What organizers call “Chicago's Kentucky Derby” — the 30th running of the Arlington Million — will bring fans, horses and jockeys from around the world to Arlington Park on Saturday.
The pre-eminent event of Arlington's racing season is about more than just horse racing, though, as tens of thousands of fans will come to the Northwest suburbs for food, drinks, entertainment and a day of fun at the track.
“You're watching history be made here every year,” said Alyssa Ali, racing reporter for Arlington Park.
Aside from the 12 prominent horse races featuring internationally recognized horses and jockeys, the atmosphere at the racetrack will be busy and fun, filled with everything from the typical floppy hats to a new club-like party room, Ali said.
With a forecast high of 77 degrees and only a 10 percent chance of rain on Saturday, officials said it should be a perfect day for racing and entertainment.
The first race starts at 12:15 p.m., but general admission gates, where tickets are available for $18, will open at 10 a.m.
Ali said the earlier fans arrive, the better. People who've bought tickets to the Million Party Zoneor Million VIP Lounge will be let in at noon. Those areas will be open until the last race is over shortly after 6 p.m., she said.
Free parking is available in the lots off Euclid Avenue or New Wilke Road with a tram bus for those who park far away from the racetrack's entrance. Preferred or valet parking is also available.
With drinks being served throughout the day, Ali also suggests guests take Metra, which stops right outside the park, as a safe transportation alternative.
Fans can be on the lookout for local politicians and broadcast personalities who frequent the track, like legendary Bears' coach Mike Ditka, who is expected to attend.
“There's literally something for everyone on Million day,” Ali said.
People who can't make it to the track can watch the race live on WGN Channel 9, which will provide live coverage from 5 to 6 p.m. Saturday. CLTV will air an encore replay at 8 p.m. The telecast will include several of the other races that will take place on Saturday. The broadcast will be hosted by WGN's Dan Roan, Arlington Park's Howard Sudberry, and former Blackhawks player and current television analyst Eddie Olczyk.
The event will cap off a week of celebrating that began last Friday with the Mane Event in downtown Arlington Heights. The block party with food, live entertainment and a business expo was moved from the night before the Arlington Million to the week before, opening the International Festival of Racing Week at the track. Arlington Heights Mayor Arlene Mulder called the move a “huge success.”
Mulder said that aside from the prestige of hosting a large international race, the Arlington Million is an economic boost for the hotels, restaurants and shops in town.
“The Million is a big shining star at Arlington Park,” Mulder said. “I hope everyone tries to get to the park for it this year.”Copyright © 2013 Paddock Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.