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ANDERSON, IN - October 11, 2018- Sending six horses into a $2 million dollar night of racing could cause nervousness for some trainers, but to Roger Welch, it's treated like just another night. The Illinois native, who has amassed $18 million in career earnings as a trainer, says this is what he aims for. "You coach the team, you've made it to the Super Bowl, and now you play in it," Welch noted. "We've done our job; now it's racing luck." Welch was born and raised into the harness racing industry. His father, grandfather and great-grandfather raised horses, so this is all that he's ever known. Now in 2018, his barn continues to operate as a family business as he works with his wife, Amy, and his son, Ryan. Welch has 34 training wins at Hoosier Park this season and his stable has amassed $540,410 in purse earnings through 138 nights of racing. Welch is looking to increase those numbers in the Indiana Sires Stakes Super Finals on Friday, October 12, as he sends six of his top horses behind the gate with the hope of meeting them in the winner's circle: Queen Lagertha, Bridge To Jesse's, Tatiana Romanova, Voom Or Bang, Gate Speed and Always A Vavoom. Bridge To Jesse's, a five-year-old trotting gelding, is no stranger to the Indiana Sires Stakes stage. With 65 of his 66 lifetime starts at Hoosier Park resulting in 33 lifetime victories, he's a multiple Indiana Sires Stakes champion, winning his respective Indiana Sires Stakes final at ages two and four. The son of Jailhouse Jesse-Bridge To Nowhere has bankrolled $768,055 in lifetime purse earnings for his connections W. De Long, W. De Long, R. Welch and R. De Long. "He's a barn favorite and a people's favorite. He's a defending champion, and a champion in our eyes," Welch noted. "He's only ever had to race in Indiana until a few weeks ago. We try to keep him fresh and he also gets every winter off." Another rising star in the Welch barn is two-year-old pacing filly, Queen Lagertha. Once Welch starts talking about the filly, it's clear she's one of the favorite in this trainer's heart. "She has been a sweetheart from the first time I set eyes on her at the farm," Welch laughed when asked about her. "I bought her as an anniversary present to my wife, but a week or so we sold half of her to some partners." The two-year-old pacing fillies have been competitive this year, but Queen Lagertha is not one that should be overlooked. She's named after a character in The History Channel's "The Vikings," due to her resemblance to the beautiful, tough queen. Queen Lagertha, the two-year-old pacing filly, has earned $55,786 this season while winning three of 13 starts. The daughter of Always A Virgin-Wondering Heart has drawn the coveted rail position with David Miller enlisted to drive in the $220,000 Indiana Sires Stakes Super Final for two-year-old pacing fillies. "I'm having a good time watching her race, and you always have to cheer for your wife's horse." According to Welch, the best quality a trainer can possess is patience. While he's careful not to reveal his hand, he says it's important for the horses to be as fresh at the end of the season as they are at the start. "That's the important thing. That's how you know you've been successful with a horse." "I love racing at Hoosier Park," Welch noted. "I love racing in these races. This is what we work for every year, and this week is no different than a few weeks ago." Friday's first race will line-up behind the gate at 6:30 p.m. With purses in excess of $2 million, the Indiana Sires Stakes Super night will be the richest night offered in the Indiana Sires Stakes program this season featuring eight $220,000 finals on the evening's 14-race card. Friday's stakes filled card is part of Hoosier Park's 2018 Championship Meet, which features a $5 million stakes schedule. The twelve-week championship stretch, which kicked off on Friday, August 10 with the $325,000 Dan Patch Stakes, will offer an unparalleled series of high caliber stakes races. Friday will also feature a $5,000 Indiana Sires Stakes Handicapping Contest with a top prize of $2,500. To view all of the entries for Friday's 14-race card, please visit www.hoosierpark.com. by Rose Flood, for Hoosier Park  

Bridge To Jesse's will be at home in Friday's $220,000 Carl Erskine Stakes for harness racing 3-year-old trotters at Hoosier Park, but he faces a difficult road to victory. The winner of 21 of 27 career races --- with all but one of the starts coming at Hoosier Park --- Bridge To Jesse's will leave from post No. 1 in an Erskine field of 10 that includes newly minted Breeders Crown champion Bar Hopping as well as Breeders Crown finalists Sutton and Waitlifter K. Sutton finished third in this year's Hambletonian while Waitlifter K was fourth. Another Hambletonian finalist, Milligan's School, also is in the Erskine. "The race is a local race in our own front yard so we staked to it hoping it would come up a little weak maybe," said a laughing Roger Welch, who trains and co-owns Bridge To Jesse's with William "Bo" DeLong, Patrick DeLong, and Ray DeLong. "This is his chance to step up. The rail definitely helps us try to get a little crumb anyway. "It'll be fun to see what he can do," he added. "Maybe he'll be like the other Indiana-breds who have stepped out. We'll see if Jesse can. He's done quite well for us. Both last year and this year he's been real good to us." Last season, Bridge To Jesse's won 10 of 12 races and earned $309,093. He was the Indiana Sire Stakes 2-year-old male trotting champion and a track-record-setter at Hoosier Park. This year, he has won 11 of 15 races and earned $247,102. He had a six-race win streak snapped on Oct. 15 when he finished fourth in the Indiana Sire Stakes championship for 3-year-old male trotters. He enters the Erskine off a second-place finish to Milligan's School in a division of the Circle City on Oct. 28. "He got a bad trip in the (Indiana Sire Stakes) final, but that's the only bad trouble we've had all year," Welch said. "He's got a great attitude. That's what I like most about him. And he's always been a strong, sound horse. He shows up to race every week. He tries a 110 percent. Those kind are hard to find and hard to replace. "On Saturday from the rail I know he'll try real hard. It's the end of the season, he's getting a little tired, but they all are. He's not a big horse, but he's got a big heart. He'll try. Hopefully he can hold his own and sniff a check out." Bridge To Jesse's is a son of stallion Jailhouse Jesse out of the mare Bridge To Nowhere. He was purchased for $28,000 at the 2014 Indiana Premier Yearling Sale and his family includes multiple Dan Patch and O'Brien award-winner Peaceful Way and stakes-winner Toocool Forschool. "He's got a license to be a nice little open horse," Welch said about the gelding, who has a career-best win time of 1:53.4. "He'll trot more next year. We've babied him this year. He doesn't have the flashy record, but when you do a breakdown of what the (1):53 miles are at Hoosier Park compared to somewhere else you can tell what his potential is." This will be Bridge To Jesse's final start of the year. "He's done everything we've asked him to do," Welch said. "I'll bring him back to my farm and let him grow and fill out and hopefully have a good 4-year-old and aged career. As of today, that's the plan. The option is there to sell him if anyone is interested, but we really haven't put him on the market. We'll pull his shoes off in the paddock and he can come home to the farm and have a little vacation." Bar Hopping is the 3-5 morning line favorite in the Erskine; Bridge To Jesse's is 12-1. Hoosier's card also includes the $200,000 Monument Circle for 3-year-old male pacers, $115,000 Crossroads of America for 3-year-old female trotters, and $112,500 USS Indianapolis Memorial for 3-year-old female pacers. Check Six, one of five horses from the stable of Ron Burke in the Monument Circle, is the slight 7-5 morning line favorite over stablemate Manhattan Beach at 8-5. Manhattan Beach finished second in the Breeders Crown and Check Six was third. Earn Your Wings, who finished fourth in the Breeders Crown, is the 5-2 favorite in the Crossroads of America and Indiana Sire Stakes champion Seventimesavirgin is the 8-5 favorite in the USS Indianapolis Memorial. Complete entries for the races may be found at this link. Ken Weingartner Media Relations Manager

