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Hawthorne Race Course

Hawthorne Racecourse (12/3/11)

Contact: Ron Uchman
(708) 780-3700


James Dickson had a pretty incredible day last Sunday. That was the second day of the $100,000 Hawthorne Handicapping Challenge.

The day started out pretty much the way the preceding day had gone…with a string of losers. But, when James switched tracks it was like a racehorse switching leads and he took off.

"I had two entries in the contest. I was focusing mostly on Churchill Downs and Hollywood. Churchill, because they had a bunch of 12-horse fields and I thought there would be more value. Plus, I've had some luck there. Hollywood, because that's my main track of focus. I cover Hollywood for Horseplayer Now. I handicap Southern California for them," said Dickson when asked about his strategy.

"Obviously, I wanted to place most of my focus on Hollywood but I thought Churchill had some better opportunities with their fuller fields. But, I wanted to try both, especially in a contest with this kind of format. It's a home run hitting contest. You can swing for the fences with good betting opportunities.

"The first day didn't work out so well. I ended up with only a few dollars on each card (He had $42.40 on the winning card after the first day). Churchill was sloppy on the second day but I still took a shot and lost all that, pretty much right away. I should have known better.

"So, I moved onto my Hollywood entry and played an early Pick 5 which I didn't really think I would hit but I did think that there was a logical single in the race, the Baffert-trained runner, Smash. I thought maybe if I could hit the Pick 5 and then maybe a Pick 4, it would pay OK. I couldn't expect much with a horse that I projected to go off at 2-5 but I thought it could be a few hundred, maybe five or six hundred, something like that. Something that would get me into the hunt and give me some money to play the late Pick 4 at Hollywood. So, I played a $40 ticket.

"In the first two legs, there were 6-5 favorites, which I had, but I also had some longer priced horses and both ended up winning. Then the Baffert horse won. That Pick 3 paid $117. That was a lot better than I thought it was going to pay. I was starting to get excited. I had five horses in the fourth leg and four horses in the final leg.

"In the fourth leg, there was another short-priced favorite but another 6-1, that I had, won it. I had the four favorites in the last leg and there were only eight horses in the race. I had Gomez, Rosario, Mike Smith and Bejarano (notice how he named riders and not horses) and I was feeling pretty good at that point.

"Now I'm watching the will pays. Even the Pick 5 with the big favorite was paying about $1,100. The bet with the next two favorites was paying about $2,200. And then, with the Rosario and Sadler (rider and trainer) horse, it was paying $3,900.

"I'm thinking that I'm definitely going to get in (top 10) if one of these horses win. But, I'm also thinking that if Rosario and Sadler can get in, and those guys win at about a 30 percent clip together, I have a chance to win the whole thing.

"The race goes off. There is a three-way speed duel up front and they are clear of the field, maybe eight lengths in front. I'm thinking to myself that whoever is in fourth is going to be able to take advantage of this pace and is going to come up and win this race. I look and it's Rosario. So, I'm, starting to get real excited.

"They come ranging up and take over in the lane and beat the 3-5 favorite. The Pick 5 pays $3,900. I about lost my mind right there.

"I knew I was in. I knew it was over. It was only a question if I finished first, second, or third. I looked at the standings and I essentially went from zero to $3,900. The next closest was $2,200. I had a good feeling.

"I never ended up playing the Pick 4. I was too excited. The ticket I had put together would have cost $96. It would have paid over $1,500 if I had played it.

"That $40 bet gave me over $16,000 and now I'm eligible to play for over $2,000,000. I couldn't be happier.

"I got lucky. Because of the Baffert horse, the Pick 5 was really a Pick 4. I still can't believe that it paid that much."

Now, it's on to Vegas and the NHC Championship. Asked if the different format, win and place betting instead of his own wagering selection, would bother him James had this to say: "It's like going from a slam dunk contest to a three-point contest or a lay up contest. It's not exactly my forte but you never know. On any given weekend, if I start picking right…"

Rock 'em, buddy!

Hawthorne Race Course opens for live racing on Saturday, October 1 and races live through Saturday December 31. Live racing will be conducted five days a week, racing Wednesday-Sunday. Live racing will also take place on Monday, December 26. First post daily is 1:35 pm. Hawthorne Race Course is located in Stickney IL at 3501 S. Laramie Ave. For information on live racing or groups at Hawthorne Race Course, contact Hawthorne at 708-780-3700 or visit Hawthorne online at

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