As more and more businesses reopen their doors during the “Restore Illinois” plan, sports are returning to the Chicago area this week as horses are back on the track at Hawthorne Racecourse.
Wednesday saw horses setting qualifying times for racing this weekend, and race fans are thrilled to see the animals back doing what they were bred to do.
“We are becoming the first major sporting event here in Chicago to return,” Hawthorne’s Jim Miller said. “That’s kind of exciting, isn’t it?”
Race fans and horse owners, like Angie Coleman, are excited for a return to some semblance of normalcy amid the coronavirus pandemic.
“It’s such a relief,” she said. “It’s not just exciting to be back racing, but this is our business. This is how we earn a living.”
Coleman maintains a stable of horses in Stickney, and they still required care and feeding of course, even while purse money wasn’t rolling in during the track’s closure.
“As a society, we’ve never seen anything like this before,” she said.
For the horsemen who depend on the track for their livelihoods, Illinois’ return to racing has been a godsend.
“The return to racing means everything,” Tony Somone, director of the Illinois Harness Horsemen’s Association, said. “It’s a chance to start making money again.”
The one thing that will be missing at the historic track Saturday will be the fans. The grandstands will be empty, but fans can still watch all the racing action online.
That return to action, even without fans, is what horsemen and horses alike have been waiting for since the start of the pandemic.