Day At The Track

Night of Champions closes Hawthorne meet

04:10 AM 22 Sep 2020 NZST
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STICKNEY, IL - The best in the state of Illinois gathered on closing weekend as 11 harness racing stakes races were contested on Hawthorne Race Course's Night of Champions. The Hawthorne meet faced its challenges as it opened on February 15 and raced for four weeks before being halted due to the pandemic. After a two and a half month break, guidelines were implemented for a safe return to racing on June 6.

Despite spectators not being allowed on-track, added interest in racing through ADW outlets and additional races added led to a 34% increase in average daily handle compared to 2019.

The summer meet was capped with great performances on Night of Champions as the best in the state competed for nearly $1 million in purses. A look back at the Night of Champions finals:


Jim Ballinger's Fox Valley Gemini did it again. For the second year in a row, Fox Valley Gemini, trained by Terry Leonard, won the Robert S Molaro Memorial Championship for 3-year-old and up pacers. Guided to the winner's circle by Casey Leonard, the meet's leading driver with 130 victories, Fox Valley Gemini tracked pacesetting Al's Hammered through the first three quarters but assumed control approaching the far turn and drew off to a five and a quarter length victory. Al's Hammered held for second, narrowly holding off Bass Player.

Fox Valley Gemini, bred by Fox Valley Standardbreds, got the mile in 150.1 after fractions of :27.4, :55.3 and 1:23. He paid $2.20 to win.


With the $34,000 earned for the victory, Fox Valley Gemini's career earnings stand at $485,468.


Loulita, the 1-9 favorite, left little to doubt in her easy victory in Saturday's Fox Valley Flan Championship for ICF 2-year-old filly trotters. Driven by Casey Leonard and trained by Steven Searle, this talented filly won for the sixth time in nine starts. Bred by Flacco Family Farms and owned by Flacco Family Farms and Dr. Patrick Graham, Loulita raced in third early but took the lead midway on the backstretch and was never challenged after that; ultimately winning by four lengths. Myonly Sin came on late to finish second with Breeze At Sunset getting up for third.

After fractions of :30.0, 1:00.1, and 1:29.4 Loulita got the mile in a lifetime best of 1:59.2.

Loulita earned $44,000 for the victory, boosting her lifetime earnings to $93,609. She paid $2.20 to win


The Incredible Tillie Championship, for ICF 2-year-old filly pacers, provided one of the few surprises on The Night of Champions. Bootsy Bombay, though not a real "surprise" did go off as the third choice in the wagering. Despite starting from post 10, Bootsy Bombay went right for the lead, relinquished it on the backstretch but never dropped further back than second. She reclaimed the lead late to win by three quarters. Favored Scorecard Dandy got second while it was another length and a quarter back to Princess Mooss.

Owned by James Greer, trained by Nick Prather and driven by Travis Seekman, Bootsy Bombay, bred by Fair Meadow Farm, generated a new lifetime best 1:56.2 after fractions of :29.3, :58.3 and 1:27.2. She paid $12.40 to win.

For the victory, the second of her young career, she earned $40,000. Her earnings now stand at $60,403.


Owner and breeder Flacco Family Farms LLC and trainer Steve Searle wasted little time finding themselves back in the winner's circle as two races after Loutlita scored for them, it was Lousraptor pulling off the upset in the Plesac for ICF aged trotters. Driven by Juan Franco, Lousraptor sat mid-pack early as favored Annas Lucky Star carved out the fractions. Rallying through the stretch, Lousraptor blew by the competition winning by nearly three lengths. Searle trained longshot Louscardamon closed to finish second at 25-1 while 36-1 Cruzen Cassi came on late to finish third.

After chasing fractions of :27.3, :57.1, and 1:26.2, Lousraptor won in 1:54.3. The four-year-old gelding earned $33,500 for his victory. He paid $7.40 to win.


Another race with another slight upset as 7-2 third choice El oh Govner was able to score in the Beulah Dygert Memorial trot for ICF three-year-old fillies. With Marcus Miller in town to drive, El Oh Govner rated off the pace which was set by 3-5 favorite Lous Abigail. Tipping out in the turn, El Oh Govner was able to sustain her rally, winning by a length and a quarter. 51-1 longshot Celone Hall got up for second while Bee See was game in finishing third.

Owned by Donald and Sharri Huddleston, bred by Elmer Kaufman and trained by Mike Rogers, El Oh Govner chased fractions of :29.1, :58.2, and 1:28.0 before winning in 1:57.4. He earned $49,000 for his win and paid $9.60.

Marcus Miller, El Oh Govner, "Mike (Rogers) told me that she was going to be really good tonight if I could just work out a clean trip and have a lane in the stretch and he was spot on. I wanted to get away somewhat close and just give her a rattle. It worked out just the way I was hoping. As soon as we straightened out, she stepped off on her own and I was pretty confident, she did the rest."


Leading driver Casey Leonard was back in the winner's circle for his third time on the Night of Champions card as he guided Fox Valley Quest to a wire to wire victory in the Erwin F. Dygert Memorial trot for ICF three-year-old males. Leaving for the lead as the 3-2 second choice, Fox Valley Quest led every step, winning by a length and a half over 4-5 favorite Crooked Creek. On Higher Ground closed to finish third.

