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Hawthorne Race Course’s signature race, the Grade III Illinois Derby, drew a maximum capacity field of fourteen entrants for Illinois’ richest dirt race.  Contenders from all across the nation were drawn to Chicago for the $750,000 purse—a 50% increase over last year.  


One of Chicago’s signature sporting events, the 56th running of the GIII Illinois Derby will be bigger than ever before.  Due to a sold-out crowd last year, Hawthorne increased the size of their popular Finish Line Party Box & Patio and opened its luxury Turf Club suites and skyboxes to the public for a premium ticket price.  


“The Illinois Derby is one of the premiere sporting events in Chicago,” said Tim Carey, president and general manager of Hawthorne Race Course.  “There is so much interest in high stakes racing right now, so many more young people coming out, getting dressed up in big floppy hats and bow ties for our city’s Derby Day.  And racing is the only sport that I know of where you can get right up close to the action for the price of general admission, which is just five bucks at Hawthorne.”



Reserved seating in some locations has already sold-out, but advance-purchase tickets are still available for the Gold Cup dining room which features a 3-hour premium buffet with carving station and oyster bar, a complimentary race program and commemorative t-shirt for just $40.  Tickets for a VIP party in the 3rd floor Turf Club and outdoor terrace overlooking the finish line include the buffet and a 3-hour bar package for $70.  (To order: 708-780-3733 or


For the 2nd year, WGN-TV will broadcast the race live from Hawthorne’s Revel Stoke Whisky Finish Line Party Box in a special 1-hour sports show.  This year’s broadcast will be co-hosted by Chicago Blackhawks analyst Eddie Olczyk, who recently partnered with Hawthorne in a promotion to give five fans a chance to own a horse with the hockey hall of famer.  (That horse, Harborton, will also run on Illinois Derby day.)  For the first time ever, Illinois’ namesake race will also be simulcast on WGN Radio reaching racing fans across the state.



“This is exactly the race that we were hoping for,” said Hawthorne assistant general manager, John Walsh.  “We have a full field, featuring a high percentage of graded stakes placed contenders from all over the country with no dominant favorite; several of which will likely go to the Preakness or Belmont if they run well here.  This is a great betting race that proves the importance of Illinois on the national racing circuit.”


Louisiana Derby third place finisher Departing, is the lukewarm favorite drawing the 13 hole and brings his regular pilot Brian Hernandez in for the 1 1/8 mile journey.  The competition is plentiful to his inside and outside, with eight of his competitors exiting graded stakes company.  Ground Transport finished just over a length behind the favorite in New Orleans but draws a better post, while Siete de Oros had the dubious pleasure of running behind previously undefeated Kentucky Derby hopeful Vyjack in the Gotham.  The runner-up and third place finisher from the Sunland Derby should make their presence felt early and will start right next to each other from the 9 and 8 post, respectively.  The local contingent prepared for this in a couple of nice allowance races, won by Fordubai and Bells Big Bernie.  Fordubai’s stablemate, Street Spice, and Stormin Monarcho exit the race won by upsetter Bells Big Bernie and join undefeated Dakota Mac in representing Hawthorne runners.



From the rail, the field of the Illinois Derby with morning line odds and jockeys in parentheses, includes Bells Big Bernie, 20/1, (Tim Thornton),  Dewey Square, 8/1, (Corey Lanerie), Street Spice, 20/1 (Jeffrey Sanchez), For Greater Glory, 15/1 (Shaun Bridgmohan), Ground Transport, 8/1 (Mark Guidry), Taken By the Storm, 15/1 (Alan Garcia), Dakota Mac, 30/1 (Seth Martinez), Abraham, 8/1 (Javier Castellano), Show Some Magic, 6/1 (Miguel Mena), Fordubai, 20/1 (Diego Sanchez), Stormin Monarcho, 15/1 (Florent Geroux), Siete de Oros, 5/1 (Angel Arroyo), Departing, 7/2 (Brian Hernandez, Jr.) , and Narvaez, 20/1 (Paco Lopez).

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