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Although they may be newcomers to Chicago harness racing fans driver Simon Allard and brother-trainer Rene Allard are clearly in the hearts and minds of the local brethren after joining forces with Hawthorne Race Course to spearhead a fundraising drive to help those whose lives were devastated by the tragic barn fire at Classy Lane Farm in Canada on January 4th. Simon, who had a driving double along with several other in the money finishes donated his driving earnings from Saturday's Hawthorne card to the fund which has been set up by Central Ontario Standardbred Association. Rene, who sent out six starters at Hawthorne on Saturday night as well as several others at Yonkers also pitched in by donating his training percentage to help his fellow horsemen. With a great deal of help from horsemen Nicole Agosti and Angie Coleman along with a group of "high energy" youngsters donations were also collected from fans and horsemen throughout the track during the night. Hawthorne President & General Manager Tim Carey also stepped up in a big way to help the fund, promising to match the donations while setting up an account with the horsemen's bookkeeper at Hawthorne for those who still wish to donate to the fund. The account will remain open until Friday, January 22. On-line donations can also be made by using the official Go Fund Me page set up by the Central Ontario Standardbred Association or by calling (905) 854-2672. Checks can also be made payable to "Classy Lane Barn Fire", Central Ontario Standardbred Association, PO Box 297, Campbellville, ON LOP 180, Canada. Tom Kelley

Neither rain, nor snow, nor sub-zero wind chills could stop the return of live harness racing to Hawthorne Race Course as the "Stickney Spa" enjoyed a very successful opening weekend for its first Standardbred meet in nearly 10 years. With a nice crowd on hand braving day long rain and sleet to witness the live racing card and all the on track festivities on Friday, Jan 8th, Casey Leonard, last season's driving kingpin on the Chicago circuit put on quite a show as he bagged four straight wins to open the 2016 season. Leonard would pick up another victory behind Hudson Jesse in the featured seventh race to wind up with a five-bagger on the night. On Saturday night (Jan 9) local fans had a good look at some of the top stables that have decided to call Hawthorne home for this winter-meet as such national power houses like Rene Allard, Ron Burke and Ken Rucker all sent out winners on the 10-race card. The Burke Racing Stable and Weaver Bruscemi's Ontario Success turned in the most impressive score of the night as he scooted to a front stepping victory in the featured Open pace, tripping the timer in 1:53.4 for driver Sam Widger on a sloppy track after heavy snow fell throughout the late afternoon and evening hours. Casey Leonard continued to weave his magic as well, piloting three more winners on the Saturday program. The up and coming Travis Seekman also had a driving double on Saturday which included the longest price of the weekend as he lit up the board at $75.40 with the Rucker trained Winning Dream in race four. As if Mother Nature had not played enough tricks on the Chicago area, an arctic blast rolled through on Sunday, Jan. 10th plunging temperatures into the single digits. Once again the fabulous work of the track crew had the surface in tip top shape though and driver Robert Smolin started out red-hot as he notched both ends of the early daily double and wound up with a driving triple for the night. Simon Allard began to familiarize himself to the Hawthorne winner's circle with a driving double as did Kyle Wilfong. Leonard posted another victory as well giving him a total of nine wins on opening weekend. The support shown by the horsemen who dropped nearly 500 entries in the box for the opening weekend helped contribute to a 20% increase in the anticipated handle at Hawthorne despite the rough weather conditions. For those "carry-over" seekers, the Jackpot High 5, which is a 20 cent wager, will have a carryover of more than $14,000 as week two of the meet gets started. Live racing resumes on Wednesday, Jan. 13th with first post for the 10-race card at 7:20 p.m. (central) Qualifiers will be held prior to the live card on Wednesday night with that action getting started at 6:00 p.m. (central). Racing will be conducted on a Wednesday thru Sunday schedule until Saturday, Feb 6th. Post time is 7:20 p.m. (central). 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. Ontario Success came splashing home a winner for Sam Widger in Saturday's featured Open Pace at Hawthorne Race Course.   Tom Kelley

