By Mike Paradise
It’s round two Sunday night for the top filly and mare pacers on the grounds at Hawthorne when a solid field of seven distaffers argue it out in the featured $15,000 Open Pace Handicap.
Round one a week ago went to the Angie Coleman Stable’s OK Heavenly, who will have driver Casey Leonard back at her lines. The five-year-old mare had to race outside of the talented mare Seeyouatthefinish, winner of 11 races both last year and in 2015, and the Sportswriter mare still pulled away with a 27.3 last quarter at the end of her 1:52.3 mile.
To say that Casey was impressed with OK Heavenly might be a bit of an understatement.
“She’s a beast,” said the 39-year-old Harvard, Illinois native. “That was a huge mile she raced. I didn’t want to be too far back with her. When (Mike) Oosting moved that mare (Fox Valley Charm from the rail)—and I like her too—I didn’t know if Mike would get
(Frank) Petrelli’s horse (Young American) in the two-hole, and then if he would be able to shut ‘Charm’ down.”
“It was a bit of a gamble racing her the way I did but I had to get her into the race somehow. She took care of herself in the far turn. She kind of backed off the pace and then waited for the stretch—and that stretch is so long—and then she just kept going.”
Sunday night OK Heavenly again will be on the outside looking in, this time with six mares inside of her: Rocknroll Hoochcoo (15-1, John Lewis), I Dance You Prance (12-1), Gypsy Bellevue (9-2, Tyler Shehan), Fox Valley Charm (4-1, Mike Oosting), Young American (Frank Petrelli) and Seeyouatthefinish (7-2, Kyle Husted). (Morning line odds are listed in parenthesis)
The fifth race headliner was drawn by groups: (1-2) (3-5) (6-7).
A victory would give OK Heavenly a half-dozen on the year and move her close to $50,000 in season earnings for Illinois owners Dandy Farms Inc. (Glenview) and Mark Winship (Canton).
Seeyouatthefinish should have earned a “Frequent Visitor Pass” to Hawthorne’s winner’s circle last year. She visited it on eight occasions and four of those stops came after an Open Pace triumph. As a 6-year-old she banked a career season high of $82,865 for her Oregon, Illinois owners Bernie and Deb Paul.
Peter Karras’ Fox Valley Charm could be an interesting pacer to consider. The 5-year-old ICF mare was raced inside in her first start in almost eight months and was beaten by a little more than one length. One of the Rodney Freese trainee’s five victories in 2016 came in the $50,000 Tony Maurello Final on Hawthorne’s Night of Champions.
One more Late Closer Series Leg is to be decided this week and that’ll come in the $9,000 Peter Galassi, tonight’s opener. Six fillies will go postward: Lakeside Ms Queen (Dale Hiteman), Rear View (Mike Oosting), Patches Girl (Larry Plank), IYQ BNU (Trenton Watson), Dali Delight (Kyle Wilfong) and Getn My Sundaze On (Freddie Patton Jr,).
Lakeside Ms Queen left the first leg field in the dust with a seven length triumph for the Tom Simmons Stable and still was well in hand at the end of her 1:57.1 mile. With the rail she deserves her 8-5 first-flash favoritism.
However unlike last week, this time around Lakeside Ms Queen will have to take on Dali Delight, who now races out of the barn of trainer Dave Gentile. Dali Delight owns a 1:56.2 season winning mile. It came earlier in the year at Miami Valley Raceway in Ohio and the filly was competing at a higher level last month at Hoosier Park.
Mike, Mike and Mike: There was one common factor in a trio of Saturday night Late Closer races and that was Mike Oosting. He drove all three winners.
While a victory by Hot Rod Dylan was expected in the Bob Larry Series, what was not expected was the scant nose decision by the 1 to 9 prohibitive favorite over the ICF 3-year-old Fox Valley Nemitz who uncorked a wicked 26.2 last quarter in last night’s opener.
Fox Valley Nemitz (Casey Leonard) was fifth at the three-quarter pole, some five lengths off Hot Rod Dylan before he started gobbling up ground in the lane only to come up a nostril short.
Hot Rod Dylan is now 9 for 13 on the year for trainer Nelson Willis and owner Shirley Le Vin of Barrington Hills, Illinois.
Oosting made a return visit to the winner’s circle in race two when Ima Skydancer made it back-to-back wins in the Mike Paradise Series, this time knocking more than three seconds off last week’s win with a 1:54.4 clocking.
Ima Skydancer ($5.40), a Mike Brink trained gelding, was taken out of the pocket twice in the mile by Oosting and held off In Your Eye by a half-length for Missouri owners Bonnie Harlow and Roberts Moser and Brink.
Causway ($13.40), another Brink trained, Oosting driven pacer proved best by a neck in the second Paradise division. Sent off at odds of 5-1, Causway raced fifth in the six horse field until the top of the lane and then powered past his stable-mate Sullivan, the 3-5 favorite, to gain his maiden win for Steelville, Illinois owner James Hepp in the pacer’s 15th career start.