With the calendar reading October, live thoroughbred racing in Chicago shifts from Arlington Park in the northwest suburbs to Hawthorne Race Course in the southwest suburbs. As with cross-town Arlington Park, "Picks and Ponderings" will be providing coverage (on site for stakes races) all meet long, and you can get e-mail updates all meet long (look at the bottom of the post or on the right side) at no charge (unlike other sites....).
For Hawthorne Race Course's Fall 2013 meet, "Picks and Ponderings" previews the meet while answering some questions that readers might have. As the title above shows, "Seven Questions" will be posed and answered.
Q1: When are they racing at Hawthorne?
A1: They'll be live from October 4th to December 29th, racing five days a week, Wednesday through Sunday. Mondays and Tuesdays are dark days, as are Thanksgiving and Christmas Day. First post times (in CT) are as follows: 5:00pm on October 5, 3:10pm on Fridays in October and November, 2:10pm on all other days in October and November, and 1:20pm on all days in December.
Q2: A 5:00 pm first post on the 5th. That's a night card, right?
A2: Indeed it is. Unlike Arlington, Hawthorne has lights on its property (they ran night time standardbred racing in the summer back in the day) and as such they can run at night. So on Hawthorne Derby Day, there's a night time card. It's this Saturday, October 5. Look for a special post, a live band, and other entertainment to counter with the live card and the two stakes races.
Q3: Who are some big players at the meet?
A3: Apprentice rider Emmanuel Esquivel won the title at Arlington in his first full season there. Look for him to be at or near the top of the standings on the southwest side while still in his apprenticeship. Other local riders like Tim Thornton and Chris Emigh will get their share of mounts. The trainer/owner combinations of Roger Bruggemann/Midwest Thoroughbreds and Scott Becker/William Stiritz should be tops yet again in the standings, the former having swept the trainer/owner titles at Hawthorne Spring and adding an Arlington ownership title. Other trainers to watch for are south-side mainstays Chris Block and Frank Kirby. New faces to the area include rider Alex Canchari (from Minnesota) and trainer Clay Brinson (also from Minnesota), who both were last Fall.
Q4: What are some of the big races of the meet?
A4: Check out the Hawthorne Stakes Schedule. The fall fixtures of the G3 Hawthorne Derby, Carey Memorial, and G2 Hawthorne Gold Cup are there. But the G2 Hawthorne Gold Cup this year moves to late-November, a few days after Thanksgiving this year. Purses for stakes are the same for the Illinois-breds, but the open stakes on the grass--the R. F. Carey Memorial and Indian Maid are worth $75,000 this year. The Gold Cup moves to November and now carries a pot of $350,000. There's precedent for mixing up the schedule: recall that Hawthorne moved the Illinois Derby in the Spring. The changes (both to the big races and to the small races; in the small races there are some new quirks, such as $8K being the new second-from-bottom level and bottom for maiden claimers) come on the heels of a new racing secretary, Allan Plever. Plever is a racetrack veteran who in his last capacity was the agent for rider Francisco Torres.
Q5: Where's the turf racing? I didn't see it in the spring.
A5: A cold, wet spring knocked grass racing down to only two races on the penultimate day of the Spring meet that ended last April. Hawthorne should be able to card and run more grass races this fall. Six weeks of turf racing is par, though grass racing on Thanksgiving is possible if the weather is kind. Otherwise, it will be three months of dirt racing.
Q6: I've heard about these "Jackpot" wagers. Are they at Hawthorne?
A6: The wagering menu for Hawthorne is almost line-for-line the same as at Arlington, but with
three four changes. First, the Pick Six goes to a $2 base instead of the dollar base. Secondly, the Pick 5 does pay a consolation four-of-five ticket whereas consolations are not dispensed at Arlington. Thirdly, there is a dollar minimum on win,place, and show bets as opposed to two dollars at cross-town Arlington. Lastly, the Pick 9 is a place wager with a dollar base (top two permitted), instead of the win-only dime base Jackpot wager on the north side. The Hi-5 retains the Jackpot provision that the wager's entire pool is paid out only when there's a unique winner or a mandated payout (such as closing day). Low takeouts are present on the Pick 5 (fifty-cent base) and Hi-5 (dollar base).
Q7: So how do I get to this action, whether to see it or wager on it?
A7: Hawthorne sits just outside the Chicago city limits in Stickney/Cicero. By CTA, it's not as transit friendly as Arlington with a commuter train dropping you in the parking lot. You'll need a long El ride (Pink or Orange lines) from the city then a connection to a bus (route 54B) and then a stiff walk. It's suburban, so it's obviously more friendly to cars. Those coming from downtown can take the Stevenson Expressway (the Eisenhower is fine) to Cicero, then proceed north (or south, from the Ike) to the course. If you're a stay-at-home type (or live outside of Chicago), TVG will televise the races. Twinspires and Xpressbet will show them and permit wagering (if legal in your area).
Update, October 3 to reflect the difference in the bases of win, place, and show wagers as per the suggestion of commenter "NBII".
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