NBC Coverage on Juneteenth Race

Click here for more on the Juneteenth Race at Hawthorne. Race in Chicago: Racers at Hawthorne Set to Observe Juneteenth This Weekend – NBC Chicago



Newlyweds Vie for Bragging Rights

By Mike Paradise


During my 48 years of writing about Illinois harness racing I thought I saw all there was to see about our sport.




Tonight, for the first time I’ll get to watch newlyweds drive against each other in a pari-mutuel race for “family bragging rights.”


The sixth race conditioned pace brings together a pair of Erv Miller trained three-year-old’s with Erv’s son-in-law Atlee Bender leaving from post six with the pacer Certifiable while the Illinois Hall of Famer’s daughter Hanna Miller is at the lines of TE’s Raider going out alongside from the six slot.


Atlee and Hanna tied the knot in late March and one thing they’ve certainly have in common is their love of horses and harness racing,


Hanna Miller looks to best her husband Atlee Bender in tonight’s sixth race at Hawthorne/ (USTA Photo)

They’ve been around horses most of their young lives and currently run Erv’s Midwest Division at the Indianapolis, Indiana Fair Grounds where they are responsible for “about 50 horses.”


I asked Atlee who had the idea was it to race against each other and he replied sheepishly: “It was my wife’s,” as I detected a bit of a laugh coming from the phone. Hanna answered the same question quite differently. “No, I think it was my husband’s.”


No matter who tossed down the gauntlet to determine “bragging rights” it was a great idea because both have proven to be a top-notch driver.


Atlee is visiting the Hawthorne winner’s circle at a 19.2 per cent clip, good for sixth place in the driver standings with 15 winners and recently had four first place finishes on a single card at Hawthorne.


Hanna certainly has the pedigree to be an outstanding horseman and she’s been just that.


Her father Erv is a nationally renowned trainer closing in on 6,000 career winners. The Arthur, Illinois native’s horses have earned over $90 million dollars.


Hanna’s brother Marcus, now 32, was a perennial Top Five driver on the Chicago circuit for years before heading out to Pennsylvania. Marcus has notched over 3,700 career wining drives.


Their “Uncle Andy” (Miller) is a former multiple Illinois driver champion who most likely will get his 10,000th lifetime winner sometime later this year.


Meanwhile “Aunt Julie” has sent out over $2,000 winners as a trainer including many national prominent pacers and trotters.


Hanna took amateur driving circuit by storm and in 2015 became the first woman to be named the National Amateur Driver Champion and it was a unanimous vote by the United States Harness Writers Association.


Hanna also won the same award the next year when the young lady represented the USA in the World Amateur Driving competition in Hungary in 2016 where she finished second.



Atlee Bender knows it’ll be a very long ride home back to Indiana if he finishes behind his wife Hannah in tonight’s sixth race. (USTA Photo).

Tonight, Atlee’s sixth race drive Certifiable is listed as the 3-1 favorite while his wife is steering a 12-1 morning line longshot TE’s Raider II.


Atlee didn’t agree with the big difference in their horse’s first flash odds.


“The two horses are much closer than that,” said the 29-year-old Goshen, Indiana native. Hanna agreed. “Toss out that last line on my horse when he made a (likely speed) break. The horse was full of go”, replied his 28-year-old wife.”


It ought to be an interesting 200-mile drive back from Hawthorne to Indianapolis for the newlyweds.


One of them figures to do most of the talking.

Free Friday (June 18) Night Hawthorne Program

Click here for your free Friday (June 18) Night Program. haw0618r


First annual Juneteenth race this Saturday

Click here to learn more about this Saturday night’s Juneteenth event at Hawthorne. Saturday race at Hawthorne will be first in Illinois to feature all-black drivers – U.S. Trotting News (ustrottingnews.com)

County Fair Update

Please note that the Greene County Fair in Carrollton, will host racing on Wednesday, June 23.

2021 Board of Directors Election

The annual IHHA Board of Directors Election has been scheduled. Click this notice for the full details. 2021 NOTICE OF ELECTION

As Promised Illinois Trotting Queen is Back

By Mike Paradise


Right on schedule Illinois Trotting Queen returns to the races tonight.


The Nelson Willis stable’s Annas Lucky Star, is back in action in Sunday’s fifth race after about three months of R & R. The protagonist seven-year-old mare isn’t quite ready yet to bring to a close her racing career and start a new one as a broodmare according to her breeder and owner Danny Graham.


The Salem, Illinois native was pleased with his home bred mare’s efforts earlier in the year in Ohio Opens and wants to give his prize trotting mare opportunities to add on to some of her already impressive career statistics, starting with Sunday evening’s $12,000 Open Trot.


The Open saw 11 trotters entered and 10 will go to the gate in the fifth race headliner. By date, recent Open winner Lousraptor is listed as an also eligible” for trainer Steve Searle.



Illinois long-time trotting queen Annas Lucky Star returns to races tonight at Hawthorne. (For Footed Fotos)

Drawn by groups, Annas Lucky Star landed in the middle group (posts four through eight) with the six slot with new driver Juan Franco.


Getting Serious (Roman Lopez) and Silverhill Volo (Jim Lackey and Primed N Powerful (Jared Seekman) will man the first three slots, in that order.


Recent Hawthorne winners Cash Hit (Travis Seekman) and Louscardamon (Casey Leonard) have the four and five, respectively, while Walter White (Ridge Warren) and Muscular Babe (Kyle Wilfong) start from posts seven and eight.


The third grouping of the race has the month of May’s Open conquerors Never Say Uncle (Kyle Husted) and Pine Dream (Ridge Warren) getting away from the outside nine and ten posts.


Last week’s Open winner Talk About Valor is taking the week off.


A week ago, it looked like a Calvary charge going into the first turn with several horses shooting out looking for early position. Pine Dream finally made the top but was parked out a good portion of the first half (58.4) and didn’t have much left in the tank for the late going. The same could be said for Never Say Uncle who also took a lot of air in the race.


Will we see more of the same tonight?


Time will tell.


Annas Lucky Star is looking for career victory No. 41. The daughter of the ICF sire Cassis, out of Graham’s successful broodmare Queen Jamie, acquired her first 40 victories in just her first 85 starts. With a career bankroll of $429,682 on her card, the half million plateau in earnings is within the mare’s reach before her racing days are over.


Another ICF stakes champion returning to action Sunday night is last year’s Incredible Tillie winner Bootsy Bombay (Travis Seekman), The James Greer owned state-bred filly makes her three-year-old bow in race 11, a conditioned pace event. She is now under the care of trainer Desiree Seekman.


Bootsy Bombay made over $57,000 in her freshman campaign for her Peoria, Illinois proprietor.


Quite a Local Debut: Under the patient handling of driver Ridge Warren, U’ll Learn (8.20) made her first appearance in a Chicago circuit filly and mare Open pace a fruitful endeavor.

U’ll Learn, a six-year-old Real Desire mare, trained by Hector Herrera, came from the back of the pack to capture Saturday night’s feature by almost two lengths over the 6-5 favorite Maggie Rhee, driven by Ridge’s father Todd.


The 26-1 longshot Primo Extremo (Kyle Husted) took third.


U’ll Learn raced in seventh in the eight-horse field for the first half mile that went in 55.2 with Maggie Rhee making the top. Ridge then followed up Golden Paradise (Casey Leonard) and the second over journey paid off for River Grove, Illinois owner James Scuba when his mare motored home in 26.3 in her Hawthorne debut.