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DAYTON, OH. - Driver Travis Seekman guided a pair of Illinois invaders to the Hollywood Gaming at Dayton Raceway winner's circle on Saturday night (Oct. 20), capturing both the $17,500 Open I and the $15,000 Open II paces. Hot Rod Dylan, trained by Nelson Willis, triumphed for just the third time in 2018 in the Open I, beating Snowball's Romeo (Josh Sutton) and Winwood Mac (Chris Page) in 1:52.3 on a night when strong winds were taking a toll on the horses. Snowball's Romeo sped to an early lead posting an opening panel in :26.2. After tripping the middle beams in :54.3 and 1:22.3 he lead a well-bunched field that fanned out for the stretch drive. Hot Rod Dylan benefitted from the pocket ride throughout most of the mile and moved into the outer flow at the three quarters station--in time to gradually push to a narrow victory. Winwood Mac, last week's winner, was forced to race first-up on the outside much of the way but still managed a show finish. Shirley LeVin owns Hot Rod Dylan, a 5-year-old son of Somebeachsomewhere who has 15 lifetime wins in just 51 career starts. Feelnlikearockstar upset the Open II field at 16-1 odds for Seekman, topping fellow Illinois ship-ins Account Rollover (Dan Noble) and Jewel Maker (Juan Franco). The 6-year-old winner also benefitted from a two-hole trip behind the eventual runnerup, who posted fractional clockings of :27.4, :56.3 and 1:24.2 before relinquishing the lead mid-stretch of the 1:53.3 mile. Trainer Perry Smith co-owns Feelnlikearockstar with Sawgrass Farms LLC. It was the fourth seasonal victory from 30 starts for the son of Artstanding. Hollywood Dayton is seeking gray or roan horses for its second annual Gray Ghost race on the Tuesday, October 30 matinee. Interested trainers can enter online or call the race secreetary at 937-235-7859. From Dayton Raceway Media Department    

