About a dozen pieces of Arlington Park nostalgia — from trackside benches to a large metallic crest — will serve as permanent mementos of the historic grand horse racing palace on display in and around the village of Arlington Heights, officials said.
But the iconic “Against All Odds” statue — artist Edwin Bogucki’s bronze depiction of the inaugural Arlington Million’s photo finish — won’t be one of them.
“My understanding is that that is not one of the items that they’re willing to part with. That’ll go to Churchill Downs somewhere,” Mayor Tom Hayes said of the corporate owner of the shuttered Arlington Heights racetrack property, which is being cleared out in preparation for a sale to the Bears.
“I don’t know exactly what they intend to do with it. That was not one of the items that was up for donation to the village, and they don’t intend to auction that item off,” Hayes said.
The statue, capturing two life-size equines and their jockeys in what was the first million-dollar thoroughbred horse race, sits atop a grandstand balcony overlooking the paddock, a popular decadeslong locale for snapping photos and reviewing race day entries. It’s among the items being put aside by Arlington Park management as online auctions for thousands of other items begin.
Hayes and other top village officials got a personal tour of the grandstand and track grounds two weeks ago from Arlington Park President Tony Petrillo and Director of Facilities Tom Musielak. The meeting was a follow-up to Hayes’ request nearly two years ago for legacy items that could be donated to the village upon the track’s closure and sale.
Hayes said the village may end up getting about a dozen items that could be displayed at village hall, in the downtown, in a parklike setting, in the Arlington Heights Historical Museum, or at some other “appropriate place where a lot of people can view them.
The items include some of the many benches scattered about the apron and paddock; the ones Hayes said he’s eyeing have “ornate ironwork” featuring horse figurines.
The village is also getting an Arlington International Racecourse emblem that was on the landing atop a marble staircase going from the first to second floor, Hayes said.
“We did identify some really neat, cool things that we’re hoping to display in appropriate locations somewhere around town to preserve the legacy, because it was such a big part of our community for 100 years,” the mayor said.
But there are a couple pieces of memorabilia the village and track management still haven’t reached agreement on. Other people also have “dibs” on them, Hayes said.
“We’re still hoping to get some very special items, or at least one very special item,” he said.
Historical Museum Administrator Dan Schoeneberg said after his preliminary meeting at the track that he plans to return this fall to take a “deeper dive” into what artifacts are available and what might be a good fit at the museum, which is in downtown Arlington Heights.
While Churchill Downs might be keeping some items, some might be donated to the village and some will be up for auction, Hayes said it’s also possible there could be permanent tributes to the racetrack’s history as part of the Bears’ 326-acre campus redevelopment.
“I know some people have thought about that to make sure that we honor the legacy within the property itself, not just around the community — whether that’s in architecture, in design, or in the naming of certain plazas or statues or whatever. But yes, that has been discussed,” Hayes said.
On Friday, the second of a dozen expected online auctions of the track’s assets began. Nearly 1,700 lots — including refrigerators, concession and bar equipment, glassware, tables and chairs, and other decor — are available in this round at grafeauction.com/event/arlington-park-part-ii. An in-person preview of the items up for bid is scheduled from noon to 5 pm Monday, Aug. 15, followed by the closure of online bids Aug. 16-18.
Track memorabilia, artwork and bronze are expected to go to auction in mid-September.