04/29/2014 2:03PM

Hawthorne business continues to decline


STICKNEY, Ill. – Hawthorne Race Course’s 37-day winter-spring meet that ended Sunday proved to be another season of decline, with betting off more than 13 percent compared to the 2013 winter-spring meet.

Average daily all-sources handle fell from $1,748,804 during a 40-day meet a year ago to $1,515,647 this year, a drop of 13.3 percent. Even more troubling is the drastic erosion of Hawthorne winter-spring handle since 2012, when the track averaged more than $2.2 million in daily handle, a figure more than 30 percent higher than this meet’s daily average.

Short fields have become the norm at Hawthorne, which averaged just 7.01 starters per race this meet, a figure comparable to last spring’s. An especially harsh winter surely had a negative effect on field size, as did a very late spring, which limited Hawthorne to just three grass races this meet. Only two grass races were contested in 2013, while the 2012 meet had 33 turf races. With the small fields, favorites prospered, winning 37 percent of the races at the meet.

Jockey Tim Thornton got off to a hot start and held on to win the riding title over a surging Rafael Hernandez, 52-48. Perennial leading trainer Roger Brueggemann took another trainer title, but ran less and won less than in recent seasons, edging Chris Dorris 17 wins to 15. William Stiritz ended Midwest Thoroughbred’s reign of Hawthorne owner titles, winning 12 races.

The lack of participation on the part of Midwest, North America’s leading owner the last several seasons, was jarring. The sprawling operation won just 5 races from 19 starters at the meet compared to records of 21 for 57 in 2013 and 26 for 100 in 2012.

Forces within Illinois racing have questioned the viability of Hawthorne’s spring meet, and the track’s performance this year will do nothing to quiet those voices.

Ken More than 1 year ago
why bet this when there is Gulfstream
taj More than 1 year ago
Spring racing in Chicago has been in decline ever since the demise of SPT. This is the first year in the last 25 that I didn't venture to HAW nor did I bet on any HAW race. The cards were filled with cheap maidens and conditioned claimers running for small purses - nothing exciting. Oh how I wish they could bring back SPT before the fateful conversion. Hopefully, HAW will improve but it is not looking good now and it may too suffer the same fate as SPT.
David Giannotti More than 1 year ago
Taj I long for the day when we actually had a Horse Track that being SPT,nothing but great memories of the place. Some pretty decent horses ran there,crowds of 10.000 a day where common. Spring Racing in Chicago will probably become a distant memory like you said RIP Sportsman Park & the Ghost of Tony Skoronski Hal Bishop & MH Vanberg plus the Wonder Horse Maxwell G.
Walter More than 1 year ago
The Haw meet was no different than the meets at Santa Anita and Aqueduct. Small, uncompetitive fields yielding many short priced favorites. It's not a Haw problem, it's a horse racing problem.
Paul Hoffman More than 1 year ago
Hawthorne may have had a challenging meet, but the track continues to cater to the horse player both casual and professional. Hats off to their consistent extra efforts to improve their product. As for decline reasons consider that there was no promise of a spring meet actually being permitted until SEVEN days prior to opening day.