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HAWTHORNE RACE COURSE

Hawthorne Racecourse (2/25/04)

Contact: Jim Miller
(708) 780-3700

$500,000 Illinois Derby Highlights NJC at Hawthorne Spring Meet

STICKNEY, IL -- This Friday marks the return of live Thoroughbred racing to Chicago as the National Jockey Club at Hawthorne spring meet commences. Opening day features a 10 race card with first post at 1:10 pm. The 47-day meet runs through May 13.

Familiar faces will again populate the jockeys' room. Last fall's leading rider, Randall Meier will be back to defend his riding title but will again be strongly challenged by Larry Sterling Jr., and Chris Emigh, as well as several others. Journeyman rider Greg Schaefer returns to Hawthorne. Apprentice riders Cruz Contreras and Liz Morris will both be looking to continue the strong starts to their young riding careers.

Longtime leading trainer Mike Reavis has a full string of runners at Hawthorne but looks to be challenged by Pat Cuccurullo, who has recently formed an alliance with last year's leading owner Frank C. Calabrese. Louis Roussell, Jim Arnett, Dave McShane, and James Jackson will all have a string of runners at Hawthorne this spring.

On the racing end of things, the spring stakes schedule will fill the month of April as over $1.7 million in stakes purses will be distributed. Leading the spring stakes schedule is the Grade 2, $500,000 Illinois Derby, to be run on April 3. In the past few years, the Illinois Derby has become one of the top prep races for the Triple Crown. War Emblem used his Illinois Derby victory in 2002 to springboard to wins in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes. Last year, the Illinois Derby moved to Hawthorne and Ten Most Wanted followed his Illinois Derby win with a second-place finish in the Belmont Stakes and wins in the Travers and Super Derby. This year over 100 horses have been nominated to the Illinois Derby.

On the Illinois Derby Day undercard, sprinters will be featured. The $100,000 added Lost Code Breeders' Cup Stakes, a six-furlong event, will also be run on April 3.

The following week, Illinois-bred runners will be in the spotlight. On April 10, six $100,000 added events, all for Illinois runners, will be contested.

Graded stakes runners return the following two weekends. On April 17, the Grade 3, $250,000 National Jockey Club Handicap will be run. Fillies and mares will be featured the following week with the running of the Grade 3, $250,000 Sixty Sails Handicap.

Hawthorne Race Course will again be the Illinois simulcast host for the Kentucky Derby on May 1. Separate pool wagering, a very popular option allowing fans to shop their prices, will again be offered on the Derby.

Hawthorne's popular handicapping contests will also return this spring. Four free handicapping contests will take place. The free qualifiers will take place on Saturdays and Sundays in March and April. Prize money of $2,500 will be given away for each contest.

The highly-regarded buy-in contest also returns as a DRF/NTRA Handicapping contest qualifier. The buy-in competition takes place the weekend of April 23-25.

On March 5, the popular on-line ChiTown Challenge returns. Fans only need to pick a single horse each day that they feel will finish in the top three in its race. Those who survive will continue on to the next day until only one player is left standing. That person will win the $5,000 top prize. The best part of all is that it's free.

Additional contests will be held for the Suburban Downs summer harness meet, which races July 15 - September 7 and then again for the Hawthorne fall Thoroughbred meet, running September 24 - December 31.

In the spring, the National Jockey Club races live at Hawthorne Race Course starting February 27 to May 13. Hawthorne is also open year-round for full-card simulcasting.

For any information regarding racing at Hawthorne, call 708-780-3700.

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