It’s D Day for Illinois 2023 Race Dates

By Mike Paradise


It’s “D-Day” for Illinois horsemen. That “D” is for decision time by the Illinois Racing Board for allocation of both the Standardbred and thoroughbred racing dates for 2023.


Unlike some of the past years when rival in-state racetracks provided some rambunctious, and at times entertaining Race Date Hearings arguing over who gets what, today’s allocations are a slam dunk.


With Arlington Park having pulled out of the Illinois thoroughbred industry and Balmoral Park, Maywood Park and Sportsman’s Park distant memories, Hawthorne Racecourse stands alone in the once thriving state’s horse racing industry.


So, what Hawthorne wants, Hawthorne gets, and the in-town racing facility wants its current thoroughbred meeting to continue through the start of the new year and all the way into mid or late August of 2023.


If today’s Illinois Racing Board’s allocation of 2023 race dates goes as expected, harness horses won’t be coming down Hawthorne’s long stretch again until next September. (Four Footed Fotos)

The racetrack doesn’t want what it says is a six-figure expenditure to switch from a surface for runners to another surface for Standardbreds so soon. It’s thoroughbred meeting begins tomorrow (Friday) afternoon.  The track also just put up a length hub rail along with other expenses to make the switch.


With the thoroughbreds racing at Hawthorne until late next summer, it would be nine months before another track make-over would take place, rather than just three.


Harness racing will likely return to Hawthorne, a year from now, sometime in September of 2023.  It’ll be the only time pari-mutuel racing in Illinois will take place for pacers and trotters all year long.


Hawthorne then would conduct harness racing through the end of 2023 and several weeks of 2024, about six consecutive months on its big mile oval.


Hawthorne (Suburban Downs, Inc) does plan on sponsoring a lengthy harness racing meet in Springfield next year, probably beginning around June but without pari-mutuel wagering.


Those Springfield dates are not allocated by the Racing Board since the meeting will be non-wagering and don’t have to be decided at this time. Instead, Hawthorne, the IHHA, the Illinois Department of Agriculture, and the Illinois County Fair Associations will work out a schedule to avoid as much as possible a conflict with the county fair racing circuit.


Racing on Monday and Tuesday afternoons at Springfield are in the discussion while a shortage of horses is the primary concern.


The purse money for the current Springfield condensed meet that concludes next Friday, September 30th, and a 2023 meeting on Springfield’s Illinois State Fairgrounds, is being made available by Hawthorne.


Call it a “loan” to the Illinois horsemen. Collection time will come when the Hawthorne’s Racino starts generating revenue, hopefully sometime in 2024.


Racino construction was to start in April of this year but that didn’t happen. September was then proclaimed as the next start date, but again it was a no-go. It’s now said that November is when construction begins and while there are those in the Illinois racing industry who are saying: “I’ll believe it when I see it,” this time it may very well materialize.


The Illinois harness horsemen’s purse account is about $2.5 million in the hole and is projected to be down between $2.7 and $3 million at the end of the year. With Hawthorne’s the current purse structure expected to continue when the Springfield meet pops up next year, that’s a lot of “skin” the racetrack has rather generously put up to keep the state’s Standardbred industry from further declining.


Although not bright, there is some light at the end of the tunnel.


Gals in Spotlight: Harness racing returns to the Illinois State Fairgrounds today with a 12 noon post time and it’s headed up by the $12,300 Open for filly and mare pacers.


Carroll Hays’ Eliza Dushku N (Kyle Husted) and Gregory Kain’s Scorecard Dandy (Kyle Wilfong), the one-two finishers in last week’s Springfield distaff headliner, will slug it out again.


They’ll be joined by Wild Eyed Girl (Randall Finn), Rollin Coal (Juan Franco), My Uptowne Girl (Travis Seekman) and Tiamogonedancen (Casey Leonard) in the sixth race feature.


