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Oosting, Willis Take 2010 Balmoral Titles

Published: December 30, 2010 10:06 am ET

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A pair of Balmoral Park veterans took home the driving and training titles for the 2010 season at the Crete, Illinois oval. Mike Oosting posted an unprecedented sixth straight driving title, while conditioner Nelson Willis grabbed his first Balmoral Park training title.

The 48-year-old Oosting, who currently resides in Beecher, IL, turned the driving race into a runaway early in the season and never looked back. He easily outdistanced rising star Marcus Miller by more than 100 victories.

The familiar brown and gold colours of the Fremont, Michigan-born Oosting hit the winners circle 324 times during the 2010 season at Balmoral. Oosting also posted 207 second-place finishes and 196 third-place finishes from 1,243 starts. His winning percentage of just over 26 per cent was also far and away the top number among the driving colony as was his more than $1.3 million in purse earnings.

When asked about his sixth straight title, Oosting, who now boasts more than 4,400 career victories and $27.8 million in purse earnings, seemed a bit shocked about the feat.

“I never considered something like this a feasible goal when I first came here because I was basically driving my own horses or my family’s horses,” said Oosting. “About the only thing I really wanted to do was get a track record at a major track like Balmoral and I accomplished that the first year I started coming here on a regular basis with a horse named Storm Go who went in 1:50 and change for me.”

Oosting finished third in the Maywood Park driver standings despite having nearly 500 fewer drives than the top two finishers, Todd Warren and Marcus Miller.

On the training side of things, longtime favourite Nelson Willis earned his first Balmoral Park training title at the age of 67. He edged out Bob Phillips and Erin Elliott in a tight race.

Another Beecher, IL resident Willis began his training career back in 1969 while working with his brothers, Connel and Jessie Willis.

“I’ve come close to getting one here a couple of times, but just came up a little short,” said Willis. “It doesn’t get any easier as you get older so this feels mighty good to take home the title in 2010.”

'Spider', as he is affectionately known as around the track, sent out 419 starters. From those starters, Willis had 80 victories, 66 second-place finishes and 49 third-place finishes. His winning percentage was a very respectable 19.4 per cent, while his horses earned just over $520,000 in purses at Balmoral.

Willis, who also sent out plenty of starters on the Indiana circuit during the 2010 season, was quick to praise everyone involved in his operation.

“It’s tough to be in so many places at the same time so often,” he said. “I’ve really had some great help this year, and I really want to thank all the owners that have sent me some very nice horses to train. It’s one thing to have a bunch of horses in your barn, but it’s a completely different thing to have horses that are capable of winning each time they go to the track. That’s why I’ve had the success I’ve had lately.”

During his career Willis has sent out a total of 905 winners and his trainees have earned more than $8.8 million in purses.


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