Day At The Track

$1.1 million for Hawthorne Night of Champions

04:34 AM 21 Sep 2018 NZST
Comment (...) Tweet Share Email Print
Fox Valley Gemini, harness racing
Fox Valley Gemini with driver Casey Leonard will go for their 18th win this year at Hawthorne
Four Footed Fotos

STICKNEY, IL - Over $1.1 million in purse money will be on the line Saturday night at Hawthorne as Night of Champions will take place. Eleven stakes finals for Illinois-breds will highlight the card and will be joined by a pair of tough invite races to compile the 13 race program.

In addition to the races, top drivers in Illinois racing history will be on hand for an autograph session from 7:30 - 8:30 PM on the first floor of the grandstand. Food trucks and the outdoor barbeque will serve food as fans can get up close and personal with all of the racing action.

Here is a preview of the 13 race card:

Race 1 - $136,142 Incredible Finale Championship - 2yo Colt & Gelding Pacers

Illinois-bred juvenile pacers kick off the action as a full field lines up. Two horses have been standouts at this level throughout the summer as Meyer on Fire and The Bucket look to battle to the finish. Meyer on Fire comes from the barn of trainer Erv Miller for owner Engel Stable of Illinois LLC as he rides a four race win streak into this final.

He got the best of The Bucket last week, winning leg four of this event by three lengths and will look to get the jump again tonight. Mike Oosting drives Meyer on Fire on Saturday. The Bucket races for owners Ken Rucker and George Dremonas as he has won seven times on the year and finished in the money in all ten starts. He was parked without cover in last week's final leg but may look to take the race to Meyer on Fire earlier on Saturday night. Casey Leonard will be in the bike once again for trainer Terry Leonard.

Race 2 - $45,000 Plesac Championship - 3yo & up Trotters

Illinois-bred aged trotters take to the track as the top female trotter in the state looks to beat the boys. Annas Lucky Star will start from the outside for owner Danny Graham and trainer Nelson Willis. A winner of half of her 16 starts on the year, Annas Lucky Star controlled the pace for driver Kyle Wilfong from the rail in last week's prep but may have to work out a trip from the eight-hole on Saturday.

Picky Picky Valor has been equally impressive this year for owner Shelley Steele and trainer Gerald Hansen. With eight victories and 20 top three finishes from 22 starts, Picky Picky Valor and driver Casey Leonard will look to turn the tables on Annas Lucky Star from his second-place finish to her last week.

Race 3 - $132,874 Incredible Tillie Championship - 2yo Filly Pacers

Juvenile Pacers match up in one of the more wide open divisions of the Night of Champions card. Fox Valley Torrid looks to benefit from the inside draw as she was narrowly defeated last week after winning four consecutive races prior to that start. Owned by Fox Valley Standardbreds and trained by Rodney Freese, Fox Valley Torrid has shown versatility as she may look to rate close from the inside post on Saturday. Casey Leonard drives.

Perch got off to a bit of a later start this summer but has been sharp, winning half of her eight starts and finishing in the top three in all of her races. She is familiar with outside draws, closing strongly from the back in championship races from the outside in both Springfield and DuQuoin. Jay Garrels trains Perch.

Race 4 - $119,470 Kadabra Championship - 2yo Colt & Gelding Trotters

The Kadabra became a very interesting race after the Monday draw as the top two contenders both drew in the outer half of the field. A winner of the last two legs of this race, Trixie's Turbo drew the ten-hole Saturday for owner Charles Doehring, trainer Jared Finn and driver J D Finn. A winner of six of nine on the year, Trixie's Turbo is normally committed to the front end early but showed some versatility in an elimination victory from off the pace in Springfield.

Louscardamon starts in post seven as he has speed but has battled staying on stride throughout the summer. Racing for the partnership of Flacco Family Farms LLC and Dr. Patrick Graham for trainer Steve Searle, Louscardamon has shown flashes of brilliance, winning five of his eight starts. He broke stride just after the start last week though, leaving some questions going into the Saturday final. Mike Oosting will be in the bike behind Louscardamon.

