Day At The Track
Search Results
1 to 6 of 6
1

CHICAGO — The daily schedule of harness racing trainer Hosea Williams hasn’t changed much since COVID-19 started to batter Illinois’ economy. He still rises at 4 a.m. each day and heads for the stables of Hawthorne Race Course in Cicero where his six Standardbreds await their daily exercise. There is one difference, though. Once the weekend comes, there will be no racing — and thus, even as his expenses mount, no income. “I’ve got a payroll — not a huge one, but I pay three people every week,” Williams said. “I will be OK. But you’ve got people there who are not OK.” Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s stay-at-home order issued to combat the coronavirus outbreak has hammered many trades, but none more than the equine industry. From racetracks to trail rides, many who make a living through horses have seen their incomes dry up almost entirely. But unlike other businesses, horse owners say, they can’t merely hunker down and wait for things to get better. Frizell Thomas, left, is shown at Hawthorn Race Course on Thursday. The Pandemic is expected to have a devastating impact on the Industry “If you’ve got a movie theater, you shut it down and put a closed sign in the window,” said Gerald Hansen, a Monee-based owner and trainer of harness horses. “With horses, they’ve got to eat every day. They’ve got to be worked every day. If this thing goes more than a month, we’re in deep trouble.” Hawthorne began its season the second week of February but got in only five weekends of harness racing before it had to close. No racing means no betting, no purses and no way to offset the roughly $1,500 in monthly expenses each horse racks up. Hosea Williams with his horse, Rollin Coal, at Hawthorn Race Course on Thursday in Cicero. STACEY WESCOTT, CHICAGO TRIBUNE The track briefly planned to keep racing without fans in the stands -- betting would have continued online -- but shut down entirely after Pritzker limited the size of public gatherings. About 600 horses are still boarding at the track, Hawthorne spokesman Jim Miller said, and the backstretch workers who care for them are still there too. He said the Cicero school district, which many of the workers’ children attend, is providing meals for the kids. The stay-at-home order runs through April 7, meaning the track will be idle for at least two more weekends. But Pritzker has suggested the order could be extended, a thought that unnerves the harness racing community. “As this goes on, two weeks, three weeks, we could be OK,” said Tony Somone of the Illinois Harness Horsemen’s Association. “But as it hits four weeks, five weeks, six weeks, we’re going to see some horsemen struggle to feed themselves and feed their horses.” Should it come to that, some will have to sell their horses in a glutted marketplace, though Hansen said the destination of last resort isn’t the proverbial glue factory — it’s Amish country, where families use harness horses to pull buggies. Somone said some in the sport are pursuing emergency small business loans offered by the state, though he questioned whether the money would arrive before racing resumes. The situation isn’t much better with thoroughbreds. The racing season at Arlington International Racecourse is supposed to begin May 1, but that start date seems unlikely. The Illinois Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association, which represents owners and trainers, was still negotiating a contract with the track when major sporting events began to be canceled. The talks have remained on hold since no one is certain when public gatherings will again be allowed, said executive director David McCaffrey. “It’s very much shooting in the dark,” he said. Churchill Downs Inc., which owns Arlington International, did not return a request for comment. Though some tracks elsewhere in the country remain in operation, Chris Block, an Illinois-based trainer and breeder, said many horses have nowhere to race. Thoroughbred sales have also felt the impact of the virus: Upcoming auctions have been postponed after the last one saw many horses sold for a fraction of their value, if they sold at all. “A lot of those buyers are heavily involved in the stock market and were hesitant to buy horses (after the market tanked),” he said. Other corners of the industry are also feeling the pain. Paula Briney, president of the Horsemen’s Council of Illinois, boards and trains 30 horses near Springfield, and said while fees for those services have continued to come in, that won’t last forever in the coronavirus