Posted: March 4, 2017

The Chicagoland Thoroughbred racing season began March 3 at Hawthorne Race Course with a new look and a new first post time designed to increase pari-mutuel handle on the live product.

The spring meet will span 22 days with racing Fridays and Saturdays in March and Thursday through Saturday in April. First post is set for 4:10 p.m. Central time, or 5:10 p.m. in the East.

“With many tracks racing on the East Coast early in the afternoon, the later post time will allow for increased exposure of the Hawthorne signal to bettors, along with broadcast partner TVG and TVG2,” Hawthorne officials said.

Officials said 91 horses were entered for the opening-day program, and 74 for the second day. The mild winter has helped increased the local horse population.

“With training uninterrupted by weather during the winter dark period, many of those horses stabled on the grounds are ready to race,” Hawthorne officials said. “The favorable weather has also allowed for the turf course to begin growing much earlier in the year, with a full month of turf racing expected this meet.”

The new Tito’s Stable Bar is nearing completion on the first floor. More than 70 new flat-screen televisions will be put in place along with new seating for players to enjoy the races along with a meal. On the east end of the grandstand, the Beginner’s Luck Lounge will be opening.

The grade III Illinois Derby, with a purse of $250,000, returns after a one-year hiatus April 22. The race was suspended last year to help maintain the overnight purse schedule. Two Illinois-bred stakes will be offered on the Derby card.

(Hawthorne photo courtesy of ITHA)