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Thursday, November 29, 2012

Arlington Park Got Chutzpah

As a rule, I don't cover thoroughbred doings in this blog, but once in a while something happens which makes me break my own rule, this is the beauty of being a blogmeister.  Today is one of those days.

Crain's Chicago Business reports Arlington Park is suing the Illinois Racing Board  (IRB) for their decision to take 18 simulcast days away from them, awarding them instead to Hawthorne.  In Illinois if a track is awarded simulcast days they are considered the hub track for simulcasting and receive the larger share of track commissions even if a bet is made at another Illinois track.  How big a deal is it to be named the host track?  The estimate is these eighteen days are worth $1 million for the Hawthorne (hence costing Arlington the same).

The suit claims the IRB took those 18 days away from Arlington Park in retaliation for Churchill Downs not including the Illinois Derby, contested at Hawthorne, in their new road to the Kentucky Derby.  With the Illinois Derby no longer considered part of the road to the Kentucky Derby, Hawthorne is anticipated to be hurt financially.  Arlington Park claims they should not be penalized for the downgrading of the Illinois Derby because of a decision made by Churchill Downs.  Their own newsletter, lays out their argument:

With that in mind, we can’t help but be perplexed by the Illinois Racing Board’s punitive action taken against Arlington Park. That action – or punishment as described in the Chicago Tribune – seemingly came as a reaction to decisions made by an organization in another state; decisions made completely independent of Arlington; decisions made by an organization beyond the jurisdiction of the Racing Board.

They certainly have chutzpah at Arlington Park.  Of course, they fail to mention the decision was made by Churchill Downs, a company which owns Arlington Park; a company whose largest shareholder is the Chairman of Arlington Park.  Arlington Park wants us to believe Churchill Downs dropping of the Illinois Derby from the road to the Kentucky Derby was not done because the race is contested at a competitor of Arlington Park, which in effect is a competitor of Churchill Downs?  As a certain vice-president would say, "Malarky".

Clearly the IRB is punishing Churchill Downs for their decision.  If an independent committee came up with the stakes races to include in the road the IRB may not have liked it but would have accepted the decision, but in this case, the only logical conclusion is the decision to drop the Illinois Derby was a business decision to help a sister track over the long run. 

The courts, as so often these days, will have the last word in this dispute.  But to claim Arlington Park is completely blameless in this dispute simply rings hollow.

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