From 1952-’80, Duchossois was CEO of Thrall Car Manufacturing Company, one of the nation’s leading railcar manufacturers. In 1980, he purchased Chamberlain Manufacturing Corp. and became its chairman.
In 1983, as chairman of The Duchossois Group, he purchased Arlington Park from partners and led its rebuilding after a disastrous fire in 1985. Though he did not create the Arlington Million (that distinction belongs to the late Joseph Joyce Jr., who came up with the idea for the world’s first million-dollar horse race when the track was owned by Madison Square Garden), Duchossois promoted it as only he could. He also conceived a special event in 1996 for Cigar’s attempt to win his 16th consecutive race, equalling Citation’s win streak. An earlier attempt to card a special race that would bring rivals Easy Goer and Sunday Silence to Arlington in 1990 failed to materialize when both horses suffered career ending injuries.
In 2000, Arlington Park merged with Churchill Downs, Inc. Duchossois became the single largest shareholder in Churchill Downs Inc. and still maintained a firm hold on Arlington Park’s activities well into his 90s.
His ownership of Arlington was not without controversy. He closed the track down for two years in 1998-’99, upset that Illinois legislators would not budge on granting additional gaming to racetracks in order to compete with casino riverboats. Ironically, when legislators were persuaded to grant casino gambling to racetracks a few years ago, Churchill Downs leadership opted not to seek a casino license for Arlington Park. Instead the property was put up for sale and a deal was reached last year to sell Arlington to the Chicago Bears of the NFL for the construction of a football stadium.
Arlington likely ran its last race in 2021, with the Arlington Million’s purse reduced and its name changed to the Mr. D. Stakes to honor Duchossois.
In addition to his ownership of Arlington, Duchossois at one time was an active Thoroughbred owner and breeder, basing his operations at his Hill ‘n Dale in Barrington Hills.
Duchossois was a philanthropist throughout his life. His largest known donation was a $21 million gift to the University of Chicago for an outpatient medical center. His first wife, Beverly, for whom the Beverly D Stakes was named, succumbed to cancer after care and treatment at that facility.
Duchossois is survived by his second wife Mary Judith; son Craig; daughters Dayle (Fortino) and Kimberly; and numerous grandchildren and great-grandchildren. In addition to his first wife Beverly, he was preceded in death by a son, Bruce.
There will be no visitation because of COVID-19 and services and burial will be private.
Reactions on the passing of Richard Duchossois
“We are profoundly saddened today by the loss of Richard Duchossois. He was a tireless champion of Churchill Downs and thoroughbred racing. His impact on those of us involved in this industry was simply immeasurable. He was a mentor and friend to so many in Churchill Downs, most especially me, and we will all miss his grace, wisdom and humor. His contributions to Churchill Downs and thoroughbred racing were merely a small part of his extraordinary life. They call his generation ‘America’s Greatest’ and to be fortunate to spend time with this man was to be in the presence of a truly special individual who led a full life of sacrifice, commitment and service to others. We will mourn him, miss him and wonder if there could ever be another like Richard Duchossois.” – Bill Carstanjen, CEO of Churchill Downs Inc.
“Richard L. Duchossois was a great American who served his country valiantly during World War II, and later served the Thoroughbred industry with great honor and distinction. Very few individuals exhibited the drive and determination of Mr. Duchossois in his very full and successful life. Following a devastating fire that destroyed the Arlington Park grandstand in 1985, he conducted the Arlington Million under tents, and it was dubbed as the ‘Miracle Million.’ He then rebuilt Arlington Park into one of the shining jewels of all racetracks. Mr. Duchossois propelled the Arlington Million into a top international showcase and paved the way for further interest in global competition among the world’s top Thoroughbreds. It was our great pleasure to bring the 2002 Breeders’ Cup to Arlington Park with Mr. Duchossois at the helm. We cherish his legacy and extend our deepest condolences to the Duchossois family.” – Breeders’ Cup
“On behalf of Illinois thoroughbred owners and trainers, we extend our deepest condolences to the family and friends of Dick Duchossois.
“Mr. D served our nation with distinction and thereafter brought his enduring tenacity and exceptional work ethic to the helm of Arlington Park — a track he worked to build into a world-class destination for thoroughbred horse racing.
“As we mourn his loss, we are reminded of his immense contributions to thoroughbred racing in North America, most especially here in Illinois. His imprint on the sport and industry was vast and will not be forgotten.” – Illinois Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association
Mr. D was a great guy that loved horse racing. A gracious gentleman that treated people that went to Arlington like guests in his home.
— Craig Bernick (@craigb1818) January 28, 2022
So sad to hear the passing of Dick Duchossois at 100. A great friend to me and other European horsemen for over 30 years. A true lover of horse racing and a great person. I will particularly miss him every August. Thoughts with Judi and his family. pic.twitter.com/EA9kgHb2IL
— Adrian Beaumont (@AdrianBeaumont) January 28, 2022
A highlight of my career was winning the Beverly D. At Arlington on a horse Mr. Duchossois owned; Eclair De lune. It was my first grade 1 win and something I will forever be grateful for. Mr. D was an honest kind man and he will forever be remembered. RIP Mr. D. ♥️ pic.twitter.com/NlmMntucD1
— Junior and Kelly Alvarado (@JuniorandKellyA) January 28, 2022
Mr. D left an indelible mark on our community and was one of a kind. But I can’t imagine anyone who lived their life bigger, and pursued their dreams harder. I feel lucky to have known him. @Arlington_Park @ChurchillDowns @ArlingtonHtsGov https://t.co/Xyn3mYalKE
— Randy Recklaus (@RandyRecklaus) January 28, 2022
Former Arlington Park race track owner Dick Duchossois has died at the age of 100. He was a proud veteran, businessman and philanthropist.
Here’s a story our Julie Unruh reported with him in 2019 on the 75th anniversary of the D-Day invasion: https://t.co/XyETu7OpBl
— Ben Bradley (@BenBradleyTV) January 28, 2022
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