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One of the recurring 2-year-old ICF stakes on the harness racing schedule is the Fox Valley Barzgar, slated this year to be raced at Maywood Park on July 10. The freshman event for state-bred pacing colts and geldings honors one of the fastest  two-year-old pacers of all time, Fox Valley Barzgar, who took his record of 1:50.2 with Tony Morgan in winning the 2006 edition of the $410,000 Woodrow Wilson at The Meadowlands. A son of Incredible Finale, out of the Sportsmaster dam Slammin Annie, Fox Valley Bazagar’s front-end  victory by three lengths made him the first and only ICF pacer to capture the most prestigious 2-year-old colt stake at The Big M. Fox Valley Barzgar was an $11,500 yearling purchase at the 2005 Fox Valley Standardbred Sale in Sherman by Illinoisans Shawn Nessa (Du Quoin) and John Boyer (Fairfield). The colt began his career winning a $750 purse at Du Quoin in late May with a 1:56 clocking and was sent to Hawthorne to compete in their $41,500 World Series where he was knocked off stride by a breaker as the even-money choice. After a dominating 8-plus length win his Balmoral qualifier in 1:55.2, trainer Tom Harmer purchased Fox Valley Barzgar for his Loudonville, New York owner Michael Polansky. The youngster immediately because a success for Harmer. On July 8, 2006 Fox Valley Bazagar drew away to a 1:52 flat mile in a $29,000 division of a Hanover, pacing the last quarter in 26.1 for Dave Magee. His next start was three weeks later in his Woodrow Wilson elimination. He was sent to the front by driver Tony Morgan and cruised to a 1:51 victory by three-plus lengths. A week later was his record setting 1:50.2 mile in the Wilson Final. After that memorable race Morgan told the media: “He’s a good colt and he was well prepared. I was so shocked that he was so relaxed tonight. He was on the bit last week. He felt like he’d do whatever you wanted to do tonight.” Fox Valley Bazagar came back to Illinois for the $40,000 Governor’s Cup at Du Quoin where he was again impressive, scoring by 7 lengths in 1:51 with a last quarter in :26.4. “Barzgar” stayed perfect for the Harmer Stable by crushing his Orange and Blue elimination field by 6 and 1/2 length in 1:52 with Magee. However, it was a different story in the $285,000 O&B Final. The 4-5 favorite was parked out through sizzling fractions 26.2, 54.1 and 1:22.3 and ended up a non-threatening third to the 2006 O & B champion Home Bed Advantage (Ryan Anderson). That mid-September stake was “Barzgar’s final race as a 2-year-old. The colt wouldn’t win again until the summer of 2009 and “Barzgar” didn’t make a pari-mutuel start as a 3-year-old. The son of Incredible Finale had a very imposing 16-plus winning qualifier (1:55.3) at Pompano Park in mid-April but then got sidelined “with a serious bacterial infection in intestinal track,” trainer Tom Harmer revealed. The horse qualified in mid-June at Maywood in 1:56.2 with plans to enter Hawthorne’s $60,000 Chicago stake on June 28 but the start didn’t materialize. “Barzgar” made a there unsuccessful starts in 2008 at the age of 4. After a half-dozen unproductive starts in 2009 the horse was shipped out East where he had 7 wins in 2010 while banking over $50,000 and added 4 more victories in 2011 including a 1:51 mile at Chester. The horse joined Walnut Hall LTD in Lexington and began standing stud there for the 2008 breeding season. Staying Hot: Sunday’s third race 8-1 longshot winner Hotmones (Kyle Wilfong) was an $18.40 Mike Paradise Price Shot selection. By Mike Paradise

State-bred pacing fillies stepped into the spotlight late on Saturday night as a field of eight sophomores battled in the $8,000 Direct Balance Stake to get the 2015 harness racing stake season underway at Balmoral Park. When the smoke cleared it Kristopher Heim, Connie Hochstetler and James Michels Southern Girl who emerged victorious as she came storming through the lane to win by a length in a career best of 1:55.0.   Content to sit near the back of the pack as the heavily favored Lex, (Brian Carpenter) led the field through splits of 28.2 57.2 & 1:26.1 driver Casey Leonard finally moved Southern Girl into the outer flow as the field neared the top of the stretch.   After being some 16 lengths off at the opening station, the daughter of Sportsmaster-Biloxi, took dead aim on the pace setter as the fillies moved through the lane picking off one rival after another as she charged home in 27.4 to secure her third win in four career starts. A tired Lex held on well to finish second in her first start back after more than six months on the shelf while Galley Wench (Todd Warren) was third.   A $34,000 yearling purchase who was unraced at two, Southern Girl now has three wins in four lifetime starts for trainer Rob Ritoff with earnings of $8,329.   The state-bred stake action continues on Sunday, April 12th as a field six diagonally gaited sophomores will square off in the $8,000 Speedy Rodney Stake which goes as race three on the 10-race program. All the action gets underway at 7:10pm on Sunday night and as always the $1 Pick 4 features a $25,000 guaranteed pool. The Pick 4 is on races seven through 10 on Sunday night.   Tom Kelley

