Early Birds Get the Dough

By Mike Paradise

 

After a hotter than normal June weather wise, we begin July on Friday night with the weekend opening of Hawthorne’s summer meet. With a smaller than usual warm weather session, the ICF stakes schedule had to be jammed into a less than two and one-half month stretch.

 

A quartet of Illinois department of Agriculture stakes, the Violets, and Cardinals, get things under way on Thursday evening, the last day of June with $43,000 to $45,000 est. three-year-old events for both gaits.

 

Hawthorne harness racing action gets under way Thursday night as the shortened summer meet gets under way. (Four Footed Fotos)

The same amount of ICF stakes money as in the past will be available but this time around there will be two championship nights, the first in July and the last, the Night of Champions, in its usual mid-September slot.

 

With the same purse structure for both the three-year-old and older pace and trot finals and eliminations, a horse can fare just in well money-wise in July as in September, so having you horse ready to roll starting with next week’s Violet and Cardinal elims is vital for horsemen.

 

With four legs heading into the Night of Championships not a possibility with the shorter meet, it’s back to the old days with eliminations deciding the championship fields in each stake showdown. That’s puts a lot of pressure on trainers to have their steeds in tip-top shape at the right time,

 

The July version of the Night of Champion stakes confrontations is right around the corner. Eliminations are set for July 15th and 16th, just a few weeks from now.

 

The first major test for this year’s two-year-old crop is on July 8th and 9th with eliminations for the Violet (fillies) and the Cardinal (colts and geldings) for both gaits. That’s only two weeks away.

 

The Night of Champions finals in September for two-year-old all are estimated at $100,000, that’s twice as much as the $50,000 on the line for each in the July Championships. Entry fees for each stake’s elimination is $200.

 

Entry fee for the older ICF stake events rise to $500.

 

Readers Speak Out: My recent article “Why Not More Springfield” emphasizing the needs for a second harness racing venue in our state sparked a lot of interest on the IHHA Facebook page with dozens of “likes.” Some readers took the time to comment on the story. Here are a few of those replies:

 

“Excellent idea, I hope the state takes a good hard look. They must help the horsemen!  “Michelle Luce

 

“A common sense partnership with Hawthorne and Reopening Balmoral with the current owners is what should happen, can be racing there year around in 23 it’s mind blowing that this isn’t being seriously considered.” Jayme Blonde

 

“We need a 2nd track, period. Hawthorne seems unwilling or unable to progress. Illinois is a huge state, let’s utilize other areas besides the Northeast corner. Open to all possibilities.” Troy Markert

 

“Something needs to be done ASAP. More racing at Springfield or open up Balmoral for year round racing!! Like we were promised years ago!!” Jackson Loy

 

“I like MR CAREY …but this is insane ! we NEED another track owned by ANYONE !” Ira Smolin

 

Star Studded Stats: Two-time defending Illinois Harness Horse of the Year He’zzz A Wise Sky is currently campaigning at Oak Grove Raceway in Kentucky where last month he rattled off a career fastest 1:48.3 mile for his Beecher, Illinois owners Triple ZZZ Stable.

 

The John Filomeno superstar has competed in four Midwest states this year—Illinois, Ohio, Indiana and now Kentucky, going 8 for 15 in Opens while amassing over $102,000 on the way.

 

He’zzz A Wise Sky was was unbeaten during Hawthorne’s winter meet, going five for five in Opens. He also has Open victories in Ohio (twice) and Kentucky as a five-year-old and is closing in on a half-million dollars in lifetime earnings ($421, 611).

Fox Valley Crete All Business at Three

By Mike Paradise

 

The winter in between and a two-year-old horse and a three-year-old looms large in the horse racing industry.

 

You’ve read countless times how a horse “matured” over the winter or “filled out” substantially, and that’s the reason for a more successful sophomore campaign.

 

Of course, it doesn’t always come about that way. Some horses don’t grow much over the winter, and some don’t improve their mental aspect of becoming a racehorse, but for the most part the opposite is true.

