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It was 44 years ago that Hawthorne Race Course conducted a Standardbred meeting for the first time when in 1970 Suburban Downs opened its doors for a little more than a one-month meeting from April 14 through May 22. Hawthorne became the sixth Chicago area race track in 1970 to conduct a Standardbred meeting. At that time Illinois law prohibited pari-mutuel harness racing in Cook County after the first week in December through late February. It was quite a different harness racing schedule back then in our state: Half-mile track racing was conducted an old Aurora Downs and at Balmoral Park the first eight weeks of the year. Sportsman’s Park, a five-eighths oval, took over from Feb. 23 through April 13, and then Suburban Downs at Hawthorne got its first chance.   The circuit went back to Sportsman’s from May 23 through July 20. Old Washington Park and its mile track took over and raced through October 10. Maywood Park grabbed the baton and ended the Cook County racing season December 7. Then it was back to Aurora Downs and Balmoral Park. The first harness meeting at Hawthorne was a huge success. The nightly handle averaged over seven figures at $1,009,777, with the best night on May 16 when $1,302,503 went through the track’s mutuel machines. Remember back then there wasn’t any type of off-track wagering facilities anywhere in the country. The 1970 nightly attendance at Hawthorne averaged a robust 11,686. Hawthorne’s first leading driver was Hall of Famer Bob Farrington, who also won the dash titles that year at Sportsman’s and Washington. Other notable drivers who competed during Hawthorne’s inaugural meeting included Jim Dennis, Joe Marsh, Jr, Don and Daryl Busse, Bruce Nickells, Delbert Insko, Walter Paisley, Aubrey Petty, Dwayne Pletcher, Gene Riegle, Jack Williams and Connel and Jesse Willis. While now days we have light-weight composite racing bikes, 40 years ago they were heavy wooden sulkies. The fastest mile at Hawthorne was 1:59.2 by the pacer Robert E Adios. The quickest by a trotter was 2:00.4 by Dayan, who went on to be named the nation’s Four-Year-Old Trotter of the Year. Back in 1970 the USTA listed Hawthorne’s speed rating rated at 2:03.4; the same has its neighbor Sportsman’s. Washington was rated the fastest Chicagoland track at 2:03.1, The half-mile tracks came in at 2:05 for Maywood, 2:06 for Balmoral and 2:07 for Aurora Downs. While Hawthorne enjoyed a highly successful inaugural harness racing meet, 1970 wasn’t exactly a year that could be called part of the “Good Old Days” for Chicago sports fans. Elsewhere at that time on the local sports scene the Cubs followed their infamous 1969 season flop with a second place finish, five games behind the N.L. pennant winning Cincinnati Reds despite a middle of the line-up that included Billy Williams, Ron Santo and Ernie Banks, who hit home run No. 500 that year. The White Sox hit rock bottom in 1970 with their worse record ever: 56 wins and 106 losses and with three different managers—Don Gutteridge, Jerry Adair and Chuck Tanner—at the helm The Bulls in their fourth ever season ended up 39-43 even with such stars as Bob Love and Jerry Sloan. As for our Bears, they had an anemic 1-13 record in 1969 playing at Wrigley Field and it got worse because in early 1970 they lost the coin flip for the No. 1 pick of the entire draft to the Pittsburgh Steelers who took some quarterback from Louisiana Tech named Terry Bradshaw. The Bears then turned around and traded the No. 2 selection of the draft to the Green Bay Packers for three veteran players, none of which lasted more than two years with the club. Only the Blackhawks prevented Chicago sports fans from a complete abysmal year by running away with the NHL’s Western Division with 107 points with such goal-scorers as Bobby Hull (44), Dennis Hull (40) and Stan Mikita (28), defensemen like Pat Stapleton, Bill White and Keith Magnuson, and Tony Esposito in Goal. The Hawks took the Montreal Canadians to seven games in the Stanley Cup Final before losing in heart breaking fashion when the blew a 2-0 in lead half-way through the final game and came up on the short-end of a 3-2 score. by Mike Paradise, for IHHA

The $15,000 Fox Valley Memory stake for ICF fillies and mares, originally slated for last night, has been rescheduled by the Balmoral Park Race Office. The new date is Wednesday, December 31. The Fox Valley Memory got pushed back when the June 21 Sue Fee stake was washed out by a strong storm and was moved to last night's November 22.  It turned out to be a good spot for the stake because 15 horses were entered and it was split into a pair of $13,250 divisions. The December 31 date for the rescheduled Fox Valley Memory does make a lot of sense. That late date will keep the older Illinois bred mares whose owners want a shot at a nice $15,000 pot racing for the next month instead of turning them out for the winter. So, I don’t see any problem with the Fox Valley Memory filling at the end of the year.. The Race Office also wrote back the $10,000 Cole Muffler for this upcoming Friday after only a pair of 3-year-old ICF colts entered last week. The stake has a $100 starting fee but with a five-horse field would see the fifth place finisher get a $500 check so maybe there will be few more additional entries for it, enabling the Race Office to put it on the Friday Maywood card. Fee Splits Decided: In the first division of the Sue Fee for ICF fillies and mares, driver Tim Curtin gave the 9-2 longshot Dallas Jones ($11.20) a second over trip and the 4-year-old mare came thundering down the lane to capture the first $13,250 division in 1:54.1 on a rain-soaked sloppy track. Curtin ducked the Joel Smith trainee into sixth in the early going that saw Just By Design take the eight-horse field to a 27.2 first quarter. Auniqueaquisition took over command near the half mile pole, reached in 56 flat, with the first-over Molly Go Lightly providing live cover for Dallas Jones who ended up two-plus lengths ahead of runner-up Just By Design. The win was sixth of the season for Dallas Jones and her owners Paula Smith of Valparaiso, Indiana and Illinoisans James Runyan (Lake Villa) and Frank Pike of Burbank. Patiently handled by Mike Oosting, the 8-5 co-favorite Ryleigh’s Lilly ($5.20) exploded in the lane and went on to an easy victory on the second Sue Fee split. Party Hangover sprinted out in a hurry and had the lead in the first turn and hit the first quarter pole in 27.4. Driver Todd Warren then put on the breaks and Casey Leonard took Financial Effort from the back of the pack and up to challenge the leader at the 56.2 half-mile marker. Oosting tipped Ryleigh’s Filly three deep in the last turn and the 4-year-old mare exploded at the three-quarter mile pole (1:24) leaving no doubt about the outcome of the race for trainer Bill Crone and his owner John Bernard of Orland Park, Illinois. State Street Liz was second best at the end of the 1:53 mile, beaten almost two lengths. by Mike Paradise, for IHHA