State-bred pacing fillies will get the 2015 stake season underway at Balmoral Park on Saturday, April 11th as a field of eight sophomoreâs will line up behind the gate for the $8,000 Direct Balance Stake which goes as race 12 on the harness racing card.   Kay Willis's homebred Lex, a multiple stakes winner during her freshman season, has been accorded the morning line favoritism in this event as she makes her sophomore debut after a resounding seven-length triumph in her qualifier here at Balmoral on April 1st. The daughter of Lexington Legend closed out a very successful two-year-old campaign in which she posted a record of 4-2-2 in nine starts with nearly $65,000 in earnings, with a second place finish in the year's richest event for the ladies the $162,000 Filly Orange & Blue on Super Night. Brian Carpenter is scheduled to handle the driving duties for the Nelson Willis trainee as she starts from post position five.   The Rob Ritoff trained Southern Girl has turned home heads with back to back wins coming into this event and the lightly raced daughter of Sportsmaster figures to garner plenty of attention at the betting windows. A $34,000 purchase at the 2013 Land Of Lincoln sale, the good looking brown filly debuted with a fifth place finish here on March 22nd before posting a pair of impressive come from behind scores for the ownership group of Kristopher Heim, Connie Hochstetler and James Michels. Casey Leonard gets the call on Saturday as Southern Girl leaves from post position six.   Another to keep an eye on is Galley Wench who hails from the red-hot barn of conditioner Roger Welch. This filly also fetched a big price at the 2013 Land Of Lincoln Sale bringing a $30,000 bid from William C and William P Delong who have enjoyed plenty of success here in the Prairie State in the last few seasons. This daughter of Sportsmaster debuted with a last to first victory on March 22nd before shipping to Hoosier Park where she posted a third place finish in the opening leg of the Rosie Harness Series. A sloppy track and the dreaded 10-hole combined to do her in in the final of that event as she wound up a disappointing seventh. Todd Warren will be in the sulky behind Galley Wench as the pair starts from post position four.   Rounding out the field from the pylons out are Gracie On My Mind, Duneside Perttie, The Doe, Sporty Project and Simply Burbon. Tom Kelley

LEBANON, OH. - Even-money favorite Garbo went wire-to-wire on Thursday (April 2) night at Miami Valley to sweep the George 'Red' Owens Memorial Series for fillies and mares and be crowned champion.   It was the second consecutive night that owner O.D.L. Robinson and trainer Diane Hartsook have accomplished the feat as stablemate Smokey Joe's Cafe captured the Omar Hiteman Memorial championship for horses and geldings on Wednesday.   Driver Kayne Kauffman took no prisoners in the $10,000 feature leading the field through fractions of :27.3, :57.4 and 1:25.4 before widening the margin to 3-3/4 lengths at the wire, reached in 1:54.2.   The five-year-old Sportsmaster mare never had an anxious moment as she completed the sweep of the three-week series for distaff pacers who were non-winners of two races or $15,000 lifetime through the March 1 nomination deadline.   Gregg Keidel          

Fox Valley Devious was one of the premier ICF pacers at the beginning of this century when the Illinois bred harness racing program was still going story. The talented Tom Harmer trainee was regularly driven by Tony Morgan. After a modest freshman campaign where the son of Sportsmaster out of the Ideal Fresh mare won 4 of 11 starts and banked a little over $20,000, Fox Valley Devious flourished with back-to-back seasons where he chalked up 11 wins in each and raked in over $160,000 as a 3 and 4-year-old for owners Ciara Stable (IL), Michael Polansky (NY) and Neil Silverman (FL). In his sophomore campaign, Fox Valley Devious captured the Complex Series Consolation at the Meadowlands that January before shipping back to his home state at the end of March. The gelding was the 2002 Maywood Pacing Series champion, taking both the Associates and Egyptian Stakes championships. Earlier that year he posted a 1:52.4 victory in the $100,000 Maywood Pace (Maywood Park Photo). Fox Valley Devious was a terror Maywood Park, his home base track, triumphant in six consecutive races there, all ICF stakes or Opens. As a 4-year-old Fox Valley Devious continued to dominate the competition at Maywood Park, at one time winning another six straight on the half-mile oval. After successfully defending his Egyptian Stake title, the pacer knocked off more tough competition in five consecutive ICF Opens there. Fox Valley Devious streak at Maywood would end in the Associates stake in late November of 2003 when the horse was hung out for most of the mile leaving from the six-slot and ended up third behind Parklane Power and Constant Change, the one-two finishers. Health issues limited Fox Valley Devious to only six starts in 2004 as a 5-year-old. In 2005 he won at Open and a leg of the Isle of Capri stake winner at Pompano Park with Morgan. After a 15 month absence from to Maywood he returned there in April of 2005 as a 6-year-old and was third in an ICF Open won by Constant Change. Fox Valley Devious would go on to race until the age of 12 into 2011 season. The popular Chicago circuit pacer ended up with 43 career victories, purse earnings of $569,716 and a mark of 12:50 flat, taken as a 3-year-old in his Springfield Colt Stake Elimination. By Mike Paradise

