By Mike Paradise
It was a harness racing program to remember when 25 races were contested Friday, the most on a single day in the long history of Hawthorne Race Course.
The king-size double header programs were a carryover from last weekend’s two-day Du Quoin State Fair meet that never materialized when rain made the racetrack unsafe, hence the move to Hawthorne’s all-weather racing surface.
When the long eight consecutive hours of racing was over Hawthorne’s leading driver Casey Leonard had guided eight horses on Friday to first place finishers and five came in significant ICF stake races.
Nine Illinois Department of Agriculture sponsored non-betting wagering events got Friday’s “Hawthorne Marathon” rolling with a trio of $7,000 ICF aged champions and two were strictly cakewalks,
Shirley Steele’s Talk About Valor (Casey Leonard) was almost 13 lengths the best in the ICF trot for colts and geldings ages four and up with his 1:57.4 clocking. The Gerald Hansen trainee has been third or better in ALL of his 17 season starts.
If you thought that was “a romp in the park”, what would you call a thirty- nine (that’s 39) and one–half length victory by Danny Graham’s Anna’s Lucky Star (Kyle Wilfong) over three obviously overmatched state-bred trotting mares. The Nelson Willis trained five-year-old winner trotted a 1:56.3.mile under wraps.
The Illinois bred aged pace turned out to be a real horse race with He Gone Jack out-closing You’remyhearthrob in the final strides for a narrow neck win in 1:51.4, thanks to a pocket trip provided by driver Ridge Warren. It was the first win of the year for the Ray Hanna trained six-year-old pacer owned by Hugh Lake and Susan Lacey of Joplin, Missouri.
The 16-race wagering nightcap followed and the aged mare pace saw the front-stepping Skeeter Machine ($4.00), also driven by Ridge Warren, hold off the late charging Char N Marg by a scant nose at the end of a 1:53.2 mile. It was fourth season win for the 4-year-old mare trained by Alan Bowen for Illinois proprietors Francis Greer (Mount Sterling) and James Greer (Peoria).
In the first of eight ICF stake championships, all with a $27,250 purse was the Windy Skeeter stake for ICF 3-year-old trotting fillies and the overwhelming favorite Louzotic (Kyle Husted) had an easy time picking up season win No. 9 for trainer Steve Searle.
Husted took Louzotic ($2.40) out of fourth near the first quarter pole (29.3), powered to the front where the Flacco Family Farms owned filly was able to get away with a leisurely 32 second quarter ending any doubt about the race’s outcome. Heidi High was the runner-up in the 1:59.2 mile, beaten three lengths.
Trainer Steve Searle and Flacco Family Farms of Alexis, Illinois were back in the winner’s circle after their freshman filly trotter Lous Abgail got a great trip from driver Casey Leonard and held off Celone Hall (Ridge Warren) to capture the Shawnee stake at even-money.
Casey put Lous Abgail right behind the pacesetting Bee See (Kyle Husted) who had the 80-1 longshot, and the eventual third place finisher Fox Valley Extacy (Gerry Brown), right alongside through most of the 1:59.4 mile. Lous Abigail is now 6-for-8 in her first season of racing.
The Time Dancer for ICF 3-year-old pacing fillies turned out to be a little more than a quarter of a mile dash with the 4-5 favorite Fox Valley Torrid ($3.80) coming out on top in the 1:56.3 mile by almost two lengths.
Perch (pp 1, Kyle Wilfong) won the early battle for the lead with Casey taking the two-hole behind her with Fox Valley Torrid. Despite a slow 30 second first panel and sluggish 30.4 second quarter, Casey wouldn’t take the bait and go around the leader, giving Perch a pocket trip. Instead Leonard elected to stay right behind the 7-5 second choice.
Perch still had command at a three-quarters (1:30 flat) but Fox Valle was coming on in a hurry and the winner’s 26.3 last quarter saw her zip past for trainer Rodney Freese and owners and breeders Fox Valley Standardbreds of Sherman, IL.
Fox Valley Quest ($5.60) gave driver Casey Leonard his third consecutive stakes winner of the night when the Tom Simmons trained two-year-old trotting gelding posted his seventh triumph of the year in the Darn Safe.
Fox Valley Quest enjoyed a picture-perfect journey behind Desert Sheik (Mike Brink) who took the field to a 58.2 half before giving way in the stretch. His stable-mate (Ridge Warren) closed strong to finish second.
Fox Valley Quest is owned by Carl Lacey of Athens, IL and Benita Simmons of Springfield.
Fox Valley Exploit, at $12.80, put an end to the streak of winning stake favorites in the Director’s Award for ICF juvenile filly pacers.
Driver and trainer Kyle Husted provided the Sportsmaster filly with a second over trip, tipped her three-wide turning for home, briefly took command but looked beaten when the pocket horse Sign Her Up (Juan Franco) shot pass her in the lane. However Fox Valley Exploit came back for her fourth victory in seven starts, pacing the mile in 1:55.4 for owners David Brigham of Concord, Michigan and Husted of Altamont, Illinois.
The stunner of the night came in the Governor’s Cup for freshman male pacers when He’zzz A Wise Sky (Robert Smolin) came from far out of it and ended Fox Valley Ren’s winning streak at six in a row.
The Don Filomeno trained He’zzz A Wise Sky ($16.00) was seventh, some eight-plus lengths behind at the half before flying down the lane to post a one and one-half length over the 2 to 5 public’s choice in 1:55.1 for Triple Zzz Stable of Justice, IL.
With both Maximus and The Bucket scratched in the Dudley Hanover the three-year-old colt and gelding pace was expected to be a dual between Meyer On Fire and Fox Valley Triton and it was with the latter avenging his lost at Springfield with a head decision in 1:56 flat.
Fox Valley Triton ($6.00) proved to be fastest in the lane with a 26.3 last quarter giving Casey Leonard is fourth stakes victory on the card. The Terry Leonard trainee is owned by Illinoisans Dandy Farms Racing and Ft. Racing Stable, both of Glenview, and Peter Kouchis of Palos Park.
The evening ended with Casey Leonard once again in the winner’s circle as Lousraptor ($3.80) drew off by five lengths in the Pronto Don trot for sophomore male trotters in 1:57.4.
Lousraptor, trained by Roshun Trigg, was the third stakes winner of the evening for Flacco Family Farms of Alexis, IL and the trotter’s third in a row. The Lous Legacy gelding won both a prep race and the championship at Springfield a few weeks ago.