Saturday’s re-scheduled Sue Fee stake at Balmoral Park came up with enough harness racing entries to split the ICF filly and mare event into a pair of $13,250 divisions, something I projected to likely occur a few days ago. What I didn’t expect was for the one-time Super Night champion Party Hangover to come in from Pennsylvania for the race. The 5-year-old mare, owned by former Illinois trainer Ken Rucker, sent Party Hangover back to Illinois under the care of his wife Catrina for the Sue Fee. The Party At Artsplace mare has been made the 5-2 morning line favorite in the ninth face, the first division of Sue Fee and is being reunited with Todd Warren who guided the mare to six consecutive Chicago circuit victories earlier this year, including the $21,400 Parklane Powerful back in mid-June. Party Hangover left Illinois after a disappointing sixth place finish in the Propes Final on Super Night when she was parked-out to a 27.1 first quarter shooting out from the 10-hole. “Her blood word was all mussed up for that race,” said Catrina. “It still wasn’t right when she raced later at Saratoga but it looks like she’s good again. She wouldn’t let anybody pass her last week in Pennsylvania." Party Hangover dropped her first five decisions when she left Illinois, a pair of Open Handicaps at Saratoga in upstate New York, and a trio of conditioned paces in Pennsylvania, before winning her last start (1:55.1) at Philadelphia in front-stepping fashion. “We sent her back out east after Super Night because there weren’t any races here in Chicago for her. They weren’t writing the “Winner’s Over.” Now that they are we plan on keeping the mare in Illinois through the end of the year,” added the one-time Maywood Park Trainer of the Year. As a 3-year-old, Party Hangover came away with the Grandma Ann 3-year-old filly title on Super Night when she raced out of the Jesse De Long stable. She was acquired by the Rucker’s in 2013. “We bought Party Hangover privately near the end of last year and sent her out East to race,” said Catrina. “She did very well there but she was ever better when she came back to Illinois, winning a lot of races with Todd. “We trained her Thursday for Saturdays’ stake and she trained like a monster. She likes being back home and she likes having her boyfriend Sage Ruck in the stall next to her. You can see he’s happy to have his girlfriend back, too.” Party Hangover will leave from post three tonight with State Street Liz (3-1, Bobby Smolin) and Fox Valley Amanda (6-1, Dale Hiteman) on her inside and Tamarac Sassy (8-1, Casey Leonard), Ryleigh’s Lilly (4-1, Mike Oosting), Schmatie (10-1, John De Long) and Financial Effort (10-1, Ross Leonard) on her right. The fifth race first Sue Fee division looks to be wide-open according to the program odds with Just Be Design (3-1, Dave Magee), Dallas Jones (7-2, Tim Curtin) and Auniqueaquisition (4-1, Dale Hiteman) the first flash favorites. Then it’s Whistle Pig (Ross Leonard) at 5-1, Molly Go Lightly (Mike Oosting) at 8-1, Rev Me Up (Brian Carpenter) and Kimberley R (Bobby Smolin) both at 10-1, and the 15-1 longshot Toshie Special (Jacob Fox). by Mike Paradise, for IHHA

The veteran pacer Lennox Blue Chip is less than two months away from turning 11 but is still going strong and is closing in on $400,000 in career earnings for Connecticut owner James Behrandt. The Mike Brown trainee looks well placed Friday night in Maywood Park’scgo-featured ninth race. a conditioned pace for non-winners of $9,500 in the last five starts. Lennox Blue Chip went unplaced in last Saturday’s Invite at Balmoral won by his stable-mate Ice Scraper. Lennox Blue Chip sped to a lifetime best 1:50.3 victory this past summer at the age of 10. I asked his trainer what makes the horse so good despite his age. “He has a big heart,” replied Brown. “The horse has the biggest heart in my batn. I wish I had a barn full of Lennox Blue Chip’s. He loves to race.” Mike then went on and explained that the horse doesn’t need a good trip to get the job done. “He loves being first over,” continued the 48-year-old Balmoral Park based trainer. “Don’t rush him. Just bring him up and put along the inside horse. He likes to look another horse in the eye and then he'll grind it out and put him away. He’s a racehorse.” Lennox Blue Chip is also a pacer who can get the job done on any size oval, a huge plus for a trainer on the Chicago circuit. Last year Lennox Blue Chip quite frankly was too good to race at Maywood Park. He raced once on the half-miler and won in comfortable fashion on what I like to call his “fallback track.” I’ll have more about that later in this story. Instead Lennox Blue Chip was a mainstay in the Balmoral Invite ranks, starting in it in 20 of his 37 starts in 2015. The gelding came away a trio of Invite victories and missed a check in them only twice while to banking almost $84,000 for his owner. Lennox Blue Chip joined Brown’s stable in late 2011, making only a couple of local starts after competed mostly in 2010 and 2011. Since then he’s been a busy and very productive pacer under Brown’s care, earning over $180,000 and winning 18 races, mostly against upper echelon horses. In 2012 he went postward a total of 37 times. Of those 20 were at either Balmoral or Hoosier. However he went winless that year on those two tracks. In fact the best he could manage was a trio of third place finishes. At Maywood Park it was a complete different story for Lennox Blue Chip. On his “fallback” track the pacer had incredible numbers. In 17 starts he won 10 times, with 4 seconds and 1 third, missing only one check on the half-miler. The horse made $66,982 that year and all but $6,810 of that amount came at Maywood Park. No wonder he’s the 9-5 morning line favorite in the ninth race when he leaves from post 5 with regular driver Ridge Warren in the 7-horse field. He’ll be challenged by Goose On The Rocks, Montero Blue Chip, Fox Valley Norman, C’est La Vie, Kansas Wildcat and Crankin’ It Up. Picking Pick Six Cold: My seven top selection consecutive winners last night at Maywood started in race two and ended with race eight, covering the Pick Six races and its $341 payoff. Four of those seven winners were not the betting favorites. by Mike Paradise, for IHHA

