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TrackNotes: This Is Why We Can't Have Arlington Park Anymore

We have an addled orange sadist doing the bidding of all the satans he knows and those he dreams to meet.

We have a fabulously wealthy - naturally - whiny little tart invention with a suitably two-way first name regurgitating what passes for culture bitching out her bubble-world indignities toward a society she no longer lives in.

And we have a corporation that should have its name stripped from the venomous mast of its soulless existence.

TrackNotes is taking it back! We're taking back the old saying that we can't, Johnny, have anything nice anymore. It's no longer a pop hook, it's ours now. I'm tired of having things taken away by people whose inevitable fate will be to poison the earth they are buried in or scattered upon.

Churchill Downs Inc., long parlayed with the word 'evil' inside this html, announced last week that it would not enter an application for casino gaming operations at its Arlington International Racecourse, sparking serious momentum for the track's demise.

Yes, your gut feeling is always right. William Carstanjen would be the first to say, "It's not me, it's the company and our responsibility to shareholders." That's because he's a goddamned, emphasis damned, lawyer, specializing in mergers and acquisitions. Who has absolutely no appreciation, or even awe, certainly no love, for horses. He's afraid of them. And he's in charge of Churchill Effing Downs! How much hypocrisy and fraudulence can one person contain within himself?

Typically for things that have been ruined, the Kentucky Derby is no longer a race. It's an idea, turned into a nebulous you-don't-even-know-what-it-is carnival CDI has monetized into an "event" not even resembling a serious test of horse and rider. CDI has spent millions developing it's All-American caste system designed to tell you you deserve to spend more money, because you're special, but only in the pricing-tier boxes we designate. The Twin Spires long ago dwarfed underneath the East-West Tollway style of monoliths of Oak Brook and Naperville. Pride of the Twin Spires? Hell, no.

It doesn't start or end here. Factually sharp, the sadness and incredulity can't help but seep out in Ray Paulick's videocast. God almighty.

Since shadow-boxing Dick Duchossois (more on this mirage of a person later) "merged" the track with Churchill Downs Inc. in 2000, after owning it himself since 1983, the legitimately world-class dirt-and-turf facility has suffered from various factors, not ready for the new millennium, in degenerating into low-quality racing and 364 1/2 days' per year obscurity. And overblown illegitimate hype that last half day.

The twists and turns of these events were difficult to precisely predict, except for the scorched-earth nature of CDI's machinations, but this news is not the least bit surprising. It all boils down to the the degree of disgust, driven by greed. CDI's stock price has been a darling for years. The shock of it all and this documentation, however, gives me a physically sick feeling I can't describe.

Remember this as you might the first horseshoe ever to touch its ground in 1927: "We're a gaming company, not a horse racing company," a CDI executive who can still sleep at night said several years ago. That's been my guiding light since he said it.

After bitching and moaning as poor, poor pitiful corporations always do, about not being able to compete because it couldn't get slots to support the purses of racing it so dearly loves, CDI finally got gambling in Illinois, through the desperation of incompetent politicians. Carnivorously, it had already made its play by muscling in to majority ownership of Rivers Casino in Des Plaines and going to bed with Neil Bluhm, a self-described asshole.

CDI has depicted the requirement of allocating 17-20 percent of track casino-based revenue directly to horse racing - translate, purses - as a tax. Dick Duchossois, now with racing blood on his hands, who would be the first to say he loves racing, goes along.

The bumpkins in Pixley, I mean Arlington Heights, see it as mostly cosmetic. And CDI, typically, doesn't pay so much as a bale of hay of responsibility.

So investing in a new casino at Arlington Park so close to Des Plaines makes not much sense.CDI also lusts after the Waukegan casino license, a town ripe as schmucks for the exploitation it seeks.

That press release writers would imply that CDI would "relocate" the track elsewhere would elicit from me one second of introspection before I would punch somebody in the mouth. Do they honestly believe we would believe they would undertake a capital project of such scale?

I cut no slack, and hold no hope. But CDI bullied its way into this and will probably seek to get a better deal from the state legislature out of a half victory of gambling legislation that was rushed, poorly written and certainly a failure in execution.

Common sense never wins. But the Illinois Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association, in condemning CDI's actions, makes an eminently proper demand.

