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'Qatar' Lives Up To Expectations

Published: May 31, 2015 2:15 am ET

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On a night in which temperatures plummeted into the low 40’s and were accompanied by strong winds and soaking rains that made it seem more like mid-October than the end of May, a pair of Cardinal Stakes put Illinois conceived and foaled trotters and pacers in the spotlight on Saturday, May 30.

Trotters were first on the docket as a field of eight diagonally-gaited sophomore colts lined up behind the gate to battle for a purse of $16,200.

Once again, the Herman Wheeler-owned and trained Fox Valley Qatar proved that he’s just too much for this division as he came powering through the slop to post a two-length victory in 1:57.4 under some confident handling by driver Todd Warren.

Ducking off the gate after showing high speed in his first two starts of the year, the gelded son of Pizzazzed–Armbro Bahrain was content to trot along in sixth as longshot Allpowernoemotion (Ronnie Gillespie) led the field through splits of :30 and 1:00.1.

“There was no way I was leaving with him for a third straight week,” explained Warren. “He was really 'hot' last week and it’s a long year so I didn’t want him to get roughed up again.”

Continuing to sit in mid-pack, Warren finally moved last year’s division champ to the outside, picking up cover while third over as a hard-charging Tricky Nick (Mike Oosting) quickly opened up a two-length advantage as he rolled by the three-quarter-mile mark in 1:29.2.

With a 20mph tailwind in the homestretch, Fox Valley Qatar quickly found his best stride and began gobbling up ground on the far outside of horses. Zipping right by the leader with a sixteenth of a mile to go, Fox Valley Qatar left his rivals in his wake as he reported home in :27.3 to post his third win in as many starts this season. Captain Greedy (J.D. Finn) rallied to finish second while Tricky Nick held on for third.

Bet as though defeat was out of the question, the 2-5 favourite returned $2.80, $2.20 and $2.10 while running his career numbers to 11-1-0 in 12 starts with earnings of $100,315.

In the winner’s circle, Warren was quick to sing the praises of his trotting star.

“He’s just a pleasure to drive and he’s perfectly fine sitting in a hole like he did tonight,” said Warren. “He’s very easy on himself and he’s come back great after that awesome two-year-old season. I would expect him to have a lot of success with this group.”

Sophomore pacing colts were featured in the second Cardinal Stakes of the night as a field of 10 three-year-olds braved the elements for a purse of $18,400.

In a thrilling, hotly contested affair, the Dane May-owned and trained Dinky Dune shook loose very late in the mile then came flying on the outside of horses to win by a head in a career-best of 1:53.1 despite the sloppy surface.

Leaving alertly from post eight, driver Pat Curtin had control of the early proceedings, battling Lucpark (Mike Oosting) through an opening quarter of :27.4.

“Going into the night, Dane and I were kind of undecided on whether to wrangle him off the gate or to charge out of there and try to be up close,” said a very happy Curtin. “With the weather and track conditions turning out the way they did, we figured we better have him right up there in contention every step of the way.”

Sitting in the pocket while Lucpark continued through middle splits of :56.3 and 1:25.1, the gelded son of Duneside Perch—Dream Hand was raging with pace as the bunching field began to move through the lane.

With Lucpark, Dixies Boy (Casey Leonard) and Earndawg (Todd Warren) battling three across the track, a patient Curtin was still searching for room with the fit and fresh Dinky Dune.

“I thought about trying to split those three because there was an opening for just a minute, but I figured they would close that up on me in a hurry,” explained Curtin. “So I just decided I was going to have wait a little longer until I could slide to the outside of all them because this horse can really rattle once he gets in gear.”

Finally securing room on the outside of horses, Dinky Dune unleashed a wicked kick, putting up a :27.4 final quarter to nip the favoured Earndawg in the final strides. Last season’s champ was forced to settle for the runner-up role on this night while Dixies Boy finished third.

Coming off an impressive elimination win the previous week, Dinky Dune took plenty of action at the windows returning $6.40, $3.60 and $2.80 while running his career record to 3-1-1 in nine career starts with earnings of $18,852.

(With files from Balmoral Park)

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