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Hawthorne Meet Underway

Published: February 18, 2020 3:08 pm ET

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Hawthorne Race Course’s 92-night harness season kicked off this past weekend, as numerous state-bred champions were on the track to make their first starts of the year.

The two nights of opening weekend saw chilly temperatures, but a ‘fast’ track made for solid times, big performances, and some upsets along the way.

The Saturday card opened with a strong field of trotters as trainer Steve Searle had a pair entered. Lousraptor was the heavy favourite off a strong showing during last year’s Night of Champions, but it was the second Searle entrant, Louscardamon who kicked off the season with the win at 27-1 in 1:57.2 for owners Flacco Family Farms, LLC and Dr. Patrick Graham.

A quality field of Open trotters took to the track in Saturday’s fifth race. A pair of horses with a few races on the year battled through the lane, as Lindys Big Bang (1:55.4) was able to catch Pine Dream for driver Casey Leonard.

Three races later an Illinois champion took to the track, as Fox Valley Gemini made his 2020 debut. Coming in off of just one qualifier, the champ was game, as he rallied in the lane to finish second, beaten only a neck to Account Rollover in 1:51.2.

Opening night ended the same way it began, with a pair of Steve Searle-trained trotters finishing ‘one-two’ past the wire. This time the favourite was much the best, as another Illinois champion in Louzotic was a clear winner over Skippymalou.

Sunday brought about another 11-race card, which featured more talented state-bred pacers. In the third race on the card, one of those horses in Valar Morghulis was game and carved out the early fractions before being caught late by Queens N Tens in 1:56.1.

Trainer Steve Searle sent another to the winner’s circle in Sunday’s fifth race, as Illinois-bred Coming Up rallied for driver James Molitor to win by a neck in 1:57.

Female Open pacers were the focus in the Sunday feature. Favoured Pretty Image rolled out to the lead and dug in to win by a length over Tarport Belle in 1:54.2. Casey executed the winning drive for owner and trainer Rodney Freese.

While the horses were the focus on the racetrack, the horsemen did a great job of having their athletes ready for the opening weekend. Driver Brandon Bates had success at Hawthorne last summer in limited action while driving mainly at Hoosier Park. With Hoosier still over a month away, Bates got off to a hot start at Hawthorne, as he led all drivers for opening weekend with five wins (and 10 of his 14 drives finished in the top three). Casey Leonard, Mike Oosting, and Todd Warren all had strong starts, as each guided home four winners in the first two cards.

Trainer Steve Searle’s big weekend led the way, as he sent out three winners and four second-place finishers from nine starters. 2020 leading trainer Terry Leonard had two victories, along with Ronnie Roberts, Harold Herrera, Hector Herrera, and Jace Sundeen.

(Hawthorne Race Course)

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