Series Finals Wrap-Up Sunday

By Mike Paradise

Hawthorne’s summer meet’s Late Closers Series get wrapped up Sunday night with a threesome of finals with five digits pots on the line.

First up is the $14,000 Late Closer (No. 2) third race trot where the draw wasn’t kind to Major Legacy, the winner of this series first two legs for trainer Claude Gendreau, the opening round at 63-1 odds.

The post time favorite will likely be the Roger Welch Stable’s Shotski, (I’ve got him at 2-1)  just as he was in the first two legs when he was he was runner-up to Major Legacy at low-end odds of 1 to 2 and 6-5, respectively.

Shotski should be in good shape with the five slot for driver Todd Warren and he’ll have two un-coupled stable-mates to perhaps follow-up in Buff’s Image (pp 2, Sam Widger) and Rockinwithenest (pp 3, Todd Warren).

Sunday’s seventh race Late Closer (No. 1) Final will see unbeaten IYQ YQR (3 for 3) from the barn of driver-trainer Trenton Watson (Shown in Four Footed Photo), take on Peter Karras’ Caffeine Kid, also sporting three wins in a row at the summer meet.

Caffeine Kid did get a big plus in the draw for posts, landing the pole position with Casey Leonard) while IYQ YQR drew the eight in the 10-horse field for the Watson Stable of Fairview, Illinois.

There’s plenty of depth in this series final with first round winner including major contenders Citizen Kane (Ridge Warren) who didn’t make his initial career start until this year at the age of five, and the Marty Eugel Stable’s Sleazy Dude (Todd Warren), second his first two career starts with a quick 27 flat last panel in last week’s second leg.

Ten-Year-Old Gets It Done: Saturday’s Late Closer (No. 6) Final for colts and geldings with winnings of over $1,000 per start was billed as a showdown between Southwind Scorpion and Sunset Dreamer who met for the first time after winning their respective first two legs.

Instead it was Wolf Creek Farm’s Mr. Coolie who took the winner’s share of the $15,400 purse and as it turned out, rather easily at 6-1 odds. Driver Todd Warren put the John Zawistowski trained 10-year-old on the front end and, as they say, the rest was history.

  (Four Footed Photo)

Mr. Coolie ($14.00) was more than four lengths better than Big Brad at the end of a 1:53.2 career best mile for the winner. Red Pine came on for third.

As expected he overwhelming 1 to 5 favorite Ontario Success completed a sweep of the Late Closer (No. 5) Series, the 6-year-old gelding’s seventh triumph in eight starts this year under the care of trainer Roger Welch.

Driver Casey Leonard made his usual backstretch move with Ontario Success to take over the lead and again the issue wasn’t in doubt in the 1:51 flat mile. The 10-1 longshot Coal Hanover took second beaten one and one-half lengths.

Wet and Wild Night for the Gals

By Mike Paradise

In yesterday’s column the headline of the story read: “No Sure Things in Gal’s Late Closers” and that turned out to be one very accurate statement.

Maybe the rain and sloppy track at Hawthorne had something to do with it. Maybe it was just time for some fireworks to start off the three-day holiday. Whatever the reason or reasons early on it was obvious Friday night was not for chalk players.

The initial Late Closer (No. 10) came in the first race and when the even-money post time favorite Bucklegirl Bobette starting running right from the start, Jared Finn took Likeaforeballshot ($7.40) to the front and the filly went on to post a 1:55 clocking when the track was still fast

One event later in a maiden race the Donna Holt Stable’s Vital Trnsformation (Kyle Husted) stunned the Friday night crowd at 51-1 and paid $104.80. In the very next race, the $13,000 Late Closer (11) produced an even little bigger payout when Perry Smith’s Rocknrol’s Image (Tyler Shehan) lit up the board at $106.60 as the 52-1 bested the heavy 1-2 favorite Jiggles The Clown by two lengths.

The next Late Closer (No. 15) for the mares was a couple of races and a rainstorm later and this time it the 2-1 post time favorite Prosper who went down to defeat as Joyful Game (Matt Krueger) put on one of her patented big late rushes and came thundering down the lane to get up in time on a sloppy track in 1:57.1, edging out Sure You Are by a neck at $13.60.

