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  A (Haw) Thorne in My Side !     

Ladies Day The title refers to the story that famous gangster Al Capone was part owner of Sportsman's park which at that time in the 1920's was a dog track. Being that dog racing wasn't legal in Illinois it was shut down. It's alleged that Mr. Capone and a business partner wanted a piece of Hawthorne Turf Course which was adjacent to the Sportsman Park facility but were rebuffed by the owners at that time. Not to be denied they turned Sportsman's Park into a horse racing facility.

You would have to guess that something built out of spite wouldn't have a happy ending and it didn't. It took seventy years but it finally happened and you talk about one wild ride on the way. If ever a track had an identity problem it was Sportsman's Park What started as a quarter mile dog track was converted to a half mile Thoroughbred facility. Somewhere along the way Standerdbreds were introduced, then the half mile track was expanded to a seven eights mile oval. The grand finale came when someone got the bright idea to add an auto racing oval complete with giant nascar style bleachers ala Dover Downs. Needless to say in less than three years it lay vacant and in 2009 another historic venue is blown into eternity and a strip mall is born.

In May of 2009, when the wrecking ball finally came to rest, one of the most intriguing racetracks in pari mutual history was reduced to rubble. Born into life as a dog track under the guidance of one Al Capone, it died a hapless auto racing facility, but in between it was always up to something.

Once the horses took over the track was a half mile oval. In the late 1950's the track was expanded to five eights of a mile and both major league thoroughbred and harness racing were conducted. In the early nineties the track was expanded once more to seven eights of a mile. The last harness races at Sportsman Park were conducted in 1997, soon after that the track was closed to be rebuilt as a multi purpose car/horse racing facility.

In 2000, the brand new Chicago Motor Speedway debuted, it was a disaster. The horse racing surface was actually the car racing oval covered with dirt, not very safe for horses. Nobody wanted to race their, on horse racing fans wanted any part of the barbed wire jungle. Horse racing was over in two years, as for auto racing it didn't fare much better. The whole site was soon abandoned, guess the architect's of this plan forgot they didn't have a casino to fall back on.