Trio Ruled Their ICF Filly Divisions

By Mike Paradise

The 1990’s, the last decade of harness racing at Sportsman’s Park, provided us with a trio of ICF pacing fillies that not only captured Super Night championships and plenty of dough for their owners, but also won over the hearts of many Chicago circuit patrons.

Two of the talented fillies, Plum Peachy and Ideal Angel, were developed by the late Illinois horseman Mark Fransen. The other, Panic Attack, was conditioned by Tex Moats. Both trainers are members of our Hall of Fame.

During the four year span of 1990 through 1994, the state-bred trio pretty much dwarfed the competition in their respective Illinois bred divisions and proved to be strong attractions to the popular Cicero, Illinois facility.

  Plum Peachy with Walter Paisley. (Pete L0ongo Photo)

Plum Peachy with Walter Paisley. (Pete L0ongo Photo)

Plum Peachy only raced two seasons, 1990 and 1991, but they were both very productive years for her owners Plum Peachy Stable (driver) Walter Paisley, Henry Babson, Bruce Johnson and Dennis Kyros.

The daughter of Ideal Society, out of the Nanesmond mare Delightful Angel, had a dazzling two-season record of 15 victories on 18 starts with $356,082 in purse earnings. Plum Peachy provided back-to-back Super Night championships, winning both the $365,843 Filly Orange & Blue freshman stake in 1990 and the $210,000 Grandma Ann 3-year-old final, a year later.

Plum Peachy was named the 1990 Illinois Harness Horse of the Year and three times broke the Sportsman’s Park track record that season for a juvenile filly pacer, the last in 1:56.2.

Plum Peachy started a new career as a broodmare in 1993 and in 1998 produced a future millionaire when she delivered Peruvian Hanover (1:49.4, $1.8 million)

Panic Attack and Dave Magee. (Pete Luongo Photo)

Panic Attack and Dave Magee. (Pete Luongo Photo)

In 1991 the Tex Moats Sable unveiled the Masquerade filly Panic Attack, who quickly became the dominant ICF filly pacer that year, winning 10 of her 11 first season outings. Panic Attack left no doubt she was the best on Super Night with a convincing 1:56.3 victory in the $342.000 Filly Orange & Blue showdown. She put $230.526 on her initial card for owners Don Stevens and Norman Levin.

In 1993 the three-year-old the daughter of the Bret Hanover broodmare Abacus Abby, rattled off six consecutive wins, paced on three different Illinois tracks—Sportsman’s Park, Balmoral Park and Springfield. A $15,000 yearling acquisition Panic Attack became a broodmare the following year. Among her successful offspring’s were Panned Out (1:50.4, $353,853), On The Attack (1:51, $598,579) and Art For Arts Sake 1:50.3, $497.543)

Ideal Angel then came along to provide the last part of the dominant ICF filly triad. Another Mark Fransen trainee also sired by Ideal Society she had a solid freshman campaign earning over $67,000 and then blossomed into a terror a year later in the Illinois bred distaff pacing ranks.

Dave Mage and Ideal Angel. (Pete Luongo Photo)

Dave Mage and Ideal Angel. (Pete Luongo Photo)

In her nine trips to the gate in 1993, Ideal Angel’s only loss was a second place finish at Springfield. In her other eight starts at either Balmoral or Sportsman’s she made a winner’s circle stop with Dave Magee or Ronnie Marsh. The daughter of Raven Hanover mare Grade’s Ravina hauled in over $164,000 for owners Michael Dockendorf, David Andalman and Steven Zatkin.

Ideal Angel powered her way to an almost eight length victory in the $182,000 Grandma Ann Championship with Marsh and in 1994 as a four-year-old blew away the opposition again on Super Night in the Ann Vonian, drawing off by nine lengths with Dave Magee in her bike.

Only an $8,500 yearling buy at the 1990 Illinois Standardbred Sale, Ideal Angel was first or second in 24 of her 36 lifetime starts, making almost $300,000 before taking on a new role as a broodmare in 1996.

If you’re bored while live racing at Hawthorne is not available at this time why not get some action by supporting the Illinois horsemen when you wager through the Hawthorne Club app. Clubhawthorne.com is the only current source of income for purse generation during this Coronavirus shutdown.