Two major accomplishments made the 1979 summer meeting at Sportsman’s Park one of the most unforgettable in Illinois racing history. One: The $2 million handle hurdle instead became a regular occurrence at the Cicero, Illinois facility to help make it the most successful harness meeting in the state’s history. Two: For the first and only time harness racing surpassed thoroughbred racing in head-to-head competition in both handle and attendance. Sportsman’s Park night-time harness racing produced a daily mutuel average of $1,627,639 (all on-track), a state record, $5,000 higher daily than the handle at the Arlington Park thoroughbred meeting which was conducted daily at the same time. Sportsman’s nightly attendance averaged 13,138, up almost 8 per cent over 1978 and 2,000 patrons more daily than the thoroughbred meeting at the northwest Illinois suburban facility. A $2 million mutuel handle on a single Illinois harness racing program had been reached only three times before the 1979 Sportsman’s meeting, once at the west side five-eight’s facility, and twice at its neighbor Hawthorne. When over $2 million was bet on the night of Sept, 23, the last night of the Sportsman’s meeting; it was the 14th time it was reached that summer. An Illinois harness record for a single night was established on July 6 when $2,127,646 was bet on-track. Along with a $2 million-lus handle the Friday night before, the weekend total of $1,216,546 was the most successful ever. For the third consecutive summer Walter Paisley captured the driving title while Jim Dennis was the meet’s leading trainer. Among the pacers that were fan favorites that year with the often huge Sportsman’s Park crowds were Rambling Willie, Tricky Dick N, Try Scotch, Tarport Express, Rusty’s Iron Jet and Prairie Badger. by Mike Paradise, for IHHA

The Joe Seekman Stable’s Let’s Drink On It, the winner of Balmoral Park’s Invitational two Saturdays ago, has a notable date Saturday night at The Meadowlands. He’ll compete in the $500,000 Breeders Crown Championship for 3-year-old pacing colts and geldings. Let’s Drink On It was a close-up third in his elimination last weekend in New Jersey, finishing only one length behind the 1:50 winner Always B Maki for Seekman, a former Michigan horseman who now resides in Beecher, Illinois. The 50-year-old conditioner has been racing his horses both on the Chicago circuit and in Indiana.  Let’s Drink On It was timed in 1:50.1, rallying from seventh and last at the half-mile pole with last two quarters of :27.1 and :26.3 for his four-owner partnership that includes Joe’s wife Tina. Let’s Drink On It was the runner-up in both Maywood’s Windy City Pace and Little Brown Jug Final in Delaware, Ohio. ICF Star Belongs: Speaking of The Meadowlands, Al’s Hammered, the No. 1 aged Illinois bred pacer, had a strong debut at the New Jersey track, dropping only a head decision in the $30,000 A1 Free For All Pace. The second place finish put another $7,500 on Al’s Hammered card, his first start since his former Balmoral based owner and trainer Bob Phillips sold the 5-year-old ICF pacer to long-time Illinois horseman Harry Von Knoblauch, formerly of Beecher and now a Pennsylvania resident. Tim Tetrick raced Al’s Hammered out of the four-hole through fractions of 27.4, 54 flat and 1:21 by the pacesetting State Treasure to ended up seven and last but less than 3 lengths behind the 19-1 winner Asian. Al’s Hammered, who now races out of the barn of trainer Peter Tritton, went off as the 7-2 second choice behind the 6-5 sixth place finisher Clear Vision. Left Out to Dry: Through the years I’ve frequently categorized the 8-post at Maywood Park has its “dreaded 8-hole” and for good reason. It always produces a low-percentage of winners and 2014 has been no different with only a 5.7 winning percentage rate on the half-miler. Who would have thought that its sister track Balmoral Park with its one-mile oval would produce an even lower percentage winning post? Nevertheless, the 10-slot at the Crete, Illinois big track has been a graveyard for bettors and trainers and owners with horses coming out of that outside post. It’s supplying winning horses this year at a meager 4.6 per cent frequency. Both tracks are generating a higher than customary percentage of winning favorites. Balmoral is at 43 per cent, a lofty figure for a mile track while Maywood has a high-than-normal winning favorite clip of almost 47 per cent for a half-miler. Numbers Will Grow: The Balmoral Park horse colony will be getting much needed boost with the racing season over at Hoosier Park in near-by Indiana. Some of their drivers, including Illinois native veteran Sam Widger, are also expected to now compete on the local circuit. by Mike Paradise, for IHHA

