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In an effort to help horsemen prepare for the upcoming Hawthorne summer meet Harness Racing Secretary Pete Hanley has announced that Hawthorne will host a "second round" of qualifiers this week which be conducted on Saturday, May 7th, prior to the start of the regular Saturday night program. The qualifiers will get underway at 4:30 p.m. with the live card getting started at 7:20 p.m. Entries will be accepted until 10 a.m. on Friday, May 6th for the Saturday qualifiers. Drivers participating in qualifiers are reminded that training suits or colors are mandatory for all qualifying sessions. Hawthorne will host live racing on Friday, May 6th and Saturday, May 7th this week. Post time will be 7:20 p.m. each night. There will be no live racing on Sunday, May 8th. Hawthorne will then begin its four night a week schedule (Thur-Sun) starting on Thursday, May 12th. Tom Kelley

Racing Secretary Peter Hanley would like to remind all horsemen that stall applications for the 2016 Summer Harness Racing meet at Hawthorne Race Course are due by April 1st. Racing will kick off on Friday, May 6th and Saturday, May 7th which is Kentucky Derby weekend. The following week Hawthorne will move to a four day a week schedule with live racing being conducted on a Thursday thru Sunday schedule. Post time each night during the Summer meet will be 7:20 p.m. (central). Qualifiers will be held on Wednesday morning's throughout the summer meet with the first qualifiers tentatively scheduled for Wednesday, May 4th. The deadline for nominations to all the "Have Em Ready To Roll" late closing series races is April 15th. The entry fee for all those events is $200. More information and nomination forms can be found at www.HawthorneRaceCourse.com. The deadline for the ICF 2yo stakes program is also April 15th. Information on that can be found on the Hawthorne website and also on the Illinois Harness Horsemen's Association website at www.harnessillinois.com Tom Kelley  

After a seven-year absence from the harness racing scene at Hawthorne Race Course the trotters and pacers returned to the Stickney spa for a short four-week meet which kicked off on Jan. 8th. If the numbers that were put up are a sign of things to come racing fans will be in for a treat when the standardbreds return to Hawthorne in May for an extended five-month meet.    With “mother-nature” cooperating and fans throughout the country embracing the very competitive racing the 22-card meet averaged more than $916,000 on the mainly 10 race programs with $50,000 of that total coming on track.  Those numbers far exceeded management’s expectations lending further hope for a very successful summer meeting.    “The support we received from everywhere around the country was just tremendous,” said Publicity Director and Racing Analyst Jim Miller. “I would also like to thank TVG Network for all the support they gave us showing every card from start to finish. That is something we haven’t had for harness racing here in Illinois and that had a great impact on the handle.”    Longshot players enjoyed the non-stop action at Hawthorne as favorites clicked at less than a 36% clip. There were several $100 + win mutuels throughout the meet with the highlight being the $110,906 payout in the 20 cent Jackpot High Five on Friday, Jan. 29th.    The horsemen certainly did their part to support the product as well filling the entry box night after night for Racing Secretary Peter Hanley.  The meet featured three 11-horse fields, 174 10-horse fields, 36 nine-horse fields, 12 8-horse fields, and just one 7-horse field and one 6-horse field.    “Considering the fact this was my first time working in the Chicago market the horsemen were just super to work with,” said Hanley. “I really think we developed a great relationship with them and we did our best to get everyone raced as much as possible. It’s pretty amazing when you can say that 97% of your races featured full fields.”    Casey Leonard continued to dominate the local driving ranks taking home his first Hawthorne title over Simon Allard and Todd Warren. The training title came down to the final races of the Saturday card with veteran Jim Ellison edging out Ronnie Roberts, Terry Leonard and Alex Adam by a single win. The fastest mile of the meet was recorded by Burke Racing & Weaver Bruscemi’s Ontario Success who stopped the clock in 1:51.1 for trainer Roger Welch.    ABOUT HAWTHORNE RACE COURSE   Founded in 1891, Hawthorne Race Course is the 4th oldest racetrack in the nation and the oldest sporting venue in Illinois.  Located in Stickney, Illinois on the edge of Chicago’s city limits, the 125 year old facility hosts thoroughbred racing in the Spring and Fall/Winter, and standardbred harness racing in January and the Summer.  The family-owned and operated business has been an innovator in horseracing for more than 100 years and features the nation’s most rewarding players program.  For additional information: www.HawthorneRaceCourse.com | Facebook.com/ClubHawthorne |     

