10/16/2008 12:00AM

Track bids $150M for final Ill. casino license


STICKNEY, Ill. - Hawthorne Gaming LLC, with the Estate of Thomas Carey as a major equity stakeholder, was one of seven entities to file a bid with the Illinois Gaming Board for an Illinois casino license late Tuesday afternoon. The bidders were revealed late Wednesday. Each hopes to be awarded the 10th and final casino license in the state, a license that has been vacant for more than a decade.

Hawthorne Gaming bid $150 million for the license, well below the top bid of $435 million from Los Angeles-based Trilliant Gaming, which proposes to build the casino in Rosemont. Rosemont was to be the site of a casino when the 10th license originally was awarded, but the license never was issued, and the Rosemont casino never built.

Gaming Board officials said the highest bidder did not necessarily have the inside track on the license. Two other groups submitted bids higher than Hawthorne's: one proposing a casino in Waukegan, which is north of Chicago along Lake Michigan, bid $225 million; a group proposing a casino in the south Chicago suburbs bid $175 million. Another South Side group also bid $150 million, and two bids were lower than Hawthorne Gaming's.

Hawthorne president and general manager Tim Carey on Monday outlined a plan for a $500 million renovation of the Hawthorne property if Hawthorne were awarded the casino license. The renovation would completely overhaul the existing grandstand and calls for Hawthorne to become an "entertainment destination," with a water park, a music venue, and retail space.

The Gaming Board will narrow the field to three finalists within 10 days of having revealed the bidders. The board hopes to award the license before 2009.

Wooden Star hard to figure

With 12 horses in the main body of the field, and two more on the also-eligible list, there is no shortage of options in the $50,000 Wooden Star Stakes on Saturday at Hawthorne. Finding the right one - now that is a horse of a different color.

It's possible that a 4-year-old filly named Sea the Joy will be favored in the Wooden Star, a 5 1/2-furlong grass race for fillies and mares, but taking a short price in this crap-shoot seems like the wrong way to go. While Sea the Joy generally has raced against better horses than she faces Saturday, she also has raced really recently, finishing a fading fifth of 10 on Oct. 10 in a $112,000 Keeneland turf-sprint stakes. Also, Sea the Joy is a front-running type in a field with four other pace factors, and drawn in post 2, she and jockey Danush Suckie might have little choice but to go for the lead and hope for the best. That's a tricky scenario under any circumstances, and recently, the Hawthorne turf has been favoring closers.

Miss Greenley finished third in the 2007 edition of this race and could do better than that this year. Drawn on the rail with jockey Joel Campbell, who rode her to victory on this course last fall, Miss Greenley could get a favorable ground-saving trip in behind all the early pace. She raced once in July, August, and September, and appears to have improving form for trainer Mickey Goldfine, who put Miss Greenley through a solid-looking five-furlong dirt drill here Oct. 9.

Twin Buttes ran poorly on Oct. 5 at the Pinnacle track in Michigan, but two races ago, she finished third in front of Miss Greenley while making her turf debut for trainer Frank Kirby. Twin Buttes's turf form has room for improvement, but she is another of the speed types and probably cannot survive a heated duel.