The Demise of Arlington Park?

His name was Richard L. Duchossois, the same man honored today by the final running of a race that can no longer vaunt a seven-figure purse and instead patches up its dignity as the Mister D. Stakes.   An apt tribute, undoubtedly, to a remarkable man closing on his 100th birthday: one of the last of the great generation raised in the Depression, their endurance tested and deepened further yet as the vigor and dreams of their prime were diverted, and often fatally consumed, by war.

Mister D. himself shared a vivid recollection of lying on a stretcher in Normandy, one of the dying among the dead. To the overwhelmed medics, these two categories had to be treated as one and the same. They had separated only those who stood some kind of chance. And the 22-year-old Duchossois couldn’t argue with their verdict. He was paralyzed from the neck down. After days and nights of combat without respite, sedated, absolved of responsibility, he began to yield to a great weariness. Dimly he heard a shout: “That one over there, you better bring him along.” It was only when he felt the stretcher being raised that he realized who “that one” was.

By a no less tenuous thread of fortune, it turned out that the bullet had not severed his spinal cord. The nerves were only in shock. Lying in a Paris hospital, booked for a passage home, Duchossois could think only of the unfinished battle. If anything, the British pilot in the next bed was a still harder case. He had lost a leg, but between them they got hold of… read the rest about Arlington Park:

This Side Up: A Million Memories, From Heaven to Hell

A Scratch for Arlington Park Horse Racing Next Year

Track passes on race dates as owner mulls potential sale to Bears

The Bears might end up at Arlington Park, but the ponies won’t be there next year.

As the corporate owner of the historic suburban oval mulls bids from the Chicago Bears and other potential buyers, the deadline passed Friday afternoon for the track to apply with state regulators for a racing license in 2022 — guaranteeing there won’t be horse racing in Arlington Heights next year.

Under state law, tracks have to apply with the Illinois Racing Board by the end of July for specific racing dates the following year. No application was submitted by Arlington International Racecourse, meaning its final race day, Sept. 25, could be its last ever.

Arlington President Tony Petrillo said the inaction was “consistent” with the owner Churchill Downs’ strategy for a track that is at “an economic disadvantage in a hypersensitive market” — but he insisted the company isn’t out of the horse racing game altogether. They’re considering building another race course somewhere else in the state, according to Petrillo, who couldn’t offer any specifics.

“There’s been no decision to abandon thoroughbred racing,” he said.

Either way, there won’t be any racing at Arlington next spring…

Can a Hawthorne ‘Racino’ Keep Horse Racing Alive in Chicago?

My first day at Arlington Park was one of the most momentous of my life.

It was July 1, 1996. My father’s wife was in town for a conference, and he needed to kill an afternoon. He suggested the track.

Even before we walked inside, I was awed by Arlington. From Northwest Highway, the grandstand resembled a splendid resort hotel. Its roof, a cowl painted the green of ancient copper, floated above the summer trees. Outside the gate, a garden spelled out A-R-L-I-N-G-T-O-N in red begonias.

Inside, the very worst thing that can happen to a novice gambler happened to me: I won a lot of money…

Illinois Probe into Churchill Downs and Anti-Trust Actions

The association representing horse owners and trainers at Arlington Park has called on the Illinois attorney general to launch an antitrust investigation into track owner Churchill Downs Inc.

The request stems from the Louisville, Kentucky-based corporation’s August 2019 decision to forgo slots and table games at Arlington Park, five months after it acquired a majority stake in nearby Rivers Casino in Des Plaines.

“Churchill executives evidently engaged in a campaign to block current and future gaming scenarios at Arlington while telegraphing messages to deflect public attention from its actual intent: shielding Rivers from a major gaming competitor in close proximity,” Campbell wrote in his April 29 letter to Antitrust Bureau Chief Blake Harrop. “Whether Churchill’s steps rose to the level of illegal anticompetitive behavior, we respectfully submit, is worthy of your review.”

The five-page letter also was forwarded to the U.S. Department of Justice…  continue reading

Illinois Horse Racing and Sports Issue Still Pending

Despite moving to the brink of a two-year contract for horse racing in 2020 and 2021, Arlington Park and the Illinois Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association have yet to put pen to paper on an agreement and forced the Illinois Racing Board to recess its Thursday meeting for approval of this season’s schedule until Friday.

The sides were supposed to have a signed contract in place by Jan. 1, 2020 as part of the $12 billion capital bill Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed into law last June that also legalized sports betting in Illinois. Arlington Park tweeted Wednesday saying it had reached a tentative agreement with the ITHA, but the two sides had a breakdown prior to Thursday’s scheduled board meeting. The ITHA had issue with the language in the contract because purse projections could change if Arlington does not receive the same amount of race days in 2021 that it has in previous years.

More about this Illinois issue:

Belmont Stakes 2020 wagering recap

Will Racing Return to Balmoral Park?

“It’s one of the most unique properties in Chicagoland, and it deserves to be put back into action,” Goldberg said. “Our plans include making it a premier sports and entertainment venue that Chicagoland and the south suburbs deserve.”

Goldberg’s group signed a contract to buy Balmoral for an undisclosed price from HITS Inc., the New York-based company that has hosted show horse productions at the track the last few years.

All the new owners need now is for state lawmakers to amend the Illinois’ massive gambling expansion law to allow for racing in Crete Township. But threading that legislative needle will be no small feat, as Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot can attest.

And representatives for the horsemen who would work at the harness track — who pushed to include it in the new gaming law — are skeptical about the dark horse Balmoral bid.

“There’s a shroud of mystery that’s concerning,” Illinois Harness Horsemen’s Association executive director Tony Somone said. “Who is Phil Goldberg? He’s not a racetrack person, not a gaming person. We’d like to work together with this group, but we don’t really know who we’re dealing with.”