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Tuesday, September 29, 2015

The Curtain Coming Down on Balmoral and Maywood Parks?

No need to worry about the bankruptcy of Balmoral and Maywood Parks as the IRB has awarded all racing dates for Chicago to Arlington International Racecourse and Hawthorne Racetrack.  While Hawthorne will have thoroughbred meet, there will be a short harness meet from January 6 - February 6 and a longer meet from May 1 thru August 31.  

Hawthorne last raced trotters back in the winter of 2008 and had asked for dates for several years afterwards only to be denied racing dates in favor of Balmoral and Maywood.  This decision is now a reversal of that policy, no doubt the bankruptcy of the current harness tracks playing a factor.  The IRB may have thought with all the OTW fees going to the two surviving tracks, they will be in better financial condition to survive the lean days which are racing in Illinois.

So where does this leave Chicago harness horsemen?  Roughly the same number of race days will take place but instead of two days of racing each week, it will be consolidated in a smaller period of time (5 days a week) for a total of 128 to 117 days depending on what happens with the Springfield and Duquoin meets).  You can look at it as half empty or half full.  With racing being condensed, Illinois horsemen will be free to race elsewhere during the dark period.

Was it time to pull the plug on Balmoral and Maywood Parks?  Look at it this way, the horsemen apparently didn't voice any preference regarding the two plans presented.  Don't get me wrong, the two tracks will be missed with all the history behind them.  

1 comment:

Marv said...

Perhaps this is the best thing for Illinois racing. I used to travel to Chicago a lot for business back in the 1990s. I enjoyed going to the races at Sportsman's Park (RIP) and Hawthorne, for what little they raced harness. Maywood was a dump I hated going to (despite it being near where I worked) and Balmoral was nice but way out of the city.

The Illinois breeding program was great for the IL breeding industry, producing many low-quality horses that are generally not competitive outside the midwest. But then most of the races in IL became ICF races, many of which were boring. Outside of the Am-Nat series of races and the Windy City Pace, very few races there attracted the national stars.

Hopefully, Arlington and Hawthorne will live up to their word to work together to promote horse racing as an industry. And hopefully, the horseman will participate in putting on a good show so that people actually want to bet on Hawthorne (ICF) races. Casinos at the tracks will not be the savior given how saturated the gambling industry is in that part of the country.

There used to be collaboration between the harness tracks in Chicago and Calx. Perhaps a new collaboration would help both.