STICKNEY, IL - Over $1.1 million in purse money will be on the line Saturday night at Hawthorne as Night of Champions will take place. Eleven stakes finals for Illinois-breds will highlight the card and will be joined by a pair of tough invite races to compile the 13 race program. In addition to the races, top drivers in Illinois racing history will be on hand for an autograph session from 7:30 - 8:30 PM on the first floor of the grandstand. Food trucks and the outdoor barbeque will serve food as fans can get up close and personal with all of the racing action. Here is a preview of the 13 race card: Race 1 - $136,142 Incredible Finale Championship - 2yo Colt & Gelding Pacers Illinois-bred juvenile pacers kick off the action as a full field lines up. Two horses have been standouts at this level throughout the summer as Meyer on Fire and The Bucket look to battle to the finish. Meyer on Fire comes from the barn of trainer Erv Miller for owner Engel Stable of Illinois LLC as he rides a four race win streak into this final. He got the best of The Bucket last week, winning leg four of this event by three lengths and will look to get the jump again tonight. Mike Oosting drives Meyer on Fire on Saturday. The Bucket races for owners Ken Rucker and George Dremonas as he has won seven times on the year and finished in the money in all ten starts. He was parked without cover in last week's final leg but may look to take the race to Meyer on Fire earlier on Saturday night. Casey Leonard will be in the bike once again for trainer Terry Leonard. Race 2 - $45,000 Plesac Championship - 3yo & up Trotters Illinois-bred aged trotters take to the track as the top female trotter in the state looks to beat the boys. Annas Lucky Star will start from the outside for owner Danny Graham and trainer Nelson Willis. A winner of half of her 16 starts on the year, Annas Lucky Star controlled the pace for driver Kyle Wilfong from the rail in last week's prep but may have to work out a trip from the eight-hole on Saturday. Picky Picky Valor has been equally impressive this year for owner Shelley Steele and trainer Gerald Hansen. With eight victories and 20 top three finishes from 22 starts, Picky Picky Valor and driver Casey Leonard will look to turn the tables on Annas Lucky Star from his second-place finish to her last week. Race 3 - $132,874 Incredible Tillie Championship - 2yo Filly Pacers Juvenile Pacers match up in one of the more wide open divisions of the Night of Champions card. Fox Valley Torrid looks to benefit from the inside draw as she was narrowly defeated last week after winning four consecutive races prior to that start. Owned by Fox Valley Standardbreds and trained by Rodney Freese, Fox Valley Torrid has shown versatility as she may look to rate close from the inside post on Saturday. Casey Leonard drives. Perch got off to a bit of a later start this summer but has been sharp, winning half of her eight starts and finishing in the top three in all of her races. She is familiar with outside draws, closing strongly from the back in championship races from the outside in both Springfield and DuQuoin. Jay Garrels trains Perch. Race 4 - $119,470 Kadabra Championship - 2yo Colt & Gelding Trotters The Kadabra became a very interesting race after the Monday draw as the top two contenders both drew in the outer half of the field. A winner of the last two legs of this race, Trixie's Turbo drew the ten-hole Saturday for owner Charles Doehring, trainer Jared Finn and driver J D Finn. A winner of six of nine on the year, Trixie's Turbo is normally committed to the front end early but showed some versatility in an elimination victory from off the pace in Springfield. Louscardamon starts in post seven as he has speed but has battled staying on stride throughout the summer. Racing for the partnership of Flacco Family Farms LLC and Dr. Patrick Graham for trainer Steve Searle, Louscardamon has shown flashes of brilliance, winning five of his eight starts. He broke stride just after the start last week though, leaving some questions going into the Saturday final. Mike Oosting will be in the bike behind Louscardamon. Race 5 - $45,000 Tony Maurello Championship - 3yo & up Filly & Mare Pacers The Maurello final brings forth one of the most consistent older pacers of the summer to face off against another that may be peaking at the right time. Bucklegirl Bobette has been very good throughout the summer, winning nine of 21 races and taking on tough open company pacers at Hawthorne throughout the summer. Coming from the barn of trainer Rob Rittof, Travis Seekman will likely have her in her familiar front-end position early. A pacer with the opposite racing style, Fancy Creek Jolene will be hoping for a quick and contested pace upfront early for her to close into late. Trained by Kim Hamilton, Fancy Creek Jolene and driver Bobby Smolin teamed up mid-August, winning three races in just over a month, including a score in last week's elimination. Normally one to come from off the pace, she could be the horse that is hitting her stride at the right time. Race 6 - $122,504 Fox Valley Flan Championship - 2yo Filly Trotters Multiple horses vie for the title of top female juvenile trotter in the state as half of this field can make a strong case that they are best. Louzotic looks to benefit from the inside draw for owner Flacco Family Farms and trainer Steve Searle as she has won six of ten starts on the year, along with winning her division of the last two legs of this race. E L Game On has finished in the top three in 10 of 11 races this summer, closing as the runner-up to Louzotic in her last two starts. Donald and Sharri Huddleston own for trainer Mike Rogers. The winningest juvenile trotter in North America starts right next to E L Game On as Loussolataire looks for her 17th victory of the year for owner Steven Renard. Also trained by Steve Searle, Loussolataire snuck through along the inside late to score in the final leg of this race last week. Puddin Cheeks has early speed and has been a bit of a later bloomer this summer. Racing for trainer Jared Finn, Puddin Cheeks was a strong winner in leg three of this series and just missed to Loussolataire here last week. Encantado will have to work out a trip from her outside draw as she races for trainer Jim Eaton. A winner of four of seven on the year, she has shown she can close late and looks to get a heated pace ahead of her early on Saturday. Race 7 - $45,000 Robert S. Molaro Championship - 3yo & up Pacers Aged pacers line up Saturday as Unlocked leads this field off a game victory in last week's elimination. Owned by Megan Rogers Racing Stables Inc. and trained by Norm Parker, Unlocked has made only five starts in 2018. After a bit of a slow start to the year, the seven-year-old gelding put together a good pair of qualifiers at the Meadows before shipping into Hawthorne last week. Driven by Jim Pantaleano, Unlocked got a perfect tracking trip and was able to draw clear at the wire. With 32 victories from 100 career starts for over half a million in earnings, Unlocked will be the likely favorite again on Saturday. Race 8 - $99,032 Beulah Dygert Memorial Championship - 3yo Filly Trotters Trainer Steve Searle has a bunch of live trotters on the Night of Champions card as he sends out Trotting Grace in this final. After a good two-year-old campaign in 2017, she got off to a bit of a slow start in 2018. Things have turned around at the right time for her for owners Mystical Marker Farms LLC, Bill Wright and Steve Searle as she has won five of her last six races coming into this final. Regular driver Kyle Husted will be back in the bike once again. Just to Trotting Grace's inside may be her toughest competition, coming from Maui Mama. Also owned by Bill Wright, Maui Mama is trained by Mike Brink and gets Casey Leonard in the bike. She has found the board in all nine of her races in 2018, but has finished behind Trotting Grace in each of her last four races. Race 9 - $25,000 Invitational Trot The first of two full field invitational races on the Night of Champions card pits a strong field of trotters, coming together from five different locations. With nearly $700,000 in career earnings, Satin Dancer draws well in the middle of this field for owner Summit Pacing Acres LLC and trainer Byron Hooley. A winner three times on the year, Satin Dancer has been competitive in open races at Pocono, The Meadowlands, and Yonkers. Swan Chase draws the far outside, but comes into the invite hitting the board 12 times from 14 starts on the year. He comes in off a strong string of races at Hoosier Park into this spot and has shown an ability to close with a rush late. Swan Chase is owned by John Barnard for trainer Bill Crone. Race 10 - $25,000 Invitational Pace A very fast field of pacers will look to go sub-1:50 as trainer Ron Burke sends out Dancin Yankee on Saturday. With over $1.8 million in career earnings, Dancin Yankee has won nine times on the year for over $160,000 in earnings. A versatile pacer in style, Dancin Yankee looks to go favored in this tough field. New Talent comes in off back to back sub 1:49 miles at Hoosier as he will look to overcome the far outside draw. Owned by Thomas Pollack and Jeffrey Cullipher and trained by Tim Clevenger, New Talent returned off a tough trip in the Dan Patch at Hoosier to come back with a seven-length triumph in 1:48.3 in his next start. Race 11 - $160,080 Robert F. Carey Jr. Memorial Championship - 3yo Colt & Gelding Pacers Reigning 2017 Illinois-bred Horse of the Year Fox Valley Gemini looks to continue his string of undefeated races over the Hawthorne track as he leads this talented field. With 17 victories at Hawthorne, Fox Valley Gemini made amends after facing his first two career defeats in Springfield at the Illinois State Fair this summer. He returned to Hawthorne and qualified with the addition of Lasix and then proceeded to destroy a field by over seven lengths in the final leg of this series. Casey Leonard drives for trainer Terry Leonard and owner Jim Ballinger. You'remyhearthrob is the one that snapped Fox Valley Gemini's streak in Springfield, when he scored in driver Kyle Wilfong's 1,000 career driving victory. Trained by Brett Wilfong, You'remyhearthrob has finished in the top three in all 14 starts this season, including a strong victory in his division of the final leg of this race last week. Race 12 - $125,140 Plum Peachy Championship - 3yo Filly Pacers Allbeastnobeauty headlines the field in the Plum Peachy final as she enters this race with eight victories from 14 starts on the year. Owned in partnership by trainer Mike Brink, Josh Carter, Mark Brown, and Lawrence Crawford, Allbeastnobeauty was game in victory in four straight races before finishing third in the final leg of this series. Her versatility should put her close to the pace as she will look to take over late for driver Mike Oosting. A champion in 2017, Fox Valley Jazzy will be looking to get the jump on Allbeastnobeauty as she draws inside of her on Saturday night. After winning eight of 13 races in 2017, she has scored just twice from eleven 2018 starts, but has finished in the top three nine times. She races on Saturday for owner Cathy Finn-Kanitz and trainer Dale Kanitz as Ridge Warren drives. Race 13 - $83,696 Erwin F. Dygert Memorial Championship - 3yo Colt & Gelding Trotters The final race on the Night of Champions card looks to be very competitive as Majistic Caprice and Illinimight lead this field of ten. Illinimight races for owners Keith and Kevin Miller and trainer Mike Brink as he looks to follow the same pattern that was successful for him in 2017. After a slow start last year, he peaked late, racing well in the final month of the meet. He has had a similar season this year, posting wins in three of his last four races, including a strong score in the final leg of this series last week. Casey Leonard drives. Majistic Caprice has won half of his 18 starts on the year as he draws in the middle of this field. A horse with versatility, he finished fourth behind Illinimight last week, but also had to overcome an outside draw. Majistic Caprice races on Saturday for trainer Roshun Trigg. Hawthorne Race Course, Chicago's Hometown Track, continues the summer harness season through September 24. Fall thoroughbreds close out the year, running from October 5 through December 29. For more information, visit or contact Hawthorne at 708-780-3700. by Jim Miller, for Hawthorne Race Course

