2 win. The Filly Princess (Andy Gardner) held third after sustaining mild first-over gains.   Homer Hochstetler trains Southern Girl, now a nine-time winner. For Lems, the featured win was one of three on the nine-race card, as he also teamed up with Patton ($2.80, 1:59.3) and Royal Promise ($7.00, 1:59).   No one hit the 50¢ Pick 5, resulting in a carryover of $578.25 to Friday's (June 24) card. The first of 11 races at the Miracle Mile is slated for 6:45 p.m.   by James Witherite, Vernon Downs

Vernon, N.Y. -- Connie Hochstetler's Southern Girl ($12.80) is back in form, having earned her third win in four starts in Friday (June 17) evening's harness racing $7,500 top-level Miracle Mile distaff pace at Vernon Downs.   John MacDonald sent the 4-year-old Sportsmaster mare directly to the front, sprinting clear of Looney Dune (Ben McNeil) before rating a :56.1 first half. On approach to the far turn, Southern Girl accelerated, forcing the first-over Love Live Laugh (Jimmy Whittemore) and the pocket-sitting Looney Dune to chase a :27.1 third quarter. They nearly collared Southern Girl in the end, but the pacesetter dug in to narrowly hold sway in 1:52.1, staving off a resurgent Looney Dune by a neck in the end. Love Live Laugh stayed on for third as the 6-5 favorite.   Homer Hochstetler trains Southern Girl, who earned her eighth career win.   For MacDonald, the featured win was one of three on the night. Jimmy Whittemore also notched a driving hat trick on the 11-race card.   Live racing returns to Vernon Downs on Saturday (June 18) evening, with first post at 6:45 p.m. Eastern.   by James Witherite, Vernon Downs

STICKNEY, IL - On Saturday evening at Hawthorne, a pair of divisions of leg one of the Robert F. Carey Memorial Pace took place. The Carey is for Illinois-bred harness racing three-year-old colts and geldings. Contested over a first track, the first division of the Carey Memorial looked to be Dan D Dune's to lose, but he was a late scratch, just three races prior to the race. That opened things up in the field of nine as Caffeine Kid and Todd Warren became the post time favorite. Leaving for the lead early was Impressive Art through the opening quarter in :28.4. Moving first on the backstretch was Caffeine Kid as he assumed command to the half in :58.2. Leading into the stretch following three quarters in 1:27.1, Caffeine Kid faced a challenge of Wondrous Sport and Goinduneside. In the end, Caffeine Kid held on by a quarter-length over Goinduneside with Impressive Art finishing third. Final time for the mile was 1:55.2. Owned by Peter Karras and trained by Rodney Freese, Caffeine Kid by Sportsmaster returned $3.80, $2.40, and $2.10. Goinduneside came back $3.20 and $2.80 while Impressive Art returned $2.20 to show. In the second division of leg one of the Carey Memorial, Royale Rose was the favorite at 1-5. Multiple horses left for the lead as Red Dog Ryan went early but Royale Rose had to work through the quarter in :29.2. Following a half in :57.4, Royale Rose opened up two lengths into the stretch. Through three quarters in 1:26.2, Royale Rose shortened stride as 50-1 shot Holdonwe'rerolling and Todd Warren flew late to get up by a half-length in 1:54.1. Royale Rose finished 2nd while J B's Hero was third. Owned by Jesse and Austin Patrick DeLong and trained by Rob Rittof, Holdonwe'rerolling by Party At Artsplace paid $108.00, $18.60, and $8.20. Royale Rose came back $2.20 and $2.40. J B's Hero paid $9.40 to show. Jim Miller

