By Mike Paradise
Like many Illinois harness horseman Hawthorne’s summer meet couldn’t get here fast enough for trainer Kim Roth.
“I’m thrilled that Hawthorne is opening,” said the Oak Lawn, Illinois native. “Their winter meet was good to me and I’m hoping we’ll do well at the summer meet, too. I’m really looking forward to it.”
Hawthorne’s four nights a week summer meeting that stretches from tomorrow’s opening night start through the end of September gets under way with a 12-race card Friday evening with a bevy of events for fillies and mares.
Roth has spent much of the past three months getting ready and eagerly awaiting the summer session after her fruitful January at the in-town facility.
Kim horses visited the Hawthorne winner’s circle nine times at the 5 and 1/2 week winter meet, only three less than the meet’s leading trainer Jim Ellison. Leading the way for Kim was the 3-year-old ICF filly pacer Whiskersonkittens, victorious in her last three starts at Hawthorne.
Whiskeronkiittens wasn’t staked as a 2-year-old but she’ll get her chance this summer against the best in her division. She’s eligible to Hawthorne’s Plum Peachy stake series after putting over $18,000 on her card earlier this year for her owner and breeder Ron Knupp of Anna, Illinois.
(Four Footed Photo)
A daughter of Party At Artsplace, Whiskersonkittens is the second foal out of Knupp’s broodmare Out Of The West. Little Hank (1:53.4) was her first
“My owner (Ron Knupp) is a real good guy and pretty much lets me do what I want with his horses. He decided to make both Whiskersonkittens and Party Falls eligible for these 3-year-old Illinois bred Series at Hawthorne.”
Can we expect to see Whiskersonkittens at the beginning of the summer meet?
“It’ll be a few weeks before ‘Whiskers’ is ready to race,” replied Kim. “I got her down to around “20” right now. Both horses kind of got a late start. Ron had them at his place in Anna and they had some bad weather there.
“Party Falls will probably miss his (Hawthorne) Series. He’s further behind than ‘Whiskers’ He’s down to ‘25’.
There’s excitement in Kim’s voice when she talks about “Whiskers.”
“The filly is a beast. She loves to compete and just loves her job. She raced very well at Hawthorne in January and had a very good 2-year-old season. She wasn’t eligible for any of the ICF stakes. It’s just too expensive to stake a horse in this state especially when you don’t what what’s happening with the Illinois bred stakes setup right now.
“Not too many owners want to take the risk (a $1,750 nomination fee) when they don’t what their horse will race for. We still don’t know yet about the purses for the Cardinal or Violet or what’s going on this summer at in Springfield.”
Roth has also had past success at Hawthorne when the Stickney, Illinois facility was hosting harness racing in 2006, 2007 and 2008.
Kim had a number of good horses in her barn back then like Prime Xample A, Jo Pa’s Bench Mark, Officer Joe, Saint Nicklaus, Distant Color, Wesley Snip and Apache Jake.
Prime Xample swept Hawthorne’s Sox Series in 2007 including its $33,800 Final for Rock N Roll Stables of Chicago.
“Prime Xample brings back some fond memories at Hawthorne,” said Kim. “I still have picture on my wall of her winning there with Dave Magee. (See posted Four Footed Photo)
Prime Xample came to the United States at the age of five in the spring of 2007 and made over $71,000 that season. She competed into her 8-year-old season in 2010 and is now a broodmare for her Chicago owners Rock And Roll Stables, Inc.,
“That mare has an outstanding colt racing out east,” said Kim. “His name is Americanprimetime and he’s a monster. He won a couple of weeks ago in 51 on a half (Yonkers).”
By Mike Paradise
We could see a rare major change on the placement of Chicago circuit harness races for Hawthorne’s summer meet.
As far back as I can remember all Illinois harness tracks have carded its top class open races on a Saturday, and for a good reason. That’s when a racetrack drew its largest onsite crowd, producing its highest mutuel handle.
However a lot has changed in our industry through the years.
Now the vast majority of a race track’s nightly handle comes off track from various additional venues such as other race tracks, sports betting facilities, home computers and personal phone devices.
It’s evident the racetracks with the influx of Casino monies can offer much better purses to land the top-notch horses from some of the better stables.
Knocking heads nation-wide every Saturday night against racetracks with two and three times the purse money on top-notch races makes it an arduous task to get some of the better open horses to compete here in Illinois.
