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Hawthorne Race Course

Hawthorne Racecourse (5/1/08)

Contact: Mitch Demick (708) 222-4542

Handle Up as Spring Meet Concludes

Fueled by improved fields and a strong presence in the out of state markets, the spring Hawthorne meet concluded with solid showings in handle.

Despite some unseasonably cooler conditions, the racing season was only interrupted once, (March 21 cancelled after four races) and field sizes throughout the course of the meet maintained rather well, and contributed to the solid gains.

Field size and a slight shift in racing dates led to positive handle figures for the meet. In 2008, average starters per race was 7.71, compared to 7.38 in 2007. Total handle on the live meet was up 6.2% from 2007 as $2,291,470 was wagered in total on Hawthorne’s live races, compared to $2,156,045 in 2007. While on-site handle was down 13%, in-state handle rose 2% while out of state numbers were up 11.3%.

“Sure, we would have liked to have seen better on-site numbers in 2008, but we have so much more competition now. Combine that with the introduction of the no-smoking law on January 1 and a tough economy, it’s not surprising on-site figures are down,” stated Hawthorne President Tim Carey.

“Since last spring’s meet, six new betting parlors have been introduced in Illinois with one of those only five miles from our track. I would be lying if I said that wasn’t hurting us tremendously,” he continued. “On the upside, the improvement in our product proved to be popular to those wagering instate, online, and especially out of state. We have seen so many tracks posting declines across the board of late but we are reversing that trend and look to continue to do so in the summer harness meet and fall Thoroughbred meet.”

The highlight of the spring meet was the Grade II Illinois Derby, and this year’s winner Recapturetheglory, will be the seventh consecutive Illinois Derby champ to run for the roses, this Saturday, May 4. Recapturetheglory will be joined in the Derby by fellow Illinois Derby entrants Z Humor and Denis of Cork.

Ryan’s for Real soundly defeated favored Fairbanks in winning the Grade III Bill Hartack Memorial Handicap. Formerly known as the National Jockey Club Handicap, the race was renamed this year in honor of the five-time Kentucky Derby winning jockey’s recent passing.

On the same day as the Hartack Memorial, fillies and mares competed in the Grade III Sixty Sails. Two talented fillies, Golden Velvet and Tessa Blue finished one/two, with Golden Velvet dominating her rival on this day.

Hawthorne also experienced another successful renewal of Illinois Champion’s Day, as the best of the Illinois-bred Thoroughbreds competed in six $100,000 stakes races. There were many outstanding performances, highlighted by star sprinter High Expectations, who won his second straight Chicagoland Handicap.

Thoroughbreds weren’t the only four-legged animals competing on the Hawthorne racing oval this spring. Camels and ostriches were again part of the Illinois Derby weekend, providing racing fans with a little something out-of-the-ordinary. The Loop’s Jonathan Brandmeier rode a camel against 64 Loop Rock Girls, and jockeys rode ostriches (or at least tried), all in the name of good fun.

Jockey Tim Thornton captured his second consecutive riding title, winning 61 races in 38 racing days, while his nearest competitor, female apprentice Inez Karlsson, finished with 27 wins, including three on closing day.

The leading trainer was Frank Kirby, who also took down his second straight title, this time edging out Tom Tomillo for spring honors. Kirby won 25 races, including two on the final day, finishing three wins ahead of Tomillo (22).

A three-way tie for leading owner was broken on the final day of the meet when Eagle Valley Farm’s (John Haran) Queen Meave won Monday’s fifth race, giving Eagle Valley their 10th win and the owner’s title. Frank Calabrese and Richard and Karen Papiese, with nine wins apiece, finished tied for second.

Racing at Hawthorne resumes in only six weeks as the harness meet begins on June 24 and runs through August 7. The fall Thoroughbred meet begins September 26 and runs through December 31. For more information, contact Hawthorne at 708-780-3700 or check our website,

Hawthorne Race Course’s Spring Thoroughbred meet concluded on April 28. Harness racing will return June 24, and continue through August 7. Thoroughbreds return on September 26, and race until the end of the year. The track is open year-round for simulcast wagering, day and night. Hawthorne Race Course is located at 3501 Laramie Avenue, Cicero, IL 60804. Call (708) 780-3700 or visit the Web site at




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