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By Mike Paradise
Summer doesn’t officially arrive until Wednesday, June 21st, but for many of us in the harness racing industry it coincides with the start of 2-year-old racing and that began a week ago at Hawthorne.
Of course with five consecutive days of temperatures reaching the 90’s, it’s been obvious, much to our dismay, that the Chicago area’s usual much-to-short spring season is already behind us.
Rain or shine the 2-year-old racing season in Illinois begins in earnest this week, with the opening legs of four ICF stake events. The four rounds of each freshman stake series will determine the starting fields for the Finals on Hawthorne’s Night of Champions on September 23rd.
Those championship fields are determined on a point basis with the 10 highest point recipients earning a starting spot in their respective championships. A victory in a series leg is worth 50 points. A second place finish is valued at 25, a third at 12, a fourth at 8 and a fifth at 5.
The Incredible Tillie for freshman pacing fillies gets under way Friday evening. The first season state-bred pacing colts and geldings square off in round one of the Incredible Finale stake series on Saturday. On Sunday Hawthorne hosts the start of the two Illinois bred stakes series for trotters, the Fox Valley Flan for the gals and the Kadabra for juvenile males.
The first pair of two-year-old races at the Hawthorne meet went postward a week ago with the Herman Wheeler’s Fox Valley Jazzy (Tyler Shehan) pulling away by almost four lengths in 1:55 with a 27 flat last quarter. The Yankee Skyscaper filly is a starter in Friday’s second division of the Incredible Tillie.
M T Gunslinger, driven by his trainer Charles Arthur, was much the best in Hawthorne’s initial freshman colt and gelding pace, winning by nearly seven lengths. The Straight Shooter colt paced his mile in 1:55.1 and was well in hand at the finish.
Four qualifying races for two-year-olds will be contested before the start of tonight’s card and the first event on the Thursday nine race program is for 2-year-old pacing fillies.
Springfield held nine qualifiers on Tuesday morning and seven were strictly for 2-year-olds, five for pacers and two for trotters. Tom Simmons trained freshman finished first in five straight qualifiers, all driven by the Springfield based horseman.
Beach Shootingstar, a son of Straight Shooting out of the Somebeachsomewhere mare Look To The Stars, won his qualifier in 1:57.2 while preparing for Saturday’s Incredible Finale stake series. He drew into the first division of the ICF 2-year-old colt and gelding pace.
Making His Case: After five weeks into the meet, Casey Leonard is well on his way to notching his second consecutive Hawthorne driver title. The 39-year-old Harvard, Illinois native has posted 48 first place finishes, giving him 17 more than Mike Oosting (31).
Currently in third is Kyle Wilfong, with 26 winners and he’s followed by Kyle Husted with 18. The top five is rounded out with Kentuckian Tyler Shehan with 13.
Frank Petrelli, Herman Wheeler, Mike Brink, Tom Simmons, last year’s trainer champion Nelson Willis and Hawthorne newcomer Darren Taneyhill, are all hooked-up in an early battle for the No. 1 spot in the trainer standings.
Petrelli leads with 10 winners. Simmons, Brink and Taneyhill each have sent out eight winning horses, while Willis and Wheeler have had seven from their barns make a stop at the Hawthorne winner’s circle.
The 29-year-old Taneyhill, who is a native of Flint, Michigan, didn’t start a horse at Hawthorne until a week after the track opened and his stock has been on a roll since. Of his 16 starters at the meet, 8 have won. Two more were second, another three were third. In fact all 16 Taneyhill starters have earned a purse check.
Taneyhill has been doing it via the claiming box. He plucked Fresh Squeezed out of a $6,000 Hawthorne claimer on May 27th and the six-year-old mare went on to capture back-to-back $10,000 claimers in 1:52.4 and then was a close second to OK Heavenly in last Saturday’s Filly and Mare Open Pace.
