By Mike Paradise
The Queen of Illinois trotters is back in action tonight and she certainly has a tough task ahead to extend her latest winning streak and keep her extraordinary record of success intact in her home state.
I’m talking, of course, about Danny Graham’s homebred trotting mare Annas Lucky Star who has been nothing short of sensational since she began racing back in 2016 as a two-year-old with her regular driver Kyle Wilfong.
Going against the best open trotters all summer at the Hawthorne meeting Annas Lucky Star has more than held her own. In her six Open outings the now six-year-old mare has chalked up a trio of victories to go along with a pair of runner-up finishes.
Those gleaming Open efforts, along with a both State Fair championships for aged ICF trotting mares assured that the Cassius mare would be assigned 10-hole in tonight’s $10,500 Open feature where another win would vault Annas Lucky Star to over the $400,000 in career earnings and would be her fifth consecutive victory.
It’s not surprising her Salem, Illinois owner wasn’t happy with his mare’s starting slot for tonight however he also had high praise for the state’s only facility with an extended harness meeting.
“I sometimes get upset with the placing my mare gets in these Opens but I thank my lucky stars we have Hawthorne,” said the Salem, Illinois horseman. “The Carey’s have been there for the horsemen and their owners and without them I would have had to race my mare out-of-state. So, thank you Hawthorne for what you’ve done for Illinois harness racing.”
While Annas Lucky Star can’t speak up and agree with her owner about Hawthorne, the mare has shown in her own way she loves competing on the track’s big mile track and, for that matter, at both of Illinois state fair ovals, as well.
While her record of 39 wins in 70 career starts is definitely spectacular if you dig a little deeper, you’ll be even more amazed to learn what Annas Lucky Star has done strictly in Illinois.
The mare has chalked up an astounding 37 victories in 55 trips to the gate in Illinois, a hard-to-believe 65 per cent winning percentage. In her 55 Illinois races she’s been worse than third just three times in a pari-mutel race and that’s with the vast majority of her Hawthorne starts through the past few years coming in rugged Open trots.
Tonight Annas Lucky Star will have nine good trotters starting inside of her. It’s one thing to be assigned the ten-hole with the first 5 of 6 slots being occupied but it’s another with all nine filled up with competitive horses.
I haven’t a clue as to Wilfong’s strategy will be tonight and for that matter, Kyle may not make up his mind until he looks inside going to the gate and maybe get an inkling of what could be unfolding for him and the likely public’s choice.
From the one-post out you’ll find Aunt Percilla (Cordarius Stewart), Louzotic (Kyle Husted), Frontier Manard (Freddie Patton Jr), Lousraptor (Juan Franco), Louscardamon (Casey Leonard), Pine Dream (Todd Warren), Scramble Camp (Travis Seekman), Double A Cash (Ridge Warren), and Classic Venture (Bobby Smolin).
Oh Hum: Fox Valley Gemini (Casey Leonard) continued his mastery of Hawthorne’s Open Pace division with yet another victory last night, this one in 1:51.1.
The assigned 10-hole, in what ended up as a six horse field when On Duty was scratched, couldn’t keep the pride of the Terry Leonard stable from his eighth season triumph in 12 starts and the five-year-old Illinois bred pacers 38th in 54 career starts for his Atwater, Illinois owner Jim Ballinger.
Casey Leonard had Fox Valley Gemini in sixth and last as three different horses had command at various times through the first three quarters (1:24.1) but when Casey asked Fox Valley Gemini for another gear, the gelding delivered, zooming past his five foes in the lane with a speedy 26 second last panel.
Dash For Danger (Kyle Husted) also finished well to be second, one and 1/4 length behind the winner.