While this weekend’s harness racing rescheduled ICF stake Life’s A Holiday Trot came up again with insufficient entries and was scraped the circuit’s Race Office has brought back the $18,000 Sue Fee for older state-bred pacing mares. You might remember beck in the summer the Sue Fee stake was literally washed away along with the test of the Saturday, June 25th card when a severe storm rolled though Balmoral Park and torrential rains made the racetrack a river of water and unsafe to race. There are only two other stakes races in the season for ICF filly and mare pacers with a higher purse than the Sue Fee, the $118,000 Lorna Propes on Super Night and the $21,500 Parklane Powerful Ann Vonian in later July so rescheduling the Sue Fee for next Saturday is a big plus for the owners and trainers of ICF pacing mares. It’ll be interesting to see what mares that entered the supposedly shelved Sue Fee will re-enter for next Saturday. The field for the June 25 event had Prairie Granny, The Bruzilian Blur, Tamarac Sassy, Dune In Red, Auniqueaquisition, No Respect and Ryleigh’s Lilly. I expect Saturday’s $18,000 pot will see a full field of 10 for next Saturday, perhaps enough horses for the distaff stake to be split into two divisions. Earndawg Upset: Casey Leonard gave 6-1 longshot Mighty Hot Shot a two-hole trip behind the overwhelming 1-9 pacesetting favorite Earndawg and the Bill Crone trainee powered up the inside lane to produce a stunning upset in Saturday’s $10,000 Betzotic stake for ICF 2-year-old pacing colts and geldings. Earndawg came into the first race riding a three-race winning streak at included open company triumphs in Maywood’s Abe Lincoln and a division Hoosier’s Madison. The son of Sportsmaster also had won his last five starts against strictly other state-breds, including the Orange and Clue Colt Final on Super Night. Leonard hustled Mighty Hot Shot away from the four-slot and had the lead ahead of Earndawg (p.p. 1) going into the first turn. After an unhurried 29.3 first panel, Warren took Earndawg out of the pocket and to the top, hitting the half-mile marker in a dawdling 59.1. Warren was content to let the Roger Welch trainee coast through a leisurely 29 third panel but in the one-quarter mile “dash for the cash” the heavy favorite was out-sprinted by Mighty Hot Shot’s 26.4 last quarter giving him a half-length victory in 1:55.2 for Orland Park, Illinois owner John Bernard. Mighty Hot Shot came into the Betzotic with only 1 win in 13 freshman starts, a head victory against other maidens in mid-October. Katey Doesn’t Disappoint: A few races later Always About Katey, another 1-9 heavy favorite from the Welch stable driven by Todd Warren, put away stretch bids from first State Street Liz and later from Hello My Dream to post a 1:52.2 triumph in the $11,000 “Winner’s Over” for fillies and mares. It was season win No. 7 for the 4-year-old Indiana bred mare with over $780,000 on her card for Bo De Long, Pat De Long and Katey Mc Clymont. Another Herculean Effort: Casey Leonard took Celebrity Hercules out of the three-hole soon after the half-mile marker and the 9-5 second choice in the wagering went on to chalk up his eighth season victory in the $11,000 “Winner’s Over” Trot for trainer Eric Elliott and owners Dandy Farms of Glenview, Illinois. Fox Valley Veto came on to be second, beaten a half-length while the even-money favorite Justice Jet finished strong for third place money. The victory was No. 36 in the Celebrity Hercules career. The 8-year-old gelding now has almost $485,000 in lifetime earnings. Hot Mile on Cold Night: Snow flurries and a sub-freezing temperature (25 degrees) couldn’t cool off the speedball Ice Scraper from a 1:49.3 winning mile in the ninth race Invitational Pace for driver Brian Carpenter. Leaving from the outside eight-slot, Fort Silky and Kanaris made it hard on Ice Scraper to work his way to the front, getting there in a wicked 26.1 first panel. Kanaris sat in the pocket when the even-money favorite hit the half in a quick 53.3. Carpenter kept his foot on the gas pedal when Ice Scraper went past the 3/4 pole in 1:21.2. Brian kept after the Mike Brown trainee in the lane and the 5-year-old ICF pacer had something left in the tank, ending up 1 and 1/2 lengths ahead of the late-rushing Best Man Hanover for winning Connecticut owner James Behrendt. by Mike Paradise, for IHHA

