Hawthorne Racecourse (12/31/11)
Contact: Jim Miller
Added Purses, Racing Days Lead to Increases in Handle for Hawthorne Fall Meet
STICKNEY, IL – The Hawthorne Race Course fall meet concluded on Saturday with increases in total handle and total onsite Hawthorne handle for the fall Thoroughbred meet. With the release of the impact fee monies from HB 1918 prior to the start of the meet, Hawthorne was able to conduct live racing five days a week, offering a wide array of racing opportunities for horsemen.
Despite a year that saw the second largest amount of precipitation for this area in history, that caused 16 days to be rained off the turf, field size for the fall meet was still the strongest in the state, even with the additional live racing day. For the meet, Hawthorne averaged 8.6 starters per race which, along with the additional races offered, led to the handle increases.
In the fall meet of 2010, total handle for the Hawthorne fall was $135,661,986 while total onsite handle for the fall meet was $5,248,589. In 2011, the fall meet total handle surpassed 2010 by nearly $8 million as total handle was $143,569,455. Onsite, the additional day for patrons to come out to the races led to an onsite increase of over $700,000 for a total onsite handle for the fall of $5,955,497.
“The only way we can truly compare handle for the fall meet is based on total numbers as we are comparing five-day-a-week racing to four days per week in 2010,” stated Hawthorne Assistant General Manager Jim Miller. “2010 was a great year for weather and for racing here, and I’m pleased with how 2011 finished up very strong. While we know our fans have limited budgets and many wagering options, I was glad to see that they chose Hawthorne as a place to place their wagers. For the weather conditions we had to deal with, I felt our track crew did a tremendous job maintaining our surface as we avoided having a single cancellation this fall. Our horsemen came ready to run and have shown by their stall applications for the spring that Hawthorne will be a destination in the spring of 2012.”
The fall meet was also the coming out party for jockey Florent Geroux as he grabbed his first career riding title. The ever-consistent Geroux teamed up with trainer Roger Brueggemann and owners Midwest Thoroughbreds Inc. as all three grabbed their respective titles. For the meet, Geroux won 77 races to defeat bug boy Constantino Roman (65 wins), Julio Felix (48 wins) and Tim Thornton (48 Wins).
This fall also saw the end of one riding career and the return of another. Tanner Riggs announced his retirement before the Christmas break as his battle with weight cut short an excellent riding career. The always-pleasant Riggs won 41 races for the fall meet and over 700 races in his short career. This fall also saw the return of jockey Inez Karlsson as she rode her first races back after a 15-month break from racing to begin a family. Following the birth of her daughter in July, Karlsson returned to riding in November, winning in just her fourth mount back. For the meet, 35 different riders won races at Hawthorne.
Trainer Roger Brueggemann won his third Hawthorne training title as he came ready to roll. Backed by top owner Midwest Thoroughbreds, Inc., Brueggemann saddled 51 winners for the fall meet to more than double that of his next closest rival. The additional purse monies and race options were very beneficial to all horsemen and led to fine showings this fall from Joel Berndt (24 wins), Brian Williamson (23 wins), and Chris Block (22 wins). Brueggemann held off Block for the earnings title as his runners earned $924,862 compared to Block’s $834,721 in earnings.
For leading owner, it was another title for Midwest Thoroughbreds Inc. as their support of Hawthorne’s races helped lead to 31 wins for the meet and over $600,000 in earnings. Second in the owner standings was William Stiritz while spring champ Eagle Valley Farm finished third.
On the track, the highlight of the meet was the running of the Grade II $500,000 Hawthorne Gold Cup. The Gold Cup had five graded stakes winners and eight graded stakes-placed horses in the field with a couple of rising stars as well. In the Gold Cup, Headache was victorious as the Gold Cup again showed it was a stepping stone to horses heading onward to Breeders’ Cup races. Not only did Headache run in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, but both Giant Oak and Cease came out of the Gold Cup to run big races in the Breeders’ Cup Marathon.
The Grade III Hawthorne Derby was also a fine field as multiple graded stakes winner Willcox Inn didn’t disappoint, winning as the favorite in the Derby. Graded stakes placed Sun Tracer from the Chris Block barn put forth a valiant effort but came up just short in the Derby.
On Gold Cup Day, trainer Michele Boyce also had a fine day. A pair of her runners, Happy Henrietta (Indian Maid) and Princeville Condo (Carey Memorial), took the two stakes races on the turf.
The Illinois Festival of racing showcased our local stars and while Third Chance shined as a heavy favorite, it was a day full of upsets. Winners on Festival day were Peyote Patty, Sweet Luca, Class Break, Four Left Feet and Big Looie. Class Break would follow her win in the Showtime Deb with a late closing score for leading jock Geroux in the Pat Whitworth Illinois Debutante in early December. National Small Breeders of the Year, Rudy and Virginia Tarra, had their horses run 1-2 in the Jim Edgar Illinois Futurity as Geroux again won, this time aboard Real Power while their Yankee Dealer ran second in the final stakes event of the year.
For the spring meet, things are looking up at Hawthorne as stall applications came in well ahead of the total received for the 2011 spring meet. The additional purses will also allow for a wider array of races to be written. The first book for the spring meet is already online. As an added incentive, Hawthorne will be assisting in shipping expenses for out of town horses that ship in and run at the spring meet. In addition to the shipping stipend, purse incentives will also be paid to larger fields throughout the entire spring meet.
Live racing returns to Hawthorne on Friday, February 17 and concludes Sunday, April 29. In February, live racing will be conducted Friday-Sunday. Beginning February 29, racing on Wednesday will be added. First post daily for the spring is 1:40 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 www.Hawthorneracecourse.com.