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By Mike Paradise
When Hawthorne got what it wanted from the Illinois Racing Board at the Race Date Hearings, no 2017 winter harness meeting and only an 80-night summer session, it may discover “it won the battle but lost the war.”
This year’s winter meet was a money-maker for the racetrack and without it Hawthorne’s not-so-hot summer meet would have been poorer handle-wise, horse wise, and driver and trainer wise.
Seven long months without harness racing on the Chicago circuit will insure that next year’s figures plunge even-more. Yes that’s just my opinion and while I want to be an optimist, I am a realist.
No winter meet next year was primarily done by Hawthorne to accommodate the thoroughbred horsemen who want to use the track as a training facility until their first meet opens on March 2. Meanwhile the harness horsemen wanted to be at Hawthorne in January to eke out a living.
The Standardbred stables still in Illinois will have no option but to leave the state for other racing venues. If Hawthorne really thinks they are all coming back to race for smaller purses on a racing surface that wasn’t up to par on many a night, they are living in a Dream World,
Revenue wise 2016 will be a very good year for Hawthorne
The racetrack was the night-time host track for full-card simulating all of 2016 and its cut this year will be over $7 million dollars. Add another $900,000-plus in “Recapture” money from the harness horsemen’s purse account, and you can see there is no need to have any fund raising events for the Hawthorne shareholders.
And in 2017 “Recapture” taken out of the harness horsemen’s purse account will grow to about $1.5 million. The primary reason is that this year Hawthorne purchased the Oak Brook and Crestwood OTBs after Balmoral and Maywood Parks went belly-up. Both are older parlors hence they produce additional steady stream of more “Recapture” revenue to the racetrack unlike a newer OTB would.
As pointed out in the IHHA pre-race date letter to the Racing Board: Requesting only 80 race dates from May to September, would reduce racing opportunities by over 22% from 2016 and by a staggering 69% in just the past six years.”