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CHICAGO – Balmoral Park's closing hasn't meant total disaster for the harness racing industry that was clustered in south suburban Crete. Horses and horseman from the historic Balmoral Park race track have migrated about an hour north to the Hawthorne Race Course in Stickney, just outside of Chicago. The 125-year-old racetrack, which hosts thoroughbred racing in the spring, fall and winter, reached an agreement with the Illinois Harness Horsemen's Association to keep harness racing in Illinois. Harness racing started at the track at 3501 S. Laramie just a half mile north of I-55 on Cicero Avenue this weekend, and will resume in the summer. Hawthorne says it's saving thousands of Chicagoland jobs and hundreds of small businesses, many in the rural area around Crete in the south suburbs. The historic Balmoral Park and Maywood Park in Melrose Place, the only two harness racing venues in Illinois, recently closed after their bankrupt owners requested too few racing dates for 2016. Many of those affected didn't know whether they'd be able to stay or if they'd have to relocate to be closer to other horse racing tracks, such as Hoosier Park in Anderson, Ind. At one time, Illinois had five harness racing tracks, which also included Sportsman's Park, Washington Park and Aurora Downs. "This is a pivotal year for Illinois racing," Hawthorne President and General Manager Tim Carey said. "Race tracks are closing, competition from other states has never been stronger and there is no definitive timeline for gaming reform in Illinois that would allow us to truly compete on the national racing circuit. But we have an obligation to the people who work in this sport and we're doing all we can to keep it going." Hawthorne spent 70 days planning how to convert the track from thoroughbred to harness racing, which included removing over 11,000 tons of sand. They were able to get it ready in just 72 hours. "Hawthorne has really shown a commitment to Illinois racing in agreeing to host a January harness meet," Illinois Harness Horsemen's Association President Dave McCaffrey said. "There is a twinge of excitement among horsemen and hopefully we're going to have a good product for players to bet on: full fields, stakes series, top drivers. It’s sad that Maywood closed and now Balmoral is closing, but there is a lot to be thankful for with the new opportunity at Hawthorne and fans should be excited for what’s coming." Winter racing will take place five nights a week at Hawthorne until February 6. Ten races will take place a night, starting at 7:20 p.m. Monday through Thursday. Admission costs $2. Weekly promotions include $2 beer, hot dogs and nachos on Friday, $22.95 all-you-can-eat buffets from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Saturdays, and second chance drawings for a $500 prize after the 7th race Sundays. For more information, call (708) 780-3700 or visit www.hawthorneracecourse.com. By Joseph S. Pete Reprinted with permission of the http://www.nwitimes.com/ site

After nearly 10 years away, live harness racing action returns to Hawthorne on Friday evening with a 10 race card of full fields.  With racing returning to Hawthorne, horsemen will see increased purses in Illinois, along with five day a week racing through Saturday, February 6.   Live racing will take place every Wednesday through Sunday evening with a 7:20 PM post nightly.     For the fans, Chicago’s in-town track will provide numerous promotions and many great wagering options with lowered betting minimums and reduced takeout rates.    On the racing end, stall applications for nearly 1,000 horses were sent in for the winter meet.    Horsemen from Illinois will be joined by those from Minnesota, Michigan, Indiana, Ohio and New York as fields are expected to fill well throughout the entire meet.    Hawthorne welcomes Pete Hanley as the racing secretary for the harness meet.  Pete has a long history in the industry, doing nearly every job in harness racing and comes to Hawthorne most recently from his position as racing secretary at Rosecroft Raceway.    While track announcer Peter Galassi recovers from recent stem cell replacement, Mike Bozich from Harrah’s Philadelphia will be in to call races until Galassi’s return.  Bozich will be joined nightly by track handicapper Jim Miller to preview races from the Revel Stoke Box at 6:30 PM as they will provide insight and preview the racing action.  Miller will also have selections nightly on the Hawthorne website, along with on TVG and TVG2 as live coverage of harness racing action in Illinois returns.   For the bettors, the Hawthorne gimmick lineup will offer $.20 minimums on Trifectas, Superfectas, the Jackpot High-5 and all multi-race wagers.  Hawthorne will offer two Pick 5 wagers nightly, starting with Race 1 and the second covering the final five races on the card.  Pick 4’s will be offered starting on Race 2 and for the final four races on the card.  Both the Pick 5 and Pick 4 will have only a 15% takeout as the Pick 4 takeout has been reduced in 2016.  The popular Jackpot High-5 will be offered on the final race nightly as bettors try to cash in on the top 5 finishers in order in the evening’s final race.  Hawthorne is also adding a $.20 Place Pick 10 with a $.20 minimum that begins with race one.    Hawthorne President and General Manager Tim Carey expressed his excitement for the upcoming meet, “We can’t wait to get started!  It has been a lot of hours of hard work to prepare the track as quickly as we have as our thoroughbred meet just ended on January 2.  We were ready to go for training and qualifiers just 4 days later.  We welcome in the Illinois harness horsemen and look forward to a very successful meet all around.”   Tom Kelley

