Another New Distaff Open Winner

By Mike Paradise


The eighth filly and mare Open Pace of the Hawthorne meeting produced its seventh different winner last night when the Illinois bred mare Fox Valley Exploit pulled off an upset victory at 13-1 odds.


Driver Kyle Husted gave the seven-year-old Sportsmaster mare a two-hole journey and Fox Valley Exploit unleashed a late surge to overtake the pacesetting It’s Time For Fun (Kyle Wilfong) in deep stretch by three parts of a length with her 1:54.3 winning mile.



Kyle Husted guided his Illinois bred mare Fox Valley Exploit to an upset win last night in the $13,700 filly and mare Open Pace, popping at 13-1 odds. (Four Footed Fotos)

Owned by Kyle Husted (Altamont, Illinois) and David Brigham of Michigan, and trained by Amy Husted, the win came in Fox Valley Exploit’s first season venture into the distaff Open ranks.


It’s Time For Fun shot out from the six-slot in search of her second consecutive Open triumph right at the start and brought the seven horse field (No. 1 Suddenly Royal was a late scratch) to a comfortable 58 first half.


Husted had Fox Valley Exploit right on Wilfong’s helmet through most of the race and found racing room in the late going to enable his mare to notch her 23rd lifetime win in 45 starts, quite an impressive winning percentage.


Seventimesacharm (John De Long) had too little, too late, and finished third. The 2-5 public’s choice Maggie Rhee (Todd Warren) made a break in the lane during her belated stretch drive and ended up last.


Quite A Rally: Talk About Valor showed he can get the job done in a Hawthorne Open Trot coming from far out it. Under the patient handling from his regular driver Travis Seekman, the pride of the Gerald Hansen Stable went from last to first when he took last night’s $13,700 co-feature.


The 1:56 flat victory was the third in his last four Open starts for the seven-year-old ICF gelding owned by Shelly Steele of Monee, Illinois, and Talk About Valor’s 19th in 62 career outings.


Assigned the outside six post, Seekman took Talk About Valor ($5.60) back at the start as first Magic Night (Todd Warren) and then the 3-2 betting favorite Rockyroad Aldo (Mike Oosting) dictated the fractions.


Magic Night took the field to a 28.4 first quarter before giving up the lead to Rockyroad Aldo who found the 56.4 half a bit too quick for him on this night.


Meanwhile, Seekman had Talk About Valor in sixth and last throughout and was still more than nine lengths behind at the three-quarter pole. Nonetheless the winner had plenty in the tank for the stretch drive, zipping past the field and beating runner-up Magic Night (Todd Warren) by a half-length. Lousraptor (Juan Franco) was third best while Rockyroad Aldo faded and ended up in a dead-heat for fifth.

Distaff and Trot Opens on Tap


Guatemala native Juan Franco will be back at the lines of the Hosea Williams’ mare Rollin Coal in tonight’s $13,700 Open Pace for fillies and mares (Four Footed Fotos)

By Mike Paradise


Back on January 29th I wrote that this year’s Open Pace for fillies and mares “isn’t likely to have the same dominance that we had in 2021” when Maggie Rhee from the Todd Warren stable won 7 of the 10 Opens and was second in the three others.


So far you have to say your author was spot-on with that forecast.


We’ve raced seven distaff Opens at Hawthorne in 2022 and six different mares have won the top $13,700 overnight event for fillies and mares.


Only DC Batgirl, from the Brittany Dillon Stable has won the event twice and she hasn’t been out since the last Saturday in January.


On our first weekend of the winter meet DC Batgirl prevailed. A week later her stable-mate Vel Donna finished first. On January 22, DC Batgirl returned to the winner’s circle with driver Mike Oosting.


The final event in January saw Seventimesacharm make a successful Hawthorne debut. One-week later Maggie Rhee made her season bow and, you guessed it, won the Open.


However, the last two weeks have the winning Open horses pop at double-digit prices. Hosea Williams Rollin Coal proved best at $28.20 and last week It’s Time For Fun, the third choice in the race, “wired” the field for trainer Nicole Agosti.


That takes us to tonight’s headliner.


Four of the meet’s previous Open mares will duke it out in the $13,700 fourth race co-feature: Rollin Coal (Juan Franco), It’s Time For Fun (Kyle Wilfong), Maggie Rhee (Todd Warren) and Seventimesacharm (John DeLong), with posts 5, 6, 7 and 8, in that order.


