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A Chicago Racing Perspective
A Chicago Racing Perspective
By: Tom Krish
If the competitive fields we have seen in the first weekend of the Hawthorne harness meeting are any indication, fans in the Windy City are in for a ‘harness treat.’ There are full fields and winner picking, an arduous exercise at best, will be challenging and rewarding.
I have been in the harness handicapping business since 1976. The fields have an eclectic element. This makes the fans’ task extraordinarily difficult.
In ordinary circumstances, a cursory look at the participants would help me focus on the top two or three. At Hawthorne, a cursory glance does not take you anywhere. A careful study is essential to separate the contenders from the pretenders. The problem is that there are not too many pretenders.
Take the seventh race on Saturday. It is the $12,500 Open Pace. There are eight pacers. Ontario Success, given the form he has shown at the Meadowlands, is likely to be the top choice of a large number. Post one lends considerable strength to the invader’s cause. Does this all seal the deal?
Look at A Cool Card who has risen to the top in Chicago with some sizzling displays at Balmoral. Lonewolf Currier has a record that speaks for itself and the move to a mile track should enhance his prospects. Shady City checks in absolutely fit. Cole Heat may be a notch below the required level but he’s big-hearted. Jones Beach can play the role of a giant-slayer if things break his way. Vance Bayama has an enviable record and he can be ignored only at your peril. GD Airliner, a prolific money earner, may have been competing at lower echelons but is as sharp as hands can have.
It has been a long time since a handicapper has something positive to say about every horse in a race. At Hawthorne, this is what we will encounter in the coming weeks.
Some ‘improbable’ stables are at Hawthorne. Some of them are new to Chicago. There are some who are coming back to Chicago. This is a healthy development. I am hoping the four-week winter session will be productive for the out-of-towners and they will be enticed to return for the May-September period.
Coming soon after the Maywood/Balmoral closure, what is happening at Hawthorne is a welcome turn for the better. A sense of despair has left and there’s an air of unmistakable optimism. With Hawthorne harness the only game in town, the next four weeks will garner a deal of attention and rightly so. My belief is that the short winter stint will lay the foundation for a strong and promising spring/summer season.
I am not taking issue with those were beating the drums about the imminent demise of harness racing in Chicago. Yes, Maywood and Balmoral were permanent fixtures on the Chicago harness scene for as long as I can remember. Change can be painful and more so when there is a departure from tradition. There is no doubt that there is considerable ‘pain alleviation’ as Hawthorne takes over the harness baton. I am convinced that fans give harness racing at Hawthorne the patronage that it so richly deserves.
There are memories of Maywood/Balmoral that are vivid, emotional and inspiring. Let us get ready for a new experience. Let us be prepared to take this exciting journey. I have often said in the past that the path may be rocky but the destination promises to lift our spirits.
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