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With live racing set to resume in about two weeks Balmoral & Maywood Park have announced the initial qualifying dates and entry times for the Chicago area standardbred tracks. Balmoral Park will host qualifiers on Wednesday, January 21 and Wednesday, January 28 at 11:00 am (central). Entries for these qualifiers will close on the Tuesday before each date at 10:00 am. Maywood Park will host its qualifiers on Thursday January 22 at 11:00 am. Entries will close Wednesday, Jan. 21st at 10:00 am. When live racing resumes at Maywood Park on Thursday, Jan. 29th, qualifiers will be held prior to the live race cards every Thursday night. Horses must show a satisfactory racing line within 45 days in order to race at both tracks. The first draw will be Monday January 26 at Maywood for the Thursday, Jan. 29th card and the Friday, Jan. 30th program. Balmoral Park will draw on Wednesday January 28 for the Saturday, Jan. 31st card. As reminder, Balmoral Park will be dark for live racing on Super Bowl Sunday, February 1st. Tentative plans call for Maywood to conduct 10 race cards on Thursday's and 12 races on Friday's. Balmoral will go with 12 race programs on Saturday's and 10 races on Sunday nights. by Tom Kelley, for Balmoral-Maywood Park

Once again Balmoral Park will offer a lucrative guaranteed Pick 5 pool of $25,000 on Sunday, Jan. 4th. Because the 50 cent minimum wager was not hit on Saturday night a nice carryover of $4,694 will be added to Sunday night's pool. The popular low cost Pick 5 wager will be offered on races two through six on Sunday night. In addition to the Pick 5 guarantee, fans will have a chance to walk away with a big payday right after that as Balmoral will also offer its usual Sunday $25,000 guaranteed pool on their $1 Pick 4 wager. The Pick 4, which is on races seven through 10 on Sunday night features a low takeout of just 15%. 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 Sunday's opener at Balmoral is 7:10 pm (central). Balmoral Park will head to a short break after Sunday's program with live racing returning to the Crete oval on Saturday, Jan. 31st. by Tom Kelley, for Balmoral Park

State-bred filly and mare pacers headlined the final night of the 2014 racing season at Balmoral Park as a field of seven distaffers squared off in the $15,000 Fox Valley Memory Stake. In what has been a very competitive division all season long John Barnard's Ryleigh's Lilly came up with a big effort to close out her four-year-old season as she powered to the top after the quarter and never looked back in route to a 1 ½ -length victory in 1:53.4 for Balmoral's leading driver Casey Leonard. Confidently handled by Chicago's leading reinseman, the daughter of Western Hero--Fox Valley Chosen came away fourth in the field of seven as Party Hangover (Ridge Warren) and State Street Liz (Robert Smolin) battled through an opening quarter in 28.2. Quickly hitting top gear as the field settled on the backstretch the Bill Crone trained miss charged from fourth to first in a flash, leading the field through middle splits of 57.2 & 1:25.2. With plenty in reserve for the stretch drive, Ryleigh's Lilly sealed the deal with a 28.2 final quarter while keeping her rivals at bay for her eighth victory of the season. State Street Liz held on for second while Just By Design (Dave Magee) turned a ground saving trip into a third place finish. With the win Ryleigh's Lilly closed out the 2014 season with a record of 8-4-6 in 35 starts while adding another $59,000 to a career bankroll which now stands at $82,538. Heavily backed at the windows the 4-5 betting favorite returned $3.80, $3.00 & $2.10. Balmoral also honored Leonard as the 2014 driving champion while longtime veteran Nelson Willis took home the 2014 training title at the Crete oval. Leonard, a third generation horseman who did not start driving regularly until 2009 ended the 2014 season with 204 victories at Balmoral Park easily outdistancing second place finisher Todd Warren by more than 60 victories. Leonard put up a U.D.R.S. of .330 at Balmoral while horses driven by him earned more than $1.38 million in purses. Willis, who also captured the training title here in 2012, finished up the 2014 season with 71 victories, 23 win ahead of runner-up Erin Elliott. With more than 500 starts at the meet, Willis put up a U.T.R.S. of .266 while his horses earned more than $563,000 in purses. Live racing resumes on Saturday, Jan 3rd. Post time is 7:10 p.m. (central). Balmoral will also race on Sunday, Jan. 4th before heading to a short break. Live racing will then return on Saturday, Jan 31st. by Tom Kelley, for Balmoral Park

