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By Mike Paradise
Sunday night’s Hawthorne feature Open II Trot can be best described as a “head scratcher.” And that’s not a bad thing. Actually it’s a good thing since this headliner delivers not only a large field but a very competitive one to wager on.
There’s not even remotely a clear cut favorite and with recent Open I winners Skyway Jaylo and Banker Volo not invited to the eighth race field, you could make a case for a lot of different trotters to grab the winner’s share of a $7,200 purse.
The feature was drawn by groups with Intothelight (Casey Leonard) assigned the one-slot. The second grouping (posts to through five) has three winners at the meet—Picky Picky Picky Valor (Mike Oosting), Trixie’s Jethro (Jared Finn) and Lou’s Credit Report (Ronnie Gillespie)—plus Fantasy Doc (Kyle Wilfong), the fourth place finisher in last week’s Open I.
Also dropping out of Hawthorne’s top level trot is the third group comprised of All About Cowboys (pp 6,Juan Franco) and Madwell Hanover (pp 7, Sam Widger), both very capable trotters however neither one could stay flat a week ago.
The final sorting of posts (8, 9 and 10) has Primed N Powerful (Ryan Anderson), Schwarber (Tim Curtin) and Swan Handicap (Brandon Bates). The latter has the speed to overcome the post but can he carry it all the way? He didn’t last week, going from first to worse in the stretch, On the other hand the 5-year-old Indiana bred gelding gave way only to the winner in the January 7th Open Trot.
Meanwhile both Primed N Powerful and Schwarber had strong efforts and finished second and third, respectively, behind Skyway Jaylo. Schwarber does his best racing in the late going. Primed N Powerful, who in the past was usually on or close to the front, has rallied off the pace sharply since Ryan took over his lines two races ago.
The 5-year-old ICF gelding Primed N Powerful, a 28-time career winner now racing out of the barn of Jamaica Patton, is the soft 7-2 favorite in my line.
Hawthorne’s computer generated line has the race even more of a toss-up. It made the outside trotter Swan Handicap the program favorite at a rare 5-1 top choice. No horse it has listed is at higher than 10-1.
A Rockin Start: Co-owner Jared Finn steered Rockin Racer, the fifth betting choice in the eight-horse field of fillies and mares, to an impressive victory by almost five lengths in Saturday’s opener, the $10,000 Open Pace.
Rockin Racer ($17.60), a 4-year-old Indiana bred trained by Heather Stell, made a bold move on the backside and took command from Backwoods Barbie right before the 56.4 half and proceeded to draw away in the lane with her 1:52.4 clocking.
Mystical Nectar won the battle for second over the even-money favorite Rocking Katie.
Rockin Racer’s win was her second in a row at the meet for owners Jared Finn of Newton, IL and the Hinshaw Homestead Farms of West Des Plaines, Iowa.
Susie Triumphs: The first of a trio of consecutive Late Closer Series Finals came in race, the #7 event for fillies and mares saw the prohibited 1 to 5 favorite prevail for driver Todd Warren in 1:54.4.
Warren used a first quarter mile move (28 flat) to take Susie’s Soul to the front and the Jason Miller trained mare was never headed. The mile time of 1:54.3 was a career mark for the 4-year-old Indiana bred who finished three lengths ahead of Pennsyfromheaven. Princess Oshie rallied for third.
Series Sweep: Rockin Praline (Sam Widger) completed her sweep of the Late Closer #8 Series in front-end fashion and just as last week the Tom Simmons trainee was all out to hold off Beautiful Brew (Pat Curtin). The pair covered the mile in 1:56.3.
The winner’s share of the $17,000 Final boosted the 4-year-old mare’s earnings for the January to $15,800 for owner Red Barn Stable of Morrison, Illinois.
Pouring It On: The Terry Leonard Stable’s November Rain (Casey Leonard) poured it on in the lane and pulled away to a three length victory in the $25,000 Tim Wilson Late Closer Final strictly for ICF pacers.
