The Gals of Balmoral’s Good Old Days

By Mike Paradise

Sometimes we didn’t realize we were living through the good old days of Illinois harness racing until they are well past us. That may be the case for a lot of us who often watched some of the best ICF mares ever slug it out at Balmoral Park in the early part of this century.

Week after week and season after season in the first decade of the 2000’s such state-bred pacers as Parklane Powerful, Loyal Opposition, Giggles The Clown, Oneinamilliongirl, Lou Annie, and Determination Plus were on display to give us some unforgettable slugs-fests, especially on Super Nights.

There was always a steady stream of open company mares that awaited our cream of the crop of ICF gals in the weekly local Open Handicaps and in major showdowns like Balmoral’s American National’s and its Fairy Godmother stakes.

Out-of-state bred mares such as Artistic Vision, Cinder Best, Eternal Camnation and Nu Diamond Star, just to mention a few, gave our talented gals all they could handle on a regular basis.

  Parklane Powerful (Ron Marsh) was a former ICF queen earlier this century for trainer Homer Hochstetler. (REB Photo)

Parklane Powerful (Ron Marsh) was a former ICF queen earlier this century for trainer Homer Hochstetler. (REB Photo)

The contests in 2004 and 2005 between the renowned Illinois Harness Racing Hall of Fame pacing mares Parklane Powerful and Loyal Opposition were much anticipated battles for many of us.

Parklane Powerful was developed by Homer Hochstetler for Barrington Hills, Illinois owner Shirley Le Vin. Ronnie Marsh was the regular driver behind the Sportsmaster mare, out of Broadway Treasure. She sold for a modest $6,500 at the 1999 Cottonwood Farm Sale when her name was Powerfully Yours.

Loyal Opposition, who would go on to earn over $2.6 million in her brilliant career (54 lifetime victories) for Canadians Robert and Danial Waxman, sold for $47,000 at Cottonwood a year later, selected by trainer Erv Miler. His brother Andy Miller was the steady pilot at the lines of the daughter of Cole Muffler, from the Life Sign mare Tising Tising.

Parklane Powerful did well as a freshman and as a sophomore (2001 and 2002), winning 12 of 36 starts and earning a two-season total of almost $190,000 for her Barrington Hills, Illinois owner,

Loyal Opposition was almost unbeatable in 2002 as a two-year-old, going 14 for 15 while hauling in a whopping $886,250 in money won with an assist from a share from the state’s $1 million incentive bonus.

Loyal Opposition added another robust $489,973 on her second season card, proving best 7 of 20 times, including the 2003 Grandma Ann Super Night championship.

That year Parklane Powerful, now four, engaged aged mares for the first time and came away a 15-win campaign that encompassed the Super Night Ann Vonian championship, several Open wins and even a victory in Maywood Park’s Associates stake against “the boys.”

   Erv Miller’s Loyal Opposition (Andy Miller) was a multiple Super Night champion at Balmoral Park. (REB Photo)

Erv Miller’s Loyal Opposition (Andy Miller) was a multiple Super Night champion at Balmoral Park. (REB Photo)

These two future ICF icons would meet for the first time in late April of 2004 in a Balmoral Open and it was Loyal Opposition by a neck in 1:51.2. About a month later the pair dead-heated for second place in a Balmoral Open behind the winner Cinder Best.

The Illinois stalwarts wouldn’t cross paths again until that September and both races went Parklane Powerful’s way. The Hochstetler trainee whipped Loyal Opposition in their Ann Vonian elimination by five lengths in 1:49.3, a career fastest, and a week later topped her rival by one and one-half lengths in the $125,000 championship.

In 2005 Loyal Opposition turned the tables on Parkland Powerful. “L.O.” was three lengths better in their Ann Vonian elimination and drew off in the stake’s Super Night championship, ending up more than nine lengths ahead of her ICF rival. Later that season the pride of the Miller stable secured Balmoral’s $70,000 Fairy Godmother open company stake by a half-length over Parklane Powerful.

Loyal Opposition and Parklane Powerful were two remarkable ICF pacing mares who without a doubt gave us plenty of wonderful memories in the “good old days” of Balmoral Park racing.

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