01/09/2009 12:00AM

Racing ends but training continues


For races on Friday afternoon at Fair Grounds, Santa Anita, and Gulfstream Park, the temperature was in the 70s. At Oaklawn, which starts its 2009 meet next week, the mercury was supposed to rise into the 60s. Up at Hawthorne? Mid-20s, with snow on the ground, and a decent chance of more to come.

Yes, it is the middle of winter in Chicago, and finally time to call a halt to the Thoroughbred racing season. Sunday is closing day at the Hawthorne fall-winter meet, which began way back on Sept. 26.

No fireworks in the closing-day feature, either, an entry-level sprint allowance which drew a field of eight that actually looks all right for a race this time of year at Hawthorne. Jilluke rallied with a flourish to finish a close third at this class level in his most recent out, and both All Joking Aside and Prestidigitation look like contenders in the six-furlong sprint. Still, followers of the local scene realize that conditions as much as talent are a major factor in the outcome of races this time of year.

But for those hardy souls who call Chicago a year-round training base, there is no flight to warmer climes when the meet shuts down Sunday.

"We resume training six days a week starting Monday morning," said Hawthorne assistant general manager Jim Miller.

Between 900 and 1,000 horses will continue to call Hawthorne home through the remainder of January and throughout February. The gate crew won't be around until the second week of February, but Hawthorne will have an official clocker present for every day of training.

Trainers' race down to the wire

With Chris Emigh scheduled to have wrapped up his Hawthorne season after riding Friday, Inez Karlsson, who lost her apprentice allowance this week, will win her first riding title. Through Thursday's races, Karlsson had a 79-69 lead on Emigh.

Emigh will take one day off to spend with his family, then travel to Hot Springs, Ark., for the Oaklawn Park meet, his agent Jay Fedor said.

Emigh stayed longer than he might have in an attempt to overtake Karlsson, and, Fedor said, to try and help longtime client and friend Brian Williamson to his first training title.

Williamson, Roger Brueggemann, and Frank Kirby all had 26 wins through Thursday's racing in the race for leading trainer. The edge on closing day goes to Kirby, who has horses for five races, compared with three for Williamson and two for Brueggemann.