C Far (Gary Rath), winner of the first legs of the series, was bottled up throughout the 1:56.4 mile before shaking loose in the late going to take the bridesmaid honors. The 60-1 longshot Lacarmeliliana (Matt Avenatti) raced well to be third,
November Rain ($4.60) came out of third soon after the first quarter and powered her way to the front and that turned out to be the winning move for the 4-year-old I Can Only Imagine mare owned by Illinoisans Peter Kouchis (Palos Hills), Dandy Farms Inc. (Glenview) and trainer Terry Leonard (Harvard).
By Mike Paradise
After back-to-back victories in the first two legs of the Tim Wilson Sr. Late Closer Series at double-digit odds perhaps the Gary Rath Stable’s C Far will get some recognition in Saturday’s $25,000 Final.
The now 4-year-old mare didn’t have the kind of sophomore season Gary and his wife Kathryn had hopes for, banking $16,499 in 17 season starts but C Far already has $7,400 on her 2017 card through the first three weeks of January and a legitimate shot to pad that total with tonight’s $25.000 pot on the line in the eighth race feature.
The Wilson Sr. is for ICF mares without $30,000 in earnings through last October 1. C Far earned $28,463 in 33 outings as a 2 and 3-year-old and her last win in 2017 came in a non-winner of two races with a $9,000 claiming tag.
There were no takers on that night or the previous week when she won at the same class and the Marengo, Illinois couple has to be pleased the Sportsmaster mare is still in their barn.
After a needed start on January 7, her first since last September, Gary found room with C Far in deep stretch in the first Series leg and popped at 15-1. A week later she went off at 10-1, and again a favorable journey saw the mare deliver the goods for her owner, trainer and driver.
“She got a perfect trip both times and got through there. C Far needs things to go her way and they did the first two times of the series. Both were identical trips. She got covered up and she got loose at the right time.”
I guess we could call C Far a “trip horse?”
“Yes, for sure,” Gary replied.” She needs a trip to do well.”
Rath put C Far in the Dave Magee Late Closer Series when the filly started her 3-year-old campaign at Hawthorne and she did well. After a second place finish in the first round, she won her second leg and then got the fourth place check of the $16,600 Final.
However, when July and August came around, C Far struggled.
“She got sick on me and I never was able to get her completely over it,” explained Gary. “In the winter she finally got over whatever it was and she’s turned out to be a decent mare. I hope she can keep it up. That’s a nice purse we’re going for Saturday ($25,000). I’m not getting greedy but I sure would like to get a small piece of it. She’ll need a perfect trip like she’s been getting to get there,”
More Finals Tonight: Saturday’s sixth race Late Series #7 Final pits last week’s easy second leg winner Susie’s Soul (pp 1, Todd Warren) against first round winner Princess Oshie (pp 5 Mike Oosting) who edged Susie’s Soul by a neck on January 5.
Also going postward for that series $15,000 purse are Pennysfromheaven (Tom T. Tetrick), Chromed Out (Jared Finn), Queens N Tens (Sam Widger), Ideals Oath (Kyle Wilfong) and Speechwriter (Ryan Anderson),
The Tom Simmons Stable’s Rocky Praline (Sam Widger) looks to complete her sweep of the Late Closer #8 series for fillies and mares when she leaves from the rail in race s even.
Taking on Rocky Praline in that $15,000 final are Lakeside Ms Queen (Kyle Wilfong), Morgangetsherway (Tim Morgan), Turnitdownforwatt (Travis Seekman), Beautiful Brew (Pat Curtin), Blissful Pansy (Brandon bates), Savanah Georgia (Mike Oosting) and My Mona Me (Matt Avenatti).
Not Just Another Opener: Saturday’s opener is a good one. It’s the filly and mare Open Pace drawn by groups. Last week’s winner Narcian Jewel (Todd Warren) was assigned the outside eight-slot by the Hawthorne Racing Office.
The meet’s first Open Pace winner Rockin Katie (Casey Leonard), the 5-2 programmed favorite, leaves from the six post with Mystical Nectar (Sam Widger) to her right.