Once again Balmoral Park will be offering a pair of lucrative guaranteed pools on Saturday, Dec. 20th. With the $1 Pick 4 going unclaimed on Wednesday night, a big carryover of $17,317 will be added to this Saturday's pool.   With that in mind, Balmoral Park will offer fans a chance to grab some last minute Holiday cash by posting a $50,000 guaranteed pool on the $1 wager with its low takeout of 15%. The Pick 4 is offered on races 10-13 on Saturday night's program. In addition to the Pick 4 guarantee fans will have a chance to snag some additional money they can use to expand their Pick 4 tickets as Balmoral Park will also offer up a guaranteed pool of $20,000 on its 50 cent Pick 5 wager earlier in the night. The low cost wager also went unclaimed last Wednesday meaning an additional $5,877 in carryover money will be added to the pool on Saturday night. The Pick 5, which is on races five through nine on Saturday night and once again features a low 50 cent minimum. 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 Saturday's opener at Balmoral is 7:10 pm (central). The Pick 5 is expected to kick off around 8:35 p.m. (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

Once again Balmoral Park will offer a lucrative guaranteed Pick 5 pool of $20,000 on Saturday, Dec. 13th. Because the 50 cent minimum wager was not hit last Wednesday a nice carryover of $5,026 will be added to Saturday night's pool. The popular low cost Pick 5 wager will be offered on races five through nine on Saturday night. In addition to the Pick 5 guarantee fans will have a chance to walk away with a big payday right after that as Balmoral will also offer its usual Saturday $20,000 guaranteed pool on their $1 Pick 4 wager. The Pick 4, which is on races 10-13 on Saturday night features a low takeout of just 15%. 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 Saturday's opener at Balmoral is 7:10 pm (central). Don't miss this chance to pick up some extra spending money for the Holiday season. by Tom Kelley, for Balmoral Park    

Veteran reinsman Sam Widger was shaken-up slightly in a spill at Maywood Park on Thursday, Dec. 11th but luckily walked away without any further damage. Widger and provisional driver Artie Dick were involved in an incident towards the back of the pack in Thursday's sixth race as the field neared the top of the homestretch. Both drivers were unseated from their bikes and Widger was knocked unconscious momentarily. The 51-year-old Widger was conscious and speaking to medical personnel while being transported by ambulance to nearby Gottlieb Memorial Hospital for further observation. He was expected to be released early Friday morning. Dick was checked on-site by medical personnel and cleared. The horses involved, Alaughandasmile and Classical Imagery were not injured.  by Tom Kelley, for Maywood Park

Drivers Kyle Wilfong and Mike Oosting were involved in a nasty spill in Saturday's ninth race but both somehow managed to get away relatively unscathed with what appears to be just minor bumps and abrasions.   Oosting's mount Special Joe appeared to take a bad step and fell while in contention with less than a sixteenth of a mile to go, catapulting him to the track where he appeared to get hit by a trailing horse. Wilfong, who was driving Extravagant Art was trapped with nowhere to go right behind the fallen horse and was unseated from the bike but wound up being dragged down the track after becoming entangled in his driving lines.   Wilfong was checked on-site by paramedics and taken off the remainder of his drives while Oosting was transported to St.JamesHospital for observation after complaining of pain in his shoulder. Neither horse was injured.     Tom Kelley    