STICKNEY, IL - Friday night at Hawthorne had the final two series finals for the winter harness racing meet as the females were featured in the Pretty Direct and Ohyouprettything Pacing Series. Race seven was the Pretty Direct Pacing Series final as a field of eight lined up. The favorite was Whiskersonkittens as she had driver Robert Smolin had won each of the first two legs of the series. At the start of the Pretty Direct final it was Pacifire that tried to leave for the lead but had to work a bit to clear Fox Valley Brooke. Lovethewayoulook made an early move on the backstretch to take over into the far turn. After a half in :57.3, Lovethewayoutlook was challenged by If I Didn't Dream while Whiskersonkittens circled five wide. In the stretch, the momentum of Whiskersonkittens carried her to the victory as the 7-5 choice in 1:55.1. Fox Valley Gypsy finished a half-length back in second while If I Didn't Dream was third. Whiskersonkittens swept all three races in the series for owner Ronald Knupp. She is trained by Kimberly Roth. The following race was the final of the Ohyouprettything Pacing Series as a field of ten lined up. The heavy favorite was Mystical Nectar as she looked to sweep the series. Early on, there were numerous lead changes as eventually second choice Fox Valley Bailey led the field into the turn. While favorite Mystical Nectar was starting to move from far back, Lollipop and Todd Warren got the jump and grabbed the lead into the stretch. The 38-1 shot Lollipop was able to hold off the late move of 55-1 shot Girls Girls Girls for the victory. Mystical Nectar finished third. Lollipop is owned by James Reynolds and Combs Investments, Inc. and trainer by Ronnie Roberts. Jim Miller

STICKNEY, IL - Thursday night at Hawthorne featured the final in the Dygert Trotting Series. The series was for harness racing colts, horses, and geldings that were non-winners of three pari-mutuel races or $15,000 lifetime as of December 1, 2015. The first two legs of the series were dominated by Topville Avatar as he won both legs by daylight. The final would be no different. From the outside, Riet's Kid left early and rushed to the front. Second choice Maple Grove Joe had settled in fourth while the 1-5 favorite, Topville Avatar sat sixth early on. Coming off the turn, Maple Grove Joe tipped three wide to rally up to the lead while Topville Avatar and driver Dale Hiteman quickly moved behind that one. In the final sixteenth, Topville Avatar took command and went on to win in a lifetime best 1:57.2. Maple Grove Joe finished second, All About Cowboys was third. Topville Avatar is owned by Paula Smith and James Runyan and trained by Joel Smith. Jim Miller  

STICKNEY, IL - A pair of harness racing series finals, along with a consolation final took place on a breezy Wednesday night at Hawthorne Race Course. Race six on the Wednesday card was the Whizzer R. White pacing series consolation final as a field of nine lined up after the scratch of Big Moon Rizing. Early in the consolation final JDs Brent N Sheree took the lead and led the field into the lane. At the top of the stretch he lost his action and dropped back. Dale Hiteman and Ocaptain Mycaptain ducked to the inside to avoid traffic and kept their momentum, winning in 1:57 over the track listed as good. First Frost made a sustained move to finish 2nd, while Mr Mark Patrick was third. Ocaptain Mycaptain is owned by Megan Rogers Racing Stables, Inc. and is trained by Carl Porcelli, Jr. Race seven was the $16,600 Suburban Downs Pacing Series final with a full field of ten. Leaving for the early lead was Tyron My Gigolo and Kyle Husted but they quickly gave up the early lead to Freedomformysoul. Freedomformysoul led the field into the lane as favorite Kolt Power looked for room while second choice Valiente Stride made a three wide bid. Late in the stretch, Freedomformysoul battled on but Tyron My Gigolo dove to the inside and rallied for the victory at 26-1. Freedomformysoul finished second, just holding off Valiente Stride. Tyron My Gigolo covered the mile in 1:54.4. Tyron My Gigolo is owned by Quaid Racing LLC and trained by James Ellison. Race eight was the $22,200 final of the Whizzer R. White Pacing Series as Over Friskie looked for a clean sweep of this series. The field of nine, after the scratch of Mr Pickpocket, saw Trace Tetrick move early to take the lead with 4-5 favorite Over Friskie early as John Jay tracked him the entire way. Into the stretch, Over Friskie opened up, winning by daylight in a lifetime best 1:53.2. John Jay held second, One To Draw To finished third. Over Friskie is owned by Ervin Wickey and trained by Tom Tetrick. Jim Miller

