Illinois Horse of the Year Booze Cruzin started off his new year the same way he ended his brilliant sophomore season—with a convincing victory. The now four-year-old Joe Seekman trainee had little trouble capturing the $14,000 Whizzer R White ICF Open Handicap Friday night at Maywood Park in his usual front-end fashion.
Sent off as the 11-10 betting favorite in his first start of 2008, driver Sam Widger urged Booze Cruzin out of the gate and the Art’s Conquest shot out from the six-post. He was three deep going into the first turn before he cleared, taking command on the backside where he would never look back.
After a :28.1 first quarter with Ima Hot Sport (Rick Dane Jr.) sitting behind him in the pocket, Joe Anderson took Prince Vince first up at last year’s Windy City Pace championship before the :58.1 first half marker. Booze Cruzin put him away with a :28.1 third panel and the second over Bob’s Minute Maid, the 7-5 second favorite, had to be taken three wide by driver Mike Oosting to get around the tiring Prince Vince at the 1:26.1 third quarter pole.
“My main concern tonight was Mike’s (Oosting) mare (Bob’s Minute Maid) who has been real good.” said Widger. “I just had to play it out and see what happens. Once I got to the three-quarters I tried to put some distance between my horse and Mike’s. I saw he was three-deep so I tried to get as far ahead of his mare as we could.”
Booze Cruzin had a four length lead at the top of the lane on Bob’s Minute Maid and his: 28.2 final quarter saw him a comfortable three and one-quarter lengths ahead at the end of a 1:54.1 mile. It was another half-length back to the third place finisher Im A Hot Sport.
“It was like the horse almost didn’t take any time off,” said Widger. “You have to get a lot of credit to Joe (Seekman). The horse is well trained. Joe did a great job with him being off three months. He brought it back ready. He qualified him twice. His qualifying times were a little deceiving because the track over there (Balmoral Park) was very deep. I thought he qualified very well.
“Booze Cruzin is an amazing horse to drive,” continued Widger. “You can send him out there 100 miles per hour and then he’ll drop the lines. You can just take him right back. And he’s really good at Maywood.”
Booze Cruzin posted 11 wins in 25 starts as a three-year-old, knocking down $350,677 in purse earnings for Holland, MI owner Broekhuis Stable. He finished first or second in 5 of his 6 Maywood starts and the gelding’s 1:51.3 victory in last October’s Windy City Pace was a stakes record.
“When Booze Cruzin goes out on a track he just kind of goes along but once he sees the gate, he’s all business,” said Widger with a smile.
Next up for Booze Cruzin is the Spring Pacing Championship Series at Woodbine. The state-bred speedball will then come back and race in Illinois through the summer.
Mike Paradise, director of publicity