Unusual ICF Trot on the Sunday Card

By Mike Paradise


Next weekend’s Violet and Cardinal stakes races, the first major events for ICF three-year-old trotters and pacers, brought about a unique event on Sunday’s card.


Tonight’s third race will see second season state-bred trotters of both sexes tangle, maybe for the only time this year. The seven-horse field lured the winners of the first round of their respective Night of Champions stake series.


Sunday’s $9,200 third race is a prep for the Violet and Cardinal trots that will be contested a week from today. The Illinois Department sponsored added money events are the first major stakes of the season for ICF pacers and trotters.


The Terry Leonard Stable’s DJ Lance (Casey Leonard) captured last night’s $20,000 Cicero Claiming Series Final. (Four Footed Fotos)

The Illinois bred sophomore filles were allowed to draw inside and that enable last week’s Beulah Dygert victor Loulita (Casey Leonard) to grab the pole position for trainer Steve Searle. The Flacco Family Farms home-bred was much the best a week ago, drawing off by almost three lengths in 1:57.1.


Beulah Dygert runner-up Lucky Valarie (Travis Seekamn) has the two-slot.


Posts three through seven belong to colts and geldings. The Roshun Triggs trained colts Notalocaldude (Kyle Wilfong) and Sumbodygetdisfool (Jamaal Denson) landed the three and four slots, respectively.


The 2020 Illinois Two-Year-Old Colt Trotter of the Year Fistfullofdollars (Todd Warren) leaves from the five while his Mike Brink trained stablemate Salute The Hero (Ridge Warren) will be on the outside looking in with the seven.


Rndmnudpredicbtle, a first over winner in a division of the Erwin F.  Dygert Memorial opening leg with Casey Leonard, leaves from the six with trainer Steve Searle after Casey opted to guide his stablemate Loulita tonight.


Loulita, last year’s ICF filly trot champion, will open as the prohibitive even-money favorite. The filly has won her last seven starts against strictly other state-breds and another triumph tonight will put her over the $100,000 plateau in her first 12 career starts.


Loulita, a daughter of Flacco Family Farms broodmare Olives And Caviar, is a full sister to two other successful Illinois bred trotters, former NOC winner White Pants Fever and Louscardamon, a multiple ICF stakes champion from the barn of conditioner Steve Searle.


Recent Plum Peachy first round champion Hart’s Heart (Kyle Wilfong) will stay sharp for next Saturday’s Violet filly stake championship with a start in Sunday’s fourth race for the Brink stable.


Connie On The Go (Ridge Warren) also preps in the same race for the Violet pace showdown for trainer Jamaica Patton.


  Oldie a Goodie: The Terry Leonard Stable’s DJ Lance ($4.60) came away with the top prize in last night’s $20,000 final of the Cicero Claiming Series for colts and geldings.


Casey Leonard gave the DL Lance and second over journey and the 12-year-old veteran responded by wearing down a game effort by the pace-setting Gold Star Lambeau (Ridge Warren) by a half-length in 1:52.3.


DL Lance is owned by Ohioan Tyler George and Charles Groen of Indiana.


One race later the 8-1 longshot Spoxys Girl ($18.80) posted a victory for trainer Dean Eckley in the $20,000 filly and mare division of the Cicero series in 1:52.3. The win was the third of the night for driver Kyle Wilfong.


Husted Shines: It was Kyle Husted who was the driving star of the Saturday program. The 29-year-old Altamont, Illinois native guided five winning horses that included Rock It Out’s triumph in the $12,000 filly and mare Open Pace.


Rock It Out ($27.60) was sent off at 13-1 odds from the seven slot in an eight-horse field however Husted hustled her out and got a pocket trip behind the front-stepping Priceless.


The Donna Holt trained winner proceeded to hold off a fast-closing Maggie Rhee (Todd Warren) by a half-length in 1:52 flat. It was the third straight first place finish for Rock It Out, owned by D & R Racing Stable of Kentucky.

