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.

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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.

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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.