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The richest trotting event of the season for two-year-old state-bred trotting colts received top billing on Sunday night at Balmoral Park as a field of 10 diagonally gaited youngsters squared off in the $105,000 Lincoln Land Stake. Despite taking the overland route from post 10, Jerry Graham’s Photo Surprise struck a winning pose as he rallied gamely in the final strides to win by a head in 1:59.1 with leading driver Mike Oosting at the controls. After getting away near the back of the pack as last week’s elimination winner Nino Marino (Dean Magee) led the field through opening splits of 29.0 & 58.3 Oosting maneuvered his charge to the outside where they quickly began to gobble up ground. Tipping three wide as the colts moved around the far turn, the gelded son of Powerful Emotion—Gloria Wyoming was all the way up to fourth as Nino Marino moved past the three-quarter-mile mark in 1:29.1. Grinding away through the lane as a leg weary Nino Marino began to back up the Nelson Willis trainee eventually reeled in Fox Valley Veto (John Roberts) in the last stride to notch his second career win in seven starts. Fox Valley Veto was forced to settle for the runner-up role while Big Bad Bob (Dale Hiteman) was third, 4 ¼ lengths behind the top pair. With the win Photo Surprise now sports a record of 2-1-0 with $52,375 in earnings.The beaten favorite from last week’s elimination returned $8.80, $6.40 & $4.00 to those who stayed loyal to the gelding. Sophomore trotting fillies were also in action on Sunday night as a field of seven battled in a $12,000 Betzotic Stake. Continuing her fine second season on the track, the Todd Warren owned and driven Sara The Spy recorded her seventh win of the year as she cruised to a 2 ¼ length victory in 1:57.0. Hustled right to the front from post position three the daughter of Powerful Emotion—Sarabella posted leisurely splits of 29.2, 59.4 & 1:28.2 before sealing the deal with a 28.3 final quarter. Divination (Mike Oosting) followed the winner’s every move but was relegated to the bridesmaid role while Just For Fun (Casey Leonard) was third. Amodel of consistency from the time she hit the track in 2013 the Mike Croucher trained miss now boasts a record of 7-4-3 in 15 starts this season with career earnings of $97,017. The odds on choice in the wagering returned $3.60, $2.40 & $2.10 to her legion of followers. Sunday’s Pick 4 was not hit so $27,661 will be carried over to Wednesday’s Pick 4. There will be a guaranteed pool of $75,000 for Wednesday’s Pick 4 which is on races 7-10. Once again the Pick 4 has a low 15% takeout with a one dollar minimum and features a guaranteed pool each night. Handicappers across North America can get a headstart on their competition with free 12 line program pages for the guaranteed pool courtesy of the USTA Strategic Wagering Initiative and Track Master on the handicapping section at www.ustrotting.com. Sara The Spy and owner-driver Todd Warren cruised to an easy win in Sunday's $12,000 Betzotic Stake. Mike Oosting guided Photo Surprise to thrilling head victory in Sunday's $105,000 LIncoln Land Stake. David Baum  

State-bred trotting colts were in the spotlight on Sunday, Sept. 29th as a field of eight youngsters looked for spots in next week’s $105,000 Lincoln Land Stake final and 46-1 long shot Ryleigh's Lilly scored a major upset in the Direct Dottie final. With four of the eight starters making early breaks in the race things were up for grabs from the word go. When the smoke cleared it was Ron Marino & David Hermann’s Nino Marino who emerged with a three-quarter-length victory in 1:59.3 for driver Dean Magee. Benefiting from a perfect pocket sitting trip as Big Bad Bob (Dale Hiteman) put up splits of 29.3, 58.2 & 1:29 the Randy Tuftie trained son of Pizzazzed—Never Ms Still overtook the pace setter with an eighth of a mile to go and eventually drew clear for his second win in five lifetime starts. Big Bad Bob held on for second while Battleshoe King (Buddy Simpson) was third. Also gaining spots in the final where they will be joined by Tour Hall, Bobby BBreeze and Fox Valley Veto were Photo Surprise, Battleshoe Crown, Polars BigSpender and Finnster. Sophomore pacing fillies were also in action on Sunday night as a field of 10 Illinois conceived and foaled three-year-olds battled in the $14,000 Direct Dottie Stake. This test produced the biggest surprise of the night as John Barnard’s Ryleigh’s Lilly lit up the tote board at odds of 46-1 with a half-length victoryin a career best of 1:54.1. Reserved through the early going by driver Robert Smolin the daughter of Western Hero—Fox Valley Chosen moved up third over through the final five-eighths of a mile. Exploding off her cover in the lane, the Bill Crone trained miss flew home in 27.1 to secure her second win in 16 starts this year. Aliyah Maria (John DeLong), who provided live cover for the winner was a game second while Zumba (Matt Krueger) rallied from far back to be third as the early speed collapsed in the lane. Returning $95.20, $30.00 & $15.60, Ryleigh’s Lilly helped key a $7,394.00 trifectapayout. by Tom Kelley for Balmoral Park

