09/28/2010 4:22PM

Business as usual for 2011 racing dates


CHICAGO – Tuesday’s annual Illinois racing dates awards meeting of the Illinois Racing Board went off with unusual smoothness, and the 2011 racing schedule, in northern Illinois, at least, will look much like the one still playing out here in 2010.

Working on a two-year schedule agreed upon during the 2009 dates award meeting, the IRB awarded Arlington Park 86 live racing days in 2011 and  Hawthorne 110 racing days. Downstate Fairmount Park was awarded 75 racing days. Arlington’s 2011 meet will span May 6-Sept. 25, with racing to be conducted Thursday-Sunday except on special occasions. Arlington raced a 91-day meet this year, and raced 98 days in 2009.

Hawthorne, as usual, has two meets. Its winter-spring session starts Feb. 11 with two-day racing weeks, expands to four-day weeks in March, and concludes with five-day race weeks during April. In the fall, Hawthorne races five days a week from Oct. 1-Dec. 31.

Fairmount Park, which had 52 days this year when its meet started in May, could begin an expanded meet on March 15 in 2011. That change drew mild protest from Hawthorne president Tim Carey, because Hawthorne’s spring meet depends on some extent to ship-ins based at Fairmount. Lanny Brooks, leader of the Fairmount horsemen’s group, said that Fairmount’s two-days per week March and April schedule wasn’t likely to hurt the Hawthorne product, and Hawthorne did not contest Fairmount’s request.

Fairmount often actually races far fewer dates than it is awarded, and that could happen again in 2011.

Much of Tuesday’s meeting was taken up with by the subject of a joint bid from Hawthorne and the Chicago-area harness tracks, Balmoral and Maywood, to take over 12 offtrack betting parlors that had been operated by the defunct Inter-track Partners. The IRB contends violations of the state’s horse racing act occurred during the takeover, and has launched an investigation into the actions of Balmoral-Maywood and Hawthorne.