By Mike Paradise
After knocking off the three-time Illinois Harness Horse of the Year Fox Valley Gemini a week ago the Australian bred invader Braeview Bondi A. takes on this year’s No. 1 Hawthorne Open pacer He’zzz A Wise Sky tonight.
He’zzz A Wise Sky ended Fox Valley Gemini’s streak as the “Top Gun” of ICF horses last year when the John Filomeno trained pacer took over the honor while competing as a three-year-old.
The way He’zzz A Wise Sky’s four-year-old campaign has been going the horse is the likely favorite to repeat as the best harness horse in Illinois for the 2021 season.
A victory in tonight’s Open Pace could go a long way for the pride of the Triple ZZZ Stable (Justice, IL) to repeat. Nonetheless, He’zzz A Wise Sky could have his hands full if last week’s strong winning performance by Braeview Bondi is any indication.
The heralded “Down Under” pacer was an impressive winner in his Hawthorne debut, taking air from the backside on before pulling away to a 1:49.3 mile for driver Atlee Bender, who along with his wife Hannah Miller Bender have been very successfully running the 50 horse Midwest Division of the Erv Miller Stable.
The Indiana based stable is second in wins at the Hoosier Park meet, however is first where it counts the most—in money earned with over $1.1 million in purse earnings. The Miller stable’s 27.3 per cent winning clip at the Indiana track is currently second best.
The newlywed couple (they tied the knot back in March) are also enjoying a banner meet at Hawthorne. The Miller barn is fourth in wins (28), third in money won ($209, 359) and first in winning percentage (23.7).
A Long Journey: To say that the seven-year-old Braeview Bondi has gone a long way in his five years of racing would be a bit of an understatement.
Up until March of this year the “Awesome Aussie” campaigned in Western Australia at the city of Perth, some 11,000 miles away from the Midwest portion of the United States.
Most of Braeview Bondi’s success in Australia came at Gloucester Park, quite a different harness racing venue than that of Hawthorne’s. The Australian track is a half-mile oval with a stretch of about 574 feet, compared to Hawthorne’s full mile track with a much longer 1,320 feet stretch.
Twelve horse fields (maximum of nine across in what they call the “front line”). Multiple tiers are commonplace in Australian races.
Strong Impression: Driver Atlee Bender loved what he got from Braeview Bondi a week ago.
“The horse was impressive,” said the 29-year-old Indiana native. “He just keeps going, and going, and going.”
Maybe that’s because the mile distance might seem more like a sprint to him, I said half kiddingly. After all, longer distances of more than a mile are the norm in Australia and New Zealand racing.
In 2020 most of Braeview Bondi’s races were either one mile and 5/16th or one mile and 9/16th at Gloucester Park. Those “Down Under” racing distances aren’t far off from one mile and one-quarter and a mile and one-half thoroughbred races in the USA.
No wonder Braeview Bondi wanted to keep “going, and going, and going.” That’s what the horse had been doing for his first five seasons of racing before making the long journey to the United States.
Braeview Dondi leaves from post six in tonight’s seven-horse field, sandwiched between Fox Valley Gemini (pp 5, Casey Leonard) and He’zzz A Wize Sky (Kyle Wilfong).
Faced with the daunted task and upsetting the strong trio of outside horses are Primo Giovanni (Todd Warren), Yankee Bounty (Travis Seekman), Fox Valley Ren (Juan Franco) and Bobcat Bay (Ridge Warren), in that order.