Hawthorne Betting Declines During Fall Meet

Edited press release

Despite having one of the highest starters per race averages in the country, Hawthorne’s betting declined across the board during the fall meet that began Sept. 15 and ended Dec. 31.
The biggest hit came on-site, where the daily handle average dipped to $148,900 per day, down 11.89% from the fall of 2005.
Hawthorne Handle figures for like days (Fall 2006 versus Fall 2005):
On-Site Live - $148,900 / day - down 11.89%
In-State Live - $324,584 / day - down 8.91%
Out of State Live - $2,311,619 / day - down 2.23%
Total Live - $2,785,104 / day - down 9.88%
“I would have liked to have seen better numbers on site,” said Hawthorne president Tim Carey. “This will be an area of focus in ‘07. We need to address the Advance Deposit Wagering (phone and Internet account betting) issue more aggressively moving forward.”
“We can no longer ignore the fact that people sit in our track and wager on our races via their cell phone,” Carey continued. “It has a negative impact on our live handle. We have to be more proactive on this issue. As an incentive to fans who play our live races on track, we offer 4% back through our Club Hawthorne program. We want our players to take advantage of what is one of the best on-track rewards initiatives in the country.”
Due to the rainy weather early in the meet, Hawthorne lost three times as many turf races, but overall the average field size was comparable to last fall.
Dirt - 8.36 starters per race
Turf - 9.60 starters per race
Combined - 8.46 starters per race
2005 – 9.01 starters per race
“On the racetrack, I thought we put on a great show,” Carey said. “The horsemen, jockeys, and our entire staff all did a fantastic job.”
“There is no doubt that the presence of the riverboats has had a negative impact on our business over the years,” Carey said. “That being said, I am very optimistic for ‘07. I think we are well positioned legislatively. We were supposed to be afforded some form of relief in ‘99, but it never happened. Last spring (a bill) was passed, but was it was immediately challenged and is now being held up in court.”
“Other states have passed legislation to help their horse racing industries, and right now we simply can’t offer the purse money that they can,” Carey continued. “Having higher purses equates to better racing and improved handle. The Illinois tracks and the horsemen’s organizations understand how critical it is for us to pursue this need as a cohesive unit. Unless we get some form of relief, the quality of racing in Illinois will continue to diminish. I believe ‘07 will be the year we turn this industry around.” 
On the racetrack, Chris Emigh (102 wins) cruised to his fifth consecutive Hawthorne crown and seventh overall, and completed the sweep of all three Chicagoland meets for the first time in his career. Amazingly, Emigh won 273 races in Chicago in 2006, 134 more than his closest pursuer Eddie Razo Jr.
Fall highlights for Emigh include winning three of the six stakes on Phil Georgeff Festival of Racing Day and scoring career victory number 2,500 on Nov. 12, aboard Gumba.
Frank Kirby (43 wins) captured his sixth Hawthorne training title, and second in the last three years. For the year in Chicago, he posted 89 victories, placing him third behind Wayne Catalano (98) and Tom Tomillo (92).
Frank Calabrese swept the Chicago circuit again this year, leading all Hawthorne owners this fall with 30 wins. Locally in 2006, Calabrese won 97 races, 57 more than 2 Blondes, Inc.

Local Thoroughbred racing will now go on hiatus for seven weeks, with a Stickney return date of Friday, February 23.