WBEZ | horse racing http://www.wbez.org/tags/horse-racing Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en The million dollar horse race http://www.wbez.org/blogs/john-r-schmidt/2012-08/million-dollar-horse-race-101960 <p><p>The sporting world had never seen anything like it. The date was August 30, 1981, and Arlington Park was holding the first thoroughbred horse race with a million-dollar purse. The race was called &ndash; what else? &ndash; the Arlington Million.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/08-30--start of race.jpg" title="Start of a race in Arlington Park's first season, 1927 (Chicago Daily News)" /></div><p>The idea originated with Joe Joyce, who&rsquo;d headed the track since 1976. The inaugural Million was scheduled over a distance of one-and-one-quarter miles, and was open to three-year-olds and up. The winner was to receive 60 percent of that $1 million purse &ndash; nearly double the prize of the Kentucky Derby.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image ">Joyce wanted international attention, and he got it. The final field of 14 horses included entries from England, Ireland and France. Interest in Europe was so great that NBC added special satellite TV coverage of the race. One writer said that the first Million would be &ldquo;the race people may be telling their grandchildren about, fifty years from now.&rdquo;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/08-30--Arlington Million.jpg" style="float: left; " title="Program from the first Arlington Million (author's collection)" />Million Day was a Sunday. The weather was pleasant, and 30,637 people came out to Arlington. As the horses readied for the 3:40 post, the favorite was 6-year-old gelding John Henry, with legendary jockey Bill Shoemaker up.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">Racing fans call a thoroughbred race &ldquo;the most exciting two minutes in sports.&rdquo; The first Arlington Million took slightly longer than that, 2:07:06. Most of the excitement was provided by The Bart, a 40-1 shot who led much of the way. Charging furiously at the end, John Henry finally came through and won by a nose.</div><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">Watching the replay in the paddock, jockey Shoemaker could only shake his head and say, &ldquo;That was even closer than the real thing!&rdquo; He predicted the Arlington Million would have a splendid future because it had such an international flavor. And he added, &ldquo;This might be the greatest race I was ever in.&rdquo;</div></div></div><p>Dave Condon of the <em>Tribune</em> had his own take on the Million. Illinois didn&rsquo;t have (legal) off-track betting in 1981, so Condon decided to place a wager on the race with a London gambling house. In 1981 there wasn&rsquo;t any internet, either. That meant he had to make a long-distance phone call at 3 a.m. Chicago-time.</p><p>The phone call itself involved various adventures. Finally, Condon got through to London &ndash; and was told that American Express wouldn&rsquo;t allow him to charge a wager on his credit card.</p><p>Today the Arlington Million is a major event on the racing calendar. At the track itself, a sculpture titled &ldquo;Against All Odds&rdquo; commemorates the 1981 battle between John Henry and The Bart.</p></p> Thu, 30 Aug 2012 05:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/john-r-schmidt/2012-08/million-dollar-horse-race-101960 Horse racing rounding historic turn http://www.wbez.org/blogs/bez/2012-05/horse-racing-rounding-historic-turn-99704 <p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/I%27ll%20have%20another%20flickr_0.jpg" title="I'll Have Another won the 138th running of the Kentucky Derby. (Flickr/Kentucky National Guard Public Affairs Office) " /></div><p>A horse after my own heart, I&rsquo;ll Have Another is named for his owner&rsquo;s love of cookies&mdash;and not, as one might assume, for too much time spent at the local watering trough. And, it turns out, this sober, sweet-tooth colt is headed into his final turn toward the history books. After against-the-odds wins at the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes, I&rsquo;ll Have Another is preparing to run in the third leg of the elusive Triple Crown at the Belmont Stakes next week. It&rsquo;s been 34 years since horse racing saw a bejeweled sweep&mdash;and the racing world looks a lot different nowadays.</p><p>I&rsquo;ll Have Another isn&rsquo;t the only one strapping on blinders to keep focused on the finish line: Many Illinois lawmakers and industry insiders are hoping a recently passed gambling expansion bill will get Prairie State racing back on track. Despite continued resistance from the governor, the House passed the revised bill by a near-veto-proof margin. Among its provisions, the bill opens the door for slot machines at race tracks. Slots, many industry insiders say, are paramount to the survival of racing in Illinois.