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Stars Showcased In Southland Festival

Published: July 26, 2015 2:36 am ET

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A mix of Illinois’s top youngsters shared Saturday night’s spotlight at Balmoral Park as the Crete oval presented five big money finals as part of the Southland Festival of Racing.

Freshmen pacing fillies kicked off the fast paced action in race four as a field of 10 gathered behind the gate for the $50,000 Loyal Opposition Stake.

It was “bombs away” in this battle as Finn Racing and Tami Michi’s Likeafireballshot parlayed a perfect pocket-sitting trip into a half-length victory at odds of 12-1 for driver/trainer Jared Finn in 1:54.1.

Perfectly positioned after leading the field through an opening quarter in :28.3, Finn elected to let a hard-charging Narcissistic (Mike Oosting) grab control of things as the fillies moved through middle splits of :58 and 1:26.

Patiently waiting for racing room in the lane, the daughter of Sportsmaster—Major Philly moved to the outside with a sixteenth of a mile to go where she proceeded to wear down the favourite, rallying in the closing strides for her first win in lifetime start number three. Another longshot, 42-1 outsider Fox Valley Gypsy (Clifton Bell) unleashed a huge late rally to finish as the bridesmaid while LKs Nancy Lee (Tim Curtin) was a game third.

The winner returned $26.40, $13.40 and $6.40 while helping to key a $3,800 trifecta payout.

Next up were freshmen pacing colts as a field of 10 lined up behind the gate for the $52,000 Mini Me Stake.

Fresh off three straight stake scores Stephen Mc MacKin, Marilyn Kelly and Lorna Rousch’s Wondrous Sport made it four in a row over the competition as he recorded a neck decision in a career-best of 1:52.2 with Casey Leonard at the controls.

Sweeping to the front after watching BS Tyrrific (Kyle Wilfong) lead the field through an opening quarter in :28, Leonard continued to let the Gary Rath trainee roll through swift middle splits of :55.4 and 1:24.3.

Gamely digging in through the stretch, the altered son of Sportsmaster—Wondrous Grace paced home in :28.1 while holding off the pocket-sitting BS Tyrffic in a thrilling stretch duel. Dan D Dune (Mike Oosting) held on for third after making a strong first over bid as the field neared the top of the lane.

Sent off as the 2-1 favourite by the betting public, Wondrous Sport returned $6.20, $4.80 and $3.00 while running his record to 4-0-0 in five starts with earnings of $35,000.

A field of eight sophomore trotting colts met in the third event of the night the $38,000 Kadabra Stake.

This battle provided another big price as William Wright and Geis Enterprises' Bulldog Benji, a 20-1 outsider with just one career win to his credit, picked the right night to come up with a lifetime-best, trotting to a convincing five and three-quarter length triumph in 1:55 for driver Mike Oosting.

Placed in mid-pack as a “fired-up” Tricky Nick led the field through splits of :28.3, :57 and 1:25.3, Oosting moved the Mike Brink-trained son of Powerful Emotion—Ms Brittania to the outside as the field approached the head of the stretch.

With plenty of open space available after early miscues took Southern Appeal, Fox Valley Qatar and Southern Special out of the race, Bulldog Benji seemed to find another gear as he quickly left the rest of the field in his wake while cruising to his second win in 11 starts this season. Captain Greedy (J D Finn), who had been riding a five-race winning streak, was forced to settle for the runner-up role on this night while Tricky Nick held on for third.

Bulldog Benji returned $42.80, $7.40 and $4.20 while upping his career bankroll to $29,720.

Next up were sophomore pacing fillies as field of 10 renewed acquaintances in the $45,000 Ann Vonian Stake.

Once again, Kay Willis’s home-bred filly Lex came up big when the cash was on the line as she rolled to a two and a half length victory in 1:52.1 for driver Kyle Wilfong.

Storming into the lead on the backstretch after watching Fox Valley Charm (Tim Curtin) and Fox Valley Aubrey (Robert Smolin) slug it out through an opening quarter in :28, Wilfong put Lex on the “engine” where she proceeded to put up middle splits of :57 and 1:24.3 while going along comfortably on the front.

Sprinting away from her rivals in the lane, the Nelson Willis-trained daughter of Lexington Legend—I Bet U effortlessly opened up a three-length advantage by the mid-stretch call as she rolled to her sixth win in 11 starts this year. Sportsmuffler (Todd Warren) shook loose late to rally for the place check while Southern Girl (Casey Leonard) was forced to settle for the show dough.

The 3-2 favourite of the betting public Lex returned $5.00, $3.60 and $3.20 while running her career numbers to 10-4-4 in 26 starts with earnings of $131,703.

Sophomore pacing colts closed out the Saturday stake action as a field of 10 three-year-olds knocked heads in the $45,000 Incredible Finale Stake.

After getting a week off and a bye into the final, Bo & Pat De Long and Elmer Miller’s Earndawg returned fit and fresh as he roared to a three-quarter-length victory in a lifetime-best of 1:51 for driver Todd Warren.

Benefitting from a perfect steer by Warren, the Roger Welch-trained son of Sportsmaster—Pacific Sister K enjoyed a pocket trip while longshot Engine One O One (Brian Carpenter) put up fractions of :27.1, :55.4 and 1:23.

After pulling the pocket as the field neared the top of the lane, Earndawg proceeded to blow right by the pacesetter, sealing the deal with a :28 final quarter to earn his fourth win in 10 starts this season. Fox Valley Elijah (Robert Smolin), a 26-1 outsider, rallied sharply to get the place spot while Lucpark (Mike Oosting) finished third.

The second choice in the wagering at 2-1, Earndawg returned $6.60, $4.00 and $2.80 while running his career record to 12-7-4 in 27 starts with earnings of $277,188.

The Southland Festival action continues on Sunday, July 26, with a trio of finals sharing the spotlight on the 10-race card. Freshmen trotting colts start the action in race two as a field of six will slug it out in the $36,500 Plesac Stake. Their female counterparts will hit the track in race four as a field of 10 meet in the $40,000 Fox Valley Flan Stake. Closing out the action will be sophomore trotting fillies as a field seven go postward in the $39,000 Fox Valley Evita Stake. 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 (race 10) also features a guaranteed pool with a minimum of $15,000 on the line in the “ultimate get out wager!"

(Balmoral Park)

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