09/14/2006 11:00PM

National Jockey Club scraps '07 meet

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STICKNEY, Ill. - The financially bereft National Jockey Club has withdrawn its application to the Illinois Racing Board for 2007 racing dates, the end of an unraveling that began in 1998 when the NJC remade the old Sportsman's Park into an auto-racing track that eventually failed. Next year will be the first in 75 that the NJC has not hosted a race meet.

In a letter to the racing board, the NJC said it was withdrawing its application for its traditional winter-spring season, leaving open the possibility of applying in later years. But the NJC's future is uncertain, with Duchossois Industries, the family-owned company of Arlington Park's chairman, Richard Duchossois, holding the racing club's fate in its hands.

In July, Duchossois Industries purchased a promissory note held by a consortium of banks. NJC owes a reported $28 to $29 million on the note and lacks assets to cover the debt. Duchossois Industries called in the note last week, and had the NJC not withdrawn its application, the racing board almost certainly would have denied it dates at the annual dates-awards meeting this Tuesday.

Duchossois said no decision had yet been made how to treat NJC's debt.

"We haven't even concerned ourselves particularly about that," he said.

Duchossois also left open the possibility of Arlington changing its 2007 racing dates request for a 100-day meet between May 4 and Sept. 30.

"We may alter it - that doesn't mean we're going to get everything in there," said Duchossois. "We're now sitting down to figure out just what we should be doing on that."

Hawthorne Race Course's dates application included a request for the traditional NJC dates, and Hawthorne seems likely to stage a meet early next year. Hawthorne and Arlington could strike some sort of pre-hearing agreement about how to split the Chicago racing pie in the NJC's absence, but Arlington has leverage in this area. The NJC - and therefore in essence Duchossois Industries - owns eight barns containing 800 stalls on the Hawthorne backstretch, though Hawthorne owns the land upon which the barns sit.

"We'll work out some sort of arrangement," said Hawthorne president Tim Carey.

Carey said he didn't know what would become of Hawthorne National LLC, the loose partnership between the NJC and Hawthorne that paved the NJC's move to Hawthorne four years ago after the failure of the Chicago Motor Speedway and the razing of Sportsman's Park.

"We as partners now need to sit down and discuss what the future looks like," said Carey.