Longshot Just By Design ($19.40) was the upset victor of Saturday night’s “Winner’s Over” feature for fillies and mares, with as gutty harness racing performance with National Hall of Fame driver Dave Magee at her lines. Overlooked by many of the ninth race players, the 8-1 longshot was the quickest from the starting gate, shooting out from post six and into command before the first turn. The Mike Brink trainee gave up the lead at the first quarter, reached in :27.2 to State Street Liz (Bobby Smolin) and raced in the pocket until local newcomer Shine N Shimmer (Mike Oosting) powered her way out of third at took the lead at the half mile ;pole (55.4). Magee then came out of third with Just By Design and raced outside of the new leader through the last turn and most of the way down the lane before passing Shine N Shimmer. Ryleigh’s Lilly (Casey Leonard) finished a strong second, one length behind the roan daughter of Sportsmaster in the 1:53.1 mile. The 8-5 second choice Shine N Shimmer held on for third, one length ahead of the late arriving 7-5 favorite Wings, beaten a half-dozen lengths. Owned by Joshua David Carter of Williamsville, Illinois, the win was the 7-year-old Just By Design’s 25th of her career and her first this year. Jet Power: The circuit’s “Winner’s Over” trot has been shifted to Sunday evening for this week-end. It’ll go as race four and the start of the track’s $1 Pick 3 Wager. Not surprisingly Justice Jet, winner of the last two “Winner’s Over” and 3 out of the last 4 events, was installed as the 8-5 morning line favorite. Regular driver Ryan Welch will be back at the lines of the confident 4-year-old Indiana bred with over $345,000 in lifetime earnings. With the 5-slot  Justice Jet should have dead aim on the 6-horse field turning for home when he goes after his 15th career victory in 41 trips postward. Dandy Farm’s Celebrity Hercules (5-2, Casey Leonard) and Master Of Excuses (4-1, Mike Oosting), second and third, respectively, last week against Justice Jet, are his chief rivals again. Invite Ahead? Maywood Park Pacing Series champion Fort Silky qualified Thursday evening at Maywood Park with a 1:58.2 front-stepping clocking under the hold of his driver Casey Leonard. The now 9-year-old ICF gelding could be dropped into the entry box Wednesday morning with hopes that the circuit’s Invitational will have sufficient entries to be carded for the time since January 3. The Mike Brown Stable’s Ice Scraper spent the middle two weekends of January competing in the Miami Valley Raceway Open Handicaps in Ohio, winning January 24 (1:52.2) on the Lebanon five-eighths oval. Ice Scraper skipped last night’s Open Pace in Ohio and is a likely local Invite entry for this week. By Mike Paradise The Illinois Harness Horsemen's Association

Pompano Beach, FL...February 4, 2015...Indigo Artist and Tyrone Showpstopper took top harness racing honors in the finals of their respective Late Closers at Pompano Park on Tuesday night while Fox Valley Griffin took the race-off of the Pop-Up Series. Also, Pompano Park's Super Hi-5 carryover pierced the $100,000 mark for the first time in track history. Indigo Artist, driven by Ed Hensley, squeaked by a very stubborn Son Day, handled by Kevin Wallis, to take the $11,500 final of the "Better Late Than Never" Late Closing Series in a lifetime best 1:53.3. Big Better Best, with Bruce Ranger handling the lines, used a late rally to get show honors while Directly Related and Smithers picked up the minors in the field of nine. It was Son Day and Smithers away alertly at the word "go" with Son Day on the bullet train taking the field to the quarter in :27 and half in a hot :54.2. Indigo Artist, meanwhile, had shown some gate speed nestling into fourth early and content to stay right there until straightening away on the backside. Grinding forward, Indigo reached third at the third station (1:24) and kept gnawing away at the leader until eking by in the final couple of strides. In a post race interview, driver Ed Hensley joked, "Now THAT was a professional drive! Actually, Rod (trainer Grady) has him sharp so I left my horse hoping to get in there a little closer. Tehy were going some so I decided to wait to the backside to move him again. Everything worked out fine." Trained by Rod Grady for owner Percy Jones, this six year-old son of Arturo now is three-for-four in 2015, good for $11,885, almost double what he earned all of last year. As the 6 to 5 favorite, Indigo Artist paid $4.60 to win. Tyrone Showstopper, off as third choice at 6 to 1, wired his competition for Kevin Wallis in the $11,500 Final of the "Fair Start" Late Closer, pinning a convincing 2 1/4 defeat on the 3 to 5 favorite Kabu, handled by Jason Dillander, with Insider Access, teaming up with Aaron Byron, third. Nomad finished fourth with Gray N Cloudy getting the nickel in the nine horse affair. This six year-old son Duke Of York, trained by Norm Dessureault for owner Denis Goyette, clocked fractions of :27.4, :56.3 and 1:25.4 en route to a lifetime best performance of 1:55.4. After the race, driver Kevin Wallis said, "I believe he likes the front end...after all, the last time he won was on the front so I decided to send him and he raced exceptionally well tonight." Earning his first success of the year, Tyrone Showstopper, who had banked only $720 in three previous starts this semester, sent his $6,470. He paid $15.40 to his faithful. The Pop-Up Series Race-Off Final went, as expected to Fox Valley Griffin, driven by owner-trainer Joe Sanzeri. This seven year-old son of Sportsmaster, just missing the winner's circle last week when his rally fell a "head" short, left no doubt this time around by zipping out of the gate and carding panels of :28, :56.2 and 1:25 en route to a victory measuring two lengths over Make You Famous, driven by Bruce Ranger. Wake, with Aaron Byron, finished third while No Shenanigans and Dynamic Rayzer picked up awards in the field of nine. In a post race interview, driver Sanzeri said, "There didn't seem to be much early speed in here, so I decided to send him--for a change--and try to stay out of trouble. It worked!" As the 4 to 5 chalk, Fox Valley paid $3.80 to win and sent his lifetime bounty to $164,164. Finally, Pompano Park's Super Hi-5 carryover pierced the $100,000 plateau when several 20 cent ticket winners received $135.34 as a consolation. The jackpot for a unique winning ticket now stands at $102,240.56 going into the Wednesday night program. Post time is 7:30 pm.. by John Berry for Pompano Park        

