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Talk About Easy Open Wins

Talk About Valor (Travis Seekman) chalked up his tenth victory of the year in Sunday night’s Open Trot at Hawthorne. (Four Footed Fotos)

By Mike Paradise


Illinois bred veteran trotter Talk About Valor continued his season dominance at Hawthorne while the Australian bred newcomer Im Sir Blake A, showed his Aussie back class in his local debut with a stress-free victory.


Talk About Valor, the 9-5 second choice in the wagering, is in the midst of another banner year for trainer Gerald Hanson and showed it again last night, digging in when it counted to gain a rather comfortable two-length front-end victory over the 2 to 5 favorite Jack Vernon (Todd Warren) in the $12,300 Open Trot.


Flawlessly rated by driver Travis Seekman, Talk About Valor ($5.80) shot out from the outside five slot at the start, as did Jack Vernon (Todd Warren) from the four. The 2021 ICF Aged Male Trotter of the Year made the front in the first turn as Warren was content to take the two-hole trip behind the Yankee Valor gelding.


Talk About Valor coasted to a 58 flat half with the public’s choice on his back. After reaching the three-quarters in 1:27.1, Jack Vernon came out for the stretch drive and tried to overtake the leader. However, Talk About Valor had plenty left and had no trouble putting away the bid by last night’s chief rival. Louzotic was a non-threatening third.


The victory was Talk About Valor’s 10th in 16 starts for Monee, Illinois owner Shelly Steele and the seven-year-old gelding’s 26th in 72 career starts.



Im Sir Blake A (Atlee Bender) was much the best in Sunday night’s $12,300 Open Pace. (Four Footed Fotos)

On Cruise Control: Im Sir Blake A showed why he was one of the elite horses in Australia before coming to the United States a couple of years ago, blowing away a Hawthorne Open Pace field with Atlee Bender along for the ride.


The betting public had it right when they bet down the seven-year-old Aussie gelding to 2 to 5 odds. Saddled with the outside seven-post, Im Sir Blake ($2.80) had to work to grab command away from Fox Valley Gemini (Casey Leonard), going three-wide in the first turn to do it.


After a soft 28.1 fist panel, Im Sir Blake sped to a 27.1 second quarter (55.1 half). A 28 third quarter set things up for the horse’s first his get-go on Hawthorne’s long stretch, and the winner of over $300,00 lifetime, loved it, breezing in 1:50.1 by four and one-half lengths under a firm hold.


Fox Valley Gemini was second best while Play Me Rock (Travis Seekman) came on for third.


Trained by the Erv Miller Midwest Division, Im Sir Blake was brought to this country by Shorewood, Illinois owner Dou Overhiser and has won races at Yonkers, the Meadowlands, Pocono, Saratoga, Tioga Downs, and Philadelphia over a two-year span in the U.S.A.


Monday Night Delight: It’s a very rare Monday card tonight at Hawthorne with the $12,300 Open Pace for fillies and mares as its headliner. Seven distaffers will head to the starting gate in race three with the first five finishers back from the August 20th Open, headed by its winner Late Night Date A.


As expected, the eight-year-old Australian bred from the Midwest division of the Erv Miller Stable was assigned the outside post by the Hawthorne Racing Office. She not only was a 1:52.3 winner last time out with Atlee Bender in the bike, but she did it taking a lot of air in her first-over mile.


With her win in the Hawthorne Open a week earlier on her card, she’ll be looking for her third consecutive victory on the local scene. The Blissful Hall mare does face a solid field of mares, so she has her work cut out tonight from the outside slot.


From the rail out its Marys Pretty Girl (Brandon Bates), Primo Extremo (Todd Warren), the tornado surviving mare Rock It Out (Casey Leonard), Tiaogonedancen (Travis Seekma), Scorecard Dandy (Kyle Wilfong), and the New Zealand bred mare Eliza Dushku N (Kyle Husted), second best to Late Night Date nine days ago.


A win Monday night would push Late Night Date’s season earnings over the $50,000 mark for Illinois owners Douglas Overhiser (Shorewood), Dandy Farms Racing (Glenview) and Ft Racing Stable   (Glenview).


