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LEBANON, OH. - My Buddy Ninkster pulled another mild upset, as he often does, in the $24,000 Open I Handicap at Miami Valley on Saturday night (Feb. 9). Rarely dispatched as a favorite, this 1:51.1 victory was My Buddy Ninkster's tenth in the past 13 months against the best pacers in central and southwest Ohio. Todd Warren guided the 7-year-old son of Dali to the narrow come-from-behind score over open class heavyweights Nuclear Dragon (Dan Noble) and Granite (Brett Miller), who were lapped on at the wire. The winner paid $10.80. John Jr. and Mary Krasnican bred and have owned My Buddy Ninkster his whole life and he has rewarded them with $476,740 in career earnings. He is conditioned by veteran trainer Bob Phillips. A co-featured $20,000 Open II was captured in front-stepping fashion by Cruise Patrol (Brett Miller) in 1:50.4. The favored 6-year-old son of Bettor's Delight topped Doctor Carter (Chris Page) and Whataboy (Tyler Smith) to earn his initial victory of 2019, raising his lifetime bounty to $251,056 by doing so. Chris Short has been training the impressive winner for owner Coleen Dowdall. Two divisions of the brand new Bill Dailey Memorial Medley series also were presented on the Saturday program. The initial leg of this late-closer featured 5/8th mile dashes for $12,500 purses. Next week the same horses will compete at the standard one mile distance for $17,500 bounties; and the $25,000 championship leg on February 23 will be contested at 1-1/4 miles. Both dashes were clocked in 1:08, just four-fifths of a second off the North American record for one lap around a 5/8ths oval. The Dark Shadow (Chris Page) pressed to the front just past the first quarter and held off runnerup Duel Of Truth (Kyle Ater) and show finisher Royale Rose (Mike Oosting) in the stretch. The heavily favored 5-year-old son of Shadow Play, owned by Burke Racing Stable LLC and Weaver Bruscemi LLC, returned $4.00. The second split went to Hunchie (Cameron McCown), who used the coveted No. 1 post position to full advantage. The Vince Hanna-trainee lead Southern Flight (Jason Brewer) and Angelo J Fra (Page) through the final teletimer beam in his first start of the year. Frederick Reed IV owns the 9-year-old by No Pan Intended who returned a healthy $21.00 to his mutuel backers. The 2:05 p.m. Sunday (Feb. 10) matinee at Miami Valley will feature a $24,000 Open I Trot, a $20,000 Open II Trot, and the $37,500 championship final of the Claim To Fame series for $30,000 claimers. From the Miami Valley Media Department

LEBANON, OH. - Granite and My Hero Ron have dominated the featured weekly Open Pace at both Hollywood Dayton and Miami Valley Raceways in recent weeks, Granite winning three times and My Hero Ron twice since December 8. They were joined in the Saturday night (Jan. 12) $25,000 Open at Miami Valley by Nuclear Dragon, the 1:49 track record holder returning to the races after a two and a half month layoff. While all three raced gallantly on a blustery winter night it was My Buddy Ninkster (Todd Warren) who surprised the favored trio with a stern stretch effort to pass them in the final strides of the 1:51.3 mile. My Buddy Ninkster is no stranger to the Miami Valley win circle as he won several top events during the 2018 meet last winter, propelling him to $102,290 in seasonal earnings. The 7-year-old son of Dali won eight times last year and his first 2019 triumph was the 35th in his stellar career which now sports a bankroll of $457,740. Warren was content to get away fifth in the star-studded field as Granite (Jeremy Smith) stopped the first three teletimers in :26.4, :55.1 and 1:23.1. At that point Nuclear Dragon (Dan Noble) drew even with the leader and the pair raced as a team around the final turn. At the head of the lane, Warren swung My Buddy Ninkster three-wide with My Hero Ron (Tyler Smith) fanning even further out for a thrilling duel through the lane. In the end, it was My Buddy Ninkster over Nuclear Dragon with Granite and My Hero Ron also lapped on to the winner. Bob Phillips conditions My Buddy Ninkster for John and Mary Krasnican of Illinois. Dispatched at 5-1 he paid $13.80 to win. Four first leg divisions of the $20,000 Claim To Fame Series were also contested on Saturday. Winners were Latest Desire (Trace Tetrick, 1:50.2), Always A Fighter (Tetrick, 1:52.4), Vintage Grand (Warren, 1:52.3) and Fan Of Terror (Tetrick, 1:51). While seven horses were plucked via the claim box from the first leg, only Fan Of Terror changed barns among the winners. Tetrick scored five wins on the program to run his total tallies over the past two nights to nine. The defending Miami Valley dash champion's other winners were Tyd The Glyde and Fools Desire in a pair of high conditioned paces. Racing resumes at Miami Valley on Sunday afternoon (Jan. 12) at 2:05. The matinee will feature three divisions of the first leg of the Claim To Fame Series for $30,000 male pacers and a $25,000 Open Trot.   Gregg Keidel

