Curtin Uncertain If He’ll Stand Pat

By Mike Paradise
At the start of the new year Illinois horseman Pat Curtin was likely coming back to his home state for Hawthorne’s summer meet, however four weeks later his return is in question.
“Right now I honestly don’t know if I’ll be back to drive at Hawthorne” said the 35-year-old native of Effingham, Illinois who is a long way from home competing at New York’s Monticello Raceway.
“In the last couple of weeks I’ve been getting a lot more driving opportunities. Last week I drove in 8 of 12 races on one card and the next night in 10 of 12.”
On Monday Pat was behind the gate in 7 of Monticello’s 9 races, winning twice with a pair of seconds.

Pat Curtin

Pat Curtin

“If I’m doing super I’ll stay in in New York. If things don’t work out real well I’ll be back. I know in Illinois I can get 9 or 10 drives a night and get paid. Out here you don’t get paid unless the horse you’re driving finishes one through five.”
Why did Curtin decide on Monticello after racing in Illinois closed down in late September?
“I thought out here would be the best opportunity for me because there are so many different opportunities. The farm I’m at is a 2 and 1/2 hour drive, no matter which direction you go, to five or six racetracks.
“I’m only an hour and 20 minute drive away from New York City and about 2 and 1/2 hours away from Pocono. Also Saratoga (New York) opens up soon (Feb. 22), and that’s not a long drive either.”
Nevertheless Pat admits there are some disadvantages competing outside of his home state.
“I won with an Illinois bred pacer (HSLB Michelle) last week at Monticello and got nothing more than the winner’s share ($1,800) of the purse. If she won that race at Hawthorne I would have picked-up the (12 per cent) bonus that goes to a winning ICF horse in an open race.”
HSLB Michelle came back on Monday get a repeat victory, this time drawing off by 10-lengths.
In 2015 Curtin took both the Illinois Springfield and Du Quoin State Fair driving titles propelling him to a career season best 101 dash winners.
“Those State Fairs put me on the map for the opportunity to drive better horses. Before that I was driving a lot of longshot .After those meets I started to pick up some “power” horses to drive.
“That’s what I’m hoping for here. If I can bring in some longshots maybe I’ll get more power horses to drive. If not I could be seeing you in May at Hawthorne.”
In 2016 Curtin got the catch drive behind the Roshun Trigg Stable’s 2-year-old ICF trotter Louscipher on Hawthorne’s Night of Champions and guided the Flacco Family Farm’s trotting colt to his $75,000 Kadabra victory.
A couple of weeks later Curtin captured the Cardinal behind Louscipher, a Lou’s Legacy home-bred who went on to be named the 2016 ICF champion in his division.
On the last Super Night at Balmoral Park Curtin steered trainer Dane May’s Dinky Dune to the 2015 Pete Langley Memorial Championship two weeks after winning the Dudley Hanover at Du Quoin. The son of Duneside Perch also captured the Cardinal Pacer as a 3-year-old.
Reminder for Horsemen: Hawthorne’s Stake payments for ICF three-year-olds are due February 15th. The ICF two-year-old stake payments are due on April 15th.

Hawthorne Summer

Our 2017 contract with Hawthorne has been completed.

Click below for the overnight purse structure, the Night of Champions stake conditions and the late closers schedule.

2017 Late Closer PDF New 2 15 17 2017 NOC Conditions & Nomination Form 2017 Ovenight Purse Schedule Final

2017 ICF Stakes Schedule revised 1.26.17

Purse Structure for 2017 More Attractive

By Mike Paradise
The Hawthorne purse structure for the summer’s harness racing meet announced by the race track earlier this month shows a pleasant 30 to 40 per cent increase in most classes over last year.
A tip of the cap goes out to both the IHHA and Hawthorne for working out a more enticing purse arrangement this time around for horsemen and their owners.
“The negotiating team felt these purses would be the way to go to attract some better horses, especially for the middle levels,” said IHHA director Bernie Paul who serves on the Purse and Condition Sheet Committee with Al Beals, Josh Carter, Merv Chupp, Gerry Hansen Hosea Williams
“We had so many bottom claimers going for the money they wert for last year that it took away money from higher class horses.”
The bottom level this summer is $3,000 instead of $4,000. On the other hand instead of last year’s $250 to $500 increments in claiming category purse hikes, the class increases will be much more substantial for this year.
Hawthorne LogoFor example a $7,500 claimer last summer at Hawthorne raced for a $5,000 pot. The 2017 purse will be $6,400 for an $8,000 claiming event. A $10,000 to $12,500 claimer went for $6,000. This summer $10,000 claimers vie for $8,000 and $12,000 claimers for $10,000.
The conditioned events have similar sizable hikes. Those horses who raced for $5,000 in non-winners of $4,000 last five starts in 2016 can now will compete for $8,000 for NW of last $3,000 in their last four and $9,000 for NW of $4,000 in their last four.
“We are all concerned about having enough horses to fill races,” continued Bernie. “With no winter meet we’ve got Illinois horsemen racing all over the country and some are doing well. There’s no guarantee they’ll all be coming back for the summer. We’re hopeful that the current purse structure will help lure them back”
Robin Schadt, the assistant racing secretary last year, has moved up to take over the top spot in the Hawthorne Racing Office, a position she also holds at Cal-Expo Race Track.
“I’m favorably impressed with her so far,” said Paul. “I really didn’t know Robin when she was running Odds Odd Racing so I didn’t have any preconceived notions about her at all when we started negotiations.
“Robin stressed she wanted what’s best for Illinois harness racing just as we did so negotiations went well.”
One very notable addition to the 2017 race conditions concerns 2-year-old fields. They will be limited in size to eight horses. Who sought that surprising and astute change?
“That was Robin’s idea,” replied Bernie.
. “One of the things that drew the ire of horsemen was when last year ’Hawthorne went with 11-horse fields (with a trailer) in 2-year-old races. Robin said that wasn’t going to happen this year because now a full-field of two-year-olds will be eight horses. Boy was I glad to hear her say that and so was the entire IHHA committee.”
In addition to the increase in purses, Illinois conceived and foaled horses will again race for some added bonuses in 2017. For those conditions restricted to ICF horses, the purse will be increased 10% off the purse for an open condition. ICF pacers and trotters will also receive a 50% allowance when racing with open horses.
Open ICF $ 16,500
Open $ 15,000
Open II $ 12,500
Open III $ 10,000
NW 5000 – last 4 starts $ 10,000
NW 4000 – last 4 start $ 9,000
NW 3000 – last 4 starts $ 8,000
NW 2000 – last 4 starts $ 6,000
NW 1000 – last 4 starts $ 4,000
NW 500 – last 4 starts $ 3,000
NW4extPM or $40,000 LT $ 11,000
NW4extPM or $30,000 LT/$10CL $ 6,500
NW3extPM or $20,000 LT $ 10,000
NW3extPM or $15,000LT $ 9,000
NW3extPM or $15,000 LT/$10CL $ 5,500
NW2extPM or $10,000 LT $ 8,000
NW2extPM or $10,000 LT (2d level) $ 6,000
NW2extPM or $10,000 LT /$8CL $ 4,500
NW1 $ 7,000
NW1 (2d level) $ 5,000
NW1/8cl $ 4,000
20000CL $ 14,000
16000CL $ 11,900
14000CL $ 10,600
12000CL $ 9,300
10000CL $ 8,000
8000CL $ 6,700
6000CL $ 5,400
4000CL $ 3,500
4000CLnw $ 3,000
ICF horses shall receive 50% allowance when racing with open horses
ICF restricted races shall race for additional 10%.
Overnight races restricted to two-year-olds shall be considered full once 8 horses have entered. The 9th horse shall be AE1.

