By Mike Paradise
After a three-week hiatus the circuit’s $12,000 filly and mare Open Pace returns Saturday and that means “Maggie” is back in town, a reference to the talented Todd Warren trained mare Maggie Rhee.
The highly successful four-year-old mare will put a four-race winning streak on the line in tonight’s second race feature after spending the last few weeks in the “timeout stall”, the mare’s penalty for being too good this season in the Hawthorne distaff Opens.
Maggie Rhee has finished first or second in all nine of her local Opens and six have been victories. She’s hauled in over $50,000 at Hawthorne for Illinois owners Wilson Racing Stable (Martinsville), Norman Neff (Roselle) and Mark Eichberger (Chicago).
Unlike her last start where “Maggie” took on eight foes, tonight there are only five challengers however that includes Rockin It Out (pp 4, Kyle Wilfong) who beat the Warren trainee twice in May, and last week’s Open II winner, Fox Valley Exploit (pp 5, Kyle Husted).
Post positions were drawn by groups (1-3) (4-5) and (6). As expected, “Maggie” was assigned he outside six slot. The first three posts went to My Uptowne Girl (Ridge Warren), Rollin Coal (Juan Franco) and Tempus Seelster (Atlee Bender).
It’s likely we’ll see an early battle for the lead since Maggie Rhee could be on the move early. However, with her last two triumphs coming off the pace and a short, field Todd may elect to race her from behind.
Will the three-week layoff dull Maggie’s sharpness? Or will the rest provide her with plenty of energy for tonight’s contest?
One way or another it won’t take long to find out since Saturday’s headliner comes as the second event on the card.
The horse with the most career earnings (362,981) in the race is the eight-year-old mare Tempus Seelster from the barn of trainer Rob Rittof.
Tempus Seelster was a 12-time winner last season with four coming in Hawthorne Opens and seven in Pompano Park Opens. While she has yet to visit the Hawthorne winner’s circle this season in her five Open tries, the mare has had some game efforts to go along with some poor racing luck.
Fox Valley Exploit, last season’s Plum Peachy winner on Hawthorne’s Night of Champions, has made the successful move from a three-year-old to a four-year-old where she often competes against older horses,
The Kyle Husted trained mare has won four races at the meet and her 1:51.3 clocking in last Sunday’s Open II was a career fastest. The Sportsmaster mare raked in $217,421 in her first two campaigns for Husted and co-owner David Brigham of Litchfield, Michigan.
Getting Ready: With racing at the Springfield State Fair under way next Friday (August 13th), some ICF freshman filly pacers are pepping tonight in the fifth race, including recent Incredible Tillie leg champions Apple Valley (Kyle Wilfong) from the stable of Jay Garrels, and Violet titleholder (Fox Valley Captiva (Atlee Bender), from trainer Erv Miller’s Midwest division.
Also staying sharp is for Springfield is Miller’s Breeze At Sunset (race eight), fresh off a strong 1:56.4 win in the July 25th leg of the Beulah Dygert stake three-year-old filly trot series.
Upset in Open Pace: The Tom Simmons Stable’s Bobcat Bay (10.80) was given a pocket trip by driver Ridge Warren and the four-year-old gelding turned it into a win in last night’s $12,000 Open pace.
The 1:49.3 mile was a new lifetime mark for Bobcat Bay who shot out from the three hole at the start and settled in for the winning two-hole journey behind the even-money betting favorite He’zzz A Wise Sky.
Fox Valley Gemini (Casey Leonard) uncorked a quick 25.4 last panel to finish second, only a head behind Bobcat Bay, while He’zzz A Wise Sky faded to third after fractions of 27.2, 55.1 and 1:22.3, beaten more than two lengths.
Bobcat Bay is owned and bred by Nancy and Don Musillami of Lemont, Illinois.