Calling of Note Puts NJC Meet in Jeopardy

Duchossois Industries of Illinois has called in a more than $20-million note owed by the National Jockey Club, a move that threatens NJC plans for a 2007 spring meet at Hawthorne Race Course.

Richard Duchossois, chairman of Arlington Park, told the Chicago Sun-Times Sept. 5 his company simply wants the note paid. Duchossois didn't tell the newspaper how the situation would impact the NJC meet or racing dates.

The NJC once held meets at Sportsman's Park, which was converted to a horse and auto racing complex. The facility closed, was sold to Cicero, the town in which it's located, and the NJC racing dates found a home at neighboring Hawthorne.

NJC officials told the Sun-Times they had just heard about the note being called in and had no immediate comment.

The NJC meets at Hawthorne are held under the name Hawthorne National, which is a partnership between the two entities.

Hawthorne has requested 131 dates for 2007: Jan. 1-2; Feb. 23-May 6; and Sept. 14-Dec. 31. Arlington is seeking 100 dates from May 4-Sept. 30. It remains to be seen whether Hawthorne and Arlington would work out a deal to divvy up some of the winter/spring NJC dates.

The Illinois Racing Board will hold a dates hearing later in September.

Hawthorne, which opens for live racing Sept. 15, has renovated its physical plant to benefit patrons. The west side of the facility will be closed, but the east side has been upgraded. There have been improvements to the horsemen's lounge and food court, and the former gift shop is now an open-air bar and lounge. Two simulcast centers have been added ton the first floor.

Other improvements include the expansion of the tote board to include 14 numbers, allowing for more main-track only and also-eligible entries, and the lowering of the high-pan camera by 40 feet to give simulcast players a much better view of the horses.

"I am confident that both the casual and experienced horseplayer will find the new Hawthorne more conducive to watching and wagering on horse racing," Hawthorne president Tim Carey said in a statement. "The atmosphere will be more energetic and entertaining and our staff continues to be dedicated to making Hawthorne fan-friendly."