After nearly 10 years away, live harness racing action returns to Hawthorne on Friday evening with a 10 race card of full fields.  With racing returning to Hawthorne, horsemen will see increased purses in Illinois, along with five day a week racing through Saturday, February 6.   Live racing will take place every Wednesday through Sunday evening with a 7:20 PM post nightly.     For the fans, Chicago’s in-town track will provide numerous promotions and many great wagering options with lowered betting minimums and reduced takeout rates.    On the racing end, stall applications for nearly 1,000 horses were sent in for the winter meet.    Horsemen from Illinois will be joined by those from Minnesota, Michigan, Indiana, Ohio and New York as fields are expected to fill well throughout the entire meet.    Hawthorne welcomes Pete Hanley as the racing secretary for the harness meet.  Pete has a long history in the industry, doing nearly every job in harness racing and comes to Hawthorne most recently from his position as racing secretary at Rosecroft Raceway.    While track announcer Peter Galassi recovers from recent stem cell replacement, Mike Bozich from Harrah’s Philadelphia will be in to call races until Galassi’s return.  Bozich will be joined nightly by track handicapper Jim Miller to preview races from the Revel Stoke Box at 6:30 PM as they will provide insight and preview the racing action.  Miller will also have selections nightly on the Hawthorne website, along with on TVG and TVG2 as live coverage of harness racing action in Illinois returns.   For the bettors, the Hawthorne gimmick lineup will offer $.20 minimums on Trifectas, Superfectas, the Jackpot High-5 and all multi-race wagers.  Hawthorne will offer two Pick 5 wagers nightly, starting with Race 1 and the second covering the final five races on the card.  Pick 4’s will be offered starting on Race 2 and for the final four races on the card.  Both the Pick 5 and Pick 4 will have only a 15% takeout as the Pick 4 takeout has been reduced in 2016.  The popular Jackpot High-5 will be offered on the final race nightly as bettors try to cash in on the top 5 finishers in order in the evening’s final race.  Hawthorne is also adding a $.20 Place Pick 10 with a $.20 minimum that begins with race one.    Hawthorne President and General Manager Tim Carey expressed his excitement for the upcoming meet, “We can’t wait to get started!  It has been a lot of hours of hard work to prepare the track as quickly as we have as our thoroughbred meet just ended on January 2.  We were ready to go for training and qualifiers just 4 days later.  We welcome in the Illinois harness horsemen and look forward to a very successful meet all around.”   Tom Kelley

Once again Balmoral Park will be offering some very lucrative guaranteed pools on Friday, Nov. 27th. With the 10 cent Hi-Five 5 going unclaimed last Saturday night, a nice carryover of $14,755 will be added to this Friday's pool. With that in mind, Balmoral Park will offer fans a chance to grab some Black Friday shopping money by posting a $30,000 guaranteed pool on the 10 cent wager. The Hi-Five is on race 12 on Friday Night. In addition to the Hi-Five guarantee fans will have a chance to snag some additional money they can use to expand their tickets earlier in the night as Balmoral Park will also offer up a guaranteed pool of $15,000 on its 50 cent Pick 5 wager. The low cost wager also went unclaimed last Saturday meaning an additional $4,427 in carryover money will be added to the pool on Friday night. The Pick 5, which is on races four through eight on Friday once again features a low 50 cent minimum. As usual on Friday's the $1 Pick 4 with its low takeout of 15% will be offered on races nine through 12. The Pick 4 will have a guaranteed pool of $15,000 as well. Handicappers across North America can get a head start on their competition with free 12 line program pages for the guaranteed pools courtesy of the USTA Strategic Wagering Initiative and Track Master on the handicapping section at www.ustrotting.com. Post time for Friday's opener at Balmoral is 7:10 pm (central). Don't miss this great last minute opportunity to grab some extra spending money for the Holiday season. by Tom Kelley, for Balmoral Park            

