An Exxxtra Special Day

Every week, Horse Racing Radio Network (HRRN) sets aside two hours each Saturday morning to discuss all things related to racing. Thie program also does live remotes from seminal race days, such as the Triple Crown and the Arlington Million. Episodes stream live or can be downloaded for later listening through iTunes.

On the January 21st episode, HRRN (worth listening to, in my opinion) had Arlington Park Director of Communications Dave Zenner on the show as a featured interview.  Zenner mentioned the following highlights of the 2012 Arlington Park meet, which have been replicated below in bullet point form.

  • Arlington Park will run ninety days of live racing, opening on May 4 and closing on September 30th.
  • This year's Arlington International Festival of Racing (the formal name of Arlington Million Day) is set for Saturday August 18th.
  • As with prior Million Days, there will be three Grade One (G1) races, all on the turf course. The three are the $500K Secretariat Stakes at 1 1/4 miles for three-year olds, the $750K Beverly D. Stakes at 1 3/16 miles for older females and the $1M Arlington Million, in its 30th running, at 1 1 /4 miles for older males.

  • A new race joins the three-pack this year. Called the Arington St. Leger, it will be for older males with a purse of $400K at run 1 11/16 miles. It will be one of the longest (with respect to distance) stakes races in the year.
  • Three One race will be brought back this year that were was not run last year.  A majority of Arlington's stakes races (including the aforementioned Secretariat S.) will be run with increased purses, thanks to the release of impact fees collected by Illinois casinos now distributed to the state's tracks. The final stakes schedule has yet to be approved by the Illinois Racing Board (IRB).

The Author is cautiously happy to see the new marathon-like grass race on the docket.  Adding this grass race makes Arlington Million Day, an already important day when Chicago is the center of the thoroughbred racing universe (with apologies to Saratoga and Del Mar) even more important.

However, the Arlington stakes calendar lacks a serious (a purse greater than $100K and possibly graded) race at one mile on the grass for males.  After the Firecracker in early July at Churchill, there are no major midwest grass races at a mile until the Carey Memorial at Hawthorne or the Shadwell Turf Mile at Keeneland. Reviving the Sea O' Erin, which had been run on Labor Day, would have filled this void. Said one-mile grass race or even the Arlington St. Leger, or both, could even be run in June to spice up what's usually the least-appealing month of the Arlington calendar.  There is also the issue of giving trainers/owners too many options with their grass horses, as having the two grass races on the same day could dilute the quality of either the Arlington Million or the St. Leger.

However, without the full stakes schedule at hand (unapproved by the IRB), the Author's mind could easily change when it's released.   Based on what information given, cautiously happy seems best.  But the new race mauy just make Arlington Million Day special, perhaps even exxxtra special.

Update, Jan 24 (along with text lined out above):

In a press release today from Arlington Park,, the proposed stakes schedule for Arlington's 2012 meet was announced.  Said schedule is up for discussion at the Jan. 31 meeting of the Illinois Racing Board.  The Stars 'n Stripes moves to Million Preview Day and serves as a feeder race for the new Arlington St. Leger.  It is odd that a Grade 3 race is a prep race for a listed race, however.  But in terms of purse money ($150K on Preview Day, $400K on Million Day), it makes sense.  The new marathon race, coupled with the Stars 'n Stripes as a feeder, is a good move.  Horses can stretch out from the G3 Arlington Handicap at 1 1/4 miles on Preview Day (the Million's prep race) and try the St. Leger.  Or run in the Stars 'n Stripes and then cut back in distance for the Million.

With the slated stakes schedule, Arlington's June is still a bit thin (not a fan of that) and there remains a void for one mile grass races.  But the purse increase should make a special meet and an exxxtra special Arlington Million.


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  • Thank you Paul for giving a nice overview of the important races at Arlington and Hawthorne. My calendar is already marked for Millions Day!

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