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.
“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.