Hawthorne Racecourse (2/9/11)
Contact: Jim Miller
Racing Excitement Returns to Hawthorne Friday
It seems like we just finished a race meet but we have been idle nearly six weeks as live racing returns to Hawthorne Friday. In the fall, we closed with temperatures in the 50s and a thawing racing surface. Since then we have had record snowfall and dropping temps. What has remained consistent, however, is the fine work the track crew has done with only four days of training missed, in total, during the six dark weeks despite over 30 inches of total snowfall during that period.
When racing returns Friday, some of the things that racing fans became accustomed to in the fall return. We will have Fan Friendly Fridays, fields in February will be full, and we expect Tim Thornton and Tanner Riggs to contend for the riding title once again. Due to a fine fall meet, one major improvement that will benefit all Horsemen is higher purse levels than last fall and last spring. There will be more races offered for more quality horses and we are keeping our fingers crossed that Mother Nature will be kind and we will see two to three weeks of turf racing in April.
Racing kicks off Friday with a nine-race card with 97 horses entered in the body of the races. Many familiar names will be seen on the program with jockeys Thornton and Riggs, joined by Eddie Perez, Brandon Meier, Julio Felix, and Inosencio Diego. After a great start to last fall, Jozbin Santana returns to Hawthorne and will be joined in the jockey colony by Seth Martinez, a strong rider familiar to many who have followed Hawthorne in the past, and Constantino Roman, a bug boy looking to have a breakthrough meet.
Trainer Joel Berndt is loaded with strong runners and ready to try to defend his training title. Defending his title won’t be easy though as Frank Kirby, Mike Reavis, Jamie Ness, Chris Dorris, Brian Williamson, and Roger Brueggemann are all stocked and ready as well. Look for fall newcomer George Leonard to make his mark and expect an improved meet from Steve Manley and Ralph Martinez as well.
The fall meet’s leading owner, Midwest Thoroughbreds, will also have a string of horses at Hawthorne for trainers Brueggemann and Jamie Ness.
After our Friday opener, major days on the schedule for the spring are Saturday, April 9, with the running of the Grade III Illinois Derby – Presented by TVG, a race that has sent the last nine winners to the Kentucky Derby. On Saturday, April 23, Illinois Champions Day will take place, featuring six stakes races for Illinois-breds, each worth $100,000 apiece.
In addition to the return of our Fan Friend Fridays, with $2 specials on admission and program, along with food and beer specials, another favorite of our Hawthorne fans returns with our online Survivor Contest. The free contest begins February 18 and fans can sign up now at www.Hawthorneracecourse.com.
Our racing schedule has changed a bit this spring. While we are open every day for simulcasting, in February we will race live on Friday and Saturday, providing weekend cards with full fields. In March and April, racing will take place every Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday. First post will be 1:30 pm every day.
On the air, Track Handicapper and Analyst Jim Miller will get some daily assistance from jockey Inez Karlsson for the daily pre-race show and some between race analysis. Inez is currently taking some time off from riding as she is due with her first child this summer, but her insight and experience will be an added bonus to racing fans as they handicap the day’s races.
For those who can’t make it out to the track, Jim Miller will join Joe Kristufek on www.HorseplayerNow.com as the duo previews and reviews racing action from Hawthorne. Fans can not only get insight into the action at Hawthorne, but they can join in as well with selections and questions as we look to provide the most information possible. For a schedule of live racing chats and Monday Night School chats, please visit the HorseplayerNow website.
Hawthorne’s popular onsite handicapping contests are back with the first of the meet taking place Friday. For the first time, these contests will send six winners to the NTRA Handicapping Championship in Las Vegas. For full contest information, visit Guest Services or our website.
“We are coming off a year where we turned the corner,” stated Assistant General Manager Jim Miller. “We were up in total handle on each meet and we able to put ourselves in a much better position in regards to purses. While we aren’t there yet, we are able to offer higher purses for our horsemen this spring with a better mix of races as well. I expect another strong meet and expect positive figures once again when we finish in the end of April.”
Hawthorne Race Course is in its 102nd year of racing under Carey family ownership. Hawthorne races Friday and Saturday in February, beginning February 11. In March and April, live racing will take place every Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday through the end of April. First post daily is 1:30 pm. For more information on racing at Hawthorne, visit our website at www.Hawthorneracecourse.com.