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Hawthorne Race Course

Hawthorne Racecourse (12/15/10)

Contact: Peter Galassi
(708) 780-3700


By Peter Galassi

When Vouch For Victory won the first race at Hawthorne Racecourse on Thursday, November 19, it was the second victory in his five-race career. But owner Ben Wessels was not just racing his two-year-old that day. He was keeping a promise.

You see, when Wessels purchased a few yearlings in 2009, he would continually update his mom, who was in declining health and living in a nursing home, about their progress as he prepared the youngsters to get to the races. Because of her illness and other age-related ailments, Ben was never sure if she even understood what he was telling her during his many visits.

On February 8, 2010, knowing the end was near, Ben went to visit his mother. This time, to his surprise and amazement, she began to ask him about the horses and even mentioning them by name. Vouch For Victory, My Kentucky Breeze, Where’s Winston and U Step Aside were the four that were in Ben’s small stable of race horses. As he was getting ready to leave that day, his mom lovingly instructed him “you keep racing my horses.”

A few days later Ben learned of his mother’s passing while attending the 2010 annual ITHA awards dinner at Hawthorne Racecourse.

Shortly thereafter, Ben excused himself from the table and proceeded to step outside the Turf Club and while there looking out over Hawthorne’s illuminated one-mile oval, reflected on his mother’s life, a life filled with passion for many things including race horses.

It was at that moment that Wessels was determined to have a runner in the first Chicagoland two-year-old race of 2010. Since no two-year-old races filled during the spring at Hawthorne, it would be Arlington Park that would hold the first “baby” race of the year.

When the entries came out for the race, Ben’s “Vouch For Victory,” a two-year old son of Quest, was in and had drawn post position five in a seven-horse field,

Upon learning the race had filled, Ben immediately contacted other family members to instruct them to be at Arlington for the first race on Thursday, May 20.

Dispatched at 27-1 (the longest price in the race), Vouch For Victory chased the pacesetter. Turning for home, Vouch For Victory started gaining on the leader and to the roar of the Wessels family, friends and a smile from above, Vouch For Victory went on to a length and a quarter victory in the five and a half furlong event.

Amidst the excitement of the winner’s circle, which included jockey Florent Geroux and trainer Manny Perez, along with many family members and friends, Ben reflected. It wasn’t only about racing the youngster or the handsome win mutual of $57.00. It was all about keeping a promise to a wonderful lady, his mom, JUNE WESSELS.

Hawthorne Race Course is in its 101st year of racing under Carey family ownership. Hawthorne offers the only traditional dirt track for thoroughbred racing in Northern Illinois. Live racing at Hawthorne runs Wednesday – Saturday through December 31. Post time daily is 1:35 pm. Club Hawthorne membership is free and available at Guest Services at Hawthorne Race Course. For more information, visit

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