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The top state-bred pacers in the Prairie State had the chance to strut their stuff on Saturday, August 22nd at Balmoral Park as a pair stake events shared top billing on a very strong Saturday night harness racing program   First on the docket were the state's top older pacers as a very evenly matched field of eight squared off in the $29,600 Big Tom Stake.   When the smoke cleared after a heated stretch drive it was Megan Rogers Racing Stable Inc.'s Unlocked who once again returned to the local scene in a big way, as he prevailed by a hard fought half-length in 1:49.4 for driver Lewayne Miller.   Given a perfect steer by Miller the four-year-old son of Duneside Perch used his inside post to save ground in third while the speedy Ice Scraper (Brian Carpenter) ripped through splits of 26.0, 54.0 & 1:21.1.   Engaging the pace setter with a first over bid as the field hit the top of the stretch these two prolific pacers battled tooth and nail through the lane before Unlocked finally forged to the front in the closing strides to notch his fourth win of the season. Ice Scraper was hard fought second while 66-1 outsider Cole Heat (Dale Hiteman) rallied to be third.   The win was the 16th in 45 career starts for the Erv Miller trainee who returned $4.40, $2.60 & $2.80 while upping his career bankroll to $310,692.   An overflow field of 11 distaffers, 3yo old and up, closed out the night's stake action as they lined up behind the gate for the $30,200 Parklane Powerful Stake.   Using an aggressive steer and a little "racing luck" to their advantage driver Robert Smolin hustled Jesse Ferge and Ron Phillips Fox Valley Aubry to the front and the speedy three-year-old made every call a winning one, hanging on gamely to score by a head in 1:53.2.   Sprinting away from post seven in the big field the daughter of Yankee Skyscaper--Assailed made the top without too much trouble leading the ladies through opening splits of 27.4 & 57.1.   That's when disaster struck for most of the field as a first over Joyful Game made a nasty break, taking herself out of the race and severely impeding seven of the trailing horses in this battle.   With things all her own way on the front end Fox Valley Aubry cruised by the three-quarter-mile mark with a two-length lead in 1:24.3.   Through the lane the Bob Phillips trained miss continued to show the way while bracing for the challenge of the pocket sitting Just By Design (Dale Hiteman). With the lead starting to evaporate in the final sixteenth of a mile, Fox Valley Aubry dug in gamely keeping Just By Design at bay just long enough to record her third victory of the year. Just By Design was forced to settle for the bridesmaid role on this night while Financial Effort (Casey Leonard) turned a ground saving trip into the show dough.   The third choice in the wagering Fox Valley Aubry returned $10.80, $6.20 & $4.20 while running her lifetime record to 14-5-5 in 32 starts with earnings of $67,714.   Live racing continues on Sunday, August 23rd at Balmoral Park. Once again all the action gets underway at 7:10pm on Sunday night and as always the $1 Pick 4 (races 7-10) features a $25,000 guaranteed pool. The 10-cent Hi Five (race 10) also features a guaranteed pool of $15,000 while the highly successful trifecta guarantee on race nine will give fans the chance to play into a $25,000 guaranteed pool. Tom Kelley

August 12, 2015 (Washington, PA) - Leading online horse racing wagering provider, Xpressbet, and Chicago's Balmoral Park are excited to announce they have entered into an affiliate partnership. Together, they will work to promote online wagering to Illinois residents, as well as to bring awareness to Balmoral and its sister track, Maywood Park, with Xpressbet's customers and racing fans.   One of the largest online horse wagering sites in the United States and a member of the Stronach Group, Xpressbet offers more than a decade of expertise in promoting horse racing and online wagering. Currently operating in 39 states, Xpressbet prides itself on providing a quick and seamless wagering experience and practical handicapping information to its customers.   Two of the most popular and heavily-wagered harness tracks in the nation, Balmoral and Maywood host nearly 200 live racing cards each year, with Thursday and Friday night racing at Maywood and Saturday and Sunday night action at Balmoral. In addition, Balmoral and Maywood own and operate nine Off-Track Betting facilities in the Chicago-area, which offer daily Simulcast Wagering.   "We realize Advance Deposit Wagering is still unfamiliar to many horseplayers, and we feel this partnership will help bettors that are curious about online wagering get started with Xpressbet," said Xpressbet President, Ron Luniewski. "With the help of Balmoral's passionate, experienced and knowledgeable team, we're looking forward to promoting both live and online wagering to racing fans in Chicago."   Xpressbet and Balmoral each believe that creating smarter, more informed horseplayers is the key to generating interest and handle in horse racing. Consequently, Xpressbet and Balmoral's expert teams of handicappers will collaborate to produce helpful handicapping resources for horseplayers, including Wager Guides for top Harness and Thoroughbred events, as well as Tip Sheets, Free Picks, Handicapping Articles and Videos. Added Luniewski, "Along with Balmoral, Xpressbet is committed to growing the industry by both enhancing the experience for existing fans and attracting new audiences to the sport. This requires a seamless and integrated on-track and online experience. Providing additional free handicapping information to horseplayers is one way to achieve this, but it is also achieved through offering enhanced services, such as allowing customers to deposit and withdraw cash from their online accounts at customer service locations in Balmoral, Maywood and all nine of their OTB's. This level of convenience, common in other industries, will help horse racing build a stronger and more loyal customer base." Balmoral Park General Manager, Jim Hannon, remarked, "Partnerships like these are ultimately of great benefit to the industry. By affiliating with Xpressbet, we are able to pool our financial, human and intellectual resources to target racing fans and horseplayers in a more strategic and consistent fashion. This will generate more handle and interest in all facets of horse racing, both Thoroughbred and Harness, which is to everyone's benefit. We're excited to begin working with Xpressbet and look forward to growing racing's fan base." Horseplayers interested in signing up for an Xpressbet account can receive a $125 Welcome Bonus. Simply visit www.xpressbet.com and enter promo code BAM125 at Sign Up. About Xpressbet   Xpressbet provides legal and secure online wagering services to horseplayers in the United States. It is the industry's most comprehensive and user-friendly wagering site, allowing customers to wager on more than 300 of the world's best racetracks from their computer, phone or mobile device. Xpressbet operates XB SELECT, the industry's premier destination for high-volume wagering, and XB Net, which connects bet shops and wagering sites from around the world to North American racing. Xpressbet is a Stronach Group company, which also owns and operates Santa Anita Park, Gulfstream Park & Casino, Golden Gate Fields, Portland Meadows, Laurel Park and Pimlico Race Course, home of the world-famous Preakness Stakes. The company owns and operates the Palm Meadows Training Center in Florida, the award-winning Adena Springs operation, AmTote, a global leader in wagering technology, and Monarch Content Management, horse racing's leading simulcast purchase and sales agent. Tom Kelley        

