The first 25 editions of the Windy City Pace have provided many thrilling finishes, some costly upsets, and some expected victories that locked-up prestigious honors.
Let's take a look back down memory lane:
It was a rainy and chilly May evening in 1983 for the first edition of the Windy City Pace but the weather didn't dampen the spirits of the fans and it didn't stop the favorite Trim The Tree from a wire-to-wire victory in 1:57 2/5 over a sloppy racing surface.
In 1984, On The Road Again took down Pacer of the Year honors but was second best in the Windy City Pace. Carl's Bird took advantage of the rail and captured the $262,000 Final with driver Carl Allen. The winning time was 1:56 1/5.
In 1985, three elimination divisions were needed to determine the finalists. Fortitude Hanover (Walter Paisley), Chairmanoftheboard (Dave Magee) and Handsome Sum (Buddy Gilmour) won their eliminations but it was Neil Shapiro who guided Pinocchio to victory in the $280,000 Final.
The following year, in 1986 Tom Harmer and Incredible Finale became the first Illinois bred pacer to win the Windy City Pace. The time of 1:53 3/5 was a new track and stakes record for owners Charles Day and George Steinbrenner.
The fifth edition in 1987 turned out to be one of the biggest upsets in Chicago harness racing history. The millionaire Red Skin (Chris Boring) and Southern Royal (Water Case) were the elimination winners but in the Final, Bomb Rickles surprised us all from the 7-post with driver Neil Shapiro.
Bomb Rickles exploded in the lane and won in 1:56 2/5 and returned an amazing $382.20 on a $2 winning mutuel ticket.
In 1988, the favorite Wealthy Skipper was a half-length winner with Walter Paisley at the lines in the $228,000 Final. The son of Scarlet Skipper was timed in 1:55. A lightly raced colt by the name of Matt's Scooter finished second in his fifth start of the year. He later would win most every major 3-year-old stake race and knock down Horse of the Year honors.
The closest finish in Windy City Pace history took place in 1989. Just The Ticket broke in the stretch and had to survive a 15- minute steward's inquiry. Lavern Hostetler drove the winner to a 1:56 1/5 mile and a nose ahead of Shipp's Scorch. Dancing Master was third.
A sloppy racing surface didn't stop the heavy favorite Jake And Elwood (Herve Filion) from staying unbeaten in 1990. It was the last time the race was held during the spring meeting. Jake And Elwood won by six and one-half lengths.
The 9th edition of the race was the first to be held in the fall.
Precious Bunny (Jack Moiseyev) became the richest single season money winning horse with his victory in the $300,000 Final and wrapped up 1991 Horse of the Year Honors. It was his 20th win in 23 starts.
In 1992, Bo Knows Jate won his elimination race in 1:541/5, while Western Hanover took his in 1:55. In the $350,000 Final, Bo Knows Jate was a late scratch and Western Hanover made every pole a winning one with a 1 :55 mile for driver Bill Fahy. Two months later, he was voted Pacer of the Year.
The 11th edition of the Windy City turned out to not only be a battle for a $350,000 purse but also for 1993 Pacer of the Year Honors. It pitted Presidential Ball with the rail and Life Sign from the seven slot. Presidential Ball grabbed the lead but Life Sign left well and took the hole behind him. They sat that way until the half when Life Sign was pulled by John Campbell. When Life Sign couldn't clear, Campbell ducked him back to the rail and Life Sign came on with a rush only to be a head short in 1:55. It was Moiseyev's second Windy City Final winning drive.
In 1994, all eyes were again on Moiseyev. He was behind the 6-5 morning line favorite Pacific Rocket and the son of Albert Albert won his biggest race as a 3-year-old with a 1:53 mile and a new stakes record.
In 1995, Jenna's Beach Boy came to town following a triumph in the Breeders Crown Final. The son of Beach Towel had won 11 of 12 starts, including a sizzling 1:48 4/5 mile (Lexington) and was looking to nail down Horse of the Year honors. The heavy favorite made an early break in the Windy City Final but recovered nicely and took control of the race for driver Bill Fahy. Meanwhile, Village Connection and Paul MacDonnell stalked the pacesetter in the 2-hole. In a torrid stretch duel, Village Connection won a photo decision in 1:53 4/5.
In 1996, it was the favorite Oye Vay that gave trainer Bill Robinson his third Windy City Pace champion. The son of Albatross took the $277,000 Final in 1:54 1/5 with Doug Brown in the bike.
In 1997, Arturo was sent off as the 3-5 public's choice and he didn't disappoint his backers. The son of Artsplace came from sixth place at the half mile, to rally in time to overtake The Wiz (Tony Morgan) and gain a half-length decision in 1:54 215 on a track listed as "good."
One year later, in 1998, Taser Gun went off as the 3-5 betting favorite but was pressured to a :55 4/5 first half and gave way to Take Down The Flag, who came on with a rush in the lane and posted a one and one-quarter length triumph in 1:54 3/5.
Looking For Art, who had most of his success in 1999 racing from behind, was put on the front end by driver Eric Ledford and the son of Artsplace responded with a front stepping 1:54.2 victory on a blustery night with a 28 mile per hour headwind in the stretch.
