By Mike Paradise
The Illinois bred three-year-old filly trotter with the funny name and overflowing with talent will be Indiana bound later this month. The Curt Grummel stable’s record-breaking champion Funky Wiggle will compete in a trio Hoosier Park stake races sponsored by the Hambletonian Society.
“She deserves a chance to race against some of the good open fillies in her division,” said Grummel. “If I knew she would be as good as she is, I would have nominated her in more stake events.
“She’s been special, doing even more than what I could have hoped for.”
Funky Wiggle, a “lock” to capture her division honors and a strong candidate to go on and be named 2022 Illinois Harness Horse of the Year, was to race in last week’s Open Trot at Springfield but was scratched due to sickness.
“I put her in to keep her sharp, but she got sick,” continued Curt, who also shares ownership of Funky Wiggle with his father Leo and his brother Craig. “There’s been a bug going around the barn. She’s still sick but I’ve got almost four weeks to get her ready for the Pegasus (stake) at Hoosier on the 28th.
“She’ll go next in the track’s Crossroads (Nov. 4th) and again in their Thanksgiving Classic later in November.”
Funky Wiggle will carry a flashy record of nine wins and a second in 11 season starts into her next outing. She’s made $117,531 thus far in her second racing season and is closing in on $250,000 in her career.
The daughter of Lou’s Legacy, out of the Mr Cantab broodmare Hoosier Wiggles, is 17-for-23 lifetime with 4 seconds for her owner and breeder Dr. Patrick Graham Lockridge, Iowa.
Funny Wiggle stunned the Illinois harness racing community, and her trainer, when she rattled off a 1:51.4 winning mile in Du Quoin’s Windy Skeeter stake with her regular driver Kyle Wilfong in late August.
It was the fastest mile ever for a ICF trotting filly and just one fifth of a second behind Kadabra’s all-time record for any Illinois bred trotter.
“The time was totally unexpected,” said Curt. “I thought she could be a 53 trotter but to go as fast as she did was a complete surprise. I did tell Kyle (driver Wilfong) before the race that she warmed-up the best that she ever had.
“Kyle said that day he just let her trot comfortably (on the front end). I was with my dad at the draw gate watching the race.
“When she went 27 and change to the first quarter, I told dad ‘She’s trotting pretty good.’ When she went to the half in 55.2, I started to get excited. They weren’t gaining on her. When she reached the three-quarters in 1:23.2, I said, ‘Holy Moly’ and jumped up and started yelling ‘Let’s go, keep going,’ and she did, coming home in 28 and change and winning by more than nine lengths.”
“Kyle told me that when he saw me waving my arms, I looked like a third base coach waving a baserunner home.
“It was only the second time Kyle ever pulled the ear plugs on the filly. The first was in the Springfield final when she made a break before the start, fell far behind, and still came back and overtook that field.”
Going to the starting gate can be conundrum for the talented filly. In her rare losses she’s gone off stride heading to the gate.
“She’s handy but the gate’s not her friend,” said Wilfong after the filly’s Night of Champions victory.
When Funky Wiggle drew the second tier with the 11-slot in her Night of Champions elimination there was a bit of concern.
“As it turned out she handled it much better starting behind horses than going to the gate,” said Curt looking back on her five-plus length romp.
Not only did Funky Wiggle win the $85,000 Erwin F. Dygert Memorial on Hawthorne’s Night of Champions, but earlier that night her stable-mate Marvelous Mystery captured the $125,000 Fox Valley Flan two-year-old filly trot with Wilfong.
“This year has been some kind of ride,” said Curt.
And it’s not over yet.
Looking for No. 14: Defending ICF aged trotter of the year Talk About Valor is competing Saturday night in Hoosier Park’s $22,000 Open with regular driver Travis Seekman at his lines. The star of the Gerald Hanson stable has won 13 of his 20 season starts.
That’s a Wrap: With the harness racing season over in Illinois over, today’s IHHA story wraps things up for this year.
Hope to rejoin you sometime in 2023.
By Mike Paradise
When USTA District 5 members make their upcoming selections for the 2022 year’s Illinois harness racing division honors they won’t have an easy task in the ICF two-year-old colt and gelding pacing category.
It seemed that when one state-bred freshman pacer would power his way to the top spot, another would come along and knock him down a notch and take over.
The major Illinois bred stakes winners and their purse money were pretty much spread out among four youngsters—(in alphabetical order: Fox Valley Jasper, Fox Valley Langley, Ghost Shark, and Illini Jetset—and a case can be made for any of the talented foursome of pacers to take the division award.
Bred by Fox Valley Standardbreds, Fox Valley Jasper, a son of Somestarsomehwere out of the Yankee Cruiser dam Subway Hanover, won the first six of his eight season starts and banked almost $56,000 for the Midwest Division of the Erv Miller Stable and Illinois owners Bowie Racing LLC (Shorewood) and Engle Stable LLC (Northbrook).
Fox Valley Jasper (Atlee Bender) swept Hawthorne’s $50,000 Summer Incredible Finale stake series and his Illinois State Fair Colt Stakes elimination and the final at Springfield where he took his mark of 1:52.3.
Nevertheless, “Jasper’s” winning streak ended with a fourth-place finish in a division of Du Quoin’s Director’s Cup and he was a disappointing sixth in his Incredible Finale elimination and failed to advance to its lucrative final on Hawthorne’s Night of Champions.
Fox Valley Langley, a Somestarsomewhere offspring from the Art’s Conquest dam Red Hot Lady, rattled off five consecutive victories to start his career for Illinois owners Lyle Liles (Springfield) and Melvin Schonoweis (Petersburg) including a division of the Cardinal before the Jamaica Patton trained juvenile dropped a head decision in July’s first Incredible Finale showdown.
