It's End of the Road as Arlington Closes

From Associated Press

An enormous bronze statue of two thoroughbreds racing neck-and-neck overlooks the paddock at Arlington International Racecourse.

It's called "Against All Odds," a testament to the 70-year-old track that has survived the Great Depression, a devastating fire and a threat from its owner to shut it down two years ago.

But it looks as if the odds may finally be against Arlington.

The racing season ended Friday with no racing dates scheduled for 1998. And after losing an estimated $70 million in recent years to the bright lights and big payouts of riverboat gambling, it's unclear whether horses ever will race again at the sprawling facility.

"We have said today is the last day of racing," Arlington owner Richard Duchossois said. "There definitely will be no racing next year and we don't see any way there will be racing in 1999. But we never want to say never."

Duchossois said he and other track officials will begin meeting Monday to discuss the 326-acre site's future. He dismissed rumors that the track would be the future home of a new Chicago Bears stadium or a Walt Disney virtual reality complex--but he wouldn't say much more than that.

"We won't make any announcement until we're ready to put the shovel in the ground," he said.

Nancy Schrank, a 50-year-old nurse, said she has come to Arlington about once a week for the past 10 years.

"We think it's horrible," she said, shielding her eyes from the sun. "We go to all the racetracks all over the country and we're going to miss Arlington."

The track, which opened Oct. 13, 1927, became the world's first race course with a million-dollar purse for thoroughbreds in 1981. Since then, the Arlington Million has become the track's hallmark. The track also has been then site for the Secretariat Stakes.

"Nationally, the marquee races Arlington offered, that will be a great loss," said Bill Nader, a spokesman for the New York Racing Assn. "Those were races with the best horses in the country."

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