Du Quoin, IL — Sunny skies, a pleasant 80 degrees, and a fast-racing strip were the perfect conditions for the start of the Hawthorne sponsored State Fairgrounds meet that got underway Friday afternoon (June 9) at Du Quoin.
It didn’t take long for the southern Illinois excited crowd to get treated to a powerful winning performance. It came in the opener by the muscular 3-year-old ICF pacer Fox Valley Landen. The Somestarsomewhere gelding dominated his field in a $10,600 conditioned pace with driver Kyle Husted, who shares ownership of Fox Valley Landen with David Brigham and John Schwarz Jr.
The winning time of 1:55.4 doesn’t tell the whole story.
Mister Sleazy took the five-horse field to a laid-back 1:02.4 first half with Fox Valley Landen in third and itching to be pulled. Kyle did just that at the half-mile pole and the Amy Husted trained gelding blew past to the front, pacing a wicked :53 last half, pulling away to a 7-1/2 length conquest.
While the first race turned out to be “no contest,” the $12,300 Open Trot tuned out to be just the opposite. Just the slimmest of noses separated the winner Annas Lucky Star (Juan Franco) from the runner-up Lousdobb (Casey Leonard), both hitting the finish wire with a 1:58.1 clocking.
The come-from-behind victory was the 58th of the brilliant career for the now 9-year-old mare who is closing in on $640,000 in lifetime earnings for owner and breeder Danny Graham.
Three-time Illinois Harness Horse of the Year Fox Valley Gemini was perfectly rated by Casey Leonard enroute to another in a long list of visits to a winner’s circle. It came in the 109th lifetime start for the 8-year-old gelding, yet his very first outing on the Du Quoin state fairgrounds.
Fox Valley Gemini had to work a bit to make the front after being parked to a 28.3 first quarter. On the other hand, Casey was able to give him a :29.4 second quarter breather with Get E Up (Kyle Husted) on his back. Get E Up came after the winner in the stretch, however the Illinois champion wasn’t going to yield, prevailing by 1-1/4 lengths for the 56th win in his star-studded career. Trained by Terry Leonard for owner Jim Ballinger, “Gemini” went over the $700,000 plateau with the $7,000 winner’s share of the $14,000 ICF Open Handicap purse.
The $12,300 distaff open pace was expected to be a battle between the multi-ICF stake champion rivals Skeeter Machine (Travis Seekman), on the rail, and Fox Valley Exploit (Kyle Husted), allocated the outside six-slot.
As it turned out, the star of the Amy Husted stable was much the best on this afternoon, showing her heels by three lengths to runner-up Skeeter Machine. The winning mile time of 1:54.2 by Fox Valley Exploit is a bit deceiving. Skeeter Machine strolled to a :59.3 first half with Fox Valley Exploit in third, some 3-1/2 lengths behind, so the David Brigham and Kyle Husted owned 6-year-old mare sped to a hasty:54.1 last half-mile.
Later on the card, My Daddys Revenge gave driver Matt Krueger his second winner on the afternoon and the 3-year-old pacing filly did it despite taking air from the half-mile pole on in her 1:54 victory. Owned by trainer Mike Brink and Lori Searle, the winner is now two-for-two in her second season and boosted her career earnings over $100,000 in 14 starts.
Casey Leonard led all drivers with four winning first place finishers.