Dr. J. David Richardson—the prominent Louisville surgeon whose many roles in horse racing include owner, breeder, horseplayer, regulator, and bloodstock consultant—is the 2017 recipient of the Kentucky Thoroughbred Owners' prestigious Warner L. Jones Jr. Horseman of the Year Award.
Richardson is the featured honoree at the KTO's 30th annual awards gala Nov. 18 at Hurstbourne Country Club in Louisville.
The Warner L. Jones Jr. Horseman of the Year Award recognizes individuals for outstanding contributions to Kentucky racing and sharing the passion exemplified by Jones, the founder of Oldham County's renowned Hermitage Farm who spent 50 years on the Churchill Downs board, including eight as chairman. Jones was the inaugural winner in 1988, six years before his death.
Richardson not only has boarded his mares and young horses at Hermitage since the late 1970s, but became a close friend of Jones. Richardson also served as his physician and operating on Jones three times for life-threatening conditions.
"(I'm) just totally shocked, and really honored," Richardson said of the award. "The last several years of his life, Warner couldn't travel. So if I was in town, I spent virtually every weekend with him. We'd let Harriet (Jones' wife) get out to do things, and we'd bet horse races. He had two big televisions set up and we'd bet horse races all afternoon. He was a lot of fun and I learned a lot from him."
Richardson has spent almost a half-century as a participant in the Thoroughbred racing and breeding industries. Frequently on the backside and regularly at the races, he is a 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.
Richardson is on Churchill Downs' racing committee comprised of racetrack representatives and horsemen. He was a longtime Breeders' Cup board member and past president of the Kentucky Thoroughbred Association and Kentucky Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders.
The graduate of Morehead State University and the University of Kentucky's School of Medicine has been involved in horse racing at the very top end, including picking out some of the best horses that his cousin, legendary trainer Woody Stephens, conditioned for Henryk de Kwiatkowski. Among them was a brilliant young horse who won his first three starts and never ran again. But Danzig proved an outstanding investment when he became one of the world's preeminent stallions at Claiborne Farm. Richardson also was involved with purchasing Horse of the Year Conquistador Cielo, as well as grade 1 winners Gone West, Sabin, and Contredance for de Kwiatkowski.
Richardson, in partnership with his medical and racing colleague Dr. Hiram Polk, bred and raced multiple stakes winner Mrs. Revere, for whom Churchill Downs named its grade 2 grass stakes for 3-year-old fillies at the fall meet. Each year, the surgeons presented to the winning owner a distinctive trophy that incorporates silver. They also campaigned the grade 1 winner Northern Emerald, as well as stakes winners Maria Balastiere, Liz Cee, and Harrods Creek.
The lifelong Kentuckian is the longtime vice chair of the University of Louisville's department of surgery, having spent 18 years as chief of the division of general surgery while serving in numerous state and national leadership positions in medicine.