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Willis Sweeps Illinois Stakes

Published: October 8, 2011 4:40 pm ET

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A pair of Illinois conceived and foaled pacing stakes shared top billing on the Friday night card at Maywood Park as the “girls” battled in the $47,350 Violet Stake while their male counterparts knocked heads in the $52,500 Cardinal Stake.

Proving once again that she is one of the top fillies in the division and an absolute model of consistency Engel Stables' Sleazy Does It made every call a winning one as she reported home with a 2-3/4 length victory in 1:55 for driver Mike Oosting in the Violet.

Taking full advantage of the inside starting spot on the half-mile oval, Oosting whisked his filly away from the gate and she was in control of the proceedings as the field moved through an opening split in :28.2.

“I wanted to make sure we got away quickly from that inside starting spot, but she has a tendency to want to run out a bit in the first turn,” said Oosting. "Tonight she was straight as a string coming out of there and that really put us in a great spot.”

Catching a second quarter breather, the daughter of Sportsmaster-Da Sleazy One was pacing along comfortably on the front end as she rolled by the half-mile mark in :58.4.

Heading down the backside towards the three-quarter-mile mark, Sleazy Does It was still in command as she braced for challenges from Fox Valley Swift (Brandon Simpson), who was first over, and Filly Orange & Blue winner MJs Bid (Marcus Miller), who was powering up three-wide as they moved by that station in 1:27.

Around the final turn and through the lane, Sleazy Does It continued her march to the finish line for her confident pilot as she opened up an insurmountable lead while her rivals were left to battle for minor honours behind her.

“I knew if I just kept her pacing that the other top contenders in the race had quite a bit to do if they were going to get close to us,” explained Oosting. “She doesn’t respond to a lot of urging so basically all you have to do is yell and holler at her a bit and she takes off again which is a pretty nice luxury.”

Rattling off a big :28 final quarter, the Nelson Willis trainee was never seriously threatened as she reported home with her fourth win in 11 starts this season. Fancy Creek Iris (Todd Warren) turned a ground saving trip into a second place finish while No Respect (Eric Carlson) shook loose late to wind up a distant third.

After the victory, a very happy Oosting reflected on the performance of his filly.

“She’s been good all season long as you can see by her record of finishing in the money in nine of 11 starts now,” he said. “She acts and carries herself like and older horse from the time you bring her out on the track until the time you hit the finish line with her. I know I haven’t driven her much, but if she fills out a bit since she’s a little bit on the small side right now, I’ve got to believe that she’s got a bright future ahead of her.”

Sent off as the 4-5 favourite by the betting public, Sleazy Does It returned $3.80, $2.40 and $2.10 while running her career earnings to just over $94,000.

The Cardinal Stake provided a much more thrilling finish as Sawgrass Farms' Uncle Smoothie held on gamely to win by a nose in a U.S. national season’s best for a two-year-old gelding on a half-mile oval of 1:53.1.

Content to sit just off a very hot early pace, which was being set by Peachys Pistol (Brandon Simpson) and Vavoomster (Eric Carlson), driver Brian Carpenter and Uncle Smoothie also benefited from a break in the first turn by elimination winner Fox Valley Mahalo (Todd Warren) as the field sped through an opening quarter in :26.4.

“I loved where we were in the early going, but I’ve got to say I was a little concerned by the horse that made the break in the first turn,” explained Carpenter. “I had originally figured we’d be able to get a second over trip behind one of those, but once that happened I kind of a had a feeling we were going to have to be first up.”

With the fast pace continuing to the half-mile mark, Peachys Pistol continued to show the way with Vavoomster on the chase in second. Uncle Smoothie had moved to the outside at this point and was on a mission for the lead as the field hit the half-mile mark in :55.

Quickly pacing by his rivals on the backstretch the Nelson Willis trained Uncle Smoothie opened up a 1-1/4 length lead as he sped by the three-quarter-mile mark in 1:24.1.

“I knew that those top few had really been going at it hard through the opening half so I figured if I let my horse give it his best shot on the backside he would have a good chance at going past them and that’s exactly what he did,” said Carpenter.

Sweeping into command, the gelded son of Ft Apache Hanover-Kan Commute then proceeded to hold off the late moves of a first over Western Cole (Ridge Warren) and a three-wide Crime Of Passion (Marcus Miller) as he notched his fourth win in 10 starts this season. Western Cole survived a steward’s inquiry to get the place money while Crime Of Passion was third.

After the win a relieved Carpenter made it sound it like it was just another night’s work.

“Once we swept by those horses on the backside I really thought we were home free,” he said. “I thought we had a big enough jump on the others, but things really got tight there at the finish. My horse really dug in late and proved that when he’s 100 per cent he can go with any of them in this division.”

Overlooked a bit at the windows, Uncle Smoothie returned $16.60, $6.60 and $4.40 to his backers while running his seasonal earnings up to just over $81,000.

(Maywood Park)

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