Next Issue was taken by Taneyhill out of a non-winner of two event with a $10,000 (plus allowances) price tag at Hoosier Park on May 15th. He put the 4-year-old gelding on Lasix and the pacer has now gone 3-for-3 in Hawthorne conditioned-claiming races.
By Mike Paradise
It’s a well-known fact the shortest distance between two points is a straight line. However it’s also well-established that the Joel Smith Stable’s top-notch trotter Topville Avatar doesn’t care one iota that it is.
The 4-year-old trotter gets his share of victories by doing it his way and his way is going both forward and to drifting to his right on Hawthorne’s long stretch.
Topville Avatar goes for his third consecutive win in a Hawthorne Open Trot tonight and he’ll be easy to spot in the lane. Just look for the horse racing the closest to the Grandstand in the lane.
A week ago Topville Avatar eked out a neck victory with regular driver Dale Hiteman and a week earlier proved best while giving the Hawthorne patrons grabbing a bite to eat at the outdoor Bar-B-Que a close-up look of the trotter.
Topville Avatar’s stretch drives on the outside of a track are nothing new. In fact, it’s become commonplace for him.
“I tried to explain to him that a ‘straight line is the shortest distant between two points’ but he doesn’t want to listen,” said Joel Smith laughing.
“Nothing I’ve tried has worked. I think now it’s just a habit with him. It’s not caused by any lameness or anything like that. He hits his knees or the bike at times and now even when he doesn’t, he drifts. I’ve got him cleaned-up pretty well and he’s trying to go straighter but he keeps drifting in the lane.”
I told Joel that his trotter does make the dash to the wire in his races very interesting.
“Yes he does,” he replied laughing. “He scares me to death every time he does it. Some of his close finishes probably wouldn’t be so close if he went straight. But he won’t.”
Despite his propensity to race to the far right of the rest of the field in the lane Topville Avatar was a seven-time winner in 2016 and six of those victories came at Hawthorne. The other was in a Hoosier Park Invite.
So far at this meet the trotter has won one start comfortably, one in a tight photo and was a head short in another, all while racing wide in the lane and no doubt making the track photographer standing near the outside fence taking the finish photos a bit nervous.
Topville Avatar was assigned the outside five-slot in the compact fourth race field. The one slot was allocated to Fox Valley Veto (Casey Leonard) while Pridecrest (pp 2, Jared Finn), Jackie Goldstein (pp3, Jim Lackey) and Charles VII (pp 4, Bob Smolin) drew for the three middle posts.
Only two lengths separated a six horse field in last week’s Open Trot and tonight’s finish could be just as close at the end of the mile, maybe even tighter.
Both Pridecrest and Charles VII were making their Hawthorne debuts a week ago and likely will benefit from a start over the mile track. Each trotter spent most of May competing on Yonker’s half-mile oval.
The Terry Leonard Stable’s Fox Valley Veto steps up to the top-level Open after a game first season win (1:57.3) in a mid-level trot a week ago. The 6-year-old ICF trotter went winless in his first 12 starts this year competing mostly in Ohio and Indiana..
Hawthorne’s morning line lists Fox Valley Veto as the 2-1 favorite while Topville Avatar is the 7-2 fourth choice in the five-horse field. Maybe Topville Avatar’s path down the stretch isn’t the only thing that needs to be straightened out at Hawthorne.
An OK Decision: Yesterday’s story was about the difficult decision Casey Leonard had to make choosing between which of four solid mares to drive in Friday’s $15,000 Open Distaff Pace.
As it turned out Casey choice was the correct one.
OK Heavenly ($4.20) made it 3-for-3 at the Hawthorne meet win a 1:53 victory in the fifth race feature. What was surprising was the way the 5-year-old mare this time did it. OK Heavenly had come from out of it in all of her recent starts but that wasn’t the case Friday night.
Casey left with the Angie Coleman trainee from the assigned outside nine-slot, no doubt looking for early position. However a hole to drop into never materialized. Instead, OK Heavenly had to race parked-out through the 28 first quarter and part of the second before Casey got her to the front mid-way
on the backstretch.
