Like it says, “you just never know.”

By Mike Paradise


It’s been said hundreds of times “you just don’t know what will happen in a horse race” and last weekend’s Night of Champions eliminations at Hawthorne demonstrated it once again.


If you would have told me that the two-year-olds Fox Valley Jasper, winner of his first six races including a sweep of the summer’s Incredible Finale stakes and Springfield events; Fox Valley Langley, a Cardinal stake champion with six wins in his first nine starts, and the 1 to 9 freshman filly trotter Fox Valley Shania who took both of the Springfield and Du Quoin State Fair champions, all would be racing in Sunday’s NOC Consolation races, I would have told you to cut down on your visits to the local weed shop.


Nevertheless, that’s what transpired to the disbelief of most Illinois harness racing players.


Last Friday evening Fox Valley Langley had the lead with a sixteenth of a mile to go in the second Incredible Finale division when the pacer went off stride and finished fifth. In the same race Fox Valley Shania came up empty in the stretch and ended up sixth, beaten three lengths. A third-place finish was needed to ensure a berth in that stake’s $150,000 final.


A day later the Midwest Division of the Erv Miller stable’s talented trotting filly Fox Valley Shania picked the wrong time to make some breaks. All the filly needed to advance to the $120,000 Fox Valley Flan final was a fifth-place check or higher. Instead, she finished ninth and was distanced.


Like it says, “you just never know.”

The Amy Husted stable’s Niko Man (Kyle Husted) rebounded in a big from his miscues at Du Quoin with a dominant nine-plus length victory in his Kadabra elimination last weekend with a track record two-year-old trotting record time of 1:56 flat. (Four Footed Fotos)

Niko Man Back in Groove: It’s not unusual for two-year-old trotters to have an up and down first season campaign and the Amy Husted trainer ICF youngster Niko Man, driven by her husband Kyle Husted, is a perfect illustration.


Niko Man was first or second in his first five career starts and went “off” as the 4-5 favorite in Du Quoin’s Governor’s Cup in late August. The key word in that last sentence was “off.” Because Niko Man was off stride twice going to the gate in that August 27th stake and got a far back view of his opposition’s tails when he was beaten more than 21 lengths.


However last weekend the Cassis gelding bounced back in a big way, winning his Kadabra elimination by more than none opening lengths in a track record time of 1:56. And that’s still a full second off Niko Man’s best mile of 1:55 flat in his Illinois State Fair elimination race in mid-August.


Niko Man, a $20,000 yearling purchase at the 2021 Illini Classic Sale by Bowie Racing (Shorewood, IL) and Anthony Lombardi (Morris, IL), will renew his rivalry in the NOC’s Kadabra final with Dennis Gardner’s Goomster who beat Niko Man in the last pair of ICF stake championships, first in the summer’s Kadabra showdown and then in the Springfield final.


Goomster, who ironically also failed to make the gate at Du Quoin, won for the third time in his last five starts for driver Kyle Wilfong in his Kabanra elimination last weekend but needed it all to hold off the late-blooming 13-1 longshot Whatta Year, driven the first time by Juan Franco, after failing to hit the board in the colt’s first seven career starts for trainer and co- proprietor Charles Arthur who shares ownership of the New Balance colt with Marvin Chandler, also of Terry, Mississippi.


The $140,000 Kadabra trot final should be titillating contest.

NOC Finalists Decided; Wilfong Shines

By Mike Paradise


The filly and mare finalists for next Saturday’s Night of Champions were determined last night at Hawthorne with elimination races in three Illinois bred stake divisions.


However, the star of the program was the meet’s leading driver Kyle Wilfong who brought home seven of the ten winning horses on the card.


First up in the Night of Champions eliminations was the $12,000 initial division of the Fox Valley Flan for two-year-filly trotters and most eyes were on the overwhelming 1-9 public’s choice Marvelous Mystery, winner of her first eight career starts and the bridesmaid in the recent state fair championships at Springfield and Du Quoin.


Don’t let the Curt Grummel talented filly’s one length victory fool you. Marvelous Mystery ($2.10)) won under a hold by Kyle Wilfong after strolling to leisurely fractions of 30.2, 31 flat, and 30.1 before being asked to put a little more effort into the last quarter (28.3) of her winning 2:01.1 mile.


The 95-longshot Lou Sangreal was second best in Saturday’s opener. It was far back to the third-place finisher Lous Lexi Lou.  Also making the Fox Valley Flan $120,00 final were Dawn Of Creation and Mariah Lou.


The Curt Grummel trained Marvelous Mystery victory in Saturday’s initial two-year-old Fox Valley Flan filly trot elimination was the first of seven winning drives on the night for Kyle Wilfong. (Four Footed Fotos)

Marvelous Mystery, a daughter of Lou’s Legacy, is owned by Curt, Craig, and Leo Grummel, all of Carrolton, Illinois.


