By Mike Paradise
A pair of “Lou’s” continued to rule their respective ICF filly trotting divisions.
First it was Lous Abigail (Casey Leonard) extending her winning streak to four in a row with a convincing win in last night’s $29,000 Windy Skeeter stake for state-bred sophomore filly trotters. The 1:57.3 mile was a new mark for the Steve Searle trained filly.
Lous Abigail took an early lead in the race nonetheless Casey was content to let the Searle trained stable-mate Bee Cee take over command when she was brushed to the front by driver Kyle Husted out of fourth.
The pocket trip worked out perfectly for Lous Abgail as the Lou’s Legacy filly powered past her rival in the lane and posted her fourth victory in the month of August for her breeder and proprietor Flacco Family Farms of Alexis, Illinois.
Fox Valley Lush came on to be second while El Oh Govner ended up third.
Later in the evening it was Searle’s two-year-old rotting filly Loulita, also driven by Casey Leonard, an easy winner in the $29,000 Shawnee. It was also Loulita fourth consecutive visit to the winner’s circle and she was another Flacco Family Farms bred trotter, owned by the Alexis, Illinois horsemen and Dr. Patrick Graham of Pittsfield, Illinois.
Lucky Valerie was second best, beaten five lengths.
Plenty of Heart: Hart’s Heart (Juan Franco) followed up last weekend’s upset victory in the State Fair Championship with a sparkling repeat triumph in Saturday’s $29,000 Director’s Award stake for ICF two-year-old pacing fillies.
Juan Franco hustled the Mike Brink trained filly away from the three-slot and the Major Bombay homebred was never headed, drawing off by seven and one-half lengths at the end of a 1:56.1.
Hart’s Hart ($2.20) was hammered down to overwhelming 1 to 9 odds and was well in hand at the finish line for Illinois owners and breeders Donna Crebs (Cantrall) and Judy Conzo (Lincoln). The battle for second went to Bootsy Bombay over Princess Mooss.
Getting Even: Fox Valley Exploit ($3.60), driven by her trainer Kyle Husted, was a half-length winner of the $29,000 Time Dancer stake for second season filly pacers over Sleazy Gal. Last week’s State Fair victor Sign Her Up was third.
The 1:53.4 mile was the Sportsmaster filly’s sixth of the year in seven tries for Husted and co-owner Dave Brigham of Concord, Michigan.
Two Will Do: Back-to-back Opens put the explanation point on Sunday’s expanded 16 race card and they’ll take place early in the evening. The $10,500 filly and mare Open Pace was drawn by groups and will go as race two. An $8,800 Open II for “the boys” will follow.
The Rob Rittof stable’s Tempus Seelster (Travis Seekman) was assigned the outside six slot and will be at 2-1 first flash odds in the distaff co-feature while Perch (Brandon Bates) was allotted the pole position.
Posts two through five were drawn and they’ll be manned in this order: Velocity McSweets (Kyle Wilfong), Rock It Out (Ridge Warren), Brown Brinny (Cordarius Stewart) and Cracklin Rosie (Casey Leonard).
Ponda’s Prospect (9-5, Casey Leonard) and On Duty (201, Jim Lackey) are the early programmed favorites in the third race second co-headliner where horses with an Open I or II victory in one of their last two starts were not eligible. They’ll be opposed by Bold And Brassy (Travis Seekman), Park Official (Kyle Wilfong), Dash Of Danger (Kyle Husted) and I’m An Athlete (Brandon Bates).
By Mike Paradise
The second half of Du Quoin historic long-standing ICF stake races will be contested tonight and all four added money events are for fillies of both gaits. That means that trainer Steve Searle will again be a very busy man just as he was last night.
Searle had nine horses in Friday night and he’s back with nine more tonight and two of them, Lous Abigail in the fifth race Windy Skeeter and Loulita in the ninth race Shawnee, will carry three race winning streaks into $29,000 events with Casey Leonard at their lines.
You might remember that the now three-year-old Lous Abigail emerged as strong contender in the two-year-old state-bred filly trot class in mid-June and went on to take division honors, earning over $98,000 for her breeders and proprietors Flacco Family Farms of Alexis, Illinois.
The daughter of Lous Legacy posted seven wins and three seconds in 10 first season starts and she’s again on a mission to be the best in her division. She’s 4-for-8 with a pair of second place finishes this summer and she’s closing in on adding another $40,000 to her lifetime bankroll.
Loulita, also a Flacco Family Farms homebred with her ownership shared with Dr. Patrick Graham of Pittsfield, Illinois, waited until to August to develop into a top contender in her freshman class.
