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Favorites Prevail Heading Into Break (02/03/13)
Posted Sunday February 3, 2013
By Mike Paradise
There were no surprises Saturday night at Balmoral Park as sort price horses all got the job done in a trio of features on the program.
Celebrity Hercules gave his new Illinois owners an early $6,250 return on his $24,000 purchase price at the recent Meadowlands Sale with an easy victory in the $12,500 Winner’s Over Trot, the first Saturday headliner.
Patiently driven by Marcus Miller, Celebrity Hercules ($6.40) trotted the seventh race in 1:55.2 without much urging from this 23-year-old driver, finishing 2 and 1/2 lengths head of Benns Score Keeper in race seven.
The 2-1 winning favorite raced seventh in a field of eight through most of the mile while Ants Iner Pants cut fractions of :28.3 and :58 flat. Celebrity Hercules was still fifth coming out of the last turn before Marcus got him into high gear, powering past to win his first start for owners Dandy Farms (Glenview) and Dandy Farms (Peotone).
Betterluvnexttime ($4.80) had to work hard to win her third consecutive Filly and Mare Open Pace on the Crete big track in race eight.
Mike Oosting sent the 4-year-old mare out from the assigned 10-hole but a host of other mares also left in a hurry. Betterluvnexttime was three-deep in the first turn and still parked outside of the early leader Fox Valley Touche at the :27.4 first quarter before she cleared to the front.
Oosting, who bagged 5 winners on the night, was able to give the Al Tomlinson trainee a :29 second quarter breather before Ross Leonard took Tamarac Sassy out of the three-hole and after the leader pushing Betterluvnexttime through the third quarter, reached in 1:25.3.
However, Betterluvnexttime dug in and had enough left in the tank to hold on to a one-length triumph in 1:53.2 for Michigan owner Dan Mitchell. Whistle Pig rallied strong to edge out her Terry Leonard trained stable-mate Tamarac Sassy for second.
It was Oosting back in the winner’s circle when he steered the heavy favorite St Elmo Hero ($2.60) to his third straight Invitational Pace in race 10.
As he did with Betterluvnexttime, Oosting urged St Elmo Hero out from his handicapped 10-hole. However Ice Scraper took the field to a blistering :26.2 first panel and St Elmo Hero didn’t make the top until midway on the backside.
The 7-year-old gelding trained by Bill Crone got to the half in a quick :54.3 when Al’s Hammered came first-over and raced on the outside of him through a :28.4 third quarter. St Elmo Hero put him away and then held off the late-charging Lennox Blue Chip by three-parts of a length at the end of his winning 1:51.3 mile.
St Elmo Hero now has $29,750 on his 2013 card for owner John Bernard of Orland Park and $672,281 in career earnings when the circuit began an 11-night winter break starting tonight without any live racing.
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