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The Chicago Sun Times reported today that longtime harness racing handicapper, Tom Krish, passed away on Sunday. Before coming to the newspaper, Krish was the chart caller and wrote the program race comments for the local tracks, Sportsman’s Park, Hawthorne Racecourse, Maywood Park and Balmoral Park. No details about funeral arrangements have been announced. The Chicago Sun Times will continue to run harness racing comments in the newspaper. By Steve Wolf, for Harnesslink

CHICAGO – Balmoral Park's closing hasn't meant total disaster for the harness racing industry that was clustered in south suburban Crete. Horses and horseman from the historic Balmoral Park race track have migrated about an hour north to the Hawthorne Race Course in Stickney, just outside of Chicago. The 125-year-old racetrack, which hosts thoroughbred racing in the spring, fall and winter, reached an agreement with the Illinois Harness Horsemen's Association to keep harness racing in Illinois. Harness racing started at the track at 3501 S. Laramie just a half mile north of I-55 on Cicero Avenue this weekend, and will resume in the summer. Hawthorne says it's saving thousands of Chicagoland jobs and hundreds of small businesses, many in the rural area around Crete in the south suburbs. The historic Balmoral Park and Maywood Park in Melrose Place, the only two harness racing venues in Illinois, recently closed after their bankrupt owners requested too few racing dates for 2016. Many of those affected didn't know whether they'd be able to stay or if they'd have to relocate to be closer to other horse racing tracks, such as Hoosier Park in Anderson, Ind. At one time, Illinois had five harness racing tracks, which also included Sportsman's Park, Washington Park and Aurora Downs. "This is a pivotal year for Illinois racing," Hawthorne President and General Manager Tim Carey said. "Race tracks are closing, competition from other states has never been stronger and there is no definitive timeline for gaming reform in Illinois that would allow us to truly compete on the national racing circuit. But we have an obligation to the people who work in this sport and we're doing all we can to keep it going." Hawthorne spent 70 days planning how to convert the track from thoroughbred to harness racing, which included removing over 11,000 tons of sand. They were able to get it ready in just 72 hours. "Hawthorne has really shown a commitment to Illinois racing in agreeing to host a January harness meet," Illinois Harness Horsemen's Association President Dave McCaffrey said. "There is a twinge of excitement among horsemen and hopefully we're going to have a good product for players to bet on: full fields, stakes series, top drivers. It’s sad that Maywood closed and now Balmoral is closing, but there is a lot to be thankful for with the new opportunity at Hawthorne and fans should be excited for what’s coming." Winter racing will take place five nights a week at Hawthorne until February 6. Ten races will take place a night, starting at 7:20 p.m. Monday through Thursday. Admission costs $2. Weekly promotions include $2 beer, hot dogs and nachos on Friday, $22.95 all-you-can-eat buffets from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Saturdays, and second chance drawings for a $500 prize after the 7th race Sundays. For more information, call (708) 780-3700 or visit By Joseph S. Pete Reprinted with permission of the site