After going winless in her first three career starts, Loulita has rattled off three consecutive wins and lowered her mark to 2:01.1.
What brought about her turnabout?
“Early on Loulita was a little hard to handle in the turns so we put a hood on her and that helped a lot,” said trainer Steve Searle. “What really improved Loulita the most came about when I took her to Springfield for the Downstate Classic earlier this month and put (racing) hobbles on the filly. I was hoping it would give her a little more confidence and it did. She’s been close to perfect with them.”
Loulita will have some familiar faces going against her in the seven-horse Shawnee field. Three of them are stable-mates Lous Voodoo Woman (Kyle Wilfong), Lou Lou Lamour (Juan Franco) and Lous Livia (Steve Searle).
Taking on the Steve Searle quartet are Myonly Sin (Atlee Bender), Lucky Valarie (Todd Warren) and BBR Lady (Freddie Patton Jr.)
Friendly Foes: Lous Abigail will have to again fight off her buddy Bee Cee, another Searle trainee, in the Windy Skeeter. Bee Cee came within a head of beating her pal in last week’s $30,000 State Fair Championship.
Fox Valley Lush (Todd Warren), Really Railee (Juan Franco), El Oh Govner (Mike Rogers) and Celone Hall are the other Windy Skeeter hopefuls.
Hearty Match: The $29,000 Director’s Award goes as the third race with a compact field of five freshman filly pacers including last weekend’s one-two ICF stake finishers—Hart’s Heart (Juan Franco) and Princess Mooss (Kyle Wilfong).
They’ll be challenged by Pure Sin (Atlee Bender), Bootsy Bombay (Travis Seekman) and Dandy’s Duchess (Steve Halford II).
Revenge Motive: The three-year-old Time Dancer comes later in the evening as race twelve with Fox Valley Exploit (Kyle Husted), Sign Her Up (Juan Franco) and Sleazy Gal (Atlee Bender) likely to get the bulk of the public’s wagering dollars.
Sign Her Up ended Fox Valley Exploit’s five race winning streak a week ago and did it my more than three lengths in 1:54.1.
The possible up setters are Ashlee’s Fine Girl (Todd Warren), Amazon Princess (Ridge Warren), Style And Spirit (Cliff Bell), Fox Valley Mia (Casey Leonard), Castielle (Richard S Finn) and June Dale Gram (Cordarius Stewart).
The Heat is On: This weekend’s king-size 16 race cards came about when the Covid-19 epidemic closed down both State Fairs and made it necessary for its races to be moved to Hawthorne.
In the case of Du Quoin being a no-go this year that sliced off a substantial driving time for many upstate horsemen like Searle.
“From where I’m at (Grant Park, Illinois) it’s about an hour drive to Hawthorne with our horses. It’s more like five hours to get to Du Quoin, so I didn’t mind racing these stakes at Hawthorne.
“Last year it just kept raining so we had to come back up north to Hawthorne to get our horses raced.”
Oh, by the way, the heat index two days ago at Du Quoin was a stifling 101 degrees.
Warren Doubles Up: Nicely handled by driver Todd Warren, Frontier Charley ($6.20) got back on the winning track by capturing last night’s $29,000 Governor’s Cup raced at Hawthorne.
Warren was contend to take a pocket trip being the pace-setting Ideal Big Guy (Casey Leonard) who went unchallenged to a soft 1:00 first half. The Jim Eaton trained winner worn down Ideal Big Guy and went on to a 1:56.1 clocking for owners F. Langley Estate (Chicago), Jim Eaton (Crete, IL) and Robert Siberberg (Michigan).
The 6-5 favorite Well Basically (Atlee Bender) finished third, another two-plus lengths behind.
A few races later Warren was back in the winner’s circle, this time with the Mike Brink stable’s Crooked Creek, the 3-5 favorite. Fox Valley Quest (Casey Leonard) had a rugged first half leaving from the outside none-slot and still ended up second one length behind. On Higher Ground took the Show spot.
Bred by his owner Ed Teefey of Mount Sterling, Illinois, Crooked Creek ($3.40) won for the seventh time this season in 10 outings.
Surprise: The stunner of the night came in the $29,000 Darn Safe freshman trot championship when the 50-1 longshot Lousrolando, driven by his trainer Kyle Husted, ended the six race winning streak of Bobalou (Curt Grummel) in front-end fashion.
Lousrolando ($108.60) sprinted out from the pole position, and was perfectly rated through fractions of 30.1. 29.4 and 1:30 with Bobalou right behind him through the second half of the mile and held on by three-quarters of a length in his maiden triumph. Lousrolando is owned by Husted (Altamont, IL) and Dave Brigham (Concord, MI).
