Today is the last scheduled day of our legislative session. Still, no budget in sight. There is a good chance that the session will be extended into the summer. Horsemen are included in an internet gaming bill that could be very beneficial to us if it advances, but its future is very cloudy. Our 708 money (which is the money that comes from the Dept. of Ag. for state and county fair purses) is included in the Democrats version of a budget; but at this point in time, we don’t know if it will be adopted. Table games have been added to SB7, (the gaming bill) and sent to the House executive committee; that committee is currently not scheduled, but could be with an hour’s notice. Bottom line, everything is shaping up as expected, with little progress on anything. If this message seems vague and/or disjointed, it’s because that is how our General Assembly in Illinois works. You have to experience it in real time to understand how dysfunctional it is. I’ll update again as issues become clearer.
By Mike Paradise
There’s an old English idiom that “A Picture Is Worth A Thousand Words.” If that’s the case then I can stop writing after this paragraph because the two posted below pretty much sum up the last two Hawthorne Late Closer Series to be decided Sunday night.
The finish likely will be close . . . probably very close.
While both the $12,100 Peter Galassi and the $12,600 Phil Georgeff Finals have only five horses going postward the competitiveness of the last two series legs contested make up for the smallish size fields.
The even-money Peter Galassi morning line favorite Lakeside MS Queen was a romping seventh length winner in her first leg when tonight’s 3-2 second Dali Delight program choice didn’t compete but last week when they met, only a half-length separated them at the finish wire.
Lakeside MS Queen (Dale Hiteman), trained by Jace Sundeen, made a break before the start but came back for her 1 to 5 supporters. On the other hand Dali Delight (Kyle Wilfong) set soft fractions of 29.4, 58.4 and 128.1, when she got overtaken in the late going.
Would a faster pace produce a different result? Maybe so, but maybe not. Keep in mind that Dali Delight did miss three weeks before last Sunday’s start. Will only a week off this time around make a difference?
It’s your call.
Seeking to pull off a bit of a surprise in the Peter Galassi are IYQ BNU (Trenton Watson), Patches Girl (Larry Plank) and Rear View (Mike Oosting).
Only one leg of the Phil Georgeff Series was raced but that one was a doozie. The first three finishers—Heartland Revenue (Mike Oosting), Gettin Rowdy (Keith Crawford) and Mr. McDreamy (Kyle Husted) were separated by only a half-length and the end of the 1:55.2 mile.
The fourth finisher Skyway Fireball was beaten 3 and 3 /4 lengths but note that it was the 3-year-old gelding’s very first pari-mutuel outing.
Look At Luke Smile went off stride before the start with one of his owners at the lines and was a non-threatening fifth however the pacer bounced back with tonight’s driver Kyle Wilfong and breezed in a race last week in 1:57 flat for trainer Angie Coleman.
The Tom Simmons trainee Heartland Revenue (7-5 in the morning line) has the outside five-post tonight with the 8-5 second choice in the program Mr. McDreamy from the Herman Wheeler Stable on his left.
Keith Crawford’s Gettin Rowdy (3-1) , who showed good gate speed in leg one of the series, is sitting pretty with the two-post. Look At Luke Smile (15-1) has the rail and the Dave Brook Stable’s Skyway Fireball (Jim Lackey) leaves from the three hole in the third race series showdown.
Sunday’s second race is the $12,500 Open II trot with posts drawn by groups (1-2)) (3-6) and (7).
From the rail out are Quantum Uptown Boy (Casey Leonard), Steal N Gas (Keith Crawford), Topville Avatar (Dale Hiteman), Ants Iner Pants (Mike Oosting), M T Ur Pockets (Kyle Wilfong), Jackie Goldstein (Jim Lackey) and Big Expense (Kyle Husted) who was assigned the outside slot.
The Eyes Have It: The Mike Brown Stable’s In Your Eye ($5.40) came rolling down the middle of the stretch and went on to capture last night’s $15,400 Mike Paradise Series Final.
Patiently driven by Ridge Warren, the 3-year-old Sportsmaster gelding raced fourth through most of the 1:54.2 mile. After Commondiscourtesy, Sullivan and Ima Skydancer battled through a 27.2 third quarter, Warren pulled the winning James Behrendt horse out for the stretch drive and In Your Eye rushed past in time.
