Racing official Michael G. Mackey died Tuesday, July 10, following a lengthy battle with cancer. He was 72.
Mackey began his racing career at entry-level positions and climbed the management ladder to become general manager of Thistledown in 1976 at 36. He went on to manage several other racetracks including Hialeah Park, Tampa Bay Downs, and Detroit Race Course.
At Tampa Bay, Mackey worked under track owner George Steinbrenner. Mackey was hired as the racing secretary and was promoted to general manager on opening day when the current GM was fired.
Mackey helped create and develop the Tampa Bay Derby (gr. II). Under his leadership, the Ohio Derby (gr. III) was a launching pad for 3 year-olds that weren’t ready in time for the Triple Crown.
Mackey was quick to recognize talent and took the time to mentor that talent. The group includes Jim Kostas, president of Daily Racing Form; Bill Murphy, longtime executive with Thistledown and former president of Gulfstream Park; Raj Mutti, general manager of Hastings Park; and Phil O’Hara, former executive with Penn National Gaming Inc. and Equibase Co.
Mackey cared deeply for improving backstretch conditions and had a bond with many of the horsemen that raced at the venues he managed.
Mackey is survived by his wife, Nellie; sons Michael and Patrick; daughters; Elizabeth, Shauna and Dierdre; and seven grandchildren.
Funeral services will be private and the date and place for a celebration of Mackey’s life will be announced at a later date.