Hawthorne Thoroughbred meet to span six months straight in 2023

By: Tom LaMarra

Posted: Sept. 22, 2022

After experimenting with a split meet this year—spring and fall racing—Hawthorne Race Course will hold a 68-day Thoroughbred meet from March 4 through Sept. 4 under a schedule approved by the Illinois Racing Board at its Sept. 22 meeting.

Hawthorne will race Saturdays and Sundays throughout the meet with first post time of 2:50 p.m. Central time. Wednesdays will be added from June 4 through early September with first post time of 6:30 p.m.

Hawthorne President Tom Carey told IRB members he’s hopeful construction on the track’s casino will begin before the end of this year. The casino’s opening is considered critical to Illinois racing of both breeds because a percentage of revenue from slot machines will be used to fund purse accounts.

Carey also said Hawthorne, now the only racetrack in the Chicago area given the closure of Arlington Park last year, must start rebuilding its stakes program. There is continued hope a second track with a casino will be built in the area to alleviate the need for two breeds to split racing dates at one track.

The Standardbred meet at Hawthorne in 2023 will offer 49 evening programs from Sept. 9-Dec. 31. Standardbred industry representatives said not racing in the fall is damaging to the breeding industry given the lack of in-state opportunities for 2-year-olds to race.

“We have great relationship with both breeds,” Carey said. “We believe we can rebuild this industry.”

“In difficult times, we’re trying to do the best we can,” said Illinois Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association President Chris Block. “We do rely on Fairmount Park horses but hopefully we’ll have a horse population at Hawthorne (given the schedule next year). We appreciate what Hawthorne has done, but we need a second racetrack in the Chicago area.”

Fairmount, now called FanDuel Sportsbook and Horse Racing, was awarded 62 racing programs from April 18-Nov. 18 with racing Tuesday afternoons and Saturday evenings. There was discussion at the IRB meeting about having Fairmount and Hawthorne both racing on Saturdays given concerns over horse population in the state, but no changes were made.

Fairmount usually wraps up its meet in early or mid-September. No update on the status of the opening of a legislatively-approved casino at the track was provided during the IRB meeting.