Turnaround Decade of Illinois Racing Begins

By Mike Paradise

Hawthorne Racecourse opens its 2020 harness racing meeting tomorrow (Saturday) evening in what promises to be a most about face decade in many years for the Illinois Standardbred industry.

All the optimism came to fruition when the Illinois Gambling Expansion bill was signed into law last year by Governor J.B. Pritzker providing that a new harness racing track and its “Racino” to be built in a south suburb of Cook County. The answers should be forthcoming in the months ahead as to its location and ownership.

Also, the Senate Bill 690 eliminates the legalized pilfering of the Illinois horsemen’s purse account of millions of dollars annually by the state’s racetracks, better known as “Recapture.”

Hawthorne LogoThe end of “Recapture” takes place the year after an Illinois track begins raking in the dough from slots and board games at its “Racino,” sharing a portion of that revenue with horsemen and thereby putting some of the new gaming money back into the same purse accounts the state’s racetracks have been appropriating from since 1999.

While Arlington management has said ”No” to applying for a “Racino” license and instead will continue to recapture millions of dollars from the Illinois thoroughbred horsemen’s purse account, Hawthorne said “Yes” to a “Racino” and as began work on a first class racing and gaming complex that could go a long way to one day revitalizing the area.

Hawthorne has been finishing up the remodeling of its racing/simulcasting side of its facility and getting ready to embark on the construction of the gaming portion of its structure.

While construction is going on during the daytime at Hawthorne, its “Business as Usual” at night with the first of 32 straight weekends of harness racing at Chicago’s in-town racetrack starting with tomorrow’s opening program.

After racing on Saturdays and Sundays in February, Friday racing will begin on March 6th. Hawthorne’s three-day-a-week format will continue through the rest of the 2020 meeting.

First post nightly is 7:10 pm with the opening race going off at 7:15.

Open’s Highlight Weekend: A threesome of $12,000 Opens head-up the initial weekend card. Saturday’s headliners are the fifth race Open Trot and the eighth race Open Pace. Both fields were drawn by groups.

The Merv Chupp stable’s Pine Dream, already a 1:55.2 winner this year in Ohio, was assigned the outside six post in the trot. The first five slots are manned by Muscular Babe, Kristy’sgingergal, Lindy’s Big Bang, Double A Cash Call and Scramble Camp.

Later in the evening the talented pacers Deweydiddonegood, He Gone Jack, Park Official, Account Rollover, Fox Valley Gemini, Castle Flight, Ponda’s Prospect, Bold And Brassy, Best Man Hanover, in that order, will slug it out.

Looking Ready: Trainer David Brooks sent out a trio of horses—Kinda Like Kori, Rock Jagger, Park Official—out for Monday’s Hawthorne qualifiers and all three ended up with first place finishes for the Cambridge, Illinois horseman.