Hawthorne Race Course announced its 2008 stakes schedule after final approval from the Illinois Racing Board. Both the Spring and Fall meets are included.
The spring season, which commences on Friday, March 7, will as usual be highlighted by the $500,000 Grade II Illinois Derby to be contested on Saturday, April 5.
2007 Illinois Derby winner Cowtown Cat went on to compete in this year's Kentucky Derby, and in many prior years, the Illinois Derby has been a significant prep to the Run for the Roses.
In 2001, War Emblem won the Illinois Derby and then proceeded to capture both the Derby and Preakness in his next starts. 2006 Illinois Derby Winner Sweetnorthernsaint was the Kentucky Derby post time favorite in his next start, but finished seventh.
One significant change in the spring stakes schedule is in the form of a name change.
On April 19, the inaugural $200,000 Grade III Bill Hartack Memorial Handicap will be the new name of the race formerly known as the National Jockey Club Handicap. The race is in memory of the five-time Kentucky Derby winner who passed away last month. The race is for colts and geldings three-years old and up.
The Grade III $200,000 Sixty Sails for fillies and mares three-years old and up will also be run on April 19. 2007 winner, Kettleoneup, later went to Churchill Downs and captured the Grade II Falls City Handicap.
The Illinois Breds will continue to have their day in the sun as well, when Illinois Champions Day returns on Saturday April 26. Six $100,000 stakes restricted to state-bred Thoroughbreds will highlight the card.
In all, $1,575,000 in stakes purses will be offered in the spring, which includes the $75,000 Jim M. Levitch Illinois Owners Handicap, set for its initial run on Illinois Derby Day.