The final week of the "winter" harness racing meet at Hawthorne Race Course kicked off in a big way on Friday, Jan. 29th as one lucky fan nailed the $84,000 + carryover and Friday's additional pool monies taking home a whopping $110,906 on the 20 cent minimum jackpot wager. The winning ticket was sold at the Oregon "hub". Friday's very competitive 11-race program along with the carryover on the Jackpot High Five wager also helped produced the third $1,000,000 handle in the past week alone at the Stickney plant. "Looking at our projections based on the fact that you never know what kind of weather you will be dealing with in the Chicago area at this time of the year and the fact we did not know just how great the horse population would be we went into this hoping to be somewhere in $800,000 ballpark when it came to nightly handle," said Hawthorne's Director of Publicity and Racing Analyst Jim Miller. "Thanks to everyone on the staff working so hard together and the horsemen continuing to show their support we have far exceeded those goals and we're looking forward to a very big final week of action here." Included in that final week of action will be series finals and consolations for the Whizzer R White, Suburban Downs, Ohyouprettything, Pretty Direct and the Dygert Trotting Series. Racing Secretary Peter Hanley has reported that horsemen have continued to fill the entry box for the final week with more than 500 horses being dropped into the box for just the second to last weekend alone, prompting Hawthorne management to add an 11th race for Friday and Saturday. "I've said it already but I would like to say it again," said a smiling Hanley. "The horsemen have been great to work with here and have been more than willing to get their horses into the box as much as possible. I certainly look forward to seeing them again for the summer meet which starts in May and I really hope that momentum we've picked up as this has gone along will continue to roll right into that meet." Racing is conducted on a Wednesday through Sunday schedule with the final night of the meeting scheduled for Saturday, Feb. 6th. Post time each night is 7:20 p.m. (central). ABOUT HAWTHORNE RACE COURSE Founded in 1891, Hawthorne Race Course is the 4th oldest racetrack in the nation and the oldest sporting venue in Illinois. Located in Stickney, Illinois on the edge of Chicago's city limits, the 125 year old facility hosts thoroughbred racing in the Spring and Fall/Winter, and standardbred harness racing in January and the Summer. The family-owned and operated business has been an innovator in horseracing for more than 100 years and features the nation's most rewarding players program. For additional information: www.HawthorneRaceCourse.com | Facebook.com/ClubHawthorne | @ClubHawthorne.      

