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Saturday’s delayed Taser Gun stake at Balmoral Park didn’t come up short this time in numbers or in talent. A full field of 10 ICF pacing colts and geldings will battle it out in the ninth race $8,000 headliner with a good portion of the wagering very likely going to the harness racing favorites Earndawg (3-1, Todd Warren), Lucpark (4-1, Mike Oosting) and Dixie’s Boy (5-1, Casey Leonard). Earndawg came away with division honors as a 2-year-old and deservedly so. He raked-in over $217,000 for Wisconsin owners Bo Delong (Clinton) and Earnest Miller Jr. (Mount Horeb), and Pat De Long of South Beloit, Illinois. A son of Sportsmaster, Earndawg captured the Colt Orange and Blue and Cardinal Finals at Balmoral, a division of the Madison at Hoosier and the Abe Lincoln at Maywood. Earndawg finished third in the first ICF sophomore stake of the season two weeks ago, his first outing in five months. That Betzotic stake turned out to be an easy win for the Joel Smith Stable’s Dixie Boy. The son of Duneside Perch was almost 4 lengths the best in 1:5:54.1. Casey Leonard will again handle Dixie’s Boy. The 37-year-old Illinois native was also listed to drive The Big Sleazy, Casey At Bat and Mighty Hot Shot but opted to stick with the James and Terri Blackman’s Dixie Boy, a three-time season winner for the residents of O’Fallon, Illinois. Du Quoin Governor’s Cup champion Lucpark packed a big late kick in his season debut last week against open company and mostly older horses, The Erv Miller trainee came from next to last at the half to finish second, pacing a :26.4 last panel. “He had a nice hold on me the whole way and he closed really well,” said Lucpark’s driver Mike Oosting. “We’re going to race him off (the pace) for a little while and when the bigger money races come along do what we have to do to win those races. I didn’t drive him as a 2-year-old. Dave Magee did before he retired,” continued Oosting. “Erv (trainer Miller) thought that Lucpark was the kind of horse that I would get along with well. “The horse has nice size. He does it right and he has a good attitude. Lucpark may not have been the best in his division last year but he might be this year. The horse is sound. I’m looking forward to driving him.” Another son of Sportsmaster, Lucpark put over $76,000 on his card as a freshman for Chicago owner Rocco Ruffalo. Earndawg landed the 3-slot in the Taser Gun with Dixie’s Boy to his right with the 4-post Lucpark starts a few slots further with the 7. The first two posts will be manned by Rockin Cassanova (8-1, Ridge Cassanova) and The Big Sleazy (8-1, Kyle Wilfong). Dinky Dune (10-1, Pat Curtin) and Casey At Bat (12-1, Tim Curtin have the 5 and 6. The 8, 9 and 10 went to Mighty Hot Shot (12-1, Matt Krueger), Dakota Roadster (6-1, Bobby Smolin) and Fox Valley Elijah (15-1). The Taser Gun state-bred stake had been a fixture on the Maywood Park schedule for years but when only horses entered it last Friday the appropriate switch to Balmoral Park was made. By Mike Paradise

The state-bred stakes action continued on Sunday, May 3rd at Balmoral Park as a pair of Illinois conceived and foaled events for both harness racing trotters and pacers shared top billing on the Sunday night card. In the opening event, the Herman Wheeler owned and trained Fox Valley Qatar, last year's freshman champion, picked up right where he left off, posting an easy 3¾ length wire to wire victory in 1:58.2 over five other sophomore trotting colts in the $8,000 Iggy Magoo Stake. After being hustled away from the outside post in the compact field of six by driver Todd Warren, the bay son of Pizzazzed--Armbro Bahrain appeared to be on "idle" while leading the field through pedestrian splits of 30.3, 1:00.2 & 1:30.3.   Still fit and fresh despite the fact it was his first start back after a seven-month layoff, the good looking trotter sealed the deal with a brisk 27.4 final quarter to open his second season on a victorious note. Captain Greedy (J D Finn), the winner's main opposition during their first season of action, once again was forced to settle for the runner-up role after a pocket sitting trip while Fox Valley Theboss (Casey Leonard) staged a mild rally to finish third.   The $7,000 yearling purchase now boasts an eye-catching record of 9-1-0 in 10 career starts with earnings of $88,215. Dispatched as though defeat was out of the question Fox Valley Qatar returned $2.80, $2.40 & $2.10 to his legion of backers.   In the nightcap of Sunday's stake action a field of eight ICF three-year-old pacing fillies met in the $8,000 Betzotic Stake in what figured to be another tune-up in preparation for the first "major" ICF stake of the season, the Violet Stake.   When the smoke cleared it was Ronald Phillips & Jesse Ferge's Fox Valley Aubrey who emerged victorious as she parlayed a perfect pocket sitting journey into a passing lane victory, scoring by a length and a half in a career best of 1:55.0 for Bobby Smolin.   Taking full advantage of the pole position Smolin placed the daughter of Yankee Skyscaper--Assailed in the garden spot as the headstrong Lex (Kyle Wilfong) sped through splits of 29.0, 57.1 & 1:25.2.   After watching last year's divisional champion Mr Leland's Filly (Casey Leonard) make a break while on the move first over around the final turn, Smolin made the "winning" decision as he elected to sit in and wait for the open stretch. With the leader beginning to get a little leg weary in the final sixteenth of a mile, the Bob Phillips trained Fox Valley Aubrey came charging up the inside for Smolin, blowing right by the embattled leaders to score for the 12th time in 17 career starts. Lex held on gamely to finish second while Southern Girl (Mike Oosting) finished third. The third choice in the wagering from the inside starting spot, Fox Valley Aubrey returned $9.80, $4.40 & $3.00 while running her career earnings up to $32,244. Tom Kelley

