“Jolene” Looking Peachy at Three

By Mike Paradise

It’s round two Friday night of the Plum Peachy stake and after the first ICF 3-year-old pace series the only certainty is that their will be some owners getting a restful night’s sleep while others could be doing a lot of tossing and turning.

The Plum Peachy opening legs produced not one but a pair of shockers in the two $12,000 divisions raced. First the Kim Hamilton Stable’s Fancy Creek Jolene (Matt Avenatti) popped at odds of 45-1 and then a few races later Filly Forty (Jamaica Patton) lit up the tote board at odds of 58-1.

Earlier this month I wrote here about Filly Forty so this time around I’ll focus on Fancy Creek Jolene, the Frank Marcolini owned filly who began her career in what can only be described as in dreadful fashion.

 Fancy Creek Jolene (Matt Avenatti) was a surprise winner in her first Incredible Tillie stake. (Four Footed Photo)

Fancy Creek Jolene (Matt Avenatti) was a surprise winner in her first Incredible Tillie stake. (Four Footed Photo)

In five starts as a freshman, all in ICF freshman stakes, Fancy Creek Jolene made a scanty $825 as a 2-year-old and that amount came in just one check, a fifth place in round one of the Incredible Tillie and it was a far-back fifth place finish at that.

Fancy Creek Jolene went off stride in that first leg and she also went off-stride in the second leg. She did manage to stay flat in the third round but finished ninth and was distanced, beaten some 25 lengths. In her final Tillie Leg she starting running again instead of pacing and earned zip. In her final 2-year-old start, the “Tillie” Stake Consolation, she, you guessed it, went off stride.

With her $3,000 sale price as a yearling, her $1,250 Incredible Tillie nomination fee, her $200 starting fees in each of the four series legs and her normal training and vet bills Fancy Creek Jolene might have had her South Chicago, Illinois owner seeing red. For sure the bleak first season campaign put her owner’s most recent horse racing venture in the “Red”

And “Jolene’s” sophomore season didn’t begin any better.

In her mid-April season debut at Hoosier Park the filly couldn’t stay on stride and finished up the track again. However she did have a strong qualifier on the Indiana track a couple of weeks later, winning in 1:55.2 with a 27.3 last quarter.

So things were looking up for the Sportsmaster filly but alas, not for long.

Jolene was nominated for Hawthorne’s Dave Magee Late Closer series but went off stride in her first leg on opening night (May 11). A week later in her second Magee outing, it was more of the same, so after three starts as a sophomore she had earnings of zero dollars.

As they say “that was then and this is now” and now she has $14,600 on her card by turning things around in a big way. The turnabout actually began in her start before the first $12,000 Plum Peachy with Matt Avenatti at her lines for the first time.

“Jolene” was ninth, ahead of only a breaking horse at the three-quarter pole and still ended up second best at 91-1 odds. In the Plum Peachy she had the 10-hole and was 10th at the first quarter, a dozen lengths behind. She was ninth at the half, eighth at the top of the lane and then unleashed a 26.2 last quarter to pop with a 1:55.1 mile.

Since then “Jolene” added another victory, this one in an ICF non-winners of two event, and was a close second, dropping a head decision, in another NW 2 against some open company fillies.

As it turns out Fancy Creek Jolene’s size was the primary reason for the unfortunate start to her racing career and her owner’s patience with his filly is now starting to pay dividends.

“She’s a big mare and she just wasn’t fully developed as a 2-year-old, said her Momence, Illinois trainer Kim Hamilton. She has a lot of speed but she just couldn’t handle her speed.”

“She has really matured but even at the beginning of her 3-year-old year season she still had a lot of learning to do. Hopefully she has it figured out and can keep it going forward,” said the Iowa native.

With 24 entries for Friday’s Plum Peachy the second leg of the series was split into a trio of $12,000 divisions with Fancy Creek Jolene (pp 2, Matt Avenatti) set to meet the other first round stake series winner Filly Forty (pp 1, Jamaica Patton) for the first time. The latter was a recent purchase by A Piece Of The Action (Culver City, California) and now races out of the barn of conditioner Donna Holt.

They’ll be challenged by A Real Doozie (Mike Oosting), November Rain (Charles Arthur), Dee Tumbleweed (Tyler Shehan), Boogie On Down (Kyle Wilfong), Razzleme Dazzleme (Kyle Husted) and Beamer N Bud (Bob Smolin),

Lady’s Party (pp 1, Casey Leonard) fresh off a romping 3 1/2 length victory a week ago in her first start for trainer Terry Leonard is expected to be the first division (second race) heavy favorite.

Lady’s Party will start inside of last season’s ICF division champion Princess Sage (Freddie Patton Jr.), Windian (Tim Curtin), Dandy’s Dududidudu (Kyle Husted), My Uptowne Girl (Brian Carpenter), C Far (Gary Rath) and Rousey Ronda (Ridge Warren).

