2023 Racing Dates Awarded

The Illinois Racing Board held their 2023 racing dates meeting today. Click here for the harness schedule. 2023 Racing Schedule

By Mike Paradise


Hawthorne’s Night of Champions is a long way off, four months to be exact, however the method to land into the profitable ICF championships begin this weekend.


First up is Friday’s first leg of the Robert F. Carey Jr. Memorial stake series for state bred sophomore pacing colts and geldings, tonight’s fifth race.


The 10 leading point earners after four legs of the Carey stake series earn a starting berth in the September 25th championship. A series leg victory is worth 50 points. Then it is 25 for a second finish, 12 for a third, 8 for a fourth and 5 for a fifth. A single point goes to a horse that starts in a series round.


While its often said it is’nt how a horse starts this series but rather how he finishes it when big prize is on the line, this is the time to gain some valuable series points, and rake-in some respectable purse money with two of the division’s big guns are silently on the sidelines,


The 2020 leading money-earning, state-bred juvenile pacers, ICF Two-Year-Old Colt Pacer of the Year Frontier Charley and Night of Champions winner Well Basically, evidently are not ready for their second debuts and were not entered for the first leg of the Carey.


That leaves the door wide open for one of tonight’s 10 starters to haul in the winner’s share of a $12,500 purse while zipping to the top of the Carey point standings.



Ideal Big Guy (Casey Leonard) shown here winning a leg of last season’s Incredible Finale series over the 2020 ICF Two-Year-Old Colt Pacer of the Year Frontier Charley, leaves from post eight in tonight’s first round of the Robert F. Carey Memorial stake series. Four Footed Fotos.

Ideal Big Guy (pp 8, Casey Leonard) and Partyatmosaplace (pp 5, Todd Warren, a pair of Terry Leonard trained three-year-old’s, figure to get good play.


Ideal Big Guy, a $19,000 yearling purchase, does boast a win as a freshman over Frontier Charley. It came in a leg of last year’s Incredible Finale series when the banked over $20,000 in his initial campaign for the Leonard stable.


Partyatmosasplace, a Watson Stable homebred, had a pair of seconds and thirds in in his eight juvenile starts, usually against the top horses in his division. The gelding won over $21,000 in 2020. Todd Warren will handle Partyatmosaplace for the first time in tonight’s Carey leg.


Despite landing the outside 10-slot, The Dossie Minor trained Bombay Bobby, also could be a major threat. The Major Bombay gelding prepped well for this race with a second-place finish last week’s and is another $20,000-plus earner as a freshman.


My price shot (20-1 in the morning line) for the gimmicks is BC’s Tufftiger (pp 4). His trainer Roshun Trigg is turning over the lines to fellow Mississippian Jamaal Denson, a 24-year-old “P” driver.


BC’s Tuffinger didn’t race particular well earlier this month prepping for this start, but he showed promise last year competing mostly at Springfield where the horse posted 7 wins and three seconds in an even dozen starts, often trading victories with Bombay Bobby.


Looking for their maiden victory in tonight’s Carey are Prince Of Style (pp 1, Cliff Bell), Sagebrush Skip (pp 2, Terry Skinner) and Ashlee’s Fine Guy (pp 2, Kyle Husted), a $38,000 buy as a yearling, along with Sportsmadness (pp 6, Jordon Patton) and Diamond Diesel (pp 7, Juan Franco). Ryans Loan Shark (pp 9, Travis Seekman), victorious three times as a two-year-old, completes the ICF field.

Back-to-Back-to-Back Opens Sunday

By Mike Paradise


If one Open on a racing program makes it a good one, and two move it up to an even higher level, then three consecutive Opens should make it something special for harness racing fans.


That’s the case this Sunday night at Hawthorne, and just to make the viewing even more intriguing, a pair of five figure series finals are also on the Chicago circuit racing program.


The $12,000 “Opens” start tonight with race two for horses and geldings. It’s followed by a solid filly and mare contest, and it ends with the third race trot where the Chupp Racing Stable’s Pine Dream (Todd Warren) looks to extend his current winning streak to four in a row enabling the veteran to make his 46th visit to a winner’s circle.


