By T. D. Thornton
The July 30 deadline for applying for Illinois 2022 race dates came and went with no surprise move that might have buoyed the near-future fate of Arlington International Racecourse.
If anything, suburban Chicago's landmark Thoroughbred track inched closer to permanent closure Friday, because Churchill Downs, Inc. (CDI), the gaming corporation that owns the up-for-sale landmark, failed to file even a placeholder application to race next year that could have been transferred to a buyer willing to keep the sport afloat.
Nor did CDI ask the Illinois Racing Board for race dates at any other location in the state, which corporate officials had hinted at doing as far back as a year ago.
If granted, such an application to race elsewhere could have given Illinois horsemen another venue at which to race while CDI reaped entitlements related to live racing licensure, like off-track-betting and advance-deposit wagering.
CDI had sparked a glimmer of hope within the racing community earlier this month when it was revealed that the gaming corporation had requested a 2022 dates application from the IRB.
But requesting a blank application never meant a track owner had to actually fill it out with requested dates and file it.
CDI continues to pursue what company officials believe are bigger-picture casino endeavors at two lucrative locations where CDI wants to expand its gaming footprint in and near Chicago.
Arlington and any associated gaming endevaors there by another operator would be viewed as a competitive threat to CDI's casino ventures, and CDI officials disclosed earlier this year that the corporation's preference is to sell the valuable 326-acre parcel to a dveloper who won't keep the property as a rcetrack, which it has been since 1927.
Hawthorne Race Course, the Chicago area's lone remaining Thoroughbred venue, also runs Standardbred meets, so tranferring all of the Thoroughbred dates to Hawthorne's work-in-progress racino is not currently workable.
Pretty much as expected, Hawthorne's management filed blanket Jan 1-Dec. 31 applications for both breeds, with the understanding that the details will be worked out later, largely contingent on what happens with the Arlington sale
CDI's sale process which is believed to have finished its bidding period with four known offers. Only one of them proposes keeping the track operational for racing.
A likely scenario for 2022 could call for Hawthorne to essentially flip its exisitng schedule of running Thoroughbreds in the spring and fall, instead picking up the warmer weather dates Arlington used to have while switching harness racing to the autumn through spring months.