STICKNEY, IL - Coming off a night where Fox Valley Gemini won his sixteenth consecutive race to open his career in the Robert F. Carey, Jr. Memorial at Hawthorne, state-bred three-year-old fillies were the focus on Saturday in two harness racing divisions of the Plum Peachy. Race seven was the first division of the Plum Peachy as Allbeastnobeauty was sent away as the favorite with Tim Curtin driving. Hustling away for the lead was Skeeter Machine from the outside as Kyle Wilfong guided the horse through the opening quarter in :29.1 Chased by Party Belle and driver Travis Seekman through the half in :59.0, Skeeter Machine remained in control into the far turn. After three quarters in 1:28.0, Skeeter Machine opened up a two length lead into the lane as favored Allbeastnobeauty tipped out to attempt to go after the leader. Mid-stretch, Allbeastnobeauty flattened out as Party Belle pulled out and was able to roll by late. Party Belle was victorious by a length in 1:55.0 over Skeeter Machine. JB's Shooting Star rallied to finish third. Party Belle is owned by trainer Tyler George along with Ladavie Spann. Race eight was the second division of the Plum Peachy with a field of seven led by Rollin Coal with Casey Leonard driving. Rushing away for the lead was The Sis Master as Michele Morgan guided her through the opening quarter in :28.2 and the half in :57.2. Chased by Rollin Coal into the turn, The Sis Master maintained her lead, passing three quarters in 1:25.2. Into the lane, The Sis Master faced a pair of challenges from Rollin Coal and The New Americana. Digging in gamely, The Sis Master held on at the wire, winning by a half-length over Rollin Coal in 1:53.4. The New Americana finished third. The Sis Master is owned by Bet-Mor Stable and trained by driver Michele Morgan. Hawthorne Race Course, Chicago's Hometown Track, continues the summer harness season through September 24. Fall thoroughbreds close out the year, running from October 5 through December 29. For more information, visit or contact Hawthorne at 708-780-3700. by Jim Miller, for Hawthorne Race Course

STICKNEY, IL - The rain couldn't dampen the spirits of the fans at Hawthorne on Friday night as a combination of stakes action and exotic animal races filled the evening. The stakes focus of the evening was a pair of divisions for leg two of the Incredible Tillie Stakes. The Incredible Tillie is for Illinois-bred, two-year-old pacing fillies as each division had a field of seven. Race one was the first division as Fox Valley Halsey was the favorite with leading driver Casey Leonard in the bike. Getting away for the lead was Yankee Joanie and Ryan Anderson as they were just in front of the favorite through the quarter in :29.3 over a good track. After passing the half in :59.0 and three quarters in 1:28.2, Yankee Joanie led the field into the stretch. Asked to go after the leader was Fox Valley Halsey but she made a break into the lane, leaving Perch and Kyle Wilfong to take up the chase. Mid-stretch, Perch tipped out and was able to catch Yankee Joanie in the shadow of the wire, winning in 1:58.2. Fox Valley Halsey recovered from the break to finish third. Perch is trained by Jay Garrels. After race one was the camel race as drivers Casey Leonard, Juan Franco, and Richard S. Finn were joined by Olivia Goethals of Agency 360. A quick start for Leonard was good enough as he guided his steed to victory. Juan Franco was a close second followed by Goethals and Finn. The juvenile pacers were back at it in race three as Brienne The Beauty was the 3-5 favorite with Travis Seekman driving. Making the early lead was Fox Valley Lil Kim as she passed the opening quarter in :29.3 as Brienne The Beauty quickly joined her. Taking over through a half in :59.1 was the favorite as Fox Valley Lil Kim chased her into the turn. After three quarters in 1:28.1, Brienne the Beauty remained in command and drew clear at the wire, winning in 1:56.2. Fox Valley Lil Kim came back for second while Foolishlittlegirl was third. Brienne the Beauty is owned in partnership by Somone, McCaffrey, McCaffrey, and trainer Clark Fairley. Hawthorne Race Course, Chicago's Hometown Track, continues the summer harness season through September 24. Fall thoroughbreds close out the year, running from October 5 through December 29. For more information, visit or contact Hawthorne at 708-780-3700. by Jim MIller, for Hawthorne Race Course

