09/30/2014 2:02PM

Far fewer race dates in Chicago in 2015


CHICAGO – The Illinois Racing Board approved a 2015 racing schedule Tuesday during its annual dates-awards meeting that trims the number of race days in Chicago by 21 percent compared with this year.

Cuts are necessary to retain a racing structure similar to what currently exists. Illinois tracks have supplemented purses with a casino impact fee the last three years, but that money is gone, and barring legislative action, purses will be generated only from betting handle in 2015.

The cutback, though, was not as sharp as what Arlington wanted, and Arlington executives left the meeting in downtown Chicago seething at another vote from the board that struck them as unfavorable.

The 2015 racing calendar will look similar to this year’s, with racing starting Feb. 20 at Hawthorne, moving to Arlington in late April, and picking back up at Hawthorne in October. The number of race days in Chicago, however, falls from 189 this year to 150.

Hawthorne will race two-day weeks in February, three-day weeks in March, and four-day weeks in April. Arlington will race only three-day weeks in May, June, and September and four days per week in July and August under the schedule approved by a 6-4 IRB vote.

That vote took time to reach. The original proposal and two subsequent amendments failed to attract a majority before an amendment from third-year commissioner Kathy Byrne won narrow approval.

Byrne was adamant that the board not agree to end racing at Maywood Park, a Standardbred track, next July, though the track still could cease racing in midseason next year if the Illinois legislature doesn’t pass a law allowing tracks to operate slot machines before next summer. Byrne’s proposal also allowed Fairmount Park to open earlier in 2015. The southern Illinois track starts its meet March 24.

Arlington had proposed doing away with the spring meet at Hawthorne, using that time to host betting on simulcast races while accumulating purse money for its own summer meet.

Hawthorne, which has struggled to stay afloat in recent years, said during a Sept. 19 dates hearing that it could not guarantee it would stay in business if Arlington’s proposal was approved, but Hawthorne got most everything it wanted Tuesday.

Hawthorne not only continues hosting a spring meet, but it retains nearly all its so-called “dark host” days. The track designated as a dark host during non-racing days generates the lion’s share of purse money and track commissions from bets taken on simulcast races, about $50,000 per day in mid-winter. The IRB’s 2013 dates order moved 19 dark-host days from Arlington to Hawthorne, and Arlington still has not gotten those days back. One of the Tuesday amendments would have shifted 10 dark-host days to Arlington in 2015, but the approved order gives Arlington only one more dark-host day than it has this year.

Arlington president Tony Petrillo said the IRB’s award could lead to significant purse cuts during its 2015 race meeting, which will include 77 racing days, down from 89 this year, and chairman Dick Duchossois, somewhat ominously, said Arlington would have to discuss implications with “our parent company,” Churchill Downs Inc.

Frank Miller More than 1 year ago
I have no sympathy for race tracks who screwed the Mutuel Clerks with the help with a corrupt do nothing Union. Let them close down who cares. The old saying what goes around comes around. Greedy pigs they were.
Nathan More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Less racing days....no surprise. Only players left are from the baby boomer era and few decades prior. Once we're gone, where will all the new players come from after we're long gone?
FESTUS ELROY More than 1 year ago
You hit the nail on the head.The horseracing industry need to learn from the tobacco industry and hookem when theyre young.
Frank Reach More than 1 year ago
I don't even care. Chicago doesn't do anything right to support business enterprise. Arlington only has one good day of racing, and this year they couldn't even get a full field. Horribly run and as a horse player, I stopped caring. Let it go. This I do know, if the entire United States of America made decisions as bad as Chicago and Detroit, we would all be broke.
Pagani Zonda More than 1 year ago
You are broke. Not you personally, but the country.
Randy Atkins More than 1 year ago
yea I agree...the Million was a joke this year...never bet AP except for big stakes days...used to drive semi's over the road and went to Chicago alot...everything in Chicago is a joke
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Illinois legislators are the worst in the country, Obama was part of it, need I say more? Corrupt and lining their pockets with casino payoffs to protect them.
riddick More than 1 year ago
oh Obama is to blame for Horse racing failing as well? Well 2 years from now we'll all be rich and own many horses like we did when Reagan and Bush sr. were in charge for 12 years.
rahman Williams More than 1 year ago
Good one
riddick More than 1 year ago
A city that big having problems with racing is bad news. Most People just don't know how to bet and lose money. Then they give up.. When I play, I prefer Hawthorn over Arlington. But I seldom play tracks outside of Belmont, Saratoga. That's another problem people play too many tracks.
william More than 1 year ago
I'll be curious to see the handle totals from the recently concluded Arlington meet. I'm guessing they are down 15% from 2013 and probably down 30% compared to 2000. Short fields and high takeout are killing the industry. I'm chomping at the bit to bet, but it is difficult to find any perceived value in 5-6 horse fields with 16-25% takeout. Bookmakers in the UK usually take 1.5% for each horse entered. That seems like a no brainer solution to me. 5 horse field=7.5% takeout, 10 horses = 15% takeout, etc....
Walter More than 1 year ago
Never understood why Balmoral got out of the TB business? They built the big track & one mile chute but didn't use it much. Bml should run a spring meeting leading up to the AP meet.
Mark Deckert More than 1 year ago
It wasn't their choice, squeezed out by the board and "other interests". Longer story, not time or space here.
Salvatore Agro More than 1 year ago
Great news!! Make these tracks cut it on their own. No slot revenue as life support. If they can't- go out of business like any other enterprise faces!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
They are not getting slot money. They got some, it has run out and the legislation will not give anymore or allow them to compete with the casinos. We already know you didnt read the article and you are a PETA supporter.
Joe Eckert More than 1 year ago
good for you anonymous
Joe Eckert More than 1 year ago
why would I run for 22k in Illinois ,when I can go to Indiana and run for 40k....Same class ,same horses...more money from slots..Get with it or there will be NO racing in Ill..
Pagani Zonda More than 1 year ago
Bingo!. Just add the State bred bonuses and you have a winning solution.