Richard L. Hamilton, a former steward and longtime racing official for the New York Racing Association, died April 18 at St. Peter’s Hospital in Albany, N.Y., after suffering a heart attack. He was 76.
Peter Hammell, former director of the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., told NYRA officials that Hamilton had been taken to Saratoga Hospital on April 17, complaining of severe pain in his neck and jaw. Shortly after his arrival, he suffered a heart attack and was immediately transported to St. Peter’s Hospital. He was taken off life support at 6 p.m. April 18, according to Hammell.
A native of Lowell, Mass., Hamilton graduated from Emerson College in 1958 and served in the United States Army until 1961. He worked for the Daily Racing Form, various radio stations in New England, and the ABC radio network before joining The Jockey Club in 1972. He joined NYRA as a racing official in 1975 and served in a variety of capacities, including clerk of the course, paddock judge, placing judge, and alternate steward. Hamilton was appointed NYRA steward in 1989, a position he held for six years.
“As a steward, Dick was very professional and very thorough,” said Carmine Donofrio, the New York State Racing and Wagering Board steward who worked with Hamilton at Aqueduct Racetrack, Belmont Park, and Saratoga Race Course. “He was a very intelligent man, very funny, and a great guy. He really loved horse racing.”
In 1995, Hamilton accepted an early retirement package from NYRA, and subsequently became the communications officer for the Museum of Racing. While with the museum, Hamilton helped develop the Hall of Fame induction ceremony and also organized numerous free public seminars for fans. He officially retired from the museum in 2005, but continued to serve as a volunteer. He also was a volunteer at Saratoga Hospital and in the History Room at Saratoga Springs Public Library, said Hammell.
“Dick Hamilton was an invaluable contributor to the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame both during his years here as our communications officer and also in recent years as a volunteer,” said current museum director Christopher Dragone. “His knowledge of Thoroughbred racing and his passion for the sport and the museum were evident to all who knew him. He was one of the true gentlemen in racing and was beloved in the Saratoga community. Dick was a wonderful ambassador for the Museum and the sport in general. He will be missed by everyone who had the fortune of knowing him.”