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Chicago Horsemen Confront Unwanted Summertime Trip

Chicago Horsemen Confront Unwanted Summertime Trip

Illinois Thoroughbred horsemen are off and running for a year that promises hardship and even downright depression—with a large dose of uncertainty looming just months absent.

There is hope for the long run but …

With Arlington Worldwide Racecourse closed and the Chicago Bears drawing up options to operate wide receivers and tight finishes exactly where Citation , Secretariat , and John Henry when raced, Hawthorne Race System in 2022 is the sole location for racing in the Chicago space.

And, for the reason that harness racing also ought to be accommodated, the Thoroughbred meeting that opened April 2 runs only until eventually June 25, when the observe is scraped for the return of the buggies. Thoroughbreds are back again Sept. 23 but during the prime summer time months, they are with no a Chicago property.

There are only 76 Thoroughbred racing dates on the 2022 calendar.

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Chris Block, president of the Illinois Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association and member of a notable, extensive-time breeding and racing family members, stated the scenario poses unique worries as trainers appear for locations to expend their summer months.

“I imagine we are going to likely have a few horsemen that’ll continue to be in this article like they did in excess of the winter season,” Block mentioned. “I consider they probably did a large amount of jogging in the shedrow and then they had been equipped to run about at Turfway Park. But I think a lot of these horses will probably stop up in both Canterbury or Indiana Grand. Colonial seems to be a spot that some horsemen are headed in the direction of, perhaps Ellis Park.”

Trainer Chris Block adjusts his horse's bridle as his family looks on.
Image: Anne M. Eberhardt

Trainer Chris Block adjusts his horse’s bridle as his loved ones seems to be on at Arlington Park.

Canterbury Park in Minnesota, in point, has announced incentives for horsemen. When Canterbury opens May 18, horses raced in Illinois in 2021 or 2022 will be qualified for a $1,000 bonus for their initially Minnesota begin, plus a common $1,000 incentive bonus for any horse racing throughout May well, plus financial loans to address transport charges.

“We realize that house owners and trainers who have traditionally known as Arlington property are faced with demanding conclusions in 2022,” stated Andrew Offerman, vice president of racing operations at Canterbury. “We respect that all horsepersons need to make the best decision for their stable and we have a wish to retain these horses in the Midwest. Canterbury Park is a wonderful possibility for them to contemplate.”

Other horsemen accustomed to summering at Arlington stated Colonial Downs in Virginia, the close by Indiana circuit, and Ellis Park in Kentucky as choices.

“All the horsemen this 12 months are likely going someplace for two months,” mentioned nine-time Arlington winner coach Larry Rivelli. “I am gonna go to Colonial and Kentucky.”

But Block stated it is really not as very simple as selecting someplace and going there.

“The problem is that it’s expensive to transfer,” Block explained. “And one particular of the issues we are working into as horsemen is, it truly is finding extra and a lot more tough locating skilled enable to just take care of these horses … I am ideal now attempting to make a decision among Ellis and Colonial but I don’t want to go there seeking for help mainly because which is just not going on these days.”

Other Arlington regulars from past several years have a lot more flexibility stabling elsewhere.

Wayne Catalano, a observed jockey right before he turned to instruction, lamented he is not going to be at Arlington for the summertime, noting, “I have acquired a farm in excess of there—a attractive position.”

“I do not know how that is heading to operate,” Catalano mentioned of the split Thoroughbred time at Hawthorne. But, he said, he will have “a few” to run throughout the spring at Hawthorne and likely will pay back the occasional stop by yet again in the autumn.

“We won’t be transferring the whole operation up to Hawthorne, which is for confident,” he mentioned. “We are heading to Saratoga.”

When Catalano is a veteran who designed a mark at Arlington, Chris Davis is a younger, up-and-coming coach who also experienced been a regular at the northwest suburban Chicago oval. Now dependent at Keeneland, he claimed Hawthorne does not figure into his ideas on a full-time foundation.

“There’s no issue to established up store there and then they kick you out in a pair of months,” Davis explained. 