Ladiesith a total of 15 state-bred filly and mare pacers dropped into the entry box, Saturday's Sue Fee Stake was split into a pair of $13,250 divisions. The stake had been scheduled to go back on June 21st but was washed out when torrential rains caused the remainder of the card to be cancelled that evening. In the opening split Paula Smith, James Runyan and Frank Pike's Dallas Jones regained her early season form as she came charging through the lane to score by 2¼ lengths in 1:54.1 over a sloppy track for driver Tim Curtin. Unhurried early as Just By Design (Dave Magee) and then Auniqueaquistion (Dale Hiteman) put up splits of 27.3, 56.0 & 1:25.0 Curtin moved from fifth at the half-mile pole. Moving into a perfect second over spot in fourth as the field turned for home the Joel Smith trained four-year-old set sail for the wire, quickly gobbling up the tired leaders while slicing through a strong headwind. In full flight, the daughter of Sportsmaster--Cams Bett confidently cruised under the wire with her sixth victory of the year. Just By Design shook loose late at the pylons to finish second while Whistle Pig (Casey Leonard) rallied for the show dough. Sent off as the 9-2 choice in the wagering Dallas Jones returned $11.00, $4.40 & $3.60 while running her record to 6-3-3 in 29 starts with earnings of nearly $47,000. In the nightcap John Barnard's Ryleigh's Lilly came flying through the lane to post an impressive 1 ¾ -length victory in 1:53.0 with Mike Oosting at the controls. Ducked off the gate by Oosting, the four-year-old mare settled in fifth as Party Hangover (Todd Warren) led the field through splits of 27.4, 56.2 & 1:24.1. After getting caught up in a stalled outer flow as the field neared the top of the stretch, a confident Oosting tipped three and then four-wide around the tired challengers. Effortlessly picking off one rival after another the Bill Crone trained daughter of Western Hero--Fox Valley Chosen zipped past them all for her sixth victory of the season. State Street Liz (Robert Smolin) turned a ground saving trip into a second place check while Party Hangover held on for third. Sent off as the second choice in the wagering Ryleigh's Lilly returned $5.20, $3.20 & $2.20 while moving her record to 6-3-6 in 29 trips postward with earnings of just over $41,000. Live racing continues on Sunday, Nov. 23rd at BalmoralPark with a 10-race card getting underway at 7:10 p.m. (central). Sunday's $1 Pick 4 features a guaranteed pool of $25,000. With no racing on Thursday, Nov. 27th at MaywoodPark (Thanksgiving) BalmoralPark will present an 11-race card on Wed. Nov. 26th as well. by Tom Kelley, for Balmoral Park

The final stake of the season for Illinois conceived and foaled two-year-old pacing colts was contested on Saturday night at Balmoral Park as a field of seven youngsters met in the $10,200 Betzotic Stake. Division leader Earndawg was dispatched as the 1-9 favorite in the race but it was John Barnard's Mighty Hot Shot who earned the top honors as he rallied in the passing lane to earn a half-length decision in 1:55.2 for driver Casey Leonard. Given a perfect steer by Balmoral's leading reinsman, the gelded son of Hawaiian Cowboy left quickly from post four and proceeded to lead the field through an opening quarter in 29.3. With the heavy favorite getting antsy In The Pocket, Todd Warren pulled Earndawg and quickly charged to the top leading the field through middle splits of 59.1 & 1:28.1. After staving off a first over bid from longshot Dinky Dune (Kyle Wilfong) as the field moved through the stretch Earndawg appeared to be on his way to his ninth win of the season. But the Bill Crone trained Mighty Hot Shot still had plenty left in the tank after the golden journey, storming home in 27.0 to nail the favorite in the closing strides. Earndawg was forced to settle for the runner-up role on this night while Dixie's Boy (Dale Hiteman) was third. The win was the second in 14 starts for Mighty Hot Shot who returned $15.40 & $2.40. Show wagering was not allowed. by Tom Kelley, for Balmoral Park

"Chalk" players were forced to sweat out the result of Wednesday's $10,200 Betzotic Stake for two-year-old ICF trotting colts but in the end 1-5 favorite Jake Quaider finally prevailed, getting up in the last stride to win by a head in 1:58.1 for driver Casey Leonard. Unhurried while sitting fourth in the seven-horse field as Powerful Above All (Mike Oosting) and RT Habenero (Dave Magee) traded blows on the front through opening splits of 29.4 & 58.1. Heading around the final bend Leonard tried to follow a hard charging Captain Greedy (JD Finn) as that colt made a powerful move to the top taking the field by the three-quarter-mile mark in 1:27.2. Desperately trying to reel in the leader who was trotting along nicely with a 2 ½ length advantage at the mid-stretch call, the Nelson Willis trained son of Photo Color--Grace Elizabeth finally found his best stride with 100 yards to go. Gobbling up ground as a leg weary Captain Greedy tried to fight through a stiff headwind Jake Quaider finally poked his head in front in the last stride to win for the fourth time this season. Captain Greedy was forced to settle for the runner-up role while RT Habenero was third. With the win Jake Quaider now boasts a fine record of 4-2-2 in nine starts with earnings of $61,660 for Quaid Racing LLC. The winner returned $2.60, $2.20 & $2.10. Casey Leonard and Jake Quaider managed to rally in the final stride to win Wednesday's $10,200 Betzotic Stake at Balmoral Park. by Tom Kelley, for Balmoral Park