Posts one through five will be manned by Place’N First (Travis Seekman), Backwood’s Barbie (Brandon Bates), Wings (Tim Curtin), Bucklegirl Bobette (Kyle Wilfong) and Rockin Racer (Jared Finn), in that order.
Gutsy Win for Reggie: The $25,000 Carl Becker Late Closer Final turned out to be one of the most exciting stretch duels of the meeting as co-favorites Fox Valley Reggie and Zone Blitz fought it out to the finish wire.
The winning photo showed Fox Valley Reggie ($5.00, Pat Curtin) by a scant nose over Zone Blitz (Mike Oosting) at the end of the 1:54.1 mile.
Zone Blitz had to work a bit to get to the top just before the first quarter was hit in 28.4. Daddy Let Me Drive had the pocket and Fox Valley Reggie left well enough to grab the three-hole. However the Jamaica Patton trained winner was flushed out at the half mile pole, reached in 58.1 and had to race on the outside of Zone Blitz the rest of the way.
Fox Valley Reggie got his series sweep of the Carl Becker with a gutsy performance for his owners Ron Phillips (Athens IL) and Sharry Boledovich and now has banked over $20,000 in the first month of the year.
Chalk Players Stunned: The betting public hammered Mojoto Hanover (Todd Warren) down to 1 to 5 odds in the Late Closer #5 Series Final and if the race was three-quarters of a mile there would have been a ton of winning tickets. However since it was a mile race Mojovo Hanover never hit the board.
Warren took Mojoto Hanover tight to the top where the gelding rattled of quarters a 27.3 first quarter went to a 55.2 half and a 1:23.1 three-quarters before reality set in.
Mojovo Hanover was passed in the lane by the winner Sharkfire (Mike Oosting) who rallied from fifth and last in the 1:53.3 mile for trainer Tom Simmons. My Friskie Boy and E R Vincent also zipped past for second and third place honors behind the $19.60 victor
Also last night the 30-1 longshot Fox Valley Eli (Sam Widger) grinded-out a neck victory in 1:57 flat over the ground-saving 50-1 longshot Shady’s Dream Boy (Brandon Bates) in the Late Closer # 4 Final.
Trained by Clark Fairley the Fairley family owned Fox Valley Eli paid $60.60 and along with Shady’s Dream Boy produced a winning 3-4 Exacta of $894.60.
Sam Widger had three winning drives on the night, also bringing home Somestartsomewhere to his 1:53.1 triumph in the $10,000 Open Pace for conditioner Tom Simmons who posted a training triple.
By Mike Paradise
The first of two $25,000 Late Closer Finals for strictly ICF horses kick-off the weekend of harness racing at Hawthorne Friday night.
Thanks to the Illinois Department of Agriculture and the Standardbred Breeders Fund Advisory Board tonight’s Carl Becker Pace championship and Saturday’s Tim Wilson Sr. Pace Final are worth $10,000 more than the open company series showdowns on the same programs.
After the first two series legs of the Carl Becker, the Jamaica Patton Stable’s Fox Valley Reggie has emerged as the state-bred pacer to beat. The 4-year-old son of Yankee Skyscaper has taken each division with Pat Curtin in the bike.
The Carl Becker series is for ICF male pacers without three wins at extended meets or $30,000 in earnings through last October 1st. While Fox Valley Reggie won nine races last year only two came at extended meetings for the Freddie Patton Jr. Stable and his owners Ron Phillips of Athens, Illinois and Sharry Boledovich of Lakewood, Colorado.
Jamaica is the 37-year-old nephew of Freddie Patton Jr.
“My uncle turned Fox Valley Reggie over to me when he left to go back to Mississippi for the winter,” said Jamaica. “I turned the horse out after his Springfield starts last fall and then trained him back to get him ready for this series. I really like “Reggie.” I think he can become a good open horse.
“I gave Pat (Curtin) a chance with the horse because I thought he would have a good feel for the horse and he has taken advantage of that chance. He’s driven him well.