Chicago, IL - Illinois conceived and foaled fillies and mares stepped into the spotlight on a frigid Saturday night at Balmoral Park but things warmed up in a hurry for longshot players as Ronald Phillips and Jesse Ferge's Fox Valley Aubrey, the longest shot in the race at 30-1, lit up the board with a 1 ¾ length victory in 1:53.3 to win the $8,060 Fox Valley Memory Stake. Perfectly handled by driver Travis Seekman, the three-year-old daughter of Yankee Skyscaper--Assailed worked out a perfect ground saving trip in third as Rev Me Up (Brian Carpenter) carved out splits of 26.3 56.4 & 1:26.0. With a weary leader beginning to drift off the pylons in the lane, Seekman patiently waited for room in the passing lane while huge favorite Ryleigh's Lilly (Casey Leonard) began to pick off horses from the back of the pack. Securing room at just the right time, the Bob Phillips trained miss shot through an opening at the pylons and quickly drew clear of the big chalk to secure her fifth win of the season. Ryleigh's Lilly was forced to settle for the bridesmaid role on this night while another longshot, Joyful Game (Mike Oosting) rallied late to finish third. The win was the 15th of Fox Valley Aubrey's career and helped propel her over the $90,000 mark in lifetime earnings. Those lucky enough to back the sophomore facing older company were rewarded with mutuels of $63.80, $18.00 & $8.60. The exacta returned a healthy $241.80 with the 2-5 favorite while the trifecta came back at $1,569 for a $2 investment. by Tom Kelley, for Balmoral Park

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

Despite the fact he tasted defeat for the first time as a three-year-old Dr. Patrick Graham’s Homicide Hunter and his trainer Curt Grummel are coming into Saturday’s American National for 3yo trotting colts at Balmoral Park brimming with confidence as they return to their “home base”.    After stepping into “open” company and finishing a close up second behind Crazy Wow in last week’s Carl Erskine at Hoosier Park the Indiana bred son of Mr. Cantab renewed his camp’s enthusiasm in their Indiana bred champion.   “We were extremely happy with the way he raced against some of the best trotters in the country in the Erskine,” said conditioner Curt Grummel. “It cost us $20,000 to supplement to that race and we wound up earning around $68,000 so we figured we’d roll the dice right back and supplement him to the American National.”    So another check was cut, this time for $21,000, to make him eligible to the richest race on the Saturday night card at Balmoral.   “Even though we felt he had a bit of a home field edge at Hoosier because he had raced there so much and he put together those 16 straight wins this year on that track he may have an even bigger advantage here at Balmoral,” chuckled Grummel. “This is where he’s been based at, this is where he trained down at to get ready for this year and this is where he qualified at so really this is home for him.”    Up until tasting defeat for the first time in last week’s battle there had been 75 trotters in North America who had won 10 races or more in 2015, but only Homicide Hunter was still toting around a perfect record.   Despite that win streak coming to an end his conditioner was still in good spirits heading into Saturday’s American National.    “That win streak was not that big of a deal to me,” Grummel said. “He ranks but when you have to go up against the horses he faced last week and the one’s he’ll be up against on Saturday night it’s an entirely different world.”   Grummel said Graham did not hesitate to put up another large sum of money to make Homicide Hunter eligible to Saturday night’s battle.    “He came out of the Hoosier race in very good shape so we’re going to hope to get our supplement money back and then some,”Grummel laughed. “He’s been unbelievably sound and healthy his entire career and we are not hard on him at all. He  basically gets no training between starts, only his usual light jogging and he seems to enjoy the routine we’ve got him on.”    The first foal out of the mare Evening Prayer, Homicide Hunter enters Saturday’s American National with and an eye catching record of 19-3-3 in 27 lifetime starts with earnings of nearly $540,000.   by Tom Kelley, for Balmoral Park

