When the Illinois Racing Board granted the extra January racing days, it meant that the spring meet would begin a few weeks later than usual. The goal for all interested parties was to have more horses on the grounds for opening day and a chance for better weather in which to operate.
Figures from the new two-week January racing period far outperformed those of the traditional late-February, early-March start.
In addition, horse population through the winter has remained stronger than ever as over 1,000 horses trained through the six-week dark period leading into the spring opener. Another 500-600 horses are expected to be on the grounds when racing begins in March, bringing the horse population to well over 1,500 horses.
“I expect us to have a very good meet this spring,” Hawthorne President Tim Carey stated. “Our horse population is up, the track has been in tremendous shape for training and we have more horses ready to run than ever. With our strong January period kicking off 2008, I believe we will continue to show strong handle numbers for the spring period.”
The highlight of the spring meet, which runs through April 28, is the $500,000 Illinois Derby (gr. II) to be held April 5. The inaugural $200,000 Bill Hartack Memorial (gr. III) is to run April 19.