economy. .............................................................................. Horsemen's Council of Illinois March 24 at 3:26 PM ·  Horsemen’s Council of Illinois - Statement on COVID-19 The Governors executive order states that all Illinois residents are to stay at home if at all possible. If they are using outside space, they must maintain social distancing of at least six feet. All public and private gatherings of any number of people occurring outside of a single household or living unit are prohibited. Any gathering of more than ten people is prohibited. All places of public amusement are closed to the public. Horse stables should be considered as such and should be closed to the public except for facility owners and/or essential staff unless arrangements with facility owners have been made to limit exposure to all parties. Only maintenance of the animals (they should be fed and watered as appropriate) housed on these properties should be conducted at this time and this maintenance should be conducted by a limited number of people. All recommendations are to be considered guidance and not legal advice. For further questions pertaining to your situation please contact your Local Health Department or the Department of Public Health. • Closure of facilities to boarders and guests • Cancel riding lessons and training sessions • Essential care of horses should be performed by facility owner(s) and essential staff • Emergency Veterinary and farrier care should be allowed. Facility Owner(s) and staff will assist vet/farrier. Boarder participation should be evaluated on a case by case basis. • Boarders wanting to pick up equipment, tack or personal belongings should contact the facility owner(s). Where possible, boarders could arrange “curb-side” type pickup. For more information please visit the Horsemen’s Council of Illinois Website at www.horsemenscouncil.org ................................................................ The “Shelter in Place” order is difficult for many but please remember that although you can likely survive the Coronavirus, you might carry it to someone who might not be able to survive. This is a temporary situation but with compliance from all we can flatten the curve and return to the full equine lifestyle we share. “The longer this drags out, the more (parts of the industry) this is going to affect, and people will struggle to stay in business and/or keep their horses,” she said. Stables that provide trail rides or lessons are already hurting, she said, though some patrons are underwriting the care of favorite horses despite being unable to ride them. The carriage business run by Tony Troyer near Mendota has taken a big hit, too, with all of his events in April and May on hold. Still, he expressed a note of optimism, saying people in the equine business are naturally resilient and resourceful. “At some point this is all going to turn around,” he said. “We just don’t know where the end of the tunnel is yet because we’re still right smack in the middle.” BY JOHN KEILMAN  Reprinted with permission of The Chicago Tribune  

Harness racing Freshman pacing fillies took center stage on Saturday night at Balmoral Park as the Hosea Williams owned and trainer Lexington Lady prevailed by a length in 1:55.2 over seven rivals in the $8,140 Beecher Stake for state-breds.   Hustled right to the front from post position two by driver Brian Carpenter the speedy daughter of Lexington Legend--Stephie Kay was allowed to stroll through easy splits of 28.4, 59.2 & 1:27.1 while under no pressure from her rivals.   With plenty in reserve despite being off for five weeks prior to this start, this year's Filly Orange & Blue runner-up sprinted home in 28.1 keeping the hard charging Whiskersonkittens (Robert Smolin) and the pocket sitting Char N Marg (Casey Leonard) at bay as she recorded her eighth win in 12 career starts. Whiskersonkittens continued her late season improvement as she wound up in the bridesmaid role while Char N Marg was forced to settle for the show dough.   Sent off as a close second choice in the wagering at odds of 7-5 Lexington Legend returned $4.80, $4.00 & $2.20 while running her career earnings up to $62,795.   Lexington Lady and driver Brian Carpenter led from start to finish in Saturday's $8,140 Beecher Stake for 2yo pacing fillies.   Tom Kelley    

