Breeders’ Cup has eliminated the job of the 27-year employee who has been chiefly responsible for coordinating domestic and international nominations, entries, and horsemen’s services for the racing championship event.
Pam Blatz-Murff, who joined Breeders’ Cup in 1982, two years before the first Cup was run, and who has held the title of senior vice president of operations, was informed earlier in January that her job was being abolished.
Owner and breeder Satish Sanan, a member of the Breeders’ Cup board of directors, said management of the organization recommended the job be eliminated while reviewing ways to streamline the overall operation.
“Management felt it was best for the organization, and the board approved it,” Sanan said, noting that some of Blatz-Murff’s duties could be divided among other employees. The board currently is pondering other major changes, including the possibility of choosing a permanent host track.
Breeders’ Cup chief executive officer Greg Avioli did not immediately respond to phone messages seeking comment. Breeders’ Cup has been wrangling with financial pressures over the past several years but does not have anyone else on staff with the experience of Blatz-Murff, who also has been involved in the industry as an owner and breeder.
Reached at her Lexington home, Blatz-Murff said she has been advised by legal counsel not to comment until her separation compensation package has been completed.
“I would like to comment, but I’m still in the process of trying to execute my agreement with Breeders’ Cup, so I really can’t say anything right now,” she said. “I hope it will be finalized in the next few days.”
Honored with the Derby Award for Services to International Racing in 2001 by the Horserace Writers and Photographers Association of England during a ceremony in London, Blatz-Murff “was really the advance guard in energizing overseas owners and breeders to nominate and come to the Breeders’ Cup,” said former Breeders’ Cup president James E. “Ted” Bassett III, who recently retired from the organization’s board of trustees. “She was also very effective in establishing the stallion and foal nomination program and shepherding it through some tumultuous peaks and valleys.
“I’m sorry they felt it necessary to eliminate that position,” Bassett said, praising Blatz-Murff’s extensive efforts to encourage all horsemen—from American trainers such as D. Wayne Lukas and Nick Zito to breeders in many other countries—to participate in the Breeders’ Cup. “Her body of work was one for which Breeders’ Cup should always be appreciative. I have great respect and admiration for what she did, certainly during the years when I was president.”
Bassett described Blatz-Murff as a “bit of a mother hen” when it came to helping horsemen. With Europeans, she would handle everything from travel and hotel arrangements to horse quarantine issues.
“I still marvel at the relationships she had with the overseas owners and breeders,” he said. “It will be very interesting to see who the Breeders’ Cup will hire to replace her.”
Robert Manfuso, a Maryland-based breeder and member of the Breeders’ Cup board, said some of Blatz-Murff’s responsibilities would be handled by Dora Delgado, senior vice president of nominations and on-site operations. He deferred other comment on internal organizational workings to Avioli and other corporate officers.
“She’s an incredibly talented and wonderful lady,” Manfuso said of Blatz-Murff, who was coming off back-to-back record years of international entries in the Breeders’ Cup races at Santa Anita Park in 2008 and 2009 when her job was abolished. Last year, 37 international horses were entered in Breeders’ Cup races.
D.G. Van Clief Jr., who worked with Breeders’ Cup since its inception and who rose to be president of the organization before retiring in 2006, said when Blatz-Murff won the Derby Award that her years of service “have been critical in establishing and maintaining the Breeders’ Cup World Thoroughbred Championships as a premier global sporting event."