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The Dark Horse

Hawthorne Spring Meet Starts With A Bang!

Hawthorne Race Course started their spring meet this last weekend and my friend Jeff Furlong and I had the pleasure of visiting this last Sunday.  Here are my observations from opening weekend and my trip to Cicero!

Hot Starts

To no one’s surprise, Roger Brueggemann started right where he left off in the fall (as the fall meet winner) with seven victories already out of 27 races!  Frank Kirby, Brian Williamson, and Chris Dorris all have three victories each and certainly are in early contention for the training title.  For the riders, Florent Geroux and Constantino Roman jumped to the early lead with five victories a piece while Inez Karlsson had three wins already too!

The Dirt Oval

The mild Chicago winter has certainly been kind to the South side race track.  Without the normal freezing temperatures this time of year the track was in superb condition.  Jeff and I got a nice up-close look at the track during race 9 on Sunday and it really did look good.  I have to hand it to Greg Cardenas and the grounds crew for their dedication and work on the surface.  As for the racing on the track, the early trend is that winners are coming from on or near the lead.  Sure, that’s not the case in 100% of the races, but there is a strong correlation in my opinion.  The weather has also been conducive to horses staying in the area to train and race.  Field sizes did not disappoint on opening weekend as we had 9.89 starters per race!  Impressive!

New Wagers and Handle

Starting this spring Hawthorne offered a $0.50 pick 4 to incentivize fans with a yet another new way to wager.  This seems to be a popular wager already as Pick 4 pools have been strong, including a late pick 4 pool Saturday of nearly $70,000 due to a carryover from the Friday late pick 4.  In fact Hawthorne must be doing something right as handle exceeded $2.1 million in each of the first three days of racing!  I even took a crack at the late Pick 4 (and for those of you who know my record with exotics, I’m sure you know the outcome).  However Hawthorne’s main man Jim Miller even hit two early pick 4’s over the weekend!  I ought to just take his picks!  I’m not giving up and I swear I will hit at least one pick 4 by the end of the meet.


And I’m not just talking about ozone!  One of the things I love best about Hawthorne is how close regular dudes like me can mingle, talk to, and try to get information from the racing insiders.  Just on Sunday Jeff and I visited with chart caller Dave Miller, got to meet race caller Peter Galassi, said hello to good friend Tom Dubrick, tried to poach some inside info from trainer Manny Perez, and we even got to watch a race replay with trainer Tammy Domenosky!  Later in the day we stopped to say hello to our jockey friend Chris Emigh and even later that evening we had the pleasure of meeting trainers Chris Dorris and Roger Brueggemann in the heated Hawthorne paddock!  How excellent is that?!   (…and Chris Russell I’ll catch up with you soon!)

Odds and Ends

  • The new TVG signal from Hawthorne is amazing.  When I got home from work on Friday I immediately turned on TVG to see how things looked and I was very impressed.  The screen was so much clearer than before and Jim’s interview with trainer Joel Berndt was looking sharp.
  • The food at Hawthorne is darn good!  
  • I got a first-hand look at the new box seating going in.  There will definitely be major enhancements in fan experience in the near future.  

Finally - A Horse of a Different Color

For those of you who have not yet heard, the Louisville Courier-Journal reported that Illinois Stewards have approved the dyeing of Hansen’s tail and mane should he be entered in the April 7th Illinois Derby!  Proceeds would then be donated to various horse racing-based charities.  Wow!  Hansen, you have my personal invitation to come to Chicago and run at Hawthorne!  

What have you liked thus far in the early stages of the spring meet?

Leave a comment below!!



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Older Comments about Hawthorne Spring Meet Starts With A Bang!...

Yes! Both Chicago tracks are great in their own way and give the fans great wagering value and fan experience!
Hey, just stopping by to "Like & Listen". Sounds like you all have a great track there!
I could have said that about Old Bay Meadows. Hoem tracks are like wearing old comfortable shoes
Actually, Vic, I feel at home there. There's something comforting about Hawthorne to me.
hawthorne is a funny old venue. Never the same any two days running
CDH...newest blog....K O A B D!! <3 the great news!! My exotics track record is about like yours but check even I'd be all in on a 50 cent pick 4!! Also WOW on the $2.1 mil handle 3 days straight at Hawthorne..def a very big deal and they for sure have to be doing something right not to mention the field sizes too!! Finally I get all the diehard racing ppls reaction to Hansen getting his "hair did" for the Illinois Derby to some degree, but if its something first and foremost harmless to the horse and will draw more attention to racing and for the charity it will support then I am all for it!!! Another great read CDH, thanks!!
Jasen, we kinda played the races together... we'll need to find a better way of doing that!
Nice job Chris, the racing was very good Sunday & had a good time playing the races along with you.
Great start to the meet, but I am not on board with dying Hansen's mane and tail. Though if it brings in more money that can go to charity, then who am I to knock it?

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 (Whoa - it's me - the DARK HORSE)
Greetings and welcome to my "dark" blog!  I have been a fan of horse racing since I was about 12 years old.  Growing up in Minnesota, my dad would take me and my brothers to Canterbury Downs and I would practically beg to go every weekend!!  I made my first "big" score there hitting the win, place, and exacta in the same race at age 14 (pulled in $84 with horses named Railroad Red and Racers Dream!).  I even had a poster in my bedroom of Lost Code winning the 1987 St. Paul Derby!
While finishing school in Chicago, I spent every possible moment at Arlington Park with my dad.  We took the time to develop computer programs (on the ever popular Lotus 1-2-3 for DOS) to try to find patterns and handicap races more accurately.  My dad taught me a lot about handicapping races, paying particular attention to class moves!

Since then, I have become more involved with horse racing each passing year through a variety of different media-based roles. Once deemed the "second best racing ambassador in Chicago" (hey I've been called worse), 
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