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Arlington Park installs new surface

7 December 2006

CHICAGO, Illinois – (PRESS RELEASE) -- Arlington Park announced today that it will begin construction immediately to replace its conventional dirt track with a new state-of-the-art, synthetic racing surface to enhance athlete safety in advance of the 2007 race meet, which begins on Friday, May 4, 2007.

"Arlington Park has always and will continue to provide the very best that horseracing has to offer," said Arlington Park President Roy Arnold in making the announcement at the ESPN Zone in Chicago. "While we are confident the track's current dirt surface is one of the best, the fact is we lost horses last summer and that's not acceptable. If we lose one horse, it's one too many. We have been diligently monitoring other synthetic track installations and racing results, and now possess the knowledge necessary to move forward with a synthetic surface to ensure that Arlington Park remains one of the finest racing surfaces. We are investing $10 million to do this."

Earlier this year three independent experts -- two hired by the Illinois Racing Board, one by Arlington Park -- confirmed that Arlington's dirt surface was among the most consistent and best maintained in the country, but track officials say the new, synthetic track will substantially raise the level of consistency and safety.

Synthetic horseracing surfaces are comprised of natural and man-made materials that combine to produce a turf-like track that is more forgiving than traditional dirt surfaces, resulting in reduced risk of injury when hooves are planting and sliding on the soil.

"The quality of the track surface has a direct effect on the safety and performance of the horses," said Dr. Michael Peterson, one of the experts hired by the Illinois Racing Board to review Arlington's dirt track this summer. "While I believe that Arlington Park has maintained an exceptionally fair, consistent and safe dirt track, my studies have shown that synthetic tracks are more consistent throughout, from the inside to the outside rail, and across the circumference of the oval."

"Whenever you change something that is widely recognized as one of the best in the world you are taking a risk, but we have always put the health and safety of the horses and riders at the forefront of what we do," Arnold said. "I am confident the synthetic track will create an even better racing surface and strengthen our leadership in the industry."

Kentucky Derby and Breeders' Cup winning trainer Carl Nafzger, whose two-year-old Street Sense won this year's Breeders' Cup Juvenile after winning his first race at Arlington Park on August 19 said, "I've stabled horses at Arlington Park for many years and I'm planning to send even more horses to race on their new, synthetic surface next summer. I feel so strongly about synthetic racing surfaces that we're installing one at our training center in Skylight, Kentucky."

Arlington Park also announced today that it has begun initial work to prepare the base of the track for the synthetic surface. The exact type of synthetic surface has not yet been selected. Once selected, the surface material will be scheduled to arrive at Arlington Park on March 16, 2007.

Two-time Million winner and former Hall of Fame jockey Jerry Bailey, who currently serves as racing analyst for ABC Sports and ESPN said, "When I was riding, I always circled my calendar on the date of the Arlington Million. Mr. Duchossois and his staff have always run a first-class operation. Their concern for the safety of horses and jockeys, which led to this decision to install a synthetic track, is another example of the exceptional way they do things at Arlington Park."

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