CHRB Names New Executive Director

Kirk Breed, a horse racing lobbyist in Sacramento for the past 18 years, has been named executive director of the California Horse Racing Board, it was announced Feb. 25.

The 68-year-old Breed is to assume his new duties on Feb. 26 and will attend his first CHRB meeting as executive director on Feb. 28 in Arcadia. He'll be paid $116,508 annually.

Breed was general manager of the California Exposition and State Fair in Sacramento from 1979 to 1985. As part of his duties, he ran the state fair's summer race meeting, which he continued to do until 1988. He also directed the installation in Sacramento of one of the first satellite wagering facilities to open in Northern California in the fall of 1985.

The Oklahoma native was a flamboyant character at Cal Expo during that time, known for wearing a big cowboy hat, boots and jeans. He ran a "Wild West" style show during the fair each summer and rode his Quarter Horse around the fairgrounds  while wearing a 10-gallon hat and a buckskin jacket.

After a stint as senior consultant to the California Assembly's Governmental Organization Committee, where he advised the panel on horse racing and gambling legislation, he formed his own lobbying and consulting firm in 1990. His principal client was the Pacific Coast Quarter Horse Racing Association.

Breed said he wants to use his State Capitol background to work with the legislature and governor's office in improving conditions for racing.

"I feel very good about being able to make a contribution to California racing in that respect," he said. "I feel that there's a real commitment to getting things turned around (for racing) from legislators and others at the Capitol."

Breed, who lives in nearby Rancho Cordova, said he will be full time in Sacramento and his first duty will be to meet with CHRB staff personnel. His predecessor, Ingrid Fermin, was criticized for mostly running the office from Del Mar, where she lived, and for her lack of knowledge about government operations. At one point last year, the CHRB's budget was zeroed out by a state senate committee critical of a lack of communication with the agency, but funding was later restored.

"I need to get a good solid orientation for what people are doing," Breed said of the CHRB staff. "We have some new people and I think there's some confusion there. I think there was a bit of a void in leadership previously."

The CHRB has about 65 staff members spread across the state, he said, including investigative units, licensing and accounting personnel and on-track employees.

A committee that included Richard Shapiro, the CHRB's board chairman, and John Harris, the vice chair, selected Breed over four other finalists, Shapiro said. Subsequently, the full board was advised of the selection and approved of the hiring of Breed subject to necessary administrative procedures.

"We wanted someone based in Sacramento," Shapiro said. "I think we all realize how important that is now. He knows the halls up there and he has a solid background in racing. With all of his managerial experience, he has a great mix of the attributes we were looking for."

Harris added: “He is an all-around horseman and very familiar with racing issues, plus he has a style and personality that will keep us moving forward. I have known him for years and have always respected his integrity, abilities and problem-solving skills.”

Breed said a major priority will be to get people to return to the track.

"There's a gigantic group of people out there we're missing, who aren't interested in opening a wagering account from home and won't be going to a simulcast facility to bet. But they just might attend live racing if you give them a reason to do so. I want us to put on a good show."

Does that mean bringing back his Wild West extravaganza?

"Could be," Breed said. "I've still got my buckskin coat."

Breed and his wife, Mary Ann, a lobbyist as well, have a 5-year-old daughter. He has three grown children from a prior marriage.

In the late 1950s Breed helped his father train and race Quarter Horses while  attending Oklahoma State University on a football scholarship.

Upon graduating with a degree in zoology, Breed volunteered for the Peace Corps and spent five years in Chile. This led to a brief position with the State Department in Washington D.C., and then two years as director of the Peace Corps in Colombia. After returning home in 1972, he worked six years as director of planning and development with the Oklahoma Department of Tourism and Recreation.

During his time in Oklahoma, Breed was a founding member of the Oklahoma Horse Council and wrote the legislation that became law as the Oklahoma Trails Act.

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