Illinois Thoroughbred horsemen are off and managing for a year that promises hardship and even downright depression—with a significant dose of uncertainty looming just months absent.
There is hope for the potential but …
With Arlington Worldwide Racecourse closed and the Chicago Bears drawing up plans to run vast receivers and limited finishes wherever Citation , Secretariat , and John Henry after raced, Hawthorne Race Class in 2022 is the sole venue for racing in the Chicago location.
And, mainly because harness racing also have to be accommodated, the Thoroughbred conference that opened April 2 runs only until June 25, when the track is scraped for the return of the buggies. Thoroughbreds are back Sept. 23 but all through the primary summer months months, they are without the need of a Chicago house.
There are only 76 Thoroughbred racing dates on the 2022 calendar.
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Chris Block, president of the Illinois Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Affiliation and member of a notable, extended-time breeding and racing family, reported the predicament poses distinctive challenges as trainers look for destinations to invest their summer time.
“I think we will in all probability have a couple horsemen that’ll stay right here like they did more than the wintertime,” Block stated. “I think they likely did a large amount of jogging in the shedrow and then they were equipped to run in excess of at Turfway Park. But I assume a lot of these horses will probably finish up in both Canterbury or Indiana Grand. Colonial appears to be a spot that some horsemen are headed in direction of, maybe Ellis Park.”
Trainer Chris Block adjusts his horse’s bridle as his family appears to be like on at Arlington Park.
Canterbury Park in Minnesota, in truth, has announced incentives for horsemen. When Canterbury opens Could 18, horses raced in Illinois in 2021 or 2022 will be suitable for a $1,000 reward for their 1st Minnesota commence, as well as a general $1,000 incentive reward for any horse racing through May well, additionally loans to address shipping and delivery fees.
“We have an understanding of that owners and trainers who have historically known as Arlington home are faced with complicated decisions in 2022,” stated Andrew Offerman, vice president of racing functions at Canterbury. “We regard that all horsepersons have to have to make the finest conclusion for their steady and we have a drive to preserve these horses within just the Midwest. Canterbury Park is a excellent selection for them to think about.”
Other horsemen accustomed to summering at Arlington stated Colonial Downs in Virginia, the nearby Indiana circuit, and Ellis Park in Kentucky as alternatives.
“All the horsemen this yr are almost certainly likely somewhere for two months,” explained 9-time Arlington winner trainer Larry Rivelli. “I am gonna go to Colonial and Kentucky.”
But Block mentioned it truly is not as straightforward as picking someplace and going there.
“The dilemma is that it is really pricey to move,” Block said. “And just one of the things we are running into as horsemen is, it really is having extra and much more hard locating skilled assist to consider treatment of these horses … I’m suitable now striving to make your mind up in between Ellis and Colonial but I never want to go there seeking for help since that’s just not going on these days.”
Other Arlington regulars from earlier yrs have additional flexibility stabling in other places.
Wayne Catalano, a famous jockey just before he turned to training, lamented he is not going to be at Arlington for the summertime, noting, “I have bought a farm more than there—a attractive spot.”
“I never know how that is going to perform,” Catalano reported of the break up Thoroughbred season at Hawthorne. But, he claimed, he will have “a couple” to operate in the course of the spring at Hawthorne and probably will fork out the occasional visit yet again in the autumn.
“We will not likely be moving the complete procedure up to Hawthorne, that’s for certain,” he mentioned. “We’re going to Saratoga.”
Although Catalano is a veteran who built a mark at Arlington, Chris Davis is a young, up-and-coming trainer who also experienced been a common at the northwest suburban Chicago oval. Now centered at Keeneland, he explained Hawthorne does not determine into his plans on a entire-time basis.
“You will find no stage to set up shop there and then they kick you out in a pair of months,” Davis claimed.
Davis, having said that, had absolutely nothing but praise for the Carey household, Hawthorne’s multigenerational homeowners.
“I consider they seriously want to make it perform for the horsemen,” Davis stated. “I know the Carey family’s hearts are in the appropriate put for us. When we have needed something, they have always stepped up for us. It’s just the value of obtaining there for a couple of months.”
Block, typically amongst the upbeat contingent of the Illinois racing neighborhood, explained the situation has a psychological influence on entrepreneurs and trainers, too, as their lives are turned upside down 2 times in the system of the year.
“I use the phrase depressed ideal now,” Block explained, “and I am a small down because this is the time of yr when we are gathering the horses together and creating the venture to Arlington Heights and location up our stable for the up coming six months and everybody’s at house and we are at Arlington Park.
“We have carried out that for so a lot of several years. It was daily life. It was who we are and what we do. We really don’t have that now and it really is a big shock for everyone and we have to regulate. It is not usually straightforward to regulate.”
Despite all the angst, horsemen did get the spring year at Hawthorne off to a good begin with respectable fields on the first weekend of April regardless of typically terrible Chicago-spot seasonal climate.
“The horsemen of the Illinois Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association have presently proven good guidance in the entry box,” claimed John Walsh, assistant normal manager. “The greater purses have been a key draw. Also, to begin building a stakes agenda at the time once more exhibits that issues are headed in the ideal route at Hawthorne.”
Now, the problem is what will materialize immediately after the “summertime holiday?” Will horsemen uncover the grass greener somewhere else and stay or will they return to Hawthorne just in time for the onset of autumn and winter season?
And what about the coming years, if the scenario doesn’t transform?
“I consider when they depart, they’ll occur back again,” Block mentioned. “It is residence for a ton of people and so they are going to normally come again. Now, irrespective of whether this is anything which is heading to get the job done for everybody, I feel that stays to be seen, dependent on how that two and a fifty percent months goes for our horsemen that do enterprise out to an additional racetrack and take their horses there and see if they can do perfectly.”
He claimed he bases that forecast on an enhanced purse framework at Hawthorne at the get started of the year and the prospect for a lot more of the exact same in the slide.
“Purses are a ton more substantial than what they were,” he reported. “I feel they’re bigger than Indiana now. Apparently (the split plan) is just for 1 12 months. Upcoming year we must be good—all the way by means of like Arlington’s satisfy.
Owner Carolyn Wilson and Larry Rivelli
“It really is a foregone summary that we are not going to break up up the meet up with with the harness like they did this 12 months. Hopefully, they’re going to have a place to go and a monitor to be crafted, or a various location to operate at. That is what I’ve heard, anyway. I would rather significantly ensure that next year’s Thoroughbred satisfy ought to be again to standard.”
That could possibly be information to the Illinois Harness Horsemen’s Affiliation and a 2023 timetable will not likely be finalized until finally the September conference of the Illinois Racing Board. And a new harness observe has been place on maintain by Machiavellian Illinois political forces—for how very long, no 1 understands.
Block acknowledged restoration of an exceptional agenda.
“It isn’t achievable till we get a second racetrack,” he said. “And, yet again, my anxiety is that’s way down the road and I just will not know how very long our horsemen can hold on with this hole that we’ll have.”
An additional challenge is the extensive delay in finding building heading for a casino at Hawthorne. The track was in a position to get a sports activities betting operation up and functioning reasonably speedily soon after passage of gaming-enlargement laws in 2019. But that facility does not deliver profits for racing and regulatory delays have slowed progress on the total casino, which is envisioned to significantly boost purses.
Sources mentioned Illinois Gaming Board approvals are anticipated late this spring, freeing development to start in June with playing cards to be dealt, wheels to spin, and purse dollars to get started flowing sometime late in 2023.
The seem of design itself may be a despair-lifter?
“Of course,” Block stated. “Of course, it would!”