The Mike Brink Stable’s Just By Design, sent off at 28-1, the longest priced horse in Saturday night’s third race co-headliner at Balmoral Park, lit up the tote board at a $59.40 winning mutuel in the $11,000 “Winner’s Over” filly and mare harness racing pace. Skillfully driven by National Hall of Famer Dave Magee, the 5-year-old daughter of Sportsmaster used a ground saving inside up-close trip and then proceeded to win the last quarter of a mile dash to the wire, posting a neck victory over 12-1 longshot Ryleigh’s Lilly in 1:52.4. Party Hangover was a close-up third in the tightly bunched field. Magee hustled Just By Design away from the five-slot and had the front before the first turn. The 61-year-old Green Bay native then took the two-hole behind Party Hangover who got to the first quarter pole in 27 flat. The 3-5 favorite Always About Katey took over command by the :55.2 half-mile marker as Just By Design moved back a slot to third. The winner got off the inside near the 3/4 mile pole, found a clear path in the lane and motored home for her fifth win of the year for Williamsville, Illinois owner Joshua David Carter.   “I was thrilled with her trip,” said Magee. “My mare was a facing a tough field. It turned out Always About Katey (fourth, beaten 1 length) didn’t race up to par tonight although by mare came up with a big finish.   “Under the right circumstances just about any of those mares could have won the race.” Dave was spot-on with that statement. The entire seven-horse field ended up being separated at the finish by only two lengths. The winning 5-2 third race Exacta paid a tidy $690.40 while a 5-2-7 Trifecta ticket for $2 was worth $4,090.60. Curl and Craig Grummel’s Fox Valley Veto ($5.00) rattled off his third consecutive “Winner’s Over” trot division victory with John De Long, wearing down the 7-5 co-favorite Justice Jet a second straight Saturday, this time in 1:55 flat. Master Of Excuses was the early leader in the sixth race co-feature but Ryan Welch put Justice Jet out and rolling on the backside, using a powerful three-deep move to clear and wrestle command while leaving the 8-5 choice Fox Valley Veto some seven lengths behind going into the turn. However “Veto” had plenty left in the tank. The son of Pizzazzed surged three wide through the last turn and gobbled up ground. He then was ducked to the inside in the lane by De Long where he swept past for a 1 and 1/2 length decision over Justice Jet. Was De Long worried when Justice Jet made his big move and opened up a substantial lead? “Not at all,” he replied. “My horse was really strong. “This was one of his best races of the year. To be that wide in the last turn and to still race that strong all the way down to the wire was an awesome effort for the trotter. I thought his win last week was impressive but this one was even more so.” The triumph was Fox Valley Veto’s ninth in his 3-year-old season and his fourth against the top older company trotters on the Balmoral Park grounds. Quick first half fractions, first by Fort Silky (:27.1) and then by Kanarsis (:54.2) set things up for the late rushers in the $10,500 top-level conditioned pace with Best Man Hanover ($9.00), driven by Todd Warren, delivering a neck victory over the 16-1 longshot Mosee Terror (John De Long) at the end of a 1:50.3. Fort Silky held on for third in the eleventh race event. by Mike Paradise, for IHHA

