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Illinois’ Night Of Champions Saturday

Published: September 19, 2019 1:47 pm ET

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The summer harness season at Hawthorne Race Course culminates this weekend as, 11 stakes finals will compromise Night of Champions on Saturday night (Sept. 21).

Four legs of preliminary events have led to the finals for two and three-year olds, while eliminations were contested last weekend for the aged divisions. With a 7:20 p.m. post time Saturday, events will begin earlier in the night, including a driver autograph session at 6:30 p.m. and the ability to meet past Illinois champion horse Mini Me on the Hawthorne apron.

The $45,000 Robert S. Molaro Handicap will kick off the stakes evening, as reigning Illinois-bred Horse of the Year Fox Valley Gemini leads the field of six. A winner of 29 of 38 lifetime starts, the Terry Leonard trainee has won 10 times this year, including last week’s preview. Owned by Jim Ballinger, Casey Leonard will be in the bike. Unlocked returns to Hawthorne as he recently surpassed $600,000 in lifetime earnings. A winner at Hawthorne last year, he races for trainer Nelson Willis with Jim Pantaleano driving.

Two-year-old filly trotters will follow in the $82,000 Fox Valley Flan Championship. The full field of ten is led by of pair of Steve Searle trainees in Bee See and Lous Abigail. Bee See has drawn Post 2 and she enters the race a winner of five of nine starts on the year. Regular driver Kyle Husted will be in the bike. The second Searle trainee, Lous Abigail, isn’t helped by her post draw, as she will start from the outside of the field of ten. Leading driver Casey Leonard gets the call as Lous Abigail has finished first of second in all nine of her starts.

Juvenile filly pacers will be next up with a wide open field of ten in the $115,000 Incredible Tillie Championship. Different horses have won legs in this series, as Fox Valley Exploit leads the way from the inside. Trained and driven by Kyle Husted, Fox Valley Exploit has won half of her eight starts on the year, including the Directors Award two races back. Sign Her Up races for trainer Charles Arthur as Juan Franco drives. A winner of three of her last five, Sign Her Up comes in off a victory in the most recent leg of the Incredible Tillie. Sleazy Gal draws the outside for owner Engel Stable of IL, LLC and trainer Erv Miller. A winner from the outside in the final at the Illinois State Fair last month, Kyle Wilfong returns in the bike.

Aged trotters will take to the track in the $45,000 Plesac Championship. The field of five features top mare Annas Lucky Star, as she will face the boys once again. The track record holder is owned by Danny Graham and races for Nelson Willis. A 32-time winner from 56 starts, Annas Lucky Star was impressive in last week’s preview victory. Kyle Wilfong returns to drive. Talk About Valor poses the biggest threat to Annas Lucky Star. Casey Leonard drives the Gerald Hansen trainee as he has found the board in all 18 starts this year.

The $95,000 Beulah Dygert Memorial Championship for three-year-old filly trotters has a field of ten as the favourite draws the rail. Flacco Family Farms LLC owned Louzotic starts from the inside for trainer Steve Searle and driver Kyle Husted. A winner of 10 of 14 starts on the year, Louzotic rides a four-race win streak into this final. Another in fine form is Skippymalou as the second of four starters in the race for Flacco Family Farms. A six-time winner on the year, she enters this final a winner of three of her last four starts. Casey Leonard drives Skippymalou.

Three-year-old male trotters follow in the $92,000 Erwin F. Dygert Memorial Championship. Flacco Family Farms LLC is featured prominently once again with a pair in this race. Lousraptor has six victories on the year and has hit the board in 13 of 16 races. Casey Leonard returns in the bike. Lourhianon pulled off the upset of Lousraptor in the final leg leading into this final for trainer Kennedy Lindsey. He draws the outside in the final for driver Luke Plano as he looks for his seventh victory of the year.

The $108,000 Kadabra Championship for two-year-old male trotters is led by the talented Fox Valley Quest from the barn of trainer Tom Simmons. A winner of nine of 11 starts, Fox Valley Quest looks to show his speed and control this field from start to finish for driver Casey Leonard. Crooked Creek has arrived late on the scene, but comes in off an impressive win on the front end in his most recent start for trainer Mike Brink. Ryan Anderson picks up the drive once again.

Juvenile male pacers will clash in the $102,000 Incredible Finale Championship, as the top contenders are stuck on the outside of this full field. Megan Rogers Racing Stables Incorporated’s Fox Valley Ren is the one to beat for trainer Nelson Willis. A winner of seven of nine starts this year, he has good early speed and has shown past ability to overcome the outside draw. Kyle Wilfong remains in the bike. One slot to Fox Valley Ren’s outside is Hezzz A Wise Sky from the barn of Don Filomeno. Getting a later start to his season, Hezzz A Wise Sky has been ultra-impressive, winning four straight races coming into this final.

The most competitive race of the evening looks to be the $109,000 Robert F. Carey Jr. Memorial Championship. Three horses have traded punches for supremacy at this level led by Maximus, from the barn of Ken Rucker. The seven-time winner on the year was third in the final at the Illinois State Fair and was game in victory in the final leg of the Carey leading into the race. Trainer Erv Miller sends out Meyer On Fire, who got the best of Maximus at the Illinois State Fair. With four wins on the year, Meyer on Fire has hit the board in 10 of 12 starts this season. Fox Valley Triton races for Terry Leonard. The runner-up at the State Fair and in the most recent leg of the Carey, he has hit the board in 12 of 14 this season.

$100,000 will be on the line in the Plum Peachy Championship for three-year-old filly pacers. A pair that has battled throughout the season meet up again as Fox Valley Torrid and Perch look to settle who is best in this class. Fox Valley Torrid races for Sox Valley Standardbreds and trainer Rodney Freese. A winner of seven of 15 starts on the year, he has won three of his last four entering this final. Casey Leonard drives. Perch has been on the wrong end of the battle with Fox Valley Torrid recently, but did get the best of her in winning the final at the Illinois State Fair in August. She has won six of 15 starts this year for trainer Jay Garrels as regular driver Kyle Wilfong returns to drive.

The Night of Champions closes out with a full field of aged female pacers in the $45,000 Tony Maurello Championship. Trainer Dirk Simpson sends out Fox Valley Charm who comes off a victory in the elimination last week. Whiskersonkittens won the second elimination last week as trainer Kim Roth looks to have her in fine form leading into this final. Driver Luke Plano has been a good fit for her in recent starts.

Hawthorne Race Course, Chicago’s hometown track, returned for live harness racing on Friday, May 3. The summer harness meet opened on Friday, May 3 and races through September 22. Fall Thoroughbreds close out the year, running from October 10 through December 28. For more information, visit hawthorneracecourse.com or contact Hawthorne at 708-780-3700.

(Hawthorne Race Course)


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