2003 a Summer of Balmoral’s Glory Days

By Mike Paradise

Fifteen years ago Balmoral Park was thriving with nationally acclaimed horses coming to town for its American Nationals, a driver colony among the finest in the country, and nightly 1 million dollar mutuel handles the norm.

The year was 2003.

Five years earlier the far south suburban facility took over as the Chicago’s circuit premier harness racing track when Sportsman’s Park closed its doors on the Standardbred industry as all of its major stakes events, from Super Night to the prestigious American National stakes, switched over to Balmoral Park, a former one-time “B” track for Illinois harness racing.

Driver Dale Hiteman guided the 2-year-old filly pacer Kikikatie to her victory in her $100,000 American National in 2003.  (R.E.B. Photo)

Driver Dale Hiteman guided the 2-year-old filly pacer Kikikatie to her victory in her $100,000 American National in 2003. (R.E.B. Photo)

The Balmoral driver standings in 2003 ended up with a Top Ten of Tony Morgan, Dave Magee, Ron Marsh, Tim Tetrick, Mike Oosting, Andy Miller, Ryan Anderson, Pat Berry and Dale Hiteman, in that order. This year only Ryan Anderson and Mike Oosting competed at Hawthorne’s summer meet and the latter just on a part-time basis.

Homer Hochstetler was Balmoral’s 2003 leading trainer with Erv Miller and Ken Rucker close behind. Sadly, all have gone elsewhere and are now former Illinois based horsemen.

The ten 2003 American National stake championships were spread out for the last time that season (late July to early September weekends). Beginning in 2004 American National Night was inaugurated as a single eight event gala night of racing with the 2-year-olds trots contested on another evening of racing.

The combination of six figure purses plus the long illustrious history of the American Nationals always lured many of the nation’s elite trotters and pacers to town on a regular basis and 2003 was no exception. Four American National winners went on to be named Dan Patch champions in their respective classes.

The first 2003 American National was the $100,000 2-Year-Old Filly Pace on Saturday, July 18 and Dale Hiteman brought home Kikikatie to a 1:54.1 victory on an “off track” and she would go on to be the Dan Patch champion in her division.

The next day the track was fast and the 17-1 longshot Nineteenth Hole (Mike Oosting) popped at 17-1 in the $125,000 2-year-old colt pace for trainer Nelson Willis with a 1:53.2 mile

 Peruvian Hanover (No. 10, Tim Tetrick) followed his $210,000 American National Aged championships with another in 2004. (R.E.B. Photo)

Peruvian Hanover (No. 10, Tim Tetrick) followed his $210,000 American National Aged championships with another in 2004. (R.E.B. Photo)

One week later the 3-year-old colt pacer Yankee Cruiser (Dean Magee), made it back-to-back American National championships when he cruised to a 1:50 flat clocking in that $285,000 stake for trainer Tim Pinske. Yankee Cruiser also won the 2002 American National freshman pace.

The next American Nationals, both 3-year-old trots, came about a month later, with the Chuck Sylvester Stable’s Mutineer taking the $200,000 colt event in 1:55 and Southwind Flanders (1:54.2) the $170,000 filly final, both driven by Eric Ledford.

On September 27, a week after Super Night, a strong field was on hand for the $210,000 American National Aged Pace with the well-regarded Mcardle (Mike Lachance) going off as the 4-5 favorite. However he was parked-out to a 55 flat half and ended up fifth as Peruvian Hanover (Tim Tetrick) won a narrow head decision in 1:51.1 over the 63-1 longshot Color Me Best (Dave Magee. Mini Me, who would go out to be named the 2003 Illinois Harness Horse of the Year, finished third, only one length further behind.

Peruvian Hanover would return to Balmoral in 2004 and successfully defend his aged pacing title, this time in 1:49.4

The last four 2003 American National championships all came on November 2 with the 3-5 favorite (Paul Mac Donald) winning the $140,000 2-year-old filly trot, the front-stepping Cantab Hall (Mike Lachance) the $150,000 for freshman male trotters and Dave Magee steering C C Spice (1:51.4) to an upset at 14-1 odds in the $215,000 sophomore filly pace.

Cantab Hall would annex the 3-year-old colt trot Dan Patch title and also was named the 2003 Trotter of the Year.

