By Mike Paradise
By all the data the trotter Fox Valley Quest had a terrific first season for the Tom Simmons Stable, capped off with the prestigious honor as the ICF 2019 Two-Year-Old Trotter of the Year.
However there was one large blemish on the brilliant freshman’s record of the Piazzazzed gelding out of the Vaporize broodmare Fox Valley Strata . . . his very disappointing outing on last year’s Night of Champions.
Fox Valley Quest went off stride in the first turn of the $108,000 Kadabra championship, the biggest prize of his division, and finished up the track as the prohibitive 2 to 5 odds with his regular driver Casey Leonard.
The young trotter came into last September’s rainy Night of Champions evening with nine victories in 11 starts that included the Cardinal (Hawthorne) and the Darn Safe (Du Quoin) titles. Fox Valley Quest’s only two losses had been second place finishes in a leg of the Kadabra to Desert Sheik and to On Higher Ground, both Mike Brink trained trotters.
Fox Valley Quest’s break on the Night of Champions came a little past the midway point of the first turn with a trotter inside of him and another on his outside. It was obvious the Simmons trained trotter was in tight quarters.
What the pan camera view of the race doesn’t show us is if the public’s choice was squeezed some before his costly miscue. A rain-soaked racetrack and less than good visibility didn’t help matters.
Fox Valley Quest would finish 2019 with 10 wins in 13 starts and $76,758 in purse earnings for Illinois owners Carl Lacey (Athens) and Benita Simmons (Springfield). However only $2,160 of that bankroll came from starting in the Kadabra showdown, far, far less than the winner Crooked Creek who came away with first place prize money of $49,680
But as they say, you can’t change history.
Fox Valley Quest is in training for his sophomore debut and another shot at a Night of Champions crown. The first leg of the Erwin F. Dygert ICF three-year-old stake series is scheduled for Sunday, May 24th, the same night the Beulah Dygert for fillies gets under way.
The opening leg of the Robert F. Carey for second season state-bred colt and gelding pacers is Friday, May 22nd. The Plum Peachy for the sophomore pacing gals is a night later.