On Friday night the finish line will come down, the horses stalled and harness racing at Maywood Park will cease. At the end of the year, so will harness racing at Balmoral Park. A decision by the Illinois Racing Board ends the scheduled meets at the financially troubled tracks, both of which are in bankruptcy. The closures are all about money, jobs and casino gambling --- add to that concern that some healthy horses could be led to slaughter as the parks close. Standarbred horses have been racing at Maywood Park, located on 1st Avenue in Melrose Park, since 1946, providing jobs for trainers, grooms, farriers and backstretch workers. “I support my family this way. I love this business,” said trainer Joe Cassano. “When this place closes there are a lot of people that will be out of work.” “This is how I’ve made my living my whole life,” said trainer Hosea Williams. “Sent three kids through school.” Maywood Park had originally been scheduled to end its racing season at the end of the year. The new closing date, says long-time trainer Angie Coleman, is a hardship for families who live on the backstretch. “They are going to lose their home,” she said. “These kids are not going to have school. They are going to be displaced.” Illinois Racing Board Commissioner Kathy Byrne also worries about what will happen to those most in need. “It’s a crisis of decency,” she said in an interview. “These people need to be treated decently.” For years the Johnston family has run both Maywood and Balmoral Parks. And the purses at Maywood, Duke Johnston said, have grown paltry. “Right now we earn about $20,000 a night in purses and are paying $45,000. I can’t keep doing that,” Johnston said. “We’re burning through a cash flow loss of about, you know, a substantial amount.” For years the horse racing industry has pushed to allow slots and other casino-type gambling at Illinois racetracks, turning them into so-called racinos. The industry points to other states where casino gambling is allowed at horse tracks and where racing, they say, is flourishing. Twice controversial gaming bills passed the legislature but were vetoed by then governor Pat Quinn amid security questions and concerns about too much gambling. A new casino bill remains in Springfield budget limbo. “We’re trying to compete against casinos, five video poker machines in every bar, it’s dooming us,” Johnston said. Year-round harness racing has been divided in the past between Maywood and Balmoral. Now it will shift to Hawthorne Race Course in Cicero in 2016, but for a much-shortened season lasting for just over 5 months a year. What to do with the horses that have been racing year round in two facilities is a real concern among trainers like Angie Coleman who say “it’s very much a reality,” that some horses will eventually go to slaughter. “Yes, yes there will be horse slaughter involved,” said worried trainer Hosea Williams. Both Duke Johnson and executives at the Illinois Racing Board strongly disagree that any horses will go to slaughter. But what is crystal clear is that the final race at Maywood goes off Friday night. By Carol Marin and Don Moseley Reprinted with permission of NBCUniversal Media

Lexington Lady, a winner of seven of 10 starts this season, looks to be the one to beat in the $155,000 Orange & Blue Filly Championship at Balmoral Park on Saturday.   Trained and owned by Hosea Williams, the daughter of Lexington Legend-Sephie Kay-Sportsmaster was bred by Jerry Graham and was foaled May 18, 2013 in Salem, IL.   A bargain price at just $2,500 at the 2014 Illini Classic Yearling Sale, Lexington Lady is a half-sister to: Captain Obvious p,4,1:55 ($46,914); Stephie Clay p,6,1:56.1 ($36,260); Tornado Henry p,4,1:53.4 ($19,074); and Runinthrudabridle p,4,2:01.1f ($11,686)--all by Henry Clay.   "I always liked her sire, Lexington Legend, and had always followed his career," Hosea explained. "She was the only one by him in the sale and I studied the bloodline and I knew the mare too and I decided to look at the filly."   When Hosea went to take a look at the filly, he wasn't initially impressed.   "I really didn't like her," he offered. "She was sway-backed. But she had a nice barrel on her and her legs were straight and she stood well. I went and looked at a few other fillies, but in the end, I came back to her. I thought she might grow into herself and grow out of being sway-backed, and she just about has."   Being a bit sway-backed sure hasn't affected Lexington Lady's performance on the racetrack.   She began her career by finishing second in a Balmoral 2-year-old test, clocked in 1:56.3 on June 6 and two weeks later broke her maiden in a Balmoral overnighter in 1:55.4.   "John DeLong drove her those first two starts and told me when he won with her, 'Hosea, you can throw these hobbles away.' I thought well, maybe, I do have something here," Hosea remembered.   