By Mike Paradise
While the increased purses on the Late Closer series didn’t bring the desired number of out-of-state horses that Hawthorne management wanted, it nevertheless was a big hit with Illinois based horsemen.
“I’ve watched a lot of our horsemen go up to Hawthorne management and thank them for the more rewarding Late Closer purses,” said the meet’s perennial leading driver Casey Leonard.
“Hawthorne may not have gotten what they wanted from “outside” horses coming in for the series but our horseman are very appreciative they are racing for these bigger pots.”
Illinois Harness Hall of Fame conditioner Jim Eaton agrees.
“My owners are tickled to race their horses in Hawthorne’s Late Closers. They’re going for good pots and race at least three straight weeks.”
Based on what has occurred in the first two legs of the Winter Wonderland Series, there’s a very good chance that Illinois trainers (and in most cases owners) will cash in this weekend.
The trio of $22,000 finals will be headed by horses all under the care of Illinois horsemen.
The Gath Rath (Marengo, IL) trained Pattycake Mooss, owned by Al Beals of Berwyn, Illinois is two-for-two in the filly and mare series while Illustrate, conditioned by Springfield based John Pritchard for proprietor Peter Karras of Sherman, Illinois, captured last weekend’s other $11,000 distaff series leg.
The Nelson Willis Stable’s Rex Boston carries a three-race winning streak into Saturday’s colt and gelding championship for the Megan Rogers Stable of Chicago, while the Gerald Hansen trained Advance Man rebounded nicely to win his series event after a break in the opening leg to make the male pacing final for his Kentucky owners.
The veteran trainer Willis also had the first leg winner of the colt series when Walkin Papers popped for his wife Cynthia Kay (Beecher, IL) and the Engle Stable (Northbrook, IL).
Sunday’s $22,000 Winter Wonderland showdown for trotters will features two-time series winner Sly Little Fox under the care of Jim Eaton
Payback Time: Illinois champion He’zzz A Wise Sky is back home and looking for payback after his drubbing last weekend in Ohio.
The five-year-old Yankee Skyscaper stud was a disappointing sixth in Miami Valley’s $30,000 Open Handicap after, as expected, cutting the fractions.
Parked out to a sizzling 26.3 first quarter leaving from the nine-hole, He’zzz A Wise Sky started to shorten his stride turning for home and was wrapped up by catch-driver John Delong part-way down the lane.
The last time He’zzz A Wise Sky lost was in November when he was scorched to a 26.2 first panel to make the front and ended up fifth in a Hoosier Park Open.
The John Filomeno trained pacer, as anticipated, was assigned the eight-slot in tonight’s sixth race feature where the usual group of locals will try to end the pride of the Triple ZZZ Stables Hawthorne winning streak at four in a row.
Providing the Open opposition tonight are (from the pole position out): Straight Up Cool (Joey Putnam), Gotham Hanover (Travis Seekman), Park Official (Todd Warren), The Thunder Rolls (Kyle Husted), Fox Valley Gemini (Casey Leonard), Jersey Jim (Brandon Bates), and Francis Underwood (Mike Oosting).
Staying Hot: We went one-for-one on Sunday’s “Price Shots” when Fox Valley Quest clicked in the sixth race trot at $15.40.