Boogie On Down an Under-the Radar Mare

By Mike Paradise

Some horses are putting together successful careers on the race track and doing so without the attention they deserve. One such pacer is the Wilfong family homebred Boogie On Down.

Only five outings into her six-year-old season, Boogie On Down has deposited over $180,000 on career card, mostly the hard-way, only once winning an event with a five-digit reward for her Indiana owners Lynn and Barbara Wilfong (Kentland) and Brett and Candice Wilfong (Pendleton).

“She may not always be the best mare on the track but she always tries hard, makes money, and wins her share of races,’ said her driver (Kyle Wilfong).

 Boogie On Down (Kyle Wilfong) flashed to a 1:51.4 clocking when she captured the Springfield championship for aged pacing mares last summer. (Four Footed Fotos)

Boogie On Down (Kyle Wilfong) flashed to a 1:51.4 clocking when she captured the Springfield championship for aged pacing mares last summer. (Four Footed Fotos)

Boogie On Down was victorious in the Springfield championship as a three and four-year-old. She won a couple of Hawthorne Opens last year and also proved best in the most recent distaff Open raced this season at Hawthorne.

“Every season she’s been up and down the conditioned ladder and when she gets a good trip in the Opens or the favorites make mistakes, she’s right there,” said Kyle.

“Boogie On Down has been first, second or third in 51 per cent of her lifetime races and that is something very hard to do,” added the younger Wilfong. “That’s especially tough when you consider the type of horses year in and year out that she faces.”

In the mare’s 95 lifetime trips postward the ICF pacer has chalked up 17 wins, to go along with 16 seconds and 16 thirds

The Skydancer Hanover mare brought in a modest $18,127 in her freshman campaign and then followed with $64,542 in earnings as a three-year-old, another $42,000-plus at four and additional over $41,000 more last year when she took her mark of 1:51.4 at Springfield. Boogie On Down already is a three-time winner at the current Hawthorne meet, adding another $13,720 to her money winning total.

“Not many people are aware that Boogie On Down’s grandmother Before Sunrise is a former (1996) Breeders Crown champion,” said her trainer Brett Wilfong.

Boogie On Down’s mother Be A Good Girl is by Four Starzzz Shark (1:47.4, $2.5 million. Skydancer Hanover is by Western Hanover (1:50.4, $2.5 million).

Skydancer Hanover has been a terrific stallion for the Wilfong’s. Some of his productive sons and daughters of Skydancer Hanover include Colorful Sky (1:49.3), Crankin’ It Up (1:50.4), Lovethewayoulook (1:51.1), It’s Time For Fun (1:51.3), C B Eye (1:51.4) and Lovedancinwithyou (1:52.3).

Boogie On Down paid an even $37 when she won the filly and mare Open on. That generous mutuel shouldn’t be a much of a surprise since the ICF mare doesn’t get a lot of respect from the betting public.

The mare is 3-for-5 in 2020, and she wasn’t the betting favorite in any of those starts. In fact, last year Boogie On Down made 15 trips to the gate at Hawthorne and went off as the people’s choice just once, a fourth place finish last May 1st.

Boogie On Down was the even-money choice in her Springfield championship last summer. On the other hand she didn’t get much play in any of her eight races at Hoosier Park, usually going off as a longshot.

My How Things Changed in Last 50 Years

By Mike Paradise

With Illinois Governor’s J B Pritzer’s stay-a-home order issued aimed to curtail the spread of the Coronavirus in effect, like most everybody else I have plenty of time on my hands, so I decided to do some research since it was exactly 50 years ago in mid-April that Hawthorne got its first opportunity to race Standardbreds.

The year was 1970 and, needless to say, it was quite a different racing industry when Suburban Downs at Hawthorne opened its doors for a six-week meeting that ran from April 14 through May 22 under the guidance of General Manager Robert F. Carey, Secretary-Treasurer Beulah Dygert and Racing Secretary Bob Larry.

Back in 1970 there were no less than six Chicago area tracks with Standardbred race meetings. It was a time when pari-mutuel harness racing was prohibited in Cook County after the first week in December through late February.

 The late Robert F. Carey ran the show when Hawthorne had its first Standardbred meeting in 1970.