Five days later she won in wire -to-wire fashion (which would become her mantra) in 1:57.4 by four lengths at Maywood Park, with Brian Carpenter driving for the first time.   "When we first broke her to the cart and she hit the track, she did nothing but pace," Hosea explained. "I kind of thought then she might be a pretty nice filly."   On June 9 Lexington Lady posted a 1:55.4 clocking at Maywood and ten days later won by six lengths with a front-stepping 1:54.1.   On Aug. 2 she prevailed by 3¼ lengths in another wire-to-wire performance at Balmoral, than was a close second at Balmoral on Aug. 8 in 1:53.4.   Hosea then decided to ship his prize filly to Springfield for Illinois State Fair action.   "The morning of her Springfield race I put her grain in her bucket and she walked away from her feed, which wasn't like her.   But I took her temperature and she was fine," said Hosea. "Then, I got a call from Brian (driver Carpenter) who told me he was sick and wasn't going to be able to be there to drive her.   So after a while, I find a driver, but then he doesn't show up to drive and the horses are going out of the paddock, and I have to score her down.   I borrow a race bike and I'm out there warming her up with my knees up to my chin, because the bike was set for a shorter driver, and I'm thinking, 'there's no way I can drive this filly with this bike.'   I go around Springfield and on the backside I see Casey Leonard leaning on the fence and realized that he didn't have a horse in my race, so I get him to drive her at the last minute and he did a fine job with her."   Lexington Lady finished second in 1:54.2 , beaten just a neck, for Leonard.   "Casey told me afterward he thought she was just a little sick, so I gave her some time off before her next start," Hosea related. "But that whole Springfield experience was a bit nerve-wracking, to say the least."   Lexington Lady returned to Balmoral, where she posted a 1:53 score by 2½ lengths on Aug. 29, reunited with Carpenter, before winning her Orange & Blue elimination a week ago in an impressive 1:53.4.   Hosea said he doesn't believe in training fillies too much and that Lexington Lady had an easy week since her last race. "I grew up around Bruce Nickells and he didn't believe in training fillies really hard and I kind of follow his line of thinking," Hosea said.   "We've got the ten-hole, which isn't where I'd like to be, but I'm happy just to have a horse in this race."   Tom Kelley

The countdown to Super Night XXVII began in earnest on Saturday, September 5th at the harness racing meeting at Balmoral Park as a bevy of stake elimination's for Illinois biggest night of racing were contested. The action kicked off with a pair of $12,500 Filly Orange & Blue elimination's for two-year-old pacing fillies . With 16 entered for this stake, the top five finishers in each elimination will return for next week's $155,000 est. final. In the first division the Hosea Williams owned and trained Lexington Lady continued her mastery of this division, gamely fighting back in the closing yards to win by a head in 1:53.4 for driver Brian Carpenter.   Placed on top as the field moved to the half-mile mark the daughter of Lexington Legend--Stephie Kay drifted out a bit through a thrilling stretch drive and appeared headed with 100 yards to go by chief rival Char N Marg (Casey Leonard) before digging in late to hold on for her seventh win in 10 career starts. Char N Marg was forced to settle for the runner-up role on this night while Narcissistic (Brent Holland) rallied to be third. Fox Valley Bailey and Fox Valley Addison also gained spots in the final. In the second elimination Dandy Farms and John Carver's Dandy's Diva took the shortest route around the track to victory as she came rolling through the passing lane to win by three-quarters of a length in 1:55.4.   Perfectly handled by driver Mike Oosting, the Jim Ellison trained daughter of Sportsmaster--C Suzabelle sat inside throughout the mile as Likeafireballshot (Jared Finn) led the way through pedestrian splits. With plenty in reserve for the stretch battle Oosting secured racing room with a sixteenth of a mile to go and Dandy's Diva reeled in the embattled leaders to notch her second win in career start number five. Fox Valley Gypsy (Clifton Bell) overcame the outside starting spot to wind up second while Sara's Terror (Matt Krueger). Likeafireballshot and Lexirose earned the last two spots in the final with fourth and fifth place finishes respectively. Next up were older pacing colts as a field of 10 battled in a $12,500 Tony Maurello Memorial elimination. The top seven finishers will be joined by Ice Scraper, Fort Silky and Fiveknuckleshuffle in the $95,000 (est.) final. This battle produced another thrilling finish as Hugh Lacey's Cole Heat came storming up the passing lane to stick a head in front in the final strides while stopping the clock in a career best of 1:49.4.   