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Hawthorne Race Course

Hawthorne Racecourse (4/22/11)

Contact: Ron Uchman
(708) 780-3700


It wasn’t quite on cruise control but Jim Benes had a comfortable lead entering the final stages of Day 1 of the National Handicapping Challenge.

This was a two-day contest. Two top prizes would be awarded. The top two finishers would be sent to Las Vegas in January of 2012 for the NHC contest, with an estimated prize pool of $2,000,000, carrying a top prize of $1,000,000.

What’s more, Jim was also in second place while his father, Rudy, was in third. It seemed to be all over for the day.

But…not so fast.

Unknown to most, Paul Georgian wasn’t quite done. Not by a longshot. In fact, by a couple of longshots. You see, Paul was still alive in the Pick 4 at Oaklawn.

The sequence started predictably enough with a 7-2 shot followed by a 2-1. From there it got interesting.

Paul had the winner of the Grade 1 Arkansas Derby on his ticket. Archarcharch scored to the tune of $52.40. That made things far more interesting.

There was one race to go, a low-level starter allowance, going a mile and three-quarters. Paul was alive to three of the 12 runners.

In a storybook ending, Toccet Rocket, part of a three-horse field, who last raced at Hawthorne in March, came flying late to take it. Chris Emigh rode the horse. John Wainwright trains. In a brief interview afterwards, Paul said that he knew the horse and the connections from Hawthorne and that’s why he included this $49.60 winner in the ticket.

Paul hit that Pick 4. In fact, he was the only winner. The $54,431.80 easily put him into first place for the day and for the contest. Paul will be going to Las Vegas.

What about Jim Benes? After all, he was still in second and third place and his father was in fourth. The second-place finisher would also be going to Nevada. It remained that way through Sunday’s races. The cutoff time for the last race of the contest was 6:30 pm CST.

Amazingly, in the very last race, Gaylord Grundy, from Canada, won $3,700 at Golden Gate, giving him $5,400 for the contest, and hands him second place.

Poor Jim Benes finished the contest in third and fourth place while Rudy finished fifth. It was still a great payday for them but not what it could have been. Next time.


Please join Horseplayer Now’s Joe Kristufek and Hawthorne’s own Jim Miller as the dynamic duo dissects the races for Illinois Champions Day.

There will be an unprecedented three chats this weekend. As usual, the Friday chat will begin at 2:00 pm CST.

But, the BIG EVENT takes place Friday evening, starting at 7:30 pm CST. Joe and Jim, along with a cast of possibly thousands, will give their selections, their rationale, and winning plays for Saturday’s races.

In addition, starting Saturday at 1:00 pm CST, Joe and Jim will again handicap the races, utilizing up-to-the minute information such as scratches, track condition, horse appearance, etc.

Don’t miss them!

Hawthorne Race Course is in its 102nd year of racing under Carey family ownership. Hawthorne races Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday in April. First post daily is 1:30 pm with Friday’s first post at 2:35 pm. For more information on racing at Hawthorne, visit our website at

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