By Mike Paradise
While the catchphrase “Fair and Balanced” is the staple slogan of the Fox News Channel it can also be accurately applied to the Illinois harness racing stake schedule inaugurated last year at Hawthorne Race Course and enriched for this summer’s meeting.
. The move to conduct a number of stake series legs and use a point system to determine the finalists for the season’s premier ICF championships proved to be a popular modification with Illinois horse owners, their trainers and the betting public.
“I do think the change worked out well,” said IHHA Director Josh Carter who again spearheaded the stake schedule negotiations. “The feedback I got was pretty positive on it. I’m glad Hawthorne wanted to stay with that type of format.
“The original concept to switch to this type of format was made by (former long-time IHHA board member) Roger Welch who thought that maybe we ought to look at what Indiana has been doing successfully with their series.
“My original version of our stakes schedule last year followed what we traditionally did with the Southland Festival and the same Super Night format.
“I then made another version just to see if we had enough money to come up with a series type format and when it did, people started to like the idea. We suggested it and Hawthorne was fine with it
“One of the benefits I think it has is to spread the money around more than the old eliminations format,” added Carter who serves on Committee’s for the IHHA regarding Legislative, Marking and Public Relations, Negotiating Contracts, Social Media, Purse Condition Sheet and Finance.
“With this format if your horse is good early in the year there’s a chance to make some money and if your horse comes around late in the year it can also make some money. This way everything doesn’t come down to one elimination night as far as getting into the final. I think for everybody that was the nerve-racking night more than Super Night.
“This format allows everybody a better chance to make the final and I think it does lend itself with the 10 best horses ultimately getting into the championship.”
This time around negotiations between the Hawthorne Race Office and the IHHA regarding ICF stakes went much smoother.
“Last year we (IHHA) had to take the lead in putting together the program. This year Robin (Schadt, Hawthorne’s new Race Secretary) did the bulk of the work on it and the process went quite a bit easier,” continued Carter, a horse owner from Williamsville, IL, part of the Springfield Metropolitan Area.
“Hawthorne decided they wanted to go with a similar stakes schedule as 2016. Our goal for 2017 was to have a comparable or slightly higher purse structure than last year which we have accomplished.
“In 2016 we spent just over $1.5 million out of the purse account on ICF stakes The anticipated amount this year will fall somewhere between $1.7 and $1.8 million and that will depend, of course, on the number of divisions within the legs which is hard to predict at this point.
“Based on last year’s numbers and the changes we’ve made I think we’ll see somewhere between a $200,000 and a $300,000 increase for those total purses. The first two series legs this year will go for $12,000 and legs three and four will go for $16,000. Last year it was $10,000 and $12,500 for the trotters and $12,500 and $15,000 for the pacers.”
“We encourage everybody to get those stake nominations in. The deadline for the 3-year-olds is Feb. 15, which is next Wednesday. For 2-year-olds it’s April 15.”
Note the Change: The original stake schedule had Hawthorne hosting the Cardinal and Violet stakes in early September. Instead they have been moved two months earlier with eliminations on July 1 and 2 and the finals one week later so they no longer conflict with the 2017 Du Quoin race dates of Aug. 26 and Aug. 27.
The revise and correct stakes schedule can be found both on the Hawthorne and IHHA web-sites.
By Mike Paradise