Sunday (August 1) Hawthorne Program

Click here for your free Sunday (August 1) night Hawthorne program. haw0801r


Saturday (July 31) Hawthorne Program

Click here for your free Saturday (July 31) night Hawthorne program. haw0731r


Look Who is Prominent Again in Illinois

By Mike Paradise


A number of years have passed since we’ve seen the name Erv Miller among the leading trainers at a Chicago circuit harness racing session, however, that’s no longer the case.


The Midwest division of the Erv Miller Stable goes into this weekend of racing sitting third in the Hawthorne trainer standings, five winning horses behind the Terry Leonard Stable and only one behind trainer Steve Searle and that’s with about 50 less horses going postward than the two leaders.


Locally, Erv’s horses are winning at a high-level 26 percent clip. It’s the same success rate his horses are doing at Hoosier Park, where he’s also third in the trainer rankings.

Four Footed Fotos provided us this unique up-close photo of driver Atlee Bender.


Much of the credit for the stable’s success at Hawthorne and Hoosier must go to Erv’ s daughter Hannah and her husband Atlee Bender. The March newlyweds have teamed up to effectively manage Miller’s 50-horse Midwest division farm, based in Indiana.


The stable’s success at Hawthorne has given Bender a chance to gain more catch-drives on the local scene and Atlee certainly has made the most of that opportunity.


Bender didn’t start driving professionally until 2016 and going into 2021 the 29-year-old Goshen, Indiana native’s highest number of drives in a year was only 80 in 2019.


With almost two more months left at Hawthorne, Atlee has already been behind 228 horses going to the gate on the Cicero, Illinois one-mile oval and won with 39 of them, tying him for fourth place in the driver standings with Todd Warren.


“I didn’t expect things to go so well for me at Hawthorne,” said Atlee. “I’m just trying to take advantage of the opportunities given to me at the meet.”


Bender’s 17.1 winning percentage is third best behind the meet’s leading driver Casey Leonard’s 19.4 per cent and the 17.4 rate of Kyle Wilfong. Casey has 72 Hawthorne wins at the meet and Kyle is right there with 63.


It’s not uncommon to see Bender’s name listed 7 or 8 times a night on a Hawthorne program. As they say: “Success Breeds Success,” and Atlee is without a doubt having a very productive meeting.


Even with the stable’s rise to third in the current Hawthorne trainer standings, Atlee has even higher expectations at the meet.


“We want to be the top stable when the Hawthorne meeting ends,” said Atlee. “That’s our goal.”


With a full mile oval and a very long stretch, Bender has learned that patience is indeed a virtue competing at Hawthorne. As a result, a large amount of Atlee’s victories are coming with horses off the pace.


“I like to let others battle it out in the early going, size up the situation, and then come on with my horse in the last three-quarters of the mile,” added Atlee.


The Hawthorne data shows that Bender’s strategy is paying off handsomely for himself and the Erv Miller stable.


No Rest Tonight: Bender will be a busy man Saturday evening with 10 drives on the 11-race program, including the Rob Rittof stable’s Tempest Seelster in the second race Open II feature for fillies and mares.


The eight-year-old mare leaves from the four post in a six horse field drawn by groups with last week’s Open II winner Rock It Out (Kyle Wilfong), the 9-5 programmed favorite, assigned the outside six-slot.


The first two posts were drawn with My Uptown Girl (Ridge Warren) getting the one and Rollin Coal (Juan Franco) the two. The three through five went to Primo Extremo (Wyatt Avenatti), Tempus Seelster, and Fox Valley Exploit (Kyle Husted), in that order.


Titan Slayer: Lying In Cash ($15.20) upset the ICF “Titans’ in last night’s $12,000 Open Pace with the help of a two-hole trip provided by driver Kyle Husted.


He’zzz A Wise Sky was parked out to a sizzling 26.3 first quarter to get command by Lying In Cash and the eventual runner-up Bobcat Bay (Ridge Warren) , and ended up only third best, beaten one and one-half lengths.


Fox Valley Gemini (Casey Leonard) had to settle for fourth, another half-length behind.


Lying In Cash’s 1:50 mile was a new mark for Kalamazoo, Michigan owner Techia Lohmann.



2022 Dates Requested

Today, July 30, was the deadline for racetracks to request racing dates for the 2022 season. The Illinois Racing Board published these requests a short time ago. Click here.  Illinois Racing Board Receives Three Applications for Race Dates in 2022  It is very important to understand that these requests are often amended before the actual dates hearing which is scheduled for Thursday, September 23.

Hawthorne has requested 365 days of harness racing and 365 days of t-bred racing. They requested this simply because they did not know of Arlington’s plan for next year. Obviously they can’t be racing this schedule but the way the dates are requested, you can withdraw part of your dates request but you cannot add dates afterwards. So they played it safe because of Arlington Park’s uncertain commitment to the future.