With last week’s Invite winner Let’s Drink On It racing tonight in a Breeders Crown 3-year-old pace elimination, the ICF speedball Ice Scraper will assume the favorite role in the $15,000 Invitational at Balmoral Park tonight. It’s not very often we have an Invite that isn’t handicapped by the circuit’s Race Office, at least by groups, but that’s the case in the sixth race headliner. However the 5-2 program favorite did manage to land the outside slot in an 8-horse field. Brian Carpenter took over the lines on the 5-year-old Mike Brown trainee back in mid-September and Ice Scraper has won twice in 5 starts with the veteran Indiana native, and both times under 1:49 for his Connecticut owner James Behrendt. On September 27 in a conditioned pace Ice Scraper got down to the three-quarter pole in a sizzling 1:20 flat and carried his speed to the finish wire with a lifetime best 1:48.3 clocking, more than a half-dozen lengths the best.. Two starts alter on October 25 in a high-end conditioned pace Ice Scraper led at every pole, cutting fractions of :26, :53.4, 1:21.2 and coming home in :27.1 for a 1:48.4 victory. In between those starts Ice Scraper was second best to Al’s Hammered (racing tonight at The Meadowlands for his new barn), clocked in 1:49.4. Last week the Yankee Skyscraper gelding gave way in the late going only to Let’s Drink On It at the end of a 1:50.1 on a chilly evening in the mid-30s.   “Ice Scraper got beat by a very good horse last week and while I don’t want to make excuses for him, the horse wasn’t on his game last Saturday even though it was a fast mile for a cold night,” said Carpenter. “Last week was the first time since I’ve been driving him that he never once was on the bit. When he’s at the top of his game I don’t think it makes much difference to him if he gets down the half in 55 or in 53. The horse likes to go out here and roll. All you have to do his put is head on the gate  and he’s off.” With Al’s Hammered recently sold and now racing out east the last two Invites have taken on a completely different look. “I though last week’s Invite field was a well-balanced field, making it good race for bettors. This week field looks very competitive, too,” added Brian. Ice Scraper likely will have to work hard to get command tonight. Time To Roll (7-2, Dale Hiteman), Kanaris (5-1, Dave Magee) and Best Man Hanover (0-2, Todd Warren) all do their best racing up-close. Fort Silky (10-1, Casey Leonard) is another who can leave the gate in a hurry hen asked. The 2014 Illinois Aged Pacer of the Year has been ducked in his last two starts and finished fifth and sixth, respectively in those starts. Fort Silky’s stable-mate In Over my Head (8-1, Kyle Wilfong) can uncork at wicked last panel at times and should be charging late along with Ice Scraper’s entry-mate Lennox Blue Chip (Ridge Warren) and the Mike Brink Stable’s 8-1 longshot Fiveknuckleshuffle (Bobby Smolin) who was given the rail a week ago but has the 6-slot tonight. Also on the Saturday card is the $10,000 Betzotic for ICF 2-year-old pacing colts and geldings and a pair of $11,000 “Winner’s Over” events, one for filly and mare pacers and the other trotters, The Roger Welch Stable’s Earndawg (Todd Warren) looks like an absolutely “lock” in the first race (No Show Wagering) $10,000 stake against 6 foes. The multi-stake champion with a first season bankroll of nearly $215,000 is 2-5 in the morning line and 1-9 in my line. Welch also has the favorite in the five-horse fifth race filly and mare co-feature. Always About Katey (Todd Warren) is at 7-5 first flash odds trying to shed her bridesmaid role that now encompasses her last four starts, Evil Urges (5-2 in my line, Matt Kruger) and Celebrity Hercules (2-1, Casey Leonard) with over a combined $950,000 in career earnings between them, head-up the seventh race “Winner’s Over: Trot. Justice Jet, another Welch trainee driven by his son Ryan, is my 4-1 third choice. The Indiana bred has a $316,319 bankroll in only two seasons of racing and does possess current sharpness. by Mike Paradise, for IHHA   

There’s an old one-time popular love song entitled “Reunited And It Feels So Good” that pretty much conveys the feelings of trainer Donna Lee Ozment for the horse Auniqueaquistion, the 2013 Illinois 3-Year-old Filly Pacer of the Year, now that she is back in her barn.   Towards the end of the filly’s very success sophomore season where Auniqueaquistion won every major stake in her division for Donna and almost $250,000 in purse earnings she got a much unexpected phone call that stunned the veteran trainer. “I was on my way to Maywood Park when I got a call and asked me “When can they come and pick up the mare.” I asked ‘what mare?’ “Auniqueaquistion, they answered. She’s been sold.” “I was stunned. I had no idea of the sale or that her owner (John Carver) was even thinking of selling her. The filly was like a close pet to me and she was doing so well for us. “I had her for her first two years and she made her owner a lot of money (over $350,000). She won everything as a 3-year-old, the Maywood (Filly) Pace, the Ann Vonian, the Grandma Ann on Super Night from the 10-hole and a Hanover. I was shocked and I was in tears when she left.” Carver sold half of the filly to Dandy Farms of Glenview, Illinois last November. Almost a year to the sale day she was reacquired by Carver and sent back to Ozment after winning only 2 of 20 starts while banking just $18,000, “I’m so happy to have Auniqueaquistion back,” continued the native of Fairfield, Illinois. “She’s happy to be back, too. “I tend to get very close to my horses and she was the closest I’ve been to one. I train all my horses but she was one that I actually rubbed and took care of. I bathe her. I did her up every day and she lived with my little mini (horse). “Auniqueaquistion was very attached to her mini. When she came back to our barn and saw her mini she came over and started licking her back. Everybody in the barn was getting watery eyes. It was very touching. “She was not a happy-camper when she was gone. While she’s much happier now she’s still not the same animal she was when she left. She’s a kicker now and she never kicked before. Her personality did change while she was gone but she is coming around and I think she’ll get better and better. It’s just going to take time. “She remembered me when she came back and she remembered that I had always given her a snack after she jogged. The first time back after I jogged her I put her in the stall and started to walk away she started nickering as if to say: “Hey, where’s my snack.” Auniqueaquistion (Dale Hiteman) will open at program odds of 6-1 in Friday’s eighth race conditioned pace. It’ll be the 4-year-old mare’s third start back for Ozment. The daughter of Cole Muffler raced an improved third last week, ending up less than 1 length short of the winner. In the meantime Auniqueaquistion is back enjoying her snacks and the company of her mini friend while Donna has her favorite pet back in her barn along with some drier eyes, so as they say: “All’s well that ends well.” by Mike Paradise, for IHHA