STICKNEY, IL - Leg 2 of the Ohyouprettything and Pretty Direct pacing series for harness racing fillies and mares took place on Friday evening at Hawthorne. The Ohyouprettything went in three divisions while the Pretty Direct was a full field of ten. In the first division of the Ohyouprettything, longshot JD's First Lady left and tried to steal things through a quick opening half. She led the field into the stretch but then things bunched up as heavy favorite Mystical Nectar took over with a quick three wide move. She continued her bid for driver Simon Allard as Mystical Nectar rolled to a four length victory in 1:55.2. Tamarac Smoochie finished second while Savoya Cruiser was third. The second division of the Ohyouprettything saw Lollipop carving out the early fractions while Gossip Model tracked her into the turn. Into the lane, Lucky Dali ranged up to challenge while Fox Valley Bailey tipped three wide to contend. It was Fox Valley Bailey who sustained her move and held off the late bid of Gossip Model, winning in 1:56.4. Lucky Dali finished third. The third division of the Ohyouprettything saw Backwoods Barbie sent off as the favorite. She moved early to challenge leader I Y Q Too on the backstretch but was unable to clear and eventually broke stride. In the end it was bombs away as 75-1 shot Don't Dali Around got up in the shadow of the wire for driver Brian Carpenter. Girls Girls Girls finished second while Sandy Win was third. Final time for the mile was 1:56.2. A full field of ten lined up for the second leg of the Pretty Direct pacing Series. Fox Valley Brooke set the early pace, tracked by favored Lovethewayoulook. In the stretch Lovethewayoulook grabbed the lead but couldn't hold off the late charge of Whiskersonkittens and driver Robert Smolin. Whiskersonkittens stopped the clock for the mile in 1:54. Lovethewayoulook was second, If I Didn't Dream finished third. Jim Miller

STICKNEY, IL - As temps started to warm (into the 30's) for the final two weeks of the Hawthorne winter harness racing meet, times have sped up as has the competition. On Wednesday night at Hawthorne, a fast track welcomed pacers for the second leg of the Whizzer R. White and Suburban Downs Pacing Series. The Whizzer R. White was divided into four series for leg two while the Suburban Downs went with one field of eleven for the second leg. The Wednesday evening card opened with the first division of the Whizzer R. White Pacing Series as a field of eight featured leg one division winners Pillage and Burn and Over Friskie. Those two were sent off as the favorites in the first division. Much like in leg 1, Over Friskie moved early to take the lead as Party Falls chased. Pillage and Burn tipped out at the top of the stretch and started to rally with Party Falls. At the wire there was no splitting Party Falls and Over Friskie as there was a dead-heat for the victory. Pillage and Burn finished third. Final time was 1:55. Race three on the Wednesday card was the second division of the Whizzer R. White that matched up another pair of leg one winners in Prince Bayard and Always Kenzer. Early on, favorite Prince Bayard was first to move as he took the lead into the far turn. Second over was John Jay as he raced for the first time with Lasix. John Jay was able to sustain his bid and drew clear late, winning in 1:55. Prince Bayard finished second, Always Kenzer was third. In race 4, the third division of the Whizzer R. White, a field of eight lined up as Caffeine Kid was a scratch. Early on, One To Draw To grabbed the lead but was pushed along through a strong opening half. First over was Mr Pickpocket and driver Casey Leonard as they moved three wide into the stretch. One To Draw To battled on while First Frost rallied up the rail but Mr Pickpocket held on by a head over First Frost. One to Draw To finished third. Final time was 1:55.4. The final division of the Whizzer R. White saw Lyons Jimmydean sent off as a strong favorite as he tucked in just behind the early pace. In the stretch, he tipped out to move and grabbed a brief lead but it was Macho Burbon who moved three wide to swoop for the victory. Lyons Jimmydean held second, Mr Mark Patrick was third. Final time was 1:55.1 In the second leg of the Suburban Downs Pacing Series, Why Ask Why was looking for his fourth victory of this winter meet. Early on, Kolt Power was sent for the lead and backed things down a bit on the backstretch. Pressed by Valiente Stride in the turn, Kolt Power dug in gamely. Late in the stretch, Why Ask Why found room along the inside but it was too late as Kolt Power held on for a neck score over Why Ask Why. Valiente Stride finished third. Final time was 1:54.4. Jim Miller