As expected, $300,000 Windy City in 2000 saw the nation's No.1 ranked horse Gallo Blue Chip break the single season earnings record. What wasn't expected was that the overwhelming 2 to 5 favorite did it by finishing second behind Camotion (Dale Hiteman), who established a new stakes record with his 1 :51.4 wire-to-wire victory. The upset, however, didn't prevent Gallo Blue Chip from going on to be named 2000 Horse of the Year . The $270,178 wagered on the Windy City Pace Final keyed a $1,729,569 mutuel handle, the highest for the 2000 season.
In 2001, Rattle And Rock became the second Illinois bred ever to win a Windy City Pace Final. The Joe Anderson trainee took the pocket trip behind Real Desire, who needed a :27 flat first quarter from the six slot to wrestle the lead away from Rattle And Rock. The winner came home in :27.2 and posted and two and three-quarter length triumph in 1:51.4, equaling Camotion's stakes record time and establishing a new track standard for a sophomore pacing gelding.
L&L Devisser's Three Olives put an end to stake's recent hex as the "graveyard of champions" with a comfortable one and three-quarter length triumph as the overwhelming 1 to 5 favorite in the twentieth annual 2002 Final, giving hall of fame driver John Campbell his first-ever Windy City Pace crown.
Taking advantage of the favorite one-slot, Three Olives led at every pole in the $280,000 three-year-old stake that saw recent consecutive Breeders Crown champions Gallo Blue Chip (2000) and Real Desire (2002) go down to defeat the previous two years.
However, in 2003 “The Graveyard of Champions” claimed another victim and it came on Halloween Night with Allamerican Captor whipped No. 1 ranked No Pan Intended. Sent off as the 5-2 second choice, the winner Captor was zipped to the front end by driver Lou Ouellette and went on to post a front-end of 1:52.2 victory by three and one-half lengths over the 4-5 favorite No Pan Intended, who really never fired for his driver Dave Miller. No Pan Intended would go on to be named 2003 Horse of the Year.
“My horse is just great over a half-mile track and he proved that once again,” Ouelette said. “He just accelerated on his own once I got to the top and paced very strong all the way to the wire.”
Not even a steady drizzle could put the damper on the 3-5 favorite Western Terror, who captured the 2004 Windy City Pace Final and became the first Breeders Crown champion to also win Chicago’s richest open pace.
Perfectly handled by driver Brian Sears, Western Terror wore down the pacesetting Georgia Pacific in the lane, drawing off for a two-length victory in 1:53.4 on a “sloppy” racing strip. The $175,000 share of the $350,000 Windy City Pace purse boosted Western Terror’s season earnings to $1,108,513 and kept him in contention for division honors.
"Western Terror is just a gutsy little horse who gives you his all. He’s been just the strongest little horse and is one of the fittest three-year-olds around right now," said Sears.
Given a perfect two-hole journey by driver Mike Oosting, Thin Blue Line scooted through the passing lane and captured the 2005 Windy City Pace Final.
Sent off as the 3-1 third choice, Thin Blue Line ($8.80) worn down the pacesetting Gold Dust Beach in the late going, posting a three-quarter of a length victory with a 1:52.3 time for the mile in the $275,000 added money event. Art’s Day came from seventh at the three-quarters to take third, another three-quarters of a length behind the Richard Oldfield trained winner.
Driver Dave Magee added the final missing jewel to his sparkling Hall of Fame career when he drove the 4-5 favorite Jereme’s Jet to a 1:52.2 front-stepping neck triumph in the 2006 Windy City Pace at Maywood Park. It was the 52-year-old Wisconsin native’s first Windy City Pace victory in a illustrious career than has spanned four decades with more than 10,500 victories winners, including over 100 major Chicago circuit stakes winners.
Despite My Boy David having the coveted one-post, Magee still managed to hustle out Jereme’s Jet hard enough from the three slot to get command in the first turn. After a quick :26.2 first quarter, Magee was able to back Jereme’s Jet down to a :28.4 second quarter breather. A :28.1 third panel kept the first up Ab’s Beach Boy on Jereme’s Jet’s outside and :29 flat last panel was enough to nail down the colt’s sixth win in 14 season starts.
The pocket horse My Boy David came on in the lane but was a neck short at the wire. Royal Man rallied for the show spot.
“Jereme’s Jet horse is very quick despite his size,” Magee said. He was very sharp and I give a lot of credit to Tom (trainer Harmer) for having him ready for this stake. It was nice to win this race, especially at this point in my career. I was a little worried coming into the lane about My Boy David but Jereme’s Jet was strong all the way to the wire.”
In 2007, Booze Cruzin took advantage of coveted one-slot and posted a wire-to-wire victory in the Windy City Pace in 1:51.3, a new stakes record for the 25th edition of the the track's showcase stake for three-year-olds colts and geldings.
The victory was driver Sam Widger's first in a Windy City Pace and Booze Cruzin became only the third Illinois bred to win the added money event. The 7-5 favorite Home Bed Advantage put in a game three-wide effort to be second, one and three-quarter lengths behind, while Glass Pack, a $30,000 late supplement was distant third, beaten eight lengths.
It marked the first time that state bred pacers finished 1-2-3 in the Windy City Pace.
“I’m overwhelmed,” said Sam Widger in the winner’s circle. “This is by far one of the biggest races of my career. The rail means everything here at Maywood and I thought that :26.3 first quarter was well within his capability. Of course Home Bed Advantage was my main concern, but I was really confident around the last turn that I had him beat. Trainer Joe Seekman did a super job getting him sharp for this race.''