08/18/2010 3:15PM

Beverly D. win would be as big as it gets for Duchossois

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Four-Footed Fotos
Eclair de Lune will try to give owner Richard Duchossois a win in the Beverly D., a race named for his late wife.

ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. – Through individual deeds, few people have played larger roles in the remarkable evolution of Arlington Park than Richard Duchossois and Ron McAnally. But when the Beverly D. is run Saturday, the men stand a chance to create what would be one of the most sentimental chapters in track history – as a team.

McAnally trains a filly named Eclair de Lune for Duchossois, and both men know that this might be their last chance to make a major impact at the track they helped make famous. McAnally trained the legendary John Henry to win two runnings of the Arlington Million, including the unforgettable 1981 inaugural, while Duchossois rebuilt Arlington from the devastating 1985 fire into the showplace it has become.

The Beverly D., a longstanding key race in the North American filly-mare turf division, is named for Duchossois’s widow, who died of cancer in 1980.

“I’d rather win the Beverly D. than the Kentucky Derby,” Duchossois said. “I’ve been trying for years to do it, but we’ve never really been able to come up with a filly good enough to win it. This could be our chance.”

Even at age 88, Duchossois remains very active as chairman at Arlington, which he has overseen since he led a partnership that purchased the track in 1983. While he has been bestowed with such accolades as the 2004 Eclipse Award of Merit and many other awards for his service to the racing industry, he also has filled a less visible role as a horse owner for many years.

“I haven’t had the same kind of personal involvement with my horses that some owners do,” he said one morning this week while mingling with horsemen on the track apron, a regular habit of his. “When you’re running a major operation like Arlington Park, you just don’t have the time. You’re always looking after what people need or what have you. I remember when we still had the tents up in 1986 and I won the Stars and Stripes with Explosive Darling. I never got to see the race because I was looking after some important customers getting into a cab.”

McAnally, 78, was inducted into the racing Hall of Fame in 1990 during what was arguably the peak of a career that began in 1958. He was voted the Eclipse for top trainer three times (1981, 1991, and 1992), but it his easy-going demeanor that has helped him command the reverence of horsemen and fans.

“I’ve known Ron since at least 1985,” Duchossois said. “He’s had a few horses for me over the years, and he has always been a pleasure to work with.”

The 1981 Million triumph by John Henry over The Bart has been immortalized at Arlington by the statue, “Against All Odds.” Of course, McAnally was here for that, just as he was for the 1984 Million win by John Henry and his 1991 Million win with Tight Spot. He also was here in 1993, when Let’s Elope finished first in the Beverly D., only to be disqualified to third for stretch interference in a controversial stewards’ ruling that gave Flawlessly the victory. That’s easily the closest McAnally has come to winning the Beverly D. in seven tries.

“I have all sorts of memories about being here,” said McAnally, who was here Wednesday morning to watch Eclair de Lune, a Tuesday arrival, take her first training tour at Arlington. “Most of them very good.”

McAnally bought Eclair de Lune last fall, when he was making his annual trip to France for the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe. He said he went to Deauville to look at four horses, and Eclair de Lune stood out. He then bought her for Duchossois for $365,000 at the Arqana Arc Sale, which he calls “one of the better sales in Europe for ‘made’ horses,” and liked what he saw once he put the filly into training in California in November.

“She’s got a lot of class, takes everything in stride,” he said. “She doesn’t get hot and she’s very kind.”

Eclair de Lune, a German-bred 4-year-old with a French name, ran fourth in back-to-back Santa Anita turf races this spring before finishing second by a half-length to the ill-fated Tuscan Evening in the July 17 Modesty Handicap, the local prep for the Beverly D.

“I thought she probably needed her first start in California, maybe even the second,” McAnally said. “And I thought she ran really well in the prep here in Chicago, even though she probably needed it, too. We took her home [to Del Mar] and got her ready for this, and she’s really trained well. She shipped good. Nothing bothers her. We’d just love to go out there Saturday and win this for Dick.”

Unlike the two other Grade 1 races here Saturday that will have heavy favorites – Gio Ponti in the Million and Paddy O’Prado in the Secretariat – the Beverly D. looks about as competitive as possible, with the morning-line favorite Rainbow View having been listed at 4-1. Duchossois, as usual, has been very busy this week – but not so much that he hasn’t noticed that the race named for his late wife is shaping up as a potential thriller.

“The Arlington fans should really enjoy the Beverly D. this year,” he said, adding with a smile: “Maybe I will, too.”