The betting public dispatched the east coast invader Ontario Success off at overwhelming odds of 1 to 5 and the 6-year-old harness racing gelding didn’t disappoint his many backers in Saturday’s $12,500 featured Open Pace at Hawthorne. Nicely driven by veteran Illinois horseman Sam Widger Ontario Success ($2.60) was making his first local start under the care of trainer Roger Welch who was sent the talented pacer by conditioner and part-owner Ron Burke. Widger (pictured) used the one-slot to his advantage and had Ontario Success in the two-hole in the early going behind the 27-1 longshot Jones Beach (Simon Allard) who took the field to a rather leisurely 29 flat first quarter on a sloppy track. Sammy had Ontario Success out of the pocket on the backside and into the lead before the half-mile pole reached in 57 seconds. The winner was given a 29.1 third quarter breather and when the field started to bunch-up at the top of the lane, Widger asked his pacer for a more and Ontario Success responded, by pacing a 27 flat last panel in the rain. Jones Beach was second best, one length behind while Lonewolf Cruiser came on strong in the lane for third. Earlier the venerable ICF pacer Fort Silky followed a two-month layoff with his 58th career victory in the $9,500 sixth race conditioned pace for non-winners of $8,000 in their last five starts. Casey Leonard gave the now 10-year-old gelding a perfect pocket trip behind the even-money favorite Ice Scraper and Fort Silky did the rest, zipping past for a winning 1:56.3 mile on atrack soaked by the continued falling of snow throughout the evening. Fort Silky has now hauled-in just $80 short of $795,000 for owners John Prentice and Neva Kane Ikeeler, both of Paw Paw, Illinois. The $10,000 Open for 3 to 5-year-olds turned out to be no-contest with My Buddy Trickster ($7.60) much the best. Travis Seekman hustled the Bob Phillips trainee out from the outside post and once My Buddy Ninkster cleared to the top he had no trouble going all the way. The 4-5 favorite Feelnlikearockstar was a distant second, beaten five and one-half lengths at the end of a 1:54.3 mile. My Buddy Nnikster is owned by John and Mary Krasnican of Streator, Illinois. Casey Leonard had a driving triple, giving him nine winners on the first two Hawthorne cards. Seekman had a two-bagger Saturday. By Mike Paradise The Illinois Harness Horsemen's Association