Elimination races were not necessary Wednesday night for the first American National stakes of the year when 10 two-year-old trotters were entered in each of the colt and filly divisions. Instead seven of next week American National finalists will prep in Wednesday night races with five of them going in the fourth race, a 2-year-old trotting events with “American National Entered Preferred.” The three fillies prepping are the Mike Brink Stable’s Muscle Babe (programmed 3-1, Dave Magee) and the Trenton Watson Stable entry of Pinking Of You (5-2, Casey Leonard) and Dancing Dynamite (5-2, Dean Magee), both winners of a Pennsylvania Sire Stake last month at The Meadows. Among their fourth race competitors are a pair of geldings who are American National bound, the Joel Smith trainee Big Bad Bob (6-1, Dale Hiteman), and the Roger Welch trained Bobby B Breeze (4-1, Todd Warren), winner of Balmoral’s $50,000 Plesac on July 31. Fox Valley Lotus (John Roberts), another starter in next Wednesday’s $63,000 (est.) American National filly stake is the 3-1 favorite in the first race trot. She captured the Springfield State Fair 2-Year-Old Filly Trot crown and was the runner-up in the Shawnee at Du Quoin. The Trenton Watson Stable’s Explosive Cash (Mike Oosting), who will vie in the $67,000 (est.) colt division of the added money stake, is the 3-1 program choice in Wednesday’s second race. While winless in his first six career starts Explosive Cash was second in a division of Philadelphia’s Historic, in a Pennsylvania Sire Stake at Pocono, and third in another at The Meadows. Probably the biggest name to be coming in is Southwind Spirit in the American National colt division. A son of Muscle Hill, this colt has been third or better in all six career starts against some well-regarded youngsters. A $105,000 yearling buy at the 2012 Lexington Select Sale, Southwind Spirit won his Peter Haughton elimination in 1:57.2 before finishing third in the $280,500 Final at The Meadowlands. He also won a New Jersey Sire Stake and was second in another. Trained by Ron Burke, who shares ownership of the colt, Southwick Spirit already has over $101,000 on his first season card. Here are the horses that entered next week’s American Nationals (listed in each alphabetically): Colt and Gelding Division: Big Bad Bob, Bobby B Breeze, Explosive Cash, Fox Valley Veto, Hillustrious, Hot Type, Maple Grove Joe, Nino Marino, Southwind Spirit and Toss Cartwright. Filly Division: Bailey’s Wish, Dancing Dynamite, Deweyscheatingirl, Don’t Miss A Tweet, Fox Valley Hosana, Fox Valley Lotus, Herroyalhighness, Muscle Babe, Pinking Of You and Pray With Me. By Mike Paradise The Illinois Harness Horsemen's Association

Friday night’s $30,000 Egyptian stake, the second leg of the Maywood Park Pacing Series, isn’t a “Handicap” race but it may appear that way to some after seeing the draw for the ninth race feature. Fort Silky, all season long this year’s No. 1 state-bred aged pacer, landed Maywood’s dreaded 8-hole that produces the winning horse less than 7 per cent of the time. I asked driver Casey Leonard about Fort Silky’s draw. “We drew the 9-hole in the first leg when we got beat. It’s become a graveyard post at Maywood,” said Casey. ”Now we get the 8-hole with its low percentage of winners but I guess I rather be on the gate with it than start in the second tier.” Casey is well aware of a number of horses in The Egyptian who can sprint out in a hurry and he’s at the lines of one of them. “In Friday’s race I’ve got Uncle Smoothie and NJ’s Big Deal inside of us and they both can get away from the gate real well. I guess I have to leave at least a little bit or I can leave hard with him and hope to get up-close position. “I don’t want anything stupid to happen, especially with Super Night just a couple of weeks away. I guess we’ll just see what happens behind the gate and go from there,” said Casey who will turn 36 on September 11. While the 9-5 morning line favorite Fort Silky has always excelled at Maywood Park he hasn’t had many opportunities to compete there this season. This is only the 7-year-old gelding’s third start of 2013 on the half-miler. Fort Silky did take a $28,534 division of the Cardinal stake at Maywood the last day of May but he needed a 27 flat first quarter to make the front in the Cook County, the Series first leg, and was overtaken in the late going by the pocket horse Fox Valley Yukon who wasn’t entered for The Egyptian. Fort Silky has finished first or second in 15 consecutive starts, going all the way back to mid-March, for his Paw Paw, Illinois owners John Prentice and Neva Jane Ikler. The horse has already surpassed his previous best earning year (2011) by almost $50,000, a tribute to the Leonard family’s management of the ICF pacer. A $25,000 bonus goes to the owners who’s horse earns the most points in the three series legs, with 50 awarded for first, 25 for second, 12 for third, 8 for fourth and 5 for fifth. After his second place finish in the Cook County plus the absence of Fox Valley Yukon, a win tonight puts Fort Silky in the driver’s seat to become the fourth straight Leonard trainer pacer to capture the Maywood Series. The recently retired Well To Do Guru did it in 2010, 2011 and 2012. In fact the former Illinois kingpin swept all three legs the last two years. When Casey looks in before the starting gate gets ready to spring open he’ll find Fox Valley Mahalo (15-1, Kyle Husted), Whirlwindiplomacy (8-1, Todd Warren) Sports Fanatic (10-1, Dean Magee), Uncle Smoothie (9-2, John De Long), Raging Cam (10-1, Mike Oosting), NJ’s Big Deal (5-2, Mike Cox) and JHS (20-1, John Roberts). By Mike Paradise The Illinois Harness Horsemen's Association

