(edited press release)
The May 11 race card at Arlington Park will begin with the debut of the track’s new alternate finish line for races run at 1 1/16 miles on the Polytrack.
The purpose of an earlier finish line for 1 1/16-mile races is to allow horses and riders a straighter run to establish position before going into the first turn. Previously, when 1 1/16-mile races were run on Arlington’s 1 1/8-mile track, the field began a sixteenth of a mile past the traditional finish line, leaving the outside post positions at a distinct disadvantage as horses entered the turn before being able to establish position.
When the alternate finish line is in use at Arlington, an aluminum “I” beam with a red disc will click into place as a temporary stop sign for riders, while the normally black-and-white striping of what is usually the sixteenth pole will be temporarily enclosed by white siding with the word “Finish” printed on three sides.
Alternate finish lines for 1 1/16-mile races have long been employed at tracks such as Keeneland, Fair Grounds, and Oaklawn Park.
Chris Emigh, last year’s leading rider at the Illinois track, said handicappers should expect to see jockeys aiming for the alternate finish by setting their horses down for the stretch drive before they hit the turn.
“When you’re finishing, you’ll have to make your move in the turn and it’ll be harder to catch them, so it’ll cause people to move earlier,” Emigh said. “Hopefully the people who have been riding here for a long time will remember there’s a second wire. That’s not always easy to do in the heat of battle.”