By Mike Paradise
It’ll be back-to-back weekends of stakes events for ICF 3-year-olds of both sexes and gaits.
Following last week’s opening legs of the Night of Champions stakes series is the Illinois Department of Agriculture’s Cardinal and Violet events for both pacers and trotters.
Friday’s Cardinal pace saw 14 ICF 3-year-old colts or geldings pass the entry box, making it necessary to split the stake into two divisions, each with a $21,850 purse.
The (Marty) Engel Stable’s, Meyer On Fire (Tim Curtin), a strong winner of last Saturday’s first leg of the Robert F. Carey, no doubt will be a prohibitive favorite in the fifth race, second Cardinal division.
The Erv Miller trained gelding romped to a three-length victory in 1:53.1 in his first start of 2019 and drawing the pole position, only enhances his chances of adding the Cardinal to his list of his already accomplishments.
Meyer On Fire will be tested Friday by Sporty McGrew (Kyle Wilfong), Fox Valley Oscar (Cordarius Stewart), Coming Up (Ridge Warren), The Bucket (Casey Leonard), Master Sage (Juan Franco) and Fox Valley Julius (Dale Knox), in that order.
The second race, first division of Friday’s Cardinal pace will line up, from the rail out, with Ole Swamp Master (Tim Curtin), Riley The Moose (Gary Rath), Maximus (Kyle Wilfong), Fox Valley Triton (Casey Leonard), Cooter Luke (Travis Seekman), Frontier Muffler (Freddie Patton Jr.) and Ryan Racketeer (Ronnie Gillespie).
The Violet for Illinois bred sophomore pacing fillies will be Saturday’s headliner, while Sunday’s program will be capped by the Cardinal (males) and Violet (females) stakes for ICF trotters.
Don’t Overlook: While the second season Illinois bred horses are slugging it out in the first major ICF stake races of the year, older open company pacers will be knocking heads in Saturday Claiming Series Final with a $20,000 pot in the line. The $10,000 claimer championship looks like one of the better betting races of the weekend.
After the first two rounds, when horses competed with a $10,000 claiming tag, it appears there won’t be any clear-cut favorite going into the race. It’s also apparent, that a number of major threats are old-timers.
First leg winner, Rockin Robert (Randy Crisler), is getting it done at the age of 11 for trainer John Hughes. On May 18th the winner of 31 career races proved best in 1:53.4.
Last Dragon, a fast-closing runner-up to last week’s winner Skyway Fireball (Casey Leonard), for trainer and driver Jim Lackey, is still doing his thing at the age of 12. The George Dremonas (Oak Lawn, ILL), owned gelding paced his last quarter in a speedy 25.4, when he was only a neck short.
Last Dragon was nine-years-old, when he covered the mile in 1:49.2 at Pocono Downs, one of his 30 lifetime first place finishes.
The 11-year-old pacer, Justified Tim Curtin), was only one length behind Skyway Fireball ,when he came the final quarter in 26.1. In the same race the 12-year-old pacer Wildcat Bobby (James Molitor), finished in 27.1 to be fourth.
The 5-year-old Skyway Fireball is a youngster compared to many of his foes in Saturday’s claiming series showdown. The gelding was claimed for $10,000 in leg one, by trainer Loralee Johnson for Elwood, Illinois owners Rio Racing, and they quickly got a $6,000 return on their investment, the winner’s share of last week’s second leg series $12,000 purse.
He’s Back: Two-time Illinois Harness Horse of the Year Fox Valley Gemini (Casey Leonard), returns to the races Saturday, after a week off, in the sixth race $12,000 Open Pace. The pride of the Terry Leonard stable, guns for his third consecutive Open triumph and the last on May 19th was by 10-plus widening lengths while under a hold.