Crete, IL --- State-bred pacers took center stage on Saturday night at Balmoral Park as trainer Robert Phillips and driver Robert Smolin teamed up for a pair of impressive victories with two of the stables stars as Al’s Hammered romped to a 5-3/4 length victory in the $15,000 Rambling Willie Stake while Cotton Eyed Joe rolled to a 2-3/4 length win in the $10,000 Betzotic Stake.
With a compact field of five of the state’s top older pacers facing the gate for the Rambling Willie Stake, Al’s Hammered found himself much closer than usual to the early action as Ice Scraper (Todd Warren) rattled off splits of 27.0, 56.0 & 1:23.4.
Smolin then maneuvered the son of Droppin’thehammer off the pylons as the field turned for the money. As he’s done so often, the bay 5-year-old absolutely exploded through the stretch, charging home in a wicked 25.4 to secure the victory in 1:50.1 for his owner-trainer Phillips. Fort Silky (Casey Leonard) parlayed a perfect pocket sitting journey into a second place check while Fancy Creek Elusiv (Dave Magee) finished third.
With the win Al’s Hammered who has overcome serious injury to return to stardom, now boasts a career record of 25-8-11 in 64 starts with earnings of more than $340,000
Sophomore pacing colts were also in action on the chilly Saturday night card and when the smoke cleared from the $10,000 Betzotic Stake the Phillips-Smolin pairing were back in victory lane, turning a two-hole trip into an easy win over seven other state-breds, stopping the clock in 1:54.1.
Perfectly positioned on the back of odds-on favorite Fox Valley Deuce (Casey Leonard) as he clicked off splits of 27.3, 57.1 & 1:26.4, Smolin patiently waited for the passing lane as the field headed for the wire. After securing room with a sixteenth of a mile to go, the gelded son of Big Green Machine-Secret Dial flew home in 27.0 to nab his second win in four starts this season. Fox Valley Deuce held for second while Dune Dude (Dean Magee) turned in a late rally to finish third, four lengths behind the winner.
A four-time career winner, last season’s Orange & Blue champion now boasts career earnings of more than $121,000 for owner-trainer Bob Phillips.