One-Time Country’s Best Program is No More

By Mike Paradise
At one time the Chicago circuit had the best racing program in the country available to its players. Unfortunately that too as nosedived over the last decade and what was put out by Hawthorne at its recent meet was particularly sub-par for content.
The left side of the program still has the past performance lines courtesy of the USTA but with a poor quality computer generated morning line that doesn’t even offer the player anything that indicates if a horse is going up, down, or is at the same class in the race.
The program line was especially poor when the two-year-olds began racing and when horses came in from other racetracks.
A good example came on Sunday’s closing night when OK Heavenly, who set a track record of 1:50.4 for an aged pacing mare in her last Hawthorne start prior to a third-place finish in a tough Hoosier Park $21,000 Invitational, was listed at 9-2 odds in a $10,000 Open.
OK Heavenly won rather easily Sunday and paid only $3.80 as the 4-5 overwhelming public’s choice.
Up until this year the right side of the program had a comment on every horse in the race. Now there is a comment on only three horses with a bigger type size to fill the designated hole..
The same Computer Analysis first used in the 1980’s in still there. Gone are any stories on tonight’s races, any features on horses, drivers or trainers, any human interest articles, or any pictures.
However there was no shortage of Hawthorne Racetrack Promos on everything from its OTB parlors, its Buffets, its non-racing related advertising, and other items that didn’t help the bettor one bit.
Front page stories were rare, very rare. There was one on Sunday’s program and this was offered to its readers:
“Incidentally, Incredible Tillie Championship winner Princess Sage returns in tonight’s 10th race, The Violet for 2-year-old filly Pacers while Fox Valley Flan returns in tonight’s ninth race, The Violet for 2-year-old filly Trotters. Princess Sage might be the one to beat in her event but Fox Valley Flan will once again have to face Ana’s Lucky Star who is undefeated through six lifetime starts and who defeated Fox Valley Elana in their three previous meetings.”
Fox Valley Flan last competed in 2006 and has been a broodmare since 2007 so obviously she wasn’t racing in the Violet Trot. And it’s “Anna’s” Lucky Star. Not “Ana.”
If this is what Hawthorne delivers on a front cover story maybe nothing written is a less an embarrassing choice.
As far as the racing program’s $3.00 price, it’s way overpriced.
The actual cost to the racetrack to print a program hasn’t gone up this century. Since it has no competition on sale at the track or the OTBs, and it has the only necessary information to handicap a race, the track can put any a price tag on it, just as long as the IRB approves and they always have.
For years when the Chicago tracks wanted to boost income a bit they went to previous Illinois Racing Boards and requested another 50 cent hike “crying about the increasing cost of paper.” While the cost of paper was going up, the cost of printing the program wasn’t.
The tracks just ordered paper by bulk and got cheaper and cheaper paper. At one time the color and the texture got so bad it looked and felt like the paper you dry your hands with in the Men’s Room.
Come to think of it with recycling, maybe it was.