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updated: 5/2/2013 7:03 PM

Arlington racetrack betting that fans will like changes

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  • Video: Opening day preparations

  • Horses take to the track in preparation for opening day at Arlington International Racecourse. The track opens its 89-meet season at 3 p.m. Friday, running through Labor Day weekend.

       Horses take to the track in preparation for opening day at Arlington International Racecourse. The track opens its 89-meet season at 3 p.m. Friday, running through Labor Day weekend.
    Bob Chwedyk | Staff Photographer

  • Spotter Gina Pantano checks in a horse on its way to the track in preparation for opening day at Arlington International Racecourse. Some well-known trainers and jockeys will call Arlington home this summer.

       Spotter Gina Pantano checks in a horse on its way to the track in preparation for opening day at Arlington International Racecourse. Some well-known trainers and jockeys will call Arlington home this summer.
    Bob Chwedyk | Staff Photographer

  • Horses take to the track in preparation for Arlington International's new season. The track will offer live racing four days a week through September.

       Horses take to the track in preparation for Arlington International's new season. The track will offer live racing four days a week through September.
    Bob Chwedyk | Staff Photographer

  • The horses, jockeys, trainers and day riders are back for another season at Arlington International Racecourse. Track officials will welcome back fans at 3 p.m. Friday for opening day, and Saturday's Derby Day program starts at 12:15 p.m.

       The horses, jockeys, trainers and day riders are back for another season at Arlington International Racecourse. Track officials will welcome back fans at 3 p.m. Friday for opening day, and Saturday's Derby Day program starts at 12:15 p.m.
    Bob Chwedyk | Staff Photographer

  • Horses take to the track in preparation for opening day at Arlington Park.

       Horses take to the track in preparation for opening day at Arlington Park.
    Bob Chwedyk | Staff Photographer

 
 

Walk around Arlington International Racecourse on any day the track is open for business and you'll discover virtually every fan there has an opinion on how to improve the horse racing experience.

And they're usually not shy about voicing it.

Well, Arlington's top management has been listening to many of those suggestions, and taking action on some.

"The last few years we've been making an effort to talk to fans and give them exactly what they want," Arlington General Manager Tony Petrillo said. That included talking to customers at off-track betting facilities and holding focus groups for on-track customers as well as box seat holders, he said.

"We asked them what they wanted, what other services we could provide for them."

Not surprisingly, many of the concerns included wanting more ways to make -- or save -- even more money.

With that in mind, returning wagers with a low 15 percent takeout rate -- the portion of bets taken out before winners share the proceeds -- are the 50-cent Pick 5 and the $1 Jackpot High 5, which last year returned an Arlington record payoff of more than $1.1 million when it was finally solved for the first time on the meet's 23rd day.

In addition, offering a 15 percent takeout rate (a break from the more common 25 percent rate) for the first time in 2013 are the $1 Pick 6, which will cover the final six races daily, and the all-new 10-cent Jackpot Pick 9.

Of course, if fans truly got all they wanted, admission would be free and a beer and a sandwich wouldn't cost as much as a three-horse exacta box.

Today's the day for that wish to come true. General admission is free today, with a 3 p.m. post. The first 4,000 guests will receive coupons for a hot dog and their choice of beer or soda for just 50 cents.

Opening day festivities will also include the simulcast of the Kentucky Oaks from Churchill Downs, as well as advanced wagering on Saturday's Kentucky Derby. First post on Derby Day at Arlington International is 12:15 p.m.

Other new offerings at Arlington this year include:

• Races at 1 1/16 miles on the main course will now use the traditional finish line, with the starting gate placed between the finish and the sixteenth-pole. Previously, an auxiliary finish had been employed at the sixteenth-pole, resulting in a substantially shorter stretch and slightly unclear finish for fans.

• Three-time Eclipse Award-winning jockey Kent Desormeaux joins an already solid jockey colony.

• Trainer Mark Casse will have an Arlington division for the first time in 2013. The predominantly Canadian-based conditioner is a four-time winner of the Sovereign Award as Canada's top trainer.

• The unveiling of "Arlington University," a one-stop location on weekends where fans can ask questions and receive individual and small group interaction from the track's group of experts -- the "professors." AU is located at the west end of the Million tent in the park area.

• Two areas within the track complex have been refurbished and sport new names. The former Paddock Pub is now home to the Cowboy Grille for the general public, and the Silks Room for selected groups is now called Silks at 2200.

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