The future of Balmoral Park is still up in the air after an atmosphere of sadness and nostalgia hung over what presumably was the final night of racing Saturday at the historic Crete horse track. The owners of Balmoral and a sister track, Maywood Park, which closed this fall, are operating while in bankruptcy, and have set a deadline for Monday to seek offers for Balmoral after rejecting a bid earlier this month by local businessman and horseman John Barnard. No harness racing dates for 2016 at Balmoral were issued by the Illinois Racing Board, and the Johnston family, which owns the park, are expected to file a proposal for exiting Chapter 11 by the end of this week. Barnard has 30 horses at Balmoral that he'll relocate next month, and two of his horses — Macho Burbon and Hudson Jesse — were winners there on Saturday. A larger-than-usual crowd attended Saturday's races, but Barnard said that "most people thought we were at a wake or a funeral," describing the overall mood. "There's so much history," he said of the park, which opened in 1926 as Lincoln Fields. "I'd hate to see the place torn down." Gloria Buitron, who has bartended at the harness horse racing facility for nearly 40 years, held back tears Saturday thinking about all of the people who would lose their jobs and about the second family she was losing. "This is my life," she said. "This is all I have." Buitron said she plans to retire next year because she feels she's too old to seek another job. Elizabeth Krawczykowski, who was working maintenance Saturday, also found it hard to contain her tears. "I love working here," she said. "You just have to say goodbye to everybody." The track owners filed for bankruptcy on Christmas Eve a year ago, shortly after a federal appeals court ordered them to pay nearly $79 million to casinos in Aurora, Elgin and Joliet. The filing was meant to stay that judgment and give the owners breathing room to reorganize. The appeals court had overturned a lower court ruling in a lawsuit that alleged the owners, specifically John Johnston, Balmoral Park's president, agreed to make a $100,000 campaign contribution to former Gov. Rod Blagojevich in return for Blagojevich signing legislation extending an agreement to share casino gambling revenue with horse racing tracks. The contribution was never made, however. The track owners are contesting that appeals court ruling, and arguments in the appeal are expected to be heard Jan. 13, according to a court filing. Ken Churilla, director of marketing for Balmoral, said that between 2,000 and 3,000 fans visit the park on a typical Saturday night, but this weekend's crowd far surpassed that number. Cathy Tucker, of Crown Point, Ind., said she used to come to Balmoral several years ago but came Saturday because it was the final night. "I think it's kind of sad," she said. "I regret not coming back more often because now it's closing." David Gordon, of Joliet, said he's been going to Balmoral almost every weekend for the past 25 years. "I think this is more exciting than playing slots or table games," he said. Ken Wessler, of Grant Park, said he's enjoyed the camaraderie with race fans at the park. He said he's been going to Balmoral almost every Saturday since the early 1980s. Wessler owns a barbershop in Steger called Centre and has even created a horse racing theme inside his business. He said he'll miss this pastime. "I'll just have to do without," Wessler said. Crete Mayor Mike Einhorn said he had been at the track for the races Dec. 19, and had planned to be there for the final night. He said he's concerned for all of the people who make a living from Balmoral, whether it's caring for the horses or serving food at concession stands. "Just all of