Indeed, the impediments to horseplayer confidence within voting distance of the President's residence have set new precedents in 2013.
The crime against horseplayers is their inability to wager on-line because elected representatives failed to renew recently expired ADW legislation during the lame duck session.
It's not quite as bad as it is in Arizona where Internet wagering has already been mowed down by shady characters. However, like Arizona tracks, the Illinois tracks will benefit during this period from increased simulcasting host fees while there is no live racing in the state.
The crime of the century impacting Illinois racing actually took place in Kentucky. Recently the Chicago Tribune reported, "Now that Churchill Downs has turned the Illinois Derby into a dead end street on its new Road to the Kentucky Derby series, Hawthorne Race Course is trying to remake it into a superhighway to the Preakness.
Hawthorne has increased the purse of the Chicago circuit's premier main track race for 3-year-olds from $500,000 to $750,000 and will run it April 20, two weeks before the Kentucky Derby and four weeks before the Preakness."
Hawthorne honcho, Tim Carey, said, "... we're looking to get sponsorship so we can increase the purse even more."
During its annual racing dates award meeting back in September, the IRB shifted several hundred thousand dollars worth of simulcast host commissions from Arlington to Hawthorne. "... Carey testified to the IRB that additional money steered Hawthorne's direction could be used to boost the purse of the Illinois Derby to $750,000 or $1 million, but Carey said after the meeting that no specific plans had been formulated."
Hawthorne was granted 19 more such days (17 at Arlington's expense) as "...the Board appeared miffed at the decision of Churchill Downs to leave the Illinois Derby off Churchill's newly devised points system that qualifies horses for the Kentucky Derby..."
The decision to increase the IL Derby purse was supported by the Illinois Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association, "but with a string attached: Hawthorne agreed to reduce purses at its fall meeting by an equal amount and put the money into daily purses at its ... spring meeting." But however they try to spin it, the $250K purse increase comes at the expense of the fall meeting.
I'm on record as being one of those offended by Churchill Down's decision to exclude the IL Derby as a KY Derby qualification race. It was a petty and unnecessary exception to an otherwise sensible strategy that encourages all starters to compete as three-year-olds in open races on dirt and synthetics at a mile and over. More importantly, it funnels most contenders' preparation into a period from 7 to 3 weeks prior to the main event; forcing them to face higher levels of competition in the process.
I believe that this type of purse increase is misuse of funds by Hawthorne. If they want to see a horse come out of the IL Derby and beat the KY Derby winner in the Preakness, then such a horse must actually start in the Preakness. The purse increase accomplishes nothing if nobody goes!
A better strategy might have been to use the money for bonuses (sponsor/insurance paid?) to each IL Derby starter who starts in Preakness, with further incentives for those finishing in the top three.
Even without the purse increase, the IL Derby would still be the most lucrative Preakness prep not called the KY Derby. A "mere" $250K increase wouldn't change that. One can understand Hawthorne's desire to derail the Triple Crown applecart this year, but it's just another example of how the industry cannot cooperate even in an endeavor that should unite it.
In a year that promises to send more competitive performers to the KY Derby, the odds against a horse coming out of the IL Derby winning the Preakness against several KY Derby qualified contestants would seem astronomical.
If Mr. Carey goes ahead with a flawed plan that throws good money after bad, it would effectively reward the vindictive CDI with a double dose of damage to the racing program at Hawthorne.