By Mike Paradise
It’s gratifying back covering Illinois harness racing for this my 49th consecutive season. Hopefully the health issues that were responsible for my belated start are behind me.
Catching Up: I wonder how many trainers who entered a horse in tonight’s Open Pace issued a big sigh of relief when the field for the $13,700 Friday headliner was posted.
Not listed was the rampaging Illinois champion He’zzz A Wise Sky. The talented John Filomeno trained five-year-old is taking the night off, making the second race feature a wide-open affair.
Quite frankly the meet’s first three Open’s were basically a race for second place money during in the month of January He’zzz A Wize Sky hardly broke out in a sweat disposing of his Hawthorne opposition.
Driver Kyle Wilfong has had the back-to-back Illinois Harness Horse of the year well in hand at the end of the first three local Opens enabling a quick $23,000-plus on the Yankee Skyscraper gelding’s season card for owners and breeders Triple ZZZ Stable of Beecher, Illinois.
He’zzz A Wise Sky’s absence tonight shouldn’t come as a surprise to the horse’s followers. A brief rest makes sense after three straight weeks of competition. It’s a long racing season and there’s the Illinois aged pace championship on the line in mid-September.
“They didn’t enter the horse on their own,” said Hawthorne’s Racing Secretary Robin Schadt. “I didn’t ask them to take the week off with the horse.”
Robin also acknowledges that the Illinois champion won’t be with us all season. Our $13,500 Open purse pales in comparison to Hoosier Park’s $20,000-plus Open pots, so expect He’zzz A Wise Sky to spend most of the summer in Indiana again.
A disagreement: With He’zzz A Wise Sky tonight’s munching on hay at his home in Beecher, who will the betting public’s send off as the tonight’s Open favorite.
The sometimes-ridiculed USTA computer generated morning line came up with the Illinois ICF veteran Fox Valley Ren, a winner a week ago for trainer Steve Searle but at a lower conditioned pace level. He’ll open at 5-2 with driver Todd Warren.
I believe it’s more likely the computer’s 3-1 second choice Francis Underwood will get the bulk of the public’s wagering money, The five-year-old Perry Smith trained and owned five-year-old was second best to He’zzz A Wise Sky in 2 of the first 3 Opens and was a late-flying third (26.2) in the other for driver Mike Oosting,
Perry also sends out Gotham Hanover (pp 1, Travis Seekman), a sub 1:50 pacer last year at Hoosier, and the six-year-old Yankee Cruiser gelding is also programed at 3-1.
Former multiple ICF Horse of the Year Fox Valley Gemini deserves your deliberation tonight. The now seven-year-old star of the Terry Leonard stable was a non-factor in last week’s open when driver Casey Leonard ducked the pacer with speedball He’zzz A Wise Sky a “lock” to be hustled out. Which he was.
The Britany Dillion Stable’s The Thunder Rolls (Joey Putnam) returns to the races tonight and drew nicely with the two-slot. The veteran gelding breezed last weekend in his 1:55.4 qualifier.
Trainer Merv Chupp entered When You Dance (pp 6, Kyle Wilfong) after a needed start. The gelding had been spending the winter in Florida in Pompano Park Opens. He took his mark of 1:50.2 at Hawthorne two years ago.
More in Store: Tonight’s co-feature is a $11,200 Open strictly for four-year-old pacers. You’ll have to wait for the 10th and final race on the card to watch it. The race was drawn by groups.
Post one through four belong to Shock Wave (Juan Franco), Round Here Buzz (Casey Leonard), Rollinwithdaponyzzz (Kyle Wilfong) and Advance Man (Mike Oosting). The five through one slots will be manned by Imarealrocknbuggati (Travis Seekman), Mastery (Wyatt Avenatti), He’s Gonna Getya (Kyle Husted), Velocity Gator (Joey Putnam), and Hello Sweetie Boy (Todd Warren).