Illinois hopeful to receive share of Horse Racing Fund surplus for purses

By: Tom LaMarra

Posted: May 22, 2024

The Illinois racing industry is hopeful that it can secure additional funds for purses from the state Horse Racing Fund, which it did in 2023.

The Illinois Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association said the Horse Racing Fund is again accumulating a surplus and that it is urging state legislators to direct funds to Hawthorne Race Course for purses. In 2023, lawmakers transferred $5.1 million of the surplus to purse accounts, and Hawthorne, for Thoroughbred racing, received close to $2.3 million.

This year, we remain cautiously optimistic that the legislature will agree with our position that excess dollars in the Horse Racing Fund are best spent supporting the men and women who continue to work in the service of Illinois Thoroughbred horse racing,” the ITHA said. “We continue to work closely with the Illinois Racing Board on this matter and are grateful for the IRB’s participation.

The spring legislative session is scheduled to conclude May 24.

Meanwhile, the IRB at its May meeting approved a request from Hawthorne management to vacate four Thursday programs that had been scheduled for June. Officials indicated there is competition for horses from other meets in the region, and that shaving the dates would hopefully lead to larger field sizes and increased pari-mutuel handle.

Hawthorne, which races Saturdays and Sundays each week, had planned to expand racing to three days a week during June. According to its 2024 racing calendar, Hawthorne still plans to add Thursday racing from July through the end of the meet on Oct. 13.

The ITHA said if Hawthorne had added Thursdays in June, it planned to offer seven races a day for a total of 21 races per week. The ITHA said it requested, and Hawthorne agreed, to offer 19 races in total on Saturdays and Sundays and add races if the horse population permits. The IRB approved that proposal.

“We anticipate that Hawthorne will evaluate the Thursday racing option in July, August and September based on the number of entries in coming weeks,” the ITHA said.