OK Heavenly reached the half-mile pole in 56.2 while pacing a 28 flat second panel. A third quarter breather is what Casey needed with the Sportswriter mare and that’s what he got (28.3).
Coming down the lane the first-over Ryleigh’s Lilly (Bob Smolin) had dead-aim on the 6-5 favorite but weakened in the late going. Fresh Squeezed (Ridge Warren) did come from fifth at the three-quarter pole to be a close second, ending up a neck behind while the Hawthorne newcomer Hipnumberone (Mike Oosting) rallied from further back to take third, beaten one length.
OK Heavenly’s victory was her seventh in 17 season starts and the $7,750 winner’s share of the purse boosted her 2017 earnings to $55,905 for Illinois proprietors Dandy Farms Inc. (Glenview) and Mark Winship (Canton).
Leonard finished with three driving wins on the program while Kyle Wilfong and Mike Oosting both had a pair.
The sixth race 11-1 longshot winner Misspanderosajones (Bob Smolin) was a Mike Paradise Price Shot and paid an even $25.00.
By Mike Paradise
After a three week absence the Open I for filly and mare pacers return to Hawthorne Friday night and there’s no shortage when it comes to quantity and quality in the $15,000 feature.
Nine mares will go postward in the fifth race headliner and all nine have at least one victory in their last three starts with four of the distaffers—Phyllis Jean (pp 4), Kyle’s Secret (pp 6), Fresh Squeezed (pp 7) and OK Heavenly (pp 9)—victorious in two of those three outings.
The Open Pace was drawn by groups (1-3) (4-6) (7-8) with No. 9 assigned to the Angie Coleman Stable’s OK Heavenly, winner in comfortable fashion of both top-level Open events in May.
OK Heavenly and Kyles Secret, who captured the Open II event at Hawthorne on May 27, are back from Indiana where they didn’t fare well in last weekend’s Hoosier Park Invite, ending up sixth and seventh, respectively.
The meet’s leading driver Casey Leonard was listed on Phyllis Jean, Ryleigh’s Lilly, Fresh Squeezed and OK Heavenly, and had to make the difficult choice of picking one to steer in tonight’s distaff Open.
The 39-year-old Harvard, Illinois native chose OK Heavenly the 3-1 morning line favorite despite her outside post. The 5-year-old Sportswriter mare is a six-time winner this season with four of those victories coming earlier at Pompano Park for Illinois owners Dandy Farms Inc. (Glenview) and Mark Winship (Canton).
OK Heavenly took her lifetime mark of 1:50.2 at Vernon Downs last year. Four of her nine 2016 wins came at Hawthorne, two in Open Paces.
The new face in this Hawthorne filly and mare Open is No. 8 Hipnumberone (Mike Oosting) currently trained by Brittany Dillon. The five-year-old has been a regular at Yonkers Raceway where she banked over $27,000 for her Sheridan, Michigan owner Gregory Gardner.
Hipnumberone owns a 1:51.2 mile recorded last year on the quick five-eighths oval at Pocono Downs. Interestingly, the American Ideal mare has gone to the gate 70 times in her career but never on a mile track.
How will she handle Hawthorne’s very long stretch tonight?
It’s your call.
Kyle Husted picked-up the catch drive on Al Beal’s ICF pacer Phyllis Jean who proved to be much the best in Hawthorne’s recent Walter Paisley Series.
Ridge Warren will take over the lines on Fresh Squeezed, a $6,000 claim earlier in the meet. She comes off a pair of romping wins at higher claiming levels for trainer Darren Taneyhill who has sent out 11 horses at Hawthorne and seven have visited the winner’s circle through Thursday night.
Chicago circuit fans are very familiar with John Barnard’s Ryleigh’s Lilly. Bob Smolin takes over for Leonard on the now 7-year-old ICF mare. Smolin drove her at various times as a 3 and 4-year-old. Ryleigh’s Lilly is the defending Tony Maurello champion for trainer Bill Crone.
