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STICKNEY, IL - The first three day harness racing week of the Hawthorne meet saw the addition of Friday racing as horses continue to get fit and race-ready. While the opening three weeks of the Hawthorne meeting saw different drivers and trainers making their mark, everyone seemed to get into the mix in week four. The Friday evening eight race card found eight different trainers in the winner's circle with driver Juan Franco being the only driver to post a double on the card. Friday's card saw Fancy Creek Jolene (1:55.2) return to the form see showed a couple of years ago in winning the opener for trainer Kim Hamilton. 16-1 shot Undrafted (1:55.2) gave Franco his driving double in winning race three. The fastest mile on the night came in the finale as Youmakemyheartsing (1:53.2) won for driver Kyle Wilfong and trainer Brett Wilfong. Saturday opened with Fox Valley Lincoln (1:56.3) getting his second consecutive win for Mike Oosting and trainer Dee Cozzi. Louscaramon (1:57.2) became a three-time winner this meet as Casey Leonard guided him home in the second for trainer Steve Searle. Leonard got his second driving victory on the card in the fourth as Lindy's Big Bang (1:56.2) took the Open trot in the evening's feature. A driving double on the card also came from Mike Oosting, winning race three with Spunky Bottom Girl (1:57.1). Kyle and Brett Wilfong closed out the night taking the late double as Boogie on Down (1:55.4) won the eighth race followed by Be Magical (1:59.0) winning the finale. Trainer Steve Searle got his second Saturday win as Coming Up (1:57.1) was handled nicely by driver James Molitor in race five. Sunday's action found us with a three-time winner to start the night as My Uptowne Girl (1:56.0) took the opener for Juan Franco and trainer Gerald Hansen. Back to back Open paces followed with Dee Rocks (1:54.2) holding off favored Rollin Coal for driver Ridge Warren in the second race while Castle Flight (1:52.1) was impressive once again in winning race three for Kyle Wilfong. The Sunday card closed with three consecutive driving doubles. First it was Mike Oosting winning races four and five with Valar Morghulis (1:56.0) and Dirt E Rock (1:56.0). Next up was Brandon Bates as he took the sixth with Bluebird Luigi (2:00.2) followed by Slow Your Roll (1:59.2) in the seventh. Todd Warren drove home the final double on the night, winning the eighth behind Cookies Empire (1:56.2) and Crystal Hotspur (1:58.4) in the evening's final race. Overall on the weekend, 20 different trainers and 11 different drivers won races from the 26 conducted in the three day period. Through four weeks, Mike Oosting has taken over the lead in the driving standings with 14 victories. He is followed by Kyle Wilfong (13), Casey Leonard and Todd Warren (12), and Brandon Bates with 11 victories. Trainer Steve Searle remains atop the training standings, sending out eight winners from 33 starters. Derek Burklund follows in second with seven wins and there is a three-way tie for third between Brett Wilfong, Mike Brink, and Ronnie Roberts, each with six victories. 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. Hawthorne races live during the summer harness meet every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. 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  

STICKNEY, IL - For the horseplayer, handicapping races is a very tough science. Finding the winner and then wagering on the race to turn a profit adds to the process. When the favorites aren't striking at a high rate, it makes the process that much more puzzling. What it can also mean is that it takes just one well-played ticket to make for a profitable experience. This past weekend at Hawthorne Race Course, harness racing fans saw just about everything, from huge prices, to even bigger gimmick payouts, to large carryovers across the board. With 21 races conducted between last Saturday and Sunday at Hawthorne, only four favorites were victorious. Through six nights of racing for the Hawthorne meet, favorites are winning at a low 30% clip. The Saturday card opened with a slight upset at Muscular Babe (1:56.3) trotted to a victory for driver Kyle Wilfong to kick of the Pick 5 that had a carryover of $10,895. After a Wilfong driving triple with favorite Luke's Rocketman (1:55.0) in the second, followed by favored Bright Future (1:54.0) winning the third, things got interesting the rest of the way. In race four Saturday, Juan Franco guided 44-1 longshot Ok Galahad (1:54.3) to the upset score for trainer Rodney Freese. With 103-1 bomber Get Rockin finishing third in that race, nobody had the superfecta, causing a carryover into race five. Franco was right back in the winner's circle in the fifth, this time closing late with 17-1 priced Parklane Eagle (1:54.2) to catch 1-5 favored A Bettors Risk on the wire. The back-to-back longshots led to a nearly $30,000 Pick 5 carryover into the Sunday card. Wilfong followed with his fourth driving win on the card as he guided home Allstar-Josh (1:57.2) to a win in the sixth. Race seven was won by Downwyn Shark (1:54.3) for Tyler Shehan at 5-1. Race eight saw the second superfecta carryover of the night as 46-1 longshot Shabazz (1:59.4) got up for driver Cordarius Stewart, catching 26-1 priced Missfinancialsport on the wire. Another 5-1 winner in the ninth as This Man Raps (1:59.1) scored for Todd Warren. Race ten was the second training win on the card for Rodney Freese as Casey Leonard drove home Massive Attack (1:54.3) to a clear victory at 7-1. The card concluded with a Pick 4 carryover on the line as Lucky Crusader (1:55.1) made it happen for driver Brandon Bates in the finale. With five carryovers into the Sunday card, the story became how much would be bet into the pools. The two-day Pick 5 carryover of nearly $30,000 saw and additional $126,089 wagered into the gimmick on Sunday. Only one favorite won in the Sunday sequence as 7-1 shot Fire Dance (1:57.0) won the opener, followed by 8-1 winner Roberts New Life (1:56.3) in race two. Favorite Mamaneedsmorewine (2:02.2) got the job done in the third before Rushing Reba (1:55.0) won at 9-1 in the fourth and Rollin Coal (1:54.2) closed out the sequence at 12-1. The return for the $.50 Pick 5 wager paid $16,468. After Castielle (1:58.1) gave driver Mike Oosting his second win on the Sunday card in race six, race seven began with a late Pick 4 carryover over $10,000 and a $40,000 guaranteed pool. $75,271 was bet into the Late Pick 4, which kicked off with Toxic Rock (1:55.1) winning the seventh for Ridge Warren. Todd Warren got his second Sunday victory as he guided home favorite Keene William (1:57.0) in the eighth. Oosting made it three Sunday scores as Unbroken Circle (1:55.2) was able to hold on gamely in the ninth. Todd Warren got his third Sunday win as 9-1 shot Fox Valley Lincoln (1:58.0) fought back to win the finale. The late Pick 4 returned $595.80. Overall, the carryovers and competitive racing led to a strong Sunday handle of $1,086,169. Hawthorne Race Course, Chicago's Hometown Track, returned for live harness racing on Saturday, February 15 and races through Sunday, September 20. Beginning in March, live racing takes place every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday evening for the remainder of the meet. 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

