Friday night’s $30,000 Egyptian stake, the second leg of the Maywood Park Pacing Series, isn’t a “Handicap” race but it may appear that way to some after seeing the draw for the ninth race feature.
Fort Silky, all season long this year’s No. 1 state-bred aged pacer, landed Maywood’s dreaded 8-hole that produces the winning horse less than 7 per cent of the time.
I asked driver Casey Leonard about Fort Silky’s draw.
“We drew the 9-hole in the first leg when we got beat. It’s become a graveyard post at Maywood,” said Casey. ”Now we get the 8-hole with its low percentage of winners but I guess I rather be on the gate with it than start in the second tier.”
Casey is well aware of a number of horses in The Egyptian who can sprint out in a hurry and he’s at the lines of one of them.
“In Friday’s race I’ve got Uncle Smoothie and NJ’s Big Deal inside of us and they both can get away from the gate real well. I guess I have to leave at least a little bit or I can leave hard with him and hope to get up-close position.
“I don’t want anything stupid to happen, especially with Super Night just a couple of weeks away. I guess we’ll just see what happens behind the gate and go from there,” said Casey who will turn 36 on September 11.
While the 9-5 morning line favorite Fort Silky has always excelled at Maywood Park he hasn’t had many opportunities to compete there this season. This is only the 7-year-old gelding’s third start of 2013 on the half-miler.
Fort Silky did take a $28,534 division of the Cardinal stake at Maywood the last day of May but he needed a 27 flat first quarter to make the front in the Cook County, the Series first leg, and was overtaken in the late going by the pocket horse Fox Valley Yukon who wasn’t entered for The Egyptian.
Fort Silky has finished first or second in 15 consecutive starts, going all the way back to mid-March, for his Paw Paw, Illinois owners John Prentice and Neva Jane Ikler. The horse has already surpassed his previous best earning year (2011) by almost $50,000, a tribute to the Leonard family’s management of the ICF pacer.
A $25,000 bonus goes to the owners who’s horse earns the most points in the three series legs, with 50 awarded for first, 25 for second, 12 for third, 8 for fourth and 5 for fifth.
After his second place finish in the Cook County plus the absence of Fox Valley Yukon, a win tonight puts Fort Silky in the driver’s seat to become the fourth straight Leonard trainer pacer to capture the Maywood Series.
The recently retired Well To Do Guru did it in 2010, 2011 and 2012. In fact the former Illinois kingpin swept all three legs the last two years.
When Casey looks in before the starting gate gets ready to spring open he’ll find Fox Valley Mahalo (15-1, Kyle Husted), Whirlwindiplomacy (8-1, Todd Warren) Sports Fanatic (10-1, Dean Magee), Uncle Smoothie (9-2, John De Long), Raging Cam (10-1, Mike Oosting), NJ’s Big Deal (5-2, Mike Cox) and JHS (20-1, John Roberts).
By Mike Paradise
The Illinois Harness Horsemen's Association