Hit CDI, including "Arlington's considerable property tax break ($2.47 million this year), the track's recapture subsidy ($4.47 million in 2019 alone, straight from horsemen's purses), and the chance to apply for a sports betting license linked to Arlington (a form of gaming that will do nothing to benefit purses)." Wanna play hardball? CDI has all the guts, public officials, no.

CDI answers to no effingbody about Arlington, doesn't divulge revenues or profits, and blackmailed Springfield to get where it stands today.

Dick Duchossois. Dick Duchossois.

He made his money elsewhere. His reputation is as a paragon of passion for the sport of Thoroughbred horse racing. He's 97 years old. He's patted on the head in an Illinois racing game that was, once, long ago, great. Grand Pa Pa.

I do have to wonder if he wants to be remembered for one of the last things he does. Which is turn his back on racing, with the same petulance he has showed time and again.

He's been living off of, as Chicago is prone to do, the 1985 fire that destroyed the buildings. Am I being cynical by thinking corporate sponsorships and a million underwritten smackers compelled him to raise tents and run the Arlington Million, just weeks later? Guess who bailed him out? The Carey family at Hawthorne.

Jim O'Donnell reports: "'Churchill Downs Incorporated will not close Arlington Park,' the 97-year-old industrialist said. 'The Illinois state legislature will close Arlington Park. Only its members can change things.'"

No, Dickie, you got what you wanted and it's not enough. It never is.

Sounding every bit the political welfare king he had to be to have amassed such riches.

Passion for racing? This is a guy who closed Arlington Park for two years in 1998 and 1999 because he got snitty about the boo-hoo price he had to pay to contribute to society, vis a vis his loudly self-declared persecution by the Illinois legislature.

They say, if not for Double D . . . Then why didn't he see to it that the final turn was maintained as horses died in 2007? Why didn't he at least cajole CDI into giving Arlington Park the respect it once held in making it the premier summer meet of the Midwest? Why didn't he tell CDI that they were cannibalizing themselves - and THE GAME - by running Churchill Downs and Arlington at the same time?

At least we know where Duchossois stands:

"But he also lauded the decision-making of both Carstanjen and Bill Mudd, the president and COO of CDI." The Herald.

"The two Bills have yet to make a wrong decision," Duchossois said. "They serve the best interests of the corporation and its shareholders and they have done a fantastic job in that sense."

What about the game? What about Thoroughbred horse racing? That has lionized you despite your in-the-end attitude?

Duchossios, aided by a reputation machine, says what he is but doesn't, really, live what he says he is. Nine times out of ten, bubbles get burst, all too inevitably.

Who are you, TrackNotes? You haven't been out there for 10 years.

They started marketing the facility instead of the game. "You too can pretend to be a wiseguy!" Following, they raised prices. The racing is low-level, unbefitting. Make a day of it? The food sucks. They enjoy taking money from "guests" with a sincere middle finger right back.

The grating music too loud. A horse who opened at 15-1, rightly, gets pounded down to 3-2. How do I do that? The train schedule, the same train Seabiscuit rode, never meshed with the last post or the ticket cashing. I seriously thought about going up there this season, but I said to myself "TrackNotes, you'll only get aggravated because you know who you are."

Eddie Arcaro. Bill Shoemaker. Laffit Pincay, Jr. Randy Romero, who passed this week. Jimmy Winkfield, Isaac Murphy, Phil Georgeff. Seabiscuit (rained out but came), Citation, Cigar, John Henry "The Steel Drivin' Horse," Secretariat, Gio Ponti, The Pizza Man. Bill Hartack, Johnny Longden, Pat Day, Calvin Borel, Inez Karlsson, George "The Iceman" Woolf. Bricks and Mortar just weeks ago. The Tin Man, Beat Hollow, John Henry. Rene Douglas. Eddie Delahoussaye. Earlie Fires, who carried Chicago racing on top of a horse nearly into his seventies.

You cannot reason with people who have no heart, who don't think about anything but the twisted rationalizations of the pitiful way they treat the game.

There's a place in hell for Bill Carstanjen and Dick Duchossois and spokesshill Howard Sudberry. Truth scares them.

They all insulted and marginalized racing at Arlington years ago, hanging on, trading on the Illinois horsemen who truly love the sport. The sight of the wrecking ball haunts me.

And, now, small minds decree that I can't have anything nice anymore.

Stop.

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Tom Chambers is our man on the rail. He welcomes your comments.

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Posted on Nov 19, 2019