February Brings Out Rewarding ICF Late Closers

By Mike Paradise

It’s almost hard to believe the month of January is already in the rear view mirror.

It only seems like a couple of weeks ago that Hawthorne’s winter meeting got under way, but it’s now the first of February and that means there are only 14 racing programs before the thoroughbreds take over the Stickney, Illinois backstretch.

Six Late Closer Series Finals were decided last week, with the gal’s events providing major upsets, champions in 2 of their 3 showdowns, while everything went the chalk player’s way in the male divisions won by Susie’s Soul (Todd Warren), Rockin Pralin and November Rain. The latter two were effectively driven by Casey Leonard.

 The biggest surprise in last week’s Late Closer Finals came in Friday’s $25,000 Tim Wilson Series Championships when Fox Valley Eli (outside, Sam Widger) nosed out the 50-1 longshot Shady’s Dream Boy (inside, Brandon Bates) producing a $894.60 winning Exacta. (Four Footed Photo)

The biggest surprise in last week’s Late Closer Finals came in Friday’s $25,000 Tim Wilson Series Championships, when Fox Valley Eli (outside, Sam Widger), nosed out the 50-1 longshot Shady’s Dream Boy (inside, Brandon Bates), producing a $894.60 winning Exacta. (Four Footed Fotos)

Tom Simmons stable Sharkfire (Mike Oosting), surprised at $19.60 in the #5 Final and Fox Valley Eli (Sam Widger), from the barn of Clark Fairley, popped at 30-1 in the #4 Late Closer to key a 20 cent Superfecta last Friday that paid $5,313.

The public’s Fox Valley Reggie (Pat Curtin), showed a lot of determination with her game victory as she completed a sweep of the Carl Becker Series for trainer Jamaica Patton.

Four more Late Closer Series for the winter meet were slated to get under way this weekend, all for strictly ICF horses. However, the Walter Paisley for ICF open mare pacers was a no-go for Saturday, when an insufficient number of horses were entered.

No word yet, if the entire Paisley series will be canceled and the nominations fees returned or the $30,000 Final will be raced later in the month with a short field.

Events #13 (the Terry Hunt) and #15 (the Doc Walker), the first for colts and geldings without $10,000 in earnings through last October 1st, and the second for pacing mares at the same conditions, will carry $18,000 purses in their finals.

There’s even more money on the line for the state-bred Open male Late Closer pace. With a lucrative $30,000 pots for the championships, some familiar faces have been lured back in town for the Dave Magee showdown on February 16th.

Coming back home for the first leg of the Dave Magee, are the 2017 Illinois 3-Year-Old Male Pacer of the Year Captain Rhett (Mike Oosting) and Dakota Roadster (Todd Warren), who banked over 75,000 last year in a bush 20-start campaign.

They’ll be challenged in the $9,000 first leg of the Magee, by He Gone Jack (Kyle Wilfong), Gibbs (Casey Leonard), Fox Valley Cupid (Sam Widger) and Gabe Henry (Ridge Warren).

With 13 ICF pacers entered for the $7,000 first round of the Terry Hunt Late Closer, that series was split into two divisions, that will go as races three and four on Thursday’s card.

Updated Standings: With wins on the last two races of Sunday’s card, Casey Leonard has increased his lead in Hawthorne’s driver standings to five over Kyle Wilfong, who has 17. Casey is winning with his drives at a 28 per cent at the meet.

Brandon Bates and Sam Widger are close behind, with 16 each, while Todd Warren rounds out the current Top Five with 13.

The No. 1 spot in trainer’s race continues to be up for grabs. Loralee Johnson and Terry Leonard each have 11 winners at the meet, followed closely by Payton Ode with 10 and Tom Simmons with 9.

Sunday Night Fever: Handle wise, Hawthorne had its best Sunday of the meeting thus far, when $1,085,180 was wagered in its 10-race January 28th program. A reminder: No racing this upcoming Super Bowl Sunday. . . Hawthorne’s .20 cent High Five on the last race continues to be an elusive wager. There’s an $85,191 Carryover going into Thursday’s program.