11/15/2011 5:47PM

Hawthorne: Livesay enjoying second go-round

Dustin Orona Photography
Cherokee Lord, with Rafael Bejarano riding, wins the Remington Green.

STICKNEY, Ill. - Charlie Livesay took out his first trainer’s license late in the year 1958. More than five decades later, he will have a decent chance to win the first graded stakes of his career when Cherokee Lord starts Saturday in the Grade 3 River City Handicap at Churchill Downs.

Livesay, 78, will drive his horse, last-out winner of the $125,000 Remington Green, from Hawthorne to Churchill by van late this week.

“He’s doing fine right now,” Livesay said. “I think he deserves to run in there.”

Livesay, born into horse life in Colorado, took an extended mid-career break from horse racing in order to bring up his six children in a more stable environment. Living near Lafayette, La., at the time, Livesay broke green into the oil business, starting out as a roughneck before working his way into more technical drilling positions working in the Gulf of Mexico. His children grown, Livesay returned to horse training, and he maintains about a 10-horse string, with Cherokee Lord at the forefront.

A close fourth after setting the pace in the 2010 Secretariat, Cherokee Lord had surgery to remove an ankle chip late last year, but has come back to win three of his five 2011 starts. His front-running habits have given way to a more patient approach – something Livesay can appreciate at his age.

“I guess I’ll do this till I’m 110,” he said, asked how long he planned to train. “I enjoy my work.”

Daily average handle down

Business is lagging so far at Hawthorne’s fall-winter meet, with average daily handle from all sources down 20 percent from a similar period in 2010.

The 31 racing programs through Sunday at this meet have produced an average daily all-sources handle of $2,229,669, according to figures provided by the Illinois Racing Board. During 25 similar dates in 2010, Hawthorne handled an average of $2,784,352 per day on its live card.

Hawthorne switched from four-day race weeks one year ago to five-day weeks in 2011, so gross handle has increased this year. Correspondingly, field size has declined so far in 2011, from 9.7 starters per race in fall-winter 2010 to 8.97 so far this meet.

“The month of October was slow, but it was slow all around racing,” said the track’s assistant general manager, Jim Miller, who predicted the gap in average daily handle between 2010 and 2011 would narrow in coming weeks.

◗ Thanks to a torrid start to the meet as well as steady support from leading trainer Roger Brueggemann (23 wins through Sunday), French import Florent Geroux entered this racing week atop the Hawthorne jockey standings. Geroux had ridden 37 winners, six more than second-place Tim Thornton.