While Arlington International Racecourse finalizes its marriage with Churchill Downs, it is preparing to hike overnight purses for its “Summer Festival of Racing” to about $275,000 per day. Track officials also are moving forward with plans to woo the Breeders' Cup.
Arlington chief executive officer Scott Mordell said purses for the first 35 days of the current meet averaged $212,000 per day, up from the projected $200,000. For the festival, which runs from July 12 through Labor Day, Mordell said horsemen will race for more than $15 million in purses—$11 million in overnights and about $4 million for a stakes program highlighted by the $2-million Arlington Million, the Beverly D, and the Secretariat Stakes , all grade I turf events scheduled for Aug. 19.
Earlier talk of a daily purse structure of $400,000 hinged on revenue from a new Cook County riverboat casino, construction of which has been delayed by lawsuits.
Mordell said attendance and on-track handle so far in 2000 have “blown away” figures posted by Sportsman's Park and Hawthorne Race Course for the comparable periods in 1998 and 1999, when Arlington was closed. He said the figures also are ahead of Arlington's own 1997 performance.
As for the Breeders' Cup, Arlington hosted a delegation from Breeders' Cup Ltd. in early July. While no formal plans are in place to apply for the championship, Mordell said a great deal of thinking has been done about how Arlington could be configured to host the event.
Arlington's marketing plan, filed with its 2000 dates application, said the track would seek the Breeders' Cup as part of its overall campaign to revitalize Illinois Thoroughbred racing.