Sportsman’s Park, Illinois the premier harness track 40 years ago, wrapped up its 1974 meeting the first week of September with substantial increases in both attendance and mutuel handle. The nightly attendance for the Chicago Downs portion of the summer meet averaged 14,176, the largest in the history of the State of Illinois. The Fox Valley segment averaged 13,356. The nightly handle for the three-month meeting averaged over $1.35 million. The 1973 Harness Horse of the Year Sir Dalrae made his first Sportsman’s Park start a winning effort when he defeated his rival Armbro Nesbit in the $50,000 Grand Prix on June 8 in 2:00 on a sloppy track. Three weeks later Joe O’Brien and Armbro Nesbit avenged that loss with a nose triumph over Sir Dalrae and driver-trainer Jim Dennis in the $25,000 Governor’s Cup, winning in 1:58.4, the fastest mile on the Chicago circuit in 1974. Walter Paisley took over the lines on Armbro Nesbit a month later and brought home the 4-year-old son of Bye Bye Byrd to victory in the Paul Wixom Pace and one week later guided Armbro Nesbit to a winning 1:57 flat mile in the second leg of the United States Pacing Championship. Taurus Bomber, owned, trained and driven by Connel Willis, ruled the 3-year-old Illinois bred pacing division, taking the $45,000 Pete Langley Memorial Final on July 3 when he came from 11th at the half mile pole to post a 1:59 victory on the five-eighths oval. That year Paisley’s Braidwood blossomed into the best aged performer on the circuit when he rattled off six victory in 2:00 or faster, saving the best for last with a 1:57.4 clocking on closing night, September 7 in the $50,000 Midwest Derby. Joe Marsh guided three of the 10 American National champions at the meeting: Todaro Hanover in the 2-year-old pace, Quilla Donut in the freshman filly pace and Surefire Hanover in the juvenile trot. Stanley Dancer’s Nevele Diamond breezed in the American National 3-year-old colt trot on July 10 while Noble Jade, driven by Del Insko, got his nose in front at the wire in the $65,000 American National Maturity Trot tree weeks later. In the $101,000 American National Maturity Pace on August 10, the illustrious Armbro Nesbit was upset when Otaro Hanover ad driver Herve Filion uncorked a torrid stretch drive to nail the public’s choice. Joe Marsh was the meet’s leading driver. He took the Chicago Downs meet at Sportsman’s by two winners over Jerry Graham and finished ahead of Walter Paisley and Jim Dennis in the Fox Valley portion. by Mike Paradise, for IHHA

King Mufasa, the 2013 Illinois Harness Horse of the Year who nearly perished in a highway accident back in July, is doing well in his Springfield, Illinois home according to his trainer Mike Brink. “I built a little paddock for him,” said Mike. “He put on some weight and he looks pretty good. What his outcome is, we don’t know that yet but he is getting around okay.” The 5-year-old trotter was enroute from Springfield to Hoosier Park when his horse van was severely damaged in an accident, pinning King Mufasa in the wreckage. Bleeding profusely when he was found trapped under twisted steel the horse was extracted several hours later and transported to Purdue University Large Animal Hospital via horse ambulance. It took a 44-day stay with plenty of expert and tender-loving care from the Purdue medical staff for King Mufasa to recover from number of serious life threatening injuries before he returned to his Springfield home. King Mufasa joined Brink’s stable for his 3-year-old campaign and was absolutely sensational under the care of his 61-year-old conditioner, winning every major Illinois-bred stakes—including the Cardinal, the Kadabra, both state-fair crowns at Springfield and Du Quoin and the $124,000 Su Mac Lad on Super Night—along with open added-money triumphs in Balmoral’s Hanover and the Circle City at Hoosier Park. At one time King Mufasa rattled off 12 consecutive victories when he earned $238,590 for his owners H.W. Wright of Morton, Illinois and Mystical Marker Farms of Dwyer, Indiana. The Right Move: It was heartening to see that the $10,000 Life’s A Holiday, one of recent cast-off ICF stake races at Maywood Park, has been re-written for this weekend and moved to Balmoral Park by the circuit’s Race Office. Perhaps Balmoral’s big track will lure more than a trio of horses (Fox Valley Veto, Cardinal Wind and Nino Marino) to the 3-year-old state-bred colt and gelding trot event. Let’s hope the Race Office does another right thing by positioning the stake as a non-wagering race, before or during the Saturday or Sunday cards, if there are four or less horses entered. by Mike Paradise, for IHHA

Veteran trainer Joel Smith is watching his late-season plans for his star ICF 3-year-old filly pacer Fox Valley Amanda fall apart and there isn’t anything the Illinois Harness Hall of Famer can do about it. After picking up a fifth place check on Windy City Pace Night in the Cinderella, Smith had his sights set for Fox Valley Amanda in the Giggles The Clown stake two weeks later at Maywood , followed by another $10,000 stake for state-bred 3-year-old pacing fillies this Friday. Smith struck out on the Giggles The Clown. It was canceled by the Race Office because of “insufficient entries.” It’s likely he’ll also swing and a miss on next Friday’s schedule Betzotic, also for state-bred sophomore fillies. “I plan is to enter Fox Valley Amanda in next week’s filly stake at Maywood but these stakes haven’t been filling. The tracks have dropped a couple of stake races lately. I don’t know what happen to all the 3-year-old ICF fillies. I know a few are in the Harrisburg sale.” I reminded Joel that it’s not just the 3-year-old filly stakes that have been dumped by Maywood. The $25,000 Associates for older horses and last week a $10,000 Betzotic for second season trotters also was abandoned instead of carded as non-wagering races. “Yea I know because I entered by 3-year-old trotter Cardinal Wind in last week’s stake that also didn’t fill and hasn’t been re-scheduled,” Joel replied. Fox Valley Amanda is the 9-2 third choice in Friday’s 11th race, Maywood’s highest level conditioned pace for non-winners of $9,500 in their last 5 starts or non-winners of 7 races lifetime. “I have to race Amanda somewhere and the cheapest was Friday at Maywood. She’s in against older and more seasoned mares but I didn’t really have a choice. Either she got another week off or she races Friday against older mares.” I asked Joel what’s the future plans for Fox Valley Amanda, the winner of this year’s $89,000 Maywood Filly Pace. “I going to continue to race Fox Valley Amanda here in Illinois for a little while longer but I’ll then probably put her in the Meadowlands Sale,” he answered. “That’s where I’ll have to go with her because there isn’t any place to race here in Illinois. “I recently sold one of my other horses because people at Yonkers are calling and looking for good young horses to race there and Amanda gets around a half real well. She might bring a decent sale price.” Scheduled to be put on the market at the Harrisburg Sale are ICF 3-year-old filly pacers My Little Bit and Party Hangover Two. Among Illinois bred colt and gelding pacers auctioned off are A Cool Card, Uncle Ugly, Mystical Walter, Rockin Rumble and Photo Surprise. by Mike Paradise, for IHHA

