Warm Up to Arrival of Stake Season

By Mike Paradise

The long overdue influx of warm weather to the Chicago area coincides perfectly with the much anticipated arrival of the stake season for ICF pacers and trotters.

Thursday night will be the opening legs for both the Beulah (Filly) Dygert and the Ervin F.(Colt) Dygert stakes for 3-year-old state-bred trotters.

Unlike in the past years when a two-week period in Septembers decided Super Night champions and frequently a dominant horse in a class took home the bulk of stakes purse money, Hawthorne’s format will “Spread the Wealth Around” over a 2 and 1/2 month interval.

While Hawthorne’s Night of Champions finals on September 10 will offer smaller championship purses, the total amount of monies on its ICF stakes spread-out throughout the summer will add up to a comparable total paid out the last few years at Balmoral.

It will also give every horse and their owner a fairer shot to make a stake championship.

Hawthorne’s Night of Champions fields will be decided by a point system (50 for a first place finish, 25 for second, 12 for third, 8 for fourth, 5 for fifth and 1 point for sixth ot worse) earned by its participants after four legs of racing in each stake with the top 10 point earners gaining the final and the next 10 competing in the consolation.

This format seems much fairier than the one used in the past at Balmoral when a single one night elimination determined the Super Night finalists where the luck of the draw or a horse’s health on one particular evening too often dashed the hopes of an owner who ponied-up a substantial stake nomination fee followed by ample sustaining payments as well.

Hawthorne’s ICF stake set-up mirrors the very successful format used for years in our neighboring state of Indiana.

Friday will be the $12,500 opening rounds of the Plum Peachy for 3-year-old ICF pacing fillies. Saturday the Illinois-bred colt and geldings pacers will begin leg one of the Robert F. Carey stake series, also with $12,500 pots.

No Kidding Around: Although lightly raced as a freshman with just four starts and $7,139 on his card for owner Peter Karras of Sherman, Illinois, Caffeine Kid has shown he’ll likely be a force in the 3-year-old Carey division.

Caffeine Kid, driven by Casey Leonard, made it a sweep of the Late Closer (No. 1) Series Sunday night with his fourth straight victory, this one in a career fastest time of 1:54 flat for trainer Rodney Freese.

Indiana based trainer Pasko Vucinah conditioned the other two Late Closer Finals Sunday evening.

A native of Albania, Vucinah’s JD’s Blitz rallied past the favorites Major Legacy and Shotski to take the $14,000 (No. 2) title at 7-1 odds and on the last race of the card  his JD’s Chancey Design (1:53.3) overcome a start from the second tier 11-slot to take that $13,000 late Closer (No.4) showdown. Sam Widger drove both of Pasko’s winners.

Series Finals Wrap-Up Sunday

By Mike Paradise

Hawthorne’s summer meet’s Late Closers Series get wrapped up Sunday night with a threesome of finals with five digits pots on the line.

First up is the $14,000 Late Closer (No. 2) third race trot where the draw wasn’t kind to Major Legacy, the winner of this series first two legs for trainer Claude Gendreau, the opening round at 63-1 odds.

The post time favorite will likely be the Roger Welch Stable’s Shotski, (I’ve got him at 2-1)  just as he was in the first two legs when he was he was runner-up to Major Legacy at low-end odds of 1 to 2 and 6-5, respectively.

Shotski should be in good shape with the five slot for driver Todd Warren and he’ll have two un-coupled stable-mates to perhaps follow-up in Buff’s Image (pp 2, Sam Widger) and Rockinwithenest (pp 3, Todd Warren).

Sunday’s seventh race Late Closer (No. 1) Final will see unbeaten IYQ YQR (3 for 3) from the barn of driver-trainer Trenton Watson (Shown in Four Footed Photo), take on Peter Karras’ Caffeine Kid, also sporting three wins in a row at the summer meet.

Caffeine Kid did get a big plus in the draw for posts, landing the pole position with Casey Leonard) while IYQ YQR drew the eight in the 10-horse field for the Watson Stable of Fairview, Illinois.

There’s plenty of depth in this series final with first round winner including major contenders Citizen Kane (Ridge Warren) who didn’t make his initial career start until this year at the age of five, and the Marty Eugel Stable’s Sleazy Dude (Todd Warren), second his first two career starts with a quick 27 flat last panel in last week’s second leg.

Ten-Year-Old Gets It Done: Saturday’s Late Closer (No. 6) Final for colts and geldings with winnings of over $1,000 per start was billed as a showdown between Southwind Scorpion and Sunset Dreamer who met for the first time after winning their respective first two legs.

Instead it was Wolf Creek Farm’s Mr. Coolie who took the winner’s share of the $15,400 purse and as it turned out, rather easily at 6-1 odds. Driver Todd Warren put the John Zawistowski trained 10-year-old on the front end and, as they say, the rest was history.

