By Mike Paradise
A horse’s four-year-old campaign is often a pivotal one. Many horses don’t do as well the first go around against older horses as they did as a three-year-old. Some do. Rarely are they even better.
Gregory Kain’ Scorecard Dandy is one of those rare exceptions. If consistency is a virtue, then Scorecard Dandy is one virtuous Illinois bred mare.
“Scorecard Dandy hasn’t had a bad race all year. The mare is always up to the challenge,” said trainer and part-owner Gregory Kain.
After making $35,622 as a freshman and over $60,000 as a sophomore, the Sportsmaster mare out of the Artiscape broodmare Mahna Mahna as added $123,090 to her card at four, finishing third or better in 24 of 31 starts with ten victories.
Scorecard Dandy has missed only one check in her nine-month campaign that started in early January at Hawthorne, making her a candidate for ICF aged pacing mare division honors along with its defending champion Fox Valley Exploit, the pride of the Kyle and Amy Husted stable.
“I really wanted to beat (Kyle) Husted’s horse on the Night of Champions,” said Gregory. “We had the lead in the stretch, but she got us at the wire. That’s how it goes in racing. We did beat her in the first Maurello final earlier in the summer, so we split the two ICF mare championships.
Scorecard Dandy will be after for her third consecutive win in today’s opener on the Illinois State Fairgrounds. Assigned the outside eight-slot. The mare is in pretty tough.
“She’s up against a good field Thursday, especially with Late Night Date back in Illinois for it. That mare was really good at Hawthorne, but we did beat her earlier in the season at Hoosier, so we’ll just see how things playout in Thursday’s race,” said the Green Acres (Beecher, IL) proprietor who shares ownership of Scorecard Dandy with Mike Klimas of Oak Lawn, IL.
From the rail out, today’s $12,300 filly and mare Open Handicap is comprised of My Uptowne Girl (Travis Seekman), Tiamogonedancen (Kyle Husted), Eliza Dushku N (Cordarius Stewart), Rojo Caliente (Casey Leonard), Late Night Date A (Atlee Bender) and Scorecard Dandy (Kyle Wilfong).
Scorecard Dandy’s race today at Springfield will be her last for the 2022 season.
“I’m going to give her a deserved time off after Springfield closes” continued Kain. “She’s been at it all year and I want to turn her out while the weather is still warm. I want to bring her back as a five-year-old and give her the opportunity to be even a little bit better next year.”
Scorecard Dandy has had no extended time off all season long.
The mare made10 starts at Hawthorne’s winter meeting that started in January, winning twice and then went straight to Hoosier Park in late March where she made nine more trips to the starting gate, with three victories including the $22,000 Mike Weller Memorial Final in 1:52.1 with Mike Oosting driving at 13-1 odds, beating Late Night Date with a new lifetime mark.
Scorecard Dandy went two-for-two in June at Springfield with Juan Franco at her lines. When Franco chose a different mare for the summer’s $50,000 Tony Maurello Memorial prep and final, Kyle Wilfong took over the driving chores in early July, winning with the mare three times to go along with a pair of second place finishes and a trio of thirds.
By Mike Paradise
Two-time defending Illinois Harness Horse of the Year He’zzz A Wise Sky returns to the races Thursday afternoon at Springfield after a two-week layoff to make his second start in the last five weeks and his first since he was upset in the $62,000 Robert F. Carey Jr Memorial on Hawthorne’s September 10th Night of Champions.
“He’s about 90 to 95 per cent healthy right now,” said his trainer, John Filomeno. “When I send him to Hoosier, I want him at 100 per cent. Let’s face it, the competition at Springfield will be a lot softer. He’ll need to be sharp to take on the better horses in Indiana. ”
The pride of Triple ZZZ Stable of Beecher, Illinois, the Illinois bred speedball was caught in deep stretch by three-time ICF horse of the Year Fox Valley Gemini as the prohibitive favorite two weeks ago after missing the Carey prep event a week earlier with a fever.
“I almost scratched him out of the Carey final,” revealed Filomeno. “I didn’t make up my mind to start him until the morning of the race. The horse was a little short on the race but don’t take anything away from Fox Valley Gemini’s win, he’s an Illinois champion and has shown time and time again to be at his best in the big races. He was the better horse that night.”
He’zzz A Wise Sky’s problems starting a few weeks earlier in a $100,000 race at Scioto Downs.
“What could go wrong did go wrong in that race,” continued Filomeno. “He had a new driver who had the horse three-wide to the first quarter (25.4), ducked him into fourth, took him out, and then parked him out the rest of the way.”
He’zzz A Wise Sky ended up with a sixth-place finish and things didn’t get better for the homebred soon after.
“My horse was running a temperature, so I had to scratch him out of the prep. The reason for the fever was an abscess in his foot. We had to get it popped and healed before he could race again.”
Competing on all dirt Springfield oval should be helpful to He’zzz A Wise Sky, and for that matter any horse with a sore foot. The dirt track isn’t as hard as the clay and limestone surface at Hawthorne, which some drivers complained was often too hard this summer.
