It was almost surreal.
As he made up his way up the elevator in Richard Duchossois's grand palace - better known as Arlington Park - trainer Wayne Catalano was dreaming big, hoping for a sentimental celebration.
"Let's do it for Mr. Duchossois," said Catalano as he headed to his seat to watch the 21st running of the Beverly D. Stakes named for Duchossois's late wife who died of cancer in 1980.
About 10 minutes later, Catalano was in the box seat area congratulating Duchossois along with 30,304 other fans as the 4-year-old German-bred filly Eclair de Lune came home a 11/2-length winner in a race the track chairman had been yearning to win since the first edition in 1987.
Tears flowed as the 88-year-old racing industry legend made his way from his box seat to the winner's circle amid a standing ovation. He shook hands with well wishers all the way to the winner's circle where he, his son Craig, daughter Dayle and wife Judi were all on hand for the emotional presentation.
"Their (children Craig, Bruce, Kim and Dayle) mother (the late Beverly) watched this race," said Richard Duchossois, who rebuilt Arlington Park and opened the new grandstand in 1989 after fire destroyed the old one in 1985. "She always liked horses more than I did and she was always encouraging us to have them. She said some day we might win a stakes race."
While they never did together, some 30 years later Richard Duchossois enjoyed the biggest moment of his racing career as a filly trained by Ron McAnally won the race named in honor of his late wife.
"When the filly broke loose (getting clear at the wire under jockey Junior Alvarado), I stopped thinking," Duchossois said. "When we won, I didn't know what to think. Then someone hit me on the back and said we won."
And Duchossois had won the hearts of every fan in the building.
"I was very surprised and it makes you feel wonderful," Duchossois said. "Whenever I've run a horse, I have had tremendous support from the fans. We built this place for the fans and this was their horse."
The only other time Duchossis felt like he did Saturday was in 1985 when Arlington Park opened less than a month after fire had destroyed the grandstand to run the "Miracle Million."
"There was a photo in the newspaper with the four of us (co-owners) standing and saying that we will run the Million in 23 days," Duchossois said. "To accomplish that was a thrill. But this was something I wanted more than anything."
Duchossois recalled when he got the phone call from McAnally last fall about Eclair de Lune.
"He was in France and he said we have a nice filly here for you," Duchossois said. "I said, 'Ron, you've never led me astray before.' I said, 'Get her for me.'
The rest is history.
"When I saw her in France, she was very smart looking, sound and very correct," McAnally said. "She showed all the credentials. I've got to commend Mr. D. for the type of turf course he has here. It has long, sweeping turns and it is a European-style track."
"We've had others in the Beverly D. (1991, 1992 and 2006) that we thought might be good enough," Duchossois said. "But they never cut the buck."