The 38-day meet featured the $500,000, Grade 2 Illinois Derby, won by Musket Man. The Derek Ryan-trained colt was sent off as the slight favorite in the field of ten and was a powerful winner under jockey Eibar Coa. Musket Man is scheduled to be the 8th consecutive Illinois Derby winner to compete in the Run for the Roses on May 2.
Illinois Champion’s Day produced the usual array of exciting and surprising finishes, as six $100,000 stakes for Illinois-breds took center stage. The day’s big winners, aside from the champion horses, were jockey Lyndie Wade, who won three stakes, and trainers Christine Janks and Brian Williamson, who each saddled a pair of winners.
It was an exciting race to the finish between jockeys Tim Thornton and Inez Karlsson for meet’s leading rider. The two traded punches through much of the last week, but in the end Thornton won his third Hawthorne title, besting Karlsson 46-43. Karlsson did lead in total earnings, as her mounts totaled $767,388. Lyndie Wade, bolstered by his huge Champion’s Day performance, finished second in earnings with $708,576.
Apprentice Brandon Meier also had a strong showing during the spring meet, while making his Hawthorne debut. He finished the meet with 33 wins, good for fourth-place in the overall standings, just one behind Wade.
Almost from the get-go, it seemed like trainer Frank Kirby had an insurmountable lead in the trainer standings. The venerable conditioner easily won his 8th Hawthorne training title, finishing the meet with 36 wins, more than double his nearest pursuer. Kirby did it with quality and quantity; he also started 195 horses, more than doubling Hector Magana’s starters. Magana finished second in both categories.
Aside from the top two, many local trainers had solid meets, including Roger Brueggemann, Joel Berndt and Tammy Domenosky, the latter truly catapulting on the scene, as her mounts hit-the-board 20 out of 25 starts, including 9 wins.
Magana’s primary clients, Midwest Thorougbreds (Karen and Richard Papiese), were far and away the leading owners of the meet, as their horses greeted the photographer 18 times. Eagle Valley Farm (John Haran) finished second with 15 wins.
Away from the track—but still directly related to racing—Hawthorne’s Survivor Contest became a national story, when 4 out of the 3,591 players who entered the free online tournament, walked away with $25,000 apiece. The winners needed to pick one horse a day to finish in-the-money for 34 consecutive days in order to win the grand prize of $100,000.
Overall, Hawthorne was able to put forth a strong meet, despite some tough times and conditions. “I’m very pleased with the overall performance of our meet,” stated Assistant General Manager Jim Miller. “To show positive figures on-site, along with being ahead of the national trend overall is a testament to our Marketing efforts and facility improvements. We were crushed by terrible weather as we had over nine inches of rain this spring, and a slumping economy which is taking its toll on everyone, but we are trending positively and look to have a great fall meet.”
Live racing resumes on October 1st and will continue through the end of the year.