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Balmoral's Weekend Stakes Recap

Published: May 27, 2013 11:23 am ET

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Sophomore trotting fillies capped off a busy Memorial Day weekend of stakes action at Balmoral Park as a field of diagonally gaited state-breds squared off in the $50,000 Violet Stakes final on Sunday, May 26.

Fresh off a big win in her last start on the Crete oval, Just For Fun will now be laughing all the way to the bank as she parlayed a perfect steer from driver Casey Leonard into a one and a quarter-length victory in a career best of 1:55.2.

Using an inside post to perfection, Leonard placed the daughter of Armbro Tropicana-Just Having Fun right on the back of last year’s two-year-old Illinois-bred champion Trot Fudge Sundae (driven by Dave Magee) as that filly rolled through splits of :29, :58 and 1:26.2.

“It’s not very often that things go exactly as you hope they will but this was one of those rare times,” said the red-hot Leonard. “That was exactly the way the race looked like it was going to shape up and sure enough it did. When we landed in the pocket right behind Trot Fudge Sundae I was pretty happy.”

With her entrymate Little Ms Chrissy (Robert Taylor) leading the outer flow as the field turned for home, Leonard deftly angled Just For Fun to the outside where she quickly engaged the pace setting Trot Fudge Sundae.

“At that point my filly really felt strong because I hadn’t asked her for much and she had been covered up the entire way,” explained Leonard. “I saw that Little Ms Chrissy was starting to gain ground on the outside and I figured that Sara The Spy (Todd Warren) was probably right behind her and I wanted to get the jump on that filly. I wasn’t going to take any chances of getting pinned down on the inside for too long.”

Quickly swallowing up the leader Just For Fun opened up a one and a half-length lead by the mid-stretch call. The Robert Taylor-trained miss then continued to trot strong all the way to the wire holding off the late bid of 4-5 favourite Sara The Spy for her biggest payday to date. Sara The Spy was forced to settle for the bridesmaid role while Little Ms Chrissy was third.

In the winner’s circle, Leonard was quick to praise Taylor’s training and management of the rapidly-improving filly.

“I’ve only driven her three times, but each time she’s been better than she had been in her previous race and she’s just a pleasure to drive,” said Leonard. “Robert told me at the start of the year that she had ability and to not worry about anything and just drive her like she was one of my own. It’s really nice thing when a trainer shows that kind of confidence in you as a driver. You can tell she’s been managed very well and it’s paying off with some very nice paydays for this group.”

Sent off as the second choice in the wagering, Just For Fun returned $8.40, $3.40 and $4.00 while moving her career record to 3-5-1 in 17 starts with earnings of $62,404 for the partnership of Rietveld, Taylor and Dixon.

A pair of $10,000 Cardinal Stakes eliminations for three-year-old pacing colts were contested on Saturday, May 25 at Balmoral Park with a 14 starters looking for spots in next week’s $57,300 (est.) final.

In the first division Connie Hochstetler and Kristofer Heim’s Monopoly Man used a backside brush to grab command and never looked back in route to a one-length victory in a snappy 1:53.1.

Given another confident steer by Leonard, who also captured the big Violet Stakes on Friday night at Maywood Park, the gelded son of Sportsmaster-Romantic Michelle who was a $28,000 yearling purchase, settled in fourth as Colechester (John DeLong) led the field through an opening quarter in :28.3. With the pace slowing on the backstretch, Leonard then gunned his charge to the front where he proceeded to take command while leading the field through middle splits of :57.2 and 1:25.1.

Straight and strong through the lane, the Homer Hochstetler trainee then paced home in :27.4 to secure his first career victory in start No. 7. Fox Valley Action (Todd Warren) stormed home in :26.4 to get the place money while Darth Quaider (Mike Oosting) rallied for third. Tracys Hero and JPS Mini Me also gained spots in next week’s final.

The second division marked the sophomore debut of last year’s Orange & Blue winner Fancy Creek Elusiv. The Nick Giberson trainee showed that he is going to be a force to be reckoned with again this year, as he disposed of six others with a one and a half-length victory in a blistering 1:51.4 with Jamaica Patton in tow.

Fancy Creek Elusiv saved ground through the opening half-mile, as Greg And Flex (Casey Leonard) and Beachside Bungalow (Mike Oosting) took turns leading the field through splits of :28.1 and :56.1. Patton then moved the son of Sportsmaster-Elusive Image to the outside where he began a first-over assault on the pace setters.

Moving alongside the pacesetting Beachside Bungalow at the top of the stretch, Fancy Creek Elusiv effortlessly cruised by the leader, speeding home in :27.1 while keeping a late charging Crankin It Up (Kyle Wilfong) at bay. Mystical Walter (Robert Smolin) rallied nicely to finish third. The last two spots in next week’s final went to Sage Ruck and Fox Valley Norman.

The win was the sixth in 12 lifetime starts for Fancy Creek Elusiv who now boasts earnings of $140,281 for the partnership of Walker, Mullink, Henke and Walker.

(With files from Balmoral)

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