Richard L. Duchossois with jockey Kent Desormeaux and trainer Bill Mott at the trophy presentation for the 2009 Beverly D stakes, won by Dyanforce (Photo ©Tom Hyland)
This weekend the 32nd running of the Arlington Million will take place at Arlington Park, in the northwest-Chicago suburb of Arlington Heights. The Million is one of three Grade 1 races that day; the others being the Beverly D for fillies and mares, 3 year old and up, run at one mile and three-sixteenths on the turf and the Secretariat Stakes, for three-year olds on the turf at the same distance. These three races are the cornerstone of the Arlington Festival of Racing, the biggest day each year for racing in the state of Illinois.
The brainchild behind the Million- the first thoroughbred race in America to offer a $1,000,000 purse when it was first run in 1981- was Richard L. Duchossois, chairman of Arlington Park. The finish of that race, with the great John Henry making a furious rally to nip The Bart by a nose at the wire, was tremendously thrilling and would immediately stamp this race as one of the best of the year.
Duchossois has been the face of Illinois racing for three decades, rebuilding Arlington park after a powerful fire destroyed the grandstands in 1985. The new facility that was built at the same location is today one of America's - and the world's - most beautiful race tracks.
In Tuesday's BloodHorse.com, Claire Novak, who grew up not far from the racetrack, writes a superb piece on Duchossois (read here). Novak beautifully describes this facility as she details the life of the chairman, now a spright 92 years young, from his time in the Army during World War II through his initial interest in purchasing the track up until today.
It's a well written piece, complete with streaming video, that captures the spirit of this man, one who puts the bettor first; he comments that if you don't take care of your clients, you won't have a product.
There certainly has been a lot of bad publicity about thoroughbred racing as of late, so how nice to read this marvelous article.