Racing Secretary Peter Hanley would like to remind all horsemen wishing to enter the upcoming “late closers” that will be offered as part of the 2016 “Winter” meet at Hawthorne Race Course, that nominations are due by Monday, Jan. 11th.   Racing will kick off on Friday, Jan. 8 and will be conducted on a five-night a week schedule with post time Wednesday through Sunday’s at 7:20 p.m. (central). Qualifiers will be conducted on Wednesday, Jan. 6th (11:00 a.m.) in preparation for the 2016 meet. Horsemen are also reminded that there is a “straw only” policy in all barns at Hawthorne. No shavings or sawdust will be allowed. The late closing series are listed below along and an entry form is attached which should be included with all payments. Entry fees are $200 per series. EVENT # 1  PACE … THE WHIZZER R WHITE PACING SERIES  FOR COLTS, HORSES, AND GELDINGS NW 2 PM RACES OR $10,000  LIFETIME AS OF DECEMBER 1, 2015  1 ST LEG  WED. JAN.20  $7,000G  2ND LEG  WED.  JAN 27  $9,000G  FINAL       WED.  FEB 3  $11,000A EVENT # 2  PACE …THE SUBURBAN DOWNS PACING SERIES  FOR COLTS, HORSES, AND GELDINGS NW 5 PM RACES OR $25,000  LIFETIME AS OF DECEMBER 1, 2015  1ST LEG  WED  JAN. 20  $8,000G  2ND LEG  WED  JAN 27  $10,000G  FINAL       WED  FEB.  3  $12,000A    EVENT # 3  PACE … THE OHYOUPRETTYTHING PACING SERIES  FOR FILLIES AND MARES NW 2 PM RACES OR $10,000 LIFETIME AS  OF DECEMBER 1, 2015  1ST LEG  FRI.  JAN 22  $7,000G  2ND LEG  FRI.  JAN 29  $9,000G  FINAL       FRI.  FEB 5    $11,000A    EVENT # 4  PACE …THE PRETTY DIRECT PACING SERIES  FOR FILLIES AND MARES NW 5 PM RACES OR $25,000 LIFETIME AS  OF DECEMBER 1, 2015  1ST LEG  FRI.  JAN 22  $8,000G  2ND LEG  FRI.  JAN 29  $10,000G  FINAL       FRI.  FEB 5    $12,000A    EVENT # 5 TROT …THE DYGERT TROTTING SERIES  FOR COLTS, HORSES, AND GELDINGS NW 3 PM RACES OR $15,000  LIFETIME AS OF DECEMBER 1, 2015.  1ST LEG THURS.  JAN 21  $7,500G  2ND LEG  THURS.  JAN 28  $9,500G  FINAL        THURS.  FEB 4   $11,500A    EVENT # 6 TROT  …THE FOX VALLEY FLAN TROTTING SERIES  FOR FILLIES AND MARES NW 3 PM RACES OR $15,000 LIFETIME AS  OF DECEMBER 1, 2015.  1ST LEG THURS.  JAN 21  $7,500G  2ND LEG  THURS.  JAN 28  $9,500G  FINAL        THURS.  FEB 4   $11,500A   All payments and nomination forms should be made payable to Hawthorne Race Course and sent to: Jim Miller Hawthorne Race Course 3501 S. Laramie Avenue Cicero, IL 60804 For more information visit HawthorneRaceCourse.com   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. 

One of the things that quickly becomes apparent when looking at the harness racing breeding figures for 2015 in North America is the major decline suffered by Illinois. In 2014 Illinois had 699 mares bred which dropped to 492 in 2015, a reduction of nearly thirty percent in just one year. That may have been due to the talk about the future of both Balmoral Park and Maywood Park. Now with both of those racetracks closed to harness racing, the only track with any program in Illinois will be Hawthorne. The harness racing industry in Illinois looks in dire straights if the breeding trend from this year continues into 2016 With just one track and breeding numbers plummetting, the future in Illinois looks bleek. A couple of other states that had slumps much bigger than they would have anticipated were New York and Pennsylvania. New York dropped 341 mares served in 2015, a drop of just over twenty percent which again is not sustainable long term. With the great Sires Stakes program they have in New York, one can only surmise that the big service fees are finally biting the stallion owners where it hurts. The drop in Pennsylvania mares bred was smaller at just eleven and a half percent but yet again that is a number that will be setting off alarm bells at Hanover Shoe Farms. Canada showed an overall increase of twelve percent but it was all based around one province, Ontario which had an increase of nearly nineteen percent. A lot of that increase has been driven by an increasingly supportive government and a feeling that everybody is on the same page for once while some can be put down to mares returning from the USA now things look brighter in Canada. Below is a list of mares bred in North America in 2014 and in 2015, provided by David Carr of the USTA U.S. 2014 2015 California 19 13 Delaware 263 273 Florida 57 48 Illinois 699 492 Indiana 1788 1698 Iowa 246 197 Kentucky 55 14 Louisiana 3 0 Maine 144 108 Maryland 243 223 Michigan 33 66 Minnesota 124 125 Mississippi 36 2 Missouri 22 31 New Jersey 69 251 New York 1649 1308 North Carolina 4 3 North Dakota 0 5 Ohio 2594 2339 Pennsylvania 2184 1931 South Dakota 1 0 Tennessee 5 0 Texas 7 7 Virginia 16 11 Wisconsin 8 4       Canada 2014 2015 Alberta 309 322 British Columbia 15 9 Manitoba 63 59 New Brunswick 6 3 Newfoundland 3 1 Nova Scotia 20 12 Ontario 1666 2051 Prince Edward Island 368 317 Quebec 65 87 Saskatchewan 4 2