Content to save ground while the heavily favored Unlocked (Brent Holland) led the field through some brisk splits, Cole Heat was shuffled all the way back to fifth as the field turned for home. But veteran reinsman Dale Hiteman never panicked, eventually finding a seam in the passing lane and the Ray Hanna trained seven-year-old responded marvelously as he stormed home in 26.2 to prevail in the blanket finish. Iam Bonasera (Ridge Warren) was a game second while Unlocked held on for third. A Cool Card was a close up fourth while the remainder of the spots in the final went to Uncle Bud (5th), Big Brad (6th) and Gibbs (7th). Sophomore pacing fillies were next on the docket as a field of 10 lined up behind the gate for the $12,500 Grandma Ann elimination. Once again the top seven finishers will move on to next week's $116,000 (est.) final where they will join Lex, Fox Valley Aubrey and Southern Girl. Chalk players were rewarded here as the Peter Karras owned Fox Valley Charm, the 1-5 favorite in the wagering cruised to an easy 1 ¾ length victory in 1:53.0 for driver Mike Oosting.   Confidently handled from post three the Dirk Simpson trainer daughter of Yankee Skyscaper--Fox Valley Cherub had things her own way on the "engine" after pulling off an early give and go with Sportsmuffler (Todd Warren). In control of things the rest of the way Fox Valley Charm opened up an insurmountable lead at the top of the stretch and was on cruise control the rest of the way as she recorded her sixth win in 12 starts this season. Fox Valley Brooke (Ridge Warren) shook loose late after getting shuffled back on the far turn to finish second while Luvniecestopieces (Casey Leonard) finished third. Also gaining spots in the final were Mr Leland's Filly, I Y Q Too, BS Tyrichess and Lockport Legend. As usual the Orange & Blue for 2yo pacing colts attracted the most entrants as a total of 29 youngsters were sent out in a trio of $12,500 elimination's. The top three in each elimination and one fourth place finisher (drawn by lot) will be back for Super Night's richest event with a purse of $186,000 (est.).   In the first division BS Tyriffic, one of the division leaders up to this point, had no trouble overcoming post eight as he scooted home with a 1 ½ length victory in 1:55.4 for driver Kyle Wilfong.   Making a steady advance on the outside of horses despite being parked for most of the mile, the Robert Sanders trained son of Richess Hanover--Fox Valley Tyra mowed down the leaders in the stretch to notch his fifth win in seven career starts. The pride of owners Robert, Jeremy and Louis Buttice and Frank Santilli also has a pair of seconds in his brief career. Goinduneside (Brent Holland) rallied nicely to pick up the place money while Silver Sage (Dale Hiteman) fought through a tough first over journey to get the show dough. Shootin To Kill was fourth. In the second division Frank Chick's Grizzer Bear staged a determined rally in the lane to get up in the final strides, winning by a neck in 1:54.3 with Brent Holland at the controls.   After saving ground through the early portion of this battle the Erv Miller trained son of Sportsmaster--Czarina Katrina appeared to be hopelessly shuffled to seventh at the top of the stretch. After running into another road block in mid-stretch, Holland made an aggressive move to the inside. The lightly raced youngster then gunned through along the pylons like a seasoned veteran to notch his first lifetime victory in start number four. Red Red Redneck (Ridge Warren) was a hard luck second while JB's Hero (Robert Smolin) was third. He Gone Jack went a long mile while finishing fourth. In the final division of the Orange & Blue eliminations Nicole Potts Royale Rose returned from a stint on the "sick" shelf to post a very impressive four-length victory in 1:52.3 for Matt Krueger. Despite facing constant pressure while posting wicked splits of 28.2, 55.1 & 1:23.2 the gelded son of Ashlee's Big Guy--Caribe Royale turned aside every challenge then left his rivals in his wake as he rolled to his sixth win in eight lifetime starts for trainer Lyle Scurlock. Dan D Dune (Mike Oosting) shook loose in time to rally for second while Wondrous Sport (Casey Leonard) was third. Longshot Big Monty finished fourth. A total of 19 distaffers were entered for the $95,000 (est.) Lorna Propes Stake for 3yo and up necessitating a pair of $12,500 eliminations with the top five advancing to next week's final.   