by Greg Reinhart, HANA member
Hawthorne Race Course, which is located just west of Chicago, took the eighth position in HANA’s rankings of the 65 race tracks in North America. Hawthorne has held racing since the late 1800’s, and is currently home to the prestigious Illinois Derby (gr. II), a major prep race for the Kentucky Derby, Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I). Hawthorne holds races in January, March and April, and October-December. The facility consists of a one-mile conventional dirt oval and a seven-furlong turf course.
"The racetrack played very fair all meet long," said Hawthorne’s assistant general manager Jim Miller. "There is usually a concern over an inside speed-bias in the winter months, but we have made some adjustments in our track maintenance that have really worked well. On top of that, racing on a track with the second longest stretch in North America gives every runner a chance to the wire to win."
The strongest feature for bettors at Hawthorne is a low takeout rate on several of the wagers that are available. Win, place, and show takeout is 15%, which tied for the lowest among the tracks surveyed; its pick-6 takeout is 16%, which was second-lowest in the group; the exacta takeout is 17.5%, which tied for the lowest; and the daily double take-out is 18%, which also puts Hawthorne among the leaders. Takeout on pick-3, pick-4, trifectas, and superfectas is 23%, 10-cent superfectas wagering is available. All these low takeouts on attractive wagers led to a very good takeout grade of "B" for Hawthorne.
"The pick-6 and ‘place pick-9’ have both gained steam in Illinois this year as we had a place pick-9 carryover of over $50,000, and a pick-6 carryover of over $225,000," Miller said. (A winning place pick-9 bet requires that selected horses finish first or second in each of nine offered races).
Another good thing about Hawthorne is that is available through many advance deposit wagering services, and has a strong relationship with the TVG Network, which makes its readily accessible to anyone who wishes to bet there.
"We want to be able to make our signal available to as many outlets as possible," Miller said. "If it makes sense for both Hawthorne and our horsemen, then we will pursue all avenues to bring in handle. With increased handle, brings increased purses, which will also improve the quality of the racing product."
Miller also cited Hawthorne’s field size, which was a strong 8.3, and a balanced trainer colony as a reason that bettors switch over to Hawthorne when they are looking for a place to wager.
"We have aggressively hustled new stables to come to Hawthorne and our success has shown in our increased field size," Miller said in an interview conducted prior to the recently-concluded Hawthorne meet. "The large field sizes and diversity of those winning races has helped tremendously. On circuits that are dominated by a handful of trainers, this fall has had everyone winning. While our leading trainer will likely have less than 30 wins, we will have over 20 trainers with 10 wins on the meet."
The low takeouts on the key wagers, the availability to wager on Hawthorne through several locations, and the good field size all led to an overall grade of "C " from HANA for Hawthorne Race Course and the eighth spot overall in the rankings.
(Editor’s note: The views and rating system are expressly those of the bettors’ advocacy group Horseplayers Association of North America (HANA), and not affiliated with Blood-Horse Publications.)