Before another Late Closer championship was contested Deanna Cozzi’s mare Thedayyouhavemade (Todd Warren) popped at 20-1 in race six and retuned a handsome $43.20, keying the winning 20 cent Superfecta of $4,510 on a 3-7-1-10 ticket.

The next Late Closer (No. 16) to be decided for the gals was the $17,600 featured event for distaffers with over $1,000 in earnings per start and this time the 1 to 5 prohibitive favorite Fox Valley Charm was upset by Bernie and Deb Paul’s Seeyouatthefinish ($15.60) who did it in front end fashion.

Nicely rated by her driver Kyle Husted, Seeyouathefinish shot to the front where she was able to pace consecutive 29.1 quarters to the half on the sloppy track and come home in 27.4. Her 1:54.1 mile had her 1 and 1/2 lengths ahead of runner-up Feetonthdashboard Fox Valley Charm took third.

Once again the favorites in the last Late Closer (No. 13) of the night could not live up to their expectations. The ninth race $13,400 series final saw the 17-1 longshot Awesum World ($37.60) take advantage of a pocket trip given to her by her driver Ridge Warren. The Steve Searle trainee finished more than ore length ahead of another longshot (14-1), the Kelly Chupp Stable’s Eva Bella in the 1:56.1 mile.

More Success Very Likely: A pair of Late Closers for colts or geldings head-up Saturday’s card but unlike last night when they were a number of wide-open vents for the gals, tonight one of the wo finals looks like a slam-dunk.

Only five pacers will change the rampaging Roger Welch trainee Ontario Success in the $17,400 Late Closer (No. 7) for winners of over $1,000 per start.

  (Four Footed Photo)

I’ve got Ontario Success (Casey Leonard) at 1 to 5 in my line and he could go off even lower at 1 to 9. The talented pacer breezed in both of the first series legs and is now 6 for 7 at Hawthorne for the year and may have run out of competition on the big in-town track.

The likely race will be for second place money in Saturday’s co-feature between Lucky Crusader (Kyle Husted), Bngs Express (Travis Seekman), Kolt Power (Dale Hiteman), Freedomformysoul (Todd Warren) and Coal Hanover (Tyler Shehan).

On the other hand the $15,400 late Closer (No. 6) that follows looks to be a very spirited final. Both Southwind Scorpion (Matt Kruger) and Sunset Dreamer (Kyle Wilfong) were late charging winners in their respective first two legs of the series of non-winners of $1,000 per start.

They’ll meet tonight for the first time in the eighth race showdown.

Mr. Coolie (Todd Warren) got out and rolling a little too late and was only a nose behind Sunset Dreamer while the front-stepping Big Brad (Casey Leonard) had a solid effort to be third,

Officially Yours owns a 1:54.1 victory at the meet and Victor Bayama took an early May conditioned pace in 1:53.4.

No Sure Things in Gals Late Closers

By Mike Paradise

The decision to start off Hawthorne’s summer meeting with over a dozen Late Closer Series has proven to a wise one, not only for the racetrack and its mutuel-handle, but also for horsemen and their owners along with for the betting public.

A heavy dose of series nominations have enable the series finals to go foe some decent purse money and guarantee 2 to 3 consecutive weeks of starts for series horses. The fans want competitive races and tonight’s five Late Closers for fillies and mare pacers will give Chicago circuit players just that.

Trying to pick a winner is no easy task. Heck, in most of Friday’s series for the gals, coming up with the post-time favorite can be an arduous undertaking.

In tonight’s opener, the $12,800 Late Closer (No. 10) for ICF fillies with without two wins as of April 1, Bucklegirl Bobette (Casey Leonard) and Likeafireballshot (Jared Finn) after traded wins the past two weeks. Both drew well, with posts 2 and 3, respectively.

(No. 6 Likeafireballshot for the best of Bucklegirl Bobette (No. 8 last week. Picture courtesy of Four Footed Photo)

Gary Rath’s Burry Me Inthesand comes off a huge try from the 10-hole after a needed start and may offer fair wagering value.

