On site handle increased by nearly 11 percent, as full fields, contentious races, and a cornucopia of promotions brought more people to the Stickney venue.
The quality of racehorse was evident by no less than four new track-record performances, either equaled or surpassed, and by the continued popularity of the Harness Racing School, which has introduced scores of new fans into the standardbred arena.
The Hawthorne-faithful were also presented with a glimpse into the future as young drivers Tyler Buter, Dan Noble, Brandon Simpson and Josh Sutton demonstrated their skill on a nightly basis and are pleasant reminders that the sport still remains a viable player in the racing world.
Lest we forget the current stars of Chicago harness racing, we salute Brent Holland for winning his second straight driving title as he recorded 70 wins in just 39 racing days. That total easily held off Mike Oosting, who made a charge in the final week, but finished with 62 wins, a clear second in the standings.
The training title was contentious right down to wire, as five conditioners were within three wins heading into the final night of racing. In the end, the powerful Erv Miller-barn prevailed by a single victory over Perry Smith, tallying 29 winners to Smith’s 28. Paul Stafford and Thomas Parisi were two back with 27 scores, and Paul Blumenfeld completed the meet with 26 wins.
The highlight of the summer meet was the fourth annual Night of Champions as Illinois-breds showcased their enormous talent. Aside from Southern Rocketop’s dazzling performance, two-year-old pacing sensations Fox Valley Topaz and Fox Valley Slammer remained undefeated, and Maxter, a three-year-old trotter, won his eighth straight race.
Hawthorne has applied to the Illinois Racing Board for additional racing dates next summer, with hopes to expand beyond the current 39-day meet.