2002 Breeders' Cup to Arlington Park; Distances of Two Races May Change

2002 Breeders' Cup to Arlington Park; Distances of Two Races May Change
Photo: AP Photo/Charles Bennett
Breeders' Cup president D. G. Van Clief Jr., left, shakes hands with Arlington Park chairman Richard Duchossois.
By Bob Kieckhefer
and Ron Mitchell

The Breeders' Cup World Thoroughbred Championship races will make their first appearance in the nation's third-largest market -- at Arlington Park, northwest of Chicago -- on Oct. 26, 2002.

After months of complex negotiations, Breeders' Cup Limited, the National Thoroughbred Racing Association and Churchill Downs, Inc., parent company of Arlington, announced the deal Monday.

For the event to take place at Arlington, however, will require some special accommodations. First, a large amount of temporary seating will have to be constructed to handle the anticipated Breeders' Cup crowd. Also, there is a possibility the distances of the Juvenile and Juvenile Fillies will be moved back to one mile from 1 1/16 miles because of the circumference of Arlington's main track.

Surrounded by tourism and governmental officials, the principals predicted the World Thoroughbred Championships will bring 20,000 visitors from around the globe and generate more than $54 million in economic activity to the Chicago area. They also predicted the races will revitalize racing in Illinois and the Midwest.

To make the deal work, the state of Illinois pledged tourism money for Arlington and the Greater Woodfield Area Convention and Visitors Buerau totaling $1 million over two years, plus additional funding for local tourism efforts. Arlington officials said that is sufficient support.

"This truly is a great day, not only for Arlington but for the entire Midwest," said Richard L. Duchossois, chairman of Arlington and a CDI board member. Duchossois said Gov. George Ryan and Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley will be co-hosts for the event and praised Ryan for supporting a change in state racing law three years ago that cleared the way for improvements in the industry.

"Illinois will become a major racing center for this country," Duchossois pledged. D.G. Van Clief, president of Breeders' Cup Limited and vice chairman of the NTRA, said the decision to hold the World Thoroughbred Championships races at Arlington "breaks the mold for us a little bit," moving out of the normal rotation of Churchill Downs, New York, Southern California and Florida. "For a number of reasons, we're eager to find new venues and new partners," he said.

Holding the event at Arlington, however, will present a challenge. Arlington has about 12,000 permanent seats but plans to provide between 45,000 and 50,000 seats for the event, along with all the necessary additional infrastructure. Those facilities will have to be constructed during the 2002 summer race meeting. Arlington President Steve Sexton said tentative plans include adding the temporary seating at each end of the existing grandstand/clubhouse facility.

Another logistical challenge at Arlington is the 1 1/8-mile circumference of the main track. Van Clief said Breeders' Cup and Arlington officials are exploring options, but that having a "secondary" finish line for those two races is not being considered. "The thought of a secondary finish line is unattractive," Van Clief said, noting that Breeders' Cup's previous experience with that scenario was not good. "To run those races at a mile is definitely an option." Arlington's mile races begin in a chute and go around one turn. The Juvenile and Juvenile Fillies were one mile events during their first two runnings, in 1984 at Hollywood Park and 1985 at Aqueduct, and again in 1987 when the Breeders' Cup was hosted by Hollywood Park a second time.

Sexton also said the track's stakes schedule is being examined to see if it can be reconfigured to provide a "preview day" before the actual event.

NTRA commissioner Tim Smith said the Breeders' Cup is planning to work with Arlington and Breeders' Cup officials to secure race sponsorship from Chicago-area corporations and businesses. Smith said the Breeders' Cup believes all sponsors of races this year plan to return in 2002 and that on Thursday, Dec. 6, the NTRA will announce the addition of another title and divisional sponsor.

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