The 2015 Hanover Stake season drew to a close on Sunday, August 2nd with a pair of trotting events for two-year-olds sharing top billing on the 10-race harness racing program at Balmoral Park.  The "girls" kicked off the action in race three with a compact field of eight diagonally gaited fillies battling for a purse of $22,400.   Looking to avenge her first career loss after a break took her out of contention early in the mile in last weekend's Southland Festival of Racing Providence West Inc.'s Vengeful returned to her winning ways as she posted a front stepping two-length victory in 1:58.4 for driver Casey Leonard.   Eased to the front as Rocknprincessabbie (Todd Warren) led the field through an opening quarter in 29.3 Leonard guided Vengeful over to the pylons as the field settled for their journey down the backstretch.   Once in control of the proceedings the daughter of Powerful Emotion--Over The Top cruised through middle splits of 59.3 & 1:29.4. After turning aside a first over bid from Singing Hallelujah (Mark O'Mara) as the field turned for home, the Kenny Collier trained miss appeared to be on cruise control the rest of the way as she trotted home in 29.0 to notch her third win in four career starts. Rocknprincessabie settled for the bridesmaid role while Bombshell Betty (John De Long), who was parked the entire mile rallied for the show dough.   The 7-5 favorite of the betting public Vengeful returned $4.80, $3.00 & $3.00 while upping her career bankroll to $16,200.   Another Collier trainee pulled off the "shocker" of the night in the $26,300 Hanover for two-year-old trotting colts as Fear, a 41-1 outsider took advantage of some miscues by his rivals to post a 4¼ length wire to wire victory in 1:59.2 with Dale Hiteman at the controls.   Storming right to the front from post five Fear quickly opened up a five-length advantage as he led the field through an opening quarter in 29.2.   Hiteman finally managed to coral the headstrong son of Powerful Emotion--What A Volo through middle splits of 1:00 & 1:29.4. With the field tightening up as they neared the top of the stretch a first over Mr Strata (Mike Oosting) came calling to challenge Fear. That's when disaster struck for the 1-9 favorite Wrightwood (Casey Leonard) as the undefeated colt when on a gallop while moving up on the outside of horses.   Gamely turning aside the bid of Mr Strata, the Kenny Collier trained Fear seemed to find another gear through the final sixteenth of a mile drawing away to an impressive win in his second career start. Mr Strata was forced to settle for the runner-up role while Pastor Clint (Tim Curtin) was a distant third, 10 lengths behind the winner.   Dismissed at the windows after a fifth place finish in his debut Fear lit up the board at $85.00, $8.80 & $24.60 while taking home $13,150 for Providence West Inc. Tom Kelley

Grand Circuit racing action returned to Balmoral Park on Saturday, August 1st as a pair of Hanover Stakes for two-year-old pacers shared top billing on the 12-race card. A total of 13 colts and geldings were dropped into the box necessitating a split into two $21,325 divisions for the boys while nine pacing fillies were sent postward for a purse of $32,900. In the first division for the colts Nicole Potts Royale Rose gave the "chalk players" a thrill as he rallied in the final strides to win by a neck in a career best of 1:54.3 for driver Brian Carpenter. After leading the field through an opening quarter in 29.3 Carpenter elected to let a hard charging Blue Fox (Casey Leonard) take control of the proceedings as the field of six cruised through middle splits of 58.1 & 1:27.1.   Through the stretch a game Blue Fox put away a prolonged first over bid from Shootin To Kill (Pat Curtin) and appeared to have the jump on a boxed in Royale Rose. Somehow, Carpenter managed to wrestle the gelded son of Ashlee's Big Guy to the far outside with a sixteenth of a mile to go and the Lyle Scurlock responded beautifully, gobbling up the pace setter in the closing yards for his fourth win in six career starts. Blue Fox held on well to finish second while Shootin To Kill wound up third.   With the win the Lyle Scurlock trainee, who returned $2.80, $2.40 & $2.10 upped his career slate to 4-1-0 in 6 starts with earnings of $20,199.   BS Tyrrific struck another blow for the state-breds in the second division of the Hanover as the overwhelming favorite strolled to a one-length victory in a lifetime best of 1:54.1 for driver Kyle Wilfong.   Taking advantage of the inside post in the field of seven Wilfong sent the gelded son of Richess Hanover--Fox Valley Tyra right to the front where he cruised through soft splits of 29.0, 58.1 & 1:26.3.   With plenty still in reserve, the Robert Sanders trainee was on cruise control through the lane as he sealed the deal with a 27.3 final quarter to notch his third win in five career starts. Dan D Dune (Mike Oosting) who made a first over bid approaching the top of the lane held on well to finish second while Fox Valley Aramon (Todd Warren) used a ground saving journey to get the show dough.   Bet as though defeat was out of the question BS Tyrrific returned $2.40, $2.10 & $2.10 while running his slate to 3-2-0 in five lifetime starts with earnings of $30,235 for the partnership of Robert, Jeremy & Louis Buttice and Frank Santilli.   The public handicappers were right on again in the filly division as Ervin Miller Stables and Bert Hochsprung's Shady Stella easily disposed of eight rivals with a 4¼ length victory in 1:54.1 for Kyle Wilfong.   Zipped right to the front from post six by Wilfong, the daughter of Shadyshark Hanover--She's Stella put up splits of 29.1, 58.0 & 1:25.4.   Still fit and fresh as she turned for the money, the Ervin Miller trainee sped home in 28.2 while under minimal urging from her pilot. Char N Marg (Casey Leonard) rallied from far back to be the bridesmaid while longshot Rocknroll Hoochcoo (Pat Curtin) finished third in her career debut.   The Indiana bred Shady Stella returned $3.80, $2.80 & $3.00 while posting her first win in lifetime start number three. The filly also has a second place finish to her credit and now boasts $27,450 in earnings for her proud connections.   A field of seven diagonally gaited state-breds squared off to close out Saturday’s stake action as they battled for a purse of $21,400.   The parade of favorites continued here as Ronald Knupp’s Master Of Excuses overpowered six rivals in a 2 ¾ length victory. The final time was 1:54.4.   Confidently handled by driver Todd Warren the five-year-old son of Powerful Emotion moved first over on the final turn after watching Ants Iner Pants (Robert Smolin) and Tricky Nick (Ridge Warren) battle through opening splits of 28.4 & 56.3.   Taking command as the field hit the three-quarter-mile mark in 1:25.1 the Kimberly Roth trainee quickly opened up an insurmountable advantage over his rivals then glided home the rest of the way for his fourth win in 24 starts this year. Sophomore sensation Captain Greedy (J D Finn) rallied late to finish second while the other sophomore in the field, Fox Valley Qatar (Mike Oosting) came on late to finish third.   Starting from the inside spot, Master Of Excuses returned $3.40, $2.60 & $2.60 while pushing his career earnings up to $112,247.   The 2015 Hanover season draws to a close on Sunday, August 2nd with a pair of events for two-year-old trotters. A field of eight fillies will slug it out in race three as they battle for a purse of $22,400 while their male counterparts meet in race five for a purse of $26,300. Once again the action gets underway at 7:10pm on Sunday night and as always the $1 Pick 4 (races 7-10) features a $25,000 guaranteed pool. The 10-cent Hi Five (race 10) also features a guaranteed pool of $15,000 while the new trifecta guarantee on race nine will give fans the chance to play into a $25,000 guaranteed pool.   Tom Kelley  

