05/08/2017 3:06PM

Hawthorne business offers ray of hope


STICKNEY, Ill. – No one is turning cartwheels, but at least Hawthorne Race Course’s betting handle held the line – and even improved a touch in some areas – during its winter-spring 2017 meet that concluded April 29.

Hawthorne ran 185 races over 22 programs during a 22-day meet that began March 11. The races averaged 7.18 starters, and Hawthorne averaged $1,352,373 in all-sources daily handle for a gross handle of $29,747,806.

During its winter-spring meet in 2016, Hawthorne hosted 20 cards, which included 163 races and averaged just 6.96 starters per race. Average daily handle was $1,343,818 for a gross handle of $26,876,360.

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The good news is that despite adding two days and 22 more races compared to 2016, Hawthorne still averaged 3 percent more starters in its races. The gross handle rise of 9 percent also was solid.

On the down side, average all-sources handle per horse fell 5.4-percent, to $22,395, and average all-sources handle per race was down 2.4 percent, to $160,798.

Hawthorne managed to get in only seven turf races compared to 13 during winter-spring 2016. The meet was helped, however, by an unusually warm and snowless January and February.

“This spring we showed that we have turned the corner and are headed in the right direction at Hawthorne,” president and general manager Tim Carey said in a press release.

For lack of funds, Hawthorne dropped the Illinois Derby from its 2016 stakes schedule, but the race returned this year and was won by Multiplier, who is a probable runner in the Preakness Stakes.

Victor Santiago won 30 races at the meet, 10 more than Edgar Perez, and landed his first Hawthorne riding title. Trainer Scott Becker won races at a 38 percent clip, going 25 for 66 at the meet, but only beat Manny Perez for the training title by six winners. Perez was a friend to his backers, however, his 19 winners producing a $2.68 return on a $2 investment. Becker trains nearly exclusively for owner William Stiritz, whose 25 wins at the meet were 19 more than the second-highest total.