10/29/2001 1:00AM

Arlington may lose Cup races


The 2002 World Thoroughbred Championships may have to be moved to an alternate site because Arlington Park has so far failed to secure state funding for temporary renovations, officials for Breeders' Cup Ltd. and Arlington acknowledge.

Located just outside Chicago, Arlington Park was named the likely site for the 2002 championships early in September, but the selection was contingent on several developments, including $3 million in funding from the state to build temporary seating. Breeders' Cup mandates that all host tracks have seats for at least 45,000 people.

Karl Schmitt, vice president of Churchill Downs, which owns Arlington, said Monday that it "would be a matter of weeks, not months," before Illinois officials decide whether to sign off on the money. Arlington has never before held the championships.

In the meantime, Churchill has offered to hold the championships at either its flagship track in Louisville, Ky., or at Hollywood Park in Southern California, according to Schmitt. Churchill has held the event a record five times - including on short notice in 2000, when Santa Anita Park bowed out - and Hollywood has held it three times.

If the event were to be moved, it would be the third time in three years that the Cup has had to go with a second option. In fact, Arlington came under consideration for 2002 only when Santa Anita backed out once again because of construction concerns.

As a backup sight, Churchill Downs could also have complications. The track is scheduled to began extensive renovations next year after its spring meet, and the date of the 2002 Breeders' Cup, Oct. 26, is held by Keeneland in Lexington.

Schmitt said those issues could be overcome. "We gave our commitment to Breeders' Cup, and we will do whatever is possible," said Schmitt. "We'll figure out what the issues are and what is needed to be done and we'll do it."