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Balmoral Park

Balmoral Park (8/2/09)

Contact: Tom Kelley
(708) 672-1414


Mini Me
Mini Me
Despite below-average temperatures and a sprinkle of rain all day the action was red-hot on Saturday at Balmoral Park as the Crete plant played host to the inaugural Chicago Southland Festival of Racing. With more than $350,000 in purse money up for grabs, the racing action was fast and furious while plenty of “off-track” activities provided fun and excitement for fans of all ages.

After watching the recently retired Mini Me lead the post parade and then be honored in a winner’s circle ceremony, Leland Mathias, Bert Hochsprung and the Ervin Miller Stables' Power Of A Moment proceeded to put on quite a show for the enthusiastic crowd as he overcame a grueling first over trip to knock off nine other two-year-old pacing colts in the richest event of the evening, the $71,000 Mini Me Stake in a career best of 1:53.1.

Power Of A Moment
Power Of A Moment
Taking advantage of an early miscue by division leader Voomerang in the first turn, driver Marcus Miller proceeded to move the son of Cole Muffler-Panfastic first over on the backstretch.

Gradually wearing down the pace setting Fox Valley Barbosa (Todd Warren), Power Of A Moment finally drew clear in the lane to report home with an impressive 1 ¾ length victory. Chi Town Gambler (Dale Hiteman) rallied late to finish second while 26-1 outsider Burnthemidnightoil (Dave Magee) was third.

In the winner’s circle a relieved Marcus Miller was quick to sing the praises of his charge, who now boasts three wins and three seconds through his first six starts.

“I’ve been very high on this colt from the first time I sat behind him,” said Miller. “Thankfully he showed everybody tonight just how tough he is because I was dreading that call I would have had to make to dad (trainer Ervin Miller) if he had gotten beat after being first over for so long.”

Mystical Victress
Mystical Victress
Another Ervin Miller trainee wound up in the winner’s circle in the second biggest jackpot of the evening, as Mystical Marker Farms Mystical Victress remained undefeated after knocking off nine rivals in the $68,000 Loyal Opposition Stake while stopping the clock in a lifetime best of 1:53.2.

Unhurried through the early stages of the race by the red-hot Brandon Simpson, this homebred daughter of Sportsmaster-Sneakheravalentine moved into contention while third over as the field raced around the final turn.

Taking dead aim from third on a tiring group of early leaders as the field turned for home, this good looking filly proceeded to blow right by her rivals en route to a 1 ¼ length triumph. Fox Valley Oracle (Tyler Buter), who was part of a heavily favored Stretch It Again Stable-owned entry, shook loose late to finish second while stablemate Fox Valley Angie held on for third.

In the winner’s circle Simpson seemed quite impressed by the effort of his filly.

“Even though we had the 10-hole the trip we wound up getting was perfect for us,” said a smiling Simpson. “I drove her last week and loved the way she raced in that win but she was even sharper tonight. She’s still a little green and wanted to wait on horses once we blew by them tonight, but once I chased after her just a little bit she just took off again and we were gone.”

Doubletrouble (inside)
Sophomore pacing colts were featured in the $56,000 Incredible Finale Stake and once again Desyllas Racing, Carol Reiken and William Beck’s Doubletrouble proved that when the big money is on the line he’s awfully tough to beat, as he charged through the passing lane to get up in the final strides for a thrilling nose decision in 1:51.0.

Given a text-book steer by driver Brian Carpenter, the gelded son of Richess Hanover-Fox Valley Monika, who has overcome a myriad of health problems throughout his 20 race career, was perfectly placed in the pocket as My Boy Luke (Josh Sutton) carved out splits of 28.0, 56.2 and 1:24.0.

Diving into the passing lane with a sixteenth of a mile to go the Scott Foster trainee proceeded to fly home in a wicked 26.3, nailing the pace setter in the final strides, for his third victory in nine starts this season. My Boy Luke was forced to settle for the runner-up role for the seventh time in 14 starts this year, while Smellthecolornine (Marcus Miller) staged a late rally for the show dough.

Despite the slim margin of victory, a confident Carpenter seemed unflappable after the thrilling finish.

“I expected a few more horses to leave out of there when the gate folded,” he explained. “Once we landed in the two-hole I figured we were in good shape. He was loaded with pace the entire way but the passing lane couldn’t get there soon enough for my liking.”

My Heart Was True
My Heart Was True
In the $54,000 Ann Vonian Stake for three-year-old pacing fillies, the hottest distaffer on the grounds continued her winning ways as L & L DeVisser’s My Heart Was True cruised to a 3 ½ length in a lifetime best of 1:51.0 with Brandon Simpson at the controls.