Enjoyable Ending: We went one-for-one on Mike’s Price Shots Sunday night when Farewell Tour (Kyle Wilfong) won at a nice mutuel of $16.00 in the 12th and last race on the card

Records Fall on Du Quoin’s Championship Day

By Mike Paradise


With a hot summer day (86 degrees) with a high humidity (89%), there was plenty of horses, horsemen and racing fans perspiring at Saturday’s Du Quoin State Fair meet and that’s before they had to sweat out several close finishes.


When the dust finally settled after the 13-race Championship Day program, ten Du Quoin champion state bred pacers or trotters were crowned with some surprising first place finishers among them.


Under sunny skies on a quick racing surface the talented filly the Curt Grummel trained filly Funky Wiggle became the fastest ICF three-year-old trotter of all time while some stake records and state bred season marks also went by the wayside.


Unlike most racing cards where we have to wait several races to get to the crème de la crème events on a card, a good portion of the more anticipating slugfests came early on Championship Day at Du Quoin.


Early Surprise: The top ICF freshman male pacers—at least at this time of the racing season—opened the Du Quoin State Fair racing program with a $25,000 division of the Director’s Cup. A furious battle was expected, and the seven-horse juvenile field didn’t disappoint us.


Right from the get-go there was a major upset as Ghost Shark ($13.80), given a ground-saving trip by driver Travis Seekman, picked a sweet spot to notch his maiden victory, a head decision in the first division of the Director’s Cup over the pace-setting Fox Valley Langley (Kyle Wilfong) in a snappy time of 1:51.3, the fastest mile thus far this season for a state-bred two-year-old pacer.


Fox Valley Cayman (Casey Leonard) was third best as the previous unbeaten and favorite Fox Valley Jasper (Atlee Bender) settled for fourth after being impeded coming into the stretch by the breaking two-hole horse Fox Valley Landen (Kyle Husted), who also bothered the winner.


Trained by Tim Roach for owners Kyle Lamer (Warren, Michigan) and Brian Hochman (Buffalo Grove, Illinois), Ghost Shark came into the race winless in his first six starts although he was a fast-closing third (26.3) at Springfield.


Funky Wiggle (Kyle Wilfong), showed here winning as a two-year-old at Du Quoin for trainer Curt Grummel, became the fastest Illinois bred three-year-old trotter of all time Saturday at the southern Illinois State Fair with a 1:51.1 mile. (Four Footed Fotos)

Nicely Driven: The second division of the Director’s Cup also saw a double-digit winner as Fox Valley Steeler ($15.80), effectively handled by Casey Leonard, showed his heels to seven foes with a 1:53.1 mile.


Fox Valley Steeler sped out from the rail, did an early give-up-go with longshot Unhynged Speed (Wyatt Avenatti), the eventual third-place finisher, and was never serious challenged the rest of the way for trainer Tom Simmons and the Somewheresomestars offspring owners Ann Schneider (Pittsburg), James Walden (Lincoln) Carl Lacy, Springfield, and Benita Simmons (Springfield).


Mister Sleaze (Atlee Bender) closed well to be second to the winner who cut fractions of 27.3, 56.1, and 1:24.1.


Getting Even: The spotlight was on the freshman pacing fillies in the $50,000 Lt. Governor’s Cup and My Daddy’s Revenge didn’t sadden in many supporters as the 9-5 favorite and did it with a new lifetime mark of 1:53 flat for Springfield based trainer Mike Brink.


Casey Leonard was back in the winner’s circle after changing tactics with the Revenged Shark filly. After coming from out of it to be the bridesmaid at Springfield, Casey took My Daddys Revenge ($4.60) out from the five post in the bulky 11-horse field. The winner worked hard to get command after a 28.2 first quarter but it paid off, getting to the half in a modest 57.3.


Springfield champion Fox Valley Kia (Cordarius Stewart) had to come from far behind and used a three-wide move to be second best. The Magical Woman (Atlee Bender) was third.


