Night of Champions has Arrived
By Mike Paradise
All the hard work brought about in their labor of love. All the joys and the tears in those many topsy-turvy times developing their young horses. For Illinois horsemen and their employees with horses in tonight, it all comes down to Hawthorne’s Night of Champions.
Their long wait is over.
Eleven ICF championships will be decided this Saturday night on a 12-race card. It’s Illinois most prestigious and richest harness racing evening of the year and when it’s all over many questions for Chicago circuit Standardbred fans will be answered:
. . .Will two-time Illinois Harness Horse of the Year Fox Valley Gemini (Casey Leonard) be the first pacer of Hawthorne’s Night of Champions to visit the winner’s circle as a two, there and four-year-old?
The illustrious Big Tom did it on consecutive Super Night programs back in the late 1990s, seizing the crown at Sportsman’s Park as a freshman, and then going on to be much the best as a sophomore and again at the age of four at Balmoral Park.
. . .Will Anna’s Lucky Star (Kyle Wilfong) continue to shine on the ICF trotting ranks, this time in tonight’s $45,000 Plesac? The five-year-old mare has won an amazing 32 races in 56 lifetime starts and the last two seasons she’s done it mostly in rugged open company.
. . . Can the Steve Searle trained filly trotter Louzotic (Kyle Husted) follow last year’s two-year-old championship with another in tonight’s Beulah Dygert Memorial showdown for the three-year-old trotting fillies?
I’m going to check the “Yes Box” on all three of those questions but I’m hesitant to add any more so called “sure things” as far as the other eight championships are concerned.
Tom Simmons Fox Valley Quest (Casey Leonard) looks like a pretty solid play from the three-slot in the eighth race $108,000 Kadabra Final but the first season trotter has been beaten this summer by tonight’s first-time Lasix user Desert Sheik and his Mike Brink stable-mate On Higher Ground.
Lousraptor (Casey Leonard) seemed like a cinch to keep winning going into last week’s Erwin F. Dygert prep nevertheless Lourhianon bested the Roshun Trigg trainee in did it in comfortable fashion racing with Lasix for the first time. However, Lourhianon (Luke Plano) landed the 10-hole tonight.
Speaking of the 10-hole, there were some notable strong contenders whose owners had to be frowning when they learned their horse will start from the outside slot in a championship
Lous Abgial (Casey Leonard) received it in the Fox Valley Flan freshman filly final while her Steve Searle stable-mate is in good shape with the two.
Sleazy Gal will get a good look at all nine rivals going to the gate inside of her when she tries to overcome the furthest outside post in the Incredible Tillie juvenile filly pace final.
The $104,000 Incredible Finale three-year-old pre-race favorites Fox Valley Ren (Kyle Wilfong) and He’zzz A Wise Sky (Bobby Smolin ended up with the nine and ten slots, respectively, in that three-year-old colt and gelding final.
The Robert F. Carey Memorial series has been a slugfest all season long between the three-year-old colt pacers Meyer on Fire (pp 1), Maximus (pp 6,) and Fox Valley Triton (pp 7) as they’ve traded victories against each other several times. The pacer with the best trip tonight will likely come out on top.
Fox Valley Torrid (Casey Leonard) will open has the 2-1 favorite in the Plum Peachy championship but she’ll need to be at the top of her game to handle Perch (Kyle Wilfong), Fox Valley Halsey (Juan Franco), among others in tonight’s eleventh event.
The 12th race nightcap, the Tony Maurello Memorial aged mare pace, has Fox Valley Charm (Travis Seekman) favored to defend her Hawthorne crown. In only her second start since mid-July the seven-year-old mare came from out of it to win her Maurello elimination in 1:54 flat.
However Fox Valley Charm only paced a modest 28.1 last quarter in her winning rally and that’s not likely going to cut in the championship with the likes of Whiskersonkittens, Char N Marg, Skeeter Machine, Rollin Coal, and Boogie All Night, and others, also looking to wear the Maurello Night of Champions blanket in the Hawthorne winner’s circle.
As you can see, there are so many questions on this 2019 Night of Champions. If you stick around for the approximate 4 and 1/2 hour gala evening you’ll have all the answers and maybe, just maybe, leave with more money in your wallet or purse than when you came to the racetrack.
Now wouldn’t that be nice?