A mix of the state's top harness racing youngsters shared Saturday night's spotlight at Balmoral Park as the Crete oval presented five big money finals as part of the Southland Festival of Racing. Freshmen pacing fillies kicked off the fast paced action in race four as a field of 10 gathered behind the gate for the $50,000 Loyal Opposition Stake.   It was "bombs away" in this battle as Finn Racing and Tami Michi's Likeafireballshot parlayed a perfect pocket sitting trip into a half-length victory at odds of 12-1 for driver-trainer Jared Finn in 1:54.1.   Perfectly positioned after leading the field through an opening quarter in 28.3 Finn elected to let a hard charging Narcissistic (Mike Oosting) grab control of things as the fillies moved through middle splits of 58.0 & 1:26.0.   Patiently waiting for racing room in the lane the daughter of Sportsmaster--Major Philly moved to the outside with a sixteenth of a mile to go where she proceeded to wear down the favorite, rallying in the closing strides for her first win in lifetime start number three. Another longshot, 42-1 outsider Fox Valley Gypsy (Clifton Bell) unleashed a huge late rally to finish as the bridesmaid while LK's Nancy Lee (Tim Curtin) was a game third.   The winner returned $26.40, $13.40 & $6.40 while helping to key a $3,800 trifecta payout.   Next up were freshmen pacing colts as a field of 10 lined up behind the gate for the $52,000 Mini Me Stake.   Fresh off three straight stake scores Stephen Mc MacKin, Marilyn Kelly and Lorna Rousch's Wondrous Sport made it four in a row over the competition as he recorded a neck decision in a career best of 1:52.2 with Casey Leonard at the controls.   Sweeping to the front after watching BS Tyrrific (Kyle Wilfong) lead the field through an opening quarter in 28.0 Leonard continued to let the Gary Rath trainee roll through swift middle splits of 55.4 & 1:24.3.   Gamely digging in through the stretch the altered son of Sportsmaster--Wondrous Grace paced home in 28.1 while holding off the pocket sitting BS Tyrffic in a thrilling stretch duel. Dan D Dune (Mike Oosting) held on for third after making a strong first over bid as the field neared the top of the lane.   Sent off as the 2-1 favorite by the betting public Wondrous Sport returned $6.20, $4.80 & $3.00 while running his record to 4-0-0 in 5 starts with earnings of $35,000.   A field of eight sophomore trotting colts met in the third event of the night the $38,000 Kadabra Stake.   This battle provided another big price as William Wright and Geis Enterprises Bulldog Benji, a 20-1 outsider with just one career win to his credit, picked the right night to come up with a lifetime best, trotting to a convincing 5¾ length triumph in 1:55.0 for driver Mike Oosting.   Placed in mid-pack as a "fired-up" Tricky Nick led the field through splits of 28.3, 57.0 & 1:25.3 Oosting moved the Mike Brink trained son of Powerful Emotion--Ms Brittania to the outside as the field approached the head of the stretch.   With plenty of open space available after early miscues took Southern Appeal, Fox Valley Qatar and Southern Special out of the race Bulldog Benji seemed to find another gear as he quickly left the rest of the field in his wake while cruising to his second win in 11 starts this season. Captain Greedy (J D Finn), who had been riding a five race winning streak was forced to settle for the runner-up role on this night while Tricky Nick held on for third.   Bulldog Benji returned $42.80, $7.40 & $4.20 while upping his career bankroll to $29,720.   Next up were sophomore pacing fillies as field of 10 renewed acquaintances in the $45,000 Ann Vonian Stake.   Once again Kay Willis's home-bred filly Lex came up big when the cash was on the line as she rolled to a 2½ length victory in 1:52.1 for driver Kyle Wilfong.   Storming into the lead on the backstretch after watching Fox Valley Charm (Tim Curtin) and Fox Valley Aubrey (Robert Smolin) slug it out through an opening quarter in 28.0 Wilfong put Lex on the "engine" where she proceeded to put up middle splits of 57.0 & 1:24.3 while going along comfortably on the front.   Sprinting away from her rivals in the lane the Nelson Willis trained daughter of Lexington Legend--I Bet U effortlessly opened up a three-length advantage by the mid-stretch call as she rolled to her sixth win in 11 starts this year. Sportsmuffler (Todd Warren) shook loose late to rally for the place check while Southern Girl (Casey Leonard) was forced to settle for the show dough.   The 3-2 favorite of the betting public Lex returned $5.00, $3.60 & $3.20 while running her career numbers to 10-4-4 in 26 starts with earnings of $131,703.   Sophomore pacing colts closed out the Saturday stake action as a field of 10 three-year-olds knocked heads in the $45,000 Incredible Finale Stake.   After getting a week off and a bye into the final Bo & Pat De Long and Elmer Miller's Earndawg returned fit and fresh as he roared to a three-quarter-length victory in a lifetime best of 1:51.0 for driver Todd Warren.   Benefitting from a perfect steer by Warren, the Roger Welch trained son of Sportsmaster--Pacific Sister K enjoyed a pocket trip while longshot Engine One O One (Brian Carpenter) put up fractions of 27.1, 55.4 & 1:23.0.   After pulling the pocket as the field neared the top of the lane, Earndawg proceeded to blow right by the pace setter sealing the deal with a 28.0 final quarter to earn his fourth win in 10 starts this season. Fox Valley Elijah (Robert Smolin), a 26-1 outsider rallied sharply to get the place spot while Lucpark (Mike Oosting) finished third.   The second choice in the wagering at 2-1 Earndawg returned $6.60, $4.00 & $2.80 while running his career record to 12-7-4 in 27 starts with earnings of $277,188.   The Southland Festival action continues on Sunday, July 26th, with a trio of finals sharing the spotlight on the 10-race card. Freshmen trotting colts start the action in race two as a field of six will slug it out in the $36,500 Plesac Stake. Their female counterparts will hit the track in race four as a field of 10 meet in the $40,000 Fox Valley Flan Stake. Closing out the action will be sophomore trotting fillies as a field seven go postward in the $39,000 Fox Valley Evita Stake.   Once again the action gets underway at 7:10pm on Sunday night and as always the $1 Pick 4 (races 7-10) features a $25,000 guaranteed pool. The 10-cent Hi Five (race 10) also features a guaranteed pool with a minimum of $15,000 on the line in the "ultimate get out wager!   Tom Kelley  