DAYTON, OH. - Its been a very exciting week for harness racing driver Travis Seekman, to say the least. His wife Desiree presented the 27-year-old reinsman with their first child, a healthy 8 pound 1 ounce baby girl they've named Raegyn, on Thursday morning; and Saturday night (Nov. 18) he won the $18,500 Open Handicap Pace with Let's Drink On It at Hollywood Dayton Raceway. Despite persistent night-long rainfall and strong gusting winds, the 6-year-old son of Art Official, trained by "Grandpa" Joe Seekman and taken care of by "Grandma" Tina Seekman, overcame the dreaded 9-hole and swept to a convincing 2-1/4 length 1:54.1 score over the sloppy surface. Go Daddy Go (Randy Tharps) and Dreamfair Mesa (Josh Sutton) battled through the first quarter in :28 and the half in :56.3 before Dalhousie Dave (Kyle Ater) ranged up to challenge the leaders at the 1:25.2 three-quarters with Let's Drink On It in tow in the outer flow. It was at that point that "Daddy" Seekman swung his charge three-wide and got the response he hoped for. "That wind was brutal on the last turn and I was out three wide, but Let's Drink On It raced big tonight and went a big mile," beamed Travis. "I'll have enough for my first load of diapers now," he laughed. Prince Bayard (Kayne Kauffman) and Dont Say Goodby (Trace Tetrick) were also near the back of the pack in the early going, but also responded well throughout the second half to garner runnerup and show finishes, respectively. Let's Drink On It has now scored 33 triumphs and pushed his lifetime earnings past $850,000 with the win. Gregg Keidel

STICKNEY, IL - Wednesday night kicked off the first legs of the Whizzer R. White and Suburban Downs Pacing Series at Hawthorne. The Whizzer R. White had an overflow amount of harness racing entries and was split into five divisions while the Suburban Downs went with two divisions. Conditions for the Whizzer R. White were for colts, horses, and geldings that had not won two pari-mutuel races or $10,000 lifetime as of December 1, 2015. The Suburban Downs series was for colts, horses, and geldings that had not won five pari-mutuel races for $25,000 lifetime as of December 1, 2015. In leg one of the Whizzer R. White pacing series, the first division kicked off the evening as a three way battle ensued in the stretch. In the end it was the first over move by Pillage and Burn with Casey Leonard driving to defeat Party Falls. Trixsen Gram finished third in 1:57 for the mile over the fast track. Pillage and Burn won as the even money choice. The second division came down to a photo finish as Todd Warren and Always Kenzer just got up in time to best Ridge Warren and One to Draw To, who had set the early fractions throughout. The pacers closed quickly once again as the final time in the father/son battle was 1:56.1. Duneside Sport finished third in the second division. Always Kenzer won at 9-2. Division three became a one horse affair as Trace Tetrick was in to drive for brother, Tom. Settling early, Tetrick and Over Friskie moved early to the lead and opened up their advantage into the far turn. The margin only widened into the stretch as Over Friskie was well clear, stopping the clock in 1:54.4. Lyons Jimmydean came back for second after breaking stride prior to the start and Mr Mark Patrick was third. Over Friskie was the 4-5 favorite. The fourth division was another quick move on the turn by driver Trace Tetrick with Ocaptain Mycaptain as he tried to steal the race but it wasn't to be this time as Travis Seekman confidently handled Prince Bayard to the victory at 7-2. Mr Pickpocket rallied late for place while Ocaptain Mycaptain was third. The final time was 1:56.0. The fifth and final division of the Whizzer R. White series had a pace battle early as three contended for the early lead. In the end it was the closers once again as 8-1 shot Lil Orphan Elmer rallied for the score with Kyle Wilfong in the sulky. 43-1 longshot Gunny Wilson closed late for place over favorite Red Red Redneck. Final time was 2:00.1 The Suburban Downs pacing series went later in the evening with two divisions facing off. In the first division Why Ask Why continued his winning ways as he way able to overcome the outside post and rally for the victory with Ridge Warren driving. Sir Mammo battled on to finish second while Kolt Power rallied late for third. Why Ask Why was sent off at 5-1 and stopped the clock in 1:54.3. The second division of the Suburban Downs pacing series was a battle to the wire as Freedomformysoul just held off The Optimist. Freedomformysoul was driven by Simon Allard and moved to the lead early. After being headed in the lane he fought back gamely for the victory in 1:56.3. The Optimist finished second, Officially Yours was third. Jim Miller

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

Sophomore pacing fillies stepped into the harness racing spotlight on Friday, June 5th at Maywood Park as a field of eight Cstate-breds squared off in an $8,000 Filly Maywood Stake elimination. The top seven finishers on Friday night will return next week where they will be joined by Lex in the $35,600 final.   After saving ground all the way to the top of the stretch, driver Travis Seekman tipped Southern Girl to the outside as the field straightened for the money and the Homer Hochstetler trained miss exploded like she had been shot out of a cannon, blowing right by her rivals to win by a length in 1:57.2.   Content to save ground throughout the mile as Galley Wench (Todd Warren) and heavily favored Sportsmuffler (Casey Leonard) battled through splits of 28.2, 58.3 & 1:27.1 Seekman appeared to be hopelessly locked in fifth as the field turned for home.   Craftily working their way to the center of the track the daughter of Sportsmaster--Biloxi quickly kicked it into high gear picking off one rival after another in the blink of an eye to score for the fourth time in 10 starts this season. Angel Demon (Mike Oosting) came on late to finish second while Galley Wench held on for third.   Also gaining spots in the final with fourth through seventh place finishes were Fox Valley Kit, Sportsmuffler, Duneside Perttie and I Y Q Too.   With the win Southern Girl now boasts a record of four wins and one third in 10 starts with earnings of $15,097 in this her first season of action for owners Connie Hochstetler, Kristofer Heim and James Michels. The third choice in the wagering returned $14.40, $7.40 & $5.00. Tom Kelley

