By Mike Paradise
With just one week remaining until the opening of the Hawthorne’s 2020 Illinois harness racing meeting it seemed like a good time to check in with Springfield based trotting guru Mike Brink.
The 67- year-old Brink has sent out more winning horses in ICF trotting stakes in the last dozen years than anyone else and he appears to have both the quantity and quality of youngsters to have another banner season in the state-bred trotting divisions.
“I’ve just started back training my two-year-olds from last season and I think they’ll do well as three-year-olds,” said Mike.
Brink had the one, two and fourth place horses in the Kadabra final on Hawthorne’s Night of Champions when Crooked Greek (Ryan Anderson) popped at 9-1 odds for owner and breeder Ed Teefey Mt. Sterling, Illinois. Desert Sheik (Mike Brink) was second best and the 50-1 longshot Fox Valley Briton (Juan Franco) picked up the fourth place check in the $108,000 freshmen final.
“We should have been first, second, third and fifth,” said Brink.
“On Higher Ground (Ridge Warren) had third wrapped up but he broke in the late going when he felt the whip.”
Speaking of bad breaks, the 4-5 favorite Fox Valley Quest (Casey Leonard) went off stride at the start, opening the door for a surprise Kadabra winner and Brink had an able quartet of freshman trotters to do just that as his stable’s Crooked Creek pulled away by six lengths in 1:59.2 on a rained–soaked racetrack.
“The horse’s owner (and breeder) Ed Teefey has had a lot of nice horses over the years so I was surprised to find out that Cooked Creek was his first horse ever to compete in a Super Night type race and the horse won,” added Mike.
Crooked Creek didn’t get his first pari-mutuel victory until three weeks earlier for Brink.
“Crooked Creek got a leg all cut up earlier in the summer so he was behind the other horses in his division. He didn’t get his first start until the middle of July and made a break,” continued Mike.”
“I qualified him again a couple of days later and brought him to Lincoln and Mount Sterling for some ICF stakes and he won both of them. The horse looked like he had a chance to win at Springfield but he went off stride. His driver (Brandon Bates) told me he thought the horse was going to past the other horses if he didn’t break. Crooked Creek got tapped with the whip for the first time and he probably got a little scared and went off stride.”
Crooked Creek, a son of Cassius out of Teefey’s broodmare Princess Addie, ended his juvenile season with over $72,000 banked and a record of 5 wins in 9 starts.
Stable-mate Desert Sheik, a son of Pizzazzed and a full brother to the ICF Two-Year-Old Colt Trotter Fox Valley Qatar, put $59.529 on his freshman card and was third or better in 9 of 10 trips postward while the Cassius gelding On Higher Ground earned $47,866 as a two-year-old with the Springfield championship among his three triumphs.
“I plan to give my three-year-old trotters one or two starts before the first leg of the (Erwin) Dygert series coming up near the end of May. I’m not going to try and predict which one will be the best six weeks from now. But right now I like all of them and I like my “babies,” too.”
Among Brink’s babies” is the Lous Legacy colt Lou’s Obsession, the sales topper for $52,000 at last year’s Illini Classic Sale. The now two-year-old is out of the Flacco Family Farms broodmare Lima Sunlight, Lou’s Obsession is the younger brother of the 1:54.2 ICF trotter Encantado, winner of the 2018 Springfield and Violet championships and a series leg of the Hawthorne’s Fox Valley Flan freshmen stake for trainer Jim Eaton.