Looking out my window earlier this week and watching about 4 to 5 inches of depressing wet heavy snow come down in the Chicago Northwest suburbs it seemed like the harness racing stake season for Illinois bred pacers and trotters was a long way off. Nevertheless, my calendar said differently. The initial ICF stake of 2015 was scheduled for this Saturday evening at Balmoral. However the Taurus Bomber for 3-year-old pacing colts and geldings didn’t fill with its modest $8,000 purse. A quick once-over of the circuit’s stake schedule let me know that the first stake for ICF sophomore trotters—the $8,000 Speedy Rodney—is only two more weeks away. What came next was a phone call to Herman Wheeler, the owner and trotter of Fox Valley Qatar, the 2014 Illinois 2-Year-Old Trotting Colt of the Year. The 45-year-old Wheeler was still at his farm in Monroe, Louisiana.  And while the weather was much warmer in Louisiana, it was just as wet, maybe wetter, than it was in the Chicagoland area. “I won’t be back to Illinois with Qatar for that first trotting stake,” said Herman. “It seems like it’s been raining every day down here so I’m a little behind with my horse. I’m pointing for the Cardinal with him later in May. “I’d like to qualify him at Balmoral and maybe get in one start before the eliminations (Saturday, May 23). Fox Valley Qatar was nearly perfect for Wheel and the trotter’s driver Todd Warren.     After a winning debut in early June in Springfield with Randy Crisler, Warren guided the son of Pizzazzed to seven more consecutive victories that included the $48,000 Plesac (by 4 lengths), the $30,000 Springfield crown (by 3-plus lengths, a $17,000 division of Du7 Quoin’s Darn Safe (by 7-plus lengths) and his Lincoln Land elimination (by 3 ½ lengths) in a first season fastest time of 1:57. Fox Valley Qatar winning streak came to an abrupt half in the $97,000 Lincoln Land Championship in early October when he was second best to Robert Taylor’s RT Habanero. It was “Qatar’s” last start as a freshman. An $8,000 yearling buy at the 2013 Fox Valley Standardbred Sale, Fox Valley Qatar took home over $84,000 for his owner-trainer in the gelding’s initial campaign. Did the pride of Wheeler’s stable grow much over the winter? “He got a little taller,” Herman replied. “It’s hard to tell how much he filled out because I see him every day but I had to let his harness out so he must have put on some weight, He’s coming along fine and I’m looking forward to coming up to Illinois for those 3-year-olds stakes.” Maybe when Wheeler arrives here at the end of April it’ll really feel like spring in Chicago and my snow shovel will have been put away, this time for good. By Mike Paradise