Violet champion My Daddys Revenge (Casey Leonard) took Saturday’s $50,000 Lt. Governor’s Cup freshman filly pace for the Mike Brink Stable. (Four Footed Fotos)

The win was My Daddys Revenge’s fifth in eight career starts for co-owners Mike Brink and Lori Searle, both of Springfield, Illinois.


Family Triumph: A pair of $25,000 First Lady Cup divisions for first season ICF trotting fillies were next and it was Fox Valley Candor ($6.20) coming on strong down the lane to take the first split with part-owner Kyle Husted in the bike.


Trained by Kyle’s wife Amy, the Can’t Afford It filly won for the second time in seven tries for the Altamont, Illinois driver and his Illinois co-proprietors John Schwarz Jr. (Woodale), Viva Las Vegas Racing (Plainfield) and Chris Norder (Troy)


Radiant Diamond (Kyle Wilfong) took second over the 8-5 favorite Dawn Of Creation (Casey Leonard).


Quite a Race: The second First Lady’s Cup split saw a thrilling stretch-duel between Springfield champion Fox Valley Shania (Atlee Bender) and six-time season winner Marvelous Mystery (Kyle Wilfong) with “Shania” ($4.80) getting her head in front before the finish wire in a new stakes record time of 1:55.1.


The winning Erv Miller Midwest division winner stalked her front-stepping Marvelous Mystery through the 58.1 first half mile, swung out in the last turn and wore down her rival in the late going for Bowie Racing Stable (Shorewood), Engle Stable of Northbrook, Illinois and Mystical Marker Farms of Portage, Indiana.


Lou Sangreal (Travis Seekman), beaten 15-plus lengths, was a far back hird.


Both First Lady Cup division winners were sired by Fox Valley Standardbred’s Can’t Afford It, his first crop for the Sherman, Illinois breeders. Fox Valley Shania’s dam Fox Valley Diva won this same stake several years ago for trainer Erv Miller.


Surprise, Surprise? When the betting favorites, Cardinal champ Niko Man and Illinois State Fair winner Groomster) both went off stride before the starting gate opened in the $30,000 Governor’s Cup trot showdown there was no doubt an upset winner was on the horizon.


The question was who?


It turned out to be the Kevin Miller trained 10-1 longshot Aint No Mojo (Atlee Bender) who put on a late burst in the stretch to win in 1:58.1.


Judge Me Not (Jamaica Patton) at 28-1 was the runner-up while the pacesetting 8-1 longshot Tankmetodennyland (Jared Finn) held on for third. At 55-1 Whatta Year (Charles Arthur) was fourth.


Aint No Mojo was one for nine coming into the ICF two-year-old male trotting championship, a 2:03 clocking early on at Springfield, but on this day, he was the best for the Illinois contingent of Keith and Kevin Miller (Arthur, IL), Glenn Otto (Arthur, IL) and Bert Hochsprung (Elburn).


Easy Does It: Lousdobb (Casey Leonard) followed his dominant victory at the Illinois State Fair with another rather easy two-length victory in the $30,000 Pronto Don for ICF sophomore male trotters. The winning time of 1:54.3 tied the stakes record set 15 years ago.


The Steve Searle trained 3-5 betting favorite made his way to the front-end, got a second quarter 29.3 breather, and cruised to season win No. 6 in 8 in outings. The son of Lous Legacy is co-owned by his breeder Flacco Family Farms (Alexis, IL), and Al-Wright Racing (Morton, IL).


Just as he was in the Springfield final, Fox Valley Cairo (Kyle Wilfong) was second while Romantic Warrior (Gary Rath) finished third.


Lousdobb ($3.20) increased his career bankroll to $145,491 with his tenth win in 18 two season trips to the starting gate.


Trainer Merv Chupp’s Dandy’s MNM (inside, Kyle Wilfong) followed his Du Quoin freshman championship with another in Saturday’s $30,000 Time Dancer three-year-old filly pace. (Four Footed Fotos)

As Good as Advertised: The $30,000 Dudley Hanover for three-year-old male pacers figured to be another ding-dong battle between stake championships Get E Up (Kyle Husted) and Fox Valley Ozzy (Casey Leonard) and it was just that.


