09/15/2005 11:00PM

Illinois race dates at issue


A potentially combustible Illinois dates award meeting is set for Tuesday in Chicago. Racetracks requested dates for the 2006 season earlier this summer, and the meeting of the Illinois Racing Board will decide the schedule and award host-track status, and its attendant simulcast revenue, for the winter dark period in Chicago.

In a 6-5 vote last year, the board awarded the 2005 winter dark money to Hawthorne and the National Jockey Club, a move that infuriated Arlington Park, which had controlled the dark period in previous seasons. Arlington can be expected to make a strong bid to regain winter host-track status at Tuesday's meeting.

Another disputed issue concerns the loose partnership, called Hawthorne National LLC, between Hawthorne and the National Jockey Club. Formed to give the National Jockey Club a place to conduct its winter-spring meet after the old Sportsman's Park was been turned into an auto-racing oval and eventually razed, the partnership has shown signs of stress. Hawthorne and the NJC applied separately for the same 2006 winter dates, and though Hawthorne officials say the move was precautionary, a hedge in case the board declined to grant the NJC any dates, other fault lines have shown.

Last spring, an arbitrator sided with the NJC in a dispute between it and Hawthorne principles involved in the Hawthorne National partnership, and last week a Cook County circuit court judge upheld the arbitrator's ruling. The NJC contends Hawthorne officials illegally undertook $1.2 million in capital improvements and violated other operating agreements in the partnership.