By Mike Paradise
Hawthorne hosted its first Night of Champions for ICF pacers and trotters in nine years on a picture perfect evening delivered by the weatherman. When it was all over 11 state-bred champions were crowned and a **likely season high mutuel handle was achieved on the a long five hour long night of racing.
(**The Night of Champions handle figures were not made available by the racetrack)
The opening stake on the Night of Champions was the $75,000 Kadabra stake for ICF 3-year-old trotting males and the Roshun Trigg trained gelding Louscipher ($7.20) took advantage of a very nice inside trip from driver Pat Curtin and it was Pat who took advantage of an opportunity to guide the son of Lou’s Legacy.
Both Louscipher and his stable-mate Lougazi won their fourth legs of the Kadabra series last week and when Jamaica Patton opted to steer the first-time Lasix user Lougazi in the championship, Pat was brought back to handed Louscipher, a trotter he drove to a second place finish in the Springfield Final.
“I couldn’t’ have gotten a better trip,” said the 35-year-old Curtin in the winner’s circle. “With this strong headwind coming down the stretch you want to keep your horse covered up as much as you can and things worked out perfectly for me.”
First Trixie’s Jethro and then Lougazi took turns dictating the fractions while Curtin had Louscipher in third through the 58.4 half. When Pat tipped the Flacco Family owned and bred trotter out, the freshman was full trot and powered past for his seventh season win, this one in 1:58.4.
Winless in her first eight starts postward, Dana May’s Fox Valley Elana ($8.20) picked the right time to make her first winner’s circle. It came after she rallied strongly in the lane to capture the $75,000 Fox Valley Flan Final for ICF freshman trotting fillies in 2:02 flat.
Fox Valley Elana, capably steered by the meet’s leading driver Casey Leonard, was the 3-1 second choice in the betting. The filly came from out of it but did get brought up with live cover from the 4-5 favorite Lou’s Credit Report (Jamaica Patton) who brushed to the lead at the head of the stretch.
“I learned a little bit about the filly when I drive her for the first time last week,” said the winning driver who got an early birthday present. Casey celebrates No. 39 today (Sept. 11). .”Tonight I just wanted to key on Jamaica’s horse (Lou’s Credit Report) and I was able to follow her up to put my filly in a position to win the race.”
On paper the $100,000 Incredible Tillie Championship for freshman pacing series was the much anticipated showdown of last week’s fourth leg series winners Razzleme Dazzle and My Kind Of Dance, who carried as five race winning streak in the (fourth) race.
But a horse race isn’t decided on paper, it’s decided on the race track.
Instead it was the 6-1 price shot Princess Sage ($15.60) who took over command in the lane and then put away a strong challenge from the 4-5 favorite My Kind of Dance (Casey Leonard) to win the “Tillie”. Razzleme Dazzleme (Kyle Husted) was third.
“I knew she was good tonight so I wanted to get out with her so that’s why I tipped three-wide with her in the last turn,” said Freddie who had a big smile on his face in the winner’s circle as well he should. Besides driving and training the winning Sagebrush Filly, the Mississippi native shares ownership of Princess Sage with Kali Jo Bell of Windsor, Illinois.
The 1:55.3 winning mile was No. 6 in nine first season starts for Princess Sage and the $50,000 winner’s share of the purse boosted her two-year-old earnings to $76,002.
The first betting favorite to capture a championship on the card came in race five when Chicago native Todd Warren gave the 4-5 public’s choice Vengeful a very favorable second over trip and the Kenny Collier rewarded her supporters with an easy triumph in the $75,000 Beulah Dygert Memorial Trot for ICF 3-year-old fillies.
The 5-2 second choice Roma Falls (Brian Carpenter) cut the fractions (299.1, 59.2 and 1:29.2 but weakened in the lane and ended up third. Surviver DI (Kyle Husted) was second best in the 1:58.2 mile.
“She’s a nice filly,” said Todd. “Kenny (trainer Collier) made a few changes on her and they worked. She was much more relaxed out there for me than she had been in some of her other races.”
The victory was Vengeful’s fourth in 12 stars as a 3-year-old and her $37,500 purse winnings put over the $100,000 plateau ($104,892) in her career for her owner Providence West Inc. of Media, Pennsylvania.
The $75,000 Erwin S. Dygert Memorial Championship was a two-horse race accordingly to the betting public and this time they were right. The two 6-5 co-favorites Hail Caesar (Casey Leonard) and Fear (Todd Warren) slugged it out down Hawthorne’s long stretch with Hail Caesar eventually pulling away to a two length victory in 1:58.2.
The Mike Brink Stable’s Hail Caesar ($4.60) had to grind out a come-from-behind victory from the 9-slot to post his fourth win in his last five starts for owner Bill Wright of Morton, Illinois and the Powerful Emotions gelding’s seventh on the year..
