10/19/2012 10:11AM

Churchill Downs: Donnie Richardson, longtime racing official, to leave position at end of year


Donnie Richardson, the veteran racing official who has long been associated with Churchill Downs and its signature race, the Kentucky Derby, will leave the company at the end of the year, Churchill announced on Friday.

Richardson, a Louisville native whose father had run the program departments at several Kentucky tracks, including Churchill, has most recently been the track’s senior vice president of racing, responsible for its racing program. It was a natural fit for a man who had held nearly every position in the track’s racing department in a career stretching back to when he first began selling programs at Churchill when he was 14.

A release announcing Richardson’s departure did not state whether Richardson had resigned, retired, or been asked to leave the company. Asked for clarity, a spokesperson for Churchill, Courtney Yopp Norris, said she would not provide additional information.

Richardson did not immediately return a phone call on Friday morning.

Richardson first joined the Churchill racing department in 1969 as a patrol judge. He worked the Kentucky circuit for four years while also working at the racing departments at Hialeah Park in Florida and Oaklawn Park in Arkansas, before rejoining Churchill’s racing office as assistant racing secretary from 1973-1978.

In 1979, Richardson left the racing office to become a jockey agent, representing Don Brumfield, Chris McCarron, Jim McKnight, Darrell Haire, Mike McDowell, Earlie Fires and others for the next 11 years. Brumfield, Fires, and McCarron are members of the Racing Hall of Fame.

Richardson rejoined Churchill in 1990 as the track’s stakes coordinator. Later, he was appointed senior vice president of racing, and in the role was a familiar presence on the track’s backstretch and frontside and considered a valuable resource for horsemen.

“Donnie has brought with him a vast knowledge of all facets of the Thoroughbred industry and has been an invaluable contributor to the company and the industry over his many years of service,” said William Carstanjen, Churchill’s president and chief operating officer, in the Churchill release. “Donnie worked tirelessly to build and protect the racing programs for both the Kentucky Oaks and the Kentucky Derby and the success of those days for many years to come will reflect his many contributions to the racing office, front office and backside of Churchill Downs.”