Located in Cicero near Chicago, Illinois, Hawthorne Race Course has a history stretching back to 1890 when Chicago businessman, and owner of 1890 Kentucky Derby winner Riley, Edward Corrigan, bought a plot of land and constructed a grandstand and horse racing track. The opening event in 1891 featured a five-race card, one of which was the Chicago Derby. Today, Hawthorne is the oldest family-owned racetrack in North America. It was ranked #8 out of 65 thoroughbred racetracks by the Horseplayers Association of North America in 2009 and is rated second tier to Chicago's premier thoroughbred track, Arlington Park.
Hawthorne Race Course experienced a setback in 1902 when its grandstand burned to the ground. Racing was temporarily moved to Chicago's Harlem racetrack, with Hawthorne reopening for a 12-day meet later that same year. With the banning of horse racing in Chicago, Hawthorne was forced to close, reopening again legally for a 13-day meet in 1922. By 1923, the meet was expanded to 25 days, and to 52 days in 1924, with parimutuel betting being introduced at the track and a new clubhouse constructed. The major stakes Hawthorne Gold Cup Handicap was introduced in 1927 and in the early 1930s Daily Double wagering and infra-red timing were introduced. In 1948 the racing strip was renovated and a six-furlong turf course introduced. Harness racing and quarter horse racing started at Hawthorne in the early 1970s. Hawthorne's grandstand was once again destroyed by fire in 1978, with the track reopening for a 72-day thoroughbred meet in September 1980.
Hawthorne Race Course features a one-mile dirt oval, as well as a seven-furlong turf oval, with the main track homestretch measuring 1,320 feet. In early November each year the track hosts the Illinois Festival of Racing which is restricted to state-bred horses. Grade stakes run at Hawthorne include the Grade II Hawthorne Gold Cup Handicap, as well as the Illinois Derby, Hawthorne Derby, Robert F. Carey Memorial Handicap and Sixty Sails Handicap, all Grade III stakes.