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NJs Big Deal Wins Maywood Pace

Published: June 23, 2012 2:40 am ET

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Illinois conceived and foaled three-year-old pacing colts took center stage on Friday, June 22 at Maywood Park as a field of eight gathered for one of Maywood Park’s signature races, the $123,000 Maywood Pace.

With a name fitting for such an event Stevanna Turner and John Fletcher’s NJs Big Deal continued to lead the division through the first half of the season as he turned in a huge effort to post a thrilling neck decision in 1:53.

In hand to regular pilot Ronnie Gillespie, the son of Sagebrush-A Passing Breeze left hard from post position seven and despite being a bit tardy to the gate NJs Big Deal was in front as the field reached the opening station in :28.

“I was so relieved that we were still able to get to the front because I kind of mistimed getting to the gate,” said Gillespie. “Then when the five-horse [Uncle Smoothie] made a break it really made it a lot easier for us to get there without having to use him too hard.”

In control of the proceedings, NJs Big Deal continued to roll along with a one and a half length lead as he cruised by the half-mile mark in :57.1.

With that soft second quarter under his belt, Gillespie and NJs Big Deal continued to show the way in the third panel with a hard charging Crime Of Passion (Marcus Miller) leading a developing outer flow as the sophomores raced by the three-quarter-mile mark in 1:25.2.

Despite Crime Of Passion getting almost three-quarters of a length in front of NJs Big Deal on the final turn, Gillespie was confident that his colt still had more left and stepped on the gas again regaining the lead as the field moved into the stretch.

“I knew Marcus’ horse is one heck of a horse and he was going to be tough, but my horse still felt good out there,” said a smiling Gillespie after the race. “Once he heard that horse get alongside of him and those other ones breathing down his neck he dug in and gave me all he had.”

A thrilling stretch duel ensued with NJs Big Deal clinging to a short lead while Crime Of Passion tried to re-rally just outside of him. After following the cover of Crime Of Passion, Als Hammered (Robert Smolin) was also making up ground on the far outside of horses after tipping three-wide at the top of the stretch. A locked and loaded Fox Valley Mahalo (Todd Warren) was also right there just waiting for a shot to get into the passing lane.

With the four pacers spread out across the track, NJs Big Deal dug in gamely, holding off Crime Of Passion for his fifth win in 12 starts this season. Crime Of Passion was forced to settle for second while Fox Valley Mahalo was third. Als Hammered was fourth, just a neck behind as one and a quarter lengths separated the top five finishers in the race.

After the thrilling victory a joyous Gillespie relived the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.

“Tonight we came out on top and this is the greatest feeling in the world,” he said. “Last week wasn’t so good when Fox Valley Hermia made a break in the final turn while leading the Filly Maywood Pace. I guess that’s the way this game goes.”

Sent off as 2-1 co-favourite in the race, NJs Big Deal returned $6.20, $4.40 and $2.60 while running his career record up to 13-4-4 in 33 starts with earnings of $142,080.

Some of the state’s top older pacers were also in action on the undercard of the big Friday program as a field of six classy veterans battled in the $38,135 Cardinal Stake.

Once again James Gorman’s Well To Do Guru showed that he’s still the “top gun” in the division as he fired away from the gate and made every call a winning one, scoring by a half-length 1:51.4.

Leaving like a shot from the outside post position for driver Casey Leonard the eight-year-old son of Richess Hanover crossed over to the pylons well before the field reached the first turn.

“He was definitely on the muscle and felt great out there tonight,” said Leonard. “I still get nervous in these big races when you’re stuck outside because anything can happen so I kicked out his plugs leaving the gate and he was absolutely smoking going out of there.”

Rattling off splits of :27.3, :56 and 1:23.4, Well To Do Guru was in command of things throughout, shrugging off a challenge from Doubletrouble (Brian Carpenter) after the half and then holding firm for his third win in 11 starts this season. Fox Valley Yukon (Kyle Wilfong) turned a pocket-sitting trip into a second place check while Thisbigdogwilfight (Todd Warren) was third.

“Once he’s out there he’s got a great sense of everything around him and that’s how he was tonight,” said Leonard. “Once he put away Doubletrouble I figured we were pretty safe even though horses were sitting on our back because he seems to know they’re there.”

The 3-5 favourite of the betting public returned $3.40, $2.60 and $2.10 while increasing his career earnings to a whopping $614,999.

(Maywood Park)

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