Maybe it was only fitting that the first Sunday Night Harness Open Tournament champion was a Hawthorne regular who has been a harness player for decades. It was Chicagoan Jim Bernard who went home $1,000 richer last Sunday after doing what he loves to do: “Bet harness races.
“I’m been playing the horses for 40 years and it’s been all 40 as a harness player,” said the 54-year-old Bernard. “My true love his harness racing. I go back to the old days of playing horses at Aurora Downs and Washington Park.
“I go to the OTB parlors on occasion but I much rather go to the track and watch live races than just watch horses compete on TV. And I used to love the old winter days at Hawthorne when they had those day and night double headers. I would be at Hawthorne every one of those Saturdays.”
Being at Hawthorne last Sunday turned out to be the right call for Jim. He paid his $10 contest entry fee. Handicapped and bet on the five contest races, and went on to bank the top prize of $1,000.
“I had the lead after the first contest race but then I got knocked down to fourth place after the second,” continued the Southwest side Chicagoan. “Then I hit a 30-1 longshot (Parklane Starlet) who came in second and paid $16.80 to place. I had $400 across on that horse and that put me back into first place. I stayed there through the last two contest races. I did bet a little more conservative when I had about a $3,500 lead. The top 10 positions get money and I figured even if I got knocked down a few slots I still would be in good shape.”
Bernard is a big fan of the format of Hawthorne’s handicapping contest.
“In the Hawthorne tournament you have to bet at least 10 per cent of your bankroll and no more than 50 per cent on the five contest races. You get the full payoff on what you bet,” explained Jim. “Some of the other tracks have more limitations on their contests. I like Hawthorne’s the best because I feel you always have a chance with their format.”
Sunday Notes: Paul Bertucci’s Bobs Minute Maid has installed as the 5-2 morning line favorite to make it two straight in Sunday’s $15,500 “Winner’s Over” for fillies and mares. She’ll leave form post seven with regular driver Mike Oosting . . . Fourth race first time starter Dinneratartsplace may be saddled with an outside post (9) for his debut but he’s well regarded. He sold for $57,000 at last year’s Harrisburg Sale after his sister went for $90,000 a year earlier. Their older sister Armbro Amoretto (1:50.1) made $1.2 million racing just three years (2002 through 2004). Dinneratartsplace won his qualifier (1:59.2) by almost six lengths and could have gone faster . . . Other fourth race starters include Who Am I (No. 5), a $30,000 yearling buy and Fox Valley Bluff (No. 7) who could turn out to be a $10,000 sale bargain. She’s out of the same dam Don’t Be Bashful as ninth race feature starter Fox Valley Fussy . . . Fox Valley Nanners, the likely favorite in Sunday’s openershowed promise as a freshman. Now three, she won her Springfield State Fair elimination in 1:53 mile before finishing second best in the Final to Kiss Of Heaven. She was a starter in the She’s A Great Lady (Mohawk) and a Hayes (DuQuoin) Open stakes as well.