Updates Concerning Our Future
Our 2021 racing season is just weeks away and it can’t seem to come fast enough. It’s been a long time between starts and we know everyone is looking forward to returning. What will happen to us in 2022 is a question that is understandably on everyone’s mind. There have been unexpected developments recently which will have an impact on 2022 horse racing in the State of Illinois. When Arlington Park (Churchill Downs) would not commit to a racing season beyond this year, it immediately became apparent that Hawthorne could be the only upstate racetrack left in 2022 and obviously horsemen (harness and thoroughbred) are nervous about their future. Where we will race and when we will race are suddenly serious concerns. Fortunately, the good news is that Hawthorne has committed to us and the t-breds that they intend on racing both breeds in 2022. However, the specific schedule is still unknown and may not be determined until much later this year. Racetracks must submit their request for racing dates for 2022 to the Illinois Racing Board by July 31, 2021. Those dates can and quite often are amended before the final dates hearing which is scheduled for Thursday, September 23. At that time the Illinois Racing Board will officially award the racing dates for 2022. One of the key questions that we will learn in this process is whether Arlington Park will request any racing dates for 2022. Remember, Arlington Park (Churchill) has only said they wouldn’t commit to racing beyond this year. When Churchill Downs made a public statement about putting the property up for sale they didn’t mention if it could remain a racetrack. They spoke of perhaps keeping their racing license, perhaps moving their license somewhere else in the state. Many who read the story interpreted that to mean that racing at Arlington Park in 2021 would be its final year. Maybe that’s true, maybe not, but for right now, we will simply have to wait to see their future plans. If they decide to race in 2022 that would free up Hawthorne in the summer months for us once again, if they do not race, we will need to share Hawthorne with the t-breds. How would that look? It could look many, many different ways. We have already had discussions with the Illinois Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association and Hawthorne Racecourse about this. We have decided on nothing so far except for the fact that if we do need to share the facility, we will do it with an agreed upon compromise by everyone involved. If Arlington Park does not request dates, and we need to share Hawthorne, one option for us would be to race the majority of our dates at Hawthorne but also explore the possibility of racing some additional dates at either the Springfield State Fairgrounds or DuQuoin. There would be plenty of hurdles for that to work out but it’s something that we would consider. Once all of the facts are presented (July 31) we will be able to finalize a plan for 2022. The concern of racing opportunities for next year has developed for two reasons. The first, as mentioned is because of Arlington’s Park’s reluctance to committing to the future of horse racing in Illinois. The second is because we still don’t have a clear vision of another Standardbred racetrack. The development of that new Standardbred track is crucial to all horse racing in the state. Since legislation passed in June of 2019 there has been interest in acquiring the rights to the new racetrack. In September of 2019 “Playing In The Park LLC” was awarded racing dates for 2020 contingent on securing a property. In October of 2019, because they were unable to secure that property, the Illinois Racing Board could not allow their application to proceed. In 2020 “Nick It Up LLC” applied for racing dates for 2021 at a new Standardbred racetrack, only to withdraw that application later in the year. Hawthorne has reported to us that they are still interested in securing another Standardbred racetrack for next year and are working on a plan. We anticipate that within the next 3-6 months, many of these unanswered questions should become clearer.