Odds-on favorite Capela (Scott Zeron, $3.10) maintained her form spree Monday night, winning Yonkers Raceway's $60,200 final of the Petticoat Pacing Series. The harness racing series was open to 3- and 4-year-olds who were non-winners of four races and/or $40,000 through last Dec. 1. Capela, the lone lass to sweep her three series preliminary rounds, made short work of post position No.7 here. She worked around the miss directly inside of here, Bin N Heaven (George Brennan), securing the lead before a :27.3 opening quarter-mile. From there, a 57-second intermission as I'm in Luv (Matt Kakaley) moved from fourth. It was Little Miss Sporty (Brian Sears) gapping from second-over and pole-sitting Brown Brinny (Jason Bartlett) sitting a three-hole in and out of a 1:25.3 three-quarters. Capela widened to couple of lengths entering the lane, then won by that exact same margin in 1:54.4. Bin N Heaven saved second, with 63-1 shot Heavenly Hill (Jordan Stratton) closing from last to third. Brown Brinny and I'm in Luv grabbed the last couple of pay envelopes, while Little Miss Sporty, Special Package (Dan Dube) and Rolling Going Gone (Brent Holland) completed the order. For Capela, a 4-year-old daughter of Sportsmaster out of a Camluck daughter of New Zealand mare Tupelo Rose and is trained by Reginald Hazzard for co-owners Reginald Hazzard II and Legacy Racing of Delaware, it was her sixth consecutive win (6-for-9 this season). The exacta paid $25.80, with the triple returning $459.50. "She's just been getting better each start in this series," Zeron said. "When it started, she wasn't taking the turns very well, but that wasn't a problem in her last couple of races. "Tonight, with the wind, that was a very good mile." A $25,000 series consolation was won by favored Kryptos ($4.30)-now 5-for-5 in her season/career-in 1:55.4. Tuesday afternoon, it's the $63.000 finale of the Sagamore Hill Pacing Series for the 3- and 4-year-olds of the male persuasion. It's the Raceway's richest race of the season to date. Frank Drucker

Yonkers Raceway hosts its richest races of the harness racing season to date next week, with finals of the Petticoat (girls, $60,200) and Sagamore Hill (boys, $63,000) Pacing Series. Both series were open to 3- and 4-year-olds who were non-winners of four races and/or $40,000 through last Dec. 1. Chivalry has its place, so the ladies of the Petticoat are up first in Monday night's sixth race. Capela (Scott Zeron, post 7), the only perfect (3-for-3) prelim lass, didn't get a whole lot of help with the open draw. The 4-eyar-old daughter of Sportsmaster, trained by Reginald Hazzard for co-owners Reginald Hazzard II and Legacy Racing of Delaware, enters having won her last five starts. Little Miss Sporty (Brian Sears, post 3) won twice in her series legs, while Heavenly Hill (Jordan Stratton, post 8) rolled to a convincing win in her last chance to impress the judges. Brown Brinny (Jason Bartlett, post 1), I'm in Luv (Matt Kakaley, post 2), Rolling Going Gone (Brent Holland, post 4), Special Package (Dan Dube, post 5) and Bin in Heaven (George Brennan, post 6) round out the roster. Tuesday afternoon, it's the finale (sixth race) of Yonkers' annual tribute to Teddy Roosevelt, the Sagamore Hill. Rodeo Romeo (Sears, post 2) and Don'tcallmefrancis (Bartlett, post 6) each spoke softly and carried a big stick, as in a pair of wins and a second in prelim competition. The former-Sears' choice of the two-is a 4-year-old son of Rocknroll Hanover trained by Chris Ryder for co-owners Oompa's Farm, Michael Day and Robert Mondillo, while the latter is a 3-year-old Rocknroll Hanover gelding owned by Enzed Racing and trained by Nifty Norman. Secret Delight (Kakaley, post 5) and J T (Brennan, post 7) also each won twice in the preps, while Toni's Affection (Zeron, post 1), AM Magic Man (Dube, post 3), Sports Bettor (Mark MacDonald, post 4) and B Well (Andy Miller, post 8) complete the gang. Each series is accompanied by a respective $25,000 consolation as a fifth race. Frank Drucker, Yonkers Raceway Publicity Director, 914-968-4200)    