  (Four Footed Photo)

Mr. Coolie ($14.00) was more than four lengths better than Big Brad at the end of a 1:53.2 career best mile for the winner. Red Pine came on for third.

As expected he overwhelming 1 to 5 favorite Ontario Success completed a sweep of the Late Closer (No. 5) Series, the 6-year-old gelding’s seventh triumph in eight starts this year under the care of trainer Roger Welch.

Driver Casey Leonard made his usual backstretch move with Ontario Success to take over the lead and again the issue wasn’t in doubt in the 1:51 flat mile. The 10-1 longshot Coal Hanover took second beaten one and one-half lengths.

Wet and Wild Night for the Gals

By Mike Paradise

In yesterday’s column the headline of the story read: “No Sure Things in Gal’s Late Closers” and that turned out to be one very accurate statement.

Maybe the rain and sloppy track at Hawthorne had something to do with it. Maybe it was just time for some fireworks to start off the three-day holiday. Whatever the reason or reasons early on it was obvious Friday night was not for chalk players.

The initial Late Closer (No. 10) came in the first race and when the even-money post time favorite Bucklegirl Bobette starting running right from the start, Jared Finn took Likeaforeballshot ($7.40) to the front and the filly went on to post a 1:55 clocking when the track was still fast

One event later in a maiden race the Donna Holt Stable’s Vital Trnsformation (Kyle Husted) stunned the Friday night crowd at 51-1 and paid $104.80. In the very next race, the $13,000 Late Closer (11) produced an even little bigger payout when Perry Smith’s Rocknrol’s Image (Tyler Shehan) lit up the board at $106.60 as the 52-1 bested the heavy 1-2 favorite Jiggles The Clown by two lengths.

The next Late Closer (No. 15) for the mares was a couple of races and a rainstorm later and this time it the 2-1 post time favorite Prosper who went down to defeat as Joyful Game (Matt Krueger) put on one of her patented big late rushes and came thundering down the lane to get up in time on a sloppy track in 1:57.1, edging out Sure You Are by a neck at $13.60.

Before another Late Closer championship was contested Deanna Cozzi’s mare Thedayyouhavemade (Todd Warren) popped at 20-1 in race six and retuned a handsome $43.20, keying the winning 20 cent Superfecta of $4,510 on a 3-7-1-10 ticket.

The next Late Closer (No. 16) to be decided for the gals was the $17,600 featured event for distaffers with over $1,000 in earnings per start and this time the 1 to 5 prohibitive favorite Fox Valley Charm was upset by Bernie and Deb Paul’s Seeyouatthefinish ($15.60) who did it in front end fashion.

Nicely rated by her driver Kyle Husted, Seeyouathefinish shot to the front where she was able to pace consecutive 29.1 quarters to the half on the sloppy track and come home in 27.4. Her 1:54.1 mile had her 1 and 1/2 lengths ahead of runner-up Feetonthdashboard Fox Valley Charm took third.

Once again the favorites in the last Late Closer (No. 13) of the night could not live up to their expectations. The ninth race $13,400 series final saw the 17-1 longshot Awesum World ($37.60) take advantage of a pocket trip given to her by her driver Ridge Warren. The Steve Searle trainee finished more than ore length ahead of another longshot (14-1), the Kelly Chupp Stable’s Eva Bella in the 1:56.1 mile.

More Success Very Likely: A pair of Late Closers for colts or geldings head-up Saturday’s card but unlike last night when they were a number of wide-open vents for the gals, tonight one of the wo finals looks like a slam-dunk.

Only five pacers will change the rampaging Roger Welch trainee Ontario Success in the $17,400 Late Closer (No. 7) for winners of over $1,000 per start.

  (Four Footed Photo)

I’ve got Ontario Success (Casey Leonard) at 1 to 5 in my line and he could go off even lower at 1 to 9. The talented pacer breezed in both of the first series legs and is now 6 for 7 at Hawthorne for the year and may have run out of competition on the big in-town track.

The likely race will be for second place money in Saturday’s co-feature between Lucky Crusader (Kyle Husted), Bngs Express (Travis Seekman), Kolt Power (Dale Hiteman), Freedomformysoul (Todd Warren) and Coal Hanover (Tyler Shehan).

On the other hand the $15,400 late Closer (No. 6) that follows looks to be a very spirited final. Both Southwind Scorpion (Matt Kruger) and Sunset Dreamer (Kyle Wilfong) were late charging winners in their respective first two legs of the series of non-winners of $1,000 per start.

They’ll meet tonight for the first time in the eighth race showdown.

Mr. Coolie (Todd Warren) got out and rolling a little too late and was only a nose behind Sunset Dreamer while the front-stepping Big Brad (Casey Leonard) had a solid effort to be third,

Officially Yours owns a 1:54.1 victory at the meet and Victor Bayama took an early May conditioned pace in 1:53.4.