HERE WE GO!

It’s been about seven weeks since Chicagoland last saw live Thoroughbred racing. For some, that seven-week period went by in a flash. For others, it was an eternity. You could count most of us in that latter category.

But, we’re back. Finally!

There is plenty to cover for the opening day program. So much, in fact, that it won’t all fit on the opening story, so all three weekend program covers will be utilized. Plus, for those that can’t make it out every day, the stories will be carried in their entirety on Hawthorne’s user-friendly web site at hawthorneracecourse.com.

HAPPY 100

First and foremost, and we’ll just touch lightly on the subject right now, opening day, March 6th, 2009, will mark the100th year of family-owned horseracing at Hawthorne Race Course under the proprietorship of the Carey family. The anniversary distinguishes Hawthorne as the oldest continuously family-owned and operated race track in the nation. As the longest running sports venue in Illinois, Hawthorne Race Course has been an integral player in the legendary heritage of Chicago sports entertainment and is proud to kick off a thrilling new season. But, we’ll write far more on that subject over the next couple of days.

IT’S BETTER LIVE

The 38-day spring meet begins in earnest on Friday, with first post at 1:25 pm central time. The standard week will feature live racing Thursday through Monday, deviating only with Easter Sunday, when the track will be dark.

The $500,000 Illinois Derby, the showcase event of the spring meet, will take place Saturday, April 4. The last seven winners of this Triple Crown prep have gone on to compete in the Kentucky Derby, including last year’s Illinois Derby winner Recapturetheglory.

The early nominees for Illinois’ only Kentucky Derby-prep race include the Daily Racing Form’s top candidate Old Fashioned, an undefeated Unbridled Song colt; Friesen Fire, Graded winner from the barn of Larry Jones; and Giant Oak, a powerful looking son of Giant’s Causeway, who races for locally based trainer, Chris Block.

The $200,000 Grade 3 Sixty Sails will be contested on Saturday, April 18. This race often attracts some of the nation’s best fillies and mares. Last April, Golden Velvet was a powerful winner of the Sixty Sails, easily defeating nemesis Tessa Blue.

Illinois’ Champions day will once again have a major impact on crowning locally-bred division champions. Six stake races, each worth $100,000 will take place on Saturday, April 25.

Last year’s leading meet-leading jockeys Tim Thornton and Inez Karlsson will be back to defend their titles. Karlsson, however, will start the meet sidelined for three days, the result of an appealed suspension carried over from the fall. The obvious new face to keep an eye on is Brandon Meier, the son of Randy Meier, an apprentice rider who already showed promise at Arlington last summer.

The training contingent once again features the likes of Mike Reavis, Richard Hazelton, Moises Yanez and Brian Williamson. Those four, and many other capable outfits, will try to dethrone last year’s meet-leading trainers Frank Kirby and Roger Brueggemann, both of whom figure as strong candidates for repeat titles.

Over the next couple of days, and through the rest of the meet, we’ll be featuring a plethora of Hawthorne history. Tomorrow’s program will chronicle the many promotions for this fleeting spring meet, including what could be a lotto-like payoff in the Survivor contest.