those people who keep it running," he said. "Will people move out of the area? Will they stay and try to find jobs (locally)?" The mayor said "it's kind of hard to quantify" the economic impact of people who attend races and, either before or after, might patronize area businesses such as restaurants. But losing the track is "one more thing that puts us farther behind the 8-ball," Einhorn said. When the tracks filed for bankruptcy, Balmoral directly employed 141 people, according to an initial court filing, but it noted the tracks "are the engine that drives thousands of additional jobs" tied to the racing. A Dec. 14 auction of the assets of Balmoral and Maywood in Melrose Park was conducted after efforts over the summer and early fall to sell the tracks and keep them open fell flat. Just one qualified bid for Balmoral's assets was received, from Barnard, but it wasn't accepted by the track's owners, who got an extension to Monday to see if there might be other offers. Maywood closed Oct. 2. The track owners this summer sought 2016 harness racing dates from the Illinois Racing Board, but the board awarded harness dates for next year only to Hawthorne Race Course in Cicero. A group that represents breeders, trainers, drivers and others in the industry, the Illinois Harness Horsemen's Association, had sided with the board in its decision because Balmoral and Maywood had each sought just two racing dates a week for next year, too few to make it worthwhile for those people who make their living in harness racing, according to Tony Somone, executive director of the Hinsdale-based nonprofit. Einhorn said he understands why the track owners sought a limited number of dates. "You really can't expect them to put in for a lot of dates considering there is the uncertainty with this huge judgment against the owners," he said. Illinois Rep. Thaddeus Jones, D-Calumet City, whose district includes Balmoral, is chief sponsor of legislation that would give a minimum of 30 days of racing next year to each of the two tracks. It appears that lawmakers will take action on the measure before the end of next month, according to a synopsis of the bill, which was first introduced in February as an amendment to the state's video gambling law. A message left at Jones' district office last week was not returned. With only Hawthorne awarded racing dates for next year, and Balmoral closed, the impact is felt by harness drivers such as Bobby Smolin, who lives just a few minutes from Balmoral and does not look forward to having to drive to Hawthorne for races next month. Along with riding Macho Burbon to a win, Smolin also came in first place again during the eighth race with horse Five Knuckle Shuffle. "It's like how it is for NASCAR drivers," Smolin said of horse racing. "It's the biggest adrenaline rush you can have, especially if you win." Barnard said he's been a racing fan all of his life but just began owning and racing horses in 2003. He said the south suburbs have had their share of economic challenges, and the closing of Balmoral would only make it worse. "This is just one more problem that's going to continue to set the south suburbs back," Barnard said. "Racing needs help from the state of Illinois." Einhorn said that should Balmoral never host another race, finding a new use for the nearly 200-acre property would be a challenge. Citing figures from the Crete Township assessor, the mayor said the property has a market value of more than $9 million and pays $400,000 a year in property taxes. "It's not like it (the park) can easily be repurposed," he said. "It's not like a warehouse that you could do something with." By Mike Nolan and Frank Vaisvilas Reprinted with permission of The Daily Southtown