 

One three-year-old to keep an eye on this summer is Fox Valley Crete who hails from the Nelson Willis stable. “Spider,” as Nelson is known affectively by his follow horseman, is one of the most respected Illinois horse conditioners and one of the most successful as well.

 

Fox Valley Crete looks like he’s ready for a strong ICF three-year-old summer campaign. (Four Footed Fotos)

Fox Valley Crete was the “sales topper” two years ago at the Illini Classic Sale, acquired for $52,000 by the Megan Rogers Racing Stable of Chicago, Illinois. The Sportsmaster gelding had an “okay” freshman season, earning over $25,000 however found the winner’ circle just once in10 starts. That victory came in a leg of the Incredible Finale series, but it came against a field without the top two juvenile colts—Fox Valley Ozzy and Get E Up.

 

In the other Incredible Finale legs Fox Valley Crete finished either second or third to the top pair.

 

Off what we’ve seem this far at Springfield, Fox Valley Crete could be giving Fox Valley Ozzy and Get E Up all they can handle this summer. “Crete” has breezed in three downstate starts with Juan Franco at his lines and should be a confident pacer heading into the opening of racing at Hawthorne next week.

 

“Fox Valley Crete uncorked a swift 26.3 last quarter in his latest win on Friday.

 

Looking ahead, Willis is optimistic on his horse’s three-year-old campaign.

 

“He’ll be a better horse this tear,” said Spider. “He had some health issues that are now behind him, and he should be able to hold his own with (Kyle) Husted’s horse (Get E Up) and (Gary) Rath’s good trotter (Fox Valley Ozzy.)

 

Will Fox Valley Crete be as good as is older brother Fox Valley Ren? Only time will tell. Both are out of the broodmare LR Dancing Dream. “Ren” has developed into a solid ICF open pacer. He raced out of Willis’ barn at two and three and part of his four-year-old season before he was acquired by the Steve Searle Stable.

 

Fox Valley Ren was claimed for $50,000 at Hoosier in late May by former Chicago trainer Ken Rucker. The horse has over $194,000 in lifetime earnings on his card and a mark of 1:50.3.

 

 

TODD WARREN…1,000 training wins.

Congats Todd: Chicago circuit-based horsemen Todd Warren sent out his 1,000th winning horse as a trainer earlier this week at Oak Grove Raceway in Kentucky when Eye on A Tiger AS won the $22.000 Open trot in 1:53.1. Todd’s son Ridge drove the milestone winner.

 

Todd, a 57-year-old, Chicago native, drove the second-place finisher Jack Vernon last Monday. The Manhattan, Illinois resident is closing on 5,200 lifetime winning drives.

 

A Golden Win: Three-time ICF Illinois Harness Horse of the Year Fox Valley Gemini (Casey Leonard) picked up his 50th career victory yesterday at Springfield with an easy eight length romp (1:52.3) in an Open Pace. The seven-year-old star of the Terry Leonard stable now has a career bankroll that sits at over $630,000 for Atwater, Illinois owner, Jim Ballinger.

 

Springfield Entry Box Explodes

They’ll be coming down the lane 43 times at Springfield this weekend 43 times in two days of racing. (Four Footed Fotos)

 

By Mike Paradise

 

When I was printing out of past performance lines for Friday’s and Saturday’s Springfield races, I thought something went awry with my printer.

 

It just kept going and going and going.

 

Turns out there was nothing wrong with the printer, it was the number of races it had to print out. Twenty-two for Friday and 21 for Saturday.

 

Yikes!

 

An astonishing 300 horses entered the weekend Hawthorne cards on the Illinois State Fairgrounds. To say it was a surprise would be an understatement. I was shocked at the number. There was talk of a possible horse shortage for the summer meet. I think those 300 entries put an end to that discussion.