How competitive has tonight’s weekly “Winner’s Over’ for filly and mare pacers event been at Balmoral Park? Extremely would be the right answer. Over the past two months all six distaff “Winner’s Over” have been won by a different horse. And all of those winners plus two other recent high-level conditioned victors—Dallas Jones (8-1, John De Long) and Wings (8-1, Tim Curtin)—will knock-heads in the Saturday’s seventh race co-feature. The morning line favorite, not surprisingly, is the Roger Welch Stable’s multi-Indiana stakes champion Always About Katey (5-2, Todd Warren), the Dec. 6 “Winner’s Over” victor, the lone time in her six starts the 4-year-old mare wasn’t sent off as the public’s choice. She's closing in on career earnings of $800,000. Last week’s conqueror Ryleigh’s Lilly (pp 2, Casey Leonard) is the 7-2 second choice. She’s a seven-time season winner for trainer Bill Crone and owner John Bernard and four of those victories came with Casey at her lines. Alex Adams’ DP Angel p.p. 1, Mike Oosting), who took the Nov. 9 distaff headliner, is the 4-1 third program choice. Then comes Ken Rucker’s Party Hangover (pp 8, Ridge Warren), the Nov. 29 winner and 2014 Lorna Propes Super Night champion. Joining Dallas Jones and Wings at opening odds of 8-1 are the Mike Brink Stable’s Just By Design (pp 3, Dave Magee), the “Winner’s Over” titleholder two weeks ago and Bernie and Deb Paul’s very consistent mare Seeyouatthefinish (pp 6, Bobby Smolin). The latter picked up season win No. 8 at tonight’s level on Nov. 22. The third race co-feature “Winner’s Over” trot has gone in opposition direction than the filly and mare events. Its last five $11,000 Opens have been won by either Fox Valley Veto or Justice Jet, with the score 3-2 in the former’s favorite. However after dropping three straight decision to Fox Valley Veto, Justice Jet picked-up a head decision last week with a 1:55.2 clocking over his rival. The 3-year-old who was Indiana champion as a freshman for the Welch Stable, captured the Nov. 22 “Winner’s Over,” earlier. Curt Grummel’s Fox Valley Veto, (John De Long) opens at 5-2 from the outside eight-slot, while Justice Jet is at first flash odds of 3-1 to his left with the seven-post. Looking to put an end to the to the recent Fox Valley Veto-Justice Jet dominance are Surclasser (6-1, Bobby Smolin), Master of Excuses (9-2, Mike Oosting), Repeat Your ABC’s (12-1, Kyle Wilfong), Clever Upstart (8-1, Dave Magee), Time Outa Jail (6-1, Casey Leonard) and Big Boy Lloyd (8-1, Todd Warren). by Mike Paradise, for IHHA

I’ve been a professional handicapper since the early 1970’s and I can count on one hand how many times I’ve made a horse 1 to 9 in my morning line. Saturday night at Balmoral is one of those very infrequent times. Trainer Roger Welch sends out his dynamic ICF duo of the runaway division leader Earndawg with his stable-late King Of The Swamp (Ryan Welch), this season’s Mini Me champion, in the $10,000 Crete for 2-year-old state bred colt and gelding pacers against a only four foes with two pari-mutuel wins and barely $30,000 in first year earnings between them. Not surprisingly only Win and Exacta wagering will be offered to avoid Minus Pools nevertheless I expect there will still be one. The morning line odds will start out at 2-5 and they’ll spiral downward from there. Interestingly, when Bo and Pat De Long bought the two sons of Sportamaster at last year’s Walker Sale, King Of The Swamp was expected to be the better of the two. He sold for $85,000 with his very successful family tree of brothers and sisters like Brian And Kellie (1:50.3), Hot N Sporty (1:50.2), She’s So Hot (1:51.1), He’s Red Hot (1:50.4) and He’s So Hot (1:50.2), among others. Earndawg, went for $35,000 to the De Long’s and Wisconsinite Ernest Miller when his name was Fox Valley Padre. His dam Pacific Sister produced Mystical MJ (1:51.1). While King Of The Swamp, alias Fox Valley Flame, captured the Mini Me earlier and has had a productive first year with earnings of over $70,000, Earndawg and his regular driver Todd Warren has had a prodigious year and is a legit candidate for Illinois Horse of the Year Honors. Earndawg has put almost $210,000 on his card and he took the division’s biggest plum, the $186,000 Colt Orange and Blue Final on Super Night. Since then he’s added Balmoral’s $43,350 Cardinal, Maywood $57,100 Abe Lincoln and a $40, 300 division of Hoosier Park’s Madison to his list of accomplishments, the last two open company stakes. Oh, he was also second in last month’s Balmoral’s $86,000 American National. “That Madison stake was a Grand Circuit race with a nice respectful field of colts in there and Earndawg really stepped up at the plate in it,” said Roger. “He finished so strong the way we knew he could, That is his trump card. He was way back and he really came on strong on a cold, windy night with a little misty rain.  It was a big heat. “Right now, as we speak, Earndawg is so fresh and sound that he’s the sharpest he’s been all year. He was so outstanding in the Orange and Blue and he has stayed that way ever since,” Taking on Earndawg and his sidekick are (my odds) AJ’s Prince (50-1, Pat Curtin), Casey At Bat (8-1, Dean Magee), Mighty Hot Shot (9-2, Casey Leonard), and Dinky Dune (8-1, Kyle Wilfong). by Mike Paradise, for IHHA