Thee countdown to the Southland Festival of Racing, one of the biggest weekends of the harness racing season for Illinois conceived and foaled pacers and trotters, began in earnest on Saturday, July 18th with a bevy of elimination action highlighting a big 12-race program. Freshmen pacing colts kicked off the non-stop action with a trio of Mini Me Stake elimination's attracting a total of 21 youngsters. The top three finishers in each elimination along with one fourth place finisher will be back next week for the $48,000 (est,) final. In the opening split the Gary Rath trained Wondrous Sport grabbed command right from the word go and made every call a winning one as he reported home with a 1 ½ length victory in 1:54.4 for driver Casey Leonard. The gelded son of Sportsmaster--Wondrous Grace strolled through splits of 29.3, 58.3 & 1:27.2 before sealing the deal with a 27.2 final quarter to notch his third win in four career starts for the partnership of Stephen Mc MacKin, Marilyn Kelly and Lorna Roush. Shootin To Kill (Mike Oosting) rallied late to finish as the runner-up while Fox Valley Chino (Kyle Wilfong) was a solid third. Dakota Road was fourth. In the middle split Nicole Potts' Royale Rose continued his impressive start as he scored in front stepping fashion, recording a three-quarter-length victory in 1:55.2 for driver Brian Carpenter.   Sent to the top after an opening quarter in 30.2 the gelded son of Ashlee's Big Guy--Caribe Royale cruised through middle splits of 59.1 & 1:28.0 before putting on the finishing touches with a 27.2 to notch his third win in four lifetime starts. BS Tyrrific (Kyle Wilfong) was a game second while Silver Sage (Mike Oosting) grabbed the dough. JB's Hero was fourth. With the win the Lyle Scurlock trainee who was sent off as the 3-5 favorite in the race now boasts $9,536 in career earnings.   The final division of the Mini Me Stake eliminations gave the "chalk" players a clean sweep as Kay Willis's Dan D Dune recorded a three-quarter-length victory in 1:55.2 for driver Mike Oosting.   Reserved near the back of the pack while Red Red Redneck (Larry Finn Jr) carved out splits of 28.3, 58.3 & 1:27.3 Oosting moved the Nelson Willis trained son of Duneside Perch--Witch Hanover three deep around rivals as the field reached the top of the stretch. Gobbling up ground on the outside of horses, Dan D Dune rolled right on by his rivals in the lane to post his second win in four lifetime starts. Sagebrush Sid (Todd Warren) staged a nice late rally to finish second while Goinduneside (Casey Leonard) was third after encountering some traffic issues in the stretch. A total of 18 two-year-old pacing fillies were dropped in the box for the Loyal Opposition Stake necessitating a pair of $8,000 eliminations with the top five in each division moving on to the $44,000 (est.) final.   In the first division Quaid Racing's Char N Marg turned in a very impressive performance, overcoming a taxing two-move journey in route to a hard fought neck verdict in a career best of 1:54.3.   Confidently handled by Casey Leonard, the Nelson Willis trained daughter of Sportsmaster--Zip Up Your Pans ducked into the two-hole off the gate, swept into command on the backside then was back out and rolling after the pace setting Fox Valley Gypsy (Clifton Bell) as the field turned for the money.   Shrugging off the difficult journey Char N Marg still had enough left to overtake the pace setter with an eighth of a mile to go holding firm to the wire as a hard charging LK's Nancy Lee (Tim Curtin) came flying through the passing lane to be the bridesmaid. Likeafireballshot (Jared Finn) was a solid third while Fox Valley Gypsy and Lexirose also secured spots in next week's final. The win was the second in four starts for Char N Marg In the final division of the Loyal Opposition Stake Rocco Ruffolo's Narcissistic made her local debut a winning one for trainer Erv Miller blowing past her rivals in the lane as she drew off to a 3 ¼ length victory in 1:54.4 with Mike Oosting at the controls.   In hand early as Fox Valley Tiramisu (Robert Smolin) and Sara's Terror (Brian Carpenter) battled through splits of 27.4, 58.0 & 1:26.3 the daughter of Sportsmaster--Treasure The Best moved up second over into fourth as the field reached the head of the stretch. Exploding home in 27.4 the full sister to Lucpark zipped right by the leaders to grab her first victory in start number three. Fox Valley Addison (Todd Warren) finished second while Sara's Terror held on for third. Burry Me Inthesand was fourth while Fox Valley Bailey grabbed the last spot in next week's final. Sophomore pacing fillies were next on the docket as a field of 10 were sent postward in an $8,000 Ann Vonian Stake elimination. The top nine finishers will be joined by Lex in the $45,000 (est.) final next week. Shaking off the effects of a tough first over trip and a long grind from post eight the Dirk Simpson trained Fox Valley Charm pulled off the minor upset in here as she posted a neck decision in a career best of 1:53.1 for driver Tim Curtin.   Grinding up on the outside for the final five-eighths of a mile the daughter of Yankee Skyscaper--Fox Valley Cherub finally overtook the pace setting Fox Valley Aubrey (Robert Smolin) after that filly had stormed through splits of 28.3, 57.2 & 1:25.0.   After a prolonged stretch duel Fox Valley Charm managed to poke a head in front then held sway for her sixth win in 15 lifetime starts for owner Peter Karras. Fox Valley Aubrey was a game second while Southern Girl (Casey Leonard) was third. Also gaining spots in the final with their fourth through ninth place finishes were BS Tyrichess, Sportsmuffler, Angel Demon, Duneside Perttie, Foxy Ellie and Cowgirl Chic. Rounding out the elimination action were three-year-old pacing colts as a field of 10 slugged it out in an $8,000 Incredible Finale Stake elimination. Again, the top nine finishers will join Earndawg in the $44,500 (est.) final next week. This test produced another victory for the trifecta of owner Rocco Ruffolo, trainer Erv Miller and driver Mike Oosting as Lucpark, whose full sister had won earlier on the card, paced away to a 3¼ length victory in a lifetime best of 1:51.4. Confidently handled by Oosting, the bay gelding stormed up first over to engage pace setting Engine One O One (Brian Carpenter) off splits of 28.0, 54.4 & 1:23.1 then sped away from that one in the lane to post his third win in nine starts this season. Dinky Dune (Pat Curtin) rallied up well to finish second while Engine One O One held on for third. Also gaining spots in the final were Dakota Roadster, Frosty Dune, Dixie's Boy, Fox Valley Elijah, Casey At Bat and DuPage's Z Tam. The elimination action continues on Sunday, July 19th, with a field of 10 trotters battling in the $8,000 Fox Valley Flan Stake for two-year-old trotting fillies. The top eight finishers will be back to join Vengeful and Awfully Emotional in the $45,000 (est.) final next week. Once again the action gets underway at 7:10pm on Sunday night and as always the $1 Pick 4 (races 7-10) features a $25,000 guaranteed pool. The 10-cent Hi Five also features a guaranteed pool now with a $15,000 guarantee on the line in the "ultimate get out bet" (race 10). Tom Killey

