After less than two years on the job, Lou Raffetto announced Feb. 28 that he is stepping down as president of the Thoroughbred Owners of California, effective immediately.
Raffetto, 63, cited a change in his role with the owners' group since he was hired in July 2011 for his decision. At the time, the TOC was facing a decertification drive spearheaded by trainers unhappy with what they saw as discriminatory policies for membership by the TOC board of directors.
"When I came here the organization was in a state of flux," he said in a phone interview. "They were looking for someone with a background in all aspects of racing, someone to lead them. In recent months, that role has changed to where, I think, they were not looking for someone to give direction so much as for someone to take direction."
Raffeto was a newcomer to California racing, having spent most of his 30 years as a racing executive based in the mid-Atlantic and New England regions.
"My time at TOC has proven to be a valuable experience for me," Raffetto said. "It provided an opportunity to broaden my horizons into new areas, such as exchange wagering and Internet poker, as well as to establish new relationships within the racing industry."
Raffetto said he wants to remain in racing, although he's not sure in what capacity.
"It's time to take a step back and see what opportunities are there," he said.
During his tenure, Raffetto oversaw the historic election of a completely new board of directors that includes six owner-trainer members, heading off the decertification drive. He worked with California's racetracks on various concepts to increase field sizes and wagering pools, including the popular "Ship and Win Program" at Del Mar. Raffetto was also instrumental in negotiations that led to expanded television distribution of the California signal, resulting in impressive gains in advance deposit wagering statewide.
He said he feels the TOC's image is stronger than when he arrived.
"I tried to build with consensus, not fences," Raffetto remarked.
Raffetto said he will be available to the TOC to assist with the transition. The TOC is the legislatively recognized representative of Thoroughbred owners in the state.