Ladiesith a total of 15 state-bred filly and mare pacers dropped into the entry box, Saturday's Sue Fee Stake was split into a pair of $13,250 divisions. The stake had been scheduled to go back on June 21st but was washed out when torrential rains caused the remainder of the card to be cancelled that evening. In the opening split Paula Smith, James Runyan and Frank Pike's Dallas Jones regained her early season form as she came charging through the lane to score by 2¼ lengths in 1:54.1 over a sloppy track for driver Tim Curtin. Unhurried early as Just By Design (Dave Magee) and then Auniqueaquistion (Dale Hiteman) put up splits of 27.3, 56.0 & 1:25.0 Curtin moved from fifth at the half-mile pole. Moving into a perfect second over spot in fourth as the field turned for home the Joel Smith trained four-year-old set sail for the wire, quickly gobbling up the tired leaders while slicing through a strong headwind. In full flight, the daughter of Sportsmaster--Cams Bett confidently cruised under the wire with her sixth victory of the year. Just By Design shook loose late at the pylons to finish second while Whistle Pig (Casey Leonard) rallied for the show dough. Sent off as the 9-2 choice in the wagering Dallas Jones returned $11.00, $4.40 & $3.60 while running her record to 6-3-3 in 29 starts with earnings of nearly $47,000. In the nightcap John Barnard's Ryleigh's Lilly came flying through the lane to post an impressive 1 ¾ -length victory in 1:53.0 with Mike Oosting at the controls. Ducked off the gate by Oosting, the four-year-old mare settled in fifth as Party Hangover (Todd Warren) led the field through splits of 27.4, 56.2 & 1:24.1. After getting caught up in a stalled outer flow as the field neared the top of the stretch, a confident Oosting tipped three and then four-wide around the tired challengers. Effortlessly picking off one rival after another the Bill Crone trained daughter of Western Hero--Fox Valley Chosen zipped past them all for her sixth victory of the season. State Street Liz (Robert Smolin) turned a ground saving trip into a second place check while Party Hangover held on for third. Sent off as the second choice in the wagering Ryleigh's Lilly returned $5.20, $3.20 & $2.20 while moving her record to 6-3-6 in 29 trips postward with earnings of just over $41,000. Live racing continues on Sunday, Nov. 23rd 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. With no racing on Thursday, Nov. 27th at MaywoodPark (Thanksgiving) BalmoralPark will present an 11-race card on Wed. Nov. 26th as well. by Tom Kelley, for Balmoral Park

Illinois conceived and foaled trotters and pacers were back in the spotlight on Saturday night at Balmoral Park as the Crete plant played host to four stakes or consolations for Super Night participants as part of the big 13-race harness racing program.   Freshmen pacing fillies kicked off the action with a field of nine going postward in the $13,900 Thrifty Way Stake.   Avenging a pair of recent tough trips that led to sub-par efforts Quaid Racing's Angel Demon came steamrolling down the center of the track to record a 3 ½ length victory in a career best of 1:54.2 for driver John De Long.   Saving ground the entire way, the daughter of Sportsmaster--Miss Swift appeared to be hopelessly shuffled out of contention before De Long managed to shake loose from the pylons.   Storming down the center of the track Angel Demon blew right by a leg weary Girls Hunt Too to pick up her first career victory. Longshot Desi Dune (Todd Warren) turned in a nice effort to finish second while Girls Hunt Too was third.   Now in the barn of conditioner Erin Elliott, Angel Demon returned $5.00, $3.60 & $3.40 while pushing her bankroll to $48,113.   Trotters were next to hit the track as a field of seven diagonally gaited three-year-old fillies battled in the $20,000 Lady Ann Reed Consolation.   Making amends for her costly break in the rich Super Night final of this event, Donald Huddleston's Macie Rae was on her best behavior as she made every call a winning one, reporting home by 4 ¾ lengths in 1:57.1.   With trainer Mike Rogers climbing into the bike for this battle the daughter of Powerful Emotion--Fox Valley Poetry stormed right to the front, putting up splits of 29.1, 58.1 & 1:27.0.   After opening up a big lead at the top of the stretch, Rogers let his filly drift a bit through the stretch and she responded beautifully to that careful handling as she widened her margin while notching her 11th victory in 15 starts this season. Bands Alexis (Todd Warren) tried to follow the winner's every move but was forced to settle for a runner-up role while Fox Valley Skylar (Dale Hiteman) finished third.   Heavily backed off her sparkling record Macie Rae returned just $2.80, $2.80 & $2.20 while upping her career earnings to $89,520 with career win number 19.   Freshmen pacing colts jumped into the fray with a field of nine youngsters battling in the $13,900 Yates Eagle Stake.   Taking advantage of a perfect two-hole trip, Fox Valley Elijah came rolling through the passing lane to win by 1 ½ lengths in a career best of 1:54.2.   Perfectly positioned by driver Todd Warren, the gelded son of Sportsmaster--Eternal Gift had all the best of it while C Note (Travis Seekman) carved out splits of 29.0, 58.3 & 1:27.0.   Fit and fresh off that journey the Nelson Willis trainee gradually wore down the pace setter, drawing clear in the shadow of the wire for his second lifetime win for the partnership of Kay Willis, Engel Stable Of Illinois and Haugen Stables. C Note held on gamely to finish second while Casey At Bat (Dean Magee) found room late to rally for the show dough.   Part of a Willis owned entry Fox Valley Elijah returned $9.60, $4.20 & $4.00 while moving his bankroll to $15,890.   Last but not least were sophomore pacing colts as a field of nine three-year-olds squared off in the $22,400 Pete Langley Memorial Consolation. This race provided the biggest shocker of the night as 19-1 longshot Fox Valley Cupid parlayed a perfect trip into a thrilling nose decision in a career best of 1:52.3.   Hustled off the wings of the gate by Robert Smolin the gelded son of Yankee Skyscaper--Fox Valley Cherub landed in the garden spot right on the back of favored Uncle Ugly as that one put up hot splits of 26.3, 55.1 & 1:23.2.   Moving into the passing lane the Mike Schulfer trainee gradually wore down the favorite and then held on for dear life as Overloaded (Kyle Wilfong) came flying late to just miss. The other half of that Tom Simmons trained entry; Fox Valley Van (Dale Hiteman) was a fast closing third.   The win was just the second in a 34-race career for Fox Valley Cupid who has still managed to earn a "cool" $115,830 for owner James Strazlka, Mike Schulfer, James Skvarla and Nancy Magnus. Those lucky enough to back the bay sophomore were rewarded with mutuels of $40.80, $12.80 & $5.80.   Saturday's 50 cent Pick 5 wager was not hit so there will be a carryover of $6,168 added to Sunday's pool. Thus, there will now be a GUARANTEED POOL OF $50,000 for Sunday's Pick 5 wager. The Pick 5 is contested on races 2-6 on Sunday's.   Past performances courtesy of Trackmaster for the 50 Cent Pick 5 and the $1 Pick with its $25,000 guaranteed pool can be found at ustrotting.com   Tom Kelley  

