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
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.
spring stakes schedule has gotten an upgrade.
The purse for the Grade 3 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 3rd
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 3, $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 1 winners in Life at Ten and Jessica is
Back. Nominations for this storied race
close on April 11th 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% to 20%.
The $.50 Pick 5 will be back this spring with a low takeout of 14%. 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
For those fans that 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
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
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
“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,
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.