By Mike Paradise
With the bevy of Late Closer series championships getting most of the attention last week and the opening legs of the Night of Champion stake series certain to be in the limelight this weekend, the on-going Cicero Claiming Series has been virtually ignored by many Hawthorne followers.
I plead guilty to being one of them.
There have been some spirited battles in the first two legs of both the distaff and male divisions at two different two levels to decide this weekend’s finalists. In one event, a clear-cut final favorite has been determined, but in the others just who will be the public choices at post time is anybody’s guess.
The Angie Coleman Stable’s Sweetshadyshark, has stepped up in a big way in the $8,000 to $10,000 claiming series finals for fillies and mares. She’s captured both of her series legs and did so in different fashions with driver Travis Seekman.
On May 12th, Seekman took her from sixth to first in the second quarter and she held on for a narrow 1:54.4 decision.
Last Saturday the 5-year-old mare was even more impressive. She raced outside of the favorite Char N Marg, through the third quarter and calmly drew off to a career fastest 1:53.1 victory, knocking almost a full second of her previous best time for owners RTW Racing of Schaumburg, Illinois and Wisconsinite’s Gabe Wand and Ric Rinker.
The colt and gelding division of the same Cicero Claiming series, saw the Frank Petrelli Stable’s Canthelpbutwin (1:52.2, Kyle Husted), provide an upset win at 11-1 odds in its first leg.
Four Staces (Kyle Wilfong), from the barn of Terry Leonard, pulled off an even bigger upset last Saturday, when he got his nose in front of the 8-5 betting favorite JK Hall, another Leonard trainee, at the end of the 1:52.3 mile and paid and even $55.00.
Both of this Saturday’s Cicero Series Finals carry a $16,000 purse.
The Cicero Claiming Series for pacers starting off with $5,000 price tags has seen three different mares come out on top in its three series legs.
First Skyway Dusty (Ridge Warren), cruised in her first round leg for trainer Ronnie Roberts in 1:55.2 as the public’s choice. That same May 11th night, the Leonard stable’s Her Royal Highness (Casey Leonard), set off at 6-5 odds, eked out a narrow triumph over Summer Party also in 1:552.
However, last Friday, when those same three fillies all met in the same second leg race, it was Summer Party (Kyle Husted), proving best by a half-length for trainer Matt Mac Kenzie. Her time of 1:54 flat was a lifetime best for the 9-year-old ICF mare.
Also last Friday, in the second filly and mare split Shewon’tdaliaround ($13.00), ended a long 24 race losing streak with Juan Franco at her lines in 1:55.2 for conditioner Ronnie Roberts.
As far as the male division of this claiming series, Electric Albert (Casey Leonard) , another Petrelli trainee, won rather easily by almost two lengths in the May 11th first leg, but was the runner-up last weekend in round two.
The front-stepping Electric Albert looked to be in good shape turning for home, but the 12-1 price shot R Duneshine (Tim Curtin), overtook him in the land and drew off by almost five lengths for trainer Vince Accardo. At the age of seven, R Duneshine’s time of 1:52.4 was full three seconds faster than any of his previous 13 career wins.
Friday’s Cicero Claiming events that started out with $5,000 price tags, will offer a $10,000 pot in their respective finals.
Stake Series Time: The road to Hawthorne’s Night of Champions begins this weekend, with first round action in all four stake series events for three-year-olds of both gaits and sexes.
The Robert F. Carey Memorial for ICF sophomore colts and gelding are the Friday night headliners. The opening rounds of the Plum Peachy for state-bred filly pacers will highlight the Saturday card, while Sunday’s program will be headed up by the initial legs of the Beulah Dygert (fillies) and the Erwin F. Dygert (males) Memorial stake series.