01/11/2005 1:00AM

Illinois fund shift takes hold


The Illinois Racing Board approved 2005 stakes schedules for Arlington Park and Hawthorne Race Course on Tuesday, and certified the annual disbursement of funds to Illinois tracks through the provision called recapture.

The state racing board last fall granted to Hawthorne funding in 2005 that historically had been marked for Arlington, and the stakes schedules reflect that shift. As Arlington eliminated two stakes - the Estrapade for older turf females, and the Black Tie Affair for older dirt males - and trimmed $300,000 from its program, Hawthorne added $200,000 to its stakes program while resisting pressure to scale back the $750,000 Hawthorne Gold Cup.

Hawthorne will lump three of its biggest races, the Gold Cup, the Grade 3 Robert F. Carey, and the Indian Maid Stakes, onto its Sept. 25 card. The Indian Maid and the Summertime Promise received $50,000 increases, while Hawthorne, in a letter to the Illinois Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association, suggested it could boost daily overnight purses by $25,000 next fall.

Arlington also reduced by $50,000 two other stakes, the Arlington and Modesty Handicaps, though the rest of a 25-race schedule stays the same, headlined by Arlington Million Day, Aug. 13 this year.

Recapture, enacted with the advent of full-card simulcasting, allows tracks to deduct money from purse accounts to compensate for the migration of handle from live to simulcast races. Arlington's 2004 recapture totals more than $3.9 million, while Hawthorne National, including the National Jockey Club at Hawthorne meet, earned almost $2.9 million. The racing board, for the second year, rejected arguments from Hawthorne and the NJC that the NJC was eligible for recapture. In 1994, the NJC ran its live meet at Sportsman's Park, which has since closed, and the Board ruled without that physical plant the NJC is ineligible.

Until 2003, state government reimbursed purse accounts for recapture deductions, but with an ongoing Illinois budget crisis the subsidy has not been funded for two years, leaving gaping holes in the accounts.