closing out the harness meet at Hawthorne

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.

Issac Love is still a provisional driver — but he made the most of his drives at Hawthorne this winter, particularly with younger horses.

Ryan Anderson just crossed the 3,000-win threshold — he talks about his lifetime in the sport, and the most memorable horses along the way.

Thanks for reading all winter long, and I’m looking forward to returning to harness racing this summer!

Illinois Harness Horsemen’s Association: Casey Leonard Remains Connected to Training

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.

Read on, and learn about top driver Casey Leonard’s connection to training horses, in my latest article for the Illinois Harness Horsemen’s Association!

Illinois Harness Horsemen’s Association: Sweetshadyshark Thrills New Owners

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.

Read on, and experience the thrill, in my latest piece for the Illinois Harness Horsemen’s Association!

Stable vs. Stable!

In my first piece for the Illinois Harness Horsemen’s Association, I sit down for a chat with trainer Payton Ode about an idea that has grown into something seriously exciting: Stable vs. Stable!

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.

So — read my first piece for the IHHA, and if you’re in Chicago, make plans this winter to come out for an up close and personal day at Hawthorne!

Picks and Ponderings: Hawthorne Closing Day

Hawthorne’s closing day has come upon us even more quickly than expected: in light of Saturday’s anticipated high of eight degrees, Saturday’s card has been cancelled.  Friday’s ten-race program will thus mark closing day of the Thoroughbred meet.

Hawthorne will not be without horses for long, since the winter harness meet starts on January 5.  But — first things first — let’s take a dive into Friday’s closing day card.  Here we take a look at all ten races, with an ABCX chart as well as comments for each horse on the card.

Head over to Picks and Ponderings, read my analysis of Friday’s card at Hawthorne, and let me know your thoughts in the comments!

Picks and Ponderings: Saturday’s Late Pick 4 at Hawthorne

After a day of speed, speed, and more speed, Jochero rallied furiously from last to run down pacesetter The Mess in Friday’s Hawthorne finale.  A 50/1 longshot, Jochero enabled a single astute handicapper to scoop the late Pick 3 pool to the tune of over $10K.  The longshot’s victory was also enough to trigger a $16,388 carryover into Saturday’s Late Pick 4 at Hawthorne.

The sequence covers races 6 through 9 — and, coincidentally, all four races are six-furlong dirt sprints.  Here, we take a look at the sequence, complete with an ABC Chart of the races.  Let’s dive in, and let’s go for a piece of that Pick 4 pool tomorrow!

Head to Picks and Ponderings, read my preview of today’s late Pick 4 at Hawthorne, and let me know your thoughts in the comments!

Picks and Ponderings: 2017 Jim Edgar Illinois Futurity Preview

Saturday’s card features the final stakes race of the Hawthorne fall meet, the $50,000 Jim Edgar Illinois Futurity.  The race is the second stakes of the meet for Illinois-registered two-year-old colts and geldings.  The first, named after 1982 Futurity winner Sun Power, was won by Larry Rivelli trainee Pass the Gravy.  The son of Afleet Alex returns here, and eight others have entered to take him on.

Head over to Picks and Ponderings, read my preview of Saturday’s Jim Edgar Illinois Futurity, and let me know your thoughts in the comments!

Picks and Ponderings: Cowgirl Callie Fights to Victory in the Pat Whitworth Illinois Debutante

Those who think of Hawthorne in the late fall as a dreary place would have had a hard time recognising it during today’s Pat Whitworth Illinois Debutante.  The mercury rose into the mid-fifties, light bathed the fast dirt course, and the enthusiasm of Bob and Lynda Esposito beamed more brightly than the sun as their filly Cowgirl Callie held off a dogged inside challenge from Royal’s Position to take the Pat Whitworth Illinois Debutante.

Head over to Picks and Ponderings, and relive the heart-pounding stretch drive in this year’s Pat Whitworth Illinois Debutante!

Picks and Ponderings: 2017 Showtime Deb Stakes Preview

The Hawthorne stakes calendar rolls on this Saturday with the feature event for Illinois-bred juvenile fillies: the Pat Whitworth Illinois Debutante.  The race, instilled in 1983 as the Illinois’ Breeders’ Debutante, has carried the name of the name of longtime Illinois Thoroughbred Breeders and Owners Foundation (ITBOF) board member Pat Whitworth (1936-2011) since 2003.  This year’s edition of the Pat Whitworth Illinois Debutante drew a field of just six for a share of a $50,000 purse — all six return from the Showtime Deb Stakes last month, and almost oddly for an Illinois-bred two-year-old stakes, all six entrants have broken their maidens.

Though Showtime Deb winner RICHIESLILWILDCAT has been instilled as the 2/5 morning line favourite, race history is not on her side.  In the 34 previous runnings of the Illinois Debutante, only one horse has parlayed a Showtime Deb victory into top honours in the two-turn race: Class Break, who swept the pair for trainer Wayne Catalano in 2011.  In a sense, it’s ironic that Showtime Deb winners have so rarely won the Debutante — after all, Showtime Deb herself won this race in 1988.

Head over to Picks and Ponderings, read my preview of Saturday’s Showtime Deb Stakes, and let me know your thoughts in the comments!