By Mike Paradise
For many ICF pacers and trotters this year’s Illinois racing season isn’t quite over yet. Instead they’ll compete in Saturday’s Fall Classic raced on the State Fairgrounds in Springfield.
The Illinois Department of Agriculture Horse Racing Division had allocated $50,000 in purse money for today’s Fall Classic, attracting many of the top state-bred horses in their respective state-bred divisions. All together 20 races will be run off starting at 11:30 Saturday morning, each with a $2,500 pot.
The first race opener for two-year-old Illinois bred pacers looks like a good one.
In the six horse field are the Nick Prather trained Bootsy Bombay, winner of last weekend’s $80,000 Incredible Tillie Championship and the Mike Brink stable’s Hart’s Heart who finished August off with back-to-back victories in the $32,000 State Fair final and the $29,000 Director’s Award stake. Both freshmen are daughters of Major Bombay.
Regular driver Juan Franco will take Hart’s Heart away from the six-slot while Casey :Leonard (pp 2), gets the catch drive behind Bootsy Bombay with the filly’s usual pilot Travis Seekman not available today.
Another Night of Champion winner goes to the gate in race six when the Plum Peachy champ Fox Valley Exploit tries to solidify her chances for 2020 Horse of the Year for Kyle Husted, the driver, trainer and co-owner of the Sportsmaster filly.
Fox Valley Husted is 8-for-9 in her sophomore season with over $130,000 banked for Husted and Michigander David Brigham. The ICF filly has won 13 of 18 in her first two seasons and hauled in over $215,000.
Don Filomeno’s He’zzz A Wise Sky (Bobby Smolin) goes after his fifth consecutive win in the three-year-old male pacing division in race eight. The colt won the recent Carey stake in 1:51.3, equaling his lifetime mark set a few weeks earlier in the $29,000 Governor’s Cup.
The Flacco Family Farms home-bred Lous Abigail (Casey Leonard) will try to avenge her loss to the Mike Rogers trained Beulah Dygert champion El Oh Govner in the first division of the 3-year-old filly trot (race nine). Lous Abigail had won five straight before being upset on the Night of Champions.
The top two sophomore trotting geldings, Erwin Dygert titleholder Fox Valley Quest (Casey Leonard) and runner-up Crooked Creek (Todd Warren) go their separate ways today. Fox Valley Quest competes in the first division while Crooked Creek heads up the second split.
The 18th race Fall Classic ICF four-year-old and up mare trot may be short on quantity with four starters bur certainly not on quality with the gifted distaffers Louzotic (Kyle Husted) and Annas Lucky Star both entered.
The Steve Searle trained Louzotic, now four, sports a lifetime record of 24 wins in 42 lifetime starts and over $275,000 earned while the six-year-old Annas Lucky Star goes after career win No. 40 in this, her 74th lifetime outing for the Nelson Willis stable. She’s made over $400,000.
Between them these two Illinois Harness Hall of Fame candidates have combined to win 63 races in 115 trips postward, an remarkable 55 per cent winning clip.
In a recent conversation with Annas Lucky Star’s owner and breeder Danny Graham, the longtime southern Illinois horseman said he plans to race his star trotter at Hoosier Park now that Illinois racing season is over.
“I plan on breeding “Anna” in 2021 but that was the plan this year and I changed my mind,” said Danny. “And I thought she raced just as good this season as she ever did.”
So, let’s not etch Danny’s future plans for Annas Lucky Star in stone just yet.