By Mike Paradise
With his first 100-plus winning drives season behind him Illinois native Kyle Husted is unsure if a return to his home state for Hawthorne’s 2017 summer harness meet is in the cards.
“I don’t know if I’m coming back,” said Husted. “I really liked Hawthorne but there are quite a few months until they open and I’m undecided at this time. It’s hard to make any long-range plans”
Husted split 2016 between Hawthorne and Freehold Raceway in New Jersey and racked up 110 winning drives, a career best, and almost $700,000 in money won behind horses he drove, also a high-water mark for the 25-year-old native of Olney, Illinois.
“With no winter racing at Hawthorne I didn’t have to make the decision to leave Freehold this year,” continued Kyle.
“I’m concerned if Hawthorne will not have enough horses to race four-nights a week this summer. A lot of Chicago horses were sold this winter with no racing there until May and with trainers having to go elsewhere to get their horses raced it’s hard to say how many will be coming back to Illinois for a short meet.
“I was really disappointed there is no winter meet at Hawthorne this year. I hope their decision not to race in January doesn’t come back to bite them. They had about half of their horses for the summer meet right there racing in the winter.”
Last year Hawthorne’s scheduled and the IRB approved five-day-a-week format was cut to four days before the meet even started when it became evident there would be a shortage of horses. It turned out filling four cards a week was even difficult. Often the low-end claimers raced twice a week, not a good thing for cheap horses with more than their share of aches and pains.
And not a good thing for Hawthorne players who were asked to wager on the bottom-end claimers that often raced 3 times in 10 nights, a risky venture for the bettor to say the least,
“I don’t want to come to Hawthorne to drive $4,000 claimers twice a week,” said Husted. ‘That type of racing doesn’t help the handle and it doesn’t help the horses.”
Husted has notched a nice niche for himself competing at Freehold. He also has Pennsylvania tracks not far away for some of his stock and the Meadowlands close-by for any of his better horses.
The trotter Big Expense, a three-time winner at Hawthorne in 2016, won a mid-level conditioned race at The Big M for Husted’s Stable last month and a week later was nosed-out in a higher conditioned event on the New Jersey big track.
“Big Expense raced well at Hawthorne but when they had trouble filling their Open trot I had to send the horse to Minnesota to get him raced. He fit very well there.”
Husted’s victory total of 110 winners in 2016 was 46 more than he had in any other year since he began his driving professionally in the summer of 2009. His 973 driving opportunities in 2016 were 113 above his previous best yearly total.
Warm Weather Winners: Two Illinois trainers got off to a hot start in January at Pompano Park when the weather was been about 70 degrees warmer than it was here in the Prairie State.
OK Heavenly won the Florida track’s $11,000 Open 2 for fillies and mares for conditioner Angie Coleman on January 4 1:52.4. The now 5-year-old mare pulled in over $75,000 last year for Illinoisans Dandy Farm Inc. (Glenview) and Mark Winship (Canton). Among the mare’s nine victories in 2016 were two Opens at Hawthorne and a Invite at Hoosier Park.
Trainer Rob Rittof had two wins and a close second in his first four 2017 starts at Pompano. Revrac Harbor and Alabamashakey proved best before Sunset Dreamer dropped a nose decision for the Joliet, IL native.