Updated on 09/16/2011 8:19AM

Illinois board assigns 2003 dates


CHICAGO - In a drawn-out Tuesday meeting in downtown Chicago, the Illinois Racing Board restored Chicago's traditional Thoroughbred schedule while keeping alive the National Jockey Club, which will race next year at Hawthorne Race Course rather than its historic home, Sportsman's Park.

The 2003 Thoroughbred season opens with the National Jockey Club meet March 1, followed by Arlington on May 9 and Hawthorne on Sept. 28. This is the old schedule used for many years before Arlington shuttered its track in 1998 and interrupted the continuity. The past two years, Arlington has raced June through the end of October, last year to prove its viability as a host to the Breeders' Cup World Thoroughbred Championships and this year to actually host the Breeders' Cup.

The National Jockey Club, which was in danger of losing dates entirely, will hold its meet at Hawthorne next season, having abandoned Sportsman's Park, which it converted to an auto-racing track three years ago. Hawthorne and the NJC formed a loose joint venture operating under the name Hawthorne National this past summer. The conglomerate will share capital investments and profits from their meets, but filed for dates as separate entities.

Hawthorne racing as Suburban Downs, also was granted a 49-day harness meet.

Arlington will race 103 days next year, Hawthorne 68 and the National Jockey Club 48. Fairmount Park, the downstate track near St. Louis, was given a 114-day meet.

The IRB, which has three new members and a new chairman, clearly was divided on the dates. The Board voted 8-3 to pass the package that was approved, but chairman Dennis Bookshester spoke out against the schedule and said he had voted against it.

The Board chose not to support two-day racing weeks in January and February. They voted to split commissions generated by off-season simulcasts along the same lines as this year, when Arlington received about 80 percent of the total commissions after the NJC and Hawthorne divided $1.5 million. Arlington also received host-track status for dark days in January 2003, while the NJC and Hawthorne will split the month of February as host tracks. Host tracks derive profits generated from full-card simulcasts. Arlington had no host-track days this season.