 

 

Looks like a Goodie: Thumbing through the 22 paces of horse’s lines for Friday, what stood out was the ICF Open trot, late in the program.

 

Race 19 is the ICF Open and it’s an intriguing affair.

 

The ICF Open has five sons or daughters of Lou’s Legacy taking on three others that are not and that trio is strong. It’s comprised of the 2021 ICF Trotter of the Year Talk About Valor (pp 6, Travis Seekman), the multiple Illinois trotting mare of the year Annas Lucky Star (pp 7, Kyle Wilfong) and Heath Bar (Jamaica Patton) the runner-up in last week’s state-bred Open.

 

 

Louscardamon, shown here winning with Kyle Husted at Hawthorne, goes after his third consecutive victory at Springfield today. (Four Footed Fotos)

The opposition of “Lous” consists of Lousraptor (Atlee Bender), Louzotic (Casey Leonard), Loulita (Wyatt Avenatti), Lous Abigail (Juan Franco), and Louscardamon (Curt Grummel, who is going after his third straight win and his second in ICF Open competition.

 

The Gerald Hansen Stable’s star trotter Talk About Valor qualified last week at Springfield by breezing on the front end in 1:56 flat. The seven-year-old trotter closed out the earlier meet at Hawthorne by demolishing the last two Open fields by more than three lengths and then by eight and goes into today’s action 5-for-8 on the season, all in Hawthorne Opens.

 

Easy Money: Indiana based trainer Tyler George sent a pair of his good mares to pick-up some easy dough ($3,759 winner’s share) in filly and mare Opens today and both were assigned the outside six slots for each event.

 

Moneymakehersmile (Kyle Wilfong) heads up race 15. The six Mach Three mare paced a 1:50.3 mile last year at Hoosier and comes off a 1:52 flat win at the Indiana racetrack.

 

In the following event is Sandy Sue, (Casey Leonard) a seven-year-old Shark Gesture mare with a mark of 1:50.4 last season at Hoosier and a 1:51.4 win this year at Miami Valley Raceway in Ohio. She’s been competing recently in Indiana Opens.

Spotlight on Juneteenth Celebration Race

By Mike Paradise

 

With a highly successful lunching of its Juneteenth Celebration race last year this season’s go around moves to Springfield and a day early because of racing being Dark on Sunday, June 19th.

 

The inaugural Juneteenth Celebration event was the first pari-mutuel harness race in Illinois history to feature an entire field of Standardbred horses driven exclusively by African-American horsemen.

 

The initiative to spotlight participation by minorities in the historic sport was championed by the Illinois Harness Horsemen Association and the initial Juneteenth Celebration event was well received by the national media.

 

Today’s Juneteenth Celebration race is an $5,000 Invite with five horses entered, all driven by African-American horseman. It’s carded as race eight on the 10-race program.

 

Hosea Williams, an Illinois Harness Hall of Fame inductee for lifetime service and dedication to the industry, some 40 plus years ago was the first minority horseman to become a “regular” on the Chicagoland harness racing circuit and was proud to be a part of last year’s inaugural event.

 

“Seeing a race full of Black drivers steering horses down the homestretch makes it easier for the next generation of horsemen to imagine themselves as integral to the success of this industry,” said Hosea Williams, a board member of the Illinois Harness Horsemen’s Association after last year’s initial Juneteenth race. “When I started racing horses here, I was the only Black driver; now there are many more of us. This is about representation and visibility, and I’m really thankful to Hawthorne and my fellow horsemen for supporting this.”

 

This year Hosea has the pride of his stable going post in the second rubbing of the Juneteenth event. She’s Rollin Coal, the seven-year-old mare with lifetime earnings of over $257,000, mostly banked by taking on the top open company pacing mares on the circuit.

 

Hosea will drive Rollin Coal away from the outside five slot when she takes on Tymal Torch (Cordarius Stewart), Heavy Pressure (Archie Buford), Rock Steady Ron (Jamaica Patton) and Incredible Bombay (Jerome Daniels).

