Slices of the Du Quoin Fair’s Dough Well Dispersed

By Mike Paradise

Du Quoin 2017 logo“Spreading the Wealth” was the appropriate phrase for Wednesday’s final racing program of this year’s Du Quoin State Fair harness meet and for that matter also the correct axiom for both days of racing.

Of the 12 winners on the second day of the pari-mutuel program, 9 different trainers had a horse make a stop in Du Quoin’s Victory Lane.

The meet’s leading trainer was Mike Brink with six.  Roshun Trigg had a trio of winners from his barn.   Seventeen trainers had a single winner among the 26 races (including three non-wagering events) at the Du Quoin meet.

Fox Valley Herbie (Mike Oosting). Four Footed Photo

Fox Valley Herbie (Mike Oosting). Four Footed Fotos

The leading driver for Du Quoin wasn’t settled until the 12th and last race on Wednesday when Mike Oosting brought home Fox Valley Herbie to his 1:51.2 victory in the $29,000 Dudley Hanover for ICF 3-year-old pacing colts and geldings.

The Tom Simmons trained colt overtook the speed in mid-stretch and then held off a late-charging Slzburgerslzburger (Juan Franco), for his third season victory for Springfield owner Benita Simmons.

Kyle Wilfong piloted five winners at Du Quoin, one less than Oosting.

Earlier on the card Vic’s Pizza grabbed another slice of glory in the 2-year-old ICF trot male division, when he followed his Springfield championship with a gutsy victory in the $33,000 Darn Safe stake.

Given a heady drive by Oosting for trainer Mike Brink, Vic’s Pizza was pulled out of the pocket in the early going after a 30.1 first quarter and got away with a slow 32.2 second quarter, bunching up the field. Jared Finn then pulled Cruzen Cassi and he powered his way to an eye-to-eye battle through the third quarter with the 3 to 5 favorite.

It wasn’t until the deep stretch that Vic’s Pizza ($3.40) put Cruzen Cassi away and nail down his fourth, first season win, in seven tries for the Illinois trio of owners: Mark Brown (Chatham), Josh Carter (Williamsville) and trainer Brink, this one in 1:59.1.

Hart To Heart (Bobby Smolin)

Hart To Heart (Bobby Smolin) Four Footed Fotos

Hart To Heart ($7.20) picked the right time to grab the first win of his career for Illinois owners Donna Crebs (Cantrall) and Judy Conzo (Lincoln). The Mike Brink trained freshman came on with a rush (26.3 last quarter), in the stretch for driver Bobby Smolin to notch the first $16,500 division of the Governor’s Cup stake for ICF 2-year-old pacing colts and geldings.

The second $16,500 Governor’s Cup split also went to a first-time winner when Al’s Briefs ($6.80) came up with a strong 1:54 flat triumph with driver Kyle Wilfong for trainer Clark Fairley.

Wilfong took Al’s Briefs out of third on the backside and on to the front for the first time in his young career. The freshman then dug in and repelled a late bid by the second place finisher Backstreet Lawyer.

Al’s Briefs is owned by Illinoisans’ Tony Somone (Willow Springs), Dave Mc Caffrey (Burr Ridge) and Clark Fairley (Charleston).

Fox Valley Charm was sent off as the overwhelming 1 to 9 favorite in the $8,000 ICF Aged Mare Pace showdown, but her victory was anything but easy for the Rodney Freese trained 5-year-old mare.

Oosting quickly put Fox Valley Charm on top and after a 28.3 first quarter backed things down. She led at the half over the pocket horse Mimosa Party after a slow 31.4 second panel. Wilfong then took Bucklegirl Bobbette out of third, raced alongside the favorite in the last turn and actually had the lead turning for home.

However, Fox Valley Charm then fought back to win it in 1:54.4 for owner Peter Karras of Sherman, Illinois when she unleashed a blistering 25.3 final panel.

The $8,000 Aged Colt and Gelding Pace saw a spirited three-horse stretch drive with Dane May’s Dinky Dune proving best for driver Wilfong in 1:52 flat. The pacesetter Cole Heat who cut fractions of 27.3, 56.3 and 1:24.3 had a big effort for second, beaten by a neck, while the 3-2 favorite Caffeine Kid was right there for third.

Dinky Dune had to race first up, but still got the job done for his trainer and by owner Dane May of Newton, Illinois.

The Wednesday card got under way with a $6,500 Topline Stake for 2-year-old pacers and it was a one-two finish for the Brink Stable as the Ed Teefey owned filly Spunky Bottom Girl ($4.60), driven by Brink, edged out stable-mate Wrigleyville in the 1:59.4 mile.

There were five consecutive $7,500 County Fair Challenge events, with the 2-year-old filly trot going to Shady Maple Valley ($8.20), driven by his owner and trainer 82-year-old Ray Gash of Du Quoin, in front-end fashion trotted in 2:02 flat.

Wilfong moved the 6-5 favorite Skeeter Machine ($4.40), on the backside to the lead and the Alan Bowen trained filly went on from there to take the 2-year-old filly pace by in 1:55.3, knocking over nine seconds off her previous best time for owners Francis Greer (Mt. Sterling) and James Greer (Peoria).

