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With all the (well-deserved) hoopla of Breeders' Cup XVII a not-too-distant memory, it's time to shift the focus back to local matters.

After all, racing continues to thrive in Illinois. With almost two-thirds of Hawthorne's meet remaining, there is still plenty of quality racing left .

The annual Phil Georgeff Illinois Festival of Racing, named after the long-time Chicagoland track announcer by the same name, takes place on Saturday, November 11. The "Festival" is comprised of four events: the Illinois Coronet Handicap; the Illini Princess Handicap; the Sun Power Stakes; and the Showtime Deb Stakes. All of these races are for horses who are Illinois registered, conceived and/or foaled.

Though all four of these races are currently held on the same day, they have varying histories. The Showtime Deb, for fillies, and the Sun Power Stakes are the fledglings of the group. Both races are for 2-year-olds, both are at six furlongs. These will be the fifth editions of the respective races.

The Illini Princess and the Illinois Coronet have longer histories. Both are contested at one and one sixteenth miles. The first running of the Illini Princess, for fillies and mares, 3-years-old and up, was won by Miss Mickey M, ridden by Juvenal Diaz, in 1978, making this the 23rd edition.

Harvey Vanier has been the most successful trainer in the Illini Princess and his talented mare, Wade For Me, who's again entered, won this race last year. She could be the first to repeat since Lawdy Miss Clawdy won the second and third runnings, though her sixth-place finish as the 6-5 choice, in last week's Due Bill Stakes, could be a cause for concern.

This will be the 25th edition of the Illinois Coronet, a race for IL-breds 3-years-old and up. There have been some stellar fields in the Coronet and it has been contested at a variety of distances and on different surfaces, and even at two different racetracks. Bar Ja won the first two editions, at six and a half furlongs in 1975 and at about one mile on the turf in 1976 but he wasn't the only one with two victories in this race.

Legendary Harham's Sizzler won in 1982 and 1983. Mr. Importance won in 1989 and again in 1992. High Habitation won in both 1991 and 1993. Polar Expedition, one of the best Illinois breds of all time, won this storied race in 1995. Unfortunately, with the switch back to the main track, last year's winner, Reno Rumble, pending late mail, wasn't nominated to run.

The Showtime Deb closed with 14 nominations, the Sun Power drew 17. Of the 12 nominees, Wade For Me, despite her mediocre effort in the Due Bill is still likely to be the one to beat in the Illini Princess though Faccia Bella, 1999's Illinois Oaks Stakes winner who is always so game, could give her a run for the money.

The Illinois Coronet, however, appears likely to be an extremely competitive event. Headed by multiple stakes winners Classic Six and Beboppin Baby, the Coronet, which closed with 16 nominations, also features 3-year-old sensation Classic Appeal and last year's Jim Edgar Futurity winner, Mister Volare. They could have a tough time separating the four of them at the finish line.


Apprentice Zoe Cadman scooted to the top of the jockey standings early this week. This is quite possibly the first time that a female has led the local contingent. Cadman, racing at Hawthorne for the first time, has gained the confidence of the local horsemen in a big way. Not only is she alone atop the standings (as of Thursday) but she is also leading all jocks in number of races started. Through Thursday she had been aboard 139 mounts, 14 more than Lupe Macias, the second most utilized rider. In addition, Zoe is second in the standings in money won. It's a great start to the first full meet of her career.






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