09/09/2001 11:00PM

Lone Star and Arlington will get Cup

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The Breeders' Cup is going to places it has never been before with the selection of Arlington Park in suburban Chicago and Lone Star Park in Texas as two of the next four sites of the World Thoroughbred Championships.

On Monday, Arlington Park was tentatively announced as the 2002 host, to be followed by Santa Anita in 2003, Churchill Downs in 2004, and Lone Star in 2005.

Neither Arlington nor Lone Star - situated between Dallas and Fort Worth - has ever played host to the championships. Their selection underscores the effort by Breeders' Cup and its partner, the National Thoroughbred Racing Association, to expand the event, which was renamed earlier this year, to new markets.

"It's a strong signal that the corporation is ready and willing to consider qualified new applicants," said D.G. Van Clief, president of Breeders Cup Ltd.

The sites still have to meet certain conditions before winning final approval. Among the conditions are state regulatory approval, community support in the form of tax breaks or incentives, and the development of plans for additional seating at a small track like Lone Star.

With Chicago and Dallas in the mix, Breeders' Cup is moving beyond the four traditional markets that have dominated site selection. In its 17 runnings, the event has been held outside of Kentucky, Southern California, Florida, or New York just once. That was in 1996, when Woodbine Racecourse near Toronto was host.

During the last several years, Breeders' Cup officials had sought to establish a loose rotation for the event that would have included Churchill Downs, tracks in Southern California and New York, Gulfstream Park, and a wild card site. But the plan was hampered by renovations at Santa Anita Park, which has backed out as host twice in the past three years.

Arlington, a luxurious track that was built in 1985 for $200 million, was not seriously considered for a Breeders' Cup program until Santa Anita backed out earlier this year. Arlington is owned by the parent company of Churchill Downs, which will be host for a record sixth time in 2004. Churchill was the fallback site when Santa Anita canceled in 2000.

Sherwood Chillingworth, the director and vice president of Oak Tree, which runs the fall meet at Santa Anita and leases the track from its owner, Magna Entertainment, said Monday that Magna officials had told him the company will not schedule any renovations that could disrupt plans in 2003.

"We're glad to be back in the rotation," Chillingworth said. Santa Anita, which will become a three-time host in 2003, last held the event in 1993.

Lone Star was an instant success when it opened its doors in 1997. Since Lone Star was built in the simulcasting era, when tracks were constructed on smaller scales, it has fewer than seats. The track is expected to add tens of thousands of temporary seats for the event.