Friday (September 17) Hawthorne Program

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Plenty on Line in Friday’s Events

By Mike Paradise


Except for the September 25th Night of Champions, this is the evening that we will see the best ICF pacers and trotters in action more than at any other time of the Hawthorne meeting. The entire 13-race card is made up of either Night of Champion series events, eliminations, or preps with various degrees of importance, along with some respectable purse money.

In some instances where a horse finishes in one of tonight’s final series legs will determine if his or her next start will be in a lucrative state-bred championship, or a consolation race for much less dough.



The Gerald Hansen stable’s Talk About Valor (Travis Seekman) looks to follow his recent Open trot triumph with a victory in the first Plesac elimination event for ICF trotters ages three and upward. (Four Footed Fotos)

Hansen Standout: Tonight’s two Plesac elimination races for state-bred trotters, ages three and upward, look like intriguing contests. The first $15,000 is tonight’s opener while the second doesn’t come up until the tenth event.


Half of the field in the first race are Illinois breds that were frequent contestants in Hawthorne Open trots, including last weekend impressive winner Talk About Valor from the Gerald Hansen Stable.


The six-year-old had to leave from the assigned 10-hole and still breezed in 1:55.4, his fifth consecutive victory for Monee, Illinois owner Shelley Steele. Talk About Valor was one of the top contenders for the last year’s Plesac championship, however health issues compelled the Yankee Valor gelding to be scratched from competing in the 2020 Night of Champions.


Other strong Open trotters Annas Lucky Star (pp 5, Kyle Wilfong), Louscardamon (pp 6, Kyle Husted) and Lousraptor (pp 7, Juan Franco) are among the seven challengers in the initial Plesac elim with the top five moving on to next Saturday’s $45.000 (est.) championship.


Just Visiting: The second Plesac elimination (race 10) lured two recent Hawthorne Open trotters, Louzotic (pp 2, Casey Leonard) and Reign and Shine (pp 4, Cordarius Stewart), and starting in between them is the four-year-old On Higher Ground (Kyle Wilfong) who was shipped all the way from New York for a shot at the Night of Champions crown.


You might recall that On Higher Ground was a productive trotter racing as a two and three-year-old for trainer Mike Brink. The Cassis gelding made almost $48,000 in Illinois as a freshman and added another $30,000-plus last season before being sold to Nathan Cockerham of Brighton, Michigan.


On Higher Ground spent most of this year at The Meadows in western Pennsylvania before heading to New York’s Yonkers Raceway. The horse has banked over $53,000 in 2021 and is currently under the care of conditioner Walter Haynes Jr.



The Curt Grummel stable’s Funky Wiggle (Kyle Wilfong) goes for her fourth win in a row in a $20,000 Fox Valley Flan two-year-old filly trotting series division tonight, (Four Footed Fotos).

Worth the Wait: While the Robert S. Molaro stake didn’t need any eliminations there is a $15,000 prep for the ICF aged pacers and it’ll go on the 13th and last event on Friday’s card.


It’s another Illinois Battle of the Titans between  He’zzz A Wise Sky (Kyle Wilfong) and Fox Valley Gemini (Casey Leonard) before they knock heads again in next Saturday’s $45,000 (est.) Molaro championship.


The anticipated return match-up between the Gary Rath stable’s Fox Valley Ozzy (pp1, Casey Leonard), looking for a series sweep of the Incredible Finale series, and Get E Up (pp 6), driven by his trainer Kyle Husted, and the winner of both recent State Fair contests, snapping Fox Valley Ozzy’s unbeaten streak at Springfield.


Another dandy on the card comes in the seventh race second division of the Incredible Tillie two-year-old filly trot where the Curt Grummel trained Funky Wiggle (pp 3, Kyle Wilfong), currently riding a three-race winning streak, takes on Charles Arthur’s (pp 6) Armbro Lark, victorious six times in her first season, two in them coming in the “Flan” series.

Fall Review Scheduled

The Fall Review at the Springfield State Fairgrounds is scheduled for Saturday, October 2. Click here for more details. Fall Review Article 2021


Quite an Achievement for Tom Simmons

By Mike Paradise

Congratulations go out to long-time horseman Tom Simmons who will soon attain a very rare milestone for an Illinois based trainer.  When Kelly D won Friday night’s first race it put Simmons one win away from his 2,000th winning horse as a trainer to go along with more than 2,000 winners as a driver.


