By Mike Paradise
It’s not often the best race of the night is the opener but that’s the way this author perceives Saturday’s Hawthorne card. It’s not a high-end conditioned trot however it doesn’t lack for talent and competitiveness, so don’t let the modest $4,900 purse fool you.
Seven of the 10 starters in the first race for basic condition of non-winners of $2,500 in their last four starts, are seven former Open Trot participants, so it’s likely we won’t have a prohibitive public’s choice.
One of the top contenders is the ICF five-year-old Talk About Valor (Travis Seekman) despite the nine-slot. It’s another commonplace outside starting point for the Gerald Hansen trained trotter who left from the 9, 10 and 8 in his first three starts this year.
Talk About Valor has been on the comeback trail for his Monee, Illinois owner Shelley Steele. The Yankee Valor gelding, out of the late successful broodmare Heather Doreen, spent more than six months on the sidelines after his second place finish in the Plesac stakes prep last September. The trotter suffered a partial tear of a suspensory and had to be scratched out of the $45.000 final on the Night of Champions.
When we talked to Hanson back in mid-March during the Covid-19 shutdown, Gerry told us he was in no rush to get his star competing again and thought it would be a “couple of months” before he started back up with Talk Abou Valor.
When the “all clear” to resume racing at Hawthorne came about Hansen had the horse ready to qualify and on June 27th Talk About Valor drew off by more than 10 lengths in a modest time of 1:59.2.
Two encouraging third place efforts from outside posts followed and then last week Talk About Valor raced parked-out most of the way and still breezed in 1:55.4, three-fifths of a second off his lifetime mark.
Is Talk About Valor all the way back now?
“He’s not all the way back yet . . . but he’s getting there”, answered Hansen who was very pleased with his trotter’s recent effort.
And how has his star trotter healed from his past suspensory problem?
“Every time he comes back after a race the first thing we do his take of his bandages and look at his leg. So far it’s holding firm,” Gerry replied.
“The horse has had some big recent efforts and I’m not so sure that one night he won’t go faster than his brother “Picky” did”.
Hansen was referring to Talk About Valor’s older brother Picky Picky Valor who was a terror in Illinois a couple of years ago and boasted a lifetime mark of 1:54 flat before he got violently ill after last year’s May 25th race and died shortly after.
Both “Picky” and his brother Talk About Valor had to overcome critical health issues before they blossomed into top-notch trotters. “Picky” bled early in his 3-year-old campaign and went on Lasix but got a bad reaction to the medication that caused him to get dangerously dehydrated and he “lost about 100 pounds.”
When Talk About Valor was a three-year-old he suffered a fracture of his cannon bone in a freak stall accident, putting him way behind the other horses in his division and didn’t qualify until early August. It wasn’t until the trotter “made a few starts as a four-year-old that he started to come around.”
Starting inside of Talk About Valor in the first race are Heidi High, Louscardamon, Bo Nanza Chip, Bluffton, Double A Cash Hall, Classic Venture, Very Very Fast and Frontier Manard. Swan of Dreams completes the competitive field with the 10-slot.
Another Gem: Fox Valley Gemini (Casey Leonard) resumed his winning ways at Hawthorne last night when he overpowered another Open Pace field, this time in 1:50 flat, equaling his lifetime best mile for Atwater, Illinois owner Jim Ballinger.
The pride of the Terry Leonard Stable came roaring off the pace with a sizzling 26 last quarter to collar and overtake the pace-setting When You Dance (Todd Warren) for his fifth Open Pace victory of the season.
Fox Valley Gemini finished almost two lengths ahead of When You Dance. It was the five-year-old ICF pacer’s 35th victory in just 51 career starts.