The future of Balmoral Park is still up in the air after an atmosphere of sadness and nostalgia hung over what presumably was the final night of racing Saturday at the historic Crete horse track. The owners of Balmoral and a sister track, Maywood Park, which closed this fall, are operating while in bankruptcy, and have set a deadline for Monday to seek offers for Balmoral after rejecting a bid earlier this month by local businessman and horseman John Barnard. No harness racing dates for 2016 at Balmoral were issued by the Illinois Racing Board, and the Johnston family, which owns the park, are expected to file a proposal for exiting Chapter 11 by the end of this week. Barnard has 30 horses at Balmoral that he'll relocate next month, and two of his horses — Macho Burbon and Hudson Jesse — were winners there on Saturday. A larger-than-usual crowd attended Saturday's races, but Barnard said that "most people thought we were at a wake or a funeral," describing the overall mood. "There's so much history," he said of the park, which opened in 1926 as Lincoln Fields. "I'd hate to see the place torn down." Gloria Buitron, who has bartended at the harness horse racing facility for nearly 40 years, held back tears Saturday thinking about all of the people who would lose their jobs and about the second family she was losing. "This is my life," she said. "This is all I have." Buitron said she plans to retire next year because she feels she's too old to seek another job. Elizabeth Krawczykowski, who was working maintenance Saturday, also found it hard to contain her tears. "I love working here," she said. "You just have to say goodbye to everybody." The track owners filed for bankruptcy on Christmas Eve a year ago, shortly after a federal appeals court ordered them to pay nearly $79 million to casinos in Aurora, Elgin and Joliet. The filing was meant to stay that judgment and give the owners breathing room to reorganize. The appeals court had overturned a lower court ruling in a lawsuit that alleged the owners, specifically John Johnston, Balmoral Park's president, agreed to make a $100,000 campaign contribution to former Gov. Rod Blagojevich in return for Blagojevich signing legislation extending an agreement to share casino gambling revenue with horse racing tracks. The contribution was never made, however. The track owners are contesting that appeals court ruling, and arguments in the appeal are expected to be heard Jan. 13, according to a court filing. Ken Churilla, director of marketing for Balmoral, said that between 2,000 and 3,000 fans visit the park on a typical Saturday night, but this weekend's crowd far surpassed that number. Cathy Tucker, of Crown Point, Ind., said she used to come to Balmoral several years ago but came Saturday because it was the final night. "I think it's kind of sad," she said. "I regret not coming back more often because now it's closing." David Gordon, of Joliet, said he's been going to Balmoral almost every weekend for the past 25 years. "I think this is more exciting than playing slots or table games," he said. Ken Wessler, of Grant Park, said he's enjoyed the camaraderie with race fans at the park. He said he's been going to Balmoral almost every Saturday since the early 1980s. Wessler owns a barbershop in Steger called Centre and has even created a horse racing theme inside his business. He said he'll miss this pastime. "I'll just have to do without," Wessler said. Crete Mayor Mike Einhorn said he had been at the track for the races Dec. 19, and had planned to be there for the final night. He said he's concerned for all of the people who make a living from Balmoral, whether it's caring for the horses or serving food at concession stands. "Just all of those people who keep it running," he said. "Will people move out of the area? Will they stay and try to find jobs (locally)?" The mayor said "it's kind of hard to quantify" the economic impact of people who attend races and, either before or after, might patronize area businesses such as restaurants. But losing the track is "one more thing that puts us farther behind the 8-ball," Einhorn said. When the tracks filed for bankruptcy, Balmoral directly employed 141 people, according to an initial court filing, but it noted the tracks "are the engine that drives thousands of additional jobs" tied to the racing. A Dec. 14 auction of the assets of Balmoral and Maywood in Melrose Park was conducted after efforts over the summer and early fall to sell the tracks and keep them open fell flat. Just one qualified bid for Balmoral's assets was received, from Barnard, but it wasn't accepted by the track's owners, who got an extension to Monday to see if there might be other offers. Maywood closed Oct. 2. The track owners this summer sought 2016 harness racing dates from the Illinois Racing Board, but the board awarded harness dates for next year only to Hawthorne Race Course in Cicero. A group that represents breeders, trainers, drivers and others in the industry, the Illinois Harness Horsemen's Association, had sided with the board in its decision because Balmoral and Maywood had each sought just two racing dates a week for next year, too few to make it worthwhile for those people who make their living in harness racing, according to Tony Somone, executive director of the Hinsdale-based nonprofit. Einhorn said he understands why the track owners sought a limited number of dates. "You really can't expect them to put in for a lot of dates considering there is the uncertainty with this huge judgment against the owners," he said. Illinois Rep. Thaddeus Jones, D-Calumet City, whose district includes Balmoral, is chief sponsor of legislation that would give a minimum of 30 days of racing next year to each of the two tracks. It appears that lawmakers will take action on the measure before the end of next month, according to a synopsis of the bill, which was first introduced in February as an amendment to the state's video gambling law. A message left at Jones' district office last week was not returned. With only Hawthorne awarded racing dates for next year, and Balmoral closed, the impact is felt by harness drivers such as Bobby Smolin, who lives just a few minutes from Balmoral and does not look forward to having to drive to Hawthorne for races next month. Along with riding Macho Burbon to a win, Smolin also came in first place again during the eighth race with horse Five Knuckle Shuffle. "It's like how it is for NASCAR drivers," Smolin said of horse racing. "It's the biggest adrenaline rush you can have, especially if you win." Barnard said he's been a racing fan all of his life but just began owning and racing horses in 2003. He said the south suburbs have had their share of economic challenges, and the closing of Balmoral would only make it worse. "This is just one more problem that's going to continue to set the south suburbs back," Barnard said. "Racing needs help from the state of Illinois." Einhorn said that should Balmoral never host another race, finding a new use for the nearly 200-acre property would be a challenge. Citing figures from the Crete Township assessor, the mayor said the property has a market value of more than $9 million and pays $400,000 a year in property taxes. "It's not like it (the park) can easily be repurposed," he said. "It's not like a warehouse that you could do something with." By Mike Nolan and Frank Vaisvilas Reprinted with permission of The Daily Southtown

