By Mike Paradise
The calendar says it’s “Spring” but if you’re a horseman residing in the northern part of Illinois the last thing on your mind is putting away your winter clothing.
It’s supposed to go down to the middle “teens” tonight and then shoot up to the mid-50’s by mid-week. A typical early spring on the Chicago harness racing circuit.
What the second week of March does indicate is that next weekend is already the end of the Hawthorne winter meet. After about a three-month hiatus harness racing in Illinois returns at the end of June, first with a couple of days at Springfield (the exact dates still to be determined) and then the start of the Hawthorne summer season on June 30th.
For a number of the state’s horsemen this weekend is the last chance to prepare their horse for next Saturday’s quartet of $30,000 events for three-year-old ICF pacers and trotters. No entry fee or nomination is needed to compete for some inviting bucks for state-bred sophomores.
Last season’s two-year-old male pacer of the year Fox Valley Ozzy looks ready to roll for trainer Gary Rath. The freshman champ comes off a very nice 2022 debut in last Friday’s race against older open company pacers.
The World of Rocknroll gelding finished a strong second in a hasty 1:53.3 mile (for this time of the year) with regular driver Casey Leonard who raced him in the three-hole much of the mile. “Ozzy” was taken out coming out of the last turn and quickly accelerated, pacing a fast 26.3 last quarter of the mile.
When asked to assess “Ozzy’s” first race as a three-year-old, driver Casey Leonard quickly replied: “Outstanding.”
“He came out of a hole like gangbusters,” continued the 44-year-old Harvard, Illinois native. “The fact it was his first race in several months, it was a big mile by the horse.”
Fox Valley Ozzy again has the pole position (race four) with Gary Rath at his lines. Tonight’s field is tougher than last weeks. New additions include class droppers Ima Real Lady’s Man (Travis Seekman), Fox Valley Ren (Mike Oosting) and Primo Giovanni (Casey Leonard). Between them they have nearly $1 million in career earnings.
Yankee Bounty (Ridge Warren), Holden Steady (Kyle Husted) Perseus Seelster (Kyle Wilfong) complete the competitive field.
Fox Valley Ozzy isn’t the only ICF 3-year-old racing tonight likely preparing for next week’s $30,000 pot.
The Richard Finn Stable’s Likely Blue Bayou is Night of Champions eligible and he’s probably debuting tonight in race six with an eye towards next week’s inviting prize.
The same goes for eighth race sophomore starters Magazine Theme (Wyatt Avenatti) and Frontier Bombay (Kyle Wilfong).
Entries Needed: It should be pointed out these $30,000 ICF events are scheduled Overnight races, not stakes or even Late Closers, so sufficient entries for each are needed or they could be wiped out by Hawthorne for now and raced another day or as separate ICF events later in the summer.
Remember, since no nomination or entry fee was required for these planned $30,000 state-bred events, Hawthorne isn’t required to card them if they deem not enough horses were entered.
In other words, they are not going to go with a four-horse non-wagering race with a $30,000 pot, so let’s hope a number of three-year-olds qualify Saturday evening and go on to enter for next weekend.
Take-Your-Pick: A $13,700 Open Pace strictly for four-year-old’s is Friday’s headliner. The five-horse field will go as the second race and it’s a wide-open affair.
The first three finishers in the March 4th event—Round Here Buzz (Casey Leonard), Hello Sweetie Boy (Todd Warren) and Mastery (Wyatt Avenatti)—are back for another go at it.
They’ll be joined by Imarealroknbugatti (Travis Seekman), the sixth-place finisher who was stuck inside, and the 2-1 morning line favorite Feeling Like A Ten (Kyle Wilfong), a Nicole Agosti trainee who has shown he can close a ton.
Sky High Performance: Illinois champion He’zzz A Wise Sky is back in Ohio. The five-year-old star of the Triple ZZZ Stable of Beecher, Illinois again competed in the $28,000 Open I at Miami Valley Raceway last night.
The two-time ICF Harness Horse of the Year put on dazzling winning performance with driver Sam Widger, leading at every pole in a 1:49.2 mile, just two-fifths of a second off the track record.
He’zzz A Wise Sky fired out from the six post, paced the first quarter 26:4 and got to the half in 55:1., third quarter in 27 flat and a 27.1 final panel gave the John Filomeno trainee a one length victory as the public’s 3-2 wagering choice.