Be A Sport (Sportsmaster) lengthened his harness racing win streak on Thursday at Saratoga Casino and Raceway. The Maureen Salino trainee dominated in his final two starts of 2015 winning by a combined 18.5 lengths. In the four year old's first start of '16, Be A Sport cruised to another convincing victory last week and subsequently was the race's 1-9 betting favorite on Thursday evening at the Spa. Starting from post position one, Be A Sport had no trouble making the early lead before holding off a late challenge from pocket sitter Mikado Blue Chip (Frank Coppola Jr) who ended up second best. Sports Force (Austin Siegelman) earned the show spot. Be A Sport, who was piloted by Mark Beckwith, was the race's overwhelming favorite as he completed his grand slam in the $6,400 pace for colts and geldings who were non-winners of two races or $15,000 lifetime. Be A Sport is owned by Nick Tallarico and Tom Vassilou, the same combination who own the Spa's back to back Trotter of the Year Slugfest who participate in Sunday afternoon's Open Trot. Live racing continues on Friday at Saratoga with a first post time set for 6:45pm. Mike Sardella

Frankthebank hasnt been around forever, it just seems that way. Last week the pacing son of Sportsmaster celebrated his 14th birthday, which means this will be his final year of harness racing, and judging by his performance in the finale of the Shelly Goudreau Final he appears to be set to make the most of it. Frankthebank is owned by Richard and Marlene Thomas and conditioned by George Reider. They actually lost the veteran via the claim box on December 5, but reached right back in the next week and he returned to the cozy confines of the Reider barn. Frankthebanks bank account coming into 2015 was just shy of $455,000 and he established his career standard of 1:51 flat five years ago while turning in a 1:54 3/5 tally at Running Aces during the summer. He finished second in the Goudreau Prep while coming from last that evening to conclude last years campaign, then was sent off at nearly 12-1 in last weeks final. James Kennedy was aggressive from the gate and made the top, then Frankthebank was covered up by odds-on favorite Real Attitude on the backside. The Thomas colorbearer dug in gamely and once again finished second, beaten a half-length by the late heroics of Sheer Desire in that event. He may not reach the half-million dollar mark before hes forced to social security, but it certainly wont be for lack of trying. A reminder that there are two wagers that come with a reduced 16 percent takeout rate. They are the 50-cent Pick 5, which this season features a 25 percent minor pool payout; and the 20-cent Pick 4, which comes with a $30,000-guaranteed pool on Saturdays and $25,000-guaranteed on Sundays. Jazzmanian Devil eyes repeat in Open Pace Jazzmanian Devil and One And Only, first and second in last weeks battle at the head of the class, top the cast for Sunday nights featured $6,600 Open I Pace. A 12-race card is on tap at the Watch and Wager LLC meeting with first post set for 4:55 p.m. The headliner goes as the eighth event on the evening. Jazzmanian Devil is a 5-year-old Indiana-bred son of Sand Shooter who carries the banner of William Condon, hails from the Steve Wiseman shedrow and will once again have Mooney Svendsen giving directions. Sent off at 8-1 in last weeks clash at the top rung, Jazzmanian Devil sat in a tracking position for Svendsen until the stretch, ignited when the question was asked and prevailed by a head over One And Only while coming a snappy :26 3/5 final quarter. One And Only comes into Sundays assignment on the verge of going over the $200,000 earnings plateau for owners Richard Morita and David Yamada and trainer Lino Pacheco. He established his 1:51 2/5 mark two years ago and will have the services of James Kennedy this weekend. A winner of back-to-back races to close out his 2015 campaign, One And Only moved back up to the Open I level for his most recent outing and lost a heartbreaker after a game, first-over effort with Kennedy in the sulky. Rounding out the field are Bettors Promise, who will give trainer Pacheco two looks at the outcome; Surprisingly Sweet, a second entrant for Wiseman; the Luke Plano-conditioned Rikybrnthegaragdwn; Endeavors King from the Gene Vallandingham barn; and Stable Eyes for Tim Clevenger. By Mark Ratzky, Publicity Cal Expo Harness

