Arlington Park will get the lion’s share of attention from the horse racing world on Saturday. He’ll get that no-stakes race attention on his nine-race card. And many will do so with tears in their eyes.

Arlington Park crowds like this have made the Arlington Million one of North America’s must-see summer races. The 94-year-old Chicago-area track has its final races on Saturday before it is closed for good. (Image: Arlington Park)

Saturday is the last day of thoroughbred racing at Arlington Park. The 94-year-old track, which opened in 1927, was auctioned off last year. And Churchill Downs Inc., which owns the track in Chicago’s northwest suburbs, doesn’t want to sell to anyone intending to race horses on the 326-acre property.

This Saturday, the swansong of Arlington Park had been known for months. But the lesson became clear when Churchill Downs failed to request race dates at Arlington Park for 2022. That means the Illinois Racing Board could not assign dates. In turn, this means that Hawthorne Racecourse, located near Stickney, Illinois, inherits most of Arlington Park’s thoroughbred dates.

Hawthorne will host six months of thoroughbred racing: April through June, then September 23 through the end of the year. The rest of the year will be devoted to harness racing. The Daily Racing Form reported that the dates for thoroughbred racing in the Chicago area will drop from 124 this year to 76 in 2022. Fairmount Park in southern Illinois will have 61 days of thoroughbred racing , from mid-April to the end of September.

Who were the last best trainers and jockeys in Arlington Park?

And so we have Saturday’s farewell to one of North America’s iconic tracks. We get Larry Rivelli and Jareth Loveberry to become answers to the questions “Who won the last Arlington Park training and riding titles?” ” respectively ?

We get 102 horses entered in these nine races. The final race, an optional $ 40,000 allowance claimant, sends his 12 fillies and mares to 5 ½ stages. Track officials named it Luxembourg, after the first winner of an Arlington Park race on October 13, 1927.

This final is light years away from what put Arlington Park on the horse racing map. The legendary Citation drew many of the opening lines on this map, winning the Stars and Stripes Stakes three weeks after winning the 1948 Triple Crown. He won it in 1: 49.2, tying the track record of 1 1/8 miles.

A quarter of a century later, Secretariat followed the Triple Crown of Citation with one of its own. He also followed the Citation Trail to Arlington Park. Three weeks after her triple crown, Secretariat won the 1 1/8 mile Arlington Invitational by nine lengths as a 1/20 favorite.

The Arlington Million paved the way for money

In 1981, Arlington Park became the first North American circuit to offer a seven-figure purse. The Arlington Million rose to number one in American races from the start, earning a thrilling victory by iconic gelding John Henry. He dismissed a pesky 40/1 challenge from The Bart in a finish photo.

Four years later, a fire destroyed the grandstand. Yet a month later, Teleprompter won the Arlington Million on the track, in front of 35,000 people crammed into temporary stands. Richard Duchossois, the Chicago businessman and decorated WWII officer who owned Arlington Park, rebuilt it into one of the most scenic tracks in North America.

In 1997, Duchossois closed the track for 2.5 years, claiming he could not compete with other forms of gambling. But it reopened in May 2000, selling a controlling stake to Churchill Downs Inc. a month later. late.

Arlington Park won the Breeders’ Cup in 2002, the first time a Midwestern track hosted the prestigious fall event.

Pay attention to what you wish

In 2019, two events happened that sealed the fate of Arlington Park. The first came when Illinois Governor JB Pritzker signed a bill to expand legal gambling in the state. While this was technically a boon for riders and horse racing enthusiasts, who wanted the extra income stream to help the sport, it came with a poison pill for the track.

This was a higher tax rate on the tracks expanding their gaming operations. This prompted Churchill Downs Inc. CEO Bill Carstanjen to pass up the addition of slots and gaming. table in Arlington Park. Instead, Carstanjen has beefed up gaming options at CDI’s Rivers Casino in the nearby Des Plaines suburb.

In July 2020, Carstanjen discussed the future of Arlington Park on a conference call with investors. He said the ground under Arlington Park has a more lucrative future outside of the races. In February 2021, CDI put Arlington Park up for sale.

‘Da Bears’ wants Arlington Park for a stadium

As this continues, two groups – including one led by former track chairman Roy Arnold – have made offers in CDI for the property. Arnold’s group would preserve the race. The other entity entering the mix is ​​the Chicago Bears, who want to build a new stadium on the property. The CDI has not issued a date or deadline for a sale.

On August 14, Arlington Park ran its final Rank 1s, including the race formerly known as the Arlington Million. It became the Mr. D Stakes, named after Duchossois, who will be 100 years old on October 7th. Two Emmys, which left at 27/1, became another trivial response when he choked 2/5 of front-runner Domestic Spending by a neck.

Which brings us to now. Arlington Park remains open to riders until October 2. By October 5, barns and temporary housing will be empty. And another North American racetrack leaves the game, leaving only memories and history.


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