The curtain came down on at Balmoral Park last night with $1,347,100 bet on the last program of 2016 and likely the final live harness racing card in the long history of the racetrack. It was the third highest mutuel handle of the year. Only Super Night and American National Night were higher. A dense fog and a steady drizzle didn’t dampen a large and enthusiastic crowd that filled the track’s apron in the Balmoral Park finale. They watched Bobby Smolin give the 4-1 longshot Fiveknuckleshuffle (11.60) a winning pocket-trip in the eighth race conditioned pace feature, overtaking the 3-5 heavy favorite Ice Scraper in the late going of the 1:51.1 mile. The soon-to-be 8-year-old ICF pacer’s win was his eighth of the year for owners John Cross of Onley, Illinois, Bonnie Harlow and Robert Moser, both of Hannibal, Missouri, and trainer Mike Brink of Springfield, Illinois. Fiveknuckleshuffle proved to be fastest from the gate and parked Ice Scraper (Brian Carpenter) through a quick 26.2 first quarter on a sloppy track before taking the two-hole. The public’s choice got a 28.4 breather to the 55.2 half and reached the three-quarters in 1:23.1 but couldn’t hold off the late charming Illinois bred pacer. In the only trot race of the night John Barnard’s Hudson Jesse ($3.80) easily won for the third time in her last four starts in the sixth race for Casey Leonard and trainer Bill Crone. The six-year-old mare was almost two lengths the best over 3-1 longshot Changed It All in the 1:56.1 mile. The $2,850 winner’s share of the $5,750 purse left Hudson Jesse just $161 short of $300,000 in career earnings. Driver Casey Leonard and trainer Nelson Willis were honored in Balmoral’swinner’s circle for capturing their respective titles a second consecutive year. In the Balmoral Park finale Matt Krueger had the hottest hand among the drivers, chalking up three winners. Leonard, Smolin and Carpenter each had two. By Mike Paradise

Eighteen years have passed since Balmoral Park picked-up the baton and took over as the Chicago circuit’s premier harness racing track, hosting Super Night and most of the other major ICF stake championships. That all came about in 1998 when old Sportsman’s Park a year earlier booted out harness racing and became strictly a thoroughbred/auto racing facility. Just a few years later that coming together of horse and gasoline fumes proved to be a financial calamity and the Cicero, IL track soon went belly-up. Unfortunately live harness racing at Balmoral Park does the same tonight but not before it became a major player in the growth and economy of the racetrack’s surrounding communities. Harness racing thrived at Balmoral for many years. Top-notch horses and a collection of drivers that could hold their own with any track in the country at one time was the norm at the far-south suburban facility. Sadly those days slowly eroded away at Balmoral when the lure of much bigger purses, boded by race-track casino money in other states drained the Illinois horse, driver and trainer colonies. Back-to-back years with “Veto’s” from former Governor Quinn on a Casino expansion bill that would allow slots at our Illinois racetracks sent Balmoral Park and its sister track Maywood Park, into a death-spiral. Nonetheless if we had a Coroner’s report on Balmoral’s demise it would probably read: “Fatal Wound Self-Inflicted.” After tonight we’ll be left with just memories of harness racing at Balmoral and we have plenty of them When Balmoral hosted its first Super Night in 1998 there were plenty of sceptics who were proved wrong. Some 9,200 patrons, at that time the largest crowd in Balmoral Park history, filled the track and its apron and saw Big Tom, one of best ICF pacers of all time, stable-mate Ohyouprettything and the mare Shady Veil all follow their Sportsman’s 1997 Super Night victories with championships that night. One year later over 10,000 fans passed through the turn-styles on Super Night 1999 and a record $2.7 million handle was established. The on-track attendance rose to 10,769 on Super Night 2000, helping set a new Super Night record $2.9 million mutuel handle. That year the Illinois Hall of Fame trotter Plesac won the Su Mac Lad crown by an amazing 19 and 1/2 lengths. A year later Rattle And Rock overcame the outside 10-hole in the Langley Final and won a share of the Illinois Department of Agriculture’s $1 million bonus. The same evening Mini Me capped a brilliant freshman season with a romp in the $300,000 Colt Orange and Blue. Later Super Nights gave us some other celebrated ICF horses as Loyal Opposition, Ideal Towne, King Johnny, Parklane Powerful, Home Bed Advantage, Mucho Sleazy, My Boy David, Enzo The Baker, Street Dancer, Sportsfancy, Taser Gun, and Incredible Tillie, just to name a dozen or so. Balmoral Park also gave us “American National Night.” While the American National stakes were born and raised into prominence at Sportsman’s Park they were always spread out through their five-month long meetings. Those American National’s started out that way at Balmoral but later were smartly condensed into one single huge gala evening of racing that year-after-year brought to Illinois some of the very best pacers and trotters in North American along with the crème de la crème of the country’s drivers. I know I’m not alone when I say: “Thanks for the Memories” Balmoral Park. By Mike Paradise The Illinois Harness Horsemen's Association

December 22, 2016 (CHICAGO) -- Hawthorne Race Course and the Illinois Harness Horsemen's Association have reached an historic agreement to keep harness racing in Illinois in 2016. The agreement will save thousands of Chicagoland jobs associated with the sport, including hundreds of small businesses that would have otherwise ceased operations or relocated to Indiana and other states.   "This is a pivotal year for Illinois racing," said Tim Carey, president and general manager of Hawthorne Race Course, which will be celebrating its 125th year of racing next year. "Race tracks are closing, competition from other states has never been stronger and there is no definitive timeline for gaming reform in Illinois that would allow us to truly compete on the national racing circuit. But we have an obligation to the people who work in this sport and we're doing all we can to keep it going."   In September the Illinois Racing Board approved a proposal to bring harness racing back to Hawthorne. Since then the track has been preparing for an influx of horses and horsemen, and has developed an aggressive timeline to transform its dirt track thoroughbred surface into a crushed limestone standardbred surface. Hawthorne's fall/winter thoroughbred meet will close on January 2nd and harness racing will begin just 6 days later on Friday, January 8. During this period thousands of horses will be moving into and out of Hawthorne's 25 barns.   "Hawthorne has really shown a commitment to Illinois racing in agreeing to host a January harness meet," said Dave McCaffrey, president of the Illinois Harness Horsemen's Association. "There is a twinge of excitement among horsemen and hopefully we're going to have a good product for players to bet on: full fields, stakes series, top drivers. It's sad that Maywood closed and now Balmoral is closing, but there is a lot to be thankful for with the new opportunity at Hawthorne and fans should be excited for what's coming." Hawthorne's winter harness meet will begin on Friday, January 8th and feature 10 races per night, 5 nights per week until February 6th. Opening weekend will feature live music, a craft beer fest, gate giveaways, betting bonuses and cash prizes. First post is at 7:20PM Wednesday thru Sunday and general admission is $2.   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.   Dakota Shultz, (312) 371-4104, Dakota@AgencyThreeSixty.com Jim Miller, (708) 426-5210, JimMiller@ClubHawthorne.com

