Arlington racetrack betting that fans will like changes
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.
If you go
What: Arlington International Racecourse opens today
When: 89-day season runs through Sept. 29, with live thoroughbred racing at 1 p.m. Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday in May and June, and 3 p.m. Fridays. Daily schedule shifts July through September to Thursday-Sunday racing.
Tickets: No charge on Opening Day, but general admission is $4 for adults, and $2 for children ages 4-17. Derby Day general admission is $10 for adults and $2 for children. Million Day admission is $20 for adults, and $2 for children.
Special times, dates
Friday's first post: 10-race program starts at 3 p.m. with free admission on Opening Day.
Saturday's post: A special 12:15 p.m. post time for the expanded Kentucky Derby program, with live music and the annual Derby Day Hat Contest.
May 12: For its Mother's Day program, Arlington will present the first 5,000 women will a free rose upon entrance.
May 27: Arlington will run a special Memorial Day program with Monday racing at 1 p.m.
July 4: General admission for adults ($13-$15) and children ($2) includes a fireworks show after the racing day.
July 13: Million Preview Day racing with four Grade III turf faces.
Aug. 17: Arlington Million and International Festival of Racing with the Deverly D. Stakes and Secretariat Stakes.
Teams days: Arlington will partner with other organizations to celebrate Cubs Day (May 26), Northwestern University Day (June 2), Chicago Bears Day (June 9), Chicago White Sox Day (July 7).
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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