08/01/2005 12:00AM

Illinois dates requests clash


Applications for 2006 racing dates in Illinois were released Monday by the Illinois Racing Board, with hints of a contentious dates awards hearing later this summer.

Hawthorne Race Course and the National Jockey Club formed a loose merger called Hawthorne National LLC when the National Jockey Club moved its winter-spring meet from the now-destroyed Sportsman's Park. But Hawthorne and the NJC asked for similar early-season dates next year, including all of January - a departure from the traditional Chicago schedule - and, after a dark period during February and most of March, a spring meet running from March 24 to the first part of May.

The overlapping requests are linked to speculation that the board could deny NJC racing dates this season - speculation that regularly has arisen since Sportsman's demise. Should NJC fail to receive dates, Hawthorne would be positioned to run its own spring meet.

Hawthorne also requested a fall meet spanning Sept. 22 through Dec. 31. Hawthorne's fall meet begins about a week later than that this year.

Arlington Park, in the middle of a 94-day meet that began May 13 and ends Sept. 30, applied for 118 days in 2006, from May 5 to Oct. 15.

There will be fierce competition for simulcast revenue during the winter dark period in Chicago. The board surprisingly awarded Hawthorne winter host-track status for 2004, and Arlington will be fighting to regain the lucrative period.

The downstate track Fairmount Park requested 150 racing days without specifying dates.