Early Birds Get the Dough

By Mike Paradise


After a hotter than normal June weather wise, we begin July on Friday night with the weekend opening of Hawthorne’s summer meet. With a smaller than usual warm weather session, the ICF stakes schedule had to be jammed into a less than two and one-half month stretch.


A quartet of Illinois department of Agriculture stakes, the Violets, and Cardinals, get things under way on Thursday evening, the last day of June with $43,000 to $45,000 est. three-year-old events for both gaits.


Hawthorne harness racing action gets under way Thursday night as the shortened summer meet gets under way. (Four Footed Fotos)

The same amount of ICF stakes money as in the past will be available but this time around there will be two championship nights, the first in July and the last, the Night of Champions, in its usual mid-September slot.


With the same purse structure for both the three-year-old and older pace and trot finals and eliminations, a horse can fare just in well money-wise in July as in September, so having you horse ready to roll starting with next week’s Violet and Cardinal elims is vital for horsemen.


With four legs heading into the Night of Championships not a possibility with the shorter meet, it’s back to the old days with eliminations deciding the championship fields in each stake showdown. That’s puts a lot of pressure on trainers to have their steeds in tip-top shape at the right time,


The July version of the Night of Champion stakes confrontations is right around the corner. Eliminations are set for July 15th and 16th, just a few weeks from now.


The first major test for this year’s two-year-old crop is on July 8th and 9th with eliminations for the Violet (fillies) and the Cardinal (colts and geldings) for both gaits. That’s only two weeks away.


The Night of Champions finals in September for two-year-old all are estimated at $100,000, that’s twice as much as the $50,000 on the line for each in the July Championships. Entry fees for each stake’s elimination is $200.


Entry fee for the older ICF stake events rise to $500.


Readers Speak Out: My recent article “Why Not More Springfield” emphasizing the needs for a second harness racing venue in our state sparked a lot of interest on the IHHA Facebook page with dozens of “likes.” Some readers took the time to comment on the story. Here are a few of those replies:


“Excellent idea, I hope the state takes a good hard look. They must help the horsemen!  “Michelle Luce


“A common sense partnership with Hawthorne and Reopening Balmoral with the current owners is what should happen, can be racing there year around in 23 it’s mind blowing that this isn’t being seriously considered.” Jayme Blonde


“We need a 2nd track, period. Hawthorne seems unwilling or unable to progress. Illinois is a huge state, let’s utilize other areas besides the Northeast corner. Open to all possibilities.” Troy Markert


“Something needs to be done ASAP. More racing at Springfield or open up Balmoral for year round racing!! Like we were promised years ago!!” Jackson Loy


“I like MR CAREY …but this is insane ! we NEED another track owned by ANYONE !” Ira Smolin


Star Studded Stats: Two-time defending Illinois Harness Horse of the Year He’zzz A Wise Sky is currently campaigning at Oak Grove Raceway in Kentucky where last month he rattled off a career fastest 1:48.3 mile for his Beecher, Illinois owners Triple ZZZ Stable.


The John Filomeno superstar has competed in four Midwest states this year—Illinois, Ohio, Indiana and now Kentucky, going 8 for 15 in Opens while amassing over $102,000 on the way.


He’zzz A Wise Sky was was unbeaten during Hawthorne’s winter meet, going five for five in Opens. He also has Open victories in Ohio (twice) and Kentucky as a five-year-old and is closing in on a half-million dollars in lifetime earnings ($421, 611).

Fox Valley Crete All Business at Three

By Mike Paradise


The winter in between and a two-year-old horse and a three-year-old looms large in the horse racing industry.


You’ve read countless times how a horse “matured” over the winter or “filled out” substantially, and that’s the reason for a more successful sophomore campaign.


Of course, it doesn’t always come about that way. Some horses don’t grow much over the winter, and some don’t improve their mental aspect of becoming a racehorse, but for the most part the opposite is true.


One three-year-old to keep an eye on this summer is Fox Valley Crete who hails from the Nelson Willis stable. “Spider,” as Nelson is known affectively by his follow horseman, is one of the most respected Illinois horse conditioners and one of the most successful as well.


Fox Valley Crete looks like he’s ready for a strong ICF three-year-old summer campaign. (Four Footed Fotos)

Fox Valley Crete was the “sales topper” two years ago at the Illini Classic Sale, acquired for $52,000 by the Megan Rogers Racing Stable of Chicago, Illinois. The Sportsmaster gelding had an “okay” freshman season, earning over $25,000 however found the winner’ circle just once in10 starts. That victory came in a leg of the Incredible Finale series, but it came against a field without the top two juvenile colts—Fox Valley Ozzy and Get E Up.


In the other Incredible Finale legs Fox Valley Crete finished either second or third to the top pair.


