For my latest piece for the Illinois Harness Horsemen’s Association, I headed out to Hawthorne on a day with no racing…and yet, it was still a day with plenty of horses, and plenty of action. Relive my morning right here.
This summer, I’m back to writing about harness racing at Hawthorne! And, in my first article of the summer meet, I talk to trainer Amanda Mills about her career in harness racing, and about a big, stunning grey in her barn, Silver Romeo.
Hawthorne’s fifteen-day spring meet drew to a close today with three stakes races for Illinois-registered horses.
It was a red-and-green-letter day for the triumvirate of owner William Stiritz, trainer Scott Becker, and jockey Chris Emigh. The three combined for two stakes wins today: Dandy Gal in the Third Chance Handicap, and Goneghost in the Milwaukee Avenue Handicap. Both stakes winners were homebreds for Stiritz, from the final crop of his longtime stallion Cherokee Rap. They all three accepted meet titles, as well. With ten wins, Stiritz claimed leading owner honours for the meet. Those same ten wins brought Scott Becker the training title. Emigh, with his pair of stakes wins on the final day of the meet, ended the spring at Hawthorne with a meet-leading fourteen victories.
Read on at Picks and Ponderings, and catch up with the end of the Hawthorne Thoroughbred season before moving across town to Arlington on Friday!
Saturday is closing day of the all-too-brief Hawthorne spring meet. After Saturday, the Thoroughbreds migrate north to Arlington, the main track surface at Hawthorne gets swapped out again, and standardbreds take centre stage at 35th and Cicero.
However, closing day features a slate of stakes races for older Illinois-registered horses.
The card includes a pair of six-furlong sprints, the Robert S. Molaro for ages four-and-up, and the fillies’ complement, the Third Chance Handicap. The mile and a sixteenth Milwaukee Avenue Handicap is open to Illinois-breds aged three and up; the lower age limit makes sense, as there was no two-turn stakes for three-year-olds at Hawthorne. There was a fillies’ complement in the condition book, The Peach of It Handicap, but it did not draw enough nominations to go. The Peach of It’s loss is the Milwaukee Avenue’s gain: a pair of top-quality Illinois-bred mares, Prado’s Sweet Ride and Babybluesbdancing, will challenge the boys.
Head over to Picks and Ponderings, read my preview of Saturday’s closing day stakes at Hawthorne, and let me know your thoughts in the comments!
…more surprising was that no one who played the superfecta even had Silver Saver, Starship Brooklyn, Waddle, and Midnite In Miami in that order. So, there’s a $9,693 carryover in the superfecta pool. It goes right into the superfecta pool for Wednesday’s opener, and any and all players with a winning ticket can reap the benefits.
Wednesday’s opener is a turf dash for open $10,000 claimers. This analysis is focused on the turf, since the weather is slated to be clear until late in the week, perfect for this Wednesday race to stay on the grass.
For a race in which she so easily towered on paper once her stablemate scratched, the start of the 2018 Pretty Jenny Stakes could hardly have been more difficult for Jean Elizabeth.
Unraced since a tour de force victory in an allowance optional claiming race at Hawthorne last October, she was fractious in her long-awaited return to a starting gate on race day. “The gate guy was trying to get her head pointed straight ahead,” recalled jockey Julio Felix, “but when he got her straight she lunged and hit her head, hard, on the gate.”
From there, things went far better for the Larry Rivelli trainee.
The stakes portion of the Hawthorne meet begins this weekend — and, for the first time since 2015, Hawthorne has scheduled three-year-old stakes races for Illinois-breds. Though the Land of Lincoln was not carded for lack of nominations, the Pretty Jenny Stakes did draw enough runners and will be contested on Saturday.
Previously known as the Lady Hallie Stakes, the race has been restricted to Illinois-bred sophomore fillies since its 2004 running, and has taken Pretty Jenny’s name since its 2009 running. Pretty Jenny, herself the Lady Hallie winner in 2005, was a 12-time winner in 32 starts between ages three and six. She dominated the local filly and mare sprint circuit and also won stakes races at Churchill Downs and Prairie Meadows as an older horse.
The harness racing meet at Hawthorne has drawn to a close. I’ll be back writing for the Illinois Harness Horsemen’s Association come the summer meet, but before we move on to thoroughbreds at 35th and Cicero, let’s visit my last pair of pieces from the winter meet.
For both, I talked to drivers, but they run the gamut of experience.
Issac Love is still a provisional driver — but he made the most of his drives at Hawthorne this winter, particularly with younger horses.
Ryan Anderson just crossed the 3,000-win threshold — he talks about his lifetime in the sport, and the most memorable horses along the way.
Thanks for reading all winter long, and I’m looking forward to returning to harness racing this summer!
If you’re a new follower of the Chicago harness racing circuit, one of the first things you learn is that driver Casey Leonard wins a lot of races. A perennial driving champion in Illinois, he enters the second-to-last week of the Hawthorne meet with 28 wins, the most of any driver. Even as he reigns as the top driver in the state, he still remains connected to his original interest in the world of harness racing: training horses.
Read on, and learn about top driver Casey Leonard’s connection to training horses, in my latest article for the Illinois Harness Horsemen’s Association!
In Saturday night’s second race at Hawthorne, few people expected five-year-old mare Sweetshadyshark to make an impact: she went off the longest shot in the eight-horse field, at 28/1. Sitting last through the early stages of the race, she picked off horses while wide through the far turn, and found another gear in the stretch run.
As Sweetshadyshark kicked away in the final furlong, powering to a two-and-a-quarter-length victory, she brought a group of new standardbred owners the thrill of their lives.
Read on, and experience the thrill, in my latest piece for the Illinois Harness Horsemen’s Association!