Illinois racing moves to Springfield

Springfield, IL – Illinois harness racing picks up where it left off at the Hawthorne meet with programs on two afternoons a week for the next three weeks on Springfield’s state fairgrounds.

They are non-wagering events sponsored at Hawthorne and the first card, a 13-race program, gets under way at noon Thursday (Sept. 15).

The headliners are the fifth race Open trot and the ninth race, a division of the Autumn Allowance for horses that last raced at Hawthorne. It’s not called an “Open,” but it very well could be because three of the six horses going postward last raced in a Hawthorne Open and another (Millenial, Gabe Wand) did early on last month.

While the card is non-wagering I went ahead and did a line with some comments to add some spice to the $8,000 event, and the other 12 races. That line can be found on

Primo Giovanni (Casey Leonard), shown here winning an August Open Pace at Hawthorne, goes postward Thursday in Springfield as Illinois harness racing shifts to the state capitol. (Four Footed Fotos)

Primo Giovanni (pp 3, Casey Leonard), Hidden Assassin (Rick Schrock) and Rock N Republic (Cordarius Stewart) each were regulars in Hawthorne Opens all summer long and the first two horses mentioned both have an Open victory on their season list of accomplishments.

Primo Giovanni was a fast closing (:26.2) third last week for Northbrook, Ill. owner Marty Engel, beaten less than one length, while Hidden Assassin’s fifth-place finish was the only time this year in 12 outings the 4-year-old didn’t hit the board.

Primo Giovanni is the Terry Leonard stable’s “other Open horse.” The 9-year-old has raced in the shadow of his illustrious stablemate illustrious Fox Valley Gemini, a three-time Illinois Harness Horse of the Year and last weekend’s $62,000 Robert S. Molero Memorial winner to keep the horse a perfect six-for-six on Hawthorne’s Night of Champions.

“Fox Valley Gemini is just a class horse,” said Casey last weekend. “He just shows up on every Night of Champions.”

But what about his much less heralded stablemate?

“Primo Giovanni gives you all he’s got when he’s out there,” replied Casey. “He’s all racehorse. The horse always tries hard and can give you some fast last quarters.”

Sub-:27 last panels is the norm for Primo Giovanni who has put almost $35,000 on his season card. The Big Bad John veteran gelding has made over 200 career starts and banked nearly $435,000. He was acquired by the Engel Stable of Illinois LLC at the end of 2020 and joined the Leonard barn soon thereafter, making just short of $40,000 at the age of eight. Primo Giovanni took his mark of 1:50.3 at Hoosier Park as a 6-year-old.

Thursday’s $9,000 Open Trot is a good one. Three of six participants are coming out of a Night of Champions final—Reign N Shine (Cordarius Stewart) in the Carl Becker Memorial for fillies and mares, and Primed N Powerful (pp 5, Jamaica Patton) and Heath Bar (pp 6, John Lewis), both from the Patton stable) are out of the Plesac.

Primed N Powerful was second best to Talk About Valor last Saturday, beaten only one length, while Heath Bar finished third. Primed N Powerful is having a splendid season as a nine-year-old with $76,140 on his card, while Heath Bar, age five, is in the midst of his best year with 10 victories and almost $78,000 banked.

Cash Hit (pp 2, Kyle Husted) and Rock Party (pp 4, Casey Leonard) have been frequent Open trotters at Hawthorne’s meet, and both are coming off a strong victory in high-level conditioned events. He Tricked Me (pp 1, Mike Brink) completes the field.

The abbreviated Suburban Downs meeting at Springfield continues Friday afternoon (Sept. 16) with a 12 noon first post.

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