The second race Open is round two between the ICF stalwarts Fox Valley Gemini (Casey Leonard) and He’zzz A Wise Sky (Kyle Wilfong). They will have to contend with four other foes, including the Dean Eckley stable’s Castle Flight (Ridge Warren).


You might remember Castle Flight from the early days if Hawthorne’s 2020 Covid plagued meeting. The Panspacificflight gelding showed his heels to Fox Valley Gemini in consecutive Opens in front end fashion during late February and early March.


Former Illinois based trainer Bob Phillips is back in town and he’ll send out both General Dolan (Tyler Shehan) and My Buddy Ninkster (Travis Seekman) in the first headliner, My Buddy Ninkster went over the $600,000 plateau in career earnings with a win in his last start in Ohio.


Meanwhile Fox Valley Gemini surpassed the half-million mark with last weekend’s Hawthorne Open triumph in 1:50.4, facilitated by a wicked 26 flat last panel and the now six-year-old ICF champ did it in his initial pari-mutuel start of the year as the 3-2 second choice of the race.


Hezzz A Wise Sky looks to even the score and likely will be sprinting out again, this time from the handicapped six-slot for Triple ZZZ Stable of Justice, Illinois. The 2020 ICF Harness Horse of the Year has won exactly half (15 of 30) of his lifetime starts.



The Merv Chupp stable’s Pine Dream has his sights on a fourth consecutive triumph in tonight’s $12,000 Open Trot. Todd Warren is back to drive the nine-year-old gelding with an impressive 45 lifetime wins to his credit. (Four Footed Fotos).

Gals Take Over: Maggie Rhee, trained by her driver Todd Warren, was sent off at 20 cents on the dollar in last week’s filly and mare Open and performed as advertised, drawing off by three and one-half lengths in her 1:54.3 mile (26.3 last quarter).


Maggie Rheee was assigned the outside six slot by the Hawthorne Race Office and tonight’s field is tougher than the last. Three Hoosier Park invaders will test “Maggie”—It’s Time For Fun (Kyle Wilfong), Dealmaker Hanover (Ridge Warren) and Primo Extremo (Cordarius Stewart).


Brooke’s Ocean (Jordon Ross), second best a week ago, gets a favorable post shift from the outside five to the one, while the third-place finisher Golden Paradise (Casey Leonard) benefits from a start over Hawthorne’s full one mile oval.


Dealmaker Hanover, under the care of trainer Brittney Dillon, has picked-up purse checks in her last five Open starts in Indiana, winning twice, including a quick 1:50 flat clocking a month ago and appears to be menacing threat.


  On A Roll: The high riding Pine Dream has a classy foe back in action to take on tonight.


Robert Siberberg’s Walter White returns to Hawthorne in race three and the nine-year-old has won his share of Open trots in the past on the Chicago circuit. The trotter has notched 29 career wins and banked over $550,000 for his Farmington Hills, Michigan owner. He’ll start from the three hole. Tonight.


Never Say Uncle (Kyle Wilfong), the runner-up to Pine Dream a week ago has the five post. Trainer Steve Searle has a pair of Flacco Family Farms trotters looking to bring home the $6,000 winner’s share of the purse—Louscardamon (pp 1, Casey Leonard) and the 2020 ICF Aged Male Trotter Lousraptor (pp 4, Juan Franco).


The $17,100 Tony Salvaro series final for thee-year-old pacing fillies starts the late Pick 4 (race seven). The $18,300 Phil Georgeff championship for 3 and 4-year-old pacing males will follow.


Just in Time:  Perry Smith’s Play Me Rock ($3.20) came roaring down the stretch with driver Travis Seekman and nailed the front stepping Bobcat Bay at the wire to capture Saturday night’s $17,500 Bob Larry Final.


The head victory was the fourth in 14 season starts for the three-year-old Play Me Rock, owned and trained by Perry Smith of Crete, Illinois.


