Hawthorne fall meet generates strong gains in handle, field size

By: Tom LaMarra

Posted: Dec. 30, 2020

The 34-day fall Thoroughbred meet at Hawthorne Race Course produced a gross pari-mutuel handle gain of more than $20 million from with the 30-day fall meet in 2019, according to statistics released by the Illinois racetrack.

The meet progressed uninterrupted during a year in which the track’s Standardbred meet was shut down for a period of time because of COVID-19 restrictions. In addition, after mid-March Hawthorne operated with a limited number of patrons or none at all in the facility.

With the COVID-19 restrictions in place, total handle for the fall meet was $65,658,122 compared with $44,763,380 in the fall of 2019.  That translated to a 29% per-card increase in handle of $1,931,121 wagered per card in 2020 compared with $1,492,112 in the fall of 2019. For the 2020 meet, 15 programs surpassed $2 million in handle compared with one in 2019.

There were 298 races with 2,694 starts in 2020 versus 277 races and 2,251 starts in 2019. Average field size for the 2020 fall meet was a strong 9.04, up from 8.13 in 2019. Hawthorne also reported that, because of favorable weather conditions, there were 49 races run on the turf in 2020 but only 19 in 2019.

Novogratz Racing Stables was leading owner with 16 wins. Hugh Robertson won the training tile for the second year in a row with 26 victories, while Victor Santiago topped the jockey standings with 32 victories.

Hawthorne President and General Manager Tim Carey called 2020 “a year unlike any other.”

“We faced uncertainty with the racing schedule, fans on site, and working around casino construction at our facility,” Carey said in a release. “Working hand-in-hand with our horsemen made a great difference though. They are excited about what is just around the corner at Hawthorne for racing and showed their support all meet long. While 2020 turned out to be a strong fall meet for us, I cannot wait for what we can do for racing in Illinois in 2021 and beyond.”

(Hawthorne photo courtesy of the ITHA)