Fox Valley Langley fastest mile of 1:52 flat came in his Springfield elimination. He was fourth in the final. The gelding was second best by a head in his Director’s Cup division at Du Quoin. Fox Valley Langley made a break in his Incredible Final Night of Champions elimination and missed the championship.
The Fox Valley Standardbred freshman did rebound with a victory in the stake’s consolation to reach $57,480 in earnings and a record of seven wins and a pair of seconds in 11 trips to the starting gate.
The Tim Roach trained Ghost Shark, driven exclusively by Travis Seekman, came on strong in the latter part of his two-year-old season and finished with $63,958 on his card.
A son of Revenge Shark out of the Well Said dam Give Up The Ghost was at his best coming from behind, getting his initial victory in late August in a division of Du Quoin’s Director Cup stake with a season’s best mile time of 1:51.3. He followed it by winning his Incredible Finale elimination at Hawthorne a week later.
In the Night of Champions two-year-old final Ghost Rider was sent off as the 4-5 public’s choice, had the lead in the stretch however ended up second best by less than one length.
Ghost Shark made nine starts for owners Kyle Larner of Warren, Michigan and Brian Hochman of Buffalo Grove, Illinois, with two wins, two seconds and three thirds.
Illini Jetset, another Evn Miller trained two-year-old only had two victories in 10 first season starts but one came on Hawthorne’s Night of Champions in the $154,000 Incredible Finale Final with Todd Warren at his lines.
The Travel Playlist gelding, from the Real Artist broodmare Ty’s Artist, was just $569 from banking a division high $100,000 in his initial campaign with $69,300 coming in his final race of 2022 for owners Erv Miller Stable (Windcap (PA), Bowie Racing LLC (Shorewood, IL) and Sara K. Miller (Stroudsburg, PA).
Illini Jetset’s other triumph came in a division of the Cardinal in early July. The youngster was the runner-up in the Springfield championship, one of his five second place finishes of his 10 starts. He never missed a check in any outing
As you can see, it’s a toss-up for division honors.
By Mike Paradise
When the Merv Chupp Stable’s veteran trotter Pine Dream was retired prior to the 2022 racing season, his owner and conditioner faced a tough assignment replacing who I called the barn’s “money-making machine.”
Acquired for $27,000 at the 2018 Blood Horse Sale, the now 10-year-old Pine Dream raked-in over $300,000 for Merv and his wife Kelly, more than 10 times what they dished out for the Pinetucky trotter who Merv calls “probably the best sale buy I ever made.”
Pine Dream ended his racing career with 48 first place finishes, a mark of 1:53.1 taken at the age of six at Ohio’s Miami Valley Raceway, and earnings of $458,144, with much of that amount for the Chupp’s.
“The horse went through a surgery and a long layoff, and it was just time to retire him,” said Marv. “He’s earned it.”
Merv might have hit another sale goodie with last fall’s $14,000 purchase of the trotter Rock Party who will bring a three-race winning streak into Friday’s Open trot at Springfield.
The five-year-old son of Cantab Hall, out of the Muscles Yankee dam Scream And Shout (1:53.1, $302,734), has been perfect for the Chupp family on the Illinois State Fairgrounds dirt track with its sweeping turns, going 4-for-4 there this year.
Thus far in his first season for the Crete, Illinois based stable, Rock Party is a seven-time winner, mostly in Midwest track Opens, and is nearing the $50,000 plateau in purse earnings.
“Rock Party is a good trotter, but I don’t think he’s another Pine Dream,” added Merv. “He’s hard-headed but he has been better lately.”
Rock Party made just under $100,000 in his first three racing seasons and was highly regarded as a yearling, going for $90,000 at the 2017 Lexington Select Sale, so his successful 2022 campaign for Chupp isn’t exactly a bolt from out of the blue.
“I’m concerned about him after Springfield closes though,” continued Merv. “He’s not good in the turns. Hawthorne and Springfield are mile tracks that suit him.”
It Won’t Be Easy: Rock Party’s winning streak at Springfield landed him the assigned outside eight-post in today’s fifth race $12,300 Open and there are plenty of tough foes starting inside of him.
Night of Champions winners Talk About Valor (Travis Seekman) has the six-slot while the Carl Becker Memorial winner Annas Lucky Star (Cordarius Stewart) starts from the seven.
A surprise starter is the talented three-year-old Illinois bred filly Funky Wiggle, a strong candidate of the state’s 2022 Harness Horse of the Year award with her gaudy record of 9 wins in 11 starts and a 1:51.4 mile at Du Quoin, the second fastest ever for any ICF trotter. The streaking (eight in a row) Curt Grummel trainee was assigned the one-post against a field of older and more seasoned horses.
The two through five slots belong to Louzotic, Loulita, Cash Hit, and Heath Bar. All six figure career earners.
Dygert Replay: The Steve Searle stable’s Lousdobb (Casey Leonard) is making his first start today since winning his fifth consecutive race in the September 10th Erwin F. Dygert Memorial championship at Hawthorne.
The “lock” for this year’s ICF 3-year-old male trotting honors will take on a small but solid field that includes the Dygert runner-up Fox Valley Cairo (Kyle Wilfong) and Reign And Shine (Travis Seekman), who drops out of Illinois Opens.
That’s It: The curtain comes down on harness racing in Illinois for this season today and it won’t return to the Land of Lincoln for nine long months. When it does in June of 2023 it will be at Springfield for another non-wagering meeting.
The return to Hawthorne and pari-mutuel betting in Illinois unfortunately won’t take place until next September.