Maggie Rhee took the last two weeks off after coming up short at 10 cents to the dollar with a third-place finish when she was the casualty of a wide mile.


I expect her to be the post time favorite.


Four new faces to the Open will get away from the first four posts: Suddenly Royal (Travis Seekman), Fox Valley Exploit (Kyle Husted), Rojo Caliente (Casey Leonard) the Canadian invader Racing For the Mark (Joey Putam).


Sharing the Spotlight: The distaff open will have to share tonight’s spotlight with the return of the circuit’s $13,000 Open Trot. The second race co-headliner has a six-horse field that got a big addition with the return of Talk About Valor, the 2021 Illinois Aged Male Trotter of the Year and a two-time Hawthorne Open winner in January.


Not surprisingly, the star of the Gerald Hansen Stable was assigned the outside six-slot by the Hawthorne Race Office. Starting inside of Talk About Valor is Rockyroad Aldo (Mike Oosting), allocated the seven post after a high level conditioned trot triumph last weekend.


Hawthorne’s fickle USTA computer morning line has Rockyroad Aldo as the 9-5 first flash favorite despite the geldings two fifth place finishes behind Talk About Valor (the 3-1 second choice) back in January.


The first four posts were drawn, and they went to Lousraptor (Juan Franco), Magic Night (Todd Warren), Muscular Babe (Kyle Wilfong) and Louscardamon (Kyle Husted).


Notably absent in tonight’s trot feature are Double A Goldrush and Burrow, the last two Hawthorne Open trot victors, and Simply Swan, a two-time Open winner back in January.

Driver’s Race Going Down to the Wire


Illinois native Kyle Wilfong has taken over the top spot in the winter meet of Hawthorne’s driver standings with 12 racing programs to go. (Four Footed Fotos)

By Mike Paradise


We’re already in the homestretch of Hawthorne’s winter harness racing meeting. After Sunday’s card there are only three weekends of racing left (9 programs) and its now rather obvious that the driver’s race will go down to the wire.


As we head into tonight’s action 30-year-old Kyle Wilfong holds a two-win lead with 35 dash winners, Veteran Mike Oosting is close behind with 33 and perennial Hawthorne champion Casey Leonard has 31.


All three drivers are clicking at about at 30 per cent winning clip.


Wilfong’s six bagger last Saturday vaulted the Illinois native to the top spot and into a position to come away with his first Chicago circuit title.


The Watseka, Illinois native began driving in 2010 when he had 146 opportunities as an 18-year-old. One year later he began his professional driver career in earnest with 1,211 trips to the gate and brining home 126 winning horses.


Kyle has more than 100 winning drives in the last nine consecutive years and in the last five seasons, horses he’s guided, have collected over $1 million in purse earnings.


Casey has finished on top at every Hawthorne meet since the Cicero, Illinois track took over in 2016 as the lone facility for Illinois harness racing. The 59-year-old Oosting has won so many Chicago circle driver titles that I lost count.


Let’s put it this way, Mike’s Balmoral and Maywood top driver titles are in the double digits. I think at one time he won six, or maybe it was eight straight, consecutive Balmoral Park driver titles.


The current trainer’s race has settled into a two horsemen battle. Terry Leonard of Harvard, Illinois currently holds the top spot with 18 while Michigan native Brittany Dillion is close behind with 16.


Percentage wise conditioner Gerald Hansen’s horses are popping at a 25 per cent clip, tops for trainers that have started 30 or more horses at the meet.


Inviting Pots: The Hawthorne Race Office has announced it will offer four races with a $30,000 purse, each for ICF horses of both gaits on Hawthorne’s closing weekend of the winter meet.


No nominations or starting fees are required.


The $30,000 ICF Pace and Trot for males will go on Friday, March 18th while the state-bred trot and pace for fillies and mares will be contested on Saturday, March 19th.


Job Well Done: Kudos to the Race Office for their creativity to somehow put together tonight’s eight race program. They certainly didn’t have much to work with.


Tonight’s scheduled $13,700 Open Pace was shelved when only He’zzz A Wise Sky and Fox Valley Gemini were entered.


A $10,700 race for three-year-old pacers received no entries.  The $10,000 and $15,000 claiming events also drew zip. Two other scheduled conditioned events landed only one horse each.


Nevertheless, a lot of “mixing and matching” by the Race Office got the job done for tonight so we’re good to go.