Arlington Park, as expected and feared, has requested zero racing dates for 2022. So unless Arlington and Churchill Downs have a trick up their sleeve, there will be no racing there in 2022.

So what does it all mean for us?

In the past few months we have had preliminary discussions with Hawthorne and the Illinois Thoroughbred Horsemen on sharing Hawthorne in 2022. Now that we know Arlington is officially not in the mix, we will all meet and try and come up with a schedule that works for everyone. We will try and get as many days as possible, including as many summer dates as possible. It is critical to our breeding industry that the two-year-olds have a sufficient opportunity to get their stakes season in.

This current situation highlights how critical the need for another Illinois racetrack. We will continue to work with everyone who shows interest in getting this done. Hawthorne management has assured us that they are very interested in that second racetrack and casino and understands that time is of the essence here.  We will keep everyone informed as this progresses. Thanks. Hang in there.



Friday (July 30) Hawthorne Program

Click here for your free Friday (July 30) night Hawthorne program. haw0730r


It’s the Return of the ICF Titans

By Mike Paradise


After a three-week absence our version of the “Battle of the Titans” returns tonight when ICF standouts He’zzz A Wise Sky and Fox Valley Gemini square off with the return of Hawthorne’s $12,000 Open Pace.


The last time these two Illinois bred star pacers tangled was back on July 9 with He’zzz A Wise Sky coming out on top in his usual front-stepping fashion. The victory by the John Filomono trained four-year-old broke a tie of three victories apiece against each other at the meeting.



Fox Valley Gemini (outside) and He’zzz A Wize Sky (inside) will renew their rivalry in tonight’s $12,000 Open Pace. (Four Footed Fotos)

Fox Valley Gemini (Casey Leonard) needs a win tonight to even the score against his adversary, however landing the outside nine-hole with a large field does make tonight’s task an arduous one.


Three Friday’s ago, Casey ducked Fox Valley Gemini from the seven slot and even a wicked :25.4 last quarter couldn’t overtake He’zzz A Wize Sky since the Jim Ballinger owned pacer was six and one-half lengths behind his chief rival at three three-quarter pole.


A week earlier Casey gunned ‘Gemini” out from the nine-hole and got a two-hole journey behind the star of the Triple ZZZ stable who paced a sizzling 54.4 half. “Gemini” put on a late surge to notch the six-year-old’s 43rd career victory.


“I don’t like to race ‘Gemini” like that all the time,” said Casey.


So, what’s the strategy from Hawthorne’s perennial leading driver this time around? We’ll have to wait until the eighth face tonight to find out.


There’s no shortage of drivers in tonight’s feature that would love to have a two- or three-hole trip with their horse behind He’zzz A Wize Sky, so a quick first panel is almost a certainty.


He’zz A Wize Sky and Fox Valley Gemini drew for the 8 and 9 posts.


The first seven slots were drawn separately and will be manned by Fox Valle Ren (Juan Franco), Warrawee Veloce (Wyatt Avenatti), Lying In Cash (Kyle Husted), Bobcat Bay (Ridge Warren), On Duty (Atleee Bender), Primo Giovanni (Todd Warren) and Yankee Bounty (Travis Seekman).


While the two state-bred icons have been almost even-steven in this season’s confrontations, interestingly the betting public’s support has gone to He’zzz A Wize Sky the last five times the pair have gone head to head.


The only time “Gemini” has gone off as the favorite against his chief rival was on May 16 when the Terry Leonard trained pacer was impeded in the stretch and finished fourth, the only season start he hasn’t been first or second in his eight outings


Eying the State Fair: Racing at Springfield gets under way in two weeks and with eliminations for the Illinois State Fair Colt Stakes races for two-year-olds on Friday August 13th, several trainers have decided to have their youngsters compete tonight to stay sharp.


Hawthorne’s seventh race is strictly for ICF colt and gelding freshman pacers, and it’s headed up by the Gary Rath Stable’s Fox Valley Ozzy (Casey Leonard), unbeaten in his initial three starts, all state bred stake events.


“Ozzy” has nailed down comfortable victories in the first two legs of the Incredible Finale series as well as a division of the Cardinal.


Nine of the 10 horses going to the gate in the seventh race have competed in the Night of Champion stake series including such other Top Ten standing point earners as Major Grin (50), Fox Valley Crete (37), Magazine Theme (33), Pericles (13) and Kingofmyheart (9).


Carol Longo Passes Away

Carol Longo has recently passed away. A celebration of her life will be held at Main Street Exchange in Crete on Thursday, July 29 from 5-8.