By Mike Paradise
The weatherman’s projected thunderstorms never materialized at the Illinois state capitol and eight Illinois State Fair Colt Stakes champions were crowned for the 2017 meeting.
Here’s how those $50,000 championships races went:
Two-Year-Old Filly Trot: The showdown between division leaders and elimination winners Maui Mama (Casey Leonard) and Trotting Grace (Kyle Husted), turned out to be a resounding victory for the Mike Brink Stable’s Maui Mama with her first season best time of 1:56.1.
Trotting Grace ended up third behind the pocket trip trotter Lous Silver Star (Mike Oosting), who was beaten two lengths.
Casey sent Maui Mama ($3.00) to the front in good shape, however, the filly never got a breather there. The heavy 1 to 2 favorite was taken on in the early going by the 80-1 longshot Fox Valley Persia and it took a 28.2 first quarter and a 57.1 half to put that filly away.
Trotting Grace came on to make her challenge in the last turn, but in the lane Maui Mama was simply just too strong, pulling away by two lengths for Morton, Illinois owner Bill Wright, for her fourth win in five career starts.
Two-Year-Old Filly Pace: Nicely rated by her driver Mike Oosting, the Steve Searle trained The New Americana rolled to her third convincing victory in the freshman filly pace final, knocking almost a full second off her previous best mile with a 1:53.1 clocking.
Fox Valley Jazzy and Rollin Coal raced second and third behind the winning daughter of Yankee Skyscaper throughout and finished behind her the same way.
After a snappy 27.3 first quarter, Oosting was able to back The New Americana ($3.60) down with a 28.4 second quarter and followed with a 29.3 third quarter breather. The filly was full of pace in the lane, coming home in 27.1 for Illinois owners Chris Mroz (Norridge), Dave Falzone (Chicago) and Jim Molitor (Oak Lawn).
Two-Year-Old Colt Trot: The betting public sent Vic’s Pizza off at low-end odds of 1 to 2 and while the Mike Brink trained freshman did reward his many backers, it was a far from a walk-in-the-park for the son of Pizzazzed. It took a game, hard-fought effort for Vic’s Pizza to take the championship and make it three wins in a row for owners Mark Brown (Chatham), Josh Carter (Williamsville) and trainer Mike Brink (Springfield).
The 65-1 longshot, Talk About Valor (Bran Carpenter), shot out from the rail and driver Mike Oosting had to drop Vic’s Pizza (pp 6) into third in the first turn. Vic’s Pizza was pulled at the first quarter (28.3), but he couldn’t clear Talk About Valor and Oosting had to tuck his youngster back behind the pacesetter who hit the half in 58.1.
Vic’s Pizza ($3.00) again came out in the turn for another try at Talk About Valor and this time he zipped past and then held off a the late charge of his stable-mate Illinimight by three-parts of a length. Talk About Valor broke near the finish, was placed fourth behind the awarded third place trotter Cruzen Cassi.
Two-Year-Old Colt Pace: The Terry Leonard Stable’s Fox Valley Gemini (Casey Leonard), stayed unbeaten through six career starts and he did it in a spectacular come-from-behind fashion as the prohibitive 1 to 5 favorite.
Casey was contend to take Fox Valley Gemini (pp 6), back at the start as Mykonos sped to a quick 26.4 first quarter and took the field to a 55.1 first half. Leonard bided his time and heading into the last turn followed-up stable-mate Fox Valley Hijinx, who was second over, behind Backstreet Lawyer.
Mid-way down the stretch Fox Valley Gemini found his best stride and blew past the new leaders for Atwater, Illinois owner Jim Ballinger, with a new mark of 1:52.2. Fox Valley Hijinx grabbed the second place money of the $50,000 pot, while Hart To Heart took the third place share.
Three-Year-Old Filly Trot: The parade of winning favorites continued, as Annas Lucky Star ($2.20) stayed unbeaten against other fillies with a 1:53.3 victory, more than two full seconds off the home-bred’s previous fastest winning mile.
Annas Lucky Star, aptly driven by Kyle Wilfong for trainer Nelson Willis, is now 12-for-14 lifetime, with her only two losses coming to open company male trotters.
Wilfong pulled Annas Lucky Star out of the pocket after the 27.4 first panel and gave the Danny Graham owned and bred filly a pair of moderate 29 third quarters. The daughter of Cassis had both the pocket-horse Daisy Lou Duke and Lous Credit Report, who raced in third, come at her in the lane, but to no avail as she refused to be passed, winning by 1 and 1/2 lengths.
Three-Year-Old Colt Trot: Division leader Louscipher took advantage of a covered-up trip near the front and then came on with a rush in the lane for Casey Leonard to notch his sixth season win, this one in 1:58.1.
Owned and bred by Flacco Family Farms of Alexis, Illinois, the Roshun Trigg Stable’s Louscipher had to get past a very valiant effort from Picky Picky Valor (Brian Carpenter), who went off stride leaving and fell behind the field.
The Gerald Hansen trained Picky Picky Valor came back and caught the field at the half (1:01) and went on to power his way to the front in the lane before giving his opposition about an eight-length head start took its toll. He still finished second best for his Monee, Illinois owner Shelly Steele.
Three-Year-Old Filly Pace: A heady drive from Kyle Wilfong played a key role in Boogie On Down extending her winning streak to four in a row by taking the filly sophomore pace championship in wire-to-wire fashion.
Boogie On Down ($9.80), the 7-2 second choice, as expected, left in a hurry from the two-post and quickly took the lead. The 25-1 longshot Beamer N Bud sprinted out hard from the nine-hole to grab the hole behind her. The second tier horse Fox Valley Maya at 99-1 tucked-in third.
After first half quarters of 28 flat and 28.3, Kyle opened up in the field in the final turn with the longshots her closest pursuers and that proved to be the winning strategy. Boogie On Down had plenty of daylight at the top of the stretch between her and the rest of the field and won by almost four lengths with a lifetime best 1:52.4 mile.
“It was my game plan to try to go four quarters with her on the front end. I thought that she could win the race that way and she did,” said Kyle in the winner’s circle.
Fox Valley Charliz was second and Fancy Creek Jolene rallied for third.
Three-Year-Old Colt Pace: The biggest stunner of the eight championships came in the finale when the 13-1 longshot Captain Rhett (Kyle Husted), paced a 1:49.4 winning mile, the fastest by an Illinois bred at this year’s Springfield meet.
Trained by Jim Horvath for Illinois owners Harvey Grieff (Odell) and Robert Verdun, Captain Rhett ($29.40), came into the final with one victory in 12 starts and that was a 1:54 mile at Hawthorne in mid-July.
The Duneside Perch gelding had been the runner-up on six occasions, nevertheless, Captain Rhett was the crème de la crème when it counted today.
Taking advantage of very fast fractions of a 26.1 first quarter by Causway and a 53 flat half by Ima Skydancer, driver Kyle Husted followed-up a strong move from Gabe Henry, overtook that horse at the top of the lane, and went on for a persuasive victory and more than doubled his prior season earnings.
Mississippi Rabbit came on for second and Fox Valley Herbie was third best on this afternoon.
Casey Leonard and Mike Brink both repeated as the Springfield meet’s leading driver and trainer, respectively.