The curtain came down on at Balmoral Park last night with $1,347,100 bet on the last program of 2016 and likely the final live harness racing card in the long history of the racetrack. It was the third highest mutuel handle of the year. Only Super Night and American National Night were higher. A dense fog and a steady drizzle didn’t dampen a large and enthusiastic crowd that filled the track’s apron in the Balmoral Park finale. They watched Bobby Smolin give the 4-1 longshot Fiveknuckleshuffle (11.60) a winning pocket-trip in the eighth race conditioned pace feature, overtaking the 3-5 heavy favorite Ice Scraper in the late going of the 1:51.1 mile. The soon-to-be 8-year-old ICF pacer’s win was his eighth of the year for owners John Cross of Onley, Illinois, Bonnie Harlow and Robert Moser, both of Hannibal, Missouri, and trainer Mike Brink of Springfield, Illinois. Fiveknuckleshuffle proved to be fastest from the gate and parked Ice Scraper (Brian Carpenter) through a quick 26.2 first quarter on a sloppy track before taking the two-hole. The public’s choice got a 28.4 breather to the 55.2 half and reached the three-quarters in 1:23.1 but couldn’t hold off the late charming Illinois bred pacer. In the only trot race of the night John Barnard’s Hudson Jesse ($3.80) easily won for the third time in her last four starts in the sixth race for Casey Leonard and trainer Bill Crone. The six-year-old mare was almost two lengths the best over 3-1 longshot Changed It All in the 1:56.1 mile. The $2,850 winner’s share of the $5,750 purse left Hudson Jesse just $161 short of $300,000 in career earnings. Driver Casey Leonard and trainer Nelson Willis were honored in Balmoral’swinner’s circle for capturing their respective titles a second consecutive year. In the Balmoral Park finale Matt Krueger had the hottest hand among the drivers, chalking up three winners. Leonard, Smolin and Carpenter each had two. By Mike Paradise

