By Mike Paradise
Like every other Illinois horseman all trainer Jamaica Patton could do was prepare his horses and await the word for the long overdue announcement that Hawthorne can restart its 2020 harness meet.
The go-head message from the Governor’s office to resume racing in Illinois the first week of June came a few days ago, after a two and a half month shutdown brought about by the devastating Covid-19 Pandemic, putting a halt to harness racing nation-wide.
Horsemen like Springfield based trainer Jamaica Patton persevered the best they could under the extraordinary circumstances that clearly brought about economic hardships to many in our industry.
During the long mandated work stoppage, Jamaica had his plans on hold for horses he has stabled at Hawthorne, youngsters at his Springfield headquarters mostly pointed for the County Fair circuit, and aspirations for others to compete at the State Fairs at Springfield and Du Quoin.
Now those plans can became a reality.
“All horsemen could do is get their horses ready and just wait it out,” explained the 39-year-old Mississippi native who now that the shutdown has ended can be found from one end of our state to the other.
Patton splits his summers on the Illinois County Fair Circuit, at Hawthorne and at Indiana’s Hoosier Park. “I’ve got horses I want to race at our fairs but so far there haven’t been any.”
One by one this year’s Illinois County Fairs have been picked-off by the Covid-19 Pandemic. With the recent announcement by the Illinois Department of Agriculture that the June 30th Schuyler County Fair at Rushville has been call off, the entire June fair schedule is either cancelled or postponed.
The Newton Fair in Jasper Country slated in June will be moved to August. June’s Greene County Fair at Carrollton will be raced at a date yet to be announced.
Patton has some talented older horses ready for the reopening of Hawthorne next weekend, including the talented Indiana bred mare Dee Rocks, a winner of a local Open back when snow was still on the ground in early March.
“She can hold her own in the Opens at Hawthorne and she likes Hoosier, too,” continued Jamaica. “She can fly off the gate but she’s really a versatile filly and you can race her anyway you want.”
The five-year-old daughter of Rockin Image has over $300,000 in career earnings on her card in a little more than three seasons of racing with $196,750 coming in her freshman campaign for co-Illinois owners Ron Phillips (Athens) and John Carver (Rock Island).
Under the care of trainer Dossier Minor, Dee Rocks was a disqualification away from a 12-race winning streak and another $40,000 in purse earnings as a two-year-old. She won her first six races and finished first in an $80,000 Indiana Sire Stake final only to be placed tenth for interference. The filly went on to capture five more consecutive Indiana bred stakes before a second place finish in another $80,000 championship. Dee Rocks ended the year winning 11 of 14 starts and then added nearly another $100,000 in money won in her 2018 sophomore campaign.
Jamaica has the well-rested ICF stalwart Fox Valley Reggie preparing to return to Hawthorne. An Open winner last summer at Hawthorne, “Reggie” wasn’t himself in a trio of starts early on at the meet.
“He didn’t do well,” continued Jamaica. “There was some sickness going around and I think he might have gotten some of it. I’ve given him three months off and he should be back to his old self for the summer.”
The six-year-old Yankee Skyscraper gelding owns a mark of 1:51.2, taken at two Ohio tracks, in 2018 at Daytona Raceway and last season at Miami Valley, and in his 2018 Springfield the Illinois State Fair Aged Pace championship win where he beat the likes of He Gone Jack and Fox Valley Nemitz.
Also in training for Patton is the now seven-year-old Illinois bred productive trotter Primed N Powerful, closing in on 50 career victories for owners Ron Phillips and Sharry Boledovich of Lakewood, Colorado, also the proprietors of Fox Valley Reggie. The Psychic Spirit trotting gelding has competed in Illinois and Ohio Opens the past couple of years and will begin his 2020 campaign with purse earnings of nearly $265,000.
Double Draw Wednesday: Entries for reopening of Hawthorne’s meet must be declared by 9 a.m. Wednesday morning. Both the Saturday (June 6th) and the Sunday (June 7th) will be drawn on Wednesday (June 3rd). Online entries are encouraged.
Qualifying Updates: Hawthorne Qualifiers are scheduled for Monday, June 1st and also on Wednesday, June 3rd. Horses that raced at Hawthorne between Friday, March 6 and Sunday, March 15, need not qualify. They can but it’s not mandatory.
Tuesday at Springfield: Races will be held at the Illinois State Fairgrounds in Springfield this Tuesday (June 2nd) at 12:00 p.m. Conditions for the races are for Illinois bred 2-year olds, 3-year olds and 4- year olds and up. Total purse payout for the day will be $50,000. No spectators are allowed, only officials or personnel (with face masks) involved with horse care are permitted on grounds.
Three-for-Three: Trainer Dale Knox sent out three horses in Friday’s qualifiers at Springfield and they all proved best. The Hillsboro, Illinois drove Talk About It to a 1:57.2 clocking, then followed with Rocknroll High (1:58.40 and Brysen (1:57.4) to their respective first place finishes.
(With the resumption of live racing at Hawthorne Mike Paradise’s new posted stories will revert back to the Friday, Saturday and Sunday format).