The 3-5 public’s choice Who Deen E (Oosting), rallied in the lane to nudge True Colors (Mike Rogers), by a nose for the top spot in the 2-year-old colt and gelding pace County Fair Challenge, in 1:56.1. Mark Walker trains the Sportsmaster gelding for his parents Tom and Karen Sue Walker of Carrollton, Illinois.

The 3-year-old colt and gelding pace $7,500 Challenge saw Smooth N Creamy ($7.40) wear down the speed and draw off to a 1:56.3 driver Cornelius Cavett. The Ideal Towne winning colt is owned and trained by Freddie Patton Sr.

The last of Wednesday’s County Fair Challenges Little Ms Aryss ($11.40), driven by her owner and breeder Henry Brown of Ackerman, Mississippi, zipped past in the lane, going by the heavy 1-5 favorite Lou’s Game N Match to win the 3-year-old filly trot in 1:57.4. The Southwind Breeze winning filly is trained by Dossie Minor.

First Day at Du Quoin Had Its Surprises

By Mike Paradise

Du Quoin 2017 logoYou knew it was going to be an interesting opening day of racing at the Du Quoin State Fair, when the first of a series of major stake races on the program saw the 19-1 longshot Party Belle flash across the finish wire first in the $31,000 Director’s Award stake.

The ICF 2-year-old pacing filly stake was expected to be between Violet champion Rollin Coal and Incredible Tillie stake series winner Lex Two. However, those two betting favorites had to take a back seat to the Shawn Nessa Stable’s, Party Belle, who went off at 19-1 odds and rewarded her backers with a $41.50 mutuel.

Party Belle (Jamaica Patton) Four Footed Photo

Party Belle (Jamaica Patton) Four Footed Fotos

Driver Jamaica Patton weaved his way through traffic at the top of the lane and the Party At Artsplace daughter responded with a 1:56 winning mile for owners Bryan Brown of Bolton, Mississippi and Ladevie Spann of Anderson, Indiana. Party Belle had been 1 for 8 in her career starts with her lone previous win a 2:01.4 mile on the Anna fair track.

The $31,000 Shawnee for 2-year-old trotting fillies wasn’t decided until several minutes after the race was finished and in it, the 2-1 favorite Good Design, made a break coming out of the last turn, eliminating herself.

Trotting Grace crossed the finish line first in the 1:56.3 mile, but was disqualified to fifth, when she ran into the sulky of Lous Silver Star and flattened a tire.  Fox Valley Winnie (Ridge Warren), at 8-1 was awarded the victory for trainer Curt Grummel and Carrolton, Illinois owners Craig Grummel and Chili Day Stables.

E L Miss Kaibra was moved up to second and Lous Silver Star was advanced to third when the third place finisher Powerful Temtrist was disqualified for failing to lose ground on a break.

Maui Mama (Mike Brink) Four Footed Photo

Maui Mama (Mike Brink) Four Footed Fotos

The chalk players could finally breathe a sigh of relief when the second division of the $31,000 Shawnee was in the history books, when the heavy 1 to 2 favorite Maui Mama ($3.00) came on with a rush in the lane with trainer Mike Brink at her lines in 1:56.4 for her fifth win in six starts for owner Bill Wright of Morton, Illinois.

Maui Mama took the Springfield championship two weeks ago and earlier swept the Violet and was victorious in Hawthorne’s Fox Valley Flan stake series.

Sent off at even-money odds Fancy Creek Jolene ($4.00) was a convincing winner of the $27,000 Time Dancer stake for 3-year-old fillies with her new driver Tim Curtin, who made what turned out to be the winning move with the Kim Hamilton trainee at the half-mile pole reached in :56.4.

Fancy Creek Jolene (Tim Curtin) Four Footed Photo

Fancy Creek Jolene (Tim Curtin) Four Footed Fotos

Fancy Creek Jolene came out of third for Curtin and raced outside of the pace-setting Springfield champion, Boogie On Down, through the third quarter. The Sportsmaster filly then quickly accelerated in the lane and pulled away by three lengths for South Chicago Heights, Illinois owner Frank Marcolini.

Boogie On Down held on for second while third went to San Antonio Rose.

Annas Lucky Star (Kyle Wilfong) continued her domination of the ICF 3-year-old filly trotting division, with a victory in the $27,000 Windy Skeeter for her owner and breeder Danny Graham.

Lous Credit Report finished by three-quarters of a length behind in the 1:55.1 mile, while Daisy Lou Duke settled for third. Annas Lucky Star has now won six in a row and has never lost a race to another filly in 15 career starts.

The 4-5 favorite Louscipher (Mike Oosting), passed the front-stepping Picky Picky Valor in the deep stretch and added the $27,000 Pronto Don Trot to his list of accomplishments as a 3-year-old for trainer Roshun Trigg. Owned and bred by Flacco Family Farms of Alexis, Illinois, the gelding also won the Springfield championship and earlier took two legs of Hawthorne’s Kadabra stake series.

