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.