Freaky Feet Pete will be in search of his 24th win in 27 career starts when he teams up with Trace Tetrick to take on six other 3yo pacing colts in Saturday's $150,000 American National Stake at Balmoral Park. There’s no other sophomore pacer currently racing in North America who has garnered so much attention as Freaky Feet Pete.  And it’s not just because of his name, either. The reason?  This 3-year-old son of Rockin Image has been a terror on the Midwest scene all year and most recently captured harness racing’ s biggest event—the $531,250 Breeders Crown for sophomore pacers. Saturday night he’ll venture postward against six rivals in the $150,000 American National for 3-year-old colt and gelding pacers.   Trained by breeder Larry Rheinheimer for owners Mary Jo and Marty R Rheinheimer, Freaky Feet Pete will be trying for his sixth consecutive victory from post two. Regular pilot Trace Tetrick will be behind the swift-footed, Indiana-bred side-wheeler. Freaky Feet Pete is a total family horse as the homebred often has Mary Jo at his side as his caretaker whenever he races.  A winner of 14 of 16 starts this season, the bay colt’s connections forked out $62,500 to supplement him to the Breeders Crown on Oct. 24 at Woodbine, a costly investment that more than paid off when the “Pride of Indiana” bested some of the sport’s top male sophomores in 1:50.   That triumph also gave driver Trace Tetrick his first Breeders Crown trophy. “It was exciting,” Trace revealed. “It was something I’ll never forget.” Born May 31, 2012 in LaGrange, Indiana, Freaky Feet Pete is the eighth foal out of the Pilgrim’s Punch mare Skyway Lori p, 3, 1:54.1S ($56,663) and has half siblings in: Dongetinskyway (by Dontgetinmyway) p,6,1:51.2 ($288,458); Virgil (by Always A Virgin) p, 5, 1:51f ($217,803); Dontlookatthesky (by Dontgetinmyway) p,4,1:51.3 ($170,396); Just Fred (by Dontgetinmyway) p,4,1:51.3 ($166,750); Loretta (by Dontgetinmyway) p,5,1:52s ($145,112); Lightninginthesky (by Electric Yankee) p,5,1:52.1s ($129,032); and Good Gum Gertie (by Palone Ranger) p,3,1:53.1 ($43,993), etc.  “Pete,” as he’s known around the Rheinheimer’s barn at the family’s home in LaGrange, IN showed signs of greatness as a freshman, capturing nine of his ten starts in 2014 and earning $261,950.  He won his first career start on July 3, 2014 at Hoosier, pacing in 1:55.1 with Trace at the lines.  One week later he won an Indiana Sires Stake in a blistering 1:51.4 at Hoosier.  As a 2-year-old he went on to win multiple sire stake tests in the Hoosier state before capturing the $220,000 ISS Final on Oct. 18 at Hoosier Park, stopping the timer in 1:50.4 and drawing off from his rivals by 11½ lengths. “He surprises me every time he’s on the track,” Larry stressed. “We don’t give Trace any instructions but he always takes care of him and does what he needs to do.” Freaky Feet Pete has now amassed $1,037,724 from 23 wins and two seconds in 26 trips postward. In fact, he’s only finished off the board once in his career and that was in his third career start as a freshman, when he finished fourth.  The hardy colt thus has never missed a purse check—EVER! The colt really didn’t start to show was he was going to become a superstar though until he made that first career start, Larry recalled. “He won his first race, then his second, and we started to think he might be something special,” Larry said.  “The key to Pete’s success seems to be his attitude. He’s got a playful, goofy demeanor and once he steps out of the trailer at the racetrack, he’s all business. He knows when it’s time to get to work, and he loves his work, yes he does.” Now that’s a point everyone is getting the chance to evidence by the eye popping numbers that he continues to put up! Tom Kelley

