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Balmoral Hosts Southland Festival Elims

Published: July 19, 2015 6:18 pm ET

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The countdown to the Southland Festival of Racing, one of the biggest weekends of the season for Illinois conceived and foaled pacers and trotters, began in earnest on Saturday, July 18 with a bevy of elimination action highlighting a big 12-race program.

Freshmen pacing colts kicked off the non-stop action with a trio of Mini Me Stake elimination’s attracting a total of 21 youngsters. The top three finishers in each elimination along with one fourth-place finisher will be back next week for the $48,000 (est.) final.

In the opening split, the Gary Rath-trained Wondrous Sport grabbed command right from the word "go" and made every call a winning one as he reported home with a one and a half length victory in 1:54.4 for driver Casey Leonard.

The gelded son of Sportsmaster—Wondrous Grace strolled through splits of :29.3, :58.3 and 1:27.2 before sealing the deal with a :27.2 final quarter to notch his third win in four career starts for the partnership of Stephen Mc MacKin, Marilyn Kelly and Lorna Roush. Shootin To Kill (Mike Oosting) rallied late to finish as the runner-up while Fox Valley Chino (Kyle Wilfong) was a solid third. Dakota Road was fourth.

In the middle split, Nicole Potts’ Royale Rose continued his impressive start as he scored in front-stepping fashion, recording a three-quarter-length victory in 1:55.2 for driver Brian Carpenter.

Sent to the top after an opening quarter in :30.2, the gelded son of Ashlees Big Guy—Caribe Royale cruised through middle splits of :59.1 and 1:28 before putting on the finishing touches with a :27.2 finale to notch his third win in four lifetime starts. BS Tyrrific (Kyle Wilfong) was a game second while Silver Sage (Mike Oosting) grabbed the dough. JB’s Hero was fourth.

With the win, the Lyle Scurlock trainee, who was sent off as the 3-5 favourite in the race, now boasts $9,536 in career earnings.

The final division of the Mini Me Stake eliminations gave the “chalk” players a clean sweep as Kay Willis’s Dan D Dune recorded a three-quarter-length victory in 1:55.2 for driver Mike Oosting.

Reserved near the back of the pack while Red Red Redneck (Larry Finn Jr) carved out splits of :28.3, :58.3 and 1:27.3, Oosting moved the Nelson Willis-trained son of Duneside Perch—Witch Hanover three-deep around rivals as the field reached the top of the stretch.

Gobbling up ground on the outside of horses, Dan D Dune rolled right on by his rivals in the lane to post his second win in four lifetime starts. Sagebrush Sid (Todd Warren) staged a nice late rally to finish second while Goinduneside (Casey Leonard) was third after encountering some traffic issues in the stretch.

A total of 18 two-year-old pacing fillies were dropped in the box for the Loyal Opposition Stake necessitating a pair of $8,000 eliminations with the top five in each division moving on to the $44,000 (est.) final.

In the first division, Quaid Racing’s Char N Marg turned in a very impressive performance, overcoming a taxing two-move journey en route to a hard fought neck verdict in a career-best of 1:54.3.

Confidently handled by Casey Leonard, the Nelson Willis-trained daughter of Sportsmaster—Zip Up Your Pans ducked into the two-hole off the gate, swept into command on the backside then was back out and rolling after the pace setting Fox Valley Gypsy (Clifton Bell) as the field turned for the money.

Shrugging off the difficult journey, Char N Marg still had enough left to overtake the pacesetter with an eighth of a mile to go holding firm to the wire as a hard charging LKs Nancy Lee (Tim Curtin) came flying through the passing lane to be the bridesmaid. Likeafireballshot (Jared Finn) was a solid third while Fox Valley Gypsy and Lexirose also secured spots in next week’s final. The win was the second in four starts for Char N Marg.

In the final division of the Loyal Opposition Stake, Rocco Ruffolo’s Narcissistic made her local debut a winning one for trainer Erv Miller blowing past her rivals in the lane as she drew off to a three and a quarter length victory in 1:54.4 with Mike Oosting at the controls.

In hand early as Fox Valley Tiramisu (Robert Smolin) and Saras Terror (Brian Carpenter) battled through splits of :27.4, :58 and 1:26.3. the daughter of Sportsmaster—Treasure The Best moved up second over into fourth as the field reached the head of the stretch.

Exploding home in :27.4, the full sister to Lucpark zipped right by the leaders to grab her first victory in start number three. Fox Valley Addison (Todd Warren) finished second while Saras Terror held on for third. Burry Me Inthesand was fourth while Fox Valley Bailey grabbed the last spot in next week’s final.

Sophomore pacing fillies were next on the docket as a field of 10 were sent postward in an $8,000 Ann Vonian Stake elimination. The top nine finishers will be joined by Lex in the $45,000 (est.) final next week.

Shaking off the effects of a tough first over trip and a long grind from post eight, the Dirk Simpson-trained Fox Valley Charm pulled off the minor upset in here as she posted a neck decision in a career-best of 1:53.1 for driver Tim Curtin.

Grinding up on the outside for the final five-eighths of a mile, the daughter of Yankee Skyscaper—Fox Valley Cherub finally overtook the pacesetting Fox Valley Aubrey (Robert Smolin) after that filly had stormed through splits of :28.3, :57.2 and 1:25.

After a prolonged stretch duel, Fox Valley Charm managed to poke a head in front then held sway for her sixth win in 15 lifetime starts for owner Peter Karras. Fox Valley Aubrey was a game second while Southern Girl (Casey Leonard) was third. Also gaining spots in the final with their fourth through ninth-place finishes were BS Tyrichess, Sportsmuffler, Angel Demon, Duneside Perttie, Foxy Ellie and Cowgirl Chic.

Rounding out the elimination action were three-year-old pacing colts as a field of 10 slugged it out in an $8,000 Incredible Finale Stake elimination. Again, the top nine finishers will join Earndawg in the $44,500 (est.) final next week.

This test produced another victory for the trifecta of owner Rocco Ruffolo, trainer Erv Miller and driver Mike Oosting as Lucpark, whose full sister had won earlier on the card, paced away to a three and a quarter length victory in a lifetime-best of 1:51.4.

Confidently handled by Oosting, the bay gelding stormed up first over to engage pacesetting Engine One O One (Brian Carpenter) off splits of :28, :54.4 and 1:23.1 then sped away from that one in the lane to post his third win in nine starts this season. Dinky Dune (Pat Curtin) rallied up well to finish second while Engine One O One held on for third. Also gaining spots in the final were Dakota Roadster, Frosty Dune, Dixies Boy, Fox Valley Elijah, Casey At Bat and DuPages Z Tam.

The elimination action continues on Sunday, July 19, with a field of 10 trotters battling in the $8,000 Fox Valley Flan Stake for two-year-old trotting fillies. The top eight finishers will be back to join Vengeful and Awfully Emotional in the $45,000 (est.) final next week. Once again, the action gets underway at 7:10 p.m. on Sunday night and as always the $1 Pick 4 (races seven through 10) features a $25,000 guaranteed pool. The 10-cent Hi Five also features a guaranteed pool now with a $15,000 guarantee on the line in the “ultimate get out bet” (race 10).

(Balmoral Park)

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