With some good sized crowds filling the apron for a festive Memorial Day weekend of fun-filled activities at Balmoral Park, a pair of harness racing Illinois conceived and foaled stake events for three-year-olds shared top billing on the racing oval.   Trotters grabbed the spotlight on Sunday, May 24th as a very evenly matched field of nine diagonally gaited fillies squared off in the $16,400 Violet Stake.   Continuing the fast start she's enjoyed in her second season Cynthia De Marlie and Jason Van Winkle's Bi Polar Rose shot right to the top and proceeded to make every call a winning one as she reported home with a four-length decision in a career best of 1:57.3 for Travis Seekman.   Gunned away from post six the daughter of Polar Winner--I Still Owe carved out splits of 29.4, 59.2 & 1:28.4 while rolling along relatively unchallenged on the front end.   With plenty still in reserve, the Ronnie Roberts trained miss trotted home in 28.4 while drawing away from stretch challenges by Persuasive Look (Casey Leonard) and Fox Valley Yoko (John De Long) who wound up second and third respectively.   Hammered at the betting windows, Bi Polar Rose returned $4.60, $3.00 & $2.40 while running her career record to 6-3-3 in 15 starts with earnings of $93,457.   On Saturday, May 23rd a total of 12 state-bred colts and geldings met in a pair of $7,500 Cardinal Stake eliminations. The top five finishers in each division will return next Saturday night to battle in the $18,400 final.   In the first division the Dane May owned and trained Dinky Dune continued his second season improvement as he came charging through the passing lane to record a two-length triumph in 1:53.4 for driver Pat Curtin.   Given a perfect steer, the gelded son of Duneside Perch--Dream Hand settled in third early on but as the pace slowed Curtin zipped the bay gelding to the front leading the field through an opening quarter in 30.0.   The action continued to heat up through middle splits of 58.0 & 1:26.4 as a hard charging Dixie's Boy ( Casey Leonard) showed the way with Dinky Dune right on his back in second.   Through the lane Dixie's Boy managed to fend off the first over challenge of 6-5 favorite Lucpark (Mike Oosting) but a fit and fresh Dinky Dune was full of pace and ready to roll as he moved down to the passing lane. Sealing the deal with a wicked 26.4 final quarter Dinky Dune cruised right on by the pace setter to notch his second career win in eight starts. Lucpark came on again late to edge Dixie's Boy for the place and show spots. Rockin Cassinova & Mighty Hot Shot also earned spots in next week's final.   In the second elimination last year's division leader Earndawg showed that he's ready to defend his crown as he posted a very comfortable 1 ½ length victory in 1:54.1 with Todd Warren at the controls.   After easing away from the gate in third while stablemate King Of The Swamp (Ridge Warren) led the field through opening splits of 28.4 & 58.2, the Roger Welch trained gelding grabbed command of the proceedings as the field moved around the final bend.   After taking the field by the three-quarter-mile mark in 1:26.4 the son of Sportsmaster--Pacific Sister K gamely held off his rivals with an impressive 27.2 final quarter to notch his 10th win in 20 career starts for the partnership of Bo & Pat De Long and Ernest Miller. Frosty Dune (Casey Leonard) saved ground throughout then rallied nicely to finish second while King Of The Swamp held on for third. Also gaining spots in the final were C Note and Comecatchme.   The 50 Cent Pick 5 wager was not hit on Sunday, May 24th so there will be a carryover of $11,081.42 added to next Saturday's (May 30th) Pick 5. Because of the carryover BalmoralPark will guarantee a $25,000 pool for next Saturday's Pick 5. Handicappers across North America can get a head start on their competition with free 10 line program pages for the guaranteed pool courtesy of the USTA Strategic Wagering Initiative and Track Master on the handicapping section at beginning on Thursday, May 28th.   Tom Kelley  

This weekend's ICF harness racing stakes action at Balmoral Park continued on Sunday, April 26th with a field of seven diagonally gaited sophomore fillies squaring off in the $8,000 Koochie Stake. After a nice tune-up in a conditioned event in her seasonal debut, Cynthia Demarlie and Jason Van Winkle's Bi Polar Rose was ready and raring to go for this event as she grabbed command from the start and never looked back in route to a four-length victory in 1:59.0 for driver Travis Seekman.   Taking advantage of post position two, Seekman hustled the daughter of Polar Winner--I Still Owe away from the gate and the filly was comfortably in front by two-lengths as she rolled by an opening quarter in 30.0.   Allowed to have things her own way on the "engine" the Ronnie Roberts trained miss proceeded to effortlessly click off middle splits of 1:00.2 & 1:30.1 while gaining confidence with each passing station.   Through the lane last year's Lady Lincoln Land Stake winner was straight and strong, trotting home in 28.4 while under mild urging at best from Seekman. Divinely Floozy (Tim Curtin), the winner of this year's Speedy Rodney Stake sat in the pocket throughout but could not muster up enough to challenge the eventual winner while Meabh (Mike Oosting), who spotted the field some 16 lengths at the opening call after making a break behind the gate, rallied nicely to finish third.   A model of consistency in her first season of racing Bi Polar Rose now sports a record 4-2-3 in 12 career starts with earnings of just over $70,000 for her proud connections. The third choice in a fairly wide open betting race, Bi Polar Rose returned $7.60, $4.20 & $2.80 to her backers.   Tom Kelley    