Picky Picky Valor (Brian Carpenter), had opened about a seven length lead, after taking command on the backstretch. He took the field to a 56.4 first half and a 1:25.3 three-quarters before weakening in the late going.

Driven by his trainer Freddie Patton Jr., Primed N Powerful ($2.80), followed his Springfield title with an easy wire-to-wire 1:55 win in the $8,000 ICF Aged Trot for horses and geldings. The 4-year-old gelding is owned by Ron Phillips of Athens, Illinois and Sharry Boledovich of Lakewood, Colorado.

Tuesday’s opening day card started off with the Mike Brink trained and driven Real Peace, taking the first of three Topline stakes, this one for 2-year-old pacers, in 1:54.4.

The Brink Stable’s Tookadiveoffdipper (Mike Oosting), fresh off a triumph in last week’s Open II Pace at Hawthorne, cruised with a 1:52.4 mile in a Topline for 3-year-old and upward pacers. Brian Cotton then rallied Fort Defiant past the 2 to 5 favorite Macie Rae, to notch the Topline for 3 and up trotters in 1:57 for the Phil Cotton Stable.

The $7,500 County Fair Challenge for 3-year-old ICF filly pacers came next with Watchcircuspace (Tim Curtin), surprising at a $20.20 mutuel for trainer Mike Rogers, beating the overwhelming 1 to 9 favorite Prettyfaceuglyways.

Ending with a Bang: A pair of stake showdowns for aged ICF horses and a trio of prominent state bred championships for 2 and 3-year-olds make-up the back-end of the 12-race closing day card today (Wednesday) at the Du Quoin State Fair.

A three-horse non-wagering County Fair Challenge 2-year-old trot with an 11:45 am post will precede the regular betting card, that starts off with a 12 noon two-year-old Topline stake. Five more $7,500 County Fair Challenge races will follow.

The first of the back-to-back $8,000 stakes for older ICF pacers, races 6 and 7, as the Rodney Freese Stable’s Fox Valley Charm (Mike Oosting), programmed at 4-5, defending her Du Quoin aged mare title against Duneside Life (20-1), Bucklegirl Bobette (3-1) and Mimosa Party (2-1).

The aged horse and gelding pace follows with Cole Heat (Ridge Warren), from the barn of Ray Hanna, going for his second straight Du Quoin championship. He’ll open at 7-2 odds. NJ’s Go Johnny Go (7-2), Lotta Riches (25-1), Caffeine Kid (9-5), Whatdoesthefoxsay (15-1) and Dinky Dune (2-1), complete the competitive six-horse field..

The $33,000 Darn Safe for ICF 2-year-old trotting colts and geldings gives us the anticipated matchup that didn’t happen at Springfield between division leader True Detective, trained by Curt Grummel, and the fast improving Vic’s Pizza, from the barn of Mike Brink.

True Detective beat Vic’s Pizza in both the Cardinal Final and the last Kadabra stake series event at Hawthorne, but he went off stride in his Springfield elimination and missed the final that Vic’s Pizza won handily in 1:57.2. True Detective rebounded on the same Springfield card with a much-the-best victory in an IDOA race.

Vic’s Pizza, programmed at 2-1, landed inside post (the two), for the Dudley Hanover but the draw wasn’t as kind to True Detective. The 3-1 morning line second choice drew the outside nine-slot for his new driver Kyle Wilfong. True Detectives’s regular driver Casey Leonard skipped the Du Quoin State Fair.

The late-blooming Illinimight (8-1, Mike Brink), who was second at Springfield to his stable-mate Vic’s Pizza, also figures to make his presence felt from the rail and the same can be said of Cruzen Cassi (4-1, Jaren Finn), a three-time winner as a freshman for trainer John D Finn.

With 13 ICF freshman male pacers entered, the Governor’s Cup was split into two $16,500 events and with the unbeaten division leader Fox Valley Gemini not making the trip to Du Quoin, both appear to be wide-open.

The tenth race, seven-horse, first division has a line-up (programmed odds) of Talk About It (9-1), Molina (3-1), Sheriff Coffey (9-2), Big Boy Frasier (12-1), Fox Valley Hijinx (5-2), Beach Shooting Star (5-1) and Hart To Heart (8-1).

Bootleg Island (Kyle Husted), a four-time season winner, and Backstreet Lawyer (Mike Oosting), who flew home in 26.3 in the Springfield final, are listed in the morning line at 6-5 and 8-5, respectively. Both youngsters are from the Tom Simmons Stable. They’ll be tested by Thebestmanicanbe (10-1), Al’s Briefs (7-1), Fox Valley Hipster (15-1), and Not Me Gram (12-1).

The $29,000 Dudley Hanover for state-bred pacing colts and geldings will wrap up this year’s Du Quoin racing meet and will out all the top finishers in the Springfield finale that saw the Jim Horvath Stable’s Captain Rhett (Kyle Husted), stun the crowd with a quick 1:49.4 winning mile. Despite the sub 1:50 mile performance, Captain Rhett is the 9-2 third programmed choice.