Additional information is at Hawthorneracecourse.com

NOC Freshman Champ Overcame Adversity

By Mike Paradise

As any trainer will tell you the path to a Super Night type freshman championship is rarely a smooth journey. It can often be a bumpy one, filled with ups and downs, and sometimes with a major health issue roadblock.

That was the case for last year’s Night of Champions two-year-old colt pace titleholder He’zzz A Wise Sky. Before the Don Filemeno owned and trained youngster won the battle for the Incredible Finale championship, he had to win the war and fight off a life-threatening disease.

While his chief rivals in the ICF juvenile male pacing division already competed in the stake series first leg and the Cardinal, He’zzz A Wise Sky was still battling to overcome EPM.

For those unfamiliar with EPM, it stands for Equine Protozoal Myeloencephalitis, a “neurologic disease in horses caused by infection with the protozoan Sarcocystis Neurona (SN).”

He’zzz A Wise Sky (Bobby Smolin) overcame EPM and a Hawthorne sloppy racing strip to win the Incredible Finale freshman title on the 2019 Night of Champions. (Four Footed Fotos)

He’zzz A Wise Sky (Bobby Smolin) overcame EPM and a Hawthorne sloppy racing strip to win the Incredible Finale freshman title on the 2019 Night of Champions. (Four Footed Fotos)

According to the equine health experts SN infects horses when they ingest the organism in feed or water that becomes contaminated. SN is for the most part carried by outdoor animals that pass the “bacteria” through its feces.

EPM typically causes horses to slowly experience neurologic dysfunctions such as weakness in their hind legs and difficulty moving their legs with synchronization and EPM can be deadly if left untreated.

Health experts say about half of the infected horses that are properly treated will return to the way they were before the infection. The other half will improve but will have some lasting physical issues.

Fortunately for He’zzz A Wise Sky and his connections, the horse overcame the dreadful disease and fought his way to become an Illinois champion,

While his division foes began their racing careers in June or early July, He’zzz A Wise Sky didn’t even qualify at Hawthorne until last July 29. He made his pari-mutuel debut on August 2 where he showed potential, dropping a scant nose decision while pacing a 26.4 last quarter.

In a story I wrote here last summer, Filomeno explained why his prized home-bred youngster got a much later start than planned.

“The horse trained down perfect and was all ready to go when he got sick. The colt got a bad case of EPM. We had him treated at the track but that didn’t work. We decided to take him down to the University of Illinois vet school. They worked on him and got the infection cleared up.
“They told us the colt wouldn’t be able to race until the end of the year at the earliest. Instead he came back in six weeks and did it all on his own. I told Bobby (driver Smolin) in the colt’s first start to just use him at the end since the horse was coming off his sickness and he did just that. “

In his next start at Springfield He’zzz A Wise Sky finished fourth but came home in 26.3. Smolin gave the youngster a great trip in the horse’s third try, a winning 1:55.2 mile.

Next, was the Governor’s Cup, (raced at Hawthorne) where the youngster basically circled the field, coming from seventh at the half, some eight and one-half lengths behind, and drew off by one and one-half lengths over the heavy favorite Fox Valley Ren, in 1:55.2.
Since only the 10 freshman male pacers with the most series points gain a starting berth in the Incredible Finale final, the Triple ZZZ Stable’s late-bloomer had his work cut out to gain a spot in the championship.

Hezzz A Wise Sky missed the stake’s first leg and finished fourth at Springfield (that counts as a series start) in his second career effort, therefore the horse had only earned eight series points, good for 14th place, meaning a win or a second place finish was needed to gain the $102,000 Final.

He’zzz A Wise Sky left no doubt he was up to the task, pulling away with Smolin by more than a dozen lengths at the end of the September 14 series event, with a 1:54.1 clocking.

A week later He’zzz A Wise Sky blew away the opposition on the Night of Champions, some three-plus lengths the best with a 1:55 mile in the slop to end his first season with $78,987 in purse earnings.

Quite an achievement for a young horse that only a few months earlier was fighting for his life.

Covid-19 Update

With the Governor extending his stay at home order in Illinois until May 30, questions arise regarding if that means harness racing in Illinois will be shut down until then as well. Short answer…we don’t know yet. We continue to work with Hawthorne and the Illinois Dept. of Agriculture and the Illinois Dept. of Public Health to get back to work as soon as possible. We have submitted a “game plan” on how we can alter what we do on our live racing nights to stay safe. We have been in communication with the Governor’s office and are hopeful that we can return to work before then. We will keep you updated as soon as any information is available. Be smart, stay safe.

