Another Chance for Springfield Champ

By Mike Paradise

Round two of a trio of Late Closer Series are sprinkled throughout Thursday’s 11-race Hawthorne card with the emphasis on trotters.

Four of the races are for trotters with three of the Late Closer Series (No. 17) for non-winners of two starts or $120,000 as of the first of April. Most of the attention will be on the fifth race second split with all yjree of the opening leg winners—Mr. Stata (Casey Leonard), Fox Valley Diamo (Mike Brink) and Hail Caesar (Travis Seekman)—bucking heads this time.

I thought the third leg of the series (race 6) is also very intriguing but for other reasons and not particularly good ones. None of the eight starters finished higher than fourth last week and 6 of the 8 went off stride.

One of them, the Ray Hanna Stable’s Roma Falls (Matt Krueger) was the 7-5 post time favorite in her race. She looked like a “hot” horse since the Hawthorne morning line at her at 12-1 but I thought she would be one of the favorites after winning a Springfield State Fair championship and getting edged out a couple of weeks later in the Shawnee stake at Du Quoin.

“I know she’s a fast horse,” said her trainer Ray Hanna. “When I looked up at the tote board last week and saw those big opening odds I was surprised. I know she didn’t look that bad going into the race, especially on a mile track. She’s usually pretty good on a big track.“

While Roma Falls was programmed at 12-1 in Hawthorne’s often questionable morning line compliments of a computer-generated software program provided by Trackmaster at the USTA, the betting public knew better and sent the filly off as a low-end favorite.

As it turned out Roma Falls was far back in her series opener when the starting gate started rolling. She had to be hustled up and while she made the gate she went off-stride at the start.

The homebred daughter of High Falls out of the Valley Victor broodmare Tomato found herself almost 20 lengths behind at the first quarter, 17-plus at the half, 14 lengths behind at the three-quarters and still managed to finish fourth, beaten 6 lengths with a 28.3 last panel.

“The filly does have a lot of speed,” said her trainer.

When asked about her propensity to go off stride, Hanna had this to say:

“She is a very high filly strung and can get nervous before a race and start running like she did last week. I think she’ll be okay for this week now that she had a start.”

Hanna ships his horses in from Anna, Illinois, a very long 350 mile trip that takes five-plus hours to the in-town track on the western outskirts of Chicago.

“Roma Falls is a good traveling horse so that’s a plus,” said Ray laughing.

Thursday’s ninth race Late Closer No. 17 Series looks like an easy spot, at least on paper, for the Larry Lee Smith Stable’s Skyway Jaylo to get a repeat triumph. She did win last week by almost 10 lengths in a career fastest time of 1:56.2 at even money.

However there’s a newcomer to Hawthorne that lacks experience but has the breeding to be a formidable foe. She’s the 3-year-old filly Love Child (Casey Leonard) who of the Curt Grummel barn for Missouri owners Randy J and Michael Bennett Wilt of Savannah.

Love Child won her initial career start two weeks ago at Hoosier Park (1:59.2) and did it from the 10-hole with a not-so-easy trip. She’s by Donato Hanover out of the Angus Hall mare Somebody To Love.

Since Love Child wasn’t purchased at a sale I don’t know what her price tag was but I can tell you that her two-year-old half-brother Mountain of Love, by Muscle Hill out of the same broodmare, Lexington last year for very pricey sum of $280,000.