Who Will Claim the Series Top Prize?

By Mike Paradise


With the emphasis last weekend on the opening legs of the three-year-old Night of Champions stake events another series on the Saturday card was probably overlooked by many Chicago circuit harness racing fans.


You can count me among those.


Hawthorne’s Cicero Claiming Series that started off a few weeks ago with $10,000 price tags has brushed aside the likely spider webs on the track’s Claiming Box and instead has produced a high dosage of actively.


In fact, of the ten starters in tonight’s final for male pacers, six of them have changed ownership at least once and in some instances, horses have been claimed in back-to-back starts at a higher amount.


The reason: A shot at lucrative $20,000 pot and nowadays in Illinois harness racing that is an alluring monetary prize.


Both of tonight’s eighth race starters Et Tu Brute Gary Rath) and Canthelpbutwin (Kyle Wilfong) were claimed back for $2,500 more by the same owners who lost them in the series opening leg.


In both instances, the higher tag wasn’t a loss for either of those owners since Et Tu Brute made $5,860 in his first two series starts for Bernie and Deb Paul of Tylertown, Mississippi while Canthelpbutwin claim back was a “wash” for David and Adams Brooks of Cambridge, Illinois because the pacer earned $2,500 in his first series round.


Gold Star Lambeau (Ridge Warren) was taken for $10,000 on May 15 by trainer Gene Gilerman for Richard Barone and the horse promptly put $6,000 on his card with a second-round victory a week ago for his Rosemont, Illinois owner.


And then there is the now nine-year-old veteran Trashytonguetalker (Travis Seekman) who was claimed in his last start at Cal-Expo before coming back to his favorite track. He was taken in leg one for $10,000 by his former Terry Leonard stable and then preceded to show his heels to his series foes a week ago in with quick 1:50.2 clocking when he was plucked by trainer Nathalie Tremble at a $12,500 price tag for new owner Maryann Plano


Here’s how they’ll line-up for the eighth race claiming final for colts and geldings: Et Tu Brute, DJ Lance, P H Hippie, Uncle CI, BR Ezliksndymornin, Adele’s Big Party, Canthelpbutwin, Sports Hero, Gold Star Lambeau and Trashytonguetalker with the outside 10-hole.


The $20,000 Sports Cicero final for mares follows in race nine. From the rial out you’ll find Unbroken Circle, A Sham Of Amber, Blissful Pansy, Sweetshadyshark, Roaring Home, Charlotte Royal N, Dune Dame, Spoxy’s Girl, Fox Valley Sierra and OK Jewel.


Rock It Out (inside) ended the Hawthorne filly and mare Open winning streak of Maggie Rhee (Todd Warren) last week. They’ll duel again in Saturday night’s $12,000 Open. (Four Footed Fotos)

Looking for Revenge: The Todd Warren stable’s Maggie Rhee saw her three-race winning streak snapped in last weekend’s filly and mare Open pace when Rock It Out from the barn of trainer Donna Holt gained a head decision in a 1:51.4 mile.


They’ll meet again in Saturday’s sixth race in the $12,000 event with Maggie Rhee handicapped with the outside eight-slot with Rock It Out starting from the seven with new driver Kyle Husted. Last week’s driver winning Kyle Wilfong will instead guide the Wilfong family’s It’s Time For Fun (pp 3).


Inside of It’s Time For Fun are Swinging Jenny (Tyler Shehan), Golden Paradise (Casey Leonard) and Better Days Ahead (Atlee Bender), in that order.


Last week’s third place finisher Tempus Seelster (Travis Seekman) leaves from the five while newcomer Priceless (Cordarius Stewart) is to her right. The latter has been competing in Hoosier Park Opens for trainer Kevin Miller and is the Hawthorne programmed favorite.