Louisville, KY --- On a bone-chilling blustery evening at Hoosier Park, few harness racing fans were willing to brave the bracing air as Bridge To Jesse’s powered home to cap off an outstanding season on Oct. 10. Rather than discussing his dominance, however, his connections and track personnel were concerned with how he would behave in the winner’s circle. This mild-mannered gelding that aims to please, is a pleasure to paddock and a dream to drive, has developed the habit of bucking like a bronco when it is time to have his picture taken. “I had to start holding him towards the end of the year,” said Roger Welch, his conditioner and co-owner. “He did get better about it. He was like a kid. You could see it in his eyes and he was just trying to get away with something. When I held him though he knew he had to cut it out because it was like, ‘Uh oh, Dad is here now. I can’t do that kind of thing now.’” A son of Jailhouse Jesse and the Angus Hall mare Bridge To Nowhere, Bridge To Jesse’s was purchased for $28,000 by Wisconsin Hall of Famer William ‘Bo’ DeLong, his son Pat, his brother Ray and Welch at last year’s Indiana Premier Yearling Sale. Welch was not immediately sold on him, but Bo’s enthusiasm and his wife Amy’s opinion swayed him to convince himself and Pat the yearling was worth putting up the cash for. The gelding has proven those emotions to be spot on as he has collected more than $309,000 in purse money, compiled a record of 12-10-1-0, set a track standard of 1:56 and is a state champion. There was also another reason Welch felt the horse possessed potential. “Besides Bo really liking him and Amy falling in love with him the moment she laid eyes on him, ‘Jesse’ was bred by (Wilt Standardbreds),” he said. “The Wilts (Michael and Randy) do a tremendous job breeding and raising their horses at their farm down in Missouri. In fact, the horse that finished second in the final, Late Bid Tom, is turned out with him right now. They were foaled together, grew up together and finished one-two in the biggest race in their division. That speaks volumes for what the Wilts do.” After finishing fourth in his debut on June 23 in an Indiana Sire Stakes elimination, Bridge To Jesse’s showed the world what he was made of by annihilating his competition in the $25,000 consolation the following week. The gelding continued to hit the line ahead of all his colleagues for nine straight races, all over the Anderson oval, before finishing second in a $14,375 Indiana sired event on Sept. 30. “He really was not tight for that race,” Welch said. “We gave him some time off to get ready for the final. That was the goal and he went out there and did exactly what we expected of him. Actually, I think his last start was his best. When we started with him we just wanted to teach him how to race and let him come along at his own pace. As the year went on he continued to get stronger with each start. That is exactly what you want to see in a horse. I was very impressed with his race in the final.” Piloted by Ed Hensley for his first nine trips to the gate, Bridge To Jesse’s trotted to his track record on Aug. 15 and after three more pari-mutuel excursions, the lines were relinquished to John DeLong. “Ed went to Florida and I knew John would be an excellent fit for the horse,” Welch said. “Not only is he Bo’s nephew and Pat’s cousin, he has driven for me a number of years. He knew what to do with him and they get along really well.” With DeLong guiding the way, Bridge To Jesse’s stopped the clock in 1:56.2, 1:57.1 and 1:56.1. “He is such an easy horse to drive,” Welch said. “I’m also very proud of him trotting consistently right around (1):56 as a 2-year-old. “He does wear hobbles, but that’s only because he tends to get a bit rambunctious when he goes to the gate. He is perfectly gaited, but those are kind of like insurance just to make sure nothing goes wrong. “That extra energy comes from his gaining more confidence with every race. It is as if every time he races he becomes a bit more full of himself at the start. He knows he is winning and he enjoys every moment of it.” After his vacation has ended, Bridge To Jesse’s will return to Hoosier Park for his sophomore year to defend his crown. Welch sees no reason to venture outside state lines when such a trip could conflict with the gelding’s Sire Stakes engagements. “I am based in Illinois but when Balmoral closes shortly it appears there is no future here,” he said. “Amy and I have been looking for a house and farm in Indiana. We just have not found the right place yet. “Jesse was eligible to other races this year, but we decided it was better to just keep him on his Indiana schedule. With how some of the racing dates are set up it’s hard to take them somewhere else because of how everything is timed. “We are just looking forward to bringing him back next year and watching what he accomplishes. Hopefully he will be just as good, if not better.” by Kimberly French, USTA Web Newsroom Senior Correspondent 

The richest event of the season for Illinois conceived and foaled two-year-old trotting fillies put a familiar face back in the winner's circle as veteran harness racing conditioner Roger Welch sent out his sixth career winner of the $80,400 Lady Lincoln Land Stake when the Lynn Wilfong owned More Than Likely rallied in the final strides to win by a half-length in a career best of 1:58.1. Given a perfect steer by driver Kyle Wilfong the home-bred daughter of Designer Lindy--Midori Hanover left alertly from post four as the even-money favorite Vengeful (Casey Leonard) made a costly miscue behind the gate.   Landing in the garden spot as a head strong Powerful Princess (John De Long) led the field through splits of 29.3, 59.3 & 1:28.4 More Than Likely was still fit and fresh as the fillies straightened for their journey home.   Continuing to grind away at the pace setter while Vengeful, who had spotted the field some 13-lengths with the early miscue, circled the field on the outside of horses More Than Likely found clear sailing as Powerful Princess went off stride. Just when it looked as though the "chalk players" were going to be able to breathe a sigh of relief as Vengeful struck the front a game More Than Likely seemed to find a little something more overtaking the heavy favorite in the shadow of the wire for her second win in nine career starts. Vengeful was forced to settle for the bridesmaid role while Praise Singer (Pat Curtin) took home the show dough.   In the winner's circle a very happy Welch was beaming with pride over his charges winning effort and his record setting sixth triumph in this event.   "Mr. Wilfong sent me this horse a few months back when they were starting to lose a little patience with her," explained Welch. "I told them at that time my goal was to have her at her best for one race that she had on her card and that was this one. We took our time with her and the patience paid off tonight. I love it when a game plan comes together like this one did."   With the victory More Than Likely, who was dispatched at odds of 7-1 now boasts a record of 2-1-1 in nine lifetime starts with earnings of $47,063. Tom Kelley