Th no acceptable offers received to keep two Chicago-area harness racing tracks running, the operators of Balmoral Park and Maywood Park will auction off the assets of the tracks Monday. The sale, which is not open to the general public, will take place at the offices of the Chicago law firm representing the tracks' owners, the Johnston family, in a bankruptcy case filed nearly a year ago after operators of Chicago-area casinos won a $79 million judgment against the track operators. Along with the assets of the tracks themselves, the sale will include off-track betting parlors, including one in Crestwood, operated by the tracks' owners. In court filings, the tracks' owners said efforts earlier this year to find buyers willing to keep Balmoral, in Crete, and Maywood, in Melrose Park, operating were not successful. Maywood closed Oct. 2, and racing at Balmoral, which has hosted horse racing since 1926, will wrap up at the end of this year. The track owners had, this summer, sought 2016 harness racing dates from the Illinois Racing Board, which in the fall awarded dates for next year only to Hawthorne Race Course in Cicero. Illinois Rep. Thaddeus Jones, D-Calumet City, whose district includes Balmoral, has proposed legislation that would give a minimum of 30 days of racing next year to each of the two tracks. The Illinois Harness Horsemen's Association, which represents breeders, trainers, drivers and others in the industry, said the organization actually supported the Racing Board's decision because Balmoral and Maywood had each sought only two racing dates a week next year, far too few to support the people who make their living in harness racing. Owners, in court filings, said that from May through July they contacted possible operators about buying and operating the tracks, but no acceptable offers were received. They had hoped that legislation that would allow slots at horse racing tracks, which never came to pass, would prompt interest among potential buyers, according to filings. There is no "stalking horse" bid to set the pace for the auction, and no reserve price has been set, although offers are subject to approval by the track owners and a hearing confirming the results of the sale is scheduled for Tuesday in federal bankruptcy court. At the end of October, the track operators applied for licenses to continue operating the OTBs next year, noting that the betting sites could continue to operate even though the tracks themselves no longer have live racing. The Racing Board is scheduled to take up that matter at its meeting Tuesday as well as receive an update on the tracks' Chapter 11 case. However, the current method of distributing OTB wagering revenue rewards tracks hosting live racing, so it's unclear how future operators of the parlors, if not affiliated with another track, would benefit. A year ago, a federal appeals court ordered the Balmoral and Maywood operators to pay almost $79 million to casinos in Aurora, Elgin and Joliet, prompting the Christmas Eve bankruptcy filing. The appeals court had overturned a lower court ruling in a lawsuit that alleged the track owners, specifically John Johnston, Balmoral's president, had paid a $100,000 campaign contribution to former Gov. Rod Blagojevich in return for Blagojevich signing legislation extending an agreement to share casino gambling revenue with state horse racing tracks. The contribution was never made, however. The track owners are appealing the ruling and arguments in the case are expected to be heard starting Jan. 13, according to court filings. By Mike Nolan of The Daily Southtown Reprinted with permission of the chicagotribune.com site

STICKNEY, IL - Hawthorne Race Course President Tim Carey has named Pete Hanley as Racing Secretary for the upcoming Suburban Downs at Hawthorne harness meet. The meet begins on Friday, January 8 and races through Saturday, February 6. Live racing will take place five nights/per week, with racing taking place Wednesday through Sunday. Purses for the Suburban Downs at Hawthorne meet are expected to average $75,000 per card with 9 - 10 races taking place each racing night. Hanley comes from a family that have backgrounds in harness racing. He is a graduate of the University of Arizona Race Track Industry Program and got his first job in racing at Foxboro Raceway in 1984. Pete has done almost every job in the harness industry, recently serving as a steward at Running Aces from 2012 - 2014. In 2013 Pete was named Director of Racing & Racing Secretary at Rosecroft Raceway in Maryland. "We are very pleased to have Pete as a part of our team for the upcoming harness meet at Hawthorne," Hawthorne President Tim Carey stated. "Pete has experience, but also brings a fresh perspective that many horsemen we have spoken to say they appreciate." Hawthorne Race Course, Chicago's hometown track currently is racing live for the fall thoroughbred meet. Live thoroughbred racing at Hawthorne takes place through Saturday, January 2. The track surface will be converted for the opening of the Suburban Downs at Hawthorne harness meet which begins Friday, January 8. For details on racing at Hawthorne, visit www.HawthorneRaceCourse.com. Jim Miller