STICKNEY, IL - Thursday night at Hawthorne kicked off the opening legs of the Beulah Dygert Memorial Trot and Erwin F. Dygert Memorial Trot. The Beulah Dygert is for Illinois-bred harness racing three-year-old fillies while the Erwin F. Dygert is for Illinois-bred three-year-old colts and geldings. The Thursday opener was the first division of leg one of the Beulah Dygert as Powerful Princess was sent off as the 4-5 favorite. Breaking at the start was Powerful Princess, leaving Vengeful to lead the field around through fractions of :29.0, :58.2, and 1:28.1 for three quarters. Tracking the entire way was 24-1 shot Roma Falls for driver Matt Krueger. Moving late, Roma Falls took over and drew clear by four lengths, stopping the clock in 1:58.3. Trained by Ray Hanna for owners Mary Jeffers and Adele Everett, Roma Falls returned $51.80, $9.00, and $4.80. Vengeful held place, coming back $3.20 and $2.10 while More Than Likely finished third and returned $3.00 to show. The second division of leg one of the Beulah Dygert went as race three on Thursday night with Rocknprincessabbie as the even money favorite. At the start, second-choice Awfully Emotional left for the lead through the opening quarter in :29.2. Moving quickly on the backstretch to the lead was the favorite Rocknprincessabbie and driver Todd Warren. Following a half in 1:00.1 and three quarters in 1:29.4, Rocknprincessabbie and Surviver Di battled the length of the stretch. Prevailing in the end was the favorite Rocknprincessabbie over Surviver Di with Fox Valley Bugatti a late closing third. Owned by Danny Graham and trained by Nelson Willis, Rocknprincessabbie returned $4.00, $2.60, and $3.00. Surviver Di came back $7.20 and $4.80 while Fox Valley Bugatti returned $9.80 to show. The boys were the focus later in the evening as two divisions of leg one of the Erwin F. Dygert Memorial Trot took place. In the first division, Mr Strata was the 4-5 favorite, coming off a victory in the recent late closer series final. Driver Casey Leonard wasted no time getting early position with Mr Strata, leading the field through the opening quarter in :29.3. On the backstretch, second-choice Fox Valley Diamo took over through a half in 1:00.1. Into the lane, longshot Storm Winds led briefly before breaking stride while Mr Strata took over a two-length lead late. All out to the wire, Mr Strata held on by a nose over Wrightwood in 1:59.1. Psychic Survior finished third. Owned by Cynthia Willis and trained by Nelson Willis, Mr Strata returned $3.80, $2.60, and $2.60. Wrightwood returned $4.60 and $4.40 while Psychic Survior came back $7.80 to show. The second division of the Erwin F. Dygert, Primed N Powerful was the even money choice. Immediately from the start though it was Casey Leonard and Fear setting the early fractions through :29.1 and :59.1. Primed N Powerful made a move to contend through three quarters in 1:28.4 but Fear responded and opened up, winning by nine lengths at the wire in 1:57.2. Owned by Providence West Inc. and trained by Kenny Collier, Fear returned $6.20, $5.20, and $4.20 as the 2-1 second choice. Bands Ariston got up for second, coming back $8.00 and $6.20 while Dr Venkman was third, paying $14.80 to show. Jim Miller

