By Mike Paradise
There is always some nervousness for any horse owner, when his 3-year-old debuts, even if the horse is coming off a very successful freshman campaign and the proprietor has been through the situation countless times.
Long-time ICF horse owner Marty Engel admits he was a bit apprehensive before his talented youngster Meyer On Fire, the 2018 Illinois Two-Year-Old Pacer of the Year, went postward in last week’s Robert F. Carey stake, the first leg of the journey towards Hawthorne’s Night of Champions in mid-September.
After watching Meyer On Fire win with authority in the home-bred’s initial sophomore start and with a new driver, Marty had to love what he had just witnessed.
“Even if they’re good as a 2-year-old you’re always worried about how they’ll come back at the age of three,” said Engel. “I was really pleased the way Meyer On Fire raced.”
I would be, too.
Meyer On Fire followed his seven-month layoff with a three-length victory in 1:53., for his new driver Tim Curtin, who pulled the ear plugs on the horse on the backside, coming out of fifth, and by the half-mile pole (:58), had the star ICF pacer on the front end. A 27.2 last quarter, with more left in the tank, sealed career victory No. 8 in 14 starts.
“It’s just one race, so I don’t want to get too excited, but yes I was impressed with last Saturday’s race. I’m very much looking forward to the rest of Meyer On Fire’s 3-year-old season,” added Engel who has owned over 250 horses for the past few decades, including the 2008 Breeders Crown 2-year-old filly pace champion Fox Valley Topaz, along with Meyer On Fire’s sire Sagebrush and his dam Sleazy Babe.
You’ll find those same bloodlines in Friday’s seventh race when Slzburgerslzburger races. He’s the older brother of Meyer On Fire.
The Erv Miller trained Meyer On Fire raked-in over $118,000 as a 2-year-old and took his first season mark of 1:52.4, when he captured the Springfield State Fair championship.
“Erv (trainer Miller), told me he thought Meyer On Fire would be a quality horse ”, said the long-time Buffalo Grove, IL. resident, now in Northbrook, Illinois.
“If he isn’t there, Erv calls and talks to the driver before the race, especially if the guy is driving the horse for the first time like Tim (Curtin) was. Meyer On Fire is a lazy horse, so you have to stay after him. I’m sure Erv let Tim know about that.
“If you saw Tim nod to me when he was leaving the winner’s circle with Meyer On Fire, he did that after I asked him if he liked the horse. He said “yes” as he nodded. In fact, every one that has driven the horse has told me how much they liked him.”
The fifth race second $21,850 division draw couldn’t have gone any better for Meyer On Fire, who will open at low-end 4-5 odds. He landed the one-slot. The two through seven posts will be manned by: Sporty McGrew (Kyle Wilfong), Fox Valley Oscar (Cordarius Stewart), Coming Up (Ridge Warren), The Bucket (Casey Leonard), Master Sage (Juan Franco) and Fox Valley Julius (Sale Knox).
Fox Valley Triton (pp 4, Casey Leonard), unraced at two, was an easy winner (1:54.4) of last week’s Mike Paradise Late Closer Series Final and is the heavy 4-5 morning line choice in the second race first Cardinal split.
This will be Fox Valley Triton’s first outing against some of the better ICF 3-year-old male pacers, including the Ken Rucker Stable’s Maximus (Kyle Wilfong), a scant nose runner-to Meyer On Fire in the 2018 Night of Champions Incredible Finale championship.
Maximus (pp 3), will be at first flash odds of 8-5. The longshot hopefuls in the race are Ole Swamp Master (Tim Curtin), Riley The Mooss (Gary Rath), Cooter Luke (Travis Seekman), Frontier Muffler (Freddie Patton) and Ryan Racketeer (Ronnie Gillespie).
Outside Looking In: Two-time Illinois Harness Horse of the Year Fox Valley Gemini (Casey Leonard), returns to the races after a brief week off, for the sixth race 12,000 Open Pace where the Hawthorne Race Office assigned him the outside seven-slot, and deservedly so.
Fox Valley Gemini is programmed at 9-5, but expect those odds to go down substantially. The Terry Leonard trained pacer won the Open two weeks ago by a hard-to-believe 10 and 1/2 lengths, on his favorite race track, where he’s only lost once in 23 career starts.
Last Saturday’s Open winner, Rising To The Top (Travis Seekman), was allocated the six slot. Dash of Danger (Kyle Husted), You’remyhearthrob (Kyle Wilfong), Jewel Maker (Juan Franco), Feelnlikearockstar (Tim Curtin) and Sir Mammo (Ryan Anderson), start from post one through five, respectively.