That’s Why They Race

By Mike Paradise


There are no certainties in horse racing. That’s been proven time and time again.


No matter how good a horse looks in a particular race there’s always the possibility of an upset and a major one occurred a week ago in the meet’s $13,500 Open Trot.


J P Racing’s Simply Swan carried a six-winning streak into the headliner and was much the best in his first two Hawthorne starts, sent off at 40 cents and 30 cents to the dollar in those outings.



Talk About Valor (Travis Seekman) was the surprise 15-1 winner in last week’s Open trot. The Gerald Hansen trained gelding looks for a repeat victory in tonight’s $13,500 feature. (Fore Footed Fotos).

However, it was the 2021 ICF Aged Trotter of the Year Talk Abou Valort who prevailed 1t 15-1 odds thanks to a patient journey by his driver Travis Seekman and a not-so-favorable trip by the overwhelming public’s choice Simply Swan.


Not surprisingly, as he often does with the Yankee Valor gelding,  Travis Seekman sought and got a spot up close from the get-go giving the star of the Gerald Hansen stable a shot pulling off a surprise victory.


While Yankee Valor was enjoying a two-hole trip, Simply Swan was taken back for the first time in a Hawthorne race and would have to get the job done racing first over. The Swan For All gelding was fourth at the half, reached in a slow time of 59 flat.


While we anticipated the 1 to 5 favorite to power past. . .  it never came about.


Simply Swan (Joey Putnam) saw his six-race winning streak snapped a week ago. The 1-5 beaten choice looks to avenge that loss tonight in race four. (Four Footed Fotos)

Meanwhile Talk About Valor looked hopelessly locked-in as the field bunch-up in the lane as Seekman kept searching for an opening with his trotter. It eventually came and Talk About Valor made the most of it, drawing away from his six foes to win in 1:57.2.


Now seven, Talk About Valor has often shown he can hold his own with Hawthorne trotters for owner Shelly Steele when he’s healthy. Staying hale and hearty has been the problem. The horse has only averaged about10 starts a year.


You might remember that the full brother of Hansen’s former Illinois champion Picky Picky Valor was scratched out of the Plasac final on the 2020 Night of Champions because of health issues.


Tonight’s fourth race trot feature were drawn by groups with Reign and Shine (Casey Leonard) and Lousraptor (Juan Franco) getting the one and two posts, in that order.


Post three through seven were drawn with Simply Swan (Joey Putnam) assigned the outside eight-hole. Talk About Valor did well, landing the four with Louscardamon (Kyle Husted) inside of him and Annas Lucky Star (Kyle Wilfong), Magic Night (Todd Warren) and Rockyroad Aldo (Mike Oosting) to his right.


My guess tonight is that we’ll see a more aggressive drive from Simply Swan’s 24-year-old trainer and driver. That’s what worked with the talented trotter when he rattled off those six consecutive Open triumphs earlier in the winter.


A Charming Victory: Jesse Delong’s Seventimesacharm was a comfortable front-end winner in her Hawthorne debut, taking the $13,700 Open filly and mare pace in 1:53.1 by two lengths.


Sent off as the 3-5 public’s choice. Driver and trainer John Delong hustled the five-year-old mare away from the gate from the six-post, as did Todd Warren with Rollin Coal from the two.


The Indiana bred mare strolled to a 58 first half with Rollin Coal on her back and when Seventimsacharm uncorked a 26.4 last panel, Rollin Coal had to settle for second best.

More Competitive Distaff Opens Ahead?

By Mike Paradise


We’re only into our fourth week of filly and mare Opens at the Hawthorne meet so it’s probably too early for any comparisons between this season’s top distaffers on the grounds and last year’s but it’s not likely we’ll have the same Open dominance that we had in 2021.


To refresh your memory a good portion of the money available last year in the local filly and mare Opens was hauled in by one horse: Magee Rhee from the Todd Warren Stable


The then four-year-old mare owned by the Illinois trio of the Tim Wilson Racing Stable, Norman Neff and Mark Eichberger produced an astonishing record of ten starts at Hawthorne with seven first place Open finishes, including her last five on the local scene, to go along with three seconds, before she her connections were given the “Not Welcome” sign.