The late Robert F. Carey ran the show when Hawthorne had its first Standardbred meeting in 1970.

In 1970 half-mile track racing was conducted an old Aurora Downs (Kane County) and at Balmoral Park (Will County) the first eight weeks of the year. Sportsman’s Park, at that time a five-eighths oval, took over from Feb. 23 through April 13, and then Suburban Downs at Hawthorne got its first chance.

The circuit went back to Sportsman’s from May 23 through July 20. Old Washington Park took over and raced through October 10. Maywood Park grabbed the baton and ended the Cook County racing season December 7. Then it was back to Aurora Downs and Balmoral Park.

The first harness meeting at Hawthorne was a huge success. The nightly handle averaged over seven figures at $1,009,777, with the best night on May 16 when $1,302,503 went through the track’s mutuel machines.

Remember back then there wasn’t any type of off-track wagering facilities anywhere in the country. No simulcasting, no computers or mobile devices. If you wanted to watch and bet on the races, you had to be at the racetrack. The 1970 nightly attendance at Hawthorne averaged a robust 11,686.

A young Bob Farrington was Hawthorne’s first leading driver. He also won the Sportsman’s Park and Washington Park titles in 1970.

A young Bob Farrington was Hawthorne’s first leading driver. He also won the Sportsman’s Park and Washington Park titles in 1970.

Hawthorne’s first leading driver was Hall of Famer Bob Farrington, who also won the dash titles that year at Sportsman’s and Washington Parks, Other notable drivers who competed during Hawthorne’s inaugural meeting included Jim Dennis, Joe Marsh, Jr, Don and Daryl Busse, Bruce Nickells, Delbert Insko, Walter Paisley, Aubrey Petty, Dwayne Pletcher, Gene Riegle, Jack Williams and the Willis brothers, Connel, Jesse and Nelson.

While today we have light-weight composite racing bikes, 37 years ago they were heavy wooden sulkies. The fastest mile at Hawthorne was 1:59.2 by the pacer Robert E Adios. The quickest by a trotter was 2:00.4 by Dayan, who went on to be named the Four-Year-Old Trotter of the Year.

Elsewhere on the Chicago sports scene at that time, the Cubs followed their infamous 1969 season with a second place finish, The White Sox hit rock bottom in 1970 with their worse record ever: 56 wins and 106 losses. The Bulls in their fourth season ended up 39-43.

As for our Bears, they had a pathetic 1-13 record in 1969 while playing at Wrigley Field and it got worse. In early 1970 they lost the coin flip for the No. 1 pick of the entire NFL draft to the Pittsburgh Steelers who took a quarterback named Terry Bradshaw. The Bears then turned around and traded the No. 2 pick of the draft to the Green Bay Packers for three veteran players, none of which lasted more than two years with their club.

Some other interesting notes from the entertainment world that year saw the breakup of The Beatles . . . Rock and Roll stars Jimmy Hendricks and Janis Joplin both losing their lives from drug-related deaths at age 27. . . Monday Night Football debuting on ABC . . . George C Scott won the Oscar for his performance in the blockbuster movie Patton but refused the gold statuette.

 Walter Paisley was among the drivers at Hawthorne’s inaugural harness racing meeting some 50 years ago.

Walter Paisley was among the drivers at Hawthorne’s inaugural harness racing meeting some 50 years ago.

There were approximately 125 million less people in living the United States . . . the average annual salary was about $7,800 a year. . . the federal minimium wage was $2.50 an hour. . . the federal debt was only at $450 billion. . . the Dow dropped to 631 points. . .You could buy a brand new top-of-the-line Ford automobile for $3,176 . . . a loaf of bread sold for 25 cents . . . a gallon of gas was 36 cents . . . the cost of a first-class stamp was just 6 cents.

The year of 1970 had its share of absurd news as well.
For example a state commission in Mississippi voted to ban Sesame Street because of its “highly integrated cast of children” . . . United Airlines had “Men-Only” flights that featured free cigars and steak dinners served by stewardesses, the only women allowed on the planes.

In the “How Wrong Can You Be Department” the U.S. Surgeon General in 1970 declared: “It’s time to close the book on infectious diseases. Eleven years later AIDS was clinically detected for the first time and now our current Coronavirus outbreak is the third world-wide Pandemic since the turn of this century.

