Stewart Starting to Cash-In on his Success

By Mike Paradise


Mississippi native Cordarius Stewart has set a goal for himself going into the 2023 racing season and it’s the same as last year’s: “I want to get my driver average and numbers up again.”


It was mission accomplished in 2022 as the 28-year-old well-traveled Stewart grinded his way to his most successful season. His dash winners jumped from 52 in 2021 to a career high 93 last year while horses he drove won $200,000 more in purse money and Cordarius’ UDRS sprung from .147 to .258.


Stewart was plugging along at an even pace when the Springfield meeting came along last June when he suddenly caught fire. In the first few days of the meet Stewart had six first place finishes to go along with seven second place finishes. Many of his winners would have been at “double-digit” mutuels if there had been wagering on the Springfield races. Unfortunately, there wasn’t.



Cordarius Stewart drove Fox Valley Kia (No. 10) to her victory last summer in the ICFSC two-year-old filly pace at Springfield. (Four Footed Foto)

When racing returned two months later at the state’s capitol for the Illinois State Fair session Stewart’s boyhood dream come into fruition when he waved his way through traffic from the second tier10-post and steered Fox Valley Kia to her ISFCS two-year-old pacing filly championship with a new mark of 1:51.3, a fifth of a second off the all-time Illinois record for the filly’s gait and class.


Fox Valley Kia is a very nice filly,” said Cordarius. “She was a pleasure to drive.  Ever since I was a kid, I dreamed of being a harness racing driver and winning a championship at Springfield,” said Cordarius. To have it happen is something very special for me.


Fox Valley Kia would go on to be named the 2022 Illinois Two-Year-Old Filly Pacer of the Year,


Stewart came up from Mississippi in 2017 to compete on the Chicago and Illinois County Fair circuit. The Jackson, MI native only took 48 horses to the starting gate that year, a far cry from his last three-year average of more than 700 per season.


“The more driving opportunities, the better you get at it. I want to keep improving,” added Cordarius.


We mentioned earlier that Stewart was a much-traveled driver. The old popular song Johnny Cash song “I’ve Been Everywhere” fits the likeable horseman, at least as Illinois is concerned.


Cordadius competed in the Prairie State last year at Springfield, Du Quoin, Hawthorne, Paris, Urbana, Altamont, Charleston, Belvidere, Marshall, Greenup, Farm City, Henry, Sandwich, Lincoln, Knox, Rushville, Decatur, Carlinville, Carrollton, and Newton.


If you’re counting, that’s 20 different racetracks in Illinois


Stewart began the 2002 season at Cal-Expo in Sacramento, California and ended his year at the Red Mile in Lexington, Kentucky, also with stops in between at Oak Grove, Kentucky and Hoosier Park, Indiana.


The Mississippi traveling man saw his gasoline bills climb upward while wearing new driver colors last year and they contained one noticeable difference: Gone are the horseshoes on back of his green-c-red-white colors. They were replaced with $ signs. Yes, dollar signs.


“That was (driver) Brandon Bates idea,” said Cordarius with a chuckle. My nickname is ‘C D’ for Cash Deposit. He thought dollar signs would be a nice touch to my colors.”


We agree.

From Grandstand to the Backstretch

By Mike Paradise for the IHHA


While most follow in the footsteps of family members to become a horseman, there are some that take a more unfamiliar route to get a driver or trainer’s license. . .  going from the grandstand to the backstretch.


That’s the case with Illinois horseman Jim Molitor.


The 45-year-old Molitor grew up on the southwest side of Chicago, not far from the city’s “other” Airport, known as Midway. Those familiar with the area know from Midway it’s a just short commute (three miles) down busy Cicero Avenue to where Hawthorne Race Course has proudly stood for many decades and where harness racing reigned supreme for more than 50 years at neighboring Sportsman’s Park, once upon a time hailed as one of the nation’s jewels of Standardbred racing.


Molitor and his St. Lawrence Catholic High School, buddy “T J” spent many nights, and plenty of days, at the two historical Chicago circuit racetracks, and for several years after their graduations.


“Sportsman’s Park was great,” said Molitor. “You saw the best horses and drivers go at it year after year. And Hawthorne raced in the winter with double headers and had some of country’s best horses and horseman, too. It was so cool.


“You got to watch an entire card. Then go home and get something to eat and come back for ten more races on the night card. It didn’t take long to get me hooked on the sport.”


Michael Perrin’s Apple Valley (Travis Seekman) shows her winning form at last year’s Illinois State Fair in Springfield. (Four Footed Photo)

Sportsman’s Park fell victim of poor management decisions and went belly-up in 1997 and now days neighbor Hawthorne stands alone as Illinois lone Standardbred pari-mutuel track. Nevertheless, the loss of Sportsman’s never dampened Molitor’s enthusiasm for the harness racing industry.


“I would talk to some of the great Illinois drivers like Dave Magee and Lavern Hostetler about becoming a driver and trainer and get their suggestions on what to do to follow my dream. I remember Magee telling me ‘If a bucket needs to be picked up and moved, do it. Be the guy that’s always there to help out.”’


Molitor no doubt carried many a bucket and mucked countless stalls before getting his driving license in 2006 and his trainer’s license a season later.


“Warming up horses helped me quite a lot,” continued Molitor. “Driving in my first qualifying race was awesome. Guys like Tim Tetrick, Dave Magee and Tony Morgan were in it.


As expected, success didn’t come quickly for Jim. There were some lean years before Molitor stepped onto the Illinois limelight in 2021 when he visited the Hawthorne’s winner’s circle, not once, but twice on the track’s showcase Night of Champions.