As the second full weekend of harness racing wrapped up at Hawthorne Race Course, the temperatures warmed and a couple of drivers heated up. Leading driver Casey Leonard had a big weekend in the bike as he guided home 13 winners over the four day racing week. Leonard opened the racing week with a three bagger on Thursday. On Friday evening, Leonard guided home five winners, some at big prices. Leonard won the fourth race with Little Miss Torie ($57.20), followed by favored Financial Effort two races later. In the ninth race Leonard was back in the winner's circle with the longest shot on the board as Dali Treasure ($51.00) rallied late. The following race Leonard drove home Sure You Are ($33.20) and closed out the evening with favorite Jiggles the Clown in the finale. Leonard won three more times on Saturday, including another impressive score by Ontario Success (1:51) in the Saturday feature. He closed the 13 win weekend with a pair of victories on Sunday evening. Driver Todd Warren also had a fine weekend, winning seven races over the four day span. Warren opened the week winning a pair on Thursday night. After going winless Friday, he came back with a trio of scores Saturday, driving home both Old Man River and KC Rambunctious Boy to their second wins each on the meet. On Sunday, Warren won twice more as John Jay and It'saswan both continued their fine Hawthorne form. Capping the Sunday card was a first for driver Juan Franco as he recorded the first pari-mutuel victory of his career in the Sunday finale. Franco drove 25-1 shot Parklane Dragon to a 2¼ length score for trainer Nelson Willis in Sunday's tenth race. Stakes Nominations for Two-Year-Old Races Posted The nominees for the four two-year-old stakes races have been posted on the Hawthorne website. Two-year-old filly trotters will compete in the Fox Valley Flan stakes as 31 fillies were nominated. The Kadabra Stakes for two-year-old colt trotters closed with 30 nominations. In the Incredible Tillie Stakes for two-year-old filly pacers, 72 were nominated. The Incredible Finale Stakes for two-year-old colt pacers ended up with 61 nominees. To view the full list of all stakes nominations, visit the Hawthorne website at www.HawthorneRaceCourse.com and click on the "Horsemen" tab. ABOUT HAWTHORNE RACE COURSE Founded in 1891, Hawthorne Race Course is the 4th oldest racetrack in the nation and the oldest sporting venue in Illinois. Located in Stickney, Illinois on the edge of Chicago's city limits, the 125 year old facility hosts thoroughbred racing in the Spring and Fall/Winter, and standardbred harness racing in January and the Summer. The family-owned and operated business has been an innovator in horseracing for more than 100 years and features the nation's most rewarding players program. For additional information: www.HawthorneRaceCourse.com | Facebook.com/ClubHawthorne | @ClubHawthorne. Jim Miller

STICKNEY, IL - Wednesday night kicked off the first legs of the Whizzer R. White and Suburban Downs Pacing Series at Hawthorne. The Whizzer R. White had an overflow amount of harness racing entries and was split into five divisions while the Suburban Downs went with two divisions. Conditions for the Whizzer R. White were for colts, horses, and geldings that had not won two pari-mutuel races or $10,000 lifetime as of December 1, 2015. The Suburban Downs series was for colts, horses, and geldings that had not won five pari-mutuel races for $25,000 lifetime as of December 1, 2015. In leg one of the Whizzer R. White pacing series, the first division kicked off the evening as a three way battle ensued in the stretch. In the end it was the first over move by Pillage and Burn with Casey Leonard driving to defeat Party Falls. Trixsen Gram finished third in 1:57 for the mile over the fast track. Pillage and Burn won as the even money choice. The second division came down to a photo finish as Todd Warren and Always Kenzer just got up in time to best Ridge Warren and One to Draw To, who had set the early fractions throughout. The pacers closed quickly once again as the final time in the father/son battle was 1:56.1. Duneside Sport finished third in the second division. Always Kenzer won at 9-2. Division three became a one horse affair as Trace Tetrick was in to drive for brother, Tom. Settling early, Tetrick and Over Friskie moved early to the lead and opened up their advantage into the far turn. The margin only widened into the stretch as Over Friskie was well clear, stopping the clock in 1:54.4. Lyons Jimmydean came back for second after breaking stride prior to the start and Mr Mark Patrick was third. Over Friskie was the 4-5 favorite. The fourth division was another quick move on the turn by driver Trace Tetrick with Ocaptain Mycaptain as he tried to steal the race but it wasn't to be this time as Travis Seekman confidently handled Prince Bayard to the victory at 7-2. Mr Pickpocket rallied late for place while Ocaptain Mycaptain was third. The final time was 1:56.0. The fifth and final division of the Whizzer R. White series had a pace battle early as three contended for the early lead. In the end it was the closers once again as 8-1 shot Lil Orphan Elmer rallied for the score with Kyle Wilfong in the sulky. 43-1 longshot Gunny Wilson closed late for place over favorite Red Red Redneck. Final time was 2:00.1 The Suburban Downs pacing series went later in the evening with two divisions facing off. In the first division Why Ask Why continued his winning ways as he way able to overcome the outside post and rally for the victory with Ridge Warren driving. Sir Mammo battled on to finish second while Kolt Power rallied late for third. Why Ask Why was sent off at 5-1 and stopped the clock in 1:54.3. The second division of the Suburban Downs pacing series was a battle to the wire as Freedomformysoul just held off The Optimist. Freedomformysoul was driven by Simon Allard and moved to the lead early. After being headed in the lane he fought back gamely for the victory in 1:56.3. The Optimist finished second, Officially Yours was third. Jim Miller