Completing the "favorite train" that rolled through Balmoral Park on Super Night Bo & Pat De Long's Earndawg sent the chalk players home with a smile as he rolled to a 3½ length victory in a career best of 1:52.4 for Todd Warren. Working out a perfect trip after getting away fifth as King Of The Swamp (Pat Curtin) and Lucpark (Dave Magee) traded blows through opening splits of 27.1 & 55.2 Warren managed to pick up live cover from a second over position as the field moved towards the three-quarter-mile mark. "It wasn't exactly the trip I thought I was going to get with him or the trip Roger (Welch) planned so I called an audible and it worked out pretty well," joked Warren. "He always seems to have a big plan going into a race but things never seem to work out that way." Passing the three-quarter-mile mark in 1:24.3 the gelded son of Sportsmaster--Pacific Sister K tipped three deep and quickly found his best stride, sailing right by his rivals in route to his fourth win in 10 lifetime starts. Longshot Dupage's Z Tam (Casey Leonard) shook loose late to rally for the place money while another Welch trainee Rockin Cassinova (Dale Hiteman) finished third. With the win Earndawg, who returned $3.60, $3.00 & $2.60 now boasts a record of 4-2-2 in 10 starts with earnings of $115,478. Tom Kelley

Fresh off five straight victories over her divisional harness racing foes, Paymaq Racing and Leland Mathias's Mr Leland's Filly made it six in a row as she came charging down the lane to win the $162,000 Filly Orange & Blue in 1:53.2 for driver Casey Leonard.   Content to sit in the middle of the pack as several fillies battled through quick splits of 27.1, 55.2 & 1:24.0 Leonard had his filly out and rolling in the middle of the final bend.   "When the draw came out I tried to picture every scenario that might shake out and this one was definitely the best," said a very happy Leonard. "I was ecstatic that they were going as fast as they were and I was getting to follow the horse I thought we had to beat."   Confidently starting to reel in the other elimination winner from last week, Sportsmuffler (John De Long), who had powered into the lead with a big first over move at the top of the lane Mr Leland's Filly quickly found her best stride.   Powering home in 28.3, the Ervin Miller trained miss zipped right by the leg weary leader giving Miller his Super Night leading 23rd championship. Lex (Kyle Wilfong) came on late to edge Sportsmuffler for the place honors in a tight photo.   With the win Mr Leland's Filly appears to have a lock on divisional honors with her record of 6-0-0 in eight starts. The daughter of Sportsmaster--Incredible Katie returned $2.60, $2.40 & $2.10 while upping her bankroll to $158,360.   Mr Leland's Filly notched her sixth straight victory as she overpowered her rivals to win the $162,000 Filly Orange & Blue for Casey Leonard.   Tom Kelley