Earndawg--who captured the 2014 Orange & Blue in a freshman best 1:52.4 for trainer Roger Welch--will be trying for his second consecutive Super Night victory in the $112,000 Pete Langley Memorial at Balmoral Park. Though he has drawn the dreaded ten-hole, Welch is still confident of his colt's chances. Owned by William C (Bo) DeLong of Clinton, WI; William (Pat) DeLong of South Beloit, IL and Earnest Miller of Mount Horeb, WI, Earndawg was purchased for $35,000 at the 2013 Walker Sale. The son of Sportsmaster, out of the Western Hanover mare Pacific Sister K 4, 1:54M ($107,550), is a full brother to Mystical MJ p,3,1:51.1 ($298,918) and has half-siblings in: Doubleshotascotch (by Dragon Again) p,4,1:51.f ($739,491); Sunshine Sister (by Real Artist) p,3,1:54f ($147,217); and MJ's Sista (by Yankee Skyscraper) p,3,1:54.2 ($22,683). Despite earning $217,015 as a 2-year-old, Earndawg was no walk in the park to be around early in his career, Welch recalled.   "This colt initially was very spooky--he was scared to death of everything and it took a lot of work to get him to go around the track and pace a flat mile," Roger said.   Earndawg wore a blind bridle with an elaborately-designed fly screen to help keep him calm. Welch jogged and trained the nervous gelding behind another horse every time he went to the track in the beginning, to get him used to sounds and dirt being thrown up in his face.   Welch's efforts paid off, as the youngster won the $43,350 Cardinal at Maywood Park in 1:55.4 by 4½ lengths in wire-to-wire fashion and the $57,000 Abe Lincoln at Maywood in similar style. From 17 starts at two he amassed eight wins, four seconds and two thirds. The rambunctious youngster was then turned out for the winter at an Indiana farm. It was late April before he qualified and was ready to begin his sophomore contests.   "The colt matured a lot over the winter," Welch noted. "He came back and was better physically and sharper mentally as well. For a long time, we jogged and trained him in an open bridle and he seemed to be over his previous nonsense of shying from things."   Not so fast though. As Earndawg got closer to his qualifying date, he began "seeing" things on the track again.   "He kind of reverted back to his 2-year-old ways once he started getting close to qualifying, and as a result we had to put the mask back on him," Welch said. "I really thought he had it licked, but I think it's more of a game with him, then a case of him really being scared of things."   With or without his fly mask, Earndawg has continued to add money to his coffers despite a depleted Illinois purse account.   This season he has amassed $70,203 to date, with five wins, five seconds and a pair of thirds to his credit in 14 trips postward. He won the $36,000 Maywood Pace in 1:54.2 on June 19 and the $45,000 Incredible Finale at Balmoral in 1:51 on July 25. He captured his Illinois State Fair test on Aug. 15 in 1:52.3 and was a close second in his Langley elimination to Engine One O One last week. "The sad state is he's won every major 3-year-old test and still doesn't have a lot of money to show for it on his card," Welch lamented. "And now we have the ten-hole in the biggest race of the year. We'll see what happens. The trip is going to be crucial in here. We'll just hope for the best and hope that Earndawg continues to be as gritty as he has been all year long." Tom Kelley

ANDERSON, Ind.-September 2, 2015 - Bridge To Jesse's turned in another dominating performance to find the winner's circle once again at Hoosier Park Racing & Casino in the featured harness racing event of the evening, the $75,000 Indiana Sires Stakes Final for two-year-old trotting colts and geldings, on Wednesday, September 2. Extending his win streak to seven with the victory, Bridge To Jesse's and driver Ed Hensley reached the wire three lengths in front of their competitors with a final time of 1:56.3. Leaving from the trailing post position ten, Bridge To Jesse's was unhurried from the gate and settled along the rail in third. Victor's Hall and Ricky Macomber Jr. showed early speed off the gate and dictated first half fractions of :27.4 and :57.4. Fly Jesse Fly and Rick Plano benefitted from a pocket trip while Bridge To Jesse's would begin his long first-over quest for the front approaching the final turn. Victor's Hall continued to call the shots around the three-quarter clocking in 1:29 while Bridge To Jesse's slowly begin to close in on the leader. As the field straightened away for home, Hensley asked his mount for more and Bridge to Jesse's found another gear. Bridge To Jesse's was able to wear down a tiring Victor's Hall late in the lane while Late Bid Tom and Jason Dillander rallied gamely in the homestretch to round out the trifecta. As the heavy betting favorite, Bridge to Jesse's returned $4.20 at the betting window. "He's a pleasure to drive," Hensley noted in the winner's circle. "He's got great manners, he can be a little rambunctious behind the gate sometimes, but all in all, he's a perfect colt to drive. I think he's better racing off a helmet but he overcame the trip tonight and raced great again." After re-establishing the track record for two-year-old trotting geldings with a 1:56 effort in his last $75,000 Indiana Sires Stakes outing, Bridge To Jesse's has only tasted defeat once in eight lifetime starts. Trained by Roger Welch, the son of Jailhouse Jesse-Bridge To Nowhere has now bankrolled $158,000 for his owners W. DeLong, W. DeLong, R. Welch, and R. DeLong. Live racing will continue at Hoosier Park Racing & Casino on Thursday, September 3 at the regularly schedule post time of 5:15 p.m. Thursday's 14-race card will be highlighted by the $75,000 Indiana Sires Stake final and $25,000 Indiana Sires Stakes consolation for the two-year-old pacing colts and geldings. Live racing at Hoosier Park Racing & Casino will follow a Tuesday through Saturday schedule and be conducted through November 14. Emily Gaskin

Sophomore pacing colts were front and center on Friday night at Maywood Park but in reality it was harness racing trainer Roger Welch who stole the show as his trainees finished 1-2-3 in the track's signature event with division leader Earndawg capturing top honors in the $36,000 Maywood Pace as he reported home with a three-quarter-length victory in 1:54.2 for driver Todd Warren.   Confidently handled as a 1-5 favorite should be, the son of Sportsmaster--Pacific Sister K settled early before sweeping past the other Welch trainee's Rockin Cassinova (Ridge Warren) and Gifted By Nature (Pat Curtin) as the field moved by an opening quarter in 28.3.   In control of things the rest of the way, the bay gelding strolled through middle splits of 57.2 & 1:26.0 while fending off a first over bid from Lucpark (Mike Oosting).   "I went into the race not necessarily wanting to be on the front end but once things started to slow on the backstretch the first time I figured I better head for the top," said Warren. "I wasn't looking to slow things down once I got there because I know what my horse can go so I wanted to keep the splits honest enough to keep those trailers at bay." After repelling the challenge of last weeks' elimination winner, Earndawg began to draw clear around the final bend opening up a two-length advantage as the field turned for the money. With nothing but open space between themselves and the wire the pride of owners Bo & Pat De Long and Ernest Miller set sail for home, sealing the deal with a 28.2 final quarter to notch his third win in six starts this season. Rockin Cassinova shook loose at the head of the stretch to rally for the place honors while Gifted By Nature turned a perfect trip into the show dough.   After yet another big victory with last year's Orange & Blue and Abe Lincoln Stakes winner Warren was singing the praises of the gelding in the winner's circle.   "I definitely think he's still the best in this division and I don't believe we've even come close to seeing his best yet," said the jubilant reinsman. "He hasn't had that much work this year and there's been some times that he hasn't really had the back to back starts that can get him as sharp as he can be. Let's just say I think there's much more to come from this guy when the "screws" get tightened up on him. He's so versatile and talented that he's going to be hard to stop."   With the win Earndawg now boasts a record of 11-5-3 in 23 starts with earnings of $248,325. The overwhelming favorite in the wagering returned $2.40, $2.20 & $2.10.   Tom Kelley  