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

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

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

On a night in which temperatures plummeted into the low 40's and were accompanied by strong winds and soaking rains that made it seem more like mid-October than the end of May, a pair of Cardinal Stakes put Illinois conceived and foaled trotters and pacers in the harness racing spotlight at Balmoral Park on Saturday, May 30th.   Trotters were first on the docket as a field of eight diagonally gaited sophomore colts lined up behind the gate to battle for a purse of $16,200.   Once again the Herman Wheeler owned and trained Fox Valley Qatar proved that he's just too much for this division as he came powering through the slop to post a two-length victory in 1:57.4 under some confident handling by driver Todd Warren.   Ducking off the gate after showing high speed in his first two starts of the year the gelded son of Pizzazzed -Armbro Bahrain was content to trot along in sixth as longshot Allpowernoemotion (Ronnie Gillespie) led the field through splits of 30.0 & 1:00.1.   "There was no way I was leaving with him for a third straight week," explained Warren. "He was really "hot" last week and it's a long year so I didn't want him to get roughed up again."   Continuing to sit in mid-pack, Warren finally moved last year's division champ to the outside, picking up cover while third over as a hard charging Tricky Nick (Mike Oosting) quickly opened up a two-length advantage as he rolled by the three-quarter-mile mark in 1:29.2.   With a 20mph tailwind in the homestretch Fox Valley Qatar quickly found his best stride and began gobbling up ground on the far outside of horses. Zipping right by the leader with a sixteenth of a mile to go Fox ValleyQatar left his rivals in his wake as he reported home in 27.3 to post his third win in as many starts this season. Captain Greedy (J.D. Finn) rallied to finish second while Tricky Nick held on for third.   Bet as though defeat was out of the question the 2-5 favorite returned $2.80, $2.20 & $2.10 while running his career numbers to 11-1-0 in 12 starts with earnings of $100,315.   In the winner's circle Warren was quick to sing the praises of his trotting star.   "He's just a pleasure to drive and he's perfectly fine sitting in a hole like he did tonight," said Warren. "He's very easy on himself and he's come back great after that awesome two-year-old season. I would expect him to have a lot of success with this group."   Sophomore pacing colts were featured in the second Cardinal Stake of the night as a field of 10 three-year-olds braved the elements for a purse of $18,400.   In a thrilling hotly contested affair the Dane May owned and trained Dinky Dune shook loose very late in the mile then came flying on the outside of horses to win by a head in a career best of 1:53.1 despite the sloppy surface.   Leaving alertly from post eight driver Pat Curtin had control of the early proceedings, battling Lucpark (Mike Oosting) through an opening quarter of 27.4.   "Going into the night Dane and I were kind of undecided on whether to wrangle him off the gate or to charge out of there and try to be up close," said a very happy Curtin. "With the weather and track conditions turning out the way they did we figured we better have him right up there in contention every step of the way."   Sitting in the pocket while Lucpark continued through middle splits of 56.3 & 1:25.1 the gelded son of Duneside Perch--Dream Hand was raging with pace as the bunching field began to move through the lane.   With Lucpark, Dixie's Boy (Casey Leonard) and Earndawg (Todd Warren) battling three across the track a patient Curtin was still searching for room with the fit and fresh Dinky Dune.   "I thought about trying to split those three because there was an opening for just a minute but I figured they would close that up on me in a hurry," explained Curtin. "So I just decided I was going to have wait a little longer until I could slide to the outside of all them because this horse can really rattle once he gets in gear."   Finally securing room on the outside of horses Dinky Dune unleashed a wicked kick, putting up a 27.4 final quarter to nip the favored Earndawg in the final strides. Last season's champ was forced to settle for the runner-up role on this night while Dixie's Boy finished third.   Coming off an impressive elimination win the previous week Dinky Dune took plenty of action at the windows returning $6.40, $3.60, $2.80 while running his career record to 3-1-1 in nine career starts with earnings of $18,852. Tom Kelley  

