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Hawthorne Race Course

Hawthorne Racecourse (3/15/10)

Contact: Ron Uchman
(708) 780-3700

The Next Generation

Joel Berndt might be only 41 years old but he has what seems to be a lifetime of experience behind him.

“I got into this as part of the family affair. My father, Alan, managed Richard Duchossois’s Hill ‘N Dale Farm from 1968 until 1984. He was also a trainer for a few years that he was with Mr. Duchossois.

“I trained on my own for a few years but then went back to the family farm in South Dakota. I did go to college for a few years but my father was tragically killed so I went back and took over the family business, as far as horses, and went back to training.

“I got my trainer’s license in 1988. I was only 19 or 20 at the time. I started off at Fonner Park in Grand Island, Nebraska so I wasn’t really thrown into the big leagues at the start. From there I went to Omaha and trained at Aksarben. I was on the Nebraska circuit for about three, possibly four, years. When Aksarben closed, I came to Illinois.

“My first win in Chicago came in 1993. It was here at Hawthorne. I’ve been primarily in Illinois ever since. I did split my string for a while and had some horses up at Canterbury in Minnesota but it got to be a little too difficult.

“I’ve been doing better as time goes by. I’m really not doing anything different. But, I have been getting more horses to deal with, to work with. I’ve had good horses in past; usually only one at a time. Now I seem to be getting more good ones at the same time. I think the difference now is that my owners are already comfortable. They are financially set. The economy doesn’t really affect them. They are just having fun. Other trainers are having problems with business dropping off but mine has been picking up.

“I have 30 in training here. It looks like I’ll have 40 when we head to Arlington. It’s different going from dirt to Polytrack. It seems as though horses either love it or they don’t like it at all. In that respect, it’s similar to horses going from dirt to turf. However, that doesn’t mean that just because a runner races well on turf, that he’ll do the same on the Polytrack. That really hasn’t seemed to matter. I do have some horses that only like Polytrack and when we’re racing here, I send them down to Turfway. At Arlington, I have to send some to dirt tracks because they simply can’t race on Polytrack.

“I’ve had pretty good luck on Polytrack with 2-year-olds. We found that if they get a good 60 to 90 days of training on dirt before they go to a synthetic surface, get them to where they’re going a half mile, they seem to handle it far better. Those that I tried starting out on Polytrack didn’t have nearly as much success.

“Silver Bid was, by far, the best horse that I ever had. He was a warrior. We’ve had some other stakes horses but none compared to him. He found ways to win. He won stakes at Hawthorne, Sportsmans’ Park, and Arlington. He was the only horse that I ever trained that I never had to worry about. I knew he would give it all that he had. He’s the horse that really boosted my career. I believe that I got a lot of new owners because of him.

“You need a horse like that. I’ve got Mindy Queen in the barn now. She was a nice 3-year-old last year. She won a stakes race in Canada. She finished second in a stakes race at Turfway in her last start. She’s undefeated at Hawthorne. She’s kind of special. Plus, we have some good young horses though we’ll have to wait and see just how good they turn out to be.”

The way that this barn has been going the last couple of years, we should probably expect big things.

Hawthorne Race Course begins racing on Friday, February 12 and runs through Sunday, April 25. First post time daily is 1:35 pm. For racing schedule and details on promotions and parties at Hawthorne, visit

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