Day At The Track

Local stars returned to Hawthorne

07:10 AM 19 Feb 2020 NZDT
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Steve Searle, harness racing
Steve Searle had a big opening weekend at Hawthorne

STICKNEY, IL - The 92 night extended harness racing season at Hawthorne kicked off last weekend as numerous state-bred champions were on the track to make their first starts of the year. The two nights of opening weekend saw chilly temperatures, but a fast track made for solid times, big performances, and some upsets along the way.

The Saturday card opened with a strong field of trotters as trainer Steve Searle had a pair entered. Lousraptor was the heavy favorite off a strong showing during last year's Night of Champions but it was the second Searle entrant, Louscardamon who kicked off the season with the win at 27-1 in 1:57.2 for owners Flacco Family Farms, LLC and Dr. Patrick Graham.

A quality field of Open trotters took to the track in Saturday's fifth race. A pair of horses with a few races on the year battled through the lane as Lindy's Big Bang (1:55.4) was able to catch Pine Dream for driver Casey Leonard.

Three races later an Illinois champion took to the track as Fox Valley Gemini made his 2020 debut. Coming in off just one qualifier, the champ was game, rallying in the lane to finish second, beaten only a neck to Account Rollover in 1:51.2.

Opening night ended the same way it began, with a pair of Steve Searle trained trotters finishing one-two past the wire. This time the favorite was much the best, as another Illinois champion in Louzotic was a clear winner over Skippymalou.

Sunday brought about another 11 race card, featuring more talented state-bred pacers. In the third race on the card, one of those horses in Valar Morghulis was game, carving out the early fractions before being caught late by Queens N Tens in 1:56.1.

Trainer Steve Searle sent another to the winner's circle in Sunday's fifth race as Illinois-bred Coming Up rallied for driver James Molitor to win by a neck in 1:57.0.

Female Open pacers were the focus in the Sunday feature. Favored Pretty Image didn't disappoint, rolling out to the lead and digging in to win by a length over Tarport Belle in 1:54.2. Casey had the winning drive for owner and trainer Rodney Freese.

While the horses were the focus on the racetrack, our horsemen did a great job of having their athletes ready for the opening weekend. Driver Brandon Bates had success at Hawthorne last summer in limited action while driving mainly at Hoosier Park. With Hoosier still over a month away, Bates got off to a hot start at Hawthorne, leading all drivers for opening weekend with five wins and 10 of his 14 drives finishing in the top three. Casey Leonard, Mike Oosting, and Todd Warren all had strong starts, each guiding home four winners in the first two cards.

Trainer Steve Searle's big weekend led the way as he sent out three winners and four second-place finishers from nine starters. 2020 leading trainer Terry Leonard had two victories, along with Ronnie Roberts, Harold Herrera, Hector Herrera, and Jace Sundeen.

Hawthorne Race Course, Chicago's Hometown Track, returned for live harness racing on Saturday, February 15 and races through Sunday, September 20. Post time nightly is 7:10 PM. Fall thoroughbreds close out the year, running from October 2 through December 26. For more information, visit or contact Hawthorne at 708-780-3700.

by Jim Miller, for Hawthorne Race Course

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