Hawthorne Set for Night Racing Experiment

Hawthorne will experiment with night racing two Fridays in October.

Thoroughbred races have been held under the lights at Hawthorne Race Course in the late fall and winter as daylight diminishes, but for the first time, the Chicago-area track will offer night racing.

On two Fridays, Oct. 9 and Oct. 16, Hawthorne’s first post time will be 5:30 p.m. CDT, meaning most races will be held under the lights. The track plans to use the twilight post time to introduce people to racing, officials said.

“Twilight racing is a terrific introduction to the excitement of live racing,” Hawthorne president and general manager Tim Carey said in a statement. “Because Thoroughbreds traditionally run during the day, it’s hard for new fans to often make it to the track. Racing on Friday night is going to be an incredible opportunity to witness the truly fast-paced, in-your-face action of horse racing.”

Hawthorne will offer live music, an outdoor barbecue, $1 specials, and a free ball cap to the first 500 patrons. There also will be a VIP special in the Turf Club.

Earlier this year, Churchill Downs in Kentucky experimented with three night racing programs that began at 6 p.m. EDT. Combined attendance for the three nights was almost 90,000.

Churchill officials said they plan to have permanent lights installed in time for the 2010 spring meet. They are soliciting feedback on how many night programs should be offered.

Hawthorne for years held nighttime harness meets, thus the lighting system.