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updated: 8/12/2011 7:42 PM

Arlington purse increase stays — for now

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Well, the purse money tango lives on at Arlington Park.

In a preemptive move Friday, track officials decided to raise purses by 21 percent without the approval or consent of the horsemen.

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"Effective immediately, Arlington will start to distribute the impact fee money ($25.9 million total)," track officials said in a statement. "It was to be distributed over three full seasons; however we wish to get money to the horsemen as soon as possible."

The horsemen have yet to sign off on the process, however.

But until the Illinois Racing Board meets to discuss the topic on Aug. 30, it appears as if the increase will remain in effect.

"They control the purse account, so yes, they can do this, but legally, they'll be in breach of contract," said Glen Berman, the ITHA executive director. "The contract says it has to be mutually agreed upon."

And right now it certainly isn't.

Legends race:

Earlie Fires went out to an early lead and held it until midstretch aboard Avanitbdancing (8-1), but didn't have enough to hold off a hard-charging Top Pair (3-1) with Junior Alvarado riding in the Jockey Challenge race Friday at Arlington.

"I had him slowed down enough that he should have finished better," said the 64-year-old Fires, who finished second in the race. "The other horse just outran us down the stretch."

While Fires finished second, Mark Guidry, who is returning to ride full-time, finished eighth aboard Rochelle Rochelle.

"I felt real good. I wish I had a little more pony under me but that's how it goes," Guidry said. "But I felt real good, rode strong, got all the nervousness out of the way and now I'm a jockey again. It's all good."

Later in the card, Guidry finished last aboard WW American in the Illinois Owners Stakes.

Pretty nice life:

Sandy Hawley has lived quite the sporting life, beginning with a Hall of Fame riding career and ending with a stint working for the L.A. Kings as a penalty timekeeper and occasional goal judge.

Not a bad deal for a Canadian kid.

"I've been very, very lucky," Hawley said, following a roundtable at Arlington featuring a group of legendary jockeys. "To be a huge hockey fan from Canada and be able to work the penalty box and be close to the players was pretty neat."

His timing was perfect, too. He was in L.A. when the Kings made the trade that shook the hockey world -- acquiring Wayne Gretzky from the Edmonton Oilers.

"When Wayne Gretzky got traded to the L.A. Kings I thought, 'Wow, I'm going to get to know Wayne pretty well,'" Hawley said "I ended up getting to know Marty McSorely pretty well. He was in the penalty box all the time. We ended up becoming pretty good friends."

Gretzky, coincidentally, was a part owner in 1989 of Million champ Golden Pheasant, ridden by Gary Stevens.

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