East Rutherford, NJ - Anthony Altomonte of New Jersey, captured the February 22nd World Harness Handicapping Championship Qualifier presented by at the Meadowlands Racetrack. Altomonte cashed on eight of his ten wagers, allowing him to outdistance his closest competitor by $445. Altomonte is a contest veteran and has qualified for both the WHHC Finals and NHC finals via Meadowlands qualifiers. With this win he is qualified for the 2020 WHHC Final at the Meadowlands on April 18th. William Meisel of Staten Island, NY, also qualified for the April 18th Final with his second place finish in Saturday's contest with $413. His largest score was for $344 in race one with $80 to Place on Test Ride. The $200 Qualifier required contestants to place exactly ten $10 minimum win, place, and/or show wagers on Meadowlands races. The top ten finishers from this qualifier were: First Last Bankroll Prize $ Anthony Altomonte $858 $1,435 + WHHC Seat William Meisel $413 $1,025 + WHHC Seat Mark Kunen $360 $820 Rick Arbiter $298 $410 Patrick O'Malley $212 $205 Alison Shafer $176 $41 Chris Simonetti $121.60 $41 Brandon Spiegel $101 $41 John Steele $88 $41 John Murphy $80 $41 The World Harness Handicapping Championship presented by is a one-day tournament [April 18, 2020], with a welcome reception the evening prior. Players that did not earn a seat through a qualifying event can directly buy-in for $1,300. The $1,300 entry fee includes a $300 bankroll, with the remaining $1,000 going to the prize pool. The $150,000 prize pool is based on an estimated 150 entries. DerbyWars hosts online Qualifiers for the WHHC every Saturday night. Players can qualify for as little as $22. Complete DerbyWars Qualifier information can be found at Hawthorne is hosting a WHHC Qualifier with two spots up for grabs on Saturday, February 29th and Buffalo Raceway's qualifier with one spot into the Final will be held on Saturday, March 21st. For more information on how to become a WHHC partner outlet or sponsor, contact Rachel Ryan, Meadowlands Racing & Entertainment ( or 201-842-5015. For online qualifying on, players may contact All WHHC details can be found at From the Meadowlands Media Department

STICKNEY, IL - Week two of the harness racing season at Hawthorne was vastly different from opening weekend in regards to weather as temperatures rose by 20 degrees and a feeling of spring was in the air. Week two also produced some fine results for horses and barns that showed they were fit and ready for the early start to the racing season. One barn that has benefitted early on is trainer Steve Searle's stable. After a strong opening weekend that saw three Searle entrants find their way into the winner's circle along with four others finish second from nine starts, there was no slowing them down in week two. Things got off to a quick start for Searle on Saturday evening as Louscardamon trotted to victory in the night's opener in 1:58.0 for driver Casey Leonard, making her the first two-time winner of the meet. In the very next race we had our second repeat winner as Searle trained trotter, Louzotic (1:56.4) was impressive in winning right back over another Searle trainee in Lousraptor. Casey Leonard was in the bike with Louzotic, giving him the early double. After Illinois-bred Rollin Coal (1:55.4) was game in victory for driver Juan Franco and trainer Hosea Williams in race three, we had another two-time winner on the meet in the fourth race. Todd Warren trained and driven Always A Law (1:53.4) just held off Salvatore to win the fourth by a nose. The middle part of Saturday's 13 race card belonged to trainers Merv Chupp and Derek Burklund. Chupp trained Its Chocolate Time (1:58.4) trotted to a win for Brandon Bates in race five. Chupp also sent out Northern Angle (1:54.2) to a score for Casey Leonard in race eight. Derek Burklund trainees found the winner's circle three times Saturday. Race six saw a 6-1 upset as Luke's Rocketman (1:56.0) scored for Kyle Wilfong. The duo of Burklund and Wilfong was right back in the winner's circle the following race, this time with Castle Flight (1:51.1), a five length winner in a tough open pace. Tyler Shehan guided home 20-1 shot Holdonwe'rerolling (1:54.2) to a clear victory in race ten, leading a $161.80 Burklund exacta which saw his Adventure Bound finish second in that race. Saturday night closed with driver Casey Leonard getting his fourth win on the card as Ponda's Prospect (1:55.0) won race 12. Driver Kyle Wilfong capped Saturday night, grabbing his third victory of the evening as Boogie on Down (1:55.2) won the nightcap. Sunday night at Hawthorne was a tail of two halves as the first half of the card saw upsets aplenty while the second half was very chalky. The evening kicked off with 7-1 winner Toxic Rock (1:55.3) for driver Ridge Warren and trainer Mike Brink. It was bombs away in race two as Perfectly Dune (1:59.0) got up in the shadow of the wire for driver Travis Seekman to win at odds of 96-1 for trainer Matt Rodriguez. With a 48-1 third-place finisher and 28-1 fourth-place finisher in that race, the $.20 superfecta returned $12,187 to a single winner. In race three it was 10-1 shot Downwyn Shark (1:54.2) who was game on the front end for trainer Marna Shehan and driver Tyler Shehan. Third choice My Uptowne Girl (1:57.0) won race four, making her the fourth repeat winner on the meet, before 8-1 winner Queens N Tens (1:55.4) become the fifth two-time winner on the meet, scoring in race five. Despite the far outside draw, Dirt E Rock (1:56.2) was very impressive at first asking, winning her debut in race six for trainer Mike Brink as he was driven by Mike Oosting. Thought Provoking (1:55.4) won race seven, making her the sixth repeat winner in the first two weeks of racing. Leonard and Searle teamed up to win the eighth with Joe Joes Violet (2:00.4) before Tyler Shehan and Derek Burklund closed out the weekend with Pirates Alley (1:56.1) winning the Sunday finale. Two weeks in, driver Casey Leonard has moved to the top of the driver standings with nine wins. Brandon Bates continued his hot start as he is second in the standings with eight victories. Mike Oosting follows with six wins and Todd Warren has five. Trainer Steve Searle has sent out six winners to open the meet while 13 of his first 18 starters have found the board. Derek Burklund's good weekend moved him to second with four victories while Jace Sundeen and Terry Leonard are tied with three wins apiece. 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.   Jim Miller

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  

STICKNEY, IL - Saturday evening will mark the start of harness racing at Hawthorne Race Course, marking 50 years after the first harness meet was conducted at the Stickney oval in 1970. This season the schedule for racing in Illinois takes a slight adjustment as construction of a new racing and casino venue will begin on the grounds of Hawthorne Race Course. With construction ongoing during the day, a one year hiatus from spring thoroughbred racing will take place and be replaced by evening harness racing on weekends. The 92 night expanded harness season kicks off on Saturday, February 15 at Hawthorne as the nearly eight month long season will give Standardbred horsemen in Illinois an opportunity to earn more over a longer racing period. In February, live racing will be conducted every Saturday and Sunday evening. In March, Friday evening cards will be added, with Hawthorne racing three days per week from March through the meet end on Sunday, September 20. The focus at Hawthorne Race Course in 2020 is on Illinois-bred racing as the entire stakes schedule will be comprised of races for Illinois-restricted horses. The stakes schedule culminates on closing weekend as over $1 million in purses will be distributed on Night of Champions weekend. Opportunities for open-company horses will be aplenty though as a strong overnight program will offer up to 12 races per night, with the focus on larger field size and quality racing. Leading driver Casey Leonard returns in 2020 as he comes off a great 2019 campaign that saw him win 188 races at Hawthorne. Kyle Wilfong is back as he compiled a strong 122 win meet in 2019. While Kyle Husted is briefly sidelined, he will return to the driving colony early in the racing season. Travis Seekman returns from a good 2019 season while the father son combo of Todd and Ridge Warren will both be in the bike to open the meet. Trainer Terry Leonard has his stable ready early as he returns off a great 2019 season that saw his horses find the winner's circle 70 times. A couple of Leonard's top trainees have already been back on the track as both Fox Valley Gemini and Fox Valley Triton qualified last week. Nelson Willis is back as well as large contingents from the barns of Mike Brink, Steve Searle, Kyle Husted, and Brett Wilfong. For the bettor, Hawthorne returns the low 15% takeout wagers, offering a $.50 Pick 5 which begins with the night's opening race, and a pair of $.50 Pick 4 wagers, starting in race three and then on the final four races on each night's card. Both the Pick 5 and Pick 4 will have carryovers attached to them if nobody selects five or four winners for the respective wagers. The $.20 Jackpot High 5 returns for each night's final race. This year, a $2 Pick 6 wager has been added to the Hawthorne wagering menu. The Pick 6 is not a Jackpot wager as any carryover and major pool will pay out any time six winners are selected in the sequence. A consolation pool has been attached to the Pick 6 nightly and will also be paid whenever there is a winner of the major pool in the Pick 6. The Pick 6 will have a 20% takeout with 50% of the major pool going to either a winning ticket with six winners or the carryover and the other 50% being paid to that night's minor or consolation pool. Win, Place, and Show wagers will again have just a 17% takeout rate. Hawthorne Race Course, Chicago's Hometown Track, returns 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  

