Casey Drives 5 of 8 Stake Champions

By Mike Paradise

It was a harness racing program to remember when 25 races were contested Friday, the most on a single day in the long history of Hawthorne Race Course.

The king-size double header programs were a carryover from last weekend’s two-day Du Quoin State Fair meet that never materialized when rain made the racetrack unsafe, hence the move to Hawthorne’s all-weather racing surface.

When the long eight consecutive hours of racing was over Hawthorne’s leading driver Casey Leonard had guided eight horses on Friday to first place finishers and five came in significant ICF stake races.

Nine Illinois Department of Agriculture sponsored non-betting wagering events got Friday’s “Hawthorne Marathon” rolling with a trio of $7,000 ICF aged champions and two were strictly cakewalks,

Lousraptor, trained by Roshun Trigg, pulled away to win Friday’s Pronto Don trot and gave driver Casey Leonard his fifth stakes winner of the night. (Four Footed Fotos)

Lousraptor, trained by Roshun Trigg, pulled away to win Friday’s Pronto Don trot and gave driver Casey Leonard his fifth stakes winner of the night. (Four Footed Fotos)

Shirley Steele’s Talk About Valor (Casey Leonard) was almost 13 lengths the best in the ICF trot for colts and geldings ages four and up with his 1:57.4 clocking. The Gerald Hansen trainee has been third or better in ALL of his 17 season starts.

If you thought that was “a romp in the park”, what would you call a thirty- nine (that’s 39) and one–half length victory by Danny Graham’s Anna’s Lucky Star (Kyle Wilfong) over three obviously overmatched state-bred trotting mares. The Nelson Willis trained five-year-old winner trotted a 1:56.3.mile under wraps.

The Illinois bred aged pace turned out to be a real horse race with He Gone Jack out-closing You’remyhearthrob in the final strides for a narrow neck win in 1:51.4, thanks to a pocket trip provided by driver Ridge Warren. It was the first win of the year for the Ray Hanna trained six-year-old pacer owned by Hugh Lake and Susan Lacey of Joplin, Missouri.

The 16-race wagering nightcap followed and the aged mare pace saw the front-stepping Skeeter Machine ($4.00), also driven by Ridge Warren, hold off the late charging Char N Marg by a scant nose at the end of a 1:53.2 mile. It was fourth season win for the 4-year-old mare trained by Alan Bowen for Illinois proprietors Francis Greer (Mount Sterling) and James Greer (Peoria).

In the first of eight ICF stake championships, all with a $27,250 purse was the Windy Skeeter stake for ICF 3-year-old trotting fillies and the overwhelming favorite Louzotic (Kyle Husted) had an easy time picking up season win No. 9 for trainer Steve Searle.

Husted took Louzotic ($2.40) out of fourth near the first quarter pole (29.3), powered to the front where the Flacco Family Farms owned filly was able to get away with a leisurely 32 second quarter ending any doubt about the race’s outcome. Heidi High was the runner-up in the 1:59.2 mile, beaten three lengths.

Trainer Steve Searle and Flacco Family Farms of Alexis, Illinois were back in the winner’s circle after their freshman filly trotter Lous Abgail got a great trip from driver Casey Leonard and held off Celone Hall (Ridge Warren) to capture the Shawnee stake at even-money.

Casey put Lous Abgail right behind the pacesetting Bee See (Kyle Husted) who had the 80-1 longshot, and the eventual third place finisher Fox Valley Extacy (Gerry Brown), right alongside through most of the 1:59.4 mile. Lous Abigail is now 6-for-8 in her first season of racing.

The Time Dancer for ICF 3-year-old pacing fillies turned out to be a little more than a quarter of a mile dash with the 4-5 favorite Fox Valley Torrid ($3.80) coming out on top in the 1:56.3 mile by almost two lengths.

Perch (pp 1, Kyle Wilfong) won the early battle for the lead with Casey taking the two-hole behind her with Fox Valley Torrid. Despite a slow 30 second first panel and sluggish 30.4 second quarter, Casey wouldn’t take the bait and go around the leader, giving Perch a pocket trip. Instead Leonard elected to stay right behind the 7-5 second choice.