Springfield runner-up Mississippi Rabbit (Kyle Wilfong), is at 5-2 and the third place finisher Fox Valley Herbie (Mike Oosting), opens at 3-1. Looking to pull off an upset are Uptown Sleaze (30-1), Ima Scrappy Scaper (30-1), Fox Valley Reggie (7-1), Gabe Henry (15-1), Zone Blitz (12-1), Slzburgerslzburger (9-1) and Ima Skywalker (10-1).

1—Spunky Bottom Girl, Wrigleyville, Cinder Norma
2—Skillful Quaker, Drinks On Betsy, Shady Maple Valley
3—Fox Valley Zola, Sportybabe, Fox Valley Sierra
4—Safari Sage, Who Dee E, Sagebrush Sharp
5—Vitality, Smooth N Creamy, Sirius Speedway
6—Lou’s Game N Match, Lady Lou’s Legacy, Make It Shine
7—Fox Valley Charm, Bucklegirl Bobette, Mimosa Party
8—Cole Heat, Dinky Dune, Caffeine Kid
9—Vic’s Pizza, True Detective, Cruzen Casi
10—Mykonos, Fox Valley Hijinx, Sheriff Coffey
11—Backstreet Lawyer, Bootleg Island, Al’s Briefs
12—Captain Rhett, Mississippi Rabbit, Fox Valley Herbie

Mike’s Solid Plays
Spunky Bottom Girl (1st race)
Lou’s Game N Match (6th race)

Mikes Price Shots
Safari Sage (4th race)
Sheriff Coffey (10th race)

Du Quoin Harness Meet Rich in Tradition

By Mike Paradise

Du Quoin 2017 logo Harness racing returns Tuesday afternoon to the Du Quoin State Fair for a two-day meet with six significant ICF stake championships on the line, three for both freshman and sophomore horses on the first day of racing.

The eleven race betting card starts at 12 noon with two non-wagering events getting things going at 11:30 am.

Harness racing at Du Quoin is rich in tradition and for six decades just about every top-notch 3-year-old trotter made the trip to southern Illinois to compete on the one mile track.

National Hall of Fame trotter Hall Speedy Scot (Ralph Baldwin) won the 1963 Hambletonian when it was raced at Du Quoin. (USTA Photo)

National Hall of Fame trotter Hall Speedy Scot (Ralph Baldwin) won the 1963 Hambletonian when it was raced at Du Quoin. (USTA Photo)

From 1957 through 1980 the Du Quoin State Fair was the home of the prestigious Hambletonian and its Victory Lane was graced by such past star trotters as Speedy Scot, Nevele Pride, Lindy’s Pride, Speedy Crown, Super Bowl, Bonefish, Green Speed and Burgomeister, its last Hambo champion.

When the Hambletonian Society decided to shift the “Kentucky Derby of Harness Racing” from its quiet rural setting in downstate Illinois to the Meadowlands and its big city lights of the New Jersey-New York area starting in 1981, the Illinois harness racing community and the Illinois Department of Agriculture stepped up and replaced it with the World Trotting Derby, again attracting the nation’s very best sophomore trotters to Du Quoin which continued to be one of the major stops of the nationally prominent Grand Circuit.

Without any interruption the crème de la crème of the 3-year-old division continued to ship to Illinois with the lure of a $500,000 pot and a $100,000-plus purse for the filly division of the World Trotting Derby.

Blue-chip trotters like Baltic Speed, Prakas, Peace Corps. Royal Prestige, Pine Chip, CR Kay Suzie, Continentalvictory, Muscle Hill and Deweycheatumnhowe were just some of the Du Quoin’s past Would Trotting Derby champions.

 In 1972 Stanley Dancer's Hall of Fame trotter Super Bowl captured the prestigious Hamletionian at Du Quoin. (USTA Photo)

In 1972 Stanley Dancer’s Hall of Fame trotter Super Bowl captured the prestigious Hambletonian at Du Quoin. (USTA Photo)

Unfortunately, in 2010 the Illinois Department of Agriculture announced the World Trotting Derby would become a casualty of a (surprise) Illinois’ budget crisis. The Du Quoin meet was cut from five days to three (and later to two) and the Filly World Trotting Derby and the Grand Circuit races — all of which lured prominent horses nationally as well — also were on the state’s hit list.

The Du Quoin State Fair meet still remains a vital part of the ICF stakes harness racing program, where a championship is a feather in the cap for any Illinois horsemen and their owners.

Four of five Illinois State Fair Colt Stakes titleholders will look to add a Du Quoin championship on their list of accomplishments Tuesday. The lone exception is in the $31,000 Director Awards stake for ICF 2-year-old fillies where The New Americana and Fox Valley Jazzy, the one-two Springfield finishers, are staying home.

With both The New Americana and Fox Valley Jazzy Du Quoin no-shows, the fifth race field should see Cynthia Kay Willis; Lex Two (pp 1, Juan Franco), a winner of the July 21st Incredible Tillie stake series at Hawthorne, and Hosea Williams; Rollin Coal (pp6, Trenton Watson), the July 6th Violet champion, getting most of money going through the Du Quoin betting windows.