STICKNEY, IL - Hawthorne Race Course patriarch, Thomas F. Carey, passed away Tuesday at the age of 87 years-old in Florida. Born November 11, 1932, Tom turned heads in the sporting world as an All-State quarterback at Mt. Carmel High School. Tom then went on to play football for four years at Notre Dame under legendary coaches Frank Leahy and Terry Brennan. Tom earned his B.S. in Business Administration from Notre Dame in 1955. He graduated again three years later, this time with a degree from Northwestern University Law School. From 1956 to 1960 Tom coached the Mt. Carmel football team to four sectional titles, as well as one City Championship and one Co-Championship. In 1969 Tom began assisting his father, Robert F. Carey at Hawthorne and assumed control of the racing operations after his father's passing in 1980. After an early morning fire destroyed the Hawthorne grandstand on November 19, 1978, Tom was instrumental in the rebuild of Hawthorne, with the facility reopening in the fall of 1980. Tom was inducted into the Chicago Sports Hall of Fame in 1998 and served his role as President and General Manager of Hawthorne for nearly 30 years. Additionally, Tom was instrumental in the formation of the Racing Industry Charitable Foundation, serving as that organization's President and was active in many community programs. Tom is survived by his wife Susan and six children. Hawthorne Race Course, Chicago's Hometown Track, concludes live thoroughbred racing on Saturday, January 4. The 2020 harness season begins on Saturday, February 15 and races through September 20. Live thoroughbred racing resumes October 2 and races through the end of the year. For more information, visit or contact Hawthorne at 708-780-3700. by Jim Miller, for Hawthorne Race Course  

Chicago, IL  -- In anticipation of its licensure as part of Illinois' recent casino and gaming expansion, Hawthorne Race Course has hired Kevin Kline as its new CEO of Gaming.   The 110-year old family-owned and operated harness racing business applied to the Illinois Gaming Board for a casino gaming license on August 26th before a 60-day deadline established by the new gaming law which was signed by Illinois Governor JB Pritzker at the end of June. The Gaming Board is expected to rule on the application before the end of the year. "The integration of casino-style gaming at Illinois race tracks is a tremendous opportunity that comes with unique challenges and responsibilities," said Tim Carey, CEO and President of Hawthorne Casino & Race Course. "Our goal is to develop one of the nation's premiere gaming experiences and an all-star executive team will be crucial. Kevin has a proven track record of successful ground-up developments of new casinos and multi-property management including at race tracks, plus direct experience with gaming in the Chicagoland market. We're very excited for the Gaming Board to know Kevin as part of our team." Kline has significant experience in developing and operating large-scale, multi-faceted casino and entertainment businesses. He was most recently the Chief Operating Officer and General Manager of Resorts World Catskills Casino and Monticello Raceway for Empire Resorts in New York.   Prior to that role he led the opening of the casino market in Ohio on behalf of Caesars Entertainment with the $450M development and operations of Horseshoe Cincinnati with additional oversight of Turfway Park, another historic thoroughbred race track. Kline also oversaw the $500M redevelopment of Horseshoe Casino Hammond in Northwest Indiana in 2008. "Casinos thrive when they place customer service, integrity and excitement at the forefront of the business," said Kline. "Hawthorne has championed these core values for over a century and undoubtedly that's what has sustained their business and reputation in spite of a lack of casino-style gaming. That's a true testament to the Carey Family's commitment to the Illinois racing industry. I'm humbled and honored to be a part of that legacy now." As part of its application for a casino license, Hawthorne is planning a $450M redevelopment of its 113-acre property on the edge of Chicago in suburban Stickney, Illinois. The development will also include a hotel, food hall, sports book and entertainment theater. by Jim Miller, for Hawthorne Race Course

