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Monday, August 10, 2015

The Hawthorne Gambit?

In what may be a case of "Have I got a deal for you", Hawthorne Raceway (under the name of Surburban Downs) is once again applying for standardbred race dates after being rebuffed by the IRB for years,  deciding to give standardbred dates only to Balmoral and Maywood Park..

Why would Hawthorne apply for standardbred dates when the IRB had been turning them down for years?  They are not applying for winter dates which they had been racing the last time the trotters graced the mile oval.  These are prime dates, May 13-September 11 for 61 race dates (May 13-31, Friday-Sunday; June through September 11, Thursday-Sundays with a several dark dates in August).

Clearly, Hawthorne is banking on a doomsday scenario where Balmoral and Maywood are no longer racing.  As is, Balmoral Park is seeking only 87 racing dates, Fridays and Saturdays from January 2 through November 3 while Maywood would race only 17 days (Fridays and Saturdays from November 4 through the end of the year), which would be a significant cut in racing dates in an effort to keep purses from crashing through the floor due to the inability of getting slots at the racetracks.   A bill is being considered to bring video gaming to the tracks but this is a state which has managed to  kill these bills off at the last minute.

 Of course, this assumes Balmoral and Maywood are still racing for the properties are up for sale as a result of the bankruptcy filing which was necessitated due to a settlement won in the courts by the Illinois Riverboats.  If  these two tracks close, it would make Hawthorne the only parimutuel standardbred track and as such, would be entitled to all the hosting fees for standardbred racing simulcasts.

We will see what happens at the IRB meeting on September 29 when racing dates are supposedly to be voted upon.  Unless a final decision is made on the future of Balmoral and Maywood or a decision on slots at tracks has been reached, expect the IRB to give a nod to Hawthorne for some dates to ensure there will be harness racing in the Prairie State in 2016.

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