With Marcus Miller back in his home state this week to handle some of his dad’s horses in stakes races the Illinois State Fair in Springfield the 24-year-old will also visit Balmoral Park Wednesday night to do some catch-driving. Miller has a drive in every event on the 10-race card that includes the well-bred 3-year-old filly trotter We’ve Got It All in the third race, the second of three divisions of the Champion On Ice Trotting Series. We’ve Got It All was scheduled to race in last week’s opening round but ended up a judge’s scratched for “not reported.” A daughter of Yankee Glide out of the Mr. Vic mare Wishingforadream, the filly went unraced as a 2-year-old and in seven starts this season she hasn’t been better than third and that occurred just once. “We’ve Got It All has raced better since dad (trainer Erv) put trotting hobbles on her a few starts ago,” said Marcus. I asked Marcus why the $95,000 yearling buy was shipped to all the way to Illinois to compete in the Champion On Ice Series. “To braven her up,” Marcus replied. “Out east these NW of 1 and 2 trots go in ‘55’ or ’56.’ We thought she would do well against the (softer) competition at Balmoral. A couple of wins could do a lot for her confidence.” We’ve Got It All is owned by Paymaq Racing of Long Grove, Illinois, Peggy Hood of Valparaiso, Indiana and Canadian Greg Gillis. She’ll leave from the pole position and will open as the 7-2 morning line second choice. Among her opponents is the 3-1 favorite Tempus Fugit (Kyle Husted) and Liz’s Black Beauty (5-1, Dave Magee), first round series winner in 1:59 flat and 1:59.2, respectively. J M Showcat, the other opening leg winner, is Wednesday’s 3-1 first race favorite and Marcus will take over his lines for Mike Oosting, who is taking Wednesday off along with Todd Warren and John Roberts. Wednesday’s third series division, the fifth race, has Fox Valley Roxy (Dean Magee) and Jailhouse Rockn (Dave Magee) as the 3-1 and 4-1 first flash favorites, in that order. By Mike Paradise The Illinois Harness Horsemen's Association

In about two months it’ll be the 16th anniversary of the closing of Sportsman’s Park to harness racing. The old Cicero, Illinois track’s final Standardbred program was Friday, October 10, 1997 and attached is that night’s front page of its program. As you can see by the top headline Dave Magee was the leading driver in the Sportsman’s Park final meet while Joe Anderson took the trainer’s title for a sixth consecutive year. After finishing second to Tony Morgan in the Sportsman’s driver race the previous two years (1995 and 1996), Magee reclaimed the driving crown in 1997 for an unprecedented 11th time. Earlier Magee won the Sportsman’s Park driving titles in 1981 through 1983, in 1987, 1989, 1991 through 1994 and in 1997. The final stake race was the $20,000 Rambling Willie for ICF pacers 3 and up. There were 12 horses battling on the seven-eighth’s track, The 35-1 longshot Oliver G Slim, trained and driven by Merv Chupp was the $73.60 upset winner of that stake, coming from 10th with a :26.1 final quarter in 1:53 flat. Oliver G Slim that night beat the likes of Broadway Preview, Hot Chilli Pepper, Bingo Johnnie and Jeffrey’s Pet. The last harness race contested before the demise of Sportsman’s Park was an $8,000 ICF claiming event with a $5,000 purse on the 10-race card. It went to Rose and George Bonomo’s Lake Hills Doc, driven by Andy Miller. The Top 10 drivers on the 1997 and last Sportsman’s Park meeting were Dave Magee, Tony Morgan, Andy Miller, Dale Hiteman, Joe Anderson, Lavern Hostetler, Dean Magee, Dan Knox and Jim Curran. A year earlier (1996) Joe Anderson became the first trainer in Sportsman’s Park history to win over 100 races and $1.2 million in purses and he did it again in 1997. From second through 20th the final trainer’s race it was Brian Pinske, Doug Larsen, Jim Eaton, Dave McCaffrey, Gerry Hansen, Julie Miller, Jim Meade, Ken Rucker, Merv Chupp, Andrew Patterson, Roger Welch, Mitch McKenzie, Perry Smith, Mark Fransen, John Butenschoen, Ronnie Roberts, Homer Hochstetler, Lloyd Daulton and Neil Coleman, in that order. Mike Paradise The Illinois Harness Horsemen's Association  