ICF Kingpins Begin Awaited Rivalry

By Mike Paradise


The initial Saturday night card of the 2021 Hawthorne harness racing meeting pivots to put the emphasis on a pair of Illinois champions knocking heads for the first time this year.


You can expect many more in-state matchups likely to follow.


Three-time ICF Horse of the Year (2017, 2028 and 2019) Fox Valley Gemini (Casey Leonard) makes his 2021 pari-mutuel debut against He’zzz A Wise Sky (Kyle Wilfong) who took the prestigious honor as a three-year-old in 2020.


He’zzz A Wise Sky, now under the care of trainer John Filomeno, dominated the Illinois bred last year’s sophomore division, hauling in over $122,000 for his Justice, Illinois owners Triple ZZZ Stable. The talented pacer won half (9 for 18) of his starts, including a career best mile of 1:49.3 taken in a Hoosier Park Open Pace.


The Filomeno family homebred rattled off six consecutive victories during the late summer and captured the $86,000 Robert F. Carey Jr. Memorial Final on Hawthorne’s Night of Champions.


While He’zzz A Wise Sky has four season starts under his belt, including a 1:51.1 triumph in a conditioned pace at Hoosier and a third place finish in an Open there, pacing in 1:49.2, The Terry Leonard Stable’s Fox Valley Gemini drew off in a 1:54 mile well in hand two weeks again at Springfield, his first outing since last November.


Don’t Start Eating: While it’s been a long-time in between pari-mutuel starts for, “Gemini” the elite pacer has always been terrific or owner Jim Ballinger of Atwater, Illinois at Hawthorne. The now six-year-old gelding’s success rate against other Illinois bred pacers isn’t far off that of a Chicago Democratic Mayoral candidate.


Despite being a three-time ICF Horse of the Year, a one-time winner off 19 in a row at Hawthorne, and hands-down nowadays the most popular horse in Illinois, the USTA’S computer generated morning line has the horse (Warning: Do not be eating while reading this) at 12-1, in a tie for longest shot of the race.


Are you kidding me?


Yes, I picked against “Gemini” because of his layoff but his first flash odds of 12-1 is simply ridiculous and an embarrassment to our industry.


Novices of our sports may believe Fox Valley Gemini is a “hot” horse when his odds most certainly will take a huge plunge however, they are instead being deceived by somebody or something’s incompetence to produce anything close to a knowledgeable morning line.


Getting an opportunity to pull off a major upset in the $12,000 third race headliner are Luckysrealdeal (Roman Lopez), Some Nobody (Travis Seekman), Jersey Jim (Todd Warren), Frewil Dakota Sven (Kyle Husted) and Brysen (Dale Knox).


Fox Valley Gemini was handicapped with the six slot while He’zzz A Wise Sky was assigned the seven. I have “Gemini” at 3-2 in my line and He’zzz A Wise Sky at 6-5 and he’ll likely go off lower.


Hezzz A Wise Sky and Fox Valley Gemini did tangle once last year in a Hawthorne Open and both were vanquished by the longshot Ponda’s Prospect. “Gemini” was a close second to his stable mate while Hezzz A Wise Sky got away with a sluggish start from the pole position and ended up a non-threatening fourth.


  Ladies Step Forward: Preceding the third race Open for horses and geldings is a $12,000 Open for fillies and mares with the Terry Leonard stable providing two of the five starters—Lilly Von Shtupp (Kyle Husted) with the pole position and Golden Paradise (Casey Leonard) who makes her Hawthorne debut going out from the four-slot.


The programmed favorite at even money is Maggie Rhee, trained and driven by Todd Warren. The four-year-old mare comes off a 1:51.3 victory in a $16,000 conditioned pace at Hoosier after picking up purse checks in her previous two starts, both in Opens.


Ideal’s Nicole (Travis Seekman) and Brooke’s Ocean (Michele Weinman) complete the compact five horse field.


Wilfong Hot: Kyle Wilfong had the hot hard on opening night driving home five of the 10 races on the program. The 29-year-old Illinois native won with the first four events on the card and later guided the Nicole Agosti trained trotter RSVP to his Daryl Busse series elimination victory.


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