Jamaica acknowledged the horse did have a tougher trip last week that his past performance might indicate. Was he concerned with Fox Valley Reggie drifting out in the stretch in his latest win?
“No,” he answered “because he kept his momentum going. If he’s out in front he does like to drift but when he races off another horse’s back he won’t drift out as much.
“I’m not too worried about the draw for the final,” said the Jackson, Mississippi native who now resides in Rochester, Illinois.” I would like a decent draw but this horse likes to hunt down other horses so he can come out of it. He doesn’t have to race up-close.”
Fox Valley Reggie did land a good post with the four. The three state-breds inside of him are last week’s third place finisher Daddy Let Me Drive (Casey Leonard), Causway (Matt Avenatti) and Frontier Fred (Juan Franco). Slots five through nine will be manned by Mr. Big W (Kyle Wilfong), Zone Blitz (Mike Oosting), runner-up in both series eliminations, along with Sleazy Joe (Brandon Bates), Fox Valley Brutus (Sam Widger) and One More Trick (Tim Curtin.
Fox Valley Reggie will compete through the current meet and then enjoy some R&R.
“When this meeting ends I’ll give him some time off and then get him ready for Hawthorne’s summer meet,” added Jamaica,
The first Late Closer Final (#5) saw only four challengers for the Zack Miller Stable’s Mojoto Hanover (pp2, Todd Warren). The Well Said gelding was much the best in leg one, earning him a week off. He’ll carry a three-race winning streak into the third race and no doubt will be a prohibitive favorite.
Herehecomesarockin (pp 3, Jared Finn), a dominating second leg winner after his runner-up role in round one, appears to be the obvious main threat, My Friskie Boy (Kyle Wilfong), E R Vincent (Juan Franco) and Sharkfire (Mike Oosting) are the other Late Closer hopefuls.
Friday’s card also has a $10,000 Open I with a field of eight pacers. The seventh race was drawn by groups. In posts one through five you’ll find Gibbs, Fox Valley Nemitz, Winning Is Sweet, Tookadiveoffdipper and Holdingallthecards. Post six was assigned to Somestarsomewhere.
Best Man Hanover and Firedrake, the meet’s previous Open winners, were allocated the seven and eight, the two outside starting slots.
By Mike Paradise
A half dozen Late Closer champions will be crowned at Hawthorne this weekend. The three series finals for pacing colts and geldings head-up Friday’s card, while a trio of filly and mare events will be the focus of Saturday’s program.
The two Late Closers for strictly ICF pacers, Friday’s Carl Becker Final and Saturday’s Tim Wilson Sr. showdown will get most of the attention with $25,000 purses in each on the line, but there is another intriguing event in a $15,000 open company finale as well.
It’s Friday’s ninth race, the Late Closer Series #4. It’s for paces without $20,000 on their cards through last November 1st and it’s a race that pits brother against brother and also father against son for the Leonard family bragging rights.
Dan P was the best for trainer Ross Leonard last week, in the first series division a 1:56.1victory with his brother Casey doing the driving. Ross, who shares ownership with his wife Rachel of the five-year-old Indiana bred gelding with Illinoisans Dandy Farms Inc. (Glenview) and Peter Kouchis (Palos Hills), will take back the lines on Dan P for the $15,000 final.
Wolfman’s Brother captured both of his series legs and the 4-year-old son of Real Desire did it despite a four month layoff . He’s owned and trained by Terry Leonard of Harvard, Illinois.
Ross drove Wolfman’s Brother to his first series leg victory for his father, while Casey and his family were on a ski vacation in Colorado. Casey returned to action last week and steered the pacer to a 1:56.2 in leg two and will be back in the bike Friday.
Wolfman’s Brother is out of the broodmare CJR Bogert, who won 27 races from 2002 through 2007, for Charles and Patrick Wolf, also of Harvard, Illinois. Terry acquired CJR Bogart in 2008 and two years later the mare delivered the Leonard’s Window Wiper (1:53.1), currently competing at Cal-Expo.