Tom has 3,319 driving wins in his a long and distinguished career.


Simmons is the first Illinois horseman to achieve the fete since Joe Anderson accomplished it in the early part of this century when he was based in Illinois and dominating the trainer standings on the Chicago circuit and driving the likes of Big Tom, Ohyouprettything, Falcon Dakota, Million Dollar Bye, and Bingo Johnnie, just to name a few.


The 69-year-old Simmons began his driving career in the late 1970’s and by the mid and late 1980s he was operating a small stable while becoming a driving force in the Prairie State.


Here’s a look at old Quad City Downs where Tom Simmons blossomed as a Illinois horseman by winning four consecutive driving titles in the mid 1980’s. (East Moline, Illinois Photo)

The Missouri native finished on top of the driver standings at Quad City Downs four consecutive years, 1983, 1984, 1985 and 1986 until some blonde kid from Wisconsin came to East Moline, Illinois and became new kingpin. His name: Dave Magee.


Simmons was always near the top of the driver and trainer standings at Fairmount Park, before the Collinsville, Illinois (near St. Louis) facility closed its doors to the Standardbred industry in 1999.


It was at Quad City Downs that Tom met his wife Benita, a track concession worker (the popcorn lady) and a big fan of her eventual husband of 37 years.


Benita was at Sportsman’s Park in 1992 when Tom drove Brass Door to the $360,000 Orange and Blue two-year-old colt championship on Super Night 1992. (That $360,000 pot is no typo).


“We had seven horses in that night, so I had to turn down a TV interview (Chicago Harness Racing) because I was so busy,” said Benita.


Constant Change gave Tom Simmons 38 training victories in an illustrious career with most of them coming at Maywood Park where the ICF pacer flourished on its half-mile turns. (Maywood Park Photo).

Simmons trained one of my favorite Maywood Park horses to write about in my 12 years there and that would be the ICF pacer Constant Change who loved the half-mile oval.  Tom also had Glass Pack; a one-time Maywood Park record holder.


“Constant Change is my favorite horse,” said Benita. “He could really get around those Maywood turns.”


The son of the late Illinois stallion Cole Muffler earned almost $600,000 in his seven or so years of racing for Simmons and took his mark of 1:49.4 as a four-year-old at Springfield, where the Tom and Benita reside.


Froggy Turner delivered the Simmons’ stable the 2005 Super Night champion at Balmoral Park. Eleven years later, he also hit the bullseye with Fox Valley Herbie, that year’s Incredible Finale freshman colt winner on Hawthorne’s Night of Champion.


Simmons was inducted into the Illinois Harness Racing Hall of Fame in 2006.


A Winning Return: The Donna Holt trained Rock It Out (Kyle Wilfong) made a successful return to Hawthorne last night when she captured the $10,000 Open II Pace in 1:53 flat.


The four-year-old Rockin Image mare prevailed by more than two lengths over the late rushing Rollonbeauty (Atlee Bender) with My Uptowne Girl (Ridge Warren) taking third.


Rockin Image ($4.60) is owned by D and R Racing Stable of Benton, Kentucky.

Sunday (September 12) Hawthorne Program

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Saturday (September 11) Hawthorne Program

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Welcome Back Ladies

By Mike Paradise


A couple of out-of-state gals are back in town with sights set on padding their bank account Saturday night at Hawthorne.


Those “gals” would be the Hoosier Park pacing invaders Rock It Out and U’ll Learn, both past winners at the local meet competing in the top Open.


This time around they’ll take on six other fillies in mares in a $10,000 Open II.


The seventh race feature is for filly and mare pacers written so it basically excludes seven-time Hawthorn Open winner Maggie Rhee who was scratched sick a week ago and missed her first opportunity to compete at Hawthorne in over a month.


Without “Maggie” tonight’s headliner looks like most of the play at the betting widows will go to the three outside horses in the field of eight, drawn by groups (1-6) (7-8) and that would be U’ll Learn (pp 6, Travis Seekman), Rock It Out (pp 7, Kyle Wilfong) and last week’s Open I winner Rollonbeauty (pp 8, Atlee Bender).


