After final approval from the Illinois Racing Board Dec. 13, Hawthorne Race Course announced the 2008 stakes schedule for its spring and fall meets. In all, $3,450,00 in purses will be offered for 24 stakes, seven of which will be graded.
The spring season, which commences March 7, will as usual be highlighted by the $500,000 Illinois Derby (gr. II) April 5. War Emblem, Sweetnorthernsaint, and Cowtown Cat are recent Illinois Derby winners.
One significant change to the spring meet is the National Jockey Club Handicap will be known as the Bill Hartack Memorial Handicap (gr. III). The $200,000 race, for 3-year-olds and up April 19, is in memory of the five-time Kentucky Derby winner who passed away in late November. The $200,000 Sixty Sails (gr. III) for fillies and mares will also be run that day.
Illinois-breds will continue to have their day in the sun when Illinois Champions day returns April 26. Six $100,000 stakes restricted to state-bred Thoroughbreds will highlight the card.
The fall meet begins Sept. 26, with the $500,000 Hawthorne Gold Cup (gr. II) to take place the following day. The prestigious event for 3-year-olds and up has attracted some of the finest horses in recent years, including this year’s winner, Student Council. The Hawthorne Gold Cup has consistently been used as a stepping stone to the Breeders’ Cup and other significant autumn races.
“We’ll continue to keep the Gold Cup in the national spotlight by providing a lucrative purse and a timeframe that will allow this race to always be an ideal prep for the Breeders’ Cup,” Hawthorne president and general manager Tim Carey said. “The race has already established a pretty good history, and I look forward to its continued success.”
Two turf stakes, the Robert F. Carey Memorial Handicap (gr. IIIT) and $100,000 Indian Maid Handicap, will continue to be a part of Hawthorne Gold Cup day.
Other stakes for the fall session include the $250,000 Hawthorne Derby (gr. IIIT) for 3-year-olds on the grass. The race is scheduled for Oct. 11. The $75,000 Mary D. Keim Illinois Owners Stakes will be a new addition to the fall program and will be run that day as well.
The Phil Georgeff Festival of Racing will return Nov.1 and will give Illinois-breds another opportunity for black type, with six $100,000 races.