Six is Enough: A $10,200 event for strictly four-year-old pacers will be Friday’s headliner. While short on quantity (six) it doesn’t lack for competitiveness


The well balanced second race feature will bring out Velocity Gator (Kyle Wilfong), Mastery (Wyatt Avenatti), Imarealroknbugatti (Travis Seekman), Shock Wave (Juan Franco), Round Here Buzz (Casey Leonard) and Hello Sweetie Boy (Todd Warren).


Bet down to even-money when he breezed a week ago, the Steve Searle trained Velocity Gator (pp a, Kyle Wilfong) will open as the 5-2 favorite.


Hello Sweetie Boy (pp 6, Todd Warren) is listed next at 3-1. Owned and trained by Kim Roth of Crete, Illinois, the Aracache Hanover gelding couldn’t get out last week after a 1:55 flat triumph in his previous start.

The Fox Hunt Wraps Up Tonight

By Mike Paradise


Sometimes a horse seemingly comes out of nowhere to earn the role as the betting favorite in a feature race. That’s the case tonight in the $22,000 Winter Wonderland trot series final.


Going into late January I never heard of the four-year-old mare Sly Little Fox, owned, and bred by Bambi Fox of Paducah, Kentucky. A month later the homebred could be sent off at even-money, or lower, when she leaves from the pole position with driver Mike Oosting.


The Swan For All Mare out of Bambi’s broodmare On Center Stage, goes for a sweep of the trotting series and quite frankly she’s been much the best in the first two rounds that combined fillies and mares and “the boys” in a single grouping.



Tonight’s $22,000 Winter Wonderland trotting series final favorite Sly Little Fox (Mike Oosting) shows her wining stride. (Four Footed Fotos)

Since the Race Office deemed that fillies and mares draw inside, the very likely post time favorites, Sly Little Fox (programmed at 6-5) and Spice-It-Up (Casey Leonard at 9-5), were fortunate enough to land the one and two posts, respectively and that’s not a good thing for the other seven starters.


Looking for an upset in Sunday’s fifth race feature are Swans Mission (Kyle Husted), Vidi Victus (Juan Franco), She Loves Tojiggle (Brandon Bates), Lous Skywalker (Archie Buford), Male Man (Kyle Wilfong), Romantic Warrior (Gary Rath) and Ramblin Cougar (Travis Seeman).


Honest Response: I called Jim Eaton earlier this week to get more information on Sly Little Fox since all I had to go on was her four season 2022 starts, three of which were victories.


“Jim, I don’t much about your new trotting mare.”


“Either do I, “he replied laughing.


“I got a call one day from a woman in Kentucky who asked me if I was interested in racing her mare,” Jim continued “We talked a while and I said yes, and the next day Sly Little Fox was here.


“I haven’t done a thing with the mare. The weather and the track have been bad, so I’ve only been able to train her a few times since I’ve got her. Of course, like the rest of my horses she gets jogged every day.


“She’s raced good in every one of her starts and fits well from the rail for Sunday’s final. But like I said I don’t know much about her.”


A little research did help fill in some of the blanks.


Sly Little Fox raced out of the barn of Mike Hollenback as a three-year-old and came away with three wins, two in Indiana and one in Ohio. She only started once as a freshman, finishing third at Hoosier under the care of trainer J D Finn.


Sly Little Fox’s first two season earnings were $19,400, well below the $25,000 maximum needed to compete in the Hawthorne Late Closer. She’s already hauled in $18,925 in 2022 and has an excellent chance to pad that total substantially tonight


Like the Name Too: A first-time starter that we’ll have to keep our eye on is Kizzzmelikeumissme in tonight’s seven race. She’s by Yankee Skyscraper out of the Triple ZZZ Stable’s broodmare Gimmeazzzmooch and that makes her a full sister to Illinois champion He’zzz A Wise Sky.


Insufficient: Sunday’s Open Trot was a “no-go” after only three horses—Burrow, Simply Swan and Talk About Valor—were entered.


   Long Stretch Lovers: A pair of late rushers dazzled in the stretch to capture their respective divisions of Saturday’s $22,000 Winter Wonderland Series Championships.


Feeling Like A Ten (Kyle Wilfong) made up almost six lengths in the final quarter of a mile to take the colt and gelding division by a head for trainer Nicole Agosti, who shares ownership of the home bred four-year-old with Brett and Candice Wilfong.