E L Titan captured the $92,300 Galt Stake for sophomore trotters in 1:56 with trainer Riina Rekila at the lines. It was the first time this stake has been won by a female driver. The son of Muscle Hill-Courtney Hill is owned by Erkki Laakonen of Nastola, Florida and added the winner's share of $46,150 to his bankroll of $295,201. It was colt's fifth lifetime win in 11 career starts. E L Titan grabbed the lead at the start and led the field through fractions of :28.4, :58.2 and 1:27.1. Rompaway Galaxay (Dave Magee) was the only challenger to take a try at E L Titan, and ended up being first over for the entire mile. "My plan was to go out of there as hard as I needed to, to get to the front," said Rekila. "He was way more aggressive than normal tonight. When the other horse challenged me, I knew that he was having a tough trip and my horse still felt good." E L Titan won by 1¼ lengths over the tenacious Rompaway Galaxy, with Dony Andreas (Tim Tetrick) getting up for third and Madewell Hanover (Chris Ryder) notching fourth place money. "I think this horse will be a very nice 4-year-old, and that's the reason for his limited number of starts," she added. "By skipping the Yonkers Trot, this will allow him to get into some other races." E L Titan is the fourth foal out of his Garland Lobell dam Courtney Hall and is half-brother to Appomattox (by Yankee Glide) 3, 1:52.2M ($424,448); E L Rock (by Yankee Glide) 4, 1:53.4f ($294,280) and E L Rocket (by Credit Winner) 3, 1:53.1s ($233,935). E L Titan Earndawg takes Abe Lincoln Stake Earndawg took advantage of a perfect steer to capture the $57,100 Abe Lincoln Stake in 1:55.1.   The son of Sportsmaster-Pacific Sister K-Western Hanover notched his sixth career victory against six rivals in the evening’s Fourth Race.   Roger Welch trains Earndawg for owners William C DeLong of Clinton, WI and Pat DeLong of South Beloit, IL and J Miller of Mount Horeb, WI.   Earndawg nabbed the lead easily, with Lucpark (Dave Magee) right on his heels and King Of The Swamp (Ridge Warren) sitting third.    “I didn’t think I was going to be able to cross over that easily, but I got the rail pretty well,”winning driver Todd Warren said.   Positions remained unchanged to the opening panel of :28.1 and to the :57.2 half, before Dupage’s Z Tam (Casey Leonard) moved  hard agains t the leader.  However, Earndawg had plenty left in the tank, sprinting to a 1:25.4 three-quarter clocking while the hard-trying Angelo J Fra (Tim Tetrick) went three-wide around the final turn.    “I didn’t want to get run down that much on the backside, but we were racing for good money, so that was okay. I think this horse races best from off the pace.  If I would have gotten torched a little more going to the half, they would have had a better shot to beat me.”   Earndawg still had plenty left in the tank as he brushed to a three-quarter length victory with Lucpark finishing second and Angelo J Fra nabbing third.   Earndawg’s stablemate, King Of The Swamp was fourth, followed by DuPage’s Z Tam, Shadow’s Image and JK Allnitelong.   Earndawg pushed his career earnings to $189,265.  He finished second at Balmoral last Saturday night to Roland N Rock in the $86,000 American National and has also won the $186,000 Orange & Blue at Balmoral and the $43,350 Cardinal at Maywood.   Earndawg, a $35,000 yearling purchase from the 2013 Walker Standardbred Sale, is out of the Western Hanover mare Pacific Sister K 4,1:54 ($107,550) and is a full brother to Mystical MJ p,1:51.1 ($275,219) and a half-brother to Doubleshotascotch p,4,1:51f ($692,491).   Earndawg   by Kimberly Rinker, for Maywood Park

After finishing in the runner-up role behind the undefeated Fox Valley Qatar the last two weeks Taylor & Robert Rietveld and Robert Taylor's RT Habenero picked the right night to turn the tables on the division leader.   He turned in a sterling effort to win the year's richest event for Illinois conceived and foaled two-year-old trotting colts taking Sunday's $97,000 Lincoln Land Stake by a widening four-length margin in 1:58.0 for driver Dave Magee. Firing off the wings of the gate from post seven for his Hall of Fame reinsman the gelded son of Armbro Tropicana--Heather Jenna grabbed control of the early proceedings leading the field through opening splits of 28.3 & 58.0. "With Fox Valley Qatar drawing outside of us I knew I needed to get my horse out of there in a hurry," explained Magee. "I wasn't necessarily dead-set on being on the front end but it worked out that way when another leaver made an early break so that's where we wound up landing." Moving around the far turn the unbeaten Fox Valley Qatar (Todd Warren) came flying up on the outside of horses, zipping right by the pace setting RT Habenero as the field reached the three-quarter-mile mark in 1:27.1. Never one to panic, Magee kept after RT Habenero through the stretch and the Robert Taylor trained youngster responded beautifully, reeling in the heavy favorite with a sixteenth of a mile to go and quickly drawing clear heading to the wire for his second win in nine career starts. Fox Valley Qatar was forced to settle for the runner-up role on this night while Jake Quaider (Casey Leonard) shook loose late after a tough trip to rally for the show dough. When asked in the winner's circle if he was worried when the undefeated odds-on choice flew right by him nearing the top of the stretch the always calm and cool Magee responded in his typical laid back fashion. "My horse really wanted to "race" that horse when he came up alongside of us but I didn't want to use him up right then and there," said Magee. "I knew my horse still had plenty of trot left in him and it seemed like Fox Valley Qatar was really all out to get around us so maybe he wasn't at his best tonight. This horse has really been sharp in his last three starts and while he's not all that big he's got a great deal of grit and desire which he definitely showed out there tonight." With the win RT Habenero who returned $19.20, $4.60 & $2.80 now boasts a career record of 2-3-2 in nine starts with earnings of just over $67,000. by Tom Kelley, for Balmoral Park

