10/09/2003 12:00AM

Sportsman's grant scrutinized


CHICAGO - A federal investigation is targeting a $750,000 grant given to Sportsman's Park by the state of Illinois. A report in the Chicago Tribune said a federal grand jury is looking into the propriety of the grant, which was awarded by the administration of Gov. George Ryan and paid out in early January, after horse racing and automobile racing operations had ceased at Sportsman's.

The horse racing arm of Sportsman's, the National Jockey Club, joined with Hawthorne Race Course last year to form a loosely merged entity known as Hawthorne National LLC. The NJC conducts a race meet at Hawthorne in the spring, while the current meet at the track is being conducted by Hawthorne Race Course.

Hawthorne's director of operations, Thomas Carey III, said the probe "has no impact" on Hawthorne or Hawthorne National.

The investigation is focused on why the grant was awarded. The grant reportedly was originally earmarked for backstretch improvements, but its purpose later was described as reimbursement for expenses Sportsman's incurred when it remodeled its facility for auto racing.