ICF Two-Year-Olds Debut in Preview

By Mike Paradise for the IHHA


Memorial Day is behind us, and June is here. With the arrival of the new month comes the debut of two-year-old racing in Illinois.


A number of those ICF babies who are ready to begin their first competition on a racetrack will go the starting gate Saturday afternoon on the Du Quoin mile oval in the Spring Preview for state-bred freshmen of both sexes and gaits.


The first of seven events will go off at one o’clock. Each of the filly and colt trots, along with the freshmen colt divisions, were split into two events. Three splits were needed for the filly pace.



Former Illinois champion She’s So Hot (Dave Magee), shown here winning the 2007 Broadway Tax Final at Hawthorne, will have her two-year-old daughter You Can Never Tell debut for trainer Herman Wheeler Saturday at Du Quoin. (Four Footed Fotos)

The pacing colt divisions, races eight and nine on the card, has some interesting first-time starters competing.


Veteran Illinois trainer Tom Simmons will interduce the Somestarsomewhere gelding Fox Valley Ramiro (pp 7), a $16,500 purchase. He’s out of the Western Hanover mare Pacific Sister K which makes him a full brother to Simmons well-regarded three-year-old state bred Fox Valley Cayman, a Cardinal division winner in his first season.


Pacific Sister K also gave us such past successful Illinois stake horses as Mystical MJ (1:51.1, $317,139), Earndawg (1:51 flat, $367,325) and Fox Valley Triton (1:53, $141,251).


Three other sons of Somestartsomewhere are also in the seven-horse event—Guitar Man (Juan Franco), a $20,000 purchase, You Can Never Tell (Herman Wheeler), who sold for $43,000, and Some Beach Rollin (JD Lewis), bought for $20,000 by trainer Roshun Trigg.


The colt first division starter You Can Never Tell is out of the former Illinois champion mare She’s So Hot who dominated the prairie state freshman filly pacing division in 2007 under the care of trainer Rick Schrock, winning 10 of 13 events, sweeping the Broadway Tax stake series at Hawthorne, the Springfield State Fair events, and both the Violet elimination and final at Maywood Park.


In the second colt split Simmons sends out both Frontier Dawson and Fox Valley York. The latter is by Time To Roll, out of the broodmare Roll With Jodi. The $24,000 yearling purchase is a half-brother to Fox Valley Steeler, who made almost $45,000 for Simmons as a two-year-old.


The Springfield based conditioner also has Frontier Dawson in the race. The Somestarsomewhere offspring is the first foal of the Yankee Skyscraper mare Mystical Danica, a Time Dancer stake winner at Du Quoin ten years ago when she made over $100,000 as a 2 and 3-year-old for trainer Erv Miller.


Also bowing Saturday afternoon are two of the first crop of pacers sired by former Illinois champion Unlocked—the filly First Of Her Name (race five) and the colt Enrico Pallazzo (race nine). The Nelson Willis trained youngsters will be driven by Juan Franco for the Megan Rogers Racing Stable of Chicago, their breeders, and owners.


Unlocked was retired from racing in 2019 after a brilliant seven season career thar saw the Duneside Perch pacer collect over $610,000 in purse earnings, win numerous ICF stake championships, pace a 1:49 flat mile at The Meadows, and garner a number of post season awards.


Next Up: An extended eight-week non-wagering meet on the two Illinois State Fair racetracks gets under way on Thursday, June 8th and Friday, June 9th at Du Quoin. The two-day-a-week meeting moves to Springfield on June 15th and 16th and remains at the State Fairgrounds through July 28th.


The IHHA has partnered with “Trot n Pace Marketing” to televise all 19 days of racing, which includes Saturday’s juvenile Preview.


Oops: Your author mistakenly left out Illinois trotting guru Gerry Hansen when we listed last week the Illinois based conditioners, and residents, who have achieved 1,000 or more trainer wins. At last count Gerry had 1,503. . . and there’s much more to come.


Trainer Terry Leonard Reaches Milestone

By Mike Paradise for the IHHA



Long time Illinois based trainer Terry Leonard achieved his 1,000th win as a trainer at Tuesday’s Spring Preview at Springfield. (Photo courtesy of the Leonard Stable)

In an era where there’s year-long racing elsewhere in the country it’s not that unusual to see a driver reach the four-figure plateau in career dash winners rather quickly.


However, it’s still rare to see a trainer send out 1,000 winners in his or her career, especially in Illinois where the race dates have taken a substantial plunge for more than a decade.


Nevertheless, veteran Illinois circuit trainer Terry Leonard gave himself at belated birthday gift Tuesday—he was 72 last week—at the second Spring Preview at Springfield when his stable’s Illinois bred champion Fox Valley Gemini powered past in the second division of the male aged pace.


It was career triumph No. 55 in 108 starts, mostly in Opens, Invites and ICF stakes, for the eight-year-old Fox Valley Gemini, owned by Jim Ballinger of Aurora, Illinois.