This will be only He’zzz A Wise Sky’s third lifetime start at Springfield and the five-year-old’s first since 2020. Since then, he’s lowered his mark to 1:48.3, taken earlier this year at Oak Grove in Kentucky, while his career purse earnings are closing in on the half a million-dollar plateau ($486,677) in less than four years of competition.
With over $167,000 in season earnings, and certainly more to come before he’s finished racing this year, and a 1:48.3 mile to his credit, don’t write off He’zzz A Wise Sky’s chances of a “threepeat” for Illinois Horse of the Year honors quite yet.
“He’zzz” back and he’s ready to start rolling again.
Filemeno plans on racing He’zzz A Wise Sky through the winter. “He won’t be starting every week. Maybe every other week or so,” said the 53-year-old Melrose Park, Illinois native. “The horse can pace as fast in the turns as he can on the straightaways so the extra turns on the Ohio tracks will suit him.”
By Mike Paradise
It’s “D-Day” for Illinois horsemen. That “D” is for decision time by the Illinois Racing Board for allocation of both the Standardbred and thoroughbred racing dates for 2023.
Unlike some of the past years when rival in-state racetracks provided some rambunctious, and at times entertaining Race Date Hearings arguing over who gets what, today’s allocations are a slam dunk.
With Arlington Park having pulled out of the Illinois thoroughbred industry and Balmoral Park, Maywood Park and Sportsman’s Park distant memories, Hawthorne Racecourse stands alone in the once thriving state’s horse racing industry.
So, what Hawthorne wants, Hawthorne gets, and the in-town racing facility wants its current thoroughbred meeting to continue through the start of the new year and all the way into mid or late August of 2023.
The racetrack doesn’t want what it says is a six-figure expenditure to switch from a surface for runners to another surface for Standardbreds so soon. It’s thoroughbred meeting begins tomorrow (Friday) afternoon. The track also just put up a length hub rail along with other expenses to make the switch.
With the thoroughbreds racing at Hawthorne until late next summer, it would be nine months before another track make-over would take place, rather than just three.
Harness racing will likely return to Hawthorne, a year from now, sometime in September of 2023. It’ll be the only time pari-mutuel racing in Illinois will take place for pacers and trotters all year long.
Hawthorne then would conduct harness racing through the end of 2023 and several weeks of 2024, about six consecutive months on its big mile oval.
Hawthorne (Suburban Downs, Inc) does plan on sponsoring a lengthy harness racing meet in Springfield next year, probably beginning around June but without pari-mutuel wagering.
Those Springfield dates are not allocated by the Racing Board since the meeting will be non-wagering and don’t have to be decided at this time. Instead, Hawthorne, the IHHA, the Illinois Department of Agriculture, and the Illinois County Fair Associations will work out a schedule to avoid as much as possible a conflict with the county fair racing circuit.
Racing on Monday and Tuesday afternoons at Springfield are in the discussion while a shortage of horses is the primary concern.
The purse money for the current Springfield condensed meet that concludes next Friday, September 30th, and a 2023 meeting on Springfield’s Illinois State Fairgrounds, is being made available by Hawthorne.
Call it a “loan” to the Illinois horsemen. Collection time will come when the Hawthorne’s Racino starts generating revenue, hopefully sometime in 2024.
Racino construction was to start in April of this year but that didn’t happen. September was then proclaimed as the next start date, but again it was a no-go. It’s now said that November is when construction begins and while there are those in the Illinois racing industry who are saying: “I’ll believe it when I see it,” this time it may very well materialize.
The Illinois harness horsemen’s purse account is about $2.5 million in the hole and is projected to be down between $2.7 and $3 million at the end of the year. With Hawthorne’s the current purse structure expected to continue when the Springfield meet pops up next year, that’s a lot of “skin” the racetrack has rather generously put up to keep the state’s Standardbred industry from further declining.
Although not bright, there is some light at the end of the tunnel.
Gals in Spotlight: Harness racing returns to the Illinois State Fairgrounds today with a 12 noon post time and it’s headed up by the $12,300 Open for filly and mare pacers.
Carroll Hays’ Eliza Dushku N (Kyle Husted) and Gregory Kain’s Scorecard Dandy (Kyle Wilfong), the one-two finishers in last week’s Springfield distaff headliner, will slug it out again.
They’ll be joined by Wild Eyed Girl (Randall Finn), Rollin Coal (Juan Franco), My Uptowne Girl (Travis Seekman) and Tiamogonedancen (Casey Leonard) in the sixth race feature.
The Megan Roger Stable’s Fox Valley Crete (Juan Franco), fresh from his Robert F. Carey Memorial championship 12 days ago, is back in action in race ten. Among the challengers is the Amy Husted trained Get E Up (Kyle Husted) who earlier captured Hawthorne’s summer Carey showdown.
Last week Casey Leonard had 11 winning drives on the first two days of the abbreviated Springfield meet. Cordarius Stewart was next with five winners.