Rockin Good carries the hopes of trainer Jared Finn into tonight’s $120,000 American National 3-Year-Old Filly Pace.  The daughter of Rockin Image has amassed $267,914 in her career for Jared—who hails from Wheeler, IL and co-owner Mark Finn of Newton, IL. This speedy sophomore boasts a career mark of 1:48, taken earlier this season over Lexington’s famed Red Mile oval. Jared said he first spied Rockin Good at the 2013 Hoosier Classic Sale. “I was looking for a Rockin Image filly and she just stood out to me,” Jared recalled. “She was the right size, stout and beautiful and we ended up getting her for $9,500—which was a lot less than what I figured she would go for.” Rockin Good was just the third foal out of the Keystone Raider mare Do Me Good p, 5,1:52.4f ($435,346) and has a full sister in the Shadyshark Hanover mare Shady Caroline p,2,1:54.3 ($45,050).  Jared, who trains his horses at the Jasper County Fairgrounds,  quickly discovered what a prize he had in Rockin Good. “She was absolutely perfect from day one,” Jared, who also drives the filly, explained. “The first time I turned her and went a mile with her I knew she was going to be pretty special.  Riding behind her, she was just smooth as silk.” As a freshman, Rockin Good earned $181,250 in 11 starts with five wins and a pair of seconds, recording a 2-year-old mark of 1:53.2s in the $75,000 Indiana Sire Stakes Final at Hoosier Park with her trainer in the sulky on Oct. 10, 2014. “She was good last year and took that mark of 1:53.2,” Jared said. “Those are good numbers but not ‘killer’ numbers. I thought she would probably go faster this year but never imagined that she would have gone as fast as 1:48.  She had some trouble initially this season with her blood, but we got that straightened out and she has just continued to progress every step of the way as the year has gone on.” After a well-deserved break over the winter months, Rockin Good returned for her sophomore campaign bigger and stouter than ever.  After getting off to a bit of a slow start, she literally blew her competition away on Aug. 22 in a Lexington overnighter when she paced to a career mark of 1:48, drawing off by nearly 20 lengths from her nearest rival. “There were times when she just didn’t have any sire stakes engagements and I didn’t want to lay her off because she was so sharp,” Jared explained.  She’s always given me an indication of what she can do and what she can’t and when she’s feeling right I think she can go with any other 3-year-old in the country. “That mark of 1:48 at the Red Mile was incredible,” he continued. “I never thought we were going anywhere near that fast, as that’s how smooth and effortlessly she was pacing that night.” To date this season Rockin Good has added another $86,664 to her seasonal coffers, with six wins, two seconds and a third in 18 starts.  Lifetime, she has 11 wins, four seconds and a third in 29 career starts.  Jared says the key to his filly is how versatile she can be. “She can race on the front or come from off the pace and it just never seems like she's moving as fast as she is,” he admitted.  After winning the $32,650 City Circle Stake on Oct. 23 at Hoosier Park, Rockin Good put in a dull effort in her last start at that Indiana venue on Oct. 30.  Despite that performance, Jared says he’s confident about his filly’s chances in the American National. “In her last start at Hoosier Park, she wasn’t herself,” Jared said. “We pulled blood and she had some issues going on that we’ve since corrected.  She trained great for the American National and I’m expecting a really big effort from her on Saturday night.” Tom Killey  

Looking to bring his sophomore season to a close the same way that he started his second season James & Teri Blackman's Dixie's Boy came flying through the open stretch to post an impressive neck decision over six other ICF harness racing sophomore's in Saturday's $8,060 Xpressbet Stake at Balmoral Park. The final time was 1:54.2 over the sloppy going.   Reserved through the early stages of the race by driver Casey Leonard as Earndawg (Ridge Warren) zipped through splits of 28.4, 57.3 & 1:25.3 Leonard moved the gelded son of Duneside Perch--Dingy's Model into the outer flow as the field neared the top of the stretch.   Fit, fresh and loaded with pace, Leonard then maneuvered the Joel Smith trainee towards the inside where he spotted a seam along the pylons as the field hit the open stretch. With clear sailing in front of them Dixie's Boy quickly swallowed up the pace-setter with 100 yards to go and began to draw clear in the shadow of the wire to notch his second straight win here and his seventh win in 29 starts this year. Earndawg was forced to settle for the runner-up role on this night while Lucpark (Mike Oosting) rallied late to get the show dough.   After a quick start to his sophomore season then a bit of a "summer lull" Dixie's Boy now boasts career numbers of eight wins, five seconds and eight thirds in 36 starts with earnings of more than $55,000.   Sent off as a close second choice in the wagering Dixie's Boy returned $6.80, $4.00 & $3.20.   Tom Kelley