I asked Casey if there are any similarities between Wolfman’s Bother and his half-sister Window Wiper.
“They’re both very good gaited, but Wolfman’s Brother is a little more clean gaited,” answered Hawthorne’s two-time defending driver champion. “Wolfman’s sister would hit her knees pretty bad at times. Both of them have good attitudes. Neither one is something special, but they are both nice race horses,”
Dan P and Wolfman’s Brother can expect stiff competition from Mac Anover (Kyle Wilfong), from the barn of trainer Payton Ode. The 4-year-old son of McArdle saw his two-race winning streak at Hawthorne come to end last week with a second place finish behind Wolfman’s Brother, who did get away with slow a 30 second first and third quarters.
Mac Anover was fourth, four lengths behind at the half and the heavy 1 to 2 favorite’s 27.2 final panel did get him within one length of the winner at the finish wire.
The draw for the Friday’s ninth race Late Closer #4 final went very well for both Leonard horses. Dan P (programmed at 9-2), landed the rail for Ross, while Casey and the 8-5 morning line favorite Wolfman’s Brother leave from the four- post.
Mac Anover (listed at 3-1), had the two and one-slots in the first two series legs, but this week he ended up with the eight. Note that’s the same post he had in his initial Hawthorne start of the meeting and he rallied for a three-plus length victory that night.
The other ninth race challengers are: Shady Dream Boy (Brandon Bates), Fox Valley Eli (Sam Widger), Ima Scrappy Scaper (Pat Curtin), Who Deen E (Todd Warren), Canyouimaginethis (Gale Smith), Cruising Home (Ryan Anderson) and Frontier Frank (Mike Oosting).
Doubling Up: Brandon Bates drove both of Sunday’s $12,000 Cicero Claiming Series winners, first bringing home Another Temptation in the mare division and then steering Want Me in the male pacer category. Both horses are trained by Loralee Johnson and she added a third winner on the card, when Cuinthepurplerain took the tenth race nightcap.
Ms. Johnson’s three-bagger moved her to the top of the Hawthorne trainer standings with 10, one more than Payton Ode.
Worth a Bet: Thursday night’s tenth race .20 cent Jackpot High Five at Hawthorne has a carryover of nearly $43,000.
By Mike Paradise
Trainer Payton Ode is off to a terrific start at Hawthorne’s winter meet and Sunday night sends out major threats in both $12,000 Cicero Claiming Series Finals for horses that raced earlier with $6,000 price tags.
“It’s all about classification and I’m fortunate enough to have a good barn of horses for all levels at the winter meet”, said the 39-year-old Ode.
The stable’s Maserati Seelster opens as the 2-1 early favorite in the $12,000 Claiming Series for male paces. Kyle Wilfong is back to handle the Artistic Fella gelding who moved to Ode’s barn for the winter meeting.
“The owner of Maserati Hanover contacted me before the meet opened to see if I was interested in taking the horse to Illinois for the winter,” said the native of Silvis, Illinois who now resides in Anderson, Indiana. “I told him that I thought his horse would be a real good fit on Hawthorne’s bigger track in their $6,000 claiming series and he’s shown that he is”
Maserati Seelster came from far out of it in the first leg and won in 1:57.1. One week later the 7-year-old gelding had a game 1:56.1 victory.
I wasn’t the only one surprised that Maserati Seelster wasn’t claimed in either of the first two rounds of the series, first for $6,000 and then for $7,500 in the second leg considering the success the pacer had last summer at Hawthorne at higher levels.
“We were too,” said Payton. “Maserati Hanover didn’t race well at The Meadows and his lines showed some breaks so that may have scared some people off. But he’s a much better horse on a big track. He doesn’t race well in the turns on smaller tracks. Those tighter turns tire him.
“He was claimed like four times last year at Hawthorne and at higher prices than he’s raced at this meeting. The horse has more back class than the other horses in the series and he showed it last week when he crushed them.”
