As the suburbs gear up for the 32nd annual running of the Arlington Million at Arlington International on Saturday, for the first time viewers will be tuning in all over the world.
The biggest day in Illinois racing is also a big day in Europe, home to 12 of the horses who will race in Saturday's four major races and where the Million will be broadcast live on two channels for the first time in years.
Today's racing schedule at Arlington3:12 p.m. Hatoof Stakes
3:45 p.m. American St. Leger (Listed)
4:15 p.m. Secretariat Stakes (G1)
4:54 p.m. Beverly D. Stakes (Grade I)
5:36 p.m. Arlington Million XXXII (Grade I)
6:18 p.m. Hatoof Stakes
"This is great news for the fans back at home," said Alistair Donald, director of the International Racing Bureau.
The Arlington Million is one of the most popular international races in America, second only to the Breeder's Cup, Donald said.
"It's partly to do with tradition and history," Donald said. "But, also Arlington is regarded as one of the great racetracks in America. It's a great turf track that they love to run their horses on."
Aside from the quality of the racing, Donald said the reception at Arlington is second to none.
"They always get a great welcome when they come here," he said of the international riders. "The hospitality that Arlington Park extends to its European visitors is wonderful."
The races will air live in Europe at 11 p.m. or midnight, but Donald said that won't stop hard-core fans from tuning in.
"There is a big following. It will be quite late at night, but they will stay up for it," he said.
The horses -- hailing from Ireland, England and France -- arrived at Arlington by way of O'Hare Airport earlier in the week and have been practicing on the local turf.
"It is a long way to come, but horses are amazingly adaptable," Donald said. One of the horses running in the Million traveled to Australia for a race last year and won, he said.
Aside from the international flair and world-class racing, there will be plenty of entertainment at today's Arlington International Festival of Racing.
"It's a real spectacle. I like to call it Illinois racing's All-Star game," said Howard Sudberry, senior director of marketing and communications. "It's a real treat."
Jim Cornelison, who normally sings the national anthem at Blackhawks games, will sing it at the opening of racing on Saturday. There will be live entertainment, food and drink specials throughout the day, and the Best Hat competition.
Gates open at Arlington at 10:30 a.m. Post time for the first race is 12:30 p.m. The day's four major races -- the Beverly D, the Secretariat Stakes, the American St. Leger and the signature Million -- will be broadcast locally on WGN-Channel 9.
At the track, legendary Bears coach Mike Ditka and Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville will be on hand to present trophies to the winning horses, trainers and jockeys.
"It's a great day. It's just colorful," Sudberry said.
"When the horses come out of the gate for the Million there's a great roar and so much adrenaline you can feel it."