By Mike Paradise
In these extraordinary times we’ve come to expect some unusual occurrences to come about and this weekend is one of those cases in point.
The normal 12 or 13 racing Hawthorne card grows to 16 races Saturday evening with the addition of 10 ICF events brought about when the Covid-19 scourge kayoed both the Springfield and Du Quoin State Fairs.
Once again Hawthorne stepped up to the plate in the best interest of Illinois harness racing. This weekend it plays host to races originally slated at the Springfield State Fair as part of the track’s Night of Champion series. They’re a combination of eliminations or preps for next weekend’s state-bred championships.
First post for tonight was moved up to 6:30 pm and the track had to no doubt do a lot of juggling on its backstretch to accommodate the vast more number of horses shipping in or the extra-large program.
Attention Grabbers: Of the ten ICF filly or mare events on the Saturday card in my view the attention-grabbers are the sixth race two-year-old filly pace prep, the second division elimination of the three-year-old filly trot (race eight) and an aged mare pace that follows, each has an interesting but a different twist.
The filly freshman prep has its division leader Connie On the Go seeking its sixth consecutive with regular driver Ridge Warren at her lines. Ridge wasn’t available to drive the Jamaica Patton trainee in the recent Downstate Classic at Springfield when
“Connie” escaped with a narrow neck win over Kandi’s Fortune (Freddie Patton Jr.).
The Downstate Classic fractions were very slow, 32.2 first quarter, a 1:02 half and a 30.3 third panel, likely benefiting the eventual pocket trotter Kandi’s Fortune.
You can expect a much quicker pace tonight.
Strong Trot Division: The sophomore filly trot split landed all four of the division’s season stake winners: Lou’s Abigail (pp 1, Casey Leonard), Celone Hall (pp 2, Mike Oosting), Fox Valley Extacy (pp 3, Travis Seekman) and Bee See (pp 6, Kyle Husted).
Last year’s two-year-old filly champion Lous Abigail went on Lasix on June 26th and came away with a leg victory in the Beulah Dygert on August 11th when she trotted a career best time of 1:58 in her Downstate Classic event at Springfield.
Celone Hall and Bee Cee both came away with mid-June victories in their respective divisions of the Violet and the latter also captured a leg of the Dygert a week earlier.
Fox Valley Extacy has gone from a winless freshman to a strong division contender in her sophomore season for trainer Hector Herrera. The Pizzazzed mare has a pair of Beulah Dygert triumphs on her résumé.
Energizing Match-Up: The Terry Leonard stable’s Lilly Von Shtupp (Casey Leonard) puts her four race victory streak on the line in race nine when she meets up with Allbeastnobeauty, fresh out of the Hawthorne Open ranks after another successful campaign in Ohio. The now four-year-old mare is currently under the care of local horseman Todd Warren. Allbeastnobeauty was the 2019 Illinois Aged Pacing Mare of the Year after making almost $90,000 and lowering her mark to 1:50.4 at Ohio’s Daytona Raceway.
16 More on Way: Sunday’s Hawthorne card, void of any Springfield races, will again number 16; as a result another 6:30 pm first post will be applied.
Another Gem: Jim Ballinger’s Fox Valley Gemini paced his second consecutive 1:50 flat mile last night, dominating eight other state-bred aged pacers by more than seven lengths. The five-year-old gelding’s 36th career win in 52 trips to the gate was the first of four straight winning drives for Casey Leonard who ended up with five for the night.