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Extended Hawthorne Meet Starts Sat.

Published: February 12, 2020 3:46 pm ET

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Saturday evening (Feb. 15) will mark the start of harness racing at Hawthorne Race Course and will mark 50 years after the first harness meet was conducted at the Stickney oval in 1970.

The schedule for racing in Illinois takes a slight adjustment this season, as construction of a new racing and casino venue will begin on the grounds of Hawthorne Race Course. With construction ongoing during the day, a one-year hiatus from spring Thoroughbred racing will take place and be replaced by evening harness racing on weekends.

The 92-night expanded harness season will kick off on Saturday, February 15 at Hawthorne, as the nearly eight month long season will give Standardbred horsepeople in Illinois an opportunity to earn more over a longer racing period. In February, live racing will be conducted every Saturday and Sunday evening. In March, Friday evening cards will be added, with Hawthorne racing three days per week from March through the meet end on Sunday, September 20.

The focus at Hawthorne Race Course in 2020 is on Illinois-bred racing, as the entire stakes schedule will be comprised of races for Illinois-restricted horses. The stakes schedule culminates on closing weekend, as over $1 million in purses will be distributed on Night of Champions weekend. Opportunities for open-company horses will be aplenty, though, as a strong overnight program will offer up to 12 races per night, with the focus on larger field size and quality racing.

Leading driver Casey Leonard will return in 2020 and is coming off of a great 2019 campaign that saw him win 188 races at Hawthorne. Kyle Wilfong, who compiled a strong 122 win meet in 2019, will also be back. While Kyle Husted is briefly sidelined, he will return to the driving colony early in the racing season. Travis Seekman will be returning after a good 2019 season, while the father/son combo of Todd and Ridge Warren will both be in the bike to open the meet.

Trainer Terry Leonard has his stable ready early and he will be returning after a great 2019 season that saw his horses find the winner’s circle 70 times. A couple of Leonard’s top trainees have already been back on the track, as both Fox Valley Gemini and Fox Valley Triton qualified last week. Nelson Willis will be back, as well as large contingents from the barns of Mike Brink, Steve Searle, Kyle Husted, and Brett Wilfong.

For the bettor, Hawthorne will again be featuring its low 15 per cent takeout wagers, as the track will be offering 50-cent Pick 5 which will begin with the card’s opening race, and a pair of 50-cent Pick 4 wagers, which will start in Race 3 and then on the final four races on each night’s card. Both the Pick 5 and Pick 4 will have carryovers attached to them if nobody selects five or four winners for the respective wagers. The 20-cent Jackpot High 5 will return for each night’s final race.

This year, a $2 Pick 6 wager has been added to the Hawthorne wagering menu. The Pick 6 is not a Jackpot wager, as any carryover and major pool will pay out any time six winners are selected in the sequence. A consolation pool has been attached to the Pick 6 nightly and will also be paid whenever there is a winner of the major pool in the Pick 6. The Pick 6 will have a 20 per cent takeout with 50 per cent of the major pool going to either a winning ticket with six winners or the carryover and the other 50 per cent being paid to that night’s minor or consolation pool. Win, place, and show wagers will again have just a 17 per cent takeout rate.

Hawthorne Race Course, ‘Chicago’s hometown track,’ will return for live harness racing on Saturday, February 15 and will race through Sunday, September 20. Post time nightly will be at 7:10 p.m. Fall Thoroughbreds will close out the year, as they will run from October 2 through December 26.

For more information, visit or contact Hawthorne at 708-780-3700.

(Hawthorne Race Course)

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