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Balmoral Park

Balmoral Park (5/5/07)

Contact: Tom Kelley

PACING STARS SHINE ON SATURDAY NIGHT

A trio of top notch races shared the spotlight on a busy Cinco de Mayo at Balmoral Park.

Illinois conceived and foaled pacing colts kicked off the action as a field of 10 sophomores squared off in a $22,130 I.S.O.B.A. Stake.

After knocking at the door in his last two starts, Joseph Costa and Joseph Desapio’s Saratoga John finally took on the starring role as he rallied in the passing lane for a half-length victory in a career best 1:51.3.

The race proved to be a hotly contested battle right from the start as Fox Valley Cub Fan (Dean Magee) shot to the top from post position six. A hard-leaving One Park Place (Sam Widger) was also on a mission for the lead from the 10-hole resulting in an opening quarter of 28.0.

After watching the early proceedings from fourth, driver Brent Holland elected to pull Saratoga John as the field move down the backstretch. The bay gelding responded beautifully as he stormed right by the early leaders, quickly opening up a 1 ¼ length advantage as he hit the halfway station in 56.1.

Around the far turn Holland made a wise move electing to back his charge down a bit, thus avoiding a duel on the bend with the hard-charging tandem of Fox Valley Gambler (Jeff Cullipher) and Big Puff Doggie (Del Chupp). Those two were separated by only a head as the field reached the three-quarter-mile mark in 1:24.0.

Through the lane Fox Valley Gambler continued to cling to his 1 ¼ length advantage. Big Puff Doggie was all out while trying to cut into the margin while Holland patiently awaited the passing lane with a fit and fresh Saratoga John sitting in third.

With a sixteenth of a mile to go Saratoga John and Holland used the passing lane to perfection, drilling through a small opening to post his fourth win of the year. Fox Valley Gambler tasted defeat for the first time in 2007 finishing a hard-fought second, while Big Puff Doggie settled for third.

The Ervin Miller trained sophomore now sports a record of four wins, three seconds and one third in 11 starts this year with earnings of $53,053. Sent off as the second choice in the wagering, Saratoga John returned $5.80, $2.60 & $2.40.

The $21,500 Albatross Free For All also provided plenty of excitement as Redbud Stable & Michael Mcneely’s Thisbigdogwillfight posted his fourth straight victory reporting home with a two-length decision in a blistering 1:49.3.

Handled beautifully by Hall of Famer Dave Magee, Thisbigdogwillfight floated away from post position 10 and was sitting in sixth as Blue Apache (Mike Oosting) and Falcatraz (Todd Warren) blazed through an opening quarter in 27.3.

With a live outer flow continuing to roll on the backside, the lead changed hands several times. By the time the field hit the half-mile mark in 54.3 My Boy David (Ryan Anderson) was a head in front of a hard charging Thisbigdogwillfight.

The wicked pace continued around the far turn with Thisbigdogwillfight taking over the top spot. My Boy David was sitting in the pocket while the early pace setter, Blue Apache, was third as the field reached three-quarters in 1:22.2.

Holding firm through the lane Thisbigdogwillfight, last season's Langley Memorial winner, paced home in 27.1 to get the victory. Blue Apache re-rallied in the late stages to nip My Boy David for the place honors giving the Illinois breds the top three spots in the co-feature.

With wins in five of his seven starts this season, the Jim Eaton trainee now boasts career earnings of more than $237,000. Despite leaving from the far outside Thisbigdogwillfight garnered his fair share of support at the windows returning $7.00, $4.20 & $3.00.

The ladies also had their turn to shine as a field of six distaffers knocked heads in the $15,500 Three Diamonds Open-Handicap.

After opening her 2007 season with a win over conditioned company, Robert Le Roy Enterprises state-bred sensation Free remained perfect on the year as she rolled to a 1 ¼ length victory in a snappy 1:51.3.

Taking advantage of her inside starting spot Free was able to save ground as Fox Valley Fussy (Mike Oosting) and Mama Cash (Del Chupp) traded blows through opening splits of 28.0 & 55.2.

Pacing confidently on the outside of horses as the field headed midway around the final turn, Free quickly moved into second and was just a length off of Mama Cash as that mare reached the three-quarter-mile mark in 1:23.4.

Through the lane the Stanley Miller trainee blew right by the pace setter, cruising home in 27.3 for the victory. Spectacular Cam (Ryan Anderson) rallied belatedly to be the bridesmaid while Fox Valley Fussy shook loose late to get the show dough.

Heavily backed at the windows after opening her four-year-old season with that win at Maywood Park, Free returned $4.00, $2.60 & $2.20. Free now has 16 wins over her last 25 starts.

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