Unlocked seems an appropriate name for the Erv Miller-trained sophomore son of Duneside Perch. The powerful bay colt has simply obliterated his rivals in last four starts, beginning with his 1:50.2 victory in the $48,000 Incredible Finale Stake here at Balmoral on July 26. He then roasted a field of eight rivals on Aug. 14 at Springfield in a lifetime best of 1:49.1 in a $52,000 State Fair Championship, his nearest competitor 9¼ lengths behind him at the wire. "I knew he was some kind of nice horse, and from the nine-hole, that Springfield effort was a huge mile," Erv acknowledged. Owned by Megan Rogers of Chicago, Unlocked then swept to a 1:51.3 clocking in the $22,000 Dudley Hanover Stake at DuQuoin on Aug.24, before winning his $15,000 Langley elim last week casually by 6¼ lengths in 1:50.3 with his regular pilot, Dave Magee, at the lines. "It really didn't surprise me at all," Magee admitted. "This colt is capable of going some really big miles. He's a lot more comfortable doing his job now. Earlier this year he was high strung, but the last few starts he's been super. He just needs to stay out of trouble in the final. He's been so dominate as of late that I expect to be somewhere up close. He never seems to tail off at the end of a mile so post isn't an issue for him either." "He's a very high speed horse," Erv stressed. "Nick (trainer Prather) wasn't able to get the conditioning miles in him over the winter he felt the colt needed, because of the terrible Midwest weather, so he sent him out East to us." Originally, Unlocked was teamed with trainer Curtis Rice, but when Rogers watched the youngster win his first two starts at Balmoral in 2013, she purchased him from Rice for $50,000 and placed him in Prather's barn. The colt won his career debut, a $6,000 ICF stake at Balmoral, on June 9, 2013 in 1:56.2, and six days later drew off by eight lengths in 1:53.3 in a $15,000 ICF test. He won his first and second starts for Prather, the $12,000 Enzo The Baker Stake at Maywood on June 28 in 1:58.2 and the $12,000 Fox Valley Barzgar Stake on July 5 in 1:56.3 with Magee at the lines. Unlocked went on to earn $82,447 as a 2-year-old via six wins and five seconds in 12 starts, taking a mark of p,2,1:53.2 in a Springfield elimination. This year he's amassed another $104,725 from 13 starts, with a five triumphs and one second. However, Unlocked, who besides being flashy in color and big strided, is quirky at times, Miller and Magee agreed. "He's the only horse I've ever had that will run out bad one week and the next week run in," Erv noted. "We don't change his rigging at all, but he'll be on the left line one week and on the right the next, for no apparent reason." "Unlocked is very sound, but quirky," Magee agreed. "At Springfield, he wasn't into the race at all and leaving from the far outside, he was watching the crowd and wasn't attentive to me. Despite that, he still went a huge mile. Bred by Bart Seals of Mason, IL, Unlocked is the sixth foal out of the Fighting Major mare Miss Major Power p, 3, 1:51.1M ($27,453) and has half-siblings in: Bad As Bart (by Sportsmaster) p,4,1:54H ($98,699); Destinationunknown (by Ice Chaser Won) p, 2, 1:54.4 ($32,193); and Partatbartsplace (by Party At Artsplace) p,4, 1:53.3F ($60,031). "Unlocked is a horse who is actually one of the easier ones for me to manage," Erv offered. "He's got so much speed that he is easy to keep sharp, because he is so naturally talented." by Kimberly Rinker, for Balmoral Park

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

The harness racing meet at the Du Quoin State Fair wraps up today with a number of ICF championships to be decided on the 11-race card that will get under way at 12 noon. The showcase event is the $40,000 Governor’s Cup for ICF 2-year-old pacing colts and geldings. Springfield champion Thisishowweroll (John De Long) is the 2-1 morning line favorite to capture the 10th race headliner. The Nick Giberson trainee did draw the outside 7-slot. Trainer Erv Miller sends out a pair of major threat in the Governor’s Cup, Lucpark (Dave Magee) and Engine One O One (Casey Leonard). Lucpark has been no worse than fourth in six career starts, winning twice. Engine One O One earned a trip to Du Quoin with an impressive 1:54.4 victory (:27.1 last panel) debuting at Springfield in an Illinois Department of Agriculture event. The Sportsmaster gelding sold for $42,000 as a yearling to Quaid Racing and Paymaq Racing and is a half-bother to King’s Legend (1:51), the runner-up in the 2012 Incredible Finale and Hanover for Team Miller. A pair of overwhelming favorites should be Herman Wheeler’s Fox Valley Qatar in the first $17,000 Darn Safe for ICF freshman males (No Show Wagering) and Megan Roger’s Unlocked in the $22,000 Dudley 3-year-old colt and gelding pace (No Place or Show Wagering). Fox Valley Qatar (1-1, Todd Warren) is unbeaten in five career starts and comes off easy victories in the Plesac and Springfield championships. Unlocked (4-5, Dave Magee) was dominating in both his Incredible Finale (1:50.2) and Springfield (1:49.1) championships. In the latter he motored his last quarter in a sizzling 25.4 seconds. The most intriguing stake race of the afternoon could be in the second Dudley Hanover split with rematch of Captain Greedy (2-1, J D Finn) and Cruisin Valor (5-2, Brian Carpenter), the one-two at Springfield in a division of the Illinois State Fair Colt Stakes. After a second place finish behind Fox Valley Qatar in Balmoral’s mid-June Million Dollar Bye stake Captain Greedy has strung together six consecutive victories. He held off Crusin Valor by a neck at Springfield. The Gerald Hanson Stable’s Cruisin Valor (Brian Carpenter) was much the best in a Hanover, drawing away by five lengths in 2:00.1 for Illinois owners (Sam) Lilly Racing Stables (Downers Grove), Shelley Steele (Monee) and Payton Ode (Joliet). They’ll be challenged by Bulldog Benji (programmed 15-1, Dave Magee), Jake Quaider (9-2, Casey Leonard), Southerncomfortzone (9-2, John De Long), RT Habenero (7-1, Robert Taylor) and Broadway Emotion (25-1, Mike Brink). Also on the line Sunday afternoon are a couple of $8,000 Championships for older ICF pacing mares and pacing horses or geldings. The fifth race distaff stake lines up with Just By Design (9-2, Dave Magee), Springfield champion Dallas Jones (3-1, Casey Leonard), Parkland Powerful victor No Respect (9-5, John De Long); Rev Me Up (7-2, Todd Warren) and Incredible Filly (6-1, Ronnie Gillespie). The ninth race championship brings out Sadies Art (15-1, Tom T. Tetrick), Mystical Walter (6-5, Casey Leonard), Big Daddy Woo Woo (5-2, Dale Hiteman), My Boy Luke (20-1, Dave Magee) and Fancy Creek Elusiv (2-1, Ryan Anderson). There is no Show wagering on either of the older ICF pace championships. by Mike Paradise, for IHHA

