Day At The Track
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After a seven-year absence from the harness racing scene at Hawthorne Race Course the trotters and pacers returned to the Stickney spa for a short four-week meet which kicked off on Jan. 8th. If the numbers that were put up are a sign of things to come racing fans will be in for a treat when the standardbreds return to Hawthorne in May for an extended five-month meet.    With “mother-nature” cooperating and fans throughout the country embracing the very competitive racing the 22-card meet averaged more than $916,000 on the mainly 10 race programs with $50,000 of that total coming on track.  Those numbers far exceeded management’s expectations lending further hope for a very successful summer meeting.    “The support we received from everywhere around the country was just tremendous,” said Publicity Director and Racing Analyst Jim Miller. “I would also like to thank TVG Network for all the support they gave us showing every card from start to finish. That is something we haven’t had for harness racing here in Illinois and that had a great impact on the handle.”    Longshot players enjoyed the non-stop action at Hawthorne as favorites clicked at less than a 36% clip. There were several $100 + win mutuels throughout the meet with the highlight being the $110,906 payout in the 20 cent Jackpot High Five on Friday, Jan. 29th.    The horsemen certainly did their part to support the product as well filling the entry box night after night for Racing Secretary Peter Hanley.  The meet featured three 11-horse fields, 174 10-horse fields, 36 nine-horse fields, 12 8-horse fields, and just one 7-horse field and one 6-horse field.    “Considering the fact this was my first time working in the Chicago market the horsemen were just super to work with,” said Hanley. “I really think we developed a great relationship with them and we did our best to get everyone raced as much as possible. It’s pretty amazing when you can say that 97% of your races featured full fields.”    Casey Leonard continued to dominate the local driving ranks taking home his first Hawthorne title over Simon Allard and Todd Warren. The training title came down to the final races of the Saturday card with veteran Jim Ellison edging out Ronnie Roberts, Terry Leonard and Alex Adam by a single win. The fastest mile of the meet was recorded by Burke Racing & Weaver Bruscemi’s Ontario Success who stopped the clock in 1:51.1 for trainer Roger Welch.    ABOUT HAWTHORNE RACE COURSE   Founded in 1891, Hawthorne Race Course is the 4th oldest racetrack in the nation and the oldest sporting venue in Illinois.  Located in Stickney, Illinois on the edge of Chicago’s city limits, the 125 year old facility hosts thoroughbred racing in the Spring and Fall/Winter, and standardbred harness racing in January and the Summer.  The family-owned and operated business has been an innovator in horseracing for more than 100 years and features the nation’s most rewarding players program.  For additional information: www.HawthorneRaceCourse.com | Facebook.com/ClubHawthorne |     

STICKNEY, IL - A pair of harness racing series finals, along with a consolation final took place on a breezy Wednesday night at Hawthorne Race Course. Race six on the Wednesday card was the Whizzer R. White pacing series consolation final as a field of nine lined up after the scratch of Big Moon Rizing. Early in the consolation final JDs Brent N Sheree took the lead and led the field into the lane. At the top of the stretch he lost his action and dropped back. Dale Hiteman and Ocaptain Mycaptain ducked to the inside to avoid traffic and kept their momentum, winning in 1:57 over the track listed as good. First Frost made a sustained move to finish 2nd, while Mr Mark Patrick was third. Ocaptain Mycaptain is owned by Megan Rogers Racing Stables, Inc. and is trained by Carl Porcelli, Jr. Race seven was the $16,600 Suburban Downs Pacing Series final with a full field of ten. Leaving for the early lead was Tyron My Gigolo and Kyle Husted but they quickly gave up the early lead to Freedomformysoul. Freedomformysoul led the field into the lane as favorite Kolt Power looked for room while second choice Valiente Stride made a three wide bid. Late in the stretch, Freedomformysoul battled on but Tyron My Gigolo dove to the inside and rallied for the victory at 26-1. Freedomformysoul finished second, just holding off Valiente Stride. Tyron My Gigolo covered the mile in 1:54.4. Tyron My Gigolo is owned by Quaid Racing LLC and trained by James Ellison. Race eight was the $22,200 final of the Whizzer R. White Pacing Series as Over Friskie looked for a clean sweep of this series. The field of nine, after the scratch of Mr Pickpocket, saw Trace Tetrick move early to take the lead with 4-5 favorite Over Friskie early as John Jay tracked him the entire way. Into the stretch, Over Friskie opened up, winning by daylight in a lifetime best 1:53.2. John Jay held second, One To Draw To finished third. Over Friskie is owned by Ervin Wickey and trained by Tom Tetrick. Jim Miller

