09/16/2012 7:25AM

Balmoral: Als Hammered stood out on exciting Super Night card

Balmoral Park
Als Hammered set a stakes record in the Pete Langley.

Al’s Hammered put on one of the finest performances in the 24-year history of Super Night on Saturday night at Balmoral Park.

Pacing the fastest mile ever recorded in the annual championship series for Illinois-bred pacers and trotters that began at the now defunct Sportsman’s Park in 1989 and moved to Balmoral in 1998,  the 1-2 favorite won the $178,000 Pete Langley pace for 3-year-old colts and geldings by 9 ½ lengths in 1:48 4/5.

“I’ve never been in a race that fast in my life but to be honest it felt like the longest race of my career,” said Robert Smolin, who drove Al’s Hammered for owner-breeder Robert Phillips.

Smolin was referring to a prolonged stewards’ inquiry into an episode approaching the three-quarter mile mark.

The stewards conducted the inquiry to determine if Al’s Hammered’s sulky ran into the tire of King’s Legend’s bike when he went around the latter horse. After extensive video review they decided that there was no video evidence that Al’s Hammered was responsible for the flat tire that contributed to the 10th place finish by King’s Legend.

While King’s Legend was backing up, Al’s Hammered was surging forward after gradually moving up from seventh at the quarter to sixth at the half and fourth at three-quarters.

“I wanted to outsprint them and get the jump on them,” Smolin said. “I popped the plugs and hit the wheel disc once and away he went.”

The mighty stretch move that brought Al’s Hammered his eighth victory in 23 starts this year came as no surprise to Phillips.

“Once I saw the half in :54 (with long shot Zall Good setting the pace) I knew things were setting up perfectly,” said the owner-trainer.

Three other horses—Mystical Victress, Iam Bonasera and Riccolo--stood out on the program that consisted of eight championship and six consolation races.

With a decisive victory in the $123,00 Lorna Propes pace for fillies and mares, Mystical Victress became a Super Night winner for the third time, equaling a record hitherto shared by two male pacers, Big Tom and King Johnny. Her earlier conquests came in the Grandma Ann  for 3-year-old fillies in 2010 and in the Lorna Propes last year.

Conditioned by all-time leading Super Night trainer, Erv Miller, Mystical Victress gave him his 20th triumph in the championship races when she defeated runnerup LR Dancing Dream by 7 ¾ lengths.

Erv’s son, Marcus Miller, was at the reins as she went the distance in 1:50, equaling her career best time and the stakes record she set in 2011.

“She’s like a big black freight train,” Marcus Miller said. “When you turn for home she just takes off.”

Reunited with his former trainer, Nelson Willis, and his former driver, Marcus Miller, Riccolo extended his 2012 Balmoral undefeated streak to nine races when he won the $110,000 Su Mac Lad trot for 3-year-old colts and geldings by 3 lengths in 1:56 4/5.

The gelding moved to the East Coast in July after his owner-breeder, the retired Chicago driving standout Walter Paisley and his teenage daughter, Paige, sold him to Norweigan shipping executive Torkel Alendal for in excess of $250,000.

Racing for his new trainer, Trond Smedshammer, Riccolo made two starts at the Meadowlands, winning an open pace and finishing sixth in a Hambletonian elimination race. Smedshammer then took him to Pocono Downs for an ego trip—a 14 ¼-length victory in a qualifying race that served as his prep for the Su Mc Lad.

Riccolo went off the 3-10 favorite in his homecoming race. The 4-1 second choice Vaporstar took an early lead and held it into the stretch but couldn’t cope when he was challenged by Riccolo at the top of the stretch.

“Trond deserves the credit for this one,” said Willis, who trained Riccolo from the time he was a yearling until he was sold. “He sent him back (on Wednesday) and he came back perfect.”

Iam Bonasera is famed for making stretch charges and he lived up to his reputation in the $127,000 Tony Maurello Pace for older males.
After biding his time racing seventh and sixth for the first three quarters, the 5-year-old gelding took off in the stretch win by 4 ½ lengths over runnerup Intheblinkofaneye. With Todd Warren at the reins for trainer Roger Welch, the 3-10 favorite went the distance in 1:50.
The victory was Iam Bonasera’s fifth in his last six races, all at Balmoral. His only loss during this span was a second place effort that left him a neck shy of the winner.

The winners of the other Super Night championship races were:

B Fly McQueen, a 29-1 longshot who returned $60.20 to win bettors, in the Lady Ann Reed for 3-year-old filly trotters

Party Hangover, the 7-5 favorite who was a 1 ¼-length winner in the Grandma Ann contested by 10 members of the 3-year-old filly division

Fancy Creek Elusiv, a neck winner at the expense of 9-10 favorite Fancy Creek Elusiv, in the richest race of the night, the $250,000 Orange and Blue pace for 2-year-old colts and geldings

Thank You Doc, who came on in the stretch to defeat Auniqueacquisition by a head and give Willis his second championship victory of the night in the $189,000 Orange and Blue for 2-year-old filly pacers.