By Mike Paradise
The journey to Hawthorne’s Night of Champions makes a pivotal stop Saturday night for ICF 2-year-old colt and gelding pacers with the second leg of the Incredible Finale Stake Series.
With an abundant 26 freshmen pacers entered, while their owners ponied up a $200 starting fee, three $12,000 divisions of the stake will be sprinkled through the first half of a 12-race card, starting with the opener.
The early division leader Fox Valley Gemini (Casey Leonard) is expected to be heavy favorite when he leaves from post four. I have him at even-money in my line. The Terry Leonard trained gelding is unbeaten in his first three starts for Atwater, Illinois owner Jim Ballinger.
Fox Valley Gemini wasn’t ready to begin his racing career when the first Incredible Finale was contested on June 17 (he qualified only two days earlier) but he quickly has vaulted to the head of his class.
Fox Valley Gemini won his pari-mutuel debut on June 22 in 1:57 flat. In his second outing he captured his Cardinal elimination despite a first-over trip. The Yankees Skyscraper freshman then breezed in the Cardinal Final with a 1:54.4 clocking.
Heza A Real Shooter (Bob Smolin), from the barn of trainer Bill Crone and the Tom Simmons Stable’s Beach Shootingstar are the likely next two betting favorites in race one.
Heza A Real Shooter was victorious in his first leg of the Incredible Finale, a race where Beach Shootingstar was hammered down to 2-5 odds but found himself a locked-in seventh most of the way before shaking loose and pacing a 27 last quarter to be fourth.
Not Me Gram (Ridge Warren), Ernie The Mooss (Gary Rath), Piscotty (Ryan Anderson), Molina (Kyle Husted), Herecomesmagotta (Tim Curtin) and Dandy’s Phoenix (Kyle Wilfong) complete tonight’s first race field.
The third race second division brings out Mykonos (Casey Leonard), an opening leg winner of the Incredible Finale in his initial start, and three youngsters with recent wins at Hawthorne—Fox Valley Hipster (Cliff Bell), Dandy Dune (Tim Curtin) and Backstreet Lawyer (Mike Oosting).
They’ll be challenged by Big Boy Frazier (Cornelius Cavett), JB’s Enigma (Bob Smolin), Al’s Briefs (Kyle Wilfong) and Safari Sage (Ryan Anderson).
After going off-stride in his first two starts Fox Valley Hipster was a front-end winner in1:57.3 eight nights ago. Backstreet Lawyer, who missed the Cardinal Finale due to sickness, bounced back on July 15 with a 1:56.4 clocking.
Dandy Dune didn’t make his first start until his Cardinal elimination and won it in 1:56.2 for owner and trainer Dane May. The Sagebrush gelding was second best in the final to Fox Valley Gemini and paced a 1:55 flat mile.
It’ll be interesting to see what 2-year-old emerges on top in the sixth race third split of tonight’s Incredible Finale. The Shawn Nessa Stable’s Sheriff Coffey (Tim Curtin) made a strong case it will be him with convincing 1:55 victory in an open company 2-year-old event a week ago.
A son of Sagebrush, Sheriff Coffey is a foal of Kiss Of Life, a daughter of Cole Muffler who competed for trainer Homer Hochstetler as a 3-year-old back in 2005 and was second best in a $250,000 American National at Balmoral and was a Grandma Ann elimination winner.
Dane May’s Lambo was a competitive fourth debuting in a Cardinal elimination and finished third prepping for this start last week. Casey Leonard takes over his lines tonight for Tyler Shehan who is at Lebanon Raceway where he’s driving four of his stable’s youngsters in Kentucky Sired Stakes.
A price shot to consider in this division is Hart To Heart (pp 2, Mike Oosting) from the Mike Brink Stable. The home-bred had two very nice winning Springfield qualifiers in June prepping for his debut but had some bad racing luck bowing in a Cardinal elimination. He then missed his next scheduled start a week later when he was scratched sick.
Oosting chose to drive Hart To Heart) over the No. 5 freshman Bootleg Island.
Also looking to score some stake series points are Ricky The Flash (Freddie Patton Jr.), Sagebrush Jim (Brian Carpenter), Bootleg Island (Kyle Wilfong), Shooting Straight (Bob Smolin), Talk About It (Ridge Warren) and Sagebrush Sharp (Jamaica Patton).
Juan-derful Victory: Cynthia Kay Willis’ home-bred freshman filly Lex Two put on a furious rally down the stretch for driver Juan Franco and got her nose ahead of Red Hot Packerette (Mike Oosting) to capture the first $12,000 division of Friday’s Incredible Tillie stake series for ICF 2-year-olds.
Trained by Nelson Willis, Lex Two ($24.80) was sixth going into the final turn before Franco put her in the middle of the track where she proceeded to motor home and grab her maiden win in 1:57.2.
Frontier Cuzin (Gary Rath) took third while the 6-5 favorite Yank’s Rendezvous (Casey Leonard) had to settle for fourth in first race on the card.
Much the Best: The second Tillie division was raced on a sloppy racetrack with the 4-5 favorite The New Americana (Mike Oosting) a compelling two-plus length winner in 1:56.1.
Violet champ Rollin Coal (Casey Leonard) made a move after the first quarter to take command and Oosting soon after pulled The New Americana out of fifth. The Steve Searle trained winner gradually gained on the leader in the last turn and then pulled away in the lane. Fox Valley Jazzy came on for second while Rollin Coal finished third.
The New Americana, daughter of Yankee Skyscraper, is owned Illinoisans Chris Mroz (Norridge), Dave Falzone (Chicago) and Jim Molitor (Oak Lawn.
Chalks Fall in Opens: Vintage Babe (Jim Lackey) set a blistering pace (54.4) to the half before shortening her stride in the lane as the Indiana invader Can’t Touch This (Mike Oosting) and OK Heavenly (Casey Leonard) zipped past in the $13,500 filly and mare Open Pace.
Trained by Roger Welch, Can’t Touch This (9.00) won in 1:51, a mile that equaled the 4-year-old mare’s career fastest time. The third race Open came before severe storm rolled through Chicago area causing an almost hour long delay between the fourth and fifth races and turning the rain-soaked track to a sloppy surface.
The 20-1 longshot A Bettors Risk ($43.80) was given a winning pocket trip by Kyle Wilfong and overtook the pace-setting Coal Hanover in the sixth race $13,500 Open Pace for male pacers. The favorite Let’s Drink On It rallied for third in the 1:51.4 mile.