Off what we’ve seem this far at Springfield, Fox Valley Crete could be giving Fox Valley Ozzy and Get E Up all they can handle this summer. “Crete” has breezed in three downstate starts with Juan Franco at his lines and should be a confident pacer heading into the opening of racing at Hawthorne next week.


“Fox Valley Crete uncorked a swift 26.3 last quarter in his latest win on Friday.


Looking ahead, Willis is optimistic on his horse’s three-year-old campaign.


“He’ll be a better horse this tear,” said Spider. “He had some health issues that are now behind him, and he should be able to hold his own with (Kyle) Husted’s horse (Get E Up) and (Gary) Rath’s good trotter (Fox Valley Ozzy.)


Will Fox Valley Crete be as good as is older brother Fox Valley Ren? Only time will tell. Both are out of the broodmare LR Dancing Dream. “Ren” has developed into a solid ICF open pacer. He raced out of Willis’ barn at two and three and part of his four-year-old season before he was acquired by the Steve Searle Stable.


Fox Valley Ren was claimed for $50,000 at Hoosier in late May by former Chicago trainer Ken Rucker. The horse has over $194,000 in lifetime earnings on his card and a mark of 1:50.3.



TODD WARREN…1,000 training wins.

Congats Todd: Chicago circuit-based horsemen Todd Warren sent out his 1,000th winning horse as a trainer earlier this week at Oak Grove Raceway in Kentucky when Eye on A Tiger AS won the $22.000 Open trot in 1:53.1. Todd’s son Ridge drove the milestone winner.


Todd, a 57-year-old, Chicago native, drove the second-place finisher Jack Vernon last Monday. The Manhattan, Illinois resident is closing on 5,200 lifetime winning drives.


A Golden Win: Three-time ICF Illinois Harness Horse of the Year Fox Valley Gemini (Casey Leonard) picked up his 50th career victory yesterday at Springfield with an easy eight length romp (1:52.3) in an Open Pace. The seven-year-old star of the Terry Leonard stable now has a career bankroll that sits at over $630,000 for Atwater, Illinois owner, Jim Ballinger.


Springfield Entry Box Explodes

They’ll be coming down the lane 43 times at Springfield this weekend 43 times in two days of racing. (Four Footed Fotos)


By Mike Paradise


When I was printing out of past performance lines for Friday’s and Saturday’s Springfield races, I thought something went awry with my printer.


It just kept going and going and going.


Turns out there was nothing wrong with the printer, it was the number of races it had to print out. Twenty-two for Friday and 21 for Saturday.




An astonishing 300 horses entered the weekend Hawthorne cards on the Illinois State Fairgrounds. To say it was a surprise would be an understatement. I was shocked at the number. There was talk of a possible horse shortage for the summer meet. I think those 300 entries put an end to that discussion.



Looks like a Goodie: Thumbing through the 22 paces of horse’s lines for Friday, what stood out was the ICF Open trot, late in the program.


Race 19 is the ICF Open and it’s an intriguing affair.


The ICF Open has five sons or daughters of Lou’s Legacy taking on three others that are not and that trio is strong. It’s comprised of the 2021 ICF Trotter of the Year Talk About Valor (pp 6, Travis Seekman), the multiple Illinois trotting mare of the year Annas Lucky Star (pp 7, Kyle Wilfong) and Heath Bar (Jamaica Patton) the runner-up in last week’s state-bred Open.



Louscardamon, shown here winning with Kyle Husted at Hawthorne, goes after his third consecutive victory at Springfield today. (Four Footed Fotos)

The opposition of “Lous” consists of Lousraptor (Atlee Bender), Louzotic (Casey Leonard), Loulita (Wyatt Avenatti), Lous Abigail (Juan Franco), and Louscardamon (Curt Grummel, who is going after his third straight win and his second in ICF Open competition.


The Gerald Hansen Stable’s star trotter Talk About Valor qualified last week at Springfield by breezing on the front end in 1:56 flat. The seven-year-old trotter closed out the earlier meet at Hawthorne by demolishing the last two Open fields by more than three lengths and then by eight and goes into today’s action 5-for-8 on the season, all in Hawthorne Opens.


Easy Money: Indiana based trainer Tyler George sent a pair of his good mares to pick-up some easy dough ($3,759 winner’s share) in filly and mare Opens today and both were assigned the outside six slots for each event.


Moneymakehersmile (Kyle Wilfong) heads up race 15. The six Mach Three mare paced a 1:50.3 mile last year at Hoosier and comes off a 1:52 flat win at the Indiana racetrack.


In the following event is Sandy Sue, (Casey Leonard) a seven-year-old Shark Gesture mare with a mark of 1:50.4 last season at Hoosier and a 1:51.4 win this year at Miami Valley Raceway in Ohio. She’s been competing recently in Indiana Opens.