Day At The Track

Night of Champions preps kick off

04:37 AM 17 Jun 2020 NZST
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Desert Sheik, harness racing
The first division was won gamely by Desert Sheik
Four Footed Photo

STICKNEY, IL - With horsemen eager to get back onto the track, spectator-free harness racing moved into its second week at Hawthorne after a nearly three month break. With a lot of action to pack into a short time, stakes prep action kicked off with the first legs of many of the Night of Champions races.

While the 12 race Friday card featured a continuation of series races, it was the open-company feature that stole the show. Marking his return to the track was past Illinois-bred champ Fox Valley Gemini. The Jim Ballinger owned Gemini was impressive in victory, rallying from off the pace for driver Casey Leonard to win in 1:51.2. The Terry Leonard trainee was one of a pair of winners on the Friday card as Trashytonguetalker (1:55.0) was an easy winner in one of the Club Hawthorne mini-series events. That win was Casey's second of the night.

Friday's card saw a trio of additional driving doubles as Ridge Warren won the fourth race with Major Hart (1:58.1) and the night's finale behind Rock Steady Ron (1:54.1). Both of the Kyle's won a pair as well as Kyle Husted posted the driver/trainer double, winning race eight with Craftship (1:56.0) and the tenth behind Fox Valley Hijinx (1:55.0). Kyle Wilfong scored in the ninth with Major Legacy (1:54.2) and eleventh with Pacific Stride (1:54.1).

The only three-bagger on the Friday card was produced by Mike Oosting. Mike took both ends of the early double, winning the opener with Waymore (1:54.1) followed by Fox Valley Hustler (1:54.1) in race two. Mike was back in the winner's circle in race six as Rockinsweetvictory (1:54.3) won going away.

Saturday evening brought about the first of the Night of Champions preps. Illinois-bred three-year-old filly pacers kicked off the festivities in leg one of the Plum Peachy as the Kyle Husted trained and driven Fox Valley Exploit (1:55.0) was a game winner, catching Sign Her Up in the shadow of the wire.

Leg one of the Robert F. Carey, Jr. Memorial for Illinois-bred three-year-old colt and gelding pacers went as the fifth race on the Saturday card. The outside post was too much for last year's Night of Champions winner to overcome as He'zzz a Wise Sky was a game second behind Fox Valley Ren. Fox Valley Ren (1:53.3) was driven by Kyle Wilfong for trainer Nelson Willis.

Open trotters took to the track in the eighth race Saturday as a Terry Leonard trained exacta took the co-feature. Call For Justice (1:55.4) was just able to hold on for driver Casey Leonard over Ridge Warren and Lindy's Big Bang.

The only driving triple on the Saturday card was registered by Ridge Warren. He guided home talented Lousraptor (1:56.4) to an easy win in the night's opener for trainer Steve Searle. Warren was right back at it in race two, winning with Amazon Princess (1:57.4) for Clark Fairley. Warren capped off the evening lighting up the toteboard as Hello Art (1:54.1) came flying in the lane to win at 52-1 for trainer Mike Brink.

Sunday evening started early at Hawthorne as a pair of non-wagering evenings saw two divisions of the Erwin F. Dygert Memorial take to the track. The Dygert is for Illinois-bred three-year-old colt and gelding trotters. The first division was won gamely by Desert Sheik (1:59.0) as he battled and held off Fox Valley Kobe for driver Brandon Bates and trainer Mike Brink. The second division of the Dygert went easily to Fox Valley Quest (1:57.4), a winner for Casey Leonard and Tom Simmons.

The 13 race pari-mutuel card followed the two non-wagering events as Illinois-bred three-year-old fillies and mares were the focus in leg one of the Beulah Dygert Memorial. A clever drive by Brandon Bates was enough to weave Fox Valley Extacy through traffic in the lane, winning in 1:59.2 over longshot Fox Valley Lush and favored Lous Abigail. Fox Valley Extacy is trained by Hector Herrera.

Filly and mare open pacers were the Sunday co-feature as longshots finished one-two. Winning at 14-1 was Black Jack Pat (1:53.3) for driver Tyler Shehan, just catching 18-1 shot This Peach Rocks.

In addition to his wins with Desert Sheik and Fox Valley Extacy, driver Brandon Bates made it three on the Sunday card, guiding home Lucky Jewel (1:54.3) in the night's finale, also for trainer Hector Herrera.

Mike Oosting capped a strong weekend as he garnered another triple Sunday. He won race three with Frontier Rollo (1:53.), the fourth with Dirt E Rock (1:55.2), and eighth behind Gm Patty Lin (1:59.0). Gm Patty Lin capped the training triple for Mike Brink Sunday.

A strong Sunday handle of over $1.2 produced another positive weekend of wagering at Hawthorne as the regular Friday through Sunday schedule continues.

Jim Miller

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