Dandy Farm’s Firstclassallthway will likely be the odds-on harness racing favorite to pick-up his 40th career victory and the 8-year-old’s 11th at Maywood Park in Friday’s ninth race conditioned pace feature. The 8-year-old gelding is listed as the 8-5 morning line choice with Mike Oosting in the bike against five other pacers—Cuatro Cinco (programmed odds of 12-1), At Max Speed, (8-1) Gypsy Leather (10-1), Montero Blue Chip (5-2) and Desperado Alibi (3-1). Firstclassallthway owns a half-dozen lifetime triumphs in Balmoral Park Invite’s. Earlier this year Firstclassallthway won back-to-back “Winner’s Over” on the Crete, IL big track  in 1:51.3 and 1:50.3, over the likes of Iam Bonasera, Fort Silky and Ice Scraper. Trained by Jim Ellison for his Glenview, Illinois owners, Firstclassalthway comes into Friday’s race with $371,545 on his card and a lifetime best mile of 1:49.3. The Pick 6 wager carryover pool at Maywood Park is now up to $16,833 after no one again had a winning ticket last week. The 20 cent wager starts off with Thursday’s first race and goes through race six. On Their Way: Lucpark and The Big Sleazy, a couple of well-regarded ICF 3-year-olds, are expected to arrive on the local scene soon after qualifying nicely at the Southern Oaks Training Center in Florida last Thursday. The Big Sleazy finished a neck ahead of Lucpark in their qualifier, both hitting the timer in 1:56.3 preparing for their season debuts. Lucpark, an Erv Miller trainee, captured the Governor’s Cup last year in his freshman season when he earned over $76,000 for his Chicago owner Rocco Ruffalo. The lightly raced The Big Sleazy (2 for 8) captured the Orange and Blue Colt Consolation last Super night for trainer Nelson Willis and owner- breeder Marty Engel of Buffalo Grove, Illinois. Qualifying Update: The Mike Brown Stable’s Alwybreakinhearts (Todd Warren) and Del Chupp’s veteran Dontgetbyme (Kyle Husted) turned in the fastest two qualifiers on a very windy Tuesday at Balmoral Park. The stewards allowed one second off qualifying times with winds whipping up at 30 mph on the 46 degree chilly morning. The 4-year-old Alwybreakinhearts was three lengths the best in his 1:57.3 mile while the 10-year-old Dontgetbyme was a whopping 16 lengths ahead of his nearest foe in a 1:57.3 qualifier, pacing the last quarter in a quick 26.3, the fastest last panel among the five qualified contested. Former WCP Champ Back:  Going to the gate in the second of two Thursday qualifiers prior to the start of the regular at Maywood park card is the 2009 Windy City Pace champion In Over My Head for the Terry Leonard Stable. The now 9-yerar-old gelding is expected to make his first start of the year at Balmoral Park in early May at Balmoral Park where he was a 1:50 flat Invite winner in 2014. Qualifiers will be held at Springfield, Illinois today (Thursday) beginning at 1 p.m. Mike Paradise

Merle Finn Jr’s mare Wings continued her fairy-tale journey from a one-time horse pulling an Amish cart to her dominance of the Chicago circuit’s older distaff ranks at Balmoral Park with her fourth consecutive harness racing victory in the “Winner’s Over” vents for fillies and mares. With regular driver Tim Curtin at her lines Wings put away six foes in the second race-co-feature and again did it in rather comfortable fashion. The triumph was also Wing’s seventh in her last eight starts for the 23-year-old owner and trainer from Browns, Illinois. Curtin ducked Wings from the outside seven-slot at the start and was seven-plus lengths behind in last when State Street Liz got command at the first quarter in a leisurely 29.1 seconds. Wings was taken out midway on the backstretch and Curtin was contend to race the ultra-sharp Indiana bred mare first up, slowly grinding their way toward the leaders. After another slow second panel (30 seconds flat) by the pacesetter, Curtin got Wings into high gear. The heavy 2-5 favorite got eye-to-eye with State Street Liz half-way into the final turn before drawing away from the field. Wings ($2.60) paced the final quarter of the 1:54.4 mile in 27 flat, finishing two lengths ahead of State Street Liz. Finn acquired Wings in July of 2013 at the age of five with just $40 on her card when Merle “traded a trotter straight-up for the mare from the Amish.” The horse has banked almost $72,000 for him since. Back-To-Back: Patiently handled by John De Long, Firstclassallthway followed last week’s 10-1 upset win in the “Winner’s Over” ranks with a repeat victory last night in the same $9,400 event. As expected the betting favorite Ice Scraper grabbed quick control of the ninth race and took the five horse field to a :56.2 first half with consecutive :28.1 panels with Best Man Hanover in the pocket and Firstclassallthway in third. The field bunched up turning for home and when an inside lane opened for De Long, he ducked the Jim Ellison trainee there and Firstclassallthway ($12.20) went on to outsprint his rivals to the wire with a huge :26.1 last quarter. Best Man Hanover was second best, beaten 2 and 1/2 lengths in the 1:50.3 mile. Ice Scraper held on for third. The victory was the third of year in eight starts for the 8-year-old gelding owned by Dandy Farms of Glenview, Illinois. By Mike Paradise

LEBANON, OH. - Shine N Shimmer was stunning Friday night at Miami Valley Raceway, treating the quick five-eighths mile oval as if someone laid a red carpet around it-just for her. It was just the second local race for the seven-year-old daughter of American Ideal and produced the second gate-to-wire victory against the best open class mares competing in southern Ohio. Driver Chris Page took full advantage of drawing the inside post position by exploding off the wings and forcing all rivals to find a seat during a :27.2 opening panel. With no one pressuring on the outside in the scratch-shortened field, Page managed an unexpected respite during the second quarter when the timer flashed :57.4 at the halfway station. The pace quickened from that point home with All Terror (Kayne Kauffman) launching a first-over bid and Carlina Hanover (Tyler Smith) getting a snug pocket journey. When the 1:26 flashed at the three-quarters Page called on his winning mare and she responded with a :28.2 last quarter, despite 10 degree temperatures, to put the 1:54.2 triumph in the books. Shine N Shimmer is trained by Jim Ellison for the Dandy Farms and Howard Taylor. She now has 19 career victories and $321,742 in lifetime earnings. The feature race win was one of four on the night for Chris Page, whose other tallies came with Camphor Hanover (1:56.1), trotter Over And Out (1:58.1) and Rev Me Up (1:54.2). Racing resumes Saturday night with a powerful 14-race card offering $127,500 in purses. Gregg Keidel  

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