Last week we saw the "ladies" meet in one of Maywood Park's signature events, the Filly Maywood Pace, Friday night their male counterparts will step into the harness racing spotlight as a field of eight Illinois conceived and foaled three-year-old pacing colts will slug it out in the $36,000 Maywood Pace which goes as race eight on the 12-race program. Earndawg has been the "top dog" in this division in each of his first two seasons of racing and the Roger Welch trainee has been installed as the 9-5 favorite on Friday as he guns for his 11th win 23 career starts. The gelded son of Sportsmaster received a bye into this battle and elected to use a "conditioned" event at Balmoral as his tune-up for tonight's showdown. Unfortunately he encountered some traffic issues that night and never had a chance to be a factor. In his previous start against this type of company, last year's Orange & Blue Stake winner looked like a winner in the Cardinal Stake at Balmoral as he unleashed a huge rally but wound up getting nipped at the wire by Dinky Dune who had slipped through along the pylons late in the mile. Todd Warren will handle the driving duties behind Earndawg who will be looking to add to a career record of 10-5-3 $230,325 when he leaves from post two. Lucpark captured last week's elimination in wire to wire fashion and the Ervin Miller trainee figures to garner plenty of attention once again despite drawing post position seven for Friday's encounter. The gelded son of Sportsmaster looked much the best in last week's action cruising through easy early splits before storming home with a 2½ length verdict in 1:55.1. A model of consistency this year, Lucpark comes into this race with a record of 2-2-1 in six starts for owner Rocco Ruffolo. A six-time career winner who sports nearly $90,000 in earnings, Lucpark, the 3-1 second choice on the morning line, will have leading driver Mike Oosting in the bike when they leave from post seven on Friday. If you are searching for a possible upset in Friday's main event don't overlook the chances of Dixie's Boy who will have to overcome post position eight on Friday night. The Joel Smith trained son of Duneside Perch also received a bye into tonight's final and will come into this event as a "fresh" horse after being away since May 30th.   The long striding bay turned in a huge effort here at Maywood Park in the Gosox Stake back on May 15th, finishing second behind Lucpark after spotting the field some 12 lengths after a miscue behind the starting gate. A three-time winner this season for James & Terri Blackman Dixie's Boy will be handled by Casey Leonard.   Rounding out the field are Gifted By Nature, Rockin Cassinova, Dupage's Z Tam, Gett'er Done Dune and Frosty Dune.   Tom Kelley

Sophomore pacing colts grabbed the spotlight on Saturday, May 9th at Balmoral Park as a full field of 10 harness racing  state-breds squared off in the $8,000 Taser Gun Stake.   Originally carded for last week's Maywood card, this battle turned out to be worth the wait for last year's divisional champion Earndawg, as the bay gelding scored by a hard fought half-length in a career best of 1:52.3.   Confidently handled by driver Todd Warren the altered son of Sportsmaster-Pacific Sister K was sent to the top after watching a fast leaving Dakota Roadster (Robert Smolin) speed by the opening panel in 29.2.   The lead was short lived for Earndawg as a hard charging Dixie's Boy (Casey Leonard) swept up to grab command on the backstretch, leading the field through a half-mile in 57.4.   The pace continued to quicken as the field moved around the far turn with Dixie's Boy showing the way. Earndawg was enjoying a pocket sitting journey at that point while longshot Casey At Bat (Tim Curtin) led the outer flow into contention as the field hit the three-quarter-mile mark in 1:25.2.   Through the lane Dixie's Boy continued to show the way but Earndawg was ready and raring to go as Warren secured racing room on the outside with an eighth of a mile to go.   Quickly blowing by the pace setter, the Roger Welch trainee instantly opened up a two-length advantage. Last year's Orange & Blue winner was not "out of the woods" yet though as he was all out at the wire to hold off a huge late move from 37-1 shot Dinky Dune (Pat Curtin) who came charging up the inside to finish second. Lucpark (Mike Oosting) also closed well to finish third, 3 ¼ lengths behind the winner.   Dispatched as the third choice in a very evenly bet match-up Earndawg returned $6.80, $3.60 & $2.10 while running his record to 9-4-2 in 19 career starts with earnings of $221,975 for the ownership group of William P & William C De Long and Ernest Miller.   Live racing continues on Sunday, May 10th, at BalmoralPark with a 10-race card getting underway at 7:10 p.m. (central). Sunday's $1 Pick 4 features a guaranteed pool of $25,000. The state-bred stakes action will also continue on Sunday with a field of nine sophomore trotting fillies slugging it out in the $8,000 Betzotic Stake which goes as race six. Sophomore pacing fillies will also be in action in the fifth race as a very competitive field of eight ladies will battle in a Violet Stake "prep".   Tom Kelley

