Arlington Park in Arlington Heights, Unwell.
The new millennium was not type to horse racing in Chicagoland.
In 2000, the Bidwill family’s Sportsman’s Park, the bullring in the gritty south aspect suburb of Cicero that for many years hosted each Standardbred and Thoroughbred racing, experienced just been remodeled to an automobile keep track of that planned to keep on giving Thoroughbred races on dust distribute above a concrete oval. That absurd experiment lasted a few yrs. The auto keep track of was a dud and a monetary catastrophe. The filth keep track of was unsafe. Sportsman’s ran its final horse race in 2002 and is now the web page of numerous massive box retailers.
And 2000 was also the year Richard Duchossois merged his family members-owned Arlington Park in the northwest Chicago suburb of Arlington Heights into the portfolio of the publicly traded Churchill Downs Inc. Then beneath the management of Thomas Meeker, Churchill Downs experienced been on anything of an acquisition spree, getting just bought Calder Race Class around Miami, Fla., and Hollywood Park in Inglewood, Calif.
We know how these acquisitions have labored out for the Thoroughbred industry. Meeker remaining Churchill Downs in 2006, a single year immediately after Hollywood Park was sold to a land enhancement business that would close the observe in 2013 and assemble an NFL football stadium in its place.
Calder’s grandstand was torn down in 2015 and the racing area and a portion of the stables were being leased to The Stronach Team, owner of Gulfstream Park, to run a spectator-considerably less satisfy re-branded as Gulfstream Park West. That lease expired very last yr and Calder/GP West is now history. So, as well, are the purse health supplements that arrived from the Calder Casino, for which horsemen served Churchill Downs Inc. fight for acceptance in a 2008 referendum.
It is really difficult to consider how there is a future for Arlington Park as a racetrack following the present meet up with ends next thirty day period. Churchill Downs Inc. is the vast majority proprietor of Rivers Casino 10 miles away and turned down the opportunity made in 2019 by gambling expansion laws that would have permitted an on-web page casino at Arlington. Illinois breeders, house owners and trainers have been surprised and felt betrayed when Arlington reported it would not utilize for a on line casino license and instead provide the home for advancement. For yrs, decades even, horsepeople stood side by aspect with Arlington representatives in the point out capitol in Springfield, lobbying for legislation to permit slots or casinos at racetracks.
Arlington did not apply for 2022 racing dates and it would not be in Churchill Downs Inc’s ideal pursuits as a on line casino organization to market the track to anybody who would supply pari-mutuel wagering on horse racing. That would be competitors for the gambling greenback and conceivably could damage Rivers Casino’s business enterprise.
The Carey family’s Hawthorne Race Course seems to be Illinois racing’s final hope – unless of course you count previous Fairmount Park in southern Illinois, which has been rebranded as FanDuel Sports activities Ebook and Horse Racing.
Hawthorne, which sat right adjacent to Sportsman’s Park, announced strategies for a $500 million casino expansion pursuing the 2019 gambling legislation. But construction on the casino was halted in April, with no community rationalization or a timeline for completion.
Even if the Hawthorne casino is completed, the situation is much from best. Hawthorne is now the only track hosting Standardbred racing in the Chicago area, and this makes not only a probable conflict over racing dates between the two breeds, but upcoming earnings from the casino earmarked for purses will have to be divided among Thoroughbreds and Standardbreds. The 2019 laws permitted a new harness track/casino to be created in an place south of Chicago, but to date neither a suited trader or home has been authorised.
Arlington’s racing times are dwindling down to a treasured couple, The palatial grandstand continues to be just one of the fantastic wonders of the North American racing planet, though it really is evident the at the time pristine aesthetics and routine maintenance criteria set by the incredibly hands-on Richard Duchossois have fallen substantially as he approaches the century mark in many years. Unattractive weeds growing in the course of the plant are just one of the eyesores that wouldn’t have been there a 10 years in the past. In point, back again then, Duchossois himself may possibly have grabbed a weed wacker to exhibit the routine maintenance crew how it’s accomplished, just as he took management of traffic move into the parking ton a person Arlington Million working day not that a lot of several years back.
Speaking of Arlington Million Working day, or whatever it was known as this calendar year following the signature race’s purse was slashed and renamed the Mr. D. Stakes in honor of Duchossois, how about that Tony Petrillo, the track’s president?
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Based mostly on reporting by Jim O’Donnell in the Day-to-day Herald (apparently the only Chicago-area newspaper to deal with this year’s three Quality 1 races, with both the Chicago Tribune and Sunshine-Instances ignoring them), Petrillo experienced really the meltdown, lashing out at media members who did come to cover the races. In accordance to O’Donnell and verified by several writers and photographers from horse racing publications, Petrillo would not let photographers, other than the keep track of photographer, to get in posture to photograph any of the huge turf races.
Following the day’s last race was operate, buoyed with customers of the protection team, Petrillo cleared out the press box while those identical writers and photographers were trying to end their assignments and send their tales and pics to their respective publications. Petrillo even instructed just one photographer who took place to be on assignment for a Churchill Downs Inc. subsidiary, that she was “banned for life” from Arlington Park.
It really is the identical remedy proprietors and trainers have been receiving from Arlington management in current many years.
There was a time when Arlington Park’s press box was as welcoming and pleasant as any track in the region. It was not just the comfy lodging or the fantastic foods that have been served to grateful writers and photographers. Far more importantly, Richard Duchossois would stroll by way of the press box and thank each individual member of the media independently for coming to Arlington Park, inquiring them if you can find anything they needed.
How moments have transformed.
My intestine sensation is that this is the close of the road for Arlington Park, the monitor where I fell in really like with racing in the 1970s. It is been a extended, slow and distressing death to notice due to the fact Duchossois relinquished full regulate of Arlington in 2000. I might not agree with them, but I have an understanding of business selections and fiduciary tasks that generate publicly traded corporations like Churchill Downs Inc. What I do not have an understanding of is the conceitedness and nastiness from Arlington’s management that has accompanied the track’s tragic slide.
I had often believed the final days of Arlington Park would be bittersweet, a mix of sorrow with the good recollections furnished by the horses and people who put on the demonstrate for so lots of many years. But the architects of what appears destined to be this fantastic track’s ultimate chapter seem to be hell bent on producing sure it is really a bitter stop.
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