</p><p>Longtime racing writer <a href="http://www.poisonedpenpress.com/john-mcevoy/" target="_blank">John McEvoy</a> says Illinois is keeping itself out of the modern-day racing game by keeping casino culture away from the track.</p><p>&ldquo;Illinois is putting itself on an island by not having casinos,&rdquo; McEvoy said.</p><p>McEvoy spent three decades writing and editing the bible of racing, <a href="http://www.drf.com/" target="_blank">The Daily Racing Forum</a>. When the publication closed its Chicago office, McEvoy began writing books&mdash;about what else, racing. His latest novel, <em>Photo Finish</em>, features the return of protagonist Jack Doyle, a tough, smart aleck, ad-exec-turned-track-rat. The track, McEvoy said, is full of interesting characters like Doyle; he calls it &ldquo;a great macrocosm of society.&rdquo;</p><p>Characters like jockey Randy Meier who was an active member of the local racing scene for nearly 40 years. He won over 4,000 races; most of them at nearby Hawthorne Race Course where he won more races than anyone in the park&rsquo;s history&mdash;and he&rsquo;s in Arlington Park&rsquo;s top 10 too.</p><p>Despite breaking some 55 bones over the years, Meier would give anything to be back up on a horse&mdash;saddled up in the stall next to his son, Brandon. The father-and-son jockeys got to ride alongside each other for a couple years before a broken neck ultimately took the patriarch out of the running. And while dad was initially reluctant to hand over the family reins, he&rsquo;s now happy to see&mdash;and coach&mdash;Brandon to stardom.</p><p>As the weather and chances of a Triple-Crown win improve, <em>Afternoon Shift</em>, invited McEvoy and Meier to take a look at the past, present and future of horse racing.</p><p>And for those who can&#39;t make it out to the track, perhaps there&#39;s still hope for an impromptu race at a carousel near you!</p><p style="text-align: center;"><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/POJEkwv-Oss" width="560"></iframe></p></p> Thu, 31 May 2012 13:38:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/bez/2012-05/horse-racing-rounding-historic-turn-99704 Emanuel lauds new gambling expansion as good compromise http://www.wbez.org/story/emanuel-lauds-new-gambling-expansion-good-compromise-93869 <p><p>Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said he believes the state is close to passing a bill that could put a casino in the city.</p><p>An Illinois House committee approved a scaled-down version of the proposed expansion on Tuesday during the veto session, moving it closer to a vote before the full House. It allows for five new casinos, including one in downtown Chicago.</p><p>The reworked version is an attempt to meet some of Gov. Pat Quinn's requirements to ensure his signature. Lawmakers said they've addressed some of the governor's concerns in the new bill, including adding more government oversight and limiting the growth of existing casinos. But it still includes the contentious slot machines at horse tracks, something the governor has said he strongly opposes.</p><p>Emanuel said he's had multiple conversations with Governor Pat Quinn about the revised bill says the plan is a good compromise.</p><p>"I think it reflects what I call an honest compromise to finally move forward and close up a point of discussion for 25 years and achieve a win for the people of the city of Chicago and the taxpayers," Emanuel said Tuesday.</p><p>Quinn has threatened to veto the bill if it doesn't meet his requirements.<br> &nbsp;</p></p> Wed, 09 Nov 2011 01:15:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/story/emanuel-lauds-new-gambling-expansion-good-compromise-93869 Quinn vague on willingess to negotiate horse track slot machines http://www.wbez.org/story/quinn-vague-willingess-negotiate-horse-track-slot-machines-93253 <p><p>Ill. Gov. Pat Quinn remained vague on Tuesday about whether he'd negotiate adding slot machines at horse racing tracks.</p><p>On Monday, the governor detailed his objections to a gambling expansion bill lawmakers approved earlier this year, saying the bill was "too expansive." Quinn also laid out a framework for a scaled down expansion of state gambling, opposing the addition of slot machines at horse racing tracks, the state fair and both Chicago airports.</p><p>In talking to reporters at a press meeting Tuesday, Quinn maintained his call to redraft the bill. The governor said the addition of slot machines at race tracks is "not necessary," but he sidestepped whether he'd be willing to compromise on that point going forward.</p><p>"The proposal that the legislature came up with is way too broad and expansive," said Quinn. "It's excessive, and it would convert&nbsp; the race tracks of illinois into gambling casinos. They can call it whatever name they want, I don't think that's a good idea."</p><p>Quinn said he objects to adding slot machines at both Chicago airports and to at the state fair. Lawmakers could discuss the gambling expansion bill in the veto session, which is scheduled to start next week.