The Megan Roger Stable’s Fox Valley Crete (Juan Franco), fresh from his Robert F. Carey Memorial championship 12 days ago, is back in action in race ten. Among the challengers is the Amy Husted trained Get E Up (Kyle Husted) who earlier captured Hawthorne’s summer Carey showdown.


Last week Casey Leonard had 11 winning drives on the first two days of the abbreviated Springfield meet. Cordarius Stewart was next with five winners.


Don’t Overlook Lousdobb

By Mike Paradise


When the balloting gets under way later in the season for the 2022 Illinois Harness Horse of the Year, one of the prime contenders should be the gifted three-year-old trotter Lousdobb from the barn of trainer Steve Searle.


The gelded son of Lou’s Legacy wrapped up divisional honors for a second year in a row with his victory in last Saturday’s $88,000 Erwin F. Dygert Memorial trotting championship, nicely handled by his regular driver Casey Leonard.


Lousdobb, the pride of the Steve Searle stable, is a candidate for 2022 Illinois Harness Horse of the Year honors. He’s shown here with driver Casey Leonard winning Du Quoin’s Pronto Don final. (Four Footed Fotos)

The Dygert victory was Lousdobb’s fifth in a row and gave the pride of the Searle stable a gaudy season record of 8 wins in 10 starts and the $44,000 share of the $88,000 pot propelled the horse’s purse earnings for the year to $114,720 for owners All-Wright Racing LLC of Morton and Flacco Family Farms LLC (Alexis, IL), also the breeders of the good-looking trotter.


A bad foot and a bad break likely kept Lousdobb from a ninth season win, and possibility a tenth and a unbeaten 2022 campaign.


After the horse’s Dygert win his trainer explained Loudobb’s problems in midseason after the horse won his first three starts that included the Cardinal stake and five consecutive more in August and September.  Loussdobb went off stride in those only two losses.


“The horse had an abscess in his foot,” revealed Searle. “We scratched him out of the first Dygert prep and thought he would be okay for the summer final, but he started pacing at the (July 22nd) start. Two weeks later he raced at Altamont, and it appeared his foot was still bothering him.


“The horse had a 27-length lead (at the half) when he made a break. It was a heartbreaking loss,” added his veteran Illinois based trainer. “He’s really a good horse.”


No doubt about that statement.


In two years of competition Lousdobb has raked in $192,851 for his Illinois owners, taken a new mark of 1:54.1(Springfield), and has made 11 trips to the winner’s circle in an even 20 starts.


The trotter swept the championships at both Illinois State Fairs this year and his Night of Champions victory gave him back-to-back ICF stake final wins on Hawthorne’s showcase evening of racing.


NOC Finalists in Action: There are some interesting races on today’s 13-race card that gets under way at noon with some top-notch Illinois bred youngsters going the gate.


In race two the recent Maurello Night of Champions runner-up Scorecard Dandy goes postward against a field, like her, have been Hawthorne Open participants this summer.


Gary Rath gets the catch drive behind the four-year-old Scorecard Dandy who is having a breakout campaign for trainer Gregory Kain with nine wins and earnings of almost $114,000.


Mary’s Pretty Girl, Rollin Coal, In Rockin Country, Bluewater Beach, Eliza Dushku N, and Tiamogonedancen will provide tough competition.


The Mike Brick stable’s good looking freshman filly pacer My Daddys Revenge (Casey Leonard), the third place beaten favorite in last weekend’s $185,000 Incredible Tillie final, looks to avenge that loss in Friday’s ninth race.


The Revenge Shark filly won the $50,000 Lt. Governor Cup in late August at Du Quoin and a win today would put her over the $90,000 mark in her juvenile season.


Brink also sends out his competent ICF three-year-old trotter Fox Valley Cairo in a division of the Autumn Allowance (race 12). Fox Valley Cairo has five consecutive second place finishes to Lousdobb, coming in the Springfield and Du Quoin championship, and again on Hawthorne’s Night of Champions $88,000 Erwin F. Dygert Memorial trot.

