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Arlington puts its best hoof forward

Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM

Tony Petrillo was named general manager of Arlington Park in October, so when thoroughbred racing begins at the track Friday, Petrillo will start crossing off his goals for the 2011 season on his mental checklist.

“My expectations are very high,” said Petrillo, who has been with Arlington since 1994 and was most recently the park’s vice president of facilities and operations.

“My philosophy is to set very lofty goals to give yourself something to shoot for. I expect to have a successful meet, I expect attendance to be very good, and I know that our customers can expect the same things they have always expected from ­Arlington Park.”

Live racing begins Friday and runs through Sept. 25 for a total of 86 dates. There will be a 10-race card on Friday featuring many local horses. Admission to the track on Friday is free and the park opens at 11:15 a.m.

Petrillo is also excited about the international stables that are new to Arlington, namely Russian trainer Gennadi Dorochenko and British trainer Gerard Butler. Dorochenko has 30 horses stabled there and Butler will arrive Sunday with six or seven stakes-caliber horses.

The track will run on Wednesdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays in May and June before switching to a Thursday-through-Sunday schedule starting July 1.

Arlington’s senior manager of communications, Dave Zenner, said the change was made to give Arlington’s races more prominence in the national market. There are fewer tracks that run on Wednesday and, with less competition, Zenner said Arlington hopes to get interest in markets such as Kentucky and California that have no live Wednesday racing.

“We want to get into those markets to reach those bettors,” Zenner said. “It is a global market now.”

Besides the live racing at Arlington, the track will simulcast Friday’s Kentucky Oaks Grade I stakes race from Churchill Downs. Arlington also will offer advance wagering on Saturday’s Kentucky Derby.

There are three post times for racing this weekend. On Friday first post is 3 p.m., Saturday is 12:15 and Sunday is 1. Starting next week, the races will start at 1 p.m. every day except Friday, which is at 3.

Arlington’s first stakes race is the Grade III Hanshin Cup on May 21. But the biggest date on its calendar is the International Festival of Racing on Aug. 13. The two featured races are the Arlington Million and the Beverly D., both Grade I stakes. The races will be part of the Breeders’ Cup Challenge series.

“That is really our centerpiece of the season,” Zenner said. “The winner of the Arlington Million gets an automatic bid to the Breeders’ Cup, and this year the Cup will pick up the [horse’s] entry fee for the race. That is new this year.”

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