By Mike Paradise
When you take a look at Sunday’s program at Hawthorne you’ll find one prominent name not listed: the Chicago circuit’s perennial leader driver Casey Leonard. Actually Casey is driving Sunday night but it’s not at Hawthorne. Instead the 41-year-old Harvard, Illinois native is up in Minnesota to steer the two-time Illinois Harness Horse of the Year Fox Valley Gemini in the $50,000 Dan Patch Free For All Championship at Running Aces.
By the looks or the draw and last week’s disappointing finish in his Dan Patch elimination Fox Valley Gemini probably would welcome any help the 4-year-old pacer can get when he goes postward against nine rugged foes. As it turns out the draw couldn’t have gone any worse for “Gemini.” The star of the Terry Leonard stable landed the outside nine-hole and there’s a trailing horse with the 10-post. A fifth place finish or higher was needed in last week’s two eliminations to advance to the Dan Patch Final and Fox Valley Gemini squeaked into the championship when he ended up fifth. Nevertheless, in a blanket finish, the pacer was less than to two off the winning 1:51 flat pacer.
With Casey at Hawthorne last Sunday to drive a number of ICF freshman trotters in the Night of Champions stakes, Steve Weissman was at the lines of Fox Valley Gemini for Atwater, Illinois owner Jim Ballinger.
Since this Sunday’s Hawthorne card is absent of any ICF stakes and the Open Trot didn’t fill, Casey made the decision to go to Minnesota and join up with Fox Valley Gemini who is the 9-2 programmed fourth choice in the race. We wish Casey and all of Fox Valley Gemini’s connections the best of luck tonight.
Just Having Fun: It’s Time For Fun made it back-to-back-to back filly and mare Open victories last night and four straight at Hawthorne for trainer Brett Wilfong. The even-money favorite, driven by Kyle Wilfong, rallied from eighth and last in her 1:52.2 mile. Rollin Coal (Juan Franco) came on to nip Sweetshadyshark (Ryan Anderson) for second. Both mares finished one-length behind the winner. It’s Time For Fun went winless in her first nine season starts at Hoosier Park for Kentland, Indiana owner Mr. Lynn Wilfong however the 4-year-old home bred mare has risen to the top of the local pacing mare ranks since her arrival at Hawthorne on June 22nd.