STICKNEY, IL - The harness racing ladies were the focus on Friday evening at Hawthorne as divisions of the Ohyouprettything and Pretty Direct Pacing Series took place. The Ohyouprettything went in four divisions and was for fillies and mares that had not won two pari-mutuel races or $10,000 lifetime as of December 1, 2015. The Pretty Direct was also for the females, non-winners of five pari-mutuel races or $25,000 lifetime as of December 1, 2015. The opener on Friday was the first division of the Ohyouprettything series as Flight on Time was sent off as the choice. Much like Thursday's card, speed did not hold though as Tamarac Smoochie settled behind the early pace and found room in the stretch to win going away. Driven by Casey Leonard, The Ft Apache Hanover mare was 5-1 and covered the mile in 1:58.3. A Very Nice Dragon was second and Going Shooten finished third. The second division of the Ohyouprettything was a very tight finish and proved to be some tense moments for those playing the favorite. A big late wager pushed Mystical Nectar down to 1-5 favoritism. She tipped out late in the lane and moved late, but just held on to win by a head over Backwoods Barbie. Simon Allard drove the Charley Barley mare for trainer Tyler Nostadt as they covered the mile in 1:56.4. Nashville Nasty rallied late to finish third. The Pretty Direct Pacing Series kicked off in race 3 on the Friday Hawthorne card as a field of seven lined up. Colorful Sky left and set the early fractions as she tried to back down the pace. The field bunched at the top of the stretch as Casey Leonard and favorite Fox Valley Gypsy angled out from sixth and began to rally. The Yankee Skyscraper filly got up in time to win in 1:55.3. Fox Valley Brooke was second while Addie Rose finished third. The third division of the Ohyouprettything Pacing Series proved to be another race where the winner closed from well back. Savoya Cruiser carved out the early fractions but in the lane LK's Nancy Lee angled out and closed strongly to win with Dale Hiteman in the sulky. Burry Me Inthesand rallied late for place as Our Miss Leah finished third. Final time for the mile was 1:58.1 as the Yankee Skyscraper filly was bet down to 2-1 favoritism. The second division of the Pretty Direct followed on the Friday card and featured a heavy favorite in Lovethewayoulook. She was in a tough spot early as she settled at the back of the pack from the start. She was first to move and swept up to the lead into the far turn. She wasn't able to sustain her rally though as Whiskersonkittens and driver Robert Smolin closed for the victory. Pacifire gained late for place while Lovethewayoulook was outfinished for third. The Party At Artsplace filly paced the mile in 1:55.4. The final division of the Ohyouprettything looked to be a wide open race going in and ended up being more than that way in the end. While favorites Gossip Model and Lollipop were contesting things into the lane, 99-1 Luvly Lil Terror found room late and squeezed through for the victory. Driver Pat Curtin won for trainer Loralee Johnson as the Western Terror filly paid $266 for the victory. The final time for the race was 1:55.2. Jim Miller    

Stickney, IL - Trotters were the focus Thursday at Hawthorne as leg one of the Dygert Trotting Series took place. The Dygert Series is for harness racing colts, horses, and geldings which have not won three pari-mutuel races or $15,000 lifetime as of December 1, 2015. A field of 11 lined up for the first leg of the Dygert Series. On an evening that produced no front-end winners on the Hawthorne card, that trend held true in the Dygert. Carving out the early fractions was Speedy Rendezvous, leading the field around in :29.3, 1:01, and 1:31.1. Tracking that leader into the stretch was second choice Maple Grove Joe as he moved to contend. Following the trend of the racing evening, driver Dale Hiteman and favorite Topville Avatar waited until turning into the stretch and began their move. The timing was right as a final quarter of 28.1 was good enough to get up for the victory. Maple Grove Joe held second while All About Cowboys closed from last early to finish third. The final time for leg one of the Dygert Trotting Series was 2:00.1. The females will be the focus on Friday evening at Hawthorne as the first leg of the Ohyouprettything and Pretty Direct Pacing Series kick off. Jim Miller

