by | 11.17.2010 | 12:48am

By Ray Paulick

Of the 299 American Graded Stakes run so far in 2010, I doubt any one of them had a more emotional outcome than last Saturday's Grade 1 Beverly D. Stakes at Arlington Park, won by the 4-year-old German-bred filly Éclair de Lune.

But this wasn't about the horse. It was about the owner, Richard Duchossois, the longtime owner of Arlington Park, and the filly's trainer, Ron McAnally, the Hall of Famer who has been off the radar in recent years when the best races in America have been run. They are the 21st Century Sunshine Boys of racing.

Duchossois is a sprightly 88 years old and McAnally is 78. They've known each other since Duchossois was a silent partner in the Arlington Park ownership group and McAnally brought the great John Henry to the first Arlington Million in 1981. That was a day to remember: the first million-dollar Thoroughbred race in American history, broadcast live on network television, and featuring a heart-stopping finish between John Henry and The Bart. John Henry won by a head-bobbing nose in a finish that is immortalized by a bronze statue overlooking Arlington Park's paddock.

But this year's Arlington Million was upstaged by what happened 30 minutes earlier in the Beverly D.  When Éclair de Lune crossed the finish line in front, it set off a floodgate of emotions for many in the crowd of 30,000.

The Beverly D. is named after Beverly Duchossois, who died from cancer in 1980, one year before that first Arlington Million. Dick Duchossois credits his late wife for helping instill in him a love of horse racing, and he wanted her to be remembered by naming a race in her honor. Over the years it became one of the top prizes on the American racing calendar for fillies and mares on the turf, and it became a race that Duchossois has wanted to win more than any other—even more than the Kentucky Derby, he said.

McAnally has searched for years for a filly he thought was good enough to capture this Grade 1 prize for his longtime friend, but even the eternally optimistic trainer admitted that time was running short for both of them. Fortunately, time hadn't quite run out yet.

Éclair de Lune's victory prompted something I don't recall seeing before: a standing ovation for an owner. As Duchossois made his way from the box seats down toward the winner's circle, everyone along the way stood and cheered, many of them with tears rolling down their cheeks. Perhaps they were acknowledging the everlasting commitment Duchossois made to Chicagoland racing when he rebuilt Arlington Park following the devastating fire of 1985, the tireless hospitality and graciousness he had demonstrated over the last three decades, or maybe it was because they knew just how much Mr. D. wanted to win this horserace.

He has long since remarried, and Judi Duchossois was by his side to share this emotional victory, but the memory of Beverly Duchossois goes well beyond a race. The Duchossois family has contributed tens of millions of dollars to cancer research in her name, and the Duchossois Center for Advanced Medicine at the University of Chicago would not have been possible without the Duchossois family's generosity. Their relationship with the University of Chicago Hospital developed as a result of the care Beverly Duchossois received during her battle against cancer.

If Éclair de Lune never wins another race, she will have done enough to add some sunshine to two great gentlemen of the turf. As Ron McAnally said, “This is the icing on the cake.”

  • Well said, Ray. Mr. D. and Ron McAnally are not only the 21st Century Sunshine Boys of Racing, but living reminders of the joys and sorrows of racing in the eighties when most racetrack owners also were racehorse owners, not public company executives, and before alternative forms of gaming gobbled up our sport. They richly deserved the happy outcome of the 2010 Beverly D. No wonder the fans all stood and cheered!

  • I Davis

    Hats off to Mr. D and Ron McAnally, a class act trainer of one of the greatest horses that ever lived, John Henry.

  • MH

    Speaking of the Beverly D, it kills me everytime I look at the name atop the horse standings. If any horse could have won the race besides Tuscan Evening, I wanted it to be Eclair de Lune, but at the same time it stings to know who beat them all last out.

  • Lost In The Fog

    It saddens me to think that, were she still alive, the late great Tuscan Evening would likely be atop the horse standings with seven victories instead of six. I think she would have been a virtual lock to win the Beverly D.

  • Garrett Redmond

    I had the pleasure of being at AP on Saturday and seeing the poetic win of Eclair de Lune for Mr. Duchossois. There could not have been a more pleasing result.

    As usual, Arlington Park was top class. Very clean, well maintained; genuinely an inviting place. An added asset is the strategically placed staff of smiling, helpful people who cheerfully answered any questions. If more racetracks presented this style to the public, return visits would be assured. However, it gives rise to a question.

    As Mr. D is the impresario at Arlington, why can he not bring about the same conditions at Churchill Downs? He is the major stockholder of CDI. Churchill is the scruffiest, unfriendly place on the national circuit. Owners, who clearly spend money on horses to put on the show, are treated as nuisances. Just one example: Owner parking is the farthest from the gate! I can give other, good examples, but will not take the space.

    Please, Mr. Duchossois, can’t you teach them a few things?

  • LJBroussard

    Thank you for the story. Thrilled by the race, cried when they crossed the wire, immediately called my best friend to talk about it. I remember Mr. and Mrs. (Beverly) Duchossois well because they were friends of my late father’s.

    Like Mr. Dick Duchossois, my father got his start in the railroad car business. Daddy was a demanding man – a hard worker, intense, self-made – who set high standards and was also an excellent judge of character. Daddy respected Mr. Dick Duchossois and spoke highly of him. Daddy never spoke highly of any man who could not or would not keep his word. My late father’s respect was not easy to earn, and his lifelong regard for Mr. Dick Duchossois speaks volumes to the man’s integrity.

    Thanks again. It’s a good day to feel good.


  • Auntie Jo

    Thank you, Ray, for capturing some of the specialness (or poetry as Mr. Redmond suggests) of this event. Other publications reported this remarkable moment more like a straight news story. Mr. Duchossois and Mr. McAnally are industry treasures in the way they treat humans and horses, and this was such a fantastic moment to have Eclair de Lune cross the wire first on the wings of angels.

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