Day At The Track
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With the start of Spring only a week away let’s take a look who has fared well on the local harness racing circuit the first couple of months of the 2015 Winter. The leading stable as we go into Thursday’s action may be a bit of a surprise. It’s Brett Wilfong (pictured) who is off to a hot season start, The Donovan, Illinois horseman has had 21 of his horses finish first as we head into the middle of March Brett’s 13 winners at Maywood Park ties him for the top spot with Perry Smith, who took last year’s training title at the half-mile track. Wilfong’s 8 victors at Balmoral Park has Brett tied for third best at the Crete, IL big track with Jim Ellison. Balmoral’s defending trainer champion Nelson Willis is on top there with 14 winners, followed by Bob Phillips with 9. Perry Smith rounds out the current Balmoral Top Five with 6. At Maywood Wilfong and Smith are followed by trainers Angie Affrunti and Gary Fatland, both with 7. Dave McCaffrey, Terry Leonard and Albert Kopiec each have 6. Wide Open Features: Friday’s co-features at Maywood Park are a pair of medium level conditioned paces, one for colts and geldings and the other for fillies and mares. Both have no-clear cut favorite. The Maywood morning line has two Tom Simmons trainees as the early choices The pair will race uncoupled because of different ownership. Long Term (Date Hiteman), a winner last week stepping up in class, opens at 2-1 while his stable-mate Real Hero (Casey Leonard), a nose short last time,  is at 5-2 first flash odds. Expect Desperado Alibi (Brian Carpenter), coming off a game win last week and with the pole position Friday, to also get plenty of play at the betting windows. The same goes for Don’t Worry B Happy (Mike Oosting) who is listed at generous 10-1 odds in the program. The Willis trainee proved best at Friday’s class two weeks ago. Also going postward in the non-winners of $8,000 in their last 8 starts are Some Heart Throb (8-1, Kyle Wilfong) and Total Sin (12-1, Lavern Hostetler). The 10th race for distaffers is another where 3 or 4 horses could be vying for most of the public’s choice. Last week’s front-stepping winner Incredible Filly (Tim Curtin) is listed at 3-1, Melodie Hotspur, a bridesmaid in her last four outings, is next at 7-2. Financial Effort (Casey Leonard) follows at 9-2 with Molly Go Lightly (Mike Oosting) at 6-1. The latter got bottled up behind a wall of horses and finished full of pace but much too far back to reward her backers. Steph’s Place (Todd Warren) who steps up after popping for her new barn a week ago is at 8-1. The 6-year-old ICF mare was claimed for $4,000 by Smith in her last February start after capturing 5 of her first 6 outings for the Terry Leonard Stable. She’ll start off at liberal 8-1 odds. Completing that field are ER Monica (15-1, Dean Magee), Misspanderosajones (12-1, Ridge Warren), Sealark Hanover (15-1, Sam Widger) and Gimmeazzzmooch (10-1, Dale Hiteman). By Mike Paradise

Back in November of 2012 veteran harness racing trainer Gary Fatland took a $10,000 gamble on the then 3-year-old filly Muy Caliente at the Delaware Sale. It’s turned out to be successful venture for the Sandwich, Illinois horseman. The now 6-year-old mare guns for her second straight victory in Friday’s tenth race Maywood Park feature. Last week she breezed to a 1:55.4 wire-to-wire triumph with Travis Seekman at her lines. “It was the first time I sat behind Muy Caliente and she’s very easy to drive. I hate to use this cliché she’s a ‘push-button horse’ but the mare really is. She’ll do whatever you want out there. The mare wants to race and she wants to win.” Muy Caliente has put over $120,000 on her card since being acquired by Gary, his son Nate and their partner John Price of Grant Park, Illinois. The mare earned almost $8,000 in the month of January, picking up a purse check in all four of her starts in Open Handicaps at Miami Valley Raceway in Lebanon, Ohio prior to her local win. In her last Ohio start on Jan. 23 Muy Caliente was saddled with the second tier 10-hole and was next to last with a quarter of a mile to go and ended up fourth, beaten a little more than two lengths. Her triumph last Friday at Maywood was her 12th on the circuit’s half-miler since she joined the Fatland Stable. In 2014 Muy Caliente was third or better in 23 of her 36 trips postward. “She likes to race and she’s been very consistent for us,” said Gary. “I think the fact that I train her on a half at my farm helps her at Maywood. She’s done very well there for us.” Muy Caliente has the bloodlines to be a successful pacing mare. She was sired by Rocknroll Hanover and is out of the Bettor’s Delight broodmare Cannae Cindy. Unraced at two, Muy Caliente spent most of her 3-yeart-old season racing for trainer Ron Burke. The draw this week wasn’t as kind to Muy Caliente as it was a week earlier when she left from Maywood’s coveted one-slot. This Friday she’s in the second tier. She does start behind Melodie Hotspur, a mare with good gate speed and wins in 4 of her last 6 starts for trainer Jimmy Ellison. Muy Caliente will open as the 3-1 programmed choice with Melodie Hotspur (John De Long) and Blazing Fury (p.p. 2, Bobby Smolin) next at 9-2. From posts 3 through 8 you’ll find Triple Lane Melody (12-1, Pat Curtin), Morwyn Hanover (15-1, Brian Carpenter), Financial Effort (8-1, Casey Leonard), Feel Like Dancing (6-1, Kyle Wilfong), Gentle Janet (12-1, Todd Warren) and Incredible Filly (15-1, Tim Curtin). By Mike Paradise The Illinois Harness Horsemen's Association

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