COLUMBUS, MN. - Driver Rick Magee won two races for himself and two for the Van Otterloo Racing Stable on Tuesday night at Running Aces. In the process he surged to a relatively comfortable lead in what has been a very competitive driver's standings in 2013.   With 39 of the 53-night meet now completed, Magee has 46 wins.  He is followed by Jason Ryan and Nick Roland, each with 40, John DeLong with 35, Luke Plano 33, and Steve Wiseman, Tim Maier and Lemoyne Svendsen--all with 31.   Magee, a 35-year-old reinsman from Wisconsin, was the dash champion at Running Aces in 2009--the second year of the new Minnesota track's existence--and thus seeks his second title.  His uncle, Dean Magee, is the only two-time driving champion in the six years of live racing at Running Aces, winning in years three and four.    Al-Mar Passion won a two-year-old Open trot in 2:01 to commence Magee's big night.  He owns the freshman son of Abra who won for the fourth time in seven starts.  He also reached the winner's circle with his own Red Star Fiona in a $4500 claiming event for fillies and mares, although the mare was claimed from the race clocked in 1:56.    The popular local standout Chewy Baca and the ultra-consistent pacing mare Blazing Fury accounted for Magee's other two scores.  For Chewy Baca, the quick 1:52.2 tally in a $7000 conditioned event was his fourth on the season and 17th lifetime from 54 starts.  Following a rainstorm, Blazing Fury gave Magee his fourth and final score winning a $5000 race for females in 1:55.4.  It was the 37th win in an illustrious career for the Van Otterloo Stable's seven-year-old Minnesota-sired stalwart.  David Flinn trains both Chewy Baca and Blazing Fury while racing in Minnesota. by Gregg Keidel  