   He’zzz the Best: Triple ZZZ Stable’s He’zzz A Wise Sky ($.260) proved best again in the $12,000 Open with another front-end victory, this one in 1:51.2 with Kyle Wilfong at his lines on a sloppy racing surface.


Fox Valley Gemini (Casey Leonard) got the two-journey trip behind the He’zzz A Wise Sky but the four-year-old John Filomeno trained public’s choice had plenty left with a one and one-quarter winning margin for his Justice, Illinois owners.


Round 3 Tonight for ICF Pacer Supremacy

By Mike Paradise

Hawthorne is rolling out the big guns for its Open Pace as the heavyweight battle between the circuit’s top two ICF pacers heads into round three tonight.

You’ll have to wait until the tenth race to watch and bet on the $12,000 slugfest that has grown to nine starters making the task a little more difficult for the very likely post time favorites He’zzz A Wise Sky (pp 10, Kyle Wilfong) and Fox Valley Gemini (pp 9, Casey Leonard) when they continue to duke it out and determine this season’s Illinois kingpin pacer.

If you are keeping score this season between these two state-bred pacing stars, it’s one winning round each for each horse.

Despite not having a pari-mutuel start this year going into the May 8th first encounter, Fox Valley Gemini uncorked a 26 last quarter and overtook the pacesetting He’zz A Wise Sky in 1:50.4 mile for trainer Terry Leonard and the six-year-old gelding’s owner Jim Ballinger of Atwater, Illinois.

He’zzz A Wise Sky (Kyle Wilfong) shows his powerful winning stride. The Triple ZZZ Stable owned ICF pacer looks for another win in tonight’s tenth race Open Pace.

However, it was a different outcome when they tangled again on May 16. He’zzz A Wise Sky sizzled on the front-end with a winning 1:49.1 mile for trainer John Filomeno and Justice, Illinois owners Triple ZZZ Stable.

It turned out to be “no contest” after Fox Valley Gemini suffered an interference mishap trying to avoid a breaking horse coming out of the last turn. At that time in the race, “Gemini” was on the move fifth, about eight lengths beind. He’zzz A Wise Sky went on to pace a 27 flat quarter so he may have very well held his chief rival off anyway.

We’ll never know for sure, so that takes us to tonight’s third encounter.

Friday’s Open was handicapped by groups (1-2) (3-5) (6-7) and (8-9) with Hez’zzz A Wise Sky getting the nine slot and Fox Valley Gemini the eight.

The first six posts will be manned by Allmyx’sliventexas (Todd Warren), On Duty (Jim Lackey), American Chrome (Alan Bender), My Buddy Ninkster (Travis Seekman), Fox Valley Ren (Kyle Husted) Castle Flight (Ridge Warren) and General Dolan (Tyler Shehan), in that order.

Castle Flight and He’zzz A Wise Sky are “locks” to be sprinting out and it’s likely some other inside horses will do the same to protect their post position. I anticipate more sooner than later He’zzz A Wise Sky will have command and cutting some quick fractions.

If Fox Valley Gemini is ducked, he’ll probably be last in the early going maybe some nine or ten lengths off the leader. . . not a good spot with his main rival on the front-end.

So, I expect Casey to leave with his star-studded pacer and hope to find a hole up close or maybe somewhere in the middle of the pack where “Gemini” might then have to take a lot of air to advance on the pacesetter.

Who will prevail this time around? Will it be Hez’zzz A Wise Sky, the 2020 Illinois Harness Horse of the Year or Fox Valley Gemini, the same titleholder in 2017, 2018 and 2019, or is there an up setter on the horizon?

You can bet that you know the answer.

“The Dygert’s” are Sunday’s Main Attractions

By Mike Paradise


Hawthorne is trotting out a longer than usual Sunday card tonight headed-up by the first round of Night of Champions sophomore diagonally gaited ICF three-year-olds and a good betting Open handicap trot.


