$750 ,000 Hawthorne Gold Cup Highlights Start of Hawthorne Fall Meet

Entries were drawn Thursday for the opening day of Hawthorne's fall Thoroughbred meet, scheduled to get underway Friday, Sept. 24. The 10-race card begins a three-day weekend of racing before the track falls into its normal, five-day Wednesday through Sunday schedule.

The meet will be highlighted again by the grade II $750,000 Hawthorne Gold Cup on Oct. 2. The race has become a top prep for the Breeders' Cup Classic, producing 1998 winner Awesome Again as well as many other top Classic performers. In 2003 the Gold Cup was captured by multiple stakes winner Perfect Drift--sixth in the 2004 Breeders' Cup Classic--likely to return for a shot to repeat.

A total of 12 stakes will be contested during the meet, including several additional "Overnight Stakes" as well. The $100,000- added Indian Maid Breeders' Cup will share the card with the Gold Cup Oct. 2, and on Oct. 9, the turf runners will get a chance to shine in the grade III $150,000 Robert F. Carey Memorial Stakes. On Oct. 16, 3-year-olds will take to the turf in the $250,000 Hawthorne Derby (gr. III).

Illinois runners will be featured once again as the Illinois Festival of racing returns Saturday, Nov. 13. A total of six $100,000-added events will be contested on a daywhich is usually determinative in crowning the year-end state champions. On Dec. 2, Illinois 2-year-old fillies will run for the $100,000 Pat Whitworth Illinois Debutant Stakes, while their colt counterparts will be featured Dec. 18 in the $100,000 Jim Edgar Illinois Futurity Stakes.

Several familiar faces return to the grounds for the fall meet, including leading riders Larry Sterling Jr., Chris Emigh, and Eddie Razo Jr. In the irons at Hawthorne for the first time are riders Greta Kuntzweiler and Perry Compton. Apprentice rider Liz Morris returns from the spring meet, joined by fresh faces Emanuel Cosme, Freddy Fong Jr. and Jose Bettencourt.

Recent Arlington Park training champ Frank Kirby will bring a large slate of runners to the meet, likely to be challenged by conditioners Mike Reavis, Richard Hazelton, and Brian Williamson. Jodie Sinclair will handle the training duties at Hawthorne for longtime leading owner Frank Calabrese.

Hawthorne Race Course will race every Wednesday through Sunday with a starting daily post time of 1:10 p.m. The meet will run from Sept. 24 through Jan. 2.