I’ve been a professional handicapper since the early 1970’s and I can count on one hand how many times I’ve made a horse 1 to 9 in my morning line. Saturday night at Balmoral is one of those very infrequent times. Trainer Roger Welch sends out his dynamic ICF duo of the runaway division leader Earndawg with his stable-late King Of The Swamp (Ryan Welch), this season’s Mini Me champion, in the $10,000 Crete for 2-year-old state bred colt and gelding pacers against a only four foes with two pari-mutuel wins and barely $30,000 in first year earnings between them. Not surprisingly only Win and Exacta wagering will be offered to avoid Minus Pools nevertheless I expect there will still be one. The morning line odds will start out at 2-5 and they’ll spiral downward from there. Interestingly, when Bo and Pat De Long bought the two sons of Sportamaster at last year’s Walker Sale, King Of The Swamp was expected to be the better of the two. He sold for $85,000 with his very successful family tree of brothers and sisters like Brian And Kellie (1:50.3), Hot N Sporty (1:50.2), She’s So Hot (1:51.1), He’s Red Hot (1:50.4) and He’s So Hot (1:50.2), among others. Earndawg, went for $35,000 to the De Long’s and Wisconsinite Ernest Miller when his name was Fox Valley Padre. His dam Pacific Sister produced Mystical MJ (1:51.1). While King Of The Swamp, alias Fox Valley Flame, captured the Mini Me earlier and has had a productive first year with earnings of over $70,000, Earndawg and his regular driver Todd Warren has had a prodigious year and is a legit candidate for Illinois Horse of the Year Honors. Earndawg has put almost $210,000 on his card and he took the division’s biggest plum, the $186,000 Colt Orange and Blue Final on Super Night. Since then he’s added Balmoral’s $43,350 Cardinal, Maywood $57,100 Abe Lincoln and a $40, 300 division of Hoosier Park’s Madison to his list of accomplishments, the last two open company stakes. Oh, he was also second in last month’s Balmoral’s $86,000 American National. “That Madison stake was a Grand Circuit race with a nice respectful field of colts in there and Earndawg really stepped up at the plate in it,” said Roger. “He finished so strong the way we knew he could, That is his trump card. He was way back and he really came on strong on a cold, windy night with a little misty rain.  It was a big heat. “Right now, as we speak, Earndawg is so fresh and sound that he’s the sharpest he’s been all year. He was so outstanding in the Orange and Blue and he has stayed that way ever since,” Taking on Earndawg and his sidekick are (my odds) AJ’s Prince (50-1, Pat Curtin), Casey At Bat (8-1, Dean Magee), Mighty Hot Shot (9-2, Casey Leonard), and Dinky Dune (8-1, Kyle Wilfong). by Mike Paradise, for IHHA

I assumed I would be writing about one, or both, of Friday’s ICF 3-year-old stakes at Maywood Park however each of the scheduled $10,000 events were cancelled by the track’s Race Office because of insufficient entries. Four male pacers—Fox Valley Cupid, Fox Valley Deuce, Little Hank and Sleazeburgernfries—entered the Betzotic while three fillies—Fox Valley Amanda, Fox Valley Shiver and My Little Bit—were submitted to compete in the Giggles The Clown. Apparently not enough numbers for a pari-mutuel race on the Friday program but they certainly could and should have been positioned as non-wagering events before start of the regular card.  Next week’s conditioned sheet shows that both of Friday’s scheduled 3-year-old stakes were not written back, they were just discarded. Likewise there was no attempt to re-schedule the $25,000 McKeever/Associates stake for older state-bred pacers when that came up short on Windy City Night. That long-time popular Maywood Pacing Series race wasn’t written back the following weekend either. The hours by trainers and their help preparing these horses for these scheduled stakes and the anticipation of their owners to watch them compete evidently doesn’t get much consideration by those who seemingly have complete control of the horsemen purse money. The continuation of the local racetracks to scrap these ICF stakes and put their revenue pots into the general purse fund for non-ICF horses to acquire doesn’t  “(e) Encourage the breeding of thoroughbred and standardbred horses in this State” as specified in the Illinois Racing Act of 1975. At a time in our history when the Illinois breeding industry needs all the help it can get the local racetracks instead are discouraging people to own and race ICF horses in our state by the persistent dumping of ICF stake races for any excuse they see fit. Through the years the backbone of harness racing success in our state has always been a strong ICF program. Let’s do what we can to build it back up . . . not break it down. No Contest: Bailey’s Wish was much the best in Thursday night’s $10,100 Speed N The Tunnel stake, drawing off by four lengths with Dave Magee in a snappy 1:58.3 mile Bailey’s Wish had a six length lead in the stretch before she was taken up by her National Hall of Fame driver and hand-driven to the finish wire. The victory was the 3-year-old ICF filly’s sixth in 16 starts for trainer Dirk Simpson and his Illinois owners Jim Bafia (Minooka) and Gene White (Chicago). Earlier Bailey’s Wish captured the Lady Lincoln Land and the Springfield titles giving her a two-season record of 10 wins in 30 starts and over $258,000 in purse earnings. Notable Numbers: Casey Leonard went over the 300 mark in dash winners for this season earlier this week and he also topped the $2 million plateau in money won for the second consecutive year. The 37-year-old Harvard Illinois native leads the Maywood Park driver’s race by 30 winners and is 50-plus ahead at Balmoral Park. by Mike Paradise, for IHHA

