Balmoral Park (5/22/11)
Contact: Tom Kelley
FOX VALLEY TOUCHE PREVAILS IN VIOLET FINAL
The growing rivalry between last season’s top two-year-old pacing fillies, Pardon and Fox Valley Touche, continued again on Sunday night as a field of 10 Illinois conceived and foaled three-year-olds gathered for the first “major” stake for state breds in 2011, the $45,600 Violet Stake.
|Fox Valley Touche and driver Dale Hiteman|
Sporting the distinction of being the only filly to knock off Pardon during her Horse of the Year campaign last year, Paula Smith and James Runyan’s Fox Valley Touche proved that she will once again be a rival to be reckoned with as she prevailed by a half-length over Pardon in 1:54.1.
Given a heady steer by veteran Dale Hiteman, the daughter of Sportsmaster-Thongundrcolrsoops left alertly from post position six and managed to tuck in fourth in as Shake That Thing (Mike Cox) and Mystical MJ (Marcus Miller) battled through an opening quarter in 27.4.
Heading down the backstretch with a strong tailwind, Pardon (Dean Magee), who came away just behind Fox Valley Touche, quickly swept from fifth to first to lead the field by the halfway point in a brisk 54.2.
Moving to the outside as the wicked fractions continued, Hiteman had Fox Valley Touche on the move first over while trying to cut into a three-length margin that Pardon had opened up as the fillies moved by the three-quarter-mile mark in a blistering 1:22.3.
“I knew I couldn’t let Pardon get away from us any more than she had already and I was hoping that she was going to come back to us a bit because of the strong headwinds she was going to be pacing into in the lane,” said Hiteman. “We were really smoking when we turned for home and my filly still felt pretty fresh. Fox Valley Touche is barely bigger than I am but I know that she’s all heart and I still felt we had a chance to come back and catch Pardon at that point.”
Reeling in last year’s division champ with every stride, the Joel Smith-trained miss came flying up the inside to shoot right by a leg weary Pardon, eventually drawing clear to win by a widening half-length margin. Pardon turned in a game effort to finish second while Bigdreamsnhihopes (Mike Oosting) finished a distant third, some seven lengths behind the top pair.
After notching her third win in as many starts this season, Fox Valley Touche really seemed to have her veteran reinsman excited about the upcoming stakes this season.
“As I said before this filly is all heart and Joel has done a magnificent job of bringing her back this year,” said Hiteman. “I realize that Pardon got beat in last week’s eliminations because she may not have been 100 percent and she still may not have been tonight but this is going to be a rivalry that I think the Illinois bred fans can really get behind this season. They are both very talented horses and it should make for a fun year!”
Sent off as the third choice in the wagering Fox Valley Touche returned $10.80, $4.40 and $3.00 as she won for the eighth time in 19 career starts. The winner’s share of $22,800 also helped push the filly’s bankroll up to $190,150.
State-bred trotters were also in action on Sunday night as a field of nine gathered for a $7,000 Violet Stake elimination for three-year-old trotting fillies. The top seven finishers in the race moved on to join Powerful Connection, Bonnies Star and My Miss Caroline in the $43,100 final next week.
|Scat Kitty Cat and driver Art Gregory Jr.|
This battle provided quite a surprise, as Carolyn Wiley and Mike Perrin’s Scat Kitty Cat pulled off the upset at odds of 24-1 for driver Art Gregory Jr. to post her first career win and gain a spot in the final.
The daughter of Vaporize-Hoosier Peekaboo, who had just two career starts under her belt heading into this race, came rolling off the final turn as she rallied from sixth to first in the face of a stiff headwind to pick up her first career victory. Jesse Wyoming (John Roberts), who found a good early spot despite leaving from post position 10, turned a ground saving trip into a second place check while Sassy Kat (James Durante III) wound up third in the wide-open event. Also gaining spots in the final were My Funky Farkle, Skyline Happy, Fox Valley Ruffian and Maple Grove Emily.