State-bred pacing colts headlined the harness racing action on Friday, Nov 20th at Balmoral Park as a field of six freshmen were sent postward in a $7,980 Xpressbet Stake. When the smoke cleared from this battle it was Caffeine Kid who proved victorious, notching a three-quarter-length victory in 1:55.0 for owner Peter Karras and trainer Rodney Freese.   Confidently handled by driver Mike Oosting the gelded son of Sportsmaster--Rachel Hanover ranged up first over on the final turn drawing right along the pace setting Eddie Eddie Eddie (Sam Widger) as the field turned for home.   After watching a hard charging Party Falls (Brian Carpenter) scoot past the top two in the center of the track a game Caffeine Kid, who was making just his third lifetime start, gamely battled back like a seasoned veteran regaining the lead in the final 50 yards and drawing clear in the shadow of the wire for his second lifetime victory. Longshot Trixsen Gram, (Chris Loney) shook loose late to rally for the place money while Party Falls held on for third.   Sent off as the 9-5 second choice in the wagering Caffeine Kid returned $5.60, $3.60 & $2.60 to his backers. Live racing continues on Saturday, Nov. 21st at Balmoral Park. Once again all the action gets underway at 7:10pm on Saturday night and as always the $1 Pick 4 (races 9-12) features a $20,000 guaranteed pool. The 10-cent Hi Five (race 12) also features a guaranteed pool of $15,000. The live racing action will be headlined by older ICF pacing distaffers as a field of seven are scheduled to go postward in the $8,060 Fox Valley Memory Stake which goes as race three on the 12-race program. Tom Kelley

State Rep. Thaddeus Jones, D-Calumet City, is sponsoring legislation in the Illinois House to prevent the closing of Balmoral Park and Maywood Park, harness racing tracks, at the end of the year. Jones, whose district includes Crete, where Balmoral Park is located, admitted to me that his effort is a long shot, "but the only hope we have right now of keeping Balmoral Park open next year so that it might attract a buyer." The lawmaker questioned the Illinois Racing Board's decision to take harness racing dates away from Balmoral and Maywood, which had historically held them, and give them to Hawthorne Race Course. "There was no public discussion about this, no consultation with state legislators, and we don't know exactly what information the racing board was acting on when it made its decision," Jones said, adding that he wants to hold a public hearing in Chicago to find out how the board reached its decision. Jones' bill, H.B. 2663, would amend the Illinois Racing Act of 1975 and allocate a minimum of 30 days of racing in the next year to any race track that was in good standing during the current year, meaning Balmoral and Maywood. Under the current law, the off track betting operations associated with Balmoral and Maywood could remain open for a few years, but would be placed in jeopardy by the way OTB money is distributed, according to Jones. Jack Kelly, a former lobbyist for Balmoral and Maywood, said gambling revenues at OTB parlors are divided up among racetracks under a complicated system that rewards "host tracks" which are featuring live races. All the revenue wagered at local OTB parlors, he said, goes to those tracks that have live racing at the time (day or night), which has ultimately resulted in what he called a fairly equal distribution of funds between Arlington International Racecourse, Hawthorne, Maywood and Balmoral. According to Kelly, Balmoral and Maywood generate about one-third of all the OTB revenue in the Chicago metro area. But if Maywood and Balmoral have no live racing next year, they would get none of that revenue split. So Jones' bill would alter the "host" system that determines how revenues are split on bets made at OTBs and inter-tracks. The change would allow each OTB and race track to retain the commissions and purse money earned from betting out-of-state races at their respective operations. Jones admitted that at this point he can't even muster the votes to get his measure out of a House committee. "So my goal now is to get a hearing in Chicago where we can go into how the Illinois Gaming Board made its decision and how it was influenced by the people at competing racetracks in the hope that once people understand how these decisions were made they will start questioning the entire process," he said. Jones said he believes Arlington and Hawthorne used a $78 million civil judgment against the Johnston Family, which owns Balmoral and Maywood, as fodder to sway the votes of racing board members. The Johnstons were forced to file for bankruptcy after being caught up in the Gov. Rod Blagojevich scandal, resulting in a civil lawsuit filed by casinos for allegedly offering campaign contributions to the former governor in exchange for the state extending an agreement to share casino gambling revenue with the two racetracks. The contribution apparently was never made and the deal never completed. "The racing board decided to take the harness racing dates away from Maywood and Balmoral because of that, but if it was a matter of them saying they wanted to clean up horse racing in Illinois and punish the tracks involved in the scandal, that could have been done back in 2011 when the information first came out," Jones said. "Instead, they waited for a decision in the civil suit. "What I'm interested in is the economic impact on the communities I represent," Jones continued. "We have 270 acres of land out there in Crete that really isn't of much use for anything other than a race track. Its economic impact on Crete, Steger, Beecher, Monee and other surrounding communities is between $2 million and $3 million a year. "There are hundreds of jobs at stake, either connected to the track directly -- tellers, food service staff, security, parking attendants, maintenance staff people who work the backstretch -- and those people employed by businesses that do business with the track," Jones said. "There are also people who live on the track, at Balmoral, and some of them may be able to relocate, but many of them will have no place to live. "Finally, to sell that track to a new buyer, you have to be able to offer them something in return. No one is going to buy a race track if they are not guaranteed race dates by the state. It would be foolish to invest that kind of money. Our only hope of attracting a buyer, of retaining those jobs and that revenue for the businesses in the community, is to keep the track operating until a buyer can be found." Jones said he hopes to convince south suburban mayors to support his measure and lobby their lawmakers to back his bill. Earlier this week, the legislative and policy committee of the Will County Board voted to back the legislation. "This reminds me of the closing of Oak Forest Hospital," said Jones, who testified against the closing at a public hearing. "The closing of that hospital had a significant economic impact on the south suburbs. We lost jobs and revenue and most of that hospital remains vacant. We can't keep allowing our government, which we pay taxes to support, to work against the best interests of the people of the south suburbs. We have to take a stand and put a stop to this. I believe we can do it." While Jones sounded optimistic, I'm not convinced there's time to reverse the gaming board's decision. Maywood has already shut down its operations and Balmoral is in the process of doing that, although it remains open for harness racing this year. In addition, the Illinois Harness Horsemen's Association, which represents breeders, trainers, drivers and others in the industry – came out in support of the Racing Board's decision because Balmoral and Maywood had each sought only two racing days a week next year, far too few to support the people who make their living in harness racing. Hawthorne will host 117 days of harness racing next year, down from the 192 dates at Maywood and Balmoral Park this year, but far more than what those tracks had requested in 2016. Trainers and horse owners also told me that purses at Balmoral had decreased significantly in recent years making it nearly impossible for them to show a profit. They expressed optimism that Hawthorne's purses would increase, making it easier for them to make a living. Jones said he had not reached out to the horsemen, but planned to do so in the near future. "I respect their concerns and their problems," Jones said, "but this is about the larger community. This is about the impact on the entire south suburban region. And they have to understand that." Jones said he hoped to have his public hearing on Balmoral and Maywood sometime before Thanksgiving in order to gain support for his bill before Christmas. Since there is no place to find the odds on such things, I'm officially setting the line at 100-to-1. You know, I've always been a sucker for long shots. By Phil Kadner Reprinted with permission of The Southtown News

