Race of the Week 2017
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The Dark Horse

Hawthorne's Fall Meet Is About To Liftoff!!

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 fall!











































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 AlternationWHOA.  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! 
Additionally to 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!  


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Older Comments about Hawthorne's Fall Meet Is About To Liftoff!!...

I have got to add the Chicago tracks to my list of tracks attended! Some how.
Chris, you're articles lead me to follow Hawthorne more last year than any other. I'm ready for it to get going again this year & keep up the great Windy City coverage!
Makes me want to be there !!! Great article Chris !! Hawthorne is growing... Yea !!
I Have always loed hawthorne the long strech run the closenes seem you alwasys run in to someone you know or havent seen in long time love the feel of old time real horse racing on DIRT
I Have always loed hawthorne the long strech run the closenes seem you alwasys run in to someone you know or havent seen in long time love the feel of old time real horse racing on DIRT
Reading this makes me want to go to Hawthorne now ... are they open today???
Nice review CDH...I'm looking very forward to this meet. Hawthorne offers up a big bang for the buck!
Agree with CDH! Hawthorne is a hidden gem. Facilities upgraded and the great Jim Miller is the pinball wizard behind the track's renaissance. Nice article, Chris.

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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!
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