STICKNEY, IL - Wednesday night kicked off the first legs of the Whizzer R. White and Suburban Downs Pacing Series at Hawthorne. The Whizzer R. White had an overflow amount of harness racing entries and was split into five divisions while the Suburban Downs went with two divisions. Conditions for the Whizzer R. White were for colts, horses, and geldings that had not won two pari-mutuel races or $10,000 lifetime as of December 1, 2015. The Suburban Downs series was for colts, horses, and geldings that had not won five pari-mutuel races for $25,000 lifetime as of December 1, 2015. In leg one of the Whizzer R. White pacing series, the first division kicked off the evening as a three way battle ensued in the stretch. In the end it was the first over move by Pillage and Burn with Casey Leonard driving to defeat Party Falls. Trixsen Gram finished third in 1:57 for the mile over the fast track. Pillage and Burn won as the even money choice. The second division came down to a photo finish as Todd Warren and Always Kenzer just got up in time to best Ridge Warren and One to Draw To, who had set the early fractions throughout. The pacers closed quickly once again as the final time in the father/son battle was 1:56.1. Duneside Sport finished third in the second division. Always Kenzer won at 9-2. Division three became a one horse affair as Trace Tetrick was in to drive for brother, Tom. Settling early, Tetrick and Over Friskie moved early to the lead and opened up their advantage into the far turn. The margin only widened into the stretch as Over Friskie was well clear, stopping the clock in 1:54.4. Lyons Jimmydean came back for second after breaking stride prior to the start and Mr Mark Patrick was third. Over Friskie was the 4-5 favorite. The fourth division was another quick move on the turn by driver Trace Tetrick with Ocaptain Mycaptain as he tried to steal the race but it wasn't to be this time as Travis Seekman confidently handled Prince Bayard to the victory at 7-2. Mr Pickpocket rallied late for place while Ocaptain Mycaptain was third. The final time was 1:56.0. The fifth and final division of the Whizzer R. White series had a pace battle early as three contended for the early lead. In the end it was the closers once again as 8-1 shot Lil Orphan Elmer rallied for the score with Kyle Wilfong in the sulky. 43-1 longshot Gunny Wilson closed late for place over favorite Red Red Redneck. Final time was 2:00.1 The Suburban Downs pacing series went later in the evening with two divisions facing off. In the first division Why Ask Why continued his winning ways as he way able to overcome the outside post and rally for the victory with Ridge Warren driving. Sir Mammo battled on to finish second while Kolt Power rallied late for third. Why Ask Why was sent off at 5-1 and stopped the clock in 1:54.3. The second division of the Suburban Downs pacing series was a battle to the wire as Freedomformysoul just held off The Optimist. Freedomformysoul was driven by Simon Allard and moved to the lead early. After being headed in the lane he fought back gamely for the victory in 1:56.3. The Optimist finished second, Officially Yours was third. Jim Miller

Although they may be newcomers to Chicago harness racing fans driver Simon Allard and brother-trainer Rene Allard are clearly in the hearts and minds of the local brethren after joining forces with Hawthorne Race Course to spearhead a fundraising drive to help those whose lives were devastated by the tragic barn fire at Classy Lane Farm in Canada on January 4th. Simon, who had a driving double along with several other in the money finishes donated his driving earnings from Saturday's Hawthorne card to the fund which has been set up by Central Ontario Standardbred Association. Rene, who sent out six starters at Hawthorne on Saturday night as well as several others at Yonkers also pitched in by donating his training percentage to help his fellow horsemen. With a great deal of help from horsemen Nicole Agosti and Angie Coleman along with a group of "high energy" youngsters donations were also collected from fans and horsemen throughout the track during the night. Hawthorne President & General Manager Tim Carey also stepped up in a big way to help the fund, promising to match the donations while setting up an account with the horsemen's bookkeeper at Hawthorne for those who still wish to donate to the fund. The account will remain open until Friday, January 22. On-line donations can also be made by using the official Go Fund Me page set up by the Central Ontario Standardbred Association or by calling (905) 854-2672. Checks can also be made payable to "Classy Lane Barn Fire", Central Ontario Standardbred Association, PO Box 297, Campbellville, ON LOP 180, Canada. Tom Kelley

