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Hawthorne Officials Pleased With Meet

Published: February 8, 2016 4:32 pm ET

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After a seven-year absence from Hawthorne Race Course, harness racing returned to the ‘Stickney Spa’ for a short four-week meet that kicked off on January 8. If the numbers that were put up are a sign of things to come, racing fans will be in for a treat when the Standardbreds return to Hawthorne in May for an extended five-month meet.

With ‘Mother Nature’ cooperating and fans throughout the country embracing the very competitive racing, the 22-card meet averaged more than $916,000 on the mainly 10-race programs, with $50,000 of that total coming on track. Those numbers far exceeded management’s expectations, lending further hope for a very successful summer meeting.

“The support we received from everywhere around the country was just tremendous,” said the track’s publicity director and racing analyst, Jim Miller. “I would also like to thank TVG Network for all the support they gave us showing every card from start to finish. That is something we haven’t had for harness racing here in Illinois and that had a great impact on the handle.”

Longshot players enjoyed the non-stop action at Hawthorne, as favourites clicked at less than a 36 per cent clip. There were several $100+ win mutuels throughout the meet, with the highlight being the $110,906 payout in the 20-cent Jackpot High Five on Friday, January 29.

The horsemen certainly did their part to support the product as well, as they filled the entry box night after night for the track’s racing secretary, Peter Hanley. The meet featured three 11-horse fields, 174 ten-horse fields, 36 nine-horse fields, 12 eight-horse fields, and just one 7-horse field and one 6-horse field.

“Considering the fact this was my first time working in the Chicago market, the horsemen were just super to work with,” said Hanley. “I really think we developed a great relationship with them and we did our best to get everyone raced as much as possible. It’s pretty amazing when you can say that 97 per cent of your races featured full fields.”

Casey Leonard continued to dominate the local driving ranks, as he took home his first Hawthorne title over Simon Allard and Todd Warren. The training title came down to the final races of the Saturday card, with veteran Jim Ellison edging out Ronnie Roberts, Terry Leonard and Alex Adam by a single win. The fastest mile of the meet was recorded by Burke Racing & Weaver Bruscemi’s Ontario Success, who stopped the clock in 1:51.1 for trainer Roger Welch.


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