His stable’s three-year-old state-bred Ryans Ambassador captured the $79,000 Robert F. Carey Memorial three-year-old male pacing final and a half-dozen races later Apple Valley came away with the $117,000 Incredible Tillie juvenile filly championship.


The Michael J. Perrin homebred Apple Valley went on to be named the 2021 Illinois freshman filly pacer of the year and last month was honored as the state’s three-year-old distaff champion after finishing first or second in 12 of 13 starts and banking over $97,000 for her Glenwood, Illinois owner and breeder.


In Apple Valley’s first two seasons of racing the daughter of Major Bombay, out of Perrin’s Sportsmaster’s broodmare Ali Cat, sports an eye-catching record of 11 wins and 6 seconds in 20 trips to the starting gate, a mark of 1:51.4, and $177,983 in purse earnings.


Molitor has been gearing up Apple Valley for the mare’s four-year-old season.


“She’s coming along well. We sent her last weekend to trainer Robert Taylor who has a real nice facility in Indiana. She’ll get ready on a good track there. She’ll probably qualify in a couple of weeks at Hoosier and then race in Indiana until Springfield opens in June.


“Robert is a good horseman and a friend of mind. He had her the early part of last year. Apple Valley is four now, so this season she’ll have to go against some good older Illinois-bred mares like of Fox Valley Exploit, however I expect Apple Valley to be very competitive in her division.”


Jamaica Rises to a Select Group

By Mike Paradise for the Illinois Harness Horsemen’s Association


What statistics determine whether a trainer did a stellar job with his or her horses in their barn? Money won? Number of victories?


Maybe, but the number of horses in the barn, the quality of the stock, the amount of racing dates in the state, and the purse structure they’re racing for, all have a major impact on money earned and number of wins.


If instead the answer is getting the most out of the hand a trainer is dealt, then you’ll have to agree that Mississippi native Jamaica Patton did one heck of a job last year for his owners.


Jamaica generated a UTRS of .377, tops for an Illinois based conditioner and eleventh nationally for trainers who started between 300 and 499 horses.


In 2022 Mississippi native Jamaica Patton put together a banner year in Illinois as both a trainer and a driver. (Four Footed Foto)

The 43-year-old Patton, who resides in Rochester, Illinois, a suburb of Springfield, was also among the best in the country as a driver with 300 to 499 opportunities, posting a sparkling .386 UDRS, good for fifth place nationwide.


“I’m proud of those stats,” said Jamaica.  And rightly so I might add.


It’s been a long road filled with downs and downs for Jamaica like most Mississippi horsemen who ventured up over the last few decades to the Illinois County Fair Circuit and eventually to the Chicago harness racing circle.


Jamaica began driving horses in Mississippi in 1997 when he was 17-year-old. He had an even dozen drives and two winners. The same year his one-horse stable had just a single start.


“I remember my first winner,” said Jamaica. “His name was Rocco Porter, and it was at the Neshoba County Fair in Philadelphia (Mississippi).”


One year later Jamaica trained his first winner when he guided Hollys Dreamfinder to victory at the Pinckneyville, Illinois Fair.


Twenty-five years have passed since with the hard-working Mississippian toiled his way to an elite grouping in 2022.


I met Jamaica in the Balmoral Park winner’s circle on Super Night 2008 when he guided the 40-1 longshot My Birthday to an upset victory in the Lady Ann Reed three-year-old filly trot championship for trainer Herman Wheeler.


Three years later we got reacquainted in the Balmoral Park winner’s circle on Super Night 2011, this time after Jamaica steered the ICF filly trotter Maple Grover Shaelyn to victory in the Lady Ann Reed showdown for trainer Joseph Mullins.


Last year Patton had 357 horses go to the gate and posted 83 wins, 62 seconds and 51 thirds, with $389,830 in purse earnings, more than $140,000 better than the previous year.


Jamaica Patton drove Maple Grove Shalyn to her 2011 Super Night victory in Balmoral Park’s Lady Ann Reed three-year-old filly trotting championships for trainer Joseph Mullins. (REB Photo)

The star of Jamaica’s stable was Fox Valley Langley, the 2022 Illinois Two-Year-Old Colt Pacer of the Year. The multi stakes winner made $57,480 and took a mark of 1:52 flat for Illinois owners Lyle Lipe (Springfield) and Melvin Schoneweis. The Somestarsomewhere offspring captured seven of eleven races to go along with a pair of seconds.


Patton’s five-year-old ICF trotter Heath Bar delivered $84,245 for the trio of Lipe, Ron Phillips (Athens, IL) and Sharry Boledovich (Lakewood, CO), more than twice as much as the trotter did in his previous two seasons. The 11-time winner captured a pair of in-state Opens and was third in both the $50,000 summer and the $62,000 Night of Champions Plesac stakes at Hawthorne.


At the age of nine, Primed N Powerful, another son of Psychic Spirit, had his best racing season money-wise with over $77,000 banked for co-owners Boledovich and Jamaica.


Deputy Dawg, a son of the Illinois sire World of Rocknroll, and Judge Me Not, out of the Prairie state’s trotting stud Can’s Afford It, had promising two-year-old campaigns for Patton.


The pacer Deputy Dawg carried out a busy first season of racing with 21 starts and was first or second in 18 of them, winning ten, and making over $31,000 for proprietor Detricke Kelly of Canton, Mississippi.


Judge Me Not, put $31,230 on his first season card and was victorious four times in 15 trips to the gate for the threesome of Phillips, Boledovich and Patton. The homebred was the runner-up in the $50,000 Governor’s Cup at the Du Quoin State Fair.