Day At The Track

Looking for a 'Party' in the Grandma Ann

06:43 PM 13 Sep 2012 NZST
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Party Hangover
Party Hangover - A daughter of Party At Artsplace-Maura Hanover

Throughout his three-plus decades of involvement in the sport as a harness racing trainer and driver, Jesse De Long has captured 291 wins as a driver and 504 as a trainer, however, by his own admission, he has failed to enter the winner's circle to celebrate a triumph in a big stakes race.

He is extremely hopeful that circumstance will be relegated to his past after Party Hangover's engagement in the $159,000 Grandma Ann final at Balmoral Park this weekend.

"I've never, and I'm sorry for getting a little broken up, but I've never won a big race like this and I think she's got a good shot," said De Long. "I've been second a lot of times. I thought this filly had a chance in the Maywood Pace, because she's so good on a half, but Sleazy Does It has probably been the toughest competition out of that group this year and she was really sharp that night."

A 3-year-daughter of Party At Artsplace and the Big Towner mare Maura Hanover, Party Hangover was purchased privately by De Long for Mark Benrus of Premier Racing Stable and Horsemen's Financial Agency last August after compiling a record of 11-9-1-0 competing on the Illinois Fair Circuit. The filly put more than $10,000 in her bank account while contesting events worth $1,000 to a little over $4,000, except for the $13,162 Illinois Stallion Stakes at the Charleston Fair on August 3, 2011, which would be her last start for her former trainer Kelcey Perymond and owner Kelly Perymond.

Her last start as a 2-year-old and first trip to the post under De Long's tutelage, was in the $10,000 County Fair Challenge Championship at Du Quoin on August 28, where she was second on the line but placed first.

"We, meaning my sons and I, race a lot of horses at the fairs and she was tearing them up," De Long remembered. "We knew all the times she was going in over the different tracks and how he was racing her, so we ended up buying her. We got to race her one time last year and I told Mark (Benrus) there aren't lot of horses in Illinois, so she could end up being one of the best next year, as she has almost always gotten a check. I told him we should stake her to everything we can in Illinois and luckily, he agreed.

"We own a farm in Wisconsin so after that race we turned her out until last winter," he continued. "There wasn't anything wrong, but they had raced her tough at the fairs and I liked her and wanted her to grow. She wasn't exactly thin, but as I told Mark if you want to try her in stakes, I don't want to start racing her in January, I'd like to start jogging her in February so I can have a horse for the whole season and after he agreed, that's what we did."

Party Hangover's 2012 pari-mutuel debut was a victory in a $5,300 non-winners event on March 1 at Maywood Park. She then shipped to Yonkers Raceway to contest the Petticoat Pacing Series where she finished seventh placed sixth in a $12,500 division on March 19, and came home third in another $12,500 division of the series on March 26.

Returning to the Illinois pari-mutuel tracks, Party Hangover was third in the $112,000 Maywood Filly Pace on June 15 and second in the $56,000 Ann Vonian final on July 28.

She has been at the top of her game in recent starts, scoring in the $40,000 Illinois State Fair championship at Springfield on August 16, the $20,000 Time Dancer on August 25 at Du Quoin and her Grandma Ann elimination on Sept. 8 at Balmoral.

In all, Party Hangover has gone to the gate on 17 occasions this year, with six victories, three seconds and three third place finishes, and collected $83,180 in earnings.

When she leaves from post four on Saturday in the Grandma Ann championship, carded as race six, she will be attempting to increase her string of consecutive victories to four and possibly lower her lifetime mark of 1:51.3.

"In the Hanover (Stake on July 14) she made a break," De Long explained. "My son John, who was driving her, went for the inside pacing lane and she just didn't want to go down in there as she was used to going out on the right side. He fought her a little too much and that's what she did, otherwise I think she would have went right on by them again.

"John thinks the more we go on with her the faster she will go and the easier she will become to drive," he continued. "You can go down the inside with her now and he told me you can do anything you want with her now. I had her sharp for the Hanover, but she's been perfect since and is still pretty sharp right now, so I'm hoping she'll be pretty good as nothing has been bothering her."

De Long thinks Party Hangover's best attribute is her will or determination.

"This little filly will never ever, ever give up," he said. "I've never had a filly that wants to be in contention the whole race that is so willing to make a move and you can drive her anyway you want to during the mile. She has really nice gate speed, but she can race from anywhere on the track. She does like to be up on the front and in the hunt, which in Illinois right now it is very close between five or six fillies. If you aren't in the hunt, they can all come home.

"(For the Grandma Ann elimination) we drew into the division all of them (the top contenders), except one, were in and she was fortunate enough to be in the right place at the right time."

Once Saturday's race is in the books, the filly will receive a short sojourn on the family farm before resuming the latter portion of this year's campaign.

"We are going to give her a little rest and then she goes to the Cinderella Pace at Maywood," De Long said. "She has always been really good at Maywood and I think she will be even better towards the end of the year. She was good for the Maywood Pace, but she wasn't really as ready for that race as she is for the races now. She is really, really good right now and is a pretty easy filly to keep."

The $159,000 Grandma Ann Championship


1-No Respect-Todd Warren-Donna Lee Ozment

2-Melodie Hotspur-John Roberts-Warren Reck

3-Mj's Bid-Michael Oosting-Richard Schrock

4-Party Hangover-John De Long-Jesse De Long

5-Sleazy Does It-Marcus Miller-Nelson Willis

6-Onlytheyankeeknows-Michael Cox-Michael Cox

7-Fox Valley Hermia-Ronnie Gillespie-Ronnie Gillespie

8-The Face Of Love-Michael Oosting-Perry Smith

9-Financial Effort-Robert Smolin-Lloyd Daulton

10-Hostess Lisa-Dale Hiteman-Brooke Vermett

by Kimberly French, USTA Web Newsroom Senior Correspondent

Courtesy of the United States Trotting Association Web Newsroom

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