06/04/2008 11:00PM

No progress in legislative relief


ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - As has happened the last several years, the spring session of the Illinois legislature adjourned without passing any bills that would boost the state's troubled Thoroughbred industry.

A bill that originated in the house of representatives to fund capital improvement through significant statewide gaming expansion - including the introduction of slot machines at racetracks - was bandied back and forth between the house and the senate, eventually dying in the house before the conclusion of the session on Saturday evening. The legislature passed a fiscal-year budget some $2 billion in deficit, and no one can say exactly how shortfalls in revenue are going to be overcome, but legislators were once again unwilling to bridge the gap through gambling expansion.

There remains a chance that gambling expansion could be revived this spring, since the budget that was passed by the legislature still must go before Gov. Rod Blagojevich to be signed or rejected. But since 2008 is an election year, many observers think it more likely that movement on gambling expansion could be revived during a fall session, when election season is over.

A bill that would have legalized account wagering in Illinois also failed to be called for a vote in the house.

Outside legislative channels, racing interests are hoping in the near future for a positive result in an appeal of a court decision that blocked racing from receiving a so-called impact fee from some Illinois casinos. Legislation was passed in 2007 directing some casinos to divert 3 percent of their adjusted gross receipts to horse racing as compensation for the casinos' "impact" on racing. Gaming interests, however, successfully argued in a lawsuit that the legislation was unconstitutional because it didn't include all the state's casinos. That ruling is under appeal with the Illinois Supreme Court.

Coach Jimi Lee still on the farm

The future remains uncertain for 8-year-old Coach Jimi Lee, one of the top one-turn horses based in Chicago the last several years.

Coach Jimi Lee, who was sidelined for quite some time in 2007 with an injury, last raced on April 5, when he finished fifth in a highly restricted stakes at Hawthorne. Shortly thereafter he was sent to a farm near Ocala, Fla., for a recovery period, and there he remains, awaiting his connections' decision on whether to continue or call a halt to a highly successful racing career.

"Hawthorne ate him up," trainer and co-owner Jim DiVito said. "He didn't look good over there - never looked good."

DiVito said he was traveling to Florida on June 17, and would look in on Coach Jimi Lee.

"We'll see what we have then," he said.

Coach Jimi Lee has won 16 races with earnings of $923,453.

Extra Classy returning

Extra Classy began her career with two wins in her first three starts, but that was almost another lifetime ago. Friday, she will make her first start since March 2007 in the featured seventh race at Arlington.

The long layoff is an issue for Extra Classy, as is the fact she has never raced on Polytrack. In her favor, however, is a short six-horse second-level allowance field that lacks proven quality.

Trained by Todd Pletcher, Extra Classy won her career debut at Gulfstream Park by five lengths, and after a fifth-place finish in her first try with winners, she shipped to New York and won an Aqueduct allowance race on March 31, 2007. But the next time her name appeared in public came 14 months later, when Extra Classy worked a half-mile at Arlington.

Another layoff horse, Green Door, is the pick to win, if only because she is proven over Arlington's Polytrack, with two victories here last summer. Green Door was off between last July and February, when she raced once at Tampa Bay Downs, and then disappeared again. But Green Door has posted four recent works at Arlington, and might be ready.

Also on Friday's program is an entry-level allowance-$50,000 claiming race for 3-year-old fillies that drew a decent field of nine. Likely to be the favorite here, and probably tough to beat, is Kid Soup, who finished second to the highly promising filly Choragus in a May 16 race here at the same class level as Friday's.

The link between Extra Classy and Kid Soup, both the probable favorite in their respective races? Jockey Rene Douglas, who won four more races Sunday to increase his runaway meet-leading total to 38 from just 120 mounts.

* First post at Arlington for Saturday's

12-race Belmont Stakes Day card is noon.