It was a busy night of stakes action on Friday night at Balmoral Park as the Crete oval played host to a quartet of Illinois conceived and foaled events featuring both harness racing trotters and pacers.   Trotters kicked off the action in race two with a field of seven diagonally gaited 2yo colts and geldings squaring off in the first of two $8,060 Xpressbet Stakes.   When the smoke cleared from this tussle it was Derek and Amy Jacobus's Speedy Rendezvous emerging victorious with a 1½ length wire to wire victory in 1:59.3 for driver Ridge Warren.   Hustled right to the front from post five the Nick Prather trained son of Photo Color--Fox Valley Tryst rattled off splits of 30.0, 1:00.1 & 1:29.4 while uncontested on the front end. With plenty left in reserve the good looking chestnut was on cruise control through the lane as he reported home with his second win in four lifetime starts. Longshot Homershobbyhorse (Mike Oosting) rallied late to be the runner-up while heavily favored Pastor Clint (Casey Leonard) was forced to settle for the show dough.   Next on the docket were freshmen pacing fillies as a field of seven lined up behind the gate to battle for a purse of $8,140 in another Xpressbet Stake.   This race also produced a wire to wire winner as the Hosea Williams owned and trained Lexington Lady sped right to the front and made every call a winning one, holding on to win by a neck in 1:53.4.   Zipped away from post five by regular pilot Brian Carpenter the daughter of Lexington Legend--Stephie Kay sped through splits of 28.0, 56.0 & 1:24.1 while maintaining an open lengths advantage. After "bottoming out" the field of youngsters the speedball was all out through the final sixteenth of a mile as she gamely held off the big late move of Char N Marg (Casey Leonard), who was hung up in traffic while stuck along the pylons on the final turn. Whiskersonkittens (Robert Smolin) enjoyed a pocket sitting trip while grabbing the third place check.   The win was the ninth in 13 starts this season for Lexington Lady who also has four second place finishes to her credit and now boasts earnings of more than $66,000.   Sophomore pacing fillies continued Friday's stakes parade with a field of six state-breds battling it out in the $7,980 Giggles The Clown Stake.   Continuing with her late season charge Peter Karras's Fox Valley Charm cruised to a deceivingly easy one-length victory in a brisk 1:52.0 with driver Mike Oosting at the controls.   After settling in third through an opening quarter in 27.4, Oosting whisked the Mike Brink trained miss to the front as the field moved by the half-mile station in 56.0. The issue was never in doubt from that point on as the daughter of Yankee Skyscaper--Fox Valley Cherub rolled past the three-quarter-mile mark in 1:24.0 before sealing the deal with a 28.0 final quarter. Lex (Kyle Wilfong) was forced to settle for the bridesmaid role once again while Fox Valley Brooke (Ridge Warren) used a ground saving journey to finish third.   With the win Fox Valley Charm sports career numbers of 12-5-3 in 28 starts with earnings of more than $64,000 for her proud connections.   Last but not least on the card a full field of 10 two-year-old pacing colts were sent to battle in the $8,300 Crete Stake.   The "chalk" players went down in flames in this event as a pocket sitting JB's Hero used the passing lane to perfection as he went charging by the heavily favored Royale Rose to win by 1½ lengths in 1:53.4.   Perfectly handled by driver Robert Smolin the John Barnard owned son of Hawaiian Cowboy--Paint The Picture sat right on the back of the division leader as he put up splits of 27.3, 56.3 & 1:25.1. Patiently awaiting room in the passing lane, Smolin maneuvered the Bill Crone trained colt to the inside with a sixteenth of a mile to go where he quickly swallowed up the pace setter to notch his second win in 17 starts this year. Royale Rose was forced to settle for the runner-up role on this night while Bayside Tequilla (Mike Oosting) was third.   Live racing continues on Saturday, Oct. 31st at Balmoral Park. Once again all the action gets underway at 7:10pm on Saturday night and as always the $1 Pick 4 (races 9-12) features a $20,000 guaranteed pool. The 10-cent Hi Five (race 10) also features a guaranteed pool of $15,000. The live racing action will be headlined by ICF sophomore pacing colts as a field of seven are scheduled to go postward in an $8,060 Xpressbet Stake.   Tom Kelley

