01/11/2008 12:00AM

Washington Park scrapped at Arlington


CHICAGO - It was not a complete overhaul, but Arlington Park did more than merely tweak its 2008 stakes schedule, which was approved by the Illinois Racing Board this past week.

Chief among the changes is the absence from the schedule of the Washington Park Handicap, once a major Midwest handicap, and a race with a history dating to 1926. Past winners of the Washington Park include Dr. Fager, Round Table, Swaps, and Coaltown, but the race, despite a $400,000 purse, had declined in recent years.

Arlington had submitted a stakes schedule with the Washington Park positioned at the end of its meet in September, but the IRB rejected that date, on the grounds that it would interfere with Hawthorne's signature race a week later, the Hawthorne Gold Cup.

The Washington Park's purse money was used to create two new stakes: the $200,000 American 1000 Guineas for 3-year-old grass fillies on May 24, and the $100,000 Lake Michigan Stakes for 3-year-olds at 5 1/2 furlongs on turf on Sept. 20. The remaining $100,000 went into a purse hike for the Aug.o23 Arlington Sprint, which now is worth $200,000.

Arlington also has spread out its series of 3-year-old grass races, moving the Arlington Classic from June 23 last year to May 24 this year, and moved the Arlington Matron from September to May. Million Preview Day, with prep races for all three Grade 1 stakes on the Arlington Million card, has been moved up one week on the calendar, from July 21 last year to July 12 this year. Million Day itself is scheduled for Aug. 9 this year.