Illinois conceived and foaled harness racing action grabbed the Sunday headlines at Balmoral Park with a pair of state-bred events for diagonally gaited three-year-olds sharing top billing on the 10-race program.   The "boys" kicked off the action in race four as a field of eight colts and geldings met in the $8,000 Brandenburg Stake. Once again this figured to be a battle between the top two colts in the division, Captain Greedy and Fox Valley Qatar and the race lived up to the "pre-fight" hype with Captain Greedy and J D Finn getting up in the final 100 yards to win by three-quarters of a length while knocking off last season's divisional champ Fox Valley Qatar for the third straight time. The final time of 1:56 was a career best.   After taking the field through an opening quarter in 28.3 Finn elected to let a hard charging Fox Valley Qatar (Todd Warren) take command on the backstretch and that colt proceeded to lead the field through middle splits of 57.0 & 1:26.4.   Through the lane Finn angled the son of Yankee Valor--Tropical Trixie to the outside of horses eventually wearing down the favored Fox Valley Qatar with a sixteenth of a mile to go for his fifth win in eight starts this season. Fox Valley Qatar was forced to settle for the runner-up role yet again while Southern Special (Brian Carpenter) finished third, 4¼ lengths behind the victor.   Sent off as the second choice in the wagering the John D Finn trainee returned $5.60, $2.80 & $2.10 while running his career record to 14-5-3 in 25 starts with earnings of $94,796 for owners Charles Doehring and John D Finn.   The "girls" were next on the docket as a field of eight three-year-old fillies lined up behind the gate for the $8,000 Fox Valley Diva Stake. Continuing a nice mid-season run Homer Hochstetler and Robert Buddig's Persuasive Look overtook the early leaders in mid-stretch and drew off late to record a 2¼ length victory in 1:56.2.   Well handled by regular pilot Casey Leonard the daughter of Powerful Emotion--Black N Bluegenes left hard from post four then settled into the garden spot while Bi Polar Rose (Travis Seekman) and Tal Wi Wi (John De Long) traded blows up front through splits of 29.1, 57.2 & 1:26.1.   Moving to the outside as the field neared the top of the lane the Homer Hochstetler trained miss blew right by a tiring Tal Wi Wi to grab her third win in nine starts this year. Lc'snmotion (Mike Oosting) unleashed a nice late move to rally for the bridesmaid spot while Fox Valley Yoko (John De Long) was third.   With the win Persuasive Look now sports career number of 7-6-5 in 22 trips postward with earnings of $116,992. The 2-1 favorite in the wagering returned $6.20, $3.40 & $2.20 to her backers.   Tom Kelley

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 

With a total of 13 freshmen pacing colts entered for Friday's Fox Valley Barzgar Stake at Maywood Park, harness racing secretary Doc Narotsky was forced to split the youngsters into a pair of $6,000 divisions. Both splits featured heavy favorites and the "chalk" players never had to break a sweat as 1--9 favorite DB captured the opener in 1:55.4 while 6-5 choice Wondrous Sport rolled to victory in 1:56.3 in the nightcap. Confidently handled as a 1-9 favorite should be, driver Pat Curtin sent DB right to the front from post two and the issue was never in doubt as the Herman Wheeler trained son of Yankee Skyscaper--Hopintosh led a single file field through splits of 28.1, 58.1 & 1:27.2. With plenty still in reserve DB sealed the deal with a 28.1 final quarter as he reported home with a 3¼ length verdict in 1:55.4. Fox Valley Aramon (Todd Warren) followed the winner's every move but was second best on this night while Eddie Eddie Eddie (Clifton Bell) was a non-threatening third. With the win DB has two victories and a third in three lifetime starts with earnings of $$5,401 for the partnership of Leroy Hunt and Milton Greer. The nightcap followed nearly the same script as Casey Leonard gunned Wondrous Spirit to the front where he proceeded to "steal" pedestrian like splits of 29.2, 59.1 & 1:28.0 then held firm through the stretch to record a 2¼ length win in a career best of 1:56.3. Dan D Dune (Mike Oosting) did a nice job of overcoming the outside post in the field of seven to finish in the runner-up role while My Man Red (Tim Curtin) was a distant third. The victory was the second in three starts for the Gary Rath trained son of Sportsmaster--Wondrous Grace who has banked $6,000 for owners Stephen Mc MacKin, Marily Kelly and Lorna Rousch. Tom Kelley        

Freshmen pacing fillies were front and center on Thursday, July 9th at Maywood Park as a total of 12 state-bred harness racing youngsters squared off in a pair of $6,000 divisions of the My Metallica Stake. In the first division, the Nelson Willis trained Aunt Ethel took full advantage of the inside starting spot as she grabbed command right from the word go and made every call a winning one with a three-length victory in 1:57.3.   Confidently handled by driver Mike Oosting, the homebred daughter of Sportsmaster--Miller Creek Ethel shot to the top where she put up splits of 29.0, 57.4 & 1:28.0. When called upon on the final turn by Maywood's leading reinsman the bay filly responded with a nice 29.3 final panel while drawing away from her rivals. Burry Me Inthesand (Gary Rath) turned a nice inside trip into a second place check while Thetis (Ridge Warren) rallied to finish third, 5¼ lengths behind the winner.   The win was the first in two lifetime starts for Aunt Ethel who is owned by Rick, Erwin and Vernon Barbre.   In the second division the Hosea Williams owned and trained Lexington Lady continued to impress as she cruised to an easy 4¼ length front stepping score in 1:55.4 for driver Brian Carpenter.   Flashing her high octane gate speed the daughter of Lexington Legend--Stephie Kay zipped right to lead effortlessly posting fractions of 28.0, 58.0 & 1:27.1 while rolling along unchallenged on the "engine".   With plenty still in reserve Lexington Lady left her rivals in her wake on the final bend pacing home in a snappy 28.3 for her third straight ICF stake score. Fox Valley Addison (Todd Warren) finished in the runner-up spot while longshot Our Miss Cami (Mike Oosting) nabbed the show dough.   The 1-5 favorite who was a $2,500 bargain buy as a yearling now boasts three wins and a second in four lifetime starts with earnings of $9,000.   Live racing continues on Friday, July 10th at Maywood Park with two divisions of the Fox Valley Barzgar Stake for ICF two-year-old pacing colts sharing top billing on the card. Those battles will go as races four and six on the 12-race program which also features a $10,000 guaranteed pool in the Pick 4 (races 9-12) and a new $15,000 guaranteed pool on the 10 cent Hi-Five wager (race 12). Post time for the first race is 7:30 p.m. (central).   Tom Kelley