DAYTON, OH. - Splitting rivals in the final 100 yards of the race, Fancy Creek Elusiv and harness racing driver Chris Page captured the $10,500 Open Pace at Hollywood Dayton Raceway on Saturday (December 19) in a quick 1:51 despite sub-freezing temperatures.  Content to sit third and save ground skimming the pylons through the first seven-eighths of the race, Page found a seam just wide enough to squeeze Fancy Creek Elusiv through halfway through the stretch and exploded for a narrow upset victory over pacesetter Thisjetsabookin (Josh Sutton) and first-up Jammin Joshua (Tyler Smith), who finished second and third.  Sent off at 9-2 odds, the winner won for the ninth time this year and increased his earnings to $114,394 in 2015.  The 1:51 clocking was within three-fifths of a second of the Sportsmaster gelding's best, a 1:50.2 effort at Scioto Downs in the summer.  Billy Farmer trains Fancy Creek Elusiv for owner Todd Rosenberg. Gregg Keidel  

State-bred pacing colts headlined the harness racing action on Friday, Nov 20th at Balmoral Park as a field of six freshmen were sent postward in a $7,980 Xpressbet Stake. When the smoke cleared from this battle it was Caffeine Kid who proved victorious, notching a three-quarter-length victory in 1:55.0 for owner Peter Karras and trainer Rodney Freese.   Confidently handled by driver Mike Oosting the gelded son of Sportsmaster--Rachel Hanover ranged up first over on the final turn drawing right along the pace setting Eddie Eddie Eddie (Sam Widger) as the field turned for home.   After watching a hard charging Party Falls (Brian Carpenter) scoot past the top two in the center of the track a game Caffeine Kid, who was making just his third lifetime start, gamely battled back like a seasoned veteran regaining the lead in the final 50 yards and drawing clear in the shadow of the wire for his second lifetime victory. Longshot Trixsen Gram, (Chris Loney) shook loose late to rally for the place money while Party Falls held on for third.   Sent off as the 9-5 second choice in the wagering Caffeine Kid returned $5.60, $3.60 & $2.60 to his backers. Live racing continues on Saturday, Nov. 21st at Balmoral Park. Once again all the action gets underway at 7:10pm on Saturday night and as always the $1 Pick 4 (races 9-12) features a $20,000 guaranteed pool. The 10-cent Hi Five (race 12) also features a guaranteed pool of $15,000. The live racing action will be headlined by older ICF pacing distaffers as a field of seven are scheduled to go postward in the $8,060 Fox Valley Memory Stake which goes as race three on the 12-race program. Tom Kelley

Illinois' top two-year-old pacers were in action on Friday night as a pair of state-bred stake events helped bring the curtain down on the 2015 harness racing season at Maywood Park.   Fillies kicked off the night's action with a compact field of five lining up behind the gate for the $20,500 Violet Stake.   Fresh off her win in the Filly Orange & Blue on Super Night division leader Char N Marg had no trouble disposing of this group as she hustled to the front from post three and made every call a winning one in a leisurely 1:58.0 for driver Casey Leonard.   Taking advantage of a break by Sara's Terror (Matt Krueger) as the wings of the gate folded Leonard sent the daughter of Sportsmaster-Zip Up Your Pans right to the top where she strolled through pedestrian like splits of 29.1, 1:00 & 1:29.1.   After shrugging off a first over bid from Sara's Terror as the field moved around the final bend the Nelson Willis trained miss was on cruise control through the lane as she paced under the wire with a 1¾ length decision. LK's Nancy Lee (Kyle Wilfong) turned a pocket sitting journey into a second place check while Sara's Terror did well to finish third after the miscue and the first over trip.   The win was the sixth in 12 starts this year for Char N Marg who returned $2.20 & $2.10 to her legion of backers while upping her career bankroll to $106,541 for Quaid Racing LLC.   A full field of eight freshmen pacing colts were entered for the $23,900 Cardinal Stake and once again the public was right on in this tussle as Nicole Potts' Royale Rose, the 2-5 favorite in the wagering went "right down the highway" for driver Matt Krueger posting a three-length triumph in 1:56.2.   Zipped away from post position two by Krueger the gelded son of Ashlee's Big Guy--Caribe Royal sped through the opening quarter in 28.2 before slamming on the brakes while leading the field through an opening half-mile in 59.2.   With pressure coming from a first over Dan D Dune (Mike Oosting), the top two were neck and neck as they raced by the three-quarter-mile mark in 1:27.4. That's when the Lyle Scurlock trainee found another gear, quickly leaving his rivals in his wake on the final turn and then drawing away to his eighth win in 11 career starts. JB's Hero (Robert Smolin) shook loose late to rally for the place money while Wondrous Sport (Casey Leonard) finished third. Bet as though defeat was out of the question Royale Rose returned $2.80, $2.40 & $2.10 while upping his career earnings to $53,879. A couple of familiar faces toted home the 2015 driving and training awards as Mike Oosting, who is rapidly approaching 6,000 career driving wins, took home the driving title while David Mc Caffrey led the training ranks.   Tom Kelley

