12/26/2011 4:33PM

Hawthorne plans purse incentives to boost field size at spring meet

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STICKNEY, Ill. – Hawthorne Race Course will begin offering purse incentives at its spring meet in an effort to boost field size, the Chicago-area track announced Monday.

Purses at the 2012 spring meet that begins with two-day racing weeks in February will be worth from $1,000 to $6,000 more than the base prize money offered, depending on the class level of the race and the number of starters it attracts. A field of eight or nine horses will trigger the first level of incentives, $1,000 in a bottom-level maiden-claimer and $2,000 for a higher-class allowance race. Purses again go up if a field is comprised of 10 or 11 starters, with still more money added in races with 12 starters. With the incentives in place, a $7,500 maiden-claimer could offer a purse as high as $14,000.

The incentive structure was formed through an agreement between Hawthorne and the Illinois Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association. Purse levels at Illinois tracks rose significantly late last summer, when impact-fee funds collected from several casinos in the state finally were released to the racing industry after a protracted series of legal challenges.

Hawthorne, despite competitive purse levels, has suffered through an unexpected shortage of entries during its ongoing fall-winter meet that ends Saturday. Field size typically has been a strong point during this meeting, while races in the spring historically have been more difficult to fill.