This Saturday’s 35 th Arlington Million at Arlington International Racecourse is the centerpiece of the Chicagoland oval’s International Festival of Racing and has been one of the world’s pavilion global grass affairs since 1981. The world’s first seven-figure race, a Grade I$ 1-million Breeders’ Cup Challenge’ Win and You’re In’ event, it has consistently brought together champs to compete at one of the most beautiful racecourse’s in America and over one of its most heralded turf courses.
Richard L.’ Mr. D.’ Duchossois has been at forefront of Arlington’s operation since 1983, functioning as Chairman, visionary and captain through the volatile oceans of a history more than littered with its fair share of ups and downs. Sharp as a tack and soft on the approach, Duchossois appears as open and enthusiastic as ever, striving-even at age 96 -for the success of the facility and its flagship fixture. Such was truly tested, of course, in the infamous flame of July 31, 1985, that decimated the track only three weeks prior to the fifth Arlington Million.
” I came from a manufacturing business and I thought we had an obligation to the public after the fire ,” Duchoissois reflected.” If we owned something that burned down, we would build it back up for them. Everyone wanted to cancel the Million and we couldn’t do that and it was not acceptable to me .”
” I guessed’ no, we will work it out’ and in 21 days, we cleared all the debris away, built a tent city and held the race. That demonstrated the spirit of Arlington, Chicago and our people.
” Fortunately a longshot named Teleprompter won that year for Lord Derby and it couldn’t have happened to a finer human ,” Duchossois continued.” It was just delightful and it built the person or persons in Europe really take notice of the race even more. The flame, our ability to have the race 21 days later and Lord Derby’s horse winning-none of them were planned, but that’s how life is and it helped induce the Arlington Million a truly global event and demonstrated the point that we were dedicated to advancing racing here in the United States on an international level at Arlington .”
This year’s Festival is stocked with high-quality horses and connects from four continents. Offering complex and exciting prospects, the Million is one of three Grade I races and five overall stakes to be held at a facility heralded equally for its beauty, user-friendliness and equine facilities. Originally less involved in the operation of the way, Duchossois took the policeman by the cornets after the flame, diving head-first into an incredibly intense passion project that has paid dividends galore for racing fans over the last three decades.
” I founded Duchossios Industries, but after the fire, I came here to Arlington, remained here and haven’t gone back ,” he told.” It entirely changed my career. I wanted to be part of the way and have it move the direction we would like to see it run. We then got involved with Churchill( Downs ). They needed a new build( way) and I wanted more liquidity in my estate. So, in reality, we actually bought 25% of Churchill Downs with our stock, they didn’t really purchase us. That’s how we put the combination together.
” We rebuilt this place seven-days-a-week for 19 months after the 1985 Million and had the people in mind when we did ,” Duchossois continued.” We went to an architectural firm that had never designed a racetrack and did a lot of studies at other racetracks. We didn’t speak to any management, we instead went to the customers at the tracks and asked them what they wanted to see in a racetrack. They wanted bigger seats , no posts to have to sit behind and more things like open spaces. We didn’t want the facility to be the same as it was. We wanted to replace it with the best customer experience we could and with an even better product. That is why we have this wonderful grandstand and a beautiful place to consider the races .”
Ultimately, what Arlington has become today is the product of a man who has never been content with any static status quo. Duchossois’ unrelenting objective is the step-by-step simplification, acquisition and progression of excellence-not the abstract idea of such that can often never be achieved-and such a tangibility-oriented mindset percolates down effectively throughout Arlington.
” I am not a horseman and I know that ,” he said.” I let the trainers do the training of my horses and I don’t accept any excuses after a race from them except two: the horse didn’t operate fast enough or the pony didn’t finish the race. I am a businessman and we are a business and I think we often overcomplicate things. Any business is divided into three sections: the suppliers-the owners, trainers, breeders and the guy who grows all the food- the marketplace over here and the distributor, which is us. They have to work together. The distributor, the track, takes half the money and dedicates it to the horsemen through purses, but if we’re not having good fields, we won’t sell as many mutuel tickets and everyone suffers. It’s that simple. The racetrack does little more than sell a mutuel ticket, but you have to have good ponies, good racing, an exciting environment and beautiful facility.
” We have that at Arlington and I think the industry will improve ,” he continued.” It’s not doing well right now, but it’s hard to think that we will be completely scratched out. This is a multi billion-dollar the enterprises and we are only a small portion when you think about the breed, the food and the market. It utilizes around 30,000 people and we have great people in Illinois in the legislature. I believe there will be a mutual understanding between the state and the industry that will come about. I have a lot of religion in our governor and legislators, who I believe are good people who will have the right priorities .”
While Duchossois has yet to form an sentiment of this year’s Million field, or derive a handicapping strategy for one of his “five-or-six” annual racetrack wagers, he does recognise all of such investments and dangers that have helped the Arlington Million become what it is today. I would be easy for a human responsible for leading Arlington to three special Eclipse Awards, an Eclipse Award of Merit of his own and an enviable global honor roll of achievements to accept the praise, but such is visibly and audibly not Mr. D.’s way. Just as he did when serving five European campaigns in the military during World War II, the Chicago native maintains the perspective of a man dedicated to service and resolute in all things outstanding.
” I love everything about Million Day and am very proud of what we have done here at Arlington ,” Duchossois said.” The Million changed the style people think of a million dollars. Now( million-dollar races) are a dime a dozen, but we have and component of prestige and that comes from years of great races, ponies and pony people, and, of course, Lord Derby’s great victory.
” No matter the politics, whether you’re a democrat or republican or wherever you’re from-Ireland, France, Japan, America or anywhere-horse racing is horse racing and pony people are horse people ,” he concluded.” We believe firmly that there is one common language across the world and that’s thoroughbred horse racing and we’re very excited for another Arlington Million .”