Arlington International Racecourse opens for likely final season

Friday marks opening day at Arlington International Racecourse.

This season could be your last opportunity to see a race at what many horse racing fans call the most beautiful track in America.

The track is up for sale after nearly a century but all the big events are back for this final year: Derby Day, Mother’s Day, July 3rd fireworks celebration and the Arlington Million, which this year is renamed for Mr. D, as in Duchossois, the track's longtime former owner.

At least one group of horsemen is making a final pitch to buy the track. They say they have the money, but convincing Churchill Downs to sell to a potential competitor to their Rivers Casino is a very long shot.


"We are still praying and hoping. We’ve got our fingers crossed that maybe a miracle will happen," said jockey Chris Emigh.

Longtime Arlington trainer Larry Rivelli called the potential shutdown "horrible."

"We’re hanging onto this long shot as long as we can and then doing the best we can to keep our heads up," Rivelli said.

It is difficult not to get sentimental. Rivelli says his grandfather Pete DiVito and his uncle Jimmy DiVito both trained horses at Arlington. He started coming to the track when he was 6 years old and has plenty of happy memories.

"I have a bunch of them... a day that I won five races out of eight on a card. I had my whole family here," he said.

Emigh, who has been affiliated with Arlington for 25 years and has won more than 1400 races there, said racing on the track is magical.

"I’ve won so many races here," Emigh said. "So many great memories. It still gives me goosebumps when I’m on the backside coming down the stretch and the crowd is roaring. I mean it’s just one of the most beautiful tracks in North America."

Barring a miracle, this will be the race track's last season.