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Willis Ready for Season Season (04/06/13)
Posted Saturday April 6, 2013
By Mike Paradise
The ICF stakes season begins Saturday at Balmoral Park with triple co-features and veteran trainer Nelson Willis is loaded has both quantity and quality for the headliners.
I caught up with the 69-year-old Willis whose barn looks primed for another banner season in both Illinois and Indiana. The stable had career season highs in both wins (163) and money won ($1.44 million) in 2012.
“I’ve got three going in the filly stake Saturday. One in the colt division and another in the older ICF stake,” said Spider enthusiastically.
Willis’ Alequash Hanover, owned and bred by Richard Beere of Waterford, Wisconsin is the 3-1 programed second choice in the $12,000 second race Taurus Bomber for ICF pacing colts. The youngster went unraced as a freshman but is 3-for-5 already this season.
“The horse had a problem with an ankle that had a hairline fracture and that’s why he didn’t race as a 2-year-old,” said Spider. “We were able to get some starts earlier in this year before we gave him a month off. The colt came back and raced real well at Maywood two weeks ago. I think he has a chance to be a good Illinois bred 3-year-old.”
Willis sends out a three-horse Sawgrass Farms owned and bred entry in the third race Direct Balance filly stake. Thank You Doc, last year’s Orange & Blue Filly Super Night winner, Our Miss Kristi and Our Miss Kathy, drew the 2, 3 and 4 posts respectively in the $12,000 event.
“I put all three of them into the stake because there wasn’t any place else to race them,” said Willis matter-of-factly.
“Thank You Doc grew some over the winter and did get stronger. She had an o.k. qualifier and she did train well for this race. I expect another good year from her. “Kristi” raced in January in a series and did well for us. “Kathy” had some good races for us as a 2-year-old and like Thank You Doc; this will be her first start of the year.”
The Willis trio opens as the 5-2 first flash second choices behind the Joel Smith Stable’s Dallas Jones (Casey Leonard) who owns three season triumphs over older horses.
Willis’ Uncle Smoothie (7-2, Brian Carpenter), another Sawgrass Farms homebred, makes his second start as a 4-year-old in the seventh race Song Cycle and he faces five tough older ICF pacers.
The Sportsmaster offspring made almost $180,000 in his first two seasons for his Lockport, Illinois owner and took a $31,000 Hanover as a 3-year-old and the $77,000 Mini Mi Final as a freshman.
“Uncle Smoothie is a good little horse,” continued Spider, Balmoral’s 2012 leading trainer. “He raced well in his first 4-year-old start last week at Maywood. I don’t know if he can beat Fort Silky Saturday. If Silky gets down to the half in 57 or so no one will catch him.”
With Fox Valley Yukon (5-1, Kyle Wilfong), Ice Scraper (4-1, Josh Sutton) and Special Joe (5-2, John Roberts) all with the ability to shows superb speed away from the starting gate and the fact that their drivers probably wouldn’t mind the trip behind the 2-1 morning line favorite, I envision a first half that will be pretty quick.
“I hope you’re right,” replied Willis. “That would make for a very good horse race.”
Five-Bagger: Mike Oosting dtove five winners on last night's Maywood Park card.
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