Youngsters star in American-Nationals

by Tom Kelley, publicity director, Balmoral Park

Crete, IL — The prestigious American-National Stakes returned to Balmoral Park on Wednesday night (Sept. 17) with a pair of trotting events for 2-year-olds sharing top billing on the nine-race program.

The ladies opened the action with a compact field of six diagonally gaited specialists battling for a purse of $57,200. Returning to the scene of her lone victory to date was just what the doctor ordered for Homer Hochstetler and Robert Buddig’s Persuasive Look as the filly reported home with a half-length victory in a career best of 1:58 for driver Casey Leonard.

Casey Leonard guided Persuasive Look to her second lifetime victory in Wednesday’s $57,200 American-National for 2-year-old trotting fillies.

Content to sit near the back of the pack in fifth as heavy favorite Fox Valley Yoko (John De Long) cruised through splits of :29.2, :58.3 and 1:28.3, Leonard finally put the daughter of Powerful Emotion-Black N Bluegenes into contention as the field neared the top of the stretch.

“They were going fast enough for my liking so I wasn’t concerned about being back there,” said the patient Leonard. “I had plenty of horse left and I managed to pick up some very good cover to bring us to the top of the lane so it worked out perfectly.”

Gradually starting to reel in a leg weary Fox Valley Yoko and the pocket sitting Jazzie Mermaid (Dave Magee) with a sixteenth of a mile to go, the Homer Hochstetler trained miss trotted by that pair in the closing yards in what looked like a replay of her big Fox Valley Flan Stake win here in late July. Jazzie Mermaid turned in a solid effort to finish second while Fox Valley Yoko held on for third.

Sent off as the third choice in the wagering, Persuasive Look returned $10.20, $5.20 and $2.20 while running her career slate to 2-2-3 in seven starts with earnings of $66,374.

Next up were the colts and geldings as a field of eight youngsters faced the starting gate with a purse of $73,000 on the line. Despite an eventful journey, K R Breeding and Robert Rudolph’s Iron prevailed by a hard fought head in 1:58.1 for driver Domenico Cecere.

David Baum photos

Iron and driver Domenico Cecere overcame an adventurous journey to knock off seven rivals in the $73,000 American-National for 2-year-old trotting colts.

Hustled to the front from post four by Cecere, the royally bred son of Cantab Hall-Ivory Lindy strolled through an opening quarter in :29.3. After allowing a hard charging SS Poseidon (Dan Shetler) to grab command on the backside, a headstrong Iron was nearly climbing into the bike with Shetler as the field reached the half-mile mark in :59.

“Things just kind of came to a very quick stop out there,” said a relieved Cecere. “We were very lucky that my horse didn’t run or worse yet have an accident.”

Things straightened themselves out heading around the far turn with SS Poseidon proceeding to lead the field past the three-quarter-mile mark in 1:29.1.

Through the lane SS Poseidon continued to show the way as Cecere swung to the outside with Iron. That allowed a locked and loaded KY Lucky (John De Long) to move through in the passing lane, making for a thrilling three-horse stretch duel.

With the three trotters spread out across the track, Iron regained his best stride in the closing yards, getting up in the final strides to get his first win in his second career start. KY Lucky and SS Poseidon wound up in a dead-heat for second behind the victor.

After the win a very happy Cecere explained his strategy in the lane.

“My horse is still very green but he’s a very talented horse as well,” he said. “He’s never been in the passing lane so I didn’t want to take a chance at going down there with him which is why I swung outside. It took him a little bit to get his momentum going again but I didn’t really urge him until the very end and he was just super tonight.”

After a third place finish in his division of the Kindergarten Stake at the Red Mile, Iron was a bit overlooked in the wagering, returning $13.00, $4.80 and $4.00 while moving his bankroll to $36,240.

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