The Springfield morning line has Rollin Coal at low-end odds of 3 to 5 while Lex Two opens at 7-1.

The anticipated duel in the Shawnee stake between the two ICF freshman trotting filly leaders, Maui Mama and Good Design won’t come to fruition. With 13 entries, the stake was split with Good Design (9-5, Kyle Wilfong), going in the sixth race – first division and Maui Mama (programmed at 1-1, Mike Brink), winner of 4 of her first 5 races including the Springfield title, in the seventh race second split.

The Wilfong family’s Boogie On Down (5-2, Kyle Wilfong), carries a four race winning streak, all on the front-end, into the $27,000 Time Dancer for ICF 3-year-old pacing fillies. The Springfield champ has seven foes in the eighth race, including the second through fourth place finishers—Fox Valley Charliz (6-1, Jamaica Patton), Fancy Creek Jolene (4-1, Tim Curtin) and A Real Doozie (3-1, Mike Oosting)—in that order.

 Boogie On Down (Kyle Wilfong) goes for her fifth consecutive victory in Tuesday's Time Dancer 3-year-old filly stake at the Du Quoin State Fair. (Four Footed Photo).

Boogie On Down (Kyle Wilfong) goes for her fifth consecutive victory in Tuesday’s Time Dancer 3-year-old filly stake at the Du Quoin State Fair. (Four Footed Photo).

The 26-year-old Wilfong will also be behind the likely prohibitive favorite Annas Luck Star (pp 2), in the ninth race $27,000 Windy Skeeter. She’ll open at odds of 8-5. The Danny Graham home-bred filly was 6-for-6 as a freshman in her division and is unbeaten against other fillies thus far this season as well, with victories in Hawthorne’s Beulah Dygert and Violet stakes and at Springfield. The filly’s only two losses came “against the boys” in open company trots.

The $27,000 Pronto Don for ICF sophomore trotting colts and geldings may be the most attention-grabbing championship on the card. The Flacco Family Farm’s homebred Louscipher (5-2, Mike Oosting), is atop the division with over $58,000 banked and eight trips to a winner’s circle including a visit to Springfield’s 13 days ago. The Roshun Trigg trainee also owns a pair of stake wins in Hawthorne’s Erwin F. Dygert.

However, Louscipher was upended by Muscle Image (pp 9, Mike Brink), in the Cardinal Final and was third to Picky Picky Valor in the August 12th prep race for the Springfield championship.

Picky Picky Valor (7-2, Brian Carpenter), definitely has picked things up for trainer Gerald Hansen over the last two months, nevertheless, he has made breaks in each of his last two stake finals.

Picky Picky Valor won the Cardinal prep but went off-stride in the early going in that final. The gelding then breezed on the front-end in a prep at Springfield, only to break at the start in that championship. Picky Picky Valor did come from eight or so lengths behind to overtake the field, but his 26.4 last quarter wasn’t enough to hold off a faster closing Louscipher, who trotted his final panel in 26.3

The consistent Trixie’s Jethro (9-2, Jared Finn), third or better in 10 of 13 season starts, also figures to be a major contender today and you might want to take a look at the rail horse, Bands Houdini (6-1, pp 1, Kyle Husted), as well.

The Steve Searle trained trotter started off the season on top of the division before a series of setbacks that saw some disappointing finishes. Bands Houdini was put on Lasix at Springfield and trotted home in 27 flat in each of her two starts there.

First Post at 12 Noon

1—Angel Dance, Real Peace, Flying Marvin
2—Tookadiveoffdipper, Red Hot Art, Sagebrush Sonny
3—Fort Defiant, Macie Rae, Defend The Rock
4—Prettyfaceuglyways, Cakatin Anniemay, Patches Girl
5—Rollin Coal, Lex Two, Fox Valley Catwalk
6—Good Design, Trotting Grace, Lous Silver Star
7—Maui Mama, White Pants Fever, Fox Valley Unleash
8—Boogie On Down, Fancy Creek Jolene, A Real Doozie
9—Annas Lucky Star, Daisy Lou Duke, Lous Credit Report
10—Picky Picky Valor, Louscipher, Bands Houdini
11—Primed N Powerful, Rock Hollywood, Riet’s Kid

Mike’s Solid Plays
Tookadiveroffdipper (2nd race)
Prettyfaceuglyways (4th race)
Maui Mama (7th race)
Annas Lucky Star (9th race)

Mike’s Price Shots
Bands Houdini (10th race)

Major Bliss a Major Blessing for Wheeler

By Mike Paradise

When Major Bliss made his local debut at Hawthorne back in the second week of May for trainer Herman Wheeler I couldn’t help but notice that the pacer was making his first career start at the age of six and I asked myself:

“Why is this horse just beginning to race at that age?”

After all Major Bliss has very good bloodlines. He’s a son of Major In Art ($150.4, $849,154), out of the Presidential Ball (1:50, $3 million) broodmare Ballroom Bliss.