Advance Man (Brandon Bates) had a big effort to be second and Walkin Papers got up for third in the 1:54.2 mile.


A race later Donald Laufenberg’s Johnnys Gal June ($7.80) went from last to first in the final panel to win the filly and mare grouping with driver Casey Leonard in 1:56.1 for her Wisconsin owner and breeder.


The five-year-old Sportsmaster mare rattled off a quick 26.3 last quarter for trainer Terry Leonard. Sharia (Richard S Finn) finished strong to be second while Dilly Dilly Time (Brandon Bates) was third best. Johnnys Gal June was nine lengths behind at the head of the stretch.


Pre-race favorite Pattycake Mooss came up sick and was scratched from the $22,000 championship.

Series Sweeps in the Cards?

By Mike Paradise


It’s showdown time this weekend for the Winter Wonderland Series with a pair of $22,000 pacing championships for fillies and mares and another for colts and geldings to be decided tonight and the trotting series champion on Sunday’s card.


Since the Late Closer series was for horses without $25,000 in career earnings ($37,500 for Illinois Breds), a sweep of the $11,000 first two round purses and the $22,000 final pot would go a long way for a winning owner’s pocketbook.


Tonight’s Winter Wonderland Paces have a horse in each division that could pull off a series sweep—the Gary Rath trained filly Pattycake Mooss (Todd Warren) in the female division and Rex Boston (Mike Oosting) from the barn of Nelson Willis in the male grouping.


While the vast majority on the Late Closer finalists are four-year-olds, neither Pattycake Moose nor Rex Boston is.


Pattycake Mooss is a three-year-old owned by Al Beals of Berwyn, Illinois who went winless as a freshman and made a modest $13,124 in 12 starts.



The Gary Rath Stable’s Pattycake Mooss (Todd Warren) goes after a series sweep tonight in the filly and mare division of the $22,000 Winter Wonderland pacing series championship. (Four Footed Fotos)

She’s a much different filly in her second season. The Major Bombay filly has captured three of her first five starts, including her two rounds of the Winter Wonderland, and banked more than $17,000 with a chance to pocket a lot more tonight.


How did Pattycake Mooss turn things around?


“She’s matured,” answered her Marengo, Illinois based trainer. “And winning her season debut did a lot for her confidence level.”


Pattycake Mooss, a $10,000 purchase at the 2019 Illini Classic Sale, is the eighth foal of the Real Artist broodmare R N Labelle. If you’re a long-time follower of Hawthorne harness racing you might remember R N Labell’s first. It was Omaha Survivor, a Night of Champions winner back in 2008 for the Tom Harmer Stable.


Pattycake Mooss didn’t draw particularly well with post position seven. The 8, 9 and 10 belong to Johnnys Gal June (Casey Leonard), Found My Rock (Kyle Husted) and Zero Net Profit (Joey Putnam).


The first six posts will be staffed by Sharia (Richard S Finn), Illustrate (Juan Franco), Martha Max (Mike Oosting), Lyons Queen (Robert Taylor), Dilly Dilly Time (Travis Seekman) and Meadowbrook Jenny (Kyle Wilfong), in that order.


All Good Now: Health issues had kept the homebred Rex Boston from competing. Now six, the Somebeachsomewhere gelding only has ten lifetime starts and four came this year for his owners and breeders Megan Rogers Stable of Chicago.


Rex Boston was put on Lasix on January 15, his second season outing, and went unplaced. However, he’s three-for-three on the bleeder medication since and was dominate in his last two series victories for Oosting.


Rex Boston was the first foal to the Megan Rogers stable’s Rocknroll Hanover broodmare Rocknroll Meg. This year she was bred to Unlocked, the ICF pacer who made over $600,000 for his Chicago owners while winning the 2014 Langley on Balmoral’s Super Night 2014 and the Molaro championship at Hawthorne in 2016 and 2018.


Landing the two-post in the 10 horse fifth race final should bode well for Rex Boston. Another Nelson Willis trainee, Walkin Papers (Juan Franco) is to his inside.


Posts six through ten went to Jo’s Shooter (Kyle Husted), Advance Man (Brandon Bates), Dum Luk Mooss (Gary Rath), Rockin Sandsave (Travis Seekman), Burnin Rubber (Todd Warren), Fox Valley Lynyrd (Casey Leonard), Feeling Like A Ten (Kyle Wilfong) and Shock Wave (Kyle Husted).