With some good sized crowds filling the apron for a festive Memorial Day weekend of fun-filled activities at Balmoral Park, a pair of harness racing Illinois conceived and foaled stake events for three-year-olds shared top billing on the racing oval.   Trotters grabbed the spotlight on Sunday, May 24th as a very evenly matched field of nine diagonally gaited fillies squared off in the $16,400 Violet Stake.   Continuing the fast start she's enjoyed in her second season Cynthia De Marlie and Jason Van Winkle's Bi Polar Rose shot right to the top and proceeded to make every call a winning one as she reported home with a four-length decision in a career best of 1:57.3 for Travis Seekman.   Gunned away from post six the daughter of Polar Winner--I Still Owe carved out splits of 29.4, 59.2 & 1:28.4 while rolling along relatively unchallenged on the front end.   With plenty still in reserve, the Ronnie Roberts trained miss trotted home in 28.4 while drawing away from stretch challenges by Persuasive Look (Casey Leonard) and Fox Valley Yoko (John De Long) who wound up second and third respectively.   Hammered at the betting windows, Bi Polar Rose returned $4.60, $3.00 & $2.40 while running her career record to 6-3-3 in 15 starts with earnings of $93,457.   On Saturday, May 23rd a total of 12 state-bred colts and geldings met in a pair of $7,500 Cardinal Stake eliminations. The top five finishers in each division will return next Saturday night to battle in the $18,400 final.   In the first division the Dane May owned and trained Dinky Dune continued his second season improvement as he came charging through the passing lane to record a two-length triumph in 1:53.4 for driver Pat Curtin.   Given a perfect steer, the gelded son of Duneside Perch--Dream Hand settled in third early on but as the pace slowed Curtin zipped the bay gelding to the front leading the field through an opening quarter in 30.0.   The action continued to heat up through middle splits of 58.0 & 1:26.4 as a hard charging Dixie's Boy ( Casey Leonard) showed the way with Dinky Dune right on his back in second.   Through the lane Dixie's Boy managed to fend off the first over challenge of 6-5 favorite Lucpark (Mike Oosting) but a fit and fresh Dinky Dune was full of pace and ready to roll as he moved down to the passing lane. Sealing the deal with a wicked 26.4 final quarter Dinky Dune cruised right on by the pace setter to notch his second career win in eight starts. Lucpark came on again late to edge Dixie's Boy for the place and show spots. Rockin Cassinova & Mighty Hot Shot also earned spots in next week's final.   In the second elimination last year's division leader Earndawg showed that he's ready to defend his crown as he posted a very comfortable 1 ½ length victory in 1:54.1 with Todd Warren at the controls.   After easing away from the gate in third while stablemate King Of The Swamp (Ridge Warren) led the field through opening splits of 28.4 & 58.2, the Roger Welch trained gelding grabbed command of the proceedings as the field moved around the final bend.   After taking the field by the three-quarter-mile mark in 1:26.4 the son of Sportsmaster--Pacific Sister K gamely held off his rivals with an impressive 27.2 final quarter to notch his 10th win in 20 career starts for the partnership of Bo & Pat De Long and Ernest Miller. Frosty Dune (Casey Leonard) saved ground throughout then rallied nicely to finish second while King Of The Swamp held on for third. Also gaining spots in the final were C Note and Comecatchme.   The 50 Cent Pick 5 wager was not hit on Sunday, May 24th so there will be a carryover of $11,081.42 added to next Saturday's (May 30th) Pick 5. Because of the carryover BalmoralPark will guarantee a $25,000 pool for next Saturday's Pick 5. Handicappers across North America can get a head start on their competition with free 10 line program pages for the guaranteed pool courtesy of the USTA Strategic Wagering Initiative and Track Master on the handicapping section at www.ustrotting.com beginning on Thursday, May 28th.   Tom Kelley  

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

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

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