Dr. J. David Richardson — the prominent Louisville surgeon whose many roles in horse racing include as an owner, breeder, horseplayer, regulator and bloodstock consultant – died on Sept. 7 in Saratoga Springs, NY. He was 76.
Richardson has spent almost a half-century as a participant in the Thoroughbred racing and breeding industries and was widely respected for his breadth of expertise in all aspects of the industry as well as his generosity in sharing that knowledge. He was member of the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission and The Jockey Club, also serving on the executive committee and board of trustees for the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association, for which he has been chairman, vice chairman and secretary and also chaired TOBA’s graded stakes committee. Richardson was voted TOBA Midwestern Owner of the Year in 1999.
He remained a member of the KHRC’s Kentucky Thoroughbred Development Fund advisory committee and also helped countless racetrackers with navigating medical issues.
“We are deeply saddened to learn of the passing of J. David “Doc” Richardson, M.D., a remarkable surgeon who left a lasting legacy in the Thoroughbred industry as an owner and breeder. He was a man who carried himself with great dignity and always exhibited respect for others, and he will be greatly missed by all of us,” Breeders’ Cup Ltd. said in a statement. “We were very fortunate to have Dr. Richardson serve as a long-standing Member of the Breeders’ Cup and as a Director on our Board during the previous decade. Dr. Richardson held positions on various committees and was a guiding hand on critical issues impacting our racing programs, equine safety, and integrity.”
A graduate of Morehead State University and the University of Kentucky’s School of Medicine Richardson was involved in horse racing at the very top end, including picking out some of the best horses that his cousin, legendary trainer Woody Stephens, trained for Henryk de Kwiatkowski. Among them was the brilliant Danzig, who won his first three starts, none in a stakes, and never ran again. But Danzig proved an outstanding investment when he became one of the world’s pre-eminent stallions at Claiborne Farm. Richardson also was involved with purchasing Horse of the Year Conquistador Cielo, Gone West, Sabin and Contredance for de Kwiatkowski.
Richardson, in partnership with his medical and racing colleague Dr. Hiram Polk, bred and raced the multiple stakes-winner Mrs. Revere, for whom Churchill Downs named its Grade 2 grass stakes for 3-year-old fillies at the fall meet, the surgeons each year presenting to the winning owner a distinctive trophy that incorporates silver. They also campaigned the Grade 1 winner Northern Emerald and stakes-winners Maria Balastiere and Liz Cee.
In 2017, Richardson was the recipient of the Kentucky Thoroughbred Owners’ prestigious Warner L. Jones Jr. Horseman of the Year, which recognizes individuals for outstanding contributions to Kentucky racing and sharing the passion exemplified by Jones, founder of Oldham County’s renowned Hermitage Farm and who spent 50 years on the Churchill Downs board, including eight as chairman during the iconic track’s resurgence.
That award was especially fitting as Richardson not only boarded his mares and young horses at Hermitage since the late 1970s, but became a close friend of Jones, serving as his physician and operating on Jones three times for life-threatening conditions.
“Dr. Richardson positively impacted the lives of countless individuals and meant so much to so many people in this community as well as the horse racing industry,” Churchill Downs Racetrack President Mike Anderson said in a statement. “The Churchill Downs family is absolutely devastated to learn of his passing. He was such a fantastic man of the highest integrity and a tremendous champion of Thoroughbred racing. Our deepest condolences are extended to his numerous friends and family and especially to his children Melissa, Amy and Britton, his wife Maxine and brother Dr. Ron Richardson. Churchill Downs won’t be the same without ‘Doc’ Richardson around.”
A lifelong Kentuckian, Richardson was the long-time vice chair of the University of Louisville’s department of surgery, spending 18 years as chief of the division of general surgery and serving in numerous state and national leadership positions in medicine.
A prolific author, Richardson published more than 345 articles in peer-reviewed publications, 50 book chapters, and currently has 10 publications in press. In addition to his leadership roles within the ACS, he served as former director and chair of the American Board of Surgery, director of the American Board of Emergency Medicine, president of the American Association for Surgery of Trauma, president of the Southeastern Surgical Congress, and secretary and president of the Western Surgical Association.
“We are heartbroken and saddened by the passing of Dr. J. David Richardson, a remarkable man both in the medical community and the Thoroughbred industry,” the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association said in a statement. “Dr. Richardson gave selflessly of his time in supporting many of our sport’s organizations, including four years as TOBA chairman and nine years on the American Graded Stakes Committee, including seven as chairman. He was admired and loved by the countless he touched throughout the industry and we will forever be indebted to him for his steady leadership at TOBA.
“We send our heartfelt condolences to his wife Maxine, his children Amy, Britt and Melissa, his brothers Ron and Paul and to his entire family. A life well-lived, he will be dearly missed.”
Details regarding arrangements for a celebration of Richardson’s life and contributions will be forthcoming.