As we expected, the better trip went to the winning horse and that was Fox Valley Ozzy with the assistance of another heads-up drive by Casey Leonard.


When the 8-1 longshot Fox Valley Crete (Kyle Wilfong) sprinted out to a quick lead, taking the field to a 27 flat first quarter and a 55.2 first half, Get E Up and Fox Valley Ozzy settled into third and fourth, in that order.


Which horse would be pulled first?


The answer was Get E Up on the backside with “Ozzy” right on his tail. Fox Valley Crete kept Get E Up from clearing enabling “Ozzy” to get live cover. In the lane it was the Gary Rath trainee pulling away. Kingofmyheart made a late bid to nose out Get E Up for second place.


The Pronto Don victory gave Fox Valley Ozzy a sweep of the two State Fair championships for Marengo, Illinois owners Steve Mc Mackin and David Lee Samuleson and sent their horse’s lifetime earnings over the $200,00 plateau. The 1:50.3 mile knocked two full seconds off Fox Valley’s Ozzy’s previous fastest time.


She’s Special: A tip of the hat goes out to the brilliant trotting filly Funky Wiggle and her trainer Curt Grummel. The daughter of Lou’s Legacy became the fastest ICF three-year-old trotter of all-time and the second fastest state-bred trotter ever with a powerhouse 1:51.4 clocking in the $30,000 Windy Skeeter championship.


The nine-plus length victory was just one-fifth of a second off Kadabra’s all-time ICF trotting record.


Skillfully driven by Kyle Wilfong, Funky Wiggle rattled off fractions of 27.2, 55.2, and 1:23.2 before putting plenty of daylight between her and runner up Ironclad Creation (Atlee Bender),


Owned and bred by Dr. Patrick Graham of Lockridge, Funky Wiggle Iowa is now 7-for-9 in her second season and has a gaudy record of 15 wins in 21 career starts.


The Hard Way: Despite taking plenty of air the Merv Chupp trained three-year-old filly Dandy’s DMN gave driver Kyle Wilfong another visit with the track photographer when she captured the $30,000 Time Dancer for second season state-bred pacing fillies.



Alice and Tom D. Tetrick’s Sadies Art (Casey Leonard), followed last year’s aged male pacing championship at Du Quoin (shown here), with a repeat winning performance Saturday afternoon. (Four Footed Fotos)

Springfield champ Rollnrozz (Archie Buford) shot away from the outside seven slot and was in command to a rapid :26.4 initial panel before slowing things down. Wilfong took Dandy’s MNM out of fourth before the half and raced parked outside of the leader through the last half, getting past in the final eighth of the mile by one length in a time of 1:53.3.


Pattycake Mooss (Casey Leonard), stuck inside until the late going, found racing room to be second while Rollinroz held on for third.


Dandy’s MNM, owned by A Piece Of The Action Stable of Culver City, California, had been campaigning this season in Kentucky but did win the two-year-old filly stake championship at Du Quoin as a freshman.


Take a Bow: The aged pacing mare crown went to Fox Valley Exploit in 1:52.1, driver Kyle Husted’s fifth winner in Du Quoin’s two-day meet. Sadies Art (Casey Leonard), from the Clark Fairley stable, successfully defended his Du Quoin aged male pacing title for Geff, Illinois owners Mary Alice and Tom D. Tetrick.


Kyle Wilfong made it a sweep of this year’s State Fair driving titles with seven first place finishes. Kyle Husted and Casey Leonard each had five. No trainer had more than two winners at the abbreviated meeting. Fox Valley Standardbreds of Sherman, Illinois had five of its farm’s bred horses win on Saturday afternoon.


Two Opens Tonight: Sunday evening’s 12-race program at Hawthorne has two attractive Opens. One for pacers and the other for trotters.