Illinois conceived and foaled two-year=old pacers shared top billing on the Friday, Oct. 3rd card at Maywood Park as some of the state's top fillies gathered for the $43,600 Violet Stake while their male counterparts battled in the $43,350 Cardinal Stake. Both races left no doubt as to who was best on this night as Jessie De Long & the Hamm Family Trust's Sportsmuffler romped to a 6½ length victory in the Violet while Bo & Pat De Long and Ernest Miller's Earndawg continued his recent dominance of his division with a devastating 4 ½ length romp in the Cardinal. Taking advantage of a perfect pocket sitting journey as Luvniecestopieces (Ryan Anderson) rattled off splits of 28.0 & 57.1 driver John De Long moved Sportsmuffler to the outside as the field hit the three-quarter-mile mark in 1:26.1. Fit and fresh as the fillies moved around the final bend the Jessie De Long trained daughter of Sportsmaster--Whatthere'smore overpowered the pace setter as the field turned for home then drew off impressively, tripping the timer in 1:56.3 for her seventh win in 11 lifetime starts. Fox Valley Charm (Kyle Wilfong), who picked up brief cover from the winner turned in a nice effort to be the bridesmaid while Luvniecestopieces held on to be a distant third. A close second choice in the wagering Sportsmuffer returned $5.00, $3.20 & $3.20 while upping her career bankroll to more than $67,000. Using the "give and go" to perfection in the Cardinal Stake driver Todd Warren allowed entrymate King Of The Swamp (Ridge Warren) to grab command through a quick opening split of 27.2. Sweeping back to the top after the opening panel Earndawg proceeded to pace through fractions of 57.2 & 1:26.2 while keeping Lucpark (Dave Magee) hung on the outside. With the difficult trip finally taking a toll on that one, the Roger Welch trained son of Sportsmaster--Pacific Sister K simply sprinted away from the rest of his rivals leaving them in his wake as he cruised under the wire in 1:55.4 for his fifth win in 12 tries this season. King Of The Swamp followed the winner all the way but was simply second best on this night while C Note (Travis Seekman) shook loose late to finish third, 8 ¾ lengths behind the winner. This year's Orange & Blue champion may have put a stamp on divisional honors with Friday's win as he now boasts a record of 5-2-2 in 12 starts with earnings of more than $141,000. Bet as though defeat was out of the question the Welch trained coupling returned $2.20, $2.40 & $2.10. by Tom Kelley, for Maywood Park  

