Horsemen Oppose Reduction in Arlington Races

Illinois Racing Board will consider request at its June 23 meeting.

The Illinois Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association is at odds with Churchill Downs Inc. over the company's plans to reduce the number of races it offers at Arlington International Racecourse.

The Illinois Racing Board will hear the request from CDI at its meeting June 23.

The Illinois THA in a June 22 release said it strongly opposes the plan to reduce the number of races at Arlington. The horsemen's group, which negotiates contracts with Arlington and CDI, said the request "represents the latest of CDI's efforts to strip-mine the horse racing industry for the most profitable assets and cast aside its former commitment to strengthening the quality and scope of Thoroughbred horse racing nationwide."

The Illinois THA said if Arlington wants to collect "millions of dollars" in revenue from full-card simulcasts, it must keep its commitment to live racing.

"Live racing supports thousands of jobs throughout the state, from backstretch workers to feed and hay suppliers, so the state says tracks have to provide a public benefit, in the form of live racing, to get that money," Illinois THA president Mike Campbell said.

Illinois lawmakers are considering legislation to authorize slot machines or video lottery terminals at racetracks in the state to bolster purses and breed development programs. The horsemen's group argues that CDI "has increasingly focused on other areas of gaming likely to produce higher profit but little or no public benefit."

Courtney Norris, spokesperson for CDI, indicated June 22 the company disagrees with the Illinois THA's assessment of the situation.

"Churchill Downs and Arlington Park's goal is to produce the best racing product for our customers while promoting tourism and job creation, as well as working to sustain the horse racing industry in the state," Norris said. "That is the nature of the June 23 hearing with the Illinois Racing Board."