– For the first time since the 2002 spring meet when Jesse Campbell and Shane
Laviolette tied, two riders could not be separated atop the standings at the
end of a Hawthorne
racing meet. When the meet closed on
Saturday, April 30, jockeys Tanner Riggs and Jozbin Santana were atop the
jockey standings with 49 wins apiece for the spring meet. The title was the second in Riggs carrer,
following his first title last fall and the first in the career of Santana.
On the training end, Joel Berndt also grabbed his second
consecutive training title, sending out 30 winners, followed by Frank Kirby
with 27. One of Kirby’s top owners,
Eagle Valley Farm, earned honors as leading owner with 11 wins this spring.
The spring meet saw a little bit of everything at Hawthorne. Ten days before the meet was to open, a
blizzard of historic proportions dropped over 20 inches of snow on the Hawthorne racing
surface. The track crew did yeoman’s
work to have the track open for training just two days later, but the snow
removal lasted weeks into the meet.
While snow dominated the start of the meet, rain closed out the Hawthorne spring, raining
every day off the turf in the final two weeks, leading to many scratches.
March brought about a struggle to fill races as the schedule
changed from 2010 to 2011. In 2010, Hawthorne was supplied 10-12 horses daily from downstate Fairmount Park which was a necessity to boost
field size. With Fairmount
Park opening six weeks earlier in
2011, fields at Hawthorne
were affected, dropping slightly from the 2010 levels of 7.32 to 7.23 in 2011.
On track, the racing was strong as purse levels were
increased from 2010 due to fine work between Hawthorne and ITHA staff to recoup
past purse overpayments. The purse
levels brought increased quality of racing to Hawthorne and allowed for many local stakes
horses to get early season preps.
The featured race of the meet, the Grade 3, $300,000 TVG
Illinois Derby attracted a full field of 12.
Trainer Todd Pletcher was prominent once again in the Derby as his Joe Vann was victorious. Joe Vann is on his way to a fine career with
the next mentioned step for him being the Grade 2 Peter Pan at Belmont on May 14. In addition to Joe Vann, Illinois Derby
favorite Watch Me Go is slated to run in the Kentucky Derby this upcoming
Illinois Champions Day once again provided many fine
performances. While a couple of hard
knocking runners in Catalina Way and Denham had fine victories at the right
time, the youngsters provided a sign the Illinois breeding industry is still
strong. For the three-year-old boys,
Luck With a Kiss ran to a strong win in the Land of Lincoln
stakes and three-year-old filly Our Lady in Red posted to most impressive win
on the Champions Day card in the Pretty Jenny Stakes.
“Overall, we faced some tough obstacles this spring, but our
staff worked very hard to overcome everything that was thrown at them,” stated
Assistant General Manager Jim Miller.
“Our track crew was incredible. With the massive amount of snow that
fell this winter, to not lose any racing days and only four days of training
was a credit to the job done by Track Superintendant Greg Cardenas and his
“In regards to filling races, Racing Secretary Gary Duch and
his staff did a great job with what we had to work with. Losing those 10-12 horses a day that we
normally get from Fairmount
Park was a huge hit to us
and the difference between an increase or decrease in field size and handle
this spring. Without the hard work of
our staff and assistance from the likes of Frank Kirby, Joel Berndt, Manny Perez
and many others, it would have been an ever larger struggle to fill races.
“It is very hard to do a handle comparison for this spring
meet as this year we did not race on Sundays.
We also ran many more eight race cards to maintain what we could for
field size. Between the snowfall that
put some trainers behind at the start of the meet and the 7.45 inches of rain
that fell on the area in April, the most in 50 years, we had to abandon turf
races in the final two weeks. We had a
lot that didn’t work out our way.
“The only true handle comparison that we have is on a per
race basis, which has us down about 8% per race for the spring. We are never satisfied with a handle
decrease, but we are already meeting to see what can be done to improve our
racing product and marketing efforts for upcoming meets.
“Now the focus is on passing legislation to provide slots at
racetracks in Illinois. All of our state’s racetracks are suffering
due to a loss in handle and horses as surrounding racing jurisdictions have
gaming. The tracks and horsemen’s groups
have worked very closely together to get this legislation passed to save our
industry. If we are successful, Illinois racetracks will provide some of the highest
purses in the country and also give a much needed infusion to the breeding
program in Illinois.”
Hawthorne Race Course is in its 102nd year of racing under
Carey family ownership. Hawthorne is open daily
for full card simulcasting. Live racing
returns to Hawthorne
on Saturday, October 1 and runs through December 31.. For more information on
racing at Hawthorne,
visit our website at www.Hawthorneracecourse.com