Perch still had command at a three-quarters (1:30 flat) but Fox Valle was coming on in a hurry and the winner’s 26.3 last quarter saw her zip past for trainer Rodney Freese and owners and breeders Fox Valley Standardbreds of Sherman, IL.

Fox Valley Quest ($5.60) gave driver Casey Leonard his third consecutive stakes winner of the night when the Tom Simmons trained two-year-old trotting gelding posted his seventh triumph of the year in the Darn Safe.

Fox Valley Exploit, driven by his trainer Kyle Husted, overcame the outside nine-post to capture the Directors Award stake for ICF freshman pacing fillies.(Four Footed Fotos)

Fox Valley Exploit, driven by his trainer Kyle Husted, overcame the outside nine-post to capture the Directors Award stake for ICF freshman pacing fillies.(Four Footed Fotos)

Fox Valley Quest enjoyed a picture-perfect journey behind Desert Sheik (Mike Brink) who took the field to a 58.2 half before giving way in the stretch. His stable-mate (Ridge Warren) closed strong to finish second.

Fox Valley Quest is owned by Carl Lacey of Athens, IL and Benita Simmons of Springfield.

Fox Valley Exploit, at $12.80, put an end to the streak of winning stake favorites in the Director’s Award for ICF juvenile filly pacers.

Driver and trainer Kyle Husted provided the Sportsmaster filly with a second over trip, tipped her three-wide turning for home, briefly took command but looked beaten when the pocket horse Sign Her Up (Juan Franco) shot pass her in the lane. However Fox Valley Exploit came back for her fourth victory in seven starts, pacing the mile in 1:55.4 for owners David Brigham of Concord, Michigan and Husted of Altamont, Illinois.

The stunner of the night came in the Governor’s Cup for freshman male pacers when He’zzz A Wise Sky (Robert Smolin) came from far out of it and ended Fox Valley Ren’s winning streak at six in a row.

He’zzz A Wise Sky (Robert Smolin) pulled off at upset in the Governor’s Cup for trainer Don Filomeno and it came in only the freshman’s fourth career start. (Four Footed Fotos)

He’zzz A Wise Sky (Robert Smolin) pulled off at upset in the Governor’s Cup for trainer Don Filomeno and it came in only the freshman’s fourth career start. (Four Footed Fotos)

The Don Filomeno trained He’zzz A Wise Sky ($16.00) was seventh, some eight-plus lengths behind at the half before flying down the lane to post a one and one-half length over the 2 to 5 public’s choice in 1:55.1 for Triple Zzz Stable of Justice, IL.

With both Maximus and The Bucket scratched in the Dudley Hanover the three-year-old colt and gelding pace was expected to be a dual between Meyer On Fire and Fox Valley Triton and it was with the latter avenging his lost at Springfield with a head decision in 1:56 flat.

Fox Valley Triton ($6.00) proved to be fastest in the lane with a 26.3 last quarter giving Casey Leonard is fourth stakes victory on the card. The Terry Leonard trainee is owned by Illinoisans Dandy Farms Racing and Ft. Racing Stable, both of Glenview, and Peter Kouchis of Palos Park.

The evening ended with Casey Leonard once again in the winner’s circle as Lousraptor ($3.80) drew off by five lengths in the Pronto Don trot for sophomore male trotters in 1:57.4.

Lousraptor, trained by Roshun Trigg, was the third stakes winner of the evening for Flacco Family Farms of Alexis, IL and the trotter’s third in a row. The Lous Legacy gelding won both a prep race and the championship at Springfield a few weeks ago.

Brink Geared Up for “Hawthorne Marathon”

Sometime around midnight Lousraptor (Casey Leonard), shown here winning the Springfield State Fair championship for ICF 3-year-old male trotters, will try to add the $27,200 Pronto Don stake  to his list of season accomplishments for trainer Roshun Trigg and owners Flacco Family Farms. (Four Footed Fotos)

Sometime around midnight Lousraptor (Casey Leonard), shown here winning the Springfield State Fair championship for ICF 3-year-old male trotters, will try to add the $27,200 Pronto Don stake to his list of season accomplishments for trainer Roshun Trigg and owners Flacco Family Farms. (Four Footed Fotos)


By Mike Paradise

Quantity and quality is the ideal combination to have going into Friday night’s “Hawthorne Marathon” and Springfield based trainer Mike Brink has just that with 13 horses competing and eight of them in major ICF stake events

“I’ve got four in the (Darn Safe) two-year-old trot, three in the (Pronto Don), three-year-old trot, a pair in the (Shawnee) two-year-old filly trot and one (Tropical Fruit) in the (Director’s Award) two-year-old filly pace,” said Brink.