Ima Skydancer finished second, one and one-half lengths behind, while Sullivan was third in Hawthorne’s fifth race.
One event earlier Shirley Le Vin’s Hot Rod Dylan (Mike Oosting) completed a sweep of the Bob Larry Series, taking the $14,900 final with a career fastest 1:52.2 mile.
Trained by Nelson Willis, the 4-year-old gelding took command soon after the first quarter pole (28.2) and after consecutive modest middle panels of 28.3, Hot Rod Dylan ($2.80) had more than enough left (26.4) to end up one and one-half lengths ahead of runner-up 40-1 longshot Bowedfortyova. Sporty Redhot grabbed the third place money.
The third race $11,000 Open II Pace for fillies and mares saw the Chupp Racing Stable’s Kyles Secret ($19.60) make it 3-for-3 at the Hawthorne meet. Nicely rated by driver Tyler Shehan, Kyles Secret, the front-steeping 6-year-old mare edged the 4-5 favorite Seeyouatthefinish by a neck in the 1:53.4 mile
By Mike Paradise
Saturday’s two Late Closer Series Finals—the $14,830 Bob Larry and the $15,400 Mike Paradise—look to be quite different events for the betting public to handicap, at least on paper.
The fourth race Bob Larry no doubt will see a good portion of the betting dollars go to two pacers, Shirley Le Vin’s Hot Rod Dylan (Mike Oosting) and Fox Valley Standardbreds Fox Valley Nemitz (Casey Leonard).
Just a scant nose separated the pair in last week’s second leg with the 1 to 9 favorite Hot Rod Dylan hanging on despite a sizzling 26.3 last quarter by Fox Valley Nemitz.
For a second straight week the front-stepping Hot Rod Dylan drew the seven-slot again while the late-charging “Nemitz” again landed the rail. No other pacer in the eight horse field has gotten within 4 1/2 lengths of Hot Rod Dylan at the end of his two winning legs thus far in the series.
Looking to reward some longshot players are Sporty Redhot (Kyle Wilfong), Fourboltmane (Tim Curtin), All In No Out (Bob Smolin), Slzburgerslzburger (Juan Franco) and He Gone Jack (Ridge Warren).
On the other hand the fifth race Mike Paradise showdown is as wide-open as it gets with really no-clear cut favorite and only Frontier Fred (30-1, Richard Finn) a genuine longshot in the race.
Ima Skydancer (Mike Oosting) has two series leg victories, both close decisions, while Sullivan (Casey Leonard) and Causway (Mike Brink) have one each. All three pacers are trained by Brink but will race uncoupled in the fifth race showdown.
Paradise contenders Commondiscourtesy (Kyle Husted), In Your Eye (Ridge Warren), Kid Rock (Kyle Wilfong) and Zone Blitz (Tyler Shehan) were beaten in their respective second legs by less than one length. The fourth place finisher in the first leg was only 1 and 1/2 lengths behind the winner.
Hawthorne’s morning line has Sullivan the 5-2 favorite with Ima Skydancer at 4-1. I think the favoritism will go the other way around by post time and Brink agrees.
“Ima Skydancer will probably be the favorite because of the tougher battle he had last week. How many times was he moved and he still didn’t get beat?” said Brink.
And Ima Skydancer drew the one-slot again for a second straight week.
“I could make a case for any of my three starters winning. It’ll probably all come down to the trip,” continued Brink. “I have no idea who will win this race. I hope it’s one of my three but some of those other horses have been right there at the finish in this series. We’ll just have to see how the race plays out.”
Sharing the Saturday spotlight with the two Late Closer Finals is the third race $11,000 Open II Pace for fillies and mares with posts draw by groups.
The two likely favorites—Fox Valley Charm (Mike Oosting) and Seeyouatthefinish (Kyle Husted)—landed the outside seven and eight slots, respectively.
From the rail out to the six-post you’ll find Powerful Pulse (Casey Leonard), Kyles Secret (Tyler Shehan), Triple Lane Melody (Ridge Warren), Our Miss Lily (Bob Smolin), Young American (Frank Petrelli) and I Dance U Prance (Kyle Wilfong).