Six Bagger: Kyle Wilfong had the hot hand last night with six winning drives on the nine-race program, including another “Walk in the Park” for He’zzz A Wise Sky ($2.40) in the $13,700 feature Open Pace.


He’zzz A Wise Sky didn’t make the front until after the quarter-mile pole, reached in a leisurely 29.2.


Fox Valley Gemini stalked the heavy favorite through 27.4 and 28 flat middle quarters but the John Filomeno trained five-year-old had plenty left, to go 5-for-5 on his favorite track for Triple ZZZ Stable of Beecher, Illinois.


Late Closer’s a Hit with Locals

By Mike Paradise


While the increased purses on the Late Closer series didn’t bring the desired number of out-of-state horses that Hawthorne management wanted, it nevertheless was a big hit with Illinois based horsemen.


“I’ve watched a lot of our horsemen go up to Hawthorne management and thank them for the more rewarding Late Closer purses,” said the meet’s perennial leading driver Casey Leonard.


“Hawthorne may not have gotten what they wanted from “outside” horses coming in for the series but our horseman are very appreciative they are racing for these bigger pots.”


Illinois Harness Hall of Fame conditioner Jim Eaton agrees.


“My owners are tickled to race their horses in Hawthorne’s Late Closers. They’re going for good pots and race at least three straight weeks.”


Based on what has occurred in the first two legs of the Winter Wonderland Series, there’s a very good chance that Illinois trainers (and in most cases owners) will cash in this weekend.


The trio of $22,000 finals will be headed by horses all under the care of Illinois horsemen.



This is the kind of finishes we may be seeing when the $22,000 Winter Wonderland Series Finals are contested this weekend. The John Pritchard trained Illustrate (Juan Franco) is shown here rallying to win her second leg of the filly and mare Late Closer by a head over Found My Rock (inside, Kyle Husted). (Four Footed Fotos)

The Gath Rath (Marengo, IL) trained Pattycake Mooss, owned by Al Beals of Berwyn, Illinois is two-for-two in the filly and mare series while Illustrate, conditioned by Springfield based John Pritchard for proprietor Peter Karras of Sherman, Illinois, captured last weekend’s other $11,000 distaff series leg.


The Nelson Willis Stable’s Rex Boston carries a three-race winning streak into Saturday’s colt and gelding championship for the Megan Rogers Stable of Chicago, while the Gerald Hansen trained Advance Man rebounded nicely to win his series event after a break in the opening leg to make the male pacing final for his Kentucky owners.


The veteran trainer Willis also had the first leg winner of the colt series when Walkin Papers popped for his wife Cynthia Kay (Beecher, IL) and the Engle Stable (Northbrook, IL).


Sunday’s $22,000 Winter Wonderland showdown for trotters will features two-time series winner Sly Little Fox under the care of Jim Eaton


Payback Time: Illinois champion He’zzz A Wise Sky is back home and looking for payback after his drubbing last weekend in Ohio.


The five-year-old Yankee Skyscaper stud was a disappointing sixth in Miami Valley’s $30,000 Open Handicap after, as expected, cutting the fractions.


Parked out to a sizzling 26.3 first quarter leaving from the nine-hole, He’zzz A Wise Sky started to shorten his stride turning for home and was wrapped up by catch-driver John Delong part-way down the lane.


The last time He’zzz A Wise Sky lost was in November when he was scorched to a 26.2 first panel to make the front and ended up fifth in a Hoosier Park Open.


The John Filomeno trained pacer, as anticipated, was assigned the eight-slot in tonight’s sixth race feature where the usual group of locals will try to end the pride of the Triple ZZZ Stables Hawthorne winning streak at four in a row.


Providing the Open opposition tonight are (from the pole position out): Straight Up Cool (Joey Putnam), Gotham Hanover (Travis Seekman), Park Official (Todd Warren), The Thunder Rolls (Kyle Husted), Fox Valley Gemini (Casey Leonard), Jersey Jim (Brandon Bates), and Francis Underwood (Mike Oosting).


  Staying Hot: We went one-for-one on Sunday’s “Price Shots” when Fox Valley Quest clicked in the sixth race trot at $15.40.

IHHA Board Meets With Hawthorne

The IHHA had their monthly board meeting on Monday, February 14. At that meeting were representatives of Hawthorne. Click here to read the details. Hawthorne Meeting Notes