Arlington Park in Arlington Heights, Sick.
The new millennium was not variety 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 several years hosted both equally Standardbred and Thoroughbred racing, experienced just been transformed to an car track that prepared to proceed giving Thoroughbred races on dust spread about a concrete oval. That absurd experiment lasted a few many years. The automobile observe was a dud and a fiscal disaster. The grime track was unsafe. Sportsman’s ran its previous horse race in 2002 and is now the web-site of several major box shops.
And 2000 was also the calendar year Richard Duchossois merged his loved ones-owned Arlington Park in the northwest Chicago suburb of Arlington Heights into the portfolio of the publicly traded Churchill Downs Inc. Then underneath the management of Thomas Meeker, Churchill Downs had been on some thing of an acquisition spree, possessing just obtained Calder Race System in close proximity to Miami, Fla., and Hollywood Park in Inglewood, Calif.
We know how those acquisitions have labored out for the Thoroughbred sector. Meeker remaining Churchill Downs in 2006, one yr after Hollywood Park was bought to a land advancement firm that would close the keep track of in 2013 and assemble an NFL football stadium in its spot.
Calder’s grandstand was torn down in 2015 and the racing floor and a portion of the stables ended up leased to The Stronach Group, owner of Gulfstream Park, to operate a spectator-much less meet up with re-branded as Gulfstream Park West. That lease expired past calendar year and Calder/GP West is now history. So, also, are the purse supplements that came from the Calder On line casino, for which horsemen aided Churchill Downs Inc. combat for acceptance in a 2008 referendum.
It really is difficult to visualize how there is a long term for Arlington Park as a racetrack after the present-day fulfill ends next month. Churchill Downs Inc. is vast majority operator of Rivers Casino 10 miles absent and turned down the chance made in 2019 by gambling growth legislation that would have permitted an on-website casino at Arlington. Illinois breeders, entrepreneurs and trainers have been shocked and felt betrayed when Arlington stated it would not use for a on line casino license and rather sell the house for development. For decades, many years even, horsepeople stood facet by facet with Arlington reps in the state capitol in Springfield, lobbying for laws to permit slots or casinos at racetracks.
Arlington did not implement for 2022 racing dates and it would not be in Churchill Downs Inc’s very best passions as a casino business to sell the observe to any individual who would provide pari-mutuel wagering on horse racing. That would be competition for the gambling dollar and conceivably could damage Rivers Casino’s business.
The Carey family’s Hawthorne Race Training course seems to be Illinois racing’s previous hope – except if you count outdated Fairmount Park in southern Illinois, which has been rebranded as FanDuel Athletics Ebook and Horse Racing.
Hawthorne, which sat specifically adjacent to Sportsman’s Park, declared plans for a $500 million on line casino expansion subsequent the 2019 gambling laws. But building on the on line casino was halted in April, with no general public clarification or a timeline for completion.
Even if the Hawthorne casino is concluded, the condition is much from excellent. Hawthorne is now the only track hosting Standardbred racing in the Chicago region, and this generates not only a possible conflict in excess of racing dates in between the two breeds, but long term earnings from the casino earmarked for purses will have to be divided concerning Thoroughbreds and Standardbreds. The 2019 laws permitted a new harness keep track of/casino to be created in an space south of Chicago, but to day neither a ideal investor or assets has been accredited.
Arlington’s racing times are dwindling down to a cherished number of, The palatial grandstand continues to be a person of the excellent wonders of the North American racing entire world, even though it’s evident the as soon as pristine aesthetics and upkeep standards established by the extremely hands-on Richard Duchossois have fallen noticeably as he strategies the century mark in several years. Unpleasant weeds developing all through the plant are just one particular of the eyesores that wouldn’t have been there a 10 years ago. In point, back then, Duchossois himself may possibly have grabbed a weed wacker to show the upkeep crew how it truly is carried out, just as he took manage of targeted visitors stream into the parking large amount one Arlington Million working day not that lots of yrs ago.
Talking of Arlington Million Day, or whichever it was known as this 12 months immediately after 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 on reporting by Jim O’Donnell in the Daily Herald (evidently the only Chicago-area newspaper to cover this year’s a few Grade 1 races, with both the Chicago Tribune and Solar-Occasions ignoring them), Petrillo had quite the meltdown, lashing out at media customers who did come to deal with the races. According to O’Donnell and verified by quite a few writers and photographers from horse racing publications, Petrillo would not permit photographers, other than the track photographer, to get in place to photograph any of the significant turf races.
Just after the day’s remaining race was operate, buoyed with members of the protection employees, Petrillo cleared out the push box though all those very same writers and photographers were being making an attempt to complete their assignments and send out their tales and photographs to their respective publications. Petrillo even instructed a person photographer who took place to be on assignment for a Churchill Downs Inc. subsidiary, that she was “banned for life” from Arlington Park.
It truly is the same therapy proprietors and trainers have been acquiring from Arlington management in recent yrs.
There was a time when Arlington Park’s press box was as welcoming and helpful as any keep track of in the region. It was not just the cozy accommodations or the outstanding meals that ended up served to grateful writers and photographers. Extra importantly, Richard Duchossois would walk by the press box and thank each individual member of the media independently for coming to Arlington Park, inquiring them if you will find something they wanted.
How periods have improved.
My gut sensation is that this is the stop of the highway for Arlington Park, the keep track of where by I fell in enjoy with racing in the 1970s. It’s been a lengthy, sluggish and agonizing death to observe because Duchossois relinquished entire manage of Arlington in 2000. I may not agree with them, but I realize business choices and fiduciary responsibilities that travel publicly traded corporations like Churchill Downs Inc. What I really don’t realize is the arrogance and nastiness from Arlington’s management that has accompanied the track’s tragic tumble.
I experienced always believed the closing days of Arlington Park would be bittersweet, a combine of sorrow with the wonderful reminiscences furnished by the horses and persons who set on the show for so quite a few many years. But the architects of what looks destined to be this fantastic track’s ultimate chapter seem to be hell bent on earning guaranteed it really is a bitter finish.
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