Breaking News Bar
updated: 7/17/2019 6:45 PM

O’Donnell: Please hold all tickets on the future of Arlington Park

Success - Article sent! close
  • Is Arlington Park for sale? According to Churchill Downs, Inc., the current owner of Arlington Park, it is not. But sports and media columnist Jim O'Donnell isn't sure that's true.

    Is Arlington Park for sale? According to Churchill Downs, Inc., the current owner of Arlington Park, it is not. But sports and media columnist Jim O'Donnell isn't sure that's true.
    Daily Herald File Photo


THERE IS SOMETHING in the air at Arlington Park.

And no, it's not the seasonal waft out of the oval's deteriorating backstretch.

Credible reports are that an individual crisply versed in both racing and gaming approached management of Churchill Downs Inc. about the possible purchase of the facility by an Illinois-centered investment group.

The consortium's goal is to preserve Arlington as a thoroughbred racetrack.

CDI's response?

Reportedly, a terse: "Arlington Park is not for sale."

Sure … for now.

Cursory logic suggests otherwise.


•With its purchase of close to 62 percent of Rivers Casino in Des Plaines -- and the related link to platinum-list state power broker Neil Bluhm -- CDI and its chieftains would rather polish dice than worry about horse hustlers and 30 tons a day only nine miles away;

•Slots, table games and sports betting at AP -- which should kick in next winter or spring after final maneuvering in Springfield and Chicago -- can only boost CDI's asking price; and,

•CDI selling a regional landmark for redevelopment and ending the 93-year run of the local oval would be extremely bad form for any further wish-listing from an area populace that takes an odd sort of civic pride in a hulking facility that few actually attend with any frequency.

Louie Roussel is the Louisiana-bred mastermind who summers at AP, trains horses with colorful flair and once owned the Fair Grounds in New Orleans.

He also scored the first gaming license on the land-mined Louisiana legislative scape and has served as a special adviser / attorney to Arlington chairman emeritus Dick Duchossois for a number of years.

Asked about reports of the new moving parts, Roussel replied: "I have no comment now because all current talk is merely rumor and speculation."

Funny, that's the sort of thing track president John Mooney -- the oddball who fired Phil Georgeff -- was saying back in 1983.

Shortly after, Duchossois drifted down from the heavens of Barrington Hills as the primary money man in a sharp deal that snatched the track from a revamping Gulf & Western.

There was something in the air at Arlington back then.

And now there is again.

DOUGHTY MARTY BRENNAMAN -- long the voice of the Cincinnati Reds -- left 'em chuckling this week when he claimed he was offered a seat in the Cubs broadcast booth in 1989.

The truth is, Brennaman was given a courtesy call by the WGN / Wrigley combine to inform him that representatives were interested in hiring his son Thom Brennaman.

Young Thom -- then age 26 -- took the gig and did six seasons before moving on to less wickedly alpha booths.

In 1989-90, Dewayne Staats left for the Yankees, Davey Nelson was waived and WGN added both Ron Santo and Bob Brenly.

Harry Caray was lobbying for Chip Caray to be in the mix but there was one problem: The pedigreed grandson had no substantive big-league experience.

HC-III began getting it that winter (1989-90) with the NBA's expansion Orlando Magic alongside Goose Givens.

Astonishing that anyone would believe Caray I -- after gang-planking career sourpuss Milo Hamilton -- would allow a Marty Brennaman near his broadcast scheme.

STREET-BEATIN': The Royal & Ancient might snicker when it's referred to as "The British Open" but the tea tees begin Thursday at 12:30 a.m. on The Golf Channel and switch to NBC-5 for closing rounds from Portrush in Northern Ireland (Saturday and Sunday starting at 3 a.m.). Brooks Koepka and Orange homie Rory McIlroy are co-favorites at 8-1 (in a 156-starter field). A most intriguing mid-shot is Patrick Cantlay, 30-1 and born on the decidedly green St. Patrick's Day … Speaking of overnights, Hossein Ensan -- a native Iranian with dual German citizenship -- won the $10 million first prize at the World Series of Poker's Main Event shortly before 3:30 a.m. Wednesday. ESPN's wink-awake Norman Chad, as usual, stirred and starred. In the final hand, pocket kings held to the river … That chatter about Mike Mulligan moving to afternoons at WSCR-AM (670) actually makes sense. Few in Chicago sports media have as broad a foundation as the gabby Irishman … Final TV numbers for Wimbledon showed once again that nothing short of a Beatles reunion -- with John and George -- could pump ESPN's tennis trans-ponding. And Serena Williams, Simona Halep, Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer ain't the Fab Four … On the subject of millennium flee, MLB's All-Star Game has lost close to half its audience since 2010, pitting with the recent exhibition. (And many would say deservedly so -- the declining date filler is about as alluring as "An Evening With Alex Jones.")… Any rational parent with a talented child attempting to bound up the sports escalator must -- must -- read the superb "The Threat of Youth Basketball" by Baxter Holmes at It's universally insightful and a massively cautionary report … NBA icon Brian McIntyre -- a fervent Loyola alum -- reports that Porter Moser, athletic director Steve Watson and ramblin' coaching crew will provide updates at Peggy Kinane's in downtown Arlington Heights Thursday at 6 p.m. Registration is $20 … And in the wee small hours, lunar orbiter Les Grobstein told radio mankind that "Earth" was his favorite planet, adding: "My second favorite -- one I've never been to, one that people keep saying isn't a planet anymore -- it's Pluto." How can a moonlight driver be sure he hasn't been there?

Jim O'Donnell's Sports & Media column appears Thursday and Sunday. Reach him at