09/10/2015 3:57PM

Balmoral: Holland returns to Illinois for Super Night

Mike Lizzi
Driver Brent Holland returned to Illinois for the first time since 2008.

It’s been nearly seven years since he has been in the sulky at his old stomping grounds, but Wilmington, Ohio native Brent Holland returned to Illinois on Saturday (September 5) to compete in the eliminations for the 27th Super Night. One week later he returns to Balmoral Park to compete for more than $1 million in purse money on the biggest night for horses bred in the Prairie state.

It was not entirely the allure of all that cash that was the final determination for Holland, who now resides in Texas and is a regular member of the driver’s colony at Yonkers Raceway, to participate at the facility where he last appeared in October of 2008.

“Last Saturday was the first time I’ve driven at Balmoral in quite some time,” Holland said. “I was not planning on being there for Super Night, which is definitely a big night with nice purses, but when Erv (Miller) called and asked me to pick up a couple drives, of course I said yes.”

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The 44-year-old pilot, who has amassed more than 4,778 triumphs and nearly $50 million in purse money, began his career in the late 1980’s in his home state, but moved his tack to Illinois in 1990 when he accepted employment with Hall of Famer Bob Farrington at Sportsman’s Park. He remained a stalwart on the Illinois racing scene with multiple driving titles and numerous stakes victories, until 2008 when financial conditions were the reason he decided to relocate to the East Coast. It was a popular move at the time as Tim Tetrick, Pat Berry, Andy Miller, Tony Morgan, Brandon Simpson, Ryan Anderson, Dan Noble, Jason Dillander, Tyler Buter and Eric Goodell made the same determination.

Even Erv Miller, a former resident of Sherman, Illinois, also cited monetary compensation as the driving force behind the transition of his powerful stable to New Jersey, joining conditioners Joe Anderson, John Butenschoen, Ken Rucker, Paul Blumenfeld and Rick Dane Jr in the increasing exodus.

Currently enmeshed in bankruptcy suits, Maywood Park and Balmoral Park are both on the auction block with no takers. It was announced on September 8, Maywood has requested to cease operations and shut down its facilities on October 8. There is definitely a cloud of uncertainty swirling over whether this will be the last time Super Night is even conducted.

Holland, who will appear in six races with five of those contests on behalf of Erv Miller and one for Hans Schulfer, acknowledged that thoughts and emotions regarding the bleak future of Illinois harness racing are on his mind and will be as he performs this weekend.

“Balmoral is such a nice track to race over and although some of my horses did not race as well as I would have liked in the eliminations, I am looking forward to Saturday because it is a great night, terrific crowd and I think my horses will improve this week,” he said. “But it is bittersweet for me. This could be the last night we ever have this event and I won my first Super Night stake way back in 1990 or 1991. To think this could very well be the end will be present in the back of mind the entire card. I spent many years there and it is so hard believe the sport may have no future in Illinois.”

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