The third time was the charm to kick off the start of this season’s harness racing ICF 3-year-old colt stakes program. The initial stake was to be raced a month ago but that Taurus Bomber event and Maywood’s scheduled Sportsmaster two weeks ago both had to be scrapped because of insufficient entries. Not so with tonight’s Betzotic for state-bred pacing colts and geldings. The fourth race co-feature lured a field of seven including last season division champ Earndawg, winner of just about every major ICF freshman stake and a couple of open added money events as well—Maywood’s Abe Lincoln and a division Hoosier’s Madison. Tonight’s start will be the 2014 Orange and Blue Colt champion’s first in five months for the Roger Welch Stable. The son of Sportsmaster had a pair second place finishes in April qualifiers paced in 56 and change and will be the 2-1 first flash favorite. Another Welch trainee, Rockin Cassinova (9-2, Mike Oosting) also makes his 3-year-old debut and so does Fox Valley Elijah (8-1, Tim Curtin), and M A Bay (10-1, Ridge Warren). The Betzotic will be No. 7 Dinky Dune’s (8-1, Kyle Wifong) second season start. No. 2 Dixie’s Boy (6-1, Casey Leonard) and No. 4 Dakota Roadster (7-2, Bobby Smolin) already have 19 season starts between them and a pair of victories each. The Joel Smith Sale’s Dixie Boy has looked very good at times and not-so-good in others. I asked Casey for his thoughts on the Duneside Perch gelding. “When I drove him towards the end of last year I really liked him,” said Casey. “I thought the horse had a big motor. When he came back earlier this year I didn’t get the call. Dale (Hiteman) did. The horse really struggled and when I got to drive him again when Dale left (for Indiana) he was horrendous that night. “He dropped the lines on me when the field got to the paddock. That was it. I knew something was wrong and I asked his caretaker to have the horse scoped. When they did and found out he bled and they put the horse on Lasix. “He then raced great and won in 53.3. Last week I thought he was the best horse in the race. We got the trip I wanted and he cleared the horse he was following but then he turned loose on me. They scoped him and sure enough he bled again. “If he’s right Saturday, I think he’s one of the better horses in the race. I hope they can get his bleeding situation taken care of. He can go with those horses if they do.” The Betzotic will share Balmoral’s Saturday spotlight with the $14,000 Rambling Willie the first ICF stake race of the year for older pacers. Two-time Super Night champion Iam Bonasera (Travis Seekman) has been installed as the 9-5 program favorite. Taking on in race nine Iam Bonasera is Whirlwindiplomacy (10-1, Dean Magee), Big Brad (6-1, Bobby Smolin), Fort Silky (3-1, Casey Leonard), Ice Scraper (2-1, Brian Carpenter) and Ricky Bobbie (8-1, Mike Oosting). Saturday’s second race for ICF 3-year-old pacing fillies will be the season debut of last year’s division champion Mr Leland’s Filly (5-2 Casey Leonard). The Erv Miller trainee put over $177,000 on her card in her freshman campaign and came away with the $162,000 Filly Orange and Blue crown on Super Night. (Of the 12 races contesed on Maywood’s Friday card 8 winners were  Mike Paradise top selections, 2 were listed second and another was a third choice.) Mike Paradise

Last night’s trio of “Winner’s Over” co-features at Balmoral Park saw Justice Jet continue his dominance in the trot division, Fort Silky show is back class against other older male pacers, and Wings bounce back in a big way in the harness racing distaff department, all on a Saturday evening with a wind chill of 14 below zero. Justice Jet’s triumph was his fourth in a row for the combination of driver Ryan Welch and trainer Roger Welch who shares ownership of the 4-year-old Indiana bred with Bo De Long and Pat De Long. Bet down to 30 cents on the dollar Justice Jet ($2.60) was settled into seventh and last in the early going while Ants Iner Pants took the field to a slow 59 first half. Ryan took Justice Jet out on the backside, raced his confident trotter first up and powered past at the 3/4 pole to end up 1 and 1/2 lengths ahead of runner-up Fox Valley Veto in the 1:56 mile. Despite an eight-week layoff the venerable Fort Silky came out in “ready to rumble” in the very next race and handled four other solid male pacers in comfortable fashion with a heady drive from Casey Leonard. The now 9-year-old ICF pacer was hustled out by Casey and grabbed a quick lead before giving it up to Cam B Zipper (John De Long) at the 26.4 first quarter. Fort Silky found himself out of second and into third when Major Monet came out and took over command into a very cold headwind and hit the half-mile pole in :56 flat. Casey then had Fort Silky on the move and the 1-2 favorite rolled into the lead near the 3/4‘s, reached in 1:24.4 and then held off a late-charging Lennox Blue Chip to post a neck victory. It was career win No. 51 in his distinguished career for Paw Paw, Illinois owners John Prentice and Neva Jean Keeler. Next up was the $9,400 “Winner’s Over” for fillies and mares and while Wing’s victory wasn’t a surprise, her $12 winning mutuel was when you consider that the Merle Finn Jr. trainee had won three consecutive top level distaff events before last week’s fourth place finish. Driver Tim Curtin used Wings aggressively and the 7-year-old mare sizzled on a very chilly night with the temperature at 5 degrees. Wings was scooted away from the outside seven-slot and dropped into third in the first turn. Curtin didn’t wait long to make another move with the mare, brushing her to the top and in control before the half-mile pole (:57.2). From there Wings just pulled away from her six rivals, posting a four and one-half length victory in 1:53 flat over the pocket-horse Just By Design. Later in the night two-time Super Night champion Iam Bonasera (Travis Seekman) was very impressive in his return to Illinois, coming from the back of the pack at the half to first at the finish for his new trainer Nelson Willis. The 8-year-old gelding paced a wicked :26.2 last quarter in his 1:54.1 mile. By Mike Paradise The Illinois Harness Horsemen's Association