Kyles Secret (Tyler Shehan) is a three-time winner at the Hawthorne meet for the Chupp Racing Stables. Last season as a 5-year-old she nailed down no less than 13 victories.
The longshot aspirants of the race are the 1, 2 and 3 horses—I Dance U Prance, Kyle Wilfong), Jetting Around (Kyle Husted) and Rocknroll Hoochcoo (Shawn Simons)—all listed at double digit program odds.
Talk About Close: Friday night’s $15,000 Open Pace figured to be a very competitive feature race and it turned out to be just that. The Terry Leonard Stable’s Trashytonguetalker ($9.00) made it three in a row and needed it all at the end of the 1:51.2.
Aptly handled by Casey Leonard, Trashytonguetalker turned a second over trip into a head victory over the 50-1 longshot Tyler The Terror (Bob Smolin) who followed up the winner and nearly pulled off a huge upset.
The eight horses in the Open Pace were separated by only a little more than three lengths at the finish.
The third place horse Hot Rod Dylan, who led through the middle fractions of 56. and 123.4, ended up only a half-length behind the Trashytonguetalker
There was a dead-heat for fourth between Feelnlikearockstar and Account Rollover, both beaten by 1 and 1 /2 lengths while the sixth place finisher Yankee Bounty came within a whisker of making it a triple dead heat for the fourth place money.
Front End Fashion: In Friday’s secondary feature, the $10,000 Open III Pace, Mike Oosting effectively rated Best Man Hanover ($5.40) to a wire-to-wire victory in 1:52.1 through fractions of 27.2, 56.1, 124.4 and 152.1.
It was the first win of the meet in three starts for the Perry Smith trained nine-year-old gelding owned by Sawgrass Farms of Lemont, Illinois. Skim The Top was second best, beaten a little less than one length. Mobile Big John took third.
Well Done: Casey Leonard had another notable night with four winning drives. Kyle Wilfong and Ridge Warren each had a driving double.
By Mike Paradise
The Friday spotlight will be turned on the $15,000 Open Pace with a solid evenly-matched field of eight horses slugging it out in an early event on the 12-race program.
Unless the weatherman delivers an unexpected forecast there should be plenty of sunshine when the second race starters go to the starting gate with a scheduled post time of 7:30 pm.
There’s really no-clear cut early favorite. You could probably make a case for most of the Open pacers in the field to end up in the winner’s circle.
One of the possible favorites is the Jim Ellison Stable’s Coal Hanover who is now in his season’s best form. The 5-year-old son of Dragon Again has uncorked a pair of wicked last quarters—26.2 and 26.1 in his last pair of winning outings—and will have last week’s driver Jim Lackey at his lines again.
Tonight’s race marks only the second occasion this year that Coal Hanover has had the same driver in back-to-back starts. The previous time was when Trace Tetrick drove him to a win and a second place finish back in mid-April at Hoosier Park
In his 10 starts this year Coal Hanover has had eight different drivers in the bike behind him.
While Coal Hanover has shown plenty of versatility on the racetrack chalking up nine victories over the last season and half, often against top level horses, I asked his trainer Jim Ellison if he would be surprised to learn that his horse has won only one of those races on the front-end.
“Yeah,” answered Ellison. “I didn’t know that but the horse prefers to chase horses. He doesn’t like to do the work on the front. Sometimes he tries to get away with some easy fractions. ‘Coal’ would rather chase than be the horse being chased. He’s sharp right now and he’ll have to be because this is a nice field he’ll be facing. I can assure you that he’ll be coming off the pace in Friday’s race. I’m hoping for some fast early fractions (by others). He’s just going to have to try and get up in time. It’s probably going to take something like a 26 last quarter to get past. We gave ‘Coal’ a good rest over the winter. He’s best on a big track so we wanted to have him sharp for big tracks like Hawthorne and Hoosier. We raced him earlier in the year in Ohio but he’s not as good on a smaller track.”
