By Mike Paradise
Quantity and quality is the ideal combination to have going into Friday night’s “Hawthorne Marathon” and Springfield based trainer Mike Brink has just that with 13 horses competing and eight of them in major ICF stake events
“I’ve got four in the (Darn Safe) two-year-old trot, three in the (Pronto Don), three-year-old trot, a pair in the (Shawnee) two-year-old filly trot and one (Tropical Fruit) in the (Director’s Award) two-year-old filly pace,” said Brink.
When a rain-soaked track caused the cancellation of last weekend Du Quoin’s state fair programs, all 25 Illinois Department of Agriculture scheduled races were shifted to Hawthorne Friday night.
A nine-race non-betting card will get things rolling Friday with a 4 o’clock first post and an expanded 16 race wagering program will follow with a 6:30 post time. Figure the last race to go off tonight around midnight, making for about eight hours of continuing racing,
“Personally I rather race these stakes at Hawthorne because my young horses are more familiar with the track and its surroundings,” said Brink. “Some of them have never raced at Du Quoin and they would have been seeing some things for the first time that might be a distraction and could cause them to lose their focus.
“My horses Friday didn’t draw particularly well but most of the good horses in those stake races didn’t either, including Fox Valley Quest He’s the horse to beat in the 2-year-old trotting stake.”
Desert Sheik (pp 6), a two-time Kadabra series leg winner, heads Brink’s Darn Safe aspirants.
Desert Sheik is a full brother to Fox Valley Qatar, the 2014 Illinois Two-Year-Old Trotting Colt of the Year for owner and trainer Herman Wheeler. Desert Sheik is owned by the Illinois trio of Mark Brown (Chatham), Keith Miller (Arthur) and Brink (Springfield)
“I’ve brought Desert Sheik around slowly. The horse has been drawing some outside posts and he hasn’t gotten away very well in his past couple. I didn’t use him as hard as I could earlier because he was so green but with this stake, series legs (of the Kadabra) and the final coming up, now is the time to see just how good he can be.
“Crooked Creek is a full brother to Spunky Bottom Girl (1:54.2), a good trotting mare who won over $200,000 for (Mount Sterling, Illinois owner and breeder) Ed Teefey a few years ago.
“Crooked Creek got a late start and has had only had a handful of races this year,” continued Brink. “His Springfield driver Brandon Bates told me he thought the horse would have gone by those others horses ahead of him if Crooked Creek hadn’t gone off stride. The horse got tapped with the whip for the first time and I think he got a little scared and broke.”
Ryan Anderson will be at the lines of Crooked Creek tonight.
“Crooked Creek could be a factor in his race Friday. It’s hard to say because the horse is so green. He still might turn out to be a good two-year-old. If not, I think he’ll do well as a three-year-old.”
Spunky Bottom Girl and Crooked Creek are the first two foals of Ed Teefey’s broodmare Princess Addie, a Classic Photo offspring.
The freshman trotter with the most money on his card Friday night from Brink’s stable is On Higher Ground with $34,439 banked in his first eight career trips postward. However the draw wasn’t kind to the Cassis gelding. He landed the nine-hole in the twelfth race nine-horse field.
On Higher Ground received a pair of pocket trips from his driver Ridge Warren at Springfield and turned them into victories including a 1:55.1 clocking in the $32,599 championship.
Owned by Brink and H H Wright (Morton, Illinois) On Higher Ground has very good gate speed and showed it at Springfield. However Fox Valley Quest (pp 8, Casey Leonard) can also be quick from the gate. The Tom Simmons trainee had to trot a 27.2 first quarter to get command in the Springfield finale and that’s likely the reason the freshman only managed a 29.4 last panel when he ended up second best to On Higher Ground.
Brink’s fourth horse in the Darn Safe is Fox Valley Briton (pp 5, Juan Franco), a gelding he shares ownership with Keith Miller of Arthur, IL. While Fox Valley Briton is winless in his first seven starts the youngster was a runner-up in one of the earlier Cardinal divisions and finished third in his Springfield elimination.