The $12,300 sixth race pace welcomes Fox Valley Gemini (Casey Leonard) back to the local scene. The pride of the Terry Leonard stable cruised to his Illinois State Fair championship for ICF horses four and up two weeks ago. In fact, the three-time Illinois Harness Horse of the Year’s last three victories have come at Springfield.


“Gemini” landed the six-slot in the seven-horse field with the Aussie invader I’m Sir Blake A (Atlee Bender) allocated the outside seven by the Race Office, and deservingly so.


I’m Sir Blake is a much traveled seven-year-old gelding who boasts a 1:49.1 winning mile at Poco Downs earlier this season and comes off a fourth-place finish, beaten less than two lengths in the $40,000 Hastings Memorial Invite at Hoosier Park where he edged-out He’zzz A Wise Sky with a 26.3 last quarter to hit the tote board.


Dragonology, Warrawee, Play Me Rock, Primo Giovanni and Rock N Republic provide Sunday’s competition.


The third race five-horse field Open Trot is headed by the nine-year-old veteran Jack Vernon (pp 4, Todd Warren) and the 2021 Illinois Aged Male Trotter of the Year Talk About Valor (pp 5, Travis Seekman). Louzotic, Vincenti and Swan Of Dreams complete the field.

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Du Quoin Championships on the Line

By Mike Paradise


It’s Championship Day at the Du Quoin State Fair nestled in the southern tip of Illinois. Rich in tradition and boasting a fast one-mile racing strip on its fairgrounds, ten ICF stake showdowns will be decided this afternoon.


You won’t have to wait long to watch and bet on one of the most anticipated state-bred championships. The first race is the $25,000 initial Director’s Cup division for two-year-old colt and gelding pacers and the cream of the male freshman crop all drew into its grouping.


The second portion of the stake will be the other part of today’s Daily Double.

The First Lady Cup for Illinois bred juvenile trotting fillies and will go into two $25,000 groups after 13 “young ladies” were entered, necessitating a split of the stake, races three and four. Again, the two top leaders in the division, Springfield champ Fox Valley Shania (Atlee Bender) and Fox Valley Flan queen Marvelous Mystery (Kyle Wilfong), landed in the same set.


Here’s how I see today’s 10 championships.



A very well talented and well-matched field. The better trip could decide its winner. Fox Valley Jasper, unbeaten in six starts, has a target on his tail. They’ve taken all kinds of shots at him, but he still hasn’t lost. He does move further outside while beaten Springfield favorite Fox Valley Langley moves in four notches. Illini Jetset has dropped two photos and maybe a well-timed move may see things go his way this time. The inside horses all are capable at a likely fair price if things go their way.

Mike’s Pick: Fox Valley Langley



It’s a wide-open affair. The Erv Miller trainees Fox Valley Patriot and Mister Sleaze were used hard early at Springfield and were on empty in the lane. I expect better from them. Fox Valley Steeler has inside speed to be in the thick of it. Fox Valley McKee has prevailed with Kyle Wilfong, who drives tonight. Kage Daniel made a break in his last start and still was a competitive third. His post helps his price.

Mike’s Pick: Fox Valley Patriot


Fox Valley Kia (Cordarius Stewart) looks to follow up her Illinois State Fair championship today with a victory at Du Quoin in the $50,000 Lt. Governor’s Cup for state-bred freshman pacing fillies. (Four Footed Fotos)


Fox Valley Kia put on a furious rally at Springfield and won her fifth in a row. She’s shown she’s proficient on or off the pace. Rona Mae had a tough trip and only lost by just one length. My Daddys Revenge had the best close (27 flat) at the Illinois State Fair but had too much ground to try and make-up. She drew better tonight. The Magical Woman may need to be up closer to pull off a victory. With 11 starters, a heady drive will be needed to win it.

Mike’s Pick: My Daddys Revenge



The softer of this stake’s two divisions. The outside fillies appear to have the best chance of winning this championship. Fox Valley Candor went off stride at the start at Springfield and made up a lot of ground to get the third-place check. Dawn Of Creation simply didn’t have it at Springfield. She won Hawthorne’s Fox Valley Flan earlier and could shoot out and win this stake as well. Radiant Diamond looks like she’s starting to out it together, although this is a tougher test to pass tonight.

