In a development that caught many Arlington Park observers by surprise, Roy Arnold resigned his post as track president Monday after nearly five years at the helm.
Arnold, who came from out of the clouds in 2006 to win the race to succeed Cliff Goodrich as track president, said it was time to move on.
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"I've had a great experience at Arlington Park and I am very proud of our accomplishments, Arnold said in a statement. "That said, I've been here 4½ years and I really want to explore new challenges and opportunities. I wish the Arlington Park team the absolute best and am confident their future is bright.
Arnold hasn't always portrayed the track's future as bright, contending on several occasions the track would be in serious trouble unless state lawmakers approved slots for it and soon.
In his last interview with the Daily Herald, however, Arnold voiced "guarded optimism that this could be the year slots would come to fruition.
"The reason I think it's going to come is because it's good for the state of Illinois, he said. "My hope is by 2011 we would have a resolution.
Arnold underwent a trial by fire in his first year on the job when a spate of horse deaths on-track caused an uproar and eventually led Arlington to replace its dirt course with a synthetic surface for the 2007 season at an estimated cost of $10 million.
His last season was trying as well. Arlington suffered a one-year decline of 33 percent in all wagering sources or handle, and a 37 percent drop in out-of-state money bet on races there. Track officials even cut some purse money in selected stakes races.
In addition to his work at Arlington, Arnold also served as the president of the Thoroughbred Racing Association in 2009-10 and was a board member of the Permanently Disabled Jockeys' Fund.
"We all want to wish Roy the very best at his new endeavors, whatever they may be, Arlington chairman Richard Duchossois said.
Arnold joined Arlington following an extensive and highly successful career in the United States Marine Corps.
During his 30-year tenure, Arnold held leadership positions at home and abroad at every level of the Marine Corps and held command positions in such important military campaigns as Operations Desert Shield, Desert Storm, and Operation Iraqi Freedom II.
"We are deeply appreciative of Roy's contributions to Arlington Park and to Churchill Downs, and we respect his plans to pursue other career interests, Bill Carstanjen, chief operating officer of CDI, said in a statement.
Arnold will serve as a consultant to Churchill Downs for a transition period until a successor is named, which Duchossois said shouldn't take too long for himself and CDI board members to conduct.
"We should be sorting things out pretty quickly here and getting things squared away, he said.
And until that successor is selected?
"I'm just going to pinch-hit for a little while, Duchossois said.