As it turns out it was because Major Bliss was a riding horse at a time most horses are in their prime racing careers. Despite his very much belated start the horse is having a banner first racing season at the age of six for Herman.

Major Bliss (Bobby Smolin), Four Footed Photo

Major Bliss (Bobby Smolin), Four Footed Fotos

Major Bliss climbed up the Hawthorne conditioned-race ladder by rattling off seven consecutive wins before a second place finish in late July. He quickly rebounded from his first defeat by going to Ohio and capturing a $25,000 Open on the five-eighths track at Scioto Downs with a quick 1:51 flat mile.

The horse came back to Illinois and finished third in his first attempt in a $13,500 Hawthorne Open a couple of weeks ago when he was beaten less than a length by Let’s Drink On It.

The Wheeler trainee immediately got back to winning races last week, nailing down his ninth triumph in 11 tries, this one coming in a high-end Hawthorne conditioned race. All eight Hawthorne wins have come with driver Bobby Smolin .

Wheeler purchased Major Bliss from his Shreveport, Louisiana friend Benjamin Choyce in early April of this year and the horse has gone on to reward Herman with $50,479 in purse earnings in his first season of racing and the late-bloomer isn’t not done yet with five more weeks of racing to go at Hawthorne’s summer meet.

“He’s been a blessing,” said Herman, who has a farm in his hometown of Monroe, Louisiana.

“My friend got him a couple of years ago from a guy in Texas who was using him as a riding horse. The horse began to show some potential so he called me and asked me to come over and take a look at him, which I did. He was big and looked pretty good and I did end up going back to his place and picked-up the horse.

“I told my friend I wanted to jog the horse for 30 days before I made my mind up if I wanted to buy him. I did and the horse showed me he had some speed and had potential. When I looked up his pedigree I saw that he had good bloodlines, so I took a chance on him. I don’t know if the horse had any serious health problems before he came to me but he was in good shape when I got him.

“Major Bliss was just very green and he’s still green. He doesn’t know yet what to do out there but he likes to race other horses. He always tries hard. That 51 mile he paced in Ohio impressed me but I still don’t think he’s bottomed-out yet. I believe he’s got more in him.”

Major Bliss has a half-brother who raced briefly on the Chicago circuit a few years back. Paradise Ragtime competed for trainer George Anthrop at Maywood and Balmoral in 2014 after the pacer won in 1:51.4 at Colonial Downs that summer.

Paradise Ragtime, a son of The Panderosa, went on to post 31 lifetime wins and did some racing on the Illinois County Fair Circuit for horseman William (Larry) Binkley of Charleston, Illinois in 2015 and 2016. The horse is currently owned by Jill White and Chris Brown, also both of Charleston.

Major Bliss has another half-brother with 37 career wins and is still racing at the age of 14 at Saratoga in New York. His name is Paradise Willie (1:53.2, $294,185). A son of Artsplace, he was the first foal Ballroom Bliss. An Ohio bred, Major Bliss is her eighth foal and he sold for only $2,000 as a yearling at the 2012 Blooded Horse Sale in Ohio.

Considering he has a brother still racing as a 14-year-old maybe at the age of six Major Bliss is just starting his own long racing career for the Herman Wheeler Stable. The end of this remarkable horse story could be years down the road.

Du Quoin 2017 logoNo Casey: Hawthorne’s leading driver Casey Leonard won’t be making the long trip to southern Illinois for the two-day Du Quoin meet.

The 39-year-old Harvard, Illinois native is well on his way to a second straight driver title at Hawthorne. He’s more than 30 winners ahead of his nearest competitor.

Casey had an even dozen winners at the four-program meet at Springfield when he made it back-to-back leading driver titles at the Illinois State Fair.

All the Way: The Jim Ellison Stable’s Vintage Babe was a front-end winner in Friday’s $13,500 Open Pace for filly and mares.

Driver Jim Lackey got Vintage Babe to the top at the first quarter (28 flat) and the 4-year-old mare went unchallenged through a pair of modest 29 quarters. The winner’s 26.4 final quarter was enough to hold off Fox Valley Charm (Mike Oosting) by three-quarters of a length in the 1:52.4 mile.

The Price is Right: John D Finn gave Pridecrest a ground saving trip and the 11-1 longshot came up the inside to win the $13,500 Open Trot by two-plus lengths in a career fastest time of 1:55.2.

Big Expense rallied for second while Bo I See Time came from far back to be third.

All About Cowboys sped to a 28.1 first quarter when he was pushed by Primed N Powerful. As expected the even-money favorite Banker Volo was sent out from the 10-hole but never could make the top and was parked out most of the mile before fading to eighth.

Pridecrest, trained by J D Finn for Iowa owner Mary Hinshaw was a $24.80 “Mike’s Price Shot” selection.

Distaff Open Makes a Belated Return

By Mike Paradise

After a five week absence the Chicago circuit’s Open for strictly filly and mare pacers returns Saturday evening where it will share top billing with a rare Hawthorne 10-horse field Open Trot.

