ICF stakes take center stage

Hinsdale, IL — Except for the Sept. 25 Night of Champions, this is the evening that we will see the best ICF pacers and trotters in action, more than at any other time of the Hawthorne meeting. The entire 13-race card on Friday (Sept. 17) is made up of either Night of Champion series events, eliminations, or preps with various degrees of importance, along with some respectable purse money.

In some instances where a horse finishes in one of tonight’s final series legs will determine if his or her next start will be in a lucrative state-bred championship, or a consolation race for much less dough.

Tonight’s two Plesac elimination races for state-bred trotters, ages three and upward, look like intriguing contests. The first $15,000 event is tonight’s opener while the second doesn’t come up until the tenth event.

Half of the field in the first race are Illinois breds that were frequent contestants in Hawthorne Open trots, including last weekend’s impressive winner Talk About Valor from the Gerald Hansen Stable. The 6-year-old had to leave from the assigned 10-hole and still breezed in 1:55.4, his fifth consecutive victory for owner Shelley Steele. Talk About Valor was one of the top contenders for the last year’s Plesac championship, however health issues compelled the Yankee Valor gelding to be scratched from competing in the 2020 Night of Champions.

Other strong Open trotters Annas Lucky Star (post five, Kyle Wilfong), Louscardamon (post six, Kyle Husted) and Lousraptor (post seven, Juan Franco) are among the seven challengers in the initial Plesac elim with the top five moving on to next Saturday’s $45.000 (est.) championship.

The second Plesac elimination (race 10) lured two recent Hawthorne Open trotters, Louzotic (post two, Casey Leonard) and Reign And Shine (post four, Cordarius Stewart), and starting in between them is the 4-year-old On Higher Ground (Kyle Wilfong), who was shipped all the way from New York for a shot at the Night of Champions crown.

You might recall that On Higher Ground was a productive trotter racing as a 2- and 3-year-old for trainer Mike Brink. The Cassis gelding made almost $48,000 in Illinois as a freshman and added another $30,000-plus last season before being sold to Nathan Cockerham. On Higher Ground spent most of this year at The Meadows in western Pennsylvania before heading to New York’s Yonkers Raceway. The horse has banked $53,583 in 2021 and is currently under the care of conditioner Walter Haynes Jr.

While the Robert S. Molaro stake didn’t need any eliminations there is a $15,000 prep for the ICF older pacers and it’ll go on the 13th and last event on Friday’s card. It’s another Illinois Battle of the Titans between He’zzz A Wise Sky (Kyle Wilfong) and Fox Valley Gemini (Casey Leonard) before they knock heads again in next Saturday’s $45,000 (est.) Molaro championship.

Race three features the anticipated return match-up between the Gary Rath stable’s Fox Valley Ozzy (post one, Casey Leonard), looking for a series sweep of the Incredible Finale series, and Get E Up (post six), driven by his trainer Kyle Husted, and the winner of both recent State Fair contests, snapping Fox Valley Ozzy’s unbeaten streak at Springfield.

Another dandy on the card comes in the seventh race second division of the Fox Valley Flan 2-year-old filly trot where the Curt Grummel trained Funky Wiggle (post three, Kyle Wilfong), currently riding a three-race winning streak, takes on Charles Arthur’s (post six) Armbro Lark, victorious six times in her first season, two in them coming in the “Flan” series.

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