 

 

Jamaica Paton drove last year’s initial Juneteenth Celebration race winner and today handles his Ron Steady Rock.

Jamaica Patton drove last year’s Juneteenth winner Todd’s Party and the Mississippi native will steer one of the race favorites in Ron Steady Rock. The seven-year-old Patton trainee paced a winning 1:49.4 mile at Lexington last year and his $49,090 earned thus far this season is tops in the Invite field.

 

Good Looking Trot: Saturday’s Hawthorne card at Springfield is headed up by the seventh race trot fort ICF three- and four-year old’s. It’s a solid field with two of last year’s division champions, the Kadabra Final winner and the Fox Valley Flan bridesmaid among its six starters.

 

Night of Champions victor Lousdobb, fresh off a 1:59.4 victory a few weeks ago at Springfield takes on Illinois Two-Year-Old Colt of the Year Fox Valley Cairo, who also romped on May 29th in 1:59 flat.

 

With Casey Leonard opting to drive Steve Searle’s Lousdobb, trainer Mike Brink will guide Fox Valley Cairo today, the winner of six of 11 outings as a freshman with over $95,000 banked.

 

Rndmnnpredictable, another Searle trainee, leaves from the five spot between Lousdobb and Fox Valley Cairo. Juan Franco handles last season’s ICF Aged Trotter of the year.

 

Armbro Lark, the Fox Valley Flan 2021 runner-up, will use her gate speed from the rail to be in the thick of today’s contest. She made over $78,000 as a juvenile and has Terry Skinner in her bike today.

 

Emsroscopcoletrian (Cornelius Cavett) and I’mnotalocaldude (Archie Buford) complete the competitive trotting field.

Why Not More Springfield?

 

By Mike Paradise

 

The road to Hawthorne’s Night of Champions in mid-September begins Friday at the Illinois State Fairgrounds in Springfield for pacers and trotters ages three and up.

 

It began a couple of two days ago for two-year-olds on the same racetrack when the Summer Classic unfolded for the freshman colony.

 

In recent years the road to the championships got under way with the beginning of Hawthorne’s summer meet but with Arlington tossing in the towel on horse racing in this state and Hawthorne now standing alone as a Standardbred facility, the jammed up 2022 racing schedule at Hawthorne made for a later start for a harness meet, eliminating multiple legs to the championship finals but opening the door for additional racing in Springfield.

 

Actually, more racing at Springfield is way overdue.

 

With Balmoral and Maywood racing a thing of the past, another harness racing venue is badly needed. For now, Springfield provides at least the partial answer.

 

What’s holding things back is a multi-purpose racetrack, some sprucing up of the state capitol grandstand, and improvements to the barn area, lights if we conduct racing at night and of course, permission from the Illinois Racing Board.

 

You would think a few million dollars investment from the state legislators would take care of more racing at Springfield throughout the year with a racing surface that doesn’t shut down the racing program when it rains. After all, for years the state has reeled off incentives to businesses to remain in Illinois.

 

 

Why not invest to save the whole horse racing industry. Can we really afford to lose even more people to out-of-state venues?

 

I think not.

 

Racing at Springfield for today, tomorrow, and two days next week are non-wagering. Why not spend the dough to make them pari-mutuel events for the next go around? The state makes some money, the racetrack does better, its more dough for the horsemen’s purse account, and fans want to come to the races to Watch and Bet.

 

Has far as the argument that Springfield won’t provide revenue like the Chicagoland tracks, don’t be too sure. Over 85 per cent of the handle comes from off track betting. For years now, basically, betting on horse racing is a little more than a TV show for fans on their computers and telephones. With needed enhancements, free admission, and a dollar program, the on-track attendance at Springfield could rival that of Hawthorne’s.

 

And if ever a Racino was built at its facility, things could really take off.