When a rain-soaked track caused the cancellation of last weekend Du Quoin’s state fair programs, all 25 Illinois Department of Agriculture scheduled races were shifted to Hawthorne Friday night.

A nine-race non-betting card will get things rolling Friday with a 4 o’clock first post and an expanded 16 race wagering program will follow with a 6:30 post time. Figure the last race to go off tonight around midnight, making for about eight hours of continuing racing,

“Personally I rather race these stakes at Hawthorne because my young horses are more familiar with the track and its surroundings,” said Brink. “Some of them have never raced at Du Quoin and they would have been seeing some things for the first time that might be a distraction and could cause them to lose their focus.

“My horses Friday didn’t draw particularly well but most of the good horses in those stake races didn’t either, including Fox Valley Quest He’s the horse to beat in the 2-year-old trotting stake.”

Desert Sheik (pp 6), a two-time Kadabra series leg winner, heads Brink’s Darn Safe aspirants.

Desert Sheik is a full brother to Fox Valley Qatar, the 2014 Illinois Two-Year-Old Trotting Colt of the Year for owner and trainer Herman Wheeler. Desert Sheik is owned by the Illinois trio of Mark Brown (Chatham), Keith Miller (Arthur) and Brink (Springfield)

Desert Sheik, pictured here winning a Kadabra series leg with trainer Mike Brink, is one of four ICF freshmen male trotters Brink will send out in tonight’s Darn Safe stake. (Four Footed Fotos)

Desert Sheik, pictured here winning a Kadabra series leg with trainer Mike Brink, is one of four ICF freshmen male trotters Brink will send out in tonight’s Darn Safe stake. (Four Footed Fotos)

“I’ve brought Desert Sheik around slowly. The horse has been drawing some outside posts and he hasn’t gotten away very well in his past couple. I didn’t use him as hard as I could earlier because he was so green but with this stake, series legs (of the Kadabra) and the final coming up, now is the time to see just how good he can be.

“Crooked Creek is a full brother to Spunky Bottom Girl (1:54.2), a good trotting mare who won over $200,000 for (Mount Sterling, Illinois owner and breeder) Ed Teefey a few years ago.

“Crooked Creek got a late start and has had only had a handful of races this year,” continued Brink. “His Springfield driver Brandon Bates told me he thought the horse would have gone by those others horses ahead of him if Crooked Creek hadn’t gone off stride. The horse got tapped with the whip for the first time and I think he got a little scared and broke.”

Ryan Anderson will be at the lines of Crooked Creek tonight.

“Crooked Creek could be a factor in his race Friday. It’s hard to say because the horse is so green. He still might turn out to be a good two-year-old. If not, I think he’ll do well as a three-year-old.”

Spunky Bottom Girl and Crooked Creek are the first two foals of Ed Teefey’s broodmare Princess Addie, a Classic Photo offspring.

The freshman trotter with the most money on his card Friday night from Brink’s stable is On Higher Ground with $34,439 banked in his first eight career trips postward. However the draw wasn’t kind to the Cassis gelding. He landed the nine-hole in the twelfth race nine-horse field.

On Higher Ground received a pair of pocket trips from his driver Ridge Warren at Springfield and turned them into victories including a 1:55.1 clocking in the $32,599 championship.

Owned by Brink and H H Wright (Morton, Illinois) On Higher Ground has very good gate speed and showed it at Springfield. However Fox Valley Quest (pp 8, Casey Leonard) can also be quick from the gate. The Tom Simmons trainee had to trot a 27.2 first quarter to get command in the Springfield finale and that’s likely the reason the freshman only managed a 29.4 last panel when he ended up second best to On Higher Ground.