The nationally acclaimed trotter Rotation (Trevor Ritchie) didn’t disappoint his many backers in the 2003 American National Aged Trot with its hefty $215,000 purse. (R.E.B. Photo)

The nationally acclaimed trotter Rotation (Trevor Ritchie) didn’t disappoint his many backers in the 2003 American National Aged Trot with its hefty $215,000 purse. (R.E.B. Photo)

The headliner that Saturday was the $215,000 American National Aged Trot with all eyes on the nationally ranked 4-year-old Rotation from the stable of trainer Harold Lunde. Regular driver Trevor Ritchie settled the 1-2 choice into seventh in the early going while Magician (Ron Marsh) and Life’s Holiday (Homer Hochstetler) battled to a 55.2 half. Rotation came from third-over, overtaking Magician in the lane and pulling away to a 1:53.1 victory.

Rotation finished the season with over $875,000 on his card with victories in his last three starts—the $630,110 Maple Leaf Trot, the $104,000 Allerage and the $215,00 American National. Earlier he captured the $450,000 Nat Ray at The Meadowlands and was named the Dan Patch Aged Trotter of the Year.

Fifteen years have passed since then and regrettably so have the days of national star pacers and trotters coming to Illinois.

A Harness Ambassador Passes On

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Our Industry Lost a Well Respected Gentleman

By Mike Paradise

When the long time Chicago Sun-Times harness racing authority Tom Krish passed away earlier this month in his native country of India, our industry not only lost one of the nation’s very best handicappers, it also lost one of the true gentleman of our sport.

“There was no bigger fan of Chicago harness racing than Tom,” said IHHA Executive Secretary Tony Somone. “He loved Maywood Park and was an integral part of the cast of characters that paraded through there on a nightly basis. He was also a gentleman through and through. I never saw him angry. He always had a kind word for everyone. His brief personal comments included with his daily Sun Times line were cherished by all that were mentioned.”

Tony testimonial to Tom Krish was perfectly said in so many ways.

Sun-Times LogoI got to know Tom a few years before he began his 35 year run with the Sun-Times when he replaced the legendary Sulky Sam Sena as the newspaper’s harness racing handicapper and odds-maker.

In all those years I also never heard him utter anything negative towards anyone. Tom was always a polite, friendly and hard-working professional with a passion for harness racing. He was also a family man who worked two jobs to provide for his wife Jothi (Jody) and their two daughters Jaya and Padma.

Tom was hired as a night-time employee in the Program Department at the Chicago circuit race tracks several decades ago by its late director John Tinsley. Tom helped tabulate the past performances lines and comments in the official race track programs.

At Sportsman’s Park, the program department worked on the west side of the Press Box while I, and most of my publicity staff, did our thing on the east side. All of us went out onto the Press Box porch to view the races. It didn’t take long for the likeable and straight-forward Tom Krish to gain the respect of his peers.

I learned where Tom spent his days shortly after he joined the Sportsman’s Park Press Box crew when I ran into Tom the salesman in the Sears lower level at its Chicago store at North and Harlem avenues, about a 10 minute drive east from the Krish’s residence in River Grove, Illinois.

I always knew where Tom spent his evenings.

Tom was a regular at Maywood Park, less than a 10 minute drive west of River Grove. Tom enjoyed contributing to the nightly mutuel handle. He wasn’t a big-time gambler but with his astute knowledge of the horses, he did well as a player.

Many years later during my 12 year stint as Maywood Park’s Publicity Director, I always looked to a small area on the west side of the clubhouse floor when I made a trip to the winner’s circle to interview a driver or trainer after a major race. If Tom was in town, it was 1 to 9 he would be there.

When Tom was, a stop to chat was automatic. A hand shake would be followed by a conversation about the horses and the industry and ending with my question: “How long will you be in town” because more often than not, Tom wasn’t. He might be headed to Seattle to visit his daughter Padma and her family or to Uganda, Africa where Jaya and her husband reside.

Or he might be heading back to India. In recent years Tom and his wife spent six months in their native country and six months in the United States.

Tom also would travel to Europe for the most prestigious harness races in countries like France, Italy and England. Tom would e-mail me a story about the big race in his own unique writing style and I would run it in the Maywood Park program.

You might be asking yourself now does an person born and educated in a country that doesn’t have harness racing end up with a fervor for the sport and become a top-notch handicapper?

Actually Tom’s first love was thoroughbred racing and the lure to place a few bucks (I think the Indian currency is called the rupee) on the ponies. Tom’s father was a lawyer and an owner of some thoroughbred horses.

