09/24/2010 4:18PM

History Challenge: Hawthorne


Hawthorne Race Course will launch its fall meeting Friday, 119 years after the track near Chicago opened its doors for the first time. Things are likely to run much smoother than they did that first season.

Just weeks after the May 20, 1891, opener, rivals quickly built a new grandstand at nearby Garfield Park and went head to head with Hawthorne.

Using its political clout, Hawthorne had Garfield declared an outlaw track. A battle raged over the following year, culminating in a shootout at Garfield Park in September 1892. Noted horseman and former Texas sheriff James Brown shot two policemen trying to close Garfield. Brown himself was shot and killed.

Garfield never opened again. But rival gamblers built Harlem Race Track in 1894 and the battles continued. The two tracks, along with suburban Washington Park, continued to run overlapping dates, resulting in political chaos and strikes that finally shuttered all Chicago-area racing from 1895 through 1897.

Racing resumed at Washington Park and Hawthorne in 1898, but eventually in 1905, Illinois joined other states in outlawing betting on horses.

Test your knowledge of Hawthorne's long and storied history. (Answers below.)

1. The man who built Hawthorne Race Course was one of the most powerful and controversial figures of the turf in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
By the 1890s, he owned or leased more than 100 Thoroughbreds. His bay colt Riley won the 1890 Kentucky Derby.

In addition to being known as the "Master of Hawthorne," this headstrong tycoon also built racetracks in New Orleans and San Francisco.

He died penniless on July 4, 1924 at age 82. His obituary in the Thoroughbred Record said he was a man "who knew no middle ground" and one who made "bitter enemies" and friends who were "ever loyal." Name him.

2. After gambling was outlawed, Hawthorne made various attempts to reopen for racing. A meeting in 1909 lasted only two days before sheriffs shut it down. Another meet in 1911 met with the same fate.

In 1916, with authorities more willing to look the other way, Hawthorne raced a 13-day meeting where betting was on a man-to-man basis. A famous stakes race was run that season at Hawthorne for the one and only time. Name it.

3. Racing returned for good to Hawthorne in 1922. Oral betting was officially made legal in Illinois in 1924, replaced three years later by parimutuels.

In 1928, Hawthorne staged the inaugural running of what was to become its signature race - the Hawthorne Gold Cup. The Grade 2 event will be run Saturday for the 74th time.

The first running was captured by one of the top marathoners and weight carriers of that era. Name him.

4. The second, third, and fourth runnings of the Hawthorne Gold Cup were each won by this future Hall of Fame member who retired the greatest money winner of all time - a title he held for nine years until he was surpassed by the legendary Seabiscuit in 1940.

Oddly, racing five seasons from 1927-1931, this three-time champion older horse never was the leading money winner in any single season. Name him.

5. While it has been 13 years since a horse who captured the Hawthorne Gold Cup went on to win an Eclipse Award (1997 winner Buck's Boy was the 1998 turf champion), the list of past winners of the race include some of the sport's immortals, including Equipoise, Kelso, and Dr. Fager.

In 1958, this Horse of the Year and future Hall of Famer not only took down the Hawthorne Gold Cup for the second year in a row, but in so doing, pushed his earnings to $1,336,264 - surpassing Nashua as the greatest money-earner of all time. Name him.
Answers on page 10.


1. Edward Corrigan was born in Montreal, Quebec, in 1842 and moved to the United States in 1860. He and his brothers were pioneers in the building of the Kansas City Street Railway System.

Corrigan turned his attention to horses, and by the last decade of the century, he had amassed a fortune estimated at more than $1 million.
In 1890, Corrigan bought 119 acres in what are now parts of Stickney and Cicero, Ill, and built Hawthorne Race Course.

By the turn of the century, he had turned his attention to Northern California where he built the Ingleside track, and went into immediate competition with the popular Bay District course. In later years, he would again go to battle when he built City Park in New Orleans to compete with Fair Grounds.

Corrigan eventually squandered his fortune. Faced with bankruptcy, he sold Hawthorne in 1909 to former Chicago Alderman Thomas Carey. The Carey family has owned the track ever since.

2. From its inception in 1884, the American Derby at swank Washington Park became one of the most important races for 3-year-olds in the country, perhaps eclipsed only by the Travers Stakes. (It would be another 30 years before the Kentucky Derby rose to its preeminent position.)

The inaugural American Derby carried a purse of $12,000 and was won by the filly Modesty, owned by Ed Corrigan. The chestnut had earlier won the Kentucky Oaks.
The American Derby was run just once between 1905 and 1925 and that was in 1916 - the only time it was run at Hawthorne. The winner was Dodge, who had finished fourth in the Kentucky Derby to George Smith.

When the American Derby returned to the new Washington Park in 1926, it was the first $100,000 race ever run for 3-year-olds. The winner was Col. Edward R. Bradley's Boot to Boot.

3. From 1955 through 1990, first Jamaica and then Aqueduct staged the Display Handicap, always at the distance of two miles or longer.

The race honored Display, winner of the inaugural Hawthorne Gold Cup, and an iron horse who started 103 times over six seasons. While he won only 23 times (including the 1926 Preakness Stakes), he was always there or thereabouts, running long distances and carrying heavy imposts.

Daily Racing Form's celebrated writer John Hervey said of Display, "The public recognized him as one equally dangerous to wager on or against, for what he was going to do was unpredictable." Display regularly acted up while being saddled and when parading to post. He was also a starter's nightmare.

Display sired 1935 Horse of the Year and Hall of Fame member Discovery, also one of the sport's greatest long-distance runners and weight carriers.

4. Bred and owned by Willis Sharpe Kilmer of Exterminator fame, Sun Beau won 33 of 74 starts in a career that ran from 1927 through the Depression years of 1930 and 1931, when purses were plummeting.

Sun Beau retired in 1931 as champion older horse with career earnings of $376,744 - a world record. He shared the title of champion older horse with Diavolo in 1929 and Blue Larkspur in 1930.

Sun Beau is still the only horse to win the Hawthorne Gold Cup three times. Among his 17 stakes wins were the Arlington Handicap, Washington Handicap, and Latonia Championship. Sun Beau was inducted into racing's Hall of Fame in 1996.

5. On May 11, 1958, Round Table won the $50,000 Agua Caliente Handicap in Tijuana, Mexico, and became the sport's third millionaire. He then trailed only Nashua and Citation.

Exactly five months later, on Oct. 11, Round Table crossed the finish line to win his second straight Hawthorne Gold Cup. In so doing, the Kerr Stables' ace surpassed Nashua (who had retired with earnings of $1.2 million) to become the all-time money leader.

In winning the Hawthorne race, Round Table also broke his own track record set a year earlier. His time for the 1 1/4 miles was 1:59.80.

Round Table eventually retired with earnings of more than $1.7 million.