Rock It Out (inside) is shown here holding off Maggie Rhee (outside) in a May filly and mare Open at Hawthorne. The Donna Holt trained Rock It Out returns to the local scene for tonight’s Open II headliner. (Four Footed Fotos).

Looking to pop at likely double-digit odds are (from the pole position out) are Look Kimbo (Juan Franco), Allbeastnobeauty (Todd Warren), Dune Dame (Casey Leonard), the New Zealand bred mare Eliza Dushku N (Cordarius Stewart), and My Uptowne Girl (Ridge Warren).


You might remember Rock It Out from earlier in the Hawthorne meeting. The four-year-old Donna Holt trained mare posted back-to-back Open I wins in the latter part of May, defeating Maggie Rae both times, with Kyle Wilfong at her lines.


Wilfong is back tonight to guide Rock It Out after steering Rollonbeauty to her Hawthorne triumph last weekend. Rock It Out does her best racing up close and probably will be hurrying out from the get-go tonight.


U’ll Learn, like Rock It Out, has spent most of the summer racing at Hoosier, nevertheless she did well in Hawthorne Opens in June and again in July, winning a mid-June headliner and earning purse checks in her other four local starts.


In her June 12th Open win the six-year-old Hector Herrera trained mare beat both Maggie Rhee and Rock It Out with a 1:51.3 clocking, pacing the last quarter in a quick time of 26.3, a nifty mile for a mare that was racing a year earlier in Ohio $6,000 claimers.


The three Illinois bred aged mares in the Saturday feature—Allbeastnobeauty, Dune Dame and My Uptowne Girl—are all likely candidates to return next weekend for the Night of Champion eliminations (or a prep) of the Tony Maurello Memorial stake, an event won in 2020 by the Todd Warren trained Allbeastnobeauty.



Saturday night’s Open II starter U’ll Learn (Travis Seekma) is shown here winning an Open I event earlier at Hawthorne with driver Ridge Warren. (Four Footed Fotos)

Staying Sharp: Speaking of the September 25th Night of Champions, quite a lot of state-bred pacers and trotters are participating on the Saturday card to stay sharp for Hawthorne’s showcase event on the final weekend of the 2021 meeting.


The most intriguing of those preps comes in the first race, a ICF two-year-old trot open to both fillies as well as colts and geldings with the females drawing inside.


The Charles Arthur trained filly Armbro Lark, currently the top point earner in the Fox Valley Flan Series, has the two slot with Arthur in the bike, while the top three point earners in the Kadabra trot for males—Lousdobb (112, Casey Leonard), Fox Valley Cairo (109, Ridge Warren) and First and Goal (100, Kyle Husted) landed the eight, seven and four posts, respectively.


Awesome Aussie: The Australian bred Braeview Bondi A (Atlee Bender) made it two-for-two at Hawthorne by winning last night’s $12,000 Open Pace with a quick 1:49.3 mile.


A fast early pace was anticipated but not expected was seeing Fox Valley Gemini (pp 5, Casey Leonard) getting command and the speedball He’zzz A Wise Sky (p 7, He’zzz A Wise Sky) having to drop into fourth in the early going.


Also sprinting out was Yankee Bounty (pp 2, Travis Seekman) and Braeview Bondi (pp 6,), landing the two and three holes, respectively.


Fox Valley Gemini took the seven-horse field to a 27 flat first quarter and a 55.1 first half before Bender took Braeview Bondi out of third. Racing first over with He’zzz A Wise Sky right behind him, the six-year-old Erv Miller trained gelding grinded his way to be along side “Gemini” turning for home.


In the lane the Braeview Bondi ($6.00) found another gear, pacing the last panel in a snappy 26. 2 and pulling away by almost two lengths from Fox Valley Gemini at the finish wire


Primo Giovanni (Todd Warren) was third as the 6-5 favorite He’zz A Wise Sky came up empty in the stretch and faded to sixth.


Braeview Bondi A is owned by Bowie Racing LLC of Shorewood, Illinois.