Davis, on the other hand, experienced almost nothing but praise for the Carey family, Hawthorne’s multigenerational homeowners.

“I feel they really want to make it operate for the horsemen,” Davis said. “I know the Carey family’s hearts are in the suitable spot for us. When we’ve essential a thing, they’ve generally stepped up for us. It really is just the charge of obtaining there for a couple of months.”

Block, commonly amid the upbeat contingent of the Illinois racing neighborhood, reported the predicament has a psychological influence on proprietors and trainers, as well, as their life are turned upside down two times in the training course of the calendar year.

“I use the word depressed suitable now,” Block reported, “and I am a little down since this is the time of yr when we are gathering the horses collectively and producing the venture to Arlington Heights and setting up our stable for the up coming 6 months and everybody’s at residence and we are at Arlington Park.

“We have performed that for so numerous decades. It was everyday living. It was who we are and what we do. We will not have that now and it truly is a major shock for everybody and we have to adjust. It is really not usually simple to change.”

In spite of all the angst, horsemen did get the spring period at Hawthorne off to a very good commence with first rate fields on the 1st weekend of April despite ordinarily terrible Chicago-area seasonal climate.

“The horsemen of the Illinois Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association have presently proven terrific help in the entry box,” stated John Walsh, assistant basic supervisor. “The improved purses have been a major draw. Also, to commence making a stakes plan at the time yet again displays that points are headed in the right path at Hawthorne.”

Now, the concern is what will materialize after the “summer months trip?” Will horsemen uncover the grass greener in other places and stay or will they return to Hawthorne just in time for the onset of autumn and winter?

And what about the coming years, if the predicament would not transform?

“I believe that when they leave, they’ll occur again,” Block said. “It is property for a great deal of men and women and so they’ll usually come back again. Now, whether or not this is a little something which is going to operate for most people, I assume that stays to be viewed, depending on how that two and a 50 percent months goes for our horsemen that do undertaking out to one more racetrack and just take their horses there and see if they can do effectively.”

He said he bases that forecast on an enhanced purse construction at Hawthorne at the start of the year and the prospect for far more of the same in the drop.

Rivelli agreed.

“Purses are a large amount bigger than what they ended up,” he reported. “I imagine they’re more substantial than Indiana now. Apparently (the break up program) is just for 1 year. Following calendar year we should really be good—all the way by means of like Arlington’s meet up with.

Carolyn Wilson and Larry Rivelli, 2021 OBS March Sale
Image: Photographs by Z

Proprietor Carolyn Wilson and Larry Rivelli

“It can be a foregone summary that we’re not heading to break up up the fulfill with the harness like they did this yr. Hopefully, they’re going to have a location to go and a track to be built, or a diverse location to operate at. That is what I have heard, in any case. I would really substantially guarantee that upcoming year’s Thoroughbred meet must be again to normal.”

That may be information to the Illinois Harness Horsemen’s Affiliation and a 2023 routine will not likely be finalized until finally the September assembly of the Illinois Racing Board. And a new harness observe has been place on maintain by Machiavellian Illinois political forces—for how lengthy, no 1 understands.

Block acknowledged restoration of an ideal routine.

“It is not feasible till we get a 2nd racetrack,” he explained. “And, once again, my concern is that is way down the road and I just you should not know how extensive our horsemen can hold on with this gap that we will have.”

Another issue is the extended hold off in having construction likely for a on line casino at Hawthorne. The observe was equipped to get a athletics betting operation up and managing rather immediately immediately after passage of gaming-enlargement laws in 2019. But that facility does not provide income for racing and regulatory delays have slowed development on the comprehensive casino, which is anticipated to significantly increase purses.

Sources said Illinois Gaming Board approvals are envisioned late this spring, releasing construction to get started in June with playing cards to be dealt, wheels to spin, and purse money to start flowing sometime late in 2023.

The audio of building itself could possibly be a depression-lifter?

“Yes,” Block reported. “Certainly, it would!”