09/15/2003 11:00PM

Illinois sets 2004 race calendar

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The Illinois Racing Board awarded 2004 Thoroughbred dates on Tuesday without the usual turmoil and dissent at its annual dates hearing. Rather than fighting things out at the hearing, Chicago's Thoroughbred tracks worked out a schedule in the days leading up to the board meeting.

The 2004 schedule keeps intact this year's arrangement. The National Jockey Club, which moved its meet to Hawthorne this year after the shutdown of Sportsman's Park, begins the season Feb. 25 and races until May 13. Arlington Park takes over May 14 and runs through Sept. 19. Then racing moves back to Hawthorne, which will conduct its live meet from Sept. 20 through Jan. 3, 2005. The NJC received 47 live days, Arlington 96, and Hawthorne 69.

The tracks and Chicago horsemen agreed to reduce the number of live racing dates from 220 last year to 212 in 2004.

"We want to try and maintain purse structure and continue to attract horsemen to Illinois," said Thomas Carey, general manager of Hawthorne.

Downstate Fairmount Park was assigned 122 live dates from April 30 through Nov. 27.