However, it appears those days are behind us. Many of the Illinois bred sophomore pacers and trotters are now ready to race and those who aren’t, look to be only a week or two away. All three of this weekend’s state-bred stake races are a “go,” including the $14,000 Rambling Willie for older ICF pacers. Three weeks ago the Song Cycle, the first 3-year-old and up ICF stake, didn’t fill. Nevertheless, Saturday’s ninth race Rambling Willie saw six pacers pass the entry box, including the current big three of the ICF heavyweight division—Iam Bonasera, Fort Silky and Ice Scraper. The 9-5 morning line favorite Iam Bonasersa made a break near the top of the lane last week, costing him any chance to pick-up his third “Winner’s Over,” in a row. The 8-year-old Nelson Willis trainee did regain his stride quickly and rattled off a 26.1 last panel finishing third behind Best Man Hanover and Fort Silky. “It was just a speed break and nothing to be that concerned about”, said Iam Bonasera’s regular driver Travis Seekman. “Every once in a while he out-paces himself before he gets completely straighten out coming out of that last turn. “I kind of rushed him trying to keep up with the field because I didn’t want to have them get to too far ahead. He can come off a break quick, like he did, and always make up some ground.” Iam Bonasera drew the two-slot Saturday with the speedball Ice Scraper, programmed at 2-1, Brian Carpenter) landing the five and Fort Silky (3-1, Casey Leonard) getting the four. Ice Scraper hasn’t started at Balmoral since April 7 when he was third in a “Winner’s Over.” In fact 6 of his 9 season outings have been in Ohio at Miami Valley Raceway where he’s posted 2 of his 3 season wins. Fort Silky’s stable-mate Whirtlwindiplomacy has the pole position in the Rambling Willie with driver Dean Magee. Bob Phillips Big Brad (6-1, Bobby Smolin) leaves from the three, while Dave Brook’s Rickie Bobbie (8-1, Mike Oosting) has the outside six-slot. Last season’s 2-year-old ICF colt division champion Earndawg makes his sophomore debut in Saturday’s fourth race $8,000 Betzotic stake. He’ll open as the 2-1 public’s choice with regular driver Todd Warren. I’ll have more on this 3-year-old colt stake in Saturday’s column. Sunday’s $8,000 Koochie for 3-year-old ICF trotting fillies lured a field of eight and was carded as race two. Mike Paradise

Tripoli Stable’s Kanaris is the heavy even-money morning line favorite to get a repeat harness racing victory in Friday night’s Maywood Park’s ninth race featured ninth race. The 5-year-old gelding was an easy 1:53.3 front-stepping winner last week for driver Travis Seekman, the 24-year-old son of the horse's trainer Joe Seekman. While Kanaris had to work hard (:27.4 first quarter) to get command a week ago from the seven-slot, he’s in great shape this time around to be in control with the track’s coveted one-slot.. Last year Kanaris pulled down almost $125,000 for his Norridge, Illinois owners. Among his 6 triumphs was a Scioto Downs track record 1:48.3 mile for a 4-year-old gelding on the Ohio five-eighths oval. Among his chief rivals in Friday’s conditioned pace is Lydia Carpenter’s Desperado Alibi (7-2, Brian Carpenter), back on his favorite track after a trio of unsuccessful races at Hoosier Park. The Merl P’Pool trainee left Maywood Park with three consecutive victories, the last 2 in Friday’s same conditioned pace level for non-winners of $8,000 in their last 8 starts. Looking for an upset win are Montero Blue Chip (5-1 Casey Leonard), Quatro Cinco (15-1, Bobby Smolin), At Max Speed (5-1, Mike Oosting), Gypsy Leather (15-1, Ran Anderson) and Galactic Star (8-1, Todd Warren). The Pick 6 wager carryover pool at Maywood Park continues to grow. No one hit the 20 cent wager again last Thursday so it’ll start off with a $13,721 pot in tonight’s first race. The wager encompasses races one through six. Trainers Bob Phillips and Jim Eaton each had a pair of horses finish first in qualifiers Wednesday morning at Balmoral Park and Phillips horses were dominate with 23-year-old Mississippi native Clifton Bell at their lines. Phillips 3-year-old Boys Around Here showed his heels to the other 7 horses in the first qualifier, drawing off by almost 11 lengths with a 1:56 flat mile. Two qualifiers later Bell took Rockin Ron to an 8-length victory in 1:54.3, the fastest of the five morning qualifiers. Eaton’s Account Hanover (Tom Curtin) was a 1:56 flat front-end winner in his qualifier and Mosse Terror (John De Long) followed with a 1:55.3 mile, overtaking his pacesetting stable-mate Artache Hanover and the second place finisher Alwysbreakinhearts, Both of Eaton’s pacers are owned by Michigander Robert Silberberg. The Nelson Willis Stable’s Lima Real Easy (Mike Oosting) breezed in the other Wednesday qualifier with a 1:58.1 mile. John De Long is in Indiana Friday night. The 26-year-old Wisconsin native will drive four Jim Ellison trained horses on the card including Dandy’s Filly in the Hoosier Park Extreme Velocity Series for filly and mare pacers. The Doe, one of only three ICF filly paces entered for Friday’s scheduled Desperate Lady stake, is a starter in Thursday’s first race. The other two entrants—Southern Girl and Lex, the one-two finishers in last Saturday’s Direct Balance stake—are off this week. By Mike Paradise