Earndawg--who captured the 2014 Orange & Blue in a freshman best 1:52.4 for trainer Roger Welch--will be trying for his second consecutive Super Night victory in the $112,000 Pete Langley Memorial at Balmoral Park. Though he has drawn the dreaded ten-hole, Welch is still confident of his colt's chances. Owned by William C (Bo) DeLong of Clinton, WI; William (Pat) DeLong of South Beloit, IL and Earnest Miller of Mount Horeb, WI, Earndawg was purchased for $35,000 at the 2013 Walker Sale. The son of Sportsmaster, out of the Western Hanover mare Pacific Sister K 4, 1:54M ($107,550), is a full brother to Mystical MJ p,3,1:51.1 ($298,918) and has half-siblings in: Doubleshotascotch (by Dragon Again) p,4,1:51.f ($739,491); Sunshine Sister (by Real Artist) p,3,1:54f ($147,217); and MJ's Sista (by Yankee Skyscraper) p,3,1:54.2 ($22,683). Despite earning $217,015 as a 2-year-old, Earndawg was no walk in the park to be around early in his career, Welch recalled.   "This colt initially was very spooky--he was scared to death of everything and it took a lot of work to get him to go around the track and pace a flat mile," Roger said.   Earndawg wore a blind bridle with an elaborately-designed fly screen to help keep him calm. Welch jogged and trained the nervous gelding behind another horse every time he went to the track in the beginning, to get him used to sounds and dirt being thrown up in his face.   Welch's efforts paid off, as the youngster won the $43,350 Cardinal at Maywood Park in 1:55.4 by 4½ lengths in wire-to-wire fashion and the $57,000 Abe Lincoln at Maywood in similar style. From 17 starts at two he amassed eight wins, four seconds and two thirds. The rambunctious youngster was then turned out for the winter at an Indiana farm. It was late April before he qualified and was ready to begin his sophomore contests.   "The colt matured a lot over the winter," Welch noted. "He came back and was better physically and sharper mentally as well. For a long time, we jogged and trained him in an open bridle and he seemed to be over his previous nonsense of shying from things."   Not so fast though. As Earndawg got closer to his qualifying date, he began "seeing" things on the track again.   "He kind of reverted back to his 2-year-old ways once he started getting close to qualifying, and as a result we had to put the mask back on him," Welch said. "I really thought he had it licked, but I think it's more of a game with him, then a case of him really being scared of things."   With or without his fly mask, Earndawg has continued to add money to his coffers despite a depleted Illinois purse account.   This season he has amassed $70,203 to date, with five wins, five seconds and a pair of thirds to his credit in 14 trips postward. He won the $36,000 Maywood Pace in 1:54.2 on June 19 and the $45,000 Incredible Finale at Balmoral in 1:51 on July 25. He captured his Illinois State Fair test on Aug. 15 in 1:52.3 and was a close second in his Langley elimination to Engine One O One last week. "The sad state is he's won every major 3-year-old test and still doesn't have a lot of money to show for it on his card," Welch lamented. "And now we have the ten-hole in the biggest race of the year. We'll see what happens. The trip is going to be crucial in here. We'll just hope for the best and hope that Earndawg continues to be as gritty as he has been all year long." Tom Kelley

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 

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