The Erwin F. Dygert Memorial events come early, races two and three on the 13-event program, came up with 12 colts or geldings entered making necessary for the series’ first leg to be split into two $12,500 divisions with six horses each.


The trotter coming into the race with the best credentials is Dennis Garner’s Shady Maple Spirit (Ridge Warren) with over $36,000 banked as a freshman. Most of that amount came early in his two-year-old season with a victory in a division of the Cardinal and second place finishes in the first two legs of the Kadabra,


With a season start under his belt and a significant post change tonight, from the 10-hole to the pole position, Shady Maple Spirit looks like a major contender,


Salute The Hero (Casey Leonard) was a $19,000 yearling purchase by trainer Mike Brink and is listed as the 2-1 programmed choice. Sumbodygettisfool (Jamaal Denson), TE’s Game Changer (Travis Seekman), Emsroscopcoletrian (Cornelius Stewart) and I’mnotalocaldude (Todd Warren) complete the field.


The second Erwin Dygert division brings out the 2020 ICF Colt Trotter of the Year Fistfullofdollars (pp 1, Todd Warren) who put over $70,000 on his freshman card with the bulk of it coming with his victory in the $118,000 Kadabra final on the Night of Champions.


According to track’s morning line, favoritism should go to the Steve Searle trained Rndmnunpredictable who had a good tighter last week with tonight’s driver Casey Leonard. The Flacco Family Farms homebred won a pair of starts in his juvenile campaign but went off stride at the start of the Kadabra championship.


Those two will tested by Conway Cassy (Kyle Wilfong), Mystical Murry (Jamaica Patton), Loyz Say When (Mike Rogers) and Shady Maple Valor (Archie Buford) who won his Cardinal stake division as a two-year-old.


Flacco Family Farm’s Lousraptor (Juan Franco) looks to rally past another Open Trot field Sunday night. (Four Footed Fotos).

Solid Open Trot: The fourth race Open Trot follows, and it was handicapped by groups with Talk About Valor (Travis Seekman) allocated the pole position. Posts two through five were drawn with Cashit It (Kyle Husted) getting the two, to his left are Louscardamon (Cornadous Stewart), the Australian bred Needabacardi A (Casey Leonard), and Walter White (Ridge Warren). The six was assigned to Never Say Uncle (Kyle Wilfong).


Hawthorne’s last two Open trot winners, Lousraptor (Juan Franco) and Pine Dream (Todd Warren), ended up with the seven and eight posts, in that order.


Pine Dream’s three race winning streak was snapped a week ago by Lousraptor but it wasn’t for lack of effort. The often front-stepping Merv Chupp trainee went off stride going to gate as the 3-2 choice, fell behind about eight lengths to last, and still came on to be second best.


The Steve Searle trained Lousraptor came flying down the middle of the stretch to make it four victories in a row in 1:54 flat, a new mark for the five-year-old Flacco Family Farms home bred.


A Heartfelt Victory: Hammered down to 2-5 odds Hart’s Heart ($2.80) didn’t disappoint her many supporters in last night’s $12,500 first leg of the Plum Peachy stake series, posting a three-quarter length victory over a parked-out Scorecard Dancy (Juan Franco).


Hart’s Heart was one of four winning drives on the card for Kyle Wilfong who also guided the Donna Holt Rock It Out ($9.40) to her win in the $12,000 Open Pace for filly and mare pacers earlier Saturday night.


Hart’s Heart, trained by Mike Brink for Illinois owners and breeders Donna Crebs and Judy Conzo, was floated out and eventually took over the lead on backside after a modest 29.4 opening quarter and won in 1:54.4.


Meanwhile Scorecard Dandy, saddled with the nine-holt in an 11-horse field was parked-out every step of the in a very game effort for trainer Gregory Kain.


Princess Moose (Travis Seekman) raced well to be third.

Opportunity Arrives for Hart’s Heart

By Mike Paradise


The filly Hart’s Heart will get her opportunity to compete in a Night of Champions series and the Mike Brink trained pacer likely will be a heavy favorite to take advantage of it in Saturday’s opening round of the Plum Peachy stake series.