Actually Coal Hanover has been best at Hawthorne. He’s 2 for 3 at this meeting and was a close second in the other when he raced on the front-end and was caught in the late going. In 2017 the horse is 1 for 7 in Indiana.
Last year Coal Hanover won six races, going 2 for 8 at Hawthorne and 2 for 19 at Hoosier. The pacer’s other two victories came in Ohio.
The Hawthorne morning line lists Coal Hanover (pp 7) at 9-2, the same first flash odds as Feelnlikearockstar (p.p. 3, Tyler Shehan). It has Hot Rod Dylan (pp 5, Mike Oosting) as the 3-1 favorite while recent Hawthorne Open winner Trashytonguetalker (pp 6, Casey Leonard) is next at 7-2.
Hot Rod Dylan swept the recent Bob Larry Series but he does take a substantial class hike tonight, meeting much better pacers in his search for season win No. 11.
The Friday feature also lured (with program odds) Want Me (20-1, Kyle Husted), Account Rollover (9-1, Kyle Wilfong), Tyler The Terror (6-1, Bob Smolin) and Yankee Bounty (9-1, Ryan Anderson).
There is also an Open III Pace on Friday’s card and that $10,000 event is carded as race 10, with a full field of 10. Post positions were draw by groups (1-7) (8-10).
Here’s how they’ll line up: 1-Fan Of Terror (Kyle Husted), 2-Dinky Dune (Ridge Warren), 3-Best Man Hanover (Mike Oosting), 4-Skim The Top (Don Harmon), 5-Sir Mammo (Jim Lackey), 6-Red Hot Art (Kyle Wilfong), 7-Vance Bayama (Ryan Anderson), 8-Mobil Big John (Casey Leonard), Aimo Hanover (Tyler Shehan) and I’m An Athlete (Tim Curtin).
By Mike Paradise
The day after Jamaica Patton drove the 58-1 longshot to her huge upset win in an opening round division of the Plum Peachy Stake Series, I called the Mississippi native and asked him if he still had that big smile on his face that he did in the Hawthorne winner’s circle last Friday’s night?
“I sure do,” was Jamaica’s reply with a laugh.
And why wouldn’t the 36- year-old? After all, most of us didn’t give Jamaica and his winning ICF pacer Filly Forty much of a chance in the first division of the 3-year-old Plum Peachy.
Yes, Filly Forty had the rail in the 11-horse field, but she was a non-threat in her first two season starts and she ended her freshman campaign with an eighth place finish in the Violet, distanced at Du Quoin, and in between didn’t make the Incredible Tillie Final on the Night of Champions.
Nevertheless as we’ve said many times in the past, that’s why they race. Upsets do happen and Jamaica has pulled off his share of surprise winners through the years.
Not only did Filly Forty capture her Plum Peachy division, she did it by almost seven lengths and the Dossie Minor trained filly won in 1:53.3, knocking a full four seconds of her best winning mile as a 2-year-old.
What turned Filly Forty around?
“Mostly it was her attitude and the very good trip that we got,” answered Jamaica. Last year she had some attitude problems. Dossie (trainer Minor) has been working hard with her to try and get her a better attitude and she did have the right attitude in Friday’s race. I have to admit I was surprised at her time. She had been going in 55, but she stepped it up in that race, but she did get the trip. I knew my filly can leave pretty good and I was hoping to get her out there and be one or two when Casey (Leonard) was probably going to move his filly (Lady’s Party) on the backside. Casey was driving a sharp filly and I knew he would be right on my back when we got out of there. I was hoping to be in the pocket or the three-hole when Casey’s horse took over the lead and sometimes it turns out just the way you hope it would. I thought if we were up close and my filly might be covered up until the last turn and that’s the way it turned out. I took her out of the three-hole in the last turn because I didn’t want to take any chances on getting locked in and she just went on from there.”