The top older gals at the meet will slug it out early on the card with their six-horse field going as the second race. The trot, stocked with horses that do their best racing on or close to the front, is race eight on the 10-event program. Both Opens have a $13,500 purse on the line.

OK Heavenly (Casey Leonard) opens as the favorite in Saturday's $13,500 Open Pace for fillies and mares. (Four Footed Photo).

OK Heavenly (Casey Leonard) opens as the favorite in Saturday’s $13,500 Open Pace for fillies and mares. (Four Footed Photo).

The 8-5 morning line favorite OK Heavenly is enjoying another very productive season of racing. The Angie Coleman trained filly is an eight-time season winner with four of those victories coming earlier in the year at Pompano Park and the other four in Hawthorne Opens with tonight’s driver Casey Leonard at her lines.

The 5-year-old Sportswriter mare banked over $77,000 in 2016 in 35 starts and has over $70,000 on this year’s card this year in her first 23 trips postward for Illinois owners Dandy Farms Inc. (Glenview) and Mark Winship (Glenview).

However, Ok Heavenly does come off back-to-back disappointing outings. She was a non-threatening fifth in an Open II event at Hawthorne two weeks ago where she faced some colts and geldings and was the victim of a less-than-desirable trip when she was parked out to a 55.1 first half at Hoosier and was beaten some 14-plus lengths in her first August start.

Meanwhile the Jim Ellison Stable’s Vintage Babe (5-2, Jim Lackey) has hit the board in all of her last five starts, including a trio of second place finishes in her most recent races. The 4-year-old Vintage Master mare captured a Hawthorne Open on July 15.

Owned by the Illinois quartet of Anna Ellison (Park Forest), Robert Onysio (Brookfield) Steve Collins (Crete) and George Dremonas (Oak Lawn), Vintage Babe’s $82,400 season purse earnings are tops in the second race field.

Vintage Babe raced out east before she was bought in late May by her Illinois owners where the mare was the first place finisher in a $20,000 leg of the Petticoat Series at Yonkers back in March.

The two likely favorites should get a stern test from Fox Valley Charm (pp5, Mike Oosting), and the first three inside horses Wings (Tim Curtin), Mimosa Party (Trenton Watson) and Phyllis Jean (Juan Franco),with posts 1, 2, 3 in that order.

 Big Expense (No. 4, Kyle Husted) overtook the heavy favorite Banker Volo in last week's Open Trot. (Four Footed Photo)

Big Expense (No. 4, Kyle Husted) overtook the heavy favorite Banker Volo in last week’s Open Trot. (Four Footed Photo)

Take Your Pick:Trainer Angie Coleman also sends out the 2-1 programmed choice in the eighth race Open Trot. Banker Volo came to her barn in time for Hawthorne’s July 30 Open and extended his winning streak to five in a row for Grinnell, Iowa owner Daniel Roland.

Banker Volo then made an unsuccessful venture into the Invite ranks at Hoosier Park. The eight-year-old trotter returned to Hawthorne for last week’s Open, hammered down to 1 to 5 odds, but was passed in the late going by the winner Big Expense (Kyle Husted) and runner-up Pridecrest (Jared Finn).

Posts for the Open Trot were drawn by groups: (1-4) (5-6) (7-8) and (9-10).

Banker Volo ended-up the 10-hole. Big Expense is to his left with the nine and Pridecrest didn’t fare much better with the eight-post. Both Banker Volo and Big Expense do their best racing up-close and the same can be said for the trotters Skyway Jaylo (Larry Smith) and Primed N Powerful (Freddie Patton Jr.) who landed the one and two slots, respectively.

Posts three through seven will be manned by Jackie Goldstein (Jim Lackey), Sand Swan (Ryan Anderson), Bo I See Time (Casey Leonard), Held In Balance (Tim Curtin) and All About Cowboy’s Brian Carpenter).

Chalk Up Another: Sent off at even-money by the betting public, thee Mike Brink Stale’s Tookadiveoffdipper (Mike Oosting) didn’t disappoint his many supporters the Friday’s $11,000 Open II Pace with a front-stepping victory in 1:52.2.

Oosting took Tookadiveoffdipper out of third in the first turn, grabbed the lead after a 28 first quarter, and was never headed in the seventh race feature for his eighth win in 10 season starts. Trashytonguetalker rallied strongly to be second, beaten three-quarters of a length, and Coal Hanover was third best.

Tookadiveoffdipper was Oosting fourth winning drive on the card. Earlier he brought home longshots All In No Out ($16.00) in race two, One And Only ($29.00) in race four and NJ’s Go Johnny Go ($21.40) in race five.

Du Quoin 2017 logoDu Quoin Draw Sunday: Entries for the Wednesday, August 30 racing program at the Du Quoin State Fair are due by 10 am tomorrow (Sunday morning.). Trainers are encouraged to use online entering for Du Quoin. Phone entries will be accepted at Hawthorne (708-780-3690.).

A $200 entry fee is required for the trio of ICF stakes on the last day of racing at Du Quoin: The $17,000 Dudley Hanover for 3-year-old pacing colts and geldings, the $31,000 Governor’s Cup for 2-year-old pacing males and the Darn Safe for freshman trotting colts and geldings, also with a $31,000 purse.