Brink’s fourth horse in the Darn Safe is Fox Valley Briton (pp 5, Juan Franco), a gelding he shares ownership with Keith Miller of Arthur, IL. While Fox Valley Briton is winless in his first seven starts the youngster was a runner-up in one of the earlier Cardinal divisions and finished third in his Springfield elimination.

Fox Valley Ren Eyes 7th Straight Win

By Mike Paradise

It’s the time of the year when many of the two-year-old ICF pacers and trotters competing Friday night in the Illinois Department of Agriculture sponsored stakes races at Hawthorne are at, or are close, to reaching their first racing year potential.

In most of the ICF freshman classes we have separations between horses who have already established they have the talent to be a top division contender. While others are still in the learning and growing process that could see their ability blossom as a three-year-old or perhaps, not at all.

When it comes to being on a roll no horse in Friday’s “Hawthorne Marathon” programs can match ultra-sharp two-year-old colt pacer Fox Valley Ren, from the barn of veteran trainer Nelson Willis.

Fox Valley Ren (Casey Leonard) shows his winning form at Springfield. Friday night at Hawthorne the Nelson Willis trained freshman colt goes after his seventh consecutive victory for the Megan Rogers Stable of Chicago, IL.

Fox Valley Ren (Casey Leonard), shows his winning form at Springfield. Friday night at Hawthorne the Nelson Willis trained freshman colt goes after his seventh consecutive victory for the Megan Rogers Stable of Chicago, IL.

The Megan Rogers Stable’s freshman carries a six race winning streak into the 14th race $27,250 Governor’s Cup stake for ICF juvenile pacing colts and geldings.

Fox Valley Ren drew nicely for driver Kyle Wilfong, with the two-slot and it’s hard to argue with the 4-5 morning line odds listed on the Sportmaster’s colt out of the very successful Illinois mare LR Dancing Dream.

As a race horse LR Racing Dream competed from 2008 through a portions of 2013 and came away with 30 career victories and purse earnings of $443,039. She spent her first two seasons racing for trainer David Snyder of Martinsville, IL. finishing second in Balmoral’s 2009 Grandma Ann Super Night championship and ended her racing career under the care of conditioner Nick Giberson of Spalding, IL.

In between, LR Dancing Dream raced out of the barns of trainers Eric Abbatiello, Lou Pena and Nick Zurick. The mare was acquired by Fox Valley Standardbreds of Sherman, IL. in late September of 2013 to begin a new career as a broodmare.

LR Dancing Dream’s first foal was Fox Valley Jazzy (1:52.1), the 2017 Illinois Two-Year-Old Pacer of the Year, when she went 8 for 13, capturing the Incredible Tillie Final on Hawthorne’s Night of Champions and earning over $130,000 as freshman.

Fox Valley Ren, the third foal of LR Dancing Dream, was sold by Fox Valley Standardbred to her current Chicago owners on June 2nd of this year and qualified at Hawthorne three weeks later. The colt was taken back at the start by driver Casey Leonard in his pari-mutuel debut on June 28, raced easy, and finished fourth, beaten six and one-half lengths.

That would be the only time Fox Valley Ren didn’t make a winner’s circle stop after a race since.

The talented colt took his new mark of 1:52.1 in his Springfield championship and he needed that fast mile. Fox Valley Ren only beat his rival RG’s Tracer by a neck.

RG’s Tracer (pp 3, Travis Seekman), has been the runner-up to Fox Valley Ren on four occasions this season, but he’s steadily got better for trainer Robert Grismore and paced a quick 26.1 last quarter in one of his recent losses. He’s listed at 6-5 in Hawthorne’s morning line.

LL L Gram (Juan Franco), Chick Magnet (Kyle Husted), Western Perch (Ridge Warren), He’zzz A Wize Guy (Robert Smolin), Payton Plus (Jamaica Patton) and Ryans Ambassador (Jim Molitor) all are looking to pull off an upset in Friday’s Governor Cup.

Late Afternoon Start: Friday’s “Hawthorne Marathon” gets under way at four o’clock in the afternoon with the first of nine non-wagering races. The expanded 16 race betting program has a 6:30 first post.

Friday’s total of a 25 race double-header program is expected to be eight hours long, ending around midnight. With extra races also to be added to the Saturday and Sunday programs, those weekend cards will also begin at 6:30 pm.