I’ve known trainer Roger Welch for over 20 years and anytime I’ve talked to the Illinois Hall of Fame conditioner about one of his horses going into a stake race at Maywood Park he couldn’t emphasize enough how important the draw was on the half-miler. “It can mean the difference of having a real good chance in the race or no chance at all.” So when his dynamic Illinois bred duo of Orange & Blue Colt champion Earndawg and Mini Me champ King Of The Swamp landed the 1 and 4 posts, respectively, in Friday’s $43,000 Cardinal Final I couldn’t resist picking up the phone for a quick chat with Roger. “You’ve got to be all smiles the way the draw went for your horses Friday,” I said. “You have that right,” Roger replied with a laugh. “It couldn’t have worked out much better than it did. I’m real happy with the draw.” Since this will be the first start on a half-mile track for both of Welch’s freshman pacers I wondered if they would have been better off racing in last week’s elimination. “I wasn’t asked if I wanted to take the bye but if they did call I would have taken it,” said Roger. “Both horses have been raced hard and could have used another week off. They’ve trained up in Wisconsin on a half-mile farm track they both get around a small track very well. They were real strong on the half training.” Todd Warren again chose to drive Earndawg just as he did on Super Night when the son of Sportsmaster was three lengths the best in the $186,000 O & B Championship. “Todd’s son Ridge will drive King Of The Swamp in the Cardinal,” said Roger. “I entered him with Dale Hiteman listed to drive but he’s in Indiana Friday.” Earndawg and King Of The Swamp, programmed as the heavy even-money Cardinal favorites, both have some major stakes still ahead on their schedule before they’re shutdown for the winter. “They’ve got the American National coming up next week at Balmoral and they are also eligible to the Abe Lincoln at Maywood on Windy City Night.” Both horses are listed among the nomination lists under the names they sold at the 2013 Walker’s Sale. Earndawg, a $30,000 procurment, was Fox Valley Padre. King Of The Swamp, a $85,000 purchase, was originally named Fox Valley Flame. The luck of the draw for the Cardinal wasn’t kind to Du Quoin’s Governor’s Cup champ Lucpark (4-1, Dave Magee) who has the track’s dreaded 8-hole (5.2 winning percentage) in his Maywood debut. It wasn’t much better for O&B runner-up Dupage’s Z Tam (3-1, Casey Leonard) who has the six (8.7% clip). However unlike the other seven Cardinal finalists the Dave McCaffrey trainee is based at Maywood and does his training on the half-miler. Cardinal elimination winner The Big Sleazy (6-1, Kyle Wilfong) did o.k. when he landed the five-post. Inside of him are longshots Casey At Bat (p.p. 2, 15-1, Dean Magee) and C Note (p.p. 3, 12-1, Travis Seekman). Mighty Hot Shot (30-1, John De Long) will try to get his maiden win from the seven. The Cardinal will be preceded by the $43m6000 Violet for ICF freshman pacing fillies. Morning line favoritism went to the three inside horses—Angel Demon (5-2, Todd Warren), Lyrics Fall (9-2, Bobby Smolin) and Sportsmuffler (9-5, John De Long)/ They’ll be tested by Fox Valley Charm (10-1, Kyle Wilfong), Girls Hunt Too (15-1, Casey Leonard), Luvniecestopoeces (8-1, Brian Carpenter) and Duneside Perttie (12-1, Dave Magee). by Mike Paradise, for IHHA

Illinois conceived and foaled trotters were back in the spotlight on Wednesday night with a pair of stakes highlighting the nine-race card. Freshmen fillies had the chance to grab their biggest payday of the year for the state-bred set as a field of nine went postward in the $90,000 Lady Lincoln Land Stake while a compact field of six sophomore trotting fillies gathered in a $10,100 Betzotic Stake to start the Wednesday night action. The Betzotic proved to be a walk in the park for Super Night winner Bailey's Wish as the pride of owners Jim Bafia and Eugene White demolished her rivals with a 7 ½ length score in 1:57.3 for driver Dave Magee. Sent to the front by Magee after an opening quarter in 29.0 the daughter of Southwind Breeze--Jen made the top easily and was unchallenged through middle splits of 57.4 & 1:27.3. Quickly putting daylight between herself and the rest of the field, the Dirk Simpson trained miss left her rivals in her wake as she cruised under the wire with her fifth win in 13 starts this season. Band's Alexis (Todd Warren) rallied late to finish second while Say No Mo (John De Long) was third. Even-money co-favorite Macie Rae made a break in the lane and finished last in the field of six. Bailey's Wish returned $4.20, $2.80 & $2.20 while upping her career record to 10-8-3 in 27 starts with earnings of $243,938. With the scratch of last week's elimination winner Jazzie Mermaid (injured) the LadyLincolnLand looked like it would be a showdown between Fox Valley Yoko and Persuasive Look. Unfortunately a break behind the gate took out the latter and the former made a break while challenging in deep stretch allowing a game Bi Polar Rose to post a front stepping half-length victory in 1:59.3 for Travis Seekman. Confidently handled by Seekman the daughter of Polar Winner--I Still Owe trotted right to the top from post five, putting up leisurely splits of 29.4, 59.3 & 1:29.0 while cruising along unchallenged. In the lane the Ronnie Roberts trained miss dug in gamely, turning back a "passing lane" challenge from 29-1 longshot Fox Valley Harrah (Kyle Wilfong) who had enjoyed a perfect pocket sitting trip while also keeping Fox Valley Yoko (John De Long) at bay to notch her third win in eight tries. Fox Valley Harrah was forced to settle for the bridesmaid role while Fox Valley Yoko did well to salvage a third place finish after the miscue. Sent off at 7-2 by the betting public Bi Polar Rose returned $9.20, $4.00 & $3.00 while running her record to 3-2-1 in eight starts with earnings of $60,515 for owners Cynthia Demarlie and Jason Van Winkle. by Tom Kelley, for Balmoral Park  

