Published: January 30, 2022, at 06:30 a.m.
Last update: January 31, 2022 at 01:10 am.
Richard “Dick” Duchossois, an Illinois businessman who headed a group that bought Arlington Park nearly 40 years ago and then oversaw the revival of suburban Chicago track from a devastating fire, died Friday. He was 100 years old.
After serving as an army officer in World War II, winning the Purple Heart and two Bronze Stars, Duchosoa entered the business world and became the CEO of a railroad car manufacturer in the 1950s.
By 1983, he became president of Duchossois Industries, and in that year, the company bought Arlington Park.
“Mr. D. has accomplished many good things in life,” A statement posted to the Twitter account of Arlington Park said. “He has worked hard and always walked the path of honesty and integrity, a gift he has passed on to all of us around him. We are so grateful to him for sharing this gift with us.”
Make a million a priority after the fire
The track was destroyed by a devastating fire in 1985. As Arlington officials moved the summer meet on the track to nearby Hawthorne Racecourse, Duchosoa made sure the Arlington Million – the track’s signature race – stayed on the track.
Less than a month after the fire, Duchossois set up temporary stands at Arlington Heights Raceway, and a crowd of 35,000 watched as the Teleprompter won the 1-1/4 mile turf race.
obituary in Arlington Heights Daily Herald He remembers an interview he gave Duchossois in 2015. He said his first reaction to the July 1985 fire was to find a way to rebuild the track as quickly as possible. His next thought was to find a way to keep the Million on track.
It might have been a little stupid on my part to think we could do it, but it never occurred to me that we couldn’t, ” He said.
The track wouldn’t reopen until 1989. However, when it did, it was the race’s crown jewel, with a six-story grandstand. It hosted the Breeders Cup in 2002.
But Arlington will face other challenges in less than a decade. In 1998 and 1999, the path turned dark after Duchossois said he was losing millions and faced many challenges, including competition from casino games.
Casino games will be an issue over the years with the track.
Arlington resumed racing in 2000, the same year Churchill Downs bought the circuit.
Served on the Council of Churchill Downs
Bill Karstangen, CEO of Churchill Downs, issued a statement Friday calling Duchossois a “mentor and friend” to many at the Louisville-based company. Churchill Downs acquired Arlington Heights Racecourse from Duchossois in 2000. Duchossois then served as a board member at Churchill Downs until his retirement in 2019.
Duchossois was a director emeritus of Churchill Downs Inc.
“He was a tireless champion for Churchill Downs and the Thoroughbred race,” Karstangen said. “His impact on those of us in the industry was simply immeasurable.”
Churchill Downs closed Arlington after last year’s meeting and announced that it would sell the 326-acre property to the Chicago Bears. The sale is expected to end for $197 million late this year or early 2023.
Prior to the sale, Churchill officials and the Knights of Illinois had engaged in protracted negotiations over the governor in recent years.
The riders were upset that Churchill would not continue to play casino games on the track after Illinois lawmakers approved an expansion of gaming in the state in 2019. Churchill Downs also owns a majority stake in the nearby Rivers Casino in Des Plaines.
March 2021 interview with Daily HeraldDuchossois said he didn’t understand the sale, but supported it.