For trainer Terry Leonard it’s been a lengthy but steady climb for the Harvard, Illinois native to reach 1,000 winners, a plateau that just a handful of current Prairie state conditioners have achieved—Tom Simmons, Nelson Willis, Perry Smith and Jim Eaton, are the others.


Terry ventured out on the Illinois circuit as a driver in the mid-1970s, a time when the state had nine racetracks conducting an extended Standardbred pari-mutuel meeting. Nowadays Hawthorne stands alone in the state with an extended meet where you can place a bet on its races.


The upcoming meeting on the State Fair Grounds at Springfield will again be non-wagering so sadly the first opportunity to make a bet on an Illinois harness race this year is September 9th, Hawthorne’s opening night.


The status of horse racing in Illinois has indeed changed since the son of the late Illinois Harness Hall of Fame horseman Bud Leonard began his long road to achieve the milestone of 1,000 winners, and most emphatically not for the better.


One of the strengths of the Leonard stable has been the barn’s consistency. For the last 10 years Terry has established a United States Trainer Rating (USTA) of over .300 with twice going over the .400 mark, in 2018 and 2019.



Three-time Illinois Harness Horse of the Year Fox Valley Gemini fittingly was the horse to give trainer Terry Leonard his 1,000th victory. (Four Footed Fotos)

Terry was the leading trainer at last season’s Hawthorne meeting for the fifth time in the last six years, no small fete. His barn has produced numerous Illinois champions, headed by 2011 Illinois Horse of the Year Well To Do Guru and, of course, the ICF standout Fox Valley Gemini, three times voted the state’s No. 1 Standardbred and who Terry once called: “The best horse I’ve ever had; he’s the horse of a lifetime.”


Three divisions for ICF sophomore filly pacers kicked-off Tuesday’s Spring Preview with South Gate Sally (Jamaica Patton) taking the opener for trainer Mark Walker in 1:55.1, My Daddy’s Revenge (Mike Brink) going wire-to-wire in 1:58 for the Brink stable in the second and Amanda Bombae (Richard S Finn) winning the third split despite a break in the last turn with a 1:59 mile for owner and conditioner Russell Powell.


A trio of 3-year-old colt paces were won by the late rushing Super Taco (Juan Franco) for trainer Dossie Minor in 1:56.3; Fox Valley Cayman (1:58.3), driven by trainer Tom Simmons, and the Simmons Stable’s front-stepping Fox Valley Steeler (Casey Leonard) in a quick time of 1:52.2, the fastest mile in the history of a Springfield Spring Preview event.


In the first of two sophomore filly trots Dawn Of Creation, trained by her driver Mike Brink, breezed in 1:59.2 when Zena Lou (Casey Leonard) went off stride on the lead. Lou Sangreal (Travis Seekman) coasted to her second straight Preview victory (1:59.2) for conditioner Steve Searle in heat two.


Owned and trained by his driver Dennis Gardner, last season’s freshman champion Goomster again showed his heels to his competitors in the first 3-year-old colt trot, drawing off by a widening dozen lengths in 1:56.4.  In the second split Ain’t No Mojo (Wyatt Avenatti) was a repeat winner for trainer Kevin Miller with a career best 1:57.4 mile.


As expected, the Nick Prather trained Skeeter Machine (Travis Seekman) again captured the initial heat for aged pacing mares, this time in 1:55 flat. It was back-to-back wins for Seekman when he guided My Uptown Girl to a 1:58 clocking in the homebred mare’s season debut for trainer Gerald Hansen in the other division.


Arcadia Sportacular (Casey Leonard), from the barn of conditioner Rick Schrock, came on to take the first aged colt division while Fox Valley Gemini (1:55) was much the best in the second.


The aged mare trot saw Carroll Hays’ Reign And Shine (Jamaica Patton) led at every pole with a 1:57.4 mile while the older colt trot went in easy fashion again to Lousdobb (1:58.1), Casey Leonard’s fourth win on the 16-race card.

At Long Last Racing in Illinois

By Mike Paradise for the IHHA


After an eight-month absence, and a two-day postponement because of adverse track conditions, harness racing returned to Illinois on Thursday at the State Fair Grounds in Springfield.


Tuesday’s scheduled card, and a possible follow-up program on Wednesday, had to be scrubbed because of rainy conditions on the dirt track.


Fourteen events went postward in the Spring Preview Thursday, sponsored by the Illinois Department of Agriculture, with most horses making their 2023 initial start.


A second Spring Preview, also for strictly state breds, ages three and up, will be conducted next Tuesday at Springfield. The Du Quoin fairgrounds will host a Preview card for only two-year old ICF horses on June 3.