The Hard Way: It’s very common to read about a winner getting a good trip but in the case of last night’s Bea Farber Series Final the betting favorite I Could Care Less ($5.80) instead got a poor trip and still came out on top.
Driven by his owner and trainer Keith Crawford I Could Care Less raced a good portion of the mile on the outside of Energy Bar and still took the winner’s share of the $14,000 purse by one length on a sloppy racing surface.
The 1:57.4 mile was the Michigan bred trotter’s fourth victory in his last seven starts.
The outside nine slot couldn’t keep the Steve Searle trained 4-year-old Bands Houdini (Kyle Husted) from winning the $16,000 Daryl Busse Series Final by two-plus lengths over the 4 to 5 favorite Totally Pazzazzed.
Husted left with Bands Houdini ($6.60) and turned a pocket trip behind the pacesetting Picky Picky Valor into a 1:59.1 winning mile in the slop. The ICF gelding is now 3 for 5 in his second season campaign for Illinois owners and breeders Steve Searle (Grant Park) and Flacco Family Farms (Alexis).
Driver Kyle Wilfong had the hot hand Friday night bringing home five winners on the card including four in a row, races 4, 5, 6 and 7.
Your author had an enjoyable evening as well. My top choice in race ten Coal Hanover (Kyle Husted) popped at $33.20 and my price shot Cole Heat (Ridge Warren) followed in the next race at $15.20.
We wish we could report on something that is happening in Springfield but unfortunately we cannot. As I write this their are five more days left in the session, currently scheduled to end Wednesday, May 31st. As in the past, it could be extended further into the summer but so far no word on that.
SB 7, our gaming bill and lifeline to the future, has passed in the Senate and now sits in the House Gaming Subcommittee. As before, we are told their will only be movement on this if leadership has an agreement on a budget. Hopefully, we will get the opportunity to try and pass this bill and ultimately have the Governor sign it.
Within some of the proposed budgets being discussed are monies that are traditionally earmarked for harness racing at the State and County Fairs. It is commonly referred to as our “708” money. Because their has been no budget recently, we have not had access to those funds. Again, this year we find ourselves in similar territory. We believe that if their is a stopgap budget we will not see that money, if their is a full budget, then we will have a chance of having those funds available to us as purses.
There are a myriad of other gaming bills that have little chance of passing this session yet, we still must do the work and be ready if they are indeed called for a vote. Those bills include a potential internet gaming bill, a fantasy sports bill, and extension of the current or tweaked ADW bill and a bill that follows the current structure of allowing five slot machines at facilities with a liquor license but this bill would lift the current prohibition on racetracks and allow them to get 150 slot machines, in which, of course, horsemen would share the profits 50/50.
We will try and update everyone as soon as we hear anything significant. Thanks for tuning in.
By Mike Paradise
Two more Late Closer Series wrap-up tonight and each of the trotting finals look to be very competitive events.
Illinois based trainer Steve Searle has a strong contender in both the second race $14,000 Bea Farber and the ninth race $15,000 Daryl Busse. Both of his 3-year-old’s Daisy Lou Duke and Bands Houdini own a triumph in their respective divisions and will again be driven by Kyle Husted.
When Daisy Lou Duke ended her freshman season with a victory in the Violet Final, her first leg win in the Bea Farber shouldn’t have come as a big surprise. However, her stable-mate Bands Houdini finished his first campaign going winless in 12 starts and making a modest $11,464, so his superb sophomore season start is a bit of a revelation.
“Bands Houdini’s freshman record wasn’t pretty,” said his Grant Park, Illinois trainer who shares ownership of Ants Iner Pants younger brother with co-breeder Flacco Family Farms of Alexis, Illinois.
In his four starts as a 3-year-old Bands Houdini has two wins, a close second, and a fourth place finish in a series leg at Hoosier Park where the winner trotted in 1:55.4. The Searle trainee came off his seven month layoff in early April with a 1:59.4 front end win on a “good” track in Indiana.
What turned Bands Houdini around over the winter?
“As a two-year-old he wasn’t fully developed, replied Searle. He wasn’t getting his air all the time. One week he would race well and then the next he would race poorly. We also treated him for EPM (Equine Protozoal Myeloencephaliti) and quit with him after his Night of Champions race.”