Eighteen years have passed since Balmoral Park picked-up the baton and took over as the Chicago circuit’s premier harness racing track, hosting Super Night and most of the other major ICF stake championships. That all came about in 1998 when old Sportsman’s Park a year earlier booted out harness racing and became strictly a thoroughbred/auto racing facility. Just a few years later that coming together of horse and gasoline fumes proved to be a financial calamity and the Cicero, IL track soon went belly-up. Unfortunately live harness racing at Balmoral Park does the same tonight but not before it became a major player in the growth and economy of the racetrack’s surrounding communities. Harness racing thrived at Balmoral for many years. Top-notch horses and a collection of drivers that could hold their own with any track in the country at one time was the norm at the far-south suburban facility. Sadly those days slowly eroded away at Balmoral when the lure of much bigger purses, boded by race-track casino money in other states drained the Illinois horse, driver and trainer colonies. Back-to-back years with “Veto’s” from former Governor Quinn on a Casino expansion bill that would allow slots at our Illinois racetracks sent Balmoral Park and its sister track Maywood Park, into a death-spiral. Nonetheless if we had a Coroner’s report on Balmoral’s demise it would probably read: “Fatal Wound Self-Inflicted.” After tonight we’ll be left with just memories of harness racing at Balmoral and we have plenty of them When Balmoral hosted its first Super Night in 1998 there were plenty of sceptics who were proved wrong. Some 9,200 patrons, at that time the largest crowd in Balmoral Park history, filled the track and its apron and saw Big Tom, one of best ICF pacers of all time, stable-mate Ohyouprettything and the mare Shady Veil all follow their Sportsman’s 1997 Super Night victories with championships that night. One year later over 10,000 fans passed through the turn-styles on Super Night 1999 and a record $2.7 million handle was established. The on-track attendance rose to 10,769 on Super Night 2000, helping set a new Super Night record $2.9 million mutuel handle. That year the Illinois Hall of Fame trotter Plesac won the Su Mac Lad crown by an amazing 19 and 1/2 lengths. A year later Rattle And Rock overcame the outside 10-hole in the Langley Final and won a share of the Illinois Department of Agriculture’s $1 million bonus. The same evening Mini Me capped a brilliant freshman season with a romp in the $300,000 Colt Orange and Blue. Later Super Nights gave us some other celebrated ICF horses as Loyal Opposition, Ideal Towne, King Johnny, Parklane Powerful, Home Bed Advantage, Mucho Sleazy, My Boy David, Enzo The Baker, Street Dancer, Sportsfancy, Taser Gun, and Incredible Tillie, just to name a dozen or so. Balmoral Park also gave us “American National Night.” While the American National stakes were born and raised into prominence at Sportsman’s Park they were always spread out through their five-month long meetings. Those American National’s started out that way at Balmoral but later were smartly condensed into one single huge gala evening of racing that year-after-year brought to Illinois some of the very best pacers and trotters in North American along with the crème de la crème of the country’s drivers. I know I’m not alone when I say: “Thanks for the Memories” Balmoral Park. By Mike Paradise The Illinois Harness Horsemen's Association

Th no acceptable offers received to keep two Chicago-area harness racing tracks running, the operators of Balmoral Park and Maywood Park will auction off the assets of the tracks Monday. The sale, which is not open to the general public, will take place at the offices of the Chicago law firm representing the tracks' owners, the Johnston family, in a bankruptcy case filed nearly a year ago after operators of Chicago-area casinos won a $79 million judgment against the track operators. Along with the assets of the tracks themselves, the sale will include off-track betting parlors, including one in Crestwood, operated by the tracks' owners. In court filings, the tracks' owners said efforts earlier this year to find buyers willing to keep Balmoral, in Crete, and Maywood, in Melrose Park, operating were not successful. Maywood closed Oct. 2, and racing at Balmoral, which has hosted horse racing since 1926, will wrap up at the end of this year. The track owners had, this summer, sought 2016 harness racing dates from the Illinois Racing Board, which in the fall awarded dates for next year only to Hawthorne Race Course in Cicero. Illinois Rep. Thaddeus Jones, D-Calumet City, whose district includes Balmoral, has proposed legislation that would give a minimum of 30 days of racing next year to each of the two tracks. The Illinois Harness Horsemen's Association, which represents breeders, trainers, drivers and others in the industry, said the organization actually supported the Racing Board's decision because Balmoral and Maywood had each sought only two racing dates a week next year, far too few to support the people who make their living in harness racing. Owners, in court filings, said that from May through July they contacted possible operators about buying and operating the tracks, but no acceptable offers were received. They had hoped that legislation that would allow slots at horse racing tracks, which never came to pass, would prompt interest among potential buyers, according to filings. There is no "stalking horse" bid to set the pace for the auction, and no reserve price has been set, although offers are subject to approval by the track owners and a hearing confirming the results of the sale is scheduled for Tuesday in federal bankruptcy court. At the end of October, the track operators applied for licenses to continue operating the OTBs next year, noting that the betting sites could continue to operate even though the tracks themselves no longer have live racing. The Racing Board is scheduled to take up that matter at its meeting Tuesday as well as receive an update on the tracks' Chapter 11 case. However, the current method of distributing OTB wagering revenue rewards tracks hosting live racing, so it's unclear how future operators of the parlors, if not affiliated with another track, would benefit. A year ago, a federal appeals court ordered the Balmoral and Maywood operators to pay almost $79 million to casinos in Aurora, Elgin and Joliet, prompting the Christmas Eve bankruptcy filing. The appeals court had overturned a lower court ruling in a lawsuit that alleged the track owners, specifically John Johnston, Balmoral's president, had paid a $100,000 campaign contribution to former Gov. Rod Blagojevich in return for Blagojevich signing legislation extending an agreement to share casino gambling revenue with state horse racing tracks. The contribution was never made, however. The track owners are appealing the ruling and arguments in the case are expected to be heard starting Jan. 13, according to court filings. By Mike Nolan of The Daily Southtown Reprinted with permission of the site