In the first split it was John Barnard's Ryleigh's Lilly who lived up to her heavily favored status as she shook off a five week layoff to win by 1 ¼ lengths in 1:53.1 for Casey Leonard. After making a long first over sweep to the lead as the field moved down the backstretch the Bill Crone trained miss then held off several challenges as she stood tall to the wire for her seventh win in 19 starts this season. Togetherforever (Mike Oosting) turned in a solid effort to finish second while Incredible Filly (Mike Rogers) used a ground saving trip to get the show dough. Also gaining spots in the final were Just By Design and Moon Bay Dancer. In the nightcap the Merle P'Pool leased Rev Me Up overcame a tough trip to post a hard fought three-quarter-length victory in 1:53.1 for driver Brian Carpenter.   Despite being five-wide in the first turn and then having to rough it first over for the final five-eighths of a mile the eight-year-old daughter of Park Place still had enough to wear down the pace setting State Street Liz for her ninth win in 32 starts this season for trainer Mark P'Pool. Party Hangover (Mike Oosting) rallied late to finish second while Kimberly R (Dale Hiteman) was third. Also gaining spots in the final were State Street Liz and Thesleazyprincess. In a "prep" for the $112,000 (est.) Langley Memorial on Super Night, the red-hot Engine One O One continued his winning ways as he teamed up with Mike Oosting to record a sharp 1½ length victory in a career best of 1:52.4. Favored Earndawg (Todd Warren) held on well to finish second after carving out all the splits while Mighty Hot Shot (Ridge Warren) was third. Live racing continues on Sunday, Sept. 6th with a pair of American National Stakes for 2yo trotting colts and fillies sharing top billing while elimination's for the Lady Ann Reed and a Su Mac Lad Stake Prep will also be contested.   All the action gets underway at 7:10pm on Sunday night with the $1 Pick 4 (races 7-10) now featuring a $30,000 guaranteed pool.   The 10-cent Hi Five (race 10) will feature a guaranteed pool of $20,000 on Sunday's while the highly successful trifecta guarantee on race nine will give fans the chance to play into a $25,000 guaranteed pool.   Tom Kelley

Freshmen pacing fillies were front and center on Thursday, July 9th at Maywood Park as a total of 12 state-bred harness racing youngsters squared off in a pair of $6,000 divisions of the My Metallica Stake. In the first division, the Nelson Willis trained Aunt Ethel took full advantage of the inside starting spot as she grabbed command right from the word go and made every call a winning one with a three-length victory in 1:57.3.   Confidently handled by driver Mike Oosting, the homebred daughter of Sportsmaster--Miller Creek Ethel shot to the top where she put up splits of 29.0, 57.4 & 1:28.0. When called upon on the final turn by Maywood's leading reinsman the bay filly responded with a nice 29.3 final panel while drawing away from her rivals. Burry Me Inthesand (Gary Rath) turned a nice inside trip into a second place check while Thetis (Ridge Warren) rallied to finish third, 5¼ lengths behind the winner.   The win was the first in two lifetime starts for Aunt Ethel who is owned by Rick, Erwin and Vernon Barbre.   In the second division the Hosea Williams owned and trained Lexington Lady continued to impress as she cruised to an easy 4¼ length front stepping score in 1:55.4 for driver Brian Carpenter.   Flashing her high octane gate speed the daughter of Lexington Legend--Stephie Kay zipped right to lead effortlessly posting fractions of 28.0, 58.0 & 1:27.1 while rolling along unchallenged on the "engine".   With plenty still in reserve Lexington Lady left her rivals in her wake on the final bend pacing home in a snappy 28.3 for her third straight ICF stake score. Fox Valley Addison (Todd Warren) finished in the runner-up spot while longshot Our Miss Cami (Mike Oosting) nabbed the show dough.   The 1-5 favorite who was a $2,500 bargain buy as a yearling now boasts three wins and a second in four lifetime starts with earnings of $9,000.   Live racing continues on Friday, July 10th at Maywood Park with two divisions of the Fox Valley Barzgar Stake for ICF two-year-old pacing colts sharing top billing on the card. Those battles will go as races four and six on the 12-race program which also features a $10,000 guaranteed pool in the Pick 4 (races 9-12) and a new $15,000 guaranteed pool on the 10 cent Hi-Five wager (race 12). Post time for the first race is 7:30 p.m. (central).   Tom Kelley

1 to 6 of 6
1