Management at Hawthorne Race Course in Illinois attributed improved weather, a schedule change, and larger fields for increased average daily wagering during the fall 2010 meet at the Chicago-area track.
Hawthorne reported average daily handle increased 7.8% to $2,768,612 during the 49-day meet, compared with $2,567,856 during the 61-day stand in 2009. Onsite handle declined, with a daily average of $107,114 compared with $110,612 in 2009.
Hawthorne averaged 9.8 starters per race compared with 8.6 starters/race in 2009 when the meet was negatively impacted by inclement weather. Unlike 2009, when many turf races were moved to the main track due to rain, no grass races were moved this year.
The track reported 61 turf races contested with average fields of 10.2 starters per race. In 2009, 39 turf races were run, with average fields of 9.6 starters per race.
For the meet that ran Oct. 1-Dec. 31, Hawthorne dropped Sunday racing in favor of a four-day schedule.
According to The Jockey Club Information Systems, purses averaged $143,484 per day compared with a $174,593 average in 2009.
“This fall was a meet about recovery, and setting ourselves up for the future,” assistant general manager Jim Miller said in a statement. “We entered the meet with a large purse overpayment to recoup while trying to provide the best racing opportunities possible. To the credit of our horsemen, they provided great support of our racing program, which led to our increase in (average daily) handle.
"Because of the proactive measures that we took this fall, we are now set up to race for higher purses while offering better quality in races when racing returns for our spring meet.”
“We had many objectives that we needed to accomplish this meet on and off track,” Hawthorne president Tim Carey said. “This fall we were able to see the tracks and horsemen’s groups unify on the legislative front, which is a major positive. At the same time, we needed to recognize that the health of the racing industry in Illinois was dependent upon this fall meet.
"With a strong fall meet, we were able to accomplish many of the goals necessary to succeed in 2011 and beyond.”
Jockey Tim Thornton won his fourth Hawthorne riding title with 61 winners. The leading trainer title went down to the final day as Joel Berndt posted the first training title of his career, saddling 26 winners, one more than Jamie Ness.
Midwest Thoroughbreds, which led the nation in 2010 winners, was also the Hawthorne champ with 28 wins during the meet.
Live racing returns to Hawthorne Friday, Feb. 11, with racing on Fridays and Saturdays during February. In March, racing will take place Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday, with Sunday racing returning on March 27 and continuing through the entire month of April.