Hawthorne Racecourse (2/14/12)
Contact: Jim Miller
High Expectations for Hawthorne Spring Meet
Larger Purses, More Horses, Better Wagering Options for Meet Opening Friday
STICKNEY, IL – Opening Day entries were taken for the start of the Hawthorne spring Thoroughbred meet and the full entry box for the opener is a good sign of the high expectations for the meet which begins Friday at 1:40 pm. A total of 95 horses were entered to comprise the nine-race opening day card with 91 in the body of the races which includes a solid Illinois-bred maiden allowance field, an Illinois-bred allowance contest, and the featured $35,000 optional claiming allowance race as part of the Friday card.
Prior to the start of last fall’s Hawthorne meet, impact fee monies that had been held up in the court system for years were released and Hawthorne and horsemen saw a boost to purses along with a return to five day a week racing that produced a solid 8.6 starters per race. This spring, the increased purses continue and additional incentives for larger fields will be offered for all races.
The increase in purses, in addition to a mild winter, has allowed for horsemen to continue training through the break and the horsemen have shown their support. When the spring meet opened in 2011, only 950 horses were stabled at Hawthorne and many were behind on training due to the largest snowfall in years, including a blizzard that dropped more than two feet of snow just a week before the meet. This year, the count on the backstretch is already over 1,300 horses with more arriving daily. Inquiries for stalls are still coming in and, with only two days of training missed the entire winter, many more horses are fit and ready to run.
The strong horse population can be seen throughout the backside. Mainstays Frank Kirby (60 stalls), Mike Reavis (35 stalls), Brian Williamson (37 stalls), Chris Block (35 stalls), Joel Berndt (40 stalls), Chris Dorris (40 stalls), Tom Dorris (33 stalls) and fall meet leading trainer Roger Brueggemann (60 stalls) are all fully loaded and ready to run.
The spike in horses has come from barns that left horses here instead of turning runners out to farms or shipping to other tracks during the winter dark period. Those trainers include Dale Bennett (30 stalls), Tammy Domenosky (25 stalls), Christine Janks (30 stalls), Wayne Catalano (25 stalls), Moises Yanez (35 stalls), Jimmy Divito (40 stalls) and Larry Rivelli (30 stalls).
In addition, the nation’s leading owner in victories in 2011 and Hawthorne’s fall meet leading owner, Midwest Thoroughbreds, Inc., is fully loaded this spring after only having a handful of runners at Hawthorne in the spring meet of 2011. We also expect a good showing from trainers John Haran (48 stalls), Manny Perez (60 stalls), Scott Becker (40 stalls), and Hugh Robertson (40 stalls) this spring at Hawthorne.
The jockey colony will be loaded as well with a room headed by past meet champions Florent Geroux and Tim Thornton. Returning to the Hawthorne jocks room this spring are past champs Chris Emigh, Tanner Riggs (brief retirement), and Inez Karlsson (pregnant in spring ’11). Riders that made an impact last fall, such as Francisco Torres, Julio Felix, Eddie Perez and Constantino Roman will also be back. New faces to the jocks room for the 2012 spring meet include Harry Vega, Chris Russell, and Luis Medina.
The Hawthorne spring stakes schedule has gotten an upgrade. The purse for the Grade III Illinois Derby returns to $500,000 after being reduced to $300,000 in 2011. Ninety one runners had already been nominated at the early closing on February 3 and more are expected to nominate before late closing on March 21. The Illinois Derby, which will be run on Saturday, April 7 will be accompanied by the return of the $60,000 Cryptoclearance Stakes for older horses.
The Grade III $200,000 Sixty Sails Handicap, after a year’s absence, is back. Fillies and mares will be competing at 1 1/8 miles on the real dirt track. In 2010, the Sixty Sails included a pair of Grade O winners in Life at Ten and Jessica is Back. Nominations for this storied race close on April 11 and the amount of early interest suggests a terrific field will once again manifest.
On Saturday, April 28 the focus will be on Illinois-bred stars on Illinois Champions Day. Nearly $750,000 in total purses will be handed out over six $125,000 added stakes races.
For the comfort and convenience of racing fans at Hawthorne, additional finish line boxes are being constructed and will be available for players early in the spring meet. On the wagering menu, Hawthorne continues with the lowered takeout rates on the Pick 6, Place Pick 9 and High 5 which have been reduced from 25 percent to 20 percent. The $.50 Pick 5 will be back this spring with a low takeout of 14 percent. The popular Pick 4 wager will debut with a new low $.50 minimum wager this spring. With the projected full fields, the chances of large payoffs haven’t diminished.
For those fans who can’t make it to the track, upgrades have been made to further enhance the Hawthorne racing signal nationwide. Hawthorne’s great partnership with TVG will only expand in 2012 as new television lines have been installed to allow a clean feed to TVG, leading to additional coverage, interviews and handicapping analysis of Hawthorne’s races. Hawthorne continues to be visible via social media on Twitter with Hawthorne info (@ClubHawthorne) and racing and handicapping analysis daily from Jim Miller (@HawthorneJim). Hawthorne also has a pair of Facebook pages with the Hawthorne Race Course friend page approaching 5,000 friends. Players can also visit the Hawthorne Race Course Fan Page.
For those who can view races via mobile phone, a new mobile app for Hawthorne will be debuting this spring. The mobile app will show entries and results, changes and selections, and will also allow fans to view races and replays and even make wagers if on-site at Hawthorne. The app is expected to launch early in the spring meet.
“This spring, between what we have done in-house and through the great support of our horsemen, we have really teed ourselves up for a great meet,” said Hawthorne Assistant General Manager Jim Miller. “Much of our success lies in the hands of Mother Nature now. Last year everything worked against us weather-wise as we had a very rough winter full of cold temps and large amounts of snowfall. Then we had the wettest April in 50 years which meant we could not run a single race on the turf during the entire spring meet. This winter has been very mild and the track has been in tremendous shape for training. Our horsemen have responded with more horses in training and many more horses ready for the start of the meet. The response to our increased purses and incentives offered for larger fields has been very well received and horsemen know they can make a lot of money at Hawthorne.”
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, live racing on Wednesdays 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.