The Arlington Million will live on this year ... at Churchill Downs in Kentucky
The Arlington Million -- long the signature race on the marquee day of horse racing at Arlington Park -- will be held this summer, officials announced Tuesday.
But it'll be run 330 miles away from the shuttered Arlington Heights racetrack at its parent company's namesake track in Kentucky.
Churchill Downs on Tuesday released its 53-race stakes schedule to be staged this spring and summer at the historic Louisville racetrack -- a list that includes nine races previously run at Arlington Park.
The Million and three other graded stakes races will be run during a special one-day program Saturday, Aug. 13, on what is still being billed Arlington Million Day by the corporate ownership. It's taking place outside of Churchill Downs' 44-day meet that runs April 30-July 4, after company officials said they secured permission from the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission, Kentucky horsemen and Ellis Park, the Henderson, Kentucky, racetrack that normally controls the commonwealth's racing calendar that time of year.
Chris Block, president of the Illinois Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association, told BloodHorse magazine he wasn't surprised by Churchill Downs' announcement.
"We're very disappointed that each day it looks for sure that the track is permanently closed," Block said about Arlington. "The movement of these races to Churchill Downs, I guess, is another sign. But I'm not sure that even if somebody else bought the track ... the races would stay there anyway."
The Aug. 13 day of racing will include four former Arlington Park races cumulatively worth $2 million: the 39th running of the Arlington Million, a Grade 1 race with its famous $1 million purse; the 32nd running of the Beverly D., a Grade 1 race with a $500,000 purse; the 45th running of the Secretariat, a Grade 3 race with a $300,000 purse; and the 58th running of the Pucker Up, a Grade 3 race with a $200,000 purse.
"It's great to have those races," trainer Chad Brown, who won four Arlington Millions, told BloodHorse. "However, nothing will ever compare to Arlington's turf course."
Churchill Downs is introducing a renovated turf course this spring, BloodHorse reported.
The traditional Million Day was held last August as a tribute to Chairman Emeritus Richard Duchossois and his family, with the marquee race rebranded the Mister D. and run for a $600,000 purse. The Million and other graded stakes races were shelved during the pandemic-shortened 2020 season.
The other former Arlington Park races scheduled for Churchill Downs' spring meet include the 38th running of the Modesty on May 6, the 86th running of the Arlington on June 4, the 32nd running of the Chicago on June 25, the 107th running of the American Derby on July 2, and the 40th running of the Hanshin on July 3.
This summer's run will not be the first running of the Arlington Million outside Illinois. In 1988 it was held in at Woodbine, outside Toronto in Canada, as Arlington Park was still being rebuilt after the devastating 1985 fire there.
Jim Miller, director of publicity at Hawthorne Race Course, told BloodHorse that Churchill Downs did not contact Hawthorne, the only remaining Chicago-area track, about running the Million and other races there. But he said there was "no thought, really, at all" that Hawthorne could take any of them.
Churchill Downs' record 53-race stakes schedule totaling $20.37 million in purses is highlighted by the iconic $3 million Kentucky Derby on Saturday, May 7.
Arlington Park held its last race Sept. 25, 2021, and just days later, Churchill Downs made the bombshell announcement that it was selling the sprawling 326-acre property to the Chicago Bears. The $197.2 million deal isn't expected to close until the first half of 2023, Churchill CEO Bill Carstanjen said late last month.
In the meantime, Arlington Park President Tony Petrillo told the Arlington Heights village board last week that the facility is still operating as it did in the non-racing months, and that he and his skeleton crew who remain continue to pursue expos, trade shows, car company ride-and-drive events, and other leasing opportunities. He said they're even exploring opportunities to host concerts and special events utilizing the grandstand.