Todd Warren was able to get Fear to the top midway on the backside when Hail Caesar was still sixth and a lot of ground to make up. With a modest 59 half behind him Fear looked to be in good shape turning for home but Hail Caesar kept digging in the lane and went on to give Casey Leonard his second championship drive.
The older ICF trotters got their chance to be in the spotlight when the $50,000 Plesac stake for both sexes, age four and up, went to the gate. Less than two minutes later it was the 7-year-old mare Ants Iner Pants (Kyle Husted) who showed plenty of grit and determination to come out on top.
Trained by Steve Searle, Ants Iner Pants ($6.80) raced without cover from the backstretch on and still worn down the pacesetting Tricky Dick and held off the late closing Rock Hollywood at the end of the 1:57.3 mile.
Searle and Tom Wisniewski (Howell, Michigan) own and bred the Bands Gold Chip mare out their broodmare Patient Dream.
“I didn’t want to be out with her as far as she was but she kept grinding away and still got up in time,” said her driver Kyle Husted. “I don’t know what she’s turned things around in her last few starts. I know Steve did make some changes with her. She was really good tonight.”
Ants Iner Pants went without a win in her first 12 season starts but now she’s two for her last three with both Du Quoin’s Aged Mare stake for trotters and now the Plesac to her list of accomplishments. She’s now banked over $270,000 in her racing career.
It was the late and great catcher Yogi Berra who once said: “It Ain’t Over Until It’s Over. At that time Yogi was talking about a baseball game. In this case it’s about a horse race, specifically the $100,000 Incredible Finale Championship for ICF 2-year-old pacing colts and geldings.
Fox Valley Herbie (Mike Oosting) was bottled up much of the race and at the top of the lane appeared to have no chance of getting up in time . . . but he did, flying down the middle of the stretch,
“The trip wasn’t going his way but my horse was just gobbling up ground once I did get him clear,” said Oosting in the winner’s circle. “He was really rolling. He was going faster in the lane than at any other time in the race.
“The horse raced awesome last week. He can be a lazy horse at times but once he makes his mind up that he wants to go, he can really go.”
Trained by Tom Simmons and owned by his wife Benita, Fox Valley Herbie ($9.20) ended up a half-length ahead of Fox Valley Jeter with Gabe Henry a close third.
The $50,000 Robert Molaro Memorial stake for older male aged pacers went as expected as the Megan Rogers Stable’s Unlocked dominated the way a 1-5 prohibitive favorite should.
Unlocked ($2.60) was sent out by driver Jim Pantaleano and so was his main rival in the race A Cool Card by Todd Warren. Unlocked got to the top and just like in last week’s prep his driver Todd Warren relinquished it to A Cool card and then took it back before the half was reach in 55.3.
The race was pretty much over after that move as Unlocked went on to draw off by almost three lengths and still well in hand to his Pennsylvania circuit driver at the end of the 1:51.2 mile.
Unlocked’s stable-mate Dr. Drake Ramoray ($11.20) followed his stable-mare into the winner’s circle with a gutsy win in the $100,000 Robert F. Carey Memorial for 3-year-old pacing colts and geldings and this Norm Parker trainee had to do it the hard way.
Saddled with the outside 10-hole. Dr. Drake Ramoray shot away from the starting gate and worked his way to the front, getting there at the first quarter pole in 28 flat. After reaching the half in 55.4 the field bunched up on the winner however Dr. Drake Ramoray pout away a bid from the eventual runner-up Royale Rose and popped at 9-2 odds.
The 5-2 post time favorite IYQ YQR edged-out the 99-1 longshot He Gone Jack for third. The 2-1 programmed favorite Dan D Dune went off at 7-2 and picked-up the fifth place check.
The $100,000 Plum Peachy for 3-year-old pacing fillies didn’t turn out to be a close contest as most of us expected. Instead the Kim Roth trained Whiskeronkittens (Todd Warren) was a romping five length winner in 1:52.4.
Whiskerosonkittens ($4.80) powered her way to the front before the half (56.4) and from there it was strictly a race for second place honors. LK’s Nancy Lee ended up with the bridesmaid role and Chan N Marg took third.
The $50,000 first place prize sent Whiskersonkittens season earnings to $96,150 for Anna, Illinois owner Robert Knupp and gave the homebred filly her sixth win in 17 second season starts.
Mike Oosting drove his third winner of the night and his second in a Night of Champions stake when the 4-year-old Rodney Freese trainee Fox Valley Charm ($9.00) didn’t let starting from the 10-hole keep her from capturing the $50,000 Tony Maurello Memorial stake for aged pacing mares.
Oosting took Fox Valley Charm away from the outside post and into a good spot in fourth with Southern Charm on the lead. Mike had his mare out after the leader and was parked outside of her at the 57.1 half.
Despite the grueling first-over journey Fox Valley Charm got past Southern Girl and kept the 7-5 favorite Ryleigh’s Lilly from getting any closer than a half-length from her. The 1:52.3 win was the daughter of Yankee Skyscraper’s fifth of the year for owner Peter Karras of Sherman, Illinois.