By Mike Paradise
It’s round two tonight to determine the ICF three-year-old pacing finalists, when Hawthorne’s Night of Champions stake championship rolls around in mid-September.
Both of Saturday’s Robert F. Carey for colts and geldings and the Plum Peachy for the gals were divided into some interesting $12,500 divisions.
The third race- first Carey split, will have freshman champion Meyer On Fire (Kyle Wilfong), meeting Fox Valley Triton (Casey Leonard), for the first time. Unraced at two, the Terry Leonard stable’s rising star was made the even-money favorite morning line favorite, by the USTA’S Trackmaster computer system, that sometimes is too top heavy on drivers. Meyer On Fire opens at 6-5.
I’ve got it the other way around in my line with the betting public leaning to the Erv Miller trained Meyer On Fire, an easy winner in his Cardinal and Carey stake events, as the favorite when the gate springs open.
Maximus (Kyle Wilfong), the other Cardinal winner and runner-up to Meyer On Fire in the first Carey leg, is a prohibitive early choice at even money in the fifth race – second leg.
Most of the heavy hitters in the ICF sophomore filly pace division all ended up in the first $12,500 division making tonight’s second race quite a slugfest.
Recent Violet and last year’s NOC champion, Fox Valley Torrid, has the two-post with Casey Leonard. Multiple freshman stakes winner Fox Valley Halsey drew the six, with new driver Ryan Anderson. Dale Kanitz’s fast improving Fox Valley Lolo (Tyler Shehan), has the four, after two straight strong come-from-behind triumphs, and the speedster Valar Morghulis, will sprint out from the two, for driver Juan Franco.
It’s anybody’s guess who will be the favorite when the starting car pulls away.
Perched on top of the Plum Peachy point standings after one round, is the filly Perch (Kyle Wilfong), the 7-5 favorite in the seventh race second division. The Jay Garrels trained filly earlier at the meet captured a division of the Violet and overcame a tough trip from the second tier to take her Plum Peachy event.
Of course, landing the pole position tonight had to please Perch’s owners, the Del Insko Racing Stable, trainer Jay Garrels and Susan Garrels, but thus far the luck of the draw certainly hasn’t gone the filly’s way in any of the major ICF stake championships.
“Last year Perch would win the stake elimination, but then draw the outside post for the finals,” said her trainer. “It went that way at Springfield. Then she drew the outside at Du Quoin and she got the 10-hole on the Night of Champions. I thought her best race came in the Incredible Tillie Final. She was parked out every step of the way from the 10-hole and still finished a close up third.”
Jay had high praise for Perch’s driver Kyle Wilfong, “Kyle has done a great job driving her. He drives her and other horses in my barn like they’re his own. Kyle never abuses them or over races them. They always come back after racing for Kyle in good shape and ready for their next start.”
Despite some awful post position draws, when it counted the most as a freshman, Perch made over $45,000 and hit the board in all nine of her starts, winning four times. The Duneside Perch filly already has four victories this year in just six tries.
“She matured over the winter,” continued Jay. “She likes to race, but once she’s done racing or training she likes to be left alone. I guess you can call her a loner.”
I’ll call her one very good ICF filly and a major force again in her division.
Ho Hum: Make it five consecutive Open Pace victories for Fox Valley Gemini. The ICF pacing star mowed down another field last night with driver Casey Leonard, powering past (26.1), in the lane for the 25th time in 26 career starts at Hawthorne.
Ponda’s Prospect (Ridge Warren), came on for second, beaten about two lengths in the 1:51.2 mile to give the Terry Leonard stable a one-two finish in the $12,000 feature.