By Mike Paradise
One of the key components to filling the races on Hawthorne’s cards came from the Mississippi horsemen who spent the summer some 750 miles away from their home.
“The Mississippi guys were invaluable to filling our races,” said Hawthorne’s Director of Harness Racing Operations Tom Kelley. “And they were great guys to work with.”
Mississippians Curtis Rice started 80 horses at the summer meet. Freddie Patton Jr. raced 70 horses. Roshun Trigg sent out 50, Martin Woodward raced 40. Jamaica Patton had 30 go postward and Cornelius Cavett sent out 19.
In the past many Mississippi horsemen came up Illinois to race their two-year-olds with the intention of having enough success on the fair circuit with them to get what they hoped were substantial offers for their youngsters.
However with less state-bred stake races available and the purses for those that remain at lower levels than in the past, the interest in ICF freshman horses has diminished. Instead, horsemen like Trigg and Patton are keeping and racing their youngsters and it has paid off for both trainers.
Roshun was the leading trainer on the Illinois County Fair Circuit and his young trotter Louscipher captured the Kadabra 2-year-old colt trot final on Champions Night as Trigg’s horses earned over $320,000 in 2016, far and away his best year.
Freddie drove and trained the talented 2-year-old ICF pacer Princess Sage, the Incredible Tillie and Violet champion and Patton also enjoyed his best year with over $40,000 more in purse earnings than any other racing season.
“It used to be that we often had young horses that weren’t good enough to race in Chicago but that’s changed. Now they are,” said Freddie.
“I’ll be back next year to race my good young horses. I believe in racing 2 and 3-year-olds. Not everybody brings back a two-year-old and they race as good at three but I do. Mind come back as good or better. I most definitely will be back at Hawthorne next year and so will my son (Cornelius Cavett).
“I have a lot of respect for Freddie and he has a lot of respect for me, “said Roshun. “Back home we talk a lot. Earlier this year we talked about what we were going to do in 2016 and whether to race in Indiana or go back in Illinois. We decided to try Illinois. If the ship was going to down there, we would go down with the ship.”
The “ship” hasn’t gone down in Illinois but its listing badly, that’s for sure. The Mississippi horsemen have played a big part keeping things from going under and thankfully all signs point to a return from them in 2017.