Jake Quaider and RT Habenero, two late blooming freshmen trotters, will get an abundant amount of the public’s wagering money in Wednesday’s $40,200 Violet Final for ICF 2-year-old trotting colts and geldings at Balmoral Park with the absence of division leader Fox Valley Qatar who is in Louisiana for the winter. Jake Quaider (programmed 8-5 )and RT Habenero (2-1) have traded victories in their last two starts with the former overtaking the latter in last week’s Cardinal Prep after RT Habenero ended Fox Valley Qatar’s eight-race unbeaten streak in the $97,000 Lincoln Land Final earlier this month and Jake Quaider third-best. RT Habenero was winless in his first five career starts for trainer Robert Taylor. The Tennessee native shares ownership of the Armbro Tropicana gelding with Illinoisans Taylor and Robert Rietveld of Bourbonnais. After a non-threating fourth in a division of the Darn Safe at Du Quoin Taylor turned over the lines of RT Habenero to National Hall of Famer Dave Magee and the horse won 2 of his next 5 outings including the Lincoln Land crown, the biggest plum in the division, and was second in the three other starts. Jake Quaider has been 1, 2 or 3 in 6 of his 7 career starts and the only time he wasn’t in a Trifecta wager was his fourth place finish in the $73,000 American National when he ended-up only two lengths behind the winner Iron. After the American National owners Quaid Racing of Evergreen Park, IL switched barns with the Photo Color gelding, going from the Erv Miller Stable to the Balmoral Park based conditioner Nelson Willis. Two and 1/2 weeks after being shuffled back in the Lincoln Land and ending up third, Jake Quaider uncorked a strong :28.1 last panel in last week’s prep, zooming past the front-stepping RT Habenero, winning by almost two lengths in 1:58 flat with regular driver Casey Leonard.. “Casey gets along very well with the horse and he told me the horse was really, really good in that prep race,” said Willis. “Casey said that was the best he’s been in a while. “Jake Quaider is a nice little horse who has been lightly raced. Erv (Miller) had him prior to me and he didn’t race him a lot, I haven’t made many changes on the colt, just a little here and there. He seems to be headed in the right direction in the late part of his season. Jake Quaider is out of the Credit Winner broodmare Grace Elizabeth, making him a half-brother to the former ICF stakes champion Maevey Gravy who chalked up almost $180,000 in his first two seasons for Quaid Racing in 2011 and 2012. Maevey Gravy captured the Lady Lincoln Land Final at two when she raced out of the Roger Welch Stable. As a 3-year-old under the tutelage of trainer Erv Miller she won a Hanover and both State Fair championships. Captain Greedy (J D Finn) winner of 9 races in his first season including a division of Du Quoin’s Darn Safe, landed the one-post in the Wednesday feature and is the morning line 5-1 third choice. Looking to pull off an upset in the fifth race headliner are Arc’s Conquest (12-1, Ryan Anderson), Powerful Above All (6-1, Todd Warren), Southern Special (12-1, Travis Seekman) and Vick Valor (15-1, Mike Brink). by Mike Paradise, for IHHA

With the conspicuous absence of division leader Fox Valley Qatar in Wednesday night’s Cardinal Prep at Balmoral Park, now next week’s $40,000 ICF 2-year-old trotting colt and gelding final has lost a quite a bit of its luster. Seven entries were taken for the Cardinal and Fox Valley Qatar, winner of both State Fair championships and the Plesac Final wasn’t one of them. The Herman Wheeler owned and trained trotter won his first eight career starts before finishing second-best in the Lincoln Land Championship behind RT Habenero. Was Fox Valley Qatar hurt? Was he sold? Did his trainer want to give the horse another week off? As it turns out it was none of the above. “I just came back Friday from by home in Louisiana and didn’t know they were drawing for the Cardinal that night,” said an upset Wheeler. “I have a book with all the Illinois-bred stakes and went by that. I thought the entries for the stake was next week. “I didn’t even get the courtesy of a phone call from the Race Office if I wanted to enter my horse for the Cardinal. They don’t put out the conditioned sheet until a Thursday night and they draw on a Friday at another track (Maywood Park) for Wednesday, five days ahead of time. “I didn’t arrive in town and get to Balmoral until late Friday afternoon so I didn’t get a chance to see the new conditioned sheet. My horse was ready to go and wanted him in the Cardinal. I would have wanted race him in a prep if I was asked. But I wasn’t. That isn’t right,” added the 45-year-old African-American trainer. It’s a shame the best ICF trotter in his division with a gaudy record of 8 wins and 1 second in 9 starts and over $84,000 on his card never got a chance to end his freshman season on a winning note. Instead the strong candidate for 2014 Illinois Horse of the Year and his owner-trainer have returned home to Monroe, Louisiana for the winter. With Fox Valley Qatar absent, Nelson Willis’ Jake Quaider (Casey Leonard) and Robert Taylor’s RT Habenero (Dave Magee) are the 8-5 and 5-2 first flash favorites, in that order, Wednesday night with John Finn’s nine-time season winner Captain Greedy next at odds of 7-5. Captain Greedy took a second division of Du Quoin’s $17,600 Darn Safe back in late August for Finn and co-owner and breeder Charles Doehring of Brownstown, Illinois Southern Special (10-1, Travis Seekman), Arc’s Conquest (12-1) and Powerful Above All (5-1, Todd Warren) complete the first race field. A seventh Cardinal entry, Mike Brink’s Vick Valor, will compete in Wednesday’s third race, a non-winner of one pari-mutuel event. by Mike Paradise, for IHHA

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