“Baby” Watching and a Whole Lot More

By Mike Paradise

This weekend it’s time to unveil the season’s ICF two-year-old stake pacing and trotting aspirants as Hawthorne’s Night of Champions series gets under way for state-bred juveniles.

In addition Hawthorne players will have the advantage of at least one past performance line to gaze at on most of these freshmen horses thanks to the ICF Two-Year-Old Standardbred Preview conducted 10 days ago at the Illinois State Fairgrounds.

Ten races were run off and for most of the two-year-olds it was the very first time these “babies” ever competed in a race.

While one event from these youngsters undoubtedly is not much to go on as far as how their racing futures will unfold, it’s a step in the right direction for some, and a learning experience for all.

They’ll be off and racing Friday night at Hawthorne with a strong 13-race card featuring the first round of the Incredible Finale 3-year-old colt and gelding stake, second round action of the Plum Peachy stake series, and the popular Open Pace. (Four Footed Fotos)

The fasting winning time, hands down, was the 1:58.3 mile by Ed Teefey’s homebred Major Grin (Casey Leonard) in a freshman male pace division. Trained by Mike Brink, the son of Major Bombay, out of the Western Terror broodmare Terror Grin, came off the pace to finish first by two and one-quarter lengths.

Major Grin will go postward tonight in the first race with Casey as the 6-5 programmed favorite off his strong Springfield mile.

Major Grin will be challenged by nine state-bred freshman colts and geldings including Kingofmyheart (pp 5, Atlee Bender), a Erv Miller trained pacer plucked for $45,000 at last year’s Illini Classic Sale, and Frontier Bombay (pp 8, Todd Warren), acquired by trainer Jim Eaton for $22,000 at the same auction.

Frontier Bombay is the younger brother of Frontier Charley, the 2020 winner of the Incredible Finale final for Eaton.

Also going to the gate in this year’s opening round of the Incredible Finale are Knox The Fox, Royale Ryan, Illini Storm, Magazine Theme, No Way Bombay, Pericles and Likely Blue Bayou.

Foxy Matchup: The fifth race second division could see a lot of play go to both the Nelson Willis stable’s Fox Valley Crete (Kyle Wilfong), the 2020 Illini Classic Sales topper at $52,000, and the Gary Rath trained Fox Valley Ozzy, a $14,500 buy who beat “Crete” by more than four lengths when they met in Springfield on June 17.

Those two will be confronted by Getaway, Dandy’s Sushi, Bigday Bombay, Cuz We Have Eight, Cole Thornton, Arcadia Sportacular and Get E Up., a $30,000 yearling purchase.

Peachy Keen: Friday’s larger than normal 13 race program will also deliver the $12,500 second leg of the Plum Peachy stake for three-year-old ICF pacing fillies.

The Night of Champions event is headed up by first round winner Hart’s Heart (Kyle Wilfong) and Violet stake champion Scorecard Dandy (Juan Franco), a head better than his Mike Brink trained rival earlier this month.

Looking to knock off the above pair is Bootsy Bombay, the 2020 Incredible Tillie champion, along with Princess Mooss, Kandi’s Fortune, Ryans Secret and Clearly The Bomb.

Our Stars Shunned: Just to make things even more enjoyable for your viewing the $12,000 Open Pace will go as race six with Illinois top two aged pacers Fox Valley Gemini (pp 7, Casey Leonard) and He’zzz A Wise Sky (pp 8, Kyle Wilfong) squaring off for a fifth time this season.

So far, they talented duo have split their first four season meetings. Whereas “Gemini” received last week off He’zzz A Wise Sky went to Hoosier Park and took on the best in Indiana where he finished a respectable third.

A newcomer to the Hawthorne Open is the Running Aces invader SB Bodacious (pp 6), who will be driven by his trainer Rick Magee. The Iowa bred standout has won 3 of the last 4 Opens, the best in 1:51.2, at the Minnesota track, good enough says the USTA computer generated morning line to open as the 2-1 favorite.

Wanna bet?

Posts one through five in the Open belong to Tremendous Play, On Duty, Pokerface Bluechip, Fox Valley Ren and Dash Of Danger.

Merv’s Dream Horse Going Postward

By Mike Paradise


You might call the veteran trotter Pine Dream the horse that keeps on giving.  As far as the Merv Chupp Stable is concern, the now nine-year-old gelding has delivered in a big way since he was purchased some three years ago.


Sunday night the perennial money-maker of the Chupp stable looks to make another substantial contribution to the family’s bank account when he leaves as the likely favorite in the $12,000 Handicapped Open Trot.


It’s an event Pine Dream has already won five times this season, twice at Hawthorne, and last weekend he did it coming from far out of it, an unexpected change from a horse who usually does his best work on or close to the front-end.


Saddled with the outside ten-hole by the Hawthorne Race Office, regular driver Todd Warren took Pine Dream back at the start and the pair were ninth, about eight lengths behind at a half, trotted in 57.3. with the outer flow going nowhere.


Warren had to wait until the field came out of the final turn to get his trotter into high gear and when the son of Pinetucky was asked to deliver the goods he did so, coming down the middle of the track with a wicked 26.3 last panel and overtaking Walter White (Ridge Warren) in deep stretch.


The victory was Pine Dream’s 25th since he joined the Chupp stable and No. 20 in a Midwest Open’s for the Indiana native.


