By Mike Paradise
Driver Kyle Husted had himself a Saturday night to remember. The 27-year-old Illinois native was at the lines of the first three winning horses in the final legs of the Night of Champions races and was second in his only other ICF stake series drive.
The first NOC series race on the card was the lone division of the Beulah Dygert Memorial for ICF 3-year-old trotting fillies and it went as expected with the prohibitive 1 to 9 favorite Trotting Grace victorious in 1:57 flat with Husted.
What wasn’t expected was that the Steve Searle 3-year-old filly, who coasted to a 59.2 first half, was all out to hold off the 35-1 late closing longshot New Queen (Juan Franco) by a only a neck. Maui Mama edged White Pants Fever for third.
Trotting Grace’s victory was her fourth in a row for owners Bill Wright (Morton, IL), Mystical Marker Farms (Valparaiso, IN) and conditioner Searle (Grant Park, IL).
It didn’t take long for the first series upset of the night. It came in the third race first division of the 3-year-old Plum Peachy filly stake series when The New Americana snapped a 12-race losing streak while making her first start out of the barn of trainer Harold Guerra.
Nicely rated by Husted, The New Americana ($16.60) shot out at the start, quickly took command and went unchallenged to a 57 first half. Husted got the second quarter breather he wanted and then let the Yankee Skyscraper do her thing as the filly paced a quick 27.3 third panel and won in comfortable fashion.
The final mile time of 1:52.4 was a new career mark for The New Americana, owned by the Illinois trio of Dave Falzone (Chicago), Jim Molitor (Oak Lawn) and Steve Leita (Rockford).
JB’s Shooting Star was second best to the 7-1 winner while the 4-5 favorite Allbeastnobeauty had to settle for third.
Next was the initial $15,000 division of the Kadabra trot for ICF freshman colts and geldings and once again Husted ended up in the Hawthorne winner’s circle. This time it was with Fox Valley Cruise ($6.60). Given a pocket trip by Husted behind the eventual third place finisher For Trots Sake, the Jim Eaton trained gelding came on to nail down his first career victory with a 1:59.4 mile.
The 4-5 favorite Foxvalleyrushhour (Juan Franco) made his bid in the lane but Fox Valley Cruise had plenty left and won handily for Illinois owners Phil Langley (Frankfort), James Schwartz (Wooddale) and trainer Jim Eaton (Crete).
The second Kadabra division turned out to be a rather easy victory for Trixie’s Turbo ($10.40) and driver John D Finn after both the 2-5 favorite Louscardamon and Fox Valley Pisaco (5-1) went off stride. The Jared Finn trained winner, now 6 of 9 in his first season, is owned by his breeder Charles Doehring of Brownstown, Illinois.
Frontier Manard at 85-1 odds collared Big Garcia Vega in the late going for second place honors.
The first Incredible Finale division for juvenile male pacers saw Fox Valley Julius, driven by Husted, give the 1 to 5 favorite Maximus (Kyle Wilfong) all the colt could handle before the $2.60 winner prevailed by one length victory for trainer Kim Roth and owners The Panhellenic Stables of New York and Ken Rucker of Muncie, Indiana.
Fox Valley Julius raced outside of front-stepping Maximus through the third quarter, getting ahead at the top of the lane but Maximus came back in the late going delivered three-quarter length victory with a career fastest 1:56 flat mile.
The anticipated showdown in the second Incredible Finale split between the two highest point earners Meyer On Fire and The Bucket, both coming into last night with 112 points, saw Meyer On Fire (Mike Oosting), at even-money, extend his winning streak to four in a row by three widening lengths in 1:56.3 for the Engel Stable of Buffalo Grove, Illinois.
The battle turned out to be for second with the 50-1 longshot Coming Up nudging the 4 to 5 favorite The Bucket for the runner-up spot.
Travis Seekman gave Party Belle ($9.00) a second over trip and the Tyler George trained 3-year-old filly took advantage of it and beat the 6-5 favorite Fox Valley Jazzy by three quarters of a length in the second Plum Peachy series division.
The 1:54.2 mile was a new mark for the daughter of Party At Artsplace owned by Tyler George of Ohio and Ladavie Spann of Indiana. Skeeter Machine had a game effort to be third.
Longshot Fancy Creek Jolene ($26.20) got an two-hole trip journey from driver Bobby Smolin and was the surprise winner of the Tony Maurello elimination for ICF fillies and mares age three and up. A neck behind was the fast closing Char N Marg while the pacesetting favorite Fox Valley Charm held on for third in the 1:52.1 mile.
Not Done Yet: There is one Night of Champions series event to be raced this weekend. Its leg four of the Erwin F. Dygert Memorial stake for ICF 3-year-old colts and geldings. The $15,000 Sunday feature is race seven on the nine race program.
It drew a jammed-packed 11 horse field with 10-across and Don’t Be Cheeky (Ronnie Gillespie) starting in the second tier. The Roshun Trigg trotter has 31 points and has locked up a staring berth in next Saturday’s $115,000 Final.
So have the top four series point earners Majistic Caprice (112), Big Lou (63), True Detective (45) and tonight’s 5-2 programmed favorite Illinimight (45). Crusin Cassi with 14 points is all but a certainly as well.
Then things get a little dicey to see who will be the remaining four starters in the final since no other horse has more than 6 points (Freddie Da Fox) going into the last Erwin Dygert leg. A fifth place finish by one of the longshots, worth five points, could be the difference from competing for a $115,000 pot or in a $15,000 Consolation.