Despite being given the green-light by Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker to resume racing, albeit without spectators, in the state as early as June 1, Arlington International Racecourse, which had indicated previously it would not resume live racing without spectators (TDN, May 22), Tweeted Wednesday it would remain closed through at least July 4.
“In support of, and with respect to the Governor's re-opening plan for businesses that may encourage mass gatherings, and in the interest of public safety, Arlington International Racecourse has made the decision to suspend the opening of its race meet, which will extend beyond our next two premium events. Therefore, our Father's Day & Fourth of July fireworks events have been cancelled. Arlington will be issuing full refunds for all pre-purchased tickets to these events,” read the statement.
Beyond the pandemic-related shutdown, relations between Arlington and the Illinois Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association (ITHA) has been strained for over six months over a contract for the 2020 meet that was supposed to have started May 1.
“Rather than race without spectators, and miss out on the prospect of selling cocktails at a steep markup to crowds at Arlington Million Day, Arlington instead is poised to forgo racing altogether,” read a statement from Illinois Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association. “Everybody in Illinois is sacrificing in this difficult time. Everybody, that is, except Arlington–which would just as soon take its ball and go home than do its part to help Illinois workers and taxpayers by continuing live racing while taking reasonable steps to mitigate against the spread of COVID-19.”
Contrary to Arlington's latest decision, Illinois' Hawthorne Race Course is preparing to resume racing spectator-free.
The statement continued, “Live racing supports thousands of jobs in Illinois, from trainers, backstretch workers, veterinarians, blacksmiths and jockeys at the track to breeders, truck drivers and hay and feed suppliers downstate. These working men and women are committed to racing–and, in many cases, are residing and raising their families–in Illinois. The loss of live racing at Arlington will be devastating as horsemen move their small business operations to other states where they can work and earn a living.”