Quaid Racing's Jake Quaider continued his late season surge as he knocked off six other Illinois conceived and foaled two-year-old trotting colts by one and one-half lengts in Wedneday's $40,200 Cardinal Stake at Balmoral Park. The final time was 1:58.2. Confidently handled by leading driver Casey Leonard the altered son of Photo Color--Grace Elizabeth was placed in mid-pack while Powerful Above All (Todd Warren) led the field through splits of 29.2 & 59.1. Getting underway while following live cover from his main rival RT Habanero (Dave Magee) as the field moved around the final bend, Leonard was able to drop in right behind that colt as the pair quickly swallowed up a tiring Powerful Above All while rolling by the three-quarter-mile mark in 1:29.1. Through the lane Jake Quaider effortlessly began to reel in RT Habanero, cruising right by that one while under very minimal urging from Leonard for his third win in eight trips postward. RT Habanero was forced to settle for the runner-up role while Captain Greedy (JD Finn) was a distant third, 5 ¼ lengths behind the winner. Now under the guidance of veteran conditioner Nelson Willis after starting his career in the barn of Ervin Miller, Jake Quaider boasts a record of 3-2-2 in 8 starts with earnings of $51,560. Bet as though defeat was out of the question Jake Quaider returned $2.60, $2.10 and $2.10. The 10-cent Hi-Five was not hit on the night's final race so there will be a carryover of more than $9,600 added to Saturday's Hi-Five wager at Balmoral Park. The Hi-Five, the "ultimate get-out" wager will be held on Race 13 on Saturday's Balmoral Park card. Casey Leonard and Jake Quaider made it look easy in Wednesday's $40,200 Cardinal Stake for 2yo trotting colts. by Tom Kelley, for Balmoral Park  

Continuing her quest to lock up divisional honors among the ICF two-year-old trotting filly set, Dr. Patrick Graham's Fox Valley Yoko took another step towards securing those honors on Sunday night at Balmoral Park as she came charging through the lane to record a 1 ¼ length victory over five rivals in the $40,050 Violet Stake. The final time of 1:58.2 was a new career mark for the good looking youngster. Masterfully handled by driver John De Long, the pair was content to save ground near the back in the compact field of five while Bi Polar Rose (Travis Seekman) strolled through splits of 29.4, 1:00.4 and 1:30.0. After watching their chief rival, Persuasive Look (Casey Leonard) overtake the pace setter as the field moved into the lane, De Long quickly maneuvered the Curt Grummel trained miss into position with a sixteenth of a mile to go. The daughter of Pizzazzed--Yankee Victory Om responded beautifully, finding her top stride in the blink of an eye as she roared home in 27.4 to blow right by her opponents for her fifth win of the year. Persuasive Look was forced to settle for the bridesmaid role for the second straight week while Bi Polar Rose held on for third. With the win Fox Valley Yoko, who was the second choice in the wagering returned $4.40, $2.20, & $2.10 while running her record to 5-3-2 in 11 starts with earnings of nearly $95,000. Also on Sunday night, the $1 Pick 4 went unclaimed so a carryover of $23,792 will be added to Wednesday's (Oct. 29th) pool. Because of the large carryover, there will be a $50,000 guaranteed Pick 4 pool on Wednesday's card. The Pick 4 will be contested on races six through nine on Wednesday night. 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 by Tom Kelley, for Balmoral Park

Once again Balmoral Park will offer a lucrative guaranteed Pick 5 pool of $25,000 on Sunday, October 26. Because the 50 cent minimum wager was not hit on Saturday night's card a nice carryover of $5,677 will be added to Sunday night's pool. The popular low cost Pick 5 wager will be offered on races two through six on Sunday night. In addition to the Pick 5 guarantee fans will have a chance to walk away with a big payday right after that as Balmoral will also offer its usual Sunday $25,000 guaranteed pool on their $1 Pick 4 wager. The Pick 4, which is on races seven through 10 on Sunday night features a low takeout of just 15%. 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 Sunday's opener at Balmoral is 7:10 pm (central). The racing action is highlighted by the $40,050 Violet Stake for ICF two-year-old trotting fillies which goes as race four. by Tom Kelley, for Balmoral Park