By that time Magee Rhee put over $45,000 on her card at Hawthorne and didn’t leave much for the other filly and mare combatants.


So far this early in the year Magee Rhee hasn’t been out yet (she’s qualifying tonight before the regular card) so tonight’s winner’s share of the $13,700 Open purse and the many more that will follow are all “up for grabs.”



DC Batgirl (Mike Oosting) and Vel Donna (Joey Putnam), the one-two finishers in last week’s filly and mare Open Pace, return for Saturday’s $13,700 headliner, the eighth and final race on the card. (Four Footed Fotos)

After the first three top distaff overnight events two horses—DC’s Bat and Vel Donna, both trained by Brittany Dillion, have come away with wins with the former getting her second a week ago in “last to first” fashion and that’s no easy task.


DC’s Batgirl was seventh and last at the half last week before putting on a stunning stretch drive and post a 1:55.2 victory.


What helped DC Batgirl were slow fractions. The field only got down to the first half in 58 seconds and despite being sixth the winner was less than seven lengths off the pace.


With a bunched-up field, it came down to a quarter of a mile dash to see which horse would be making a stop in the winner’s circle and DC Batgirl, a daughter of Art Major, had more in the tank than her foes much to the delight of her owners Howard Taylor of Philadelphia and Brittany Dillion of Greensville, Michigan.


Charming Invader: Tonight, the program favorite is the first time Hawthorne starter Seventimesacharm and former Chicago circuit driver John De Long is coming in to drive the five-year-old Indiana bred mare with over $245,000 on her card.


The Jesse De Long homebred did very well in her freshman season in Indiana sire stakes and rose to the Open ranks at Hoosier as a three-year-old for her Wisconsin connections. Seventimesacharm won her first two starts when shipped to Ohio with John DeLong before grabbing the fourth-place check in a $30,000 Miami Valley Open.


The mare fits well tonight and gets my vote it what appears to be a very competitive feature in the Hawthorne finale.


The first two posts belong to a couple of mares coming of triumphs at a lower level—Chicago Sky (Kyle Husted) and Rollin Coal (Todd Warren).


No. 3 U’ll Learn (Travis Seekman) couldn’t shake loose last week and she does own a Hawthorne Open victory last season for trainer Hector Herrera.


My Uptowne Girl gets a driver change to Casey Leonard after last week’s sub-par performance. The Gerald Hansen trainee mare did win her previous two outings in condition events with the help of up-close position.


The Wilfong’s It’s Time For Fun (pp 5) rounds out the talented field. The seven-ear-old homebred the victim of a first-over journey last week following a huge winning close in an Ohio conditioned event.


Think Perry’s Smiling? Friday night’s Open Pace couldn’t have gone any better for veteran Illinois trainer Perry Smith. The Crete, Illinois horseman who is closing in on 1,800 training victories sent out a pair of pacers in the $13,700 feature and they finished one-two.


The 3-2 second choice Francis Underwood rallied from sixth and last for his first local win with Mike Oosting in the bike. The time of 1:54.2 came on a very cold (12 degrees) night of racing.


Perry’s other horse, Gotham Hanover (Travis Seekman), made a late move to edge the even-money favorite (Fox Valley Gemini (Casey Leonard) for second. The latter cut the fractions of 28.3, 58 and 1:26 flat.

On the Comeback Trail

By Mike Paradise

It’s gratifying back covering Illinois harness racing for this my 49th consecutive season. Hopefully the health issues that were responsible for my belated start are behind me.


Catching Up: I wonder how many trainers who entered a horse in tonight’s Open Pace issued a big sigh of relief when the field for the $13,700 Friday headliner was posted.


Not listed was the rampaging Illinois champion He’zzz A Wise Sky. The talented John Filomeno trained five-year-old is taking the night off, making the second race feature a wide-open affair.


Quite frankly the meet’s first three Open’s were basically a race for second place money during in the month of January He’zzz A Wize Sky hardly broke out in a sweat disposing of his Hawthorne opposition.