Mike’s Pick: Fox Valley Candor



It’s a rematch between Springfield champ Fox Valley Shania (Atlee Bender) and beaten favorite Marvelous Mystery (Kyle Wilfong) who saw her unbeaten streak snapped at eight by the Erv Miller trainee filly, and Fox Valley Shania did it rather decisively by more than two lengths. “Shania” has the pole-position again and that should have her in position to repeat. Marvelous Mystery has the five post this time where Wilfong could carve up a better journey for the filly. The nine-hole in a 10-horse field at Springfield really hurt this Lou’s Legacy offspring A flat mile might see Fox Valley Lisbon get into the gimmicks.

Mike’s Pick: Marvelous Mystery



We’ve been treated to some exciting duels between The Kadaba and Springfield champ Goomster (Kyle Wilfong) and Cardinal titleholder Niko Man (Kyle Husted) and we can expect another ding-dong battle today. Both horses drew well. With the 3 and 4 posts. Goomster has shown he can race first up and still come out on top. Nino Man drew better today and might make the top earlier, so he’ll be very tough. Tankmetodennyland has proven he can race with anyone in his division and getting the pole position is a big plus for the youngster. Aint No Mojo is rarely out of the gimmicks.

Mike’s Pick: Niko Man



Lousdobb (Casey Leonard) and Fox Valley Cairo (Kyle Wilfong) have traded state-bred stake victories all season and they figure to battle it out again. The Steve Searle stable’s Lousdobb is back in the grove and won both Springfield races in convincing manners, plus he drew the two-hole today and could go right to the front again. Fox Valley Cairo from the barn of trainer Mike Brink got his desired trip from Kyle Wilfong but was second best both times No big surprise, however, if he avenges that defeat. Romantic Warrior and Good Boy look to be the best of the rest.

Mike’s Pick: Lousdobb


Springfield champ Fox Valley Ozzy (Casey Leonard) looks for a repeat winning performance ion today’s $30,000 Dudley Hanover 3-year-old ICF colt and gelding stake. (Four Footed Fotos)


It’s been two racing seasons of close finishes between stakes champions Fox Valley Ozzy and Get E Up and we’ll no doubt watch another spirited battle between these two talented Illinois breds. Fox Valley Ozzy shed his summer-long runner-up role against Get E Up at Springfield with the help of two modest middle quarters given to him by driver Casey Leonard. Get E Up was first over again and couldn’t reel in his main foe. Can he tonight or will “Ozzy” seek and get the front again and hang on? Kingofmyheart is always close but hasn’t beaten his two top rivals yet this year. Either has Fox Valley Crete who is rarely far off. Josie Rocksmyword did win the Cardinal earlier, but his recent form has been a bit off.

Mike’s Pick: Fox Valley Ozzy



Anything is possible but picking against Funky Wiggle may be futile after watching her go off stride at Springfield, fall about 15 lengths behind, but still have the courage to dig in and overtake her rivals for her fifth straight triumph.
The gifted Curt Grummel filly could break again and maybe this time not be a factor like she was in the Violet, however I’m not betting on that happening. Ironclad Creation has been Funky Wiggle’s bridesmaid on a few occasions and could be again, Lous Xanadu comes off a big try at Springfield and the Violet champ is a consideration.

Mike’s Pick: Funky Wiggle



This stake took on a different look when Plum Peachy champion Apple Valley didn’t make the trip to Du Quoin. Rollnroz beat Apple Valley and five other state-bred rivals at Springfield on the front-end and we may find her there again. Violet champ Pattycake Mooss was never in contention at the Illinois State Fair, but she did come home in 26.3. Dandy’s MNM has spent much of the year in Kentucky stakes where she’s had some tough trips recently. The Merv Chupp trainee was a close second in the Violet in her only Illinois start this season. Last year she won Du Quoin’s freshman filly stake, so we know she likes this dirt oval. Stardust Gram has had some very nice efforts since joining the Amy Husted barn.

Mike’s Pick: Dandy’s MNM