By Mike Paradise
If one Open on a racing program makes it a good one, and two move it up to an even higher level, then three consecutive Opens should make it something special for harness racing fans.
That’s the case this Sunday night at Hawthorne, and just to make the viewing even more intriguing, a pair of five figure series finals are also on the Chicago circuit racing program.
The $12,000 “Opens” start tonight with race two for horses and geldings. It’s followed by a solid filly and mare contest, and it ends with the third race trot where the Chupp Racing Stable’s Pine Dream (Todd Warren) looks to extend his current winning streak to four in a row enabling the veteran to make his 46th visit to a winner’s circle.
The second race Open is round two between the ICF stalwarts Fox Valley Gemini (Casey Leonard) and He’zzz A Wise Sky (Kyle Wilfong). They will have to contend with four other foes, including the Dean Eckley stable’s Castle Flight (Ridge Warren).
You might remember Castle Flight from the early days if Hawthorne’s 2020 Covid plagued meeting. The Panspacificflight gelding showed his heels to Fox Valley Gemini in consecutive Opens in front end fashion during late February and early March.
Former Illinois based trainer Bob Phillips is back in town and he’ll send out both General Dolan (Tyler Shehan) and My Buddy Ninkster (Travis Seekman) in the first headliner, My Buddy Ninkster went over the $600,000 plateau in career earnings with a win in his last start in Ohio.
Meanwhile Fox Valley Gemini surpassed the half-million mark with last weekend’s Hawthorne Open triumph in 1:50.4, facilitated by a wicked 26 flat last panel and the now six-year-old ICF champ did it in his initial pari-mutuel start of the year as the 3-2 second choice of the race.
Hezzz A Wise Sky looks to even the score and likely will be sprinting out again, this time from the handicapped six-slot for Triple ZZZ Stable of Justice, Illinois. The 2020 ICF Harness Horse of the Year has won exactly half (15 of 30) of his lifetime starts.
Gals Take Over: Maggie Rhee, trained by her driver Todd Warren, was sent off at 20 cents on the dollar in last week’s filly and mare Open and performed as advertised, drawing off by three and one-half lengths in her 1:54.3 mile (26.3 last quarter).
Maggie Rheee was assigned the outside six slot by the Hawthorne Race Office and tonight’s field is tougher than the last. Three Hoosier Park invaders will test “Maggie”—It’s Time For Fun (Kyle Wilfong), Dealmaker Hanover (Ridge Warren) and Primo Extremo (Cordarius Stewart).
Brooke’s Ocean (Jordon Ross), second best a week ago, gets a favorable post shift from the outside five to the one, while the third-place finisher Golden Paradise (Casey Leonard) benefits from a start over Hawthorne’s full one mile oval.
Dealmaker Hanover, under the care of trainer Brittney Dillon, has picked-up purse checks in her last five Open starts in Indiana, winning twice, including a quick 1:50 flat clocking a month ago and appears to be menacing threat.
On A Roll: The high riding Pine Dream has a classy foe back in action to take on tonight.
Robert Siberberg’s Walter White returns to Hawthorne in race three and the nine-year-old has won his share of Open trots in the past on the Chicago circuit. The trotter has notched 29 career wins and banked over $550,000 for his Farmington Hills, Michigan owner. He’ll start from the three hole. Tonight.
Never Say Uncle (Kyle Wilfong), the runner-up to Pine Dream a week ago has the five post. Trainer Steve Searle has a pair of Flacco Family Farms trotters looking to bring home the $6,000 winner’s share of the purse—Louscardamon (pp 1, Casey Leonard) and the 2020 ICF Aged Male Trotter Lousraptor (pp 4, Juan Franco).
The $17,100 Tony Salvaro series final for thee-year-old pacing fillies starts the late Pick 4 (race seven). The $18,300 Phil Georgeff championship for 3 and 4-year-old pacing males will follow.
Just in Time: Perry Smith’s Play Me Rock ($3.20) came roaring down the stretch with driver Travis Seekman and nailed the front stepping Bobcat Bay at the wire to capture Saturday night’s $17,500 Bob Larry Final.
The head victory was the fourth in 14 season starts for the three-year-old Play Me Rock, owned and trained by Perry Smith of Crete, Illinois.