By Mike Paradise
The curtain comes down on the 2018 winter meet at Hawthorne. After Monday’s ninth and final race of the night is over the Chicago harness racing circuit will lie dormant for the next 11 weeks until the summer meeting gets under way on Friday, May 4.
The outcome of the Hawthorne’s driver’s race has not been officially determined. Nevertheless it appears Casey Leonard has successfully defended his title after a driving triple on Sunday’s card.
Casey goes into Monday’s final program with 38 winning drives, five more than Sam Widger’s 33. Brandon Bates has 32 drives. Casey captured both the 2016 winter and summer meeting titles and last year’s solo summer session as well.
The trainer’s race for the winter meet has been a hard fought battle all meeting long. Loralee Johnson moved into the top spot with 18 last night when she sent out two winning horses. Tom Simmons is one behind with 17. Right there are trainers Terry Leonard with 16 and Payton Ode 15.
Sunday’s Features: A pair of back-to-back Open III Paces highlighted last night’s program and Sam Widger brought home both of the victorious horses.
The fifth race filly and mare pace saw Sammy steer On The Cusp ($7.20) to a game front-stepping triumph. The 11-year-old veteran mare had to work hard for her 30th career victory. She was parked out to the 28.2 first quarter to make the front, gave it up to Bucklegirl Bobette, and then came out and regained it at the 57.1 first half.
Once there for the second time On the Cusp put away all challengers, pulling away by almost three lengths in the 1:54.1 mile for trainer Payton Ode and his Indiana owner John Langacher. The 33-1 longshot Morgangetsherway (Juan Franco) edged out Bucklegirl Bobette (Mike Oosting) for second.
The Tom Simmons Stable’s Aimo Hanover ($2.60) left no doubt he was the best in the sixth race Open III for male pacers. The six-year-old gelding was hustled out of the outside six-slot by Widger who had the gas pedal down throughout the 1:51.3 mile, the fastest of the Hawthorne winter meet.
Aimo Hanover paced the first quarter in 27.4 and then rattled off three consecutive 28 flat panels to nail down his second triumph in a row for Clinard Properties of Mount Sterling, Illinois.
Gibbs (Brandon) Bates rallied for second while Fox Valley Reggie had a solid effort to be third.