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New name, stakes race reflect Arlington’s international focus

Updated: June 6, 2012 8:09AM

If there’s one thing that Arlington Park chairman Dick Duchossois wants people to know about the five-month season that kicked off Friday, it’s that the racetrack is now known as Arlington International Racecourse.

“We’re changing the name back,” Duchossois said.

It might be because Duchossois wants Arlington to be more well-known on the international horse racing stage, and he’s taking an important step in doing just that.

Duchossois said Friday that he has already made a major change to Arlington’s International Festival of Racing on Aug. 18, which includes the Arlington Million. The track will feature the $400,000 American St. Leger race, modeled after the St. Leger Stakes race in Great Britain. The St. Leger began in Great Britain in 1776.

Even though Friday was Arlington’s official opening day, Duchossois said the track’s bigger day is Saturday for Kentucky Derby simulcast betting and a live nine-race card.

But Arlington’s opener had special significance for one jockey. First-time Arlington rider Channing Hill had a stellar debut, winning two races. Hill is the son of former jockey Alan Hill, who raced mostly in Nebraska.

Hill won the third race on Lawful Lady and the fifth by a nose on Billy Two Hats. He rode Chelan Echo to a second-place finish behind Miss Kitten in the ninth race.

“I wasn’t really nervous because I knew a lot of guys in the jock’s room really well and the only nervous part was starting off a new meet,” Hill said. “I’ve been here once visiting a few friends, but this is the ninth place I’ve ridden a race at this year. It makes the transition a little easier. And when you’ve got the horse, you’re going to win.”

There was a moment of silence before the second race for jockey Eddie Razo Jr., who was killed in a garage fire April 24 at his home in Long Grove. Razo won 18 races at Arlington in 2011 on 214 mounts. He won a total of 45 races on 499 mounts for last year.

“It was a tragic thing,” Duchossois said. “We remember him as a wonderful, wonderful guy.”

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