No Horse Racing At Arlington Next Year: Churchill Downs Does Not Apply For 2022 Race Dates

Posted By Joe Boozell on August 3, 2021

Churchill Downs, which owns Arlington International Racecourse, did not apply for 2022 horse racing dates with the Illinois Racing Board.

That means there will not be live horse racing at Arlington Park in 2022. Churchill Downs requested an application, which initially raised questions about their intentions. But the application deadline has now passed without paperwork from Churchill Downs.

Hawthorne Racecourse and Fairmount Park (also known as FanDuel Sportsbook & Horse Racing) were the only entities to apply for ’22 thoroughbred horse racing dates.

Hawthorne applied for dates all year, while Fairmount only applied for dates between March and November.

While this was an expected move from Churchill Downs, it’s a nail in the coffin of sorts. Arlington Park also recently sent notice to employees stating they will be permanently laid off in late September.

Though when Churchill requested an application, it seemed possible that some form of Arlington racing could happen in 2022.

That possibility has vanished. Now, all eyes are on the impending sale of Arlington Park.

What’s the latest with the Arlington Park sale?

There has been a bit of a lull on the Arlington Park sale news front. But here’s what we know right now.

Churchill Downs has several offers for the 326-acre property — some prospective buyers are public, while others are not.

The Chicago Bears are the highest-profile bidder, and it’s hard to envision anyone wrestling away that distinction. If the Bears purchase the Arlington Heights land, they would move from Soldier Field to the suburbs. It would represent a massive business shift for Chicago’s lone NFL team.

Glenstar Properties and UrbanStreet Group have also submitted offers to buy the land. Neil Bluhm, a key Churchill Downs partner, has ties to Glenstar.

Bluhm also co-founded Rush Street Gaming, which is the minority owner of Rivers Casino. The majority owner? Churchill Downs.

That’s a key factor in the sale, as it doesn’t take much reading between the lines to see that Churchill Downs does not want a buyer to have racing or casino gambling at Arlington Park. That’s because Arlington is close to Rivers, and they could compete for the same customers.

Illinois horse racing industry dwindling

With Arlington Park closing, there are only two thoroughbred horse racetracks left in the state. And with one of them in southern Illinois, there is a noticeable lack of horse racing in the Chicago area.

Hawthorne Racecourse is outside of Chicago, and its business could improve without Arlington competition. Still, a lack of options is bad for the industry as a whole.

It’s worth keeping an eye on Balmoral Park near Crete, as it is up for sale. But news has also been quiet on that front, and nothing appears imminent.

Arlington Park has held horse races most years since 1927. Its live horse race schedule runs through Sept. 25.

Now, Arlington’s future is completely up in the air.

Photo by M. Spencer Green / AP
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Joe Boozell

Joe Boozell has also been a college sports writer for NCAA.com since 2015. His work has also appeared in Bleacher Report, FoxSports.com and NBA.com. Growing up, Boozell squared off against both Anthony Davis and Frank Kaminsky in the Chicagoland basketball scene ... you can imagine how that went.

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