The 2015 Hanover Stake season is officially underway as Balmoral Park played host to a pair of trotting stakes for three-year-olds as part of an action packed harness racing July 4th program.   The action kicked off with a non-wagering event as a field of five colts lined up behind the gate to battle for a purse of $20,600.   The battle between Illinois bred stars Captain Greedy and Fox Valley Qatar resumed in this event and for the third straight meeting between these two it was Charles Dowering and John D Finn's Captain Greedy who came out on top as he reported home with a one-length victory in 1:56.2.   Confidently handled by driver-trainer J D Finn the son of Yankee Valor--Tropical Trixie was sent right to the top where he proceeded to stroll through splits of 28.2, 58.3 & 1:28.4.   Sprinting home in 27.3, Captain Greedy shook off the challenge of a pocket sitting Fox Valley Qatar (Todd Warren) to record his fourth win in seven starts this season. Fox Valley Qatar was forced to settle for the runner-up role again while Bulldog Benji (Mike Brink) was third. The victory pushed Captain Greedy's career bankroll up to $90,796.   Sophomore trotting fillies also took to the track for Hanover action as a compact a field of five battled for a purse of $23,900.   After being content to sit near the back in the compact field, Ronald Phillips My Mini Snickers exploded through the stretch to win by a widening 3½ lengths in 1:56.3 for "provisional" driver Clifton Bell.   Content to bide their time near the back as Fox Valley Harrah (Todd Warren) put up pedestrian splits of 29.4, 59.1 & 128.1 Bell moved his filly to the outside as the field neared the top of the lane.   Trotting up a storm as she moved down the center of the track, the Bob Phillips trained daughter of Muscle Mass--Milky Way rolled home in 27.4 to notch her second win in 10 starts this season. In what is believed to be a "first" in harness racing history, Fox Valley Yoko (Kyle Wilfong) and Persuasive Look (Casey Leonard), who finished in a dead-heat for the win in an ICF stake here last week, wound up on even terms once again as they dead-heated for the place spot.   With the victory My Mini Snickers now boasts seven wins in 21 career starts with earnings of $45,319.   A pair of state-bred events were also contested on Saturday night as part of the big 12-race betting card.   In the first of these battles, the $8,000 Hot Head Stake for sophomore pacing colts, James & Terri Blackmon's Dixie's Boy picked a nice time to come up with a career best as he blew by his rivals in the lane to post a one-length victory in 1:52.0 for driver Casey Leonard.   Using a perfect second over trip the gelded son of Duneside Perch--Dingy's Model circled rivals after watching Dinky Dune (Pat Curtin) put up some brisk splits, speeding home in 26.4 while holding division leader Earndawg (Todd Warren) at bay. Longshot Casey At Bat (Mike Oosting) wound up with the show dough.   The Joel Smith trainee now sports a career record of 5-5-5 in 24 lifetime starts with earnings of $31,522 after Saturday's victory.   In the nightcap Kay Willis's Lex had no problem overcoming the dreaded 10-hole as she posted a 1¾ length triumph over nine rivals in the $8,000 Ohyouprettything Stake for ICF three-year-old pacing fillies.   Hustled right to the front by Kyle Wilfong, the Nelson Willis trained daughter of Lexington Legend--I Bet U put up splits of 28.4, 58.2 & 1:26.4 while relatively unchallenged on the front end.   With plenty left in the tank the division leader in 2015 sealed the deal with a 26.4 final panel to notch her fifth win in nine starts this year. Fox Valley Charm (Tim Curtin) rallied late to be the bridesmaid while Sportsmuffler (John De Long) shook loose to finish third.   With Saturday's victory Lex now boasts a career record of 9-4-4 in 18 starts with earnings of $107,123.   The ICF stake action continues on Sunday, July 5th with a field of six freshmen trotting fillies getting the action underway in a non-wagering test as they battle in the $6,000 Vaporize Stake which will go at 6:45 p.m. (central). The second division of that stake has also drawn a field of six and will go as race three on the regular 10-race card. An overflow field of 11 2yo trotting colts will battle in race four which is the $8,000 Psychic Spirit Stake and a field of seven sophomore trotting fillies will close out the stake action in race six as they battle in the $8,000 Source Ann Stake. Once again the wagering action gets underway at 7:10pm on Sunday night and as always the $1 Pick 4 features a $25,000 guaranteed pool. The Pick 4 is on races seven through 10 on Sunday night.   Tom Kelley

The state-bred stake action continued in high gear on Sunday, June 28th at Balmoral Park as a pair of harness racing ICF events for trotters and pacers shared top billing on the 10-race harness racing program.   Trotters kicked off the night's action with a field of seven diagonally gaited colts lining up for the $8,000 Xpressbet Stake. This figured to be another showdown in the budding rivalry between Captain Greedy and last year's divisional champ Fox Valley Qatar. The race lived up to its billing as the fans were treated to a "doozy" of a stretch drive with the top two colts in the division slugging it out to the wire with Captain Greedy prevailing by a nose over "Qatar" in a snappy 1:56.4 over a track listed as fast despite some late afternoon rain showers. (Imagine that!)   Hustled away from post three by his co-owner, trainer and driver J. D. Finn, Captain Greedy was able to get away with some relatively pedestrian splits of 29.3, 58.3, & 1:29.1 while Fox Valley Qatar (Todd Warren) was content to ride along in the pocket.   With the top two set for a sprint to the wire, Fox Valley Qatar appeared to put a head in front with a sixteenth of a mile to go but a game Captain Greedy determinedly fought back, inching a nose in front as the two evenly matched trotters hit the wire in a thrilling finish. When the official numbers were posted it was Captain Greedy who came out on top with Fox Valley Qatar forced to settle for the runner-up role on this night. Tricky Nick (Mike Oosting) finished third, four lengths behind the top pair.   With the win, the Yankee Valour gelding now sports a career record of 12-5-3 in 23 career starts with earnings of $80,496. The second choice in the wagering returned a healthy $6.00, $2.20 & $2.10.   Sophomore pacing fillies closed out the weekend's stake action as a field of 10 three-year-old state-breds met in the $8,000 Mystical Victress Stake. After a heated battle it was the Peter Karras owned longshot Fox Valley Charm who emerged with the surprise victory as she came charging through the passing lane to record a half-length victory in a career best of 1:53 for driver Dale Hiteman.   Using an inside draw to perfection Hiteman placed the Dirk Simpson trained miss in the pocket spot as Sportsmuffler (John De Long) and a parked out Angel Demon (Todd Warren) slugged it out through opening splits of 27.4 & 56.4.   After putting away the challenge of Angel Demon, Sportsmuffler faced immediate pressure from a three-wide Fox Valley Aubrey (Robert Smolin), who came powering up to challenge as the field reached the three-quarter-mile mark in 1:25.   Through the stretch, the tough trip wound up getting the best of Sportsmuffler who began to tire. Meanwhile, a fit and fresh Fox Valley Charm began looking for racing room along the inside of horses while heavily favored Lex (Kyle Wilfong), began to find her best stride out in the center of the track. Southern Girl (Travis Seekman) was also starting to unwind on the far outside gobbling up ground in huge strides.   Unfortunately for the two late rushing fillies, Fox Valley Charm managed to get the jump on her rivals holding on gamely to post her first win in start number three this season. Southern Girl uncorked a 27.0 final quarter to finish as the bridesmaid while Lex was forced to settle for the show dough.   After opening her second season with a pair of Hoosier Park efforts the Yankee Skyscraper filly returned to local scene and rewarded her backers with mutuels of $41.40, $14.00 & $5.00 while improving her career record to 5-3-1 in 13 starts with earnings of $29,457.   There were no winners in the 50 cent Pick 5 wager on Sunday night so there will be a healthy carryover of $9,913 added to the Saturday, July 4th card. Therefore Balmoral Park will have a guaranteed Pick 5 pool of $30,000 on July 4th, which should provide plenty of fireworks over the Independence Day weekend. Tom Kelley

