By Mike Paradise
The long wait for live harness racing to return to Illinois is just a week away and for many of us Hawthorne’s opening night on Friday, May 3 can’t come fast enough.
Is long time Illinois based trainer Steve Searle one of those chumping at the bit for the end of the much-to-long eight months without racing?
“Oh my gosh yes,” answered Searle. “I’m extremely excited for Hawthorne to open. This no racing is for the birds. I am so ready to get going.”
Searle had a remarkable Night of Champions last September when three of his horses won championships. “I may never have a night like that again but that’s okay,” said the Grant Park, Illinois resident. “Having done it that one time is something that will always stay with me.”
Back with Searle this year is Fox Valley Flan stake victor Louzatic, the 2018 the Illinois 2-Year-Old Trotting Filly of the Year and Spirit O’Mar, the surprise winner of the Plesac Final with Steve at his lines.
Gone is last year’s Illinois 3-year-old filly trotting champion Trotting Grace, the Beulah Dygert titleholder, and the 2017 Springfield champion White Pants Fever.
“Louzatic is coming along well. I’ve got her down to 2:04 on a farm track. This year we’ve picked up Luscipher. He’s a good horse. He had some lameness problems last year and I have him at Odds Odd (Training Center). They’ve got a pool and everything you could need out there.
“We sold Trotting Grace and White Pants Fever. If we were racing eight or nine year (in Illinois) we would have probably kept them but with only five months of racing it made sense to sell them. There just aren’t enough opportunities to make good money with aged trotters in Illinois.
“We got a good price for them and both horses have done well in Ohio. Trotting Grace won there in 54 and 3.” White Pants Fever won 2 of his last 3 starts at Miami Valley.
“I still have Spirit O’Mar and I’ve got a dozen 2–year-olds. It’s too early to say who stands out but they have all gone between 2:20 and 2:04. As you know I don’t like to rush my 2-year-olds. Being the fastest early-on isn’t important to me. It’s how they do at the end of the racing season. The game plan is to have my young horses’ peak from mid-July and through the end of the September. That’s where the money is for Illinois breds.”
The Wisconsin native posted career numbers last year for trainer wins (45) and money won ($485,711).
In 2017 Steve had what he called “an unbelievable meeting” at the Springfield State Fair. Searle sent ten horses postward and five finished first. All 10 of his starters earned a check. Besides his five winners Steve had two seconds, one third and two fourths. They earned over $58,000.
Two of Searle’s horses posted victories in last Monday’s Spring Preview at Springfield. Coming Up, a 3-year-old state bred pacer won in 2:00.4 (28 flat last quarter) with James Molitor. A few races later Searle guided Louzotic to an easy two length triumph (1:58.3) in her sophomore debut.
Brothers Prevail: Perennial Hawthorne driver champion Casey Leonard warmed up for the start of the 2019 meet with no less than seven first place finishes including the last two on the 19-race card, brothers Picky Picky Valor (1:59.2) and Talk About Valor (2:02.3). Both are trained Gerald Hansen for owner Shelley Steele of Monee, Illinois.
Other Spring Preview winners on the card were Perch (by five-plus lengths in 1:58.1), Fox Valley Torrid (by 10 and 1/2 lengths in 2:00.4), Riley The Mosse (1:58), Ryan Racketeer (1:59.3), EL Game On (2:01.1), Frontier Manard (2:01), For Trots Sake (2:03.3), Rollin Coal (1:55.3, the fastest on the card), Fox Valley Catwalk (1:59.1), Lexington Lady (1:59.2), Yank Rendezvous (2:03.1), Sheriff Coffey (1:59), Fox Valley Nemitz (1:56.4), Fox Valley Gemini (by 7 lengths in 1:58.3) and Sunny Sasha (1:58.1)
Monday Draw: Next Friday’s opening night program will be drawn Monday morning at Hawthorne. Horsemen have until 9 o’clock to enter their horses. Entries for the first Saturday and Sundays programs will be taken on Wednesday morning.