Chupp paid $27,000 when Pine Dream was a six-year-old at the 2018 Blooded Horse Sale and the trotter has since banked more than 10 times that amount since he was acquired.


Pine Dream sold for less than what Merv thought he would go for and later he found out why: Some people in Ohio called the horse “an idiot.”.


When Merv got his trotter back to his Crete, Illinois farm he began realized he could have his hands full with his talented but erratic trotter.


It took a long while and a lot of hard work for Merv and his wife Kelly to make the horse happy and productive and it has paid off handsomely. Pine Dream has earned $281,872 for the Chupp’s and shows no signs of slowing down at the age of nine and with 185 lifetime starts on his résumé.


Pine Dream was again delegated the outside post in Sunday’s second race feature but with only five other foes inside of him, so don’t be surprised if his driver again changes tactics with the trotter.


The ICF mare Louzotic (Casey Leonard) was allocated the pole position. Posts two and three were drawn with Walter White getting the two (Ridge Warren) and Silverhill Volo (Jim Lackey) on his left,


Lousraptor (Juan Franco) and Never Say Uncle (Kyle Wilfong), both Open winners at the current meet, landed the four and five spots, respectively.


Maggie Is Back: Patiently handled by her trainer Todd Warren, Maggie Rae ($5.00) put at end to her recent runner-up role and overpowered a field of seven other rivals in Saturday night’s $12,000 Open Pace for fillies and mares.


Burdened with the outside eight post, Warren took the 1-2 public’s choice back at the start and was about a dozen lengths behind Rock It Out when she wrestled command away from Fox Valle Exploit at the quick 27.1 first quarter pole.


Rock It On remained on top at the 55.1 half and Maggie Rae was still trailing the field, some nine lengths back when last week’s Open winner U’ll Learn made her move from seventh (Ridge Warren) and Todd quickly put his mare’s nose on his son’s helmet.


Down the lane there was no question Maggie Rhee was full of pace and the four-year-old mare blew past the leaders, winning by one and one-half lengths in 1:51 flat for Illinois owners Wilson Racing Stable (Martinsville), Norman Neil (Roselle) and Mark Eichberger (Chicago).


It was the third Open season victory at Hawthorne for Maggie Rhee to go along with three second place finishes in six trips postward,



A Hawthorne First on This Special Day

By Mike Paradise


Saturday night’s ninth event is the Juneteenth Celebration Race, and it’s a special and unique event for Hawthorne to proudly host.



It’s the first parimutuel harness race in Illinois history to feature an entire field of Standardbred horses driven exclusively by African Americans.


The initiative to spotlight participation by minorities in the historic sport was championed by the Illinois Harness Horsemen Association and is expected to grow in future years as Hawthorne reinvigorates Illinois horse racing with the addition of casino-style gaming at the track as part of a $400 million redevelopment.


A dapper-looking Hosea Williams.

“Seeing a race full of black drivers steering horses down the homestretch makes it easier for the next generation of horsemen to imagine themselves as integral to the success of this industry,” said Hosea Williams, a Board member of the Illinois Harness Horsemen’s Association.


“When I started racing horses here, I was the only black driver, now there are many more of us. This is about representation and visibility and I’m really thankful to Hawthorne and my fellow horsemen for supporting this.”



Drivers participating in the race include Jamaica Patton, Archie Buford, Herman Wheeler, Jamaal Denson, Jordan Patton, Marcus Turner, Hosea Williams, Cornelius Cavett, Terry Skinner and Freddie Patton Jr.


   No Certainty Here: Hawthorne’s filly and mare Open Pace is becoming g more captivating each week.


   First it was the Todd Warren stable’s Maggie Rhee appearing to dominate the division by taking the first two distaff Opens. However, she’s currently a three-time beaten favorite looking to shed her recent bridesmaid role.


Then it was the Donna Holt trained Rock It Out putting together back-to-back triumph against the cream of the crop of Hawthorne’s pacing mares. That modest streak came to a halt last week with a disappointing sixth place finish.


A week ago, it was U’ll Learn, a recent addition to the Hector Herrera stable who lowered the boom and disposed of seven rivals in the six-year-old’s very first start at Hawthorne.


Those three mares drew for the outside three slots in tonight’s Second race $12,000 headliner with U’ll Learn getting the six, Rock It Out (Kyle Wilfong) the seven, and Maggie Rhee (Todd Warren) the outside eight.


Posts one through five were drawn separately and they will be manned by Charlotte Royal N (Atlee Bender), Tempus Seelster (Travis Seekman), Heythere Lisamarie (Juan Franco), Primo Extremo (Casey Leonard) and the former ICF champion Fox Valley Exploit (Kyle Husted), in that order.


After dropping her first three races as a four-year-old, the two-time Night of Champions winner Fox Valley Exploit has strung together a trio of victories for her driver, trainer and co-owner Kyle Husted.


Fox Valley Exploit, the 2020 Illinois Three-Year-Old Filly Pacer of the Year has hauled in $234,341 for Husted and Michigan co-owner David Brigham in her first 27 lifetime starts.


Casey on the March: The countdown is under way for Casey Leonard to reach the 3,000 level in dash winners. The 43-year-old Harvard, Illinois native goes into Saturday’s card only 20 winners shy after bringing home a trio of first place finishers Friday night.

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