With the help of a nice $33,277 carryover from the big American National card on Saturday night and racing fans throughout the country pouring another $106,318 into Sunday's $1 Pick 4 wager at Balmoral Park the popular bet with its low 15% takeout produced a record setting payoff with a single winner taking home a whopping $121,533.70 payout, a new record for a Pick 4 payout in harness racing. The 2-1 favorite State Street Liz (#7) captured the first leg of the wager. Next up 17-1 longshot Nitty Gritty (#2) prevailed by a neck. After that it was the mid-priced 10-1 shot Fox Valley Shiver (#5) who toted home top honors. That set up the big payoff as 7-2 choice Ready (#5) prevailed by a head over 6-5 favorite Rex Passus in the nightcap to give one lucky patron a night to remember. The winning ticket combination of (7,9)-2-5-5 was purchased at an OTB in Brooklyn, New York. The previous record of $67,998 was set in 2010 at the Meadowlands. by Tom Kelley, for Balmoral Park

Balmoral Park will offer a guaranteed Pick 4 pool of $75,000 this Sunday, Oct. 12th. Because the $1 minimum wager was not hit on Saturday's American National card, a big carryover of $33,277 will be added to Sunday night's wagering pool. The popular Pick 4 wager is offered on races seven thru 10 on Sunday's card. Once again the Pick 4 which has a low 15% takeout has a one dollar minimum and features a guaranteed pool each night. 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 Sunday's opener at Balmoral is 7:10 pm (central). Don't miss the chance to cash in on a big payday at Balmoral Park. by Tom Kelley, for Balmoral Park

Market Share, the 2013 Hambletonian winner and victor in the $235,000 American National for 3-year-old colt and gelding trotters, returns to Balmoral Park on Saturday night in Race 9 to defend his harness racing crown in the $166,300 American National Aged Trot. The son of Revenue S-Classical Flirt-Yankee Glide was clocked in 1:53.3 with driver Tim Tetrick at the lines for the Linda Toscano-trained, then-sophomore. Owned by Richard S. Gutnick of Pennsylvania, TLP Stable and J Augustine of New Jersey, Market Share will leave from post five in the field of eight trotters. "Never, never in a million years did we dream that Market Share could be this kind of horse," Toscano offered. "He's just one of those horses that enjoys his work and tries real hard. It's surprising, but that's a good thing." Bred by Hayley Moore of Paris, Kentucky, Market Share, a $16,000 yearling purchase from the 2010 Lexington Selected Sale, won all five of his 2-year-old starts over Freehold Raceway's half-mile oval. Toscano and principal owner Richard Gutnick were uncertain if he could excel at the bigger tracks, such as the Meadowlands. So it was up to Market Share to show them. In 2012, at age 3, Market Share won the $1.5 million Hambletonian at the Meadowlands and the $1 million Canadian Trotting Classic at Mohawk en route to earnings of $2 million. He also trotted the fastest mile in the history of Maywood Park when he captured the $108,000 Galt in 1:54.4, erasing Green Day's previous track record of 1:55.1, set in 2007. As a result, he was named the Dan Patch Award winner for best 3-year-old male trotter. Last season, his wins included the Breeders Crown Open Trot, Maple Leaf Trot, TVG Free For All Series Championship and American-National Stakes. He led all older trotters with $1.07 million in purses and received the Dan Patch Award for best older male trotter. "It's a treat to be able to bring one back like that as a 5-year-old," Toscano said. "By bringing back the older horses, people recognize the names and the horses become the stars again. I think that's what is missing in our industry. I think it's a real good thing." This year Market Share has added another $357,296 to his bank account, pushing his career earnings to $3,471,308 via a $37,200 Maple Leaf elimination at Mohawk, the $250,000 Maxi Lee at Harrah's Chester--when he set a new world record and career best clocking of 1:50.2 for an aged gelding trotter on a five-eighths mile oval--and a victory in a $40,000 Cutler elimination in 1:50.3. Driven by Tim Tetrick, Market Share surpassed the previous world mark of 1:50.3 that was co-held by Uncle Peter and Sevruga, both set in 2013 when he scored that record clocking in the Maxi Lee. Market Share now has 24 wins, seven seconds and 12 thirds in 53 career starts. On Oct. 5, he was race-timed in 1:52, finishing fifth by three lengths in the $173,000 Allerage Trot at Lexington's Red Mile. Market Share is the fourth of six foals out of his unraced dam Classical Flirt, and is a half-brother to Photogenic Legs (by Classic Photo) 3, 1:57.2h ($102,892) and to Broadway Legs (by Broadway Hall) 3, 1:55 ($57,225). By Kimberly Rinker

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