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updated: 9/30/2011 6:18 PM

Hawthorne saddles up for a bigger meet

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Special to the Daily Herald[URL][/URL]

Averaging nearly 10 horses per race and racing for purses ;[URL]totaling near $200,000, [/URL]Hawthorne Race Course;[URL] will open [/URL]its 2011 fall meet with a bang on Saturday.

That's quite a difference from last fall.

In 2010, Hawthorne averaged overnights of $126,000 per racing card after stakes races were removed. This year, that number is expected to be in the range of $200,000 per day for the five-day week.

Because of those strong purse numbers, increased stables from Scott Becker (36 stalls), Joel Berndt (40), Wayne Catalano (40), Chris Dorris (40) and Tom Dorris (36), Roger Brueggemann (59), and Frank Kirby (60) will be competitive all meet long.

The increased overnights were the key to an overflowing Hawthorne backstretch this fall as nearly 2,500 stalls were applied for to occupy the 1,950 that is allotted each meet.

Returning to the jockey colony is seven-time Hawthorne leading rider Chris Emigh, who will be joined by past Hawthorne champs Tim Thornton, Tanner Riggs and Israel Ocampo.

The fall stakes program has also been enhanced from 2010, with Hawthorne's trademark race, the Grade 2 Hawthorne Gold Cup returning to $500,000 and being run a week into the meet on Oct. 8. The Indian Maid Handicap and Robert F. Carey Memorial will be run on the same day as well.

With the release of the additional purse funds, Hawthorne and the Illinois Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association have decided to further increase the stakes on Illinois Festival of Racing day (Oct. 22) from $100,000 to $125,000.