08/01/2014 3:42PM

Arlington asks for fewer race days in 2015

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Arlington requested a shortened race meet and three-day racing weeks for much of its 2015 season in its annual racing-dates request filed with the Illinois Racing Board and released Friday.

Arlington is in the midst of an 89-day meet racing four days per week this summer, but requested only 79 days of racing for 2015, and wants to run just three days per week – Friday through Sunday – from April 20 through June 30 and during the entire month of September. Arlington requested four-day weeks, Thursday through Sunday, during July and August.

Arlington’s 2014 dates request was for 101 days of live racing, meaning the track has asked for 22 fewer days next year. Hawthorne, meanwhile, requested only 89 dates in 2014 after applying for 107 live dates in 2014 and receiving 100 dates.

On Thursday, the IRB granted a Hawthorne request to vacate 13 racing days during its fall-winter meet this year. The track cited concerns over field size in asking for the reduction, but problems with maintaining an adequate purse structure also are a factor.

Purses at Illinois tracks have been boosted for three years by impact fees garnished from the highest-earning casinos in Illinois, compensation for legislative changes favorable to the casino industry and deleterious to racing that were agreed to years ago by racing interests. But the impact fees will run out before 2015, and purse money at Hawthorne and Arlington will be generated only through betting handle, which has been in steady decline on this circuit.

Arlington also asked to be the so-called dark-host track between Nov. 15 and March 15, dates that overlap Hawthorne’s live racing dates requests for both spring and fall meets, and a move that will trigger strong resistance from Hawthorne. The host track during the winter dark period in Illinois earns the lion’s share of takeout from out-of-state simulcasts that’s split between track operators and purse accounts. Arlington’s request for dark-host status in the fall suggests it will attempt to persuade the IRB to curtail Hawthorne’s racing season.

Fairmount Park in southern Illinois requested 150 racing days between Jan. 1 and Dec. 31. The track will actually race far fewer days than that between late spring and early autumn, but Fairmount traditionally requests a huge slate of days while working with local horsemen to determine what sort of meet the small venue’s financial structure can actually support.

The IRB’s annual dates awards hearing is scheduled for Sept. 30.