The Champion On Ice Trotting Series has always proven to be popular with horsemen and it’s no different this time around. A sizable 28 horses passed the entry box for Wednesday’s opening round at Balmoral Park, necessitating three harness racing divisions. Local based horses will be challenged by trotters, mostly youngsters, who have come in from out-east tracks in Pennsylvania and New York, to Midwest facilities in Indiana, Michigan and Minnesota, as well as County Fair tracks. Springfield based trainer Mike Brink has a threat in each of the three splits with Dave Magee driving all three. There’s Nidaros  a $50,000 yearling buy as a yearling in the opener, Jailhouse Rockn a Hoosier Park invader who got her maiden win in 2:00.2 less than two weeks ago in the second, and Justice And Fifth, a son of Justice Hall who was a 1:58.4 victor in Indiana on July 25, Eligible to Champion On Ice Series are trotting colts and geldings with a victory as of July23. Fillies are mares are allowed one won by the same date. A second series round will be contested next Wednesday, the 14th, with the $9,000 (est.) Final slated for Wednesday, August 21. Dirk Simpson, another Springfield based conditioner, has a pair of Champion On Ice hopefuls with I’m A Pop Star (Todd Warren) in race one and Chantilly Hall (he’ll drive) in race three. Both three-year-old fillies didn’t come cheap at yearling sales. I’m A Pop Star sold for $40,000 when her name was Muscany Valley, while Chantilly Hall was a $32,000 purchase. The second division morning line 5-2 favorite is the ICF filly Fox Valley Roxy (Dean Magee) fresh off a 2:00.1 victory. I expect Homer Hochstetler Stable’s Emoticon, who has been campaigning in upstate New York at Vernon Down to go off much lower than his listed program odds of 12-1. The son of Conway Hall was unraced at two after being bought for $37,000 at the 2011 Lexington Select Sale and lands the one-slot for his return to Balmoral.. Third division programmed second choice at 9-2 is We’ve Got It All (Mike Oosting) sold at the same Kentucky sale for $97,000 to the trio Paymaq Racing (Long Grove, IL), Peggy Hood (Valparaiso, IN) and Canadian Greg Gillis. Unraced as a 2-year-old, this year the Yankee Glide filly was winless in her first seven starts out east, campaigning mostly at Pocono Downs. Note that she’s raced with trotting hobbles in her last two starts when she was timed in 1:56.3 and 1:57.3 with fifth place finishes. Springfield Opens: A double-draw for the Springfield State Fair cards of Friday, August 8 and Saturday, August 9 took place this Tuesday morning at Maywood Park.  Most of Friday’s opening program will be filled with Illinois State Fair Colt Stakes elimination races. The 2 and 3-year-old ICF championships for both pacers and trotters will be conducted next Thursday, August 15, the final day of racing at Springfield. County Fair Report LOGAN COUNTY FAIR at LINCOLN     Saturday Afternoon August 3 Results FIRST: Downstate Classic Two-Year-Old Filly Pace, 1st Div, Purse $5,738: Horse (Driver)                                                           Time (Track Fast) Fox Valley Shiver (Freddie Patton Jr.)                             2:00 Trainer: Freddie Patton Jr. Owners: Peter Karras, Thomas Spathies and William Tortoriello. SECOND: Downstate Classic Two-Year-Old Filly Pace, 2nd Div, Purse $5,738: Kiss This Perch (J D Finn)                                                 2:02.1 Trainer: J D Finn.  Owner: Sharon Finn. THIRD: Downstate Classic Two-Year-Old Colt Pace, 1st Div, Purse $6,302: Marty Rocker (Ronnie Gillespie)                                       2:00 Trainer: Ronnie Gillespie. Owners: Ron Phillips, John Carver and Jesse Ferge. FOURTH: Downstate Classic Two-Year-Old Colt Pace, 2nd Div, Purse $6,302: Manny”s Z Tam (Rick Schrock)                                         2:02 Trainer: Dave Mc Caffrey. Owners: Z Tam Stables, Michael Polansky, Joseph McCaffrey and David McCaffrey. FIFTH: Downstate Classic Two-Year-Old Filly Trot, 1st Div, Purse $5,630: S V Spirit (Todd Warren)                                                     2:07.2 Trainer: Roger Welch, Owners: William De Long and Wm. Patrick De Long. SIXTH: Downstate Classic Two-Year-Old Filly Trot, 2nd Div, Purse $5,630: Say No Mo (Dirk Simpson)                                                 2:06 Trainer: Dirk Simpson. Owners: Dr. Patrick Graham, Flacco Family Farms and Dirk Simpson Stable. SEVENTH: Downstate Classic Two-Year-Old Colt Trot, 1st Div, Purse $5,374: Finnster (J D Finn)                                                              2:06 Trainer: J D Finn. Owner: J D Finn and Allison Finn. EIGHTH: Downstate Classic Two-Year-Old Colt Trot, 1st Div, Purse $5,374: Gray N Cloudy (Dirk Simpson) Trainer: Dirk Simpson. Owners: Sam Daddono, Dr. Patrick Graham, Dirk Simpson and Simpson Racing Stables. EFFINGHAM COUNTY FAIR AT ALTAMONT    Sunday Afternoon, August 4 FIRST: Big 10 Three-Year-Old Filly Trot, Purse $3,173: Horse (Driver)                                               Time (Track Fast) High Stepper (JD Finn)                                          2:05.3 Trainer: J D Finn. Owners: Mary Jeffers and Adele Everett. SECOND: Big 10 Three-Year-Old Colt Trot, Purse $3,341: Powerful Valor (Jared Finn)                                  2:05.1 Trainer: J D Finn. Owner: Hinshaw Homestead Farms. THIRD: Big 10 Two-Year-Old Filly Pace, Purse $3,574: M A Duty (Ronnie Gillespie)                                  2:05.1 Trainer: Ronnie Gillespie. Owners: Ron Phillips, John Carver and Jesse Ferge. FOURTH: Big 10 Two-Year-Old Colt Pace, Purse $3,597: Tower Power (Freddie Patton Jr.)                         2:04.4 Trainer: Freddie Patton Jr. Owner: Marvin Kendrick. FIFTH: ICF Four-Year-Olds & Up Male Pace, Purse $3,500: T J’s April Angel (Ronnie Gillespie)                     2:02.2 Trainer: Roshun Trigg. Owner: Roshun Trigg. SIXTH: ICF Four-Year-Olds & Up Mare Pace, Purse $3,500: Fox Valley Barbosa (Jared Finn)                          2:03.2 Trainer: Ray Hanna. Owners: Ray Hanna and Jim Edgar. SEVENTH: Free For All Trot, 1st Div, Purse $1,250: LW Jaynie Flyer (Cassidy Melloy)                                    2:03.4 Trainer: Cassidy Melloy. Owner: Cassidy Melloy. EIGHTH: Free For All Trot, 2nd Div, Purse $1,250: He’s Lucky (Kyle Husted)                                       2:03.4 Trainer: Pamela Coleman. Owners: Horseman’s Financial Agency and Premier Racing Stables.  EFFINGHAM COUNTY FAIR AT ALTAMONT    Monday Afternoon, August 5 FIRST: Big 10 Two-Year-Old Trot, Purse $6,104: Horse (Driver)                                               Time (Track Fast) Bessiebearcat (Eric Collier)                                   2:12 Trainer: Delbert Burkett. Owners: Delbert Burkett and Eric Collier. SECOND: Big 10 Three-Year-Old Filly Pace, Purse $3,329: Queen Beatrice (Darla Martin)                              2:02 Trainer: David Lohman. Owners: Fred and David Lohman. THIRD: Big 10 Three-Year-Old Colt Pace, Purse $3,574: Party Cove (Tom Simmons)                                   2:01.3 Trainer: Tom Simmons. Owners: Beat Seales and Dennis Beccue. FOURTH: Filly and Mare Open Pace, 1st Div, Purse $1,000: Wild Berry Muffler (J D Finn)                                 2:04.2 Trainer: J D Finn. Owner: Catherine and Ritzel. FIFTH: Filly and Mare Open Pace, 2nd Div, Purse $1,000: Prosper (Kyle Husted)                                             2:01 Trainer: Pamela Coleman. Owner: Fair Meadow Farm. WILLIAMSON COUNTY FAIR AT MARION   Monday Afternoon, August 5 FIRST: ECS Two-Year-Old Pace, Purse $6,204: Horse (Driver)                                               Time (Track Fast) Syd’s Lollipop (Freddie Patton Jr.)                        2:05 Trainer: Freddie Patton Jr. Owner: Perry Tillman Jr. SECOND: ECS Two-Year-Old Filly Trot, Purse $3,202: Bands Giant Star (Freddie Patton Jr.)                  2:12.1 Trainer: Freddie Patton Jr. Owner: Flacco Family Farms. THIRD: ECS Two-Year-Old Colt Trot, Purse $3,212: Battleshoe King (Buddy Simpson)                                   2:12 Trainer: Buddy Simpson. Owners: Buddy and Clay Simpson. FOURTH: Non-Winners of $1,500 Lifetime, 1st Div, Purse $600: Wings (Merle Finn)                                                  2:08.4 Trainer: Merle Finn Jr. Owner: Merle Finn Jr. FIFTH: Non-Winners of $1,500 Lifetime, 2nd Div, Purse $600: Dusty Dunes (H. Joe Haught)                               2:09 Trainer: H. Joe Haught. Owner: H. Joe Haught. SIXTH: Free For All Trot, Purse $800: Elmar (E. Leroy Moore)                                           2:08.4 Trainer: E. Leroy Moore. Owner: E. Leroy Moore. SEVENTH: Non-Winners of $3,500 Lifetime Pace, Purse $800: Lion Of Judah (H. Joe Haught)                             2:08.1 Trainer: H. Joe Haught. Owner: Thomas Throgmorton. By Mike Paradise The Illinois Harness Horsemen's Association