If you want to make a bet, place it on Brite Star Aggie, a foal born and bred at Chicago High School for the Agricultural Sciences. Brite Star Aggie qualified last week to race at Hawthorne Racecourse in Stickney. The trotter will join the other three-year-olds for the 2016 harness racing season. “We’re not sure when she’ll race,” Chicago Ag principal William Hook said. “To qualify, horses either have to race the track or run with other horses, but she qualified to race this season.” The Chicago Ag filly was born at the high school in April 2013. Brite Star is the last foal of the high school’s broodmare. She was sired by Ideal Towne. “We got a free breeding in Kewanee,” Hook said. “The same farmer loaned Vega to the school. We only keep one brood mare on campus at a time.” Brite Star was raised by students at Chicago Ag, an experimental magnet high school that teaches agricultural sciences to urban students. She was sold to Hosea Williams, who trained the three-year-old and got her qualified at Hawthorne. The school’s animal science program teaches students the principles in the raising and management of livestock and companion animals, including animal nutrition, physiology, behavior and management. Chicago Ag keeps a variety of companion animals, beef and dairy cattle, swine, sheep, horses and poultry on campus. Brite Star isn’t the first trotter to be raised at the school. Chi Towne Aggie was sold as a yearling to Dandy Farms Racing, of Glenview, and in 2013, became the first standardbred race horse to ever be born and raised at a U.S. high school. Chi Towne Aggie is now racing in Mississippi. Hook said Brite Star Aggie is the first horse raised by Chicago Ag students to qualify as a registered trotter in Illinois. Vega, Brite Star’s mother, has since been returned to Kewanee. The same farm has donated a new broodmare, Basic Browne to the school. Last August, Basic Browne foaled a filly named Emily Strong by Olivia Beazley in honor of her late sister, Emily. Hook said Emily Strong will be auctioned off this spring at yearling sale downstate. Proceeds from the sale will be donated to Emily Beazley’s Kures for Kids, which supports pediatric cancer research. Harness racing returned after a ten-year absence to Hawthorne following last year’s closing of Balmoral. The trotters will share digs with thoroughbred racing at Hawthorne Racecourse. The harness racing season opened at the 125-year-old track at 3501 W. Laramie Ave., Stickney, on Jan. 8. The season will run through September 2016. Visit the Hawthorne Racecourse website for more information on scheduled harness meets.   Beverly-MtGreenwood Reprinted with permission of the patch.com site    

