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Hawthorne Race Course

Hawthorne Racecourse (4/6/07)

Contact: Mitch Demick (708) 222-4542


Chris EmighCHICAGO - Not much pondering to do when a trainer who wins scores of races at every conceivable racing venue calls upon your riding services for a Grade 2, $500,000 race...the answer “yes sir” is the only reasonable response.

Such is the case on Saturday, when Hawthorne’s leading rider, Chris Emigh will hop aboard the Steve Asmussen trained Reporting for Duty as a live longshot in the 50th renewal of the Illinois Derby. Well, maybe Emigh didn’t say exactly, “yes sir,” but the decision wasn’t a very tough one. “Steve’s one of the leading trainers in the country. How can you go wrong when you stick with one of the top guys?” Emigh explained.

“He’s got big horses all over. Who knows, he might just need us for another one.”

But for now, this “one” is Reporting for Duty, a chestnut colt by Deputy Commander who enters this race still eligible for easier company, but having been competitive against some Triple Crown hopefuls. “I heard he ran second to Albert Stall’s horse, (G2 Louisiana Derby runner up, Ketchican) and he’s 10-1 for the Kentucky Derby,” Emigh said. “It’s hard to say what’s gonna happen till they run the race. Anything can happen in horseracing.”

One of Emigh’s biggest challenges other than facing some classy 3 year olds is fighting what has been a speed-favoring Hawthorne racetrack. Reporting for Duty is a late closer, but taking a positive spin, Emigh is hopeful the track’s reputation may be beneficial for his colt’s late run. “Sometimes if they’re playing speed, too many guys send out of there so maybe we can come from behind.”

The affable and talented jockey is also confident his riding style fits with Asmussen’s preferred racing strategy. “I know Steve likes his horses to make a run, save ground and then come out and find a hole. I think I kind of ride like Steve likes his jocks to ride. Maybe we can run them down.”

Already a winner of local graded stakes races such as the Sixty Sails and the Hawthorne Gold Cup, Emigh is well aware of what an Illinois Derby win can bring in just a few short weeks. “Winning the Illinois Derby would be awesome. This is a stepping-stone to the Kentucky Derby. If he can win this, I have a good chance that Steve sticks with me going to the Derby.” Then Emigh smiled broadly and added, “It’s everybody’s dream going to the Derby, isn’t it?”

A little bit of racing luck and a favorable trip in the Illinois Derby on Saturday, may give Emigh his “dream” trip next month, when they run for the roses.

Hawthorne Race Course races five days a week, Thursday through Monday through April 29, except Easter Sunday and Monday, April 9. Located at Cicero or Laramie Avenues at 35th Street, gates open daily at 7 am. Call (708) 780-3700 or visit the Web site at




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