Yes there is thoroughbred racing in India and there has been for the one-time British colony for over 200 years. Its first racetrack was built in 1777. Currently there are nine tracks there and they are packed with fans wagering on races restricted to Indian-bred horses.

The populous country halfway around the world has a mixture of both pool betting and traditional bookmaking on its races. That’s how Tom got exposed to horse racing.

With the Krish’s eventually settling in River Grove, IL and its proximity to Maywood Park Race Track, it didn’t take long for Tom to make the switch over to playing the “buggies” and begin his long love affair with Chicago harness racing.

Tom battled health issues in his later years but that never kept him from missing a deadline in the Sun-Times. Tom was old-school. He was dedicated to his job. No matter where he was in the world or how well he was or wasn’t feeling, Tom’s harness line and distinctive comments always made their way on time into the Chicago newspaper.

Following the tradition of the Hindu religion, Tom was cremated within 24 hours of his death. Most of his ashes were dispersed into the Indian Ocean; it seems to me that it was only fitting his family spread a small portion of Tom’s ashes at a near-by race track.

Tom had three granddaughters and soon would have been a great-grandfather (another girl) if his life didn’t end much too soon. May my old colleague rest in peace.

A special thanks to Marge Tinsley of Beecher, Illinois, a good friend of the Krish family, for all of her input on this story.

When the Crown Came to Sportsman’s

By Mike Paradise

The most prestigious night of harness racing nation-wide every year is the Breeders Crown. It’s the single racing program where the crème de la crème in each pacing and trotting division tangle at one place for one night for a lot of money with the outcome often determining the yearly Dan Patch winner in their respective categories.

The Breeders Crown began some 33 years ago back in 1984 in a much different format. In those days the championship races were spread out over a number of weekends and contested on various racetracks and on different size ovals.

  Sportsman’s Park’s 1985 Breeders Crown program cover.

Sportsman’s Park’s 1985 Breeders Crown program cover.

The Breeders Crown came to Sportsman’s Park on September 20, 1985 and its $354,583 purse for the Aged Trotting Championship was at that time the richest pot ever raced for on the Chicago circuit. The elite trot was also the first event of the ten-race Breeders Crown Series for that year.

Sportsman’s Park went all-out marketing the prestigious race with a special souvenir program, placing ads in the major Chicago newspapers and purchasing numerous radio spots, and it paid off with a jam-packed crowd of over 15,000 patrons showing up at the Cicero, Illinois facility.

Sandy Bowl, the powerful son of Super Bowl and the seventh millionaire at that time in harness racing history headed up a strong Team Nordin entry with Keystone Edmund, driven by Jan Nordin. National Hall of Fame driver John Campbell came to town to guide Sandy Bowl, who drew the rail in the nine-horse star-studded field.

The Nordin trained entry was sent off at 4 to 5 odds and when they turned for home outcome wasn’t in doubt. Campbell had sent Sandy Bowl out sharply for the lead, yielded it to Speed Merchant (Tom Harmer), took it back after the half, reached in 58.1, and steadily drew away to a convincing six length victory.

Sandy Bowl’s winning time of 1:56.3 was then a world record for an aged trotting stallion on a five-eighths mile track and the fasted ever by a trotter at Sportsman’s Park. Babe Kosmos finished second in Sportsman’s Crown jewel event of the summer.

Weeks earlier Sandy Bowl rallied for a one-plus length win in the $80,000 American National Aged Trot with a 1:59.1.

Other American National champions crowned in the summer of 1985 included Marauder and the Tom Harmer Stable’s Falcon Seelster in $102,000 divisions of the 3-year-old colt pace, Nanucket Lobell in the $137,000 for sophomore filly pace, Joe Marsh Jr. with Armbro Devona in the $72,700 3-year-old filly trot, and Berndt Lindstedt with Workaholic in the $129,500 trot for second season colts and geldings.

Mr. Dalrae (Dale Hiteman), the 1984 Pacer of the Year, returned to Sportsman’s in 1985 and prevailed in the $60,000 U.S. Pacing Championship and again in the $77,500 American National Aged Pace, becoming a member of the “Millionaire Club.”

The star Illinois bred pacers for the summer of 1985 were the 3-year-old Hothead (Mike Borys) and the 2-year-old Incredible Finale (Tom Harmer).

Ron Marsh, who was chosen to represent the United States in the World Driving Championship, left Sportsman’s Park a week early but already had his second straight driver title wrapped up. Doug Hamilton repeated as the meet’s leading trainer.

Tom Krish Passes Away

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