A longtime jockey at Arlington Park died in a fire inside a garage on his Long Grove farm Tuesday, according to family members.
Eusebio "Eddie" Razo Jr. was sitting on a couch inside his home when his wife got into the shower Tuesday morning, but when she got out the garage was on fire and he was nowhere to be seen, said Razo's brother-in-law Gerald Filipoweski Jr.
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She knew her husband was inside the burning building but couldn't get him out in time, Filipoweski said from Florida Tuesday night. He had spoken with Doreen Razo earlier in the day.
"We don't know why he went in," Filipoweski said. "Maybe he saw the smoke. I don't know."
Eusebio Razo was scheduled to go to an appointment for an arm injury later that morning, family members said.
Lake County Coroner Artis Yancey said his office could not identify the man because of the severity of his burns but believed it was the homeowner. Yancey expected to confirm the victim's identity Wednesday, and the sheriff's office confirmed it was a 46-year-old man.
The Razo family used the unattached garage to store horseback riding gear and small farming equipment such as lawn tractors, but did not park vehicles inside, Filipoweski said.
Razo, who is survived by his son Nicholas, walked in the side door of the garage while the main door was down sometime before or during the fire, Filipoweski said.
"It's very strange. Nobody else was around," he said.
Lake County sheriff's deputies and Long Grove firefighters were at the scene on the 5100 block of Arlington Heights Road, but the cause of the blaze was inconclusive as of Tuesday.
Firefighters arrived shortly after receiving a 911 call at 9:28 a.m. for a report of smoke and found the garage on fire, according to the sheriff's office. Sheriff's investigators are working with the State Fire Marshal to determine the cause of the blaze. "We are treating it as a suspicious death at this point," Yancey said.
A manager at the Sunset Foods a few hundred feet from the fire spotted smoke at about 9:15 a.m. as he was loading groceries into a van.
"We saw the smoke getting thicker and thicker," said Ron Wyatt.
Wyatt said the flames began to run up the side of the garage.
"As we walked back we heard some explosions in the garage," he said. "We were thinking gas cans or something. We didn't know. Flames just shot up."
Family members said Razo and Doreen bought the farm from her parents years ago, and the two operated a horse stable on the property with an eight- to 10-stall barn.
"That was the original farm that he always wanted," Filipoweski said.
Razo was born in Mexico City in 1966 and began galloping horses when he was just 13 years old. He had his jockey license when he was 15 while still living in Mexico and first raced at Arlington Park after a weeklong trip to visit a cousin turned into a two-year stay, according to an Hawthorne Race Course biography on him.
"It's a shame. He was a good guy," Filipoweski said. "He didn't cause nobody any trouble. He kept to himself, did his job and took care of his family."
During his career, Razo amassed 2,692 wins, according to Daily Racing Forum statistics. He won his first riding title in 1988 at Sportsman's Park and his last in 2008 at Oaklawn Park.
An autopsy is scheduled for Wednesday, and investigators said lab tests that could provide hints of what sparked the blaze would be available on Thursday, according to family members.
Long Grove Fire Protection District officials declined to comment on the fire and referred all questions to the Lake County sheriff's department.