By Mike Paradise
The two-year-old Incredible Finale showdown on Hawthorne’s Night of Champion is still a month away nevertheless we’ll get a sneak preview of that ICF colt confrontation Friday night and you won’t have to wait long to see it.
The first race came up big in state-bred freshman talent and will pit for the first time the two youngsters who have swept their first three respective legs of the stake series—Gabe Henry for the Tom Graham Jr. stable and Sporty Redhot from the barn of trainer Kim Roth.
Those two freshmen are tied for the top spot in the Incredible Finale standings with a perfect score of 150 points after they both captured their respective divisions in the series first three legs.
They’ll start side-by-side in Friday’s opener with Gabe Henry in the six-slot for her owner and breeder Carol Graham of Salem, Illinois and Sporty Redhot with the seven for Al Beals of Berwyn, Illinois, a neighboring suburban of Stickney, Illinois the home of Hawthorne Race Track.
Todd Warren has been driving both freshman and had to make a choice for tonight. He picked Gabe Henry who will open at 2-1.. Matt Krueger will get his first opportunity behind the 3-1 second choice Sporty Red Hot.
Each horse has only one blemish in four career starts.
Sporty Redhot opened his freshman campaign with easy wins in his series races with clocking’s of 1:56.3, 1:55.4 and 1:56.4 before a disappointing fourth place finish in a conditioned pace as the public’s choice two weeks ago.
Also going postward in Friday’s opener is Fox Valley Jeter (Casey Leonard) who is right behind the top pair in the series standings with 125 points after two stake series triumphs and a second place finish behind Gabe Henry on July 24.
Owned by Phil Langley of Frankfort, Christine Buttice of Leesburg, Florida and trainer Jim Eaton of Crete, Illinois, Fox Valley Jeter landed a good post with the two and could give the co-favorites all they can handle.
Trainer Nelson Willis has a pair of “Fox Valley’s” who look formidable in “Sparty” and “Inferno,” the latter is sixth in the current series standings with 49 points with one second and two third place finishes in legs of the Incredible Finale.
Fox Valley Sparty has hit the board in his three series starts with finishes of fourth and third in his last two stake legs. Veteran driver Dale Hiteman is back to steer the youngster away from the three-post.
Fox Valley Hoss (pp 1, Ridge Warren) and Uptown Sleaze (pp 4, Kyle Wilfong) also have a series stake win on their résumés. The latter’s 70 point total puts him in fifth in the series standings.
Longshot Upbeat Big Guy (pp 5, Ryan Anderson) rounds out the eight-horse field.