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Cup Starter Wins Incredible Finale Stake


Published: July 31, 2011 6:37 pm ET

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Illinois conceived and foaled pacers were the focus of attention on Saturday night as six big stake races with almost $350,000 in purses headlined the Southland Festival of Racing at Balmoral Park.

Kicking off the action were two-year-old pacing fillies as a full field of 10 squared off in the $57,500 Loyal Opposition Stake.

Fresh off a win over conditioned rivals at Balmoral Park, Ciara Stable and John Carver’s No Respect overcame a grueling first over trip to win by a nose in a thrilling 1:55.3.

Pulled from fifth after the quarter by driver Dave Magee, No Respect was sent in chase of her entrymate MJs Bid (Marcus Miller), who was cruising through pedestrian splits of :28.1, :59 and 1:28. `

“The pace slowed pretty suddenly on the backside so I knew I better get her out there,” said Magee. “I knew it meant we were going to be first up for a long time but going into the race I kind of thought we might be in for a tough trip.”

Finally wearing down the pacesetter with an eighth of a mile to go, the Tom Harmer-trained daughter of Sportsmaster-Justalittlerespect then had to brace for a late challenge by a fast closing Sleazy Does It (Casey Leonard), who had followed her every move. With these two moving towards the wire just heads apart, a game No Respect managed to hold off one final bid by Sleazy Does It to win for the second time in three career starts. Fancy Creek Iris (Jamaica Patton) finished third, three lengths behind the winner.

After the victory Magee commented on this lightly raced filly’s talent.

“She’s been good and getting better and better with every start,” said the Hall of Famer. “She’s a nice strong filly who is very well trained and when you come off that last turn with her she definitely knows what she’s supposed to do.”

A heavy favourite in the wagering after being coupled with MJs Bid, No Respect returned just $2.60, $2.10 and $2.10.

Next up were three-year-old pacing fillies as another full field of 10 were sent postward in the $50,500 Ann Vonian Stake.

Fresh off wins in a Hanover Stake and her elimination last week Mike Brink, Robert Poppleton and David Carter’s Just By Design continued her winning ways as she exploded in the lane to win by one and a quarter lengths in 1:53.

After settling in early on driver Kyle Wilfong elected to point his filly for the top where she cleared Shes Automatic (John Roberts) just after an opening quarter in :27.4.

Division leader Fox Valley Touche (Dale Hiteman) came calling quickly thereafter sweeping into command on the backside where she proceeded to lead the field through middle splits of :55.2 and 1:24.1.

“I kind of a had a feeling that Dale was going to be moving his filly a little earlier tonight since they had been getting away towards the back lately,” said Wilfong. “That’s why I figured I better get my filly up near the front and try and sit on her coattails.”

After shrugging off a first over bid from Mystical MJ (Marcus Miller) at the top of the lane, Fox Valley Touche was still in command. With a sixteenth of a mile to go, a patient Wilfong maneuvered Just By Design out of the pocket and the daughter of Sportsmaster-Rock N Roan paced home in :28.3 to notch her fifth win in 10 starts this season. Fox Valley Touche was forced to settle for the bridesmaid role while last season’s champion Pardon (Dave Magee) finished third.

“I knew that as long as we could get racing room we were going to have a chance to beat the favourite,” said an excited Wilfong. “It worked out to be a dream trip for us and my filly really felt strong the entire time. She’s just got this attitude lately that she’s not going to lose and she goes out there determined to prove it.”

A model of consistency in her sophomore season, the Mike Brink-trained Just By Design now sports a record of 5-2-2 in 10 starts. Sent off as the second choice in the wagering Just By Design returned $9.00, $3.40 and $2.80.

Older pacers were next on the docket as a field of nine classy veterans assembled for the $49,500 Big Tom Stake.

Once again coming up with one of his best efforts when the big money is on the line, James Gorman’s Well To Do Guru came flying up the passing lane to win by a widening two and a quarter lengths in 1:51.

Given a perfect steer by driver Casey Leonard, the seven-year-old gelding left quickly from post position four and neatly settled in right behind the pacesetting My Boy David (Brian Carpenter).

“I figured we’d better hustle out of there tonight so I didn’t have to be outside through the second turn,” explained Leonard. “We found the perfect horse to sit behind and wound up with the perfect trip because of that.”

With My Boy David rattling off splits of :27.1, :56.1 and 1:23.4, Well To Do Guru was perfectly positioned in the pocket. With a first over Big Daddy Woo Woo offering up a strong bid Leonard neatly slipped inside of a tiring My Boy David. With nothing but clear sailing between themselves and the wire, the Terry Leonard trainee uncorked a :26.4 final quarter to nab his sixth win in 14 starts this year. Sports Fanatic (John Roberts), a 35-1 longshot finally shook loose late to rally for the place money while Big Daddy Woo Woo settled for third. Iam Bonasera, the 1-2 favourite in his return to the local scene, was never in contention and finished last in the field.

“He really didn’t feel like his usual self in last week’s free for all so I didn’t overdue it with him and risk losing the rest of the season,” said Leonard. “Tonight when he stepped on the track I knew he felt good so I had plenty of confidence in him. He wound up with an easy trip and once he saw daylight he was gone.”