The $13,000 Late Closer (No. 11)for open company NW of 2 brings out a completive third race 10-horse field headed up by Rocknroll Hoochcoo (Pat Curtin), a neck short last week of two series legs wins, Jiggles The Clown (Casey Leonard) who romped last week, Sugar Crush (Ridge Warren), who has dropped two photos, and Little Miss Torie (Tim Curtin)who popped at 27-1 a week ago in her second start of the year.

Then there’s the fifth race $14,800 Late Closer (No. 15) for distaffers there didn’t earn $1,000 per start in 2015-16. Joyful Game (Matt Krueger) won the first leg at 7-1 but could do no better than fourth last week. Sure You Are rallied at 156-1 in the second leg with a heady drive from Casey Leonard. Lil Miss Knuckles (Todd Warren) raced well in both series losses while Young American (Frank Petrelli) raced sharply improved last week.

Friday’s headliner $17,600 Late Closer (No. 16) Final is for mares that banked over $1,000 per start in 2015 and the first four months of this year.

Fox Valley Charm out on a dazzling come-from-behind performance last week with Matt Krueger at her lines for the first time, coming from last going into the final turn to uncork a winning 26.1 final panel.

Seeyouatthefinish (Kyle Husted), a winner at 23-1 in round one, lacked racing room in that race and ended up third. Feetonthedashboard has been getting good plat at the betting windows and comes off a valiant effort. Tonight will be the first time at the meet she starts from an inside post (No. 3). Town Temptress comes off a second place finish and it was her first outing since October.

The ninth race $13,400 Late Closer (No. 13) for NW of 4 distaffers has Charles Adam’s Duneside Perttie going for a series sweep. The Alex Adam trainee got her nose in front last week despite a grueling first over journey.

Dandy’s Diva paced 27 flat last quarter in her first leg win but a hard first half saw her weaken to fourth at 20 cents on the dollar last Friday. Faithful Friend (Frank Petrelli) would have been a close third last week if she hasn’t got locked-in and shuffled back before finding racing room, Tamarac Smoochie (Casey Leonard) was nosed out of a win by Duneside Perttie.

  Overdue Cowboy Pops:  After going winless in his first 19 career starts the 3-year-old All About Cowboys picked a good time make his first trip to the winner’s circle, coming from far out of it for driver Matt Krueger and collaring the heavy 2-5 favorite Skyway Jaylo in the final yards of the $12,800 Late Closer Series (No. 18) for trotters.

   (This Four Footed Photo cauht No. 6 All About Cowboys getting past the 2 to 5 favorite Skyway Jaylo)

Kruger was contend to take the Gregory Kain trained gelding back at the start and raced All About Cowboys in sixth while Skyway Jaylo made the top, sped to a 57 first half and heading for home looked to be in great shape for a series sweep.

However Kruger sent All About Cowboys ($17.00) three-deep in the final turn, around a tiring Love Child, setting their sights on Skyway Jaylo and passing the mare in the final strides to pull off a neck upset for Illinois owners Green Acres (Beecher) and Mike Klimas (Oak Lawn) with a 1:56.1 clocking.

Later on the card Mr. Strata (Kyle Wilfong) held off Awfully Emotional (Pat Curtin) to capture the $15,400 Late Closer (No. 17) Trotting Final by a neck in 1:58 flat for trainer Nelson Willis and paid a surprising $17,00

The even-money favorite Powerful Princess went off stride before the start. She fell far back but still got up for third, beaten choice one length.

The $13,200 Late Closer Series (No. 6) for $5,000 claimers saw Travis Seekman give the Ken Rucker Stable’s Winning Dream a perfect winning trip. The 8-year-old gelding’s time of 1:53.2 knocking more than three seconds off his lifetime mark.

The $27,000 winner ended up another one length ahead of the 25-1 longshot Shhrayray (Matt Krueger), for a winning $142.20 Exacta payoff.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

The Illinois General Assembly is scheduled to finish their spring session on Monday, May 31st. A budget is still not in place. There are on-going discussions between Democrat and Republican leadership. The hope is that the powers to be will find some common ground within the next week and do what is best for the citizens of Illinois by agreeing to a financial plan. How does that impact us as horsemen in Illinois? We have been told that a gaming bill will be addressed when a budget is agreed to. Regarding that covted gaming bill, it is highly unlikely, yet not impossible, that will occur anytime soon. The next realistic opportunity for us to get it passed for a third time will be in November although it is still possible we will be without a budget at that time, pushing our hopes further into the future.