The first time I met Jamaica was after his upset win with the trotter My Birthday on Super Night 2008 at Balmoral Park. Three years later he pulled off another surprise on Super Night in the Lady Ann Reed Final, this time with the trotter Maplegrove Shaelyn.
I told Jamaica it seems that every time I do an interview with him it’s after he drives a longshot winner in a significant race.
“I’m out there to win just like everyone else,” said Patton with a chuckle.
In 2016 horses Jamaica drove were third or better in 136 of 244 starts, 69 of them winners. He ended up with an excellent UDRS (Universal Driver Rating System) of .413. On a national level only one driver who piloted between 200 and 299 starters had a higher UDRS than Jamaica.
ICF Freshmen Debut: The initial races for 2-year-olds will go postward in tonight’s Daily Double. Thursday’s first event is for freshman fillies and the second for pacing colts and geldings.
All eight filly races in race one are eligible for the Incredible Tillie ICF freshman stake series that gets under way with round one on Friday, June 16th.
Seven of the eight state-bred pacing colts and geldings in race two have been nominated to the Incredible Finale stake series that begins a night later on Saturday June 17th. The lone exception is the No. 8 horse M T Gunslinger.
By Mike Paradise
Trotters are the center of attention Sunday night with seven of the eleven races on the Hawthorne program for the diagonally gaited horses. Just as they come in all sizes and shapes so do tonight’s contests for them.
Everything from a bottom conditioned trot, to mid-level events, to an Open II showdown is on tap. In between we’ll be presented with the first legs of the Erwin Dygert stake series for ICF colt and gelding trotters and the Beulah Dygert for state-bred filly sophomores.
This week’s $12,500 Open II Trot comes early on the card.
It’s the third race and returning from a week ago are the one-two finishers Topville Avatar (Dale Hiteman) and M T UR Pockets (Kyle Wilfong), along with Big Expense (Kyle Husted), am Open III winner at Hawthorne on May 13 and Jackie Goldstein (Jim Lackey) who needed his first start of the year last Sunday.
The new faces re Charles VII (Bob Smolin) and Pridecrest (Jared Finn), assigned the four and six posts, respectively. Both had been racing on the east coast and doing well.
Charles VII, the 9-5 Hawthorne morning line favorite, is a four-time season winner and comes out of $20,000 high-level trots at Yonkers while Pridecrest last raced in a $50,000 claimer at The Meadowlands. One of his two season victories came in two legs of the YR/SOA of New York $25,000 Bonus Series on the New York half-miler.
The Erwin F. Dygert drew a nine-horse field as will go as race six.
The favoritism will likely be split between the Steve Searle Stable’s Bands Houdini (Kyle Husted), winner of the recent Daryl Busse Series; Trixie’s Jethro (Jared Finn) who has a win, a second and a third, in his three season starts, all in open company from trainer John D Finn, and Totally Pazzazzed (Mike Oosting), runner-up in his last two Busse Series races for the Nick Giberson Stable.
Also likely to get plenty of play is Lousciper (Tim Curtin) out of the barn of Jamaica Patton, and last season’s Cardinal and Kadabra champion as a freshman, along with Picky Picky Valor (Brian Carpenter), a first leg winner in the Busse Series and third in the final
Other Ervin Dygert hopefuls are Muscle Image (Casey Leonard), Dr. Spengler (Kyle Wilfong), Cassisandfifth (Dale Hiteman) and Lougazi (Jamaica Patton).
The gals take over the limelight in race nine when a full field of 10 fillies will go behind the starting gate for the $12,000 initial leg of the Beulah Dygert stake series.
Two of the likely favorites drew inside—Fox Valley Elana (pp 1, Casey Leonard) and Sis’s Ellie Mae (pp2, Jared Finn)—while another, Daisy Lou Duke (pp 9, Kyle Husted), has an outside slot.