“Now this horse looks like a million bucks. He was always tall but now he’s filled-out and it’s all muscle. Knock on wood he’s come back pretty darn good.”
“The first time he raced at Hawthorne he was a hand-full for Kyle (Husted). So we opened-up his bridle a little bit so he could see a little more and we put some ear plugs in him and last week he was much better.”
Bands Houdini pulled away from last week’s field when he won by three lengths in 2:00.2 on a “good” racing surface. The gelding’s task got a lot tougher for the Busse Final when the draw came out. He ended up with the outside post in the nine horse field.
Bands Houdini is the 5-2 second choice in the morning line behind Totally Pazzazzed (pp 3, Mike Oosting), the 7-5 favorite. They’ll be challenged by Lous Misty Blue (Jamaica Patton), Lofty (Jim Lackey), Muscle Image (Mike Brink), Scarlet Ribbons (Casey Leonard), Southern Stargazer (Trenton Watson), Picky Picky Valor (Brian Carpenter) and Dr Spengler (Kyle Wilfong).
The draw was kinder to Bands Houdini Stable-mate Daisy Lou Duke who landed the five post in the eight horse Bea Farber Final field and is listed at 6-1 odds in the Hawthorne program.
After an easy 1:57.1 win in an opening leg of the Bea Farber Series, the 3-year-old filly’s debut, Daisy Lou Duke went off-stride leaving a week ago and eliminated herself.
“Kyle (Husted) said she was pretty aggressive behind the gate before she made the break, said Searle. Hopefully she’ll be calmer for the final. She trained down very well for her 3-year-old season and came up with a big effort in the first series leg.”
Daisy Lou Duke wasn’t the only trotter to make a break in leg two of the Bea Farber. In fact, the winner I Could Care Less also went off stride at the start but he recovered nicely and powered past in the lane for his 1:58.4 victory.
I Could Care Less is driven by his 70-year-old trainer and owner Keith Crawford who also bred the five-year-old gelding. The Michigan bred trotter will be at first flash odds of 2-1.
The favorite in the first two legs of the Farber has been Energy Bar (Mike Oosting), who was second best to I Could Care Less a week ago after a fourth place finish in leg one. The Mark P’Pool trainee landed the outside (8) slot tonight, nevertheless he’s again the 9-5 morning line choice.
The Mike Roger Stable’s BC’s Da Winner likes to do her racing on the front end and should be there with the rail tonight. The mare won 9 of 12 starts as a 3-year-old and has a second and a third place finish in the first two series legs. She’ll open at 4-1 with Rogers in the bike.
The other Farber hopefuls are Hatfield And McCoy (25-1, Kyle Wilfong), Southern Appeal (25-1, Juan Franco), Lou’s Credit Report (9-1, Jamaica Patton) and El Lobo Hall (25-1, Matt Avenatti),
Contrasting Final Victories: Last night’s $15,800 Walter Paisley Final outcome was never in doubt as the overwhelming 1 to 9 favorite Phyllis Jean (Casey Leonard) breezed to complete a sweep of the series.
The 4-year-old ICF mare changed tactics this time around as Casey gunned her out from the three-post and into command by the time she came out of the first turn. After quarters of 28.3, :57 and 125.2, Casey turned Phyllis Jean loose in the lane and she pulled away by two-plus lengths over runner-up Leenah Pearl in the 1:53.2 mile.
Burry Me Inthesand won the photo for third place money over Alabamashakey.
Phyllis Jean has won her last four starts and six of her last seven outings. Currently trained by Leon Walker, the Henry Clay filly has banked over $54,000 this season for her Berwyn, Illinois owner Al Beals.
It was far from easy for the prohibitive 1 to 5 favorite Lady’s Party to complete her sweep of the Dave Magee Series.
The Mike Titus trained ICF 3-year-old filly was saddled with the 10-hole and had to work very hard to make the front. Lady’s Party was parked-out from the start and driver Casey Leonard had to take her three-wide to clear to the lead at the half-mile pole, reached in 56.3.
There was no rest for Lady’s Party as she had to battle Rousey Ronda through the third quarter (1:25.2) and then fight off a strong challenge from Smiles Ahead (Kyle Wilfong) for the neck victory in 1:55.4.