The $45,000 Fox Valley Evita stake for ICF 3-year-old trotting fillies is all by its lonesome on Sunday night’s card. While the other five championships for 2 and 3-year-old state-bred pacers and trotters got a lot of hoopa on last night’s Southland Festival of Racing somehow this stake final for filly trotters was designated on a Sunday program where probably less than half of last night’s card will be in attendance. I’m not sure why. Yes there are only five betting interests but there were only six in last night’s Kadabra Championship and that had a three-horse entry, without Place or Show betting, that went off at odds of 1-9 with King Mufasa and the gang finishing 1-2-3. If a feature was needed for Sunday, why couldn’t the Invite have be moved from Saturday. If that’s too good of a betting race how about the high-level conditioned event for fillies and mares that followed. Saturday could have had both trot Finals as the Daily Double. Let the fans double their money on the wager going into the third race and let the owners and trainers of ICF 3-year-old trotting fillies enjoy the same festive evening as the owners and horsemen of the other state-bred stakes for young horses. Sunday’s “Evita” has the Robert Taylor trained entry (and he’s also a co-owner) of Just For Fun (p.p. 1, Casey Leonard) and Little Ms Chrissy (p.p. 6, Taylor) as the 3-2 first flash favorites. Last year’s freshman champion Trot Fudge Sundae (p.p. 2, Dave Magee) is next at 3-1. Nick Prather’s Divination (p.p. 5, Mike Oosting) follows at 7-2 and longshots Kelsey’s Star (6-1, Dean Magee) American Empress (8-1, Matt Krueger). Conspicuous by her absence is Todd Warren’s Sara The Spy, winner of a Betzotic ICF stake earlier and the runner-up in the Violet and the July 3 Sorce Ann stakes. Before being sold to Warren Sara The Spy wasn’t nominated to the Fox Valley Evita. There is no Showing wagering on the second race sophomore stake which begins the track’s 50 cent Pick 5 wager with a guaranteed pool of $15,000. Double O Sizzles: Mike Oosting came back from his brief one week vacation red-hot with his own version of Saturday Night Fever by driving seven winners last night including 4 of the 5 ICF stake finals on Balmoral’s Southland Festival of Racing Night. Mike brought home King Mufasa in the Kadabra, Thesleazyprincess in the Loyal Opposition, PQ Three in the Mini Me, and Auniqueaquisition in the Ann Vonian. The Michigan native was second with the 16-1 longshot Sage Rush behind Big Brad and driver Bobby Smolin in the Incredible Finale. Oosting also won the Mini Me Consolation with One Sure Apache and later on the night posted victories with Park Lane Hotshot and Fox Valley Malone in races 11 and 13. Mike Paradise The Illinois Harness Horsemen's Association