Hart’s Heart wasn’t nominated to last year’s Incredible Tillie stake series. She was eligible for the two-year-old the Springfield and Director’s Award championships (both contested at Hawthorne because of the Covid-19 situation) and the homebred romped in both state-bred stakes.



Tonight’s Plum Peachy series favorite Hart’s Heart is shown here winning an ICF stake last year at Hawthorne with driver Juan Franco. (Four Footed Photos)

Hart’s Heart, owned by Illinois Donna Crebs (Cantrall) and Judy Conzo (Lincoln), was tucked away in her Springfield stall when Bootsy Bombay took Hawthorne’s $80,000 Night of Champions freshmen showdown and went on to capture the 2020 ICF Filly of the Year honors.


Ironically, Hart’s Heart finished ahead of Bootsy Bombay by almost five lengths in the Springfield final and by over seven lengths in the Director’s Award event but had to settle for $35,223 in first season earning’s while her rival banked substantially more ($57,653) to earn the division’s top honor.


Nevertheless, in tonight’s Plum Peachy, the first major state-bred filly stake of the year, it’s Bootsy Bombay who won’t be going to the gate. Apparently, the filly is not ready for her sophomore debut, but Hart’s Heart is, and she’ll open up as the heavy even-money public’s choice.


Hart’s Heart drew the seven-slot in a bulky 11-horse field for driver Kyle Wilfong who was at her lines a week ago when the filly from far out of it to be second best in her prep for the Plum Peachy.


Keeping Score: Despite the nine-hole with a trailer, The Gregory Kain trainee Scorecard Dandy (Juan Franco) cannot be overlooked. The Sportsmaster home-bred was second, beaten less than a length in the 2020 Incredible Tillie final and won a leg of that juvenile event eight nights prior.


Scorecard Dandy does have a sophomore start to her credit, but she wasn’t much of a factor when the filly was ducked from the 10-hole last week and finished far back.


Connie On The Go (Jamacia Patton), stuck in the second tier tonight behind her stable-mate Dandy’s Duchess (Tyler Shehan) started off her career with five consecutive triumphs including the Violet and two legs of the “Tillie) before tailing off. She did make over $45,000 in her first campaign.


Gary Rath’s Princess Moose (pp 4, Travis Seekman) secured $43, 517 as a freshman. The consistent filly was second or third in every one of her ICF stake events.


Looking to pull off an upset in the Saturday headliner are Movie Sage (Kyle Husted), Ryans Secret (Ridge Warren), Pure Sin (Todd Warren), Clearly The Bomb (Casey Leonard), BB’s Choice (Cornarius Stewart) and Kandi’s Fortune (Jordan Fortune).


Good for Another? Also, on he Saturday program is the $12,000 filly and mare Open Pace where the four-year-old mare Maggie Rhee, trained by her driver Todd Warren) looks to hold off her third straight Hawthorne field.


Maggie Rhee has been handicapped by the Hawthorne Race Office with the outside eight post Nonetheless if she gets to the top again and has her way on the front like she did last week, another visit to the circle is likely.


The distaff Open did get tougher for “Maggie” tonight with Tempus Seelster (Travis Seekman) now in it. You might remember her from last year at Hawthorne when the Rob Rittof trained mare captured four Opens at the meet. She had six more Open triumphs at Pompano Park.


Now nine, Tempus Seelster shows no signs of slowing down. She annexed three more Open wins in Florida earlier this year, including a lifetime best 1:50.3 clocking.


Nicely Done: Despite leaving from the 10-hole, driver Kyle Wilfong carved out a winning trip for Bombay Bobby ($11.80) in last night’s opening round of the Robert F. Carey Jr Memorial stake.