The $16,600 Dave Magee Final victory kept Lady’s Party unbeaten in three season starts for Charleston, Illinois owners Mitch Titus and Dennis Wright.
Casey Leonard had winning drives in five of the nine Thursday races.
By Mike Paradise
It’s showdown time this week at Hawthorne for a half-dozen Late Closer events with two finals on tap Thursday evening, both for fillies and mares and in each case Casey Leonard will be at the lines of the morning line favorite going for a series sweep.
First up is the fifth race $15,800 Walter Paisley Series Final for fillies and mares without $30,000 in career earnings as of March 31 of this year.
Phyllis Jean has shown she warrants the pre-race Paisley favoritism when Casey and the Al Beal’s owned 4-year-old mare team-up again. The daughter of Henry Clay comes off back-to-back series triumphs in the Paisley and last week’s victory was particularly impressive. The mare had to overcome Hawthorne’s 10-hole in an 11-horse field and do it coming from behind.
“Phyllis Jean is a nice filly, said her 39-year-old driver. I got to drive her a little bit last year and I was really impressed with her. I think she has learned a lot about racing since she was on the east coast. She’s much more manageable and handy than last year. I’m tickled to be able to drive her this year.”
“Her trainer Leon Walker has done a good job with her, continued Casey. She had a long week that first week when she returned (to Illinois). Al (owner Beals) drove to Ohio and picked her up half-way from her trip back. Leon only had her for a day and a half or something like that before she raced.”
“In her second start she got a full week off in between starts and raced much better. I was very happy with her performance.”
Phyllis Jean gets a very favorable post shift for the Paisley Final, moving inside to the three-slot tonight. Her two strongest challengers appear to be Burry Me Inthesand, driven by her owner and trainer Gary Rath, and Alabamashakey (Mike Oosting) from the Rob Rittof Stable.
Burry Me Inthesand won in 1:54.1 in her first Series leg and it was the 4-year-old mare’s first outing since last September while Alabamashakey was only a neck behind Phyllis Jean when they met in their Series opener.
Leenah Pearl (Tyler Shehan), Lacarmeliliana (Matt Avenatti), Delightfully Wild (Jim Lackey) and Hope Hotspur (Juan Franco) are looking to pull off an upset in the Paisley Final.
The draw for the seventh race $16,500 Dave Magee Final wasn’t kind to the pre-series favorite Lady’s Party. She won her Magee series legs in rather comfortable fashion, however her reward was landing the outside 10-hole tonight.
Nevertheless, the Mike Titus trained filly will open at 7-5 odds that she’ll make it three in a row in the series for ICF filly pacers without $10,000 in lifetime earnings as of this past March 31.
“Lady’s Party is also a nice filly and I liked her last year, too, said driver Casey Leonard. She’s going to have a good three-year-old season because she has a lot of speed.”
Look for Lady’s Party to use it in the early going to try to be ahead of some of the longshots in the field who drew in the middle of the pack.
Starting inside of Lady’s Party are Beamer N Bud (Brian Carpenter), Smiles Ahead (Kyle Wilfong), leg one winner Rousey Ronda (Ridge Warren), Rosebud’s First (Tim Curtin), Jewel’s Hall (Juan Franco), Frontier Shirley (Richard Finn), Miss Tennessee (Kyle Husted), C Far (Gary Rath), a leg two victor, and Revin The Engine (Mike Oosting).
By Mike Paradise
It’s round two Sunday night for the top filly and mare pacers on the grounds at Hawthorne when a solid field of seven distaffers argue it out in the featured $15,000 Open Pace Handicap.
Round one a week ago went to the Angie Coleman Stable’s OK Heavenly, who will have driver Casey Leonard back at her lines. The five-year-old mare had to race outside of the talented mare Seeyouatthefinish, winner of 11 races both last year and in 2015, and the Sportswriter mare still pulled away with a 27.3 last quarter at the end of her 1:52.3 mile.
To say that Casey was impressed with OK Heavenly might be a bit of an understatement.
