Now I know that the list of race tracks I had visited in my life consisted of two (Arlington and Canterbury) until very recently. I have to say though; I wish I would have discovered Hawthorne a lot sooner! And even to the last race of this fall meet, the track continued to put together great cards and full fields. Brian W. Spencer told me on the final day at Arlington that I would really enjoy Hawthorne's fall meet, and he was so right.
Hawthorne got off to a great start to their fall meet with a couple of stakes in early October. 7-1 shot Happy Henrietta took the lead and never looked back in the Indian Maid Stakes on Hawthorne’s turf course. Later that day Breeders’ Cup Classic participant Headache set off the pace and stormed home to a half-length victory with Paco Lopez aboard in the Hawthorne Gold Cup. Rounding out the October 8th card was a victory by local favorite Princeville Condo in the Robert F. Carey Memorial Stakes.
(Headache storms to victory in the Hawthorne Gold Cup)
The next weekend featured one of my favorite local runners, Willcox Inn. The post-time favorite waiting for his turn then weaved through traffic and took over in the stretch for a 4+ length victory in the Hawthorne Derby (beating Suntracer yet again).
(Willcox Inn gets an easy victory in the Hawthorne Derby)
And yet the following weekend Illinois-Bred horses were in the spotlight for the Illinois festival of racing. There we saw victories by Peyote Patty, Sweet Luca at 14-1, Class Break, a dominating performance by Third Chance, Four Left Feet also at 14-1, and finally a 2-length victory by Big Looie. And if you want to talk about value, only one post-time favorite won out of those six stake races. Wow.
The final stake race of the month featured a horse that none of us really knew would take to the turf. Tim Ice trained No Spin with Eddie Perez aboard took the Royal Glint stakes by three lengths. When I asked Tim why he decided to run No Spin on the grass, he told me that the horse just really seemed to like the turf during workouts. I can tell you that I honestly didn’t expect that good of a performance out of No Spin, but I was happy to see him win.
The month of December featured two more stakes races with Class Break winning yet again in the Illinois Debutante Stakes and Real Power taking the Jim Edgar Futurity at 5-1.
Hawthorne did provide great value to the fans not only at the track, but at the windows as well. So as I was pouring over some stats for this blog entry, I noticed that the meet-winning jockey, Florent Geroux, even with 71 wins and a 22% winning percentage STILL had an average win payout of $8.40. Seriously! Apprentice jockey Constantino Roman also had a great fall meet with 57 wins and an average win payout for the fans of $10.60. Seriously! I think that’s pretty amazing for the two best riders of the meet. Don’t you? Trainer Roger Brueggemann and owners Midwest Thoroughbreds also took home fall meet titles as well. Still not convinced that there is value? Well even I hit a big long shot this meet and also during the very last race of the meet a 49-1 shot took home the victory (and the mandatory super high five paid 1st-2nd-ALL-ALL-ALL!).
Perhaps we have also seen the final rides of two amazing local Chicago jockeys in 2011. Tanner Riggs and Jerry La Sala, we salute you! Thank you for your years of service to the Chicago racing community!
Hawthorne was the (perhaps unfortunate) lucky recipient of my television debut. On October 20th I took on Jim Miller in his weekly handicapping contest. Besides forgetting who I write for on live TV and getting off to a horrible start (my horse finished dead last in race 1) the day turned out to be amazing as not only did Jim allow me to preview each race with him in the paddock, but I eeked out a win in the contest.
I’m also pleased to see how well Hawthorne takes care of the bloodstock. First, the horses, jocks, and trainers really must enjoy the underground, heated paddock. Then, I noticed especially in December that the horses don’t start heading to the gate until six minutes to post! Although, this year it really didn’t matter much since it was such a mild winter thus far.
1) Dang, the stretch at Hawthorne is very long! Horses need that extra bit of stamina to either hang onto the lead or close with power at the end.
2) My son Gabriel thinks that Hawthorne has the best “esculators” around!
3) The call to the post plays the extra second part that I really like.
4) I hit the biggest long shot of my life at Hawthorne this year (Rock Island Express at 55-1).
5) If you are reading this and never experienced handicapping and wagering at Hawthorne, then I really think you’re missing out and you should think about taking a crack at it in the spring.
Well, I must honestly say that I was impressed with my first Hawthorne meet and I look forward many more visits and wagering opportunities!
Finally to paraphrase Clement Moore…And I heard him (Peter Galassi) exclaim as he drove through the air… “49-1 Happy New Year!”
Photos courtesy of Four Footed Fotos