</p></p> Tue, 18 Oct 2011 21:45:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/quinn-vague-willingess-negotiate-horse-track-slot-machines-93253 Illinois horse racing industry waiting for cash from casino licenses http://www.wbez.org/story/illinois-horse-racing-industry-waiting-cash-casino-licenses-91288 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/photo/2011-August/2011-08-31/AP100716127707.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Illinois' horse racing industry is still waiting for its share of revenue from the state's 10th casino license. They were promised that money more than a decade ago. Back in 1999 Illinois' horse tracks and horse owners were promised 15 percent of the adjusted gross receipts from the state's 10th casino license. That license was tied up in legal trouble for years.</p><p>Finally, a new owner opened the Rivers Casino in Des Plaines in July, yet the portion slated for horse racing remains in the state's Gaming Fund. Brad Hahn, a spokesman with the state's comptroller's office, said that's because the law states the money "shall be paid" rather than "transferred."</p><p>And without an appropriation from the General Assembly, the Gaming Board can't send the money.</p><p>"The short of it, right now there's no mechanism to move the money from the state Gaming Fund to the Horse Racing Equity Fund," Hahn said.</p><p>Hahn said the Gaming Board will ask legislators in the upcoming veto session to either appropriate the money or change the law's language to allow transferring the money.</p><p>Right now, there's $2.6 million waiting to be distributed.</p></p> Wed, 31 Aug 2011 11:45:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/illinois-horse-racing-industry-waiting-cash-casino-licenses-91288 All eyes on Quinn as gambling bill hangs in the balance http://www.wbez.org/story/all-eyes-quinn-gambling-bill-hangs-balance-90731 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/photo/2011-August/2011-08-18/slot-machines-2_Flickr_Michael-Kapple.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Ill. Gov. Pat Quinn is sending more signals that he wants changes to a controversial gambling measure. For Quinn, the lobbying has never let up since lawmakers passed a casino expansion package in the spring. Both those for and against more gambling have let him know where they stand.&nbsp; Quinn has also been clear of his feelings about the legislation.</p><p>"Right now I don't think there's any question it's a top heavy bill. That's for sure," Quinn said earlier this week.</p><p>It would add a casino in Chicago and four other cities, place slot machines at horse tracks and Chicago's two major airports and let existing casinos grow even larger. Lawmakers crafted the plan to gain the necessary votes, which it barely did. If something were taken out, there's a good chance it all collapses. Legislators passed a comprehensive gambling bill in May that includes the first-ever Chicago casino, but it has yet to reach Gov. Pat Quinn's desk.</p><p>Yet, on Governor's Day at the State Fair in Springfield, Quinn began to chip away, specifically at a provision to allow slots at the fairgrounds.</p><p>"Harness racing has been at the fair for a long time. But when you put in slot machines, that's a totally different situation," he said. "I was never excited about that."</p><p>Quinn reiterated support for a Chicago casino but says it has to be done properly. He called for more regulatory oversight.&nbsp; A sponsor of the gaming legislation said too many changes will jeopardize the package.</p><p>Meantime, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel has already said how he would like to spend some of the money a casino would bring to the city. He has said the cash would go toward infrastructure improvements around the city.</p><p>As for Illinois' horse racing industry, some in the business see the legislation as possibly its last best hope. For years, horse tracks have watched gamblers drift away to casinos. That loss of customers and money has resulted in smaller purses and, some would say, a decline in the quality of Illinois racing. Rita Williams of Mercer County, Director of the Illinois Harness Horsemen's Association, said several other states allow slot machines at horse tracks and Illinois needs to follow suit.</p><p>"We need to be on a level playing field with other states.&nbsp; The other states that have horse racing, the horse industry and horse farms.&nbsp; All we're asking is to be on a level playing field with them," she said.</p><p>Williams said breeders, trainers and others involved in Illinois horse racing have begun to shift their focus to other states where they can earn more money. Horse racing advocates and others supporting the gambling legislation were at the state fairgrounds calling on the governor to support it.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p></p> Thu, 18 Aug 2011 12:37:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/all-eyes-quinn-gambling-bill-hangs-balance-90731