Race 5 - $45,000 Tony Maurello Championship - 3yo & up Filly & Mare Pacers

The Maurello final brings forth one of the most consistent older pacers of the summer to face off against another that may be peaking at the right time. Bucklegirl Bobette has been very good throughout the summer, winning nine of 21 races and taking on tough open company pacers at Hawthorne throughout the summer. Coming from the barn of trainer Rob Rittof, Travis Seekman will likely have her in her familiar front-end position early.

A pacer with the opposite racing style, Fancy Creek Jolene will be hoping for a quick and contested pace upfront early for her to close into late. Trained by Kim Hamilton, Fancy Creek Jolene and driver Bobby Smolin teamed up mid-August, winning three races in just over a month, including a score in last week's elimination. Normally one to come from off the pace, she could be the horse that is hitting her stride at the right time.

Race 6 - $122,504 Fox Valley Flan Championship - 2yo Filly Trotters

Multiple horses vie for the title of top female juvenile trotter in the state as half of this field can make a strong case that they are best. Louzotic looks to benefit from the inside draw for owner Flacco Family Farms and trainer Steve Searle as she has won six of ten starts on the year, along with winning her division of the last two legs of this race.

E L Game On has finished in the top three in 10 of 11 races this summer, closing as the runner-up to Louzotic in her last two starts. Donald and Sharri Huddleston own for trainer Mike Rogers. The winningest juvenile trotter in North America starts right next to E L Game On as Loussolataire looks for her 17th victory of the year for owner Steven Renard. Also trained by Steve Searle, Loussolataire snuck through along the inside late to score in the final leg of this race last week.

Puddin Cheeks has early speed and has been a bit of a later bloomer this summer. Racing for trainer Jared Finn, Puddin Cheeks was a strong winner in leg three of this series and just missed to Loussolataire here last week.

Encantado will have to work out a trip from her outside draw as she races for trainer Jim Eaton. A winner of four of seven on the year, she has shown she can close late and looks to get a heated pace ahead of her early on Saturday.

Race 7 - $45,000 Robert S. Molaro Championship - 3yo & up Pacers

Aged pacers line up Saturday as Unlocked leads this field off a game victory in last week's elimination. Owned by Megan Rogers Racing Stables Inc. and trained by Norm Parker, Unlocked has made only five starts in 2018. After a bit of a slow start to the year, the seven-year-old gelding put together a good pair of qualifiers at the Meadows before shipping into Hawthorne last week. Driven by Jim Pantaleano, Unlocked got a perfect tracking trip and was able to draw clear at the wire. With 32 victories from 100 career starts for over half a million in earnings, Unlocked will be the likely favorite again on Saturday.

Race 8 - $99,032 Beulah Dygert Memorial Championship - 3yo Filly Trotters

Trainer Steve Searle has a bunch of live trotters on the Night of Champions card as he sends out Trotting Grace in this final. After a good two-year-old campaign in 2017, she got off to a bit of a slow start in 2018. Things have turned around at the right time for her for owners Mystical Marker Farms LLC, Bill Wright and Steve Searle as she has won five of her last six races coming into this final. Regular driver Kyle Husted will be back in the bike once again.

Just to Trotting Grace's inside may be her toughest competition, coming from Maui Mama. Also owned by Bill Wright, Maui Mama is trained by Mike Brink and gets Casey Leonard in the bike. She has found the board in all nine of her races in 2018, but has finished behind Trotting Grace in each of her last four races.

Race 9 - $25,000 Invitational Trot

The first of two full field invitational races on the Night of Champions card pits a strong field of trotters, coming together from five different locations. With nearly $700,000 in career earnings, Satin Dancer draws well in the middle of this field for owner Summit Pacing Acres LLC and trainer Byron Hooley. A winner three times on the year, Satin Dancer has been competitive in open races at Pocono, The Meadowlands, and Yonkers.