The wide-open third race second division will be comprised of (from the rail out): San Antonio Rose (Ridge Warren), Miss Tennessee (Kyle Husted), Fox Valley Dandy (Tim Curtin), Hope Hotspur (Juan Franco), Ashlees Cocktail (Mike Oosting), My Mona Me (Matt Avenatti) and My Kind Of Dance (Casey Leonard).

Thursday Notes: Jim Lackey drove three winners last night while Casey Leonard and Tim Curtin each had a driving double. The seventh race winner Star Of The Party, driven by trainer Kelcey Perymond, was a Mike Paradise Price Shot selection at $25.00.

Early Fireworks at Hawthorne

By Mike Paradise

While most of the Chicago area fireworks shows won’t be seen and heard until the Fourth of July their will be plenty of noise being made on Hawthorne’s race track by ICF youngsters competing in the two prior evenings.

Coming up this weekend are a couple of very important nights of racing for the owners and trainers of both 2 and 3-year-old state breds, starting with Saturday’s elimination events for the freshmen Cardinal for pacing colts and geldings and the Violet for pacing fillies.

The Cardinal and Violet 2-year-old trot eliminations will be contested on this Sunday’s July 3rd card, along with the second legs of the ICF 3-year-olds Beulah Dygert (females) and the Erwin S. Dygert (males) stake series.

The Tom Simmons Stable's Beach Shootingstar (inside, Mike Oosting) returns Saturday for the Cardinal 2-year-old stake eliminations. (Four Footed Photo).

The Tom Simmons Stable’s Beach Shootingstar (inside, Mike Oosting) returns Saturday for the Cardinal 2-year-old stake eliminations. (Four Footed Photo).

Sharing the Saturday, July 1st spotlight with the Cardinal and Violet pace elims, is the second leg of the Robert F. Carey stake series for Illinois conceived and foaled sophomore male pacers. The Plum Peachy second round for 3-year-old pacing fillies will head-up Friday’s card.

All the ICF stake series finals will be held on Hawthorne’s Night of Champions. (Sept. 23rd) They will be comprised of the 10 highest point earnings through four series rounds. A high finish could be essential to those 3-year-olds who didn’t fare well in the first leg action or missed that leg.

Stake Series points are counted as: 50 for a win, 25 for second, 12 for third, 8 for fourth, 5 for fifth and 1 for starting.

First round winners Fancy Creek Jolene, trained by Kim Hamilton and Filly Forty now racing for trainer Donna Holt, are sitting pretty on top of the early Plum Peachy standings. Runner-ups, Boogie On Down and Rousey Ronda are in a favorable situation with 25 points each while Dandy’s Dududidudu and Lady’s Party are in the thick of it with 12 points each.

Currently sharing the top spot in the Incredible Finale series with 50 points, are the second season male pacers Royale Big Guy, owned by the Megan Rogers Stable of Chicago, and Fox Valley Nemitz from the barn of Nick Giberson. Then comes Captain Rhett and In Your Eye with 25 points each, followed by Gabe Henry and Fox Valley Herbie, both with a dozen points.

Royale Big Guy (No. 8) will be back from Pennsylvania for Saturday's Robert F. Carey ICF stake Series. (Four Footed Photo).

Royale Big Guy (No. 8) will be back from Pennsylvania for Saturday’s Robert F. Carey ICF Stake Series. (Four Footed Photo).

Royale Big Guy was shipped back to Pennsylvania (The Meadows), after his Carey victory by trainer Norm Parker but will return for Saturday’s second leg of the Incredible Finale and most likely will be joined by his regular driver Jim Pantaleano.

Just one division was needed in the first rounds of both the Beulah and Erwin Dygert trots and they went to Daisy Lou Duke and Trixie’s Jethro respectively. A first or second place finish Sunday by those trotters, would likely nail down a starting berth in their finals, since single round divisions are expected in all of those trotting series legs.

Next in line in the Beulah Dygert behind the Steve Searle Stable’s Daisy Lou Duke are Lous Credit Report (25), Fox Valley Elana (12), Beatrice (8) and Lous Game N Match (5).

After one round of the Erwin Dygert the John D Finn Stable’s Trixie’s Jethro (5) is followed by Totally Pazzazzed (25), Muscle Image (12), Picky Picky Valor (8) and Cassisandfifth (5).

A $200 entry fee is required for both Cardinals and Violets. The Plum Peachy and Carey also carry $200 starting fees. Both of those ICF stakes will offer a second round purse of $12,000.

