notes – Feb. 19

Hawthorne Race Course release

Illinois Racing Season Opens Friday at Hawthorne

STICKNEY, Ill. – In the midst of a winter that has included both record snowfall and record cold temperatures, the weather looks to break this weekend as the Hawthorne spring meet kicks off.  While the fall meet ended with some uncertainty as to the future of racing in the state, an extension to the Advanced Deposit Wagering bill in Illinois was approved at the end of January to insure a full racing schedule for 2014.  Horsemen have had to play catch-up quickly to prepare for the opener but many are ready to run as 69 horses are entered on the opening day card.

While we are in the midst of winter, spring is just around the corner and will be highlighted by a stakes schedule that covers a pair of days at the end of April.  The highlighted day is April 19, as $850,000 in stakes races will be contested, with the feature being the 57th running of the Grade 3, $500,000 Illinois Derby. Early closing for the Illinois Derby is Feb. 14, and is once again positioned to draw a large and competitive field.  In 2013, Departing used the Illinois Derby as a prep for the Preakness, following that race with victories in the Grade 2 West Virginia Derby and the Grade 2 Super Derby.

Joining the Grade 3 Illinois Derby on April 19 will also be the Grade 3 Sixty Sails Handicap.  The $150,000 event for fillies and mares will be contested at 1 1/8 miles on Hawthorne’s main track.  In addition to the two Grade 3 events, older Illinois-bred sprinters will also take to the track on April 19.  Older state-bred males will sprint in the $100,000 added Robert S. Molaro Handicap while state-bred females will race in the $100,000 added Third Chance Handicap.

The following weekend, on April 26, four $100,000 added stakes events for Illinois-bred runners will take place.  Three-year-olds will be featured in the Land of Lincoln Stakes for the boys and Pretty Jenny Stakes for females.  Older runners will go two turns as males face off in the Milwaukee Avenue Handicap while female runners contest the Peach of It Handicap.

Many of the mainstays at Hawthorne return on the training and riding end.  Past meet training champions Roger Brueggemann, Mike Reavis and Frank Kirby will have full stables of runners this spring.  They will be joined by large stables of Chris Dorris, Chris Block, Brian Williamson, John Haran, and Manny Perez.

Multiple meet leading rider Tim Thornton is back to defend his title as he will be joined by veterans Eddie Perez, Marlon St. Julien, and Rafael Hernandez.  The females made their mark last fall and a pair of female apprentice riders return as Stephanie Slinger and Heidi Rose are back in the Hawthorne jocks room.

As always, the best rewards program in the country is available as Club Hawthorne is free to sign up for and points can be earned on all races wagered on at Hawthorne and any Club Hawthorne OTB location.  An extension of our popular first floor box seat areas as new boxes have been created and expanded food service will be available in those boxes every racing day.  For details on seating in that area, visit Guest Services on the first floor.  As in the past, our partnership with TVG continues for fans who aren’t able to see every race live at Hawthorne.  Finally, admission to Hawthorne is free every day.  We want fans to come out and join us for the great racing action!

“The has been a very tough winter on everyone,” stated Hawthorne President and General Manager Tim Carey.  “Our track crew has done a great job to allow for us to train as much as we have during this dark period.  That being said, we know many horsemen are behind in their training but as things warm up, we expect they will catch up quickly.  I expect us to gather momentum as the meet progresses and I’m looking forward to another strong Illinois Derby in April.”