WBEZ | Arlington Park http://www.wbez.org/tags/arlington-park 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 Free legal help for some Illinois politicians, compliments of a lobbyist http://www.wbez.org/story/free-legal-help-some-illinois-politicians-compliments-lobbyist-92901 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/photo/2011-October/2011-10-06/AP10121405771.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Right or wrong, there's a perception that Illinois politics is a game played best by a well-connected few. This next story won't improve that image.</p><p>Some of the state's political insiders make big money by lobbying the politicians they help elect. And because of vague disclosure rules, these relationships are not always reported.</p><p>By all accounts, Mike Kasper is a brilliant guy and an ace lawyer. He has a lot of powerful friends. And in politics and government, success often boils down to who you know.</p><p>"I'm, I'm Mike Kasper. Most of you know my name," Kasper said at a press conference last winter.</p><p>The reporters Kasper was talking to there did know his name, especially after he successfully argued Rahm Emanuel was eligible to run for mayor.</p><p>"Have you ever considered living on a permanent basis, anywhere else...other than Chicago?" Kasper asked Emanuel during testimony before an election board hearing officer.</p><p>"Never," Emanuel replied.</p><p>Kasper is also top lawyer and treasurer for the Democratic Party of Illinois, and a close ally of its chair, House Speaker Mike Madigan. Kasper used to work full-time for the Illinois House, and still picks up government work - some paid, some unpaid.</p><p>One high profile example: a couple years ago, Madigan tapped him to help boot Governor Rod Blagojevich.</p><p>"The House prosecutor may now proceed to examine the witness," directed Illinois Supreme Court Chief Justice Thomas Fitzgerald in the January 2009 proceeding.</p><p>"Thank you, your honor, members of the Senate," Kasper began.</p><p>These days, Kasper is defending the favorable political boundaries Democrats drew during redistricting. But his most prosperous association with state government is as a lobbyist.</p><p>Kasper's firm represents Arlington Park Racecourse, lobbying on the recent gambling bill. It also lobbies for ComEd in its push for a new smart-grid, a bill Governor Pat Quinn vetoed, but which may be revived by the legislature this fall.</p><p>It's in lobbying like this that Kasper ends up making use of his government connections, including with lawmakers he's helped in elections. But it's not easy for the public to see where those relationships exist.</p><p>Campaign legal work only occasionally shows up on campaign finance forms. So some politicians are accepting free legal services from a lawyer who's also a lobbyist, without disclosing what's essentially a gift. The director of the state board of elections said that's because these legal expenses fall into a "gray area" of the law.</p><p>Mike Kasper declined to be interviewed for this story, "respectfully," he said, out of concerns over attorney-client privilege.</p><p>I called about a dozen politicians he's worked for in recent years. Only a handful took my calls, and even fewer would talk on tape. They included state Rep. Monique Davis, a Chicago Democrat.</p><p>Kasper worked for Davis in the 2008 election, when he tried to get her opponent disqualified from the race. Campaign finance reports indicate Kasper did not charge for that work, and Mike Madigan's campaign picked up the tab for miscellaneous costs.</p><p>Kasper also worked pro bono for Davis a couple years ago, when she was sued for overdue rent on her Chicago office.</p><p>"Mr. Kasper is an excellent attorney," Davis said. "He's a very down-to-earth individual. I think he's the kind of person that anyone could trust."</p><p>We know from interviews and public documents that Kasper has lobbied lawmakers he also did legal work for. Davis said Kasper has never lobbied her, though she said even if he had, there would be no inherent conflict.</p><p>"I guess there would be a conflict if one were asking someone to do something that was not legal or ethical," Davis said. "But I am not aware of any such behavior on my behalf or Mr. Kasper's behalf."</p><p>"When you've got a situation where someone is wearing multiple hats, there are going to be gray areas," said Kent Redfield, professor emeritus at the University of Illinois at Springfield.</p><p>Redfield teaches a course on lobbying, and is a longtime watchdog for these sorts of things. He said there is a potential problem in the intertwining relationships like those Kasper has, and the access and influence that come from them.</p><p>"There's a perception that it's all kind of one big inside baseball game, and there aren't any Democrats or Republicans, there's just people with power, manipulating the system," Redfield said. "And that's very corrosive to public support of the political system."</p><p>Redfield says that risk can be addressed by more transparency: require disclosure for all legal work provided to candidates, and make lobbyist reports easily searchable, so the web of relationships is out there for all to see.</p><p>To some extent, Mayor Rahm Emanuel has done this at the city level. Using Chicago's online database, we know Mike Kasper's firm collects a very healthy six figures from clients to lobby the city.</p><p>The city now run by the very mayor he helped elect.</p></p> Fri, 07 Oct 2011 05:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/free-legal-help-some-illinois-politicians-compliments-lobbyist-92901