Stickney, IL — Saturday evening (Feb. 15) will mark the start of harness racing at Hawthorne Race Course, marking 50 years after the first harness meet was conducted at the Stickney oval in 1970.
This season the schedule for racing in Illinois takes a slight adjustment as construction of a new racing and casino venue will begin on the grounds of Hawthorne Race Course. With construction ongoing during the day, a one year hiatus from spring Thoroughbred racing will take place and be replaced by evening harness racing on weekends.
The 92 night expanded harness season kicks off on Saturday at Hawthorne as the nearly eight month long season will give Standardbred horsemen in Illinois an opportunity to earn more over a longer racing period. In February, live racing will be conducted every Saturday and Sunday evening. In March, Friday evening cards will be added, with Hawthorne racing three days per week from March through the meet end on Sunday (Sept. 20).
The focus at Hawthorne Race Course in 2020 is on Illinois-bred racing as the entire stakes schedule will be comprised of races for Illinois-restricted horses. The stakes schedule culminates on closing weekend as more than $1 million in purses will be distributed on Night of Champions weekend.
Opportunities for open-company horses will be aplenty though as a strong overnight program will offer up to 12 races per night, with the focus on larger field size and quality racing.
Leading driver Casey Leonard returns in 2020 as he comes off a great 2019 campaign that saw him win 188 races at Hawthorne. Kyle Wilfong is back as he compiled a strong 122 win meet in 2019. While Kyle Husted is briefly sidelined, he will return to the driving colony early in the racing season. Travis Seekman returns from a good 2019 season while the father son combo of Todd and Ridge Warren will both be in the bike to open the meet.
Trainer Terry Leonard has his stable ready early as he returns off a great 2019 season that saw his horses find the winner’s circle 70 times. A couple of Leonard’s top trainees have already been back on the track as both Fox Valley Gemini and Fox Valley Triton qualified last week. Nelson Willis is back as well as large contingents from the barns of Mike Brink, Steve Searle, Kyle Husted, and Brett Wilfong.
For the bettor, Hawthorne returns the low 15 percent takeout wagers, offering a 50-cent Pick-5 which begins with the night’s opening race, and a pair of 50-cent Pick-4 wagers, starting in race three and then on the final four races on each night’s card. Both the Pick-5 and Pick-4 will have carryovers attached to them if nobody selects five or four winners for the respective wagers. The 20-cent Jackpot High 5 returns for each night’s final race.
This year, a $2 Pick-6 wager has been added to the Hawthorne wagering menu. The Pick-6 is not a Jackpot wager as any carryover and major pool will pay out any time six winners are selected in the sequence. A consolation pool has been attached to the Pick-6 nightly and will also be paid whenever there is a winner of the major pool in the Pick-6. The Pick-6 will have a 20 percent takeout with 50 percent of the major pool going to either a winning ticket with six winners or the carryover and the other 50 percent being paid to that night’s minor or consolation pool. Win, place, and show wagers will again have just a 17 percent takeout rate.
Hawthorne Race Course, Chicago’s Hometown Track, returns for live harness racing on Saturday (Feb. 15) and races through Sunday (Sept. 20). Post time nightly is 7:10 p.m. Fall Thoroughbreds close out the year, running from Oct. 2 through Dec. 26. For more information, visit www.Hawthorneracecourse.com or contact Hawthorne at 708.780.3700.