By Mike Paradise
Downstate trainer Tom (Buzz) Graham Jr. knew right from the start that Gabe Henry could be a special two-year-old and as we head into the opening of racing at the Springfield State Fair the home-bred pacer is proving him right.
Gabe Henry goes into Friday’s seventh race Illinois State Fair Colt Stake elimination race riding a fourth race winning streak and has moved to the top of the ICF freshman colt and gelding division with regular driver Todd Warren.
“Pretty much right from the start he was showing that he would be exceptional,” said Graham. The horse did everything perfect, He was a nice horse to train down. You set a goal in your head and he would go out and do it. He always tried hard and enjoys racing.”
Gabe Henry was raced easy in his very first start, racing in sixth most of the way before uncorking a 27 last quarter in his debut to finish second. After that June 9 start he’s been perfect and excels racing in come-from-behind fashion.
“The horse is at his best in the tail end of a race,” continued Buzz. “When other horses are idling or falling off a bit he is going forward. The pleasure of watching him race is right at the end.”
“He’ll also be going to the Du Quoin Fair. I’m only about an hour or so from Du Quoin. It’s a 65 mile drive to Hawthorne so without any stops you can make it in a little over four hours. Gabe Henry is a good shipper so he’s o.k. with the long drive.”
Buzz’s wife Shelly explained just how Gabe Henry got his name.
“At the Springfield State Fair there’s an outback rider there and he has a horse named “Gabe” A few years ago we were stabled with him. After the races he would put her on the horse and take her around.
“Our daughter Zetta became obsessed with the horse. When we came back home she named the cat Gabe, the sheep Gabe, and her play horses Gabe so naturally we had to name a real horse Gabe and we did.”
The 3-2 program favorite Gabe Henry will take on Fox Valley Nemitz (2-1, Dale Hiteman) for the first time and the Joel Smith trainee has a pair of stake series leg triumphs himself and was season-nest in the other.
Fox Valley Nemitz did win the draw for posts with the one-slot while Gabe Henry landed the five in the seven-horse field with the only the first three finishers assured of advancing to next Wednesday’s $30,000 Championship. A drawing among the three division fourth place finishers will move along to tat final.
The second and third divisions of Friday’s freshman colt pace eliminations also look to be very competitive events as well.
Uptown Sleaze (3-2, Kyle Wilfong), Fox Valley Inferno (8-5, Casey Leonard), Fox Valley Jeter (6-1, Kyle Husted) and Ima Skydancer (6-1, Kyle Wilfong) all have a legitimate shot to win the eighth race.
Royale Big Guy (2-1, Casey Leonard) and Tiny Jim, Dale Hiteman) are the programmed co-favorite in the third (ninth race) elimination split.