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"With increased attendance," says Marje, "we'll eventually have more income and will be able to offer larger purses, which in turn will obviously benefit the horsemen and their help. I think it's unnatural to ask a man to get up at 4 in the morning and go to work at 5. If the harness people can train during the daytime, why can't the Thoroughbred people? As it is now, we keep our track open until noon, as opposed to our old closing time of 10 a.m., and we could keep it open all afternoon if the trainers wanted it that way. If stable help didn't have to be at work so early in the morning, more of them could live away from the barns and lead a more normal family life. Everyone knows it's at night that stable help are more apt to get into trouble—drinking and women at the barns. Horsemen now get Sundays off when all the shops are closed. Big deal."
The new routine is easier on jockeys than on trainers, says Shoemaker, "because most jocks don't have to get up early in the morning. I'm playing more golf than ever before, and I'm all for night racing if it helps the sport and provides more income for the people in it. People resent anything new. Over the long run, if this thing catches on, trainers will just change their training schedules, and I don't think they'd find it that difficult to adjust." As for the actual riding at night, it is Shoe's contention that "horses don't run any different." He agrees with other riders who have raced under both conditions that lights provide more reliable illumination than is available on many an afternoon when the sun can play tricks on horse and rider with unpredictable shadows.
Arlington Park's experiment brought to the track hundreds of first-time racegoers, many of them young married couples in their 20s and 30s. The per capita betting slipped only slightly, from Arlington's usual $98 to $94, despite the newcomers' unfamiliarity with the sport. Concession business went up 25%, for while many an afternoon fan found it easy to get through the program with a few beers and a hot dog, the evening fan made it a point to arrive in time for the first race at 8 o'clock and got comfortable at a track side dining-room table where he not only ordered a full-course meal but also belted down some hard booze along the way.
Business at the trots at Washington Park, some 50 miles away, wasn't noticeably affected by Arlington's night racing, and it has always been Marje's contention that the Thoroughbred and harness fans don't overlap anyway.
Successful Trainer Arnold Winick, an Arlington regular, says scornfully, "The quicker they forget about night racing the better it will be. It will take all the class out of the game." Marje's husband, Webb Everett, who was originally against night racing, says, "The class has been going out of racing for 15 years. Fifteen years ago the wealthy all went racing, and as they die off there are no replacements. The only way to get class back is to educate the young."
"I must disagree," says Allie Reuben, owner of Hasty House Farm's stable. "How is this generation of kids going to instill class in racing? They know nothing about either bloodlines or the traditions of racing, and they'd be just as happy to watch a bunch of mules run around the track."
Be that as it may, and whether the horsemen or the sport's old guard like it or not, Marje Everett intends to apply for at least 73 night-racing dates in 1970. "You can't stand still in this business," she says, "and you can't win a popularity contest by running a track, either. But I want to be popular, and I want an opportunity to do something that in the long run will be a contribution to racing. Just because we don't race in New York or just because we may not have the social background of some of those people doesn't mean we should be denied the chance to contribute to the progress of a sport. Don't laugh, but I think our business will be up 50% in three years."
As the Futurity crowd scrambled off into the cool Chicago darkness, Marje straightened up her desk and rose to leave. She was tossing a winner's party in the Horseshoe Club atop the new Arlington Park Towers. "Speaking of night racing," she added with some finality, "how many of us get to bed before midnight anyway?"