Illinois kingpins Iam Bonasera and Fort Silky will square off again Saturday night at Balmoral Park but it won’t be the $14,000 Song Cycle ICF stake as expected. For the second consecutive Saturday that initial stake for older state-bred male harness racing pacers didn’t fill. Instead the two stalwarts of the older Illinois pace division will tangle in the track’s $9,400 Winner’s Over, an event won by one or the other the 3 three times it’s been raced. The Leonard Stable’s Fort Silky held off the wo-time Super Night champion Iam Bonasera in the first two contests in March before the Nelson Willis trainee turned the tables in the March 21 feature with a come-from-behind 1:50.4 clocking. Iam Bonasera started off his 6-year-old campaign with four unsuccessful starts at The Meadowlands where he didn’t earn a dollar for his owners Erv Miller and Bert Hochsprung who sent him to his home state where he’s nailed down 26 of his 34 lifetime victories. Since joining the Nelson Willis Stable Iam Bonasera hasn’t missed a check, posted 4 wins, and is back to the top of his game. “Nelson (trainer Willis) has really done a good job of getting the horse back in top form,” said his driver Travis Seekman. “Right now he’s as good as he was when I drove him last fall when he was here (Seekman then guided the horse to his Maurello elimination victory but didn’t get the call on him for the Super Night Final). “Iam Bonasera likes Balmoral. I didn’t know why he didn’t do well out east. Maybe they just go too fast. Or maybe he doesn’t like the racing surfaces as much as he likes this one. “Right now all I really have to do is be patient with him. Wait unto they straighten out and race for home and then let him go. Usually if I can keep him 3 or 4 lengths off the leader, he’ll do just fine. He can close better than most horses at Balmoral.” Despite the recent supremacy of Balmoral’s “Winner’s Over” event, neither Iam Bonasera (9-5) nor Fort Silky (5-2, Casey Leonard) will open as the morning line favorite. That honor goes to Cam B Zipper who has been dominating for trainer Jim Ellison and driver John De Long since the 7-year-old gelding came in from Ohio at the beginning of March. He’ll be at 7-5 first flash odds. Cam B Zipper rattled of Balmoral wins in 1:51.3, 1:51.2 and 1:50.4 and likely could have gone faster in all three races for owners Dandy Farms of Glenview, Illinois; Pennsylvania Howard Taylor and trainer Ellison. The first three slots in Saturday’s seventh race will be manned by Flying Rocket (12-1, Ridge Warren), Preemptive Bid (12-1, Mike Oosting) and Best Man Hanover (6-1, Todd Warren). Sharing the Saturday spotlight will be $8,000 Direct Balance stake for ICF 3-year-old pacing fillies, the 12th and last race on the card, along with the sixth race $9,400 “Winner’s Over” for pacing fillies and mares. Not Worth the Wait: Maywood’s shift to a later 7:30 pm first post became a 7:41 pm first post last night. By 8:30 the third race just got over. All the maneuvering of post times in the end saw a not-so-hot Thursday night handle of less than $420,000. By Mike Paradise

Maywood Park’s initial harness racing ICF stake race of the year met the same fate as Balmoral Park’s 12 nights earlier. It was a no-go. Only a pair of 3-year-old state bred male pacers—Dakota Roadster and Dixie Boy—entered the $8,000 Sportsmaster, scheduled for Friday night. The same two sophomores were the only entrants for the $8,000 Taurus Bomber slated for March 28 at Balmoral. Neither ICF 3-year-old colt stake will likely be rescheduled. Still Growing: No one hit last week’s 20 cent Jackpot Pick 6 at Maywood and carryover for the wager is now at $10,807 for Thursday night’s opener. The 20 cent wager covers the first six races on the card. Better Than Anticipated: Friday’s seventh race conditioned pace feature came up stronger than expected when Kanaris and Firstclassallthway (pictured, courtesy of R.E.B. Photos) were among the seven horses entered. Both pacers come out of a high-level $15,000 conditioned pace at Hoosier. Kanaris (programmed 5-2,Travis Seekman), the 1:48.3 track record-holder at Scioto Downs for a 4-year-old gelding, is making his fourth season start for trainer Joe Seekman and Tripoli Stables of Norridge, Illinois. The now 5-year-old homebred picked up a check in the 2013 Windy City Pace and comes off a 4-year-old campaign where he earned over $124,000. Firstclassallthway (2-1, John De Long) earlier this year rattled off three consecutive victories in Bamoral’s “Winner’s Over” events for Dandy Farms of Glenview, Illinois. The Jim Ellison trainee has won at least 3 races at Maywood the previous three seasons. Among his 39 career victories are a half-dozen triumphs in Balmoral Invites. Galactic Star, winner of 7 of his last 11 outings at Maywood Park, landed the one-slot in the $7,100 conditioned pace for non-winners of $8,000 in their last 5 starts with regular driver Todd Warren. The Perry Smith trained gelding will open at 4-1 odds Fox Valley Norman (8-1, Ridge Warren), Ready (6-1, Mike Oosting), Gypsy Leather (12-1, Ryan Anderson) and Montero Blue Chip (12-1, Casey Leonard) complete the seventh race field. Qualifier News: Lady Lincoln Land champion Bi Polar Rose won her qualifier yesterday morning with Travis Seekman at Balmoral with a 1:59.4 clocking on a track listed as “good.” The Ronnie Roberts trainee is being pointed for the $40,000 (est.) Violet Trot in May. Roberts also had one of the two fastest qualifying winners Wednesday morning when the 3-year-old Indiana bred colt Sir Mammo proved best in 1:55.3 with Todd Warren. Sir Mammo was the third place finisher in last year’s American National 2-Year-Old Trot. Also finishing first in 1:55.3 in another qualifier was the Jim Eaton Stable’s Painkiller (Casey Leonard). The 4-year-old Always A Virgin gelding ended up almost 3 lengths ahead of last year’s Orange and Blue Super Night champion Earndawg. That Roger Welch trainee was timed in 1:56.2 getting ready for his sophomore debut. 1,000th in Sight: Bobby Smolin i(pictured) s grinding is way towards the coveted 1,000 plateau in dash winners. The Oaklawn, Illinois native who turned 29 a few weeks ago (March 23) enters Thursday’s Maywood Park 10-race program with 974 wins as a driver. Coming into 2015 Smolin has posted six consecutive years of 100-plus winning seasons. By Mike Paradise

