Nationally the Thoroughbred world is catching its breath after a grueling Derby Trail and prior to the hype starts cranking up for this year’s Run for the Roses. Racing in the Heartland is poised to fill the gap a bit this weekend with racing action all over the region.
Leading the way are the first graded stakes of the season in the area at Hawthorne Race Course. The Grade 3 $400,000 Illinois Derby features a trio of West Coast runners. Jerry Hollendorfer trainee Cross the Line is the 3-1 morning line favorite after a win in the California Derby and a second in the El Camino Real Derby. Whiskey Ticket and Verraco complete the left coast contingent for Saturday’s Derby. The Grade 3 $150,000 Sixty Sails Handicap featuring 2014 Lady Canterbury winner Awesome Flower will grace the Illinois Derby undercard.
The lady sprinters step up at Fonner Park on Saturday with a pair of $25,000 stakes. The Fonner Park Special Stakes for 3-year olds at 6 furlongs and the Al Swihart Memorial Stakes at 6 1/2 furlongs for 3-year olds and up will anchor the day’s races at Grand Island.
Finally, Prairie Meadows is stepping out on stage this weekend on Saturday with a card under the lights with a 6:30 post time. Entries will be drawn later today for the opener, while a Sunday afternoon card will round out opening weekend as racing starts to emerge from its winter slumber in our area.