NOC Titleholder Changes Barns

By Mike Paradise

When the 2019 Night of Champions victor Fox Valley Halsey does make her first Hawthorne start of the year, she’ll be doing so out of a new barn.

Fox Valley Halsey’s triumph in the $100,000 Plum Peachy 3-year-old filly pace final was her last race under the care of trainer Nelson Willis. The filly was sold a month later to the Illinois trio of OB Stables (Sherwood), Dandy Farms Racing (Glenview) and FT Racing Stable (Glenview) and will be to compete for the stable of trainer Terry Leonard.

After her purchase Fox Valley Halsey was sent to Pompano Park last November and made a half-dozen starts before the end of the year for conditioner Rob Rittof, picking up a victory in one of her December races at the Florida racetrack.

  Fox Valley Halsey, (Juan Franco) who won the 2019 Plum Peachy title on the 2019 Night of Champions for trainer Nelson Willis, has a new home for her four-year-old Hawthorne campaign. (Four Footed Fotos)

Fox Valley Halsey, (Juan Franco) who won the 2019 Plum Peachy title on the 2019 Night of Champions for trainer Nelson Willis, has a new home for her four-year-old Hawthorne campaign. (Four Footed Fotos)

Fox Valley Halsey had two very successful years for her breeder and original owner Fox Valley Standardbreds, banking over $153,000 with $90,742 coming in her sophomore campaign. Interestingly, as a two-year-old she made her first ten trips to the gate with Casey Leonard at her lines and Hawthorne’s annual leading driver will now be guiding her as a four-year-old.

“She always gave me a good honest effort,” said Casey. “She was always very manageable, just like all of Nelson’s horses are. Time will tell how well she does as a four-year-old. We’ve had Halsey here at our place since she came back from Florida and she’ll be ready once we get back to racing.”

In 2018 Fox Valley Halsey swept her Illinois State Fair juvenile championships at Springfield and the Du Quoin session at Hawthorne with Casey and went on to put $62,819 on her card.

Fox Valley Halsey was sired by Sportsmaster. Some of you might remember her dam Ron’s Girl (1:49.3, $576,458), a 2000 Breeders Crown champion under the care of the conditioner Joe Anderson.

Before Ron’s Girl headed to the Meadowlands she won three consecutive Opens on the Chicano circuit, two at Maywood and one at Balmoral with driver Ryan Anderson. She extended that streak to five with an Open victory at The Big M and another in a $35,000 Classic event at Harrington Raceway in Delaware for Illinoisans John Leahy (Naperville) and Robert Ranquist Jr (Palos Park) and Greg Pistochini of California.

When her racing days were behind her Ron’s Girl clicked on her very first foal as a broodmare when her Western Hanover pacer Western Tsunami (1:50.1) won a remarkable 70 races in a career that saw the horse haul in over a half-million dollars in purse earnings.

Fox Valley Standardbreds acquired Ron’s Girl in November of 2004 and since then she has produced such ICF horses as Fox Valley Ruler (1:51.1), Fox Valley Ron (1:53.1), MJ’s Bid (1:50.4), Fox Valley Reggie (1:51.2) and Fox Valley Halsey (1:53.2).

Several years down the line we may see Fox Valley Halsey follow her productive mother and become a fruitful Illinois broodmare as well.

If you’re bored while live racing at Hawthorne is not available at this time why not get some action by playing the horses through the Hawthorne Club app. It’s the only current source of income for purse generation during this Coronavirus shutdown.

Additional information is at Hawthorneracecourse.com

Hothead a Publicist’s Dream Horse

By Mike Paradise

Through my 47 years covering harness racing in Illinois I’ve been asked many times about my favorite ICF pacer or trotter. I usually have replied that my preference was to make those choices at each Chicago circuit race track and from different eras.

In my first 18 years as the Director of Publicity when Sportsman’s Park was a five-eighths oval, I got to watch and write about such celebrated ICF horses as Incredible Finale, Gosox, Iggy Magoo, Taurus Bomber and Desperate Lady, just to mention a few.

Nevertheless the one Illinois bred from that time period who sticks out the most in my mind was Hothead, a publicist’s dream horse.