 

Motoring Home: Wednesday’s Summer Classic for ICF pacers and trotters is in the history books. The fastest freshman mile was recorded by the Jamaica Patton trained gelding Fox Valley Langley, who won in 1:57.3 with a quick 26.2 last quarter.

 

The Somestarsomewhere youngster was a $21,000 buy at last year’s Walker Sale by Patton for Illinois owners Lyle E. Lipe (Springfield) and Melvin A. Schoneweis of Petersburg.

 

Two-Year-Old Summer Preview a Big Hit

By Mike Paradise

 

When the 2022 Summer Classic for ICF two-year-old horses were announced for June 15th there was no scarcity of sceptics that a shortage of horses being entered was possible because of the early date

 

Those doubters proved to be off base, and by a wide margin.

 

No less than 83 freshman state-bred pacers or trotters passed the entry box for today’s 2022 Summer Classic, making it necessary to card 14 races with four divisions for juvenile colt and filly pacers and three each for freshman trotters of both sexes.

 

The surprising large numbers of entries did slice deep into the purse money available ($20,000), dived up equally per race, to a lowly sum of $1,428 pots.

 

Nevertheless, most horsemen entered their youngsters not with purse money in mind, but an opportunity to get in a start, or maybe two, gaining welcome racing experience before Hawthorne opens (June 30th) and rolls out the two-year-old Violet and Cardinal stakes the weekend of July 8th and 9th, less than four weeks away.

 

The busiest person at the Illinois State Fairgrounds today will be trainer Roshun Triggs, who comes off his most successful yseason with 118 winners in 2021. The 44-year-old Mississippi native sends out 13 horses among the 14 races going to the gate.

 

Hope to has lots of help on hand.

 

Worth Eying: Looking at my past performance and breeding proofs, some horses that caught my eye include Al Beals Harleys The Moose (race 1) from the Gary Rath stable.  The Somebeachsomewhere filly of by Panfastic (her dam was the Illinois Hall of Fame horse Panic Attack), making Panfastic a half-sister to six pacers with marks of 1:51 or faster including the 2009 Illinois Horse of the Year and O & B Super Night champion Power The Moment, the winner of over $751,000.

 

The second race’s My Daddy’s Revenge is a Mike Brink trainee with a quick 1:57.3 qualifier on her card. The Revenge Shark filly is by Hope Lane Hanover who has two siblings racing with marks of 1:52.2 and 1:53.1.

 

Kyle Husted’s Fox Valley Landen is a $22,000 Walker sale buy for trainer Amy Husted in race six, and a trio in race seven are the $55,000 Walker purchase Fox Valley Steeler the stable of Springfield based Tom Simmons, Sunmaster, a $27,000 Illini Classic buy for trainer Amy Husted, and the $21,000 Walker sale acquisition Fox Valley Langley from the Jamaica Patton barn.

 

The Nelson Willis stable’s Fox Valley Mckee in event eight is a half-sister to Fox Valley Lolo (1:53.1) and was acquired for $21,000 at the Walker Sale.

 

The two-year-old filly trotters Mariah Lou and Fox Valley Adira bear watching. The former is a full sister to Illinois stakes champion Lou’s Abigail. She’s trained by Steve Searle for Flacco Family Farms. Fox Valley Adira, a Gary Rath trainee, is a half-sister to Fox Valley Illiad (1:52, $283,181).

 

Another Lou Lou? A stick out breeding wise is the Steve Searle trained Zena Lou (Casey Leonard). She’s by Lou’s Legacy out of Fox Valley Lexus, making her a full sister to multiple stakes champion Louzotic (1:54.3, $336,212), and Lous Xandu (1:58.3). Also going out in race eleven is Mike Brink’s Can’t Afford Love, a half-sister to the Fox Valley colony of “Lover”, “Luxury”, “Lexus”, “Legend”, “Lotus”, and Hail Caesar.

