Hawthorne Racecourse (1/4/10)
Contact: Jim Miller
Riggs, Weather the stories as Hawthorne Fall Meet Wraps Up
STICKNEY, IL – A consistent rider over the past couple of years on the Chicago circuit, 20-year-old Tanner Riggs made his mark this fall at Hawthorne as he captured his first career riding title. Riding for leading trainer Frank Kirby helped Riggs, but his versatility as he won races for many different trainers throughout the course of the meet is what allowed him to hold off a late rush by Tim Thornton.
Riggs won at a 16 percent clip as he guided home 59 winners from 364 mounts. He was third in earnings with $879,661, trailing just Thornton and Eddie Perez. Thornton surpassed the $1 million mark in earnings on the meet’s final day and finished the meet with 53 wins, followed by Perez (50), Lyndie Wade (42), and Ariel Smith (35).
On the training end, Frank Kirby captured his second Hawthorne title of 2009 as he won the spring meet as well. The title is the ninth for Kirby at Hawthorne in his training career. Kirby won 31 races, topping Wayne Catalano (22), Roger Brueggemann (22), Brian Williamson (19), and Hector Magana (18).
For leading owner, it was a sweep of the 2009 racing meets as Midwest Thoroughbreds of Richard and Karen Papiese grabbed the title with 16 wins from 74 starts. Owner William Stiritz finished second with 14 wins, followed by Frank Calabrese (9), and Owen Rainwater (8).
The story of the fall meet had to be the weather as Mother Nature had a huge hand in the racing action at Hawthorne. Record rainfall in October limited turf racing as there was only a single day of “Firm” turf racing at Hawthorne in October and that came on opening day. Heavy rains forced both the Indian Maid Handicap and Robert F. Carey Memorial Handicap off the turf course, also leaving the main track sloppy for the running of the Grade II $500,000 Hawthorne Gold Cup Handicap.
The Gold Cup produced a very competitive field in 2009 as Graded Stakes winner Awesome Gem galloped home to a 1 ¼ length victory over Nite Light. Awesome Gem followed his Gold Cup triumph with a seventh-place effort behind Zenyatta in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. Two other horses, Nite Light and Eldaafer, both followed their Hawthorne Gold Cup efforts up with Breeders’ Cup starts in the Marathon.
Although moved off the turf due to rain, the Carey Memorial provided a spot for a try on the off track for Public Speaker. Trained by Dale Bennett, Public Speaker wore down Antrim County on his way to his second consecutive stakes score. In the Indian Maid, three-year-old filly Abbey’s Angel followed her second-place effort in the Grade III Gardenia with a runaway win by 6 ½ lengths in the mud.
The Illinois-bred stakes were all very competitive in the fall meet and provided some big efforts. On Halloween Day, the Illinois Festival of Racing produced quick times and many upsets. Victories by Ripe Tomato (Powerless Handicap), He’s Bonafide (Buck’s Boy Handicap), and Mighty Rule (Lightning Jet Handicap) all produced double-digit mutuels while Apple Martini (Illini Princess Handicap), That’s Whatshesaid (Showtime Deb), and My Time to Star (Sun Power) ran closer to form.
The meet closed out with youngsters in the spotlight as Tim Thornton guided home both route race winners on back to back weekends with Sweet Lemon Cello in the Pat Whitworth Illinois Breeders’ Debutante and Devient Behavior in the Jim Edgar Illinois Futurity.
Weather took its toll on field size and handle slightly in 2009 as over 10 inches of rain and snow fell during the three month fall meet. Off-track days were a contributing factor to the 550 scratches during the fall meet, a drastic rise over the 409 scratches during the same period of 2008. Despite the large amount of scratches, field size was still very strong in 2009 as Hawthorne averaged 8.55 starters/race. The weather did affect the turf racing this fall as we contested 39 races on the grass compared to the 52 run on the turf last year.
For handle, on-site handle held well as Hawthorne averaged $111,230 per card in 2009, down only 3.5 percent compared to the $115,326 wagered on-site on the live in 2008. Total handle for the meet was down 8.5 percent as an average daily amount of $2,564,353 was wagered per racing card this meet compared to $2,804,402 in 2008.
Assistant General Manager Jim Miller recapped the meet. “This was a tough meet because we had so much out of our control due to the weather. I thought our entire staff did a great job from filling race cards to maintaining our racing surface all meet long. Unfortunately, the massive amount of rain in October really put us behind the eight ball and we spent the final two months trying to climb out of the hole. We experimented with a pair of evening cards that proved to be very popular onsite, but unfortunately both evenings produced rain and very cold temps which limited the wagering opportunities from other outlets.
“I was very pleased to see us finish strong as December was a good month for us. I truly believe that the shorter winter dark period, along with the racing schedule that we have in place for 2010, will produce larger fields and across the board increases in handle. Our new Platinum Players Club proved to be very effective in offering a top notch facility for our best players and it showed in our on-site handle. We will continue to make improvements to the frontside and backside in 2010 to make the experience even better for our fans and horsemen at Hawthorne.”
In 2010, Hawthorne will only be dark for five weeks as racing returns live on Friday, February 12. Racing will take place three days a week in February (Wed, Fri, Sat), four days a week in March (Tues, Wed, Fri, Sat) and five days a week from the end of March through April (Sun, Tues, Wed, Fri, Sat). For a racing schedule or more information about Hawthorne, please go to our website, www.Hawthorneracecourse.com or contact us at 708-780-3700.