Whisked away from post position 10 by Balmoral’s leading reinsman, this daughter of Cole Muffler-Would I Lie was parked through an opening quarter in 27.3. Continuing on her mission for the lead, the Nick Giberson-trained miss stormed to the front and proceeded to rattle of middle splits of 54.3 and 1:23.0.

“We won the last two races coming from well off the pace,” said Simpson. “With the 10-hole tonight I didn’t want to take a chance at getting too far back early and she showed that she can leave like a shot when you want her to,” Simpson said. “She’ll do whatever you ask her to and she’ll do it on whatever size track you put her on.”

Leaving no doubt as to her superiority in this division right now, the long-striding filly then left her rivals in her dust as she sprinted home in 28.0 to notch her eighth win in nine starts this year. Native Hotspur (Sam Widger) followed the winner’s every move but was forced to settle for the bridesmaid role on this night while China Gal (Todd Warren) wound up third.

After yet another dominating performance from My Heart Was True, her conditioner was quite proud of the performance his charge had just turned in.

“She’s really come into her own this year,” said Giberson. “I got her late last year and only had the chance to race her once before quitting with her for the year. Since then she filled out very nicely over the winter both in height and weight and she’s a very imposing figure right now. She also knows how to take very good care of herself and that’s made working with her an absolute pleasure.”

Kennans Kelli
Kennans Kelli
The $50,000 Parklane Powerful Stake provided the biggest upset of the six championship events, as Ken Spurlock’s Kennans Kelli unleashed a powerful closing burst to blow by rivals for a half-length victory in 1:52.1 for driver Todd Warren.

After leaving alertly from the outside post in the field of seven, the Joel Smith trainee found a nice spot in fourth as Kelly’s Keepsake sped to the front from her inside starting spot.

“I figured we would need to find a decent early spot if we were going to have a chance,” explained Warren. “I wasn’t really thrilled about getting into the four-hole but I figured it was better than getting hung outside the entire way so I figured we’d drop in there and just see how things worked out.”

After getting shuffled all the way back to last through the middle part of the race, Warren was finally able to get his mare off the pylons as the field turned for home. Picking off one rival after another, the homebred daughter of Cole Muffler wound up sweeping by the field with a 27.4 final quarter to notch her fourth win in 14 starts this season. BC’S Jesse (Sam Widger) turned a pocket-sitting trip into a second place check while Kelly’s Keepsake held on for third.

A lifetime winner of more than $270,000 after her victory on Saturday, the four-year-old seems poised to do some damage in the latter half of the 2009 season.

“It helped that a couple of horses took some shots at Kelly’s Keepsake in that third quarter tonight,” said Warren. “But this horse has really been deceptively sharp over the past two months and she doesn’t need much urging, so I’m expecting her to put up some big numbers the rest of the year.”

I Can Only Imagine
I Can Only Imagine
A compact but classy field of five older pacers closed out the stakes action on Saturday night in the $50,000 Big Tom Stake. When the smoke cleared from this battle, it was Michael Polansky’s seven-year-old I Can Only Imagine who emerged victorious with a pylon-skimming one-length victory in 1:50.1.

Perfectly handled by Brandon Simpson, the Tom Harmer-trained son of Cole Muffler sat right on the back of the pace setting Special Joe (Josh Sutton) as that gelding rolled through splits of 26.3, 54.3 and 1:22.4.

After patiently waiting for the passing lane, Simpson then moved I Can Only Imagine to the inside and the lifetime winner of more than $465,000 responded beautifully as he flew by the pace setter for his 10th victory of the season. Special Joe held on gamely for second while Thisbigdogwillfight (Dave Magee) was just a length back in third.

After finishing in the runner-up role behind Special Joe in the Free For All the past two weeks, Simpson decided a slight change in tactics was in order for Saturday’s battle.

“I’ve sat right on his back the last two times and then tried to swing outside and pass him but just could never get by him,” he explained. “This time I figured we’d try the inside and my horse responded very well and went right by him.”

Mini Me
Former World Champion Mini Me, who was recently retired, led the post parade for the stake named in his honor on Saturday night and was honored in a winners' circle ceremony before the start of that stake.
The Chicago Southland Festival of Racing wraps up on Sunday night with a pair of $50,000 stakes events for state-bred trotters. Sophomore trotting fillies will battle in the Fox Valley Evita Stake which goes as race eight, while their male counterparts slug it out in the Kadabra Stake which has been carded as the 11th race on the 12-race program. Post time for Sunday’s opener will be 6:30 pm.

For more information visit or call (708) 672-1414.




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