Freaky Feet Pete will be in search of his 24th win in 27 career starts when he teams up with Trace Tetrick to take on six other 3yo pacing colts in Saturday's $150,000 American National Stake at Balmoral Park. There’s no other sophomore pacer currently racing in North America who has garnered so much attention as Freaky Feet Pete.  And it’s not just because of his name, either. The reason?  This 3-year-old son of Rockin Image has been a terror on the Midwest scene all year and most recently captured harness racing’ s biggest event—the $531,250 Breeders Crown for sophomore pacers. Saturday night he’ll venture postward against six rivals in the $150,000 American National for 3-year-old colt and gelding pacers.   Trained by breeder Larry Rheinheimer for owners Mary Jo and Marty R Rheinheimer, Freaky Feet Pete will be trying for his sixth consecutive victory from post two. Regular pilot Trace Tetrick will be behind the swift-footed, Indiana-bred side-wheeler. Freaky Feet Pete is a total family horse as the homebred often has Mary Jo at his side as his caretaker whenever he races.  A winner of 14 of 16 starts this season, the bay colt’s connections forked out $62,500 to supplement him to the Breeders Crown on Oct. 24 at Woodbine, a costly investment that more than paid off when the “Pride of Indiana” bested some of the sport’s top male sophomores in 1:50.   That triumph also gave driver Trace Tetrick his first Breeders Crown trophy. “It was exciting,” Trace revealed. “It was something I’ll never forget.” Born May 31, 2012 in LaGrange, Indiana, Freaky Feet Pete is the eighth foal out of the Pilgrim’s Punch mare Skyway Lori p, 3, 1:54.1S ($56,663) and has half siblings in: Dongetinskyway (by Dontgetinmyway) p,6,1:51.2 ($288,458); Virgil (by Always A Virgin) p, 5, 1:51f ($217,803); Dontlookatthesky (by Dontgetinmyway) p,4,1:51.3 ($170,396); Just Fred (by Dontgetinmyway) p,4,1:51.3 ($166,750); Loretta (by Dontgetinmyway) p,5,1:52s ($145,112); Lightninginthesky (by Electric Yankee) p,5,1:52.1s ($129,032); and Good Gum Gertie (by Palone Ranger) p,3,1:53.1 ($43,993), etc.  “Pete,” as he’s known around the Rheinheimer’s barn at the family’s home in LaGrange, IN showed signs of greatness as a freshman, capturing nine of his ten starts in 2014 and earning $261,950.  He won his first career start on July 3, 2014 at Hoosier, pacing in 1:55.1 with Trace at the lines.  One week later he won an Indiana Sires Stake in a blistering 1:51.4 at Hoosier.  As a 2-year-old he went on to win multiple sire stake tests in the Hoosier state before capturing the $220,000 ISS Final on Oct. 18 at Hoosier Park, stopping the timer in 1:50.4 and drawing off from his rivals by 11½ lengths. “He surprises me every time he’s on the track,” Larry stressed. “We don’t give Trace any instructions but he always takes care of him and does what he needs to do.” Freaky Feet Pete has now amassed $1,037,724 from 23 wins and two seconds in 26 trips postward. In fact, he’s only finished off the board once in his career and that was in his third career start as a freshman, when he finished fourth.  The hardy colt thus has never missed a purse check—EVER! The colt really didn’t start to show was he was going to become a superstar though until he made that first career start, Larry recalled. “He won his first race, then his second, and we started to think he might be something special,” Larry said.  “The key to Pete’s success seems to be his attitude. He’s got a playful, goofy demeanor and once he steps out of the trailer at the racetrack, he’s all business. He knows when it’s time to get to work, and he loves his work, yes he does.” Now that’s a point everyone is getting the chance to evidence by the eye popping numbers that he continues to put up! Tom Kelley

Looking to bring his sophomore season to a close the same way that he started his second season James & Teri Blackman's Dixie's Boy came flying through the open stretch to post an impressive neck decision over six other ICF harness racing sophomore's in Saturday's $8,060 Xpressbet Stake at Balmoral Park. The final time was 1:54.2 over the sloppy going.   Reserved through the early stages of the race by driver Casey Leonard as Earndawg (Ridge Warren) zipped through splits of 28.4, 57.3 & 1:25.3 Leonard moved the gelded son of Duneside Perch--Dingy's Model into the outer flow as the field neared the top of the stretch.   Fit, fresh and loaded with pace, Leonard then maneuvered the Joel Smith trainee towards the inside where he spotted a seam along the pylons as the field hit the open stretch. With clear sailing in front of them Dixie's Boy quickly swallowed up the pace-setter with 100 yards to go and began to draw clear in the shadow of the wire to notch his second straight win here and his seventh win in 29 starts this year. Earndawg was forced to settle for the runner-up role on this night while Lucpark (Mike Oosting) rallied late to get the show dough.   After a quick start to his sophomore season then a bit of a "summer lull" Dixie's Boy now boasts career numbers of eight wins, five seconds and eight thirds in 36 starts with earnings of more than $55,000.   Sent off as a close second choice in the wagering Dixie's Boy returned $6.80, $4.00 & $3.20.   Tom Kelley