After a busy weekend of elimination’sthe fields have been set for one of the biggest nights of racing at Balmoral Park and now the count down begins to next Saturday’s (July 27th) Chicago Southland Festival of Racing. After a trio of stakes were filled on Saturday, July 20th the last two elimination tussles were contested on Sunday night with a total of 16 Illinois conceived and foaled three-year-old pacing fillies squaring off in a pair of $10,000 Ann Vonian Stake elim’s. The top five finishers in each division will be back next Saturday to slug it out for a purse of $60,000. In the first elimination Roy Drevsand Brett & Candice Wilfong’s Feel Like Dancing came charging through the passing lane to win by a length in a career best of 1:52.3 for driver Kyle Wilfong. After leading the field through anopening quarter in 28.3 Wilfong elected to allow a hard charging Dallas Jones(Casey Leonard) take command. That filly proceeded to rattle off middle splitsof 56.2 & 1:25.1 while the Brett Wilfong trained miss enjoyed a perfect pocket sitting ride. After finding room in the passing lane, the daughter of Skydancer Hanover—Fox Valley Funny exploded past the pace setter finishing offthe mile with a 27.1 final panel to post her seventh win in 14 starts thisyear. Dallas Jones held on to be second while the heavily favored Aliyah Maria(Todd Warren) finished third. Incredible Filly (Mike Cox) and My Marissa Clair(Phil Knox) also earned spots in the final. The second elimination was notwithout its anxious moments for “chalk” players but when the smoke cleared it was John Carver’s Auniqueaquistion who came out on top with a hard fought half-length victory in 1:52.2 for driver Dave Magee. Placed well off the pace while DuneIn Red (John De Long) and R Ciao Baby (Casey Leonard) sped through splits of28.2, 55.3 & 1:24.1, Magee had Auniqueaquistion in the outer flow as the fillies turned for the money. Picking off one rival after another, the Donna Lee Ozment trained daughter of Cole Muffler—Shesoluvabull went from fifth to first with a 27.3 final quarter to notch her sixth win in nine starts this year. Dune In Red turned in a solid effort to finish second while State Street Liz (Robert Smolin) shook loose late to be a fast closing third. The last two spots in the final went to R Ciao Baby and Mystical Danica (Lewayne Miller). Saturday’s action started with a total of 19 state-bred two-year-old pacing fillies battling in a pair of $10,000 Loyal Opposition elimination’s. The top five in each split will return next week to meet for a purse of $65,000. In the opening division Bruce & Mary Alexander’s Western Dame made it two in a row as she cruised to an impressive two-length victory in a career best of 1:54.2 for driver John DeLong. Charging from fifth to first after an opening quarter of 28.2, the daughter of Sagebrush—Dixie Dame left no doubt as to who was the best in this event as she continued on through middle splits of 57.0 & 1:26.0. Rolling home in 28.2, the $14,000 yearling purchase was never seriously threatened through the stretch as she scored for the second time in three starts. Thesleazyprincess (Mike Oosting) rallied late to be the bridesmaid while Anything I Want (Todd Warren) was a game third. My Little Bit (Robert Smolin) finished fourth and Fox Valley Rockn (Kyle Wilfong) was fifth. The second division of the Loyal Opposition elimination’s also provided a sharp winner as Sawgrass Farms Molly Go Lightly posted her maiden breaking win, reporting home with a 2 ¾ length verdict in 1:55.1 with Mike Oosting in tow. The homebred daughter of Lexington Legend—Waggle was confidently handled in the race ranging up first over through opening splits of 29.3 & 58.4. After sweeping into the lead as the field moved around the final turn, the Nelson Willis trainee led the fillies by the three-quarter-mile mark in 1:26.4. The issue was never in doubt from that point on as Molly Go Lightly was a cruise control through a 28.2 final quarter to post her first win in four starts. Green Valey (Robert Smolin) came on late to finish second while April May Dune (Dave Magee) was third. Also gaining spots in the final were Fox Valley Amanda(Dale Hiteman) and Ms Solongbyebye (Jamaica Patton). Next on the docket were three-year-old pacing colts as a total of 15 state-bred sophomores battled in apair of $10,000 Incredible Finale Stake elimination’s. Once again the top five will be back for the “festival” where they will battle for a purse of $59,000. In the first elimination Paymaq Racing, D&M Trading & Mystical Marker Farms Mystical Walter continued to turn heads in this division as he posted his Third Straight victory, reporting home with a deceptively easy 2 ¼ length score in 1:51.1 for driver Casey Leonard. Fresh off his win in last week’s Hanover Stake, the gelded son of Yankee Skyscaper—Yankee Blue put his powerful brush to good use rushing from fifth to first after an opening quarter in 28.0. The Erv Miller trainee never looked back the rest of the way, effortlessly posting middle splits of 56.2 & 1:24.1 before sealing the deal with a wicked 27.0 final quarter for his seventh win in 15 career starts. Monopoly Man (John De Long) followed the winner’s every move after giving way on the backside to finish second while Fancy Creek Elusiv (Dave Magee) was third. Also grabbing spots in the final were Sage Ruck (Mike Oosting) and Fox Valley Action (Todd Warren). In the second division John & Mary Krasnican’s Big Brad came storming through the stretch to win by a neck in a lifetime best of 1:51.0 for Robert Smolin. Moving up second over as pace setter Silver Devil put up splits of 28.0, 56.3 & 1:23.4 Smolin moved the Robert Phillips trainee off cover as the field turned for the money. Flying home in 26.4, the bay son of Henry Clay—One Sure Thing swept by his rivals and then was game to the wire as held off a final surge by Crankin’ It Up (Kyle Wilfong) for his fifth win in 13 starts this season. Crankin’ It Up was second while Kostas Wine (Dave Magee) rallied to finish third. Fox Valley Norman (John De Long) salvaged a fourth place finish after a tough first over bid while the last spotin the final went to Darth Quaider (Mike Oosting). Rounding out the Saturday action were Mini Me Stake elimination’s for ICF two-year-old pacing colts. With a total of 17 youngsters dropped into the entry box a pair of $10,000 splits were contested with the top five moving on to next week’s $63,500 final. In the first division Obermeier & Quaid Stables good looking youngster PQ Three lived up to his favored status winning by a well measured neck in 1:54.3 with Mike Oosting at the controls. Ranging up first over as Traffic Cop(Todd Warren) and R Duneshine (Dave Magee) battled through splits of 28.2, 58.27 1:26.4, Oosting had the son of Yankee Skyscaper—Sweltering just off the pace setters flank as the field turned for the money. Quickly swallowing up R Duneshine in the lane, the Erv Miller trainee then held firm to the wire for his second win in four starts. Traffic Cop re-rallied to finish a game second while Fox Valley Cupid (Robert Smolin) turned a ground saving trip into a third place check. Fox Valley Deuce (Dale Hiteman) was fourth while R Duneshine wound up fifth. The last elimination on the Saturday card provided the tightest finish as the Robert Phillips owned and trained Cotton Eyed Joe found racing room in the final sixteenth of a mile then rallied sharply for a head decision in 1:56.4 with Robert Smolin at the controls. After saving ground while Wimpy Doodle (Dean Magee) and Dunside Art (Mike Oosting) took turns leading the field through splits of 29.3, 1:00.3 & 1:29.2 Smolin appeared to be hopelessly locked in at the pylons. Smolin’s patience paid big dividends though as a seam opened up late in the stretch, allowing the son of Big Green Machine—Secret Dial to come roaring home with his first win in five career starts. Badger Quinn (Todd Warren), who made a power sweep to the front from the outside post wound up finishing a tough luck second while Fox Valley Van (John De Long) was third. The last two spots in the final went to Dunside Art (4th) and Wimpy Doodle (5th). Big Brad and Robert Smolin captured an Incredible Finale Stake elimination for 3yo pacing colts in 1:51.0 on Saturday night at Balmoral Park. PQ Three was a well measured winner for driver Mike Oosting in the first of two Mini Me Stake eliminations on Saturday. Cotton Eyed Joe found room late while rallying for a big win in the second Mini Me Stake elimination on Saturday. Western Dame cruised to an easy win for driver John De Long in the first of two Loyal Opposition Stake elimination's on Saturday night. Molly Go Lightly and driver Mike Oosting teamed up for an easy win in 1:55.1 in the second Loyal Opposition Stake elimination on Saturday.  Mystical Walter continued an impressive recent run as he posted his Third Straight victory in the first of two Incredible Finale Stake elim's for 3yo colt pacers.  