STICKNEY, IL--After a string of weeks of gorgeous weather at Hawthorne Race Course, Mother Nature wasn't nearly as kind when it came to Saturday's Night of Champions. The 12 race card kicked off with a fast track, but the skies opened up prior to the start of the 11 stakes events, leaving for sloppy going through the stakes harness racing action.   THE ROBERT S MOLARO CHAMPIONSHIP Jim Ballinger's Fox Valley Gemini, two-time Illinois Horse of the Year, went off as the 1-5 favorite in the $45,000 Robert S. Molaro and didn't disappoint. Winning his fourth straight race, Fox Valley Gemini drew off to a commanding victory, getting the mile in a lifetime best of 1:50. At the finish, he was seven and a half lengths clear of the rest of the field. Dakota Roadster got up for second while Royale Rose got third. Driven by Casey Leonard and trained by Terry Leonard, Fox Valley Gemini won for the 30th time from only 39 starts. As written above, Fox Valley Gemini got the mile in 1:50 after fractions of :27.1, :59, and 1:22.3.   THE FOX VALLEY FLAN CHAMPIONSHIP Lous Abigail, winning for the seventh time in 10 starts, took Saturday's $82,000 Fox Valley Flan Championship, for three years old and up ICF Pacers. Driven by leading driver Casey Leonard and trained by Steven Searle, Lous Abigail won by a comfortable four and three-quarter lengths. Owned by Flacco Family Farms LLC, Lous Abigail got the mile in 2:00.1, after fractions of :29.4, :58.4 and 1:28.3 Bee See held on for second while Fox Valley Lush finished third.   THE INCREDIBLE TILLIE CHAMPIONSHIP Morning-line favorite but second-choice in the wagering, Fox Valley Exploit, owned by David Brigham and Kyle Husted, and driven and trained by Kyle Husted, won the $115,000 Incredible Tillie Championship, for two-year-old filly Trotters, by three and a half lengths. They raced through fractions of :29.4, :58.4, 1:28.3 with a final time of 2:00.1 Bee See, the slight wagering favorite, finished second with Lous Abigail getting up for third.   THE PLESAC CHAMPIONSHIP It was never really a contest. Danny S. Graham's Annas Lucky Star, already a track-record holder, simply dominated in Saturday's $45,000 Plesac Championship, for 3-year-olds and up ICF Trotters. She took the lead quickly and won as she pleased, going off at 1-9 and drawing off to win by 15 lengths. Her time of 1:56.3 was seconds slower than her lifetime best of 1:53.1 but it didn't matter. She set modest fractions of :30, :59, and 1:27.3. Trained by Nelson Willis and driven by Kyle Wilfong, Annas Lucky Star won for the 33rd time in her career, and her ninth from 15 starts in 2019. Primed N Powerful tracked all the way and held for second with Majistic Caprice finishing third.   THE BEULAH DYGERT MEMORIAL CHAMPIONSHIP Flacco Family Farms' popular filly Louzotic made every pole a winning one in the $95,000 Beulah Dygert Memorial Championship, for 3-year-old ICF filly Trotters, on Saturday night. Winning for the 11th time in 15 starts this year, including her fifth straight, Louzotic had regular driver Kyle Husted in the bike. This talented filly is trained by Steven Searle. She finished six and a quarter lengths ahead of rival Heidi High with Lous Paramour getting up for the show dough. Louzotic led all the way through fractions of :29.1, :59.4, 1:29.4 with a final time of 1:58.3.   THE ERWIN F. DYGERT CHAMPIONSHIP Lourhianon, winning for the second straight time since getting Lasix, overcame the outside post position and the sloppy track to take the $92,000 Erwin F. Dygert Memorial, for 3-year-old ICF colts and geldings, going away. Owned by C Lawrence Mc Burney, trained by Kennedy Lindsey, and driven by Luke Plano, Lourhianon took the lead soon after coming out of the far turn, raced wide through the stretch and still won by six and three-quarter lengths. He got the mile in 1:57.3 after early fractions of :29.4, :59.3, and 1:29. Frontier Maynard grabbed second with For Trots Sakes coming in third.   THE KADABRA CHAMPIONSHIP When favored Fox Valley Quest broke coming out of the first turn in Saturday's $108,000 Kadabra Championship, for 2-year-old ICF colt and gelding Trotters, that opened up the opportunity for everybody else. Ed Teefey's Crooked Creek took advantage. Winning for the third straight time and the fifth time in nine races, Ryan Anderson guided this Mike Brink trainee to a six-length victory in 1:55.3. Desert Sheik, another Brink-trained Trotter, finished second. Longshot Fitchey For Fun snagged third place. Early fractions for the race were :29.4, :58.1. and 1:27.3.   THE INCREDIBLE FINALE CHAMPIONSHIP Triple Zzz's He'zzz A Wise Guy was a three and a quarter-length winner in Saturday's $102,000 Incredible Finale Championship. The race was for 2-year-old ICF colt and gelding Pacers. His victory was his fifth straight from only seven races. Trained by Donald Filomeno, He'zzz A Wise Guy was guided to the victory by Robert Smolin. Favored Fox Valley Ren, who had won seven of nine races, finished second with RJ Wulfy finishing third. He covered the mile in 1:55.0 after fractions of :28.3, :57/4 and 1:27.1   THE ROBERT F. CAREY, JR. MEMORIAL CHAMPIONSHIP Fox Valley Triton, who was beaten as the favorite in his last leg of the Carey, made amends in the $109,000 Robert F. Carey, Jr. Memorial Championship on Saturday night. The Carey was for 3-year-old ICF colts and gelding pacers. Owned by Dandy Farms Racing, FT Racing and Peter A Kouchis, trained by Terry Leonard and driven by Casey Leonard (his third win of the night) Fox Valley Triton eked out a neck victory over Meyer On Fire. Maximus finished third. With fractions of :28.3, :57.3, 1:26.1, he got the mile in 1:54.1   THE PLUM PEACHY CHAMPIONSHIP Fox Valley Halsey made it two in a row with a victory in Saturday's $100,000 Plum Peachy. Owned by Cynthia Kay Willis, Ronnie J & Jerry D Graham, Fox Valley Halsey is trained by Nelson Willis and was driven by Juan Franco. Fox Valley Halsey finished a neck ahead of Fox Valley Lil Kim with Fox Valley Torrid a neck behind. He covered the mile in 1:54.4 after early fractions of :28.4, :58.1 and 1:25.3   THE TONY MAURELLO CHAMPIONSHIP Francis L Greer and James E Greer's Skeeter Machine won the finale on the Night of Champions. The race, The $45,000 Tony Maurello Championship, was for ICF 3-year-olds and up Pacers. Trained by Nicole Agosti and driven by Kyle Husted (his third victory of the night) Skeeter Machine won for the fifth time this year and the 17th time in his career. The final race of the night brought fractions of :28.1, :57, 1:25.1 with a final time of 1:54.0 Whiskersonkittens got up for second place, a half-length back, while there was a dead heat for third place between San Antonio Rose and Fox Valley Charm Hawthorne Race Course, Chicago's Hometown Track, returned for live harness racing on Friday, May 3. The summer harness meet opened on Friday, May 3 and races through September 22. Fall thoroughbreds close out the year, running from October 10 through December 28. For more information, visit or contact Hawthorne at 708-780-3700.   Jim Miller