Despite a five week layoff and a sick scratch last week Dane May's Dinky Dune proved that he's a force to be reckoned with among this year's Illinois conceived and foaled harness racing three-year-old pacing colts as he rolled to a 2¾ length victory in 1:53.1 over five other state-bred sophomore pacing colts in Saturday's $8,000 Xpressbet Stake at Balmoral Park. Given a perfect steer by driver Pat Curtin the gelded son of Duneside Perch--Dream Hand settled into the garden spot as Dixie's Boy (Casey Leonard) led the compact field through pedestrian splits of 29.0, 58.0 & 1:26.4.   With the action heating up in the lane Curtin maneuvered the Dane May trainee to the outside of horses where he quickly gobbled up the pace setter with a sixteenth to go. Effortlessly opening up an insurmountable advantage Dinky Dune easily kept heavily favored Earndawg (Todd Warren) at bay while rolling to his fourth win in seven starts this season. Earndawg, the 2-5 favorite in the race was forced to settle for a runner-up role on this night while longshot Casey At Bat (Mike Oosting) grabbed the show dough.   The second choice in the wagering Dinky Dune returned $7.00, $2.80, $2.40 while running his career record to 4-1-1 in 10 starts with earnings of $22,852.   The state-bred stake action continues on Sunday, June 28th with a pair of battles sharing top billing. Sophomore trotting colts kick off the festivities in race one as Fox Valley Qatar and Captain Greedy renew their rivalry in the $8,000 Xpressbet Stake. Later in the evening, sophomore pacing fillies will square off in the $8,000 Mystical Victress Stake which has attracted a full field of 10 led by division stalwarts Lex and Sportsmuffler. The wagering action gets underway at 7:10pm on Sunday night and as always the $1 Pick 4 features a $25,000 guaranteed pool. The Pick 4 is on races seven through 10 on Sunday night. Tom Kelley

After opening their harness racing careers on the mile oval at Balmoral, this season's two-year-old pacing crop had their first tests on the tight turns of a half-mile oval as Maywood Park played host to a pair of Illinois conceived and foaled stake events on Friday night. With a total of 12 freshmen pacing colts dropped in the box, the Enzo The Baker Stake was split into a pair of $4,000 divisions. The girls were also in action on the sloppy track Friday night as a field of seven was sent postward in the $5,000 Juxtaposition Stake.   In the opening division of the Enzo The Baker, the Kay Willis owned Dan D Dune rolled to an impressive 6¼ length victory in 1:59.0 for driver Mike Oosting.   Content to save ground in third while Sagebrush Sid (Pat Curtin) led the field through splits of 30.2 & 1:00 Oosting pounced on the pace-setter as the pair raced head and head by the three-quarter-mile mark in 1:29.4.   Quickly opening up an insurmountable edge around the final turn the gelded son of Duneside Perch--Witch Hanover continued to widen his margin through the lane in route to his first career win. Eddie Eddie Eddie (Clifton Bell) who was forced wide by a breaking horse on the final bend still managed to rally in time for the place money while Dakota Road (Robert Smolin), salvaged the show dough despite a miscue in that last turn.   Hammered at the betting windows the Nelson Willis trained Dan D Dune, who was a $9,500 Classic Yearling purchase, returned $3.20, $2.10 & $2.10. The second division produced a wire to wire performance as Stephen Mc MacKin, Marilyn Kelly and Lorna Roush's Wondrous Sport used the inside starting spot to perfection leading every step of the way as he reported home with a 1½ length victory in 1:59.0. Given a confident steer by driver Casey Leonard the gelded son of Sportsmaster--Wondrous Grace shot right to the front from the pole position, putting up splits of 29.3, 1:00.3 & 1:30.2 while relatively unchallenged on the front end. With plenty still in reserve, the Gary Rath trainee kept his rivals at bay through the lane with a 28.3 final quarter to notch his maiden breaking victory. Sagebrush Sam (Kyle Husted) enjoyed a perfect two-hole trip but was no match for the winner while Fox Valley Aramon (Todd Warren) saved ground throughout the mile to finish third. The second choice in the wagering Wondrous Sport returned $5.20, $4.00 & $3.20 while opening his account.   The Juxtaposition Stake figured to be a showdown between Lexington Lady and Fox Valleytiramisu who had traded first and second place finishes in their first two meetings and it proved to be just that with Lexington Lady getting the better of her main rival on this night as she cruised to a four-length victory in 1:57.2 for driver Brian Carpenter. Gunned right to the top from post five the Hosea Williams owned and trained miss rattled off splits of 27.3, 57.0 & 1:27.3 while Fox Valleytiramisu sat right on her back. These two were some 10 to 12 lengths in front of the rest of the fillies for most of the mile and things were no different in the late going as the daughter of Lexington Legend--Stephie Kay drew off in the lane for her second straight stakes win. Fox Valleytiramisu (Robert Smolin) was a clear cut second while Burry Me Inthesand (Gary Rath) was a distant third, 11½ lengths behind the winner. Looking like quite the bargain buy for her proud owner-trainer the $2,500 Illini Classic Yearling purchase returned $2.60, $2.10 & $2.10 while running her record to 2-1-0 in 3 lifetime starts with earnings of $6,000.   Tom Kelley