Annas Lucky Star (Juan Franco) made her 57th stop at winner’s circle Thursday at Springfield when she breezed in the Spring Preview for aged ICF trotting mares. It was her season debut as a nine-year-old. (Photo by Kandi Herzog)

The racing surface was still drying out Thursday and accordingly was listed as “good” by the stewards when the Terry Leonard Stable’s Keen Cathy (Casey Leonard) came from far out it in her debut to take the first of a trio of 3-year-old pacing filly divisions in 2:01.1 by one length over Incredible Lorean (Travis Seekman)


Last year’s 2-year-old division champion Fox Valley Kia (Phil Knox) led though much of the race but made a break at the top of lane.


Fox Valley Cha Cha (Jamaica Patton) handily won the second split in 1:59 flat for trainer Charles Arthur and despite being parked-out much of the way Dandy’s Showtime (Casey Leonard), from the barn of conditioner Terry Leonard, held off last year’s Incredible Tillie Final runner-up Rona Mae (Jordan Patton) by a whisker in 1:59.3.


The first of three sophomore colt paces went to Kevin Miller Stable’s Foxman (Wyatt Avenatti) comfortably in 1:58 flat. The well regarded three-year-old Fox Valley Cayman (Casey Leonard) from the barn of Tom Simmons breezed in 1:57 flat, and Kage Daniel (Juan Franco), trained by Tom Graham Jr, took the third colt heat in 1:56.2.


Lou Sangreal (Travis Seekman) dominated the first of two filly trots, pulling away to an eight-length triumph (2:01.2) for trainer Steve Searle while the Mike Brink Stable’s Dawn Of Creation (Mike Brink) eked out a nose decision over Zena Lou (Casey Leonard) in the second split that went in 2:01.2.


Driver Wyatt Avenatti was back in the winner’s circle after Aint No Mojo powered past in the sophomore ICF colt trot division in 1:58.2 for conditioner Kevin Miller while last season’s juvenile champ Goomster, driven by his trainer and owner Dennis Garner, left the second division in the dust with almost a nine-length conquest in 1:58.1


The Nick Prather trained Skeeter Machine (Travis Seekman) easily captured the aged state-bred pacing mare event in 1:59.2 and Fox Valley Gemini (Casey Leonard) hardly broke out in a sweat, crushing his field of older male Illinois bred pacers with a 1:56.4 mile.


Annas Lucky Star (Juan Franco) now nine-years-old, started her season off by romping to her 57th career victory in the older mare trot affair. The 2022 Erwin F. Dygert Memorial champion Lousdobb (2:00.2) won for fun (a dozen-plus lengths) in the aged male grouping for trainer Steve Searle, giving Casey Leonard his fifth winning drive of the day.


Elsewhere, other Illinois champions were in action recently and with impressive results.


Fox Valley Landen (inside, Kyle Husted), shown here edging out Fox Valley Cayman (Casey Leonard) in last season’s Cardinal stake, was a 1:51.1 winner in just his second three-year-old start (Four Footed Foto)

Yes, He’zzz Back: Triple ZZZ Stable’s He’zzz A Wise Sky (Kyle Wilfong) motored to a 1:49.2 winning mile last Friday in Hoosier Park’s $16,000 Open 2-3 in his usual front-end style.


Wilfong hustled the six-year-old John Filomeno trained homebred out from the outside seven-hole to a sizzling 26 flat first quarter. After a 27.2 second panel, the former Illinois Harness Horse of the Year coasted to consecutive 28 flat last quarters for his first season win.


He’zzz A Wise Sky’s next opportunity to add to his $533,133 career bankroll is this Friday night when he leaves from the two-slot in a seven-horse handicapped field in the Indiana track’s featured $22,000 Open 1-2 Pace.


Awesome Homecoming: Two-time defending ICF aged pacing mare Fox Valley Exploit (Kyle Husted) found the return to the Husted stable just what she needed to turn her fortunes around.


The six-year-old mare uncorked a wicked 26.1 last quarter and won by more than one-length with a lifetime best 1:51 flat mile in a conditioned pace at Hoosier last weekend for driver Kyle Husted and his wife, trainer Amy Husted.


Fox Valley Exploit made her first seven starts of the season out east, mostly at the Meadowlands, with some success, winning twice and banking almost $16,000 with trainer Noel Daley.


She’ll compete Saturday at Hoosier in a $18,000 Open 2/3 pace, where the mare will tangle with the well-regarded Gregory Kain ICF mare Scorecard Dandy, among others.


Happy Landing: Fox Valley Exploit wasn’t the only Husted stable horse to dazzle recently. Their promising three-year-old gelded pacer Fox Valley Landen powered past an open field of horses earlier last week at Hoosier, stopping the timer with a fast 1:51.1 clocking in just the Somestarsomewhere pacer’s second outing of the season.


Kyle Husted gave Fox Valley Landen a perfect trip and the gelding delivered a 26.1 last panel to propel him to a new lifetime mark for owners David Brigham (Michigan), John Schwartz (Illinois) and Kyle Husted (Illinois)