Husted Unsure of Return

By Mike Paradise
With his first 100-plus winning drives season behind him Illinois native Kyle Husted is unsure if a return to his home state for Hawthorne’s 2017 summer harness meet is in the cards.
“I don’t know if I’m coming back,” said Husted. “I really liked Hawthorne but there are quite a few months until they open and I’m undecided at this time. It’s hard to make any long-range plans”
Husted split 2016 between Hawthorne and Freehold Raceway in New Jersey and racked up 110 winning drives, a career best, and almost $700,000 in money won behind horses he drove, also a high-water mark for the 25-year-old native of Olney, Illinois.

Kyle Husted

Kyle Husted

Last year Kyle left New Jersey to compete in Hawthorne’s winter meet and did well. He returned to Freehold in mid-February and came back to the Chicago circuit for the summer and did even better, finishing as the fourth leading driver at the meet.
“With no winter racing at Hawthorne I didn’t have to make the decision to leave Freehold this year,” continued Kyle.
“I’m concerned if Hawthorne will not have enough horses to race four-nights a week this summer. A lot of Chicago horses were sold this winter with no racing there until May and with trainers having to go elsewhere to get their horses raced it’s hard to say how many will be coming back to Illinois for a short meet.
“I was really disappointed there is no winter meet at Hawthorne this year. I hope their decision not to race in January doesn’t come back to bite them. They had about half of their horses for the summer meet right there racing in the winter.”
Last year Hawthorne’s scheduled and the IRB approved five-day-a-week format was cut to four days before the meet even started when it became evident there would be a shortage of horses. It turned out filling four cards a week was even difficult. Often the low-end claimers raced twice a week, not a good thing for cheap horses with more than their share of aches and pains.
And not a good thing for Hawthorne players who were asked to wager on the bottom-end claimers that often raced 3 times in 10 nights, a risky venture for the bettor to say the least,
“I don’t want to come to Hawthorne to drive $4,000 claimers twice a week,” said Husted. ‘That type of racing doesn’t help the handle and it doesn’t help the horses.”
Husted has notched a nice niche for himself competing at Freehold. He also has Pennsylvania tracks not far away for some of his stock and the Meadowlands close-by for any of his better horses.
The trotter Big Expense, a three-time winner at Hawthorne in 2016, won a mid-level conditioned race at The Big M for Husted’s Stable last month and a week later was nosed-out in a higher conditioned event on the New Jersey big track.
“Big Expense raced well at Hawthorne but when they had trouble filling their Open trot I had to send the horse to Minnesota to get him raced. He fit very well there.”
Husted’s victory total of 110 winners in 2016 was 46 more than he had in any other year since he began his driving professionally in the summer of 2009. His 973 driving opportunities in 2016 were 113 above his previous best yearly total.
Warm Weather Winners: Two Illinois trainers got off to a hot start in January at Pompano Park when the weather was been about 70 degrees warmer than it was here in the Prairie State.
OK Heavenly won the Florida track’s $11,000 Open 2 for fillies and mares for conditioner Angie Coleman on January 4 1:52.4. The now 5-year-old mare pulled in over $75,000 last year for Illinoisans Dandy Farm Inc. (Glenview) and Mark Winship (Canton). Among the mare’s nine victories in 2016 were two Opens at Hawthorne and a Invite at Hoosier Park.
Trainer Rob Rittof had two wins and a close second in his first four 2017 starts at Pompano. Revrac Harbor and Alabamashakey proved best before Sunset Dreamer dropped a nose decision for the Joliet, IL native.