 

In race 12 conditioner Herman Wheeler will start the $40,000 Walker buy Fox Valley Corso, a full brother to Night of Champions winner Fox Valley Quest (1:55.1, $192,020)

 

In race 13 there is Brink’s Dox Adams who’s dam Tropical Caprice gave us several productive ICF trotters including Majestic Caprice, winner of 47 lifetime races. Also meriting a look is Mr King Cougar, one of trainer Gerald Hanson’s Yankee Valor sired collection.  He’s the brother of Hansen’s filly Lucky Valerie.

 

In the last race Lous Andiamo, another Trigg trainee, is the third foal of the dam And Word Hanover. Her first two are Lous Pisano and Lou Lou Lamour.

 

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Smilin Lou in race 14. Afterall, the Lou’s Legacy colt is by Hoosier Wiggles, making him a full brother of 2021 Illinois Two-Year-Old Filly Trotter of the Year Funky Wiggle (1:56, $130,478).

 

Unique Sibling Happening: If it’s a rare occurrence to see two full brothers or sisters compete and both prevail on the same racing program, how about a pair of siblings doing it on the same card?

 

It occurred on the May 29th Springfield Preview when the Steve Searle Stable’s Lous Monamie won her three-year-old filly trot in the opener and Louscardamon, trained by Curt Grummel, later captured the ICF horse and gelding trot. Both trotters are by Lou’s Legacy out of the SJ’s Caviar mare Olives and Caviar.

 

Soon after Lous Monamie’s triumph, Searle’s Lous Xanadu, a daughter of Lou’s Legacy out of the Vaporize broodmare Fox Valley Lexus, took her division of the state-bred sophomore trot. Later her older sister, the six-year-old Louzotic, also from the Searle barn, proved best in the ICF four-year-old and up event, defeating the long-time Illinois trotting queen Annas Lucky Star. It was Louzotic’s 30th career victory in 82 lifetime trips to the gate.

 

That wasn’t the only unusual event on the May 29th Springfield card: The first four winning horses all had the same driver, trainer, owner and sire, something that I don’t ever remember happening in my 49 years of covering Illinois harness racing.

 

Casey Leonard did the driving, Steve Searle was the trainer, Flacco Family Farms the proprietors and Lou’s Legacy was the winning sire.

 

Casey would go on to bring home SEVEN first place finishers while Juan Franco was behind three winning horses on the 14-race program.

 

Watch Them Live: Hawthorne races at Springfield are on tap this Friday, June 17th and Saturday, June 18th. They are non-wagering events for ICF horses of both sexes and gaits.

 

While simulcasting is not available for these programs the races will be shown live on the Illinois County Fair Harness Racing page (https://www.facebook.com/groups/1966047640194826)

 

There will be also Hawthorne racing at Springfield on Friday, June 24th and Saturday, June 25th.

 

 

Kizzzmelikeumissme Smacks of Future ICF Stardom

By Mike Paradise

 

Triple ZZ Stable’s Kizzzmelikeumissme passed her first major sophomore test with a convincing victory in Saturday night $30,000 ICF event for three-year-old pacers.

 

Nicely handled by the meet’s leading driver Kyle Wilfong, the John Filomeno trained home-bred used a different tactic to secure her third career victory in five starts by getting the job done this time on the front end.

 

Kizzzmelikeumisssme shot out of the three-hole on the backside once Pattycake Moose (Todd Warren) cleared to wrestle the lead away from the early pacesetter Rollnrozz (Archie Warren).

 

 

Kizzzmelikeumissme (Kyle Wilfong) was a compelling winner of last night’s $30,000 event for ICF three-year-old pacing fillies. (Four Footed Fotos).

With one big move Kizzzmelikeumissme ($4.00) powered her way into command and when asked for more in the lane, the Yankee Skyscraper filly did so, putting away a bid by freshman ICF filly champion Apple Valley (Joe Seekman), pacing a 28 second last panel on a wet-soaked racing surface, winning by almost two lengths.