Hothead (Mike Borys) is shown here winning one of his victories at Sportsman’s Park when he was honored as the 1985 Illinois Harness Horse of the Year. (Pete Luongo Photo)

Hothead (Mike Borys) is shown here winning one of his victories at Sportsman’s Park when he was honored as the 1985 Illinois Harness Horse of the Year. (Pete Luongo Photo)

No he wasn’t the fastest horse that I saw race at Sportsman’s and he didn’t make the most money but his domination of the state-bred stakes as a 3-year-old and his gameness and tenacity that followed in his aged pacing years against the very best open company horses in the country, went a long way to draw attention to the then overlooked Illinois bred Standardbred program.

Hothead, a homebred colt of Centaur Stable (George Barounes) of Evergreen Park, was a son of Duncan Price’s stallion BS Skipper, Out of the Worthy Boy mare Two Step.

The stud pacer started off his marvelous career by capturing 31 of his first 35 races and going an amazing 29-for-33 as a three-year-old, including a sweep of Sportsman Park’s 1985 “Triple Crown” Illinois bred stakes—The Bye Bye Byrd, the Cardinal and the Langley for his late driver-trainer Mike Borys.

Hothead amassed $354,613 in earnings in 1985, with his 1:55 season mark coming at the Du Quoin State Fair championship. He went on to be named the 1985 Illinois Horse of the Year.

From 1985 through 1988 Hothead won 52 of 121 starts, a lofty 43 per cent winning percentage, and the ICF star of those seasons also raced at the Meadowlands against the very best pacers in the country. At The Big M Hothead took a new lifetime mark of 1:53 flat in 1987 and followed with his career fastest time of 1:52.2 a year later in New Jersey. He raced a busy 74 times at the age of 5 and 6 and collected over $400,000 in those two campaigns often taking on the nation’s elite pacers.

Hothead ended his brilliant racing career with a bankroll of $904,333, at that time second only to Incredible Final for an ICF pacer.

Ironically Hothead’s most memorable race may have come in defeat. It was his classic battle with driver Lavern Hostetler at Sportsman’s Park against the No. 1 pacer in the country Forrest Skipper in the 1986 U.S. Pacing Championship.

  Hothead many years later in 2014,

Hothead many years later in 2014,

Thus author interviewed Hostetler about the unforgettable confrontation a few years ago and he recalled the Hothead vs Forrest Skipper face-off like it was yesterday:

“I was right behind Forrest Skipper most of the race. I knew that Forrest Skipper drifted some coming out of a turn and he did that night but I made my move to go to the inside of him a split second too soon. Had I waited a little longer I would have gotten a clear shot to past him along the rail and probably come out on top with Hothead.

“As it turned out I was too quick with my move and (driver Luc) Fontaine closed off the inside on us. I had to back up Hothead a bit and then go to the right to try and get past him. I don’t think we were interfered with but we did get pushed out some down the stretch.”

One week later, the 1985 Illinois Horse of the Year, and Hostetler came back with a vengeance and zipped past in deep stretch to knock off the millionaire Chairmanoftheboard (John Campbell) in the $71,200 American National Aged Pace, thanks to some quick-thinking from

Remember in those days there was a hub rail at Sportsman’s Park and no “passing lane.”

“We were in the two-hole in it didn’t look like we were going to get out turning for home. Campbell was a great driver and had me locked-in. I decided to back Hothead off and make it appear my horse was tiring. instead of hitting the bike with my whip, I started hitting the hub rail with it, hoping Campbell would think my horse was out of pace and that we were done. He did and he created an opening to get out. We did and won the race.

“After the race Campbell told me: ‘Okay son, you out-smarted me that time but you’ll never do it again.’ Since then every time I ran into Campbell he always brings up the Chairmanoftheboard race.”

A video of the classic Sportsman’s Park race between Hothead and Forest Skipper is available via the old Chicago Harness Racing Show, co-produced and co-hosted by Eleanor Flavin and a much younger yours truly, from You Tube at:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BhCc0muy96A

If you’re bored while live racing at Hawthorne is not available at this time why not get some action by playing the horses through the Hawthorne Club app. It’s the only current source of income for purse generation during this Covin 19 shutdown.

Additional information can be found at Hawthorneracecourse.com.