Notice of Annual Meeting of the Illinois Harness Horsemen’s Association

The annual meeting of the Illinois Harness Horsemen’s Association will be held Saturday, August 19, 2017 at the Illinois Harness Horsemen’s Association office, 15 Spinning Wheel Road, Suite 432, Hinsdale, Illinois at 12 noon. The following members filed nominating petitions seeking election or re-election to the Illinois Harness Horsemen’s Association Board of Directors:

Clark Fairley

 Craig Grummel

 Mike Knicley

 Bernie Paul

 Hosea Williams

Since there were only five candidates for the five openings on the board, the candidates will be named as directors by acclamation at the annual meeting.

Walter White Seeks Encore Performance

By Mike Paradise

The Jim Eaton Stable’s Walter White is expected to be a heavy favorite in Sunday’s $15,000 Open Trot Handicap and justifiably so after a rather effortless triumph a week ago in his Hawthorne debut.

The five-year-old gelding was assigned the outside seven-slot in the second race feature but Walter White was allocated the nine-slot last week and that didn’t prove to be much of a deterrent. Driver Kyle Wilfong comfortably got him to the top where he basically went unchallenged.

Trainer Jim Eaton doesn’t think his prized trotter will have it so easy this time around.

“I expect they’ll make it a lot harder for him,” said Eaton. “But he’s a nice trotter and he doesn’t need the front to come out on top. I told Kyle (Wilfong) last week he could drive this horse just about any way he wants. It doesn’t make a difference to Walter White. Put him on top, race him from far behind or put him in a hole, it doesn’t matter.”

 Walter White (Kyle Wilfong) goes for his their second straight triumph in Hawthorne's $15,000 Open Trot Sunday night. (Four Footed Photo)

Walter White (Kyle Wilfong) goes for his second straight triumph in Hawthorne’s $15,000 Open Trot Sunday night. (Four Footed Photo)

Walter White joined the Eaton Stable in November of 2015 after campaigning out of the barn of Jimmy Takter as a 2 and 3-year-old. The well-bred Cantab Hall trotter made almost $200,000 in his first two seasons for Takter and he did it winning only three races.

A $57,000 yearling buy (the next year his brother sold for $165,000 at Harrisburg) Walter White was auctioned off for a $33,000 bid to Eaton for his primary owner Bob Silberberg of Farmington Hills, Michigan.

“At the time of the sale we were a bit worried because he only went for $33,000. We thought he would go for more.”

Silberberg got his money back and a lot more when Walter White banked over $67,000 as a 4-year-old racing in Pennsylvania.

“Early on we were lucky enough to race him in non-winners of 4 and 5 events because when we bought him he had only three lifetime wins.”

One of those wins came in a $77,120 division of the International Stallion stake at Lexington, another in a $58,152 PASS stake at The Meadows.

Walter White took a $13,200 non-winner of four event at The Meadows in his initial start for Eaton and three outings later captured a $13,600 non-winner of five trot. The horse went on to win five more races for his new stable.

Thus far Walter White’s 5-year-old campaign is going even better. The gelding has added $72,325 on his card in 17 trips postward. Among his five season victories were a pair of $22,000 Open triumphs at Miami Valley Raceway in Ohio and a $21,000 Invite at Hoosier Park in late April.

“We’ve been easy as far as racing him with the hopes that like some trotters his best years will come as he gets older, added Eaton.”

Lining up in an effort to keep Walter White from revisiting the Hawthorne winner’s circle is Hard To Rock This (Keith Crawford), assigned the one-slot, Topville Avatar (Dale Hiteman), Big Expense (Kyle Husted), Pridecrest (Jared Finn), Fox Valley Veto (Casey Leonard) and Rever Ever (Don Harmon), appointed the six-post after his late closing second place finish in last week’s Open Trot.

 Peter Karras' ICF mare Fox Valley Charm was one pf three winning drives last night for Mike Oosting. (Four Footed Photo).

Peter Karras’ ICF mare Fox Valley Charm was one of three winning drives last night for Mike Oosting. (Four Footed Photo).

A Charming Victory: The 5-year-old ICF pacer Fox Valley Charm picked-up her first victory at the meet in Saturday’s eleventh race, a $10,000 conditioned race feature for filly and mare pacers. She was one of three winning drives on the card for Mike Oosting.

The 6-5 favorite got command leaving from the seven-post at the first quarter (29 flat) and after another modest panel (29.3) had more than enough left to put away the pocket horse Vintage Babe by one-plus lengths in a 1:54 flat mile.

Fox Valley Charm is trained by Rodney Freese and owned by Peter Karras of Sherman, Illinois.

Kyle Wilfong had his second consecutive driving double Friday night.

Avenatti Finding His Niche at Hawthorne

By Mike Paradise

One of the young drivers at Hawthorne is Matt Avenatti. The 23-year-old and his younger brother Wyatt are sons of the veteran Illinois horsemen Dave Avenatti who has been a staple on the state’s County Fair Circuit for a number of decades.

