What to expect from Arlington's final Million Day on Saturday
Forty years after its first running, what could be the last Arlington Million race -- renamed the Mister D. Stakes this year -- will take place Saturday at Arlington Park with its customary fun and glamour plus a special tribute.
The day will honor Arlington International Racecourse Chairman Emeritus Dick Duchossois and his family for their contributions to the track in Arlington Heights and horse racing in general, said Tony Petrillo, the track's president.
"This is just a day that is long and coming, and I'm just excited to be able to honor Mr. D. and his family," Petrillo said.
"Without his contributions to racing there would probably not be thoroughbred racing left in this state ... Mr. D has brought international competition here. Outside the Breeders Cup, there is no other track that has had more international racing than Arlington Park over the years."
Here is a primer for the day.
What kind of races will there be?
For the first time in Arlington Park history, there will be eight stakes races, out of a total 10 races featuring 85 horses entered. There will be three Grade I (the highest level of horse racing and the only such races in Illinois) races: the Bruce D. Stakes (renamed from the traditional Secretariat Stakes), the Beverly D. Stakes and the Mister D. Stakes.
What is admission price?
Tickets range from $40 to $250 per person. This year, tickets include parking and a program. Premier parking is an additional $25.
Will there be good people-watching?
Of course. "That is a tradition with the Million. Women come dressed with flowery dresses, bright colors and hats. The men come with their fedoras and bow ties; some are chomping on their cigars. They are dressed to the nines," Petrillo said.
What will capacity be?
10,000, mainly because seats are sold so that strangers are not sitting side by side, as well as ensuring there is sufficient personnel for high-quality services, Petrillo said. Capacity this season has been 6,000 on weekends and 7,500 on Fourth of July. In normal times, attendance for the Million ranged from about 28,000 to nearly 35,000, the grandstand's full capacity.
Are seats still available?
Only about 800 out of 10,000 seats were still available as of Thursday morning. That was mainly box tickets, a few scattered stadium seats and some picnic tables, Petrillo said.
How will the racetrack be staffed?
Pre-pandemic, Arlington employed more than 1,000 to staff a regular season, but this year it has only about 300 on staff. On Saturday, it will add about 80 temporary food service workers and volunteers from St. Viator High School, who will serve as food runners and give directions to guests. The racetrack has had a hard time finding personnel, despite raising wages, just like many other businesses, Petrillo said.
When does the fun start?
The parking lot will open at 11:30 a.m., entry will start at noon, and the first post will be at 1:25 p.m. All guests will enter through a single-entry point at Euclid Avenue and Clubhouse Gate. Tickets can be scanned on mobile devices for touchless entry.
Can you bring a cooler?
No outside food or beverage will be allowed.
Do you have to wear a mask?
Masks and six feet of social distancing will be required for anyone who has not been vaccinated at least two weeks prior to their visit.
Will Dick Duchossois be there?
Mr. Duchossois is 99 and prefers to stay at home in Barrington Hills out of caution during the pandemic, Petrillo said. However, 33 members of his family will be there, including: his son Craig Duchossois and wife Janet; his daughter Dayle Duchossois-Fortino and husband Ed Fortino; and his daughter Kim Duchossois, plus lots of grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
Will there be special features?
There will be memorial tributes to Bruce Duchossois and Beverly Duchossois before their namesake races, with Jason Kanabay, a junior at John Hersey High School, singing the Frank Sinatra songs "My Way" and "Luck be a Lady," respectively. The tribute to Dick Duchossois will include buglers and a black horse troop procession from Culver Academies that will escort the Mister D. Stakes horses to the racetrack, and the song "Chicago" performed by Kanabay.
Who will present the trophies?
Bruce Duchossois' partner Jack Wetzel will present the trophy for the Bruce D. Stakes; siblings Craig and Kim Duchossois will present the trophy for the Beverly D. Stakes; and Duchossois grandchildren will present the trophy for the Mister D. Stakes.