01/07/2004 12:00AM

Award of Merit for Duchossois

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Richard Duchossois, the former owner of Arlington International Racecourse who financed the rebuilding of that track after it was destroyed by fire in 1985, will receive the 2003 Eclipse Award of Merit, the National Thoroughbred Racing Association announced Wednesday.

The Eclipse Award of Merit is considered the highest honor in racing. It will be the second Eclipse for Duchossois, 83, who was awarded a Special Eclipse in 1989 after he bought out his partners and spent about $120 million to rebuild Arlington.

Duchossois bought Arlington in 1983 from the Madison Square Garden Corp. The track merged with Churchill Downs Inc. in 2000, two years before the track hosted the Breeders' Cup World Thoroughbred Championships.

A native of Illinois who has had a lifelong interest in horses, Duchossois owns Hill 'n' Dale Farm near Barrington, Ill. He is a steward of The Jockey Club and a member of the Thoroughbred Racing Associations.

The Eclipse Award of Merit will be awarded Jan. 26 in Florida, along with Eclipse Awards honoring champions in 11 equine divisions and five human categories.