a bay more brown than blood
when shrouded by sweat and twilight
only occasionally sparkling
when she passes under the burning floodlights
most of the time the winner trots back
easily, head held high
a quarter-mile victory stroll
she laboured back, dragging her empty rear hooves behind her
hanging her head, bobbing it up and down, searching
for any current of spare oxygen her flaring nostrils could catch
to replenish reserves run empty
by fighting to the wire to beat
six other non-winners
of one pari-mutuel
to be claimed for eight thousand dollars
a level that wouldn’t test so many on the grounds
but only left her with enough
to perform the herculean labours of
lifting her eyes to the winners’ circle camera
and trudging home
For my latest for the Illinois Harness Horsemen’s Association, I sat down to talk with trainer-breeder Brian Judy, whose Frontier Elsa has been rounding into beautiful form at Hawthorne this summer. We talked about how he and his father got into the game, about his stable of homebreds,a nd about his training at his family’s farm downstate.
In the eighth race at Hawthorne on May 10, Allaboutme Hanover drove clear to win by two and a half lengths. It was his first win of the year, and his third since entering the care of owner Laurie Price-Chapman and her late father Duncan Price.
When they first got Allaboutme Hanover, there was no guarantee he would ever race again. Hopes had been high early for the son of Somebeachsomewhere, as he sold for $95,000 as a yearling. He began his career on the east coast, racing mainly at the Meadowlands, Pocono, and Yonkers at ages two and three. But then, Allaboutme Hanover suffered a broken coffin bone. It was during that recovery that Duncan Price purchased him, and he and his daughter took over his care and rehabilitation. Even as they scaled down their string of horses after the closure of Maywood and Balmoral, they kept the big bay gelding in training.
For my latest piece for the Illinois Harness Horsemen’s Association, I headed out to Hawthorne on a day with no racing…and yet, it was still a day with plenty of horses, and plenty of action. Relive my morning right here.
The harness racing meet at Hawthorne has drawn to a close. I’ll be back writing for the Illinois Harness Horsemen’s Association come the summer meet, but before we move on to thoroughbreds at 35th and Cicero, let’s visit my last pair of pieces from the winter meet.
For both, I talked to drivers, but they run the gamut of experience.
If you’re a new follower of the Chicago harness racing circuit, one of the first things you learn is that driver Casey Leonard wins a lot of races. A perennial driving champion in Illinois, he enters the second-to-last week of the Hawthorne meet with 28 wins, the most of any driver. Even as he reigns as the top driver in the state, he still remains connected to his original interest in the world of harness racing: training horses.
In Saturday night’s second race at Hawthorne, few people expected five-year-old mare Sweetshadyshark to make an impact: she went off the longest shot in the eight-horse field, at 28/1. Sitting last through the early stages of the race, she picked off horses while wide through the far turn, and found another gear in the stretch run.
As Sweetshadyshark kicked away in the final furlong, powering to a two-and-a-quarter-length victory, she brought a group of new standardbred owners the thrill of their lives.
In my latest piece for the IHHA, I talk to trainer Kimberly Roth about how she got into harness racing, why she has made it her life, and some of the horses who have been particularly special during her years in the sport.
For my latest at the Illinois Harness Horsemen’s Association, I sat down for a chat with driver Kyle Wilfong after his dominant five-win day on Sunday. We talked about his background in harness racing, what he finds so compelling about the sport, and about some of the most memorable horses in his lifetime in the standardbred world.
It started as a challenge to his friends to come out to the racetrack…and it has grown beyond his own barn and his own friend, into a friendly competition and a way that anyone (including you!) can meet the people and horses of harness racing up close.
Yesterday I went out to Hawthorne. Before the races, I got the chance to meet trainers Angie Coleman and Rob Rittof, talk a bit about harness racing, and learn firsthand what it’s like to drive a Standardbred
My goal for January was to become conversant about harness racing.
The vast majority of my racing exposure has been thoroughbreds. Growing up, the only races I ever watched were the Triple Crown. I eventually realised that there was more to racing than a few big three-year-old races in May and June. Eventually, the racing bug bit me. Eventually, I learned there was live thoroughbred racing in Chicago most of the year.
Thoroughbred racing is my passion, but it has always seemed a bit arbitrary that it was the type of horse racing I got into. Horses are horses, after all. A standardbred, a quarter horse, an Arabian…no matter what breed the horse was, they would be able to coax mints and pets from me just as easily. It just so happened thoroughbred racing was what I was exposed to on TV, and at my local racetracks.
Before today, I had never bet a harness race, and I had never bet a high five.
At Hawthorne yesterday, people could not stop talking about the nightcap at Woodbine Harness. The $0.20 jackpot high five had a $847,458.26 carryover and a mandatory payout.
One of the people who told me about the bet pointed out what an overlay it would be, and suggested I play a dollar’s worth of quick-picks. I considered it, and could not deny that carryover + mandatory payout = overlay. But, I’m not a quick-picks kind of person. I do my own handicapping! I think, and think, and often overthink. I’m cerebral, right?