Barring unprecedented happenings, there will be no racing at Arlington Park in 2022 after the Friday deadline to apply for dates with the Illinois Racing Board came and went.
“Arlington did not apply,” Tony Petrillo, Arlington’s general manager, told Horse Racing Nation in a text message.
The news was first reported by Marcus Hersh of the Daily Racing Form in a social media post.
The move to not apply for dates means any new owner would not be able to continue live racing at the suburban Chicago track, at least until 2023. Churchill Downs Inc., which owns Arlington, has taken bids for the property, and has indicated that it prefers it not be used for racing in the future.
A CDI spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The Illinois Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association lambasted CDI in a statement released Thursday before the deadline.
“Churchill Downs is writing the book on bad faith, so this latest move is disappointing but not surprising,” Mike Campbell, president of the ITHA said in the statement.
Several known bids exist, including one from former Arlington president Roy Arnold, which would keep racing, renovate the facility and create a development surrounding the track that could include amenities such as a hotel and hockey arena.
Campbell told HRN in June that he was excited about the Arnold bid, and hopeful that CDI would accept the offer.
“Now we’ll see if Churchill Downs will do the right damn thing, which is not stand in the way and not further erode, deteriorate the track from horse racing,” Campbell said at the time. “But actually allow horse racing to continue on as it has for 100 years in Illinois.”
CDI CEO Bill Carstanjen had previously said in a June 2020 earnings call that the Arlington land could have a “higher and better purpose,” besides horse racing.
The Chicago Bears NFL team also announced that it had put in a bid for the property in June.
“We are not providing further comment,” a Bears spokesperson told HRN in June when asked if the team’s plans for the property included the possibility of continuing racing.
On a Thursday earnings call, Carstanjen said CDI has not yet chosen a bid.
“We have received numerous bids from interested parties for the land and are working through the process to select the final winning bid,” Carstanjen said. “We will provide an update when we have selected the winning bidder.”
The Arlington Heights Ill. Village Board of Trustees passed an ordinance in May that prevents CDI from putting any sort of restrictive covenants on the property that would prevent a future buyer from keeping horse racing at the track. However, the move to not apply for race dates practically guarantees that there will be no racing there in 2022.
"It's clear that Churchill Downs cares exclusively about corporate profit and that all other considerations are incidental," Campbell said in the ITHA statement. "All we can do in this case is hope that Churchill will recognize the utility, for the sake of its interest in selling Arlington Park to the most capable bidder, of filing the dates application to preserve the possibility of future racing at the track."
With Arlington out of the 2022 picture, Hawthorne Park applied for an entire year’s worth of racing dates, the track’s director of publicity Jim Miller told HRN.
“Hawthorne applied for 365 days for Thoroughbred and harness,” Miller said. “What this allows is for Hawthorne to work with both horsemen’s groups to determine a schedule that benefits both breeds and the track in Illinois.”
The current meet at Arlington is scheduled to run through Sept. 25.