The three-year-old Dudley Hanover male pace turned out to be another overpowering win for He’zzz A Wise Sky ($2.40, Bobby Smolin. The Don Filomeno owned and bred colt paced a new lifetime mark of 1:51.2, finishing 3 and 1/2 lengths ahead of RG’S Tracer (Travis Seekman).
For the second consecutive summer the Du Quoin State Fair races will be contested at Hawthorne Race Course.
Last year it was a steady diet of rain that eventually made it necessary for ICF stake events to be moved. This time around it’s a more somber issue, the Cover-19 epidemic that kayoed both State Fairs and necessitated the shift to Hawthorne.
Six state-bred championships are on the line tonight, sprinkled throughout a 16 race program and all are for either colts and geldings of both gaits. Four more ICF championships, strictly for the gals, will be decided on Saturday.
For most of the freshman going postward tonight this will be their fourth start of the month and in some cases, their fifth as they rapidly continue the march to Hawthorne’s Night of Champions on Saturday, September 19th.
One of those horses going to gate tonight for a fifth time in August is the red-hot home-bred Bobalou, trained by his driver Curt Grummel and owned and bred by Dr. Patrick Graham. Bobalou definitely will be the public’s choice when he puts his five race winning streak on the line that began at Springfield in late July.
Grummel has done a skillful job of developing the Lou’s Legacy freshman who was plagued with breaking problems early in his first season. Bobalou has put more than $27,000 on his card in August with $14,720 coming from last week’s State Fair championship. Tonight the youngster can pad his bank account with another good showing in tonight’s $29,500 Darn Safe trotting stake.
Well Done: As usual, the ICF two-year-old colt and gelding pacing division has had its twists and turns with last weekend’s freshman State Fair champion Well Basically perhaps moving to the head of his class for trainer Erv Miller and Illinois owners Anthony Lombardi and Marty Engel. The Sagebrush gelding seeks his fourth successive winner’s circle visit in tonight’s $27,000 Governor’s Cup.
Former Illinois circuit driver Marcus Miller last week came in from Pennsylvania to give Well Basically (pp 5) a ground-saving inside journey and got the youngster out at the right time to gain a three-quarter length triumph in1:56.4. Tonight Atlee Bender gets the catch drive behind the 5-2 programmed morning line second choice. Frontier Charley (pp 1, Todd Warren) opens at 2-1.
The steadily improving Diamond Diesel (Kyle Wilfong), second best a week ago, Frontier Charley (Todd Warren), a two-time ICF stakes champion, and Ideal Big Guy (Casey Leonard), a front-stepping State Fair elimination victor two weeks ago, all appear to be very formidable threats.
Also going to the gate in the fourth race stake are Partyamosasplace (Ridge Warren), Ashlees’s Fine Guy (Kyle Husted) and Prince Of Style (Travis Seekman).
Stepping Up: After playing second fiddle to his more renowned Mike Prink stable-mate Crooked Creek, a week ago On Higher Ground (Kyle Wilfong) got the best of his Mike Brink trained “roommate” and also the three-year-old colt trotting division leader Fox Valley Quest in the $30,000 State Fair championship.
That Illinois bred trio, plus five more ICF sophomore trotters tangle in the $29,500 Pronto Don (race seven).
Crooked Creek will leave from post three while his main rivals On Higher Ground and Fox Valley Quest landed the outside eight and nine slots, respectively.
Never Any Better: After a five-plus length romp last weekend in the three-year-old male pace final He’zzz A Wise Sky ($2.40, Bobby Smolin) will unquestionably be bet down to low-end odds once more in tonight’s $29,500 Dudley Hanover stake
The Don Filomeno owned and trained colt was more than five lengths the best in 1:52.1, a new lifetime mark. He’ll be tested by RG’S Tracer (Travis Seekman), Bagman (Todd Warren), Western Perch Kyle Wilfong), Chick Magnet (Kyle Husted), Illini Force (Ridge Warren), Ryans Ambassador (Casey Leonard) and Mighty Tony Hall (Cordarius Stewart).
Repeats Expected: Also to be decided are Du Quoin’s ICF aged colt and gelding pace (race 16) and trot (race 10) championships where Fox Valley Gemini (Casey Leonard) and Lousraptor (Juan Franco) are favored to repeat last weekend’s State Fair victories.
By Mike Paradise
Horse racing players tuning in to Hawthorne for the first time Sunday might think the racetrack is practicing “social distancing” with horses in its co-features.
After all, in the seventh race Open Trot with six starters, there will be a gap of five slots between the four horse and the two outside trotters as they go to the gate.