Boasting 25 career victories, Saturday night’s triumph pushed this tough as nails gelding’s career earnings up to $423,948. Another second choice in the wagering Well To Do Guru returned $8.20, $4.40 and $3.40.

Sophomore pacing colts provided more excitement in the next event as Leland Mathias, Harvey Eisman and the Ervin Miller Stables' Dutch Richman rallied in the final strides to take the $61,500 Incredible Finale Stake by a neck in 1:51.4.

Content to bide their time in mid-pack as Boi (Dave Magee) rushed away from the outside starting spot, driver Marcus Miller moved Dutch Richman to the outside just after a quick opening quarter of :26.3.

Heading down the backstretch, the fast pace continued with Boi leading the way through middle splits of :55.2 and 1:23.4.

Grinding his way towards the front, Dutch Richman was just a head behind the pacesetting Boi as the two turned for home. Continuing to battle tooth and nail through the lane, these two began to draw away from the rest of the field. Finally putting a head in front with less than 50 yards to go, the Erv Miller-trained Dutch Richman proved his toughness overcoming the long journey to notch his sixth win in 10 starts this season. Boi was a hard fought second while a hard charging Playin For Keeps (Jamaica Patton) rallied from far back to finish third.

After the race a relieved Miller seemed pretty impressed by the toughness his charge showed on Saturday night.

“Most of the time I’ve been able to work out a pretty good trip for 'Dutch,' but tonight we had to grind it out,” he said. “I knew that Boi was going to be tough to get by but there’s a reason that my horse has won so many races and it’s because he’s just plain tough which he showed everyone tonight.”

The 1-5 favourite in the wagering, Dutch Richman returned just $2.60, $2.40 and $2.10 while pushing his career earnings up to $206,926.

Freshmen pacing colts were next in line as a field of 10 met in the richest event of the night, the $77,000 Mini Me Stake. This test also produced the biggest upset of the night as 21-1 longshot Uncle Smoothie shot through the passing lane to win by one and a half lengths in a career best of 1:53.

Given a perfect steer by driver Brian Carpenter, the gelded son of Sportsmaster-Kan Commute used the inside post to perfection as he let undefeated Peachys Pistol speed to the top where he put up splits of :28.1, :57.1 and 1:25.2.

“Things really kind of set up perfectly for us,” said Carpenter. “I wasn’t about to get involved in a duel with the horse that left and we wound up falling into the perfect spot.”

Sitting in the garden spot, a locked and loaded Uncle Smoothie and Carpenter patiently awaited their turn in the passing lane while Peachys Pistol was forced to fend off a first over bid by Vavoomster (Kyle Wilfong) while Crime Of Passion (Marcus Miller) circled up three-wide as the field turned for the money.

After finding daylight in the passing lane, Uncle Smoothie flew past his tiring rivals as he charged home with his third win in five lifetime starts. Crime Of Passion was forced to settle for second while My Boy Cal (Dale Hiteman) rallied to be third.

After the race a very happy Carpenter was singing the accolades of the Nelson Willis trainee.

“He’s never had a bad race in his life yet,” said a beaming Carpenter. “Tonight I knew once we got room that we would be good. The outer flow and the horse on the front were going all they could and my horse wanted to run over them from the time they hit the top of the stretch. Once we got free it was over.”

Uncle Smoothie returned a hefty mutuel of $45.20, $10.60 and $10.20 to those lucky enough to back the bay gelding.

The final stakes event of the night featured Filly & Mare pacers as a very competitive field of eight distaffers were sent to battle in the $49,000 Parklane Powerful Stake.

Proving once again that she is as tough as they come in the distaff ranks Mystical Marker Farms and Peggy Hood’s Mystical Victress wore down her rivals despite a first over trip to win by two-lengths in a seasonal best of 1:51.1.

After watching Native Hotspur (Casey Leonard) and Fox Valley Absolut (Robert Smolin) mix it up through an opening quarter in :26.4, driver Marcus Miller decided it was time to go with Mystical Victress.

Pulling from third the Ervin Miller-trained four-year-old battled neck and neck with Native Hotspur (Casey Leonard) through middle splits of :54.2 and 1:23.

“I really wasn’t that worried about the trip we were going because she’s won like that plenty of times in the past,” said Miller. “She just seems to wait and wait to go by them and once we straighten out for home she finds another gear and pulls away from them.”

Following that script to perfection, the daughter of Sportsmaster proceed to put away Native Hotspur before bracing for a challenge from Rev Me Up (Dave Magee), who was following her every move on the outside of horses. Continuing to hold that rival at bay Mystical Victress was strong to the wire as she paced home with her fourth win in eight starts this year. Rev Me Up was forced to settle for the bridesmaid role while Land Ds Taylor (Mike Cox) rallied to be third.

Dispatched as the even money favourite in the field, Mystical Victress returned $4.00, $2.60 and $2.40 while winning for the 21st time in 36 career starts and running her career bankroll up to $353,507.

The stakes action continues on Sunday with night trotters taking center stage in the $49,500 Fox Valley Evita Stake and the $44,500 Kadabra Stake. Post time for the Sunday night opener is 7:10 p.m.

(Balmoral Park)

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