Arlington Seeks Earlier Opening Date For 2004

Arlington Park has asked the Illinois Racing Board for approval to open its 2004 season April 28, two weeks ahead of the track's traditional Mother's Day opener. If granted, the request would take the Kentucky Derby simulcast rights away from National Jockey Club, which hosted Derby Day this year during its spring meet at Hawthorne Race Course.

The NJC also requested Derby weekend for 2004. That conflict, however, was the only major point of contention in dates applications filed by the July 31 deadline. Last year's closing of Sportsman's Park and the movement of its NJC meet to Hawthorne removed some of the contentious nature from the dates application process.

The board also will be faced with a decision on Standardbred dates. Hawthorne asked for 93 nighttime harness harness programs from June 11-Sept. 11. That request conflicts with applications from Balmoral Park and Maywood Park to conduct year-round harness racing.

The IRB granted Hawthorne a limited harness season this summer after several years of exclusivity at Balmoral and Maywood. The IRB will decide on 2004 dates at its September meeting.

Here are the Thoroughbred applications:

National Jockey Club (at Hawthorne): Jan.1-4 and March 5-May 15 (56 programs)

Arlington Park: April 28-Oct. 5 (114 programs)

Hawthorne Race Course: Oct. 1-Dec. 31 (66 programs)

Fairmount Park: Jan. 1-Dec. 31 (150 programs)