A Sunday night program at Balmoral Park full of Illinois conceived and foaled stakes action which mainly put the spotlight on this year's crop of harness racing two-year-olds kicked off with a non-wagering event as a field of five diagonally gaited fillies met in the Star Slinger Stake.   Powering to the front after an opening quarter in 30.3 Providence West Inc.'s Vengeful never looked back as she put up middle splits of 59.1 & 1:29.4 while cruising to a 1¼ length victory in 1:59.3 for Brian Carpenter. Shez A Devil Woman (Dale Hiteman) followed the winner's every move after relinquishing the lead at the quarter to wind up second while Praise Singer (Casey Leonard) finished third.   The winner, who is a daughter of Powerful Emotion--Over The Top was a $5,000 Illini Classic yearling purchase is conditioned by Kenny Collier.   Their male counterparts kicked off the wagering program with a field of seven trotting colts squaring off in the $4,000 Million Dollar Bye Stake.   Instead of looking like a first time starter Quaid Racing's Wrightwood acted like a seasoned veteran as he completely overwhelmed this group, rolling to an 11¼ length triumph in 1:58.4.   Confidently handled by driver Casey Leonard, the son of Powerful Emotion--Racy Roz was content to trot along in third while watching Iron Band (Jamaica Patton) and Prince Simba (Mike Brink) battle through tough early splits of 29.1 & 57.3.   Still third but on the move behind JD Cheese (Travis Seekman) who grabbed command as the field hit the three-quarter-mile mark in 1:29.1, the Nelson Willis trained colt easily reeled in that one, blowing right by with an eighth of a mile to go then quickly drawing away while leaving his rivals in his wake. JD Cheese was forced to settle for the runner-up role while Todger (Todd Warren) finished third.   After prepping for his debut with a pair of sharp second place finishes in his qualifiers Wrightwood was well backed at the windows returning $4.20, $3.20 & $2.40.   With a total of 14 freshmen pacing fillies entered for the Incredible Tillie Stake the young ladies were split into a pair of $5,000 divisions.   In the first division the Hosea Williams owned and trained Lexington Lady used the passing lane to perfection rallying up the inside in the final strides to put a nose in front of Sara's Terror as they tripped the timer in a snappy 1:55.4.   Perfectly positioned by driver John De Long, the daughter of Lexington Legend--Stephie Kay left alertly and wound up landing in the garden spot as Sara's Terror (Brian Carpenter) led the field through splits of 29.2, 59.1 & 1:28.4.   Patiently awaiting room at the pylons as Sara's Terror and Fox Valleytiramisu (Robert Smolin) battled through the lane, De Long maneuvered his charge into the passing lane where she rallied gamely for the hard fought victory. Sara's Terror was a tough luck second while Fox Valley Addison (Todd Warren) rallied to be third. Coming off a second place finish in her career debut last week Lexington Lady, who was a $2,500 yearling purchase returned $6.00, $3.60 & $2.40 to her backers.   In the second division trainer Nelson Willis, Quaid Racing and driver Casey Leonard struck for their second stakes win of the night as Char N Marg came charging between horses to rally for a one-length victory in 1:56.3.   Using an advantageous draw Leonard positioned the daughter of Sportsmaster-Zip Up Your Pans in the coveted two-hole while Fox Valley Bailey (Dale Hiteman) leisurely cruised through fractions of 30.3, 59.3 & 1:29.1.   Saving ground the entire way Leonard began to search for room with Char N Marg as a first over Fox Valley Gypsy (Clifton Bell) and Fox Valley Bailey continued to slug it out through the lane. With less than a sixteenth of a mile to go, Char N Marg found the room she needed and the good looking filly wasted no time splitting rivals to pick up her first lifetime victory in start number two. Fox Valley Gypsy turned in a very solid effort to finish second while Fox Valley Bailey wound up third.   After flashing a big closing kick in her fourth place finish last week Char N Marg attracted plenty of attention at the betting windows on Sunday night returning just $2.80, $2.20 & $2.10.   Sophomore trotting fillies closed out the stake action on Sunday night with a field of seven meeting in the first Xpressbet Stake of the season.   This battle could not have closed out the action in a more exciting fashion as last year's top two money earners in the division, Fox Valley Yoko and Persuasive Look ended on even terms, finishing in a dead-heat for the win while stopping the clock in 1:55.4.   In a race filled with action right from the start Fox Valley Yoko (John De Long) was able to save ground throughout the opening half-mile as Fox Valley Harrah (Todd Warren) trotted through splits of 29.1 & 58.2. The Curt Grummel trained miss then managed to slip to the outside heading around the final bend, picking up the live cover of a second over Persuasive Look (Casey Leonard) who had been grinding away on the outside of horses since the five-eighths pole.   Sitting third and fifth respectively Persuasive Look and Fox Valley Yoko both took dead aim on Bi Polar Rose (Travis Seekman), who had overtaken Fox Valley Harrah as the field sped by the three-quarter-mile mark in 1:26.2.   With the trotters fanning out across the track Persuasive Look and Fox Valley Yoko zipped right by the leaders, drawing clear of the rest of their rivals by 3¼ lengths while finishing in the dead-heat for the win. Tal Wi Wi (Kyle Wilfong), who saved ground throughout the mile finished third.   The win was the fourth in 16 career starts for Fox Valley Yoko (Pizzazzed) who pushed her career bankroll up to $102,240 for owner Patrick Graham. Persuasive Look (Powewrful Emotion) now sports career numbers of 6-5-5 in 20 lifetime starts with earnings of $108,571 for co-owner trainer Homer Hochstetler and partner Robert Buddig. Tom Kelley

Freshmen pacing colts kicked off Saturday's harness racing stake action at Balmoral Park as a total of 16 youngsters were dropped in the box for the Wicked Brew Stake. Thus a pair of $5,000 divisions were carded by Racing Secretary Doc Narotsky.   The opening split went as race two on the 12-race program and the "chalk players" never broke a sweat in this one as Nicole Potts' Royale Rose, the winner of last week's Bingo Johnnie Stake in his career debut, cruised to a two-length victory in a career best of 1:55.1 for driver Brian Carpenter.   Hustled right to the front from post eight, the gelded son of Ashlee's Big Guy--Caribe Royale rattled off splits of 29.0, 59.0 & 1:27.4 while going along unchallenged on the "engine". Despite racing "greenly" and getting out a bit at the half and again through the lane, the Lyle Scurlock trainee sped home in 27.2 to remain perfect in his young career. My Man Red (Mike Oosting) rallied to finish second Silver Sage (Kyle Wilfong) came through along the pylons to get the show dough.   The 3-5 favorite despite having the outside post Royale Rose returned $3.40, $2.10 & $2.10 while running his career earnings up to $4,500.   Brian Carpenter made it a clean sweep in the second division of the Wicked Brew guiding first time starter BS Tyrrific to a hard fought neck decision in a snappy 1:55.4.   Zipped away from post position seven the Christine Buttice trainee was parked through an opening quarter in 29.2 while making his way to the front. In control of things as the field moved onto the backside the son of Richess Hanover--Fox Valley Tyra put up middle splits of 58.0 & 1:27.2 while cruising along on the lead.   Holding sway through the lane a game BS Tyrrific had just enough left in the tank to hold off the pocket sitting Sagebrush Sam (Kyle Husted) and a fast closing Red Red Redneck (Todd Warren).   Coming off a pair of winning qualifiers BS Tyrrific was heavily backed at the betting windows returning just $2.80, $2.20 & $2.20 while opening his career on a winning note for the partnership of Robert, Jeremy & Louis Buttice and Frank Santilli.   Fillies and mares were also in action on Saturday night as a field of eight assembled for the $14,000 Sue Fee Stake. Once again the favorite had problems in here as John Barnard's Ryleigh's Lilly came flying down the lane to notch her second straight Balmoral Park score, winning by 1 ½ lengths in 1:52.4 for Casey Leonard. Ducked off the gate as Rev Me Up (Ryan Anderson) led the field through early splits of 28.2, 57.2 & 1:25.3 Leonard picked up live cover approaching the half-mile mark and quickly moved into contention around the bend, looming boldly in a second over position while sitting third as the field straightened for the money.   As she's done so often in recent years, the five-year-old daughter of Western Hero--Fox Valley Chosen uncorked a wicked 27.0 final quarter as she blew by her rivals to notch her fifth win of the season for trainer Bill Crone. A pair of longshots rounded out the trifecta in this tussle as 17-1 shot Joyful Game (Ridge Warren) flew home in 26.2 to be the bridesmaid while 54-1 outsider Fox Valley Aubrey (Robert Smolin) rallied to be third.   Bet as though defeat was out of the question the 1-5 favorite returned $2.40, $2.20 & $2.10 while upping her lifetime record to 16-10-14 in 77 trips postward with earnings of $121,399. The state-bred stake action really heats up on Sunday, June 21st with a trio of events for the youngsters. Freshmen trotting fillies will get the action underway in a non-wagering test as a field of five battle in the Star Slinger Stake which will go at 6:45 p.m. (central). Their male counterparts will start the regular program with a field of seven diagonally gaited colts squaring off in the Million Dollar Bye Stake. With a total of 14 two-year-old pacing fillies entered for the Incredible Tillie Stake the youngsters have been split into two divisions which will go as races four and five and finally ICF sophomore trotting fillies will close out the action as a field of seven are scheduled to face the gate for the Xpressbet Stake which will go as race six on the 10-race program. Once again the wagering action gets underway at 7:10pm on Sunday night and as always the $1 Pick 4 features a $25,000 guaranteed pool. The Pick 4 is on races seven through 10 on Sunday night. Tom Kelley

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