The winter break layoff didn’t dull Merle Finn Jr’s high-flying Wings. The now 7-year-old harness racing mare powered her way to a third consecutive victory Saturday night with her regular driver Tim Curtin. The 2-1 like-warm favorite was given an advantageous second-over journey by Curtin and came flying through the snow flakes to finish a half-length ahead of Just By Design in the co-featured $9,400 “Winner’s Over” for filly and mare pacers. Just By Design was the quickest from the gate and grabbed the early lead but her driver Dave Magee was contend to take the pocket trip behind Rev Me Up soon after a snappy :27.2 first quarter paced on a “good” racing surface. Rev Me Up was able to get away with a soft :29.1 second quarter despite some pressure from the first-over Seeyouatthefinish. Meanwhile Curtin was right behind Seeyouatthefinish, just biding his time with his 1:53.2 winning mare. Tim swung Wings ($6.20) out at the top of the lane and the daughter of His Mattjesty shifted into a higher gear and chalked-up up another win. Wings last race five weeks ago on Saturday, December 27, when she also captured a “Winner’s Over” pace for trainer and owner Merle Finn Jr. of Browns, Illinois. Justice Served: A second over journey was also the right recipe for a victory in the “Winner’s Over” trot as Justice Jet ($4.00) came on strong in the late going for Ryan Welch and posted his second in a row after four-weeks off. Celebrity Hercules was sent to the front by Casey Leonard while the 23-year-old Welch ducked his trotter at the start and was contend to be seventh in the eight-horse field through the early going After a modest :29.2 first panel and a :29.1 second quarter, Mike Oosting took Master Of Excuses from the back of the pack and went after the 5-2 second choice Celebrity Hercules with Ryan and Justice Jet right on their heels. When the field hit the blowing snow at the top of the lane Justice Jet remained behind Master of Excuses until the final eight of the mile when Welch took his trotter down the middle of the lane and the 4-year-old Indiana bred blew past with authority with a 1:57 clocking trotted on a racing strip changed to “sloppy.” Celebrity Hercules was second best, beaten two lengths, while Master Of Excuses was third. Justice Jet is owned by Bo De Long, Pat De Long, Glenn Wright and trainer Roger Welch. The gelding has earned $345,659 in his 40 career starts.  Mike Paradise The Illinois Harness Horsemen's Association

E L Titan captured the $92,300 Galt Stake for sophomore trotters in 1:56 with trainer Riina Rekila at the lines. It was the first time this stake has been won by a female driver. The son of Muscle Hill-Courtney Hill is owned by Erkki Laakonen of Nastola, Florida and added the winner's share of $46,150 to his bankroll of $295,201. It was colt's fifth lifetime win in 11 career starts. E L Titan grabbed the lead at the start and led the field through fractions of :28.4, :58.2 and 1:27.1. Rompaway Galaxay (Dave Magee) was the only challenger to take a try at E L Titan, and ended up being first over for the entire mile. "My plan was to go out of there as hard as I needed to, to get to the front," said Rekila. "He was way more aggressive than normal tonight. When the other horse challenged me, I knew that he was having a tough trip and my horse still felt good." E L Titan won by 1¼ lengths over the tenacious Rompaway Galaxy, with Dony Andreas (Tim Tetrick) getting up for third and Madewell Hanover (Chris Ryder) notching fourth place money. "I think this horse will be a very nice 4-year-old, and that's the reason for his limited number of starts," she added. "By skipping the Yonkers Trot, this will allow him to get into some other races." E L Titan is the fourth foal out of his Garland Lobell dam Courtney Hall and is half-brother to Appomattox (by Yankee Glide) 3, 1:52.2M ($424,448); E L Rock (by Yankee Glide) 4, 1:53.4f ($294,280) and E L Rocket (by Credit Winner) 3, 1:53.1s ($233,935). E L Titan Earndawg takes Abe Lincoln Stake Earndawg took advantage of a perfect steer to capture the $57,100 Abe Lincoln Stake in 1:55.1.   The son of Sportsmaster-Pacific Sister K-Western Hanover notched his sixth career victory against six rivals in the evening’s Fourth Race.   Roger Welch trains Earndawg for owners William C DeLong of Clinton, WI and Pat DeLong of South Beloit, IL and J Miller of Mount Horeb, WI.   Earndawg nabbed the lead easily, with Lucpark (Dave Magee) right on his heels and King Of The Swamp (Ridge Warren) sitting third.    “I didn’t think I was going to be able to cross over that easily, but I got the rail pretty well,”winning driver Todd Warren said.   Positions remained unchanged to the opening panel of :28.1 and to the :57.2 half, before Dupage’s Z Tam (Casey Leonard) moved  hard agains t the leader.  However, Earndawg had plenty left in the tank, sprinting to a 1:25.4 three-quarter clocking while the hard-trying Angelo J Fra (Tim Tetrick) went three-wide around the final turn.    “I didn’t want to get run down that much on the backside, but we were racing for good money, so that was okay. I think this horse races best from off the pace.  If I would have gotten torched a little more going to the half, they would have had a better shot to beat me.”   Earndawg still had plenty left in the tank as he brushed to a three-quarter length victory with Lucpark finishing second and Angelo J Fra nabbing third.   Earndawg’s stablemate, King Of The Swamp was fourth, followed by DuPage’s Z Tam, Shadow’s Image and JK Allnitelong.   Earndawg pushed his career earnings to $189,265.  He finished second at Balmoral last Saturday night to Roland N Rock in the $86,000 American National and has also won the $186,000 Orange & Blue at Balmoral and the $43,350 Cardinal at Maywood.   Earndawg, a $35,000 yearling purchase from the 2013 Walker Standardbred Sale, is out of the Western Hanover mare Pacific Sister K 4,1:54 ($107,550) and is a full brother to Mystical MJ p,1:51.1 ($275,219) and a half-brother to Doubleshotascotch p,4,1:51f ($692,491).   Earndawg   by Kimberly Rinker, for Maywood Park

