By Mike Paradise
It’s the week of Illinois Department of Agriculture stake races for ICF two-year-old pacers and trotters of both sexes. Those prominent freshmen events get started with tonight’s Cardinal for juvenile male pacers.
With a substantial 20 youngsters entered for Friday’s Cardinal pace it was split into two divisions, each offering a purse of $45,000.
The more intriguing of the two Cardinal divisions appears to be the fifth race second division where the one-two finishers in each of the first round of the Night of Champions Incredible Finale series will square off.
First leg winners Major Grin and Fox Valley Ozzy each won their respective first leg in comfortable fashion and both was driven by Casey Leonard, so the meet’s leading driver had a decision to make for tonight’s Cardinal split.
Casey chose the Gary Rath stable’s Fox Valley Ozzy (pp 6) who pulled away to a 1:56.2 clocking with his 27 flat last panel in his initial pari-mutuel start. Owned by the Marengo, Illinois twosome of Steve Mc MacKin and Dave Samuelson, the World of Rocknroll sibling sold for $14,500 as a yearling.
Major Grin, a winner in his debut with a 1:56.3 mile will have Bobby Smolin at his lines tonight. The Mike Brink trainee was more than two lengths the best in his Incredible Finale however last weekend he went to the gate against older horses and finished far behind (nine-plus lengths).
Fox Valley Crete, the runner-up to Fox Valley Ozzy a few weeks ago, drew nicely for driver Kyle Wilfong with the pole position, The colt was the top seller at the 2020 Illini Classic sale with a $45,000 price tag.
Frontier Bombay was second best to Major Grin despite being victimize by some poor racing luck. Driver Todd Warren had the Jim Eaton trained freshman pacer racing second over in the last turn when the youngster in front of him went off stride. Todd grabbed a hold of his horse, going wide in the turn and lost more ground. Frontier Bombay, the younger brother of last year’s Cardinal champion Frontier Charley, still turned in rapid 27 flat last quarter.
The second Cardinal division will also have Hondo (Kyle Husted), Titotito (Atlee Bender), Getaway (Cordarius Stewart), Royale Ryan (Juan Franco) and Bigday Bombay (Travis Seekman) and Percicles (Ridge Warren) going postward.
The first race Cardinal division lists Get E Up, trained by his driver Kyle Husted, as the 9-5 first flash favorite after a third-place finish to Fox Valley Ozzy, beaten three lengths.
A $30,000 yearling but, Get E Up (pp 5), will have Magazine Theme (Todd Warren), Illini Storm (Cordarius Stewart), Cole Thornton (Ridge Warren) and Kingofmyheart (Atlee Bender) inside of him while the foursome of Listen Up Sport (Juan Franco), Knox The Fox (Kyle Wilfong), Likely Blue Bayou (Kyle Husted) and Crooked Sage (Casey Leonard) will be to his left.
No. 7 Coming Up: It’s the Battle of the Titans, round seven, when the seventh race comes around. The eight horse $12,000 Open Pace pits, once again, ICF kingpins He’zzz A Wise Sky (pp 7, Kyle Wilfong) and Fox Valley Gemini (pp 8, Casey Leonard) against each other.
The Terry Leonard stable’s Fox Valley Gemini evened the score a week ago when a late surge produced a one and one-quarter length victory over the archrival in 1:49.2, making it three Open wins apiece at the meet.
With eight horses in tonight’s Open compared to 10 a week ago, He’zzz A Wise Sky may get to the front in a little better shape tonight.
Will Fox Valley Gemini also be buzzed out a second straight week with the hopes of another pocket trip? Or will Casey duck the winner of 42 of 67 lifetime starts and try to grind out a first-over winning trip against the Triple ZZZ stable’s talented pacer trained by John Filomeno?
Hoping to pull off a surprise Open triumph are (from the one-slot out): Parklane Eagle (Juan Franco), On Duty (Atlee Bender), Bobcat Bay (Ridge Warren), Rockin M (Artie Dick), Primo Giovanni (Todd Warren) and Dash Of Danger (Kyle Husted).