Hawthorne's harness meet to open Jan. 8
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"This is a pivotal year for Illinois racing," said Tim Carey, president and general manager of Hawthorne Race Course, which will be celebrating its 125th year of racing next year. "Race tracks are closing, competition from other states has never been stronger and there is no definitive timeline for gaming reform in Illinois that would allow us to truly compete on the national racing circuit. But we have an obligation to the people who work in this sport and we're doing all we can to keep it going."
In September the Illinois Racing Board approved a proposal to bring harness racing back to Hawthorne. Since then the track has been preparing for an influx of horses and horsemen, and has developed an aggressive timeline to transform its dirt track Thoroughbred surface into a crushed limestone Standardbred surface. Hawthorne's fall/winter Thoroughbred meet will close on Jan. 2 and harness racing will begin just six days later on Friday, Jan. 8. During this period thousands of horses will be moving into and out of Hawthorne's 25 barns.
"Hawthorne has really shown a commitment to Illinois racing in agreeing to host a January harness meet," said Dave McCaffrey, president of the Illinois Harness Horsemen's Association. "There is a twinge of excitement among horsemen and hopefully we're going to have a good product for players to bet on: full fields, stakes series, top drivers. It's sad that Maywood closed and now Balmoral is closing, but there is a lot to be thankful for with the new opportunity at Hawthorne and fans should be excited for what's coming."
Hawthorne's winter harness meet will feature 10 races per night, five nights per week until Feb. 6.
Opening weekend will feature live music, a craft beer fest, gate giveaways, betting bonuses and cash prizes. First post is at 7:20 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday and general admission is $2. (Hawthorne)