Lester: Arlington Park, racing board want to chip in money to boost purses

Arlington Park and others finally might have come up with a way to boost the lagging horse-racing business in Illinois, and it'll require the tracks and regulators to pony up.

The plan would call for the Illinois Racing Board to tighten its belt and contribute up to $500,000 - about 18 percent of its budget - toward bigger purses for winning races next year. Arlington and Hawthorne Racecourse in Cicero, which often have been at odds, each would contribute $500,000 toward the same effort. Horsemen might also contribute money, I'm told.

“People race for money. They come here for the purses,” Illinois Racing Board Chairman Jeff Brincat says.

State Sen. Pam Althoff of McHenry this week filed a bill that would free up the racing board funds. It's the latest tactic after years of racing interests trying without success to get slot machines at racetracks.

Brincat, of Lake Forest, tells me the board is cutting down on out-of-town conferences and reducing the number of meetings and administrators to come up with the money.

<h3 class="leadin">How much?

Brincat says the change would add $5,000 to $10,000 to the winner's prize, which averages about $20,000, although exact allocations haven't been determined. The races that would be targeted are in “the meat of the program on a certain day. The fifth, sixth and seventh races, ones that are going to be on the turf, which attracts more betting interests.”

<h3 class="leadin">Des Plaines keeps lobbyist

Des Plaines officials, meanwhile, have voted to keep employing a lobbyist to fight any attempts in Springfield to allow more gambling. Aldermen last week voted 7 to 1 to keep paying lobbying firm Alfred G. Ronan, Ltd. $60,000 a year to represent Des Plaines' interests, which include lobbying against more gambling that would dilute revenue the city gets from the Rivers Casino.

Alderman Dick Sayad criticized the move, saying Des Plaines should save money by relying on its two hometown lawmakers, state Sen. Laura Murphy and state Rep. Marty Moylan, instead of having a lobbyist on the payroll.

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Fenwick High School didn't have the chance to play for a state football title after a judge refused to overturn a call that cost the Friars their Class 7A semifinal game. Associated Press File Photo

A first, for IHSA

Fenwick High School's lawsuit asking a court to overturn the results of a state semifinal football game is the first in the Illinois High School Sports Association's history, spokesman Matt Troha tells me.

Judge Kathleen Kennedy last week rejected the Fenwick Friars' emergency plea that the team be declared the winner and allowed to play in the state championship game Nov. 26. The Oak Park school challenged a referee's call that resulted in Plainfield North kicking a game-tying field goal and winning in overtime. While the IHSA admitted the call was wrong, Kennedy found the IHSA's bylaws didn't allow for court intervention. Plainfield North then lost the state title game to East St. Louis Sr.

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  St. Viator baseball coach Mike Manno Joe Lewnard/


Congratulations to St. Viator High School boys baseball coach Mike Manno, who was named Coach of the Year for the northern area by the Illinois High School Baseball Coaches Association after his team finished fourth in the state in June. Manno's been a fixture of the school's athletic program since my own Viator days. He also happens to be married to a fellow St. Viator graduate, Stephanie Monaco Manno.

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Joffrey Ballet features young suburban dancers in its new production of "The Nutcracker." Courtesy of Joffrey Ballet

Suburban kids take stage

Youth dancers from Algonquin, Glen Ellyn, Mundelein and Schaumburg are part of The Joffrey Ballet's world premiere of a new production of “The Nutcracker,” opening Dec. 10 in Chicago. The new production includes 90 kids from Chicago and the suburbs, including Layla Porter of Algonquin, Lucia Caringella of Buffalo Grove, Yuno Kimura of Elk Grove Village, Jane Kadlec of Glen Ellyn, Kailiana Stanczak of Mundelein, Isabella Josephine Libke of Schaumburg and Nicholas Dantes of Vernon Hills.

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