Bred by Fox Valley Standardbreds, owned by Carl Lacy and Benita Simmons and trained by Tom Simmons, Fox Valley Quest won with fractions of :29.2, :58.2, 1:26.4 and 1:55.0. He earned $54,500 for his victory and paid $5.00 to win.


Making just four lifetime starts and winning for the first time in his career the week prior, Fistfullofdollars impressed in his Kadabra win, for ICF male juvenile trotters. Trained by the meet's leading trainer Mike Brink, who won 48 races, Fistfullofdollars sat behind the pace which was set by longshots Loyz Say When and Mystical Murray. He cruised by in the stretch to win by three and a half lengths. Kyle Wilfong, who finished second in the driver standings with 120 wins on the meet, guided Fistfullofdollars to the winning score. Mystical Murray finished second at 25-1 while 13-1 shot Loyz Say When held third.

Fistfullofdollars was bred by Flacco Family Farms and is owned in partnership by Mike Brink, Darin Tournear, Jeffrey Clauson, and Mark Brown. He earned $59,000 for his victory. After chasing fractions of :30.1, 1:00.4, and 1:31.4, Fistfullofdollars won in 2:01.3. He paid $6.40 to win.

Trainer Mike Brink on Fistfullofdollars, "He had an injury early, it happened in his stall, and we kind of had to wait on him. He was a nice horse before that happened. It was a freak accident, but we just had to wait on him. I wasn't even sure if we could make it. The horse has a lot of talent and he's smart. I told Kyle last week to just tighten him up, get a better feel of him and make him trot a little faster. He did and it worked out fine."

When asked about how he handled the break due to the pandemic with a large stable, "It has been confusing. We had things ready to go when we shut down and had to back everything back down. We had to back the babies back down. And we didn't really know when we were going to get started back up again. Because of the help, the blacksmith and everybody's patience, we waited until the time was right, started back up and it's been working out."


Driver Marcus Miller made his trip to Chicago more than worthwhile, grabbing his second win on the card, this time with Erv Miller trained Well Basically. The 4-5 favorite in the Incredible Finale for ICF two-year-old male pacers, Well Basically went right to the top and never looked back, winning by two and a quarter lengths. Frontier Charley rallied from his outside draw to finish second while Partyatmosasplace was third.

Bred in partnership by William Hook and Chicago Ag High School and owned by Anthony Lombardi and Engel Stable of IL LLC, Well Basically won through fractions of :29.2, :59.4, 1:29.0 and 1:56.1. He earned $35,500 for the score. He paid $3.80 to win.


The heaviest favorite of the night didn't disappoint as 1-9 shot He'zzz A Wise Sky won on Night of Champions for the second straight year, taking the Robert F. Carey, Jr. Memorial for ICF three-year-old male pacers. Driven once again by Robert Smolin, He'zzz A Wise Sky immediately cleared the lead and won easily by three and a quarter lengths. Western Perch was a game second, chasing the entire way, while Ryans Ambassador closed to finish third.

Owned by Triple Zzz Stable and bred in partnership by trainer Don Filomeno along with Joann Filomeno, He'zzz A Wise Sky earned $43,000 for the win. He set fractions of :28.2, :57,1, and 1:24.4 while winning in 1:51.3. He paid $2.20 to win.


The meet's leading winner of races with eight victories from nine starts for $121,880 on the meet was Fox Valley Exploit for owners David Brigham and Kyle Husted. Trained and driven by Husted, Fox Valley Exploit had to work in the Plum Peachy for three-year-old filly pacers after drawing post nine. Confidently handled by Husted, the even money favorite was kept in the clear, opening up into the lane and winning by a comfortable two and three quarters lengths. Harper raced well to finish second while 111-1 shot Castielle held third.

Bred by Fox Valley Standardbreds, Fox Valley Exploit chased early fractions of :28.1 and :57.0 before taking over and passing three quarters in 1:25.0 before crossing the wire in 1:53.2. She earned $54,000 for her victory and paid $4.00 to win.


The final race on the Night of Champions card saw a strong performance as breeder Fox Valley Standardbreds capped a fine night as Allbeastnobeauty scored in the Maurello for aged female pacers. Driven and trained by Todd Warren, Allbeastnobeauty settled behind a contested early pace before closing swiftly in the stretch to win by two lengths. Lilly Von Shtupp stalked the pace and held second, followed by last year's Maurello winner Skeeter Machine, who was a game third.

Owned by Brookside Stables and Keith Ravis, Allbeastnobeauty chased fractions of :28.0, :55.2, and 1:24.2 before winning 1:51.2. She earned $34,000 for her victory. She paid $3.20 to win.

Hawthorne Race Course, Chicago's Hometown Track, returned for live harness racing on Saturday, February 15 and raced through Sunday, September 20. Fall thoroughbreds close out the year, running from October 2 through December 27. For more information, visit or contact Hawthorne at 708-780-3700.

by Jim Miller, for Hawthorne Race Course

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