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Balmoral Wraps Up 2014 Season

Published: January 1, 2015 11:06 am ET

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State-bred filly and mare pacers headlined the final night of the 2014 racing season at Balmoral Park as a field of seven distaffers squared off in the $15,000 Fox Valley Memory Stake.

In what has been a very competitive division all season long John Barnard’s Ryleighs Lilly came up with a big effort to close out her four-year-old season as she powered to the top after the quarter and never looked back in route to a 1 ½ -length victory in 1:53.4 for Balmoral’s leading driver Casey Leonard.

Confidently handled by Chicago’s leading reinseman, the daughter of Western Hero — Fox Valley Chosen came away fourth in the field of seven as Party Hangover (Ridge Warren) and State Street Liz (Robert Smolin) battled through an opening quarter in :28.2.

Quickly hitting top gear as the field settled on the backstretch the Bill Crone-trained miss charged from fourth to first in a flash, leading the field through middle splits of :57.2 & 1:25.2.

With plenty in reserve for the stretch drive, Ryleighs Lilly sealed the deal with a :28.2 final quarter while keeping her rivals at bay for her eighth victory of the season. State Street Liz held on for second while Just By Design (Dave Magee) turned a ground saving trip into a third place finish.

With the win Ryleighs Lilly closed out the 2014 season with a record of 8-4-6 in 35 starts while adding another $59,000 to a career bankroll which now stands at $82,538. Heavily backed at the windows the 4-5 betting favourite returned $3.80, $3.00 & $2.10.

Balmoral also honoured Leonard as the 2014 driving champion while longtime veteran Nelson Willis took home the 2014 training title at the Crete oval.

Leonard -- a third generation horseman who did not start driving regularly until 2009 -- ended the 2014 season with 204 victories at Balmoral Park, easily outdistancing second-place finisher Todd Warren by more than 60 victories. Leonard put up a U.D.R.S. of .330 at Balmoral while horses driven by him earned more than $1.38 million in purses.

Willis, who also captured the training title here in 2012, finished up the 2014 season with 71 victories, 23 win ahead of runner-up Erin Elliott. With more than 500 starts at the meet, Willis put up a U.T.R.S. of .266 while his horses earned more than $563,000 in purses.

Live harness racing resumes on Saturday, Jan 3rd. Post time is 7:10 p.m. (central). Balmoral will also race on Sunday, Jan. 4th before heading to a short break. Live racing will then return on Saturday, Jan 31st.


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