Fox Valley Elana, winner of last season’s $75,000 Fox Valley Flan with Casey, was a solid second last week in her very first start as a 3-year-old. She’ll benefit from that outing and landing the one-slot again.
Sis’s Ellie Mae is 2 for 3 this year and did beat Fox Valley Elana last week. She likes to be in command and leaving from the two-post could find her there.
Daisy Lou Duke came out of the box ready to roll. She won her first start in almost eight months in an opening leg of the Late Closer Farber Series and was third in the final despite a strenuous trip. Note that ICF filly took on open company males in those Farber Series races.
The Hard Way: The even-money favorite Royale Big Guy had to work hard to capture last night’s first division of the initial leg of the Robert F. Carey Memorial stake series for ICF 3-year-old pacing colts and geldings.
Royale Big Guy was parked-out from the get-go and once he got alongside of the pace-setting Gabe Henry near the half-mile pole (:56.3) the Norm Parker trained gelding had to battle outside Gabe Henry through the third quarter.
Royale Big Guy ($4.00) then held off a late-charging Captain Rhett (Casey Leonard) by a half-length for the 1:53.3 win. Gabe Henry was third, less than one length behind the Pennsylvania invader owned by the Megan Rogers Racing Stable of Chicago.
The Easy Way: Fox Valley Nemitz ($4.60) took the second $12,000 Carey leg in much easier fashion for driver Casey Leonard.
Leaving from the one-slot, the Nick Giberson trainee came out of the three-hole after the first quarter (29.3), brushed to the top before the half, reached in 58.1, and had more than enough left in the tank (26.2 last panel) to best In Your Eye by two-plus lengths. Fox Valley Herbie was third, another two lengths behind.
The win for Fox Valley Nemitz was his first in four tries as a 3-year-old for his owners and breeders Fox Valley Standardbreds of Sherman, Illinois.
Casey Leonard would finish Saturday night with six winning drives.
By Mike Paradise
With a Late Closer Series Championship now on his résumé the Mike Brown Stable’s In Your Eye steps up to takes on some of the elite ICF 3-year-old pacers when the first leg of the Robert F. Carey Memorial stake series gets under way Saturday evening at Hawthorne.
A week ago In Your Eye put it all together in the Mike Paradise Series Final and came flying down the stretch to take home the winner’s share of the $15,400 pot ($7,700) for his Lyme, Connecticut owner James Behrendt.
As a 2-year-old In Your Eye had only moderate success, earning $7,931 with a nine race record of one win, one second and a third. This year the Sportsmaster gelding already has banked $12,200 in just three trips postward and lowered his lifetime best mile almost three full seconds with his 1:54.2 mile in the Paradise finale.
In Your Eye is still far from behind he finish product as a racehorse this early in his second season but he’s showed he has the potential to be a player in the Illinois bred 3-year-old male pace division.
“In Your Eye is still green but he has a motor to him,” said his trainer Mike Brown. “He likes racing covered-up. He loves to see horses in front of him but he’s a little hard-headed.
“Last year he had a few different drivers. I told them to keep him off the gate because if you get him close he can get out of control. A lot of young horses can get hot-headed and then they start to hit their knees. That’s what happened to him last year.
“Ridge (Warren) is driving him this year and he has been doing an awesome job with the horse getting him off the gate and things like that,” continued Brown who has been training horses for 27years.
“The thing about In Your Eye is that right now when he gets pass horses he thinks ‘okay I’m done.’ When he gets close to them he can hang there a little bit. He’s still learning to be a racehorse,” added the 51-year-old Chicago native who resides in Momence, Illinois, about 20 miles south of Balmoral Park.
In Your Eye drew into the eighth race $12,000 second division of the Casey stake series. He’ll start from the seven-slot in the nine horse field with the likes of the 2016 ICF 2-Year-Old Male Pacer of the Year Fox Valley Herbie (Mike Oosting) and last year’s Cardinal runner-up Fox Valley Nemitz (Casey Leonard) inside of him with posts 4 and 1, respectively.