After a two-week hiatus live racing returned to BalmoralPark with a pair of state-bred stakes for older pacers sharing top billing on the 13-race program. The ladies kicked off the action with a pair of $21,400 divisions of the Parklane Powerful Stake. In the first division Kenneth Rucker's Party Hangover continued her dominance of this division as she cruised to a 3 ¼ length victory in a career best of 1:51.1 for driver Todd Warren. After leaving alertly from the outside starting spot, Warren sent the five-year-old daughter of Party At Artsplace on her way from fourth after an opening quarter of 27.0. Quickly moving to the front, the Catrina Rucker trained miss proceeded to lead the field through middle splits of 54.1 & 1:22.2. Through the lane the only thing in doubt was who would pick up the minor spoils as Party Hangover effortlessly reported home with her sixth straight victory. Just By Design (Dave Magee) rallied from last to finish second while Fox Valley Touche (Dale Hiteman) was third. With the win Party Hangover boasts a record of 7-3-2 in 21 starts this season. The overwhelming favorite returned just $3.20, $2.60 & $2.10 while upping her career earnings to $292,511. The second division provided an upset as Mark Winship's No Respect took advantage of a miscue in the lane by favorite Dallas Jones in route to a 2 ¾ length victory in a lifetime best of 1:51.4 for driver John De Long. Settling near the back as the action up front was hot and heavy De Long was happy to watch Incredible Filly (Ronnie Gillespie), The Bruzilian Blur (Todd Warren) and then Dallas Jones (Kyle Wilfong) all trade blows through red-hot splits of 27.3, 54.1 & 1:23.1. In the lane, State Fair Stake winner Dallas Jones made a very uncharacteristic break jamming up several rivals while leaving a fit and fresh No Respect with clear sailing to the wire. The Nick Giberson trained daughter of Sportsmaster then proceeded to uncork a 28.0 final quarter to notch her seventh victory of the season. Dune In Red (Dave Magee) who inherited the lead after the miscue by the favorite held on for second while Kimberly R (Dale Hiteman) finished third. Sent off at 9-1 the brown five-year-old returned $22.80, $4.00 & $3.20 while pushing her career earnings up to $314,428. A full field of 10 pacers went postward in the $35,200 Big Tom Stake and when the smoke cleared in this wild and wooly affair it was John Prentice and Neva Jane Ikeler's FortSilky who emerged with an impressive 6 ¾ length victory in 1:49.3 for driver Casey Leonard. With even money favorite Al's Hammered saddled with a starting spot in the second tier Leonard left quickly with Fort Silky sitting right on the back of the hard leaving Ice Scraper (Ross Leonard) through splits of 27.2 & 55.0. Deftly averting disaster when the pace setter made a break approaching the top of the stretch, Fort Silky was in full in stride as he sailed by the three-quarter-mile mark in 1:22.3. Leaving his rivals in his wake the eight-year-old Ft. ApacheHanover gelding sealed the deal in grand fashion, pacing home in 27.0 to post his 20th win over the past two seasons. Iam Bonasera (Kyle Wilfong) turned a nice ground saving trip into a second place check while Al's Hammered was forced to settle for third on this night. The Terry Leonard trainee returned $9.20, $5.60 & $3.20 while upping his career bankroll to an eye popping $650,650. by Tom Kelley, for Balmoral Park

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