The Dobbie minor trained ICF three-year-old, owned by Karta Santos of Springfield, Illinois finished a half-length ahead of the fast-closing Partyatmosasplace (Todd Warren) at the end of a 1:55.4 mile.


Ideal Big Guy took third in the first leg of the Night of Champion stake series.


Carey Series Begins Minus Two Stars

By Mike Paradise


Hawthorne’s Night of Champions is a long way off, four months to be exact, however the method to land into the profitable ICF championships begin this weekend.


First up is Friday’s first leg of the Robert F. Carey Jr. Memorial stake series for state bred sophomore pacing colts and geldings, tonight’s fifth race.


The 10 leading point earners after four legs of the Carey stake series earn a starting berth in the September 25th championship. A series leg victory is worth 50 points. Then it is 25 for a second finish, 12 for a third, 8 for a fourth and 5 for a fifth. A single point goes to a horse that starts in a series round.


While its often said it is’nt how a horse starts this series but rather how he finishes it when big prize is on the line, this is the time to gain some valuable series points, and rake-in some respectable purse money with two of the division’s big guns are silently on the sidelines,


The 2020 leading money-earning, state-bred juvenile pacers, ICF Two-Year-Old Colt Pacer of the Year Frontier Charley and Night of Champions winner Well Basically, evidently are not ready for their second debuts and were not entered for the first leg of the Carey.


That leaves the door wide open for one of tonight’s 10 starters to haul in the winner’s share of a $12,500 purse while zipping to the top of the Carey point standings.


Ideal Big Guy (Casey Leonard) shown here winning a leg of last season’s Incredible Finale series over the 2020 ICF Two-Year-Old Colt Pacer of the Year Frontier Charley, leaves from post eight in tonight’s first round of the Robert F. Carey Memorial stake series. Four Footed Fotos.

Ideal Big Guy (pp 8, Casey Leonard) and Partyatmosaplace (pp 5, Todd Warren, a pair of Terry Leonard trained three-year-old’s, figure to get good play.


Ideal Big Guy, a $19,000 yearling purchase, does boast a win as a freshman over Frontier Charley. It came in a leg of last year’s Incredible Finale series when the banked over $20,000 in his initial campaign for the Leonard stable.


Partyatmosasplace, a Watson Stable homebred, had a pair of seconds and thirds in in his eight juvenile starts, usually against the top horses in his division. The gelding won over $21,000 in 2020. Todd Warren will handle Partyatmosaplace for the first time in tonight’s Carey leg.


Despite landing the outside 10-slot, The Dossie Minor trained Bombay Bobby, also could be a major threat. The Major Bombay gelding prepped well for this race with a second-place finish last week’s and is another $20,000-plus earner as a freshman.


My price shot (20-1 in the morning line) for the gimmicks is BC’s Tufftiger (pp 4). His trainer Roshun Trigg is turning over the lines to fellow Mississippian Jamaal Denson, a 24-year-old “P” driver.


BC’s Tuffinger didn’t race particular well earlier this month prepping for this start, but he showed promise last year competing mostly at Springfield where the horse posted 7 wins and three seconds in an even dozen starts, often trading victories with Bombay Bobby.


Looking for their maiden victory in tonight’s Carey are Prince Of Style (pp 1, Cliff Bell), Sagebrush Skip (pp 2, Terry Skinner) and Ashlee’s Fine Guy (pp 2, Kyle Husted), a $38,000 buy as a yearling, along with Sportsmadness (pp 6, Jordon Patton) and Diamond Diesel (pp 7, Juan Franco). Ryans Loan Shark (pp 9, Travis Seekman), victorious three times as a two-year-old, completes the ICF field.

Horsemen’s Meeting this Friday

The IHHA has scheduled a general horsemen’s meeting for Friday (May 21) at 5pm in the Hawthorne track kitchen. Directors from the IHHA as well as a Hawthorne representative will be on hand. There are currently no new specific developments to report on but it will give everyone the opportunity to ask questions.