No agreement Saturday in stalemate between Arlington Park and horsemen

  • Kids at Arlington International Racecourse make friends with a horse and its rider on the last day of the 2019 season. During an extraordinary five-hour meeting Saturday, no agreement was reached on a new contract to run between management of Arlington Park and the Illinois Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association.

      Kids at Arlington International Racecourse make friends with a horse and its rider on the last day of the 2019 season. During an extraordinary five-hour meeting Saturday, no agreement was reached on a new contract to run between management of Arlington Park and the Illinois Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association. Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

 
By Jim O’Donnell
Daily Herald Sports Media columnist
Updated 6/6/2020 8:10 PM

THE BALL OF CONFUSION continued Saturday regarding live 2020 racing at Arlington Park.

During an extraordinary five-hour meeting, no agreement was reached on a new contract to run between management of the local oval and the Illinois Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"I would call it a work in progress," said Mike Campbell, the president of the ITHA. "We remain optimistic that there is a good probability that enough of the right things will be in place before (the Illinois Racing Board) reconvenes on Monday morning."

The final primary sticking point between the two sides is the duration of the contract.

Arlington wants a two-year deal which would include no Million or Beverly D. this season, but resumption of both races next year.

The ITHA wants a one-year contract, mainly because of the impact that the uncertain American economy has on gauging purse levels for 2021.

Without a new pact, Arlington -- which is owned by Churchill Downs Inc. -- cannot legally open this year.

The sudden Saturday negotiation was decided upon Friday at an emergency meeting of the IRB.

The six-member panel -- which currently has five vacant seats -- seemed to expect word of a new contract to be among a revised 2020 dates request from Arlington's Anthony Petrillo.

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When none was forthcoming, Racing Board commissioner Tom McCauley -- an attorney deeply steeped in knowledge of the game -- suggested the rare Saturday session.

McCauley also accepted the assignment to be one of two racing board "facilitators" at the meeting. The other was Dominec DiCera, the agency's executive director.

The meeting was held outdoors at "a neutral site" -- the apron at Hawthorne Race Course in Southwest suburban Stickney.

Petrillo was Arlington's lone representative, although he reportedly was in recurring electronic contact with an attorney for CDI.

Representing the ITHA was executive director Dave McCaffrey and trainer Chris Block.

Campbell voluntarily elected not to attend because of repeated instances of what some have termed "distracting rancor" between he and Petrillo.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

The sixth individual in attendance, technically with no official standing, was trainer Larry Rivelli.

Rivelli -- who has won seven consecutive training titles at AP -- has emerged as a self-appointed "middle man" between the ITHA and Arlington.

Arlington Park and the ITHA are in essential agreement on daily purse structure (approximately $140,000), a 30-day race meet beginning in July and 30 days of an open backstretch before Opening Day.

CDI has steadfastly declined to defer or waive any of the approximate $5 million it is due in "recapture," an outdated device unique to Illinois racing that drains purse accounts and transfers money to operating race tracks.

There is no formal resumption of negotiations planned for Sunday.

"But," I would hope communication back and forth will continue," Campbell said.

The IRB is scheduled to reconvene its emergency session at 10 a.m. on Monday.

CDI CEO Bill Carstanjen -- the man accountable for all major decisions involving his corporation, including the future of Arlington -- could not be reached for comment Saturday night

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