02/24/2016 3:00PM

Hawthorne likely to cut spring stakes

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Hawthorne Race Course is likely to run its 2016 spring meet, which starts March 11, without any stakes races, channeling all the resources of the purse account into overnight races.

The plan to do away with the spring stakes schedule “is still being talked about, but is probably going to happen,” according to track president Tim Carey. “We’ll make a final decision within the next couple weeks.”

If the plan goes forward, it would mean the Illinois Derby, a decades-old race that in 2002 produced the Kentucky Derby winner War Emblem, would not be run this spring. The Sixty Sails Handicap, a prominent spring fixture for older female dirt-route horses, also would disappear, for this year, at least. Carey said there have been discussions about running the Illinois Derby in the fall, but that would probably only happen if the Illinois state government passes a statewide gambling-expansion bill that would permit racetracks to install slot machines.

Hawthorne ran three stakes worth a total of $500,000 last spring, but that money is needed for overnight purses, Carey said. Hawthorne averaged about $125,000 per day in overnight purses during its spring 2015 meet, but even using the stakes money for overnights, that figure will drop to $115,000 this year, Carey said.

“We’ve talked to the [Illinois Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association], and it’s been about trying to keep the overnights as high as possible,” said Carey. “We’re doing that while we wait for something to happen in Springfield.”