No detail escaped his notice. He occasionally ate breakfast in the stable kitchens to determine the quality and cost of the food. At Washington Park he brought in a special fast-drying soil which would seldom turn up a muddy track after a heavy spring rain. He spent five years trying to find the best grass for the turf course at Arlington Park, finally settled on a blend of four strains that was allowed to grow six to eight inches long. At night Ben Lindheimer would go to bed at 8:30 and prop a large white tablet on his knees on which to record his thoughts and plans.
Those plans were armored by power. Years ago Lindheimer foresaw the tremendous impact the tollways would have upon Thoroughbred racing—and promptly "arranged" for the Illinois Tollway to be rerouted to pass within a few hundred yards of Washington Park. (His track was the only private enterprise with signs along the tollway. Lindheimer's were similar in appearance to tollway signs and actually mounted on tollway directional signs.)
In Illinois his control of racing seemed almost mystical. To the distress of his competitors in Chicago, Sportsman's Park and Hawthorne Race Course, Lindheimer never failed to get from the Illinois Racing Board the dates he chose, including the three choice holiday dates—Memorial Day, the Fourth of July and Labor Day.
Perhaps his greatest power coup was extending the "Lindheimer season" to 97 days. In 1940 he added Arlington Park to his racing holdings, and immediately developed the first "coordinated meeting"—of 66 days—between Washington and Arlington parks. With control of two meetings, he was better able to cut expenses and offer horsemen special luxuries. With three meetings, he felt he would be able to do even more. His chance came in 1955, when a steel fabricator named Russell Reineman and a construction man named Harry Nathenson bought the decaying Lincoln Fields plant and renamed it Balmoral. Lindheimer agreed to rent his staff and facilities at Washington Park to them for the Balmoral meeting—and to help them sell stock in the new corporation. Eighteen months later Reineman and Nathenson awakened to the harsh fact that they no longer controlled Balmoral. Lindheimer had sold stock to his wife, his children, his in-laws, his doctor, his friends, the widows of his friends, even to his own corporations. ( Arlington and Washington parks owned almost one-third of all the stock in Balmoral; Balmoral owned no stock in itself.) Reineman and Nathenson were ousted as officers, and the Lindheimer slate was installed. Thus, with hardly a penny spent, he acquired a third racing meeting and extended the "Lindheimer season" to 97 days.
This highly complex, highly resourceful man often was generous and in many ways was public-spirited. Yet he ruined, crushed or humiliated a number of men, none of whom will so much as discuss him. One who rebelled was Jack (Greasy Thumb) Guzik, the Capone mobster who turned up with 400 shares of stock in Arlington and Washington parks. When Lindheimer barred Stockholder Guzik from Arlington Park, Guzik sued for an accounting of the funds and charged that Lindheimer had used $455,000 of track monies to finance the Los Angeles Dons. In a court affidavit he described Lindheimer as a "person of evil reputation," and charged that "for many years he operated a handbook and gambling establishment." There were some who thought Guzik might know—but the mobster died before the case could ever be brought to trial.
Ben and the mob
Whether or not Lindheimer himself was involved with the mob is hard to determine. During World War II one of his important aides was said to be running a bookie operation in a trailer just outside the track, allegedly as a sop to the mob. The man was fired and the allegation was never proved. As recently as last April, a group of west side Democrats from Chicago—considered by some to be the political-action arm of the syndicate—held a meeting in a building which, ironically, Lindheimer once owned. At the meeting a Democratic politician reportedly boasted that "we're going to get the little s.o.b. this time."
Ben Lindheimer died before they could "get" him. Now it seems likely that Marge will, in her own way, be just as tough a challenge to Lindheimer enemies—political or other-wise—as Ben ever was.