By Mike Paradise
Sagebrush Shocker and Fox Valley Skywalk came through with victories last night in their respective $25,000 Late Closer Finals for 3-year-old ICF pacers but there were some nervous moments for their supporters in both races.
Driver Brandon Bates gave Sagebrush Shocker ($4.80) what turned out to be a winning pocket trip but for most of the stretch drive it appeared the Kim Roth trained gelding wouldn’t find racing room behind the pace-setting Frontier Frank (Mike Oosting).
Sagebrush Shocker did in deep stretch and rallied in time for his 1:56.3 victory.
The 10-1 longshot Adele’s Big Party had a big effort for his new driver Todd Warren and finished strong to be second, beaten three-quarters of a length while Frontier Frank settled for third.
The $12,500 winner’s sale of the Doc Walker Final for state bred colts and gelding saw Sagebrush Shocker’s Hawthorne earnings rise to $23,100 for owners Ken Rucker (Muncie, Indiana) and Ashley Russell of Beauford, South Carolina.
Bates would go on and finish the Saturday card with three consecutive victories, clicking with Dragon Jewel in the eighth and Fox Valley Cupid in the ninth, the latter another Kim Roth trainee.
The $25,000 Doc Walker Final saw the heavy t 1 to 2 favorite Fox Valley Catwalk complete a sweep of the filly series for driver Tim Curtin however for a while her backers were ready to tear up their tickets.
Fox Valley Catwalk was about to clear to the lead right before the first quarter pole when she went off stride. The Sportsmaster filly had to be taken back to almost a walk and regained stride some 9 or 10 lengths behind the leader Lilac Laurey.
“Catwalk” then raced without cover the rest of the way, getting even with Lilac Laurey near the three-quarter pole and then pulling away and winning by four and one-half lengths in 1:59 for her fourth in a row.
Fox Valley Catwalk’s season earnings now stand at an even $36,000 after she banked $8,588 in her freshman campaign for Sherman, Illinois owner and trainer Rodney Freese.
In the fourth race $10,000 Open Pace Firedrake ($7.60) Mike Oosting) worn down Somestarsomewhere (Sam Widger) and posted a neck victory in 1:53 flat for trainer Payton Ode.
Schwarber ($9.20) came charging down the stretch to take the $10,000 Open Trot and give Tim Curtin a driving double on the card. It was the second win in a row for the Curt Grummel trained gelding. Longshot All About Cowboys took second while the even-money favorite Skyway Jaylo held on for third.
Down to Two: There’s just two racing nights left at the Hawthorne winter meet but there are still some appetizing races left before the Chicago harness racing circuit goes dormant until early May.
Tonight’s last Sunday card offers attractive back-to-back Open III pace events, the fifth race for fillies and mares and the sixth for their male counterparts. Both fields were handicapped and drawn by groups.
In the nine-horse distaff co-feature the 1-2-3 finishers of the last Open III paces—Rocking Katie (pp 8, Casey Leonard) and Rockin Praline (pp 9, Tim Curtin) and Mystical Nectar (pp 7, Pat Curtin)—drew for the outside slots and figure to get the bulk of the wagering public’s money.
The Terry Leonard Stable’s Rocking Katie proved best in their February 3rd encounter. In fact she’s two-for-two at the meet in Open III paces.
Runner-up Rockin Praline has been first or second in all five outings at Hawthorne for trainer Tom Simmons and earlier has a three race sweep of a Late Closer Series. Mystical Nectar hasn’t missed a check in four tries for trainer Payton Ode however she hasn’t made a visit to the winner’s circle yet.
They’ll be challenged by Morgangetsherway (Juan Franco), Backwood’s Barbie (Brandon Bates), Blissful Pansy (Ryan Anderson), On The Cusp (Sam Widger), Bucklegirl Bobette (Mike Oosting) and Imajean Rocks (Todd Warren), with posts one through six, in that order.
The Tom Simmons trainee Aimo Hanover (Sam Widger) was allocated the outside six-slot in co-featured sixth race for males after his easy 1:54 victory last weekend. The 6-year-old pacer sped to a 1:49 flat mile last year at Springfield.
The 4-year-old ICF pacer Captain Rhett also bettered 1:50 last summer with a 1:49.3 clocking at Springfield. The Duneside Perch gelding raked in over $145,000 in his sophomore captain with a big hunk of that amount coming from his victory on the Night of Champions in the $180,000 Robert F. Carey Memorial. Mike Oosting will drive for trainer Mike Brown.
Gibbs (pp 4, Brandon Bates) also won on the 2017 Night of Champions, taking the Molaro stake for older ICF male pacers. Gabe Henry (pp 5, Todd Warren) did beat Aimo Hanover in late January, the last time they met.
The field is rounded out with My Friskie Boy (pp 1, Casey Leonard) and Fox Valley Reggie (pp 2, Pat Curtin).