Lou Raffetto, formerly the chief operating officer and president of the the Maryland Jockey Club, has been named president of the Thoroughbred Owners of California, the organization announced.
Raffetto has more than 30 years of management experience in the Thoroughbred industry, including successful stints at Pimlico Race Course, Laurel Park, Monmouth Park and Suffolk Downs. He was most recently the chief executive officer of the National Steeplechase Association from 2008-10.
He takes over at the helm of operations for the legislatively recognized representative of Thoroughbred owners in the state. The position has been open since Steve Schwartz resigned following a short tenure in February 2010.
Raffetto's appointment comes at a time when the TOC is facing a challenge from a rival horsemen's group, the California Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association, which is seeking to decertify the TOC.
In a statement, TOC board chairman Jack Owens said Raffetto will help California racing rebound after several rough years.
“Our breeding industry shows signs of reviving, and the CHRB initiative to revamp the ADW structure plus the possibilities of a real boost to the industry from current legislative initiatives provide real hope for our business," Owens said. "This is not the time for negativity, and Lou’s positive approach to the industry is only one of his major attributes. Lou’s perspectives reflect a career of building up a number of major aspects of our business, plus the expertise that comes along with that, and we are fortunate to have him.”
Raffetto, in the statement, said California, like the rest of the nation's racing industry, faces tough challenges.
“That being said, I believe by trying to build consensus and dealing with the problems at hand, there is a true opportunity to not only stem the negative tide but to also return California racing to its rightful prominence on a national scale," he said. "Moreover, there are initiatives on the horizon that, if addressed properly, will lead to a true renaissance for racing in the Golden State.”
Raffetto has worked in many capacities at the racetrack, including as a groom, trainer and racing official.
He served as a racing secretary at Laurel Park for seven years (1978-84) before moving to Monmouth Park as assistant general manager in 1985.
Raffetto then spent nearly 10 years in Boston, beginning in September 1991, where he was the executive vice president of racing at Suffolk Downs.
He became the chief operating officer of the MJC in January 2001 and added the role of president of the organization five years later. Raffetto was responsible for all aspects of the operation, including overseeing the Preakness Stakes, the middle jewel of the Triple Crown.
At the NSA, Raffetto established the inaugural running of the U.S. Steeplechase Championships, a five-hour live event that was broadcast nationally on NBC Universal in October 2009.