(Edited press release)
Hawthorne Race Course has announced stakes schedules for both of its 2007 Thoroughbred meets. The spring season at Hawthorne kicks off Feb. 23, and $1.6 million in stakes purses will be offered. The fall campaign commences Sept. 17, and $1.8 million in stakes purses will be offered.
The spring schedule is highlighted by the 50th running of the $500,000 Illinois Derby (gr. II) April 7. A major prep for 3-year-olds on their road to the Triple Crown, the Illinois Derby was won by War Emblem in 2002 prior to his Kentucky Derby (gr. I) victory. Last year's Illinois Derby winner, Sweetnorthernsaint, exited the Churchill Downs starting gate four weeks later as the lukewarm favorite, only to finish seventh.
Other highlights on Hawthorne's spring schedule include the $250,000 National Jockey Club Handicap (gr. III) for males and the $250,000 Sixty Sails Handicap (gr. III) for females, both of which will be run April 21. Last spring the Sixty Sails was won by Eclipse Award finalist Fleet Indian.
Illinois Champions Day, Hawthorne's annual spring festival for Illinois-breds, will be held April 28. The event features six $100,000 stakes for the Prairie State set and includes: the Lady Hallie Stakes, Land of Lincoln Stakes, Governor's Lady Handicap, Chicagoland Handicap, Peach Of It Handicap, and Milwaukee Avenue Handicap.
The centerpiece of the fall meet is the 71st running of the $500,000 Hawthorne Gold Cup Handicap (gr. II) Sept. 29. The Gold Cup serves as a stepping stone for Breeders' Cup World Championship hopefuls. Past Gold Cup winners include Black Tie Affair, Buck's Boy, and Awesome Again, who all went on to Breeders' Cup glory.
The Gold Cup is part of a three-stakes package that also includes a pair of added-money turf events for older horses--the $150,000 Robert F. Carey Memorial Handicap (gr. IIIT) for the boys and the $100,000 Indian Maid Handicap for the girls.
Other highlights on Hawthorne's fall stakes schedule include the $150,000 Hawthorne Derby (gr. III) Oct. 13, and the Phil Georgeff Festival of Racing, featuring six $100,000 stakes for Illinois-breds Nov. 3. The High Alexander Handicap, run on Georgeff Festival day, has been re-named the "Buck's Boy" in honor of the richest Illinois-bred of all time.
Other stakes races during the fall include: the Powerless Handicap, Lightning Jet Handicap, Illini Princess Handicap, Showtime Deb Stakes, Sun Power Stakes, Pat Whitworth Illinois Debutante, and Jim Edgar Illinois Futurity.
Hawthorne racing secretary Gary Duch has indicated that he will also offer six $45,000 overnight stakes during both the spring and fall meets.