“She’s a beast,” said the 39-year-old Harvard, Illinois native. “That was a huge mile she raced. I didn’t want to be too far back with her. When (Mike) Oosting moved that mare (Fox Valley Charm from the rail)—and I like her too—I didn’t know if Mike would get
(Frank) Petrelli’s horse (Young American) in the two-hole, and then if he would be able to shut ‘Charm’ down.”
“It was a bit of a gamble racing her the way I did but I had to get her into the race somehow. She took care of herself in the far turn. She kind of backed off the pace and then waited for the stretch—and that stretch is so long—and then she just kept going.”
Sunday night OK Heavenly again will be on the outside looking in, this time with six mares inside of her: Rocknroll Hoochcoo (15-1, John Lewis), I Dance You Prance (12-1), Gypsy Bellevue (9-2, Tyler Shehan), Fox Valley Charm (4-1, Mike Oosting), Young American (Frank Petrelli) and Seeyouatthefinish (7-2, Kyle Husted). (Morning line odds are listed in parenthesis)
The fifth race headliner was drawn by groups: (1-2) (3-5) (6-7).
A victory would give OK Heavenly a half-dozen on the year and move her close to $50,000 in season earnings for Illinois owners Dandy Farms Inc. (Glenview) and Mark Winship (Canton).
Seeyouatthefinish should have earned a “Frequent Visitor Pass” to Hawthorne’s winner’s circle last year. She visited it on eight occasions and four of those stops came after an Open Pace triumph. As a 6-year-old she banked a career season high of $82,865 for her Oregon, Illinois owners Bernie and Deb Paul.
Peter Karras’ Fox Valley Charm could be an interesting pacer to consider. The 5-year-old ICF mare was raced inside in her first start in almost eight months and was beaten by a little more than one length. One of the Rodney Freese trainee’s five victories in 2016 came in the $50,000 Tony Maurello Final on Hawthorne’s Night of Champions.
One more Late Closer Series Leg is to be decided this week and that’ll come in the $9,000 Peter Galassi, tonight’s opener. Six fillies will go postward: Lakeside Ms Queen (Dale Hiteman), Rear View (Mike Oosting), Patches Girl (Larry Plank), IYQ BNU (Trenton Watson), Dali Delight (Kyle Wilfong) and Getn My Sundaze On (Freddie Patton Jr,).
Lakeside Ms Queen left the first leg field in the dust with a seven length triumph for the Tom Simmons Stable and still was well in hand at the end of her 1:57.1 mile. With the rail she deserves her 8-5 first-flash favoritism.
However unlike last week, this time around Lakeside Ms Queen will have to take on Dali Delight, who now races out of the barn of trainer Dave Gentile. Dali Delight owns a 1:56.2 season winning mile. It came earlier in the year at Miami Valley Raceway in Ohio and the filly was competing at a higher level last month at Hoosier Park.
Mike, Mike and Mike: There was one common factor in a trio of Saturday night Late Closer races and that was Mike Oosting. He drove all three winners.
While a victory by Hot Rod Dylan was expected in the Bob Larry Series, what was not expected was the scant nose decision by the 1 to 9 prohibitive favorite over the ICF 3-year-old Fox Valley Nemitz who uncorked a wicked 26.2 last quarter in last night’s opener.
Fox Valley Nemitz (Casey Leonard) was fifth at the three-quarter pole, some five lengths off Hot Rod Dylan before he started gobbling up ground in the lane only to come up a nostril short.
Hot Rod Dylan is now 9 for 13 on the year for trainer Nelson Willis and owner Shirley Le Vin of Barrington Hills, Illinois.
Oosting made a return visit to the winner’s circle in race two when Ima Skydancer made it back-to-back wins in the Mike Paradise Series, this time knocking more than three seconds off last week’s win with a 1:54.4 clocking.
Ima Skydancer ($5.40), a Mike Brink trained gelding, was taken out of the pocket twice in the mile by Oosting and held off In Your Eye by a half-length for Missouri owners Bonnie Harlow and Roberts Moser and Brink.
Causway ($13.40), another Brink trained, Oosting driven pacer proved best by a neck in the second Paradise division. Sent off at odds of 5-1, Causway raced fifth in the six horse field until the top of the lane and then powered past his stable-mate Sullivan, the 3-5 favorite, to gain his maiden win for Steelville, Illinois owner James Hepp in the pacer’s 15th career start.
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