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Hawthorne Racecourse (5/31/06)

Contact: DAK Productions
(708) 222-4540

Explosive Entertainment on a Super Charged Night of Champions

Pyrotechnic Aussie Explodes Onto the Scene on a Night Full of Illinois Stars

On Saturday, June 3, Hawthorne Race Course will present Night of Champions, an evening dedicated to the very best Illinois-breds in training, with seven $50,000 (est.) stakes on the docket. Toss in an explosive schedule of live entertainment and you have an evening both dedicated and casual racing fans simply don’t want to miss.

Aussie pyrotechnics expert Vincent Silvestro, dubiously titled the “Wonder from Down Under,” performs his “Hot To Trot,” a fireworks stunt show like nothing else in the world. He made his Hawthorne debut on Night of Champions last summer, and promises that this year’s show will be even more electrifying.

You missed it last year and wonder what this Hot to Trot buzz is all about?

Well, you have to see it to believe it.

Silvestro stands on the shafts of a harness racing bike, puts the reins in his teeth, holds marine flares (each with 15,000 candlelight power) in his hands and shoots off a massive display of fireworks with more than 2,000 explosions from the back and sides of his bike. All awhile his racehorse speeds around a darkened track. He also has special infield grand finale he has titled “Circle of Fire” that is sure to blast away the crowds with a brilliant display to culminate the show.

“You have to be a little crazy to do this show,” said Steve Wolf, the director of marketing at Pompano Park in Florida. “Horses, racing and fireworks – those things usually don’t mix. No one else in the world does anything like it. You have to see it live. It’s nothing short of mesmerizing.”

Born in Stanthrope, Australia, Silvestro is a professional trainer/driver who has competed in more than 3,000 pari-mutuel (betting) races with over 100 wins to his credit. He first started to stand in the race sulky or “bike” in 1989 after he saw one of Australia’s top drivers, Vinnie Knight, lose a rein in a race, get up on the bike, reach over and lean on the horse’s rump. All this happened while the horse was still going. Knight reached down and picked up the loose rein and took control of the horse again.

After a bit of bragging and a $10 bet, Silvestro claimed he could do the same thing with his horse. It was then he started working on his “Hot To Trot” show. At first, Silvestro just stood like Ben Hur on the sulky and put the reins in his teeth. He then added marine flares in each hand.

It was in 1992, after an offer from Australia’s People Magazine, that Silvestro added fireworks to his performance. The show took off and “Hot To Trot” was in constant demand. He learned everything he could about fireworks and was soon a fully licensed fireworks manufacturer, operator and pyrotechnician.

It takes a master horseman like Silvestro nearly six months of highly specialized training to teach a horse to perform in "Hot To Trot." Over the years, he has trained eight different horses to do his “Hot To Trot” show.

“He’s like the Australian Dr. Doolittle,” Wolf explains. “He talks to his horses, gets them fired up. It takes a crazy man and a special horse to put on a show like this.”

The “Hot to Trot” display is scheduled between Saturday’s eighth and ninth races, at approximately 9:50 p.m. (CDT).

Quotes from Vincent Silvestro:

The Race Bike:

“When it started, the reins were in my teeth and I had marine flares in my hands. Then People Magazine said ‘we want you to blow yourself up,’ so I started adding big, big fountains off the back, and it just escalated. I started putting noisy stuff on, than bigger stuff and bigger stuff, to the point where now I will fire anything I can carry off that bike, including three-inch shells, three-inch mines, all the full fire power display stuff they have center field. It just escalated over a period of five years to the point where I think I’m mad myself.”

On Being “Crazy”:

“If you didn’t get scared or worried, than you’d be mad, and I am mad! I’ve done over 400 shows and have had great success with them. I’ve only fallen out of the bike three times, never hurt the horse or the public, so because of the success rate of the show, I feel good about it. Nobody in the world does it. I’m the only one. I don’t have any opposition or competition. People love it. I come to venues time and time again. We’ve done seven shows at Pompano Park (in Florida) and people just keep flocking to their raceway.”

On This Year's Show:

“This is going to be the biggest and best pyrotechnics display that Hot to Trot has done anywhere in the country. We’ve got some real surprises for you on Saturday. It’s been labeled as one of the most spectacular use of fireworks ever by American Fireworks News, and by a number of critiques. Because it combines a horse with fireworks, people are mesmerized by it. They will forget who won the Little Brown Jug, but they will remember Hot to Trot forever. So you’ve really got to get here Saturday night to see this. If I should ever retire, I truly think that nobody will ever do it. Not that I would care if someone ever did, because if they did it, they would deserve to do it. That’s how I feel about it.”

The Horse -- Hand Me Silver:

“He’s a super special, 18-year-old Standardbred that raced in Australia and won. He’s just one of a kind. He’s been doing this show forever, ten years himself. He’s the greatest horse I’ve ever had. He knows the show, and trusts me implicitly. He loves the applause after the show. He really loves what he’s doing. He’s just a magnificent animal. We lease him to Riding for the Disabled when I fly back to Australia, and then the show comes up, we get him into shape, and he comes out and does the show like the seasoned veteran that he is.”

“Most horses would be terrified with what goes on behind Hand Me Silver. He’s been lovingly and carefully conditioned over a period of time. We started by firing small pyrotechnics and standing up. You reward them once they’ve done the job well, and you add fireworks as you go along. They get used to it. He doesn’t wear earplugs because he’s listening to my commands as we go along. They wear blinkers during the show, but I never train them in blinkers. I train them so they can actually see what’s happening, but they can most certainly hear what’s going on, including what I’m telling them.

Remember, first post for Hawthorne’s Night of Champions is 7 p.m. Other promotional highlights include:

Night of Champions Sweepstakes -– Enter for your chance to win A 2006 Dodge Dakota Truck two-year lease courtesy of Mancari Dodge/Jeep, a trip to the 2006 Hambletonian courtesy of Corona and Corona Light, a stay at the Hooters Casino & Hotel in Las Vegas, and $50 Hooters dining certificates.

Free Pick Seven contest – Win up to $5,000!

Hooters Girls calendar signing.

Corona Girls.

Aloha Chicago Fire Dancers & Hula Dancers.

The Chicago Bucket Boys.

Polynesian Buffet in the Gold Cup Room (6 - 9pm) for $16.95. Reservations are going fast. Call 708-780-7050.

Hawthorne’s spring 2006 Standardbred meet runs May 6 through June 17 with live racing six days per week: Tuesday through Sunday. Post time is 7:20 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and 6:30 p.m. on Sunday, and opening day, Saturday May 6 (special early post).

Hawthorne’s fall 2006 Thoroughbred meet runs September 15 through December 31 with live racing five days per week: Wednesday through Sunday. Post time is 1:10 p.m.

Hawthorne’s spring 2006 Thoroughbred meet ran February 24 through May 2.

For more information visit





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