The Herman Wheeler owned and trained Fox Valley Qatar made it eight straight wins to open his career as the good looking youngster cruised to a 3½ length victory over nine other Illinois conceived and foaled two-year-old trotting colts in Sunday's $10,000 Lincoln Land Stake elimination at Balmoral Park. The final time was 1:57.4. Placed in mid-pack after floating away from post seven for driver Todd Warren the gelded son of Pizzazzed--Armbro Bahrain worked out a picture perfect journey moving up second over as the diagonally gaited youngsters moved around the far turn. Sitting just three-lengths off the leaders as the field turned for home Fox Valley Qatar unleashed a 28.3 final quarter, storming down the center of the racetrack to keep his unblemished record intact. RT Habanero (Dave Magee) used a nice ground saving trip to finish second while Captain Greedy (John Finn) rallied from far back to be a distant third, 7 ½ lengths behind the winner. Also gaining spots in the final were Powerful Above All, Vick Valor, Cruisin Valor, Arcs Conquest and Beginning Balance. They will be joined by Southerncomfortzone and Jake Quaider in next Sunday's $97,000 final. With the win Fox Valley Qatar, who returned $3.00, $2.20 & $2.10 now boasts career earnings of $65,375. by Tom Kelley, for Balmoral Park    

Illinois conceived and foaled two-year-olds shared top billing on Friday's Maywood Park card as a pair of elimination tussles for freshmen pacers were contested. Fillies kicked off the action with a field of eight gathering behind the gate for a $10,000 Violet Stake elimination. The top five finishers will get the chance to join Sportsmuffler, Angel Demon and Duneside Perttie in next Friday's $43,600 final. With the defection of division leaders Mr Leland's Filly and Lex, the final should be a wide-open event but the betting public was right on for the elimination as 7-5 favorite Luvniecestopieces posted a two-length wire to wire victory in 1:57.1 for driver Todd Warren. Sent right to the front from post six by Warren the daughter of Yankee Skyscaper--Fox Valley Dujour cruised through splits of 27.4, 58.2 & 1:27.3 while never being challenged. With plenty in reserve and an outer flow that was going nowhere, the Hart Walker trained miss rolled home in 29.3 to notch her third win in 10 starts this season. Fox Valley Charm (Kyle Wilfong) shook loose late to wind up as the bridesmaid while Fox Valley Kit (Brian Carpenter) was third. Also gaining spots in the final were Girls Hunt Too and Lyrics Fall. The public's choice returned $4.80, $3.60 & $2.60 while moving her record to 3-4-1 in 10 starts with earnings of $19,551 for the partnership of Hart & Robert Walker, Robyn Klingler and Homer Henke. The Cardinal elimination also brought out a field of eight youngsters and produced another front stepping winner as Engel Stable of Illinois The Big Sleazy reported home with a half-length win in 1:56.4 with Dave Magee at the controls. After working hard to gain control of the proceedings the gelded son of Sagebrush--Decent Lawyer stepped through splits of 28.3, 58.3 & 1:27.4 for his Hall of Fame reinseman. The Nelson Willis trainee appeared to be well within himself through the lane turning back a brief bid from the pocket sitting Mighty Hot Shot (Todd Warren) as he notched his second win in seven lifetime starts. Mighty Hot Shot was forced to settle for the runner-up role on this night while C Note (Travis Seekman) took the "overland" route to a deceptively strong third place finish. With the top four in this event moving on the last spot in next week's $43,350 final went to Thisishowweroll. They will be joined by Dupage's Z Tam, Earndawg, King Of The Swamp and Lucpark. Bet to even-money favoritism The Big Sleazy returned $4.00, $2.40 & $2.10 while pushing his lifetime slate to 2-2-1 in 7 starts with earnings of $23,070. by Tom Kelley, for Maywood Park  

Illinois conceived and foaled three-year-olds shared top billing on the Sunday night card at Balmoral Park as a pair of Super Night Stake Consolation's headlined the 10-race harness racing card.   Trotters kicked off the action with a field of seven diagonally gaited sophomores squaring off in the $20,000 Su Mac Lad Consolation. This test turned into a stroll in the park for Ron Marino and David Hermann's Nino Marino as he stormed right to the front and never looked back in a three-length victory. The final time was 1:56.1.   Confidently handled by driver Dean Magee, the gelded son of Pizzazzed--Charger's Affair gunned to the top from post six and proceeded to put up splits of 28.2, 57.2 & 1:26.1 while opening up a 5 ½ length advantage at the top of the stretch.   On cruise control the rest of the way the Randy Tuftie trainee was threatened as he reported home with his second win in 16 starts this season. Saint Simeon (Rick Schrock) rallied late to finish second while Photo Surprise (Todd Warren) was third.   The $21,900 Grandma Ann Stake Consolation for three-year-old pacing fillies also produced a wire to wire winner as Sawgrass Farms Molly Go Lightly bested six rivals by a half-length in 1:54.0 for driver Dave Magee.   Using an inside draw to perfection Magee put the daughter of Lexington Legend--Waggle right on the front where she proceeded to step through splits of 28.0, 57.4 & 1:26.1.   After opening up a three-length advantage by the mid-stretch call the Nelson Willis trainee then held on gamely as a late rushing Fox Valley Shiver (Todd Warren) came charging late to get the place money. Kiwi Party (John De Long) finished third.   The win was the third in 15 starts this season for Molly Go Lightly who now boasts career earnings of just over $98,000. Tom Kelley

