In a quiet posting buried on the Hawthorne Race Course website, Hawthorne Race Course in Stickney/Cicero released, with no fanfare, its tentative stakes schedule. Said schedule can be found in the image below
, and is not finalized. pending both a formalized release from the track and the approval of the Illinois Racing Board at the end of January. "Picks and Ponderings" will update readers when approvals are granted.
(Image courtesy of Hawthorne Race Course.)
The Illinois Derby returns, but has been moved forward to April 20th, two weeks later. It's the first major stakes of the meet, and in past years served as a somewhat productive prep to the Kentucky Derby. But when the race was culled from the Kentucky Derby Points system, the race went into limbo. While the race does get a purse hike to $750,000, it moves forward two weeks and likely loses much of the power it had to springboard runners to the Kentucky Derby on the first Saturday in May. The conditions of the race-a Grade 3 at 1 1/8 miles for three year olds--are unchanged, however.
The G3 Sixty Sails maintains its usual spot on the third Saturday in April, maintains its $200,000 purse. Now this two turn race for older filles and mares shares the day with the Illinois Derby.
Lastly, the Illinois Champions Day program will be on Saturday April 28th. It features six stakes for Illinois-breds, each carrying six-figure purses. The purses are down this year to $100,000 from the $125,000 level the past year. The names remain the same from last year. In a clerical change, The Governor's Lady was renamed The Third Chance Handicap, but retains its distance and conditions (six furlongs, dirt, older females) and honors the sprinting filly trained by James Divito and co-owned by local WLS-TV television anchor Ron Magers (also, bred in Illinois by Magers).
Update, January 29. The Stakes Schedule as given above was approved at the January Illinois Racing Board meeting by an 8-0 vote (with three members not voting).
Stay with "Picks and Ponderings" for more news from Hawthorne Race Course about their upcoming spring meet.