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Fox Valley Gemini keeps on winning
Thursday, July 26, 2018 - by Nicolle Neulist, for the Illinois Harness Horsemen's Association

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Hinsdale, IL ---With Fox Valley Gemini now 15-for-15 lifetime, fans and followers of Illinois harness racing can't help but wonder: what does it take for a horse to win so many times in a row?

Of course, a horse has to be fast, faster than his competition. For an older horse to go on such a streak, it's difficult enough to just stay in peak form through an entire campaign. If they get a layoff in the middle of their streak, it's difficult enough to come back at peak form, ready to keep winning.

Four Footed Fotos photo
Fox Valley Gemini paced past You’remyhearthrob in the third race on July 12 at Hawthorne to win his 15th in a row.

But, for a young horse like Fox Valley Gemini, who began his streak last summer at age two and has continued it into the heat of his 3-year-old summer?

Keeping his streak alive has required staying ahead of the curve. It means he was not only the most precocious Illinois conceived and foaled juvenile of last year, but he has developed and matured enough to remain at the top of his class this far into his 3-year-old season. It has required both the expert conditioning of his trainer Terry Leonard and the right genes to give him the athleticism and the ability to develop.

To win that many times in a row, a horse has to be resilient. Racing luck can follow a horse around for a mile, even two or three if it feels like staying a while. But, what if a horse needs things their own way? -- a cozy draw, a pocket trip, an early lead, a sizzling opening half in front of them? They won't get their favourite kind of race that many times in a row.

So it has been with Fox Valley Gemini. He has drawn the rail. He has drawn the parking lot. He can drop back and rally from the clouds. He can keep the pace in his sights from gate-to-wire.

He can adapt, and he has adapted.

He hadn't had it tougher than his 15h in a row, on July 12. Chasing behind You'remyhearthrob, he stayed in range inside until there was room to pop off the rail. Driver Casey Leonard slipped him out just in time. They drove up beside the pacesetter, and crossed the wire a half-length in front -- Fox Valley Gemini’s slimmest victory since his half-length win in his debut on June 22, 2017. It took a lifetime best of 1:51, but he got there.

Maybe Fox Valley Gemini senses deep inside him, near where the fire to win burns, that there are still others he can defeat. Horses like Fox Valley Gemini don't come around often, but he is still chasing some legends from Chicago and beyond.

He's almost halfway to the storied mark set by Bret Hanover, who began his career with 35 victories in a row, stretching through his 2-year-old season in 1964 and into his 3-year-old year. That streak included a visit to the Chicago area in August of his juvenile season, when he won the American-National 2-year-old colt pace. He then stayed in the state to make equally easy work of the McMahan Memorial at Du Quoin. The end of Bret Hanover's incredible streak also took place in the Land of Lincoln, when Adios Vic ran him down in the first heat of the Review Futurity.

But, is it any surprise that a horse with enough resilience to win 35 races in a row would come roaring back? Bret Hanover took the second heat of the Review Futurity by a nose over Adios Vic, in faster time, and took the trophy home with him anyway.

Fox Valley Gemini is pacing even closer to the win streak marks set by some local legends.

Ohyouprettything, like Fox Valley Gemini conceived and foaled in Illinois, carried an 18-win streak through her 2- and 3-year-old years. Unlike Fox Valley Gemini, Ohyouprettything did not begin her win streak in her debut. Her first victory came at Balmoral in her fourth purse start. From there, the daughter of Sportsmaster carried winning form all over the state. Perhaps her most difficult score came in her richest race as a 2-year-old, the $250,000 final of the Orange and Blue at Sportsman's Park on Sept. 13, 1997. She drew the nine hole. She dealt with another horse breaking stride just outside of her going into the first turn. She paced home 4-3/4 lengths clear of her closest foe.

When her streak drew to a close after 18 victories, Ohyouprettything did exactly what she knew how to do: she kept on pacing to victories in Illinois and beyond. By the time she raced her last mile in July 1999, the summer of her 4-year-old year, she was a 26-time winner and a millionaire.

Ten more victories would bring Fox Valley Gemini to 25, the same number of consecutive victories with which local stalwart St Elmo Hero started his career. The 2006 son of Western Hero didn't race his first mile until July 2010, his 4-year-old year, but rose from a debut in a $7,000 claiming race all the way through to winning series at Indiana Downs, Chester, and The Meadowlands. Even when his streak was snapped in an open at Woodbine during April of his 5-year-old year, his heart and his will to win remained intact. He came back, won an open at Woodbine the next week. He went on to race until the winter of his 10-year-old year, winning late into his 9-year-old year. He could have papered the walls of his stall with 46 different win photos.

What do these vignettes of history mean for Fox Valley Gemini? He's doing something exciting. He's pursuing marks set by memorable horses in Chicago and beyond. And if, someday, a horse ever figures out how to get his nose on the wire before Fox Valley Gemini? Don’t count him out, because his athleticism, drive, and resilience are his to keep.

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