Stablemates Earndawg and King Of The Swamp head up a field of seven freshman pacing colts and geldings in Friday's $57,100 Abe Lincoln Stake, and these two have a lot in common. Both are trained by Roger Welch and both are by top Illinois sire Sportsmaster. As well, both are owned by William C (Bo) Delong and William (Pat) Delong of Wisconsin and Illinois, with Earndawg also being co-owned by EJ Miller of Mount Horeb, WI. Both were purchased by Bo and Pat and taken to their Wisconsin farm to be broken and trained over the winter, before bringing them to Welch to prepare for their freshman summer contests. Both have started 13 times in 2014 and both have competed against one another in eight contests, with Earndawg finishing higher than Kind Of The Swamp on six occasions. And, Earndawg has clearly surpassed King Of The Swamp in regards to earnings ($160,715 vs $65,653) and wins (5 vs 3). Last week the both competed in the $86,000 American National 2-Year-Old Colt Pace, with Earndawg second and King Of The Swamp fifth. The week before they finished one-two (Earndawg-King Of The Swamp) in the $43,350 Cardinal Stake at Maywood. Earndawg captured the $186,000 Orange & Blue Colt Pace on Super Night in a career best 1:52.4, with King Of The Swamp fifth in that event. But despite their racing abilities, both of these youngsters are equally important in the eyes of their trainer, Roger Welch, and both have very different personalities. "Earndawg initially was very spooky--he was scared to death of everything and it took a lot of work to get him to go around the track and pace a flat mile," Roger said. Purchased for $35,000 at the 2013 Walker Sale, Earndawg wears a blind bridle with an elaborately-designed fly screen to help keep him calm. Welch jogged and trained the nervous gelding behind another horse every time he went to the track in the beginning, to get him used to sounds and dirt thrown up in his face. Earndawg is out of the Western Hanover mare Pacific Sister K 4, 1:54M ($107,550) and is a full brother to Mystical MJ p,1:51.1 ($275,219) and a half-brother to Doubleshotascotch p, 4, 1:51F ($692,491). King Of The Swamp, an $85,000 yearling from the 2013 Walker Sale, is out of the Broadway Express mare She's Redhot and won both his $10,000 Mini Me Elim and the $48,000 Final in 1:55 on July 26. "King is easy going in the barn and that's his attitude on the track, too," Roger stressed. "He's a very handy horse. He can leave like a rocket and then set in a hole with just two fingers." King Of The Swamp's dam, She's Redhot, finished on the board in Super Night Championships at both 2 and 3. His granddam, Fox Valley Redhot, won the 1989 Orange & Blue Filly Pace. His full brother, Hot N Sporty p, 2, 1:50.2, a 34-race winner of $519,769, won an Orange & Blue elim; his half-sister She's So Hot earned $238,501 with a 2-year-old mark of 1:51.1m, and was third in both her Orange & Blue elim and final. By Kimberly Rinker, for Maywood Park  

Illinois conceived and foaled two-year=old pacers shared top billing on the Friday, Oct. 3rd card at Maywood Park as some of the state's top fillies gathered for the $43,600 Violet Stake while their male counterparts battled in the $43,350 Cardinal Stake. Both races left no doubt as to who was best on this night as Jessie De Long & the Hamm Family Trust's Sportsmuffler romped to a 6½ length victory in the Violet while Bo & Pat De Long and Ernest Miller's Earndawg continued his recent dominance of his division with a devastating 4 ½ length romp in the Cardinal. Taking advantage of a perfect pocket sitting journey as Luvniecestopieces (Ryan Anderson) rattled off splits of 28.0 & 57.1 driver John De Long moved Sportsmuffler to the outside as the field hit the three-quarter-mile mark in 1:26.1. Fit and fresh as the fillies moved around the final bend the Jessie De Long trained daughter of Sportsmaster--Whatthere'smore overpowered the pace setter as the field turned for home then drew off impressively, tripping the timer in 1:56.3 for her seventh win in 11 lifetime starts. Fox Valley Charm (Kyle Wilfong), who picked up brief cover from the winner turned in a nice effort to be the bridesmaid while Luvniecestopieces held on to be a distant third. A close second choice in the wagering Sportsmuffer returned $5.00, $3.20 & $3.20 while upping her career bankroll to more than $67,000. Using the "give and go" to perfection in the Cardinal Stake driver Todd Warren allowed entrymate King Of The Swamp (Ridge Warren) to grab command through a quick opening split of 27.2. Sweeping back to the top after the opening panel Earndawg proceeded to pace through fractions of 57.2 & 1:26.2 while keeping Lucpark (Dave Magee) hung on the outside. With the difficult trip finally taking a toll on that one, the Roger Welch trained son of Sportsmaster--Pacific Sister K simply sprinted away from the rest of his rivals leaving them in his wake as he cruised under the wire in 1:55.4 for his fifth win in 12 tries this season. King Of The Swamp followed the winner all the way but was simply second best on this night while C Note (Travis Seekman) shook loose late to finish third, 8 ¾ lengths behind the winner. This year's Orange & Blue champion may have put a stamp on divisional honors with Friday's win as he now boasts a record of 5-2-2 in 12 starts with earnings of more than $141,000. Bet as though defeat was out of the question the Welch trained coupling returned $2.20, $2.40 & $2.10. by Tom Kelley, for Maywood Park  

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