Increased purses, larger fields, great weather and placement of races led to a very strong spring thoroughbred meet at Hawthorne as the season concluded on Sunday. With the release of the impact fee funds prior to the start of last fall's Thoroughbred meet, an increase in overnights of 50 percent helped to keep more horsemen on the grounds through the winter dark period in preparation for the spring meet.
This spring, Hawthorne saw an increase in total handle of nearly $20 million as $92,109,865 was wagered on the Hawthorne live product compared to $72,239,975 in the 2011 spring meet over the same 41-day period. The handle total translated to a 27.5 percent increase with an average daily handle of $2,246,582 compared to $1,761,950 for a daily increase of $484,632 per racing day. Onsite handle for the spring meet was $4,176,448, an increase of over $700,000 compared to the $3,475,224 wagered in 2011 for an average daily onsite handle of $101,864. The onsite increase for the meet was 20 percent. In state handle increased 9.2 percent while out of state handle was up over 30 percent for the spring meet.
In 2011, the lessened purses and horse population allowed for 359 races to be run with 2,597 starters for an average field size of 7.23 starters per race. Due to an extremely rainy season in 2011, there were no races run on the turf last spring. This spring, the increased purses and improved weather allowed for 33 turf races to be run and a total of 371 races contested. A total of 3,027 horses started for an average field size of 8.16 starters per race.
On the meet, the combination of jockey Francisco Torres, trainer Roger Brueggemann and owner Midwest Thoroughbreds, Inc took the respective titles. After returning to Hawthorne last November, business picked up for Torres quickly as this spring he won a total of 56 races for over $1.2 million in purses. Second in the standings was Tim Thornton with 35 wins, followed by a three way tie for third between Constantino Roman, Florent Geroux and apprentice Alejandro Contreras with 23 wins apiece.
Trainer Roger Brueggemann took home the training title, posting 42 wins from 143 starters for the meet. The 64 percent in-the-money rate for Brueggemann was the top amongst trainers along with the $923,743 in earnings. Second in the standings was Frank Kirby with 24 wins, followed by John Haran with 19 winners on the meet.
Midwest Thoroughbreds, Inc., of Rich and Karen Papiese, were the meet's leading owners with 26 wins from 100 starters for $674,342 in earnings. Second was Hondo Ranch of Frank and Sharon Kirby with 10 wins followed by Eagle Valley Farm of John Haran with 7 wins. As a great gesture to our riders and Thoroughbred horses, Midwest Thoroughbreds donated $20,000 to the Permanently Disabled Jockeys' Fund and $7,500 to Galloping Out, the Thoroughbred retirement program in Illinois, upon their acceptance as leading owner for the spring.
"This was an extremely important meet for Hawthorne," Hawthorne President and General Manager Tim Carey said. "We took it upon ourselves to do everything possible to ensure that this spring was a success. The support of our horsemen was tremendous and a very mild winter helped. We embarked on a very aggressive marketing push which was capped by the first ever showing of the Illinois Derby on WGN and the fans responded by coming out to the track. Having larger fields is always important and that is a credit to our horsemen who had their horses ready to run from the start of the meet.
"Overall, this meet showed us and the entire industry that with increased purses, the horses will be there and we can raise the interest for racing in Illinois this year and for years to come."
Live racing returns to Hawthorne on October 3 and concludes on December 31. In the fall, racing will take place every Wednesday through Sunday. First post daily for the fall will be 1:40 p.m. (CT) with the exception of Fridays when the first post time is 3:00 p.m.