The second Fox Valley Flan grouping saw an end of the “chalk” brigade of winning horses when Radiant Diamond at 8-1 won a nose decision over the 37-1 longshot Zena Lou (Travis Seekman). The heavy 1-9 choice Fox Valley Shania (Atlee Bender) went off stride and will miss the championship.


Lous Rona, Shespertifulikepert and Memorial Storm also advance to the finale.


Zena Lou got to the front on the backside and coasted to a modest 1:02.1 first half with Radiant Diamond in the middle of the pack. The pacesetter looked good half-way down the stretch, but the Rick Schrock trained Radiant Diamond grinded her way past in time for her proprietors Jodi Peacock (Cantrall, IL) and Carol Reynolds (Springfield, IL).


“Chalk” Domination: In the first of two $12,000 Incredible Tillie elimination splits for Illinois bred freshman filly pacers another overwhelming 1-9 favorite breezed. This time it was the Mike Brink stable’s My Daddys Revenge, aptly handled by Casey Leonard.


The Revenge Shark filly finished almost five lengths ahead of runner-up One R Andis Star for her Springfield, Illinois owners Lori Searle and Mike Brink. Also advancing to the $180,000 final were The Magical Woman, Some Dancing Star, and Ashlee’s Lil Angel.


My Daddys Revenge ($2.20) grabbed command at the quarter mile (29.3) pole, relinquished it to One R Andis Star, and came back to retake the lead at the 58.3 half. From that point it was a race for second place as the recent Du Quoin State Fair champ pulled away for her sixth win in nine career starts.


Rona Mae (Todd Warren) knocked off the 1-2 favorite Fox Valley Kia in the second “Tillie” elimination. The Mike Brick trained winner came from almost nine lengths back at the 58.2 half to race side-by-side with Fox Valley Kia down the lane before pulling away for a one and three-quarter length win in 1:53.3 for Joplin, Missouri owners and breeders Hugh Lake and Susan Lacey.


Also advancing were Senorita Mouse, Dandy’s Showtime, and Can’t Stay To Long.


Radiant Diamond at 8-1 odds was the surprise winner of the second Fox Valley Flan elimination for driver Kyle Wilfong, nosing out 34-1 longshot Zena Lou (Travis Seekman). (Four Footed Fotos)

Wilfong picked up his seventh winner of the night when the 2-5 favorite Funky Wiggle overcame the second tier start and crushed her field in the Beulah Dygert Memorial elimination for ICF sophomore trotting fillies by more than six lengths in 1:55.2.


Wilfong did a heady job of driving the Curt Grummel trained filly, keeping her two lengths off the front row of horses at the start, dropping into fifth, and them coming out on the backstretch and mowing down the pacesetting and runner-up Ironclad Creation in the lane for breeder and owner Patrick Graham of Lockridge, Iowa.


Three Night of Champion prep races were sprinkled throughout the Saturday program.


The well-balanced Tony Maurello Memorial field for state-bred fillies and mares, age three and up, saw the Gregory Kain trained Scorecard Dandy ($6.80, Kyle Wilfong) put on furious rally to gain a half-length victory in 1:53.1; the Carl Becker Memorial trot for ICF aged mares went as expected to Annas Lucky Star (Kyle Wilfong) in 1:55 flat. The 1-5 favorite led from get-go and was never challenged in her 54th career victory; the Plum Peachy prep was the final race on the card and the three-year-old filly event was captured by Apple Valley ($5.20, Travis Seekman) with a 1:53.1 clocking.

Which Gals will Advance to NOC Finals?

By Mike Paradise


It’s “Girls Night Out.” We’re talking about the four-legged kind for Saturday night.


A portion of Hawthorne’s ten race card will determine which freshman filly pacers and trotters will be finals for next Saturday’s Night of Champions.


Only the two-year-old distaffers will need to compete in eliminations to move on to the NOC showdowns. For the three-year-olds and upward gals, it’s prep events to keep sharp for championships on Hawthorne’s showcase evening for ICF Standardbreds.


The most riveting of the filly eliminations are the state-bred freshman pacing divisions where several season stake championships will fight it out to earn a shot at the big bucks ($180,000 est.) on the Night of Champions.


It seems that when every major ICF filly stake race rolls around, another distaff pacer steps up and takes the crown. It happened again in Du Quoin’s Lt. Governor’s Cup where the Mike Brink stable’s My Daddy Revenge (Casey Leonard) ended Springfield’s champion Fox Valley Kia’s winning streak at five in a row.


Du Quoin’s Lt. Governor Cup winner My Daddys Revenge (Casey Leonard), heads up Saturday’s first Incredible Tillie 3-year-old filly trot elimination. (Four Footed Fotos)

Prior to Springfield, My Daddys Revenge stablemate Rona Mae won three in a row, including Hawthorne’s summer’s $50,000 Incredible Tillie title before her third place showing at the Illinois State Fair. She was fourth at Du Quoin.