Neither rain, nor snow, nor sub-zero wind chills could stop the return of live harness racing to Hawthorne Race Course as the "Stickney Spa" enjoyed a very successful opening weekend for its first Standardbred meet in nearly 10 years. With a nice crowd on hand braving day long rain and sleet to witness the live racing card and all the on track festivities on Friday, Jan 8th, Casey Leonard, last season's driving kingpin on the Chicago circuit put on quite a show as he bagged four straight wins to open the 2016 season. Leonard would pick up another victory behind Hudson Jesse in the featured seventh race to wind up with a five-bagger on the night. On Saturday night (Jan 9) local fans had a good look at some of the top stables that have decided to call Hawthorne home for this winter-meet as such national power houses like Rene Allard, Ron Burke and Ken Rucker all sent out winners on the 10-race card. The Burke Racing Stable and Weaver Bruscemi's Ontario Success turned in the most impressive score of the night as he scooted to a front stepping victory in the featured Open pace, tripping the timer in 1:53.4 for driver Sam Widger on a sloppy track after heavy snow fell throughout the late afternoon and evening hours. Casey Leonard continued to weave his magic as well, piloting three more winners on the Saturday program. The up and coming Travis Seekman also had a driving double on Saturday which included the longest price of the weekend as he lit up the board at $75.40 with the Rucker trained Winning Dream in race four. As if Mother Nature had not played enough tricks on the Chicago area, an arctic blast rolled through on Sunday, Jan. 10th plunging temperatures into the single digits. Once again the fabulous work of the track crew had the surface in tip top shape though and driver Robert Smolin started out red-hot as he notched both ends of the early daily double and wound up with a driving triple for the night. Simon Allard began to familiarize himself to the Hawthorne winner's circle with a driving double as did Kyle Wilfong. Leonard posted another victory as well giving him a total of nine wins on opening weekend. The support shown by the horsemen who dropped nearly 500 entries in the box for the opening weekend helped contribute to a 20% increase in the anticipated handle at Hawthorne despite the rough weather conditions. For those "carry-over" seekers, the Jackpot High 5, which is a 20 cent wager, will have a carryover of more than $14,000 as week two of the meet gets started. Live racing resumes on Wednesday, Jan. 13th with first post for the 10-race card at 7:20 p.m. (central) Qualifiers will be held prior to the live card on Wednesday night with that action getting started at 6:00 p.m. (central). Racing will be conducted on a Wednesday thru Sunday schedule until Saturday, Feb 6th. Post time is 7:20 p.m. (central). ABOUT HAWTHORNE RACE COURSE Founded in 1891, Hawthorne Race Course is the 4th oldest racetrack in the nation and the oldest sporting venue in Illinois. Located in Stickney, Illinois on the edge of Chicago's city limits, the 125 year old facility hosts thoroughbred racing in the spring and Fall/Winter, and Standardbred harness racing in January and the summer. The family-owned and operated business has been an innovator in horseracing for more than 100 years and features the nation's most rewarding players program. For additional information: www.HawthorneRaceCourse.com | Facebook.com/ClubHawthorne | @ClubHawthorne. Ontario Success came splashing home a winner for Sam Widger in Saturday's featured Open Pace at Hawthorne Race Course.   Tom Kelley

The betting public dispatched the east coast invader Ontario Success off at overwhelming odds of 1 to 5 and the 6-year-old harness racing gelding didn’t disappoint his many backers in Saturday’s $12,500 featured Open Pace at Hawthorne. Nicely driven by veteran Illinois horseman Sam Widger Ontario Success ($2.60) was making his first local start under the care of trainer Roger Welch who was sent the talented pacer by conditioner and part-owner Ron Burke. Widger (pictured) used the one-slot to his advantage and had Ontario Success in the two-hole in the early going behind the 27-1 longshot Jones Beach (Simon Allard) who took the field to a rather leisurely 29 flat first quarter on a sloppy track. Sammy had Ontario Success out of the pocket on the backside and into the lead before the half-mile pole reached in 57 seconds. The winner was given a 29.1 third quarter breather and when the field started to bunch-up at the top of the lane, Widger asked his pacer for a more and Ontario Success responded, by pacing a 27 flat last panel in the rain. Jones Beach was second best, one length behind while Lonewolf Cruiser came on strong in the lane for third. Earlier the venerable ICF pacer Fort Silky followed a two-month layoff with his 58th career victory in the $9,500 sixth race conditioned pace for non-winners of $8,000 in their last five starts. Casey Leonard gave the now 10-year-old gelding a perfect pocket trip behind the even-money favorite Ice Scraper and Fort Silky did the rest, zipping past for a winning 1:56.3 mile on atrack soaked by the continued falling of snow throughout the evening. Fort Silky has now hauled-in just $80 short of $795,000 for owners John Prentice and Neva Kane Ikeeler, both of Paw Paw, Illinois. The $10,000 Open for 3 to 5-year-olds turned out to be no-contest with My Buddy Trickster ($7.60) much the best. Travis Seekman hustled the Bob Phillips trainee out from the outside post and once My Buddy Ninkster cleared to the top he had no trouble going all the way. The 4-5 favorite Feelnlikearockstar was a distant second, beaten five and one-half lengths at the end of a 1:54.3 mile. My Buddy Nnikster is owned by John and Mary Krasnican of Streator, Illinois. Casey Leonard had a driving triple, giving him nine winners on the first two Hawthorne cards. Seekman had a two-bagger Saturday. By Mike Paradise The Illinois Harness Horsemen's Association

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