The $100,000 Incredible Finale second place finisher Fox Valley Jeter (Tyler Shehan), landed the two post while Sporty Redhot (Kyle Wilfong) who went 5 for 9 as a freshman, leaves from the five spot.
Other second division Carey aspirants are Bo Master (Bob Smolin), Tiny Jim (Kyle Husted), Sullivan (Tim Curtin) and Daddy Let Me Driver (Trenton Watson).
The fifth race $12,000 first Carey division will see the first start in Illinois as a 3-year-old for the Megan Rogers Stable of Chicago’s Royale Big Guy who has been in tough open company at The Meadows.
His driver Jim Pantaleano and trainer Norm Parker should be familiar to Hawthorne fans. They were the winning combination twice in 2016 on the track’s Night of Champions, first with Unlocked in the $50,000 Molaro and then with Dr. Drake Ramoray in the $100,000 Carey.
I doubt that Pantaleano, the fourth leading driver at The Meadows, is making the long trip in from Pennsylvania to check out the Chicago nighttime eating establishments.
Royale Big Guy has an outside post (the eight) so his task tonight could be challenging. One of his major threats is the Tom Graham Stable’s Gabe Henry (Ridge Warren). Last year’s Springfield champion has the rail after a needed initial sophomore start.
Posts two through seven will be manned by JD Jay Dee (Kyle Wilfong), Commondiscourtesy (Kyle Husted), Fox Valley Reggie (Freddie Patton Jr.), Fox Valley Hoss (Tyler Shehan), Captain Rhett (Casey Leonard) and Decent Lawyer (Mike Rogers).
The outside nine-hole belongs to the Mike Brink Stable’s Ima Skywalker, the runner-up in last Saturday’s Mike Paradise Final after winning two earlier legs of the series, first in come-from-behind fashion and then on the front end.
Peachy Bombshells: Friday night’s opening legs of the Plum Peach stake series for ICF 3-year-old pacing fillies produced major surprises in both divisions.
First The Kim Hamilton Stable’s Fancy Creek Jolene pulled off a shocker in the sixth race first division when she came roaring down the stretch with 23-year-old Matt Avenatti at her lines and rewarded her supporters to the tune of $92.90.
Sent off at 45-1 odds from the outside 10-hole Fancy Creek Jolene had gone winless in her first nine career starts, three of them coming this year however the Sportsmaster filly proved fastest when it counted the most in her winning 1:55.3 mile for S. Chicago Heights, Illinois owner Frank Marcolini.
The heavy 3-5 favorite Princess Sage (Freddie Patton Jr.), had command at the half, reached in 58.3 with Fancy Creek Jolene racing ninth, some eight-plus lengths behind, however the 2016 Illinois Harness Horse of the Year as a freshman came up empty in the lane in her season debut, fading all the way back to seventh at the end of the mile.
Boogie On Down (Mike Oosting) was second, beaten a half-length, while the 28-1 longshot Dandy’s Dududidudu (Kyle Husted) rallied for the third place money of the $12,500 purse.
The tenth race second Plum Peachy split saw Dossie Minor’s Filly Forty, nicely handled by Jamaica Patton, pop at odds of 58-1and get it done in a romp.
Sprinting out from the rail, Jamaica had Filly Forty in the three-hole after the prohibitive 3-5 favorite Lady’s Party powered her way to the top at the half-mile pole (:57.3) while the early pacesetter Rousey Ronda settled into the pocket.
Filly Forty was pulled out of turn in the last turn, came alongside Lady’s Party in the lane, and then showed her heels to the betting favorite, drawing off by almost seven lengths in her 1:53.3 mile and returning $118.40 for a winning two dollar ticket.
Filly Forty is owned by her Springfield, Illinois trainer Dossie Minor. The Duneside Perch filly hadn’t hit the board in her first two starts of the meet before Friday’s night’s stunning victory.
Lady Rousey won the battle for second over Lady’s Party.