STICKNEY, IL - The summer harness racing season at Hawthorne Race Course culminates this weekend as eleven stakes finals will compromise Night of Champions on Saturday night. Four legs of preliminary events have led to the finals for two and three-year olds while eliminations were contested last weekend for the aged divisions. With a 7:20 PM post time Saturday, events will begin earlier in the night, including a driver autograph session at 6:30 PM and the ability to meet past Illinois Champion horse Mini Me on the Hawthorne apron. The $45,000 Robert S. Molaro Handicap kicks off the stakes evening as reigning Illinois-bred Horse of the Year Fox Valley Gemini leads the field of six. A winner of 29 of 38 lifetime starts, the Terry Leonard trainee has won 10 times this year, including last week's preview. Owned by Jim Ballinger, Casey Leonard will be in the bike. Unlocked returns to Hawthorne as he recently surpassed $600,000 in lifetime earnings. A winner at Hawthorne last year, he races for trainer Nelson Willis with Jim Pantaleano driving. Two-year-old filly trotters follow in the $82,000 Fox Valley Flan Championship. The full field of ten is led by of pair of Steve Searle trainees in Bee See and Lous Abigail. Bee See draws post position two and she enters the race a winner of five of nine starts on the year. Regular driver Kyle Husted will be in the bike. The second Searle trainee, Lous Abigail, isn't helped by her post draw as she will start from the outside of the field of ten. Leading driver Casey Leonard gets the call as Lous Abigail has finished first of second in all nine of her starts. Juvenile filly pacers are next up with a wide open field of ten in the $115,000 Incredible Tillie Championship. Different horses have won legs in this series as Fox Valley Exploit leads the way from the inside. Trained and driven by Kyle Husted, Fox Valley Exploit has won half of her eight starts on the year, including the Directors Award two races back. Sign Her Up races for trainer Charles Arthur as Juan Franco drives. A winner of three of her last five, Sign Her Up comes in off a victory in the most recent leg of the Incredible Tillie. Sleazy Gal draws the outside for owner Engel Stable of IL, LLC and trainer Erv Miller. A winner from the outside in the final at the Illinois State Fair last month, Kyle Wilfong returns in the bike. Aged trotters take to the track in the $45,000 Plesac Championship. The field of five features top mare Annas Lucky Star as she faces the boys once again. The track record holder is owned by Danny Graham and races for Nelson Willis. A 32-time winner from 56 starts, Annas Lucky Star was impressive in last week's preview victory. Kyle Wilfong returns to drive. Talk About Valor poses the biggest threat to Annas Lucky Star. Casey Leonard drives the Gerald Hansen trainee as he has found the board in all 18 starts this year. The $95,000 Beulah Dygert Memorial Championship for three-year-old filly trotters has a field of ten as the favorite draws the rail. Flacco Family Farms LLC owned Louzotic starts from the inside for trainer Steve Searle and driver Kyle Husted. A winner of 10 of 14 starts on the year, Louzotic rides a four race win streak into this final. Another in fine form is Skippymalou as the second of four starters in the race for Flacco Family Farms. A six time winner on the year, she enters this final a winner of three of her last four starts. Casey Leonard drives Skippymalou. Three-year-old male trotters follow in the $92,000 Erwin F. Dygert Memorial Championship. Flacco Family Farms LLC is featured prominently once again with a pair in this race. Lousraptor has six victories on the year and has hit the board in 13 of 16 races. Casey Leonard returns in the bike. Lourhianon pulled off the upset of Lousraptor in the final leg leading into this final for trainer Kennedy Lindsey. He draws the outside in the final for driver Luke Plano as he looks for his seventh victory of the year. The $108,000 Kadabra Championship for two-year-old male trotters is led by the talented Fox Valley Quest from the barn of trainer Tom Simmons. A winner of nine of 11 starts, Fox Valley Quest looks to show his speed and control this field from start to finish for driver Casey Leonard. Crooked Creek has arrived late on the scene, but comes in off an impressive win on the front end in his most recent start for trainer Mike Brink. Ryan Anderson picks up the drive once again. Male juvenile pacers race in the $102,000 Incredible Finale Championship as the top contenders are stuck on the outside of this full field. Megan Rogers Racing Stables Incorporated's Fox Valley Ren is the one to beat for trainer Nelson Willis. A winner of seven of nine starts this year, he has good early speed and has shown past ability to overcome the outside draw. Kyle Wilfong remains in the bike. One slot to Fox Valley Ren's outside is He'zzz A Wise Sky from the barn of Don Filomeno. Getting a later start to his season, He'zzz A Wise Sky has been ultra-impressive, winning four straight races coming into this final. The most competitive race of the evening looks to be the $109,000 Robert F. Carey Jr. Memorial Championship. Three horses have traded punches for supremacy at this level led by Maximus, from the barn of Ken Rucker. The seven-time winner on the year was third in the final at the Illinois State Fair and was game in victory in the final leg of the Carey leading into tonight's race. Trainer Erv Miller sends out Meyer on Fire, who got the best of Maximus at the Illinois State Fair. With four wins on the year, Meyer on Fire has hit the board in 10 of 12 starts this season. Fox Valley Triton races for Terry Leonard. The runner-up at the State Fair and in the most recent leg of the Carey, he has hit the board in 12 of 14 this season. $100,000 is on the line in the Plum Peachy Championship for three-year-old filly pacers. A pair that has battled throughout the season meet up again as Fox Valley Torrid and Perch look to settle who is best in this class. Fox Valley Torrid races for Sox Valley Standardbreds and trainer Rodney Freese. A winner of seven of 15 starts on the year, he has won three of his last four entering this final. Casey Leonard drives. Perch has been on the wrong end of the battle with Fox Valley Torrid recently, but did get the best of her in winning the final at the Illinois State Fair in August. She has won six of 15 starts this year for trainer Jay Garrels as regular driver Kyle Wilfong returns to drive. The Night of Champions closes out with a full field of aged female pacers in the $45,000 Tony Maurello Championship. Trainer Dirk Simpson sends out Fox Valley Charm who comes off a victory in the elimination last week. Whiskersonkittens won the second elimination last week as trainer Kim Roth looks to have her in fine form leading into this final. Driver Luke Plano has been a good fit for her in recent starts. Hawthorne Race Course, Chicago's Hometown Track, returned for live harness racing on Friday, May 3. The summer harness meet opened on Friday, May 3 and races through September 22. Fall thoroughbreds close out the year, running from October 10 through December 28. For more information, visit or contact Hawthorne at 708-780-3700. by Jim Miller, for Hawthorne Race Course

Morton Grove, Illinois (USA) – September 18, 2019 – The Night of Champions (NOC) – the biggest night of standardbred racing in the State of Illinois at Hawthorne Racecourse in Stickney, Illinois, this Saturday night, September 21, 2019, at 6:30 PM CDT ,The Horseman’s Voice will be covering the harness racing event from strictly a grass-roots level.  “The information age is upon us, for it is now time for us to showcase and highlight the beauty of standardbred racing from all aspects as we plan our efforts for 2020 and beyond,” stated Publisher/Podcaster Eric M. Poders, “The international horse racing community has waited long enough and the people of the State of Illinois will be excited for the future prospects of Illinois racing will be in the next 2-3 years.” Due to the uncertainty of racing over more than a decade, Illinois racing is at the forefront of revitalizing the sport internationally, “The time has come as Illinois racing has spiraled and as they say ‘when you get to the bottom you go back to the top’ will be our new drive in re-vitalizing efforts in promoting strictly Illinois racing worldwide,” Poders continued, “Moving forward for 2020 we’re anticipating lots of new technological advances for promoting the sport all while keeping it local, and grassroots – and we’re excited moving forward. Hawthorne Racecourse is planning to invest $500 million all whilst preserving live racing and building a facility suitable for all breeds of horse people and we’re excited to showcase to the world their efforts statewide.” The Horseman’s Voice is an international online media source that originated in 2003 as a small tri-fold brochure then quickly grew into an international podcast within six (6) months within the Standardbred (Harness) Racing Industry. For more information contact Publisher Eric M. Poders at +1.847.530.2222 or

STICKNEY, IL - Records are made to be broken. When it's your own record, it makes things a little bittersweet. When you do it on back to back nights, that makes it a whole lot of fun. That was the story for harness racing driver Casey Leonard this past weekend at Hawthorne as he put together consecutive nights winning eight races at Hawthorne. On Friday evening the eight wins came in a mixed bag for Leonard over the course of the rescheduled 25 race card from the cancelled DuQuoin Fair. Leonard's first win came in the sixth non-wagering event when he guided Skippymalou (1:59.1) to the win in the County Fair Challenge. In the following non-wagering race, Leonard and Talk About Valor (1:57.4) trotted home to the second victory of the day. Casey kicked off the Friday pari-mutuel card with another County Fair Challenge win, this time with Ole Swamp Master (1:54.2). After missing by a nose in the night's second race with Char N Marg and a head in the eighth race with Yankee Bounty, Casey would get his fourth win of the day in race 10, guiding Lous Abigail (1:59.4) to a victory in the $27,250 Shawnee. Another stakes score came in the following event as Fox Valley Torrid (1:56.3) was triumphant in the $27,250 Time Dancer. Casey made it three straight stakes scores as he drove home Fox Valley Quest (1:58.2) in the $27,250 Darn Safe. He would close out the big Friday night with two more stakes scores, driving Fox Valley Triton (1:56.0) to the win in the $27,250 Dudley Hanover and Lousraptor (1:57.4) in the $27,250 Pronto Don. While those eight wins on Friday was an exceptional night over the course of the 25 races contested, it was nothing for Casey Leonard as he outdid himself on Saturday. It only took a 15 race Saturday card for Leonard to equal his eight win record, this time doing it all during the pari-mutuel card, a Hawthorne record. The night started slowly for Leonard, missing the board in the first two races of the evening before finishing second in the night's third event. After that, Leonard caught fire. He won six straight races as Impressive Trick (1:55.3), Some Nobody (1:55.2), Rockin N Runnin (1:52.3), Fox Valley Gemini (1:51.0), DJ Lance (1:52.3), and Impressive Cowboy (1:55.1) comprised the six win streak. After missing the board in the tenth race, Parklane Official (1:52.2) won race 11 to make it a seven win night. Leonard closed out the night with his Hawthorne record eighth victory on the card as Tappin Outamessage was victorious in the finale. Hawthorne Race Course, Chicago's Hometown Track, returned for live harness racing on Friday, May 3. The summer harness meet opened on Friday, May 3 and races through September 22. Fall thoroughbreds close out the year, running from October 10 through December 28. For more information, visit or contact Hawthorne at 708-780-3700. by Jim Miller, for Hawthorne Race Course