Harness racing freshman trotting colts stepped into the spotlight on Friday night as a full field of 10 diagonally gaited youngsters squared off in the $21,300 Cardinal Stake for state-breds. When the smoke cleared from this heated battle it was Thomas Pollard and Dirk Simpson Stable's Pastor Clint who emerged victorious as he came flying down the center of the track to record a 2¼ length victory in 2:0.1 over a track rated as "good" after being dulled by rain earlier in the night.   Given a patient steer by leading driver Casey Leonard the gelded son of Powerful Emotion--SS Stardust was kept well off the early pace of 29.3, 59.4 & 1:29.1 which was being set by a headstrong Speedy Rendezvous (Ridge Warren).   Tipping five and six wide from the center of the pack as the field straightened into a brisk headwind the Dirk Simpson trainee began gobbling up one rival after another as he charged home with his fifth win in 15 lifetime starts. Longshot PJ Boy (Mike Rogers), who found a good early spot despite leaving from post 10, turned a nice ground saving trip into a second place check while JD Cheese (Todd Warren) staged a nice rally to get the show dough.   Dispatched as the third choice in the wagering despite a similar come from behind win in his elimination the previous week Pastor Clint returned $9.00, $5.60, $3.60 while upping his record to 5-1-4 in 15 starts with earnings of $31,451.   Tom Kelley  

Freshman trotting fillies grabbed the main stage on Friday's Balmoral Park harness racing card as a full field of 10 diagonally gaited youngsters squared off in the $19,700 Violet Stake.   Fresh off wins in the Lady Lincoln Land and a Violet elimination Lynn Wilfong's More Than Likely overcame the dreaded outside starting spot to record a neck decision in 1:59.0 for driver Kyle Wilfong.   Reserved through the early going as Surviver Di (Kyle Husted) carved out splits of 29.3, 1:00.3 & 1:29.4 Wilfong calmly maneuvered his way through the outer flow as he made his way to the top of the stretch.   With even-money favorite Vengeful making a nasty break just as she moved into the lead at the top of the lane the outcome remained wide open as a fresh More Than Likely began to chew up ground on the far outside of horses. Charging down the center of the track, the Roger Welch trained daughter of Designer Lindy--Midori Hanover trotted into the lead with less than a sixteenth of a mile to go then held firm as a fast closing Praise Singer (Robert Smolin) took one final run at the winner only to come up a few steps short. Surviver Di held on for the show dough.   Sent off as the second choice in the wagering More Than Likely returned $7.20, $4.80 & $3.40 while running her record to 4-1-1in 11 starts with career earnings of $55,491.   A total of 15 two-year-old trotting colts were dropped in the box for next week's $21,300 Cardinal Stake Final necessitating a pair of $8,000 elimination tussles on Friday night. The top five finishers in each division will be back for next week's finale.   In the first division Thomas Pollard and Dirk Simpson Stables Pastor Clint held off a furious late rally from 50-1 outsider Fox Valley Diamo, prevailing by a hard fought neck in 1:59.3 for driver Casey Leonard.   The Mike Brink trained son of Powerful Emotion--SS Stardust shook off a tough first over trip in route to his fourth win in 14 career starts. The bay gelding also has a second and four thirds to his credit with career earnings of $20,801 after Friday's victory. Fox Valley Diamo (Pat Curtin) was a game second while pace setter Fear (Robert Smolin) held on for third. Also gaining spots in the final were Mr Strata and Fox Valley Sir.   In the second division another Brink trainee toted home top honors with Casey Leonard at the controls as Powerful Father pulled off the 8-1 upset winning by a neck in 2:00.1 after a thrilling stretch battle.   The bay son of Powerful Emotion--Fox Valley Poetry ranged up second over as the field hit the top of the stretch then gradually wore down the pace setting JD Cheese (Todd Warren) to post his first career victory for the partnership of Patricia McCaughey, Loren Tournear and Mystical Marker Farms LLC. Favored Speedy Rendezvous (Ridge Warren) was a hard fought second while PJ Boy (Mike Rogers), who lacked racing room throughout the stretch drive was forced to settle for a third place check. JD Cheese and Homershobbyhorse grabbed the last two spots in the final.   Driver Mike Oosting was honored on Friday night as well as the veteran reinsman joined an elite group with his 6,000th driving victory. The milestone win came on Saturday, Oct. 10th as the Beecher, IL resident guided Gibbs to a 1¾ length victory in the 10th race of the night. The 53-year-old Oosting, who captured the 2015 driving title at Maywood Park and also boasts an unprecedented six straight driving titles here at Balmoral Park, has driven the winners of more than $37.1 million during his career and has also sent out 539 winners during his days of training standardbreds. He has notched more than 250 driving victories in 13 of the past 14 seasons. Live racing continues on Saturday, Oct. 17th at Balmoral Park. Once again all the action gets underway at 7:10pm on Saturday night and as always the $1 Pick 4 (races 9-12) features a $25,000 guaranteed pool. The 10-cent Hi Five (race 10) also features a guaranteed pool of $25,000. The live racing action will be headlined by ICF two-year-old pacing fillies as a field of eight are scheduled to go postward in the $8,140 Beecher Stake. Tom Kelley