The first trotting stake of the 2013 harness racing season was contested on Sunday night at Balmoral and when the smoke cleared it was the Dane May owned and trained Sara The Spy who took home top honors, winning the $12,000 Trotting Tilly Stake by a diminishing neck in 1:59.3

The $189,000 Filly Orange & Blue provided one of the night's most exciting finishes as Sawgrass Farms Thank You Doc rallied in the final strides to nip Auniqueaquistion by a head in 1:54.1, giving driver Dean Magee and owner Jim Jesk their first Super Night victories.

It was a very busy weekend of harness racing stake elimination action on Saturday, July 21st and Sunday, July 22nd at Balmoral Park as some of the state's top two & three-year-old pacers and trotters met in Southland Festival of Racing stake eliminations.

Sawgrass Farms Thank You Doc looked like a seasoned veteran on Thursday night (July 5) as he rallied in the passing lane to win the $12,000 My Metallica Stake by a head in 1:59.1 for harness racing driver Dean Magee.

A pair of upsets in the three-year-old filly trotting ranks had harness racing fans scratching their heads as two divisions of the $10,000 Koochie Stake were contested and a shocking upset in the final race of the night led to a big carryover for Wednesday's Hi-Five.

Despite competing in only one of the two preliminary leg's of the Incredible Finale Series because of an illness Don Freese's Richess Emperor and harness racing driver Dean Magee managed to gain a spot in the final after winning a division of leg two action last week.

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