STICKNEY, IL - After an extremely successful week of harness racing at the Illinois State Fair in Springfield, Mother Nature was not as kind when racing shifted to the DuQuoin State Fair last weekend. Rain fell for four consecutive days leading to the start of the fair, leaving the track in no condition to contest races. "We weren't expecting the weather conditions to be as poor as they were in DuQuoin," stated fair racing General Manager Jim Miller. "An unexpected storm the morning of the first day of racing made it so the track surface couldn't recover in time. We consulted with our horsemen's group, the Illinois Racing Board, and Illinois Department of Agriculture and everyone felt it was in the best interest of the horses to shift the races to Hawthorne this Friday. Logistically this made the most sense. We wanted to make sure that every horseman who had entered to race in DuQuoin was given an opportunity to race, thus the reason why all 25 races will be contested at Hawthorne on Friday." The 25 race card on Friday at Hawthorne will make for an eight hour afternoon and evening of harness action. Nine non-wagering events will kick off the afternoon, starting at 4:00 PM, followed by a 16 race wagering card, beginning at 6:30 PM. With the DuQuoin cards shifting to Hawthorne, those horsemen contesting overnight races will be given additional opportunities to race. Expanded cards at Hawthorne will be offered on Saturday and Sunday evening this week with a first post of 6:30 PM. While the cards from DuQuoin shift to Hawthorne, all of the races moved over as drawn initially for the 25 races. Some top Illinois-breds will be on the track in the non-wagering races as they gear up for possible Night of Champions competition. In the seventh non-wagering event, Primed N Powerful and Talk About Valor match up. Primed N Powerful has won eight times on the year with a 1:55.1 best mile at Scioto in the slop. Talk About Valor has found the board in all 16 starts this season, including a victory in 1:55.1 in Springfield. In the eighth non-wagering event, track record holder Annas Lucky Star returns as she looks for her seventh win of the year. The five-year-old mare has faced the boys much of the season but gets the take on females in this event with Kyle Wilfong driving. Wilfong is back with another solid entrant in the final non-wagering event as he drives You'remyhearthrob. A winner in 1:49.4 for the fastest mile in Springfield this year, he looks to have returned to his top form at the right time. The 16-race wagering card on Friday night includes eight stakes events, creating a great Night of Champions preview just three weeks before the richest night of harness racing in the state. Three-year-old filly trotters kick off the stakes action in the $27,250 events as the Windy Skeeter is the first stakes event. The field of five is led by eight-time winner Louzotic from the barn of trainer Steve Searle for owner Flacco Family Farms LLC. A winner of four of her last five, Louzotic's top competition may come from Joe Joes Violet and Heidi High. Joe Joes Violet has hit the board in 11 of 17 starts on the year for trainer Roshun Trigg while Heidi High is 11 of 13 in the money for trainer Charles Arthur. The Shawnee goes as race ten on Friday as a field of nine two-year-old filly trotters line up. Trainer Steve Searle sends out the top two choices in Bee See and Lous Abigail. Bee See has won four of seven starts this year, including a game victory over Lous Abigail in the stakes final in Springfield last out. Lous Abigail has finished first or second in all seven starts this year as she draws just to the inside of Bee See. Three-year-old filly pacers follow in the Time Dancer with a competitive field of six. Fox Valley Torrid is the morning line choice for Fox Valley Standardbreds and trainer Rodney Freese. A five-time winner on the year, she won her elimination in Springfield before finishing a good second in the final. The filly she finished second to was Perch, as she races for trainer Rick Schrock. A six-time winner in 2019, Perch rallied late for the win in Springfield for driver Kyle Wilfong. The Darn Safe is next for two-year-old colt and gelding trotters with nine set to face off. Trainer Tom Simmons sends out morning line choice Fox Valley Quest as he has finished first or second in all eight starts. Casey Leonard drives for owners Carl Lacy and Benita Simmons. To her outside is the horse who upset Fox Valley Quest in the Springfield final, On Higher Ground. Trained by Mike Brink, On Higher Ground has won three of his last four as Ridge Warren takes the return drive. Two-year-old filly pacers follow in the Director's Award with a full field of ten. Double Parked benefits from the improved post off her Springfield final as Travis Seekman drives for owner/trainer Leroy Hunt. A winner of six of eight starts on the year, Double Parked was impressive in her elimination before giving way in the final. The winner of that final was Sleazy Gal as she races for Engel Stable of IL, LLC and trainer Erv Miller. Sleazy Gal has found the board in five of six starts as Kyle Wilfong drives. The Governor's Cup has a field of eight three-year-old colt and gelding pacers. Fox Valley Ren will be heavily favored as he carries a six race win streak into this start. Owned by Megan Rogers Racing Stables Inc. and trained by Nelson Willis, Kyle Wilfong drives. Rg's Tracer poses the biggest threat to Fox Valley Ren as he has chased him home in each of his last three starts. First or second in all six starts, Rg's Tracer will be driven by Travis Seekman. The Dudley Hanover goes as race 15 Friday as a competitive field of three-year-old colt and gelding pacers battle. Meyer on Fire is a slight favorite for Engel Stables of IL, LLC and trainer Erv Miller. A winner of his last two, Meyer on Fire rallied late for Kyle Husted to win going away. Second in the Springfield final was Fox Valley Triton as he races for Dandy Farms Racing, Ft Racing Stable, and Peter Kouchis. The Terry Leonard trainee has hit the board in 10 of 12 starts this year. He was the runner-up in each of his Springfield starts. The final race of the 25 race bonanza Friday is the Pronto Don for three-year-old colt and gelding trotters. Lousraptor is the favorite for Flacco Family Farms LLC and trainer Roshun Trigg. Impressive in both wins in Springfield, he will look to hold off Lourhianon and Louscardamon. Hawthorne Race Course, Chicago's Hometown Track, returned for live harness racing on Friday, May 3. The summer harness meet opened on Friday, May 3 and races through September 22. Fall thoroughbreds close out the year, running from October 10 through December 28. For more information, visit or contact Hawthorne at 708-780-3700. From the Illinois Fair Racing Circuit

