Sagebrush Filly Earns 2016 Illinois Harness Horse of the Year

Keli Bell is a sophomore at Neoga High School who enjoys playing softball for the Indians and, in her spare time, riding horses with her sister, Katie. She also happens to own a harness horse which was recently named tops for all of Illinois.

Princess Sage, a two-year-old pacing filly bred and co-owned by Bell, earned honors as 2016 Illinois Harness Horse of the Year by a vote of members of the United States Trotting Association residing in the Prairie State. The award was made official with a special presentation which took place Jan. 21 in Springfield.

Bell’s parents, Barry and Toni Bell of rural Windsor, have raced Standardbreds for many years. But they decided to register Katie Mack, the dam (or “mother”) of Princess Sage, in Keli’s name when Keli took an interest in the mare after her racing days and broke her to ride. As a result, when Katie Mack’s first foal was born, she too would belong to Keli, and the name “Princess Sage” was chosen because of the filly’s sire being named “Sagebrush.”

The Bell family offered a 50-percent interest in the filly to family friend Freddie Patton Jr. of Mississippi, with the condition that he would train the filly free of charge. Patton accepted, and he guided Princess Sage through a campaign of eight wins in 11 starts, with earnings of $90,000. The highlight of the season came Sept. 10, when the filly won the $100,000 final of the Incredible Tilly series at Hawthorne Racecourse in Stickney.

Princess Sage earned a rest over the final two months of 2016, but she has since returned to training with the Midwest string of the Patton Stable at the DuQuoin State Fairgrounds. Defense of her Horse of the Year title will begin later this spring.

Kurt Becker