Swan Chase draws the far outside, but comes into the invite hitting the board 12 times from 14 starts on the year. He comes in off a strong string of races at Hoosier Park into this spot and has shown an ability to close with a rush late. Swan Chase is owned by John Barnard for trainer Bill Crone.

Race 10 - $25,000 Invitational Pace

A very fast field of pacers will look to go sub-1:50 as trainer Ron Burke sends out Dancin Yankee on Saturday. With over $1.8 million in career earnings, Dancin Yankee has won nine times on the year for over $160,000 in earnings. A versatile pacer in style, Dancin Yankee looks to go favored in this tough field.

New Talent comes in off back to back sub 1:49 miles at Hoosier as he will look to overcome the far outside draw. Owned by Thomas Pollack and Jeffrey Cullipher and trained by Tim Clevenger, New Talent returned off a tough trip in the Dan Patch at Hoosier to come back with a seven-length triumph in 1:48.3 in his next start.

Race 11 - $160,080 Robert F. Carey Jr. Memorial Championship - 3yo Colt & Gelding Pacers

Reigning 2017 Illinois-bred Horse of the Year Fox Valley Gemini looks to continue his string of undefeated races over the Hawthorne track as he leads this talented field. With 17 victories at Hawthorne, Fox Valley Gemini made amends after facing his first two career defeats in Springfield at the Illinois State Fair this summer. He returned to Hawthorne and qualified with the addition of Lasix and then proceeded to destroy a field by over seven lengths in the final leg of this series. Casey Leonard drives for trainer Terry Leonard and owner Jim Ballinger.

You'remyhearthrob is the one that snapped Fox Valley Gemini's streak in Springfield, when he scored in driver Kyle Wilfong's 1,000 career driving victory. Trained by Brett Wilfong, You'remyhearthrob has finished in the top three in all 14 starts this season, including a strong victory in his division of the final leg of this race last week.

Race 12 - $125,140 Plum Peachy Championship - 3yo Filly Pacers

Allbeastnobeauty headlines the field in the Plum Peachy final as she enters this race with eight victories from 14 starts on the year. Owned in partnership by trainer Mike Brink, Josh Carter, Mark Brown, and Lawrence Crawford, Allbeastnobeauty was game in victory in four straight races before finishing third in the final leg of this series. Her versatility should put her close to the pace as she will look to take over late for driver Mike Oosting.

A champion in 2017, Fox Valley Jazzy will be looking to get the jump on Allbeastnobeauty as she draws inside of her on Saturday night. After winning eight of 13 races in 2017, she has scored just twice from eleven 2018 starts, but has finished in the top three nine times. She races on Saturday for owner Cathy Finn-Kanitz and trainer Dale Kanitz as Ridge Warren drives.

Race 13 - $83,696 Erwin F. Dygert Memorial Championship - 3yo Colt & Gelding Trotters

The final race on the Night of Champions card looks to be very competitive as Majistic Caprice and Illinimight lead this field of ten. Illinimight races for owners Keith and Kevin Miller and trainer Mike Brink as he looks to follow the same pattern that was successful for him in 2017. After a slow start last year, he peaked late, racing well in the final month of the meet. He has had a similar season this year, posting wins in three of his last four races, including a strong score in the final leg of this series last week. Casey Leonard drives.

Majistic Caprice has won half of his 18 starts on the year as he draws in the middle of this field. A horse with versatility, he finished fourth behind Illinimight last week, but also had to overcome an outside draw. Majistic Caprice races on Saturday for trainer Roshun Trigg.

Hawthorne Race Course, Chicago's Hometown Track, continues the summer harness season through September 24. Fall thoroughbreds close out the year, running from October 5 through December 29. For more information, visit or contact Hawthorne at 708-780-3700.

by Jim Miller, for Hawthorne Race Course

Comment (...) Tweet Share Email Print

Read More News About...

Stallion Name

Next article: