By Mike Paradise
Saturday evening’s Illinois Department of Agriculture’s Cardinal stake will provide the anticipated rematch between the reining top two ICF three-year-old pacing colts and geldings Fox Valley Ren and He’zzz A Wise Sky.
And if last weekend’s opening leg of the Robert F. Carey Jr. stake series is any indication, tonight’s fourth race first $21,450 division of the Cardinal pace is “Must-See TV” for Illinois harness racing fans.
The two talented state-bred pacers put on quite a show last week and in the end the 2019 Two-Year-Old Pacing Colt of the Year Fox Valley Ren, skillfully driven by Kyle Wilfong, got past the front-stepping betting favorite He’zzz A Wise Sky (Bobby Smolin), in deep stretch to gain some revenge for his loss to the Don Filomeno home-bred in last year’s Night of Champions freshmen showdown.
Wilfong smartly had Fox Valley Ren sprint out from post five and took a quick lead last week while Smolin had to work harder with his pacer who was sent out from the 10-hole. He’zzz A Wise Sky eventually took over command soon after a 28.2 first panel while Fox Valley Ren enjoyed a covered-up pocket trip during a pair of rather slow 29.1 quarters.
Wilfong waited until his Sportsmaster pacer was inside the eighth pole to pull-out and try to overtake the 1 to 2 favorite and Fox Valley Ren did just that with a quick 26.3 last quarter, hitting the finish wire in 1:53.2 for trainer Nelson Willis. It was the good-looking pacer’s ninth win in 12 career starts for the Megan Rogers Racing Stable of Chicago.
He’zzz A Wise Sky defeat by less than one length snapped a six-racing winning streak for the Yankee Skyscraper homebred. However he could turn the table on his rival in tonight’s Cardinal. The youngster received a huge beneficial change in posts, shedding the 10-hole for the two-slot. Meanwhile Fox Valley Ren landed the six in the seven horse field.
Illinois Force (Todd Warren) drew nicely with the one. Posts three through five will be manned by Chick Magnet (Kyle Husted) and RJ Wulfy (Tyler Shehan). Longshot L L Gram (Cordarius Stewart) has the outside seven post.
The first $21,450 Cardinal division will go as race two with six Illinois bred sophomores going to the gate: RG’s Tracer (Travis Seekman), Sassy Lil Thing (Cornelius Cavett), Canadian Mountie (Casey Leonard) Patton Plus (Cordarius Stewart), Mighty Tony Mac (Kyle Wilfong) and Bag Man (Todd Warren).
Gals Share Spotlight: The Cardinal pace will have to share the Saturday public interest with the Department of Agriculture’s $43,300 Violet, the first major stake of the year for second season state-bred pacing fillies.
The nine horse field goes as race seven with a $43,300 purse on the line.
The filly to beat is last year’s Night of Champions titleholder Fox Valley Exploit (Kyle Husted), who went on to be named the division’s ICF freshman filly pacing champion. Another Sportsmaster product, Fox Valley Exploit came out raring to go as the three-year-old filly rallied to take last week’s first leg of the Plum Peachy in 1:55 flat.
Trained and co-owned by her driver, “Exploit” drew the pole position a second straight time tonight. The Plum Peachy bridesmaid Sign Her Up (Juan Franco) is also in great shape with the two-slot. Last year’s Violet freshman champ Sleazy Gal, who was a close-up third last week, has the seven. Casey Leonard takes over the driving chores on the Erv Miller trainee now that Mike Oosting is back at Hoosier Park except for Sundays.
Spirit And Sprint (Kyle Husted), Ashlees Spur (Ridge Warren), Castielle (Travis Seekman) and Ashlees Fine Girl (Todd Warren) manned posts there through six, in that order, Mollie Hotspur (Cordarius Stewart) and Fox Valley Nia (Scott Robbins) leave from the seven and eight.
Will Justice Prevail? The $10,500 Open Trot will precede the Violet pace. Posts one through seven were drawn while last week’s winner Call for Justice (Casey Leonard) was assigned the outside seven-hole. His competition is Lourhianon (Tyler Shehan), Louscardamon (Scott Robbins), Louzotic (Kyle Husted), the six-year-old debut of former ICF champion Anna’s Lucky Star (Kyle Wilfong), along with Bo Nanza Chip (Travis Seekman), Classic Venture (Bobby Smolin) and Double A Cash Call.
A trio of Late Closers Finals is also on the 13-race card. The very competitive $10,600 Dave Magee showdown is race three, Rock It Out (Casey Leonard) will be a prohibitive favorite to sweep the $12,800 Walter Paisley (race five) while Toxic Rock (Ridge Warren) figures to be a heavy public’s choice to make it 6-for-6 this season in the $14,600 Bob Larry Final.