Casey Leonard will take over the driving chores on the Cassis gelding with a two-season bank account of over $180,000.


Five Will Do: Casey had himself a very productive Thursday’s opening day of the abbreviated Springfield meet.  The 45-year-old from Harvard, Illinois brought home five winning horses. Cordarius Stewart and Kyle Husted did quite well, too. Both had a three-bagger.


Illinois Racing Moves to Springfield

By Mike Paradise


Illinois harness racing picks up where it left off at the Hawthorne meet with programs on two afternoons a week for the next three weeks on Springfield’s state fairgrounds.


They’re non wagering events sponsored at Hawthorne and the first card, a 13-race program, gets under way at noon today.


The headliners are the fifth race Open trot and the ninth race, a division of the Autumn Allowance for horses that last raced at Hawthorne. It’s not called an “Open,” but it very well could be because three of the six horses going postward last raced in a Hawthorne Open and another (Millenial, Gabe Wand) did early on last month.


While the card is non-wagering I went ahead and did a line with some comments to add some spice to the $8,000 event, and the other 12 races. That line can be found elsewhere on this site.


Primo Giovanni (Casey Leonard), shown here winning an August Open Pace at Hawthorne, goes postward today in Springfield as Illinois harness racing shifts to the state capitol. (Four Footed Fotos)

Primo Giovanni (pp 3, Casey Leonard), Hidden Assassin (Rick Schrock) and Rock N Republic (Cordarius Stewart) each were “regulars” in Hawthorne Opens all summer long and the first two horses mentioned both have an Open victory on their season list of accomplishments.


Primo Giovanni was a fast closing (26.2) third last week for Northbrook, Illinois owner Marty Engel, beaten less than one length, while Hidden Assassin’s fifth place finish was the only time this year in 12 outings the four-year-old didn’t hit the board.


I labeled Primo Giovanni the Terry Leonard stable’s “other Open horse.” The nine-year-old has raced in the shadow of his illustrious stable-mate illustrious Fox Valley Gemini, a three-time Illinois Harness Horse of the Year and last weekend’s $62,000 Robert S. Molero Memorial winner to keep the horse a perfect six-for-six on Hawthorne’s Night of Champions.


“Fox Valley Gemini is just a class horse,” said Casey last weekend. “He just shows up on every Night of Champions.”


But what about his much less heralded stable mate?


“Primo Giovanni gives you all he’s got when he’s out there,” replied Casey. “He’s all racehorse. The horse always tries hard and can give you some fast last quarters.”


Sub 27 last panels is the norm for Primo Giovanni who has put almost $35,000 on his season card. The Big Bad John veteran gelding has made over 200 career starts and banked nearly $435,000. He was acquired by the Engel Stable of Illinois LLC at the end of 2020 and joined the Leonard barn soon thereafter, making just short of $40,000 at the age of eight. Primo Giovanni took his mark of 1:50.3 at Hoosier Park as a six-year-old.


Solid Open Trot: Today’s $9,000 Open Trot is a good one.  Three of six participants are coming out of a Night of Champions final—Reign N Shine (Cordarius Stewart) in the Carl Becker Memorial for fillies and mares, and Primed N Powerful (pp 5, Jamaica Patton) and Heath Bar (pp 6, John Lewis), both from the Patton stable) are out of the Plesac.


Primed N Powerful was second best to Talk About Valor last Saturday, beaten only one length, while Heath Bar finished third. Primed N Powerful is having a splendid season as a nine-year-old with $76,140 on his card, while Heath Bar, age five, is in the midst of his best year with 10 victories and almost $78,000 banked.


Cash Hit (pp 2, Kyle Husted) and Rock Party (pp 4, Casey Leonard) have been frequent Open trotters at Hawthorne’s meet, and both are coming off a strong victory in high-level conditioned events. He Tricked Me (pp 1, Mike Brink) completes the field.


The abbreviated Suburban Downs meeting at Springfield continues Friday afternoon with a 12 noon first post.