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

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

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

State Rep. Thaddeus Jones, D-Calumet City, is sponsoring legislation in the Illinois House to prevent the closing of Balmoral Park and Maywood Park, harness racing tracks, at the end of the year. Jones, whose district includes Crete, where Balmoral Park is located, admitted to me that his effort is a long shot, "but the only hope we have right now of keeping Balmoral Park open next year so that it might attract a buyer." The lawmaker questioned the Illinois Racing Board's decision to take harness racing dates away from Balmoral and Maywood, which had historically held them, and give them to Hawthorne Race Course. "There was no public discussion about this, no consultation with state legislators, and we don't know exactly what information the racing board was acting on when it made its decision," Jones said, adding that he wants to hold a public hearing in Chicago to find out how the board reached its decision. Jones' bill, H.B. 2663, would amend the Illinois Racing Act of 1975 and allocate a minimum of 30 days of racing in the next year to any race track that was in good standing during the current year, meaning Balmoral and Maywood. Under the current law, the off track betting operations associated with Balmoral and Maywood could remain open for a few years, but would be placed in jeopardy by the way OTB money is distributed, according to Jones. Jack Kelly, a former lobbyist for Balmoral and Maywood, said gambling revenues at OTB parlors are divided up among racetracks under a complicated system that rewards "host tracks" which are featuring live races. All the revenue wagered at local OTB parlors, he said, goes to those tracks that have live racing at the time (day or night), which has ultimately resulted in what he called a fairly equal distribution of funds between Arlington International Racecourse, Hawthorne, Maywood and Balmoral. According to Kelly, Balmoral and Maywood generate about one-third of all the OTB revenue in the Chicago metro area. But if Maywood and Balmoral have no live racing next year, they would get none of that revenue split. So Jones' bill would alter the "host" system that determines how revenues are split on bets made at OTBs and inter-tracks. The change would allow each OTB and race track to retain the commissions and purse money earned from betting out-of-state races at their respective operations. Jones admitted that at this point he can't even muster the votes to get his measure out of a House committee. "So my goal now is to get a hearing in Chicago where we can go into how the Illinois Gaming Board made its decision and how it was influenced by the people at competing racetracks in the hope that once people understand how these decisions were made they will start questioning the entire process," he said. Jones said he believes Arlington and Hawthorne used a $78 million civil judgment against the Johnston Family, which owns Balmoral and Maywood, as fodder to sway the votes of racing board members. The Johnstons were forced to file for bankruptcy after being caught up in the Gov. Rod Blagojevich scandal, resulting in a civil lawsuit filed by casinos for allegedly offering campaign contributions to the former governor in exchange for the state extending an agreement to share casino gambling revenue with the two racetracks. The contribution apparently was never made and the deal never completed. "The racing board decided to take the harness racing dates away from Maywood and Balmoral because of that, but if it was a matter of them saying they wanted to clean up horse racing in Illinois and punish the tracks involved in the scandal, that could have been done back in 2011 when the information first came out," Jones said. "Instead, they waited for a decision in the civil suit. "What I'm interested in is the economic impact on the communities I represent," Jones continued. "We have 270 acres of land out there in Crete that really isn't of much use for anything other than a race track. Its economic impact on Crete, Steger, Beecher, Monee and other surrounding communities is between $2 million and $3 million a year. "There are hundreds of jobs at stake, either connected to the track directly -- tellers, food service staff, security, parking attendants, maintenance staff people who work the backstretch -- and those people employed by businesses that do business with the track," Jones said. "There are also people who live on the track, at Balmoral, and some of them may be able to relocate, but many of them will have no place to live. "Finally, to sell that track to a new buyer, you have to be able to offer them something in return. No one is going to buy a race track if they are not guaranteed race dates by the state. It would be foolish to invest that kind of money. Our only hope of attracting a buyer, of retaining those jobs and that revenue for the businesses in the community, is to keep the track operating until a buyer can be found." Jones said he hopes to convince south suburban mayors to support his measure and lobby their lawmakers to back his bill. Earlier this week, the legislative and policy committee of the Will County Board voted to back the legislation. "This reminds me of the closing of Oak Forest Hospital," said Jones, who testified against the closing at a public hearing. "The closing of that hospital had a significant economic impact on the south suburbs. We lost jobs and revenue and most of that hospital remains vacant. We can't keep allowing our government, which we pay taxes to support, to work against the best interests of the people of the south suburbs. We have to take a stand and put a stop to this. I believe we can do it." While Jones sounded optimistic, I'm not convinced there's time to reverse the gaming board's decision. Maywood has already shut down its operations and Balmoral is in the process of doing that, although it remains open for harness racing this year. In addition, the Illinois Harness Horsemen's Association, which represents breeders, trainers, drivers and others in the industry – came out in support of the Racing Board's decision because Balmoral and Maywood had each sought only two racing days a week next year, far too few to support the people who make their living in harness racing. Hawthorne will host 117 days of harness racing next year, down from the 192 dates at Maywood and Balmoral Park this year, but far more than what those tracks had requested in 2016. Trainers and horse owners also told me that purses at Balmoral had decreased significantly in recent years making it nearly impossible for them to show a profit. They expressed optimism that Hawthorne's purses would increase, making it easier for them to make a living. Jones said he had not reached out to the horsemen, but planned to do so in the near future. "I respect their concerns and their problems," Jones said, "but this is about the larger community. This is about the impact on the entire south suburban region. And they have to understand that." Jones said he hoped to have his public hearing on Balmoral and Maywood sometime before Thanksgiving in order to gain support for his bill before Christmas. Since there is no place to find the odds on such things, I'm officially setting the line at 100-to-1. You know, I've always been a sucker for long shots. By Phil Kadner Reprinted with permission of The Southtown News