It was a busy night of stakes action on Friday night at Balmoral Park as the Crete oval played host to a quartet of Illinois conceived and foaled events featuring both harness racing trotters and pacers.   Trotters kicked off the action in race two with a field of seven diagonally gaited 2yo colts and geldings squaring off in the first of two $8,060 Xpressbet Stakes.   When the smoke cleared from this tussle it was Derek and Amy Jacobus's Speedy Rendezvous emerging victorious with a 1½ length wire to wire victory in 1:59.3 for driver Ridge Warren.   Hustled right to the front from post five the Nick Prather trained son of Photo Color--Fox Valley Tryst rattled off splits of 30.0, 1:00.1 & 1:29.4 while uncontested on the front end. With plenty left in reserve the good looking chestnut was on cruise control through the lane as he reported home with his second win in four lifetime starts. Longshot Homershobbyhorse (Mike Oosting) rallied late to be the runner-up while heavily favored Pastor Clint (Casey Leonard) was forced to settle for the show dough.   Next on the docket were freshmen pacing fillies as a field of seven lined up behind the gate to battle for a purse of $8,140 in another Xpressbet Stake.   This race also produced a wire to wire winner as the Hosea Williams owned and trained Lexington Lady sped right to the front and made every call a winning one, holding on to win by a neck in 1:53.4.   Zipped away from post five by regular pilot Brian Carpenter the daughter of Lexington Legend--Stephie Kay sped through splits of 28.0, 56.0 & 1:24.1 while maintaining an open lengths advantage. After "bottoming out" the field of youngsters the speedball was all out through the final sixteenth of a mile as she gamely held off the big late move of Char N Marg (Casey Leonard), who was hung up in traffic while stuck along the pylons on the final turn. Whiskersonkittens (Robert Smolin) enjoyed a pocket sitting trip while grabbing the third place check.   The win was the ninth in 13 starts this season for Lexington Lady who also has four second place finishes to her credit and now boasts earnings of more than $66,000.   Sophomore pacing fillies continued Friday's stakes parade with a field of six state-breds battling it out in the $7,980 Giggles The Clown Stake.   Continuing with her late season charge Peter Karras's Fox Valley Charm cruised to a deceivingly easy one-length victory in a brisk 1:52.0 with driver Mike Oosting at the controls.   After settling in third through an opening quarter in 27.4, Oosting whisked the Mike Brink trained miss to the front as the field moved by the half-mile station in 56.0. The issue was never in doubt from that point on as the daughter of Yankee Skyscaper--Fox Valley Cherub rolled past the three-quarter-mile mark in 1:24.0 before sealing the deal with a 28.0 final quarter. Lex (Kyle Wilfong) was forced to settle for the bridesmaid role once again while Fox Valley Brooke (Ridge Warren) used a ground saving journey to finish third.   With the win Fox Valley Charm sports career numbers of 12-5-3 in 28 starts with earnings of more than $64,000 for her proud connections.   Last but not least on the card a full field of 10 two-year-old pacing colts were sent to battle in the $8,300 Crete Stake.   The "chalk" players went down in flames in this event as a pocket sitting JB's Hero used the passing lane to perfection as he went charging by the heavily favored Royale Rose to win by 1½ lengths in 1:53.4.   Perfectly handled by driver Robert Smolin the John Barnard owned son of Hawaiian Cowboy--Paint The Picture sat right on the back of the division leader as he put up splits of 27.3, 56.3 & 1:25.1. Patiently awaiting room in the passing lane, Smolin maneuvered the Bill Crone trained colt to the inside with a sixteenth of a mile to go where he quickly swallowed up the pace setter to notch his second win in 17 starts this year. Royale Rose was forced to settle for the runner-up role on this night while Bayside Tequilla (Mike Oosting) was third.   Live racing continues on Saturday, Oct. 31st at Balmoral Park. Once again all the action gets underway at 7:10pm on Saturday night and as always the $1 Pick 4 (races 9-12) features a $20,000 guaranteed pool. The 10-cent Hi Five (race 10) also features a guaranteed pool of $15,000. The live racing action will be headlined by ICF sophomore pacing colts as a field of seven are scheduled to go postward in an $8,060 Xpressbet Stake.   Tom Kelley

Harness racing freshman trotting colts stepped into the spotlight on Friday night as a full field of 10 diagonally gaited youngsters squared off in the $21,300 Cardinal Stake for state-breds. When the smoke cleared from this heated battle it was Thomas Pollard and Dirk Simpson Stable's Pastor Clint who emerged victorious as he came flying down the center of the track to record a 2¼ length victory in 2:0.1 over a track rated as "good" after being dulled by rain earlier in the night.   Given a patient steer by leading driver Casey Leonard the gelded son of Powerful Emotion--SS Stardust was kept well off the early pace of 29.3, 59.4 & 1:29.1 which was being set by a headstrong Speedy Rendezvous (Ridge Warren).   Tipping five and six wide from the center of the pack as the field straightened into a brisk headwind the Dirk Simpson trainee began gobbling up one rival after another as he charged home with his fifth win in 15 lifetime starts. Longshot PJ Boy (Mike Rogers), who found a good early spot despite leaving from post 10, turned a nice ground saving trip into a second place check while JD Cheese (Todd Warren) staged a nice rally to get the show dough.   Dispatched as the third choice in the wagering despite a similar come from behind win in his elimination the previous week Pastor Clint returned $9.00, $5.60, $3.60 while upping his record to 5-1-4 in 15 starts with earnings of $31,451.   Tom Kelley  

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