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A Meet to be Thankful

Another glorious Thanksgiving has come and gone, hopefully for all, a day filled with trimmings and good fortune.  And while there was racing around the nation, Hawthorne was dark, and the Detroit Lions played football. In other words, I had time to reflect on the first two months of the fall meet. I’m thankful I’ve been there.

The ageless Randy Meier moved into a tie for 50th place on the list of all-time winning jockeys, his milestone victory aboard a wire-to-wire winner. No, it may not be as common occurrence as it once was, but the expression “wire-to-wire with Randy Meier” thankfully lives on.

The team of owner Frank Calabrese and trainer Wayne Catalano are known to place them “where they can win” and there’s no arguing their success. At one point in the meet they won with six straight starters, five at Hawthorne and one in Kentucky. They almost never have the most starters at a meet, but their win percentage is seldom equaled, and currently they lead the standings in victories.

Apprentice Inez Karlsson has gone from timid, inexperienced “bug” rider to agile, sharp-thinking, and strong-riding apprentice. She rides stakes winners (see Ciao) and 5K-claimers (see many) with the same zeal and determination, while exhibiting a fierce desire to succeed. Watching her progress from Hawthorne ‘07 to Hawthorne ‘08 has been a journey worth seeing.

The Hawthorne Derby has had its share of close finishes, but previous editions of the Grade 3 race would be hard pressed to match the blanket finish that saw Straits of Mewsina emerge victorious. A five-horse photo uncovered Cherokee Triangle second, Snoose Goose third, Adriano (favored at odds of 1-2) fourth and Mr. Mischief fifth. There have been closer photos during the meet, but the purse ($250k) and the importance of the race make it a clear standout.

The Sun Power Stakes is one of six Illinois-bred stakes races held on the same afternoon, but in this race we may have witnessed a potential star. Devil’s Halo, making only his second career start, easily defeated the nice fellow 2-year-old My Dominick James in a speedy 1:10.62 for six furlongs. Next stop: The Jim Edgar Illinois Futurity, where the son of Not For Love will get to try a distance of 1 1/16 miles. The sky may be the limit, and to think we got to see him when he was just a local phenom.

The Place Pick Nine reached a record carryover for Hawthorne when it started the race day on October 23 at $52,604. The name of the game will always remain the same: A chance to win big money with little risk. The Place Pick Nine offered such opportunity this meet, and it will again, as the pools have been building quicker than at any time in its history.

I play for the Hawthorne team so I don’t claim total objectivity, but the above stories are just a sampling of the many highlights that showcased the current meet. Note: see Gestes/Stiritz, Janks, Yanez, Emigh, Thornton, etc.

Yes, there are stories of disappointment, but most of them have been well documented. Maybe we can save them for another time and place. It really has been a good meet in so many ways, and besides, this is a time to give thanks…So thank you.

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