 

Apple Valley was a late charging second best in her first start since the filly’s Incredible Tillie championship back in September of 2021. Pattycake Moose took the third-place money for trainer Gary Rath.

 

Kizzzmelikeumissme will likely get a well-deserved rest after five consecutive career weekend starts after skipping her freshman season. The upcoming future star of the state-bred sophomore division will carry a $28,496 bankroll for her Beecher, Illinois owners going into Hawthorne’s summer meet that gets under way On Friday, June 20th.

 

   Rath Trainee Prevails: The 4-5 favorite Romantic Warrior proved to be fastest in the lane and captured the $30,000 tor for ICF three-year-old. Driven by his trainer and co-owner Gary Rath, the Cassius gelding trotted the mile in 1:59.3 and a sloppy racing surface.

 

Lous Lancelot (Casey Leonard) rallied nicely to be second while Mr Mizzou was a close-up third.

 

Rath used his trotters pole position to carve out the winning journey. He hustled Romanic Warrior ($3.80) out, took the hole behind the second betting choice  Mr Mizzou in first tun, and then settled into third when Killyjoy, making his debut, came up to take over the lead near the half, reached in 1:00 flat in the slop.

 

 

Romantic Warrior (Gary Rath) rallied to capture Saturday’s night $30,000 Illinois bred trot over a sloppy racing surface, (Four Footed Fotos)

In the lane Rath swung Romanic Warrior out to the middle of the track, popped the horse’s earplugs, and rallied his trotter to his third win in his last four starts, last nights by three parts of a length. The Marengo, Illinois horseman shares ownership of Romantic Warrior with Bobby Beggs, also of Marengo.

 

Another Romp: A couple of races earlier Talk About Valor continued his dominance of the Open trot division, this time with a no-double-about-it victory in 1:56.3 on the sloppy surface.

 

Travis Seekman was content to race the Gerald Hansen trotter in the two-hole behind Magic Night (Todd Warren) through a 58.3 first half and then dashed to the front and pulled away to a seven and one-half length before being hand driven to the finish wire.

 

Talk About Valor’s win was the 21st in 65 starts for his Monee, Illinois owner Shelly Steele.  Muscular Babe (Kyle Wilfong) came on nicely in the lane for runner-up honors while Magic Night faded to third.

 

Heads-Up Drive: Fox Valley Exploit ($7.20) took advantage of an excellent trip provided by her driver, trainer, and co-owner Kyle Husted to take the Open for filly and mare pacers.

 

Fox Valley Exploit, the 5-2 third wagering choice of the betting public, worked hard in the early going, shooting out from the six-slot to gain a pocket trip behind the pacesetting Rollin Coal (Juan Franco), who set a quick fraction of 28 flat on a rather unsightly looking racing surface.

 

Husted kept the six-year-old ICF pacer in the two-hole until they turned for home, then powered to the lead and went onto hold off a late rush by the ground-saving Racing Forthe Mark (Joey Putnam), the bridesmaid finisher.

 

David Bingham of Concord, Michigan shares owners with Husted of Fox Valley Exploit.

 

A Wilfong First: We’ll have to wait until Sunday’s two racing cards to be contested for it to be made official. but it appears that Kyle Wilfong has ended Casey Leonard’s six-year streak as Hawthorne’s leading driver. The 30-year-old Watseka, Illinois native goes into Sunday with 51 winners at the meet, seven more than Casey.

 

Veteran horseman Terry Leonard has successfully defended his title as the meet’s leading trainer with 26 winning horses, 10 more than Gerald Hansen and Brittany Dillion, tied for second with 16 each,

 

The first Sunday card, originally slated for last Friday, will begin at 4:30 pm. The regular Sunday scheduled program will follow at 7:15 pm.

 

 Today’s column will do it for a while. I’ll take a couple of months hiatus and be back for Hawthorne’s summer meet that begins on the last day of June. The upcoming Springfield meeting with its race dates still to be determined, also will covered right here at www.harnessillinois.com, likely sometime in late June.