STICKNEY, IL--While the older harness racing horses were on the track at Hawthorne for the leg two Night of Champions events last weekend, the babies were featured this week. On Friday night, two-year-old male pacers were the focus in a pair of divisions of the Incredible Finale. Race three was the first division as a field of six was led by RJ Wulfy as he looked for his fourth straight win to open his career. At the start, it was Ryan Anderson guiding RJ Wulfy to the lead as he passed the quarter in :28.1. On the backside, Casey Leonard wasted no time and pulled second choice Fox Valley Ren from fourth and moved to the front, covering a half in :56.3. Leading the field through the turn after three quarters in 1:27, Fox Valley Ren opened up a two length margin into the stretch. Mid-stretch, RJ Wulfy made one more move to challenge but couldn't get home in time. Fox Valley Ren covered the mile in 1:55.3. RJ Wulfy held second while Ryans Ambassador finished third. Fox Valley Ren is owned by Megan Rogers Racing Stables, Inc. and trained by Nelson Willis. Race four was the second division of the Incredible Finale as a field of six was led by RG's Tracer with Travis Seekman driving. Making the early lead was the favorite as he passed the half in :29.0. On the backside, RG'S Tracer maintained his lead while chased by Canadian Mountie through the half in :58.1. After three quarters in 1:26.4, RG'S Tracer opened up a clear advantage in the stretch, winning by daylight in 1:55.2. Hello Rooster closed to finish second while Chick Magnet was third. RG's Tracer is owned by Robert Grismore and Charles Knipp. Two-year-old filly pacers were featured on Saturday night in a pair of divisions of the Incredible Tillie. Race three was the first division as favoritism moved between Fox Valley Vixen, Sleazy Gal, and Fox Valley Exploit. Making the top was Fox Valley Vixen as she passed the opening quarter in :29.2. On the backside, Sleazy Gal made her surge to the front, as she was the leader after a half in :58.3. Into the turn, Kyle Husted moved Fox Valley Exploit to the front, covering three quarters in 1:27.4. In the lane, Fox Valley Exploit held her lead as Sleazy Gal tried hard to catch her but wasn't able to do so. Fox Valley Exploit won in 1:56.0. Sleazy Gal finished second while longshot Castielle was third. Fox Valley Exploit is owned by David Brigham and Kyle Husted and trained by Kyle Husted. Race seven was the second division of the Incredible Tillie as Double Parked and Travis Seekman looked for her fourth win in a row to open her career. Leaving for the top was the favorite as she passed the quarter in :29.2. Tracked by June Dale Gram on the backside through the half in :59.1, the duo opened up some ground on the rest of the field. In the turn, Double Parked maintained her advantage, passing three quarters in 1:27.2. In the stretch, Ridge Warren guided June Dale Gram out from behind the favorite and rallied to get up in the shadow of the wire for the upset in 1:55.2. Double Parked held second while Ashlees Fine Girl was third. June Dale Gram is owned by Carol Graham and trained by JD Lewis. Four trots took place for the babies on Sunday evening with a pair of divisions of the Fox Valley Flan for fillies and the Kadabra for the boys. Race two was the first division of the Fox Valley Flan as Lous Abigail was the even money favorite. Leaving for the lead was Celone Hall as Brandon Bates guided her through the quarter in :30.0. On the backside, Fox Valley Extacy brushed to the front but the lead was brief as Celone Hall regained the lead through the half in 1:00.2. Tracked through the turn by Lous Abigail, Celone Hall covered three quarters in 1:30.4 as she headed into the lane. After one last try by Lous Abigail, Celone Hall held her off, winning in 2:00.0. Lous Abigail was second while Lous Flashy Dancer finished third. Driver Gerry Brown lodged an objection against Lous Abigail but no change was made. Celone Hall is owned in partnership by Darin Tournear, Georgeann Tournear, and trainer Mike Brink. Race three was the second division of the Fox Valley Flan as Bee See was a heavy favorite with Kyle Husted Driving. Getting away quickly was Lauren Hall as she cruised through an easy quarter in :32.1. On the backside, Kyle Husted recognized the slow pace and moved Bee See to the top. After passing the half in 1:02.0 and three quarters in 1:32.1, Bee See opened up her lead into the stretch. Chased by Lauren Hall through the lane, Bee See held sway, winning in 2:00.4. Lauren Hall was second while Olympic Hopeful finished third. Bee See is owned in partnership by Baldes, Paloma, Paloma, and trainer Steve Searle. Race five was the first division of leg two of the Kadabra as Fox Valley Kobe was the 3-5 favorite with Kyle Wilfong driving. At the start, the favorite settled in as Twin Cedars Rocket was sent to the front through a quarter in :30.4. On the backstretch, Wilfong wasted little time heading to the lead as Fox Valley Kobe took over through the half in 1:00.4. Opening up a lead in the turn, Fox Valley Kobe covered three quarters in 1:31.0. In the lane, Fox Valley Kobe extended her lead, winning easily while stopping the timer in 2:00.3. Deememorymaker finished second while Fox Valley Briton was third. Fox Valley Kobe is owned by Phil Langley, Mike Brown, and trainer Jim Eaton. Race six was the second division of the Kadabra with a field of nine led by Fox Valley Quest and driver Casey Leonard. Leaving were numerous horses as a trio passed the quarter in :29.1 led by U S Patriot. On the backside, Fitchey for Fun moved to the top, covering a half in :59.3. On the turn, Fitchey for Fun opened up briefly but Desert Sheik made a strong brush to take over through three quarters in 1:30.1. in the lane, Mike Brink got after Desert Sheik as his head start was good enough to hold off the late closing Fox Valley Quest. On Higher Ground finished third. Desert Sheik stopped the clock in 1:58.3. Desert Sheik is owned by Mark Brown, Charles Biggs, and trainer Mike Brink. Hawthorne Race Course, Chicago's Hometown Track, returned for live harness racing on Friday, May 3. The summer harness meet opened on Friday, May 3 and races through September 22. Fall thoroughbreds close out the year, running from October 10 through December 28. For more information, visit or contact Hawthorne at 708-780-3700.   Jim Miller

STICKNEY, IL--On a night where the juvenile trotters were featured in leg two action for Night of Champions races at Hawthorne, it was the older mare who stole the show. In the fourth race on the card, five-year-old harness racing mare Annas Lucky Star defeated the boys as she got up in the shadow of the wire to catch Pine Dream. After rating second to last in the early portion of the race, Annas Lucky Star began her move on the backstretch, following live cover of Got the Groove. Into the lane, Pine Dream had opened up a four length advantage as Kyle Wilfong guided Annas Lucky Star to the outside and began to move. Closing ground with every stride, Annas Lucky Star caught Pine Dream on the wire, winning by a nose. Annas Lucky Star stopped the timer in 1:53.4, besting a track record that she previously co-owned with Spiralscruznsarah from 2002 of 1:54.1. The win was the 28th of Annas Lucky Star's career in her 50th career start. Annas Lucky Star is owned by Danny Graham and trained by Nelson Willis. Hawthorne Race Course, Chicago's Hometown Track, returned for live harness racing on Friday, May 3. The summer harness meet opened on Friday, May 3 and races through September 22. Fall thoroughbreds close out the year, running from October 10 through December 28. For more information, visit or contact Hawthorne at 708-780-3700.   Jim Miller

