It’s a Tough Time for Picking Winners

 Back for to tonight’s $12,000 Open Pace is last week’s top three finishers—Account Rollover (center), Fox Valley Gemini (outside) and Castle Flight (not pictured, Kyle Wilfong). Four Footed Fotos

Back for to tonight’s $12,000 Open Pace is last week’s top three finishers—Account Rollover (center), Fox Valley Gemini (outside) and Castle Flight (not pictured, Kyle Wilfong). Four Footed Fotos

By Mike Paradise

The most difficult time for handicapping a horse race on the Chicago circuit comes at the start of a meeting, especially in the winter time.

Many horses are competing after a layoff, some after weeks others following months without a start. Horses that have been racing were doing so elsewhere, mostly on smaller ovals and in some cases in warmer weather.

Last week’s Open saw three horses at the finish within a half-length of each other, all given a race time of 1:51.2—the 6-1 winner Account Rollover, the 4-5 beaten favorite Fox Valley Gemini and the public’s second choice Castle Flight.

Those three will tangle again in tonight’s $12,000 Open but with different circumstances.

Account Rollover goes from the three-post to the eight, and with a new driver, Fox Valley Gemini (Casey Leonard) has a start under his belt after missing three months prior to last Saturday’s race, and Castle Flight (Kyle Wilfong) benefits from an outing over the Hawthorne track.

“Fox Valley Gemini was way short last week,” said driver Casey Leonard an indication the star of the Terry Leonard stable will most likely profit from last week’s effort. However the two-time ICF Harness Horse of the Year does shift from the four-slot to the outside nine-hole tonight.

Mike Oosting gave Account Rollover a great winning trip for trainer Jim Eaton a week ago but tonight he’ll be behind the Payton Ode trainee A Bettors Risk (post 6) and that’s not because of a knock on the nine-year-old pacer who will be handled by Todd Warren.

Oosting drove Account Rollover once in 2017 in Ohio and once in Indiana in 2018. Meanwhile 22 other drivers have been at the lines of the gelding the past three years.

On the other hand, Oosting drove A Bettors Risk in all of the horse’s 27 starts in 2019, each at Hoosier Park. In fact Mike has been the pacer’s regular driver since early May of 2018 and guided A Bettor’s Risk to his 1:48.3 mark in 2018 and a 1:49.2 win last season.

While A Bettor’s Risk has made the vast majority of his starts in Indiana, the horse is no stranger to Hawthorne. The Bettor’s Delight gelding finished second with Oosting in a $25,000 Invite on the 2018 Night of Champions after winning in 1:50.2 a week earlier.

Starting inside of A Bettors Risk are He Gone Jack (Ridge Warren), Sir Mammo (Bobby Smolin), Parklane Eagle (Juan Franco), Best Man Hanover (Brandon Bates) and Bold And Brassy (Travis Seekman).

A Bettors Risk hasn’t raced since the first week of December. Does he need tonight’s start?

You make the call.

On a Roll: The Steve Searle Stable’s prize trotter Louzotic (Casey Leonard) puts her six race winning streak on the line in Saturday’s second race. Now four, the 2019 Illinois Harness Horse of the Year has won 11 of her last 13 outings and was second in both losses.

Searle also has the 8-5 favorite in tonight’s opener with his four-year-old trotter Louscardamon, an easy victor a week ago the first time on Lasix with Steve in the bike. Casey Leonard gets the catch drive tonight.