01/03/2018 4:36PM

Hawthorne sees increases in average daily handle, field size


Hawthorne’s fall-winter meet, which ended last week, saw increases in average daily handle and handle per race but declines in gross handle and handle per starter when compared with the comparable 2016 season.

Hawthorne had to cancel its closing-day card last Saturday because of cold weather and ran just a 36-day fall-winter season, down from 42 days a year ago. On an increase in average field size from 7.8 horses in 2016 to 8.49 this past fall and winter, Hawthorne averaged $1,708,081 in daily handle, up 9.17 percent from the $1,564,655 that the Chicago-area track averaged during the fall-winter 2016 season.

Hawthorne ran 317 races at this meet, down from 363 the prior year, and the average handle per race was up 7.1 percent to $193,978. Gross handle for the meeting, however, fell 6.4 percent to $61,490,916, while average handle per starter (there were 2,692 at this meet compared with 2,831 at the prior meet) dropped 1.6 percent to $22,842.

Though the turf course stayed open until December, a wet fall permitted Hawthorne to run just 28 turf races during the meet compared with 46 during the fall-winter 2016 season. Those turf races this meeting averaged a robust 9.46 starters.

Thanks to the funding of a grant from the Illinois Department of Agriculture late last summer, Hawthorne was able to support a stakes schedule this season after dropping all of its stakes races a year ago because of shortfalls in the purse account. Among the reinstated races was the historic Hawthorne Gold Cup, won in 2017 by Scuba. My Bariley captured the Hawthorne Derby earlier in the meeting.

Victor Santiago took the riding title with 38 winners, four more than runner-up Santo Sanjur. Trainer Scott Becker, one of Santiago’s primary supporters, was the leading trainer with 23 wins, eight more than his longtime compatriot and rival Steve Manley. Becker is the private trainer for William Stiritz, who was easily the meet’s leading owner with 23 winners.