Maserati Seelster (Kyle Wilong) leaves from post eight in the eighth race claiming final. Inside of him are Electric Albert (Todd Warren), Want Me (Brandon Bates), Skyway Fireball (Tim Curtin), Bestnotlie Hanover (Casey Leonard), R Duneshine (Ryan Anderson) and Frass Bluegrass (Travis Seekman). Slots nine and ten will be manned by Four Starz Kyle (Brandon Bates) and Heavenly Beaches (Ross Leonard), in that order.
Payton also sends out the Indiana bred mare Her Royal Hottness (Kyle Wilfong) in the $12,000 third race Cicero Claiming Series for filly and mare pacers.
“(Owner) Grant Wilfong called me and asked me if I would take a couple of his horses for Hawthorne’s winter meet. One of them was Her Royal Hottness, I looked at her lines and I thought she could be good in Hawthorne’s $6,000 claiming series for mares.
“Her Royal Hottness had never raced at Hawthorne and I got her right before her first start here. That first time she raced at Hawthorne she was looking all over at things and didn’t have her mind on racing. She made a break on the backside but when she did get back pacing she finished pretty good.
“After a week of jogging her on the track she got used to the surroundings. I thought she would be a lot better in her second Hawthorne start and she was (nosing out Fox Valley Bailey).”
Her Royal Hottness (pp 5) opens as the 5-2 programmed choice behind Fox Valley Bailey (pp 4) at 2-1 with driver Todd Warren. They’ll be challenged in the third race showdown by Skyway Dusty (Travis Seekman), Summer Party (Casey Leonard), Scarlet V (Tom T. Tetrick), Thedayyouhavemade (Keith Crawford) and Another Temptation (Brandon Bates) a first leg winner of the distaff series.
Can You Bank On It? Sunday’s feature is $10,000 Open Trot where the 9-year-old gelding Banker Volo (p 7, Kyle Wilfong) looks to make a return visit to Hawthorne’s winner’s circle. The Angie Coleman trained trotter was assigned the outside post by the Hawthorne Race Office.
A 32-time lifetime winner, Banker Volo (programmed 2-1) will take on Fantasy Doc (Brandon Bates), Primed N Powerful (Ryan Anderson), Madewell Hanover (Sam Widger), Skyway Jaylo (Larry Lee Smith), Schwarber (Tim Curtin) and All About Cowboys (Mike Oosting).
A Sparkling Performance: Narcian Jewel (Todd Warren), at 11-1 the longest shot in the $10,000 Open Pace for fillies and mares, drew off by almost three lengths to capture Saturday’s $10,000 feature for the Frank Petrelli Stable.
The 4-5 favorite Rockie Katie settled for the bridesmaid role in the 1:55.1 mile while Mystical Nectar took third. Narcian Jewel ($24.90) is now 2-for-2 at the meet.
The 4-year-old mare C Far, trained by her driver Gary Rath, made it back to-back victories in the Tim Wilson Sr. Late Closer (#3), at double-digit odds. This time C Far popped at 10-1 for a $22.80 mutuel. Last week the 4-year-old Sportsmaster mare surprised at 15-1 and paid at even $30.00
Wimple’s Dimple finished one length behind in the 1:58.1 mile while the 8-5 public’s choice November Rain came from seventh at the half mile pole to grab third in the second leg of the ICF series.
Next Saturday’s Tim Wilson Sr. Final will carry an inviting $25,000 purse.
In other Saturday Late Closers, the 1 to 2 favorite Susie’s Soul (Todd Warren) was much the best in the first race Late Closer (#7), pulling away by more than six lengths in 1:55.1 for trainer and owner Jason Miller of Wabash, Indiana.
In the seventh race Late Closer (# 8) the prohibitive 2 to 5 favorite Rockin Praline ($2.60) won her second straight leg in the filly and mare series for trainer Tom Simmons and owners Red Barn Stable of Morrison, Illinois.
Driver Sam Widger pulled Rockin Praline out of third before the half and raced her first up through the last turn. The mare took command in the lane but had to go all out in the 1:55.1 mile to hold off a determined bid from the 30-1 longshot Beautiful Brew.