With Hawthorne dark on Friday and Saturday while the Du Quoin State Fair takes over the Illinois harness racing spotlight, Thursday racing returns to the Chicago circuit tonight with a bigger-than-normal 13-race program.
The Thursday headliner is the $12,000 Open Pace and tonight the two-time Illinois Harness Horse of the Year Fox Valley Gemini (Casey Leonard) will have company when goes to the starting gate with his third straight assigned 10-hole.
Banished to the nine-slot in Thursday’s six horse field is “Gemini’s” Terry Leonard trained stable-mate Stuckey Dote (Kyle Wilfong) after holding off the star of the barn last week with a 1:51.1 clocking.
Stuckey Dote now has three Opens victories at Hawthorne since joining the Leonard stable in early July. In between those starts the six-year-old home-bred went up north to Minnesota and captured a $25,000 Preferred event at Running Aces, that one in 1:51.2.
Stuckey Dote spent most of the earlier part of the year in Ohio where he made the bulk of his $75,000-plus season bankroll. Among his wins competing in the Buckeye State was a 1:50.3 career fastest mile at Scioto Downs, a five-eighths oval.
Fox Valley Gemini was close to unbeatable at Hawthorne but that’s not the case anymore after he shipped to Running Aces for their $50,000 Dan Patch Free For All. Since July the five-year-old ICF pacer is on his current longest losing streak that now is at four in a row.
Nevertheless Fox Valley Gemini still boasts a gaudy record of 26 in 35 lifetime starts and almost $325,000 in purse earnings for Atwater, Illinois owner Jim Ballinger.
Trying tonight to upset the Leonard stable’s “Dynamic Duo” are Dash Of Danger (Kyle Husted), Crash And Burn (Robert Smolin), Feelnlikearockstar (Travis Seekman) and Lincolnjames (Kyle Husted).
Two weeks ago the Perry Smith stable’s Feelnlikearockstar knocked off both “Gemini” and Stuckey Dote in the August 9th Hawthorne Open. The seven-year-old gelding Feelnlikearockstar was only one length behind the pair with his third place finish in last Open.
All of the Chicago circuit leading drivers will be competing both Friday evening and on Saturday when that daytime card gets under way at noon.
The last five races on Friday night’s card are $27,500 ICF stakes races for either two three-year-olds of both sexes and gaits, Saturday’s trio of $27,250 Illinois bred stakes are races 10, 11 and the 12th race finale.