Illinois Tracks In General Agreement on 2002 Dates

Illinois tracks appear to be in general agreement on the proposed 2002 racing schedule. Applications filed with the Illinois Racing Board indicate next year's season will strongly resemble this year's -- Sportsman's Park opening in mid-spring, Hawthorne Race Course running during the Triple Crown, Arlington Park operating from early- or mid-June through October and Hawthorne completing the year.

The only major outstanding issues in the Thoroughbred schedule are whether Arlington will host the 2002 Breeders' Cup World Thoroughbred Championships on its closing weekend and whether downstate Fairmount Park will be able to operate at all.

Arlington hopes to fill the WTC host role that had been set for Oak Tree at Santa Anita. Breeders' Cup officials, however, have not announced a new location for the races.

Fairmount is still waiting to see whether Gov. George Ryan will sign legislation that would overturn a court ruling that it must turn nighttime simulcast revenue over to harness racing at county fairs. The governor had been expected to make a decision during July but failed to act. Harness interests are exerting heavy pressure for a veto. Without the bill, Fairmount has been racing for severely diminished purses and on a reduced schedule.

Other than a few days' overlap in Thoroughbred requests, the only real decision for the IRB will be whether to grant harness dates to Hawthorne. For the past several years, all Illinois harness racing has been conducted at Maywood Park and Balmoral Park. Hawthorne asked for dates for 2000 and 2001 but those requests were rejected. For 2002, Hawthorne asked for 72 harness dates from June 21 through Aug. 31.

Hawthorne officials had threatened to force a formal, adversarial hearing with sworn testimony and cross-examination of witnesses to further their cause. An IRB spokeswoman, however, said the track since has signed a waiver of those rights.

The IRB will consider dates at its Sept. 18 meeting in Chicago.