And it’s been that way for many for years
That’s why Hawthorne iwill move its Invites, Opens and high-level conditioned races to Sundays and make that its “class night.”
“By switching those races to Sundays we don’t have to go against the big boys around the rest of the country,” said Tom Kelley, Hawthorne’s Director of Harness Racing Operations. “Hopefully this way we could catch some of the better horses that may not have gotten in at Hoosier and Scioto etc. on a Friday night or Saturday night.
“There are only a few tracks that race on Sundays and with a classy card we should get most of the attention from the horse racing bettor and have good-size pools on our Sunday night races, producing seven-figure total handles on a regular basis.
“I’ve talked to some trainers who race in Indiana and Ohio and they’ve told me that if some of their good horses don’t get in there and we offer a nice purse they would ship to Chicago for a Sunday race.”
I like the concept. It’s a bit of a gamble but if it doesn’t work Hawthorne can always switch back to the old way of writing their condition sheet.
The Saturday cards should do just fine even with most of the classier races shifting to Sundays. Much of the Hawthorne’s stake races will be raced on Saturdays along with some of the Late Closer Series and the mid-level claiming and conditioned races.
Balmoral Park handled very well on Sundays with the scant competition and most of the time with low-end races and diminutive purses.
The beefing-up of Hawthorne’s Sunday cards is expected to begin on May 15. There is no live racing this Sunday evening at the Stickney, IL racetrack.
Hawthorne Notes: The first of Hawthorne’s regular Wednesday qualifiers are scheduled this morning beginning at 11 o’clock. Qualifiers will also be held this week on Saturday morning. Trainers should enter their horses by 10 am on Friday.
Qualifying time for a pacer is 2:03 and 2:05 for a trotter. Two-year-olds are allowed two seconds and three-year-olds one second.
By Mike Paradise
Hawthorne’s much anticipated first summer harness racing meeting in eight years arrives Friday night to the big in-town track located just on the western outskirts of the Windy City.
If its January winter meeting is any indication, Hawthorne’s five-month long summer session should do just fine. Its winter meet exceeded mutuel handle expectations, both on and off track.
The average handle was $916,596 with $90,000-plus of that amount in-state showing that despite Illinois sad state of financial affairs its harness racing handles continue to be among the highest in the country.
Some changes have already been made for Hawthorne’s summer’s meet. The IRB approved five-night-a-week format was scraped by Hawthorne for a Thursday through Sunday arrangement. Nevertheless the 45 races a week agreed on by the IHHA and Hawthorne in their contract will be honored in new the four-night set-up.
After the late closing series during the winter meet saw the Hawthorne Racing Office entry box stuffed Race Secretary Pete Hanley decided to “roll the dice” and posted Late Closers for twentyseparate summer series, 16 for pacers of each sex, and for both ICF horses and open company steeds, along with a four series for trotters.
Those series range from non-winners of two, with an estimated $9,000 final, all the way up to a “winner’s over” with a likely $15,000 championship pot on the line. Just how many of these series will garner enough nominations to be conducted have not been decided yet.
I’ll pass that information along when it becomes available.
With just about every major harness track racing at this time of the year the main concern for the Hawthorne meet is the horse population. Will there be enough to fill 45 races a week?
Maybe I’m a bit of an optimist but I believe so, although some cheap claimers at times will double-up and race on a Thursday and back on a Sunday.
About 200 more horses will be stabled at Hawthorne for the summer than they had for the winter session when a couple of hundred thoroughbreds were still in its barns awaiting the spring meet that concluded just yesterday (Sunday).
The number of harness horses that will ship-in to race at Hawthorne from the Springfield area and other farms in Illinois, along with those who train at the south suburban equine facilities near the now defunct Balmoral Park, could be 150 to 200 more.
I expect we’ll see a number of arrivals to the Chicago circuit from Indiana and maybe even from Ohio since there are an abundance of horses being entered at racetracks in both of those jurisdictions thanks to the influx of Casino monies still sadly lacking in our dysfunctional Prairie State.
The number of Indiana and Ohio invaders to Hawthorne will increase, perhaps significantly, sometime in June when the 2-year-olds start racing.
First post nightly at Hawthorne will be at 7:20 pm (Central daylight) local time.