There are some issues still currently pending that will affect us. An extension of our current ADW bill appears to be set for passage. An OTB bill allowing Hawthorne, Fairmount and Arlington Park to pick up the unused licenses left behind by Maywood and Balmoral has some traction. The IHHA is supporting both of those pieces of legislation. Neither, however, will have any immediate impact on our game. We have attempted to work with all of the other horse racing industry entities to try and add five video poker machines at our OTB’s as other liquor license establishments are allowed to do. We have explored the possibility of allowing historical racing machines at our racetracks. Unfortunately, nothing has gained momentum.

One very integral piece to our current racing status is insuring that traditional funding from “The Department of Agriculture” for purses for racing at the state and county fairs is included and appropriated in this year’s budget. Last year the money was included in the budget but all state spending was ceased by the Governor. We believe that injecting this added money into the industry is of utmost importance.

13 Series Finals to be Determined

By Mike Paradise

A total of 13 Late Closer Series Finals will be decided this week starting with a trio of five-digit championship purses on Thursday night at Hawthorne. The top ten money earnings in each series that enter will go on to compete in the championships.

I’ll reserve tomorrow’s column to discuss Thursday’s Series finals.

No less than five series for filly and mare pacers will be decided on Friday night headed up by the $17,600 showdown for winners of $1,000 per start in 2015 and 2016. Bernie and Deb Paul’s Seeyouatthefinish took the first leg while Peter Karras’ Fox Valley Charm, the second round victor, appears to be the early co-favorites.

The Late Closer (No. 13) for NW of 4 distaffers will carry a $16,600 purse. The series (No. 11) for NW of 2 open company gals will go for $13,000 while the NW of 2 for strictly ICF fillies and mares has a $12,800 pot.

On Saturday the rampaging Roger Welch trainee Ontario Success will again be the overwhelming favorite in the $17,400 Final for horses with winning of over $1,000 per start.

Also on tap is the Late Closer (No. 6) and its $15,400 purse will be the first showdown between Southwind Scorpion and Sunset Dreamer, who both steamrolled to back-to-back wins in their respective divisions.

Three more Late Closers finals close out the series on Sunday. The NW 2 (No. 1) limited to ICF colt or gelding pacers carries a $15,400 prize. The NW 2 for open company male pacers (No. 2) has a $14,000 pot while the (No. 4) series for NW 4 will have a field of ten vying for winner’s share of a $13,300 purse.

  How It Adds Up: While unofficial, I did some calculations and came up with what appears to be Sunday’s Series finals, assuming these horses are entered, and have added with the amount of money each as earned during the first two rounds.

The Claude Gendreau Stable’s Major Legacy has earned the role as the pacer too beat in Sunday’s $14,000 Late Closer (No. 2) showdown for open company colts and geldings without two wins or $10,000 earned through the first three months of this year.

  (Four Footed Photo)

After popping at 63-1 in the first series leg with driver Kyle Husted in 1:54.1, the 3-year-old Art Major colt showed last weekend that win wasn’t a fluke. He whipped the same field of horses at 5-1 with a 1:54.2 mile, and he did it racing first up.

With $7,500 in series winnings Major Legacy tops the list in this Late Closer followed by Shotski ($3,750), Buff’s Image ($3,500), JD’s Blitz ($1,800), JD’s Military Star ($1,750), Mighty Macarthur ($1,200), Sonic Joy ($840) and Royal Image ($750).

Probable starters for the Late Closer No. 1 for ICF NW 2 or $10,000 as of 04/01/16 are Caffeine Kid ($7,500), Iyq Yqr ($7,500), Citizen Kane ($5,500), Sleazy Dude ($3,750), He Gone Jack ($1,800), Duneside Sport ($1,750), Fox Valley Ethan ($1,750), Impressive Art ($1,310), Jethro ($1,240) and Sagebrush Sid ($990).