Balmoral Park will offer another lucrative guaranteed Pick 5 pool of $35,000 on Friday, October 16. Because the 50 cent minimum wager was not hit last Saturday night, a nice carryover of $7,867 will be added to the Friday harness racing pool.   The popular low cost Pick 5 wager is offered on races four through eight.   Handicappers across North America can get a head start on their competition with free 12 line program pages for the guaranteed pools courtesy of the USTA Strategic Wagering Initiative and Track Master on the handicapping section at www.ustrotting.com.   Post time at Balmoral is 7:10 pm (central).   Tom Kelley

It was a big night for trainer Curt Grummel as the downstate based conditioner toted home top honors in a trio of trotting stakes at the harness racing meeting on Sunday night at BalmoralPark with the lightly raced but rapidly improving Dr. Venkman taking the biggest prize of them all in the $77,400 Lincoln Land Stake for ICF two-year-old trotting colts.   Taking advantage of an inside starting spot driver Pat Curtin positioned the gelded son of Pizzazzed--Broadway Show in the garden spot as Fear (Robert Smolin) led the field of youngsters through splits of 29.0, 58.3 & 1:28.4.   "Going into the race that's exactly how we hoped things would work out," said a very excited Curtin. "I knew some horses behind us were working out pretty decent trips as well but I knew if Fear could carry us into the stretch until there was room we were going to be in good shape. Once he saw that daylight he was gone!"   Fit and fresh as the field turned for the money a patient Curtin waited for room in the passing lane with that State Fair Stake winner. After securing his spot along the inside Dr. Venkman looked like a seasoned veteran as he scooted right by the pace setter and was on cruise control the rest of the way as he reported home with a 1 ½ length decision in a career best of 1:58.2. Mr. Strata (Mike Oosting) shook loose late and rallied in time to be the runner-up while Fear held on for third. Dr. Venkman, the co-favorite in the wagering returned $6.60, $4.00 0& $3.60 while upping his record 2-0-1 in four starts with earnings of $44,000 for the partnership of Curt and Craig Grummel, Clayton B Arnett and Chili Day Stables.   Sophomore trotting fillies were also in action on Sunday night as a compact field of six gathered for the $7,500 Xpress Bet Stake.   As expected Dr. Patrick Graham's Fox Valley Yoko had no trouble disposing of this group as she trotted away late to score by a 1 ½ lengths in 1:58.0 for driver Kyle Wilfong.   Confidently handled by her pilot the daughter of Pizzazzed--Yankee Victory was reserved early on as None Of That Stuff (Casey Leonard) rolled through splits of 30.1, 1:00.1 & 1:29.4. Grinding her way to towards the front while moving first over the Curt Grummel trained miss eventually wore down the pace setter and drew off in the final 50 yards to record her sixth win in 14 starts this season. Bands Muse (John De Long) shook loose late to rally for the bridesmaid spot while None Of That Stuff held on for third. Dispatched as the 1-5 favorite Fox Valley Yoko returned $2.40, $2.10 & $2.10 while running her career record to 9-7-5 in 26 career starts with earnings of $149,821 for her happy connections.   In the Lady Lincoln Land Consolation another Grummel trainee toted home top honors as Dr. Patrick Graham's Powerful Princess trotted to an impressive win in 1:59.0 with John De Long at the controls. The was the first in three lifetime outings for the daughter of Powerful Emotion--Maple Grove Glide who led the field into the stretch in last week's rich final before making a break a costly break. Tom Kelley

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

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