By Mike Paradise
Except for the September 25th Night of Champions, this is the evening that we will see the best ICF pacers and trotters in action more than at any other time of the Hawthorne meeting. The entire 13-race card is made up of either Night of Champion series events, eliminations, or preps with various degrees of importance, along with some respectable purse money.
In some instances where a horse finishes in one of tonight’s final series legs will determine if his or her next start will be in a lucrative state-bred championship, or a consolation race for much less dough.
Hansen Standout: Tonight’s two Plesac elimination races for state-bred trotters, ages three and upward, look like intriguing contests. The first $15,000 is tonight’s opener while the second doesn’t come up until the tenth event.
Half of the field in the first race are Illinois breds that were frequent contestants in Hawthorne Open trots, including last weekend impressive winner Talk About Valor from the Gerald Hansen Stable.
The six-year-old had to leave from the assigned 10-hole and still breezed in 1:55.4, his fifth consecutive victory for Monee, Illinois owner Shelley Steele. Talk About Valor was one of the top contenders for the last year’s Plesac championship, however health issues compelled the Yankee Valor gelding to be scratched from competing in the 2020 Night of Champions.
Other strong Open trotters Annas Lucky Star (pp 5, Kyle Wilfong), Louscardamon (pp 6, Kyle Husted) and Lousraptor (pp 7, Juan Franco) are among the seven challengers in the initial Plesac elim with the top five moving on to next Saturday’s $45.000 (est.) championship.
Just Visiting: The second Plesac elimination (race 10) lured two recent Hawthorne Open trotters, Louzotic (pp 2, Casey Leonard) and Reign and Shine (pp 4, Cordarius Stewart), and starting in between them is the four-year-old On Higher Ground (Kyle Wilfong) who was shipped all the way from New York for a shot at the Night of Champions crown.
You might recall that On Higher Ground was a productive trotter racing as a two and three-year-old for trainer Mike Brink. The Cassis gelding made almost $48,000 in Illinois as a freshman and added another $30,000-plus last season before being sold to Nathan Cockerham of Brighton, Michigan.
On Higher Ground spent most of this year at The Meadows in western Pennsylvania before heading to New York’s Yonkers Raceway. The horse has banked over $53,000 in 2021 and is currently under the care of conditioner Walter Haynes Jr.
Worth the Wait: While the Robert S. Molaro stake didn’t need any eliminations there is a $15,000 prep for the ICF aged pacers and it’ll go on the 13th and last event on Friday’s card.
It’s another Illinois Battle of the Titans between He’zzz A Wise Sky (Kyle Wilfong) and Fox Valley Gemini (Casey Leonard) before they knock heads again in next Saturday’s $45,000 (est.) Molaro championship.
The anticipated return match-up between the Gary Rath stable’s Fox Valley Ozzy (pp1, Casey Leonard), looking for a series sweep of the Incredible Finale series, and Get E Up (pp 6), driven by his trainer Kyle Husted, and the winner of both recent State Fair contests, snapping Fox Valley Ozzy’s unbeaten streak at Springfield.
Another dandy on the card comes in the seventh race second division of the Incredible Tillie two-year-old filly trot where the Curt Grummel trained Funky Wiggle (pp 3, Kyle Wilfong), currently riding a three-race winning streak, takes on Charles Arthur’s (pp 6) Armbro Lark, victorious six times in her first season, two in them coming in the “Flan” series.