The landscape of the Thoroughbred racing industry is rich and varied, with its participants and major players coming from all over the world and quite literally from all walks of life. As senior vice president, racing, Don Richardson draws on the lessons of a lifetime in racing as he deals with the concerns of people at all levels of the industry while overseeing a racing program that has grown to be become one of America's premier racing products.
Richardson is responsible for policy development, strategy and horsemen's services for Churchill Downs Incorporated and its developing markets in Illinois, Indiana, Florida and California. He joined Churchill Downs as the track's stakes coordinator in August 1990 and continues in that role.
Under Richardson, steeplechase racing returned to Churchill Downs in 1997 for the first time since the early 1900's and the $100,000 guaranteed Hard Scuffle Steeplechase, a Grade I National Steeplechase Association race, is now an annual event on the Churchill Downs stakes schedule. Richardson was also the catalyst behind the track's successful Kentucky Derby Alumni Day, an annual event that celebrates the history of the Kentucky Derby and brings Derby-winning owners, trainers and jockeys back to Churchill Downs.
Richardson grew up around racing as his father ran the program department at Churchill Downs, Louisville's defunct Miles Park and the old Latonia (now Turfway Park) for more than 30 years. At 14, Richardson took his first job in racing as he took out an early work permit and started selling programs at Churchill Downs. He joined the track's racing office and worked as a patrol judge in 1969. After holding positions in racing at tracks throughout the Kentucky circuit, as well as racing positions at Florida's Hialeah and Oaklawn Park in Arkansas, Richardson returned to Churchill Downs as assistant racing secretary from 1973-78 - and served as racing secretary in 1974.
In 1979, Richardson moved out of the racing office and into a new career as a jockey's agent, in which he guided the careers of such notable riders as Hall of Fame members Chris McCarron and Don Brumfield and veterans such as Jim McKnight, Keith Allen, Darrell Haire, Mike McDowell and others. He returned to Churchill Downs in 1989.