Party Hangover, a Super Night champion as a 3-year-old, returns to action Friday night at Maywood Park after a three-month layoff. The now 6-year-old ICF mare season is the 6-5 morning line favorite in the second race, a mid-level conditioned pace for fillies and mares. Owned by Ken Rucker and trained by his wife Catrina, Party Hangover will leave from the two-post with Travis Seekman, who qualified the mare a week ago at Maywood when she was timed in 1:56.1 behind the winner Lets Drink On It. “Party Hangover had a good month off, just like most of our horses,: said Catrina Rucker. “We blew her out Tuesday and she looked good.” In 2012 Party Hangover captured the $159,000 Grandma Ann Championship with John De Long, who drove the daughter of Party At Artsplace for his father Jesse, then the trainer. Party Hangover went on to take the ICF 3-year-old filly division honors in 2012 with over $160,000 in purse earnings. Prior to her Super Night triumph she won both the Springfield Final and Du Quoin’s Time Dancer. Party Hangover was bought in early July of 2014 by Rucker who raced the mare the first six months of the year out east, mostly at Yonkers. When she did return to her home state in late June the mare rattled off six consecutive victories between Balmoral and Maywood, including the $21,400 Parklane Powerful crown. The talented mare put $91,501 on her card for 2014 and boasts career earnings of almost $320,000 and 29 lifetime wins heading into Friday’s second race. The Rucker Stable is also starting their mare Sexy Card Shark Friday. The 5-year-old comes off a disappointing sixth place finish a week ago at Balmoral. “Sexy Card Shark has some breathing issues that we are working on to straighten out,” continued Catrina, “She’s had breathing problems throughout her career. Last year she did do better at Maywood.” Contract Breach Thursday’s program is back up to 10 races and Friday’s card is at its normal 12 after being cut by the Maywood Park Race Office last week, a clear violation of its contract with the IHHA. In Item No.40 of the current contract states: “LICENSEES must schedule a minimum of 10 races on Thursday 12 races on Friday, 12 races on Saturday and 10 races on Sunday in each week for which they have been awarded four (4) days of race programs. LICENSEES must schedule a minimum of ten (10) races in each race program. Changes to all of these scheduling requirements will require mutual agreement of LICENSEE and the IHHA and approval by the IRB. The Maywood Race Office did not get permission from the IHHA to cut the number of races on last week’s programs, a clear violation of the current contract. Last Friday’s Maywood handle of $610,939 on 11 races was well below (about $138,000) the previous two Friday March handles of $782,146 and $715,501 on 12 race cards. While short fields were the root of the problem for last Friday’s handle dip, the elimination of a race certainly was also a major contributing factor. The Pot Thickens: The Pick 6 Carryover Pool at Maywood Park has grown to $6,496. The 20 cent wager begins on the first race Thursday and goes through race six. By Mike Paradise

The ICF veteran pacer Iam Bonasera unleashed one of his familiar strong stretch drives and powered his way to a convincing harness racing victory in Saturday night’s “Winner’s Over” feature for pacers at Balmoral Park. Driven patiently by Travis Seekman, the betting favorite was taken back at the start of fourth race and was a fifth, almost 7 lengths behind, in the early going while Fort Silky needed a quick 26.4 first quarter to wrestle command away from Best Man Hanover. Fort Silky got his second quarter rest from driver Casey Leonard and the field went unchanged to the 55.1 half. Seekman bided his time with Iam Bonasera ($4.20), still almost 6 lengths behind, and waited for Firstclassallthway to pull to avoid racing first up. The field motored through a 28 third quarter with Firstclasallthway pressing Fort Silky, Best Man Hanover saving ground in the pocket, with Iam Bonasera shifting into high gear after being swung out for the dash to the wire. The two-time Super Night champion gobbled up ground and went from fifth to first in the lane, pulling way to a one and one-half length victory in 1:50.4. The Nelson Willis trainee paced the last half mile in a rapid 54.2 for his fourth win as an 8-year-old and the 34th of his career. Fort Silky was second best last night, snapping his two-race winning streak, while Firstclassallthway took third, another neck behind. Iam Bonasera is co-owned by the Erv Miller Stable of Wind Cap, Pennsylvania and Bert Hochsprung of Elburn, Illinois and is closing in on $740,000 in lifetime earnings. Fox Valley Veto, nicely handled by John De Long, got up in the last stride to gain a head decision over the 3-5 public’s choice Justice Jet in the $9,400 “Winner’s Over” trot co-feature two races later De Long hustled Fox Valley Veto away from the 6-post and was behind the early leader Master Of Excuses who gave up command to Celebrity Hercules soon after the 28.3 first quarter. Justice Jet got away slowly and was sixth, 10 lengths behind, and only ahead of Trotting On Over who made a break at the start. Mike Oosting took Celebrity Hercules to a 57.2 half with Justice Jet on the move and Fox Valley Veto still snuggled in third on the inside. Celebrity Hercules remained on top after a 29.1 third quarter however Justice Jet was coming on strong. De Long then got Fox Valley Veto out and right behind Justice Jet mid-way down the lane. It appeared Justice Jet was going to win for the 6th time in 7 season starts but a late surge by “Veto” gave the 4-year-old ICF trotter the narrow victory. Celebrity Hercules was third, beaten only one length. Fox Valley Veto came into the race with four consecutive second place finishes in Balmoral’s trot feature nevertheless he wasn’t going to be denied last night for Carrollton, Illinois owners Curt Grummel and Craig Grummel. The 5-1 third choice in the wagering paid a generous $13.40 to his supporters. Casey Leonard followed a win Friday night at Maywood with another four-bagger last night at Balmoral.. . Eleventh race winner Rockin Cougar ($10.00) was a Mike Paradise Price Shot. Mike Paradise

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