Billy Johnston Passes Away


One Slip-up was Costly for Fox Valley Quest

By Mike Paradise

By all the data the trotter Fox Valley Quest had a terrific first season for the Tom Simmons Stable, capped off with the prestigious honor as the ICF 2019 Two-Year-Old Trotter of the Year.

However there was one large blemish on the brilliant freshman’s record of the Piazzazzed gelding out of the Vaporize broodmare Fox Valley Strata . . . his very disappointing outing on last year’s Night of Champions.

Fox Valley Quest went off stride in the first turn of the $108,000 Kadabra championship, the biggest prize of his division, and finished up the track as the prohibitive 2 to 5 odds with his regular driver Casey Leonard.

    Fox Valley Quest (Casey Leonard) in one of his many victories as a two-year-old for trainer Tom Simmons. (Four Footed Fotos)

Fox Valley Quest (Casey Leonard) in one of his many victories as a two-year-old for trainer Tom Simmons. (Four Footed Fotos)

The young trotter came into last September’s rainy Night of Champions evening with nine victories in 11 starts that included the Cardinal (Hawthorne) and the Darn Safe (Du Quoin) titles. Fox Valley Quest’s only two losses had been second place finishes in a leg of the Kadabra to Desert Sheik and to On Higher Ground, both Mike Brink trained trotters.

Fox Valley Quest’s break on the Night of Champions came a little past the midway point of the first turn with a trotter inside of him and another on his outside. It was obvious the Simmons trained trotter was in tight quarters.

What the pan camera view of the race doesn’t show us is if the public’s choice was squeezed some before his costly miscue. A rain-soaked racetrack and less than good visibility didn’t help matters.

Fox Valley Quest would finish 2019 with 10 wins in 13 starts and $76,758 in purse earnings for Illinois owners Carl Lacey (Athens) and Benita Simmons (Springfield). However only $2,160 of that bankroll came from starting in the Kadabra showdown, far, far less than the winner Crooked Creek who came away with first place prize money of $49,680

But as they say, you can’t change history.

Fox Valley Quest is in training for his sophomore debut and another shot at a Night of Champions crown. The first leg of the Erwin F. Dygert ICF three-year-old stake series is scheduled for Sunday, May 24th, the same night the Beulah Dygert for fillies gets under way.

The opening leg of the Robert F. Carey for second season state-bred colt and gelding pacers is Friday, May 22nd. The Plum Peachy for the sophomore pacing gals is a night later.

Change in IHHA leadership

The Illinois Harness Horsemen’s Association stands in full support of the investigation that has led to the recent Federal indictments that have sent shock waves through our industry. We welcome the full and thorough legal process that will now take place.  We also approve of the recent policies set forth by Hawthorne Racecourse in response to those indictments.  While our purpose as an association is to always work for the betterment of horsemen and their families, we also understand that we must be committed to accomplishing our goals by adhering to the highest standards of integrity……..The Illinois Harness Horsemen’s Association

I helped write the above paragraph and after truly processing it, I realized that nothing should ever stand in the way of the greater good of this association. For that reason, last week I announced to the board of the IHHA that I was stepping down as President of the Association but will remain on as a board member. I was not pushed by the board to resign but am doing so to maintain complete transparency and because it is the right thing to do given the investigation now underway in New York. My interest in that case is at best distant as I am certain discovery will reveal in due time………Marty Engel

With the resignation of Marty as the IHHA President, Clark Fairley, formerly the Vice-President will step into the lead role. Craig Grummel will move up to Vice-President.

As a part of the Governor’s Covid-19 shelter in place order, as you all know Hawthorne has ceased racing. The racetrack will remain closed for live racing until the Governor allows us to return. The earliest we could possibly return would be the weekend of April 10th, yet please understand that is a best case scenario. It could last longer. How long? No one, absolutely no one, can guess at this time. These are unprecedented times. News of this pandemic is changing daily and very quickly. We will update everyone as soon as possible when we get any more news. In the meantime, please be smart and stay safe.

NOC Nominations Extended to June 1.

The two-year-old Night of Champion nomination due date has been extended to June 1st, 2020. Click below for more.

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