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  

Veteran harness racing horseman Todd Warren joined another rank of elite reinsmen to reach the 4,000 mark in career driving victories on Thursday, September 18th at Maywood Park when the Beecher, IL resident guided the three-year-old pacing filly Stage Star to a decisive 5 ¼ length victory in Maywood Park's 10th race. The milestone victory was part of a big five win night for the 49-year-old veteran of the Illinois circuit.   Born in Mattoon, IL on New Year's Day, 1965 Warren was introduced to the sport at an early age by his father and embarked on his driving career on the county fair circuit in 1981.   Like a fine wine, Warren has been getting better with age, notching more than 200 driving victories in five of the past seven years in the bike. The career winner of $17.7 in purse earnings while in the bike has also been doing "double duty" as a trainer, posting an amazing U.T.R.S. of more than .300 in all but one year dating back to 2000 with 875 career training victories.   "It makes for some very long days like today (Sept.18)," said Warren. "I started training horses before 8 a.m. this morning, caught a quick break and some lunch before shipping to Maywood with my horses. Now after getting these horses put away and back home it will be at least 1 a.m. so it makes for a pretty quick turnaround. But I'm not complaining. If I don't have that kind of workload I get a little bored really."   When asked if he knew that he was getting close to reaching another milestone the superstious Warren was quick to "tune-out" to his impending mark.   "I had heard from a trainer or two that I was getting close to the mark," he said. "But after winning the first two on Thursday night and not hearing anything else it just sort of left my mind. The next thing I know I won with Stage Star and here comes everybody down to the winner's circle and the sign comes out. It was really a great feeling I have to say."   Tom Kelley

The 5-year-old Sportsmaster mare Shez A Swift lately has been a very popular horse with both the betting public and the horsemen. The mare has been the favorite in her last five starts at Maywood Park and she’s won her last four outings and was claimed in each of those victories   Tonight Shez A Swift debuts in the third race for her newest owner Missel Garcia of Crete, IL after his trainer Harold Guerra claimed the mare a week ago. She was also claimed in her previous three winning starts.   The 9-5 programmed favorite has nailed down 11 wins this year, all at Maywood. Shez A Swift is looking for her 20th career victory in her 64th career start, with most coming at Maywood.   Shez a Swift was a $29,000 purchase as a yearling at the 2011 Walker Sale by the Joel Smith Stable and made two unsuccessful starts at Balmoral as a 2-year-old. Joel raced the filly as a 3-year-old 36 times with 22 of those at Maywood Park where she chalked up 6 of her 7 victories in 2013.   Smith started the mare 9 times this year at Maywood where she won twice before she was taken over by trainer Matt McKenzie. After dropping her first five decisions for her new barn, Shez A Swift started winning on a regular basis, taking 6 of 8 starts for the stable before she was claimed on August 21 for $4,000 by trainer Perry Smith.   One week later the mare won for Smith however he lost her in a $4,000 claimer to trainer Ronnie Roberts. Naturally she also won for Ronnie but she was re-claimed by McKenzie in that Sept. 5 triumph. Last week Shez A Swift got her nose in front to make it four in a row, all with Todd Warren driving, when Herrera decided to claim her.   The mare has got to be wondering which way she’s headed after tonight’s third race. My guess is in another different direction once again.    Favorites Fall: The first 2 of 10 American National stakes to be contested this season at Balmoral were raced last night and the public choices both went down to defeat.   The $57,200 filly division of a pair of 2-year-old trots saw Homer Hochstetler’s Persuasive Look ($10.20) rally past with Casey Leonard to post a 1:58 victory, a half-length ahead of Jazzie Mermaid.   The front-stepping 3-5 favorite Fox Valley Yoko weakened in the late going and ended up third, beaten two lengths.   The $73,000 American National for freshman colts and geldings saw the winner’s share of the purse leave town when Iron ($13.00), given a perfect pocket trip by Dominico Cerere, got his head in front at the end of another 1:58 mile, this one for trainer Frank Antonacci and his east coast owners.   SS Poseidon, who led from the half-mile pole until deep stretch, dead-heated for second with the 8-5 favorite KY Lucky. Both finished a head behind the Cantan Hall colt Iron who was making only his second career start. by Mike Paradise, for IHHA

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