Arlington International Racecourse is asking the Illinois Racing Board for 68 days of summertime racing in 2021, a race meeting that its parent company says might not take place amid plans to abandon the plush suburban Chicago facility.
Arlington, in applications filed July 31, also set up a battle with Hawthorne Race Course over simulcast revenue for days when there is no live racing. The tracks' requests for revenue from those days overlap by a full month.
Churchill Downs Inc., the parent company of Arlington International, has steadily backed away from a commitment to Illinois racing for nearly a year. In August when it announced it would not apply for a casino license for Arlington, CDI said it would not guarantee racing beyond 2021.
CEO Bill Carstanjen, in a July 30 conference call for investors, went a step further, saying, "We'll run a 2020 race meet, and we have an agreement (with horsemen) to run a 2021 race meet, if we elect to do so."
He said racing is "not a long-term, viable solution" for Arlington, adding, "In the long term, that land gets sold. And the time frame for doing that is not something I'm going to comment (on) in this call today."
He reiterated a suggestion that Arlington's license could be moved elsewhere in Illinois—a proposal that provoked an angry reaction from the IRB a year ago.
Arlington asked the board for 68 live racing dates in 2021 between April 26 and Sept. 30 and for "dark host days" simulcast revenue from Jan. 3-March 4.
Hawthorne requested 59 racing dates to run March 1-April 30 and throughout the final four months of 2021. Hawthorne seeks "dark host days" during all of February, leaving that month the bone of contention.
Downstate Fairmount Park requested its statutory 150 programs to be run from May through September.
The racing board will award 2021 dates Sept. 16. Last year, after CDI's announcement that Arlington would not seek a casino, the board threatened to withhold 2020 dates from Arlington, only to back off a week later.
Arlington, beset like all other tracks by COVID-19 pandemic restrictions, is running an abbreviated meeting this summer without spectators. Its three grade 1 races, featuring the Arlington Million Stakes (G1T), are on hiatus.
Hawthorne did not conduct a spring meeting in 2020 to facilitate construction of its planned casino and sports betting facilities.