People who earn their livelihoods working with horses in eastern Will County, Chicago, are hoping recent gaming-expansion legislation will revive the struggling harness racing industry. “It’s a good business,” said Kim Roth, 51, of Crete, a horse trainer and owner. “Obviously, it’s dwindled. Hopefully (the legislation) will turn things around. It’s going to help everything.” “Everything” involves thousands of jobs directly and indirectly related to harness racing, according to an industry trade group. There are investors who own horses, men and women who breed and train the animals and drivers who man the carts known as sulkies. The trade involves veterinarians who care for animals, blacksmiths who shoe them, farmers who grow hay, occupations related to the transport of horses and entry-level jobs of mucking stables and grooming horses. Roth works out of Sawgrass Training Center near Crete, where trainers and riders take horses around a half-mile limestone track. Because of economics, there are far fewer horses bred in Illinois today than in past years. “Our breeding industry has collapsed,” Roth said. “That’s going to have to be completely rebuilt.” To put it in perspective, there were 124 standardbred horses foaled in Illinois in 2018, according to the Illinois Harness Horsemen’s Association. During harness racing’s peak in the 1980s, there were more than 2,000 horses foaled each year in the state, the group said. Trainer Kim Roth, 51, of Crete, works with Ashlee's Fine, a 2-year-old standardbred Illinois horse she is training, on Tuesday, July 2, 2019, at Sawgrass Training Center near Crete. "Our breeding industry has collapsed, " she said of the decline in the number of horses bred in Illinois. (Ted Slowik/Daily Southtown) “The purses have got so low, people can’t afford to pay their training bills,” Roth said. Nelson Willis, 75, of Crete, has worked in the business for 62 years, starting as a horse groomer when he was 13 years old. “You’ve got to learn how to take care of a horse before you learn how to train one,” he said. Willis said he trains “22 or 23” horses at Sawgrass and employs five people. Previously, he said, he had a dozen people working for him when he trained 55 horses at Balmoral Park near Crete. “I’ve seen the best of times and right now it’s the worst it’s ever been in this state,” Willis said. “So many people have left here.” For years, track owners, breeders and others in the trade pleaded with legislators to allow gaming positions at racetracks. Illinois was losing out to Ohio, Indiana and other states that drew more competitors and spectators, they said. Trainer Nelson Willis, 75, of Beecher, holds onto a horse halter outside a barn on Tuesday, July 2, 2019, at Sawgrass Training Center near Crete. "I've seen the best of times and right now it's the worst it's ever been in this state," Willis said of the harness racing industry in Illinois. (Ted Slowik/Daily Southtown) After years of efforts, the General Assembly recently passed and Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed into law a measure to expand gaming. The major changes allow casinos in Chicago, the south suburbs and four other areas; legalizes sports betting; permits video gaming terminals at racetracks and other large venues; and designates a new racetrack for the south suburbs. Tinley Park officials have said a developer is interested in building the racetrack on the site of the former state mental health facility northwest of Harlem Avenue and 183rd Street. The historic approval happened seven years after lawmakers passed a measure to expand gaming and address losses in the horse racing industry. Former Gov. Pat Quinn vetoedthe 2012 measure. “That left a bad taste in everyone’s mouth,” said Roger Welch, 55, of Beecher. “That was the biggest letdown. One person with a veto single-handedly stopped Illinois horse racing in its tracks.” Welch is a fourth-generation horseman who was inducted into the Illinois Harness Racing Hall of Fame in 2012. He has bred world-champion horses, such as Fox Valley Anabell, a horse owned by the late New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner. The harness racing industry in Illinois has rapidly declined in the past five years, Welch said. “There’s no market to sell (horses) in Illinois,” Welch said. “I hope it’s not too late” to bring back the industry. Welch said he remembers when he was a child and visited Sportsman’s Park near Cicero. Crowds were so big, people paid for parking and admission, he said. Attendance dwindled as years passed, despite free admission and parking. Welch said he still lives in Beecher but spends the horse-racing season in Indiana, working mostly at Harrah’s Hoosier Park Racing and Casino in Anderson, northeast of Indianapolis. Since 2016, Hawthorne Race Course on the border of Cicero and Stickney has been the Chicago area’s only track with harness racing. Hawthorne also hosts thoroughbred racing. Balmoral ended its harness-racing tradition after the 2015 season and became a show-jumping venue in 2017. Maywood Park near Melrose Park also closed in 2015. Sportsman’s Park hosted its last horse race in 2002 and was demolished in 2009. Other harness racing tracks were Washington Park Race Track in Homewood and Aurora Downs Racetrack. Fire destroyed Washington Park in 1977, and Aurora Downs went out of business in 1976. During a 99-day peak stretch in the summer of 1979, Sportsman’s averaged daily attendance of 13,136 patrons who wagered a daily average of $1.6 million, the Chicago Tribune reported in 2017. Back then, harness racing outdrew thoroughbred racing at Arlington Park. Thoroughbreds — the types of horses raced at the Kentucky Derby — are larger but more delicate animals, Roth said. “Standardbred horses are tougher,” she said. Breeding stallions and mares for thoroughbred racing also is more expensive. Harness racers turned to Amish farmers for standardbred workhorses, Welch said. “Amish breeders were breeding every buggy mare they had,” he said. Thoroughbred racing has jockeys; standardbred racing has drivers. Several factors contributed to the decline of harness racing in Illinois, including the introduction of riverboat casinos in the 1990s. In 1995, state lawmakers introduced “purse recapture,” a provision designed to help racetracks when live simulcasts of out-of-state races were introduced. Recapture awarded track owners a share of money that otherwise would have been allotted to purses. The lower purses in Illinois drove many horsemen and horses to races in other states. The decline in racing quality further diminished attendance. “It was a chain reaction,” Roth said. The new legislation ends purse recapture after nearly 25 years. “Purse recapture was the killer,” Welch said. “The racetracks kept recapturing the money and the wagering dollars were less and less every year.” The Illinois Harness Horsemen’s Association estimates that harness racing-related jobs stand at about 20,000 in Illinois, down from a peak of more than 60,000 two decades ago. The new legislation will create jobs indirectly related to harness racing, including racetrack positions such as tellers, bartenders, servers, marketers and accountants, the IHHA said. “The ripple effect of our industry on the Illinois economy is wide and difficult to grasp sometimes,” IHHA President Marty Engel said in a statement. “It was one of our missions to make sure that our economic impact was understood as valuable.” Blacksmith Jimmy Halvorson, 35, of Crete, shoes a horse on Tuesday, July 2, 2019, at Sawgrass Training Center near Crete. "A lot of people left. Now there's a lot of talk that they want to come home," he said of harness racing-related jobs in Illinois. (Ted Slowik/Daily Southtown) Jimmy Halvorson, 35, of Crete, is a blacksmith who shoes horses at Sawgrass and other training centers. “It seemed like we had a dying business here,” Halvorson said. “A lot of people left. Now there’s a lot of talk they that want to come home.” Despite track closures, declining attendance and job losses in the industry, horsemen and women are optimistic that the new legislation will create growth within a few years. “I’m excited,” Welch said. “I think it’s going to be real promising.” Welch and others believe breeders, buyers and workers will return to Illinois as the harness racing industry is re-established. “This is going to get our breeding business going again,” Roth said.  By TED SLOWIK  Reprinted with permission of The Chicago Tribune

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