Similarly in the Open filly mare pace that follows there’s a four post opening between the No. 6 six horse Tempus Seelster and the No. 7 Lily Grace, no stranger to being “all alone” at the start in a Chicago circuit race.
Like I’ve written before, we want good horses to come to Illinois but right now is still seems we don’t want them to be too good.
If your horse wins too many local Open’s in a row, he or she is reprimanded and sent to the extreme outside post with its lowly 4.7 percent success rate, rather than, in tonight’s instances, the six (14 per cent) or the seven (9.7 per cent) winning percentage. It’s an attempt to make the race more evenly matched, and hopefully lure more money through the Hawthorne wagering system.
I understand the ploy and if I was running the show I might even do the same thing. While I understand the move, I still don’t like it. Does any of the major tracks in the country do it?
All horses sooner or later tail off for one reason or another. Let a horse owner make all the dough he or she can while the going is good. It only takes one misstep or maybe one health issue to shut down a horse for a long period of time, maybe forever.
In any case, the reality of the current Illinois Standardbred industry can be summed up in five words: “It is what it is.”
So in both of Sunday’s Open events Casey Leonard will have the unwanted distinction of driving two horses from the 10-hole with less than full fields.
Somehow Lindy’s Big Bang, victorious in one Open since March and beaten by more than five lengths in his last Open, landed the 10-slot while Annas Lucky Star (Kyle Wilfong), winner of her last pair and a two-time Open winner since July, acquired the nine. The Nelson Willis trained mare goes after career triumph No. 38 in her 69th trip to the starting gate for Salem, Illinois owner and breeder Danny Graham.
The “underdogs” in the Open Trot are Hot Summer Night (Ridge Warren), Talk About Valor (Travis Seekman), Classic Venture (Bobby Smolin) and Rockyroad Aldo (Kyle Husted), leave from the first four posts, in that order.
Lily Grace has won her last six races and the most recent three were in local Opens. Three weeks ago she overcame the assigned dreaded 10-hole with a 1:51 flat mile, a career fastest for the five-year-old. Her previous three local victories came after the Hawthorne “re-start” when she swept a low-end conditioned series.
In the statistic that counts the most for any horse owner, Lily Grace has made a little more than $27,000 for Trot & Pace Racing of Farewell, Michigan this year, which is about half of what two of her Sunday opponents have banked—Allbeastnobeauty (pp 2, Todd Warren) and Tempus Seelster (pp 6, Travis Seekman). Those two mares gobbled up the bulk of their yearly purse earnings competing at race track venues supported by the gaming industry.
Brown Brinny (Cordarius Stewart), Over Speeding (Kyle Husted) Skeeter Machine (Kyle Wilfong) and Velocity McSweets (Brandon Bates) are the other mares trying to halt the streaking Lily Grace.
A “Juanderful” Night: The fast improving freshman trotter Louita (Casey Leonard) coasted to her third consecutive victory in last night’s opener, the $32,000 Illinois State Fair championship for two-year-old fillies.
Lolita ($3.40) completed her 2:02.1 mile more than six lengths ahead of runner-up Myonly Sin for her trainer Steve Searle and Illinois owners Flacco Family Farms (Alexis) and Dr. Patrick Graham (Pittsfield).
A few races later it became the Juan Franco Show in back-to-back ICF championships.
First the 43-year-old Guatemala native pulled off a surprise victory with Hart’s Hart ($13.00) in the $32,000 juvenile filly pace, the Mike Brink trainee’s maiden victory. The Major Bombay home-bred covered the mile in 1:55.3 for Illinoisans Donna Crebs (Cantrall) and Judy Gonzo (Lincoln) and was almost five lengths better than the second place pacer Bootsy Bombay.
Franco followed that upset up with another when he steered Sign Her Up ($16.60) to a rather comfortable 1:54.1 win over the heavily 1-5 favorite Fox Valley Exploit. Trained by Charles Arthur, Sign Her Up won for the third time as a three-year-old for the Jackson, Mississippi duo of RB Roper and Ms. Fabian Johnson and the $15,000 winner’s share of the purse upped the Sagebrush mare’s two-season earnings to over $95,000.
The final ICF stake of the night turned out to be close one between the two Steve Searle trained stable-mates Lous Abigail (Casey Leonard) and the 30-1 long Bee Cee (Kyle Husted) with the 1-9 public’s choice coming out on top by a just a head in 1:58.1
The triumph was Lous Abigail (2.20) third in a row for her Flacco Family Farms owners and breeders.
Pricey Enough? Saturday night’s second race winner Dash Of Danger was a “Mike’s Price Shot” selection at $20.80.