Balmoral Park - The $136,500 American National for Aged pacers Saturday at Balmoral Park see's Foiled Again, the richest Standardbred of all time, butt heads with this year's Breeders Crown victor, Always B Miki. Only four other horses were dropped in the box to vie against these two standouts. The seemingly-indefatigable Foiled Again, now just two months away from celebrating his 12th birthday and also a Breeders Crown winner, will leave from post five with regular driver Yannick Gingras in the sulky for trainer Ron Burke. The son of Dragon Again, out of the Artsplace mare In A Safe Place has racked up $7,281,913 in one of the most stellar careers ever in the sport of harness racing. Despite being named after cartoon villain Snidely Whiplash's favorite saying of "Curses, foiled again!" by his breeder Barbara Matthews, Foiled Again has bested every hurdle set before him. Owned by Burke Racing Stable, Weaver Bruscemi and JJK Stables (Joseph Koury, Joseph Koury, Jr. and Kevin Koury), Foiled Again earned the majority of his money after his 6-year-old season. Co-owner Bruscemi, of Cannonsburg, PA, once remarked that "to find another horse like Foiled Again would be like saying you want to find the next Michael Jordan. It's unreasonable." If Foiled Again could speak, he'd likely say "True That!" with a plethora of accomplishments to his credit that few pacers ever attain. For instance, he's the only harness horse to compete strictly in North America and earn more than $1 million for three consecutive seasons (2011, 2012, 2013). He was named the 2011 Dan Patch Pacer of the Year by the U.S. Harness Writer's Association--the only pacer older than four ever to earn that honor--and his Breeders Crown win--having captured the pinnacle event for aged horses as a 9-year-old, was the oldest ever in Breeders Crown history for a pacer in 2013. Foiled Again also holds the record for the most miles paced in 1:55 or faster and as a 9-year-old rocketed to a winning mile in 1:48 at Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs, setting a world record for the fastest mile ever paced by an older horse on a five-eighths mile oval. He's a three-time winner of Northfield Park's Battle of Lake Erie and one of only a handful of Standardbreds to have a Breyer model created and sold in his honor. "He's a horse that never ceases to amaze you and he's not one to ever be underestimated," said Gingras. "He always shows up and never gives you less than 200%." Besides these accomplishments, the bay gelding has also won the Ben Franklin Pace, the Canadian Pacing Derby, the Levy Memorial, the Quillen Memorial, the Molson Pace, the TVG Championship Series and most recently took the $65,000 Hoosier Park Pacing Derby in a wire-to-wire 1:50.4 triumph with Gingras at the lines on Oct. 30 at that Indiana venue. Foiled Again's younger rival, the 4-year-old Always B Miki, is unbeaten this year in just three starts, but all have been impressive victories for the team of trainer Jimmy Takter, driver David Miller and owners Bluewood Stable, Roll the Dice Stable, and Christina Takter. Lifetime, the son of Always A Virgin-Art Stopper-Artsplace has won 17 of 34 races and earned $1,154,366. His last victory was a near gate-to-wire effort in the $400,000 Breeders Crown Pace that saw him stop the timer in 1:49.3. "This horse has a heck of a back story," said Takter. "He was supplemented to the Breeders Crown last year at two and won his elimination, then had to be scratched from the final." Always B Miki has more than made up for that unfortunate twist of fate as a sophomore, when he had to be scratched from harness racing's biggest event. It was discovered at the time that he had fractured a pastern bone, which resulted in him having surgery and substantial time away from the racetrack. Partnered with Takter over the winter, Always B Miki began prepping for his 4-year-old campaign when he fractured the opposite pastern bone, which necessitated more time off to recover. He did not return to the races until Oct. 3, when he notched a 1:49 mile at Hoosier Park, drawing off by 5¼ lengths in an Indiana Sires Stake. After that he headed to Woodbine Raceway where he swept both his Breeders Crown elimination and final with impressive efforts. Also in this American National line-up are Foiled Again's stablemate's Bettor's Edge--a winner of $1,580,300 lifetime--and Ultimate Beachboy, a winner of $425,593 from 18 career victories. Joe Seekman harnesses $723,502-winner Let's Drink On It, while Chris Oaks sends out million-dollar earner Luck Be Withyou from the rail. By Simon Augustus, for Balmoral Park  

