Freshman filly champ ready for Violet Final

by Mike Paradise, for the Illinois Harness Horsemen’s Association

Crete, IL — Fox Valley Topaz, last season’s Breeders Crown and Dan Patch Award freshman filly champion, looks fit and ready for her first major stake test of the season on Sunday night (May 24) when she takes on nine other state-bred 3-year-old filly pacers in the $56,900 Violet Final at Balmoral Park.

Making her first start since her $700,000 Breeders Crown victory last November 29 at The Meadowlands, the 2009 Illinois Horse of the Year won her Violet stake elimination last week, coming home in :27.3 well in hand for driver Mike Oosting with a 1:52.3 clocking, 1-1/2 lengths the best.

“It was a big effort for Topaz and that was the trip we were hoping for,” said trainer Paul Stafford. “Obviously it was a big mile, only two-fifths off her lifetime mark. However, what I was most happy with was the fact that she did it on her own. There wasn’t any encouragement. You know when they go that fast their first start back sometimes you say ‘oh man, that’s pretty quick’ but the fact was that Topaz was more than willing to go that big of a mile on her own.”

Fox Valley Topaz was next to last in sixth in her elimination heat, almost six lengths off the lead at the :56 half-mile marker as the overwhelming 1-5 favorite, when she started to make her move. Oosting tipped her out for the stretch drive and she cruised to her 12th victory in 17 career starts for Illinois co-owners (Marty) Engel Stable and (Ken) Rucker Stable.

The filly’s come-from-behind victory has become the norm for her. She went from last to first when she became the first Illinois bred to win a Breeders Crown championship.

“The filly likes a target,” said Stafford.

A daughter of Sportsmaster, out of the Jate Lobell mare Theladyappealstome, Fox Valley Topaz heads into the Violet Final with $632,630 on her card, a very notable figure when you consider she sold for only $23,000 at the 2007 Walker Standardbred Sale.

Fox Valley Topaz’s main threat in the Violet showdown appears to be the steadily improving filly Native Hotspur who is riding a four-race winning streak after her 1:53 elim victory. She also won her first three season’s starts — all ICF sophomore stakes — and is looking to better her rival for the initial time on Sunday.

“Native Hotspur almost got her (Fox Valley Topaz) a couple of times last year,” said trainer Nelson Willis. “Maybe this year she’ll get it done. You never know.”

“As well as she raced last week, and I know it’s a cliché, but it’s still a horse race and anything can happen,” added Stafford. “Hopefully we’ll get lucky with the draw and everything works out for her. She’s going against some good fillies like Native Hotspur.”

Fox Valley Topaz didn’t get lucky with the draw. The 2-1 morning line favorite drew the outside 10 slot, while the 4-1 programmed second choice Native Hotspur (Sam Widger) has the six post. The field is completed with She’s A Pegase (10-1), Smashy Cerise (10-1), Kennan’s Ellery (25-1), Honey B Skipalong (8-1), Kiss My Josie (15-1), Fox Valley Tara (8-1), Park Lane Rhythm (10-1) and Aristocracy (6-1).

Editor’s note: Mike Paradise’s daily column on Illinois Standardbred racing and his Chicago circuit line and comments are available at

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