Sub 1:50 Speedsters Tangle Again

By Mike Paradise

Friday night’s $11,000 Open II headliner at Hawthorne features the one-two finishers in the fastest race at last week’s Springfield State Fair meeting—the 1:49 flat winner, Aimo Hanover and the second place finisher Tookadiveoffdipper, the horse that cut the blistering fraction and paced in 1:49.2.

Few of us saw a sub 1:50 mile coming in a $6,500 Topline event at Springfield but no one, including the pace-setting Tookadiveoffdipper’s trainer Mike Brink, had any idea a bruising 25.2 first quarter would be in the works.

“No, I didn’t expect a 25.2 quarter by my horse,” said Brink. “I wanted (Mike) Oosting to get him to the top because the horse’s owners were watching him for the first time, but Mike told me after the race he got the horse fired-up before the start to get him out of there, but then he couldn’t hold him.”

Tookadiveoffdipper went on cut additional fractions of 27.4 (53.1 to the half) and 28.3 (1:21.4 at the three-quarters) before the pocket horse Aimo Hanover (Casey Leonard), rallied past in 27 flat for that 5-year-old’s fastest lifetime mile.

Tonight’s seventh race feature was drawn by groups (1-4) (5-8) with the nine assigned to Coal Hanover (Kyle Husted), Tookadiveoffdipper (Mike Oosting), landed the rail and the Tom Simmons Stable’s Aimo Hanover (Kyle Hanover), the five.

The two possible favorites got to tonight’s Open in much different manners.

Aimo Hanover (Casey Leonard). Four Footed Photo

Aimo Hanover (Casey Leonard). Four Footed Photo

Aimo Hanover, a son of Artsplace, raced in New York stakes as a 2-year-old for the Doug Ackerman Stable for pots ranging from $21,000 to $225,000. The horse made $53,330 as a freshman.

Aimo Hanover campaigned for the Ron Burke Stable as a 3-year-old and as a 4-year-old until mid-August of 2016. He hauled in over $100,000 in that time frame before the Pennsylvania bred pacer was purchased by his current owner Clinard Properties of Mt. Sterling, Illinois.

After a start at Hoosier Park, Aimo Hanover came to Hawthorne and had a second and a first in Open paces, before finishing his season with several in Indiana.

Tookadiveoffdipper (Mike Oosting), Four Footed Photo

Tookadiveoffdipper (Mike Oosting), Four Footed Photo

Meanwhile, Tookadiveoffdipper, owned and bred by Van Otterloo Stables of Rock Valley, Iowa, never participated for more than a $6,000 purse in his 11 freshman outings.

While Aimo Hanover has competed at tracks like The Meadowlands, Yonkers, Scioto, The Meadows and Hoosier Park, Tookadiveoffdipper did his thing in Iowa registered events at such places as Humboldt, What Cheer and Sioux Center, while earning under $20,000.

Tookadiveofdipper was acquired by Brink in mid-April of this year. After the horse had two Springfield qualifiers of 1:55.3 and 1:54.2, winning those by an average of 13 lengths, it was evident the horse was ready to make his pari-mutuel debut.

In it Tookadiveoffdipper raced wide throughout his June 23rd mile and ended-up with a second place finish. Brink then turned the driver chores over to Mike Oosting. The pacer, a son of Always A Virgin out of the Van Otterloo’s broodmare Onceinabluemoon, went on to rattle off seven consecutive victories, including a sweep of a Hoosier Park Series and its $22,635 final prior to his loss at Springfield.

Currently owned by the quartet of Mark Cross (Knoxville, TN.), Jane Cross (Olney, IL.), James Hepp (Steeleville, IL.) and Brink, Tookadiveoffdipper has a little over $37,000 on his season card going into his first try in a Hawthorne Open.

Post 2 through 4 will be manned by Cole Heat (Ridge Warren), Sunset Dreamer (Cliff Bell) and Hash-Tag Swag (Tim Curtin), who is gunning for his fourth straight, his latest triumph arising in a $22,625 Series Final at Hoosier Park.

Trashytonguetalker (Jim Lackey), Extravagant Art (Matt Krueger) and Mystical Walter (Casey Leonard), leave from posts 6, 7 and 8, in that order. A second place finish in 3 of his last 5 starts, all in an Open I at Hawthorne, secured Coal Hanover the outside nine-hole.

Enter for Du Quoin Saturday: Entries for the Tuesday, August 29th first racing program at the Du Quoin State Fair, are due by 10 am tomorrow (Saturday morning.). Trainers are encouraged to use online entering for Du Quoin. Phone entries will be accepted at Hawthorne (708-780-3690.).

The Tuesday card is headed up by the $31,000 Shawnee Trot for 2-year-old fillies and the Director’s Award for freshman filly pacers. The 3-year-old $27,000 stakes on Tuesday are the Time Dancer for filly pacers, the Windy Skeeter for filly trotters, and the Pronto Don for trotting colts and geldings.

A $200 entry fee is required for each ICF stake.