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

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

David Miller enjoyed one of the most memorable days of his harness racing career less than two weeks ago when he won a record five Breeders Crown finals at Woodbine Racetrack. On Saturday, he will be reunited with two of those champions, pacer Always B Miki and trotter The Bank, in American-National Stakes events at Balmoral Park. Balmoral Park hosts eight American-National Stakes on Saturday, with the final three races in the group featuring Breeders Crown winners: Freaky Feet Pete in the $150,000 contest for 3-year-old male pacers, The Bank in the $204,000 race for 3-year-old male trotters, and Always B Miki in the $136,500 event for older pacers. Post time is 6:50 p.m. (CST) for the night's first race, which is the non-wagering $101,350 American-National for older trotters. The pari-mutuel card begins 20 minutes later. Always B Miki, trained by Jimmy Takter, is undefeated in three races this year since returning from two injuries that left the stallion sidelined for 11 months. He won his Breeders Crown final by 5-1/2 lengths and has not seen anyone finish nearer than three lengths in his three starts. For his career, the 4-year-old has won 17 of 34 races and earned $1.15 million. Always B Miki is owned by Bluewood Stable, Roll The Dice Stable, and Christina Takter. "He's taking on older horses with not much racing under his belt this season," Miller said. "I feel that makes it pretty special to do what he's done. He amazes me at times." The American-National for older pacers also includes the sport's all-time richest horse, Foiled Again, who is coming off a win in the Hoosier Park Pacing Derby that pushed his lifetime earnings to $7.28 million. Ben Franklin Pace winner Luck Be Withyou, Bettor's Edge, Ultimate Beachboy, and Let's Drink On It complete the field. "It's not going to be a cakewalk, that's for sure," Miller said. "You can never take Foiled Again too lightly and it's a nice bunch of horses. But (Always B Miki) will give a good effort, I'm sure of that. If he comes back to the way he was in the Breeders Crown, he should be fine." The Bank, who surpassed $1 million in career purses with his Breeders Crown win, meets a group of rival 3-year-old male trotters Saturday that includes multiple open stakes-winners Habitat and Muscle Diamond, two-time Ontario Sire Stakes champion Dont Rush, and Homicide Hunter, once beaten in 17 starts in 2015. For the year, The Bank has won four of 16 races and finished second on eight occasions. In the Breeders Crown, he upset stablemate Pinkman at odds of 14-1. Two of The Bank's runner-up finishes this season came to Hambletonian champion Pinkman, who is the sport's leading money-winning trotter this year. The Bank is trained by Takter and owned by Christina Takter, Goran Falk, and Goran Anderberg. "Any time you can upset a horse like Pinkman, it's pretty special," Miller said, reflecting on the Breeders Crown. "The horse raced unbelievable that night. The trip he went and doing what he did was pretty neat. He picked a good night to stand up on his own." Miller will try to upend Freaky Feet Pete --- who has won 14 of 16 races this year --- with Lost For Words in the American-National for 3-year-old male pacers. Lost For Words has won only once in his most recent 13 starts, but during that span finished no worse than third in the Breeders Crown, Little Brown Jug, Adios, Tattersalls Pace, Milstein Memorial, and Pennsylvania Sire Stakes championship. Lost For Words has earned $661,673 this year for trainer Brian Brown and owners Country Club Acres, William Robinson, Richard Lombardo, and Strollin Stable. "He didn't win any of the major races this year, but they've definitely known he was there," Miller said. "He battled all summer with the top colts and he's had a great season. He's been right there knocking at the door. He's a good horse. The season is catching up with him a little bit, but he'll be all right in there (Saturday)." Miller will drive in two other American-National Stakes, sitting behind Muscle Baby Doll in the $125,000 3-year-old filly trot, and behind supplemental entry Triple V Hanover in the $120,000 3-year-old filly pace. Muscle Baby Doll has won 10 of 14 races this season, with two of the victories coming with Miller in the sulky. She heads to the American-National off a triumph with Miller in the Crossroads of America last Friday at Hoosier Park. She won by a neck over Bright Baby Blues, who also is in the American-National. "I got to race her once this summer and I was real impressed with her," Miller said. "I was happy to get back with her. She battled the whole length of the stretch with Bright Baby Blues last Friday and she put her nose in front at the end. I was impressed with her. She's easy to get along with, she's got a nice gait, and she's got some strength and stamina. She has the fight in her to put her head in front. She's pretty brave." Muscle Baby Doll is trained by Tony O'Sullivan and owned by Frank and Joe Bellino. Triple V Hanover, who has won five of 16 races this year for trainer Brian Brown and owners Donald Robinson, King McNamara, and Strollin Stable, finished fourth in her most recent race, the USS Indianapolis Memorial. The race was won by American-National contender Devil Child. Horses driven by Miller have earned $10.79 million this year, good for second place among all drivers in North America behind Yannick Gingras. It is the 13th time in the last 15 years that Miller has surpassed $10 million. No driver in history has reached $10 million in a season as often as Miller. Miller said his Breeders Crown night ranked among his greatest days in racing. "I was proud," Miller said. "I've had some good days, some really good days, and great moments. But that was one I'll always remember." by Ken Weingartner, for Harness Racing Communications

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

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