The first nine money earning horses for Series No. 4 for NW of 4 or $10,000 as of 04/01/16 were JD’s Chancey Design ($8,500), John Jay ($6,500), Red Hot Art ($4,250), Rocknroll Wildcats (3,080), Goinduneside ($2,890), Dr. Drake Ramoray ($1,480), Always Kenzler ($1,410), Party Falls ($1,090) and Ocaptain My Captain ($900).

Walker Meister and Lyons Jimmydean tied for tenth with $720 earnings. A drawing will likely determine the last finalists.

Series Lured North America Cup Eligible

 By Mike Paradise

The second round of Hawthorne’s Late Closer Series will conclude Sunday with five events. You wouldn’t think you would find that one of its combatants is eligible for the prestigious $1 million North America Cup in late June at Woodbine but that’s the case.

He’s the 3-year-old Indiana bred pacer JD’s Chancey Design, trained by Pasko Vucinaj for Michigan owner Luis Vucinaj. Sam Widger returns to his home state to again drive the Shadyshark Hanover gelding, a 1:54.4 winner with Sammy a week ago in the pacer’s first outing since early October of last year.

The horse was nominated to harness racing’s biggest prize in Canada on June 28 and was listed at 40-1 in that stake’s Spring Book.

Sunday’s third race Late Closer is for non-winners of 4 pari-mutuel races or $20,000 lifetime as of April 1, 2016.

You might think with a gaudy record of 12 victories in 14 starts as a freshman including the $20,000 Indiana Sire County Fair Championships at Indianapolis last summer and a $32,697 first season bankroll, JDs Chancey Design wouldn’t be qualified for the Hawthorne Series but that’s not the situation.

  (Four Footed Photo)

The horse’s first nine triumphs all came in non-wagering races, mostly on the Indiana County Fair Circuit. Only his last two wins in 2015 were in betting contests, both at Lexington. And only $6,700 of his earnings came at The Red Mile.

Hawthorne’s dubious computer-generated morning line listed JDs Chaney Design as the 5-2 second choice behind Dr. Drake Ramoray (Casey Leonard) who was beaten 2  and 1/2 lengths by the North America Cup nominee. I’ve got it the other way around in mind with JDs Chancey Design at 8-5 and Dr. Drake Ramoray at 7-2.

Sunday’s first NW 4 Late Closer looks like a dandy if you go by its first round action. Rocknroll Wildcats nosed out the 1-2 favorite John Jay last week and they tangle again but this time with significant post changes.

Rocknroll Wildcats (Kyle Wilfong) goes from the inside (post 1) to the outside (post 7. Meanwhile John Jay has the four-slot again.

Casey Leonard, who had a five-bagger on Friday night, has more live Series mounts Sunday with the beaten favorite Shotski (race 4), winner of his previous three races in Indiana, in Late Closer No. 2, along with Caffeine Kid, 2-for-2 at the meet in race 5 and the Leonard Stable’s Duneside Sport in race 7, both NW of 2 Late Closer series (No.1) divisions.

Lock of the Night: There are few “sure-things” in horse racing but perhaps one of them is the pacer Ontario Success this year competing at Hawthorne. The Roger Welch trained 6-year-old won for the 6th time in 8 starts on the in-town big track, this time in the $14,000 second leg Late Closer for winners over $1,000 per start this year and last.

The victory was Casey’s third of the night and just like last week’s first leg, the issue with Intario Success wasn’t in doubt.

Leonard took the prohibitive 1 to 9 favorite out of fourth on the backside, raced him first over to the pacesetting Freedomformysoul, and Ontario Success went on to drew off with a 1:51 flat clocking, adding another $7,000 to his season account which now stands over $44,000,all but $3,000 of that amount coming at Hawthorne.

Kolt Power was second best to Ontario Success again, a non-threatening two plus lengths behind. Freedomofmysoul held on for third.

In the first $11,000 division of Late Closer for pacer not earning $1,000 or more per start in 2015-16 Vince Affrunti’s Southwind Scorpion benefited from a heady second over trip from driver Matt Krueger and pulled away to a second straight series win, this one by four-plus lengths in 1:52.3

Not to be out-done, Sunset Dreamer ($4.60) also made it two-for-two in the second split of the same series, again in come-from-behind fashion for driver Kyle Wilfong in 1:53.4. The Bob Rittof trained 5-year-old has won 5 of his e8 season starts at Hawthorne.