Driver Kyle Wilfong has had the back-to-back Illinois Harness Horse of the year well in hand at the end of the first three local Opens enabling a quick $23,000-plus on the Yankee Skyscraper gelding’s season card for owners and breeders Triple ZZZ Stable of Beecher, Illinois.


He’zzz A Wise Sky’s absence tonight shouldn’t come as a surprise to the horse’s followers. A brief rest makes sense after three straight weeks of competition. It’s a long racing season and there’s the Illinois aged pace championship on the line in mid-September.


“They didn’t enter the horse on their own,” said Hawthorne’s Racing Secretary Robin Schadt. “I didn’t ask them to take the week off with the horse.”


Robin also acknowledges that the Illinois champion won’t be with us all season. Our $13,500 Open purse pales in comparison to Hoosier Park’s $20,000-plus Open pots, so expect He’zzz A Wise Sky to spend most of the summer in Indiana again.



Last year’s Robert F. Carey Memorial Night of Champions winner Ideal Big Guy (Casey Leonard) goes postward tonight in race six. (Four Footed Fotos)

A disagreement: With He’zzz A Wise Sky tonight’s munching on hay at his home in Beecher, who will the betting public’s send off as the tonight’s Open favorite.


The sometimes-ridiculed USTA computer generated morning line came up with the Illinois ICF veteran Fox Valley Ren, a winner a week ago for trainer Steve Searle but at a lower conditioned pace level. He’ll open at 5-2 with driver Todd Warren.


I believe it’s more likely the computer’s 3-1 second choice Francis Underwood will get the bulk of the public’s wagering money, The five-year-old Perry Smith trained and owned five-year-old was second best to He’zzz A Wise Sky in 2 of the first 3 Opens and was a late-flying third (26.2) in the other for driver Mike Oosting,


Perry also sends out Gotham Hanover (pp 1, Travis Seekman), a sub 1:50 pacer last year at Hoosier, and the six-year-old Yankee Cruiser gelding is also programed at 3-1.


Former multiple ICF Horse of the Year Fox Valley Gemini deserves your deliberation tonight. The now seven-year-old star of the Terry Leonard stable was a non-factor in last week’s open when driver Casey Leonard ducked the pacer with speedball He’zzz A Wise Sky a “lock” to be hustled out. Which he was.


The Britany Dillion Stable’s The Thunder Rolls (Joey Putnam) returns to the races tonight and drew nicely with the two-slot. The veteran gelding breezed last weekend in his 1:55.4 qualifier.


Trainer Merv Chupp entered When You Dance (pp 6, Kyle Wilfong) after a needed start. The gelding had been spending the winter in Florida in Pompano Park Opens. He took his mark of 1:50.2 at Hawthorne two years ago.


   More in Store: Tonight’s co-feature is a $11,200 Open strictly for four-year-old pacers. You’ll have to wait for the 10th and final race on the card to watch it. The race was drawn by groups.


Post one through four belong to Shock Wave (Juan Franco), Round Here Buzz (Casey Leonard), Rollinwithdaponyzzz (Kyle Wilfong) and Advance Man (Mike Oosting). The five through one slots will be manned by Imarealrocknbuggati (Travis Seekman), Mastery (Wyatt Avenatti), He’s Gonna Getya (Kyle Husted), Velocity Gator (Joey Putnam), and Hello Sweetie Boy (Todd Warren).

Mike Paradise On The Mend

For everyone asking, “where’s Mike Paradise?” Mike has had some health issues recently but is on the road to recovery. We are hopeful that he’ll be returning with his stories and his selections for our summer season. Thanks to all who have reached out to ask about him.

Covid Boosters and Vaccinations Available at Hawthorne

The Illinois Dept. of Public Health will be on the Hawthorne backstretch in the RICF trailer on Friday January 21, from 8:00 am to 1:00 pm, to provide Covid boosters and vaccinations for anyone who is interested. Vaccinations will be provided to adults and children ages 5 and older. Please contact the medical assistant, Wanda Maldonado, for more information or to sign up for this event. Clinic number: 708-652-3075