Then there’s the Erv Miller trained The Magical Woman (Atlee Bender), an earlier Violet division winner and third in the early “Tillie” final and again third at Du Quoin.


Will this talented quartet of young fillies all advance and get a shot at next Saturday’s $180,000 pot? Or is the $25,000 Consolation their next outing?


My Daddys Revenge (Casey Leonard) and The Magical Woman head up the fifth race first “Tillie” elimination while Fox Valley Kia and Rona Mae square off again in the eighth race second elim. The first five finishers in each event move along to the championships.


Trotting Out the Opener: The Fox Valley Flan freshman trot elims are races one and seven. Marvelous Mystery (Kyle Wilfong) opens at 4-5 in the first elimination.


  Awaiting the Curt Grummel trainee with 8 wins in 10 career starts are Fox Valley Adira (Gary Rath), Mariah Lou (Wyatt Avenatti), Lou Sangreal (Travis Seekman), Trotamileinmyshoes (Richard S Finn), Dawn Of Creation (Casey Leonard), Lous Lexi Lou (Archie Buford) and Du Quoin’s First Lady Cup winner Fox Valley Candor (Kyle Husted)


Fox Valley Shania, the Springfield and Du Quoin titleholder, is at even-money first flash odds despite landing the 10-hole with Atlee Bender in the second elimination.


The Erv Miller Midwest division trained filly will be challenged by El Brae Brae (Cordarius Stewart), Zuna Lou (Travis Seekman), Radiant Diamond (Kyle Wilfong), Memorial Storm (Juan Franco), Shespertifulikpert (Todd Warren), Daisys Duchess (Casey Leonard), Olympic Champion (Kyle Husted) and Lous Rona (Archie Buford).


A number of $12,000 prep races will give plenty of support to the Hawthorne Saturday card.


The Tony Maurello prep for state-breds fillies and mares, age three and up, is race four while the “ladies” trot—the Carl Becker Memorial with Illinois trotting queen Annas Lucky Star—goes as race six.


Funky Wiggle (Kyle Wilfong) who sped to a ICF record 1:51.4 mile in Do Quoin’s Windy Skeeter Trot is saddled with the second tier 11-post in Saturday’s Beulah Dygert Memorial prep race. (Four Footed Fotos)

The gifted Funky Wiggle (Kyle Wilfong) who became the fastest (1:51.4) three-year-old ICF trotter of all-time in Du Quoin’s Windy Skeeter last weekend, has to overcome the second tier 11-slot in the ninth race Beulah Dygert Memorial prep and her post makes me a little nervous.


The three-year-old Plum Peachy filly slugfest is the last event on the card. Apple Valley (Travis Seekman), who looks to make it a clean sweep of both “Peachy” championships, drew the nine-hole in the 10-horse field, while Du Quoin champ Dandy’s MNM (Kyle Wilfong) leaves from the middle of the pack with the five.


NOC Finalists Decided: A trio of Incredible Finale elimination events were contested Friday night with the first three finishers advancing to next week’s $180,000 Night of Champions ICF two-year-old colt and gelding pacing final.


Moving on to the championship from the first $12,000 division was the 9-1 longshot winner Fox Valley McKee (Kyle Wilfong) in 1:53.4, and the second and third place two-year-old male pacers Illini Jetset and Fox Valley Falcon.


The second division went to Ghost Shark (Travis Seekman) by a head in 1:53.2. Fox Valley Cayman won the photo for second over Fox Valley Landen.


Also moving on were the one-two-three finishers in the third elimination—Mister Sleaze (Travis Seekman) Deputy Dawg and Fox Valley Steeler.


A pair of Kadabra juvenile trot divisions saw the first five finishers advance to its $140,000 final on the Night of Champions. Gaining the showdown from the first split were the 1-5 favorite Goomster (Kyle Wilfong) who nosed out the 13-3 longshot Whatta Year (Juan Franco). They’ll be joined by Judge Me Not, Lous Andiamo and Jammin High.


Niko Man (Kyle Husted) blew away the second division elimination field by nine-plus lengths in 1:56 flat. Also achieving the Kadabra final were Tankmetodennyland, Aint No Mojo, Evesontheprize Lou and Youain’tnofool.


A quartet of state-bred prep events saw Fox Valley Gemini (Casey Leonard) romp in the Robert S. Molero Memorial for male aged pacers after pre-race favorite He’zzz A Wise Sky was a late scratch; Fox Valley Crete (Kyle Wilfong) pop at 11-1 over the prohibitive 1-9 choice Fox Valley Ozzy in the Robert F. Carey Jr. Memorial for three-year-old pacers; Talk About Valor (Travis Seekman) win for the eleventh time at the Hawthorne meet in the Plesac colt and gelding trot, and Lousdobb (Casey Leonard) continue his domination of the Illinois bred three-year-old male trot division with his triumph in the Erwin F. Dygert Memorial.