Aided by balmy late fall weather, Hawthorne Race Course posted improved numbers for on-site and total handle during its November-December meet. Hawthorne wound up operations on New Year's Day.Chicago Thoroughbred racing will be dark until Sportsman's Park opens the 2002 season March 1.Even though Hawthorne lost the 2001 Breeders' Cup Day simulcast to Arlington Park, "this was a fantastic meet for us as all of our numbers were up," said Thomas Carey III, operations director at Hawthorne.Total handle on live racing, through New Year's Eve, averaged $2,451,178, an improvement of 25.8%. Overall combined handle also was up from 2000, by 13.7%.The improvements were fueled in part by extended turf racing into late November. Overall, Hawthorne averaged 9.15 starters per race. Turf races drew an average of 9.97 horses."Even though we lost the month of October this year, we were still able to run on the turf quite a bit in November, and the weather in December was excellent," Carey said.In 2002, Hawthorne's spring meet will lose the Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes simulcast days to Sportsman's Park and Arlington Park, respectively. However, the Illinois Racing Board allocated harness dates to Hawthorne for the summer of 2002.