Ahh, the signs of
autumn! The cool, crisp air, football season, and sending the kids back
to school are a few signals that we’re making the swing into fall. What
I’m looking forward to most is the fall meet at Hawthorne! There is
always spectacular racing on the south-side oval, and this year promises a
great set of stakes races, more changes to better accommodate the fans, and
more television exposure! Let’s take a look at what we can expect this
First I’d like to
start with the stakes schedule as you will notice a few changes. On the
first Saturday of October the $500,000 Grade 2 Hawthorne Gold Cup will be
featured with some of the country’s best take to the 10 furlong trip on the
dirt course. Tentatively scheduled to appear are both Nates Mineshaft and
Alternation! WHOA. Also featured on the same day are both the
$100,000 Indian Maid and Robert F. Carey being run on the turf. Seven
days later the Hawthorne Derby will be run featuring some of the top 3
year olds which could serve as a final tune-up for the Breeders’ Cup. Too
bad I’m likely to miss it as I’m scheduled to be making my first-ever visit to
Keeneland that weekend! The remainder of the stakes schedule is spread
throughout October and runs all the way into the beginning of December: all of
which feature the best of what Illinois racing has to offer!
Jim Miller said of
this fall’s stakes schedule, “This fall we chose to split up the Illinois
Festival of racing and split our stakes schedule for a couple of reasons.
We open with Hawthorne Gold Cup Day and have the Indian Maid and Robert F.
Carey Memorial on the turf that day as well. We are expecting a great
card and I’m excited that Alternation is pointing for the Gold Cup. After
that, we have the Grade 3 Hawthorne Derby our second week. The Illinois-bred
stakes are spread over three weekends to provide stakes action every weekend
into the second week of November. This way we can have great races
without tapping into the horsemen’s purse account to have to add additional
stakes. We have changed the stakes for the older horses on the grass to
attract a larger field. Finally, we moved the Illinois-bred two-year-old
stakes to the second weekend of November. This was done to create another
stakes day, but also allow for more young horses to get fit and ready as
two-year-old have been getting started later and later on the Polytrack.”
Again, to me, it’s great to see how it all comes together for both the
fans and the horsemen! I’m looking forward to what the fall stakes
schedule will bring!
Hawthorne will be
running five days a week this fall (Wednesday – Sunday), and since Woodbine
will not be running on Thursdays we can expect an increase in handle which
ultimately provides additional wagering value to us fans! How will this
happen? Hawthorne will receive additional exposure and promotion on
TVG! Additionally, in order to increase television and fan exposure Hawthorne
will be moving the time of first post to 2:10 PM Central. As Jim Miller
notes, “What this will allow for is our track to be featured more as the East
coast tracks finish and West coast is getting started. While we are
starting a half hour later, we will get done at nearly the same time because
[we] will be able to go 22-23 minutes between races instead of 29 minutes early
to avoid other tracks.”
You can guarantee that
Hawthorne will focus on the quality of the racing this fall. As Jim
Miller told me, the fall meet “always provides the largest field size in the
state” and the folks at Hawthorne are expecting that once again!
Hawthorne is also looking to continue the momentum of the spring meet where
they were up 27% in handle. This bodes well for us fans as the payouts
are sure to be quite large!
enhance the fan experience, Hawthorne has replaced 50 of the flat screen TV’s
across the facility with newer units to enhance the viewing quality of not only
Hawthorne but other tracks as well. The Gold Cup Room entrance was also
redesigned to make it much for functional and accessible, especially on busy
days!! Ever had the Gold Cup buffet? I have and it is
excellent! Try it sometime!
I’ll never forget
it. Last fall was the first time that I had ever experienced racing at
Hawthorne. I didn’t really know what to expect since I spent most of my
teen years at Arlington and had to mainly focus on my studies in the fall and
spring. What I didn’t know (but I do now) is how awesome the racing at
Hawthorne truly is. Beyond that, I couldn’t believe how accommodating
Hawthorne is to both the fans AND the horsemen. Ever since I started
writing this blog and had more of an inside look at things, I have been amazed
at the work that Jim Miller and the Carey family do to make the most of this
hidden Midwest gem. For those of you who have never played Hawthorne, I
highly recommend it and I promise you will not be disappointed.
Stay tuned for
exclusive Chicago Dark Horse coverage for HRN throughout the fall meet!
See you at the Gold Cup in October!