While the soon-to-be 21-year-old Wyatt is now driving at Bluegrass Downs in Kentucky. Matt has remained at Hawthorne and as the meet as gone on the number of driving opportunities for him has grown.

You might think when your father is a long-time horseman that would have always been the path to take from the time you are a little kid.

“I’ve been around horses all of my life but when I was younger I didn’t really think about it to make a living,” said Matt. “I went to college (Wabash, Indiana) and ran track there. It was in college when I thought about it as a career.

“I won my first Fair race at Martinsville in 2013 and then later that summer I won my first pari-mutuel drive at Lexington, Kentucky. I thought to myself ‘this is too easy’.

Matt Avenatti

        Matt Avenatti

Of course, Matt was a naïve 19-year-old at that time. Now he’s a month away from his 24th birthday and has learned, the hard way, success in this business doesn’t come easy. It takes a lot of hard work and even then there are no guarantees of having a fruitful career as a driver and or trainer.

This is Matt’s second season at Hawthorne and while things got off a little on the slow side this year for the native Illinoisan, they have picked-up lately.

Avenatti had five drives last Sunday, a high number for him on a Hawthorne card, and pulled off a surprise victory in the first race with Eligio Boccia’s Lacarmeliliana, a 10-1 longshot. Matt also had second place finishes Sunday with Fancy Creek Jolene in the fourth and Muscale the ninth.

When you’re a young driver or one without years of driving experience you rarely find yourself going postward behind one of the favorites. Most often you’re driving a horse whose trainer would be happy to get any kind of a check in that race.

That’s why it wasn’t surprising to sees some of Avenatti’s winners at Hawthorne meet light up the tote board at huge prices. When he won a division of the opening round of the Plum Peachy with the Kim Hamilton Stable’s Fancy Creek Jolene the filly popped at 45-1 odds.

Fancy Creek Jolene’s victory came as a shock to most of the Hawthorne bettors but not to Matt.

“She raced big the week before the first time I drove her when she came from far back to be second and they told me she bled. They treated her and put her on Lasix and in her next start in the Plum Peachy she came home in 26.1 and won. I believe Fancy Creek Jolene is one of the top three ICF 3-year-old pacing fillies at the meet.”

A week later Matt steered the ICF trotter Storm Winds to her maiden win at odds of 30-1 for trainer Ivar Hyngstrom.

“He trots really well in the turns. When he gets to the straightaways he switches the lead and is a bit of a different animal. But when I won with him I never touched him with the whip. I just let him do his thing and never urged him.”

Last night Matt drove the 22-1 longshot Lumberjack Willie ($46.00) to an upset victory in the ninth race from the 10-hole. He also trains the 10-year-old gelding.

The Hawthorne meet is about a third of the way through its 2017 session and Matt is enjoying it and is optimistic it will turn out well for him.

“I’m starting to get people to notice me and beginning to get more driving chances’ said Matt who resides in Chrisman, Illinois “about 29 minutes south of Danville.”

 Hot Rod Dylan (inside, Mike Oosting) held off Yankee Bounty (No. 6, Jared Finn) in last night's $12,500 Open Pace feature. (Four Footed Photo)

Hot Rod Dylan (inside, Mike Oosting) held off Yankee Bounty (No. 6, Jared Finn) in last night’s $12,500 Open Pace feature. (Four Footed Photo)

Hot Pace: The 6-5 favorite Hot Rod Dylan (Mike Oosting) had to work hard to hold off the late-charging Yankee Bounty (Jared Finn) and nail down his 12th victory of the year in the $12,500 Friday feature Open Pace for 4 and 5-year-old pacing males.

An early battle saw Hot Rod Dylan ($4.20) get command from Feelnlikearockstar (Tyler Shehan ) soon after the first quarter pole (27.4) with Evergreen Elite (Ridge Warren) parked from the get-go from the 10-hole right on his tail.

It took a quick 26.4 second quarter for Evergreen Elite to take over the lead with Hot Rod Dylan in the pocket however the 54.3 half took its toll on the leader in the lane and Evergreen Elite faded out of contention.

A second over trip put Yankee Bounty (10-1) right alongside Hot Rod Dylan at the three -quarters (1:23.1) but the Tom Simmons trainee couldn’t get past and dropped a scant nose decision to the Nelson Willis trained 5-year-old gelding at the end of the 1:51.1 mile. Kelly D (Mike Rogers) at 84-1 was third.

Still Perfect: Herman Wheeler’s Major Bliss (Bob Smolin), unraced until this season at the age of six, made it 6-for-6 in his delayed career with another win in the 12th race nightcap.

Casey Leonard ended Friday night with three more winners while Mike Oosting, Tyler Shehan and Bob Smolin all had driving doubles. Trainer Britney Dillon had three horses from her barn make a stop in the winner’s circle.